Searching for the best free blogging platform to start your own blog on a budget?
In 2021, there are lots of great free places to start a blog, no matter what your goals are. If you want to build your own platform, you can use WordPress. To create your own subscriber community, you might want Substack or Ghost. You can also use Medium to get access to a built-in audience or choose from lots of other options.
No matter what your goals are, there is a great free blogging solution for your needs.
In total, we’ll cover 10 different platforms. Let’s get started, beginning with the most popular way to make a blog.
1. WordPress.org (Self-Hosted WordPress)
By the numbers, WordPress is by far the most popular way to make a blog or any type of website in general. Over 40% of all websites use WordPress and it also powers over 96% of the blogs in BuiltWith’s top one million site index.
WordPress started as exclusively a blogging platform, before later morphing into a full website building solution. Although it’s still great as a blogging platform, this means that you also have the flexibility to expand and add features to your blog in the future, such as launching your own online courses or adding a merch store.
It’s important to note that, while the WordPress software itself is 100% free, you will need hosting to run the WordPress software, which might cost you money.
You can find free WordPress hosting that might work for a hobby blog. But for a serious blog, I recommend investing in a paid hosting service, which costs as little as $5 per month when you’re just getting started. You can check out our picks for the best cheap WordPress hosting providers.
Advantages of WordPress.org (Self-Hosted WordPress)
- Self-hosted WordPress gives you the most flexibility of any blogging platform.
- You can easily control how your blog looks using themes and add new features using plugins.
- You have 100% ownership and control over your blog, which isn’t the case with a lot of other free blogging platforms.
- You can choose from a range of different content editors, including the basic default editor or visual, drag-and-drop editors via page builder plugins.
Disadvantages of WordPress.org (Self-Hosted WordPress)
- While the WordPress software is free, serious bloggers will want to invest in paid hosting, which means it’s not necessarily a 100% free solution.
- Because you need to purchase hosting and install the WordPress software, it’s more complicated than some of the other free blogging platforms where you just need to register for an account and start writing.
How to Get Started with Self-Hosted WordPress
To get started with a blog using self-hosted WordPress, you will need to:
- Purchase web hosting and a domain name.
- Install the WordPress software.
- Start writing.
To see everything in detail, check out our complete guide on how to start a blog with self-hosted WordPress.
Medium is an interesting mix of a blogging platform and a publisher. As a writer, you can sign up and start posting just like any other blogging platform. But because you’re publishing on Medium, you also have a chance to get your content featured to Medium’s readers, which is kind of like getting featured in a magazine.
However, the downside is that you’re kind of locked into Medium’s platform. So in the short term, it’s beneficial to access this built-in audience. But in the long term, it might be more beneficial to build your own platform using something like WordPress, especially if your goal is to make a living from your blog.
On the other hand, if you don’t care about money and just want to get your writing in front of people’s eyeballs, Medium can be a great choice.
Advantages of Medium
- The Medium content editor is a joy to use and makes it really pleasant to create content.
- Medium has a built-in community of readers, which gives you access to an audience if Medium chooses to feature your content.
- You can earn money via the Medium Partner Program (though probably not a lot). Building your own platform is probably a better option for serious money-making blogs, but Medium can be nice for side hustles or beer-money-type earnings.
Disadvantages of Medium
- You don’t get full control over your blog’s design, nor can you add your own custom features like you can with WordPress. You’re very locked-in to using the Medium platform “as-is”.
- You need to be a Medium member to use your own custom domain name, which costs $5 per month or $50 per year.
How to Get Started with Medium
To get started, all you need to do is register for a Medium account and begin writing.
WordPress.com is one specific implementation of the WordPress.org software recommended above. While WordPress.org/self-hosted WordPress is an open-source, non-profit venture, WordPress.com is a for-profit venture from a company called Automattic that’s based on the open-source WordPress software.
WordPress.com makes it a lot simpler to create a basic blog using WordPress, but the trade-off for that simplicity is that you lose a lot of the flexibility of the self-hosted WordPress software (unless you pay for one of WordPress.com’s pricier paid plans).
WordPress.com lets you create a free blog using a wordpress.com subdomain such as yourblog.wordpress.com. To use your own custom domain name and/or unlock more features, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid WordPress.com plan.
Advantages of WordPress.com
- WordPress.com eliminates the need to purchase separate hosting (as you need with self-hosted WordPress), which makes it a lot easier to create a basic blog. All you need to do is register for an account.
