As a business owner (yes, blogging also counts as a business), how often have you heard the phrase you have to spend money to make money?
Relatively often, right?
Well, what if I told you, in many cases, I just don’t agree with this statement.
I know that might be an unpopular opinion, and there’s no doubt there are many cases of people who have spent money on their blogs and businesses, and they’ve seen the payoff.
But what happens when you put money into a blog or a business, and you don’t see any return? More often than not, the money loss occurs, and we have to wonder, was spending money to make money a risk that I had to take?
I’m here to tell you as a blogger and former small business owner myself, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re working on a budget, you absolutely can still run a blog or a business.
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post, which means I make a small commission if you choose to purchase through one of my links, but just know these are all products I’ve used and would recommend.
Why you shouldn’t invest a large sum of money into your blog as a new blogger on a budget
Let me preface this by saying every blogger’s journey is different, but I am strong believer that when you’re just starting out with a blog, there’s absolutely no reason to invest money into it initially, especially if you’ve never done any type of blogging before. It’s makes much more sense to test out blogging, and ensure you actually enjoy it before you go investing a ton of money into it.
And so, with that in mind, there are only two things I believe you should invest in initially: (1) a domain and (2) hosting services.
Your domain is your website. So, for example, my domain for this blog is hustleandhearts.com. It’s the address for where people can find my content.
Your hosting is where your website “lives.” It’s a bit more technical than that, but essentially every website has to be hosted on a server, and when you pay a hosting service, they “host” your website for the agreed upon fee.
These are inexpensive investments (generally less $70 for the whole year), and the frustration you’ll avoid by having these set up right from the beginning is worth it in my opinion.
Having said that, if you’re completely new to blogging, have no plans to grow your blog, and are doing it just for fun, by all means, set up a free WordPress or Blogger account, but just know if you want to grow your blog in the future, having your own website is key.
There are three main reasons why you should own your domain/use web hosting:
If you want any shot of being taken seriously in the blogging world, you need to own your website. Plain and simple.
I mean, think about it: Would you take a website seriously if it was called hustleandhearts.wordpress.com? I know I wouldn’t.
Not to mention, because hosting and domains are so inexpensive, most serious bloggers have them, so you don’t even often come across blogs with these free domains. Or, if you do, they look extremely outdated and unprofessional, and if you’re like me, you’re already clicking away from that website before you even start reading the content.
These days, with so many people trying to break into the world of blogging, you need to set yourself up for success, and at least have your own website. If you ignore this step, you’re already putting yourself at a disadvantage in an extremely competitive industry.
SEO might be a little more technical of an idea if you’re new to blogging, but basically it’s just the art of getting your content to show up in search results, which is what every blogger wants when they’re trying to grow their blog.
With that mind, if you start with a free WordPress account, and then decide down the road that you’d like to migrate over to your own website, your SEO is compromised.
As you create content on your blog, your website gets “indexed,” meaning Google is essentially keeping a record of all the content you create. The more quality content that you create, the more authority your blog is given, which means the more likely it is that your content will show up in Google search results.
If you start with a free WordPress account and then try to migrate over to your own domain, all the work you’ve done getting indexed is wasted. You have to start over in trying to gain Google’s trust with your new domain.
Talk about wasted time.
And lastly, if you have any dreams at all of monetizing your website, you need to own it.
If you’re putting all your content on a free WordPress blog, you technically don’t own any of that content (WordPress does). With that in mind, you likely won’t have a lot of sponsored post opportunities headed your way, and there’s a good chance most affiliate programs won’t approve you. In addition, you won’t be able to serve advertisements on your website.
Essentially, unless you’re offering your own services/products, you’re closing yourself off to monetization.
And hey, even if you do have your own products/services, most customers/clients won’t take you seriously if you don’t even own your own website/content, which likely means sales won’t be coming your way either.
At less than $70 for the whole year, set yourself up for success right from the get-go with your own domain and web hosting. In the long run, it’s absolutely worth it if you have inkling of growing your blog.
Step 1: Get your domain name
Okay, so now that you understand that you need your own domain and web hosting, start by purchasing your domain.
You don’t need to spend too much time thinking about this. In fact, the less time the better! I know how tempting it is to spend hours trying to come up with the perfect name for your website, but really, unless you choose something absolutely ridiculous, nobody is going to pay that much attention to your domain name.
It’s much more useful to spend your time coming up with great content rather than wasting days trying to think of the “perfect” domain name.
To begin, you need to see what domain name are available.
To do so, go onto NameCheap, and simply type your domain ideas into the search bar. They’ll tell you what domains are available, and will suggest names if your original choice isn’t available.
I’ve personally purchased three separate domains through NameCheap, and have had an amazing experience with them. Their customer service is great if you ever have an issue with your domain (which is unlikely), and their interface is really easy-to-use.
