I've always been a firm believer that you get what you pay for. For example, in my personal life, I would rather own less clothing and have each item of very high quality than to own a cupboard full of of cheap clothing. The same applies across all areas of life.
It's no different in the digital world. Sure, there are some amazing, free tools that you can use. But if you're serious about building your blog, then you've got to treat it like a business. Because that's what it is, or at least that's what it has the potential to become.
One of the free tools I'd definitely discourage you from using is a free WordPress.com blog. This is different from the WordPress.org blog that you install on your own domain and that you're hosting on your own site.
So let's just clarify the difference between the free WordPress.com vs self-hosted WordPress.
So you're probably wondering why all the fuss? After all, what's the difference? They're both WordPress blogs and one is free. So what's the problem?
Well, actually, there are several problems with starting a free blog. Before I jump into them, I just want to preface it by saying that a free blog is perfectly fine if you're starting a journal or a blog as a hobby. But if you want to make money from your blog, here are 7 compelling reasons not to choose WordPress.com's free blog:
This is one of the biggest disadvantages of starting a blog on a free domain like WordPress.com. My first thought when I come across a free site is "Why should I take this person seriously, when they haven't taken themselves seriously enough to invest $10 bucks a month in a domain name and hosting?"
So maybe you're wondering how people can tell the difference between a free site and a self-hosted one? The biggest giveaway is the url of your site. All free WordPress.com websites will have wordpress.com as part of the domain name. So instead of www.MyAwesomesite.com you'll have www.MyAwesome.WordPress.com instead. Not only is a url like that hard to remember, it looks awfully unprofessional as well.
Not only will customers not take you seriously, potential joint venture partners won't take you seriously either.
If you host your website on WordPress.com's site, their terms of service very clearly states that they "may terminate your access to all or any part of the website at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately."
Would you open a store where the landlord doesn't charge you any rent, but where he can shut down your store and confiscate all your merchandise at any time?
I wouldn't and I'm sure you wouldn't either.
If you're serious about building your blog and earning an income from it, then stay away from a free WordPress.com blog. It's just not worth it to give someone else that much control over your livelihood.
Most often, blogs are shut down because the blogger unintentionally violated WordPress.com's terms of service. Even if you never do, mistakes happen and I would just rather not risk it in the first place.
When you have your own self-hosted blog, you can do pretty much whatever you want to on it(staying within the guidelines set by the FTC and the Can-Spam act), with no worries about being shut down.
The look and feel of a blog is very important to an online business and plays a huge part in your branding. With a free hosted WordPress.com website, you don't have the luxury of being able to choose the website theme that best suits your business. You have to choose from a limited selection of themes.
Sure, you can customize the colors, the header and the navigation menu, but that's about it. Your blog will end up looking like all the other free WordPress.org blogs out there. Not great if you want to stand out and be memorable in the eyes of your customer.
Sure, you can choose the premium themes upgrade for $50 or $30/year for their custom design upgrade, but hey the point was not to spend any money, right?
For that amount, I'd much rather has my own self-hosted site and be free to customize to my heart's content.
The reason people choose WordPress is because of the functionality and the ability to make your blog exactly what you want it to be. Part of what makes this possible are all the awesome custom widgets and plugins that you can use.
That means you can't add things like Optin Forms to your site. (This is a serious no-no if you want to build an online business).
Plugin's are another way of extending the functionality of your WordPress blog. You can use plugins for just about anything, from creating membership sites and landing pages to backing up your blog to improving SEO and more.
But if you are hosting your blog on WordPress.com, you cannot add any 3rd party plugins. Again, this severely limits the functionality of your blog.
The ability to add plugins and custom widgets is one of the biggest strengths of WordPress. Without this, it's like having a car without wheels.
Of course, you do have the option to get your WordPress.com's VIP hosting package which allows you to add plugins and only costs a whopping $3,750.month!!
This wouldn't be so bad if you were getting paid for these ads, but you're not.
In exchange for hosting your site for free, WordPress reserves the right to display ads on your blog.
Why on earth should you work so hard to create great content and then have them click away on an ad that you're not even getting paid for?
3GB might sound like a lot, but it's not. You won't be able to upload audio or video files to your blog without paying for a space upgrade, which starts at around $20/year.
With a 3GB limit, you're only allowed to upload images, spreadsheets and PPT presentations. And even those add up pretty quickly.
Gmail (or Yahoo or Hotmail) is perfectly acceptable for personal emails. But for your online business, you do need an email that has your domain name in it. An email like [email protected] is far more professional than a gmail email address.
Unlike a self-hosted WordPress blog, a free WordPress.com blog does not offer email hosting.
Whilst you can "write an original book, movie or game review and link to Amazon" or to "promote your own products on ETSY", WordPress.com's terms of service forbid you from placing affiliate links on your blog.
If you do, WordPress could shut your site down and suspend your account.
Ever heard of the saying "There's no such thing as a free lunch?"
This couldn't be more true than with a free WordPress.com website. Although they allow you to get started for free, remember they're not providing this free service out of the goodness of their heart. Like any other business, they're in this to make a profit.
So while they allow you to get started for free, they're hoping that you'll soon outgrow the (very) limited functionality of the free blog and upgrade to their paid services.
So What's The Alternative?
As I've said before, self-hosted WordPress is the way to go, assuming you're interested in making money from your blog. But if you just want a platform to express your thoughts and feelings and have no interest in monetizing your blog, then the free WordPress.com is perfectly acceptable.
If you've been put off from trying to use self-hosted WordPress because it sounds too complicated, then I have some good news for you.
I've put together a 100% free step-by-step tutorial that will show you exactly how to have your own self-hosted WordPress site up and running in 30 minutes or less....even if you're a complete technophobe and have never done anything like this before.
Thirty minutes from now you could be the proud owner of a brand new blog!
You don't need to have any technical skills. All you need is the ability to follow simple instructions. It's so easy your 10 year old could do it!
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