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When I first got into building niche websites, like most people, I was hyper-focused on the end goal of making money. It didn’t really hit me at first that, like most businesses, you need to spend money to make money.
Thankfully, when it comes to starting a blog, the upfront costs are minimal, at least if you want them to be. There are plenty of bells and whistles that you can pay for that will either help you streamline your processes or improve your site, but in reality, most of these things aren’t needed early on.
In this post, I’ll lay out the bare minimum expenses that you will have when you first start a site, then go into some of the add-ons that you might consider adding down the road to make your site or processes better.
Before we jump into the costs that you can expect, let me just point out that these expenses assume that you’re using WordPress and more-or-less following the methods that I teach on this site. There are plenty of other directions you can take a site that could potentially make your expenses much higher.
The Bare Essentials
In this section, I’ll go over the essential paid services that you’ll need to run your site. Thankfully, there’s not much.
Domain and Hosting
While these are technically two different services that you can purchase from two separate providers, you can easily get them both from the same place, and that’s definitely my recommendation early on.
My team and I have used Bluehost on every single site that we’ve started. Aside from being very low-cost, for a brand new site, their service is reliable, and the process to get WordPress installed is seamless.
Once you’ve really started to grow your traffic to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of visitors per month, I recommend moving your hosting to a higher-end provider. I will get into that more in the next section.
Regardless, when first starting out, Bluehost is a great low-cost option that checks all the boxes. It literally will cost you only a few dollars per month, so there’s really no need to look elsewhere until your site has grown significantly.
Estimated Cost: $3.00 – $7.50 per month
Once you have your domain and hosting squared away, you’ll need to install WordPress to get your site up and running. If you go with Bluehost like I recommended above, you can install WordPress on your site in a few clicks right from the Bluehost dashboard.
This is the quickest and easiest way to get your site up and running, and the best part is that WordPress is free to install.
Taking Your Site to the Next Level
Before I jump into the additional expenses that you may incur, just know that most of them are not necessary. While you may eventually need to upgrade your hosting, pretty much everything else is just icing on the cake to tailor your site or processes to better fit your needs.
I will try to provide a range of estimated costs, but please know that these costs vary considerably based on a multitude of factors.
One of the first things I upgrade on a new site is the WordPress theme. Again, this is definitely not a necessary step, but a paid theme will typically provide you with better functionality and more frequent updates (features and security) than a free theme.
A paid theme is more likely to be mobile friendly and provide a great user experience across all devices. This is extremely important in today’s version of the web.
There’s an endless number of themes out there to choose from, each with its own pros and cons. At the time of this writing, we use a theme named Contentberg on all of our sites, including this one. We like it because it’s relatively fast and provides an excellent user interface for simple information sites where the text and images should be the focus.
Estimated Cost: $50 – $250+ either paid once or annually
When it comes to images for your site, you have plenty of options. The first, and best, option is to use images that you took yourself. This will provide the most unique experience to your visitors.
However, depending on the niche you’re in, it might not be practical to use your own images 100% of the time. When that’s the case, you can turn to either free image sites, like pixabay.com, or paid image sites.
In theory, free images sites should be completely fine to use, as long as you read the fine print and follow their rules and regulations. However, I prefer to use paid stock images for the added legal protection.
Aside from the added legal protection, you’ll find a significantly larger library of images to choose from when you go with a paid site. The images will be higher in quality as well.
Estimated Cost: $0.22 – $4.00 per image
As I mentioned above, web hosting is the one item you’ll absolutely need to upgrade as your site’s traffic grows. If you don’t upgrade your hosting, your visitors will suffer as your site gets sluggish, crashes, or even denies visitors over a certain threshold.
When upgrading your hosting, you can either stick with your current host and move to a higher plan, or you can completely move your hosting elsewhere. For all of our sites, once they’ve reached 20,000 – 30,000 visitors per month, we move them over to
Rocket.net is a bit pricier when compared to Bluehost, but that increased cost comes with reliable, fast, and scalable service.
