Most people blog for fun. They write about their favorite recipes, their recent vacation, and that silly thing their kid did at the dentist. Their blog is nothing more than an outlet.
But did you know that you can actually make good money from starting a blog? If you know what you’re doing, you can make thousands of dollars per month just from your blog. But most people have no idea how to make that happen. It sounds great, like something that’s too good to be true.
But it’s not too good to be true. There are many people who make six-figures per year (or month!) from their blog. It is their full-time job. They treat their blog as if it’s a business.
In this post, I’m going to give you a step-by step guide for making money from your blog. Not only will I tell you how to earn money, but I’ll also show you the common mistakes bloggers make as well as what you need to have in place to start earning money.
This isn’t rocket science or luck.
It’s simply work and strategy.
Before You Can Make Money
There are some very obvious things that need to be in place before you can start making money with your blog. Those things are:
A Great Blog
Start a blog
The starting point is having a great blog. Without a blog…well, you can’t make money. And here’s the thing – your blog needs to be legit. You won’t get much traffic if your blog looks bad or can’t handle the load.
If you need help setting up a blog, here’s a detailed post I created guiding you through every step.
After you create your blog, you need to create consistently great content. Generally speaking, making money from your blog requires an audience, and you can’t get an audience if you’re not regularly producing quality content. After all, people don’t want to come to your site if they’re not getting something valuable, whether that’s an article, a laugh, or something else.
Depending on your monetization strategy, traffic volume is more or less important. If you rely solely on advertising, you need a high volume of traffic. We’ll talk more about why that’s a bad strategy in the next point.
Your overall goal is to create an audience. People who actually want to know what you have to say. These are the people who will keep coming back and who will buy what you offer.
Lots of Focus
Determine your topics and audience
If you want to make money, your blog should be focused on one or two key themes. In other words, people should know what they’re getting when they come to your site. If you’re reviewing blenders one day and then talking about the latest X-Men movie the next, you won’t be able to consistently draw an audience. Plus, you won’t be able to do either very well.
Find one or two things you care about and then blog about those things. Don’t diversify your focus.
Pat Flynn has found huge success by focusing on one primary thing – building multiple streams of passive income.
Variety of Income Streams
Before we talk about specific ways to make money blogging, we need to talk about blog income in general. Here’s the main point: if you only rely on a single source of blog income, you’re going to have a difficult time getting much traction.
Because with each method you’ll have ups and downs. Some months you’ll have more web traffic, which will drive up advertising traffic, but other months it will fall. You’ll probably sell more physical products around the holidays, when people are looking to buy gifts. If you run a membership site, you’ll have times when members leave for various reasons.
You need to diversify your income sources so that you don’t experience constant feast or famine. You can start with one, but as you go, you should think of ways to continually diversify your income.
Darren Rowse has spoken about how relying solely on Google AdSense almost caused him to go under at one point:
“Back in 2004 when I almost went under, I not only was too reliant upon traffic from the Google Search Engine – I was also very reliant upon Google’s AdSense Ad Network as the main source of income for my business.
AdSense had been very good to me up until that point (and it continued to be for years after), but by focusing so much of my efforts upon it, I now see that it left me exposed and in a risky position.”
Relying on a single income source leaves you vulnerable and in danger of serious incomes drops. Do the smart thing and diversify. Think of it like stock investing. Advisors always tell you to diversify your portfolio to help you weather the ups and downs of the markets. You need to diversify your income portfolio as well.
Now let’s talk about the different sources of income, in no particular order.
This is the simplest way to earn money on your blog, and the one that most bloggers start with. This model of revenue is similar to what magazines and newspapers use, and is primarily based on the amount of traffic coming to your site.
Because you earn money based on your website’s traffic, it spares you from the hassle of trying to negotiate directly with advertisers. It also allows you to easily scale your income. The more traffic, the more revenue.
Most advertising networks, such as Google AdSense, are relatively simple to use. You sign up, add a little snippet of code to your site, and then sit back and bring traffic to your site. Every month you get a payout based on how many clicks or impressions the ads received.
Several downsides of this model are:
- Ads can give your site a cluttered feel, especially if you’re using multiple ads per page.
- You can’t always control exactly which advertisers show up on your site.
- Your revenue is strictly tied to your traffic, so if you have a dip in traffic, your revenue will dip. In this sense, it’s a bit of a double edged sword.
The big plus of using ad networks is that you don’t have to hunt down businesses who want to work with you. Rather, you tap into the massive network of businesses who have already agreed to pay for advertising. You may not get as much as you would if you were working directly with a brand, but you save a lot of time.
#2: Selling Ad Space
Selling ad space
This is one step up from using ad networks like Google, and involves you working directly with brands on your website. For example, if you run a fashion blog, you could partner with a fashion company and run banner ads for their products on your site.
The advantage to this method is that you get more money. Usually they pay you a set amount per month, and depending on your traffic, this can be pretty high. Also, you can control precisely which ads show up on your site, unlike ad networks.
The downsides to this method are:
- It takes more time because you are personally responsible for finding advertisers who want to work with you.
- You may not have consistent ads on your site depending on your ability to secure advertisers.
#3: Accepting Donations
PayPal’s donate button
Some bloggers actually make a surprising amount of money through donations. This can work especially well if you are blogging in a niche that typically isn’t money centered, such as faith or non-profit.
Today, there are tons of ways to accept donations, including PayPal for one-time donations and Patreon for recurring donations.
Accepting donations allows you to tap into the generosity of your readers and help them feel like they’re doing a valuable service. Typically, givers receive something in return for the donation, such as a book, card, or some type of swag, like a t-shirt.
The downsides of accepting donations are:
- During economically hard times, people often cut back on donations.
- You have to regularly ask people to give, which can make both you and them feel uncomfortable.
- People may hesitate to donate if you’re also running ads or selling products.
Accepting donations has worked for years for non-profits, and can certainly work on your new blog.
#4: Affiliate Income
Affiliate income works like this. Someone wants to sell a product and they want to reach as large an audience as possible. So they create an affiliate program, in which they pay out a commission for each sale or sign up.
When you sign up to be an affiliate, you get a specified link. If someone purchases through your link, you get a cut of that purchase.
Depending on the commission for each sale and the size of your audience, you can make a significant amount of income through affiliate marketing. And, if you’re willing to spend some advertising money to drive more traffic to your affiliate link, you can earn even more money.
The great thing about affiliate marketing is that you don’t need to create your own products. Rather, you can rely on the work someone else has done and then reap part of the profits. This allows you to start monetizing your blog WAY faster than if you tried to build products yourself.
There are some downsides to affiliate marketing:
- It can come across as dishonest or sleazy, especially if you don’t acknowledge that you’re getting a commission.
- You need to figure out a way to incorporate affiliate links into your blog. This can be challenging, especially if your blog isn’t related to the affiliate product.
- It’s hard to make much money if you’re linking to inexpensive items, such as Kindle books on Amazon.
Affiliate programs are a great way to get started on bringing money in. You just have to be strategic about how you do it. And, if you’re successful doing it, you can make TONS of money. People like Pat Flynn make over $100,000 per month with affiliate marketing.
#5: Generating Leads
This is like affiliate marketing, but with a slightly different twist. Rather than trying to get people to purchase a product, you’re simply trying to get leads for the company. You get paid per lead, not per purchase. This makes things significantly easier.
These leads can be everything from free samples of face cream to installs of an app to simply subscribing to an email list. All you need to do is convince someone to test drive something, which is much easier than selling.
Of course, the same challenges apply here as apply to affiliate marketing:
- It can come across as dishonest or sleazy, especially if you don’t acknowledge that you’re getting a commission.
- You need to figure out a way to incorporate lead links into your blog or email list. This can be challenging, especially if your blog isn’t related to the affiliate product.
You can get leads in a variety of ways on your blog, including ads, popups, and even using your email list.
If you have a committed audience, events can be a powerful way to make income. This works especially well if your blog has created a community of people who care about each other.
For example, if your blog is about helping people lose weight, you could host an event where people could hear from professionals in the industry. Or you could simply host a webinar or meetup for those who have been successful! This is a great way to rally your readers together and make a real, personal connection with them.
