How Much Does It Cost to Run A Blog?
For eleven years, The Yum List has run on pure passion, taking zero payment for posts and has been free of advertisements. All operating costs have come out of my pocket. With current instability and increased expenses, I am seeking ways to create revenue to keep the site running.
While many of my friends have said, “Geez, about time!” I’m still not completely comfortable with the idea. I have prided myself for years on clean, streamlined content, void of distractions. I am also satisfied that what I post is not influenced by money because generating income is not the goal. I maintain 100% control. If I see value for our niche, content gets posted. If not, it doesn’t. It’s that simple. However, running a professional-looking blog is not pocket change.
How Much Does It Cost to Run A Blog?
When I first began The Yum List, it was hosted on Blogger – a free platform. If you’re just starting, this a great way to wet your feet and experiment. However, after a few years and requests to write worldwide, I felt I needed something more professional. The switch was painful. I paid someone (around RM 2000) to help me make the transfer, but with the shift to WordPress, the formatting of 100s of posts was messed up. It was not a smooth transition.
Additionally, pretty soon, my site started crashing because I’d gone with a cheaper hosting plan. I had too much content and traffic for a basic subscription. I switched hosts and upgraded to a professional package that can process the visitors and load we produce. You can get various discounts for first-time users and if you purchase multiple years at a time. It works out to be between RM 800 to RM 2000 per year (depending on what you sign up for).
On top of that, I pay for a theme (RM 325 annually), premium plugins to manage content, security and SEO (RM 1200), a professional version of Grammarly and photo editing tools (RM 1900).
To protect your content, you might also consider a Trademark. I did mine through a local company, ADASTRA, and I believe it’s one of the best-priced around. Still, it cost (RM 2000, RM 1900 if you quote The Yum List). The Trademark does last a lifetime, though, so it’s a one-off fee.
Furthermore, I don’t have a tech background and spend hours learning and trying to fix things myself. Without fail, there are always problems that are way beyond my skill set. For this, I factor in another RM 2000 a year, give or take.
All of the prices above, I’ve converted from USD dollars (except the Trademark, which was in local currency) to Ringgit. You can get various deals if you purchase for multiple years or wait for a sale. I have sometimes managed to get the best price by cancelling a subscription just before the yearly fee is charged and then waiting for a deal before signing up again. It’s a hassle, but when the budget is tight, it can save quite a bit. So, in any one year, my expenses could be between RM 5500 and RM 7500, depending on how savvy I am with getting deals on subscriptions and the number of website errors that need amending. That does not include one-offs such as the transfer from Blogger to a website and the Trademark fee.
Now, that’s only the cost to run the site. There is a myriad of other fees, such as Grab fares to and from a location, camera equipment, laptop and software, and a smartphone with a decent camera and storage. That doesn’t even mention the amount of time it takes to compose professional content. What goes into writing a blog post is a whole other article.
To those that say, “but you get a free meal,” I say, “no, businesses get free professional photography, copyrighting, advertising space with a niche audience, SEO strategy and social media marketing.” A “meal” doesn’t even come close to covering what it would cost if you were to hire professionals or attempt to pay to reach that audience yourself.
If it’s so expensive and so much work, why do it then?
Because… I love it! I enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories. I get the “in” and grow an understanding of what it’s like behind the scenes, which in turn gives me great empathy for those in the industry. I like the adventure of discovering new places. I delight in roping in friends and other ex-pats into the experience – seeing their writing skills grow because of my feedback and practice. I feel a sense of accomplishment seeing my own writing and photography in print. I learn so much! My creative skills have grown tremendously just by jumping in and giving it a go. Also, my understanding of web development, social media marketing, SEO strategies and 100 other things I would never have considered, get an upgrade every time there is a problem. And, of course, it has opened up gourmet travel experiences that I would never have dreamed of on a teacher’s budget.
How can you make money from a blog to cover costs?
Many professional bloggers (influencers, websites, online magazines) charge for content. It’s understandable. Content creation takes time (and money). Essentially, for every article published, you are getting:
- Written content.
- Photography or videography.
- SEO strategy.
- Social media marketing.
- A niche audience that has often taken years to build.
- Constructive feedback from someone who has spent decades on gourmet travel, visited thousands of restaurants and written over 4000 articles on food and travel.
Now consider how much you would pay for an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine or even the cost of pushing a post on a social media platform (of which you’d also have to take good-looking photos and write quality captions to go with it). I also encourage you to investigate current consultancy fees for someone with the same years of experience in the field that I have.
While it would be fair to request compensation for the above, that’s not a route I want to take. I think I would lose some control if I took payment for posts. Currently, I have no obligation to post something I find doesn’t suit my readership.
Affiliate marketing might be an alternative. Yes, publishers could put anything on their site for a commission if money-making is their primary goal. However, I’m only looking to cover expenses, so I could decide if I liked a product and then only request an affiliate partnership. Sales coming from a referral would gain a commission. It sounds like a lot of additional work. Maybe I’ll think about it in the future.
I suppose I could look for a benefactor. It would have to be someone who was interested in keeping The Yum List running free of advertising and would be willing to not interfere. Do you know anyone?
Alternatively, a sponsor might cover the costs of the site. They would want something in exchange, though, such as posts in favour of their own brand, banner ads or access to my readership. That’s not for me.
