The Epic Guide to Start a (lovely) Blog on the Cheap // 01: Choose a Blogging Platform

The Epic Guide to Start a (lovely) Blog on the Cheap! Part 1: Which Blogging Platform is Right for Me? See the entire guide at DesignYourOwnBlog.com

The Epic Guide to Start a (lovely) Blog on the Cheap! Take the quiz and find out which blogging platform is your perfect match! Take the quiz and see the full epic guide at www.DesignYourOwnBlog.com

So you’ve decided to start a blog, yay! Blogging is such an awesome way to make friends, indulge in your passions and even make money from those passions!

But you’re on a serious budget and you have ZERO to little money to start, right?

Lucky you found this guide my friend, because I’m going to help you start a blog and design it as cheaply as possible.

Are you ready to start a blog but not sure which blogging platform to go with?  Not all bloggers have equal needs and goals. Therefore, no ONE blogging platform is the right solution for everyone.  Take this quick quiz and find out which blogging platform is a perfect match for you and your current blogging needs! Do the quiz at www.DesignYourOwnBlog.com/startablog!

How to Start a Blog

This is the beginning of a series on how to start a lovely blog on the cheap. Here are the 3 parts we’ll cover in this series:

00 How to Choose a Profitable Blog Topic and Target Audience + Free Workbook (NEW!)
01 How to Choose a Blogging Platform (today’s topic)
02 How to Start a Blog in 15 Minutes or Less
03 Fill Out Your New Blog Content

Note: So that I can continue to share free stuff like this with you, this guide contains some affiliate links (denoted by a *). That means that (at no cost to you) I may receive a small commission to help support this blog should you choose to purchase a product using one of my links. Don’t worry, I never recommend anything that I do not fully stand behind and use myself. You can read my full disclosure here.

How to Choose a Blogging Platform

There are tons of blogging platform options out there and thankfully many are cheap or even free. Yes! Today we’ll talk about some of the more popular options:

(Click a link below to jump to its section)

With the exception of WordPress.org (the self-hosted version), all of the options covered here are hosted on the providers’ servers, which means you do not have to purchase a separate hosting plan to start a blog there.

But first let’s determine what kind of blogger you are!

New! Take the Quiz to See Which Platform is Your Best Match!

Do one or more of the following statements apply to you?

  • You have never had a blog before and you want to give it a try.
  • You have no interest in blogging for profit, you’re just looking to journal your life or collect some thoughts, images or favorite things and maybe share it with a few friends.

If you’ve identified with one or more of the previous statements, then a totally free blogging platform is perfect for you. Those options are: WordPress.com, Tumblr and Blogger.

If you didn’t identify with the previous statements,

Do one or more of these following statements apply to you?

  • You’re starting your very first blog from scratch but you already have a pretty good idea of what you want to offer the world with your blog.
  • You have a blog already but it’s time to ditch the amateur blog and turn this baby into a business.
  • You know your business needs a professional looking blog.

If you fall into one of these scenarios or something like it, then you’re definitely ready for a “blog on a budget.” Those platforms include: Blogger, Weebly, Wix, Squarespace and self-hosted WordPress.org. You can skip directly to that section here. Otherwise…

We’ll start with the truly free options, ones where you can just sign up for an account and get going right away. As you would imagine, there are limitations to these platforms: you get what you pay for. But depending on your reasons and your goals for blogging, these may not necessarily be bad options for you. Most also have upgrade plans where you can get more functionality or server space for a price.

Next we’ll move on to a few blogging options that you’ll have to spend some money on at the outset, but still fit into a pretty low budget. These options are usually more robust and feature-rich.

I’ll outline the pros and cons of each platform below as well as tell you which kind of blogger I believe each platform is best for.

But first, check out the quick infographic I created below comparing the platforms. And please share it if you so feel inclined 🙂

Are you ready to start a blog but not sure which blogging platform to go with?  Not all bloggers have equal needs and goals. Therefore, no ONE blogging platform is the right solution for everyone.  Take the quick quiz at www.DesignYourOwnBlog.com/startablog and find out which blogging platform is a perfect match for you and your current blogging needs!

How to Start a (lovely) Blog for Free

These platforms are perfect for testing the waters. They’re great for first blogs, blogs for fun, and for those who aren’t quite sure if they’re going to stick with it or not.

WORDPRESS.COM

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Which Blogging Platform is best for you? First, let's find out what type of blogger you are. Learn how to start a blog on DesignYourOwnBlog.com

As you may or may not know, there are actually two versions of WordPress: the hosted WordPress.COM and self-hosted WordPress blogs (aka WordPress.ORG). They’re both technically free, but right now we’re talking about the former, the one where you can go to www.WordPress.com and sign up for an account and start blogging right away for free. No hosting or installation required.

Pros:

  • You can get started totally for free.
  • There is free community support.

Cons:

With the totally free version…

  • you only get a crappy URL like myblogname.wordpress.com (as opposed to the more SEO-friendly www.myblogname.com )
  • you only get 3GB of storage (that’s for ALL your content including photos and videos).
  • WordPress will place ads on your blog that you have no control over.
  • you won’t be able to put your own ads on your blog.
  • you won’t have access to the hundreds of thousands of plugins that are available for self-hosted WordPress blogs.
  • theme selection is limited and not too great.
  • you’re limited by the terms in that you may not be able to run giveaways or link parties.
  • you cannot customize your design because you do not have access to your CSS.

