Free vs Self Hosted WordPress Blogs

Getting into blogging is an easy task, you sign up on and presto you can begin blogging away and telling us all about your travels. But what happens if you want to move beyond telling your family and friends at home that you slept in till the afternoon after a major night out partying with a bunch of locals?

What if you want to take it a bit more seriously and help other travellers plan for their own travels (it’s what got me started). A simple blog is great to get your feet wet and not have to outlay any costs but it leaves you somewhat knee-capped in your ability to really use the power of WordPress to its full potential.

A free blog with no financial outlay will have you working off a web address similar to and provide you with a limited array of themes to use and no access to really develop your blog with plugins, themes and advanced techniques that web developers can offer.

It’s not all bad, a free blog does offer some more advanced features for a cost so see below for a basic comparison on what you get with free vs self hosted blogs.

Features Free WordPress Blog Self-Hosted WordPress Blog
Own Domain Name Yes – $17 For registration and setup Yes – Can be bought for as little as $5
Install Plugins No Yes
Custom Themes No Yes
Edit Theme Code Edit the css code (14.97 Per Year) which affects styling Yes
Backup Only via Export Tool Yes via plugin to email or download

As you can see it’s not all bad on a free account with a couple of upgrades but you still miss out on plugins which can do great things and custom themes which really go a long way to helping you brand yourself in the travel blog scene.

Going self hosted isn’t easy thought, you need to pick a web host to store your website on and have it accessible on the internet. Register a web address so everyone can find you, actually install WordPress so you can start blogging and also deal with faults that happen all on your own (daunting to anyone not tech minded). To make that easier I’ve listed the three hosts that most other travel bloggers seem to be using. While all have their faults if its good enough for everybody else then you should be ok.

Blog Hosting

Bluehost Hostgator Fat Cow
Cost $6.95 Per Month 7.96 Per Month $6.5 per Month
Features Unlimited Everything Unlimited Everything Unlimited Everything

(Note links are affiliate links, some prices are listed as specials and I have chosen plans that all offer equal features)

I have no personal hosting experience with any of these providers but have logged into their systems to help other travel bloggers out. If you are un-decided on who to go with then hit up some travel bloggers for their personal thoughts or if you use one of the above hosts please leave your comments below to try to help others decide who to go with. (A side note, I host my own sites on my own server but that’s just because I’m a tech nerd and like to have full control of my sites)

Now these plans above are your bare bones get up and going hosting accounts. For the price above you could easily get a couple of cups of coffee each month so in the grand scheme of things your almost getting it for free anyway.

With cheap as chips hosting comes some problems. You may have issues if you get carried away with plugins (read my Speed Up Your Blog – Simple Tips post for plugin best practices) or peaks in traffic and if you upload large picture’s to your blog. As long as you keep in mind that if your blog takes off and becomes popular you will want to upgrade and spend a few more dollars than you will be fine. You might even be making a few bucks from your blog to cover costs anyway.

Domain Registering

As for registering your domain name there is a million and one places to do it. Personally I’ve found to be the best, partly due to having a rather large collection of domains registered and because the site is just so damn easy to use. Options that take forever to find on godaddy are easily sorted with these guys. An added bonus is there is normally a discount coupon available if you do a quick search on google which brings down the usual cost of $10 per registration.

Keeping my domains registered with a separate company than my hosting provider also allows changing hosts if needed much easier. You can just grab all of your data and go, where as a domain needs to be transferred from one registrar to another which is just plan old annoying.

So…. there are pro’s and con’s for free and self hosted WordPress blogs. In my opinion if you are serious about blogging, start off with a self hosted setup from the start. It saves you the pain of migrating later on and just opens up so many possibilities for you to really brand yourself.

If I wasn’t running a self hosted blog at I’d struggle with linking in my facebook page, monetizing it, tracking stats, playing with the design (yes I know my theme looks like everybody else), building up my brand and so so so much more. When you consider WordPress currently powers around 12% of the worlds web sites I kind of have a point right??

Finally if everything I have said above doesn’t make sense or you have more questions contact me and I’ll do my best to explain. Oh and if you are currently on a free WordPress blog (can be blogger as well) and want to move over to your own hosted setup I can walk you through the entire process for a small fee.

Happy bogging everyone and remember this is just my opinion if you differ from that please leave a comment below.

(Photo by ChrisDag)

Share and Bookmark >

Free Blog Updates

Free vs Self Hosted WordPress Blogs

15 Comments So Far, What Do You Think?

  1. Really useful and honest comparison Chris. Course many of us less technically confident opt first for the wp hosted option and transfer over later, which I found surprisingly easy and hassle free by the way. But I wanted to ask about site builders like Headway. Personally I find the whole business of even choosing – let alone building – a theme pretty daunting but I think I have a good eye, so I know what I like when I see it. The idea of the blank canvas puts the willies up me but I know that you have a lot more freedom this way and the ability to customise your blog so that it looks unique. What are your thoughts on these builders and how you should tackle getting started with them?

    Jools Stone April 1, 2011 at 12:12 am #
    • Thanks Jools. I see many people who have started out and then swapped over later. My reasoning behind going with a self hosted option to begin with is you can start from day one building up your blog and its reach out across google etc. The longer you blog has been running the more it is perceived as having influence in my opinion. Not to mention building up links within google.

      Theme’s scare the life out of me. I’m no designer and never will be so I prefer to be behind the design and play around with the code. The likes of Headway, Thesis and Genesis make the design work easier but you are still going to have to get your feet wet editing the styling css code at the very minimum.

      While I can try and pretend I know what I’m doing and get some way along the road, I ultimately pay someone a few pounds to make it really look good. I started my first blog with a free theme and until I can afford to pay someone to give me the look I want it will stay that way. It’s all well and good to have the tools for the job but if you can’t really use them you are no better off.

      Chris Richardson April 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm #
  2. Wish this blog had existed before I even started blogging! Although, I guess I would have never known that my blog would grow and that I’d want access to installing Facebook, Networked Blogs, CommentLuv and other plugins! =)

    Sending a hearty recommendation your way, Chris, because you’ve been ever patient with my questions and clear with your answers as we transfer over to a server. =)

    Samantha Bangayan April 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm #
    • Samantha that is the hard part, working out if your blog is going to grow. I got into this wanting to make my blog useful to others so started off with a self hosted setup.

      And thanks for the kind words too we will have you up and going very soon indeed.

      Chris Richardson April 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm #
  3. I use FatCow, purchased my domain name through them and they renew it for me. I am really happy with the service and for $7 a year why wouldn’t I do it?

    ayngelina April 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm #
  4. Great article Chris, I am slowly getting into these things and am so glad i’ve found this article as it will be very helpful when i take the leap into a self hosted site.

    matt April 4, 2011 at 6:30 pm #
  5. Great article.
    I host my own blog on Hostgator, and I can vouch for them. They have all of the questions that you could possably ask answered on their website, and the customer service is top notch.
    They make it easy for anyone to jump into.

    Handmade Jewelry April 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm #
  6. Oh my goodness-I cannot believe that I have stumbled upon your blog post!!! I have been stressing over this for 2 weeks!! I have a free wordpress site and a website with my own domain name…I want to get rid of my website that I have been paying for monthly and just switch my domain name to my blog… said that you could help for a small fee?? I am very interested as I have no idea what I am doing!!! Please contact me at and let me know your fees!!! Thank you!!!

    rawkinmom April 13, 2011 at 4:09 am #
  7. Very good article. I have just started into the blogging arena and have learned in a very short time that self-hosted is the only way to go! As you mentioned there are many plug-ins and customizing features that just are not there in the free versions and rightfully so.
    Thanks for the great article / post!


    Arnold Watson June 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm #
  8. Hey Chris, I am having a bit of a freak out at the moment and hope you can help! I started 2 years ago with a free wordpress blog and with all the recent traffic and requests from advertisers I decided to take the jump and host the blog myself. A friend of mine is graphic designer and hosts a bunch of different blogs for people so I asked her if she could do the same for us and give us so we could use plug-ins, advertisements, etc… She transfered my domain name to her account this morning on godaddy I believe and now my blog is an utter mess. Half of my posts aren’t coming, posts that I wrote 2 years ago are on the homepage, pages are missing, the colors are wrong, and I have no clue why. When you transfer to hosting your blog do you lose your blog material?? Or, because she transfered it 7 hours ago does it take a long time for your blog to come up? Do I have to start from scratch or should it look the way it did before when it was hosted by wordpress? Please help, I am freaking out that everything I worked so hard for is lost!!! By the looks of the post, you seem to be the person to ask 🙂 Help!!!

    Nicky August 12, 2011 at 10:23 am #
    • Hi Nicky. The normal process for me to move someones blog would be to setup the hosting first on the new server. Do an import of your content across and then get it all looking the way it should. The last part should be the migration of the domain name to point to the new server.

      Sounds like your “friend” is doing it all backwards and upside down to be honest. There should be no point in the process when everything looks wrong. Looking at your blog it looks like the theme isn’t configured and posts have been imported. I’ve never had issues with the wordpress import not working either so I’d get onto your friend to sort it, especially if you sent them some coin for the work.

      Chris Richardson August 12, 2011 at 10:28 am #
  9. This article was very informative. I’ve just started my own blog and this will really help me in making a decision. Thanks 🙂

    Jewls November 29, 2011 at 6:43 am #
  10. Thanks for this post Chris… First really clear explanation I’ve found about the difference between the free and hosted wordpress blogs.

    I started a free version in May 2011 and have been frustrated about not being able to use plugins and other stuff, so I think I’ll be taking the plunge any day now…

    I’ll check out a few more of your posts first 🙂


    Raf Kiss December 11, 2011 at 3:30 am #
  11. Writing counts.You made me to believe that it’s right. Your writing is interesting one.

    Omkari February 11, 2012 at 12:51 am #
  1. Why All Network Marketers (YOU) Must Have a BlogThe 24×7 Networker - October 29, 2011

    […] Best (And 2 WTF) New AndroiDistribute Your Quality Content with Contextual Links to Gain Search RankFree vs Self Hosted WordPress Blogs – Travel Blog Support — Travel Blog SupportFAQ About Running Your Online BusinessBloggingBlogging How To Tips To Help You Get Traffic and […]

Leave a Reply