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Tech Stuff for Non-Techies: Self-Hosted vs. Free Site

I’m not a techie.  I aspire to be one someday, but in all honesty, I just spend most of my days studying tutorials, watching videos, and taking vigorous notes so that I can keep up.

I’m a quick learner though, and a researcher by nature, so it all works out in the end.

When I began blogging, I had no idea what I was doing.  I remember being overwhelmed from the moment I even thought about starting.  I mean really, how do you decide self-hosted vs. free blog?  How do you pick a hosting site if you choose to host, and Oh. Em. Gee how will I ever choose a domain name.

It. Is. A. Lot. 

A website/blog for your business is a pretty important part of marketing your services, display your portfolio, and capturing leads for possible clients.

Each step directly affects the future success of your business and that thought is overwhelming enough.

Let’s see if we can’t break it down in layman’s terms, to make this daunting task seem so much less intimidating!

Free vs. Self-Hosted

I’m just going to start with this little piece of advice.  You’re aspiring to be a successful, professional Virtual Assistant, it’s incredibly important to have a professional looking site.  Although free sites seem so much more appealing when you’re just starting out, the long-term results of a self-hosted site for your business pay for itself 50 times over.  Let’s break it down a bit.

Free Site: 

A free site is just that, 100% free to build and use.  That’s exciting and intriguing, right?  Free stuff is the best, which is probably why free sites are so much more popular that self-hosted.  With this option, there are a few advantages worth noting:

  • It’s completely FREE!
  • Easy to sign up for and set up
  • Tons of free themes to set up easily

I’m sure that list looks inviting, but there are also some REAL downfalls in choosing a free site:

  • Unless you purchase your own domain, you will be set up with a subdomain. A subdomain is when your website reads blahblahblah.wordpress.com.  Although it may not seem like a big deal, since you will be using your page for your business, it doesn’t come off super professional.
  • You don’t technically own your blog/website at all. This can definitely be a source of frustration.  Unless you are blogging for fun, it’s probably important to you to be able to have control over how everything is set up, and plugins you want to use.  When building a professional site, you want to have control over what you can add/format.  Trust me!
  • Free sites often have limited advertising options. This is huge if you are planning to monetize.  Also, if you are planning to work with affiliates, partners, or sponsors, they tend to look past free sites.  Again, it has everything to do with building a professional looking and functioning page.
  • If you post something they deem to be against their violation standards, they can shut down your blog without prior notice. Is. Terrifying.
  • Significantly less traffic to free sites than self-hosted.

Is a free site for you?

If you are planning to start out for fun, or not planning to use it for business purposes, then hell yeah. If it’s free it’s for me!  However, if you are serious about starting an online business/ profitable blog I would whole heartily say STAY AWAY! The limitations will make it way more challenging than it has to be.

You can switch over from free to self-hosted if you plan to just go with free to give it a try, but it can be a huge pain in the butt, and I’ve heard from many people who lost irreplaceable content in the conversion.

If you want to try it out with a free site, here are some platforms to try

  • com (Easily the most popular)
  • Tumblr
  • Wix
  • Blogger
  • Weebly
  • com
  • Site Rubix

I’m a Word Press girl through and through, and I have used the free site in my earlier blogging endeavors.  I enjoyed it, and I learned a lot.  Tumblr tends to be more focused on a younger audience (teens-early 20s) and looks the least professional in my opinion!

 

Self-Hosted Sites:

Self-Hosted sites are exactly what they sound like, a site that is completely in your control.  I cannot stress how important this is when your end game is a profitable online business.  If you need a little nudge in the right direction, check out the advantages of self-hosting:

  • You have COMPLETE control of your site/blog. This is nothing to turn away from!  From managing your own layout, being able to make any and every edit, SEO, and monetizing methods to begin able to apply any theme you want (suggestions below!).
  • It’s not crazy expensive. Compared to the cost of starting a non-online business, it’s literally pennies!  You can self-host with most sites for less than $5 a month.
  • You have complete access to the backend programs and files. Coding, building themes, etc.  You don’t have to be wicked technically savvy, but having the freedom to be able to grow into it is so helpful.
  • You get your own pretty .com domain name! The little things matter my friends!

A few downsides:

  • It requires an initial investment. I know that this can be daunting but think about it as a small investment into what could be a very lucrative career venture.  Like I said previously, you can host a site for less than $5 a month.  I’ve been the broke girl trying to make the decision to self-host before.  They do make you pay for a year in advance, but it’s worth it.
  • You do need basic technical knowledge. Like I said in the very first sentence, I’m not a techie.  However, we live in a crazy world where you can find a tutorial for anything online.  I basically taught myself how to set up my site and use it exclusively on YouTube.
  • It can seem a little intimidating. This I feel in the depths of my soul.  Like anything in life though, you gain knowledge through experience.  It takes time, research, and long nights but you will level up your game a little more every day.

Is self-hosting for you?

If you are looking to build your business or brand, then YES, self-host every time.  Everyone is in it for a different reason, and ultimately that should be a huge factor.  For me, it’s about control.  I work my ass off and I want to know that I’m in charge of what happens to my content.  I’m sure after all the painstaking hours you have put in, you feel the same.

There’s no shame in starting with a free site if you want to dip a toe, ideally and overall this should be enjoyable.  If the end game is to break away from the conventional 9-5 and do something that makes you happy, then you need to love it!

I put together this list of hosts as well as their current rates, for some general guidance.

  • Siteground – Startup site for $3.95/mo. (I switched to them a few months ago and have had a great experience)
  • Bluehost – Complete hosting solutions starting at $3.95/mo. I started with Blue Host but I don’t want to lie, their customer service/ help desk SUCKS.  My site would go down for weeks at a time and I could never get answers.  Some people have great experiences, but this was mine.
  • Host Gator – Starting at $2.99/mo.
  • Site Builder – Starting at $4.99/mo.
  • GoDaddy – $3.49/mo.
  • Start Logic – $4.50/mo.

I suggest really doing your research, and not just by Google but getting advice from REAL bloggers.  Go to blogger FB pages and ask around, conduct a search for recent threads.  These hosts have so many people affiliated with their sites that it may seem impossible to get a straight answer.  It’s easy as this, there are still so many of us out there who actually want to help.

My take? Bluehost sucks.  Don’t go there.  It was a pain in the ass to move everything from host to host and I never got refunded the money they promised me.  Yikes.

I chose Siteground because someone I trusted told me they loved it.  I haven’t had any issues, and their customer service is unmatched!

That’s about all the info on hosting I have to offer my friends.  Y’all still awake over there? {Taps hard on screen}.

I know that the basic stuff like this can be a little boring, but you need it, so I wrote it!

Do you have any additional questions about web hosting?  Need help deciding what to do?  Shoot me over an email or leave a comment below!

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4 Comments

  • Reply Michael

    Superb information, Many thanks. https://bucketlist.org/idea/6LiG/ideas-to-assist-properly-deal-with-nervousness/

    November 17, 2017 at 7:41 pm
    • Reply Thevirtuallycreative

      Thanks for the great feedback Michael!

      November 17, 2017 at 8:12 pm
  • Reply Maria

    Wow, beautiful website. Thnx … http://bit.ly/2zg5G3A

    November 19, 2017 at 7:01 am
  • Reply Alldaychemist

    Great looking site. Think you did a bunch of your own coding.

    December 1, 2017 at 6:14 am
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