How to Make Money Blogging | “So you wanna start a blog?” Series

April 21, 2016·

One of, if not THE MOST common, question I get when people find out that I am a blogger is: “How do you make money blogging?” I get asked this time and time again. And trust me, there was a LONG time in my blogging life that I had no idea you even could make money blogging or that people even do this kind of thing for a living.

In fact, I blogged for almost six years before I ever made a dime. It just never even occurred to me. And frankly, I am GLAD that it happened that way, because it kept my love and passion for blogging alive and I have always loved what I do and would continue doing it even if I didn’t make money. I would do exactly what I’m doing even if it was for free! Which I think means that I basically have my dream job? 

Some of you may remember that back in the fall I did a series called “So you wanna start a blog?“and the feedback that I got from it was awesome. However, I got SO many emails from readers saying, “Can you write a post about actually MAKING money blogging?” I wrote a post about a media kit and all that stuff, but I guess I realized I didn’t quite address the WAYS to make money by having a blog.

Let me just reiterate this – if you start a blog with the intention of making money, you will quickly realize that blogging is not a “get rich quick” scheme. It take a lot of time, a lot of hard work, and A LOT of dedication to build up an audience, content, and credibility to really start making money. It is certainly not my intention to come off like a know-it-all or poo-poo anyone’s dream or idea… I just want to be as honest as I can and speak from my own experiences!

To put it in perspective, I’ve been blogging over 10 years and I really focused on it SERIOUSLY (like, committed to posting five days a week, planning my editorial calendar, etc.) for a little over five or six years… and then from there I didn’t start making MONEY until about four years ago and I wasn’t making enough for it to be considered my full-time income until two years ago. All that to say, that I love it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world… but it is just like any other job… it’s work. Hard work!

Okay, enough set up and rambling… let’s get to the good stuff. Now, just like pretty much every other topic in the blog world, entire BOOKS are written on these subjects and making money blogging is no different. So, what I’m going to cover today is the nitty-gritty basics. The bare bones information.

How exactly do you make money blogging?

There are five main revenue streams that the majority of bloggers have. Some might lump or categorize them differently, but this is just the easiest way I could think to organize them.

*$ = little money maker | $$$ = good money maker | $$$$$ = best money maker

1. Banner advertising – $

This is the most traditional form of making money online. This is your Google ads, your side bar ads, etc. Lots of people structure this different ways and many blogs have moved away from banner advertising altogether.

I still use it very sparingly and try to keep my banner ads at a minimum. I curate which companies I want to display banner ads for very carefully and I limit the Google advertising to post footers and far down on the page.

Pro: Banner advertising is great “passive” income. You don’t have to think about it. You put it there and it makes money for you.

Con: It can be annoying and obtrusive for some. Just be careful with it and make sure it doesn’t take away from the overall aesthetic of your site. It also isn’t the biggest money maker.

A great place to start: Google ads, Disqus (actually my commenting platform but monetization is built in and I really like that), and affiliate banners.

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2. Affiliate links – $$$

There are two main types of affiliate links: Pay-per-click and Pay-per-purchase.

Some affiliate networks will pay you based upon the number of CLICKS that someone gets on a link. So, you might get $0.10 cents a click or something like that. Others will pay a commission based upon SALES that are generated through your links.

How does it work? Basically, if you link to a product or service that costs money, then you receive a commission if someone buys that particular item or product or service. (That’s the short answer)

Most affiliate linking happens within affiliate NETWORKS. Basically, a big organization that companies / businesses join so that publishers (i.e. bloggers, etc.) can promote their stuff. In exchange, the advertiser / business / company pays the publisher a commission in exchange for promoting their stuff.

Common larger affiliate networks:

Pro: There are a TON of affiliate networks out there and most don’t require a minimum number of pageviews / users / etc. Some do, but many do not. So you can hop right in and start using affiliate links.

Con: It can either be little to no money at all coming in, or you can make really great money. It all depends on the type of reader you have… some readers are buyers, others are browsers. If you have more of a “browser” type reader, then you might want to stick to pay-per-click links or avoid affiliate links altogether. It’s up to you.

*Always make sure to have a disclosure on your site somewhere if you do choose to use affiliate links or ANY type of monetization for that matter! I have my disclosure in both my sidebar and on my “Full Disclosure” page.

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3. Sponsored posts / direct collaborations – $$$$$

This is what you, ideally, need a media kit for. This is where you are working DIRECTLY with a brand or company (or sometimes a marketing agency on behalf of that brand or company). 

For example, you pitch “Company A” a collaboration idea… maybe you review a product, do a feature, some social media posts, and a giveaway. They also will pay you $X for doing this collaboration. What do they get? They get access to your audience, your klout, your voice. You get product to review plus your designated fee.

It can also work the other way… “Company B” reaches out to you directly and wants to work with you. They may already have a sponsored post / collaboration fee in mind… this can take some negotiating… They pay you, you promote them.

It’s basic advertorial content. It’s where I make the bulk of my income on the blog.

Now, I am extremely careful when it comes to sponsored content. I have a rule (it’s an unwritten rule that I have with myself) that I will NEVER take money in exchange for a post or product that I wouldn’t already want to write about. In fact, I decline paid opportunities all the time. I have even contacted an advertiser to let them know that it wasn’t a good fit in the end… and almost always, they respect that.

It’s important to me to keep the integrity of my content and stay true to myself and what I’d write about. As soon as I start “selling out,” the sooner that my readers will be turned off and find it disingenuous and stop reading. And my readers are what help me keep this blog going, so it’s my job to treat them with respect, too!

Pro: You can make good money with sponsored campaigns if you have a solid, dedicated audience.

Con: They are a lot of work and really can be hit or miss depending on your traffic, social stats, etc. But know that you have a voice and you have value! So don’t sell yourself short! Some brands are very open to them, while others are not. It really depends. That’s why a media kit is so important. 🙂

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4. Ad / media networks

This is a great starting point into the world of sponsored campaigns. This is where I really learned how they work before I felt comfortable branching out and doing my own with brands.

There are a lot of great networks out there. Many require a certain number of pageviews / users, but some do not. They have campaigns that you can “apply” for, while they might also reach out to you if they have a campaign that they think might be a good fit.

Ad / media networks: (NOTE: there are a TON. This is just a few that I’ve worked with and enjoy working with)

Pro: There are a TON of networks out there and a TON of campaign opportunities and a TON of ways to get started making money.

Con: It can be overwhelming at first… sometimes you have less creative freedom working with a network vs. working with the brand yourself. It can also sometimes take awhile to get paid which can be frustrating.

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5. Speaking engagements, event hosting, products, e-books, etc. – $ – $$$$$

I sort of lumped this last grouping together because it’s all the “non-blogging” blogging stuff. For me, event hosting and speaking engagements is my favorite. I haven’t ventured into the classes, products, e-books part… yet. I made pretty good money in 2015 speaking and hosting events. Sometimes I do those things for free, while other times I get a good speakers fee. It all depends, which is why I said it’s a $ to $$$$$ revenue stream.

Pro: Fun. Good money.

Con: A LOT of work and might not lead to $$ right away… Hit or miss. Less “consistent” than other revenue streams.

So there you have it. The gist of how I make money blogging.

Overall, I absolutely LOVE what I do and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Like I mentioned earlier, it is just like any other job… it is work and comes with its own set of frustrations and challenges, but it also comes with a lot of fun perks and a lot of great opportunities. I’m so, so thankful for this community that we’ve built and I couldn’t do this without YOU GUYS. So thank you for reading!

What do you think? Any follow up questions or experiences?