Start Up Cost:

Free for 3GB of storage.

Optional Upgrades:

$2.99/mo Boost your website with a custom domain name, and remove all WordPress.com advertising. Get access to high quality email and live chat support. 6GB of storage.

$8.25/mo Build a unique website with advanced design tools, CSS editing, lots of space for audio and video, and the ability to monetize your site with ads. 13GB of storage.

$24.92/mo Power your business website with unlimited premium and business theme templates, Google Analytics support, unlimited storage, and the ability to remove WordPress.com branding. Unlimited storage.

Important: If you never upgrade to a custom domain and you later decide to transfer to another blogging platform, like a self-hosted blog, you’ll have to pay $13/year to redirect your myblogname.wordpress.com domain to your new blog.

This could be an extra annual expense if you decide to move your blog in the future!

Best For:

WordPress.com is best for online journals and hobby bloggers that don’t ever plan to monetize their blogs. Also good for first time bloggers wanting to test out blogging.

My Personal Opinion:

If you go with the upgrades, this ends up being a fairly expensive option. I think you can get much more for the value out of some of the other options below.

If you even have the slightest plans to turn your blog into a business in the future, Don’t Do It. Just don’t. I’ve heard way too many people say they’ve regretted going with WordPress.com so do yourself a favor and just stay away from it. There are better options. Read on…


TUMBLR

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Which Blogging Platform is best for you? Is it Tumblr? First, let's find out what type of blogger you are. Learn how to start a blog on DesignYourOwnBlog.com

Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform, which means it’s kind of a cross between Twitter and a WordPress.com blog. Most posts are very short and just have either an image, a video or a short blurb. No long-form posts here. This is how Tumblr describes it:

We made it really, really simple for people to make a blog and put whatever they want on it. Stories, photos, GIFs, TV shows, links, quips, dumb jokes, smart jokes, Spotify tracks, mp3s, videos, fashion, art, deep stuff. Tumblr is 238 million different blogs, filled with literally whatever.”

Pros:

  • It’s free.
  • It’s cool and simple to use.
  • It has plenty of beautiful themes.
  • You can direct a custom domain to your Tumblr for free.

Cons:

  • You can’t import posts into it and you can’t export posts OUT of it. That’s a BIG deal when you decide in the future that it’s time to go get yourself a big-girl blog.
  • No comments at all, just likes. That kinda sucks if you want to create community and connection with your audience.

Start Up Cost:

Free

Optional Upgrades:

If you’d like, you can purchase a domain name from a registrar like Namecheap* and direct it to your blog. The cost of a domain is between $4-40/year. Here’s how to setup a custom domain name for Tumblr.

You can also purchase templates for Tumblr and those run about $30 on average. Find some great Tumblr templates at Theme Forest.*

Best For:

Tumblr is best for hobby-blogging, collecting your favorite things, etc. It’s not at all a platform for serious, i-want-to-build-a-business blogging.


BLOGGER

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Which Blogging Platform is best for you? Is it Blogger? First, let's find out what type of blogger you are. Learn how to start a blog on DesignYourOwnBlog.com

Blogger (aka Blogspot) is another platform that’s super easy to get going on right away. It’s owned by Google so to get started you just sign in to your Google account, create a new blog, and you’re off and running.

Pros:

Here are Blogger’s Pros and Cons if you decide to go completely free:

  • It’s super simple to get started. You can be up and blogging in 10 minutes or less.
  • You can customize it as much as you want with the the built-in template editor or via HTML and CSS.
  • There are lots of beautiful templates out there, both free and premium. You just have to look. Please don’t use one of their defaults!
  • You can easily export your posts and comments should you decide to move to a different platform later on.

Cons:

  • You get a crappy domain like myblogname.blogspot.com that’s difficult to remember or type in.
  • The free templates are just plain ugly.
  • You don’t technically own your blog so Google can decide to shut it down at any time without warning. This has happened to people I know and is not as rare as you would think. If you decide to use Blogger, be sure to do backups regularly.

Start Up Cost:

Free

Optional Upgrades:

  • $4-40/year for a custom domain* that you can direct to your blog.
  • $10-100 for a premium template.

Best For:

Totally free Blogger is best for those who want to try their hand at blogging and/or don’t have money to invest into a blog initially. It’s also best for those who have difficulty or no interest with the technical aspects of a blog or website.

But Blogger can also be used as a more professional option too. I’ll talk a bit more about that in the next section.


How to Start a (lovely) Blog on a Budget

Here are some popular options for creating a more professional blog for profit.

BLOGGER

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Which Blogging Platform is best for you? Is it Blogger? First, let's find out what type of blogger you are. Learn how to start a blog on DesignYourOwnBlog.com

Wait. Didn’t we just talk about Blogger already? Yes, yes we did, but Blogger fits under both the free and budget blog categories and here’s why…

Yes, you can totally blog for free on Blogger if you want, but you can also spend a little bit of money to make it into a more professional blog. Here are some costs to consider:

Get your own domain and point it to your blogname.blogspot.com blog. Having your own domain makes it easy for people to remember and type in. Plus it just looks more professional. Here’s where you can get cheap (sic) domains: NameCheap.com.*

Get an attractive premium template. While it’s true you can get free Blogger templates all over the internet, a lot of them are just downright ugly. You should consider getting a nicely-coded professional template. There are tons of gorgeous templates out there that you can buy on Etsy and other various designer websites. Just do a Google search for Premium Blogger Templates.

