Want to start a blog without spending a lot of money?
While there are several blogging platforms that allow you to create a blog for free, if you want to have a professional blog with your own domain name you’ll need to pay for a few services.
But here’s the good news: launching a professional blog won’t break the bank! You just need to shop around for the best deal – one that suits your blogging needs and budget.
So, here’s how to start a blog on a budget, from choosing the right web hosting provider to using free blogging WordPress plugins and tools.
P.S. If you find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information presented in this guide, feel free to check out the infographic at the end of the post.
Step 1: Choose the right blogging platform
It’s normal to feel confused at the start of your blogging journey. There are several great blogging platforms to choose from, from all-in-one platforms like Wix and Squarespace, to the self-hosted WordPress.org.
A quick review of popular blogging platforms
This is a free blogging platform by Google. You can create a free blog, but you will get a subdomain (e.g. myawesomeblog.blogspot.com), which is not the most ideal option if you want your blog to look professional. Alternatively, you can purchase a domain name and link it to your Blogger account.
This blogging platform is very basic and has very limited features.
Domain vs subdomain: A domain name is the name of a website (e.g. myawesomeblog.com or wordpress.com). A subdomain is the name of a website that forms part of another website (e.g. myawesomeblog.blogspot.com or myawesomeblog.wordpress.com).
Squarespace is an all-in-one platform that offers different paid plans. Your subscription would include a domain name, hosting and your website builder. You can choose from a variety of templates and layouts for your blog. However you might need to pay extra for some Squarespace plugins.
Plugins: These are features and tools that you can add to your website, such as comment boxes, social media icons, contact forms and SEO tools.
Similar to Squarespace, Wix offers hosting and a drag-and-drop website builder. The free plan gives you access to basic features and a subdomain (e.g. danielafrendo.wixsite.com/myawesomeblog). When you upgrade to a premium account, you get a custom domain name, extra storage, and many other amazing features. The Wix app store contains a variety of plugins by third parties – the free ones come with limited features and you’ll need to pay for full access.
I had a Wix site for 5 years and saw the blog app go through several changes. The Wix blog is quite basic and not very customisable. Based on my experience, Wix is slow to update its blog and introduce new features. After 5 years with Wix, I transferred my blog to WordPress.org.
You can find out how I moved my Wix blog to WordPress in this guide.
WordPress is a free blogging software. You can create a blog for free on WordPress.com, using a subdomain (e.g. myawesomeblog.wordpress.com). Once you use up your free storage allowance (3GB), you will have to upgrade to a paid hosting plan, which gives you more storage space, a custom domain name, access to plugins and more customisation options.
Web hosting: This is a service provided by website building and hosting companies, which makes your site available on the web (see step 2).
When you create a WordPress.org site, you have total control over your website – and you can save a lot of money, too! The WordPress software is free, but you will need to find a web hosting provider and domain name provider for your site. Thankfully, there are many budget-friendly options out there when it comes to hosting a WordPress.org site (see step 2).
With a WordPress.org blog, you also have access to thousands of free templates and plugins.
Can’t decide whether to start a blog on Wix or WordPress? I’ve used both platforms for my blog. Here’s my honest advice.
The most professional and budget-friendly option is…
If you want to start a blog on a budget, then a self-hosted WordPress site is the best option. Unlike Wix, Squarespace, Blogger and WordPress.com, which bind you to their paid plans when it comes to hosting, WordPress.org allows you to choose your own hosting provider. Many web hosting providers offer cheaper plans than those offered by all-in-one platforms like Wix and Squarespace.
Besides using a free blogging software and choosing a web hosting service that you can afford, with a WordPress.org site you also get access to thousands of free templates and plugins which allow you to build a professional blog.
The rest of this guide deals with setting up a WordPress.org site.
Step 2: Choose the right web hosting service
If you’ve decided to set up a WordPress.org blog, you will need to find a host for your site.
