As I’m sure you know, there’s a LOT written out there about how to make money blogging—so take everything with a grain of salt. Before you listen to any of my advice, let me tell you some facts about me:
- I’ve been blogging since 2009.
- I grew one blog to 100,000 pageviews/month and then sold it.
- That blog made up to $5,000+/month from advertising and affiliate income.
So I hope that gives me some blogging street cred. 🙂 If the above sounds like something you’d like to achieve, then read on! In this guide, I’m sharing how to make money with a blog for beginners.
BIGGEST Myths About Making Money Blogging
First of all, no one’s gonna pay you to blog.
Okay, so when people say they “want to make money blogging,” I always want to ask them, “What do you mean by that?” Because that phrase conjures up different images for different people.
Yes, you can be a freelance blog writer—meaning clients pay you to write blog posts for them. You could “make money blogging” that way.
But I think most people mean that they want to start a blog that earns them money. And by that, they mean that they want to put ads on the blog, or affiliate links, or get sponsorships (we’ll go over all the potential blogging income sources below).
But I want you to shift your perspective: No one’s paying you to blog. Your blog is a BUSINESS. And businesses make money by providing value to their customers.
So the real question is NOT, “How can I make money blogging?”
It’s “how can I provide help to people online in a way that’s so valuable, they’re willing to pay for something?”
Before You Begin, Know Where You Want to End Up
As with any business, you need a plan. Now, I’m not proposing that you write up a 10-page formal business plan (though you certainly could!). But, in the least, you need to know what your end goal is.
How much profit do you want to make from your blog? Is it $4,000 a month? $100,000 a year? Or do you simply want to be able to get enough sponsored trips as possible so you can travel for cheap? Be as specific as possible because this will help you measure your progress and plan your steps.
The only way you can know if you’re getting closer to your goal is to track everything.
I use Toggl to track my time, and I use Google Spreadsheets to track my blog traffic and income.
Go Pro or Go Home
A lot of beginner bloggers don’t want to invest anything in their blog. They get a free Weebly or WordPress.com site and think that’s “good enough.” They don’t want to put money into something that may not pan out.
But let’s go back to what I said above: Your blog is a business. Every business owner must invest capital into their business to get it off the ground. If you can’t do that, then you’re not ready to start a business.
Read more about the best blogging platforms here (and why it’s worth paying a little upfront for a professional blog instead of a free one).
How to Make Money Blogging: The Potential Income Sources
When bloggers talk about advertising, they mean one of two things:
These are companies like Google AdSense, Mediavine, AdThrive, etc., who have a pool of advertisers from which they pull ads to serve automatically on your site. You don’t have to lift a finger. These banner ads show up in columns and sprinkled through posts.
Private or direct advertising removes the middleman. Instead of having, for example, Google AdSense serve ads for you, you would contact a company and offer ad placement on your site. And you’d charge them a monthly fee to have their ad on your site. This takes more time, but you can be more selective and possibly make more money since no one else is taking a cut.
#2 Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is when you recommend a product to your audience and get paid a commission each time someone “converts” or buys the product you recommended.
If you choose to make money through affiliate marketing on your blog, you would join an affiliate program, get a special affiliate link with a tracking code, and insert it in your blog posts.
From there, every time a reader clicks your special affiliate link, a cookie tracks their purchase. If they make a purchase, the commission is credited to you.
Some examples of affiliate programs include:
- Amazon Associates
- Skimlinks – I recommend starting with them! They’re actually an aggregator of tons of different affiliate programs. You just insert their code on your site, and they’ll convert your links to affiliate links, if applicable.
- Grammarly affiliate program
- BigScoots affiliate program
#3 Sponsorships/Brand Partnerships
A sponsored post is one written by a blogger on behalf of a company. So, if you’re a travel blogger, a hotel might pay you or give you a free stay with the expectation that you’ll write about their hotel and promote them.
Sponsored (Comped) Trips
When a blogger goes on a sponsored trip, that means a company is paying them (or compensating them in non-monetary ways) to blog about the trip and maybe even post on social media.
Some travel bloggers use this to make money, though of course, it’s not actual cash. Even so, the value of these trips must be reported as income to the IRS.
Brands sometimes send bloggers free products in exchange for a blog post or social post promoting their brand. As with sponsored posts above, these “free” products still need to be reported as income.