Pros:

In addition to those mentioned above

  • Blogger is owned by Google. That’s good for SEO, yay!
  • It’s pretty easy to figure out the dashboard.

Cons:

  • Blogger is owned by Google. That can also be bad because I’ve seen people’s blogs get taken down for no good reason at all and with NO warning. When you don’t actually own your site, you have no control over what happens to it.
  • Editing the code can be more complex than editing the code in a self-hosted WordPress blog, so customization can be a little more cumbersome depending on what you want to do.
  • Blogger is not known as an e-commerce platform, so if you plan to create a shop straight off your site, it may not be so simple to do so. If you just plan on using Etsy or the like as your shop, that’ll work but remember that you will be sending traffic away from your own site.

Start Up Cost:

Free

Optional Upgrades:

$4-40/year for a custom domain* that you can direct to your blog.
$10-100 for a premium template.

Best For:

Non-amateur bloggers who don’t need all the bells and whistles but want to easily customize colors and fonts via a dashboard instead of CSS.


WEEBLY

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Which Blogging Platform is best for you? Is it Weebly? First, let's find out what type of blogger you are. Learn how to start a blog on DesignYourOwnBlog.com

Weebly is a website and blogging platform that’s easy to use but can be very limited compared to other options listed here in this post. There is a free version you can start with but it’s so much more limited compared to Blogger that I wouldn’t even consider it.

Pros:

  • Unlimited pages.
  • Drag and drop page builder.
  • e-commerce included: up to 5 items on the free version.

Cons:

  • e-commerce solution is very limited unless you upgrade to the $25/month plan.
  • No favicon with free version.
  • Weebly ads and link not removable with free version.
  • No ability to add video/audio players with free version.
  • No ability to search site on free version.
  • Editing HTML and CSS is not easy.

Start Up Cost:

Free for 500MB of storage. No ability to add e-commerce.

Optional Upgrades:

$8/month for a custom domain (one year), customizable footer, unlimited storage
$12/month for the above plus a slider, video/audio players, password protected page, site search, unlimited storage
$25-38/month business and performance options also available.

Best For:

No one really. I just don’t think that it’s worth it with the other options available that I’ve listed.


WIX*

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Which Blogging Platform is best for you? Is it Wix? First, let's find out what type of blogger you are. Learn how to start a blog on DesignYourOwnBlog.com

Wix is a website platform that can be very limiting because it’s more of a website platform than a blogging one. Some templates may not include blogging ability at the outset and would need to be added in.

Pros:

  • Get up and running quickly.
  • Drag and drop page builder
  • Good tech support.
  • Designer-made, responsive (mobile-friendly) templates.
  • Beautiful galleries
  • Ability to add landing page templates

Cons:

  • Space and bandwidth is severely limited on the free plan.
  • Wix ads are shown on your site in free version.
  • You cannot change the template once you’ve chosen one. If you do, you must start a whole new site. That’s just wrong.
  • Your Wix site and all of its content is hosted exclusively on Wix’s servers, and cannot be transferred elsewhere. Here’s a lengthy tutorial to help you move from Wix to WordPress.
  • You can’t access the code because it’s proprietary. So if you need functionality that Wix doesn’t offer, you can’t even hire a developer to program it for you.

Start Up Cost:

Free for 500MB of storage

Optional Upgrades:

$4.50/month to connect a domain
$8.50/month for 3GB of storage, free domain and no Wix ads
$12.50/month for 10GB of storage, free domain, no Wix ads and more
Additional upgrade plans available up to $24.50/month.

Best For:

Personal and family blogs. Those who don’t care to turn their blogs into a business in the future and just want a quick and easy, good-looking solution.

SQUARESPACE

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Which Blogging Platform is best for you? Is it Squarespace? First, let's find out what type of blogger you are. Learn how to start a blog on DesignYourOwnBlog.com

Squarespace is a great option because they have amazing mobile responsive templates that are seriously gorgeous and offer plenty of customizations that don’t require coding knowledge. It comes with an e-commerce solution built in and they also have quick and awesome support from what I hear.

What you should know:

Squarespace has a monthly fee which at the time of this writing starts at $12/mo but that plan is pretty limited:

  • You are limited to 20 pages which seems like a lot, but if you want to create multiple landing pages for products and list building, you’ll have to upgrade. I currently have 24 pages on DYOB with more in the works. That includes all my targeted landing pages.
  • No access to HTML or CSS.

Squarespace comes integrated with an e-commerce solution and that’s cool, but I’ve heard that it leaves something to be desired. You are limited to using Stripe as your payment provider, so you can’t shop around for the best fees.

Pros:

  • Beautifully designed responsive templates.
  • No coding knowledge required.
  • Integrated e-commerce solution built in.
  • Excellent 24/7 support.
  • Importing content from another blogging platform is easy.
  • Landing page templates built in.
  • Uses a drag and drop page editor.

