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Blogging Overheads – How Much Does it Cost?

Sometimes when I get together with my business owning friends I feel terribly guilty.

The reason – I have no substantial overheads or expenses.

When we get together my friends bemoan the costs of renting properties, paying staff, the cost of advertising and having to find the money to pay suppliers. I tend to be pretty quiet at these times in the conversations but there comes a time when someone will turn to me and ask what my biggest expense is….

I never know quite what to say.

Blogging is a very low overhead business in comparison to the huge setup costs of other businesses.

Some of my actual personal expenses include:

  • ISP (internet acess) – not much more than a fairly normal household internet plan
  • Blog Hosting and Domains- most of mine is through b5media so in actual fact I don’t pay for this but previously it wasn’t more than a few hundred dollars a year. There is also a small yearly fee for domain names.
  • Computer Running Costs – I update every year or two
  • Accountant fees - probably my largest expense but not astronomical
  • Design/Techical Support - once again I’m lucky in that I now have a network covering a lot of this but there are a few expenses here
  • Travel – over the last year or so this has increased, however the majority of this is paid for by those behind the conferences that I speak at. There are a few incidentals though
  • Periodicals and Subscriptions – I do subscribe to a few periodicals in the different industries that I write about
  • Blog Tools – there are a couple of online services that I pay a yearly fee for (for example MyBlogLog’s stats which I think are $20 or so per year).
  • Office Costs - there are a few miscellaneous costs in running an office. Phone, fax, printing paper etc – although having an online business means a lot of this is minimized.

This list refers to my own expenses as a blogger. Of course these days some of them are picked up by the network I belong to (and co-own) however I think most would be pretty similar to what other bloggers face in their expenses. All in all these costs would total a few thousand dollars a year (and I could cut this back probably by sticking with computers a little longer).

The only other real cost in blogging is the time it takes. Really this is the main ‘expense’. In a sense it’s an opportunity cost in that I could be using that time in some other way (family, friends, relaxation or…. a ‘real job’).

Have I forgotten anything? What other expenses do bloggers have? How much do your yearly blog expenses add up to?

update: I probably should have mentioned that in my earlier days my expenses were considerably less than ‘a few thousand a year’.

For example there are options for blogging like wordpress.com which cut out the hosting and domain expenses – I used my old 10 year old computer on dialup – I didn’t travel – I read the magazines that I now subscribe to in the library, I had a friend design my blogs (and even did a little of it myself), another friend helped with the tech/back end etc

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Yep, i think the biggest investment is “time”. Though a new computer, at some point, is kinda necessary. I have about the same kind of expenses, though i don’t earn as much as you Darren! hehe

  2. laura says:

    I agree with Jonathon about the time investment. Blogging is definitely open to almost anyone with little or no out-of-pocket costs.

    I do wonder if the earning potential is the same for those who start now as it was for those who started a few years ago. How I wish that I had been one of the early adopters…

  3. Great list. You might want to add business use of home expenses. Even if you think, “Well, I already have my home and I’m just using the spare bedroom or the dining room”, you’re losing the full-time use of that space. I don’t know about Australia, but, in Canada, you can write off the mortgage interest, maintenance, utilities and so on for the portion of the home you use. So if you are using one of seven rooms in your home, you can write off 1/7 of those items.

    Sure, there’s a tax benefit. But you can’t exactly set up a TV room in your home office. You can’t stow your barbells or extra fan in the office closet. And you’ve certainly got to furnish that space. (In fact, since I work from home, my utility bills are higher than they would be if I was at a job.)

    Granted, there are many rewards to working from home. But it’s important to consider that, even when you work from home, there’s a cost. Personally, I think the opportunity cost of using my third bedroom is well worth it.

  4. Main investment is Time .

    I started serious blogging on 11th April 2007. I also work for my company an organization.

    I come home, play with my kid and once he sleeps, then I will start writing blog.

    So I get to sleep 5 to 6 hours these days.

    Everyday I spend 3 hours for research and write some article which makes justice to the time I spent.

    But now my blog has given me much confidence and I have a personal Identity through my online presence.

    My investment: My billing rate is $70 per hour. I spend 3 hours a day and so Its $210. For a month: $6300/-

    http://www.suggestusability.com

  5. John Wesley says:

    Ah… the beauty of blogging — relatively no expenses and income continues to grow. This is what makes blogging are real meritocracy, there are virtually no barriers to entry. No matter how small you are, if you have something interesting to say people will start paying attention.

  6. ZHereford says:

    I guess you could say that you are your biggest investment when it comes to blogging.

    The challenge is to stay fresh, sharp and relevant.

