This is the second in series on how to make money on the road by writing a blog, running a website or making Videos for Youtube. In the first of the series I tried to provide a balance of a warning against having too high expectations of success, but also being aware there was still a market for anyone who had a modicum of talent and also was willing to buckle down and do the hard work required.
Today I want to look at the talent that is needed and where your hard work has to go. I firmly believe that if you either possess these eleven skills or are willing to do the hard work required to learn them and master them, then you can be a success with a blog or videos.
Let’s take a look at them:
Required Skills for Success:
Before you even consider creating a website, blog or Youtube channel, read this list of Required Skills. The more you have the better, but you must at least be willing to work to gain them. My advice is, if you aren’t willing to do the work, don’t even bother!
Passion for your topic: Some people will tell you to use keyword searches to find a topic that is under-covered online and cover it. I say forget that! Only blog or Vlog about something you love! If you are in it for the money, then your audience will see and sense that and will not be loyal to you–why should they be, you just want their money? Above everything else, you are seeking to build a relationship with an audience and they can spot instantly if you are a phony out to make money off them. Never do that!! Only pick a topic you have a genuine and deep passion for!
Be genuine, open and honest, the more transparent you are with your audience, the more they will like you and stay with you.That seems counter-intuitive, don’t you want to convince them how great you are so they will listen to you? No! People who toot their own horns are a dime and dozen and people will follow them for awhile, but eventually the truth show through and they will stop following them. What’s hard to find is someone who admits they have the same problems, questions, and fears as the audience has–but they are figuring it and getting through them. That is so rare, people will be very devoted to that person! Vulnerability and honesty are your number one assets!
You MUST like and care about people enough to Serve them! If you are in this for the money, everyone will see that and no one will care about you– you will get back from your audience the care and compassion that you give out. The truth is we are all mainly focused internally on ourselves and so finding someone who seems to genuinely care about me is so rare, I’ll instantly be drawn to them. If you are just using them, they’ll never follow you! Decide what you have to give to others to make their lives better, and be single-minded in doing that. Making money must be a distant second place in your priority list. Surprisingly, if you will do that, the money will come in.
Dedication and Commitment: One thing you should never do is carelessly get a pet like a cat or dog and then get rid of it quickly. That is a relationship you form with your pet and it’s too important not to take it seriously. In the exact same way, you are creating a relationship with your audience and once you’ve created that relationship you must maintain it. Honor them and treat them with respect by being dedicated to it for the Long Haul. So I strongly encourage you to commit to putting in the hard work and time it requires for at least one full year–and preferably more like 2-5 years. After the first year make a strong evaluation and maybe make some changes. If you haven’t made it after 5 years, it’s time to give up!
Have a Passion for learning: It’s likely you will face a steep learning curve on the technicalities of web-building, blogging, and making videos and sharing them on Youtube, but you just have to put in the time and work to learn and do it right. If you do a half-ass job, you’ll get half-ass results! Plan on spending a LOT of time studying and learning by reading, watching videos, and doing research–it’ll pay off in the end result. More importantly, you must become an EXPERT on your topic, and competent on the other topics surrounding it. When I first started cheap RVliving.com I had already been living in my van for eight years and during that time I learned everything I could. But, there was still much more to know! When I started blogging I thought I was an expert, but, I knew there were many other ways to do the same things, and I only knew my one way to do them. There is an infinite variety of ways to accomplish the same goal, and I wanted to learn as many of them as I could! Since then I’ve tried to learn something from everyone I met so I could answer any question and help anyone in any way. That is the attitude you must have, “I’m a learning machine that will end up knowing everything possible about my topic.” I recommend Amazon Kindle books as the cheapest and best source of books.
Play Well with others: One thing every blogger and Youtube Creator can tell you is there are lots of trolls and haters out there that want to make your life miserable. For whatever reason, they are unhappy people and they want you to be unhappy too! Plus there are also people who legitimately think you were wrong and need to tell you why (I get that a lot) so they’ll write and tell you how wrong you are. I never object to a legitimate discussion of ideas, but I draw the line at the people who write in and just want to insult me and hate on me. There are also others who love drama and write in with the sole goal of causing a fight and stirring up trouble. You must be able to deal with them in an intelligent and reasonable way. You will get angry and you will be hurt but you must develop a thick enough skin to cope with that. If you can’t you may want to reconsider this as a field to make money in. There will be haters and you will be hated! and you can’t respond in kind.
Writing skills: writing skills are essential for your new job. Even if you’re not writing a blog or website and you’re just doing videos you still have to write titles and descriptions. All of those things require writing skills. Writing titles is one of the hardest things you can do. They must be very short but they also must grab attention that’s a difficult chore. So whatever skills you have now start with them and they’ll be good enough. But you must also always be working to increase your skills and gain more. Read books on the topic, have a good thesaurus on hand. Have a grammar book on hand to learn grammar skills. Do whatever it takes to become a better writer! But, be aware that a lot of it is simply practice, the more you write the better you’ll become. Over a period of time, I’ve found my writing gets better just because of the large amount of it I do! I’m living proof of the old adage practice makes perfect and you can too! Don’t let a lack of writing skills keep you from starting–you can improve with time and work.
Photography: I’m very lucky in that all of my life I have enjoyed photography. Nature photography has been my number one hobby since I was a very young man. So when it came time to have photographs on my blog and website I was ready for the challenge! I had the camera and I had the skills. I could take decent photographs from the very beginning. And just like writing, my skills and my artistic ability with both a still and video cameras have improved, and your’s will too! If you lack that background, start studying and taking lots of pictures now!! With hard work and persistence, you can gain competence and even artistry!
Marketing: The bad news is that the fields of RVing and Vandwelling are very saturated by both blogs and Vlogs! But the good news is there’s still room for more if you’re willing to do it right! The hunger and demand for it is virtually insatiable! If you do it well, you can build an audience. But because the market is so saturated and full already you have to make yourself stand apart. People are NOT going to come flocking to you because you opened a new channel or a new blog. You have to make them aware of you and that is the Art and Science of marketing–like it or not, you have to learn the basics. I don’t have the time now to go into details about how to do it we will cover it a little bit later this is one of those areas you may want to hire a pro and have a professional guide you through it. At any rate, there are plenty of books and videos on it that will give you a beginning and a start on marketing–do your research and learning!
SEO:the single most important element of gaining an audience is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and you must become at least competent and have a basic understanding of that. Most of us know nothing about it so you’re going to have to take the time to learn! You keep hearing me say that over and over again that you’re going to have to read and study the books and videos and you’re probably getting tired and discouraged by it: GOOD! You need to go into this with a clear view of what lies ahead of you. Learning and more learning is the key to success! It won’t just happen because you’re so pretty or admirable or a Nice Guy! People still need to find you the first time and that comes mostly from just good old fashioned hard work. So do the research and learn SEO and make it happen on your Vlog and on your blog.
Computer Technical Skills: finally you have to know at least a modicum of computer knowledge and skills to put it all together. If you have a crappy looking Channel or a crappy looking website no one’s going to stick with you. If your website is slow or they can’t hear your videos or find anything in your videos channels or websites no one will know anything about you. So you have to have the technical abilities to make it clear, concise, fast, and usable. Usability is the key and only computer skills will give that to you. You’re going to have to know some basic underlying facts and skills but you still may want to hire a professional to do the initial build on your website it will pay off in the long run.
The more of these you get right, the far greater your chance of very good success!! Fail to embrace them with hard work, and success becomes unlikely. It’s all in your hands and your control!
Sunset over Blythe, CA in a photo I took from my Ehrenberg camp a few years ago.
For the last 4 years I’ve made Ehrenberg, Arizona my winter camp. And for the last three years I’ve done a post about it in the fall when I return–this year will be no different. After a very busy summer travel season I’ve finally gotten back to my beloved desert! As much as I love spending summer in the mountains and forest, I need to get back to the desert in the winter just as much!
This year I was lucky enough to go to a family reunion at Thanksgiving in Oregon, and I loved being there, but it made getting home much later than usual. This year I am especially glad to be here because the weather was terrible in Oregon in the fall! It rained most of the days I was there and was also cold. In fact, we had to carefully plot our drive home trying to avoid the possibility of getting stuck in a blizzard and still ended up driving in snow several times. I loved Oregon in the summer, but I can’t imagine how anyone lives there through the winter–it’s awful! I’m so glad to be back to the Arizona desert for winter!
One of the reasons I’m doing this post now is to invite you to come camp with me. This is the ideal place to spend your winter so I’m encouraging as many of you as can to join me. With the RTR starting up in just a little over a month it’s a great time to be here. The weather has been very, very good with daytime highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s, it’s very pleasant. It’s sunny with some mild clouds nearly every day but the clouds make for spectacular sunsets! Nearly every night I go out and think, “Oh my, another gorgeous sunset–amazing.”
One of the reasons I come here is because there is no BLM enforcement. Even though we are on BLM land we never see BLM Rangers. I know people who spend their entire winter here with no problems. It’s also very close to Quartzsite where the RTR will be. It’s 17 miles from here to Quartzsite so it’s just a quick shot and you’re there for all that it has to offer.
Out for a walk at Ehrenberg.
We’re just three miles from a Flying J truck stop which has a lot to offer nomads. And just across the freeway from it is a mini-mart that is superbly suited for us. They offer …
a reasonably priced laundromat,
showers for as little as $5 a shower,
they have free Wi-Fi,
you can dump your tanks and fill with water for $10,
or, you can just fill all your water bottles for a dollar,
you can use their trash can for free.
The mini-mart offers ice and a normal selection of convenience store items.
One of the things I like best there is they offer boxes, so every year when I get here I get a box through them. So it’s $8 a month for 3 months totaling $24 (and there’s a setup fee and a second person fee) so I paid a total of $50 which I will split with another person. That’s very cheap for three months. I’m able to order from Amazon and get mail–one of my big problems solved.
My camp from the turn in at mile 2.7 of the main road.
This is not one of the prettiest parts of the desert. It’s mostly flat and rocky but there are mountains around it and they’re very pretty. There’s good walking and that’s something I always look for in a campsite. And there are washes that have a fair amount of green trees in them. So the first people to get here are lucky and can camp under big trees. I was very lucky and got the biggest tree in the area. In fact, I can get a Class C completely under it and be in the shade much of the day.
The one thing I like least here is that it is also an OHV/ATV area so on weekends and especially long holiday weekends we get a lot of ATVs, motorcycles, dune buggy traffic. That’s unpleasant because they’re noisy, rude, dusty and loud–all things I would rather avoid. But this is such a wonderful camp that we put up with it and gladly so. I’m glad to be here
The laundromat offers free wifi, free trash drop-off, cheap water and showers, and a dump station.
We’re only 7 miles from Blythe, California which has good shopping. It has an Albertson’s grocery store and also a Smart & Final grocery store. Chances are you’ve never heard of it because it’s a California chain that is also in Arizona. But it’s a very good store, it’s a full grocery store and has quite good prices. Just a little more than a Walmart but so close it’s not worth driving to Walmart instead. There’s no Walmart here, the nearest Walmart is in Parker Arizona 40 miles away. But overall the shopping is good it doesn’t cost to much to spend the winter here.
The main reason we’re here is for community! At the moment they’re probably 20 people around me but the desert is so big none of them are too close. There’s another small group down on the Colorado River enjoying that. As we get closer to the RTR more and more people will come in. In fact, there isn’t a day goes by that one or two new people don’t come in. So if you’re looking for friends, community, and tribe (but not too close) this is the perfect place to be!
I want us to establish tribal communities and not just be loners gathered around a small area, so every evening at 5 o’clock we go for a walk as a community and most nights of the week we’re all just blown away by the gorgeous sunset. We’re also enjoying community, and making life-long friendships.
Every so often I also put together little parties, in fact, we’re having a pizza party this Saturday (December 17, 2016) at 2 p.m and you are welcome to join us. I need you to email me to tell me if you’re coming (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll make sure there is plenty for you. I don’t ask for donations, I think of it as a thank-you gift to the group. If you insist, I’ll let you pay–but I don’t want you to. So come join us for a pizza party!
A party at Ehrenberg in 2013.
In order to make it as easy as possible for you to find us, I’m including a map. I think it is pretty self-explanatory and most people can find it, but if you can’t just email me and say you’re here and you can’t find me and I’ll come down and get you that day or the next.
