While there are a lot of different ways to make money, making money from a blog would be a dream come true for many people.
Although there are plenty of bloggers out there who have been able to get paid to do something they enjoy, most people simply have no idea where to start.
If you’ve ever thought that it would be awesome to make money as a blogger but you didn’t think it was possible, or you just didn’t know what to do first, this article will serve as a guide.
I started blogging in 2007 as a side hustle and quickly got hooked by the possibilities and potential that I saw. It took me a few months, but I was able to start making some extra money outside of my full-time job, thanks to my blog. And with some consistent effort and sacrifice, blogging became my full-time income in 2008. In the past 10+ years I’ve had many people ask me about how to make money with a blog, and this article will sum up the process for you.
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The Truth About Blogging to Make Money
Although you may read stories about people who are making money with a blog and living their dream life, there are some aspects of blogging that don’t get as much attention. I think it’s important to have an accurate understanding of the situation before you start a blog, so that you can have realistic expectations.
- It Takes Time to Make Money. Most bloggers make very little, if anything for the first 6-12 months. As a new blogger, you’ll have to work to get exposure for your blog, and it requires some patience. You’ll need to be willing to put in many hours of work before you start to see the results or the payoff.
- Most People Never Have Success. Only a small percentage of bloggers who attempt to start a money-making blog will actually have success. Most will get frustrated by the fact that results aren’t evident soon enough, and they’ll give up.
- It Requires a Focused Approach. Blogging for money can be a lot different than running a personal blog. If you hope to make money from your blog, you shouldn’t blog about a huge variety of different topics, based upon whatever is on your mind at the moment. You’ll need to take a focused approach and write content around one, or a few, main topics or categories.
I don’t write these things to discourage you from starting a blog. In fact, I encourage you to do it if it seems like a side hustle that would be a good fit for you. But if you get started with unrealistic expectations and you think it will be easy to produce money quickly, you’ll be disappointed. Going in with realistic expectations will give you a much better chance to have the patience needed to reach success.
Why Blogging Can Be a Great Side Hustle
Despite the downsides, there are many reasons why blogging can be a great side hustle. Here are a few of the most significant:
1. Flexible Schedule
Regardless of what schedule you have with your full-time job, you can find time to run your blog. You can work on it in the mornings, evenings, on the weekends, or whenever it fits into your schedule.
Not only is the schedule flexible, but you can work from anywhere. Blogging can be a great way to make money if you travel a lot.
2. You Can Blog on Topics That You Enjoy
There are blogs on just about any topic that you can imagine. You can start a blog on something that you enjoy and your work as a blogger will be a lot more fun, and it will feel less like work. You can also choose to start a blog on a topic that you want to learn more about. As you research and write articles, you’ll immerse yourself in the topic and you’ll find that you learn very quickly.
This is easily one of my favorite benefits of blogging, and it’s had a big impact on my career. Photography has been a hobby of mine, and I started a photography blog, partly because I wanted to be able to spend more time on photography and improve my skills. I was able to make money from my photography hobby and enjoy my work, thanks to blogging.
Although it’s true that you can start a blog on any topic of your choice, keep in mind that the income potential will not be the same for all niches. If you choose to start a blog on a very obscure topic, your income potential might be limited. Popular topics like health, family, travel, and finance tend to offer excellent income potential.
3. Unlimited Income Potential
There really is no limit to the amount of money that you can make as a blogger. Some bloggers are earning over a million dollars per year. Of course, those bloggers are the exception, but it is possible.
4. Potential to Go Full-Time
Blogging can be a great side hustle to make extra money, but it can also turn into a full-time income. If you have an interest in replacing your full-time job, you should choose a side hustle that gives you the potential to reach that level of income.