While you do find web hosting providers that offer a free hosting service, this comes with several downfalls, including limited storage, lower bandwidth and possibly ads.
There are many reputable web hosting providers that offer reasonably-priced plans. Some of them even offer a free domain name and an email account linked to your domain.
Web hosting providers offer two main type of hosting; shared and managed. If you have a small budget, shared hosting would be the better option. This is also the most ideal type of hosting for new and small websites.
Shared vs managed hosting: Shared hosting is when your site shares a server with other sites. This type of hosting is great for new websites and small businesses, and is normally offered at a very affordable rate. Managed hosting is more expensive than shared hosting as all technical aspects of your site are managed by your host – you pay for concierge service.
Many hosting providers offer very affordable plans for first-time customers. It is normally cheaper to purchase an annual or 3-year plan than paying a monthly subscription fee. Typically, many hosting providers charge higher fees for subscription renewals. Many bloggers switch to another web hosting provider when their subscription expires in order to save money.
I use A2 Hosting for my blog. They offer a great service at very reasonable prices. I am on the SWIFT plan, which gives me unlimited websites, unlimited storage and an email account linked to my website. Their customer service and support is also very good.
Step 3: Choose a domain name provider
You may be able to purchase your domain via your web hosting provider. Some web hosting providers even offer a free domain name with their paid plans.
If this service is not provided by your host, you can purchase your domain via a domain registrar, like Namecheap, then link it to your hosting account.
Like web hosting providers, many domain registrars offer great deals for the first subscription and higher fees for renewals. While it is possible to transfer your domain to another registrar, some registrars might charge you for this. So, shop around and make sure you’re happy with your blog name before registering a domain.
Step 4: Choose a free theme and web builder
One of the best things about having a WordPress.org blog is the large number of free and super cheap themes. In fact, you might end up spending hours trying out different themes for your website.
Make sure to choose a theme that is:
– lightweight, to prevent slow loading times for your site.
– mobile-friendly, as it is likely that the majority of your readers will be accessing your site from their phones.
– customisable, so that you can choose your brand colours, fonts, etc.
If you want to get more creative, you could also use a website builder alongside your theme. This will give you flexibility in terms of designing main pages such as the homepage and about page.
I’m currently using the Evolve theme by Theme4Press for my website (very customisable!), along with Elementor, a very user-friendly page builder. I’ve built most of my pages with Elementor. You can use the basic version for free, or upgrade to Elementor Pro for added features (still quite cheap).
Step 5: Add free plugins and tools
Your new website requires some essential plugins. These include security plugins as well as plugins for marketing purposes. Thankfully, many of these important plugins are available for free, and you can upgrade to the premium version once you are able to spend more money on your website.
Plugins can be added via your WordPress dashboard. Once you add a new plugin, you will need to activate it for it to work.
Note: When you install WordPress via your web host, you might find a few plugins already installed on your dashboard. Some web hosts offer their own plugins for free, like page caching and optimisation plugins.
Recommended free WordPress plugins
Contact Form 7: A simple and customisable contact form plugin for your website.
Broken Link Checker: This plugin flags up broken links in your posts – a very useful plugin to have once your blog starts growing.
EWWW Image Optimizer: An image optimizing plugin is a must – it increases your page speed and saves you storage space and bandwidth. This plugin automatically optimizes any images that you upload to your website.
GDPR Cookie Consent: Make sure your blog meets data protection requirements with a cookie consent plugin. This free plugin lets you customise the cookie banner so that it fits with your website’s theme.
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights: This free plugin helps you connect your Google Analytics account with your WordPress site, so that you can start monitoring your traffic and get to know you audience. It also comes with a dashboard that shows you your analytics reports.
Yoast SEO: This is one of the most popular SEO plugins, and it’s free! This plugin helps you grown your organic traffic (site visits via search engines like Google) by helping you focus on a keyphrase and write SEO-friendly posts.