Not all blogs are created free. Some blogs cost…up to four figures for their design. And then comes the cost of keeping that blog running every month. Here’s the good news: You get to decide what you spend on your blog, and the way you do that is by creating a budget. In this post, Beth Bauer (@JourneyofBethB), freelance writer, travel blogger, yoga instructor, and entrepreneur, explains how—and why—to determine the budget for starting and continuing your blog site.
You’ve probably seen ads and articles that claim you can “Start a Blog for Free.” Here’s the truth: A successful blog will cost you money, and, if you’re about to start blogging, plan accordingly.
Perhaps you already have a site that you started with the thought that it wouldn’t cost you much, if anything. Or maybe you’ve been blogging a while but have lost track of your expenses. Even worse, perhaps your costs are mounting, and blogging is starting to look like an expensive proposition.
To blog successfully, you must establish and track your expenses, which includes an initial start-up budget and an ongoing operations budget. And those expenses need to fall within your acceptable spending parameters.
If you can’t afford to start and maintain a blog, wait until you can. There’s nothing worse than investing your time and money into creating a blog and then not having the resources to keep it going. Or, consider how to monetize your blog to keep it up and running…and making money.
Let’s take a close look at the process of creating a budget for your blog.
First, you need to understand what a budget is and why you need one. A budget is an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period. Of course, you create a budget with the intent of keeping your expenditures within that estimate.
You need to know how much money you have to spend on the creation of your site. Additionally, you need to know how much you can afford to pay monthly for its upkeep.
Once you know these figures, you can determine what you can and can’t afford to purchase to get set up and keep your blog running long term. You’ll also know your breakeven point; when you earn as much as you spend, you break even. After that, anything you earn is profit.
The first step to starting your blog involves picking a hosting site. A “host” is a company that provides the space on its servers and equipment to store your blog online and allows it to be seen by your readers.
WordPress and Wix are two of the most popular no-cost hosting companies. Wix is easier to use, but WordPress has a lot more design options.
However, you can also choose to self-host your blog, which means you choose a hosting company and pay for their service. Pros and cons exist for both types of hosting.
You can start with a free, hosted plan, but, if things go well, you’ll end upgrading at some point. And switching from free to paid hosting later can prove more costly because you may need to hire help.
If possible, start by paying for a monthly, self-hosted plan that best fits your needs now. You’ll have many more design templates to choose from, a custom domain name, professional email address, the ability to sell things, automation options, more control over advertising, and much more.
A typical hosting plan costs between $5 and $20 per month. Hosting companies will offer a discount if you prepay for an entire year.
You’ll also need to purchase a domain name, so your site will have a unique URL. Domain name costs vary depending on the domain you choose, but a relatively uncommon blog name might cost as little as $0.99 for one year or $2.99 per year for the first two years. Premium Domains do cost quite a bit more.
You may want to have a professional logo designed for your blog, which might require paying someone for graphic design. A log is optional and never mandatory. Still, it will give your blog that polished look of professionalism.
You can find eager freelancers ready to work with you at websites like Upwork and 99designs.com. Be prepared to spend between $100 and $200 for your artwork.
Now that you have your blog set up, you’re going to need to track your ongoing revenue and expenses.
QuickBooks is an excellent bookkeeping service that allows you to track all of your revenue and expenses, send invoices, run reports, sync bank transactions, and much more. The basic plan costs under $10 a month and increases from there.
Also, if you haven’t yet set up a business bank account, do so before you make your first blog-related purchase. It’s best to keep blog expenses separate from personal expenses.
The cost of a business checking account is typically around $10 a month.
You may need to pay for subscriptions to other services, such as MailChimp, Survey Monkey, Square, Stripe, or even plugins.
Mailchimp, Active Campaign, Aweber, and Constant Contact are email marketing services necessary for building a mailing list and emailing your subscribers. The free packages are usually sufficient until you reach a large number of subscribers.
Survey Monkey lets you send out surveys to get your readers’ feedback. Short surveys are free; more complex ones require payment.
Plugins help you automate site processes, including the ability for readers to share posts across social networks and keeping paid content in a program only accessed by paying members.
You may even decide to opt for an image subscription. You will need images for each post. While there are free image sites, sometimes you’ll need to pay for just the right image. Images start at $1 per piece and go up. However, a subscription can prove less expensive. You also can purchase batches of images for less cost per image.
Now that you own and operate a business, you can designate your mobile phone, laptop, and other technical assets (printer, hot spot, etc.) as business-related expenses. You’ll have a monthly mobile phone bill and need to get a new laptop every few years. You’ll also need to pay for internet service if you don’t already have it. Even the space in which you work, as well as your utilities, can be deemed business expenses.
Talk with a CPA to see how to account for these items on your taxes.
It doesn’t cost much to create a blog and keep it going, but it does cost. Fortunately, there are also ways to monetize your blog and start making money as a blogger so you can offset the expenses. However, it takes a while to get there—generally two to three years. So, plan on investing more on the front end.
Creating a budget makes it possible for you to start blogging without overextending yourself financially. Keep in mind, though, that a bunch of $2.99 and $10 charges per month can add up quickly if you aren’t paying attention.
Keep track of your expenses and use that budget to guide your spending. The rule of thumb is to never spend more than you budgeted.
Do those things and, before you know it, you’ll be monetizing your blog. At that time, you can invest more money into improving your site. And you can track the return on investment.
Do you have a blog budget? Tell me in a comment—and please share this post with another blogger.
Beth Bauer is a freelance writer, travel blogger, yoga instructor, and entrepreneur currently working on her third novel. She has traveled to over 20 countries in just the last two years and enjoys life as a digital nomad. She is originally from the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.A., and when she’s home lives on the Long Beach Peninsula with her dog, Ozzie.