How much does it cost to start a blog (and make money) in 2020? In this post I'm going to go through real blogging costs, making sure to find you the best blogging tools at the lowest prices.
On with the list!
Can you start a blog for free?
Let’s get this question out of the way first. Yes, you can start a blog for free. I have a post about the best blogging platforms here, including free ones if you want to take a look.
Here’s the problem with free blog platforms: nobody, and I mean nobody, will ever take you seriously.
When you use a free blogging platform you will never make money from affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, selling your own products or even ads.
To make money with a blog you need to invest in your business with your own domain name and web hosting. In short, you need to spend money to make money.
1. Domain name - Porkbun - $0.71 per month
If you want to start a blog you need your own domain name. There are tons of places to register a domain name, with GoDaddy being the most popular.
The downside of GoDaddy is their $17.99 renewal rate (source) which seems to go up every year. If you want domain privacy (and you should), that's another $14.99.
Note: If you choose Bluehost as your hosting provider, they will cover the domain registration fees for you.
You can see if the domain name you want is available here:
Instead, I register my domain names at PorkBun. Their domain registration and renewals go for $8.56 and come with free domain privacy.
Cost: A dot com domain registration at PorkBun is $8.56 per year or $0.71 per month.
This is where I register all of my domain names. After being with GoDaddy for years, I'm glad I made the switch.
2. Web hosting - Bluehost - $3.95 per month
Much like a brick and mortar store needs to pay rent, you need to pay for hosting for your blog.
I recommend Bluehost for new blogs because they're newbie-friendly and provide the best value.
Additionally, you get a free domain name with your hosting account if you use this link.
In order to get the best deal at $3.95 per month, you need to pre-pay your hosting for 3 years ($142.20 total or $47.40 per year). If you instead choose to pay for 1 year up-front, your monthly cost becomes $5.95 (or $71.40 per year).
If you're ready to start a blog, follow my step by step guide on how to start a blog here.
Cost: Bluehost is $47.40 per year or $3.95 per month
Bluehost comes with the WordPress blogging platform pre-installed so you can get your blog started from day 1.
3. Blogging platform - WordPress - Free
The blogging platform I always recommend to start with is WordPress. The other popular blogging platforms you may be familiar with are Wix and Squarespace. While those other platforms aren't bad, per se, they are more tailored to ecommerce stores, rather than blogs.
WordPress powers an impressive 63.6% of all websites (source) whose content management system can be detected.
I recommend WordPress for new bloggers because it's entirely free to use, it's lightweight (loads fast), powerful (tons of great plugins), and there's endless customization options (blog themes and page builders).
Cost: WordPress is free
WordPress is the best platform to start a blog on. While there may be a learning curve to start, it's well worth getting to know how to use it.
4. Blog theme - Divi - $7.42 per month
Yes, there are countless free themes for WordPress. But if you're serious about treating your blog as a business you should not use a free blog theme.
Free themes won't allow you to customize your blog, leaving your blog looking like the thousands of other people using that same free theme.
Then, if you ever want to change anything, you'll need to hire a designer to do it for you. The cheaper alternative is to use a visual blog builder.
The blog theme I recommend is Divi from Elegant Themes. With it you can change the color, the font, even the entire structure of your blog using their drag-and-drop interface.
The WordPress theme I use on this blog is Thrive Theme Builder. The reason I don't recommend it off the bat for new bloggers is because there's a learning curve to using it.
And as a new blogger, your focus should be on setting up your blog (even with a template), writing blog posts, and trying to reach monetization as quickly as possible.
Cost: Divi from Elegant Themes is $89 per year or $7.42 per month
5. Page builder - Thrive Architect - $5.58 per month
If you end up starting with a free blog theme you will need to at least use a page builder.
Page builders are plugins that let you build better blog posts. Without a page builder, you risk creating boring pages that are just text and images.
In 2020 and beyond, you need to be building webpages that are rich not only with great content, but with visual elements as well.
With a page builder you can insert pre-built elements like quote boxes, pros and cons, click-to-tweet, styled lists, etc. Then you can edit and arrange them on the page in any way you want.
The page builder that comes with WordPress (Gutenberg) leaves a lot to be desired.
Here are the page builders I recommend instead:
These page builders work with any theme, free or paid.
Cost: Thrive Architect is $67 per year or $5.58 per month
Every blog post or page on Do Six Figures was built using Thrive Architect.
6. Email marketing - ConvertKit - Free
Up to this point, you already have all of the tools you need to start a blog. But if you want to make money and not have this be a hobby blog, you need to keep going.
If you want to make money blogging, you need to start an email list. I know it sounds "icky", but the goal here is to make money. And people don't really buy things directly from blogs.
ConvertKit is who I use and recommend for email marketing. They will store the emails you collect and send emails to your list.
We need to capture readers' attention with a blog post, then convert them to an email subscriber, then convince them to click on a link and spend money.
Providing value to your email list is an ideal way to build a relationship with your readers. Once you've established that relationship you can then recommend products (or sell your own).
Without that crucial link of email marketing, you're going to be missing a really important step in the formula.
Cost: ConvertKit is free up to 1,000 subscribers
When you use my link to sign up to ConvertKit, you get to create unlimited forms, landing pages ,and send emails to up to 1,000 subscribers.
7. List-building plugin - Thrive Leads - $5.58 per month
You need awesome email opt-in forms to grow your email list fast. A plain form in the sidebar or footer that says "Subscribe to my newsletter" isn't going to cut it.
In order to truly grow your email list you're going to need high-end templates and multiple opt-in form types with a plugin like Thrive Leads.
The forms I use are in-content, a lightbox that displays when the user scrolls 60% down the page, and exit intent.
Where a list-building plugin truly shines is with the reporting you get. With Thrive Leads, I can see which form converts best, which page converts best, and which referring traffic source works best.
It's a dream come true if you want to create a profitable high-converting website.
Cost: Thrive Leads is $67 per year or $5.58 per month
This is the list-building plugin I use to create the opt-in forms you see on this page.
8. Graphic design - Canva - Free
Canva is a drag-and-drop graphic design tool that makes it simple to create graphics for your blog. I use Canva to create logos, social media images, pins for Pinterest, ebook covers, and ads.
Cost: Canva is free, although I use the Pro version for $9.95 per month
While I have Photoshop, I find myself creating all of my design elements in Canva instead. Note: I use the pro version of Canva.
9. Writing and editing - Grammarly - Free
Grammarly is a free Chrome/Firefox browser extension that helps you write better. The free version catches common spelling and grammar mistakes while the premium version helps with more complex issues like the tone and conciseness.
Cost: Grammarly is free, although I use the premium version for $11.66 per month
10. Pinterest scheduler - Tailwind - $9.99 per month
At this point, we've got a blog set up and an email list ready to go. But what about traffic? The next few tools will help to get traffic to your blog.
Every blogger will tell you that Pinterest and Google are their top 2 drivers of traffic to their blog.
Facebook and Instagram, while wildly popular, don't send as much traffic than Pinterest and Google. The reason being that Facebook and Instagram are social media while Pinterest and Google are search engines.
I use Pinterest to drive traffic to my blogs with the help of Tailwind.
While their main feature is their Pinterest scheduler, the real benefit of Tailwind is SmartLoop and Communities.
With SmartLoop, your pins are posted on a repeating schedule. It's not quite hands-off full automation, but it is close to it.
With Communities you and your community members share each other's content. This is a great way to bring added exposure, especially if a popular account shares one of your pins.
Cost: Tailwind is $120 per year or $9.99 per month
The best way to get traffic to a new blog isn't Google or Facebook, it's Pinterest! And there's no better Pinterest scheduler than Tailwind.
11. Social media scheduler - Social Pilot - $25 per month
If you think you can get a lot of traffic from social media, you're going to be in for a rude awakening.
Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all designed to keep you on the platform. The longer they keep you on their sites the more ads they can show you and the more money they can make.
Trying to get someone to leave social media and visit your blog is not easy. There's no real trick to it other than creating and sharing awesome content.
If something gets shared and takes off - you're going to enjoy a nice boost of viral traffic for a few days before it dies off again.
While it might sound like I'm against social media traffic, I'm actually not. I just don't think you should waste too much time trying to get it.
Here's my social media marketing strategy in a nutshell:
Using Social Pilot I'm able to queue up thousands of updates and have them sent on my schedule for months in advance. This strategy allows me to be "present" on social media without actually wasting any time on the platforms.
Cost: Social Pilot is $300 per year or $25 per month
I spend 99% of my time on Google SEO and Pinterest. The other 1% is spent setting up my social media posts with this app.
12. Social sharing icons - Social Warfare - $2.42 per month
You know what's better than posting your articles on social media? Having others do the work for you.
To get any kind of traffic from social media you need to not only post your content but you need others to share your content as well.
Every blog needs to have share icons to encourage readers to save and share your content.
I use Social Warfare to add the share icons you see on this blog. Here's what this WordPress plugin can do.
Cost: Social Warfare is $29 per year or $2.42 per month
Other than Thrive Architect, Leads, and Comments, this is only other front-end plugin I use on this blog.
13. Keyword research - LongTailPro - $25 per month
I'm including a keyword research tool because I believe it's essential to create content with a purpose. If you write about whatever you want, you will be writing for no one but yourself.
You see in order to get traffic from Google you have to create content that people are searching for. With a keyword research tool like Long Tail Pro, you can see the volume of a keyword phrase and how competitive that keyword is.
In other words, it helps direct you to write content that has the highest chance of ranking on the first page of Google's search results.
It's the very reason why my keyword phrase for this post is "cost to start a blog" and my longtail keyword phrase is "how much does it cost to start a blog". I'm also targeting "blogging costs" by the way.
Anyways, LongTailPro showed me the volume and difficulty scores and I determined it was worth my time to write this article.
Cost: Long Tail Pro is $300 per year or $25 per month
Keyword research and competitor analysis are essential for getting Google search traffic. Without it, you are driving blind!
14. Facebook / Pinterest / Google ads - $150 per month
Spending money to advertise your blog is entirely optional. In fact, I wouldn't recommend a new blogger dive into spending money on ads at all.
Before you spend a dime on ads, you should first have the following things ready:
You should be able to accomplish all of those tasks before your first year of blogging is up. When you do, it's time to venture out into paid ads.
Always have a purpose. Why are you advertising your blog? With Facebook Ads, you can choose from the following campaign types:
Each one serves its own purpose so it's important to set your goals beforehand.
Cost: An example Facebook ads budget is $300 per year or $150 per month
15. Blogging course - Six Figure Bloggers Blueprint - $8.08 per month
The best investment you can ever make is in yourself.
While all the tools I've mentioned in this post are great, it does you no good if you don't know how to use them. This is why I'm a big proponent of taking a blog course.
I've taken courses on Pinterest marketing, how to launch a course, Facebook ads and Google ads. And I'm still learning to this day because learning never stops.
Cost: Six Figure Bloggers Blueprint costs $97 (with coupon code 200OFF) or $8.08 per month
16. Computer - $41.67 per month
You can do pretty much everything from your smartphone but you're going to need a computer of your own to run your blog.
You should treat your blog like a business and sharing a computer just isn't going to cut it.
I run my blogs from my used 27" iMac purchased from eBay for $650. It's been upgraded with an SSD drive and is as powerful as I need it to be.
I also have a laptop but I rarely use it because the screen is too small (I'm as blind as a bat!).
You should be able to find a good-quality used Macbook Pro or iMac on eBay for roughly $500.
Cost: Used computer from eBay goes for $500 or $41.67 per month
17. Time - priceless
Perhaps your most important investment will be your time. You cannot build a money-making blog if you don't put in the time. Like I said earlier, blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. - it's a slow grind.
When you hear of bloggers earning a six-figure income know that it took years of hard work to get there.
Everything takes time. It takes time to create content, get traffic, build an audience, and to build a full-time income.
Total costs to start a blog in 2020
Getting your blog set up ($17.66 per month)
Email marketing ($5.58 per month)
Traffic generation ($212.41 per month)
Blogging tools ($49.75 per month)
Total cost to start a blog: $285.40 per month
Why you should treat your blog like a business
A blog is a business just like any other. If you treat your blog like a business, you will be rewarded. Treat it like a hobby and you won't earn squat.
In order to make money blogging, you need to invest in blog tools to help you build and grow your blog.
You wouldn't build a car, a house or a computer with your bare hands now would you? You'd go find the best tools to do the job right. The same applies to blogging.
I put together a list of the actual blogging tools I use here if you want to see how I do it. The reality is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
If you want to start a money making blog you need to think of your blog as a business.
Can anybody make money blogging?
Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes lots of time and hard work. But yes, you (yes you) definitely can make money blogging.
I should know. I had no special skills, I wasn't creative, a great writer or have a wonderful idea for a blog.
I was just fully committed to making my blog a success. That determination led me to build one successful blog after another until I was making a six-figure income as a full-time blogger.
Your experience may not be the same as mine, but I know that if I can make money blogging, anybody can do it!
Thanks for reading, hope this helped you determine how much it costs to start a blog... but one more thing. It would totally rock my socks if you saved this post on Pinterest!