Cons:

  • You don’t own your blog/site.
  • Expensive: can cost more per month/year than basic hosting for WordPress.
  • Integrated e-commerce solution only allows for one payment provider. You cannot use PayPal.
  • No ability to add any plugin or functionality you want: Very limited in this regard.
  • Exporting content to another platform is NOT easy. Squarespace controls your backups. You cannot save your own and the only way to export anything is by exporting them straight to WordPress only. I’ve heard that it won’t export your images, that’s a major bummer!
  • Only integrates with MailChimp* out of the box, so it’s much more difficult if you use another email service like Aweber or Constant Contact.

Start Up Cost:

$12/month for free domain, 20 pages, unlimited storage and more

Optional Upgrades:

$16/month for unlimited pages, professional email and more
$24 – 40/month for full online stores

See Squarespace pricing details here.

Best For:

Squarespace is best for creatives or bloggers who want a great cutting edge design without a lot of fuss or coding. While it does have some downsides, I think Squarespace is a very good solution as long as the limitations don’t hold you back.

My Personal Opinion

I think it is a bit pricey compared to hosting plans you can get for a self-hosted WordPress blog which can start as low as $3.95/mo.* But I do understand the need for a low maintenance, beautiful blog or website, so I think it’s a strong contender.


WORDPRESS.ORG (SELF-HOSTED)

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Which Blogging Platform is best for you? Is it a self-hosted WordPress blog? First, let's find out what type of blogger you are. Learn how to start a blog on DesignYourOwnBlog.com

Last but not least is WordPress self-hosted. There are reasons why self-hosted WordPress is the most popular blogging platform of choice. If you’ve been blogging a while, are serious about making money, and don’t plan to stop blogging anytime soon, here’s why I highly recommend a self-hosted WordPress blog:

It’s customization options are ENDLESS. Because it’s open source, you have full access to alter the code however you want. If you don’t wish to touch the code, you can still add any functionality you want by installing plugins.

You have access to your CSS so you can customize anything at all in your design. Speaking of customization, I have heard people say that all you get with WordPress are cookie cutter blogs and honestly, that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard!

Those people have obviously not seen the hundreds of thousands of different themes in pretty much any style and/or layout imaginable. So please, don’t let this myth be a reason to not use WordPress because it’s just not true.

E-commerce options for WordPress are great and varied. WooCommerce is the most popular and it’s free for the basic structure. Bonus! It works with almost any payment provider (including PayPal) you choose so you can choose one based on cost and needs.

Of course there are tons of other e-commerce options available to you through WordPress so you have the ability to shop around.

Did you know that 30% of the world’s websites are on WordPress?”

What you should know:

Security: You’ll have to manage your own security with WordPress, which means being diligent about installing security plugins and keeping plugins, themes and the platform updated at all times. You’ll also need to be careful about the themes and plugins you choose to install.

Managed hosting companies specifically for WordPress, like Siteground,* Flywheel and WPEngine, can help you with most of these security issues. They’re a bit more expensive, but can be worth it in the end due to their high security, customer service and fast-loading websites.

Support: WordPress doesn’t have customer support because it’s open source. But because the community is so large, there is a huge forum where you can usually find the answers you’re looking for rather quickly.

Learning Curve: The learning curve can be steep with WordPress. It’s platform may not be intuitive at first to a new blogger, so you may need to spend a little time learning your way around the dashboard. The good news is that once you learn your way around, it makes a whole lotta sense.

WP101* is an awesome library of video tutorials and it’s cheap! It’s $19/mo or $39/year but you can get the first month completely free! If you hustle, you can get all your learning done within those 30 days and not pay a thing 😉

Pros:

  • You own your blog/website and all its content.
  • You are free to import or export your content as you please.
  • You are not limited to one hosting solution, so you can shop around for best pricing.
  • You have full access to all the code and CSS.
  • You can add any functionality you want via the hundreds of thousands of free and premium plugins available. There’s literally a plugin for anything you want your blog to do.
  • There are plenty of fantastic e-commerce solutions available.
  • There are lots of plugins that allow you to fully create and host eCourses on your site.
  • There are tons of nice-looking free themes as well as hundreds of thousands of gorgeous premium themes that allow you to customize your blog in pretty much any way you’d like.
  • The WordPress community is huge and free and very helpful (and friendly!)

Cons:

  • Because WordPress is so powerful, it can be complex to figure out if you aren’t just a little bit tech savvy. But luckily there are plenty of free and paid courses and tutorials that can help you learn how to use it all over the web.
  • You’ll have to pay for hosting every month/year.
  • You must buy a domain.
  • You will have to manage your own security unless you purchase managed WordPress hosting which can cost more. Luckily there are some really good, free plugins available to help you with this.
  • You will need to maintain your blog yourself, which means making sure that everything is updated and backed up. Again, there are plugins available to help you with this.

Start Up Cost:

$4-40+/year for a domain*
$3.95/mo and up* for hosting

Optional Upgrades:

  • Like Blogger, there are plenty of free themes (templates) but you may wish to purchase a premium theme that’s coded well and comes with support. The average cost of a decent theme is about $50 but I’ve seen themes as cheap as $15 and as expensive as $145 (that’s rare though).
  • While many plugins for additional functionality are free, there are premium plugins you may wish to purchase depending on your business needs. These can be anywhere from $5 to $100+. We’ll talk more about plugins in Part 2.

But still, you can get started with WordPress for a very low initial investment (and a free theme that’s just fine for starting out with) so don’t let cost be a deterrent for you.

