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Learning how to start a blog and make money is super challenging.
There’s so much more to it than you really expect when you’re a beginning blogger.
You’ve got to decide what to write about and who you want to read your blog posts.
Then you’ve got to figure out how to promote it so you can get some traffic.
And if you want your blog to be a business, you’ve got to invest more than just your time. You’ve also got to be willing to spend some money to make your blog stand out from the gazillions of other blogs out there.
Since launching my blog last year, (then relaunching it after I got frustrated and quit blogging), I estimate that I’ve invested at least $2,000 into it.
And how much money have I made so far?
Super impressive, right? 🙂
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about blogging, though. It can take a long time before you start to see a payoff.
But I’m totally okay with it for now. And I have a plan for where to put my money to get the best payback.
If you’re learning how to start a blog and make money but you don’t want to spend gobs of cash on it, you could probably use a strategy too.
So, I’ve got some tips that can help you start your blog so it has profit potential, without going totally broke!
What Do You Need to Start a Profitable Blog?
The first thing to know about how to start a blog and make money is what you need to have and what “extras” you can do without.
So, here’s a short list of what I think are the most essential things to have when starting a blog:
- A domain name
- A blogging platform
- Blog hosting
Right now you might be thinking, is that it?
And really, it is. If you can afford to spend some money on those three things, they can help you build the basic framework for your blog.
What Is a Domain Name and How Much Does It Cost?
Your domain name is where your blog lives online; it’s essentially your blog address.
So, my domain is bosssinglemama.com, obviously. Your domain name could be the exact name of your blog, your business name or anything else you want to call it.
You want to pick a domain name that reflects what your blog is about or that speaks to the kind of readers you want to attract.
Try to keep it short and simple if you can; no hyphens or numbers or weird characters. And pick something that’s memorable but still related to your overall blog niche.
In terms of what it costs to purchase a domain name, it depends on where you get it. But generally, it can run anywhere from $5 to $15 to register a domain for your first year of blogging.
The easiest way to buy a domain is through your blog hosting service. (For example, I bought mine when I signed up for hosting with Siteground.)
But you can also get a blog domain from a domain company, then transfer it to your blog hosting service later.
Here are a few sites that sell domain names:
One last tip for buying a domain: always try to get a .com address.
You could get a domain that ends in .net or .co or something else but .com is most common. And there’s a case to be made for .com extensions being the best for SEO. (Which is one thing that can help drive traffic to your new blog.)
What Is a Blogging Platform?
A blogging platform is what you use to write your blog posts and publish your blog. Some of the most popular blogging platforms include:
Now, you might be wondering whether it makes a difference which one you use. And the answer is YES!
If you just want to start a free blog and you don’t have any plans to try and monetize it, then Wix or Squarespace or any of the other options besides WordPress.org can work just fine.
But if you’re focused on how to start a blog and make money, then you definitely want WordPress.org as your blogging platform.
With WordPress.org, you can customize your blog site to make it exactly what you want.
You can upload any free or paid plugin (I’ll cover what those are in a minute) and you can put ads on your site to monetize it.
If you want to add a store or a paid membership vault to your blog, you can do that with WordPress.org.
And at the end of the day, a WordPress.org site is just easier to use.
It’s free to download and install WordPress.org if you’re using a paid hosting service. Which brings us to the third thing you need to start a profitable blog.
What Is a Blog Host and Why Do You Need One?
Your blog host is the company that stores your blog online.
You pay them a fee, usually billed once per year, and the blog hosting service allows your blog to live on its servers.
There are lots of different companies that offer web hosting, including GoDaddy, Namecheap, Wix and Squarespace. Blogger and Tumbler can also host your blog and it won’t cost you a dime.
What’s so great about Siteground?
I’m glad you asked. The short answer is everything.
But to be more specific here’s what I like most and why I use them as my blog host:
- The plans are crazy affordable, which is great for the new blogger who’s on a budget.
- You can buy your domain name and hosting all in one place.
- Site speed is amazing — no slow-loading pages on your blog!
- The customer service is always super helpful if you run into a snag. (And as a new blogger, there are bound to be some hiccups.)
- It’s insanely easy to download and install WordPress.org on your new blog.
It’s totally up to you which host you decide to use but I strongly recommend Siteground. Hosting with them can seriously make your blogging life so much easier.
(And if you’re ready to get hosting and/or a domain, I’d love it if you’d use my special link to join Siteground! You can get started for as little as $3.95/month!)
How to Start a Blog and Make Money When You Can’t Spend Buckets of Cash On It
Okay, so we’ve covered everything you need to start your blog. Now let’s go over some specific things you can do to keep your costs in check when you’re starting a new blog.
1. Set Your Blogging Budget
So first, ask yourself what you can really afford to spend on starting a blog.
Ideally, you’ve got at least $100 you can spend to start your blog. That can cover your domain name and first year of hosting with Siteground and leave you with a few bucks to spare.
It helps to prioritize what you need to spend money on and what you want to spend money on if you’ve got a tiny budget.
A domain name, a blogging platform and hosting are definitely on the must-have list. Quality hosting is everything if you want to start a blog that could potentially make money.
But do you need to spend hundreds of dollars on ebooks or blogging courses or lots of extra bells and whistles?
Can those things help you to grow your blog so you can make money from it? Possibly.
But you don’t absolutely need them to get started.
So stick with the basics and get your blogging foundation in place.
2. Decide Whether You Want a Free or Premium Theme
Your blog theme is what determines the look of your blog.
If you’re setting up a WordPress.org blog through a hosting service, you’ll have a ton of free themes to choose from. That can save you money as a new blogger if you’ve got a small budget.
Should You Splurge on a Premium Theme?
This is really up to you.
There are some decent free ones in WordPress.org you can get started with. But if you have the money, then definitely consider a paid premium theme.
There’s only so much you can do to customize a free theme. Premium themes can give you a lot more options for branding your blog and making it look and feel the way you want it to.
Some of the companies that sell premium themes can also install your theme for you. Hello You does that and they also offer logo design services.
So, if there’s a specific way you want your blog to look then it might be worth it to invest a few bucks in a paid theme.
Here are some of my favorite places for finding premium WordPress themes:
Just make sure to do your homework before you buy.
When I bought my current theme, I didn’t realize you needed the Genesis framework to run it. So I had to buy that on top of my theme, which cost me a little more.
3. Pick Your Plugins
A plugin is an add-on to your blog. You can download and install them directly through WordPress.org.
There are a ton of plugins out there you can use as a new blogger. Some are paid, others are free.
And really, it can be overwhelming deciding which ones to use and which ones to skip.
So, if you’re trying to start a blog that’ll make money but you don’t have a lot of money to spend, be selective. And stick to high-quality, free plugins as much as possible.
Here are some of the best free plugins I’m using on my blog that I think are great for other new bloggers:
If you’ve been learning how to start a blog and make money for any amount of time, you’ve come across the term “SEO”.
SEO stands for search engine optimization and in a nutshell, it involves optimizing your blog content for specific keywords to drive search engine traffic to your page.
The Yoast SEO plugin won’t tell you which keywords to use. There are other tools you can use for that.
But it will tell you if you’ve optimized a blog post or page effectively, based on the focus keyphrase you choose.
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights
Google Analytics is a tracking tool that lets you see how many people are visiting your blog, where they’re coming from, which posts they like.
It’s helpful for identifying which of your posts get the most traction and who your audience is as your blog grows.
Setting up Google Analytics is a process and one that can get a little frustrating if you’re not super-techy. Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights makes it easy.
You just download the plugin, activate it and it handles installing the Google Analytics code for you. You can then monitor your analytics right through your blog’s dashboard in WordPress.
WP Super Cache
Site speed is super important for your blogging success. If your site loads too slowly, visitors may bounce away and never come back.
WP Super Cache is a plugin that helps to speed up your site, encouraging readers to stick around.
If you have a lot of images in your blog posts or on your blog pages, that can slow down your site speed.
Imagify is a free image compression tool that automatically optimizes your images so pages load faster.
You’ll need to keep your new blog secure. ‘Cause ain’t nobody got time for hackers, right?
iThemes Security is a free plugin you can use to lock down your site. And if your blogging budget increases, you can upgrade to iThemes Security Pro, which comes with even more great security features.
Once you start pumping out awesome blog posts, you need a way to share them. Social Pug is a free tool you can connect to your social media accounts for easy sharing.
It’s the one I use on this blog and it’s great because you can customize it to fit your theme’s colors.