I want to offer a special invitation for all you newbies. If this is your first venture into the nomadic life (or you are just in the planning stage) please come and join us. I remember all too well how different and frightening everything was in the beginning. I want to make it as easy for you as possible and I think coming and being in a community is the best possible way to do that. At first, it can be very lonely out here and parking alone in the desert seems fearful and dangerous. But coming to join a group will solve that and you can get your questions answered, and your needs met. So come and join us, learn from us and let us learn from you. Let’s share our lives together and become a true tribal unit–one for all and all for one!
My goodness, how time flies when you’re having fun! It seems like just yesterday that summer was starting and I was off on another summer of travel and adventure. Now the summer is long since over, I’ve driven and camped in snow, and I had a fantastic family Reunion in Medford Oregon. And that can only mean one thing, it’s time for me to be thinking about Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) 2017!!
With December having crept up on me, I’ve finally gotten around to writing the schedule for Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) 2017 and I’m publishing it here–it’s at the bottom of this post and I will put it at the bottom of all my blog posts until it starts. When it starts, I will have made copies of it and hand them out. If you’ve ever been to an RTR before, you know this schedule is more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast rule. The main seminars at 10:00 am usually don’t change, but they can, and have in the past. However, I work hard to lock them in so you can trust the schedule.
The afternoon classes are more subject to change for several reasons. Two examples are the weather might be bad so we postpone it for another day or the person leading it suddenly can’t do it for some reason. If at all possible we try to hold the class anyway, but sometimes we simply can’t and it’s canceled.
Yes, we have rules here, PERIOD!! I’m just like you, I HATE rules and fifty weeks out of the year I try to live as rule-free as I can be, that’s why I am a vandweller! But if we are going to put hundreds of people together in a very small space, there MUST be RULES!
While no one at the RTR has any authority to enforce the rules, you are invited guests in my camp–my invitation is the only reason you will be there. So, I think it’s more than fair for you to honor these rules simply as a courtesy to me. If you are coming to my camp and insist on making my life unpleasant, please don’t come.
I think these are reasonable but I fully understand if you do not, that’s why you are a vandweller–you hate rules!! We think alike in that! Fortunately, it’s a BIG desert, if you simply can’t live with these rules for two weeks, you can easily camp out alone or with others who want their dog to be off-leash, to play loud music, run your generators all night and drive fast through camp. That will be a very fun camp! Then you can come into the main camp as often as you like and join the activities.
Here are my rules:
BLM rules say dogs must be on a leash, and we expect that rule to be followed. My dog will be on a leash and I’m expecting all other dogs to be on a leash.
There is a 5 MPH speed limit in camp. Every year we have people who simply will not slow down as they drive through camp. Most just don’t pay attention and it seems like they are going slow enough–but they aren’t. Others insist that it’s their right to drive as fast as they want. The simple fact is because it’s the desert and there is a LOT of dust! Even a “reasonable” speed kicks up a large amount of dust. So everywhere you go you’re kicking dust in the face, bed and food of your fellow camp-mates. Please don’t do that!! We also have children in camp, we don’t want a tragedy. So literally look at your speedometer and drive no more than 5 MPH! Also, don’t drive through the washes and destroy the plant life–RESPECT THE EARTH!
I go to the desert to enjoy the silence and maybe to listen to my choice of music. I don’t go there to listen to your choice of music! Please, keep your music down to the level no one hears it but you. Bass, in particular, is a problem.
Quiet Time is from 11:00 pm to 8:00 am, your neighbors around you should be able to sleep during those hours. If they can’t, you are making too much noise no matter what it is.
We understand the need to run your generators, but before you park clear it with your neighbors and do not run it all day or during quiet hours. If you need to run it at night or most of the day, park further out where you won’t bother people.
Don’t burn any natural matter you find on the desert ground. It’s illegal and damaging to the Earth. The desert needs every bit of organic matter to decompose and go back into the soil. REVERENCE THE EARTH!
Pack it in and pack it out by picking up all your trash. If you don’t, I’ll have to. Please don’t come to my camp and leave me a mess.
Fortunately, these things have always gone well in the past. The BLM Rangers have told me that they are always glad to have us because we are well-behaved and not a problem for them. This year we’re adding new rules and I’m expecting them to go well and make everyone’s experience even better than it has ever been before.
Let me tell you a few things about the RTR so you’ll know what you are getting into. Beyond the classes and scheduled events there are some things we do every year:
We have what I call the “Free Pile.”I set out a tarp and everyone brings out their stuff they are getting rid of for free and puts it on it. It’s one of the most popular things we do! I’m downsizing my rig so I have lots of stuff to put on it this year! There will be some “trash” on it, but there will be many more “treasures”!!
You can also sell things. Many of us try to make money on the road by offering things for sale or by providing services, so we want to support each other by giving them a chance to offer them to the group. At every seminar we give a few minutes for people to sell excess things or even retail things, and also any services they have to offer.
Each day we also take the time to announce anyone who needs help with their rig and try to connect them with someone who can help them. There are no promises but I think we have had a high success rate of people leaving with projects taken care of. It’s important that you have a clear understanding if there is to be a payment for the help they offer. Most of the time there isn’t, but something the person is expecting to be paid. Remember, they are trying to support themselves on the road as well and deserve to be paid for their services. The important thing is you have a clear agreement between you before you start so there are no surprises or hurt feelings.
One of the days we will have an “open house” where everyone goes around to meet, visit and view other people’s rigs. That’s always a good time for all!
There will be a Talent Night, so come ready to share your talent!
This year I do not believe we will have any group meals. We’ve grown so large that it takes a professional to pull it off in the desert. The last two years we had a pro-chef actually there who took charge and made some astounding food for us–I will be forever grateful to him for that. Peter, you have my deepest gratitude and admiration for the job you did out of love for the tribe–THANK YOU!! But this year he’s working to support himself on the road so he can’t make it. I’m sorry to say unless someone else steps forward, there won’t be any meals this year.
The Master at Work creating another masterpiece! Thank you Peter!!
Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the RTR:
Since it is our winter camp, we start gathering in Quartzsite and Ehrenberg in November so you are welcome to join us at any time and stay as long as you want. Some of us are in the area from November to March, so there will almost always be people there then you can camp with.
It’s a huge desert you can be close to others or far away. You can socialize often or rarely. That’s all up to you.
The Permit is just a formality, very easy to get and free. Wait until you get here to worry about it. There are “campground hosts” at each of the major camping areas and they will write you a permit. All you will need is your license plate number.
There are no costs for attending the RTR, everything there is free. We will disperse camp for free on BLM land.
All vehicles are welcom–from a guy on a bike and a tent to a 40 foot diesel pusher–ALL ARE WELCOME.
The roads to camp are dirt and a little bumpy, but it’s still easy to get to, any vehicle can make it.
Come prepared for any weather, from heat and sunburn to cold, windy and rain. I’ve seen the temperatures vary from the 80s and sunshine to 40s and drizzle and rain during the day. At nights it can vary from the 40s to 30s and rarely even down to the Teens at. Most of all, be aware the desert wind can be very bad at times.
There will be no costs to you at all. Nothing will be provided for you. You must be totally self-sustained.
Nothing will be provided for you. You must be totally self-sustained.
I’m not there yet but I expect to get to a little town called Ehrenberg which is just 17 miles west of Quartzsite on Tuesday 12-13-2016 and you are welcome to join me. There are others there now if you want to camp with the tribe. We will move from here to the RTR in January. We do that to avoid problems ith the 14 Day stay limit on BLM land.
To find us you should join my forum and ask who is there and where they are, they will give you directions.Find the forum here: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/forums
I get lots of emails and some of them strike a cord deeply in my heart. This one did:
Hi Bob, I am a 56 yo woman and will be living in my car soon. I’m scared to death. I have a Toyota and I believe all my things will fit with a little room left for me to sleep. How can I get over this crippling fear? The economy has left me without many resources. Thank you,
This post is my answer to her, but because so many of us find ourselves in her situation, I wanted to share my answer with all of you.
I know it is counter-intuitive, but I believe the best way to overcome fear is by embracing it. Fear is a good and healthy thing, we need it. In fact, you are doing something that appears and feels so extreme, that it is normal and healthy to feel that fear. Fear is a gift to keep us safe and I think it’s best to be grateful for it.
So I suggest you assume that the fear is a loving message from a friendly Universe that wants only the best for you. Instead of seeing it as crippling enemy, see it as a love message sent to keep you safe. Just like the ghosts that came to see Scrooge in the Dickens book, “A Christmas Story,”, these are warnings to tell you what could happen, but they are not written in stone, in fact, their purpose is to give you the chance now to take steps to see the happiest possible outcome to your new way of life.
Just like Scrooge had to make changes after he saw the dreams, you too must do work and cooperate with the fear. Make a list of all the negative things that the fear is telling you about living in the car. But instead of seeing them as a reason not to do it, see them as a loving warning message of things you need to be extra cautious and sure of.Starting with the biggest fear, take a very realistic look at what bad things could happen. But instead of being terrified of it, imagine it happening in your mind and look for all the things you could do to prevent it from happening and for all the ways you could minimize the harm that could come from itSome potential fears:
Running out of money
Being assaulted by a bad person
Being embarrassed and ashamed of living in a car
Feeling like a failure
Now use the full power of your imagination and try to see yourself with each of those things happening to you, and not just once, but often. Go so far as to actually meditate and ponder how it might happen and what will it be like afterward. Then, answer these questions:
How do you feel when you imagine it? Don’t run away from the feelings, just sit with them.
How likely is to really happen? Is it a real risk, or an imagined risk? Do research and study to see just how unlikely any of it really is to happen
What can you do to prevent it from happening? Visualize taking concrete actions on a daily basis to see it never happens!
If it does happen, how can you prepare for the worst so it does you minimum harm?
Picturing it in your mind should take away it’s power, but more important, it should allow your imagination to find ways to prevent it. Knowing how and why it could happen should give you ideas to take to prevent it.Next, and most important–DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE PARALYZED! Remember, these are love messages from the Universe to prepare you so you can take concrete ACTIONS now, before they happen, to prevent them, and if they still do happen, will do you little harm.
Starting today, make a list of specific things you can do to address each fear. I’m going to throw out some ideas, but don’t feel obligated to them, they are just brainstorming ideas to get your creative juices going:
Write a budget and stick to it. (Running out of money)
Start looking for jobs to supplement your income. (Running out of money)
Be faithful about all preventative maintenance on your car. (Breaking down)
Build up an emergency fund (Breaking Down and Running Out of Money)
Get AAA roadside assistance. (Breaking Down)
Take a Self-defense class (Being Assaulted)
Carry a Whistle and Bear Spray (Being Assaulted)
Develop Situational Awareness. (Being Assaulted)
Follow and develop your gut instinct (Being Assaulted)
Those are just a few ideas I’ve thrown out there for you, but for each fear, there are dozens or hundreds of real steps you can take to minimize your risk. Your job is to start doing intensive research on the best ways to prevent your fears from coming true. But research isn’t enough, you MUST take actions!!! START METHODICALLY DOING THOSE THINGS!!From now on, when the fear assaults you, embrace the fear! Sincerely thank it for such a loving warning! Then go-over the list of things you are doing to take away the risk from living in a car.The way to overcome fear is with Faith and Confidence!
You are going to build up faith and confidence in the concrete actions you are taking to keep you safe!
I’m continuing my series on making money on the road by blogging and making Youtube videos. In this post I asked a nomad friend of mine, Vanesea, to cover the details of creating a blog. Many people try the free websites then find they are too limiting and switch over to a self-hosted website that they 100% control. If you are sure you’re serious about blogging, I recommend you do that from the very beginning. I found it too intimidating so I hired a developer to do it for me. I consider it money extremely well spent and recommend it to you as well. Thanks Vanesa for making this so clear! Find her website here: http://vangypsy.com/ her instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/van.gypsy/
One of the greatest things about being on the road in this day and age is the internet. It opens up a world of possibilities from simply documenting your journey for others to see to creating a full-on business from anywhere. I’ve helped a lot of people doing everything from setting up social media accounts or stores on Etsy to full e-commerce websites for online products to building blogs and setting up marketing and SEO and how to turn it into passive income. In this post, I will do my best to cover the basics of setting up a new website: from setting up a free site (yes, free!) to purchasing your own domain and hosting and things to consider along the way to what might be steps to take your site to the next level. So if these are things you are considering and questioning, hopefully, this post will help pierce the veil into what it might take to create the site you want.
