The cost of starting up is almost zero if you already have a domain name and a web host account.
Once you’ve registered a suitable domain name, and paid for a good hosting account where your files will sit on, the next thing is to get a good forum software to manage your forum with.
Some software I’d Recommend:
SMF – I’ve used this in the past, and most Nigerian forums are being powered by this. They have a great community always there to help you out when you get stuck. They have lots of professional and cool themes that you can download for free. There are also loads of plugins (mods), to further extend the functionality of your forum. Very easy to use and administer, even for a complete newbie.
PHPBB – Free as well, but not too many Nigerian forums making use of it. So if you want to stand out, you might want to take a look at this. I started my first forum with this years back as a complete newbie, had to drop it because I couldn’t understand it, or maybe I just didn’t know what I was doing then. Overall it’s a pretty solid script, with good support, and they’ve been around for a long time.
MyBB – In my opinion, this is one of the best free forum script out there. I wonder why it’s not as popular as the other two I mentioned. It has an active community, great plugins (not that much though) to extend it’s functionality and some really cool themes to get your forum looking like wow! And one other thing, it’s very search engine friendly.
There are other free great forum management script you could also try out, like BBpress, MyBB, etc. But I’ll suggest you just stick with any of the three I listed above.
If you want to go the paid route, the two industry leaders are IP Board and Vbulletin. Though I would recommend you stick with the free ones, unless you probably have enough money to start paying for licenses and stuffs or perhaps there are specific features you want which the free ones just can not provide, though I highly doubt if there’s any.
How Does Having a Forum Make Me Money?
Yeah I know, it would be totally useless if nothing comes out from your hard work. I’m guessing the reason for starting up one in the first place is to make some money, right? Unless you’re probably building a support forum for any of your products or services.
Most forum monetize with adsense, while that is not a bad idea there are other methods you should consider like Amazon affiliate, text link ads, CPA, affiliate marketing, joint venture and of course selling your own product if you have any. Of course this will also depend on the niche you’re in. But the most important thing is to get your forum up first. Once it starts getting busy, then making money from it should be a piece of cake.
And one other thing, don’t start out plastering ads all over the place. You’ll just turn potential members off. Build your content and member base to a comfortable level first before thinking of monetization.
If you build it they will come.