So that’s a really great question. Do you really need to pay for your own hosting company when you can get free hosting from WordPress? There have been some really great answers to the question: It all comes down to how much you want to do with your site, and then how much you want to take responsibility for the security and upkeep of the site itself. Based on your statement of your technical abilities, it’s probably worth a few dollars a month to outsource the management and hosting to an expert. The fact is that if you spend more than an hour troubleshooting a free site, your time was worth a few bucks to pay for shared hosting from Dreamhost, or Bluehost, for example.
There are also several types of hosting: Shared (cheapest), VPS (more expensive), Dedicated (more expensive), Managed Hosting ($20-30/mo).
Disclosure: I work for WP Engine, a managed WordPress host, so all and extreme bias in favor of my employer can and should be assumed.
The first thing you’ll notice moving from wordpress (which is fast and secure, btw), to shared hosting with Dreamhost is that you can use your own domain instead of [yourdomain].wordpress.com. This is actually pretty fun. The first time I told someone, “go visit austingunter.com,” was a bit of a thrill. I’m sure that immediately after I said it, I was mocked, but oh well
Shared hosting gives you a whole new world of tools to play with compared to hosting and wordpress. Part of the reason WordPress is free is that they don’t allow anyone to customize anything, so they reduce the risk of hacking to zero, and all the sites are easy to maintain. Once you install WordPress on your own server, suddenly you can create all sorts of cool stuff with your sites.
Now, if you want really fast, really secure hosting, something that is high enough quality for CNN.com (which runs on WordPress), then you need to hop on a managed wordpress host, like WP Engine, Pagely, or ZippyKid. There are different prices and different values at each one. They start at $20 a month, which may not make sense if you’re not making any money off your site, and you don’t get more than 10 visitors each day.
I hope this helps. I want to echo all the other advice that was given on the forum. You’ll learn a lot over the next couple of years, and WordPress is an amazing platform to create things on. I’ve learned a TON in the past several years since I built my very first site, so if you keep plugging away, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to say the same in a few years.
Also, please share your site if you’re willing. I’d love to check it out!