As I've said many times before, blogging can be a great way to earn money at home though it often does take a lot of work, time, and patience on your part before it ever becomes profitable (example — this blog existed for eight months before it ever even made me $20 in a month).
Most people begin their new blogs by going one of two routes — starting on a free blog site or buying their own .com and paying monthly for hosting.
I started out with the first option back in 2010 by setting up this site free on Blogger. When my blog was almost a year old and finally generating enough monthly income to justify the hosting fee, I made the move over to self-hosted WordPress and I have to say that is the best decision I could have made. I wish I had done it sooner.
My personal recommendation if you're serious about blogging and want it to eventually generate an income for you is buy your dot com and pay for hosting monthly.
That said, there are still plenty of reasons why going the free route is attractive too. Here are things to think about before you make your decision:
Advantages of Free Blog Sites
- Easy to set up. Most of the free blog sites are geared toward beginning bloggers and make it extremely easy to throw a website together that looks decent in no time at all. These free sites are also very user-friendly, and that is of course very appealing to new bloggers. You can really “learn the ropes” with a free site.
- It's free! Yes, this is the most attractive thing about these sites. You don't have to pay monthly for hosting and you don't have to buy a dot com because they'll give you your own URL (however the URL will have their site name in it — example yoursite.blogspot.com rather than yoursite.com).
Disadvantages of Free Blog Sites
- You are not really in the driver's seat. Yes, you create the content and you make things look how you want on your free blog, but you are not really in control because technically that blog isn't really yours. It belongs to the free site you set it up on. If they ever decide they don't like something you wrote or linked to, they can take your blog down just like that and they don't even have to tell you why. All your content and hard work will just be gone. Maybe it won't ever happen to you, but it's something to think about if you have a profitable blog or you care deeply about your content and don't want to risk losing it.
- Free blogs tend to not rank well in search. There could be a few exceptions, but most of the time blogs on free sites don't rank as well in search. My traffic increased by an impressive amount shortly after I moved to self-hosted WordPress.
- You are very limited with site set-up and design. There are a lot of things you can't do on free blog sites. I didn't realize this until I moved to self-hosted WordPress and started exploring all the options for customizing things. There are widgets and plug-ins galore that give you the capability to make your site look and function any way you want. While some free sites do have an impressive amount of options, you are no doubt going to be limited.
- You may not be able to monetize it the way you want. Some free-to-use blogging platforms do not allow ad networks or affiliate links. WordPress.com comes to mind as one that does not allow any ads. You have to follow their rules, or you will lose your blog. So if monetizing a blog is something you want to do, then a free site may limit you a bit.
Related: What is affiliate marketing?
How much does a domain and self-hosting cost?
Are you already on a free blog site?
You'll hear horror stories of what a process it is to move to self-hosting if you're already on a free blog site, but I did it and it wasn't a nightmare. There are tutorials all over the internet that you can read for free that tell you, step by step, what to do in order to get your free blog moved over.
Deciding Whether or Not to Pay
The decision is yours and if your blog is not generating enough income to justify the money you spend monthly for hosting and a domain, then I completely understand why you would not want to pay. But if it is earning you at least that much and blogging is far more than just a hobby to you, then try instead to look at the cost as an investment in something you care about.
People invest money in things all the time without blinking an eye, so why should your blog be any different?