When you start a blog, you have to purchase your domain name and your host. But, what about the other features that you may see offered? And, what else do you need to spend on money on when you first start a website?
You may have read a post that it telling you that it costs only $3.95 a month to start a blog. That sounds great – doesn’t it! I mean, who can’t afford less than $5 a month? Right?
But, let’s be honest, can you really run a blog for less than $5 a month? The truth is no. There are other expenses you will incur as a blogger. Some are one-time fees and others recur monthly or annually.
The thing is, it costs money to run a blog. You may start out at $25 a month but as time goes on, your expenses increase. And, if your goal is to run a profitable blog, you are going to have to invest money into your site.
The good news is you don’t have to pay for everything at once. What you should invest in depends upon not only what you currently make on your site, but also where you plan to go.
For example, your goal may be to make $5,000 a month. Where should you invest your money? By looking ahead to the future, you can start your planning and investing over time, which can make it a little less painful as the bills come due for the products and services you want to use to run your site.
I started out just like you. I paid very little when I began. But, over the years, the monthly costs for my blog have continued to increase. I pay more than $200 a month for hosting and more than $200 for my email list. There are other monthly plugin expenses, annual fees for design sites and much more. I now run a blog that brings in 5 figures consistently every single month.
What does it cost to run a profitable blog?
The truth is that it varies from person to person. When you start out, your expenses will be at one level. But, as your site grows so do the needs and features you have to implement. That means your expenses continue to increase.
You can run a bare-bones budget when you start out and pay less than $50 a month. Keep in mind that you don’t get everything you’ll want at this rate, so you will need to look at making investments in the future.
Blogging Expenses and Budgeting
Before you jump in and create a budget showing you need to make hundreds a month with your blog, you have to consider your experience and commitment level. As I said, I spend much more than a new blogger would ever think about paying for – because I’ve turned an idea into a business.
Before you jump in and start, consider where you are at in your journey. That will determine what it is you need to pay for along your blogging journey. Below you will find the expenses you can expect to pay for as you move along with your blogging business.
The Newbie Blogger (Income – $0 – $999/mth)
When you are starting out, you should not invest too much into your blog. Why? To be honest, you don’t know if you will be able to sustain it long-term. You may not be sure it is something you really want to do.
But, you want to try and that is awesome. For this reason, you should keep your expenses as low as possible. Use free tools and services if you can. That way, you aren’t throwing money away on something that may not evolve into what you are hoping it will.
Here are the expenses to pay for while you are dipping your toes into blogging.
Domain name + Privacy
You need a domain name. Your domain name is your site name. Mine is traciefobes.com.
You want to make sure that you start out the right way with a blog name that makes sense. Make sure you spend some time considering the proper name to use for your site so you can grow with it over time.
Not only that, you need to pay for privacy. That way, your email, address, and phone are not part of the public record. It keeps you protected from potential spammers.
The costs will vary. However, if you check out sites such as NameCheap, you can find great pricing so you can get a name for as little out of pocket as possible.
Cost: Anywhere from $10 – $25 per year
Your host is the company where you put your domain name and your site live, such as Siteground, for example. You can start out during your first year for around $4 – $5 a month. While most hosting providers will give you a free SSL certificate, you may need to pay for it, which could increase your monthly rate.
However, once that first-year contract ends, you will find that the renewal cost is much, much higher. You may want to move at that time to find something more affordable. But, to start, paying as little as possible for hosting just makes sense.
Cost: Averages: $4 – $10/month
Plugins are add-ons to your site that give it additional functionality. These include social sharing icons readers can click on to share your content, plugins to create a Sitemap to submit your site to Google for search, help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and more.
The good news is that nearly every plugin you need is free. There are a few you may want to consider purchasing to improve your site speed. Some of those should invest money in include: Askimet (for spam) and ShortPixel (proper image compression).
Don’t waste money on a paid social icon or even something like YOAST (as the free versions work just fine).
Cost: Varies for each plugin (average is $29/year or less)
You don’t want to “Google” how to write a policy. You won’t know if you are legally covered or not. Don’t leave your legal issues to chance. Pay for a policy from a qualified attorney, such as Amira Law, so you can rest easy.
Cost: One-time investment of less than $200
You need to have a domain email. You will need this for your email service provider, so you can send emails. If you don’t yet have one, get one now (learn how to set up a GSuite account for your site).
You can log into your cPanel through your host to check it, but that is cumbersome. Instead, invest in connecting your domain email through Google – namely GSuite. Your emails will come and go through your domain address.
However, rather than logging into a different platform, you can use Gmail to check, read and send emails. It is much easier to maintain.
Cost: Monthly fee of $6
Post Office Box
When you have an email list, one of the laws of CAN-SPAM is that you must provide a physical address on your emails. Chances are you don’t want to use your home address. Therefore, you will need to get a PO Box.
Cost: Varies, but averages $45 – $60 annually
Unless you are a DIY, fashion or food blogger, chances are you will need to use stock images for your site. You certainly cannot just “Google” to find what you need to use.
There are some free sites you can use, but to be honest, it is best to invest money in paid images. Using paid images ensures you have the rights to use the images on your site.
The rates vary, but if you can score a great deal, you may be able to get 100 images through DepositPhotos for just $49, making them only $0.49 each.
Cost: Varies, but as low a $0.49 each
Image Editing Software
You will need to not only edit the images to be the size you need them for your blog posts but also create pinnable images that you can use on Pinterest. You can use the free version of Canva (many elements are free). You can also invest in something such as Photoshop, the paid version of Canva or PicMonkey.
You will need some sort of software to make the proper images. Invest a bit into your images on Pinterest as that is the first thing people will see before deciding to click or not.
Cost: As low as free
Social Media Scheduling Tool
Don’t jump in and spend money on social tools to start. Instead, opt for Hootsuite. You can share to two platforms before they start charging you a monthly fee. You can use it for Pinterest and your Facebook page, group or even Instagram. Stick with free as long as you can.
Cost: As low as free
Email Service Provider
A few months into your blogging journey, you need to start to build an email list. That means you need a provider to help you with this. You can start out with a free service, such as Mailerlite. You can always upgrade to a more robust platform later.
Cost: As low as free
Books and Courses
You are just starting out so may not have a lot of money. However, investing a little money into courses or books can be a smart move. Sure, you may be able to run a Google search to find what you think you need, but you aren’t always sure it is the most accurate nor up to date.
Ask in your Facebook Groups who you can trust. Where should you invest your money? Something, such as the Blogging Playbook, is affordable and teaches you the basics of understanding and using WordPress.
It is going to happen. Your site is going to break or need someone with a bit more computer background than you. You need to set back money so you can pay for this service when needed. You just have to.
You also do not want to simply do an online search asking for help. You want to use someone who understands both the technical aspects of coding as well as what you need as a blogger. One such company is iMark. Grayson Bell has been a blogger for years and really understands what you need.
Cost: As low as $50 an hour
You need to have a quality computer in order to blog well. Sure, you can try to use your phone, tablet or Chromebook. However, those are not a replacement for a good laptop.
Fast Internet Connection
If you don’t have high-speed internet where you live, you can still blog. So don’t think it is a must. It just makes it easier when you have a quality connection to access your site and social channels.
Average Monthly Costs
The average monthly costs for a new blogger will run around $60 or less (usually less) – making it very affordable, even if you are not making much money.
The Amateur Blogger (Income of at least $1,000 – $4,999 a month)
If you are starting to make a bit of money or your goal is to get to the level of making closer to $5,000 a month, you absolutely must invest in your blog. That means setting money aside each month that gets reinvested back into features, plugins or services to help you run a profitable blog.
You will still, of course, have the same expenses as the newer blogger. There are then a few more that you will add to your monthly budget as well.
When you start your site, you don’t have any traffic. Therefore, one of the more affordable shared hosting platforms works. However, if you start to get more traffic or have additional features on your site, you need more memory. That means a new server.
When your traffic increases, you will want to move to a hosting service with better servers and memory – such as BigScoots. You get more space and better quality servers, which can improve your site speed (which results in better overall user experience).
Cost: $35+ per month
Better Email Platform
If you find that your provider cannot do all of the things you want to do – or will need to do in the future – a different provider may be the perfect answer.
Cost: As low as $29/month
It is great to use a free theme when you start. However, the minute you have money to invest, the first thing you should do is invest in a paid theme. These are usually much more customizable and have more features and the layout configuration you would like.
You may be tempted to pop into Etsy to buy a theme. I would not recommend this. There have been many instances of sellers who no longer maintain theme and them no longer working with updates to WordPress and other plugins. Not only that, you do not know the background of the coder and do not know if the code is well-written or not.
Cost: Varies – but usually at least $75+
Lead Generation Service
You may want to add sign-up boxes or landing pages to your site. But, those your provider has aren’t cutting it for you. You can invest in different services where you can create exactly what you want.
You can use LeadPages to make both lead boxes and landing pages. They have countless templates you can choose from, so you can make it work perfectly for you. They charge an annual fee.
If you only want to include sign up boxes including sliders and pop-ups, you can consider ThriveLeads. It is a plugin that charges a one-time fee. There is also HelloBar which adds a ribbon to the top of your page where you can advertise a freebie or other opt-in.
Cost: As low as $67
Social Media Scheduling Tools
Once you get busier, you must find a way to ensure the time you spend working makes sense. One way to do that is not to waste hours scheduling to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Instead, invest in applications that do this for you.
You can use something such as Hootsuite for free for a while, but if you are ready to go all in, you can’t use them for everything. You are limited to just a few platforms. You can pay for an upgraded Hootsuite account and that may work so you can schedule all on a single platform.
