Starting a Blog on a Budget
Are you thinking about starting a blog but don’t think you can afford the initial investment to get started? In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly how to start a blog (almost) for free. Yes. Almost.
There are ways to start a blog totally free. BUT if this is something you want to do to earn a sustainable, long term income, it’s 100% worth it to make a couple very smart, and yet still affordable investments right at the beginning.
Let’s get into what those investments are, how much they cost, and how they’ll work with all the other awesome, free resources.
This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here.
There are 3 key things needed to start your blog:
- Web host – The company that stores your blog on its server
- Content building platform – Where you build your blog, create content, format posts.
- Domain name – This is basically the name/address for your website.
Choosing a Web Host
Personally, I recommend starting out with SiteGround for hosting. They are a fantastic option for beginners.
SiteGround makes getting started quick and easy.
Essentially, you can sign up for hosting, choose your domain name, and install WordPress all through SiteGround. This means you can actually have a functioning site in minutes! It’s a one-stop-shop for creating a website.
I’ve used SiteGround as my web hosting platform from day 1 and I love it. They are trusted by the owners of over 1,900,000 domains!
It’s secure, fast, reliable, and the customer service is AMAZING! I’ve had to contact them for help for a few reasons and the support I received was outstanding.
They have also saved my butt after I messed up some coding and totally destroyed my site. SiteGround was able to fully restore my site. How? Because they back up your site every 24 hours! Because of this feature alone, I will forever sing their praises. Sign up HERE.
Still not sure? I wrote a whole blog post about why I love SiteGround so much. If you want all the details, check it out:
Why SiteGround is Your Best Option For Web Hosting
Content Building Platform
Upon arriving at the SiteGround home page, you need to choose where you’ll be building your blog. I use and recommend WordPress.
There are other places you can build your blog. But WordPress is very popular and therefore you’ll be able to find an endless supply of helpful resources available for troubleshooting, support, maintenance, plugins, etc.
After selecting to buy WordPress hosting, you’ll need to choose your plan. If you are just starting out, the StartUp plan is great and only costs $3.95 a month.
Choosing and Buying a Domain Name
After choosing your plan, you’ll be prompted to choose your domain name. Give this some serious thought and research. Your domain name will be part of your personal brand.
Choose and enter your domain name to see if it’s available. The cost to register a new domain is $15.95 a year.
For more details on what to carefully consider before choosing your domain name, I suggest you read this informative post by Angela Tempest: Domain Name – One of the Big Decisions When Starting a Blog
That’s it. Once you sign up for hosting, WordPress, and claim your domain name you will officially have started your blog.
Your investment will be $3.95/month for hosting ($47.40 for the year) and $15.95 per year for your domain name. From here on out, you can start writing content and monetizing that blog. Let’s go into the free blogging stuff now.
Free Blogging Stuff! Whoohoo!
Pinterest Business Account
Pinterest is a HUGE source of traffic for bloggers. A large portion of my traffic comes directly from people clicking through to my site via a Pinterest Pin.
Pinterest is a massive, visual search engine with endless information. Joining as a business gives you an inside look at how your pins are performing using Pinterest Analytics.
It allows you to see what pins are getting the most views, clicks, saves, and by who. You’ll quickly learn who your audience is and what they are craving. That’s such a powerful tool! You’ll see what’s working and what’s not. Thus, you can keep sharing the popular content and grow from there!
Best of all, it’s free! Learn more here: How to Set Up a Pinterest Business Account.
You’ll need to create eye-catching pins to promote your blog posts on Pinterest. No need for fancy and expensive software. Canva allows you to create beautiful pins and graphics for free! No design skills? No problem. Canva offers beautiful templates to help get you started.
They have a free version and a premium paid version. But the free one is very impressive and versatile. Sign up for free here.
Not sure what to do next? Get your pin design feet wet with my 5 Free Pinterest Pin Templates
It’s important to begin growing your email list as soon as possible. MailerLite is a great option for creating and maintaining your email list when you are starting out.
A lot of bloggers start with MailChimp (I was one of them). But I struggled with the platform a lot. For me, it was quite confusing and I didn’t love the overall look of my forms and landing pages when I finally did figure out how it all worked.
I made the switch to MailerLite and wish I’d done it sooner! It’s much more user-friendly and offers better features, even on the free version.
You can send unlimited email campaigns, create beautiful landing pages, and customize absolutely everything! And it’s free for your first 1000 Subscribers!
There are also lots of helpful video tutorials on YouTube if you get stuck on anything. Sign up for your free account here.
I saw a huge improvement in my writing after installing Grammarly. It’s the World’s leading checker of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and plagiarism.
The better your writing, the more credible you will seem to your readers. After installing Grammarly, just start typing your post. If you spell something wrong, miss a comma, or use bad grammar, that text will be highlighted and you can easily select the correction for an instant adjustment.
Did I mention they have a FREE version? Check it out HERE.
