When setting up your own website, you have a couple of options on where you host it. Hosting is the server where your website files live.
The usual process is to get an account with a hosting company – a company that runs a server and lets you use space on that server for your website files. (Or you can host it on your own server, but that requires a lot of technical knowledge that most writers don’t have or want to develop. And a server.)
You can go to a company that offers free hosting or one that offers paid hosting.
The free hosting companies are sites like Live Journal, Blogger, and WordPress.com. These companies offer websites on their server in the form of a blog. These are shared hosting sites, because your blog shares space on the server with other blogs.
So how do you choose which type is best for you?
Self-Hosted – The Upside
You can use your name as your URL (if it’s available). This is great for name recognition and branding for a writer.
You can usually set up unlimited email addresses for your site for more personalization and customization (ex. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org).
You have total control over the look and feel of your site. You can use a template or get a custom-designed look. You can install plugins for additional functionality and display side-bar widgets as desired.
There is limited risk in losing your content (as long as you are doing regular backups).
Self-Hosted – The Downside
Setup is more involved than a shared blog and can require some technical knowledge, a techy friend, or really great instructions to follow.
Your hosting company could restrict access to your account (unlikely if you are following their terms of service) or go out of business. (If you have backups of your site, though, you could switch the URL to another site, restore your backups and be running again relatively quickly.)
Shared – The Upside
An account on a shared site is very easy to setup. Usually a login name, password, choose a few blog options and you’re blogging.
You can get some carryover traffic from other blogs on the site. This can mean more people visiting your site.
Shared – The Downside
You have less control over your blog/content. If the site chooses to suspend your account, you may lose everything. (If you can do backups of your content, you can lessen the risk of losing everything.)
You may have less name/brand recognition – your URL would be something like janedoe.blogspot.com instead of www.janedoe.com. (Some shared hosting sites do allow you to have a custom URL, but it is usually a paid service.)
There are limits on the look and feel of the site. You may be restricted to using only the site’s templates and widgets. (If you don’t plan to have a very fancy site, this might not be an issue.)
I’ve seen several successful writers run their only website via a shared hosting site and it works for them.
But if you want to take full advantage of the Internet and its capabilities, I recommend a self-hosted website for any writer who is looking to make a career out of writing. It gives you the most flexibility and control over your site and its content.
That gives you options.
Do you currently have a shared hosted or self-hosted website? How is it working for you? Love it, hate it, wish you had something different?