Blogging: When to Save and Spend
When it comes to running a successful blog, you may have to spend some money. If you have your own blog mainly to express yourself and you’re not into getting followers, making money from advertisements, getting any press or gigs from it, then you may not need to read this post. But if one of your many blogging goals is to reach the largest audience you can and run your blog like a business, then this post is for you.
When to Save
Setting up your blog. There is no need to pay someone to set your blog up for you. If you’re using a free service like wordpress.com or blogger.com, it’s already so simple (and free!) If you are creating a domain name through a hosting service, choose one that has an automatic install (and is included in the price- NOT an added cost). Like I mentioned above, I used Bluehost for this and use wordpress.org. There are so many tutorials out there you can find from a simple Google search on any help you need setting up your blog, changing the way it looks, etc. Yes, it will take some time, but it will save you some money.
Your blog’s design. I’m no graphic designer and don’t have much experience, but I taught myself Photoshop through tutorials and trial-and-error. And guess what? Although my blog design isn’t as amazing as that of a professional designer, it gets the job done. If you have no experience with graphic design (other than how to spell your name in MS Paint), then you certainly can reach out to someone to make your header image. I say save the high-end designs for when your blog is extremely popular (I’m talking “A Beautiful Mess” popular). .
Special link-ups or promotional opportunities. I don’t think you should ever PAY to get your blog post posted somewhere. I see lots of bloggers doing it, but it’s just not my thing. If your content is high quality and interesting, people will view it. By paying money to include your post in a round-up with 20 other bloggers all copying each other isn’t going to make your blog stand out. I’ve heard first-hand from friends who have participated in these promotional things before that the return is very low. They only see a spike of traffic on the one day and no return readers from it. If you work hard for many months on your blog, brands and blogs should be asking YOU for your content- not the other way around.
When to Spend
Advertisements. When you are first starting off as a blogger, I think small advertisements are a wise choice. Find a blogger you look up to who you think has a similar audience as you and check out if they take advertisements. Usually you can get a small button to your blog listed on their sidebar for $5-$15. The more popular the blog (
or bigger the ego of the blogger), the more expensive this will be. Some blogs charge upwards of $100 for a month of ad space. I say look for “ad swaps”, where you and a blogger display each other’s ads, to start out with. Don’t plaster your blog all over the place- be selective. And check your stats! If you aren’t getting any extra traffic or readers from it, don’t do it again in the future. Look for bloggers who form relationships with their sponsors, including tweeting their blog posts, including them in a post on their blog, etc.
Domain name. The first thing I did when I set up my blog was register my domain name. I chose a “.com” version and made sure it was available. The rates are fairly cheap, usually between $10 and $15 a year. Your blog will appear MUCH more professional with a .com instead of .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com. It’s also memorable, easier to type and less to remember. And at such a low price, why not? Skip going out to lunch with friends or cut down on your Starbucks intake for a week and you’ll have the money for an entire year!
Hosting services. Having used many forms of blog platforms in the past for leisure, work and internships, I know the differences in them. I’m a huge advocate of wordpress.org. This is a paid version of wordpress.com, but it lets you customize your blog’s look, run advertisements, and much more. It also arguably has the best SEO benefit- meaning it’s the best platform for your blog to be found on search engines. I find that blogs using wordpress.org or another self-hosted platform appear far more professional. It’s also SO easy to use and there is a large help section/amount of tutorials on their website. I highly recommend upgrading, and the $100 or so a year is worth it in the long run. You’ll most likely make back the money in affiliate links, advertising, etc. It’s worth saving up for!
What are the things you think bloggers should save and splurge on? How much money do you typically spend a year on your blog?
Such great tips Rachel 🙂 And your blog design looks great!
aw thank you!
Great tips Rachel, I think a blogger should seriously consider buying a good camera and even better lenses. This was my last BIG investment (I was really nervous about it) and it was worth every penny. One of my best friends even told me recently that they saw a vast improvement in my pics when they looked at my first few posts. And the best thing you can do for your blog I think is invest time in it and value quality content over quantity. And Educate yourself, the Yuli Zif “Fashion 2.0” is my bible lol. I go back to it every other week. http://www.amazon.com/Fashion-2-0-Blogging-Profitable-Launching/dp/1463611382/ref=la_B005AWYU5O_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361449541&sr=1-1
So true- I just bought my own after saving up for a long time! Thanks for the book rec!