Never underestimate the power of social media. Most bloggers use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to grow their brand. All are free to join.
For me, Facebook Groups have been a great way to increase traffic and followers. I was hesitant to join Groups at first, but now I wish I’d started sooner.
Facebook Groups that I’ve used to learn new things and drive major traffic to my site:
I also have my own Facebook Group. It offers daily sharing threads to get your content out to other bloggers looking to grow their blogs and help others along the way.
Check it out: The Helpful Blog & Business Group
Related Reading: 9 Facebook Groups to Grow Your Blog
For more tips on gaining success through social media, check out these Pinterest Boards for great resources:
If you’re struggling with setting up accounts or just general use of any of these free resources, head on over to YouTube (also free).
There is almost always a video tutorial to guide you through anything you are struggling with. It can be so valuable to watch and follow along as someone gives you specific instructions.
There are countless, great, free plugins. These are just a few that I use and love and haven’t paid a dime for.
Yoast – Helps to optimize your SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Grow by Mediavine – Adds social sharing buttons to your site
JQuery Pin It Button – Adds a “Pin It” button to your blog’s images for easy pinning
GDPR Cookie Notice – Shows your website complies with the EU Cookie Law / GDPR.
Ewww Image Optimizer – Reduces file size of images to keep your site running quickly.
Not sure how to install a WordPress plugin? Check out this post to guide you through the process: How to Install a WordPress Plugin
Let’s Talk Monetization $$$
Now if you are wanting to monetize your blog by using affiliate marketing, here are a few must-have affiliate programs to join. For free 🙂
(Affiliate links are provided by an online retailer who then pays you a commission to promote or drive traffic to their sites, resulting in sales).
ShareASale is an Affiliate Marketing Network. You’ll find lots of merchants in various niches who are looking for bloggers to promote their products.
Ever wonder where bloggers get those ads that run down the sidebar of their blog posts? Find a merchant that fits your niche and they’ll provide you with those sidebar ads. You can also create a custom referral link for the specific products they sell.
There are fantastic merchants like Stella & Dot, Gymboree, and Wayfair looking for promoters. Join for free here.
Sendowl is an online platform for creative entrepreneurs who have digital products to sell. If you are just starting out you likely won’t have a product to sell yet. BUT, tons of bloggers do. And lots of them offer affiliate programs through Sendowl.
So if you have a blogger you admire, reach out to them. Chances are if they have a digital product (like an E-book) they’re likely looking for affiliates to promote their products.
Failing that, Sendowl also has its own affiliate program. You can earn a commission just by referring others to join. They offer a 20% recurring commission for every sign up you refer. You can sign up here.
If you want to learn more about Sendowl, check out my post: How I Use Sendowl to Make Consistent Affiliate Income.
You can join Amazon as an Associate for free and place product referrals on your blog or website. If that referral leads to a sale, any sale, you get a commission!
The Amazon Associates Program is one of the largest and most successful online affiliate programs out there and they make it really easy to use.
To join or just get more info, simply scroll to the bottom of Amazon.ca or Amazon.com and find “become an associate” OR go here (Canada) or here (US). Once you join you have 180 days to make your first sale.
If you really want to make the most of your 180 trial period and ensure you make that first sale, check out this helpful E-book: How to Make Money with Amazon Affiliates. It’s a small investment but will pay for itself quickly.
To learn more about making money through affiliate marketing, check out this amazing free Affiliate Marketing Course by Ana at The She Approach (she’s got 20,000 Pinterest Followers and knows her stuff!) She’s a blogging strategist/coach and she’s giving away some great tips in her Affiliate Marketing Course…for FREE! Check it out below.
They are all fairly easy to navigate and set up, even for a total newbie. If I can figure them out, so can you! Give them a try and see for yourself!
P.S. If you’re looking for a more in depth guide to starting your blog, I highly recommend Suzi Whitford’s Blog By Number course.
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How to Start a Blog in 2021
Blogging Resources I love and recommend:
SiteGround – I use SiteGround as my web hosting platform and I love it. They are trusted by the owners of over 1,900,000 domains! It’s secure, fast, reliable, and the customer service is AMAZING! I’ve contacted them for help for a few reasons and received outstanding support. Learn more about SiteGround HERE.
Sendowl – I use Sendowl to sell my own digital products. Sendowl acts as the middle man between buyer and seller. They deliver your product and handle the payments for you. If you’ve got an eBook, printable, or service to sell, Sendowl makes it really easy and affordable. Learn more about Sendowl HERE.
ShareASale – If you are interested in monetizing your blog through affiliate marketing, ShareASale has got to be one of the easiest ways to do it! They’ve got merchants for every niche looking for affiliates to promote their products. Learn more about ShareASale HERE.
Grammarly – I saw a huge improvement in my writing after installing Grammarly. It’s the World’s leading checker of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and plagiarism. The better your writing, the more credible you will seem to you readers. Did I mention they have a FREE version? Check it out HERE.