June 14, 2016 Blogging TipsDo you REALLY need WordPress? If I had a nickel for every time I heard the “Do I really need WordPress?” question—I’d have ALL OF THE NICKELS. Starting a blog is hard. You think it’s going to be a breeze, until you actually type “WordPress” into google, and you’re like “YAY! TODAY IS THE DAY!” and then the record player comes to a halt. You say to yourself: Wait…hosting? What is hosting? Oh boy, I’m never going to be able to figure that out. Scratch that. Hold on—money? I have to pay for a web address? RUDE. I’m going with the free version FO. SHO. Wait, why doesn’t it look as good as anyone else’s blog? Oh–pretty, “wrapped up in a bow” blogs cost like $1,500? Well, there goes THAT plan. My cousin is taking a community college coding class. I should just have him do this. Then I won’t have to learn anything techy. Yeah, that all happened to me. These are all normal thoughts, and it’s true—Wordpress can be more daunting than those websites where everything comes free or gives you a handful of pretty templates to choose from for a nominal monthly fee. But guess what? You get what you pay for. I started off with Blogger (hey, it was free!) and back then, Blogger was still an acceptable blogging platform, because blogs were just that–blogs. They weren’t full-fledged websites. They didn’t have insane functionality, fancy sliders, or intricate drop-down menus with photos. Then I switched to Squarespace. Why did I do this? I knew I should be switching to WordPress, but I didn’t want to pay for a designer. I knew I could’ve bought a budget-friendly, pretty, pre-designed theme, but I still didn’t want to figure out how to set it up. I took the easy way out. But I quickly realized that SquareSpace isn’t built for fashion and lifestyle bloggers. My sidebar ads (that I make money off of as part of my ad network) were frequently crashing my site. You would go to my homepage, and all that would load were ads. I couldn’t customize the site to look how I wanted. No matter what I did, it still looked like a “SquareSpace” site. I couldn’t link it up with Mailchimp the way that I wanted to. NOTHING worked how I had envisioned. Now, I’m not saying this to bash SquareSpace–I think this platform is an absolute lifesaver for small businesses, non-profits, and even service-based bloggers. So–how to decide which is for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself—plus, if you decide WordPress is the way to go for you, learn how to sign up for our FREE WORDPRESS WEBINAR at the bottom of the page! Yay! Am I an editorial-type lifestyle blogger OR am I blogging to promote a business or service? This is the most important question, and while these two categories might sound similar—they’re really much different. If you are a lifestyle blogger (like Blair and I) and you blog about editorial related topics—i.e. fashion, tips and tricks, beauty, advice, cooking, etc.—you’re likely going to want have advanced site functionality that Squarespace cannot provide. Also, per mention above, SquareSpace is just not designed to support sidebar ads. On the flip side, if you’re blogging to promote another business – like graphic design, for example, SquareSpace is a great option for you. You’re also not using your blog to make money in the same way—you’re likely building an audience to then sell them your services or products—so you don’t need a platform that supports ads through your ad network, or the bells and whistles you might want if you were a lifestyle blogger. Make sense? How am I planning to monetize my site? Per the above—how are you planning to monetize? If you’re a fashion blogger who plans to make a significant amount of money through RewardStyle (i.e. Affiliate Links) you might want a site design that really promotes the “shoppability” of your site. On the flip side, if you were selling your health coaching services, you aren’t going to care if your site layout is “shoppable” and that you have more opportunities for links to be seen—some something more simple is totally fine. Am I willing to DIY other elements of my site, or outsource them? WordPress provides tons of plugins that make everything from SEO optimization, to creating a pop-up, to adding a slider, creating an editorial calendar, and pretty much anything else you can think of. SquareSpace doesn’t offer anything like this, so you’ll be left trying to figure out how to optimize your SEO on your own (without WordPress’s awesome Yoast SEO plugin) or you’ll need to hire someone to help you with it. Plugins have saved me TONS of time and plenty of money, because I didn’t have to hire someone to do it for me. However, if you don’t need or care about those “extra’s” then SquareSpace is definitely a great way to go! Am I willing to sacrifice advanced functionality and design for convenience? Are you one of those “I just need something simple and easy” people? If you are, there is NOTHING wrong with that! SquareSpace is definitely easier to get started with. While WordPress is relatively user-friendly, there is definitely more of a learning curve. However, if you’re looking to stand out in a sea of gorgeous editorial sites and lifestyle blogs, you likely aren’t going to get the “blog of your dreams” on SquareSpace. (Just being honest.) How much time and money am I willing to invest upfront? This was the biggest reason why I went with SquareSpace first, before moving to WordPress. I was scared of the upfront cost that is necessary to start a WordPress blog, and I was afraid of the time it would take. I thought if I got hung up, I would just give up. Was that the right choice for me at that moment? Well—it wasn’t necessarily a wrong one! Am I kicking myself that I didn’t just start with WordPress from the beginning? Of course I am. I could’ve saved myself a ton of time, and would’ve saved money in the long run! But on the other hand, I had to start somewhere, and starting somewhere is better than not starting at all! I also realized that I needed a mindset shift. Why did I have no problem walking into J.Crew on a whim and dropping $200 of clothes I didn’t really even love—yet I couldn’t bear to put down my credit card for something I would call “my passion in life”? (#IDIOT). Can you relate? If so, please learn from my mistakes! So—just know—yes, WordPress 100% does require more money and a little more time upfront, but that time and money investment totally evens out in the long run. Let’s break it down here: SquareSpace is about $12 per month, and this includes hosting and a domain name. This comes out to $144 per year. Upfront costs: $12. Recurring costs: $144/year. WordPress is free, but hosting (we recommend BlueHost which comes with a free domain upon sign up ) starts at $6.99 per month. Paid upfront, this costs about $83.40 per year. Plus, tack on a pre-designed WordPress theme–which say, costs another $80. So–to recap. Upfront costs: $163.40. Recurring costs: $84.40 per year. To me, these numbers are pretty much the same, but when you consider that SquareSpace’s recurring fees are $120/year, and WordPress’s recurring fees are just hosting—$83.40 per year—then WordPress could be cheaper in the long run. My main argument? Don’t let cost become a factor. They’re pretty much the same, but if you truly do not have the upfront money, then SquareSpace could be more appealing. How upset would I be if my website disappeared tomorrow? This actually came as a huge shock to me—I didn’t know this fact until a mere few days when Blair revealed it to me—but did you know that you don’t actually own a SquareSpace site? Yeah, they’re a private company. They could go bankrupt tomorrow and what would happen to your site? POOF. GONE. WordPress isn’t owned by anyone. It’s built by a community. That means that this is the only platform that you 100% own, forever. (Devil’s advocate: Could it be hacked into by hackers and destroyed that way? Well, yeah. It could. But so could any website!) What are others in my niche/blogger circle using? Not to say that you should just follow what everyone else is doing, but it can’t hurt to ask your other peers what they’re using. Chances, are they’ll have experience that you can learn from! Maybe they’ve tried one, or both. Also, what bloggers do you look up to? Reach out to them, and ask what platform their websites are built on. Is WordPress the best for you? If so get excited, because we’re bringing BACK our free WordPress Webinar series VERY SOON! Make sure you’re signed up on our email list (just pop in your info into the header above!) to be the first to know when they’re happening! What questions do you have about WordPress? What’s holding you back?