It’s “blogging 101” day again, and this week, we’re talking about how to make money blogging. I call it the “M” word because it seems to sometimes be a sensitive subject. When can you start charging for ads/posts? How many sponsored posts are too many? Are affiliate links okay? Will I turn off some readers if I’m making a profit on my blog?
This post isn’t to share specific numbers or pricing, because I think that’s all relevant to your readership, how much you blog, how much you need to charge to make the work worth it for you. But, here’s the general advice that I’ll give—and that I’m willing to bet every other blogger in this series will give you, as well. Blog consistently, work hard and expect nothing at first.
For the first couple of years I blogged, I made next to nothing. There were no big companies reaching out, no sponsored posts being offered. Building your blog, your readership and your content is what it’s all about when you start. Consider the first months—or years—your internship, paying your dues, or whatever you want to call it. I’ve put in a lot of hours to get to the point where I can make an income from my work, and I’ve realized there’s no reason to feel bad about it. I also realize that if I want to continue to make money, I have to blog with the same enthusiasm that I did at the beginning when there was no paycheck. When it becomes a task instead of a joy is when I’ll give up blogging.
But, back to the money. Let’s say you’ve been blogging for a year or so and are ready to venture into the world of actually making a little something for your work.
Individual ads. This is the perfect way to start, in my opinion. Offer up some ad space on your side bar at a reasonable rate that most small businesses (like Etsy shops, for example) can afford. As an extra incentive, you might offer a monthly sponsor thank you or spotlight post to give them more exposure for their advertising dollar. I think I also hosted a giveaway for a 3-month ad spot to generate interest at first.) This isn’t a huge stream of income and requires quite a bit of admin work, but can be a great way to get your foot in the revenue door.
An additional product offering. Your blog can be the stepping stone to selling something else, if it fits within your brand. For example, I started offering design boards about a year into blogging. It was a way of generating a little income and gave me something additional to blog about. Other examples might be an Etsy shop, paint color consultations, printables, an e-book, etc.
Ad networks. See those square ads on my sidebar? This is the one of the main ways I make money from blogging. Even if you don’t click on them every day (but, I hope you do!), the number of pageviews your site generates every day still counts for something. I work with AdThrive, a company who manages all of my ads. I had to apply to their network once my pageviews were high enough, but I would recommend applying to Google Adsense to get started. (So easy to set up.)
Sponsored posts. I’m going to say a few words about these and move on. . . There seems to be a lot of people out there who get their feathers ruffled by bloggers who get paid by companies to write a post about a product. While I certainly don’t want to read a blog where every post is sponsored, I don’t feel like sponsored posts do a disservice to the reader, if done the right way. When I’m taking on a sponsored post, I first make sure that the product is relevant to the overall theme of my blog. My blog isn’t about cooking, skincare or sexy swimwear (yes, I actually did turn that one down!), so I wouldn’t take on sponsored posts about those topics. Once I do decide that a company/product is a good fit, I then figure out if I can write a post with some value. Something that will inspire, inform or entertain you beyond just advertising a product. In other words, I try to respect your time with sponsored posts so that I know I’ve earned my paycheck and hopefully told you about something of interest, too. If you’re a regular blog reader, I would hope that you feel you can trust me, at this point, not to throw up a post on anything, just for the sake of making a quick buck.
Affiliate links. I do work with RewardStyle, a company that matches publishers and companies and provides a commission based on links you might use through my site to purchase something. Unfortunately, the home decor companies that pay commissions are way fewer than fashion-related companies, which is why you see so many of these on fashion/lifestyle blogs. I use these most often if I’m putting together design/inspiration boards to share on the blog. It’s not usually a huge commission (and I’ll specify that affiliate links were used at the end of the post), but it’s more like a small finding fee, as if I were sourcing products for a design client.
Hiring help. You know the saying that you have to spend money to make money. This is why I hired a blog assistant (who also happens to be one of the bestest friends in the world) several years ago. Katie helps me with all of my company/product-related email correspondence and schedules giveaways, sponsored posts, etc., so that I can actually concentrate on blogging. She also happens to be way more organized than I am (which comes in handy), and I trust her completely.
Sticking to what I know. This also falls under “hiring help.” When I switched to WordPress a couple of years ago, I also hired a company called WP Site Care that acts as my personal tech support team. I pay them monthly and don’t have to spend hours trying to figure out how to do the simplest technical task, because I’m not techy and never want to be. And, time is money, after all.
In case you missed my previous two Blogging 101 posts. . .
Keep reading. These four bloggers are also sharing their advice: