Guess how much money I lost on my first niche website?
It’ll blow your mind. Looking back I was clueless.
I’ll tell ya. I spent $6,000 and in the end earned $60.
What did I buy? I paid $6,000 for a custom logo, custom website design, and get this… letterhead. Yeah, talk about stupid.
3 months in and I was in the hole $5,940.
But I learned. I made that loss back very quickly and since then have done okay. But it sure was a rocky start.
Ever since then, I only buy stuff that makes money. It’s called an investment. Sure, I’ve paid for stuff that didn’t work out, but the stuff I paid for, if it worked, would have made money.
Fancy logos, custom websites and letterhead (WTF?) do not make money.
Despite my silly start, in theory, the niche site and blogging business is one of the cheapest businesses to start. Far cheaper than any brick and mortar business.
Moral of the story – when starting out, don’t “invest” in your business as if your Mark Cuban, Richard Branson or some other billionaire. Buy the absolutely bare minimum you need to get going. Save your money for stuff that will actually make you money.
What makes you money with niche sites?
1 thing and 1 thing only: CONTENT. Well researched, high quality content.
Links are good too, but the first step is getting awesome content on your site.
Actually, there are some minor expenses, but they’re very minor. I set it all out below.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of how much it costs to launch and build a niche website
I’ve launched many niche sites. Most failed, but a few small handful are successful.
I’ve flushed money away on stupid things justifying it as a business expense. I’ve learned better.
I break this list into three sections. The Bare Essentials, Helpful Investments and Stupid, Pointless Purchases.
1. The Bare Essentials
Website hosting: $5 per month with Bluehost.
Don’t run out and get $30 per month hosting. You don’t need that when starting out. Bluehost works perfectly fine. I used them for years. They will get your site off the ground and can even handle 100,000 visitors per month.
WordPress theme: $0 to $20 with MyThemeShop.com
I’m a big fan of MyThemeShop themes. They’re fast, well coded and easy to set up. They offer a good number of free options. Their paid themes are often on sale for $19. Do NOT buy expensive memberships yet. I hate to tell you but your theme and design doesn’t matter one iota when starting out. You have no visitors. You can’t test anything. Focus on traffic, get money pouring in, then test designs.
Logo: $5 from Fiverr
I get all my logos either for $5 from Fiverr or my Filipino graphics guy. Before I hired a graphics guy, I used Fiverr. Good enough.
AWeber email autoresponder: $19 per month (to start)
There are few bloggers and niche publishers who wish they never set up an email newsletter via autoresponder. Most wish they’d started earlier. While I’m not a big email guy, I have several lists with an agreggate number of subscribers over 50,000. It’s handy and useful. Yes, recurring costs suck, but this is one you want to get.
That’s it. Everything else you need is free (i.e. free plugins). Even fancy opt in forms can be had for free from various plugins.
=> Bare essentials first year costs: $325
2. Helpful Investments
Helpful investments should be bought once you have money coming in OR you work a full time job and have extra money to invest. Treat your niche site like a business investment. If you’re in the hole a while, that’s okay as long as you’re not using Payday loan centers, credit cards or getting a loan from Paulie whose office is a 1980’s Cadillac.
Ahrefs: $99 per month
Seldom a day goes by that I don’t use Ahrefs for keyword research and topic research. While you can get started without this hefty expense, if you can swing it, it’s a worthy investment. FYI, they offer a 7 day free trial, so if starting out, get as much keyword research done in 7 days and then don’t pay for it until you’ve published all that content. In 7 days you should be able to find hundreds of decent keywords. When you start making money, you sign up for the $99 per month plan.
Content: $1,000 to start
For niche publishers and bloggers, content is our product. You save money by writing it yourself. You scale up by outsourcing.
If you have the money and you want to spend money on your niche site business, spend it solely on content. Nothing else.
How much does good content cost?
