So, you want to be a blogger but you have no money.
I’ve been there.
I’ve spent money I didn’t have on a website that wasn’t ready. And a theme and Gsuite and fucking Tailwind.
Scour Google (or, God forbid, Pinterest) for blogging on a budget. Go on.
Everywhere you look there are bloggers that claim they can get you started on your blog for free but there’s always a catch.
It’s not actually free.
It’s £2.99 a month or whatever, but you have to pay for a year upfront. Also domain privacy and a custom domain yada yada yada.
We were promised free.
We need free.
We’re working 40 hours a week for minimum wage — we want to check we actually want to blog before committing financially.
AND THAT’S OK. Sensible, even.
I’m here to tell you that you can start blogging for free. Today. I PROMISE. FREE.
What I can’t tell you is how to make a living overnight, or even in the next six months, but I couldn’t guarantee that even if you did hand over the cash for things like hosting.
So what do you NOT need to start blogging
We’re told about the evils of wordpress.com all the time. It’s not really ours. We don’t own it. We’re at its mercy.
Who cares? It’s free, and we have no money. If you’re that worried, write your posts in Google Docs so you have a backup.
You don’t need to fork out for hosting straight away. Get to grips with the Wordpress interface. Learn what plugins do.
When the time is right, go to Siteground or whomever and ask them nicely if they’ll move it over. If they won’t, copy and paste your posts from Google Docs. It’ll take like a day. You have a day.
When should you pay for hosting?
When you can.
When you want to.
When you have 30,000 views a month and can make some money from ads.
Maybe never, if you just enjoy the process.
Not every hobby is a hustle.
A domain name
I don’t care if your domain is .com or .wordpress.com. If I like your writing, I’ll read your damn blog.
I’m not a domain snob.
Does Google care? I have no idea. But trust me, if you build enough quality content Google can’t help but take notice.
It’s literally what Google does.
A ‘proper’ email
So many people insist that a Gmail email is unprofessional.
I cannot IMAGINE giving a shit.
There are people dying in the world.
Don’t waste £3 a month on Gsuite if you don’t need to.
Loads of blogger’s emails go straight to the spam folder anyway, so don’t think you’ll have an edge by getting a email@example.com email. You won’t.
If you do pay for hosting and get a domain email for free COOL - but you DON’T need one.
A premium theme
I have a few blogs, and my most successful runs a free theme (Kale, btw). It does the job. I won’t pay for another theme until I can afford to pay a developer, because I think it’s unnecessary, and let’s face it, I have no idea what I’m doing, design-wise.
If you find a premium theme you love, go for it, but it’s not necessary.
Also, if you can afford to either pay for hosting or a paid theme, I would recommend you go for hosting — there’s a larger selection of free themes, and you’ll probably find one you like.
Does this cost you SEO points? Maybe. But if your content is good, Google will find you.
A quick note — the SEO points associated with themes usually relates to user experience.
By which I mean how fast your site is.
Pick a theme that's fast over one that’s pretty.
Pretty can come later.
A Pinterest course/scheduler
Pinterest has basically cancelled itself.
It wants real users.
Make pins for your posts by all means. Pin them to all your relevant boards (plus one designated for your pins only), then just use Pinterest like a normal person.
Almost all of my traffic is from Google, but I get a few views from Pinterest for very little effort. I don’t even have pins for all my posts.
You also don’t need a social media scheduler. A free one will do when you’re starting out (maybe forever). I don’t use one at all.
Use Unsplash or Pexels or take your own photos on your phone.
Edit them using the free versions of Canva and PicMonkey. If you need, for example, a load of pictures with transparent backgrounds, wait until Canva offers you a free trial and use that.
So, how do you start a blog for free?
Go to Wordpress.com and start a blog. They give you all the instructions to get started. Watch a couple of Youtube videos to help, or scour Quora and Reddit for answers.
In my experience, the Wordpress team are pretty good at answering queries. Get used to the platform. Make mistakes before you invest any money.
Why are people encouraged not to use wordpress.com?
- I may seem cynical here, but a LOT of bloggers make money from the affiliate programmes of hosting companies. Bluehost must pay out a fucking FORTUNE for its affiliate scheme.
- You don’t own your website, and Wordpress can pull it down at any time. Except they probs won’t (and if they do, what the hell were you blogging about?), and you can keep your own backup, just in case.
- You can’t place ads or affiliate links on wordpress.org. Not to be mean, but in those first few months of blogging, this isn’t an issue. You could have the most beautiful, self-hosted blog in the world but good quality traffic that makes money takes time.
- It seems unprofessional. I get this, but you can build authority with your blog posts over time. Also, it only seems unprofessional to someone who knows about blogging. If someone stumbles across your blog post on how to litter train your cat, and the tips work, they won’t care that your website is at www.littertrainyourcat.wordpress.com. (that link doesn’t work, btw so the domain is available :))
- Start your blog for free. Do not spend one penny. Use your phone if you don’t have a computer. Or go to the library. You can use whatever you’re reading this article on. Unless someone printed this out and gave it to you (it could happen).
- Binge-watch Income School on YouTube. Invest your time (not money, until you have some spare) in your education.
- Write content. Lots of content.
- Build up an audience.
- Then go and get self-hosted.
- If you want, import your posts to Medium — maybe you’ll become a millionaire over here.
- DON’T SPEND MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE.