How to make money blogging for beginners: sharing experiences of big bloggers
We have a number of articles on how to make money, mostly keeping the beginners or new bloggers in mind.
This article is different. In this one, I am sharing experiences of bloggers who earn handsomely from blogging. It is easy to see a common thread running across all of them - taking blogging as an enterprise, but all have different ways to make money blogging.
You should go through each of them to find which type of monetization suits you. After that, you should also find the types of blogs that make money in your country and your blogging niche. At the end of this article, I give a summary list of how the established bloggers who have been reviewed here make money blogging. (If you want to jump to the end, click on the link: summary of experiences on how to make money from a blog.)
So, here we go!
Top bloggers with big incomes
On some websites, we find lists of top-earning bloggers. Forget blogs that are now big portals than blogs (e.g. Huffpost, Viperchill), even some who have retained their personal brand are supposed to be earning in the range of a million dollars or so in a year! I don't know how much of that is hype but it is true that some established bloggers - who have taken blogging as business or career - do earn many thousand dollars a month.
Huff Post is supposed to be the world’s most valued blog, earning millions of dollars a month. There are many others, which are huge and don't look like a blog. Engadget, Moz, Copyblogger, Mashable and TechCrunch are some other such names - these blogs employ an army of staff, monetize their blogs through ads and other means, and compete with media houses and other big names in web content business.
Among mid-level earners, you can count Darren Rowse of Problogger who is reported to earns $40k per month and Jeremy Schoemaker of Shoemoney, earning $30k a month. Their income mostly comes from advertisements, selling digital products and affiliation.
Break-down of income and expenditure of Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome for December 2017 are available. By his own account, he earned more than $167k in that month. Look at his earning streams: affiliate earnings $105k, course sales $42k, software $11k. He also earns from book sales and podcast sponsorships.
You search the web and find that thousands of bloggers make mind-boggling amounts of money from blogging. For a new blogger or beginner, these numbers can be an inspiration, but they do not matter beyond a point. As a new blogger or one who is struggling to make his first hundred dollars, you cannot learn from them, the same way as you cannot learn much from Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. Though their one-liners look fantastic and one can daydream to become like them one day by following their advice, that does not work out that way.
So, what is more practical is to learn from successful bloggers, but those not too big yet. Bloggers who are established and still learning. Bloggers who share their secrets. Bloggers whom you can follow.
A caveat here: The claims or reports on earnings are taken from the web. In some cases, there are wide variations in the income of the same blog/ blogger reported by different sources. The idea is not to count their dollars but learn from their experiences.
Types of blogs that make money, and their earning streams
Matthew Woodward, who writes on blogging and related subjects, used to publish his blogging income reports till 2017. He discloses that in December 2017, he made $25.6k after spending nearly $2.7k on different items. Most of his income has been from affiliation.
Kristin of Believe in a Budget wrote in 2015, soon after she started blogging, that she made $60 in four months from the start of her blog, but more than that, the blog helped her connect with people. Working part-time, she could make $13k in that full year. Then she turned it into a full-time business. In 2017, she made $290k and is supposed to be making much more (not disclosed).
Ads, sponsorships, affiliate income, book sales and freelancing, along with optimizing Pinterest, have been the bulwarks of her blogging monetization strategy.
Abby Lawson maintains a beautiful blog that goes by hew own name. On her blog, she says that she started the blog "on a whim" in 2013. "I wasn’t even quite sure what a blog was at the time, but I knew I needed some sort of creative outlet and decided to give blogging a try," is how her blogging journey started. Now the blog is a full-time business for her family and they sell digital products (templates, schedulers, printables, etc), run courses and give a lot of free advice on blogging, DIY, crafts, etc.
Till December 2016, they used to give their monthly income reports. In the last report, they have shown a net income of $35,360 after an expenditure of $6,340. Their incomes that month came mostly from e-books, courses and affiliation, and they spent on their own affiliation payouts, office and assistance, advertising, software and tools (including hosting and emailing) and e-commerce transaction fees. Their blog was getting about 400,000 pageviews a month and had a massive 100,000 subscriber base.
They no longer show display ads on the blog. The reasons: One, they were not earning as much they expected, based on their traffic. Second, they started selling their own digital products and thus focused on advertising their own products.
Rhiza Oyos is the owner of Purpose Blog. On the linked post, she lists a number of monetization streams and shows how they work for her. She says that blogging should start with a purpose; passion, performance and profit come only after that. She uses affiliate marketing and sale of digital products for making money from her blog. She has a lot of advice on blogging and also runs a free blogging course.