Best For:

Professional bloggers and solopreneurs: those who want to build an online business selling digital products, e-courses and/or membership sites. You can also install multiple instances of WordPress on most hosting plans so that you can host more than one site. For example, say you want a separate site for your shop or e-course.

My Personal Opinion:

WordPress is so robust that you can literally make it do anything you want. There are virtually no limitations as to what you can do with this platform. There’s a reason it’s the #1 CMS (content management system) in the world. All of my websites and blogs run on WordPress and I don’t think I could have it any other way.

You will need to learn a bit about the technology to make it work for you and it might get a little frustrating at first, but that goes with anything new that you learn. I think in the end, it will be well worth your time investment into your business.

Which Solution is Best for You?

If the thought of learning new technology terrifies you, you might opt for one of the simpler solutions mentioned in the free section. Your budget is certainly a consideration, but don’t let it be the only deciding factor. Again you’ll want to think ahead and not lock yourself into a platform that severely limits what you can do with it or hinders your ability to transfer all your hard work in the future.

Of course, if you’re serious about building an online business, I highly recommend a self-hosted WordPress blog just because it gives you the most options. I have a fear of being pigeon-holed into things so I like the complete control and flexibility that I get with WordPress. My blog is MY blog and I can do whatever I please with it.

I will unabashedly admit here that I am a big fan of WordPress and definitely biased towards it. It’s the platform I know the best and the one I discuss most on DYOB.

If you’re still on the fence and not sure which option to go with, please feel free to ask questions in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help you decide which is best for you. As much as I love WordPress, I know it’s not for every situation.

But if you happen to be convinced that you want to go with self-hosted WordPress, we’ll head on over to Part Two where I’ll walk you through choosing a great domain name (download the free worksheet!) then set up your new blog in about 15 minutes!

Whichever platform you choose, you’re going to want to go to Part 0 😉 How to Choose a Profitable Blog Topic and Target Audience (with another free workbook!) and Part 3: Fill Out Your New Blog Content.

Got questions or your own experiences you’d like to share with a blogging platform? Leave a comment now!

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53 Comments

  • Ruthie Gray says:

    I love this post. Actually, I love everything I read of yours. I’m trying to decide whether to launch into WP or stay with Blogger. I love the plug ins of WP (like “tweet this”) and the easy access there to share the post on social media. Everyone says if you’re really serious go to WP and I am really serious. It just seems cleaner and nicer, but I am SOOOOO not technically minded. It took me forever to learn the ways of blogger. It sounds like what you are saying if that is the case is to just stick with blogger. I’m ready for a total rehaul of my site, so that’s happening if I say. I know I need to. Anyhow, I just signed up for your fb site so maybe I’ll gain some insight there. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Ruthie!
      So it sounds like you may want to move to WP, based on the plugins and functionality you’d like to incorporate, but here’s the thing: you don’t REALLY have to be that technologically minded to use it. If you got a theme that you really like and didn’t feel the need to customize it too much, you’ll be just fine. And with plugins, you really don’t ever need to get into the code unless you want to. You just have to make sure that you manage your security, which would also be done through the use of plugins.

      You could always sign up through a host like Bluehost for your blog and try it out. They give you a free domain when you purchase a year of hosting in advance (at around $6/mo) so you wouldn’t have to worry about losing money on the domain. If it turns out you don’t like WP, Bluehost has a really good refund policy and they will prorate your unused months and you could go on your way. So there really isn’t any risk at all if you just wanted to give it a try and see how it goes.

      You don’t have to lose your blogger blog in the meantime, just use the WP site as your testing ground, then if you decide to keep it, you could export your blogger content into your new WP site. 🙂

    • Sherry hoffman says:

      Me too! Not tech savvy, never had a blog or Wwp. Hope to use it mostly for writing my stories and selling them. No idea about payments coming in or anything! H place! Don’t mind spending a bit to get started but I can’t spend much on ss. Thanks for any help!

  • I love this post! Such great insight and guidance that I would’ve loved to find when I first started!! (haha) I use wordpress.com right now and truth be told I am not a fan, it’s good for a first start but not when you want to become serious. That’s ok though because a new site is on the way YAY! I chose to go with SquareSpace, I was sold on it through Elle & Company and its underway now so I will definitely give you an update on how I like it and how it is to use 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this! Great post

    Lauren Baxter | LB Designs
    xx

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Lauren, yeah I’m not a big fan of WP.com either, but can’t wait to see your new Squarespace blog! Elle & Company does a great job of selling people on it and I definitely think they have the nicest templates of them all, so I’m sure you will be more than happy! When is it happening?

      • Ya I’m really excited for it to be published I’m working with a great girl whose designing it for me and I think its going to be great. Squarespace is pretty cool so far but I haven’t gotten to deep into it yet. Its underway now and I think it will be ready in about 2 weeks!! I will definitely be posting all over SM when its going live 🙂

        Thanks so much!

  • Robin says:

    I currently use Weebly for my website. While I imagine upgrading to something snazzier in the future for now it suits my needs. I am ready to start my blog and was planning on just using the one offered but after reading your review, I’m second guessing that. If down the road (in another year probably) I plan to have someone create a WordPress website for me, would I be able to transfer the Weebly blog over or link it up or something?

  • Mai2512 says:

    I want to make my own fashion blog , i’m not really good at editing website but i still want to design my blog in a easy and simple way. My blog is a serious blog and i really want it to be design by me. I have decided that i’ll choose Blogspot but i don’t know is this the best option so can you give me any advice about this?