The term “brand ambassadorship” is used pretty loosely and can mean many things. Sometimes, a brand will hire a blogger to be their ambassador and they’ll pay them for it. Other times, brands will compensate bloggers with free product or services.
A blogger who is a brand ambassador must promote the brand to their blog audience.
You can also make money with a blog by selling services. This can be frustrating because it’s not “passive,” but is by far the fastest way to make money blogging. Instead of waiting for traffic to your blog post to pick up so that you can make 20 cents off of one conversion of an affiliate link…you could sell consultations for $60/hour, for example.
Freelance writing is a great way for beginner bloggers to start making money! Instead of relying entirely on the blog to make money, you can use your blog to draw in an interested audience and then sell your writing services.
Some travel bloggers choose to monetize their blog by offering travel planning services.
If you don’t write about travel, think of a service you could sell that’s related to your blog niche. For a bit, because I was blogging about blog monetization, I offered blog audits and got quite a few bookings.
#5 Digital Products
As a blogger, you become an authority on your chosen subject. Why not compile your best knowledge into an ebook that you sell on your site or through Amazon?
Online courses are on the rise right now. That’s because they can sell for a much higher price than an ebook (think $90 or above!). Also, they can provide better instruction because they have video and multimedia; many courses also offer Facebook groups for their students.
You could start with an ebook and slowly build it out into an online course, complete with videos.
A simpler product that might be better to start with is some sort of PDF product. Sarah Titus sells printables and made $226,309 from that in August 2018!
#6 Physical Products
You could sell physical products that complement your blog niche. For example, Travel Fashion Girl built up such a loyal following with her travel blog that she started her own product line, Compass Rose.
Branded merchandise and books are also options.
How Much Money Do Bloggers Actually Make?
Blog Income Reports
My old blog income reports:
- January 2017 Income Report: $308.44
- February 2017 Income Report: $363.77
- March 2017 Income Report: $653.82
I didn’t write income reports after that, but I did reach more than $5,000/month. (My goal had been $4,000!)
Other blog income reports:
- Butternut Bakery (food): $4,554.30 in May 2019
- Two Wandering Soles (travel): $14,179.97 in March 2019
- Believe in a Budget’s FIRST income report was for $61.83 (she has since made up to SIX FIGURES in one month!)
- Making Sense of Cents (personal finance): $159,592.42 in November 2018
How to Pick a Profitable Niche
“Niching down” and “picking a profitable niche” are hot topics in the blogging world. With my travel blog, I kept things pretty generic. Everyone told me to niche down. Everyone told me travel was too competitive an industry. I didn’t listen, and I was able to make a full-time income from that blog and even sell it.
I will say that, in general, any blog about how to make money will be easier to make money from. That’s because people love to learn how to earn more income. Personal finance blogs start making relatively quickly, as do blog monetization blogs.
If you want to get more scientific about it, learn more about keyword research and how to use it to inform your decisions.
How Long Will It Take to Start Making Money From My Blog?
Longer than you want. I’m not trying to put you down—I’m trying to be real with you. Blogging for money requires patience—and that’s what most people lack and why most people never even try.
You have to wait it out. If this is your first time trying to make money blogging, I urge you, urge you, to give it your best for one full year before you decide if you should quit. It takes that long to see steady income. There’s a huge learning curve, and with SEO, it takes months to start ranking in the top spots sometimes.
If you prefer some cold, hard data, I highly recommend reading professional blogger Ruth Soukup’s book, How to Blog for Profit: Without Selling Your Soul.
In the book, Soukup writes, “If your goal is to earn a full-time income of $50,000 per year, it would appear that the tipping point for focusing on monetization strategies versus traffic growth is 300,000 page views.”
Now, I can say that I reached the $5,000/month point in my blog at only one-third of those pageviews—I was at 100,000 pageviews/month. So again, take this with a grain of salt. I think it’s a good guide, but don’t let it discourage you.
Beginners, Don’t Give Up Before You’ve Even Started!
Because you’re a beginner blogger, I want to offer you some advice: Everyone is going to try to discourage you. They’re going to say that whatever niche you choose is “too competitive,” and that the market is “too saturated.” Don’t listen! Everyone told me the same about travel blogging.
The truth is, you do have something unique to offer that no one else can. You never know what you can achieve if you never pursue it. So I say, go for it! Prove the naysayers wrong.
I hope this blog post helped!