While there are plenty of great side hustles, some of them will offer limited income potential that will never be able to replace your full-time job. Blogging, however, could certainly produce a full-time income if you have the patience to stick with it. I worked on my blog for about 30 hours per week (on top of a full-time job) for about 1.5 years until it produced a full-time income. I could have worked fewer hours on the blog, but it probably would have taken me longer to reach the point of making a full-time income.
5. Can Lead to Other Opportunities
One of the intriguing things about blogging is that you never know what opportunities may arise. Many bloggers have been offered book deals as the result of a successful blog. Your blog could also lead to job offers, new business opportunities, or all kinds other things that you might not expect.
Requirements to Make Money with a Blog
If you want to make money with your blog, here are the basic requirements:
As I mentioned earlier, building a money-making blog takes time, and you’ll need the patience to be able to stick with it. Most bloggers feel like they are not making progress during the first few months, even though they usually are making progress. It takes patience to keep putting in the work and trusting that the rewards will come later.
Most successful bloggers have achieved that success because their content is highly-focused and exactly what their readers are looking for. If you want to make money with a blog, you’ll need to have a plan to provide your audience with content that they love.
In order to make money with your blog, you’ll need traffic. There is not a specific amount of traffic that you need, and it can vary depending on your approach to making money. But regardless of how you go about making money with your blog, you will need visitors to be coming to your blog.
There are several different ways to make money with a blog (we’ll look at the best options later). You’ll need to decide which monetization method is the best fit for your blog and your audience.
How to Make Money with a Blogging Side Hustle
Now that we’ve covered some of the background, let’s look at the details related to how you can make money blogging.
Step 1: Set Realistic Expectations
First, you need to set realistic expectations so that you can put yourself in a position to reach success. If you expect to launch a blog and start making money right away, you’ll be disappointed when reality sets in, and you’ll probably give up.
If you want to be able to make money from a blog, you should be willing to invest at least 5-10 hours per week for at least 6 months, with no expectation of making money during that time. I know that’s a lot of time with no payoff, but you have to look at the bigger picture.
The process of building a blog is heavily weighted with the hardest work at the front end. Once your blog has some established traffic and you don’t have to work so hard for each visitor, you may be able to increase your income while also decreasing your hours.
Step 2: Know What Makes You Unique
This is especially important if you’re starting a blog in a very popular niche where there are hundreds or thousands of other blogs that are covering the same topics. In order for your blog to stand out and be memorable, you’ll need to focus on what it is that makes you and your blog unique.
There are a few different approaches you could take here. If you’ve got credentials or expertise that make you more qualified than most other bloggers, of course you’ll want to emphasize your credentials or expertise so readers know why they should care. A great example is Michael at Financially Alert. While there are a lot of blogs focused on financial independence, Michael has already achieved it. He retired at 36 years old and has a net worth of more than $2 million, so he certainly has some expertise.
But if you don’t have impressive credentials or experience, don’t worry. There are other ways to stand out.
Personal stories and journeys can also be a great option. Readers can relate to bloggers who are facing (or have overcome) similar challenges as themselves. In some ways, this blogger-reader connection is a more powerful way of standing out than having expertise. Deanna from Ms. Fiology is another financial independence blogger, but her blog is unique because she talks about her experience overcoming addiction, and she uses her blog to chronicle her journey to financial independence.
Another option for standing out is to specialize. Bible Money Matters is a great example of this. While there are thousands of personal finance blogs, Peter has built Bible Money Matters from a Christian perspective, which makes it unique.
There are a lot of different ways to stand out, and that really only covers 3 options (expertise, personal story, specialized), but hopefully it helps to give you some ideas that you can use with your own blog.
Step 3: Schedule Your Time
If you want to make money with your blog, you need to treat it like a business. Don’t treat it like a hobby and only work on the blog whenever it happens to be convenient. To reach success with your blog, you’ll need to invest time and effort consistently.
I suggest that you look at your schedule and find some hours that you can block off each week to work on your blog. It may mean getting up early a few days per week to work on the blog before going to your job. Or, you could set aside a few evenings each week. If you’re a parent, you may need to work when kids are napping, at school, or after they’re in bed.
Whatever your situation is, find some time that you can set aside each week. Treat it like a job that you need to do and make it a priority. At least 5-10 hours per week is ideal, and if you’re able to invest more time, that would be great.
Step 4: Plan Your Content
One mistake that a lot of new bloggers make is that they just write about whatever comes to mind whenever they need a new post. In order to have success, you’ll need a more structured approach to your content. Without a specific plan, your content will be scattered, it won’t give you the best chance to attract visitors, and the content won’t convert into income.
Here are some things that should be a part of your content planning process.
Define the main categories that you will cover with your blog. Keep them as closely related as possible so that readers who come across one post are likely to be interested in a high percentage of the other content on your blog. Although some blogs successfully cover a wide range of topics, it’s easier to stand out and build and audience if you narrow your focus.
Create a list of the main categories and sub-categories that you will cover with your blog.
Once you have your categories defined, you can brainstorm article ideas for each category. Here are a few ways that you can come up with topics to cover:
- Keyword Research – Use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush to find keywords that you can target with your blog posts. If you want to attract search engine traffic (and you should), the best approach is to target specific words and phrases that people are actually searching for. Keyword tools can be incredibly helpful for checking search volume, finding related keywords, and even checking to see what keywords are sending traffic to your competitors.
- Pillar Posts – Pillar posts (sometimes referred to as “cornerstone content”) will be the most important articles on your blog that will appeal to a high percentage of your visitors, and will serve as content that you can continually direct visitors towards. These are often longer, detailed articles. For example, Peter’s article 50 Ways to Save Money Every Month is a pillar post. Although your pillar posts may target specific keywords, they are important to your site regardless of whether they rank for the keywords or not. You may choose to write and publish a pillar post because the topic is essential to your blog and your readers. Think about the main categories of your content and what types of articles would be timeless and extremely helpful to readers.
- Monetized Posts – Some posts may be written specifically for the goal of making money. Many bloggers use affiliate programs as a way to make money, and if you want to effectively promote products as an affiliate, you’ll need to consider it when you are planning your content. This could include review posts, posts that include stories about your personal experience with a product, and list posts. As an example, I wrote 15 Money Making Apps to Make Cash Fast, and most of the apps mentioned in that post have affiliate programs. That topic was chosen because most of the popular apps have affiliate programs, so it’s a natural way to make some money from blog content that is helpful to readers. Think about the products that you want to promote as an affiliate, and brainstorm post ideas that will allow you to mention or feature those products.
Step 5: Gain Exposure
It doesn’t matter how great your content is… if no one sees it, you won’t make any money.
Getting traffic and exposure is probably the hardest part for new bloggers. I think every blogger has felt like no one is paying any attention to what they’re writing.
But how can you change that?
Here are a few things you can do to increase exposure and to get some traffic flowing to your blog.
Create Roundup Posts
I’m sure you’ve seen roundup or lists posts before. They come in a few different varieties, and this can be a great way to start to get some exposure for your blog.
One option is to create an expert roundup by reaching out and asking people to contribute to your post. Ask the same question to several different people and then create a post that includes all of the responses (an example is Money Goals – 30+ Experts Share Their 2019 Resolutions). If you reach out to other bloggers, you’ll probably get a lot of responses because other bloggers are usually very interested in any links they can get to their blog.
To do this, you could find other blogs in your niche and reach out through a contact form or email address listed on their site. Another option is to find a Facebook group for bloggers in your niche. You can post in the group about the roundup that you’re creating and ask people to reply with their answer, or create a Google Form that allows people to enter their response.
Once your post is published, email everyone who contributed and give them the link to the post. You can ask them to share it through their social profiles, and you can even provide them with grapics to use for sites like Pinterest and Facebook. If your post is being shared by 10-20 other bloggers, it’s a great way to quickly gain some exposure for your new blog.
Another option is to create a list of bloggers in your niche. After I created a list of top personal finance blogs, I emailed everyone on the list to let them know that they were featured. Many of those bloggers shared the link through their social profiles, and it was also an easy way to start to build a connection to other bloggers.
Regardless of which approach you take, roundup posts can be great for getting your content shared on social media. You shouldn’t expect thousands of visitors from this approach, but at the very beginning you will need to work for every visitor that you get. The roundup post can help you to pick up some social media followers and it will get your blog in front of some targeted visitors.
Get Others to Share Your Posts
At the start of your blog, you’ll have no existing audience and no social media following. But you may be able to get others to share the links to your posts with their own followers.
In the previous point, we looked at roundup posts and why they are great for getting some shares to your new blog. But you can actually use a similar approach, on a smaller scale, with each article that you publish.
Whenever you are writing a new article, make an effort to link to a few other bloggers within the content of your article. This is usually pretty easy, because you can simply find posts from other bloggers that build on the points of your article or offer something of value that will be interesting to people who are reading your article. There is no exact number, but if you can aim to link to 3-5 other bloggers from each post, that’s a great start.
After you publish each post, take a few minutes and reach out to the bloggers that are mentioned or featured in your post. Send a message through their contact form, or reach out on social media if there is no contact form or email address listed. Simply tell them that you’re a fan of their blog and let them know that you’ve mentioned them in your recent post. Include the link to your post in case they want to check it out. Many of these bloggers will share the link through their social profiles, which makes your content visible to their audience.
If you do this with every post, it can make a difference. You’ll also start to connect with other bloggers, and networking can be extremely beneficial for growing your blog. Try to link to different bloggers each time rather than linking to the same bloggers and emailing the same people all the time.
Master a Social Network
There are a lot of different social networks that you can use to promote your blog, and some people will tell you that you should try to be everywhere. While it’s not a bad idea to have a profile and share your posts at several different social media sites, the reality is that you won’t have the time to be active and effective at several different sites. You’ll be more likely to have success with social media if you focus your efforts on one particular site or platform.
Pinterest is an excellent source of traffic for many bloggers. Getting traffic from Pinterest isn’t as easy as it used to be, but most bloggers will have more success at driving traffic from Pinterest than they will from other social networks. Facebook can be a good source of traffic too, but usually Pinterest will offer more traffic potential.
Pick the social network that you want to master and don’t worry about the others for now. Getting traffic from social media usually involves spending some time on the site, getting familiar with the types of content that do well, and building a following. I don’t recommend spending countless hours on social media, but you will need to invest some time if you want to get traffic. You could set aside 10 minutes a day, or at least a few times per week, to be active and work to start building your profile.
Search engine traffic is key to the long-term success of your blog.
Social media can be a good source of traffic when you’re first getting started, but you’ll probably have to keep working in order for that traffic to continue to flow. Once you have some of your posts ranking on Google and sending visitors, you should be getting a steady flow of traffic without the need for constant work.
Search traffic also offers higher potential than social media and other sources.
One of the biggest factors that will influence where your blog posts ranking in Google searches will be the links that are pointing to your site. Sites with more links, and links from higher authority websites, tend to outrank sites with very few links.
Link building is a huge topic and I won’t be able to get into it in detail in this article, but here is a quick look at a few ways that you can start to get some links to your blog:
- Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – HARO is an awesome free service that you can use to get links to your blog. Reporters, journalists, and bloggers can submit a query when they need a source for an article, and you can respond. If the writer uses your response in their article, you will be credited, and most of the time they will include a link to your site.
- Guest Posts – Many blogs will publish articles written by others. These guest posts will include an author bio that links back to your site, and you may be able to include relevant links to your blog within the body of the article.
- Podcasts – Appearing as a guest on podcasts is also a great way to get links to your own blog. Many podcasts include guest interviews, and the show notes will usually link to the sites of guests.