A Free, No-Strings Attached Website
Let’s start with free because everybody likes free things! Did you know that you could start a website without spending a dime? Seriously, not a penny. Now we will cover those things later in the post of how to personalize your website but if you are simply just wanting to get your feet wet without any commitment (or use of a credit card) then this is the first step.
WordPress is a content management system (commonly referred to as a CMS) that I use for a lot of clients. One of the main reasons why WordPress is my first choice for new clients is that it’s easy to understand and update on your own. I’m all for the DIY movement and empowering others. WordPress makes it easy for me to set up sites for clients that they can update on their own free will. And even better, because WordPress is so commonly used there is a ton of documentation on how to update your content and lots of neat tools to add to your site. Plus, if you’re just looking for an out-of-the-box site design for your site, there are what seems like an endless amount of different themes, for free or to be purchased, to choose from.
Now where does the free stuff come into play, you ask? Well WordPress itself is free to use. You can just go to WordPress.com and download the latest version of the CMS. And WordPress itself creates a new theme every year so when you download the files it usually has a few preinstalled themes to try out. Now the bigger question: how do people access my new site?
And that’s the other awesome thing about WordPress. They will host your site for free if you so desire. And it’s the type of free that means no credit card information needed. Not the “start your free trial” followed by three asterisks and a payment gateway kind of free. Hosting your site with WordPress means you will be provided with a subdomain on WordPress.com. You’re free to decide what the name is but just know it will be followed by “wordpress.com.” For example, it would be janedoe.wordpress.com instead of janedoe.com
Another thing to note is that because this is a free site and it’s hosted by WordPress itself at no charge to you, they need to make money someway. And that way is by putting ads on your site. But hey, it’s free right? Again, if this is all you need and you don’t want to spend any money, this is a great option. But even if you want to later on get your own domain and put your own ads (or no ads) this is still a great way to get familiar with setting up a site without committing to anything.
More WordPress Packages
Alright, so you’ve played around with the free version of WordPress and now you’re ready to take your site to the next level. You want your own custom domain name not tied to WordPress. Maybe you’ve got a cool, kitschy name for your rig and you want to use it.
Well if you like everything about the free WordPress site and don’t mind the ads and all you want is a sweet domain name, WordPress has a different pricing options to include that. You can bump your plan to the “Personal” option which means, for a low monthly fee, you get your own personal Domain name and double the hosting space. They offer other options as well with more features like more space, help with monetization, and google analytics integration.
You can find more information about the free plan as well as how it compares to others here: https://wordpress.com/#plans
Buying Hosting and a Domain
WordPress is great for the hands-off approach but the monthly fee (billed yearly) of some of their services can really add up, especially when you want more control over your site like a domain name and server space. If you’re like me and prefer a little extra work to save some money, then buying your own domain and hosting plan could be the better option.
One of the first things I do whenever I’m looking to buy a new domain name is go to http://www.whois.com/. It’s a quick and easy tool to just see what’s available out there in the world of domains. Trust me, I’ve had a lot of what I thought were unique domain name ideas that were quickly thwarted by finding out it was already taken. So sometimes a brainstorming session just for a domain name is needed. This is the tool to help with that. They’ll also give you the skinny on all the available domain extensions (i.e. .com, .net, .biz) and give you recommendations on similar domain names that are available if the one you’re looking for is already taken. WhoIs will usually have some kind of deal for registering the domain through them.
But read the fine print and know what you will be paying after the promotional period. You might be paying $3 the first year for registration but following years will be $10. Still a good price for a domain, but can catch people off guard when renewing their registration. Even without those deals, WhoIs is still has good prices for their domain and pretty easy to setup. However, if you’re going to be setting up hosting as well, then you might want to consider buying the domain through whatever hosting company you’re using. Having one place to check and maintain payments and renewals for your website hosting and domain is just one tiny step to keeping everything maintainable.
