Updated: December 5, 2018
I remember when I told my friends and family that I wanted to make money blogging.
They almost laughed me out of the room.
Blogging has a pretty bad reputation amongst people that don't blog simply because they see it as a nice hobby. They aren't wrong because some blogs are nothing more than hobbies but some blogs are serious businesses.
Blogs have helped me turn ideas into businesses that earn over $10,000 a month.
This guide is about people that want to start a serious business by blogging.
I've been making money with blogs for the past decade and it's amazing how things have changed over time. If you want to start a blog today with the intention of turning it into a business you need to walk into the room with a plan.
It goes way beyond buying a domain, installing WordPress and writing some posts.
It's very easy to get overwhelmed by how many different ways there are to make money blogging. You might have come across a pro blogger that makes money with affiliate marketing and thought that was the way to go. Then the next day you come across a blogger that is making a killing by selling courses and you figure that is the way to go. The day after that you see a blogger doing pretty well with ads and you conclude that must be the way to go.
In truth, there is no wrong way to make money blogging and that's the beauty of blogging. You have multiple options with how you make money and you don't have to just settle on one.
On my blog, Obstacle.co, I use affiliate marketing, I sell courses, I sell books, and I sell services.
That's four different revenue streams for one site.
This is helpful because if one revenue stream suddenly disappears I still have 3 others to help keep a roof over my head.
The Myths About Making Money From a Blog
There are people out there that will tell you that making money online is too good to be true and they are partly right. It is too good, but it's also definitely true.
Many people avoid trying to make money online because they have a false belief about making money with a blog that holds them back.
Let's dispel some of these myths.
Myth 1: You Need a Ton of Traffic
I had my first 5-figure month of blogging with less than 10,000 pageviews.
For those that don't know about web traffic, 10,000 pageviews is not a lot when you're a pro blogger. If you're just starting off then getting 100 pageviews can be a big deal but once you get into the groove of things you'll be aiming for 100,000+ pageviews every month.
Depending on the type of audience you have, your niche, and how you are trying to make money, you might not need as much traffic as you think. The more targeted traffic you can get the better but don't fall under the belief that a low amount of traffic always has to equal a low amount of income.
There are affiliate sites that don't get much traffic, but because their audience is so targeted they make 4-5 figures a month.
Myth 2: You Need to Be an Expert to Make Money Selling Products
I can't tell you how many people tell me that they don't know enough to make and sell their own product yet. The fact of the matter is you know more about something than someone else does and therefore you have knowledge that people are willing to pay to attain.
Sure you might not start off writing New York Times bestsellers, but you don't need to.
You could very easily start off by selling worksheets and mini-ebooks like Regina who makes a healthy living being an infopreneur.
Myth 3: You Only Make Money by Teaching Others How to Make Money
It's kind of silly for me tell you that this is a myth when you are reading about it on a site teaching you how to make money but you don't need to create a site like this to make money.
The reason why many people do is because there is always going to be an audience for people that want to learn how to make money. It seems like these are the only sites that make money because these are the only sites that talk about making money.
There are plenty of other niche blogs that make money selling products and services that pertain to their niche. There are even more affiliate blogs that make money selling products and services from other companies.
And just to prove that I am not blowing smoke up your butt I make money through the following blogs:
- Obstacle.co (how to make money blogging)
- Thrive/Strive (general health and wellness)
- Bitch A Fit (weight loss for women)
- SproutKit (social media marketing)
- Struggle.co (personal finance and frugal living)
I'll continue to add to this list as I add more sites to my network. The point is if you want to make money blogging you just need to find a niche that has an audience with a problem that they want help solving.
This could be quilting (selling patterns) or Chinchilla care (selling ebooks).
Myth 4: Only Big Blogs Make Money
This myth was kind of debunked with the traffic one but some people tend to believe that because a big blog already exists in a niche that there is no point in starting another one.
There is always a point! If it's something you want to do then go for it. There is always room in the blog pie for you if you want to make it happen.
You bring your unique perspective to the mix and that's what matters. This isn't the first blog to talk about making money online and it won't be the last but I started it because I think I have a different take on things.
Every penny that I earn starts with my blogs. I've put together a free 12-day blogging bootcamp for you that goes through every step that I take to build a successful blog.
How to Start a Blog and Make Money
With the myths out of the way, we can focus on what you will need to have so you can start to make money with your blog.
1. A Blog
I'm not trying to be a smart ass or captain obvious here but you can't make money with a blog if you don't have a blog.
While this guide doesn't go into the details of starting a blog I do have the most detailed guide to starting a blog you can find anywhere so that will help you get started.