And, if it wasn’t clear from the company’s name, you’ll be able to find inexpensive domains here. I only pay $12.98/year for hustleandhearts.com, which is nothing when I think about everything that I’ve gotten in return from this blog.
Start checking out domain names on NameCheap, but remember, I wouldn’t suggest spending anymore time than an hour on this.
Step 2: You need hosting
So, once you’ve purchased your domain name, you have to set up hosting, so your website has somewhere to “live.”
If you’re looking for quality hosting services, I use BlueHost and have had no problem with them. It literally took me about 5 minutes to have my blog up and running (and this is coming from a not-so-tech-savvy chick).
I’m not going to give a full tutorial on how to set up web hosting since that’s not the focus of this post, but if you google it, you’ll come across plenty of tutorials that walk you through step-by-step on setting up your blog on Bluehost.
Seriously, guys, having a website these days is so incredibly easy, and Bluehost makes it even easier with their easy-to-use interface.
Not to mention, you’ll pay less than $5/month, and once you’re set up, you won’t have to think about it again.
If you’re looking to start blogging ASAP, and you need a quality hosting service that’s super simple to set up and budget friendly, BlueHost is the provider for you.
Your blog is all set up. Now what?
So, after you’ve purchased your custom domain and you’ve got hosting services set up, stop spending.
Yes, you heard me right: It’s time to put that credit card down.
At this point your blog is just a baby. If you have a ton of money to spend, sure, go ahead and buy your baby some designer brand clothing, but chances are, your baby is going to outgrow that clothing pretty fast.
Your total focus and energy should be on content, content, content. I can’t stress that enough. You can have the most amazing site design in the world, but if there’s no good content on it, really, who cares?
Speaking of site design, let me let you in on a little secret…
My entire site is designed using a free WordPress theme. *shush, don’t tell anyone*
That’s right: I didn’t spend a penny on designing my website.
And yes, I did it all entirely on my own.
I know it’s not the most amazing design out there, by any means. There’s a lot I don’t like about, but you know what? I’m sure nobody is coming to Hustle and Hearts to look at my website design. They’re coming to read my content, so as long as your website is relatively easy on the eyes, you’re good.
Also, when you’re just launching a blog, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the “fun” aspects of it: designing a logo, coming up with a name, picking brand colours, etc.
So let me tell you this: the more time you put into these “fun” aspects, the less time your blog is out there, meaning less opportunities for it to get discovered.
I’m not saying rush the process, but I am saying in these first couple months of blogging, it’s more important to just start rather than wait for everything to be perfect. Trust me, you’ll probably never feel like your blog is perfect, but you can always refine and work on it as you go.
Here are the services I would suggest not spending money on when you’re blogging on a budget (and what to use instead):
1) Graphic design software
Canva is free and you can make beautiful graphics with it for Pinterest, Instagram, emails, blog images, etc.
2) Email marketing
You might eventually need to spend money here as you grow, but when you’re just collecting those initial sign-ups, use something free like Mailchimp
3) Scheduling services
Again, eventually you’ll probably want to invest in something like Tailwind to schedule to Pinterest, but to begin, focus on your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These social media posts can be scheduled ahead of time for free using Buffer. This will save you time and money!
UPDATE: I have since invested in Tailwind and it really does help with getting traffic to your website. You can read more about how I gained 1.2 MILLION Pinterest viewers/month here. This strategy has been a game changer in increasing the traffic to my blog.
4) Email Address
I think this goes without saying, but just stick with a regular free gmail account when you’re first starting. I invested in a custom email for a previous business and ended up having to pay for it a year after I shut down that business.
As mentioned, you can absolutely start with a free theme. I did. Start by just focusing on content, figuring out blogging, and then go from there.
UPDATE: My blog is now almost two years old, so the theme you’re currently seeing is professionally designed; however, for my first 6 months blogging, I used a free theme, and would recommend all beginner bloggers do the same until they’re certain they’re serious about blogging. However, if you are ready to purchase a theme, I got mine off Creative Market, and I absolutely love it. Not to mention, Creative Market has a ton of different options all created by professional designs. I highly recommend Creative Market if you’re ready to purchase a theme.
To save even more money on your blog, make sure you check out all the FREE resources that Creative Market offers every week. This includes stock photos, graphics, fonts, and even lightroom presets! Here’s this week’s free resources:
Powered by Creative Market
I’m not delusional, though; I realize if you stick with your blog and hustle hard to grow it, you’ll likely want to invest money into it eventually (when this point occurs is different for everyone).
The problem is, most new bloggers come into blogging with some of the top blogs on the internet as their inspiration. This creates the expectation that your blog has to be comparable to these top blogs right from the get-go.
Reality check: You’re likely not going to launch the next Cupcakes and Cashmere overnight. Unless you’re just getting off a season of the Bachelor, or you already have celebrity status, nobody knows and nobody cares about your blog (tough love, but true).
