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As you may have guessed from my site’s title, I am a cheapskate. I prefer to get as much as possible for free and HATE paying more than I think I should.
I started this blog as a hobby over five years ago on a super low budget. I’ve managed to keep my blogging expenses low and I now earn a full-time income from the blog.
In this post, I’ll share my strategy for how to start a successful blog on a shoestring budget, and if you are a cheapskate like me, don’t worry! It’s totally possible to start and grow a money-making blog without much investment and I’ll show you how.
How To Start A Successful Blog Step #1: Pick Your Blog Name
Good news! The first step in starting a successful blog is totally free and just requires some imagination and research.
The first thing you’ll want to do is pick a name for your blog and domain. I suggest brainstorming a big long list of options and then narrowing it down. Much has been written on this topic, but I’ll give you some quick tips:
- Pick a name that’s easy to remember and type into the browser bar. Avoid any potential tricky spellings.
- Check to make sure your business name is available in your state. Search for business name search and your state. You can then search the records of the Secretary of State to see if it is available.
- Make sure the domain is available for your name by searching for the domain here. But don’t pay to register it now – wait until you pay for hosting to save money (I’ll get to that in the next section!)
- Keep it as short as possible. My first name for my blog was “Frugal Living Southeast” which was too long and complicated. The Frugal South is much better!
- Check to see that the name is available on all of the social media platforms that you want to use. I’m @thefrugalsouth everywhere which makes things so easy.
After you’ve picked a name for your blog you’re ready to find a home for it on the web.
How To Start A Successful Blog Step #2: Get Your Domain & Hosting
The number one thing I spent money on when I started my blog was hosting for my site. Hosting is basically just paying rent to keep your website on a company’s servers.
Because I was a newbie to blogging, I went with a mega hosting company (think GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator).
While my host was fine for the first year (because I basically had no traffic, LOL) once I actually needed support and was getting some traffic, it let me down. My site was offline frequently and customer support was hit or miss.
A few years in I moved to A2 Hosting, a US-based hosting company that specializes in WordPress hosting and I am SO GLAD I did! A2 costs only slightly more than the mega hosts (plans with A2 start at $3.92 per month) and I’ve have had the best experience with A2’s customer support.
Here’s some cheapskate insight about hosting… when you first sign up, the monthly rate will be the lowest if you sign up for multiple years of hosting. I foolishly signed up for only one year when I started because I wasn’t sure I would follow through with it.
Well, guess what? My hosting cost per month tripled after my one year ran out! I went from paying under $5 per month to over $15 (which is A LOT to a cheapskate).
Looking back, I wished I had:
- Done some research and found a solid hosting company such as A2
- Paid for the first three years upfront to save myself HUNDREDS of dollars down the road!
I know it’s a tough pill to swallow but if you really want to blog on a shoestring budget pay for 2-3 years of hosting upfront since it will save you so much in the long run! And you might just stay more committed to keeping up with your blog if you have made an initial investment.
If you are starting out you’ll just need the Lite Web Hosting from A2, which for 24 months of hosting will cost $94.
You will also have to register your domain name which shouldn’t cost you more than $15. I suggest registering your domain with your hosting company to simplify your life tremendously. You’ll be able to register your domain and set it up easily when you sign up for a hosting plan with A2.
How To Learn Blogging Step #3: Get a WordPress Theme
The next step in how to start a successful blog is to install WordPress on your hosting account. It usually just involves a few clicks (done through your host) and you are ready to go! (P.S. There is really no reason to consider any other platform other than WordPress for blogging).
Your next expense will likely be a WordPress “theme”.
Your theme is what determines the layout of your site, from where posts appear to where your picture and social media icons are. They run the gamut from free to thousands of dollars to have one crafted for you by a site designer.
There’s no need to use a lame free WordPress theme when there are MUCH better themes available for a small price tag if you know where to look!
My recommended source for a fantastic theme on a tight budget is Etsy. You can easily get a gorgeous, mobile responsive (meaning it looks great on phones and tablets) theme that will make your site stand out for under $30 on Etsy!
I bought my first theme from Theme Fashion three years ago and I used it up until recently! Check out Theme Fashion’s gorgeous WordPress Themes which are all under $20.
I also LOVE the affordable themes from City House Design on Etsy. If you are curious, I am using the “Tea Cup” theme and think it is great.
After you pay for your theme you will download it to your computer, then upload to WordPress on your domain. You’ll then be able to activate it on your site and start rolling!
Step #4: Get Design & Editing Software
After you have your fancy theme on your new site, you’ll want a header image that is the first thing visitors will see. I have always created all of my graphics myself (of course – I’m not paying someone to do this) with the help of two totally free online graphic design programs – Canva and Lunapic.
My header is 940 x 200 pixels, which is a pretty standard size, but check the header setting in the “Customize” section of your appearance tab to find out if your theme needs a particular size.
Head over to Canva and select “Use Custom Dimensions” at the top to create your header! I like to use a combination of a few different fonts and some other basic design elements, many of which are free in Canva. It took me less than 30 minutes to create this simple logo and header for my site.
The two big limitations to the free version of Canva are the lack of a way to crop a design after I am done creating and no way to make the background transparent. For these, I use Lunapic, another free photo editing program.
At the very bottom of the “Edit” menu in Lunapic you’ll find the Transparent Background tool. I use this all of the time for creating custom designs. You can also easily crop images as Lunapic, or use any photo editor on your computer.
I also use Canva to create at least one special Pinterest-friendly image for each blog post.
I strongly suggest doing this right out of the gate and getting your stuff on Pinterest (you can check out the Pins I create for my content here). Over 60% of my traffic comes from Pinterest and it really helped my blog take off!
And if you don’t have much of your own photography to start, you can get royalty-free stock photos at Pixabay. The first image in this post is from there, actually!
Step #5: Get Technical Support
There were times when I was getting my blog going that I needed some technical help. For example, I couldn’t figure out how to add the required FTC disclosure to the top of my posts in a way that looked good.
For jobs like this, I suggest hiring some freelance technical support on Fiverr, a community marketplace for freelancer services.
I’ve hired folks on Fiverr to fix small things I didn’t like on my site or help speed up my site. I’ve paid $10-$20 for these tasks and was really pleased with how they turned out! You can search for “WordPress customization” to find folks who can help with making your site look and run the way you want.
Two pieces of advice if you are going to use Fiverr:
- Back up your site before you give someone access. In the worst case scenario that something goes wrong, you’ll have your site just the way it was. You can use the free plugin Duplicator to backup your site.
- Create a user profile for the person you hire in WordPress then delete it afterward. Just select “Add new” in the User section of the WordPress dashboard to create one.
You’ll definitely need some technical help as you figure out how to start a successful blog.
I hope this post gave you some inspiration and practical steps for starting a blog on a shoestring budget! Here’s a breakdown of the cost to get your blog up and running:
- $94 for 24 months of Lite Hosting with A2
- $15 to register your domain
- $19 for a WordPress theme from Etsy
So your total investment for starting a blog that could end up bringing you a full-time income is $128. Split that up over 24 months and it is about $5 per month!
Now that’s how to start a successful blog on a budget!
Any questions about getting a blog up and running on the cheap? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me a message on The Frugal South’s Facebook page!