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.