It’s been about 2 months since I first started this blog, and I finally feel like the basic guts of it are set-up. I probably could have built it faster, and perhaps with a bit more sophistication, but given the fact I still work full time, I’m pretty satisfied with the results.
When researching the start-up costs of blogs, many people will often site the low cost of hosting and will claim that it takes <$100 to start your own blog or website. While this is technically true, if you’re looking to build a more professional blog with the intent to someday monetize it, the reality is a bit more expensive.
The Advantages of Starting a Blog as an Online Business
As I point out on my ‘Start Your Own Blog‘ page, there are a few advantages to treating your blog as an online business, including:
- The desire to project a more professional look and feel
- Wanting more control and full ownership of your blog
- The ability to eventually generate some income by monetizing the blog
- The option to apply an additional layer of privacy
- The added accountability of differentiating between a hobby and a profession
Breaking Down the Cost of This Blog
I’m going to detail every penny I spent on getting this blog running up to this point. I hope this will be a useful reference for anyone looking to do something similar. Please keep in mind that some of these costs were optional and my personal preference. I’m simply sharing my experience not advocating that this is the only or best way to start your own blog. All the costs below are being treated as start-up costs for the first year. If there’s a monthly cost, it’s been annualized accordingly.
Private Mailbox / Cost: $258 USD
This might seem like an optional step at face value, but if you’re looking to maintain a certain level of privacy and anonymity, you’d be wise to purchase a P.O. Box or preferably a Private Mailbox which allows you to have a physical address. I have found this to be immensely useful over the past couple of months, since I can use my private mailbox address to create all the necessary accounts and maintain a clean separation between my personal home address and my online venture. I also now have the added bonus of a separate mailing address for personal shipments that can be delivered to a location that will always have someone present to receive and hold packages.
Business Formation / Cost: $768 USD
I decided to start this blog as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). I wanted to treat it like a true online business from day one. I felt this helped to establish more credibility when signing up for various services and accounts. It also reinforced my desire for maintaining privacy and separation between my personal life (which includes a full time job), and my blogging life. I had also always wanted to go through the process of starting my own business, and the blog seemed like a good excuse to start learning.
I debated between doing it all myself, or using a service like LegalZoom. Since I was limited on time, and didn’t think the cost of their service was unreasonable, I opted to use LegalZoom and bought the Express Gold package for $403. This did not include the State filing fees, which for me were an additional $301 (Texas). The nice thing about that package was that I also received a Federal Tax ID, and could use their Tax & Legal advice for free for 30 Days. It was those extra services that convinced me of the total value for what I spent.
I also paid to have a registered agent separately which is a requirement in Texas, at a cost of $39. And I also filed for a DBA (Doing Business As) for $25. That got my total up to $768. I could have cut that in half by avoiding LegalZoom, but having now gone through the process, I wouldn’t change my approach.
Web-Hosting / Cost: $71 USD
You can start a blog easily using any number of free publishing platforms. However, if you want complete control of your site, which is mandatory if you’re looking to monetize it some day, then self-hosting is the only option. I got a great deal on web hosting at BlueHost, and opted to pre-purchase their 36 month plan, which comes out to $71 a year. This includes a free domain name registration for the first year, and a seamless install of WordPress. Make sure you pick a good blog name!
Website Design / Cost: $217 USD
Although there are a number of free website templates provided by WordPress which could have gotten me started at no cost, I decided to get a bit fancier. After researching all the various plug-ins and premium themes, I landed on the Genesis framework which integrates well with WordPress. It’s also driven by StudioPress which provides premium website themes for all types of needs. I bought both as a package for $94. There are many things I wouldn’t have been able to with my website design without those products, especially with no coding experience.
I also got a little help on a simple Logo Design using DesignHill for a low price of $103. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a crowdsourcing contest design platform that connects customers with designers. There are many companies that provide this service, and they were the simplest for my needs and budget.
After adding another $20 for some assistance from a web developer with a technical issue, the total cost for website design came in at $217.
Training & Education / Cost: $197 USD
We live in an age where information and knowledge is practically free. All you need is time and commitment to learn any number of wonderful things. Including starting a blog! I’ll admit I spent more hours than I’m willing to confess trying to figure out how to start and build this blog.
Since my goal was to eventually monetize the blog, I wanted to get educated on some of the ways that could be done. Even though I’m nowhere near the point where my audience size merits any attention to this subject, I felt that learning about certain aspects of blog monetization early could pay off in the long run.
This is why I had budgeted for some training courses in my overall cost profile. I chose to focus on Affiliate Marketing techniques since I didn’t know much about the subject.
One of the Affiliate Marketing blogger super stars is Michelle Schroeder at Making Sense of Cents. She went from $0 in affiliate income to over $50,000 PER MONTH! Lucky for me, she recently designed her own course on the subject.
The Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course cost me $197 and about a dedicated weekend to complete. If you’re trying to learn about different ways your blog can generate income, this course should be on your homework list.
Total Blog Start-up Cost = $1,511 USD
At the end of the year, I will need to evaluate if blogging is for me, especially since there will be recurring costs each year to keep things going. I estimate those recurring costs to be roughly $340, which includes hosting, mailbox, and registrations.
I obviously could have started this blog for much less, or deferred some of the costs to a later date since they technically were not critical for start-up. My strategy however was to treat this blog like a business, and a learning opportunity. That was half the fun for me!
Spending this kind of money for a frugal person such as myself may seem counterintuitive, however I knew that this investment would keep me honest, and would incentivize me to keep going when things inevitably get tough. Walking away from a $100 is a lot easier than walking away from a $1,500 investment.
Besides, the average start-up cost of a business is $30,000 according to a 2009 study by the Kauffmann Foundation. By comparison, this blog is a bargain.
It’s important to acknowledge however that the total cost excludes the time I spent, which was quite considerable. You can learn more about some of the steps I took to start this blog here.
How does this compare to your start-up costs and approach? Are you considering starting a blog?