How To Actually Make Money Blogging
“Make Money Blogging!” or even better “Make Tons Of Money Blogging!”
Whoo Whee! Isn’t that what we’re here for, to be honest? It sounds kind of crass, I suppose, to put a dollar amount on the “art of blogging”, but the truth is that bloggers invest an incredible amount of money in their blogs. Hosting, templates, social media, ad buys. Time. Oh, the time.
Let’s agree that the second part of “content marketing” is marketing, implying that we are looking for a market, implying that we want to make some money.
How can you make money blogging? Let’s consider a two-pronged approach, making money off of your blog directly, and how your blog can help lead you to make money off of other’s blogs.
Writing For Your Blog
Writing for your own blog, that thing you do every day, can be thought of as part of the process of making money. Just the act of creating content, if you choose to think about it correctly, has a financial reward.
1. Build your own credibility.
Your blog is building your credibility (unless you write rants with nary a thought toward grammar and writing quality). Each post you write builds on the previous posts, and is telling your reader “this blogger is credible”.
Why does that matter, when it comes to making money off of your blog?
Brand and name recognition.
Just as the propinquity effect—the state of being physically or psychologically close to another and therefore, forming a relationship—is important in determining your social media ROI, the same can be said of your blog.
Your reader gets used to hearing your “voice” on the page. He gets used to your opinions, your style, your approach. He knows what you advocate. And, the more he likes your content, the more he returns. The more he returns, the more familiarity he has with your brand.
As you blog regularly, you are creating brand recognition. While your bank account isn’t directly growing each time a reader hops in to read, you are “softening” your readers into potential customers in the future. In this way, that brand recognition has a long-term financial payoff.
And that is exactly how content marketing works despite it’s greatest misconception (just take a look at what Rand Fishkin mentions in this fantastic video):
What you are an expert at has value. You know something that others want to know also. They want your help.
Part of being a great content marketer is being willing to help freely, giving away some of that expertise. We’re going to talk about how you can turn the rest of that expertise into money in the next section, but the expertise itself plays into how you make money in a few ways:
- If you’re selling other products, your expertise can reassure customers that buying from you means they won’t be left to fend for themselves if they need help.
- Your expertise makes your other products seem legitimate, because they were created by an expert.
For example, I am a freelance writer. My writing on my own blog, the CoSchedule blog, and elsewhere has brought me new clients who like what they read.
They have determined that I have a particular kind of expertise. Some services, like writing, need evidence of expertise. Clients need evidence that I can write, and my own blogging is that evidence.
Blogging establishes expertise. Expertise establishes trust. Trust enables confidence to purchase. No one buys from someone who doesn’t seem to know what they are talking about.
In this way, expertise is like brand recognition: It is a foundation that may not obviously impact your bank account every time you hit “publish” on a blog post, but must be there for any future attempt to make money off of your blog.
2. Sell your own products.
Every blogger has at least two products to sell: Their expertise, and the content created out of that expertise. However, there are additional products you can create using that same content as well as the brand you’ve established.
Ideally, you’d focus on products that would create a passive income, meaning that money comes in regularly with little work on your part after the initial effort. Digital products that people can purchase and download or view are the best example of this. Physical products, on the other hand, require you to create, package, and ship. They are active income, requiring work on every sale.
Let’s take a look at a few products you can sell on your blog, including both passive and active income.
Services, teaching, and consulting.
If you’ve established yourself as an expert in a particular niche or industry, you have valuable expertise. And, as we just mentioned, that’s something with actual monetary value.
Whether through webinars, speaking at conferences, one-on-one consulting, or even a class on a site like Udemy, your expertise has monetary value. As a content marketer, you know the value of giving away your expertise for free, but it doesn’t hurt to consider that you ought to hold some back to make available to those who are willing to pay for it.
Copyblogger, for example, gives away a lot of great content. But they also have a paid element in their Authority program for those in their audience who want to be serious and pony up some money to learn.
In an age where so much is free on the Internet, not everyone is pleased to be asked to pay for the cream of the crop. However, this adds value to your expertise, oddly, in that it sends the message that people are willing to pay you for what you know.
Asking people to pay you for your expertise is part of teaching them how to treat you and value the knowledge you’re giving them.
It is great to give away things for free. It is perfectly acceptable to also hold some behind a paywall.
Books, e-books, and more.
Are you a food blogger? Then you have a cookbook to sell.
It’s all right there, on your blog. Package your posts up into a variety of cookbooks (“Most popular recipes” or “Breakfast dishes”). Just because it’s available for free online doesn’t mean your fans won’t jump at the chance to get a convenient hard copy of whatever it is you are an expert at.