    • Marianne says:

      Hello Mai,
      I don’t know that I can really help more than the information I’ve shared here in the this post without knowing more details about what you need. You may want to go through it again and really take note of the pros and cons of each platform and also check out the Best For and My Personal Opinion sections under each.

      I think Blogspot is a great platform especially to start with and if you change your mind later, you can easily move your content to a new platform. Good luck with your new blog!

  • LEXI says:

    I LOVE THIS POST! I HAVE BEEN HAVING AN INCREDIBLY HARD TIME SELECTING A PLATFORM AND THAT’S THE ONLY REASON I DO NOT HAVE A BLOG YET. I AM SO SCARED OF SELECTING AND INVESTING IN THE WRONG PLATFORM. I AM A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER, AND USE SELF HOSTED WORDPRESS.ORG. I WILL BE HONEST, I AM NOT COMPLETELY HAPPY WITH THIS METHOD, ALTHOUGH IT WORKS JUST FIND FOR MY BUSINESS. I DIDN’T WANT TO START ANOTHER SELF HOST, BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE THAT’S JUST THE BEST BET FOR ME.

    I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL BLOGGER (YET 😉 ), BUT I’VE SET MY GOALS AT 4-6 MONTHS AND INVESTING IN A SELF HOST NOW WOULD JUST BE BETTER THAN SWITCHING EVERYTHING AROUND IN 4 MONTHS.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Lexi, so glad this was so helpful for you! I know WP can be hard to master sometimes, but it does get easier, I promise! Plus, take advantage of your free month of WP101 (there’s a link in part 2 of the series). Those videos are extremely helpful.

      Btw, happy to “meet” another Denver blogger! I checked out your site and your kiddos are SUPER adorable!!!

  • Jeannie says:

    Hi Marianne,

    First of all, your blog is incredible! And secondly, thank you so much for your information in this post! I sure wish I had found this info before I started my blog to have some basic questions answers. I started with Weebly, and now am regretting it after reading this post and finding out the benefits of WordPress. I chose it for easy startup. Help! Is there a way to switch the platform? There is so much to learn about blogging, I am just trying to figure everything out!

    • Marianne says:

      Oh Jeannie! I’m so sorry I made you regret your decision to go with Weebly. Fortunately you can definitely switch to WP, I found this great post here about how to do that: http://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-tutorials/how-to-properly-move-from-weebly-to-wordpress/

      But before you do, make sure that there are actual legitimate reasons for you to switch. I wouldn’t recommend it to start out with, but since you’ve already got it running, are there limitations that are deal-breakers for you that make you need to switch? If not, just run with what you have for now until it gets to the point that you’re blocked in some way by the platform.

      Good luck and let me know if you have more questions!

  • This post is amazing, Marianne!! What a fantastic resource. I custom designed my current website, but have designed both WP and Squarespace sites for clients in the past. I wish I had this to send them to when they asked about blogging platforms! I’m also shifting my focus and am thinking about using a platform to make it easier to update my site (custom sounds fun, but can be time consuming doing everything from scratch) – and the way you clarified the pros & cons was truly helpful. Thank you for creating such a valuable resource. Bookmarking + pinning so I can send people here when they ask me about blogging platforms!
    Bridgid Gallagher recently posted…Make a Novel Cover for your NaNoWriMo Project in CanvaMy Profile

    • Marianne says:

      Oh Bridgid thank you so much, that really means a lot coming from someone who designs sites too! I’m so glad you now have a resource to send your clients to 🙂

  • Hello! I subscribed to your blog a few days ago. I’m a freelance graphic designer who wants to create a graphic design blog. Just figuring out what would be the best blog platforms for me (minus Blogger). I know a little bit about coding since I took web design classes in college. On the other hand, I’m not a pro at coding. It taking me a while to finish up my music blog that was create in Blogger. So do you think WP would be good for me or not? Just need some more information even through I’ve read this post.

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Michelle,
      I think it all depends on how much you’re willing to do/learn and how much customizing you’re wanting to do. There are so many gorgeous themes and templates out there now for either platform that you could get away with not doing much customization at all. Most of the time, you don’t need to get into the PHP in WordPress but you might have to do some CSS editing. How comfortable are you with that?

      • I’m somewhat comfortable with css editing. I do some css editing for my music blog. I’ll search for some WP tutorials online, just in case I need help. I want to have a simple but sleek graphic design blog that represent me and my work. Just going to be a learning process like my music blog.

  • Sara says:

    Hi, Marianne,

    Great, great post! I’ve been looking at a few of yours, trying to glean all I can (and marking them as favorites because it will take me awhile to act on all you’ve suggested). I have been blogging on wordpress.com since 2012 and am partway through the second year of paying that $99 fee. (It seems that the moment I started forking out big bucks for a blog, I stopped writing so much. Go figure.)

    I was looking at some of your design suggestions (title templates, etc.) and am considering just how I would use that on my current WordPress site. (Plus my custom site address is my name, and I’d like to change it but don’t think I can…) In other words, I am thinking I am ready to “grow up” and do a wordpress.org self-hosted site. (I work in marketing and use WordPress for the websites at work, including some plug-ins, so I am comfortable working in the dashboard, etc.) I want the freedom of the .org version but figure I can make the transformation slowly because I have through November on my current plan. I do NOT want to pay a monthly fee to pull my traffic to a new site…

    Anyway, do you have any advice for how to make the transition? Is it easy to export my blog posts and import them into a new site? Is there a way to keep my followers or at least redirect them to the new site? Etc.