Expect to pay $45 to $75 per 1,000 words. Scrimp, save, forego $6 Starbucks coffees, deep tissue massages and top shelf booze to scrape together content funds. If you can write one article per day and can pay for 2 per week, that’s great. Do it. If you’re well funded with $10,000, go slow and easy. Don’t blow the $10 large all at once on content. You’ll probably order content you end up realizing you don’t need.
Which reminds me of the time I dropped $13K on content I never ended up using. Long story – I’ll spare you the details. It’s painful to even think about.
If you have money for content, buy it in drips and drabs. Don’t order 300 articles at once unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. If you order 5 stinkers, not catastrophic. If you order 500 stinkers, that hurts.
My content providers:
VA: $400 USD per month
You know you got it made when you can hire an assistant. Good times. You’re a high roller. I jest, but it’s true, it’s a huge help to hire a VA or two. The skills you seek depends on your site. It may be a graphic designer or a generalist or someone for outreach. Whoever it is, it’s a good day you hire a VA.
=> Helpful investments first year costs: $10,000 ($1,200 on Ahrefs, and the balance on content. I’d hold off on the VA until real money is coming in unless you have good job pumping out lots of extra money. Don’t pay the VA by racking up credit card debt).
3. Stupid, Pointless Purchases that Do NOT make money
Many people make the mistake of buying stuff that doesn’t make money, but deemed “important” for their business. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Business cards: Really? That was one dumb thing I didn’t waste money on in the beginning. The exception would be if I rolled out services.
Business telephone line and/or 2nd “business only” cell phone: Phones ain’t cheap. Use Skype or the phone you have. Besides, aren’t you getting into this business to get away from the phone?
Custom website design: This is totally insane when starting out. Today’s themes look great. Use them out-of-the-box. And don’t pay for website design courses so you can make your site better. Unless you want to be a website designer, a course like that early in the game is a waste of time and money.
Overpriced logos: Of the $6,000 I wasted on my first site, about $1,500 was for the logo design. It’s incomprehensible to me how I thought that was a good investment.
Expensive hosting: Just because you use WordPress doesn’t mean you need expensive WordPress hosting. You need expensive hosting when you’re getting lots and lots of traffic. Not before. Pay the $5 per month with Bluehost or comparable and leave it at that.
Software you don’t need yet: Pretty much most software is not something you need at this point. Later, yeah, but in the beginning, no. Of course there are exceptions but watch out – those recurring charges add up fast.
A new computer: I’ll let you in on a little secret. Your old computer can create a website just as good as a new computer. Everything is on the cloud these days. You don’t need mountains of computing power any more to create a website. The $2K you think you need to spend on a shiny Mac is much better used for content. However, if you don’t have a laptop or desktop, a low cost laptop is worth the investment. If I were relegated to doing this on my phone or tablet, I’d get hardly anything done. A decent laptop can be had for $600.
$4,000 Treadmill desk: I know sitting is the new smoking, but the $4,000 you might want to spend on a treadmill desk is much better used for content and Ahrefs. I’ve been at this for 6 years and am still alive without a treadmill desk. I just get up every hour.
$1,500 per month office: So you wanna look like a pro with a commercial office? That’s cool, but it’ll cost ya $18,000 per year. That’s a lot of content. In fact, $18,000 is big site with very little work on your part.
Bus advertising: I know you want traffic, but bus ads ain’t where it’s at. Save your money.
There are always exceptions. This post is a bit tongue and cheek making the point that you must be very judicious where you spend money when starting out. Of course there may be some tools you need to buy depending on your niche site. The point is, pick and choose very carefully.
Get a free trip
I do recommend getting some kind of rewards credit card or American Express. Not so you can rack it up with no ability to pay it off, but instead to earn rewards toward a free trip in the future. I put all business expenses on American Express which pays for big chunks of our annual vacation.
Let’s tally it up:
- Bare Essentials: $325 for the first year.
- Helpful Investments: $10,000 (give or take of course).
Stop right there. That’s all you need (unless you hire a VA and/or pay for more content/links – those are worthy investments).
What could be more fun than earning a living spending a few hours each day publishing articles millions of people enjoy each month? Not much. Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.