Look at any list of income ideas and the chances are you’ll be advised to start a blog. Compared to other generic side-hustles like “Start a print-on-demand store” or “Buy a rental property”, it seems fairly attainable. Still, it’s easier said than done.
There are 3 essential things you need to sort out to make it happen:
- A domain name (the address of your website)
- A hosting service
- The software / user interface to build your site with (one which doesn’t require coding knowledge to use, should you prefer)
In my search for website solutions, I suspected that novices would be at risk of overpaying for services which could be sourced for less elsewhere. On the other hand, I wanted to avoid analysis paralysis and dive straight into the creation process.
After a little research, I was leaning towards WordPress to make my site. Their site creation software is advertised as being versatile, easy to use, and favoured by many of the biggest companies worldwide.
There was one thing I was very confused about however:
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
If you’re wondering what is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, it’s not something that the company makes clear at all. The existence of two separate websites almost seems like an intentional ploy to confuse beginners. Finally I have figured out what the purpose of each site is. Basically:
WordPress.com is a hosting service for sites made with the WordPress software.
WordPress.org is a place you can download the same WordPress software for free, to use with a hosting service of your choice.
Note: Many hosting services offer a “one-click install” feature for WordPress, so you don’t even need to download the software to upload to the host yourself.
Making A Decision
WordPress.com purported to offer an all-encompassing solution for beginners, where you get:
- A free domain name
- Quality hosting
- The WordPress software to build your site
- Permission to monetise your site with advertising
I went with the £84 per year “Premium” plan, as it was roughly in line with the cost of other hosting solutions, albeit more expensive. As a small YouTuber, I didn’t consider my current operations substantial enough to warrant the £240 per year “Business” plan.
This is where my problems began.
As much as WordPress.com want you to believe their design software is completely intuitive for beginners, even advertising “drag and drop” functionality in their sales pitch, this is not the case at all.
The convoluted interface drained my motivation, and yielded poor results. Only when resorting to a Skillshare course did I discover that:
To make WordPress viable for beginners, you need to install third-party plugins. And guess what? The “Premium” hosting plan I’d bought doesn’t let you install plugins- Even plugins that are intended to be free by their creators. Only “Businesses” need plugins apparently.
To add insult to injury, “Premium” users are stuck with a WordPress watermark on their website, in the form of a footer which ironically reads “Proudly powered by WordPress”. This limitation is something you would expect to see in a free trial version and not the “Premium” paid version. They even fail to mention this limitation in their main comparison of plans.
Moving From WordPress.com To Self-Hosted WordPress
I double-checked with the WordPress.com customer service that it really cost an extra £156 a year just to use free plugins. They came up with some excuse about it requiring different architecture on WordPress- Which strangely isn’t an issue for other hosting providers who can handle plugins at all levels.
It was too late to apply for a refund, and the best they were willing to do was a 10% discount on the “Business” plan. Needless to say I did not accept this offer. Instead, I vowed to warn other prospective customers against making the same mistake.
The upgrade was still so overpriced, that it worked out substantially cheaper to buy a second year of hosting elsewhere (SiteGround), install the free WordPress software (from WordPress.org), and even subscribe to the Pro version of a plugin called Elementor to allow drag-and-drop creation.
Just a few days after ditching WordPress.com, I finally had a functional website which you’re looking at now.
Monetising Your Website
The next goal for my website is to actually make some money. I’m currently in the process of figuring out how to get accepted for Google AdSense- A challenge proving to be more cryptic than the last. I’ll post further updates once it gets sorted.
For now I’m relying on referral schemes to gain income from my site. You may have noticed that my homepage is set up to guide visitors towards the most profitable referral schemes like Swagbucks and Peer2Profit.
I hope this article has clarified how to get started as a complete beginner wanting to build a website. If I can prevent at least one person from getting scammed by WordPress.com, then it will have all been worth it.