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How hard is it to run a blog?

A lot of my readers keep asking this same question a lot lately – how hard is it to run your own blog? Clearly there is huge interest in creating a blog, be it for fun, as means to earn a little extra on the side, or as a full-blown career that takes up the most of your time.

I will lay out my experience here – everything from how much money you need to run a blog, to how much time and what you need to spend it on.

Setting up a name

Firstly – if you’re really serious about it, you need a proper domain name, solid online space and decent bandwidth to support all that. Surely, you can have a blog with a domain name like JohntraVolta.blogspot.com, but if you really want to be taken seriously, you need a standalone, quality name. Think long and hard about it – this is the most important step. Your name is your brand, and your name is the single most difficult thing to change in the long run. It needs to be catchy and distinct, to make people remember you easily and have them coming back for more. Many freelancers, especially writers, use their full name (see examples here, here and here), which is not something I’d recommend. Rather go for something that describes what the blog is about – it will help you rank better, both locally and globally (see good examples here, here and here).

It doesn’t necessarily have to be .com, it can be pretty much anything, although it is very important to choose the right one for you. Many will tell you .com is usually used by commercial websites, .org for non-gov organizations and so on, but in reality, the only thing you should look out for is global vs local ranking – this will improve your overall visibility. And that’s what you’d want, right? To be seen by as many people as possible.

blogDifferent domains behave differently in ranking. If you’re looking to have a strong local blog (geographically), by all means – take your national domain. It will help you rank better among the local competition. That will, on the other hand, hurt your global positioning, so if you’re more interested in spreading beyond your local borders, choose a global domain.

Different domains also have different price tags, which is another thing to consider. Also, if your name is already taken on one domain, I wouldn’t recommend taking the same name on another domain, as that can create confusion and even send a lawsuit or two your way.

Make sure your name is unique, not in use on any domains, and then go for the best one for the audience you’re trying to reach. Once you’re done – it’s time to do some shopping. I bought my domain, Journalancer, on GoDaddy.com, but you don’t have to use that one, there are alternatives such as WIX.com, or Register.com. A .com domain usually costs between $10 – $15 a year, depending on various factors.

Average yearly price: $12.

Buying storage and traffic

The second thing you need to purchase is enough space on the internet where the blog will be hosted. There needs to be a computer somewhere where your blog will be installed and unfortunately, chances are you can’t use your own computer. Hosting a website is a bit more expensive than buying a domain – usually around $5-10 a month. The majority of sites offering domain names also offer hosting, so you can buy everything in one place. Sites where you can find hosting include GoDaddy.com, Bluehost.com, or HostGator.com.

Average yearly price: $45.

The third thing, which can turn out to be most expensive of all, is traffic. As people visit your blog, they upload information to the server where the blog is hosted, and download your content in return. This process is not free. Usually, hosting sites will offer packages which include a certain amount of bandwidth. So the next logical question would be – how much bandwidth do I need to run a blog?

A lot of hosting providers will offer unlimited bandwidth, which is a tempting offer. If your budget is fairly big and you expect your site to grow fast, by all means go ahead. But chances are your budget is limited and your blog will grow slowly. There is no need to buy expensive packages straight away. Instead, you should take the basic one for starters, and work your way up as your traffic grows. You can use one of many bandwidth calculators to evaluate just how much bandwidth you (will) need.

Average yearly price: $0 (included in hosting packages).

Designing the site

Here comes the tricky part – if you don’t have even the most basic knowledge of web design, this is really something you should invest a more serious amount into. Your blog’s design is just like your domain name – it can make or break your business. There are two crucial elements you should keep in mind, the technical and the aesthetical.

The technical is fairly simple – do you know how to design a website, or install a pre-designed blog, such as WordPress? If no – you can learn, watch a few YouTube videos and a couple of tutorials and give it a try. I wouldn’t recommend it as it will take a lot of your time for something that’s five minutes’ work for someone who knows what they’re doing.

blogThe second thing is aesthetics. There have been countless studies and endless books on design – what works and what not. People have done research where visitors first look when they open a new site, how long they stick around and if they even scroll through the site or not. It is EXTREMELY important to take advantage of that knowledge, otherwise some great content may stay forever lost in a sea of websites.

WordPress is a good platform. It offers a lot of designs, many of which are free to use. Majority has been built by people who know what they’re doing, so if you are really interested in just getting a functional, well-designed site up and running fast, I’d say go with WordPress. If your blog really kicks off and gets awesome traffic, you can hire a designer and build a new one from scratch.

One-time price: under $500.

Filling it with content

The last part is the content. Are you creating it yourself, or are you planning on hiring freelancers to do it for you? I’d recommend starting by creating content yourself, to see what works and what not, how people are reacting and which way you should be heading next. If the blog kicks off and you feel like more content is needed, then by all means get someone to help you.

Freelancers aren’t expensive, but they aren’t cheap as well. Sure, you can find someone to write a blog post for $5, but don’t expect quality content for that money. And only quality content can differentiate you from the crowd.

Average yearly price: $0

Maintaining a blog isn’t expensive

Having a blog isn’t expensive, and it isn’t that much work. You need a couple of hours, and a one-time investment of around $500 to get everything going. After that, it’s all up to you, how much time you’re willing to invest in adding new content, keeping the site fresh and your visitors engaged. Where things really start to heat up is when you start marketing yourself.

This is ESSENTIAL. Without marketing, your chances of success are close to zero, and only a handful are capable of breaking through without investing a penny. Hell, Coca Cola is the world’s biggest soda brand, and they invest more than half of their entire yearly budget on marketing!

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how much to invest in marketing, and which channels to use, as there are too many variables. If you are looking to advertise to your local community or country, it would be a good choice to contact a local marketing agency and inquire about prices.

For a global reach, look for Google’s and Facebook’s advertising networks. You can invest as little as you want, or as much as you have. I’d advise to spend as much as you can into marketing. Sure, it’s important to have a great website filled with amazing content, but if you don’t market it, no one is going to see it.

Average yearly price: N/A

Wrap-up

Basically, to get a blog up and running, you will have to spend anywhere between $100 and $500 in your first year, with up to $100 every other year to keep the site active. If you have a little extra, you can invest in a better design, a few content creators and in marketing. You can run a blog without them, but don’t expect stellar results.

Image Credit: Christophe BENOIT / Flickr

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