2. Ridiculously Awesome Content
Getting a blog set up is pretty easy. Knocking out content that the world absolutely love is not so easy.
While writing might be easy for some people you need to do more than just write posts. You need to create value for your audience.
Too many bloggers get caught up in the idea of writing X posts per week without taking into consideration if the posts are any good or not.
A lot of work goes into writing a powerful post but the time invested is well worth it. If you want to know everything that I do for each blog post I write then check out 19 things you should do to every blog post before, during, and after you hit publish.
3. Blog Buddies
One of the beauties of running a blog business is that you can do it all on your own. Being an independent person I love this fact and sometimes I think that I don't need anybody else's help in building up my blogs.
This is true but there are much faster ways to grow a blog and one of them is by building relationships with other bloggers so that you can grow your blog quickly.
The blog community is filled with awesome people that are always on the lookout for new content to share with their audience. If you can find a way to provide value to a blogger then you have a good shot of being put in front of their audience.
This is like Elton John bringing you up on stage to sing.
You can build an audience all on your own but why would you not try to piggyback on someone else's audience when you have the chance?
4. Authority Status
Authority is a word that makes people hesitate because it can be hard to imagine yourself as an authority on a niche. You might not be the world's greatest expert on a topic but you do know about the topic.
The goal is to present yourself as an authority to your audience so they trust you.
There are a number of ways to present yourself as an authority:
- Great content that helps people
- Professional blog design
- Case studies showing your results
Hopefully, by reading this guide you are starting to view me as an authority on making money with your blog. By including examples and actionable tips I can only hope that it reinforces this viewpoint.
Being viewed as an authority can be the difference between buying a Playstation from some dude on Craigslist behind the store and buying one from Amazon.
Sure some people have no problem with the Craigslist guy but you'd rather be viewed as Amazon.
5. An Audience
I like to call this your Tribe. Without one, you have no way of making money.
Selling stuff to nobody is going to net you zero dollars so it's imperative that you always focus on building up your audience.
This goes beyond getting traffic to your site. It includes building up your mailing list so that you have a direct connection with your audience.
Building a mailing list might be the most important task that you will have for your blog. A strong mailing list makes it easier to make the type of income that you dream about at your boring desk job.
How to Make Money Blogging
Without further ado, it's time to look at the many different ways that you can make money from blogging.
Please remember that because you choose to go with one method that doesn't mean you can't do others. It's a wise move to pick multiple revenue streams for your business so you aren't left standing at the alter when one falters.
Let's talk about advertising first, not because it is the most lucrative, but because it is the revenue model that most beginning bloggers look to.
I hate using advertising as a revenue stream.
I don't want that to deter you because I'll explain why but I thought it was important to get that out there.
Here are some reasons why I don't like to use advertising on my blogs:
- People ignore ads. I can't tell you the last time I saw an add on a website. I use an adblocker so ads don't even appear and if they did appear I would just ignore them. I am there for the content, not the ads. If more and more people are ignoring ads that means advertisers are getting less value for their dollar which in turn means they will pay less.
- It's 100% dependent on traffic. Remember when I mentioned that you don't need a ton of traffic to make money with your blog? Well, if you go the advertising route then you need a ton of money. Check out this income report over at Making Sense of Cents. Michelle does an awesome job of monetizing her blog in different ways, one of them is display advertising. She does over 400,000 pageviews a month and only gets $1,862.00 from display advertising. Sure there are ways she can boost that up a bit but unless she starts getting into the millions of pageviews a month she isn't going to see that big of a jump.
- You don't control the experience. I'm a stickler for a great user experience. The problem with ads is you can't control what ads are being shown or the type of experience someone gets when they click on an ad. That drives me crazy.
- You must constantly search for new advertisers. This only holds true if you don't join an ad network but joining an ad network means they get a piece of the pie. Sometimes as much as 50%!
- Your earning potential has a very low ceiling. With advertising, you can't really raise your rates. You have to accept the standard that is set by your niche so if you are making $10 CPM ($10 for every 1,000 pageviews), you can't suddenly change that to $20 CPM and expect advertisers to still pay. That means you need to double your traffic to double your money which isn't easy at all. Advertising doesn't scale as quickly as other forms of revenue generation.
- Poor return on investment. If you spend months trying to get up to 100,000 pageviews for a blog only to end up making $500 from advertising then you are better off spending that time building up your mailing list and creating a product to sell.
- Makes your audience leave your site. If the goal is to keep your audience engaged then ads do the complete opposite. Would you rather have a person stick around your site and sign up for your mailing list or click an ad where you get $0.10 and you never see them again?