The last part, scalable, is probably the most important. With Rocket.net, as your traffic grows or even occasionally spikes, your visitors won’t notice.
Estimated Cost: $30 – $200+ per month
While completely unnecessary, this potential expense could easily be your biggest one. It definitely is for us.
If you plan to scale your sites to take them to the next level, plan on spending a good amount of money on outsourcing. This can be for the articles themselves or just about any other process you’d like to take off your hands.
In our case, we only outsource content, so the estimated cost below applies to outsourcing your articles. However, you can outsource the management of your social media accounts, adding images to your posts, and much more.
We’ve used Upwork for outsourcing from day one and still use it to this day, although on a very limited scale. Upwork is great for finding writers with knowledge in your specific niche at a great rate, but isn’t very scalable.
When you’re ready to scale further, consider content agencies. To see which agencies we’re currently using for outsourced content, see our tools and resources page.
Estimated Cost: $0.02 – $0.10+ per word
Business Email Account
If you include a contact page on your site and have any plans to work with companies in your niche, etc., you’ll want to get a business email account. Getting a business email account comes with a ton of bells and whistles, but the main benefit to know about is that your email address will end in your domain name instead of gmail.com, etc.
So let’s say you have a fishing site named joesfishingadventures.com. Instead of using firstname.lastname@example.org as your email account, your business email account would be something like email@example.com, which is much more professional.
We use Google Workspace for the email accounts on all of our sites. Aside from being only a few dollars a month, it gives you added Google Drive storage, which we definitely take advantage of.
Estimated Cost: $6 – $18 per month
If you’ve used WordPress for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with how powerful plugins can be. Plugins add features to your site that either aren’t built into WordPress or aren’t included with the theme that you’ve chosen.
When it comes to plugins, only use the ones that you feel are absolutely essential. Every plugin has the potential to cause conflicts with other plugins, most will slow down your site, and some will even create a security vulnerability.
With that being said, some plugins are not only worth adding to your site, but they’re so beneficial that you’ll want to pay for them. While most of the plugins that we use are free, we do use Smush Pro to optimize the images across our sites.
The only other paid plugin that we use in Link Whisper. Link Whisper helps you quickly build internal links across your site, which not only leads to additional pageviews from your visitors, but also makes it easier for Google to find and index the content on your site.
Estimated Cost: $5 – $50+ either paid once or annually
While we don’t spend much time on social media anymore, for the right type of site, Pinterest still has the potential to generate significant traffic.
To drive traffic to your site from Pinterest, you need to create and pin new pins every single day. You also need to pin other people’s pins as well.
This can all be done manually of course, but who has time for that? If you want to semi-automate your Pinterest processes, go with Tailwind. It will literally save your hours of work every month and is relatively cheap for the value that it provides.
Estimated Cost: $10 – $20 per month
Last on this list is an email autoresponder. If you’ve ever signed up for a mailing list, the emails you received from then on were likely sent using an autoresponder service.
By using an autoresponder, you can create boilerplate emails that automatically go out to your subscribers a certain number of days after they subscribe. This ensures that each subscribers gets the same information delivered to them in the sequence that you desire.
This is perfect if you’re trying to sell a product or even push an affiliate program. You can automatically send out a few informational emails to build trust, then pitch something to them.
With some autoresponders, you can also send out post recaps that show a preview of your recent posts in a weekly or monthly email. We use MailPoet for exactly that purpose.
MailPoet actually integrates directly with WordPress, so you can manage it right from your dashboard. This makes it super easy to stay on top of your mailing list.
Estimated Cost: $10 – $250+ per month
Running a website can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. When you first start out, the costs are minimal, and even as you scale, you can keep them relatively low if you want to.
The amount of money you spend each month to run your website will really depend on how much work you decide to outsource and how many of the “upgrades” you feel are necessary for your site.
Thankfully, even if you go well above and beyond the bare minimums, those costs tend to stay relatively low as your revenue scales. This means your profit will continue to grow as you drive more traffic to your site, which should be one of your primary goals at the end of the day.