However, when it comes to Pinterest, I would not recommend using Hootsuite. That is fine for Instagram and the other platforms, but you will do better on Pinterest by using Tailwind.
Tailwind offers much more in the ways of stats and tracking when it comes to your pins. You can also join Tribes and use SmartLoop. They also have some amazing reports and methods of helping you see which pins and boards work – and those that don’t.
Cost: As low as $9.99 per month
As time goes on, you need to learn even more about blogging. And, the best way to do that is to learn from others you trust. Investing in courses, books or even coaching is the thing to do at this time.
Coaching or consulting is very smart as these experts can help leverage what you know or help you with what you don’t know. A coach can be the right investment to make to ensure you are on the right path.
The books and courses at this level tend to be more in-depth and niche specific. For example, I offer Sponsored Success, which is very detailed to help teach bloggers everything they need to know about sponsorships on their site.
Investing money in your education makes sense as you will be able to earn more money. Just be careful about what you invest – no one should go broke trying to learn how to blog.
At this point, you need to invest regularly in the right IT person to help maintain your site. Having someone to reach out to with any technical issues just makes sense. Why should you spend hours trying to do something when another person can.
You may also want to get a CPA on retainer for your annual filings. It may also be the time to outsource work and bring in a virtual assistant. When you are spending time doing simple tasks (such as scheduling Pinterest or responding to social media comments), you need to pay someone else to do that for you.
As you get busier, your time matters. Is your time better spent struggling for 8 hours to make a printable or instead, paying someone $50 to do it for you so you can get the sales copy and funnel ready? You should spend the time where you are most efficient. Pay others to do the small tasks so you can focus on those that make you money.
Hiring the right people to take on various tasks in your business is the next step to ensure that your time is spent wisely.
Product or Services Platforms
You will also want to start to think about the products or services you can sell to your readers. It may be printables, planners, eBooks, courses or coaching. The sky is the limit!
Make sure you do the research on the right one for what you are offering. For example, if you have a simple printable, you can use Easy Digital Downloads for free. If you have several to sell, you may want to create a Shopify store.
If you want to sell a course, there are platforms to consider, such as Teachable. These programs are created to make it easy for your students to learn in the right layout and structure – without you creating it.
Take the time to research the right system for your needs. Ask questions. Don’t sign up with something without ensuring it will do everything you need.
Cost: As low as $10 a month
Average Monthly Costs
The average monthly costs for the amateur blogger will run around $175 or so. There are also one time fees that you will pay for from time to time, so some months may be higher (usually less) – making it very affordable, even if you are not making much money.
The Professional Blogger (Income of at least $5,000+ a month)
You did it! Or, you are working to get to this level! That means there is, even more, to invest in your business. You’ll want to make sure you address all of the expenses mentioned above. When you get this expert level there are a few other things you will want to consider as well.
Once you are making a bit more it is good to attend conferences. These tickets can be pricey and then there is the cost of transportation, food, hotel — all making them a bit pricey. But, if you are making some decent money on your site, attending a conference makes sense.
You get to connect with other bloggers and learn new ideas and techniques that you can apply to your site so you can increase your income. And, just like with any course or book, you must use what you learn and apply it to justify the investment of a conference.
If you plan to start podcasting or be a guest on videos or podcasts. you want a quality microphone. It shows you are professional and the sound is much better than the internal mic that comes on your laptop. A good microphone is a great investment in your blog.
If video is on the horizon (live or recorded) you want to use a quality camera! A one-time investment in something other than your phone makes sense if you plan to utilize your video platform in the right way.
Video Editing Software
Once you have a video, you need to edit it! There are many different apps and programs you can use. Most of the free ones can work to start, but if you are going to really excel at your videos, you will need to use the right software.
It may also be the perfect time to get the high-end look you want on your site – even if you aren’t a designer! Hire someone who not only knows design but also coding so that you know what they create is done with your site speed in mind. Most designers have a backlog of work so it can be nothing to be on a waitlist for 6 – 9 months before the work begins.
Average Monthly Costs
The average monthly costs for the amateur blogger will run at least $300. The actual amount will vary based on the number of people you have hired, what you will pay for your newsletter, hosting, etc. As your site gets more traffic, these features will be improved upon, which can result in higher fees.
What about taxes? How does that work?
I’m not a CPA. I don’t play one on TV nor on this site. I can’t give you any sort of tax advice. That would be unethical of me to do.
Instead, you will need to consult with a CPA in your community. Sit down with him or her and talk about your business model. Now might be the time to move from a sole proprietor to an LLC corporate structure. He or she will also know your personal tax situation and what you need to do.
They will also help you with what you can and cannot claim on your taxes. Doing so can potentially reduce your annual tax bill, saving you money.
Make some calls to CPAs in your area and find someone who is familiar with digital businesses vs. standard brick and mortar companies.
It is important to know your blogging budget and track your income and expenses regularly. That way, you will always know what it working and is not so you can make tweaks and adjustments to what you are doing on your site.