It’s easy to forget that you can actually sell e-books, because most content marketers use them as a giveaway incentive to get email addresses. But, depending upon how long the e-book is, and the quality, it is another avenue for making money from your blog.
Not everyone will get a lucrative publishing contract, though, but that shouldn’t keep you from getting e-books made up from your repurposed content. There are many apps out there that will help you easily make an e-book from the content you already have.
If you’d like to offer an actual physical book, there are no shortage of options. Blurb, for example, recently introduced a trade book publishing program that will help you create a book and e-book, getting it listed on Amazon and in the Ingram catalog. That opens the door to anyone who wants your book, even your local bookseller.
Things you can sell:
- Books and e-books: Cull from your top posts or high-traffic categories and create real long-form content. Helpful guides, how-tos, or a collection of essays—all make great reading.
- Posters: Print high-quality versions of infographics or visual graphics your readers have enjoyed.
- Schwag: Stickers, notebooks, and other blog-branded items that tie into your core niche.
- Subscriptions: Whether exclusive content, downloads, products, or graphic designs, you can offer paid subscriptions to your readers.
3. Sell ads on your site.
Selling ad space on your blog isn’t as lucrative for every blogger. If you aren’t getting seriously high traffic (around 10,000 a month), you won’t see the windfall that bigger bloggers lay claim to.
In talking about his decision to sell ads on his blog, popular blogger Michael Hyatt lays out five very good steps to selling ads:
- Survey your readers and find out basic demographic information. This will be useful in knowing what kinds of ads will work best for your audience.
- Create a page dedicated to advertising. Let people know your terms for allowing their ads on your site.
- Create an advertising kit to provide to those interested in advertising.
- Sign up with an advertising service (preferably not Google AdSense) that is a good fit for your blog, both in how they run their service and in the ad output (e.g. graphic size).
- Pitch the advertising opportunity to those who might be interested. You have, at this point, demographics and traffic numbers. That’s the makings of a great sales pitch.
Your approach may be different, but remember that in order to make money off of your blog with ads, you need a lot of traffic.
Writing For Other’s Blogs
If the extent of your writing for other blogs is in the format of guest blogging, you probably aren’t getting paid. Guest posting, generally, is about finding a new audience and building your own reputation as an expert (which, as noted, does eventually help you make money).
However, in a world hungry for content, good writers are in high demand. I know this from firsthand experience, receiving many requests from potential clients. You can make money, as a blogger, writing for other blogs.
Before you can make money writing for others’ blogs, you have to:
- Have been writing on your own blog. You need experience both in writing and what it takes to run a blog. You’ll gain an appreciation for deadlines and word counts if you’ve done it yourself first.
- Establish a tangible reputation, with writing samples, of what you can do. This is so crucial. Why do I have so many requests from clients? Because they’ve seen my writing elsewhere and liked it. Do the work. Write the guest posts. It will turn around eventually.
- Be willing (though it may not always be required) to write for free initially to establish a relationship with the blog owner. Be upfront that you are interested in paid blogging and not just guest posts.
- Make yourself available, but not passively. You have to pursue writing leads, unless you’ve built enough brand reputation where they come to you.
- Get in the practice of working hard and hitting deadlines. Nothing kills a paid blogging gig like missing deadlines and turning in shoddy work.
- Be prepared to write outside of your comfort zone, at least until you establish regular clients. Learn to research and write on things you don’t always know a lot about.
If you intend to make a living writing for other blogs, here are some resources you ought to check out first:
You Have To Flip The Switch
All the expertise and brand recognition in the world doesn’t lead to bank deposits unless you flip the switch. What I mean is that you have to, at some point, make the move to asking for money.
For startups or businesses where a sellable product came first, and the blog is the means to bring in people, it’s different. But for bloggers whose content came first, where the blog is the means to bring in money (eventually), you need to flip the switch.
You have to sell a product, or that expertise. You have to run the risk of upsetting some in your audience who truly want things for free (unless you’re making a go of it, for reals, off of ads). You have to be willing to do the work of writing for yourself “for free” and on other blogs for free until you get enough requests that you begin weeding them out by establishing a freelance blogging career.
When is that moment?
I don’t know. You will know. Creating endless free downloads that bring in droves of traffic and are downloaded in high numbers? Start creating something available only with a price tag. Can’t handle the deluge of writing requests? End all free writing and put a price on it and see where the chips fall. It can feel like a gamble, but if you’re overwhelmed and exhausted and aren’t seeing any income, it’s time.
The danger to content marketing is to get so caught up in doing it so well and so free that you forget you’re marketing. If your blog is a hobby, fine. But if you want to make money off of it, you must eventually move away from everything being free.