One of the hardest parts of starting your own blog is figuring out which platform to use. Chances are you’ll know someone that swears by WordPress.com or Medium. Others will make more obscure suggestions, such as Ghost or self-hosted WordPress. Researching each platform until you find the find the perfect fit can be a lot of work.
I think WordPress is the way to go when it comes to blogging. However, that still leaves the choice between using WordPress.com or its self-hosted sibling, WordPress.org. Both platforms pack a lot of features, so either can be a good choice. However, you should pick the one that offers a perfect fit for you.
In this article, I’m going to give you a thorough rundown of what each platform brings to the table and help you to choose the right one for you. Let’s get to it!
What’s the Difference Between WordPress.com and Self-Hosted WordPress?
WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) available online. It powers over 30% of the entire web, and it can enable you to do a lot more than just blogging. However, there is a clear difference to be made between WordPress.com and its self-hosted version.
Self-hosted platforms require you to find a web hosting provider to set them up. Hosted platforms, such as WordPress.com, enable you to create an account with them and get right to work on your website. With WordPress.com, you have access to a free tier of service, but you can also opt for paid plans that offer more powerful features. It’s a straightforward system, but it falls short of self-hosted WordPress in many ways. Let’s talk about what those are:
- You can’t pick any hosting provider you want. With self-hosted WordPress, you can set up your site anywhere you want.
- It offers more customization options. Self-hosted WordPress is an open source platform. You can easily peek into the back end and change any aspect of it you want if you know what you’re doing.
- It’s often cheaper than using WordPress.com. While WordPress.com does offer a free tier, it comes with a limited set of features. Self-hosted WordPress has no such limitations, and you can pick any hosting provider you want.
While both these platforms share the same name, they offer massively different experiences. Personally, I’m more of a self-hosted WordPress guy, but your mileage may vary. If you’re not sure which way you’re leaning yet, let me help you make up your mind.
Who Should Use WordPress.com
I’ll be the first person to admit I’m biased in favor of WordPress.org. However, that doesn’t mean WordPress.com isn’t a compelling option in its own right. It used to be the case that WordPress.com wouldn’t let you set up custom plugins or themes, which severely limited its functionality. Nowadays, you can use both sets of tools, but only if you’re paying for the platform’s business plan.
The business plan comes with a steep price tag, but chances are that if you want to build a fantastic blog you won’t need the access to custom plugins it provides. In most cases, those types of tools are only necessary for custom websites. Plus, WordPress.com provides you with access to dozens of stylish free themes out of the box. That means starting a new blog can be as simple as choosing a theme and getting to work on your first article.
More importantly, if you use WordPress.com, you won’t need to worry about maintenance tasks or performance optimization. The WordPress.com team will take care of ensuring your blog is always in top shape, so you only need to concern yourself with content creation and attracting readers.
At this stage, you should have an idea of what to expect from WordPress.com. However, you don’t need to take my word for it. You can easily create a free account on the platform and test its features out for yourself.
Personally, I think WordPress.com is an excellent option for pure blogging. In any case, you can always try out the free version for a while and then migrate to self-hosted WordPress if you want a bit more firepower.
Who Should Use Self-Hosted WordPress
If you have only ever used WordPress.com, you don’t know what you’re missing. Just to give you an idea, every self-hosted WordPress installation offers more features and customizability than the most expensive plan of the former.
Downloading self-hosted WordPress is free, and you can set it up on any hosting platform you like. Most providers even offer one-click setup options so you can get to work on your website right away. To be sure, getting started with the platform can be a bit intimidating and its interface isn’t as sleek as WordPress.com’s. However, once you get acquainted with your WordPress dashboard, it’s all smooth sailing from then on.
Personally, I think the most significant selling points for self-hosted WordPress are plugins and premium themes. For example, if you use a site-builder plugin, you can overhaul the way you build websites with the platform and simplify the whole process:
If you want to build a successful blog from the ground up, using self-hosted WordPress is the smart choice. With the right tools and guidance, you’ll be able to add almost any feature you want to your website, which is something that can’t be done with WordPress.com.
As far as guidance goes, WordPress is so popular that the web is full of tutorials on how to achieve almost anything you want with it. Our Beginner Blogging course can take you through your first steps with the platform. By the time you’re done with it, you’ll have a fully working blog set up, and you’ll be well off to a great start.
In case you’re curious, Leaving Work Behind uses a self-hosted approach. We’re all part of the Church of WordPress, and the platform provides us with all the features we need to run a successful blog.
A lot of people get stuck when it comes to choosing the right blogging platform. In most cases, I think the best thing you can do is pick an option you think looks good and get to work on writing right away.
Personally, I’m a big fan of self-hosted WordPress. A lot of my work revolves around the platform, and I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t use it myself. Here’s what I think about the WordPress.com vs. self-hosted WordPress debate:
- WordPress.com: It can be a good option if you want a platform that works without any fuss.
- Self-hosted WordPress: This platform is much more customizable than its sibling and you can use it to build almost any type of website.
Do you need help choosing between hosted and self-hosted WordPress? Ask us any questions you want in the comments section below!