Consumerism has trained us really well to spend money on just about anything so it’s no wonder that’s one of the first things a person will think about when they are starting their own web site. I’m happy to tell you that you really don’t need to spend money on very many things to get started and I highly recommend that you don’t spend more than you need to when you first start off.
Only Spend When Absolutely Necessary
There are only 2 things that are absolutely necessary to spend money on. Anything else falls in the “nice to have” category. I’ve listed those 2 things below, plus a way to maybe even limit it to just one thing.
Your Domain Name
The domain name is the name that people will type to get to your web site. You will need to obtain one from either your hosting provider when you sign up, Godaddy or another domain name registrar. You aren’t actually “buying” the domain name, you are renting it for the period of time you register it for. I suggest registering it for 2 years, but you can do more or less based on your own finances. Without a domain name, you are limited to using places like wordpress.com where your web site would be mywebsite.wordpress.com which limits you in many ways which I won’t go into here. Just get your own, so you will have mywebsite.com and able to control your own website’s destiny. A great spot to see what domain names are available is instantdomainsearch.com which will tell you if a domain is available as you type. I find that it saves me a lot of time when searching for a new domain name.
Once you have a domain name chosen, even if you haven’t registered it yet you can sign up for your own hosting provider. If you haven’t registered the domain, your hosting provider may be able to do it for you. I personally like to register my domain names somewhere else that focuses only on domain names, but some people like to have everything with one company so in the event of problems they only have to deal with one company. Choose what works best for you. A web hosting company is where your web site will live. Think of it as renting an empty office or a storage unit. There is nothing there, until you put something there. That is how a web hosting company works. They give you the space for your web site to live in, but you have to build the web site there. Many hosting companies now offer very simple web site building tools, of which I recommend installing WordPress because it is easy for anyone to use, and has lots of add-ons and support for free. Choosing a good hosting provider instead of the absolute cheapest one is important and I’ll cover that in another post later.
Free Web Hosting?
If you know someone – a friend or family member who you trust – who has their own web sites you may be able to ask them if they can add your web site to their account temporarily until you start earning income from it if you are either super cheap, or just don’t have the money for even the most basic web hosting. This can lead to challenges, but if you absolutely can’t afford even another $3/mo it could be an option. Other than that, I don’t recommend any of the “free hosting” companies.
Other Things You’ll Need & Can Get Free
If you are using WordPress to build your web site on, which I highly recommend you do, there are a number of free add-ons to help you succeed which you might want to look into.
You can get many free themes which will change the look of your web site to help make it appear different from a “canned” WordPress installation. I highly recommend using a different theme than the default WordPress theme you will have already active and you don’t need to pay for a premium theme to do this. I only recommend using free themes that are listed in the WordPress Themes directory since they are tested to make sure there are no malicious items in the theme. Other places can include all sorts of bad stuff that use your site to SPAM the internets or even steal your passwords. As of this writing, I am using the Responsive theme which I downloaded for free. (Edit: I recently switched to the Spacious theme which is also free.)
Web Site Traffic Monitors
You will want some way to see how many people are visiting your site, and where they are coming from. The way to do this is to use some service or tool to measure your web site traffic. I like Google Analytics which I have listed below, but there are a few other options too. Google Analytics is a free web statistics service that gives you all sorts of information about who is visiting your web site. You can sign up for a completely free account and once you create your website profile you can add the code to your site and begin to measure your web site traffic.
Jetpack is another alternative if you’re looking for something a bit more simple to set up, although I don’t think it is quite as good as Google Analytics. However, it is a way to get started and if this works for you then something is better than nothing. You can also use this in combination with Google Analytics or other services if you like.
AWStats or other programs provided by your web hosting company. Most hosting companies have some kind of web stats program which you can access via your hosting control panel. These are known to be inaccurate and show much larger numbers than PEOPLE who are actually visiting your site (in my experience by up to 40%) but if you don’t want to use any other methods, this can be an easy one that you don’t have to set up at all. Just remember that “hits” don’t mean anything, only “visits” or “unique visitors” are actually important as far as measuring people visiting your site. Of course there are lots of other things you could want and may actually need to in the future, but to this is all you need to get started at the most basic level.
You’ll almost for sure need access to a computer to build your web site. If you’re reading this post it means you probably have one (or are using a smartphone or tablet which you could scrape by with but it would be more difficult and probably frustrating) or have access to one.
If you don’t have one, here’s a couple ideas where you could get access to a computer for free:
- School Computer Lab – Many schools have computer labs where you are able to do your school work if you don’t have a computer. Check with the lab teacher or your school administration to see if you are able to use the computer for other legitimate purposes also.
- Your Local Library – Most libraries have a computer that you can use for free with your library membership and most memberships are free or very cheap.
- A Friend or Family Member – Perhaps a friend or family member has one you can borrow or use while visiting them? Might be a great way to spend a bit more time with Grandma.
- Internet Cafe – Some Internet Cafes have computers you can use for free, while others may charge you for usage. If you are able to find a free one, you may be able to buy a cup of coffee or another drink and use their computer. Just remember you are using a public computer which has security risks with your passwords and other private data.
You could also see if you are able to find an old one for free on Craigslist or trade something you already own to get one in the Craigslist barter section, or sell something you own of value, whether that is in person or using Craigslist or eBay.
My Recent Unnecessary Want
I have lately been wanting a new Macbook Air and in the back of my mind my evil consumerist brain keeps telling me how much more productive I would be, how much more convenient and better it would be compared to my big, old 2010 Macbook Pro which is nearly 5 years old now. More like, how cool it is. While I do agree it would be nice, it would be convenient and it could help me earn more money by helping me write when I am inspired, it is not necessary and I can live without it. In fact, it is EXPENSIVE and my old Macbook still does the job. Even though I know all that I still want one, but am resisting it.
I Caved. Kind of.
However, I did compromise and purchase a $199 Chromebook a while back that does the same thing. It helps me write nearly anywhere when I am inspired without lugging around my big Macbook that now has less than desirable battery life. This thing will run for nearly 8 hours of constant use!
It wasn’t necessary, but I also didn’t break the bank. So if you want something that isn’t absolutely necessary try to think outside the box and choose something that costs less if it will do the job for you and help you reach your goal. If in the future I am earning so much money that $1000 on a computer is not a big deal then I will seriously consider the Macbook Air. Until then, I will focus on getting by with a much lower budget.