In my net worth updates, I’ve mentioned that my online business has grown over the years and has added a consulting component which keeps me very busy. One large portion of the consulting business is helping businesses build websites and blogs. Over the years, I’ve gotten a large number of emails regarding starting a personal finance blog or website, and what exactly is involved – particularly the costs.
It may surprise you, but to start a website is not too expensive at all and ongoing costs are manageable. The costs tend to creep up a bit once the website starts to get higher traffic, but income from the website is generally proportional to the traffic that it gets. Note that this post is more about self hosted blogs rather than a blog on a free platform like blogger or wordpress.com.
Besides the costs, the actual setup isn’t all that onerous either. If you pick the right host (the computer that your blog sits on cyberspace), it can be a matter of a few clicks.
1. Domain Name
The first step in starting a website is to purchase a domain name (ie. milliondollarjourney.com). This step is not trivial because first, you need to come up with the name, and second it needs to be available. I tend to use GoDaddy.com for my .com domain name registrations. While it is a bit pricey, I find their domain service to be reliable. I have also used 1and1.com for their low pricing (which includes private registration) and domainsatcost.ca for my Canadian domains. Expect to pay around $10-$20/year per domain name including private registration.
Before you jump in to buy a domain name, keep reading as some hosting solutions include a domain name in the package.
Once you purchase a domain name, the next step is to choose a hosting company. A web host is basically a computer that holds your website files to be displayed when someone goes to your domain name.
There are different types of hosts from shared to dedicated. Shared hosting simply means that multiple sites will be on the same computer, thus they will all share the same computer resources. As resources are limited, their ability to handle higher traffic is limited as well. However, shared resources means lower costs for your site
Out of the hundreds of blogs that I have setup for beginner bloggers, I go with a low cost shared hosting. The reason being is that new sites generally have lower traffic in which shared hosting can easily handle. Which host do I typically go with? For low cost, and easy setup, I go with Bluehost on almost all of my installations. They have low cost hosting solutions (as low as $3.49/month) which includes a domain name. They also allow “one click” blog software installation which means you can have a blog ready to go in 5 to 10 minutes – more on this in section 3.
As websites get busier, their resource requirement will increase (as will the costs). Typically, site start off in a shared environment, then move onto more dedicated resources like through a virtual private server (VPS), or at the high end, a dedicated server.
Shared hosting costs typically range from $5-$20/month, a reliable VPS usually starts at $50/month (MDJ uses SERVINT VPS), and dedicated server pricing is all over the map with pricing anywhere from $90/month to $200/month.
3. Blogging Software – WordPress
WordPress is a popular piece of software that sits on your host (see section 2 above) and runs your website. Best of all, it is free to use. I’ve read a statistic that in 2011 over 50 million blogs were using WordPress , and used for about 22% of all new websites. WordPress makes it extremely easy to post, manage and organize articles for a blog and makes for an intuitive content management system for regular websites.
The biggest downside I can see with WordPress is that it’s so popular that it’s often the target of hacking attacks. One way to keep the hackers out is to keep all core files and plugins up to date and to ensure that you use a strong username and password.
If you want to go with WordPress, I recommend that you go with a host that supports WordPress one-click install which will get you online in a matter of minutes. This way, it also guarantees that the host supports WordPress and its software requirements. As previously mentioned, I’ve setup hundreds of WordPress based sites and almost all of them run on Bluehost – low cost, reliable, and one-click WordPress installation.
How does this one-click installation work? Once you purchase your hosting package, you will receive an email with control panel details. Login to your control panel, and you will see a button there for 1-click WordPress installation. Simply hit the button, fill in form on the screen (blog name etc), and done!
As a side note, even though I recommend 1and1, GoDaddy and Domainsatcost for domain names, I do not recommend them for WordPress based hosting. Remember that you can purchase your domain name separately from your host but some hosting packages include a domain name in the pricing.
Once WordPress is installed your website is basically ready to go live, but most want to customize the look. WordPress offers a number of free themes within the admin control panel, and there are also a number of premium themes that can be purchased separately. For someone starting out, a free theme should be fine.
Once you have your design complete, the website or blog is pretty much ready to go. For a blog, the next step is to create some content and start building your readership via social media etc. This will lead to other factors to consider such as monetization and additional features like an email newsletter.
As you can see, setting up a blog doesn’t take much technical knowledge or time (providing that you pick the right host).
Bringing all the costs together, it really comes down to two costs, the domain name and the hosting. If it’s a new website or blog, budget around $20/year for a domain name, and around $5-$10/month ($60-$120/yr) for a basic WordPress compatible host. If you go with a host that I recommend which includes a domain name, costs can get as low as $42 USD a year (providing that you sign up for a 3 year term).
While you can see that the annual costs aren’t too extreme, the real cost is the time commitment required to grow a website (think second job).
Do you own a website? What are your annual costs?If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free weekly money tips newsletter below (we will never spam you).