Updated February 10, 2018
Several years ago I realized bloggers were making money. In some cases, they were making good money! And many of them seemed like regular people, just like me. How exactly were they doing it? And could I make money blogging too?
This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, I may make a commission.
Table of Contents
- Do bloggers make money?
- How do bloggers make money?
- What are the steps to make money blogging?
- How much do bloggers make?
- How long does it take to make money blogging?
- What are the ways bloggers make money?
- How can I start my own blog and make money?
- Can I start a blog for free and still make money?
- 5 extra tips to make money blogging
- Content & Monetization Tiers (PDF)
Do bloggers make money?
Yes, many bloggers make money. Legitimately.
How do bloggers make money?
The most successful bloggers use their blog as a hub or online home base, then build up many income streams from there.
A blog as a hub is important to control your message and have a place where you can always be found.
Bloggers make money directly on their blogs and indirectly through related opportunities. Trickles of income from multiple streams add up to a large river of income.
What are the steps to make money blogging?
- Start a blog if you haven’t already.
- Establish yourself as an authority by creating excellent, useful content about your topic.
- Choose and implement income streams.
- Interact with others online to keep your blog top of mind.
- Repeat steps 2-4 continuously so you and your blog become the go-to resource for your topic.
How much do bloggers make?
It varies widely. A few bloggers make millions of dollars a year. Others, like me, make a healthy full-time income. Some make less, and some make no money at all.
I think a better question than “How much do bloggers make?” is “How much can a blogger make?” No amount is guaranteed, and it’s not easy, but there is virtually no limit. That’s one of the reasons I love blogging.
Solid numbers about blogging incomes are hard to come by. For example, in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lump bloggers in the very broad category of “Writers and Authors” which has a median income of $61,240 per year. It’s not an accurate measure since there are vastly different occupations included in that category. Information from small surveys and anecdotal evidence can also be found online, but much of it is outdated or taken from tiny sample sizes.
Some bloggers publish their own income reports, but again, it’s difficult to draw general conclusions since each blogger’s circumstance is unique. Many bloggers have stopped sharing income reports, such as Pinch of Yum, but one of the more well-known bloggers who continues to share his is Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income.
How long does it take to make money blogging?
It takes a lot of hours per week to build and maintain a quality blog. It also takes many months of blogging before you will see income from it.
I tell new bloggers to allow 3-6 months to make a decent part-time income and 1-2 years to make a consistent full-time income. There are always exceptions of course, but after being active in the blogging world for almost 14 years, these are reasonable averages.
The idea that you can start a blog today and make a full-time income within a few months is, for most, not realistic. There is simply too much too learn and too much to build (your site, your content library, your social media presence, your trustworthiness, relationships with readers, etc.). If you need money right away, building a blog may not be your best option.
But don’t be discouraged! I squeezed blogging into the cracks of life for a few years and it now brings in steady income. If you have some time, it is well worth the effort.
What are the ways bloggers make money?
These are income streams. There are 5 main ones, with many possibilities under each:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Digital Products
- Physical Products
Companies want to get their product in front of potential customers. They may be interested in advertising on your blog if your readers are their ideal customers. Here are ways to incorporate advertising into your blog:
- Display ads – Graphics in your sidebar, header, footer or within your content.
- Giveaways & reviews – Companies provide you with free product (and hopefully monetary compensation) and you highlight that product on your blog.
- Sponsored or underwritten posts – Companies pay you to write posts mentioning them or their product.
- Newsletter / video / podcast sponsorships – Advertisements in emails or mini commercials in videos or podcast episodes.
Advertising is easy to start making it a popular income stream for many bloggers. However, it’s not nearly as lucrative as it once was and it requires a lot of traffic to be truly profitable. Therefore, it’s not a top recommendation of mine.
2. Affiliate Marketing
As an affiliate marketer, you promote someone else’s product or service to your readers. You link to that product or service using your unique affiliate link. When, someone clicks through that link and makes a purchase (or completes a desired action set by the company), you earn a commission. There are thousands of affiliate programs to join. Some I participate in:
- Amazon Associates – Get paid when readers purchase Amazon products through your links.
- Genesis – The WordPress theme I use & recommend. More here.
