One of the fork roads you'll come across when you start a blog is whether to go with a free blog service like one of these below:
Or, self-host your own blog (follow my How to start a blog on my own .COM domain name tutorial).
With the free blog service your blog web address will be something like http://username.blogspot.com.
If you host your own blog, you could choose your own domain name (ie. MyBlogName.com).
Below I have put together a list of pros and cons between free blog service vs. hosting your own blog.
Comparison of free blog service vs. self-host your own blog:
Up Your Own Blog
|Cost||Free!||$10/year for domain name
and around $4/month for web hosting
|Your own .com?||No||Yes|
|Setup Time||About 5 minutes||About same amount of time, plus time to purchase domain name and web hosting (yes, shopping takes time - just ask my wife|
|Themes/Layouts1||Numerous free designs
|Numerous free designs
are available, with flexibility of using premium themes to further stand out from the crowd
|Plugins2||Limited, as they control what plugins are made available to you||Every plugin that has
been developed will be available to you
|Subscriber List4||Via RSS feed, and can
also integrate with 3rd party services like Aweber
|Plugins are available,
and can also integrate with 3rd party services like Aweber
1Themes/Layouts are basically the face of your blog. You may consider customizing or design (or have someone else do this for you) your own theme to make your blog stand out from the rest of the blogs out there.
2Plugins are basically extensions to the blog software. For example, you can add voting functionality to your blog post, show related blog posts at the end of each of your blog post, or even host an auction on your blog. Plugins are really powerful add-on's to your basic core blog.
3RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and is a technology that allows other web publishers or bloggers to syndicate your blog content. You would want people to syndicate your content to bring you more readers.
4Unfortunately a blog doesn't manage your subscriber list. You should consider setting up a subscriber or mailing list so that everytime you post a new blog post your readers get notified (usually by email). A mailing list is great for brining your existing readers back to your blog.
For starters, free blog service is a popular choice, but your decision may have an impact down the road:
If your end goal for starting your own blog is to eventually sell it (ie. treat your blog as a business), then you should consider investing in your own domain name and have it hosted.
If branding is important to you, then you would want to build that brand on your own .com domain name - not a free web address like http://xyzCompany.wordpress.com.
Like mentioned previously, not all plugins are made available on free blog services. If you decide to run a contest on your blog, there may be a contest plugin available that you can use on your own blog that is otherwise unavailable on a free blog.
Some free blog services may force ads on your blog (there is no such thing as a free lunch, just remember that). Whereas if you host your own blog you are in full control of every aspect of your blog. You can even control what type of ads to place on there to give you maximum revenue.
If you started your blog using a free blog service, like Google's Blogger service, it is still possible to move over to a self-hosted blog. See post on Blog Platform Migration.