Now that you’ve got a domain name ready and you know it’s available, the next step is find a reasonably priced hosting plan. Now, there are so many options for this and please, do your own research on what might work best for you, but I’ve found that for most of my clients Bluehost or GoDaddy have been great and reasonably priced. Both have pretty decent customer service to walk you through with any issues or set up questions as well as extensive documentation on how to do things on your own (i.e. connecting your hosting to your domain). Just like domain registering, many hosting plans have a promotional price for the first year, so read the fine print and know what you’ll be paying every year after. And if you decide to register your domain through the same company, it’s usually accessed through the same portal as your hosting and makes connecting the two about as easy as pressing a button.
One last food for thought on this subject, a lot (and I really mean a lot) of hosting companies out there are actually just buying server space off of other hosting companies. Sometimes they are getting heavily discounted prices from those parent companies and pass the savings to you. But most of the time they are a little more expensive to account for a “middle-man” fee. So once again I’ll stress, do your research and compare prices. If you want a little more in depth look at comparing GoDaddy and BlueHost, check out this post: https://www.shivarweb.com/2833/bluehost-vs-godaddy/
This post gets updated pretty regularly and just had a new update for 2017. They have a good overview of pricing for each, but for a one site hosting plan with limited data, you’re probably looking around $10/month. However, there are always different promotions going on and different tiers of hosting service so it’s best to visit their sites for the latest price points.
The Ultimate Hands-off Approach at the Right Price
So, let’s say you don’t want the monthly fee of having WordPress do everything for you but you also aren’t completely confident that you can set up and build everything yourself. You might want to consider hiring a consultant for options and a little walkthrough or you might want to hire a developer that can do all the heavy lifting for you. How much is that going to cost you?
Well my friends, that’s a very difficult question to answer and the many requests I’ve gotten to give a “ballpark” estimate rarely ever leave both parties satisfied for a variety of reasons. But that’s a whole other post altogether. My main point though is that it all depends. But for the sake of giving you some kind of idea I will say that typically for my smaller one-off clients, my pricing usually starts out at around $3,000-5,000. But there are many factors to this price point. Do you have domain and hosting already or does that need to be set up? Are you creating a simple blog or are you doing a full on e-commerce site? Are you looking for search engine optimization? Do you want to monetize the site?
These are just a few of the basic questions I ask whenever I am looking to write up an estimate. The price point may seem high for some and pretty reasonable for others, but regardless, it’s important to note that in the long run, having someone set up this stuff for a one-time fee (minus yearly dues for hosting and domain registration) is a heck of a lot cheaper than paying a monthly fee to a service that is “doing it all” for you.
I will say that I have a very large range of clients with different needs and different price points. I offer a 30 minute consultation to discuss the needs of the client and write out a detailed estimate on what exactly I’ll be taking care of and try to give alternative options for certain parts of the build process to help save money or guide the client in how they might be able to do it themselves. So whoever you decide to work with, make sure you’re getting a detailed breakdown of what you’re paying for.
One last thing to consider while looking for a developer is you get what you pay for. I can’t even tell you how many of my clients have come to me after working with another developer who gives them an excellent price… but then didn’t even come close to what the client wanted or provided a half finished website. They ended up paying me much more to clean up the “mess” than they had saved by going with the cheapest option to begin with. On the flip side of that, I’ve mentored some very talented developers that gave cheap options just to get experience in the field. But even though their intentions were great, lack of experience dealing with clients comes with it’s own set of issues.
So my advice is to compare estimates and see what works best for you. Estimates aren’t always free but it might be worth paying for if you find the right developer and a lot of times the estimate price will be knocked off if you actually choose to work with that developer. If the price for a full website with all the bells and whistles seems too good to be true, sometimes it is. For a better understanding of all the things considered in creating an estimate (and why it’s so difficult to give a ballpark) please read this article by Brian Krogsgard: https://www.shivarweb.com/2833/bluehost-vs-godaddy/
Alright folks! I applaud you if you’ve made it this far and bonus points if you even read the other articles I referenced. Hope this helps you understand the process a little bit better and if I did this right, you are that much less intimated by the process. Happy site building!!