**I am not being paid or perked by Typepad for this post. **
People frequently ask me questions about blogging, specifically about how to get started. I feel like there is a lot of good information on the internet about finding your voice, blogging regularly, and blogging your passion. What there is not a lot of information about are the platforms. Toss this question to any group of bloggers and the general consensus will be,
"Start on blogger 'cause it's free, then when you're ready you should move to self-hosted Wordpress."
May I offer a different alternative? Typepad. I've been on Typepad since the very beginning, so I can't give you an educated list of pros and cons, but I can tell you why it's worked for me, and why I recommend it to everyone who's starting.
Typepad isn't free, which I understand is a draw to blogger and basic Wordpress. Free is great if you're unsure that you're going to stick with blogging, or if you just need somewhere to post pics of the kids so grandma can see. But if you're planning on making blogging a regular hobby, you're eventually going to want more than the free platforms. You'll want to customize your look and function, I assure you. Typepad's basic plan is $9/month, the medium plan (which is what I use, and fills all my needs) is $15/month, and the very professional plan is $30/month.
Here's why I love Typepad:
1. It's as customizable as I would ever want. Sure, very huge blogs and websites need some specific and fancy functions, but your average blogs don't need all of that. I'm able to do my own blog design, with no previous web design knowledge. I'm able to customize the look and colors of my blog, and I don't think it looks generic. Here are a few other blogs that are using Typepad, so you can get the feel of the different styles and customization:
2. Because I'm able to do it myself with Typepad - the behind-the-scenes function is very user-friendly - there is no web designer cost or headache. I could hire a web designer to create a custom banner or something, but if I get itchy to change up the sidebar colors at midnight, I can. Easily. I didn't have to pay someone, and I didn't have to wait for anyone for return my email. And if I DID have a question about how to do something...
3. There is amazing customer support. This is perhaps the top reason I would never want to leave Typepad. I can open a "help" ticket and a real, live, person gets back to me within 24 hours. This is gold, my friends, especially for those of us who do it all ourselves. This alone is well worth the $15/month I pay for Typepad. Worth way more than that:
4. There's no hacking and no servers are down. (knock wood, knock wood, knock wood) In the years that I've been on Typepad, I have never had an issue with someone hacking my blog or with my blog just being "down" for reasons unknown to me. Every single day I see someone on twitter calling out for help because their blog is down. I've never had to worry about that. And even if I did worry about it, there's a help desk! (See #3 above)
Typepad isn't perfect. There are a few things that I wished functioned differently. But that list is very small and compared to all the positives, I just wouldn't consider changing platforms anytime soon. For me, Typepad is the most seamless part of my blogging, and I'm not sure that the same could be said for those who self-host on Wordpress.
(If you're very new to blogging, and aren't sure what I mean by "self-hosting," then all you need to know is that it is the common step for bloggers who want to make their site fully customizable. From what I understand, you get full control, which is nice. But you don't have any sort of customer service, and you do open yourself up to hackers and spam more than I have experienced with Typepad.)
If you've been tossing around starting a blog, I say go for it! Blogging has enhanced my life in innumerable ways. Click around, google a million questions, but above all force yourself to take that first step. And since that means you have to choose a blogging platform, I want you to consider Typepad when making that decision.
I'm not sure I'll know all the answers, but ask questions you have about Typepad (or blogging!) in the comments.
ps - If you're into the tech talk, here's why I love twitter.