Thinking of starting your own website but worried about the cost? You might be surprised at how cheap it is…
Most of my offline friends know very little about my blogging business. The online world is just so foreign to them that I sometimes wonder if they think I’m just wasting my time.
But when they see me cashing checks from Google AdSense or affiliate programs their eyes get wide and they’re suddenly full of questions as they try to figure out how they can get in on the action.
There’s one question I hear more times than any other so I figured I’d answer it here since many of you are probably wondering the same thing.
How Much Does It Cost to Make a Website?
One of the things I love about starting an online business is the extremely low barrier to entry. Many businesses require tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in startup capital. Want to open a McDonalds in your neighborhood? You’ll need to have at least a half million in liquid assets at your disposal to even be considered.
But you can start your own website for less than $100.
Yup, just $100 or less will get you started as an online entrepreneur. Sure, you can spend a lot more than that if you want to and it will certainly help you get a head start on things. But there are only two expenses that are absolutely mandatory if you want to start your own website…
Your domain is like the street address of your house. It is how people will find you on the internet. When they type your domain into their web browser it brings them right to your home page, which is like your front door. For example, my domain is wealthyturtle.com.
Your domain is also the deed to your virtual real estate. It gives you the right to build whatever you like at that address. No one else can touch it.
Domain registration fees vary but generally they cost around $10 a year. I register all of mine through Namecheap and I recommend you do the same. Namecheap is very reliable and their customer service is outstanding. Plus, I prefer their account interface to other services I’ve used in the past.
A web host, or hosting provider, is simply a company that hosts your site on their servers so it can be seen by the rest of the world. If the domain is like your website’s mailing address, then the host is like the lot of land you can build on.
There are countless hosting providers and new ones pop up every day. But you need to choose your host carefully. If you choose poorly, your site will be down all the time and you’ll get little or no customer support at all.
Personally, I like either Bluehost or Host Gator. I currently have websites hosted with both of them and I recommend you choose them too. They both allow you to host an unlimited number of domains for less than $9 a month, they offer 24/7 customer support, and they have cool programs that let you install important features such as WordPress with one click of your mouse. Wealthy Turtle is hosted by Host Gator.
Options and Accessories
Once you have a domain and web hosting set up you’ll need to start building your site. There are a few options here but I recommend you use WordPress to build your site. WordPress is extremely popular and there is tons of support available if you run into problems. It’s easy to use, requires no knowledge of html coding, and can easily be customized by adding various themes and plugins.
Oh yea, WordPress is also 100% free and can be installed in less than a minute from either the Bluehost or Host Gator dashboards.
WordPress comes with a couple of basic themes but I don’t recommend using them. They are a little too generic and difficult to customize. But don’t worry…there are literally thousands of themes to choose from.
A word of warning about free WordPress themes: you get what you pay for.
There are thousands of free WordPress themes to choose from and some of them are very good. But many of them are pure crap. They are often coded poorly and don’t work well with other plugins you’d like to use. They rarely offer any kind of support and you can forget about upgrades.
Even worse, shady programmers sometimes insert hidden code within free themes. It could be a hidden link back to their own site (Google HATES hidden links and could ban your site from their results if they catch you) or something much worse such as a Trojan that allows them to access your blog or even your entire computer.
Rather than risk downloading a free theme just to save a few bucks, I recommend using a premium theme from a reputable company. There are plenty to choose from but the one I use myself is called Thesis.
Thesis is an extremely powerful framework that will allow you to build the site of your dreams. The programmers are constantly tweaking and improving it by adding new features. It’s extremely easy to customize and you can make your site look completely different than other sites that use Thesis.
A few more things you can use…
A Snazzy Logo
A neat, clean logo can give a website a whole new look and feel. It can make visitors view you as more professional and as an expert in your field.
I created the Wealthy Turtle logo myself but I’m hardly an expert in graphic design. If you want to get a professionally designed logo at a reasonable price I highly recommend my buddy Peter Anderson at LogosforWebsites.com. Check out his portfolio and you’ll see lots of familiar logos and headers from popular blogs.
An Email Newsletter
An email newsletter full of loyal subscribers is a powerful weapon you will definitely want to add to your blogging arsenal. It can help insulate you from the whims of search engines and give you another way to monetize your blog.
Deciding when to start an email newsletter can be tricky. It’s probably beyond most newbies who wouldn’t know what to do with it. But when you’re ready to tap in to its power you’ll probably wish you had started collecting email addresses much sooner. So when in doubt I say start using one as soon as you can afford the expense.
The newsletter service I use is called Aweber and it’s one of the most well known and widely used services around. It isn’t free, but it pays for itself every month so I wouldn’t want to go without it.