- Bluehost – The host I recommend to new bloggers in this post.
- Amazon Influencer Program – A different Amazon program which gives you your own Amazon shop like mine here.
- Affiliate Acceleration – An excellent ecourse by a blogging friend.
- Target – I love Target.
Affiliate marketing is one of my favorite and most profitable income streams. You can highlight products or services you use and love without having to do the work of creating or maintaining that product yourself. I talk about affiliate marketing in much more depth in What is Affiliate Marketing? and My Top Affiliate Marketing Tips.
3. Digital Products
Many bloggers create and sell their own digital products. Digital products are great because they don’t require inventory and can be distributed to quickly and easily. There’s no overhead and low risk. Examples of digital products bloggers create:
- Ecourses – Teach others what you know and sell it over and over again.
- Online classes or workshops – Teaching, but in a live setting.
- Ebooks – Self publishing is very profitable for many.
- Premium Content – Content others must pay to access.
- Membership sites – A mixture of teaching and community.
- Photos – Many photographers sell their photos online.
- Audio or video – Create music jingles, voice overs or video clips.
- Apps, plugins or themes – Great for those who love code.
This is another favorite income stream of mine. My first digital product was my ebook Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free which still sells every month. Another digital product of mine is the Knowtbook, a form of premium content.
4. Physical Products
Some bloggers sell physical products. Some examples:
- Books – Many bloggers have become traditionally published authors due to their blogs.
- Handmade Products – Are you a maker?
- Manufactured Products – Many bloggers find a manufacturer to make their idea a reality.
- Retail arbitrage – Can you find great deals? Turn around and sell them at a profit on sites like Amazon.
- In-person conferences, classes or special events – The exchange of something tangible (money) for a ticket to an in-person experience.
A surge of bloggers have started selling physical products the last few years. It can be profitable, but can get complicated with manufacturing, keeping inventory, shipping, returns, etc.
Some bloggers use the expertise related to their blog topic and get paid when others hire them. Services can be offered locally or virtually (). Examples:
- Speaking – Many bloggers find speaking gigs as a result of the platforms they build on their blogs.
- Virtual assistance – Read my post How to Become a Virtual Assistant for my experience & lots of ideas.
- Organizing, decorating, cooking – Some bloggers provide services to local readers.
Offering a service is an excellent way to make money quickly because startup costs are low, little to no inventory is required and you get paid for a skill you already have. The downside is, it’s not scalable.
How can I start my own blog and make money?
First, start a blog if you haven’t already. Next, focus on building up a solid library of at least 10-20 blog posts. Make sure they are helpful and meaty. Figure out which income streams are natural extensions of your posts. In the meantime, build relationships on social media, in Facebook Groups and wherever your potential readers hang out. Don’t just promote your own stuff, but be a helpful part of the conversation. People will eventually check out what you have to offer.
Can I start a blog for free and still make money?
The answer is yes. However, I would caution against it. The reason is, when you use a free service, you don’t have as much control over your blog—the free service does. This can be risky, especially if you will rely on your blog for income. A self-hosted WordPress blog is my recommendation and can be started very inexpensively. See my step-by-step tutorial here.
5 extra tips to make money blogging
- Use as many income streams you can reasonably manage. Diversification is key.
- Excellent content is the key to long-term success. There’s no way around it.
- Each blogger has a different combination of income streams. There is no “right” way and that’s the beauty of it. There are endless possibilities. Find a combination that works for you.
- Don’t be a clone of another blogger. Find a unique angle.
- Successful bloggers don’t start a blog just to make money. Instead, they blog about a topic they truly enjoy and can write about for years. They let the money grow out of that topic organically.
Content & Monetization Tiers (PDF)
If you’re not sure which content to offer for free and which content to charge for, you might be interested in my Content Tiers & Monetization download. (If you already have access to the Knowtbook or to my Studio, you’ve got it, so don’t purchase it!) In it, I explain how I think through and advise others to organize their content offerings, from free to VIP. It’s a one-time purchase of $5
- One-time purchase of $5.00
- Almost 3 pages (8.5 x 11 inches) of additional content based on my 13+ years of experience
- Printable in a purposefully ink-friendly layout & format