Ads are definitely one of the easiest ways to monetize your site because all you need to do is slap some code in your theme and you are good to go. However, it's a lot of trouble to make a little bit of money so I always advise bloggers to look into other forms of advertising.
Going back to Michelle's Income Report you might notice that she does pretty well with sponsorships and advertising.
Sponsored posts are another form of advertising but they are referred to as native advertising because they blend in with their surroundings.
If you decide to give sponsored posts a shot it is important that you disclose to your readers that it is a sponsored post because you don't want them to think all of your other helpful content is being paid by a company as well. Keep sponsored posts down to a minimum because you have to keep in mind that people come to your site for the value that you bring, not the value that another company is offering.
Newsletter and Podcast Sponsorships
These type of ads don't go on your blog but they follow the exact same principles. Most podcasts monetize through sponsorships. These ads are usually heard at the beginning of the podcast. Newsletter sponsorships you don't see as often because when you have a nice sized newsletter you are better off monetizing itself instead of pushing people to other products.
Affiliate marketing is sometimes mistaken for advertising due to some bloggers just putting links to random products up on their site.
However, affiliate marketing is one of the most profitable ways for bloggers to make money due to the fact that you don't have to worry about much. You simply put an affiliate link up on your site and you let the merchant do the rest.
How does this differ from advertising when you are pushing people away from your site? If done properly, affiliate links provide added value to your content which your audience will remember.
Sites like The Wirecutter make a lot of money doing in-depth reviews of products. Just because they are pushing people away to Amazon that doesn't mean people aren't returning.
Due to the huge amount of value that they provide The Wirecutter will always do well with traffic. In fact, I always recommend it to my friends when they are shopping for new technology.
If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing then check out HiLoSolo's Beginnger's Guide to Affiliate Marketing.
In my opinion, this is hands down the best and most lucrative way to make money with a blog.
Because you get to control the whole experience you'll find that you can make money on your terms in a way that keeps you happy.
What kind of digital products can you make?
1. Online Courses
This seems to be the holy grail of making money with a blog. You can find almost all of the major independent pro bloggers making money with online courses.
Many new bloggers hesitate to go the course route because they believe that they don't have the knowledge to create a course or that all the good courses are already created.
Both of these are nonsense. If you don't have the knowledge now, spend a couple of months attaining that knowledge and with 7 billion people on this planet, your audience might not be aware of the alternatives out there.
If you believe the only way for you to make money by blogging is through doing something truly unique you are in for a rude awakening.
This is the first type of digital product I'd recommend to anybody because everyone can create an ebook. You just need a word processor that can export documents as PDFs and you are good to go.
If you are good you can knock out books in a weekend but it's more reasonable to aim for 1-3 months of writing. Still, this is the easiest digital product that you can create in my opinion.
As a point of reference I finished The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Bloggers in about 5 days.
One method of speeding the process is up is recycling some of your better blog posts. Take the good ones and make them better and publish them in a book.
Webinars are a great way to interact with your audience. Think of them as a live classroom where you provide some type of awesome value.
While most of the time webinars are free, some bloggers keep the recordings of their webinars and sell them as a digital library for those that missed.
If you're interested in giving webinars a shot then I recommend you try Crowdcast because it's what I use. I love the design, features, and ease of use. If you want to try a free option that is a bit clunkier then you should go with Google Hangouts.
4. Membership Sites
This is a digital product that you can just do right off the bat because it requires that you have an established audience that trusts you.
The great thing about memberships sites is that they give you the opportunity to make recurring revenue.
Recurring revenue is money that consistently comes in at a specific interval. Netflix makes recurring revenue from its subscribers. Recurring revenue is definitely one of the holy grails for businesses because it ensures you have a constant revenue stream coming in every single month.
This makes it seem a lot more exclusive.
This is how I made a healthy chunk of revenue with Obstacle.co at the beginning. This revenue stream is often recommended if you are just getting started because there is no setup required. The day you launch you can tell your audience about the services that you offer.
The one issue that I have with services is that they don't scale. To make more money you have two options:
- Get more clients
- Charge more
The smart thing to do is to charge more because adding more clients means you need to find more time for them. Charing more has a limit as well because people will only pay so much.
Don't let these two things deter you from pursuing services. Plenty of bloggers have service offerings as side revenue or full-time revenue so it is definitely worth pursuing if you are in a niche where it makes sense.
Here are some services that bloggers offer. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, just some examples to give you ideas.
- Virtual Assistant
- Web Designer/Developer
- Social Media Manager
- Freelance Writer
- Project Manager
- Community Manager
How to Make Money From Blogging: Build an Audience
Although this guide has shown you the many different ways you can make money with a blog none of them will work if you can't build yourself an audience.