Can I set up a blog for free?

I’ve been coming across a lot of blogs recently and am interested in starting my own. I’m a student, so don’t really have any money to splash out. Is there any way I can give blogging a try without spending too much cash?

There are lots of free blogging sites out there that will let you dip your toe into the blogosphere. If you decide you like it, you can always set up your own independant blog, but until you do, it’s worth trying one of the free bloggin services and see if you blogging suits you. Unfortunately there are too many people who jump in wholeheartedly, only to be get bored of the whole thing after a couple of weeks after which their blog dies a slow, horrible death.

Here are the top three sites you should try:

  • WordPress.com – This is a free blogging site based around the WordPress MU software. One great advantage of this is that if you decide to go the whole hog and set up your own dedicated blog, you can use similar software and can capitalise on some of the things you learnt using WordPress.com. It lets you set up your blog very easily, and although there are a few restrictions (like being limited to a selection of canned themes for example), it lets you start blogging very very quickly. WordPress places a great emphasis on hiding any coding complexities from you so you can focus on content and style in your posts, so if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, this one is for you.
  • Blogger – Blogger is probably one of the heavyweights in the free blogging world with over 1.5 million bloggers and the clout of being owned by Google. Users have the option of setting up a free blog, though this is decorated with a Blogger header so in effect they use your blog to advertise their service. Blogger gives you a number of canned templates for you blog’s look and feel, but you can adapt these if you want to (and if you have the skills). It also provides easy ways to add Google AdSense to your blog to try and monitise your traffic. The only thing I hated about Blogger was the fact that comments on your blog have to go through a standard Blogger page. This asks people to log in and also has a CAPTCHA image, which may detract some of your users from leaving comments on your site.
  • MySpace – MySpace has a rudimentary blogging facility and like all MySpace features, it’s free. The functionality is however pretty limited compared to the other two platforms above. You have free rein to add any styling to your blog you desire, but unfortunately most people tend to make a mess of this. MySpace has a relatively young audience so most of the focus is on media and entertainment, however lots of business are trying to enter this space to try and tap into an active market. Still, it’s hard to build a good blog here, particularly because the tools are so hard to use. Use with care.

Each of the three above will let you give blogging a try, but the most important thing to remember is that blogging is not something you pick up in a day. It’s more of a lifestyle choice where you nurture and tend to your blog in the same way you would look after a houseplant. It’s ok to leave it for a few days, but if you abandon it it will die; and the more love and attention you give it, the more it will thrive.

Happy Blogging!

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