A couple of months ago, while I was starting to get the hang of this freelancing thing, I attended a well-respected, successful writer’s webinar. He declared that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I’d create a self-hosted WordPress site instead of keeping my site on WordPress.com. At the same time, I kept running into instances where I wanted to use a plugin or customize, but I couldn’t do so without upgrading to a business account. When I checked, I found that three years of hosting was half the price of one year of business upgrade, which sounds attractive on a good day but even better if you’re broke. Once it looked like my subscribers could come along for the ride and my site would still be visible in the reader, I was sold.
I bought my three years of hosting and moved my site. My first change was attempting to embed my Medium site, which technically worked but ultimately failed because Medium doesn’t so much want that to happen, which makes some sense. It’s one thing to link to an article, but the reader doesn’t need to go to the original site if you’ve embedded content. If I had a membership model, I might also balk at embedding. I also stuck a bunny with glasses next to the category list on the home page. Finally, I added an admin page, with a link in the footer, for easy logins. Sweet freedom!
Meanwhile, I was writing and posting to my site. My subscribers, who’d been “migrated,” weren’t being notified when I posted anything. “They’d see it in the reader” wasn’t getting me too far—the WordPress reader has a great deal of content, after all—and I found I was alone. It’s a nice feeling knowing you have half a chance of someone seeing what you write, and I missed that feeling. I had gained the flexibility to make changes, such as they were, but I had lost visibility.
I had never shut down the old site because I couldn’t and still be in the reader, so I started poking around. I found a theme I liked better, made a header image out of a picture I took on vacation at Niagara Falls when my daughter was three months old, and I found a way to get that bunny with glasses where I wanted him. Bam! I was back in business. The hosting company offered a 97-day refund policy (I’m guessing seven days to get your footing plus 90 days of usage), so I attached the domain name back to the old site and closed down my hosting account. There was a half-day of panic when I couldn’t find my subscribers (oops), but Jetpack came to the rescue.
Now what? Well, I have five posts I had put up in self-hosted land that I’m going to repost on this site before posting anything else. I apologize for any duplication; I’d rather be ignored twice and know I’d gotten content in front of people than leave five posts behind.
Experiences offer lessons, and this is no exception. I have learned to listen a little more to my instincts. When I first heard that webinar telling me I needed to move my site, I ignored it, but the thought had stuck in the back of my head and wouldn’t go away. I manage a self-hosted site for someone else, and I like making decisions on things like plugins and customizing HTML, so I talked myself into this all being a great idea. For some, it is. For me, it was not.