This is such great advice and I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. I can’t believe you taught yourself Photoshop! I’ve only used it a handful of times, but I swear, I’ve never been more confused!
Practice makes perfect 🙂
This is such a great breakdown and I completely agree with your tips Rach!
I’m so impressed that you did your blog design yourself! I won a blog design in a giveaway so I wound up not paying a penny for it either 🙂
Aw thank you! I just play around in Photoshop a lot. Yours looks great too- I didn’t know you got it for FREE! Awesome!
Awwww this is so sweet Rachel…..coming up with something that would surely help any upcoming blogger is always welcome!!!
Thanks! After my reader survey, a lot of people wanted to see more blogging tips, so I’m trying!
These are great tips Rachel and I totally agree! 🙂
Such good tips! I’ve been thinkin about advertising but wasn’t sure quite where to begin! thanks for sharing
you’re welcome- thanks for reading!
I need to do the domain thing, but keep forgetting for some reason. Great tips!
You definitely should- it’s pretty cheap! It’s a whole lot easier to type/tell people your URL when it’s a .com 🙂
These are great tips Rachel! I definitely spent money on my domain name, but it is so inexpensive, it just makes since to have your “blog brand” match what your actual URL is. And WordPress is a great platform that I’ve really loved! Your site looks amazing considering you have done it yourself! I was lucky and worked with my friend who is a graphic designer to give me a new logo 🙂 But with that said… it is worth it to connect with people on LinkedIn… some just want exposure and might do some graphic design on your bog for free!
*blog whoops hehe 🙂
I personally think your domain name should match your blog name and be a .com, too! See- you are a perfect example. You branded your own blog, got help from a friend in the graphic department, etc.
Great and informative post, Rachel! I agree with you on these tips!
These are all great tips! I’ve made several posts lately on my blog about all of the positives of WordPress, I couldn’t out it more. 🙂
Yes, I love those posts of yours!
This post is so amazing! I’m literally bookmarking it now. I’ve only been at it for 7 months, so I definitely feel like a baby blogger! Please keep posting blogging tips like this! I could a ton of advice! xo
You are NOT a baby blogger at all- I’ve only been doing it technically for a year, but I learn a lot in my 9-to-5 job as well (and as a reader of blogs for years before making one). Your design is great and you did it yourself, correct? Thanks so much, I will keep them coming!
These are some great suggestions. I agree with all of your tips. The one other place where I’m thinking of investing some money is into Facebook ads. I think it depends on whether or not growing your following on a platform is of interest, but to me, Facebook is a great choice. I feel like bloggers use Bloglovin’ and Google Friend Connect, but people without blogs (the majority) will utilize Facebook as a means for “following”. With that in mind, I think that’ll be the main place I spend money if I go down that route. I haven’t yet – but that’s just my initial thought process behind it!
Such a good point, Emily! Did you know that Facebook chooses which people actually SEE your FB page’s posts? For example, I have over 500 friends but only about 50 actually see the posts on their newsfeeds- even if they all look at their feeds at the same time. It’s because they want you to purchase the paid ad options. Kind of stupid, huh? So yes, investing in FB ads very well could be helpful!
These are fantastic tips, Rachel! I was lucky when I first started that I just really couldn’t even afford to pay someone for these things, so it forced me to learn it myself. I think beginners just get so overwhelmed and think they have to have a professional, amazing looking blog right from the start. Love your advice to just get going and teach yourself along the way – it’s really about the content, at the end of the day!
Aw thank you! Your blog post graphics and design is always so clean and organized- a perfect example of someone teaching themself and practicing. My design was crappy at the beginning, but I think it gets better each time 🙂
I’ve been a massive blog reader for about 4 years and of course I’ve been having thoughts to start my own one. But I’m always afraid of money and time issues, I think it was really nice of you to write on this topical problem for us, the yet-not-bloggers. Thanks!
Aw- I was the same way. After reading for years, I finally made my own. You really should start one! If you need any help/tips, I’m here!
I totally agree with these tips – you are so right! I designed my blog myself but I definitely paid for my domain name!
Exactly- your design looks great and it’s so much more rewarding doing-it-yourself or atleast trying to do some of it yourself 🙂
Great tips!! I’ve been happy with WordPress too. I think you just have to be patient and stay true to yourself and your blog will grow…at least that’s what I keep telling myself:)
Very true- WordPress is the best!
fantastic tips!! i’ve been doing this for 6 years and i am still always finding helpful hints!!
