There’s plenty of free quality stuff online that ranges from software (WordPress.org, Avast free antivirus, open source software), magazines (Forbes, Inc), academic tutorial videos (Stanford Engineering Everywhere), video hosting (YouTube), and even blogs (WordPress.com, Blogger) etc.
In this article I want to talk about how you can save your capital and enhance your start-up’s success prospects by starting off using free services.
Many tech savvy entrepreneurs will rush to buy a domain name and download or install WordPress software in their hosting account in order to start a blog like Techcrunch. Sure that’s one way of doing it, but it is expensive as well because you have to buy a domain name $10, and hosting (at least) $10 per month, pay for website development ($250 or more) and manage and maintain the blog. There are many advantages and disadvantages of running a hosted blog or a self-hosted blog. However, at this point my concern is for the blogger who has very limited capital, almost nothing.
Anyone can get a blog for free on the internet. Blogger (Blogspot) and WordPress offer free blogs. I prefer WordPress for the simple reason that it has free software. Should you later decide you want to create your own self-hosted blog, you can easily move your articles to your self-hosted blog with just one click.
You can create a WordPress.com blog for free and get 3GB of space for free and really unlimited traffic for free. On the other hand webhosting companies will charge you as much as $100 or more per month for the same traffic that you can get for free on WordPress or Blogger/Blogspot. They will calculate how much you must pay based on a combination of several traffic and server resources usage such as size of RAM, CPU usage etc. A self-hosted blog that supports the same amount of traffic would cost you at least $120 or even $1200 or more per year. Having someone build a self-hosted blog can cost you an additional $250 or more.
Want to create a “Techcrunch” on a few dollars?
Let us say you want to start your own blog like Techcrunch but you have no money. All you have to do is create a free WordPress.com blog and you are good to go. If you want to use your own domain name such as http://www.example.com, you can buy a domain even through WordPress.com and pay a little extra annually. In total, it will cost you less than $30 to set up your blog in such a way that anyone who goes to http://www.example.com goes to your WordPress blog, still remaining at http://www.example.com. You can reasonably make your blog more attractive by choosing a free theme (blog design) for your blog in the appearances section. Then start posting. Over time you will build an audience for your dot com brand. Once your traffic is monetizable, you can them move your articles and contents of your blog to a self-hosted blog.
What is the advantage of doing this?
Well, firstly, you build a brand for your dot com at minimum cost. It’s the best way to go if you have limited start-up capital.
Secondly, while you use example.com for your WordPress.com blog, your articles will also appear in Google search results as example dot com articles that even when you eventually self host, your dot com Google search results will still be preserved.
What is the disadvantage of doing this?
On WordPress.com, you can’t put adverts the same way you can on your own self hosted blog, not even Google Adsense but the truth is there is very little traffic you can monetize in the first days. You cannot expect to make any money from Google Adsense from a new and an unknown blog. Build regular traffic first and cheaply on WordPress.com, then monetize the traffic later.
One fellow writer in the US said he has 10 000 visitors to his free Blogspot blog every day, and his blog averages as many as 150 comments per post. His blog is targeted at writers and of course his blog has ads of his novels which if you click they will take you to Amazon where they are sold. (WordPress allows you to advertise like that linking to your own products on Amazon.)
If he decides to move to a self-hosted blog today, he can make lots of money from advertising because he has already built a substantial amount of traffic, all on a free blog. For this reason, I would advise anyone who has limited start-up capital and who wants to build a blog to start on a free WordPress.com hosted blog, build traffic, and then later move to a self-hosted blog.
By the way, WordPress also allows you to place a PayPal “donate” button on your blog. That means you can also accept donations from your sympathisers via EcoCash, so long as it is an image.
Here’s another example.
Let us say you want to build a huge discussion forum like Nairaland. Instead of paying for hosting, website development and maintenance, etc., you can buy a domain name and then create a Facebook page where people can send you questions and stories etc. and you publish them on your page. This way you will moderate posts and filter undesirable content.
Once your Facebook page has significant “likes”, like over 100 000 like Kuzeya Nyaya, you create a self-hosted discussion forum. When there is a new topic in your forums that you find interesting, an to drive traffic, you can share it on your Facebook page, just like the newspapers do their posts.
The whole thing will be less risky and less costly compared to starting a dating website from scratch, pay monthly internet subscription, pay for 12 months hosting and a domain name, upload the website and hope to get traffic etc.
At least in Facebook you can test the market and avoid having your start-up become the latest addition to the start-up graveyard, especially after spending a lot of money.
At least if your Facebook page fails in Facebook your Facebook page won’t immediately disappear without a trace. In Facebook you do not have to worry about monthly hosting fees and website maintenance.
There are many things you can do with free online resources to build very viable start-ups that already have an eager and waiting monetizable base.
About the author
Prosper Chikomo is the author of Turning Iron into Gold: Golden Opportunities: How to Spot Them, Create Them, Make Money from Them, and How Not to Miss Them. You can follow him on Facebook at https://facebook.com/prosperitygospel. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is strictly prohibited