So, what’s left? The final option I see is allowing space for advertisements on the blog. You can sign up with a program such as Google Adsense. They will automatically place relevant advertisements on your site. It’s not ideal as there is not a lot of control over what or where it’s shown (unless you are capable of writing code), but it does offer a small income stream.
That’s what I’ve chosen for now. Let’s see if I can manage to cover the costs of running a blog this year. I’m curious to know of other options. Do let me know if you have any ideas, or maybe you’d like to be a silent benefactor?
*** Exciting update! You may notice there are no advertisements on The Yum List (despite that last paragraph)… That is because we found a collaborator in Snappymob. Wanting to see The Yum List continue as a clean and ad-free site, these Internet heroes (and food lovers) have kindly offered to take on our technical and hosting costs. Stay tuned for more!
Check out our Top 10 Social Media Tips for the Food and Beverage Industry here and find our social media pages here: Facebook and Instagram.
Same thing with mine! “…run on pure passion, taking zero payment for posts and has been free of advertisements. All operating costs have come out of my pocket…”
Everyone keeps telling me to monetise my blog but I just ignore them. Maybe if I did, it might not be the same anymore. The passion, the priorities would have shifted.
Yes, you might be the only one I know like me that has kept their site ad-free for all of these years.
Wow! I think I’ve been frightened by this post. It’s amazing to get an understanding as to what goes in to present your blog. I am impressed by what you are able to provide on a regular basis. You must be a master of time management. It’s not like my case, where I can dig into archives to provide photos during a pandemic where travel has been restricted. Kudos to you!
Thanks for your kind words. 🙂
The webhosting thing is my only bugbear about blogging. That should be seamless and comfortable.
Providing the content and the equipment is the fun part. At least it is for me 🙂
Yes, agreed. Creating content is the fun and creative outlet. It is quite a bit of work sometimes, but I think that pays off in the end.
I enjoy writing my blog post. I never thought of making money and knowing it would be a poor choice if I quite my day job. But I see nothing wrong of putting ads on one blog. I use ad sense and haven’t made a penny with it. In all honesty I don’t want to be bomb with ads.
Coffee is on and stay safe
Loved reading your perspective, Dora, I think it will just take me a while to get used to the ads.
I have the same reasons as you as to why I keep my blog running (even after coming close to putting a halt on two occasions). I do it for the pure passion of wanting to write and as an outlet to pass time. Like you, making money was never a goal (though I did make some by allowing some of my “written pieces” to be published by a third party)…nor accepting free meals with invited reviews (I’ve received quite a few over the years which I’ve graciously declined). I guess it’s all about being in total control of my blog (and what I write) but, then again, I’m on blogspot which is free. Yours is such a professionally written one with a lot of costs attached to it. So I can understand why you need to go down this road with advertisements. I agree with you that I prefer a “clean-looking” blog as advertisements appearing all over the place can be a bit distracting (that’s why I chose not to activate Google Adsense) but, hey, my blog doesn’t cost me a thing (except for the meals I pay) unlike yours. It’s a small price to pay if we want to continue reading your beautifully and professionally written articles. So, you have my support with this…keep writing…but, more importantly, keep the passion. You’re doing a great job! ^.^
Thanks for your kind words. They mean a lot.
Yes, you’re absolutely right.
It’s all about passion.
You do it for love, not for money.
That’s the real main source that keeps you going.
It’s incredibly difficult to make enough money from Adsense and as they can’t target an audience that well the earnings are low and adverts can be annoying. Many bloggers turn to https://www.mediavine.com/ as a more targeted approach with better targeting of ads (so less annoying to readers). That said – as most people read on a mobile phone the adverts from Adsense or Mediavine can take up a lot of reading space and annoy readers. Although more time consuming I think approaching businesses you like and trust to advertise/promote – eg in your recent post on meal planning include links to a sign up to the company meal box (on my phone Adsense shows me a HelloFresh advert in that blog post which competes as a business with the business you are writing about!). For hotels / Spa’s etc. you could find an upmarket travel planner and link to them / have them provide holiday / trip ideas for your site and then take a commission split or charge per lead. In the end your google analytics will tell you where your users click and as such you can approach those companies for ‘sponsorship’ – after all, if people are finding them through your blog then they will be happy to pay. Marketing is expensive! I love the integrity you have – but you are right, it does cost, so spending some time finding sponsors / paid promotions that are in keeping with your style will in the liking term work. Please DM me if you want to bounce any ideas. Good luck and keep up the great work!
Thanks for taking the time to write, Steve. Lots to think about here. Much appreciated. Warm regards, Monica
London Caller, yes, after connecting with others, it seems that those who do it for money soon quit as the income stream does not compensate the time. The ones who have stuck with it have a passion for their topic and do it out of love, not with money as the end goal.
Ha ha… Me again!
It’s more fun if you do it horfun.
I mean, for fun. I must be hungry, can’t think straight now.
Just do it for yourself, and remember you don’t owe your readers anything.
No deadlines, no pressures and no nothing.
Hee hee. You do have a way with words. 🙂
Thanks for the insight of what it takes in monetary terms to run a professional blog. I could never do it professionally as it would be too stressful. Your blog is so well written with such gorgeous photos and I can see your passion! Keep enjoying your blog and I so agree with you about having total control over your content.