I want to start an inexpensive discussion forum. I do like the VBulletin format better than this board though.
How does one go about getting started and what are costs without sponsors?
It doesn't cost anything except for the hosting service.....Special Ed and Block spend about 10 bucks a month on Hostgator for ripped. I have a VPS server with is 84 bucks a month but I run a number of other websites other than Anabolic Mayhem. Ron has to use a larger server because he allows people to download images and stuff whereas we don't. That's why Muscle Mayhem and "The Iron Revolution" that McFarland had to shut down. It gets very expensive storing so much data.
You also want to bring in revenue to pay for the cost of operation. I generate the majority of my revenue on the front page http://www.ripped.com
currently with a combination of Google Adsense, Clickbank, and affiliate products. I have videos and games on the site and when people play or surf, they will click on the ads as well. You can also put sidebars on the forum with ads as well....I plan to do that in the near future
As far as the type of forum software, its entirely up to you. Vbulletin is about 299 dollars while SMF is free. I personally use phpBB for my service....its a longer learning curve but there are a number of cool templates and modifications you can make with it.
Best thing to do is to go on ebay and grab an ebook guide on forums. Its not something you can just set up right away