McKinzie, the owner of 2 blogs, Moms Make Cents and Today Mommy, makes money out of affiliate commission and selling courses. She shares that she could make $250 through ads in the very second month of starting blogging.
To Suzi Whitford, entrepreneurship mindset came from her family, and she used it well for blogging. She left her $75k per year job to raise kids, and then she opened two blogs - one on lifestyle and the other on teaching. In ten months, she was earning $6000 per month, and the growth continues. Her main sources of earning are e-books, a course on blogging, and affiliate commissions. She claims to have enrolled over 82k students to her blogging course, Blog By Number.
Jenny Weg of The Faithful Farming Family earns about $2k per month from her blog. The blog - mostly personal stories and some cooking - earns her some affiliate commission but the relationships she builds on her blog convert into clients for her virtual assistant service - and this gets her most of her earnings.
On an earlier post on food blogging, I have quoted some food bloggers on how they make money. I will borrow two from there: Shihoko maintains a food blog, Chopstick Chronicles, which is popular among Japanese food lovers. She gives credit for her success to passion, hard work and patience. Shailaja of Sailu's Food advises focusing on quality content. For a food blog, this includes writing detailed recipes with visitors in mind and sprucing them with pictures.
Grant Sabatier of Millennial Money writes that he made $401k in 2018. For getting traffic, he puts quality of content at the top, which gets multiplied by SEO, promotion etc to result in 'insane traffic'. He says, affiliate commissions and ads make about half of his income, brand partnerships and consulting, direct advertisements, sponsored content and other streams make the rest.
Heather of It's a Lovely Life says, they (it has become a family business) earn six-figure income from the blog devoted to family vacations and blogging. They are hired for brand promotion, and they also sell blogging courses. Most of their travel is paid for by sponsors.
Adam Enfroy has a very different approach to blogging, and so I will give him extra space here. In his post 'How to Make Money Blogging in 2020', he advises that the blogger should think like the CEO of a start-up and work at a high pace. He also [rightly] says that using blog for passive income and that type of stuff recommended by many blogging experts does not pay big. "Remember, you’re a business owner, not just a blogger."
Adam claims to have made $35k in the ninth month of starting the blog and is now earning $80k per month from blogging.
Adam puts all the routine advice on blogging upside down. He say, the blogger is bound to fail if he is after his passion or hobby. Leave you passion aside when choosing the niche, but look for these three: audience budget potential, professional leverage, and market demand.
He says that instead of looking for hundreds of passive, low-paying clients, look for a few high-value clients. He gives a low priority to writing, consistency and passion.
He wants you to build authority for the blog. For that, you need to step outside of your comfort zone and leverage your connections, professional experience. For traffic and authority, he suggests keyword research and guest posting on high authority websites/ blogs.
Among monetization streams, he includes consulting, affiliate marketing and online courses. He reports having made over $45k in February 2020. Out of it, more than half comes from affiliate marketing. In the same month, he spent $3k on freelance fees, software, etc.
Growthbadger has carried a post on how bloggers earn big incomes. It says, after asking 1117 bloggers about their top traffic sources, it found that high earners (more than $50k per year) depend on SEO and promotion to get traffic to their blogs, and social media comes lower in their scheme of things. E-mail subscription is another way they maximize relevant traffic. About half of them sell their own product or service. Their content has a good quantity of case studies, original research, podcasts, videos and interviews. Their posts are also quite long (average: 2424 words).
As you would expect, in the view of top earners, quality of content ranks top factor for success in blogging. This is followed by eye-catching headlines and introduction, SEO, email subscribers, design, and content freshness.
The study also finds that most of highly paid bloggers plough back investment into blogging.
How to make money blogging: best ideas from top bloggers
Here is the summary of what many big, established bloggers have shared about their success formulas. Please note that some points may be opposite to each other. You have to pick the tips that suit your blogging style, your expertise, working conditions, and time and money that you can invest on blogging.
- Think of blogging as an enterprise, a business.
- Produce high quality content. Be expert in your domain.
- Select the niche carefully. Think not only of traffic but the paying intent and capacity of the targeted visitors.
- Affiliate commission is one of the most paying streams for bloggers.
- Produce some product or service that you can sell directly (e.g. e-books, e-courses, digital products, software). After affiliate commission, this seems to be getting bloggers the most handsome returns - and the rate of return on effort/ investment is usually the highest.
- Promote the blog well. Use SEO well. Also think of paid promotion.
- Gain e-mail subscribers.