  • Hi Marianne, I’ve got a blog that looks really crappy, I want to organize a lot of things of it, and I’m pretty sure your site will help with that, thanks for sharing all of this!

  • Mariel V says:

    Hello! I’ve read your post, and now i know what to use. I’ve been searching for a platform because i’m really interested for starting up my own blog. I love reading blogs for years now. My problem is, i dont know what’s the right platform to use. Some of the blog post says that blog traffic can be a source of income, I’d like to ask some knowledge about it. Please educate me. 🙁 If i use blogger, is it the right platform for that? for blog traffics and whatsoever. Please, reply. Much appreciated. Thank you so much.

    • Mariel V says:

      Hello! Goodnews, i made my own wordpress org. but now, i dont know how to make it live. Im using a macbook. Can you share me how to make it? Or should i edit first my blog like my layouts, templates etc before i make it live? Thanks!

  • Kay says:

    I just want to say, your site is so beautiful. It makes it so much easier to read this information.
    I would like to know if it is possible to move my blog from Blogger (Google) to WordPress? I really really want to keep my url. It took me so long to come up with something good that is available.
    Please tell me this is possible.

  • Erica says:

    Your blog is amazing and came to me at the perfect time. I am a recent graduate wanting to start an interior design/food/lifestlye blog but I have NO idea where to start. I have zero experience in blogging and “coding” sounds like a foreign language to me. I am interested in this for the long haul as I would like to be a self employed interior designer one day. You have provided an incredible amount of information but I am wondering what platform you think would suit me best? I know you like WP, but I am scared of the technicality of the site. Any suggestions would be so greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Erica, honestly I can’t tell you which would be best because each platform suits different needs, so you’ll need to assess your own needs and determine what works for you based on the pros and cons outlined above. I do love WordPress and think it’s one of the most diverse platforms in terms of adding functionality to it. But if you don’t feel you can handle the technical aspects of it, then you might want to stick with Blogger or Squarespace. Hope that helps!

  • RaeAnne says:

    Hiya!
    First of all, I’ve gotta say that I LOVE your site and have for ages!! <3

    I'm working on a complete overhaul of my blog (colors, fonts, even the name!!) right now; just behind the scenes while I keep posting.
    I currently use WP.com and (for a design course I took a while ago) got a look at the WP.org dashboard. So that doesn't seem too daunting.

    I'm wondering about the themes. Are the free ones for WP.org different than the ones for WP.com? (WP.com has plenty, I haven't found one that I've stuck with for more than a few months.)
    And I assume that even the free ones are more customizable than I have the freedom to right now?

    Thanks so much!! 😀
    I'm excited about moving my blog over to another platform, because this one just . . . it's time to be more in charge of my site. XD I just want to make the right decision!!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi RaeAnn, thank you! You’re very sweet to say that. 🙂
      I think that to start out, you are just fine finding a free theme for wp.org. I would suggest using one that is in the WordPress marketplace (the ones you get in your dashboard) so that you know they are coded well and free of spyware as some free themes may be.

      Hooray for moving to self-hosted! I’m excited for you!

  • Mahriya says:

    Thanks so much for this!! It’s an amazing post. I like to stay FREE, with my stuff, because my blog is just for fun, not a business!
    However, I would love to know what platform is best for E-COMMERCE?

    P.S Why doesn’t my link work for Your Comment Luv Option? I’ve seen many blogs use this on their commenting fields and it works just fine.In fact, I just neter my blog URL and there are no problems. I can select which post I’d like to show most of the time, or it just shows my recent(ist) post in the comment! Is there any reason why I get the error message:

    Error. Parsing JSON Request failed. error! not authorized d048c30035 ?

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Mahriya, WordPress self-hosted is great for e-commerce as you can install the free plugin, WooCommerce. Squarespace is also made for e-comm but I believe you pay more if you want to offer more products. Shopify is also an excellent option but I believe it’s the most expensive. What types of products are you wanting to offer in your shop?

      • Mahriya says:

        Okay, thank you! I don’t really have an idea in mind but one of my future goals (in like 5 years or something) is to set up some sort of bookish merchandise shop, so I was just wondering! Thanks for your advice so much.

        P.S I’m still getting this error code:
        Error. Parsing JSON Request failed. error! not authorized 5fa06504b7
        for your CommentLuv plugin when i enter my URL, any suggestions?

        • Marianne says:

          You’re welcome Mahriya! Oh and sorry I missed your first comment about the CommentLuv plugin. I have no idea why that happens. I’ve seen it on other blogs too and thought it was a glitch, but you just reminded me I should look into it further.

        • Marianne says:

          Ah! I think i fixed it! Test it out and let me know 🙂

  • Rosie says:

    Hey, Marianne! Did you ever finish the “How to Start a Blog” series? And if so, where are the links to parts four and five? Your blog has been and continues to be SO helpful. Thank you!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Rosie! Guilty as charged! I did not 🙁 I am however, working on a revamp of the whole thing from the start anyway. So so sorry for the delay!