When people visit your blog to read your posts, you’ll want to make sure they have a way to comment. CommentLuv is my favorite free comment plugin and it’s the one I use here.
There is a Pro version you can upgrade to that comes with features to help you boost engagement and keep growing your blog. It also has a built-in spam blocker to filter out wonky comments that could junk up your site.
Speaking of spam, Akismet is one of the most widely-used, free anti-spam plugins. You can install and activate the free version right through your WordPress dashboard.
4. Take Advantage of Free Blogging Tools and Resources
I say this with all honesty, being a blogger is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do.
But what’s helped a lot, and what can help you too, is learning as much as you can about how to do it and do it well.
That’s where free blogging tools and resources come in. So what do I mean by blogging tools?
Basically, I’m talking about anything free that you can use to learn about blogging. So means:
- Reading blogs about blogging (like this one or this one)
- Taking free courses and webinars
- Downloading free ebooks
- Scooping up freebies from your favorite blogging experts (think planners, workbooks, checklists, etc.)
- Watching blogging how-to videos on YouTube
- Listening to free blogging podcasts
- Connecting with other bloggers and asking questions in Facebook groups
Those are just some of the ways you can learn about blogging without spending anything other than your time.
But here’s what I suggest. Don’t try to learn all the things at once.
That’s a good way to get overwhelmed and totally freeze up. And in the meantime, you’re not doing anything to help your blog.
The better way to approach blog learning is to make a plan for things you want to learn about each week, each month, each quarter.
Start with the basics and work your way down the list.
For example, learn how to format a blog post. Once you’ve got that down, learn how to make some eye-catching graphics that you can add to your posts.
Then, start learning some tactics to drive traffic to your new blog. And so on and so on.
Blogging can feel like a race a lot of the time. Especially when you see those five- and six-figure income reports or bloggers bragging on how they got 2 million page views in a month.
But it’s okay to be the tortoise and not the hare. Go at a pace that works for you and make the most of the free blogging tools you’re using.
5. Create a Money-Making Strategy for Your Blog
The great thing about starting a blog to make money is that there’s no one set way you have to do it.
You could make money blogging by:
- Including ads on your site
- Writing sponsored posts
- Selling digital products
- Promoting affiliate products
- Selling a service
As you plan how to start a blog and make money, give some thought which of those options appeal to you most.
Right now, I’m trying to grow some affiliate income but eventually, I’d like to offer some courses on my blog. But you might want to try sponsored posts or including ad networks on your site.
There’s no right or wrong option here.
So take some time as you start your blog to consider how you want to make it profitable. It could be one thing or a combination of things.
Then, devote a good chunk of your blogging education to learning how your chosen money-making strategy works.
Look for some good (free) courses that cover what you’re learning about. Then create an action plan that includes everything you need to do to start your monetization strategy.
Give yourself a time frame for completing each of those steps. And once you cross something off on your plan, hit pause and review your progress to see if you need to make any changes.
Remember to Track Your Blogging Expenses Every Month
Just like you track your everyday spending, make sure you’re tracking your blog spending too.
Keep a running list each month of anything you spend that’s blog-related, even if it’s a few dollars. At the end of the month, add up what you spend.
Go line by line over each expense. Cut out any repeat expenses that aren’t adding anything to your blog.
And I can’t stress this enough but be strategic about how you invest in growing your blog.
For the most part, I’m happy with the money I’ve put into my blog so far.
But I did spend several hundred dollars on a pricey blogging course a couple of years ago that I have yet to complete. And I purchased some less expensive blogging tools that turned out not to be worth what I spent.
So, if you’re trying to blog so you can make money and you need to keep it budget-friendly, think every purchase through carefully.
Consider what it could (or couldn’t) do to help you grow your blog. And ask if it’s what you really need for where you are in your blogging journey.
Check out reviews of the product online if there are any. Head to your favorite blogging Facebook groups and ask other bloggers who have purchased and used the product to share their thoughts.
If the blogger or brand offering the product has testimonials on their website, read them. Email them to ask questions about the product so you know what you’re getting.
Bottom line, get as much information as you can before you commit your money to something.
Start a Blog and Make Money Without Killing Your Budget!
Having a plan and a budget are huge when you’re learning how to start a blog and make money.
If you’ve got a killer tip for starting a blog on the cheap, head to the comments and tell me about it!
I’d love for you to pin and share this post if it helped you. 🙂