With events, you can make money from ticket sales, product sales, sponsors, and even membership sales. The potential for money is big here, and if you know what you’re doing, you can make a quick amount of cash in a short time.
Of course, there are significant challenges to running events, like:
- Significant administrative work involved, such as booking speakers, reserving hotel rooms, and finding a location that works.
- Events can require a significant amount of cash up front when paying for the location, the hotel rooms, and other resources.
If you have a committed community of readers, events can be an awesome way to meet people in person, expand your audience, and generate a significant amount of revenue. You can also repackage video versions of your events to repurpose them as webinars, DVDs and other valuable content.
#7: Recurring Revenue
Few things are better for bloggers than recurring income. Recurring revenue allows you to be sure a specific amount of cash is coming in each month and to avoid the ups and downs that come with traffic and affiliate programs.
Of course, that raises the question, how do you get recurring revenue?
There are some really simple ways to create streams of recurring income:
- Membership programs that provide access to a community.
- Premium content that is only available to members, such as videos, ebooks, or lengthy articles.
- Monthly coaching sessions with you.
- Specific tools you’ve created.
There are also some challenges with creating recurring revenue:
- You have to create truly high-value content that members will really value.
- You have to keep members engaged to keep them from dropping off.
- You have to create content consistently to keep people from using all your content and then stopping.
If you can create ongoing, consistent income, you position yourself for success as a blogger. If you have 100 members at $50/month, that’s $5,000 per month. Now imagine doubling or tripling that. Suddenly you’re up to $20,000 per month! Imagine what that could do for your life!
#8: Partnering with Businesses
If your blog is location-centric, meaning it has content geared toward particular locations, partnering with brick and mortar businesses to promote them can be a great way to generate revenue.
For example, let’s say that you run a travel blog, and that some of your content is geared toward the city of Austin. You could partner with businesses in Austin to drive foot traffic to their stores. Perhaps they want to offer a special discount to readers of your blog, or to let people know about a particular special they run. They pay you to run an ad on their behalf to your audience.
This can be a great way to serve your readers while working to monetize your blog.
Like every other method, there are some challenges here:
- You have to figure out ways to move people from the digital world to an actual location.
- You have to spend the time finding businesses to partner with.
Despite these challenges, partnering with local businesses can be a huge revenue generator.
Additionally, if you own a business you can use your own blog to do the same things as above.
#9: Sponsored Posts
As more and more people use ad blocking software, bloggers are turning to sponsored posts as a means of generating income. Sponsored posts are relatively simple: you post content on your site that is relevant to your readers that is sponsored by a company. At some point in the post, you acknowledge or talk about the sponsor in a way that highlights what they do.
This “native advertising” allows businesses to reach your audience in ways that don’t feel like traditional ads. It also allows them to create content that will actually be interesting to your readers.
Sponsored posts can be a powerful way to generate revenue, especially if you partner with companies who are willing to pay more money.
There are some challenges with sponsored posts:
- They take more time to create since you must tailor the content both to the sponsoring business and to your blog.
- It can take a significant amount of time to find sponsors who want to partner with you.
Despite these challenges, sponsored posts are a great way to connect your readers with awesome companies.
#10: Selling Your Services
Sell your services
“Content marketing” is the hottest thing right now. Basically, it works like this. You create high-quality, high-value content on your blog. This content draws in new readers, increases your website traffic and drives up your brand exposure. It also allows you to demonstrate expertise in a particular area.
Once you bring these readers in, you are able to expose them to the various services you offer, such as website design, copywriting, law consulting, or any other service. They trust you because you’ve shown that you’re an expert in this area through your blog.
The advantage to content marketing over advertising is that it doesn’t feel intrusive. Readers come to you, wanting you to speak. They aren’t trying to tune you out like they do with advertisements.
Content marketing also allows your content to spread virally. People want to share high-quality content. Nobody, on the other hand, wants to share advertisements. It’s a totally different feel.
There are some challenges with content marketing:
- It takes a significant time investment to create outstanding content.
