Over the last few years, blogging has gone from “that kinda weird thing that Internet people do” to mainstream. My mother still uses a pre-paid cell phone, has never been on Facebook, and had dial-up Internet up until about a year ago. And she has a blog.
One of the biggest reasons that blogging is so attractive is that it is a way to enjoy your passion that requires little start-up cash. Heck, it costs more to go to a baseball game with your family than it does to start a blog. You can even get started with absolutely no money.
As your traffic starts to grow, however, you might want to spend a little money on your blog. Recently, we posted an infographic featuring bloggers who made millions online. You can bet your britches that these people have invested money into their blogs! Now, yesterday, I wrote a bit about the advantages of paid targeted traffic, but if you’re a beginner, there are other things you should start paying for first.
Without further ado, here are the top five ways you should spend money on your blog:
The number one thing you should purchase if you want to continue growing as a blogger is hosting. While millions of bloggers have gotten their start on Blogger, WordPress.com, Tumblr, or another freely hosted blogging platform, very, very few free services allow you enough freedom to really grow your blog. Sponsors/advertisers and customers will take you more seriously if you own your own site. Think about it. When’s the last time you saw a successful blog on a wordpress.com or blogspot.com site?
First, you need to purchase your domain name, which costs around $10 per year depending on where you register the name, and whether you want a .com name or a different extension, like .net, .org, or .me.
Then, you need hosting, which costs as little as $3 per month, depending on the size of your site, the company providing the hosting, and whether you purchase by the month or pay several months in advance. As a blogger, you really shouldn’t have to pay more than $10 per month.
So, in total, you’re looking at $75 – $150 per year (or $6 to $13 per month) to own your own site. You can spend even less money if you look for a sale. If you spend no other money on your blog, spend money on this.
Premium Themes and Plugins
Next, for many bloggers, it makes sense to invest in a premium theme and some premium plugins. Yes, there are a ton of free options out there, but the features you get with premium themes and plugins can help you grow.
As far as themes go, you can choose options such as Thesis, Headway, or Genesis, or you can choose to subscribe to a membership site where you pay one fee to have access to lots of themes. Woo Themes is an example of this kind of membership site and while you will be paying month instead of a flat fee, these membership options are typically a good choice if you have several blogs or change your theme often.
Premium themes can cost as little as $5 and as much as several hundreds of dollars. Most of the time, you get what you pay for.
Now let’s talk about premium plugins. There are thousands of choices out there. Pay for the plugins that make the most sense for your blog and your goals. You can also find “freemium” plugins, which means you have access to the plugin for free, but you have to pay if you want additional features and support.
Some Premium plugins that I really like are:
- CommentLuv: Freemium – I purchased the upgrade and LOVE it! Not only does it give you Look for a sale and you can upgrade for a very reasonable price. When I purchased, I think I paid $30-40 for unlimited use, which is normally $97.
- Gravity Forms: $39 for one site and support for a year
- Visual Composer: $25 for one site, and well worth the money if you build complex pages
- A/B Theme Testing: $10 for one site, and great if you want to test different themes to see what performs better
- Backup Buddy: $80 for two sites or $100 for ten sites (with options for more at higher price points)
Of course, this doesn’t scratch the surface of the premium plugins available for bloggers, so I recommend doing your research to find those that are going to really enhance your blog, based on your goals. (And if you have a favorite premium plugin, leave a comment below to tell us about it!)
I might be biased, but I believe that one of the best investments you can make as a blogger is in education. I work for NMX not just for the paycheck, but because I really believe in what this company is doing to help teach content creators to be better at what they do. I always walk away having learned something! If you’re not already signed up for our next show, I highly recommend it (you can learn more here).
Conferences aren’t your only option. If you want more education, here are some other options:
- Online conferences, courses and programs, such as our virtual ticket
- Single webinars/videos (often these are free, but sometimes there are premium options)
- Ebooks (again, often these are free, but sometimes there are awesome premium ebooks you should consider)
- Print books from experts in the topics that interest you
Of course, you should also be reading other blogs, which is completely free. It always boggles my mind when bloggers say they “don’t have time to read other blogs,” which really means they don’t make time to read other blogs. Education blogs (like this one and others like it) are invaluable for learning more about blogging.
Virtual Assistants and Contractors
How much is your time worth?
Let’s say that you have a few hours every day to work on your blog. In those hours you can be doing any number of tasks; as most bloggers know, you could fill a hundred hours a week with blogging work!
A virtual assistant or a contractor can help you with low-level tasks so you can work on other tasks that are going to help you make more money. For example, you can have a virtual assistant help with emails so you have time to write more blog posts. Or you could have a contractor write some posts for you so you have time to work with sponsors.
With virtual assistants and contractors, you don’t always get a more trusted, skilled person if you spend more money. I’ve worked with VAs who charged $5 per hour and were excellent. I’ve also worked with VAs who charged $20 per hour and did a horrible job. You really have to do your research to find the person who is a right fit for you.
As a sidebar, one of our speakers, Chris Ducker, runs a company that specializes in helping people find VAs. We love Chris, and if you’re looking for virtual help, definitely check out his services at Virtual Staff Finder.
Mailing List Services
Lastly, I highly recommend that you invest in your mailing list. There are free services to get started, like MailChimp, but I like the premium services offered by other companies a little better. My personal favorite is Aweber (for bloggers), and if you need a more robust CRM and marketing tool, not just a way to send emails, there are more expensive services out there, such as HubSpot, Marketo, and Infusionsoft. With mailing list services, you’ll pay by the size of your list.
Feedblitz is also an option. This service combines RSS and email so you can reach readers with the content they really want.
When someone visits your site, you have no way of reaching them again if you don’t have a mailing list. Even if they follow you on Twitter of Facebook, there’s no guarantee that they’ll see your updates, since the Twitter stream moves so quickly and Facebook status updates aren’t seen by everyone.
With a mailing list, you can reach the reader where they live the most…in their inbox. You can send them newsletters to help build trust, links to your blog to help boost your traffic, and product recommendations to help you make more money. You can also survey your readers using your mailing list, allowing you to find out what kind of content they most want.
So there you have it: my top five recommendations for spending money on your blog. Do you invest in your blog? If so, how do you spend your money? Leave a comment letting us know!
Full disclosure: some of the companies mentioned are past or current NMX/BlogWorld exhibitors and sponsors or are owned by past or current NMX/BlogWorld speakers. It’s hard to keep track since we’ve had so many people working with us over the years! I never recommend a product I don’t believe in, though. If you have any questions about NMX’s relationship with a specific company, let me know!