- Even on the free plan, WordPress.com still has more features than most other free blogging platforms.
Disadvantages of WordPress.com
- The free version of WordPress.com is a lot more limited than self-hosted WordPress because you can’t install your own WordPress themes and plugins unless you pay for the $300 per year Business plan.
- You can’t use your own custom domain name unless you upgrade to a paid plan.
- The free plan includes WordPress.com ads.
How to Get Started with WordPress.com
To create a free blog with WordPress.com, all you need to do is register for an account, choose your blog’s theme from a limited selection, and start writing.
Substack is a new platform that’s quickly grown in popularity, especially with big-name journalists looking to make a solo career, such as Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi.
Substack calls itself a platform to build an email newsletter, but it’s really just a blogging platform with built-in email functionality. When you publish a piece of content, it appears on your site just like a traditional blog, but it also goes out to all of your email subscribers.
One of the unique things about Substack is its focus on generating paid recurring subscriptions, which it does with built-in features (so you need zero technical knowledge to start accepting payments). You can make all your content free, make your blog 100% paid, or do a mix where you offer both free and premium content.
Substack is 100% free until you want to start charging for access to some/all of your writing. That is, you can publish as much free content as you want without ever paying. Once you start publishing premium content, Substack will take 10% of the money you collect, but there’s no fee beyond that.
Advantages of Substack
- Substack makes things super simple — all you need to do is write content.
- You get built-in email list features to grow a community of subscribers rather than one-off visitors.
- Substack makes it very easy to charge for content (though remember you’ll need to give Substack its 10% cut).
Disadvantages of Substack
- You can’t add features and you don’t get much control over design — Substack is literally just for publishing content.
- You have to pay a one-time $50 fee to unlock the ability to use your own custom domain name (instead of a Substack subdomain).
How to Get Started with Substack
To create your own Substack, all you need to do is register for a free account and start writing. Remember, you’ll only be charged once you start accepting paid subscribers. And even then, you’ll only pay a percentage of the actual money that you earn (there’s no flat-rate fee).
Ghost is similar to WordPress in that it’s free, open-source software that you can install on your own web hosting to make a blog. However, unlike WordPress, Ghost is 100% focused on blogging/publishing.
Ghost also includes built-in features to help you create a membership community around your blog and even charge for access if you want to monetize your blogging. It’s kind of like Substack in that respect, but you have more control because you host the Ghost software on your own hosting.
Advantages of Ghost
- Ghost is free and open-source.
- It is self-hosted, which gives you more control than many other blogging platforms.
- Ghost includes built-in membership and monetization features.
Disadvantages of Ghost
- Installing Ghost is a little more complicated because you need your own hosting (unless you’re willing to pay for Ghost’s hosting service).
- Using Ghost is also just generally a little more complicated because it’s a self-hosted tool.
- While the Ghost software is free like WordPress, most serious bloggers will still want to invest in paid hosting, which means it’s not necessarily a 100% free solution.
How to Get Started with Ghost
To use Ghost for free, you can download the Ghost software and install it on your own web hosting. For hobby blogs on a budget, you can find free web hosting. However, for serious blogs, I’d recommend investing in paid hosting, which can cost you as little as $5 per month.
Wix is a full website building platform, rather than a dedicated blogging platform. However, it does include blogging functionality, so you can easily use it to create a blog with the added benefit that you still get access to those website building tools if needed.
Most people probably know Wix for its paid plans, but it does offer a free plan that works for basic blogs, though there are some notable limitations, such as mandatory Wix ads on every page and you must use a Wix subdomain.
To use your own custom domain name, you’ll need the $4.50 per month Connect Domain plan and to remove ads you’ll need at least the $8.50 per month Combo plan.
Advantages of Wix
- Wix lets you design your site/blog using a visual, drag-and-drop editor.
- It includes full website building functionality, which gives you more flexibility than a lot of other blogging platforms.
Disadvantages of Wix
- The free Wix plan displays Wix ads on every page.
- You can’t use your custom domain name unless you pay.
- Wix’s blog editor isn’t quite as nice as the dedicated free blogging platforms.
How to Get Started with Wix
To get started with Wix, all you need to do is register for an account and choose one of the templates to act as your site’s baseline design.
Weebly is another full website builder that, similar to Wix, also includes blogging features, which makes it an adequate option for a free blog site.
It shares pretty much the exact same pros and cons as Wix, so your choice between the two should really just come down to the interface and templates.