You are a pro then Lauren!
Love these tips 🙂 WordPress.org has been great so far, love it!
Great to hear!
Great post! I love the advice, thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome 🙂
Fantastic advice Rachel. I love the new blog design. So cute and so you!
aw thank you so much!
This is so helpful to someone like me who is still fairly new to the whole blogging game! Thanks for the tips, Rachel 🙂
You are welcome darling!
Very good post and points. I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said here.
I agree, it’s definitely worth it to buy a “.com” domain. Even if your content is great, something about the “.blogspot.com” just looks a bit amateurish. I spent money to have my site designed. At the time it was helpful, because I had NO IDEA what I was doing and my site looked really bad. Now that I know more about blogging, I would have designed the whole thing differently, so it was probably a waste of money. Based on my own experience, I’d say choose a professional looking theme for free, but get a header designed and you’ll be set. If you do want to pay for a site design, wait until you know the pros and cons of different layouts before you commit.
Your design looks good though- so in that instance, buying it professionally was helpful. You’re so right about the header part- I use a free theme (well I use wordpress.org so I guess I pay for the theme in that) but then customize it to my liking with my header, sidebar buttons, etc. I guess my main thing was people waste SO much money on a design when its not needed sometimes 🙂
What a great article! Very interesting:)
thank you Ira!
Great tips! I repinned this on pinterest 🙂
I saw that- thanks Kacie!
Great tips! The only thing I’ve ever spent money on was my domain name, and that was only $10 so not too bad!
exactly- that’s the main thing I think all bloggers should invest in (it’s so cheap, so why not!)
I love all of your tips – except I would say that in some cases it can be wise to splurge on a design. I saved for ages to afford my more recent redesign and while it was extremely costly, but it was the best money I’ve ever spent.
I’d also recommend splurging on a photographer for outfit posts… I work with Lydia Hudgens and it’s changed my life.
All in all it probably just depends on the size of your blog, but I agree with you regarding hosting. I started out on blogger and had to pay someone to move me over to WordPress – I wish I had just started on WordPress.org to begin with! Hindsight is always 20-20.
thanks Grace! I think at the level you are at in blogging, an expensive blog design makes total sense. I think a lot of people are switching from blogger to WP lately, it’s becoming a trend!
You are wise, lady!!! Great tips. I do think spending a little on your design is smart…if you don’t know how to do it yourself. 🙂 And advertising is the best way to get your blog to grow and the advice your shared on going about picking who to sponsor is 100% dead on. High five!
Thank you Shanna!
These are such great tips! I’m always amazed by the quality of your posts on blogging. You seem like such an expert. I’ve been wanting my own domain name for a while but the thought of transferring everything over is a little daunting to say the least. It doesn’t help when the tutorials I read up on makes no sense to me. I wish I had started out with my own domain from the start.
aw thank you so much Jenee- that is a HUGE compliment! You can get your own domain name without transferring anything- it’s just 10 dollars or so a year!
Hi, I’m popping over for the first time from Here & Now’s post. These are great tips, I just started blogging over the past few months so I’ve been drinking up all the tips and tricks that I can. Its great to hear more experienced bloggers advice, because I know that you’ve been in the same spot that I’m in now! Thanks!
thanks so much! If you need any help, e-mail me 🙂 Glad you found me through Jessica!
thanx for the advice:) im thinking of getting a domain name:)
you should- only 10 dollars or so a year!
Totally agree with everything that you said here, Rachel! And I’m shocked to hear your layout wasn’t professionally made! It looks gorgeous. I think for a blog, simple is really so much better, because you want the focus to be on your content, not the 543324 different colors and patterns and icons and craziness that I sometimes see with super extravagent, expensive-looking layouts. I love that when I type in lifeunsweetened.com (which yes, is way classier than having a blog system attached to it, and is something on my to-do list for my blog), I love that your page loads for me in under 3 seconds. Because it’s nice and simple, easy to navigate, and appealing!
And btw, tons of designers offer GORGEOUS layouts on Etsy for $20-40. No need to spend tons of cash! I am still okay with my current layout (which I made myself) but if I wanted to step it up, I’d go with Etsy.
Aw why thank you! Yeah, I did my graphics myself and just play around in Photoshop and read tutorials. The same goes for your design- it’s cute, simple and you did it yourself as well! Etsy has just about everything- don’t they?