- You have to fight to stand out. Thousands of businesses are trying to use content marketing these days.
Nevertheless, content marketing is hugely powerful and can be a valuable income strategy.
#11: Create Your Own Products
Create your own products
Creating and selling your own products is a powerful way to make income. These products can include digital products like:
- Training courses
- Audio products
They can also include physical products like:
- Physical books
Really, your options are endless. If you make it, you can sell it. If you sell it, you can make a LOT of money.
As ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse says:
“While I started out making money from my blogs through advertising and affiliate promotions, today my #1 source of income is through selling eBooks and courses on my blogs.”
Before you create a product, you should look at your affiliate sales to see what has done well on your site. What products have you made the most money from? What seems to resonate best with your audience. If you create this kind of product, you can generate far more revenue than by simply shooting in the dark.
You may think it’s too complicated to do any of these things, but there are now tons of platforms that make it really simple to create your own products. For example, if you want to create courses you can use Udemy, Teachable, or Thinkific.
If you want to sell homemade products or prints, you could do it on Etsy. Dozens of options are available for every type of product.
If you want to make it, you can.
#12: Sell Your Website
Sell your website
Depending on the type of site you’ve created, you may be able to sell if for lots of money. This can be especially appealing if you want to build a new site without maintaining your current site or want to get out of the blogging game altogether.
Some people even treat this like the house flipping industry. They create a website, get a lot of traffic coming to it, and then sell it for a significant profit. If you have a website that is generating $500/month in revenue, it’s possible to sell for 12x-22x that amount, netting you somewhere between $6,000-$12,000!
The downsides to selling your website are:
- You may not get what you think the site is worth.
- You have to give up the site you’ve worked hard to build.
- Your sale price will be highly dependent on your traffic and ad possibilities.
Selling your website probably will be last on your money-making list, but it’s definitely a lucrative option, especially if you are already getting large amounts of traffic.
Many people try to get started in monetizing their blog, only to get frustrated and give up shortly after. Usually that’s because they’re making at least one of these common mistakes.
You’re only focused on making money.
If you only focus on making money, you’ll create lousy content, which will turn people away, which will drive your money down. People aren’t coming to your site to buy things or click on ads. They’re coming because you offer outstanding stuff.
If you focus so much on making money to the point that you’re not producing good content, everybody suffers and you won’t make any money. Focus on making great things.
You’re not putting in the work.
There’s no way around it: making money from a blog is HARD work. You have to consistently put out good material. You have to work to build an audience. You have to find the right advertisers and maintain a steady level of traffic. If you’re selling products, you have to spend time making something awesome.
There’s no way to make money on a blog without working hard. There is no shortcut or easy way out. You either do the work or you don’t make any money. Simple as that.
You’re trying to get rich overnight.
Making money from a blog isn’t a get rich quick scheme. You have to put in lots of hours over years to build an audience. You have to tweak and change things. You have to figure out what your audience actually wants.
Those people who are making money have been working at it for a long time. They’ve refined their techniques and are finally reaping the rewards.
Making money as a blogger takes discipline. You have to consistently create great content. You have to work with advertisers on a regular basis. You have to keep your pages optimized for SEO. You have to communicate with people who want sponsored posts and you have to optimize ads for maximum revenue.
Only those who are disciplined can get traction with monetizing their blog. It’s that simple.
You’re spending your money on the wrong things.
You need to spend your money according to your goals. If you’re trying to get more traffic to your site, you should invest some money in advertising. If you’re selling affiliate products, it makes sense to build your email list. If you’re selling memberships, you’ll need to invest in a forum software and course builder.
Don’t invest in something you don’t need. If your primary goal is maximum traffic, your best bet is probably to focus on SEO and advertising. Email lists are awesome, but they aren’t going to get you as much direct traffic as Facebook or Google.
It’s Worth It
I’m not going to lie: it’s not easy to make money blogging. But here’s the good news: ANYONE can do it. Really. It doesn’t require special skills or some sort of luck. All it requires is persistence.
The big question in this whole process is, “Are you willing to work at it?”
If you’re answer is yes, you can definitely start making money from your blog.
So what are you waiting for? Get started!