The takeaway for new bloggers
Your sole focus as a new blogger needs to be on content.
You should experiment with your content, find your voice, figure out if you want a niche or not, listen to your readers, discover what people actually want to read (more on optimizing your content for increased traffic here).
And remember, there are so many free ways to do all of this: tweet about your posts, join Facebook groups, create amazing Pinterest graphics using Canva, ask people questions on Instagram, get creative with your promotion!
RELATED: Instagram Growth Hacks
Then, once you feel like you’ve pushed yourself to the limit with these free methods, and you’ve established a readership, it will be time to invest money into blogging tools to help you grow your business. But first and foremost, prove your concept, and make sure you actually enjoy blogging before you go investing a ton of money into it.
And so, with that in mind, I want to talk about my first business, how I approached it, and how I lost money by investing too much, too fast.
So why should small business owners not invest a lot of money into their new venture in the initial stages?
Again, let me first preface this by saying every business is very different. I believe there is definitely some instances where you have to invest money, but I also think we often get carried away with our own ideas and end up spending without a concrete (proven) plan/strategy.
How do I know this? Because I did this with my own business. So first, let me quickly summarize my story as a small business owner.
How I started my small business
After graduating from a Fashion Marketing and Merchandising program, I knew the fashion industry in general just wasn’t for me, and yet I still wanted to work in fashion in some capacity.
My solution was to open an online boutique selling women’s fashion with my friend.
We loved what we did, but unfortunately after a year, we realized we just couldn’t financially support our shop. This largely had to do with the amount of money we were paying to have product shipped to us, and then shipped out to customers.
It just didn’t make sense, and so, we closed our shop.
What did my introduction into small business ownership teach me?
Something very important, and if you’re thinking about opening up a shop, here’s what you need to know: you absolutely must, no questions asked, prove that you actually have a market for people who want to buy your product, similar to how you must prove you have a readership for a blog before investing.
And no, I’m not just talking about growing a following on Instagram, or having people “like” your Facebook page (been there, done that).
I’m talking about having actual people tell you they want your product in a very clear way. This step should be completed before you invest any money into your business, especially inventory.
How to prove you have a good business idea before investing money
Create an email sign up form, preferably using a free service like MailChimp.
Having people sign up for an email list is the best indication of interest.
Think of it from your perspective: how often do you give out your email address when prompted? Everybody will answer a little differently on this, but generally speaking, most people only give their email address away when they’re really interested in a product, service, or business.
Receiving an email address from a potential customer says, “Hey I’m interested in what you’re doing, please keep me up to date; I might want to buy from you.”
Receiving a “like” on Facebook says, “I like what you’re doing; keep up the good work,” but it’s not necessarily any indication that you’ve reached a potential customer.
See the difference?
This is the biggest mistake that was made in my business. We assumed because people like fashion, they’re obviously going to want to buy fashion items from a new, trendy boutique. I hate to break it to my past self, but this just isn’t necessarily true.
We launched our shop and bought inventory before we had a proven concept.
Sure, we had some friends and family show interest. And hey, we even had some completely random strangers sign up to our newsletter. What we didn’t have was enough interest to justify buying inventory.
What I wish we would have done?
Built a large, highly engaged following of people interested in our concept prior to any inventory investment, even if this would have taken more time.
Then, once we knew we had highly engaged potential customers just waiting for us to launch, only then should we have purchased product (keep in mind the same goes for your blog: invest the money into blogging tools, like Tailwind, only when you know you have a highly engaged audience).
In my experience, when it comes to shops, especially small ones with tiny budgets (like mine), it’s even more important to have a shop with an extremely targeted audience.
This will keep your budget down, because you’ll be more capable of finding and reaching these people without spending large sums of money on advertising.
If you have a large budget and can spend a lot on advertising, by all means, go for it, but if you’re a small shop with a small budget, I highly recommend spending as little as possible and proving your concept before any investing.
I have so much more I could say about this, so if you’re thinking of opening a shop and you have questions, or you’d like to see more posts from me about small business ownership, please let me know in the comments below.
The takeaway when it comes to launching a blog or business on a budget
Just remember, these new ventures are still babies. Let them learn to crawl before you’re pushing them to walk. We live in an impatient society where we want results as quickly as possible. We want growth, growth, growth, and we think we need to spend money, money, money to get there.
But, if you can afford to, the only thing you should be investing in for this new venture is patience.
Would it be cliche of me to say Rome wasn’t built in a day? Probably, but hey, it’s true: find your audience/customers, engage them, study them, learn from them. Once you have them, only then, get that credit card out; you’ve proven your concept and it’s time to invest in the future success of your business.
If you found this post helpful, I would be oh-so-grateful if you shared this image with your Pinterest followers. You all rock 🙂