Cheap hobbies: running a blog

My recent post about my top 100 cheap hobby suggestions has been fairly successful, and has inspired me to post this follow up article about one of the suggestions that has been occupying much of my time of the last six months: blogging.

My post about cheap hobbies has quickly become the most popular way for people to get to my site through Google. If you search for ‘cheap hobbies’ in Google, it’s currently the first or second result you get (at least it is for me, and is confirmed by Google Analytics).

Blogging has most of the hallmarks of a good frugal hobby. If you have a computer and an internet connection then you can start a blog. There are a number of free services that let you host your blog on their hosting, like blogger, tumblr and wordpress. They are fine if you’re starting out and have no plans to advertise, but can be more limiting if you want your own domain name and have complete control over what is on your site.

Given how cheap domain registration and hosting is, it’s definitely worth considering hosting your own blog so that you can control every last aspect of your site. A typical .com domain name costs around $10 per year, and hosting can be had for as little as $7 per month with perks like unlimited domain names, unlimited data transfer and unlimited data storage.

The best hosting currently available is bluehost. There are a few similar hosts, but none that make the process of setting up your blog as easy as bluehost does. WordPress is the most popular option for blogging software if you want to go down the self-hosted path, and for good reason. It’s extremely flexible and customization – there are tons of free and professionally built themes to choose from, and updating is really easy.

If you decide to register with bluehost, please consider using one of my links because it directly assists my blog financially when you sign up through my site. The best part is that it won’t cost you any more to sign up through this site.

I have been running my site for about six months and haven’t been directly thinking about how to make money from it until fairly recently – I dabbled in the beginning with adsense, but only recently have I thought about different revenue streams. It’s certainly not a good way to make a lot of money quickly, but all of the costs I’ve had to run the site (domain registration, hosting, and the like) has been returned in revenue by more than double through advertising income.

At worst, it’s a cost neutral hobby that has the potential to return some income if you stick with it, or stumble upon a popular format.

Positives to blogging as a cheap hobby

  1. The ongoing costs are no more than about $100 per year for a fully hosted site with your own unique domain name. If you don’t care about being on your own domain name, it is a free hobby.
  2. It’s a great way to learn more about a passion or hobby in another area. For me, I’ve learned a lot about financial independence and personal finance and probably wouldn’t have learned the same lessons as quickly had I not been constantly thinking about how I could write about a particular topic
  3. It keep you accountable. If you’re interested in a blog to document your progress towards a particular goal, like I am as I move towards financial independence, the feedback you get from readers is invaluable as a source of motivation.
  4. It can lead to a relatively passive income stream. I generally don’t like referring to blogs as being capable of producing ‘passive income’ because by and large they are a lot of work to maintain and update – but they are less intensive compared to a full time job, and you can go at your own pace. Theoretically, you could build a site and then let it run on auto-pilot, while continuing to receive a small amount from adsense into the future – or hire someone else to write for you. Generally, they take quite a bit of active participation to get them to a point where they regularly provide any income at all.
  5. You can remain anonymous.
  6. You can update your blog from anywhere in the world, and unlike another hobby or job, you’re not tied to the one physical location.
  7. You can run more than one site without them being connected, and the loss is minimal if any one site doesn’t work out.
  8. You meet a great number of very passionate people who have similar interests, and particularly in the personal finance niche, there is a real sense of camaraderie.
  9. You can say whatever you like about whatever subject you like, and if you do so for long enough, you’re bound to find a group of like minded people and readers. The internet is a weird and wonderful (and huge) place, and if you’re persistent and entertaining, your blog can be a success almost regardless of its focus.
  10. Be your own boss. Only you edit your work, choose when you write and what you say. I’ve found it to be a very motivating and liberating process.
  11. You gain a number of very transferable skills, like copy-writing, editing and marketing.

The negatives

  1. It takes considerable effort to regularly update a blog. In February, I found it hard to work a full time job, run this blog and do all the other things I want to do in my spare time.
  2. Pressure to keep writing
  3. Minimal profit early, potentially for ever
  4. Can be disheartening to not get any feedback
  5. Difficult to know if you’re on the right path

If you think you’d like to write regularly about a topic you’re passionate about and think it’d help you stick to your goals – try writing a blog. It can be really cathartic, and doesn’t have to cost anything if you’re not sure you’d like it. If you start the next Get Rich Slowly, then you could retire in a few years, too!

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Cheap hobbies: running a blog — 11 Comments

  1. Before I started blogging to I had only heard the stories of the small group of people that ended up starting at the right time and their blog took off giving them just boatloads of money. I didn’t really think that would be me but once I started blogging I found out how much harder it is than I expected. A lot of time and effort goes into developing the content. And if you really want to grow your blog that’s even more time that you’ll need to devote to it. I do think it’s a cheap hobby, I mean $100 a year? That’s easy enough for anyone to swing. The interaction in the blogosphere and accountability that I feel to stay on track keeps me motivated and going.

  2. Great article.

    I agree. A blog is a great, cheap hobby and one that actually brings in an income. Of course, for most this “income” is but a fraction of the normal compensation you’d receive for your time doing almost anything else.

    Beyond the money, which is small for most of us, the greatest thing about a blog is the connections you forge and the progress you document. It definitely keeps you on track.

    Best wishes!

  3. Nice round up, I like how you kept things real. Blogs do cost money to run and always bare the potential for returning very little cash. I think you’ve really got to enjoy it so no matter the financial returns you can justify the time you put into it!

  4. Nicely done. I love writing on my blog. I think it’s easier if you really do like to write AND you’re passionate about your subject. I don’t make money off my blog but I do use it as a lead generator and I sell my own products. You can never go wrong when you’re doing something you love!

  5. It’s nice to see someone writing about blogging as a hobby instead of a career. I see so many posts about how to “get rich blogging ” or “start blogging and quit your day job!” and that’s simply not realistic today.

    The big guys (like Get Rich Slowly) all started early, and build readership and links etc very early, and as a result benefited from the surge in blogging that followed.

    But now there’s too much competition to gain that kind of traffic. But it’s still a fun hobby, if a time consuming one! :)

  6. Good post on the pros and cons of this type of venture. I just think it is really hard to carve out the time to do it on a consistent basis. As you get older, your stamina also becomes a question.

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