  7. Ian McKenzie says:

    My blogging income is not great, but it easily covers 1, 2, 3, & 5 of your list, which are my only expenses. It also makes things easier to justify blogging to my wife, when there is at least a small profit to be seen each year. ;)

  8. If you go with wordpress.com or blogger.com then get your domain name ASAP.

    Make sure you go with a service that allows CNAMEs and Subdomains as well.

    Gives you room to grow.

  9. Hagrin says:

    @laura –

    While it may be tougher in some avenues, it might actually be easier to make money these days. As some bloggers do have thousands of valuable backlinks and site history, you may be able to build on their mistakes with a fresh design, fresh tools and fresh API integration. Sometimes, it’s harder to implement newer features in older sites than starting a brand new site so you could potentially gain a competitve advantage over sites that are stuck in old designs and features.

    But, you are right it’s definitely “tougher”, but still very doable.

  10. Definitely time. The reason I stopped blogging was because it took 3-4 hours a day to keep it at the level of quality I wanted. I’ve started blogging again (as of today) and have implemented better time management strategies so I can cover my blog in under an hour a day with the same commitment to quality posts.

  11. Techie Buzz says:

    The biggest expense to me a non problogger is the hosting charges and domain name charges which account to around 150$ a year.

    Other than that the time spent on researching and writing posts are a big investment. Being a software professional does not give me much liberty but i do try and spend 1-2 hours for blogging.

  12. SifuPhil says:

    Coffee and/or soda – definitely the biggest expenses! ;>)

  13. Starting blogging can be very cheap. Heck, it may cost nothing at all. But for some of the bloggers in smaller countries it can still cost a lot to start it off looking professional.

    Maybe this is a good spot to point to my blog where I ask what triggers people to donate, since some may want to ask for donations to cover these costs in the beginning. I’m trying to survey readers, so good points can come out to write about.

  14. Coops says:

    Yeah, I’ve just recently started my own, hosted with wordpress.com.

    This is because:

    1. I didn’t spend so much time on design
    2. I didn’t have hosting and technical issues
    3. I have a domain (that now includes email) – and that’s all I paid for.

    Very low startup costs and simplicity go a long way. When I build up the readers (oh, it has pretty good and simple stats) then I’ll move to a hosted solution, add some ads and redirect my feed to a feedburner one.

    But for now, this is a nice, cheap, simple option :)

  15. TheOzz says:

    I am with SifuPhil. Caffeine and sugar are by far my biggest expense. I buy Coke and Mountain Dew by the cases each month. The list of snacks change weekly with one exception, Pepomint Lifesavers. I go through jumbo Lifesavers by the hundreds per week. I ate more than a dozen while writing my last blog post a few minutes ago.

  16. Bryce says:

    Remember a lot of these things you can claim as tax deductions if your blog is a business.

  17. My expenses so far this year has been 7 bucks to register my domain. My hosting is free. I have a buddy that lets me use his hosting service.

  18. Mohsin says:

    My blogging expenses:

    Internet: $25 per month
    Domain: $8 per year
    Hosting: FREE for life

    That’s it.

    Earning $300 (and increasing) every month all from adsense!

  19. Mike Goad says:

    I made just under $3000 last year on line and, with the minimal overhead, we had a profit. I’m sure that I missed some deductions on taxes, but I filed for an extension (USA), so my return is due until October 15, 2007.

    My “office” space is very small — one corner of a small room. The bulk of the room is taken up with my wife’s quilting, so I didn’t even bother to claim anything for the room.

    Like so many others, my biggest investment is the time that I spend on the blog and web pages. But hey, I’m retired with a pension and some modest income from investments, so I can afford the time.

  20. Markus Jung says:

    I was a bit surprised that you didn’t mention any costs for advertising.

    In addition to the positions you mentioned that is the biggest amount of money I spend.

  21. Ali says:

    My biggest investment was my new computer to date and yes the time. I do my own accounting so no expense there.

    ISP and hosting next biggest expense. Time is an investment for me rather than an expense. When time is wasted it becomes an expense, when it is utilized the right way it becomes an investment.

  22. Kate says:

    Childcare!

    While blogging is flexible and nap time is blogging time for many mothers, I find that my most popular posts are the ones that require analysis of recent medical studies.

    This kind of concentration is not easy to do with a toddler present who is intent on pulling ever cable we’ve got out of the wall.

    Since I also work outside the home, I may not be as adept at switching gears, multitasking and juggling child supervision with blogging as someone who works from home all the time. I believe some bloggers are very, very good at it indeed.

    True, I don’t always pay money for childcare. Instead I get up early, stay up late or wait until there is another adult in the house. There’s the time investment again and I am never sure how much that ends up costing our family in non-financial ways.

  23. Alex Ion says:

    My biggest investment is my time.

    I am doing real-estate investments in my country so if I stay at home and write about my passion I might lose contracts :)

    Eh so what! I am doing what I love!

