There’s an old saying “you’ve got to spend money to make money,” and in many contexts it is true. Blogging can be one of the most rewarding, and lucrative, businesses out there today.
But what does it really cost to run a blog?
You can start a blog for under $50, and you can also spend thousands of dollars a month running a blog. It all depends on how big your operation is, how you make your money and how quickly you want to grow.
In order to profit in any business, you must first know how much it costs. So here’s my comprehensive list of all expenses that you could run into as a blogger.
About Me and My Blogging Sites
Real quick, before I start my list, I want to briefly give you some information about who I am as a blogger.
About 2.5 years ago I started this blog, Unbound Investor, as an experiment to see if I could use my experience as an Airbnb host and a real estate investor to make some extra money online.
Over the last 2.5 years I’ve seen this site grow almost every month and become a source of income that beats any of our real estate investments. And I’ve begun to add new websites in an attempt to achieve similar results in other niches.
Consider Reading: How many blog articles does it take to be profitable?
I now run 5 sites, all of them profitable, and 4/5 have seen continued growth over time.
I have thus far spent nearly all my effort on producing as much content as possible for my blogs and letting natural growth take place (meaning no link building).
This has worked well for me, but I’m always looking for ways to improve my process. And so in the next year I plan to add a few of these expenses to my profit/loss statements as a way to invest in my blogs and see if I can increase my sites’ growth even more.
So with that, let’s get started.
All Expenses On My Sites
Here is the list of things I pay for on at least one of my sites.
1. Domain registration
The first thing you have to do with any blog is buy a domain name. I always look for non-premium domains that cost only about $10-$20 a year, but you can also find premium domains that will cost thousands of dollars.
Unless you’re planning to make your blog into a very big, authoritative site, there’s no reason to spend the money for a premium domain (at least in my opinion). You must pay for the rights to your domain every year.
The next thing you have to pay for with a new blog is hosting. All the files that make up your website must be kept on a computer somewhere, and unless hosting is a hobby of yours you’ll be paying someone to do that for you.
You can pay anywhere from $5/month to several hundred dollars a month. I like to start with a cheap hosting plan and just tier up when I need to.
Lots of the hosting companies offer relatively cheap services to keep your name anonymous and help keep spam out of your inbox and off your site. I typically buy these services, they are usually about the same cost as domain registration.
4. Keyword research tools
You can spend quite a bit of money on keyword research tools like ahrefs and semrush. I haven’t yet felt that these premium options are worth the money, but I do use Keywords Everwhere and usually end up spending about $10/year on keyword credits.
Consider reading: What is a good click through rate for your blog?
Keyword research is arguably the most important part of running a successful blog (content quality is the only thing that might be more important). You can absolutely do effective keyword research for free, but I like to have some idea of search volume when I’m picking keywords, and a tool that provides decent search volume data usually isn’t free.
5. Content management
While I’m doing my keyword research I have to put all the promising keywords somewhere to be turned into articles later. Currently, I’m using Clickup to track all my articles.
There are many ways to track your upcoming articles that doesn’t cost money, and even Clickup can be free, but I use some features that cause my subscription to cost a bit. I end up spending anywhere from $9/month to about $60/month on content management depending on how many freelance writers I’m using at the time.
6. Freelance writers
Speaking of writers, if you want to scale your content production, you need people to write for you. I’ve employed as many as 6 writers at one time, but I’m currently using only 2. I’m wanting to write an article soon about my experience working with freelance writers for one year now, but that’s for another time.
I pay between $30 and $120 an article, depending on the subject matter and the length of the article.
7. Freelance graphic designers
I pay freelancers for anything that I think needs to be done for my blogs, but I’m not good at (or don’t want to/have time to do).
One thing that seems to always make the cut is a handful of logos for a new site. I’ve had good luck with Fiverr and usually end up paying only about $30 for a great set of logos. Although, to be fair the logo and design for this site were done by my wife, Kate, who happens to be a great interior designer and I think did a great job on the graphic design for Unbound Investor.
8. Custom WordPress theme
While I don’t do this anymore, we did pay for a premium WordPress theme for this website. Sometimes, design is incredibly important for a site and it’s absolutely worth the money for a better overall design.
Except for this one, my other sites just use free WordPress themes. I think we spend like $20 on this one.
Other Expenses You Might Have
And here are some things that I’ve never paid for, but other bloggers do sometimes count among their expenses.
I’ve never had to buy a computer specifically for blogging, but depending on where you’re at and what you need, you might have to.
I will say that this should never be a requirement. In most towns you can just get a free library card and go use the library computers to do your blogging if you don’t have a computer of your own.
But if you do find that you need to buy a computer, you can spend anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars.
10. Freelance developers
I happen to be a software developer for my day job, and I’ve found those skills to be useful on many occasions as a blogger. But not everyone is comfortable with web development, so you may find that hiring a developer is necessary sometimes.
Whether it’s just to add some custom styles to your site or build a legitimate piece of software, developers are often worth the investment.
11. WordPress plugins
I’ve never paid for a WordPress plugin (yet), but there are some very useful ones out there and I wouldn’t be surprised if I soon find that some of them are worth the investment.
There are plugins to make affiliate links easy, there are plugins to help you build useful widgets for your users, plugins to make your site faster, social plugins and link building plugins. Many of these are intended to build authority on your site and/or make you more money.
I would generally not recommend investing in paid plugins until your site is already making some money.
12. Link building
The currency of the web is links. Good backlinks can be the difference between a mildly successful blog and a wildly successful blog. And whether you like it or not, one of the most reliable ways to build links is by paying for them.
I’ve thus far only worried about building content, but there’s a pretty good argument to also spend time building links. They are often worth the money.
Plenty of online business models rely on advertising to be successful. Usually, it’s just E-commerce and dropshipping style sites that care about advertising, but if you find the right niche and the right advertisers you can make money doing affiliate sales (among other things).
Or you may just want to get the word out about your blog and see if that helps you land some new links.
14. Other freelancers
There are all kinds of jobs associated with running an online business that aren’t part of your daily processes. Things like filing for taxes (accountants) or protecting yourself from legal action (lawyers) or even giving your site a makeover (designers) are all part of running your sites.
So when a job needs to get done that isn’t up your wheelhouse, don’t be shy about hiring someone else to do that one time thing.
15. Other tools and items
Self employed people across the globe find all kinds of tools to help them run their businesses (and websites) better. Accounting software, payroll software and even physical things like filing cabinets, standing desks and a personal heater for your cold workspace can all be expenses for your blogging business.
While it’s certainly irresponsible to spend money on every luxury you could need, it may be a worthwhile investment to buy the occasional tool or comfort item to make your more effective within your business.
I’ve shown that there are literally dozens of costs associated with blogging. As you scale your business you will find yourself paying for more and more of these things, and you will do so not just out of necessity, but because they usually are a great investment.
However, one of the great things about blogging is that it’s super cheap to get started.
I spend only $20 to get my most recent project off the ground (granted I already had a hosting plan in place). And you can easily start your first blog for less than $50.
You can go a year of blogging spending well under $100, so just start!