This is a question I get all the time and many bloggers undoubtedly get all the time.
Should I start a free blog or a hosted blog?
To be clear, a free WordPress blog can be obtained by simply signing up for one at WordPress.com. The username you use to join becomes your blog name. As an example I have a username “howdoyoustartablog”. This translates to my free wordpress blog site “howdoyoustartablog.wordpress.com”
The self-hosted WordPress blog is your own domain and site upon which you would install the WordPress software to use as your blogging software and content management system. Many hosting companies now have push-button installation of this using Fantastico Deluxe or Simple Scripts (My website has a free video where you can watch me create and post to a blog all in about 10 minutes right in front of your eyes!)
So now to address the question: which is the right one for you?
FREE WORDPRESS BLOG PLUSSES AND MINUSES
PLUS setup is free
PLUS installation is easy (done by WordPress the company)
PLUS no worry system maintenance (setup, upgrades, backups, security are all done by WordPress)
PLUS server reliability (servers hosting site are actual WordPress.com servers)
PLUS with a blog as part of the WordPress community there may be an additional traffic boost from the WordPress community
MINUS cannot update/upload your own theme. Must use WordPress.com themes
MINUS cannot edit any of the php code (useful for adding additional features from third parties)
MINUS cannot upload any WordPress plugins from third parties. There is a huge WordPress plugin community
MINUS cannot monetize with ads. In fact, WordPress will probably put their own ads on your blog.
MINUS Blog will still be under the WordPress brand
MINUS no true content ownership. Site is still a WordPress site.
SELF HOSTED WORDPRESS BLOG PLUSSES AND MINUSES
PLUS can upload custom made and third party WordPress themes. There are thousands of third party themes you can choose from or you can make a custom one.
PLUS can change the php WordPress code as desired. This will allow nearly unlimited functionality in your site. There exists a large community of WordPress developers with many out-of-the-box scripts to add function to your site.
PLUS can upload and install plugins!
PLUS as you can edit the code and themes, you can add your own ad placements and ad monetization. This is a huge reason people blog in the first place is to earn money through ad placements
PLUS since it is self-hosted, you will have a domain name and brand of your choosing.
PLUS ftp access to your site
MINUS you need to set up the WordPress installation yourself. However, this is becoming much easier these days with push button installations available on most hosting accounts. My free “Start A Blog” video walks you through a Simple Scripts installation with hostmonster.
MINUS costs involved to setup. You have to pay domain registrar fees which is about $ 15 a year. Hosting fees can be $ 5 to $ 10 a month.
MINUS you need to do your own site maintenance including spam control, security, and backups for example. There are plugins to help you but it is a process you still need to do on your own
MINUS make sure and find reliable servers. You don’t want slowness or crashes to bother your site. Most hosting companies these days to stay competitive offer some pretty good server reliability
In summary, if you want just the most basic blogging features of the traditional blogging sense, a free blog is for you. If you plan to monetize it even with adsense, then you will want a self-hosted paid blog. Moreover, if you want to add your own custom look and feel, you will want a self-hosted paid blog. You also have access to many free WordPress themes as well. And finally the world of plugins is the big kicker. Think about apps for the iPhone. There is a quote that whatever you want, .there is an app for that.. Plugins are much the same from security to SEO to driving traffic to membership sites to just about anything.
That is why in most situations, I recommend a self-hosted paid blog.
I hope this article has been helpful. I will be happy to answer any questions you have. Feel free to email me or just post your question on this blog as a comment. And if you decide to start a hosted blog, make sure to check out my free video on how to set up a blog with hostmonster.