Consistently Publish New Content
Every post that you publish gives you one more chance to get exposure for your blog. You don’t want to sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity, but you also don’t want to have big gaps of time between posts. An active blog is more likely to grow.
There is no set frequency of posting that you need to hit in order to have success with your blog. The number of posts that you should publish per week or per month will be influenced by factors like your schedule, the length of your posts, and the niche that you’re in. For most new bloggers, publishing one or two posts per week would be great.
Step 6: Grow Your Following
Using social media, getting others to share your links, and building links to your blog will start to get the traffic flowing to your site. But then what?
Most visitors will leave your website and never come back. It’s an unfortunate reality of blogging.
However, you should attempt to convert as many visitors as possible into repeat visitors. The best way to do this is to start building an email list. You’ll be able to send out links to your new posts to people on your email list, drastically increasing the chance that they come back to your site at some point in the future.
Mailerlite is a great option for new bloggers because you can have up to 1,000 subscribers for free.
Add optin forms to your blog and also consider a free bonus that you’ll offer as an incentive to get more subscribers.
For most bloggers, building an email list is slow and it takes time before you’ll have a significant number of subscribers. But if you start right away, you’ll be closer to building a list that actually makes a difference for your blog.
Step 7: Monetize
Once you have some traffic to your blog, you’ll (hopefully) be able to start making money. Most bloggers need six months or more before they really start making any money, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away.
Here are a few different ways that you may be able to make money with your blog:
Using ads is the easiest way to monetize a blog, even if it is not the most lucrative. Many beginner bloggers use Google AdSense, but you can drastically increase your revenue if you are able to get into a network. The problem is, the best networks require you to reach a certain number of pageviews per month before you can join.
The first milestone that you should have as a goal is 10,000 page views per month. At that level, you’ll be able to apply to Monumetric, an ad network that is great for smaller blogs. The amount that you’ll earn will depend on a lot of factors, like how many people are clicking on your ads. But with 10,000 pageviews and average results, you may be able to earn about $150 per month from the ads.
Affiliate programs are another popular option for bloggers, and there are products and services with affiliate programs in any niche you can think of. The amount that you can make will vary significantly based on what you are promoting, how you promote it, and what level of traffic you have. Some of the bigger networks like CJ, Impact and ShareASale have a very ride range of options for bloggers.
The most effective way to make money as an affiliate is to promote products that you use and can honestly recommend. Sharing your own personal experiences and stories about how a product has helped you will always produce better results than simply stuffing affiliate links into your content wherever they’ll fit.
Once you have an established audience, companies may be willing to pay you to write about their product or service. Partnering with brands to produce sponsored content can be a great way to make money, and you might be surprised at how much brands are willing to pay for the exposure that a blogger can provide.
While this won’t be an option for a new blogger, you don’t need to have a massive audience in order to get sponsorship deals. Some bloggers are able to land sponsors with as little as 10,000 page views per month. Of course, having a larger audience will only help your cause, and you’ll be able to charge more.
For more details, please read this Guide to Sponsored Posts.
Sell Your Own Digital Products
The last monetization option that we’ll look at is selling your own digital products. Things like ebooks, online courses, membership programs, printables, and even apps are popular options. Creating and selling a product can take a lot of time, but ultimately it gives you the highest income potential of any monetization method.
Most bloggers choose to wait until they have an established audience before they create their own product, but you could start with a product right away if you want to. You may not make as many sales directly through your blog since you don’t have an audience yet, but you can also partner with other bloggers and websites to promote your product as an affiliate.
Making money with a blogging side hustle takes a lot of work and dedication, but there is a significant upside for those who are able to do it. Very few other side hustles offer the same flexibility and unlimited income potential.
If you’re interested in a side hustle that gives you the chance to build a legit online business, consider starting a blog. The details covered in this article will get you on the right path to success.