  24. Suzie says:

    Great list and love the comment: “Sometimes when I get together with my business owning friends I feel terribly guilty”. The wonderful thing about blogging, even though I am a fairly new blogger, it has so many postive sides to it.

  25. Mr_Gadget says:

    Darren I remember when http://www.livingroom.org.au had the same Alexa rank as my site…those were the early days, very very early days :)

    Yeah I must agree, blogging is a much more efficient way to earn cash if you know how to and the return is much faster than traditional businesses.

    I mean, it’s only been 2 weeks since I’ve started blogging seriously on my own website again and I’ve already noticed traffic has increased.

    Maybe it’s the passive links from ProBlogger :P

  26. I try my hardest to keep my expenses to a minimum because, just like money earned any other way, it’s easy to spend the money I earn from my blogs but so much harder to earn it in the first place.

    I wonder, in pure financial terms, just how ‘worth it’ it really is for the average *pro-blogger* to keep blogging. My equivalent hourly rate from working on my blogs is pitiful…

  27. Rajesh makes a good point: Hours spent on blog x your regular hourly rate = a pretty good estimate of the “opportunity cost” in real “dollar terms” — and that’s very much a valid overhead item for self-employed people who blog as a sideline or part-time job.

    I suppose that for full-time bloggers, it’s more like being on salary (or commission?) – the more time that’s put in, the higher your return must be on that investment in order to keep the hourly rate up in the range of a “living wage”…

    Thanks heavens that the out-of-pocket overhead is so low, so that blogging is very accessible!

    In fact — I know of one blogger who is actually homeless. He lives in a Salvation Army shelter, and does his blogging on the public access computers at the public library.

  28. Bob says:

    Great stuff!

    I would love to read some more on this type of thing… you know, the business side of the blogging process.

    I think an article on the common business-practice pitfalls would be an excellent read, especially if it included a list of expenses to try to avoid or keep to a minimum.

  29. Johnny says:

    I totally agree with you guys. Time is the biggest investment. I really wish that a day has more than 24 hours.

  30. Armen says:

    Although time is a big investment, the minimal overheads is what makes blogging so attractive as a possible avenue for additional income.

    If you watch T.V., give it up for blogging, and see if you can make something of it. You’ll know if it’s for you or not within a short period of time.

  31. I find that overall, the Internet is becoming the great business equalizer of our age. Read the history of some of the biggest companies in the world (McDonald’s comes to mind immediately) and some of them were started on a few weeks’ salary of the original owner. (I think McDonald’s was started on something like $600)

    Tell me, is there any traditional business nowadays that you can start on an investment of less than $1,000? Or one that you can keep running for at least a year or so on that original investment?

    Nope.

    Internet business is going to see the rise of large, multinational companies that were started on chump change. That is if it already hasn’t happened. Look at all the power Google has nowadays.

  32. g33kg1rl says:

    Staff: Me and my hubby. I look after web design and sales.

    Time spent: Weekdays 10-12 hours (weekend 5-6 hours)

    4 UNIX Server and high speed broadband cost: $2500pm

    Ad Income: $55000-70000pm

    Ad network: Direct Sales, TF, AS ( AS is lowest paying and fallback only network)

    # of web properties : 5 including 2 blogs

    Initial investment was $40 shared hosting in 2003

    Time is biggest factor.

    My advice for success – Unique content is king and do not depend upon one source of incoming traffic such as digg or google. Treat your visitors as human; never ever show more than 2-3 ad banners on a single webpage, don’t accept cheap ads provided by text-link or other dirty sources, period. Always invest in good dedicated web-hosting account and get a .com domain (please don’t go for wordpress or blogger.com account).

  33. >Tell me, is there any traditional business nowadays that you can start on >an investment of less than $1,000? Or one that you can keep running for at >least a year or so on that original investment?
    >
    >Nope.

    Actually, Jim, several come immediately to mind – many folks find eBay to be their dream-come-true and invest far less than that initially, then ride that investment for quite a while.

    The small Mom-and-Pop janitorial firms often start with a broom and a mop and stay small and profitable, earning 300% on their start-up costs every hour that they work.

    Pet sitting, window washing, babysitting, tutoring…the list goes on and on. Granted they don’t all have the cachet of blogging, but they’re valid low-investment businesses nonetheless.

  34. Angie says:

    I’m a single mom back in school and blogging is not only a great outlet for me, it is the absolute best potential source of additional income for me for the very reasons you outline.

  35. Maurice says:

    Hi Darren,

    I think your explanation about blogging expenses is very complete and details. Blogging now is also one of the proffesion like doctor, engineer and sales person. One thing I want to ask you is about time as you mentioned is as the biggest expense. How many hours you take to do your blog? I mean it is includes reading another blog and some offline source.

    Thank YOu