Running a free blog in the US

I’ve always liked writing and blogging. For me, it was about putting my words out in the world where someone might read it and learn something. I started my first blog back in 4th grade on Naver.com (similar to a Korean Google) mainly about cooking and crafts, and once got featured on the main blog page. 

Naver.com

Initially, I wanted to make a website with WordPress.org (a self-hosting site) as none of the current options stuck out to me. So I started my website via Siteground which was $119.40/year at the time (2015). However by 2018 the cost was $178.15 as the sign-up discount expired. Siteground customer support was amazing and I spent a lot of time customizing my theme and plug-ins, however at the time I wasn’t in the position to keep affording it. 

2015 bill
2018 bill

After that I spent some time jumping through several free options.

Tumblr

Tumblr was my best US option, and I did have a Tumblr blog in the past mainly for reposts. However after the censorship and decline of users in 2018 I decided not to go there again. 

Pro:

  • free
  • large online community
  • reposts available

Con: 

  • decline of users
  • my own work might accidentally get censored
Tumblr.com

Blogger

Google Blogger was my next option. While I had an easy time accessing it via my Gmail, I had a tough time writing actual posts there as there was a problem with text and image alignment. My biggest pet peeve was the image editor as they offer next to nothing. The site also doesn’t offer much customization, however there are themes that you can purchase online.   

Pro: 

  • free
  • connected to your Google account 

Con:

  • no gallery option
  • minimal image editing 
  • minimal options in customization 
My layout on Blogger

WordPress.com was my last option. I signed up using their free plan. While there was a lot more customization compared to Blogger it was still limited for me. Hoping to stay on this site, I bought a premium theme that I liked. That’s when I realized while you can buy premium themes online you can’t really use it on the free plan as do not offer a CSS option for editing. At that point, I just asked for a refund on the theme and set off to find a cheap website host. Also it’s easier to just start off on WordPress.org rather than going through the hassle of switching later on. 

Pro: 

  • free
  • most like an actual blog site
  • large online community 

Con: 

  • need premium membership to use premium theme
  • can’t install plug-ins unless on Business or eCommerce plan
WordPress.com plans

Currently using HostKoala for this site. I mainly choose this host as it was recommended on Reddit and has a C panel that I’m used to. It did take a while to get going but their price was really cheap. I’m currently on the $16 plan. Their customer support was decent too, but my medium importance ticket was answered faster than my high importance ticket which felt strange. You do get what you pay for, so I might change the host to Siteground or something if I get a lot of traffic in the future. However, right now I’m happy with where I’m at. 

My current plan on HostKoala

I also bought my new domain from PorkBun. I had some trouble with their SSL, but the helpdesk was able to resolve the problem quickly. My original domain name has been changed from smilingbubble.com to smilingbubble.net. While I would prefer to get my initial domain name back and on a domain backorder plan, I’ll be ok staying on this current domain.  

While the three options were not right for me, that doesn’t mean it will be wrong for you. There are amazing sites on these platforms, it just didn’t have what I was looking for. 

I wish there was a better US blogging community on a single website like Weibo (Chinese blogging site) or Naver do, however feel like Americans really like their independence, even in blogging.  

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