That is, it gives you the advantage of having a full website builder, but the free plan has mandatory Weebly ads and you can’t use your own domain name. To use a custom domain, you’ll need the $5 per month Connect plan and to remove ads you’ll need the $12 per month Pro plan.
Advantages of Weebly
- Weebly lets you design your site/blog using a simple visual editor with drag-and-drop control.
- It includes full website building functionality, so it gives you more flexibility than platforms such as Substack or Medium.
Disadvantages of Weebly
- The free Weebly plan displays Weebly branding on every page.
- You can’t use your custom domain name unless you upgrade to a paid plan.
How to Get Started with Weebly
To create a blog with Weebly, all you need to do is register for a free account and choose a template.
Jekyll is an excellent blogging platform for more technical users who have at least some development knowledge. If you’re a non-technical user, you’ll definitely want to choose a different platform. But if you’re a developer looking to make a simple blog, Jekyll can be a great free solution.
In a nutshell, Jekyll gives you a database-free way to turn text/media content into a blog, complete with categories, pages, posts, etc.
You can create a blog from the command-line using a few commands and then host it for free using something like GitHub Pages.
Advantages of Jekyll
- Jekyll doesn’t require a database, which means your blog is very lightweight and you can easily move it anymore and host it on free solutions, including GitHub Pages, DigitalOcean’s free static site hosting, etc.
- Jekyll has a simple templating system that makes it really easy to create your own custom design. Or, you can use a pre-made Jekyll theme.
Disadvantages of Jekyll
- Jekyll is not a good option for non-technical people because it requires some development knowledge. This one is only for developers or other advanced users who understand at least the technical basics of creating websites.
How to Get Started with Jekyll
To create a blog with Jekyll, check out the Jekyll quickstart docs.
Tumblr is a free micro-blogging platform, which means it’s great for short-form content and visual media, but not so great if you want to publish lengthy blog posts. Think of Tumblr as somewhere in between a Facebook status update and a full blog post.
If your goal is to publish this type of short-form content, it’s one of the best free blogging platforms to accomplish that because of its built-in social community which gives your content a chance to get seen by other Tumblr users, especially if they share/quote one of your posts.
Note that since 2019, Tumblr is owned by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. The two are still separate blogging platforms, though.
Advantages of Tumblr
- Tumblr is very easy to use and completely non-technical.
- There’s a built-in community, which helps you get visibility.
- You can use a custom domain name for free.
Disadvantages of Tumblr
- Tumblr is not a good option for long-form content.
- You don’t get very much control beyond basic style options.
How to Get Started with Tumblr
To get started, all you need to do is register for a free Tumblr account and start posting.
Blogger is a free blogging platform from Google, the makers of a popular search engine you might have heard of.
You can easily create a free blog using the .blogspot.com subdomain (e.g. yourblog.blogspot.com) or you can pay for your own domain name and use it with Blogger for free.
All in all, it can be a solid option for basic blogs, though it sometimes feels a bit dated and other blogging platforms have more modern features and interfaces.
Advantages of Blogger
- Blogger includes all the core features you need in a blogging platform.
- Because it comes from Google, Blogger makes it very easy to monetize your blog with ads from Google AdSense.
- For the same reason, it’s easy to integrate free web analytics using Google Analytics.
Disadvantages of Blogger
- Blogger doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention from Google, so there aren’t many improvements and it feels a bit dated. Basically, what you see is what you get and you probably shouldn’t expect any changes. For example, WordPress recently got a brand new content editor, while Blogger is still pretty much using the same editor it’s had for a decade.
How to Get Started with Blogger
To get started, all you need to do is create a blog — you can use your existing Google account, so you won’t even need to sign up for anything new.
Where Should You Start Your Blog?
All of these free blogging platforms have pros and cons, so it’s hard to recommend a single winner. Instead, it’s about picking the best free blogging tool for your needs.
If your goal is to build your own blogging brand, there’s no better option than WordPress. And for accessing the full power of WordPress on a budget, self-hosted WordPress is your best option. Check out our guide on how to start a WordPress blog to get started.
If you publish long-form content and don’t need the flexibility of WordPress, Substack (or Ghost) is a great option if you want to create a monetized community, while Medium is a good option if you want to reach an existing audience.
The others all have their own pros and cons, but I would say those options are the best place to start your search.
Still have any questions about picking the best free blogging platform for your needs? Ask away in the comments section!
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