  • Hi, Marianne! I have a question – what if you’ve already started a blog on one platform, but want to switch to another? Is this a good idea? I started on Blogger four months ago, but am considering switching to self-hosted WordPress and I’m not sure what would be the wisest choice, seeing as I already have built my platform with Blogger.

  • Rebekah says:

    I feel like some of the stuff you’re saying about Blogger is being misinformed and misconstrued.

    I am part of a ever growing network of bloggers on Blogspot who are doing very well including one who is now becoming a celebrity! I know tons of bloggers making money on this platform and I’m a tech for the blogger platform. We are able to tweak and design nice templates from the simple blogger template and have mobile responsive options that look beautiful and are functionable.

    As for blogs being shut down. Their TOS says that they specifically will do this only if a blog violate their TOS. We own our content, however if someone is involved with some shady business or posting inappropriate content, or trying to manipulate ad clicks then yes you’ll get shut down but the majority of bloggers never have this problem after 10 years. So that is in rare cases and only for reasons that are shady.

    Blogger is a wonderful platform. Our blogs do not go down like WP’s blogs do. We don’t get hacked like WP servers do, and often we find ourselves sitting back watching the thousands of WP users talk about their blogs going down for days at a time sometimes. I appreciate you not slamming blogger outright but I still can see bias in this article that makes Blogger look inferior to other platforms and that just doesn’t seem fair or right. :/

    • Marianne says:

      Thank you so much for your point of view Rebekah, I really appreciate it! I think Blogger is a great platform and I don’t feel that I bashed it. I definitely think it’s a great option for some bloggers out there.

      You are absolutely right that you can tweak the design of the templates, I just personally feel that the code behind Blogger is a lot more complicated to decipher than say the code in a self-hosted WordPress site and that could be where my bias comes from. I do know plenty of Blogger designers who create gorgeous templates, I just wanted to come from a perspective of being a new blogger. In the quiz, Blogger definitely comes up as a solution for many options and needs!

      As far as blogs getting shut down by Blogger, it has happened to people who were not running shady businesses. People I know from Twitter and my Facebook group have experienced their own blogs being shut down. I know it doesn’t happen often but it does happen. I also know that yes WordPress blogs can get shut down by hackers as well, so it’s a risk either way. By the way, you reminded me that I wanted to take the “WordPress for the Win” graphic down which I forgot as I don’t want this to come off as being an “Only WordPress” blog post. 😉

      Thanks again for your incredibly thoughtful response!

  • Rebekah says:

    Also i would love to have some dialogue with you through email concerning those here on blogger that might be struggling with it or needing some support. I and another lady have started a blogger support group on Facebook where bloggers on Blogspot can get the support and tech help they need. 🙂 I would love to get them plugged in so they aren’t getting misinformation. We have tons of WP people moving from WP back to blogger cause it wasn’t what they thought originally.

    Thank you. 🙂

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Rebekah, sure I’d love to speak with you more about this. I would be happy to let my Facebook group know about your group because there are always people on Blogger with questions or struggles that I am not all that knowledgeable to answer.

  • Stephy says:

    I have a blog on WordPress.COM. The only thing I dislike is the limited design options. My blog is personal, but I definitely want others reading it. I’m an artist and one day might sell arts or do commissions.

    Right now I’m disabled with no income, so I don’t think I can afford to pay. I keep debating about whether or not I should stay on WordPress.COM. I don’t want to lose my posts. D:

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Stephy, I hear you! That’s why I prefer Blogger over WordPress.com for a totally free option. It may have a few limitations compared to a self-hosted site, but for the most part it has everything you need! I couldn’t find anything that was specifically on how to move from WordPress.com to Blogger, but if you have the same things in the dashboard as they explain here, this tutorial might work for you:
      http://www.15minutemondays.com/2015/01/26/moving-wordpress-blogger/

  • Lynn says:

    Hi Marianne!
    I am currently a bit overwhelmed with just about all the information out their on blog creation. I am pretty sure the best option for me is going to be a self-hosted wordpress blog.
    I am a bit unsure as to where to begin with it all since there are several steps involved. I will be starting this blog from Bolivia and really there aren’t many people that have much experience with blogs here. What I do know is that I would like it to eventually include an ecommerce platform.
    Help please!
    🙂

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Lynn, definitely read the rest of the series here to help you set it up. Then I recommend looking at some of my latest posts from the last 2-3 months (just click on Blog up in the menu above). There are several posts there to help you from finding your audience and a profitable topic to how to get subscribers.

      You may also want to check out Abby’s Building a Framework ebook: http://designyourownblog.com/blogframework

      And most of all, relax! It’s a slow and steady process, but we’ve all started at the beginning too and there is no race 🙂

  • Great post! Thanks for the input! I just started a blog on WordPress.com. I have already written a bunch of posts but want to make money blogging in the long run. I don’t have much income so I can’t afford to start aggressively. Am I doing it right then? Can I stick with WordPress and still make money down the road?

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Megan, I really don’t recommend it as a platform because I just think it’s a very limited platform compared to others that are also free, like Blogger. But I believe you should be able to make some money from it, you just might run into limitations of the platform, such as installing a plugin that might help you to sell a product or create a landing page, for example.

      That said, since you’re already on it, I’d just keep using it until you hit a roadblock, then you might consider switching. The only problem is that you’ll be paying them to repoint your domain name to another site if you want to keep it. That’s the biggest thing I don’t like about it.

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