How do I Make Money from my Blog?

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This is probably the question I get asked the most, either by nosy types who seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask someone how much money they earn, or by newer bloggers wanting some advice. It’s also one of the biggest areas of The Blogcademy and certainly the section that garners the most discussion.

So today I’m sharing some ideas on how you might want to monetise your blog. But I’d caution you to just take these ideas as hard and fast rules. The great thing about being a blogger is that there are no rules or restrictions on what you can try to make an income. Blogging is all about forging your own path, coming up with your own ideas and going your own way. So think of this article as a jumping off point for starting to dream up your next light bulb moment.

Diversify your income streams

The most important thing to realise is that, as a blogger, it is imperative to diversify your income streams – the classic don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Having some form of advertising in place is usually the first port of call for anybody wanting to monetise a website, but what if businesses and brands decide that they don’t want to have blog ads any longer? If the bottom does fall out of digital advertising, you don’t want this to be the only way you pay your rent.

While I don’t think you should stretch yourself too thin or have too much going on (it can be difficult to keep up with and confusing for your readers) at least three or four revenue streams, in my opinion, would be advisable.

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Direct advertising

This is how I handle all the adverts on Rock n Roll Bride. So basically if someone wants an advert on my site, they email me directly about it and we take it from there. The main reasons I do it this way and not through a third party like an ad network (see below) is because a) I can have complete control over who is represented on the site and b) I don’t have to give anyone else a cut of the profits!

I’m not going to go into all the ins and outs if how my advertising systems work in this article (you’ll have to come to The Blogcademy for that juicy info!) but needless to say it’s the way that works best for me.

Ad networks

There are hundreds of ad networks representing widely varying types of advertisers and placing them on a plethora of different niches of blogs. But, in a nutshell, they takeover a space on your site (usually in the sidebar and of their own specified size) and fill it with adverts from the brands that they represent. The great thing about working with an ad network is that they have the connections with bigger brands that you might not, and once the ads are live there is very little work that you need to do. The downsides are that they take a cut of the profits and you can’t have complete control as to what ads might suddenly appear on your site.

You get paid per click. I hear the average is about $2/CPM (cost per thousand impressions) but it varies depending on the type and size of advert as well as the traffic of the blog. Some of the networks also limit the impressions that ‘count’ to a specific country – so for example if you were working with an ad network based in the US they will only pay out from the impressions made by your blog visitors based in the United States.

Now lets say that hypothetically your blog gets 20,000 page views a month and you had three adverts on your site. At $2/CPM that would make you a whopping $120 a month… hardly enough to live off. These types of adverts also often take up a lot of valuable real estate on your blog’s sidebar so clearly if you do choose to go down this route it can’t be your only source of income.

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Google Adsense

Similarly to an ad network, you can place adverts hosted by Google on your site but instead of getting paid per 1000 views you get paid every time one of your site visitors clicks it. The amount you get is dependant on a number of factors including size and complexity of the graphic, but it’s usually only a couple of pence per click. The good thing about Google ads is they ‘read’ the content of your site and make sure the adverts posted are relevant, however the downside is that if you ever write about something off topic the adverts displayed can get a little screwy. When I wrote about weight loss and weddings for example all the Google ads around the post were for slimming aids and crash diet shit – UGH! Again this method is unlikely to net you a fortune on it’s own, but it all adds to the pot without a whole lot of effort.

Affiliate schemes

Affiliate schemes are basically a way for you to earn income from the links you post within your blog’s editorial. Websites like AmazonReward Style and even Apple offer affiliate accounts. So instead of linking directly to a book or a dress or the new Apple gadget that you’re just going to die without, you’d instead link to the item via your affiliate account. If someone then clicks that link and goes on to purchase the item you get a percentage of the total value of the order.

The great thing about affiliates is that there’s no limit to how many you can sign up for, the downside is that it can be quite a faff to find every item you want to link to. Also, the fact that people not only have to click the link but then go on to make a purchase before you get paid anything can mean it often feels like quite a lot of work for not a huge amount of money. I’ve heard some people moan about bloggers somehow ‘duping’ their readers by using affiliate links, but the way I see it, if you’re going to link to something anyway and it doesn’t cost the end user any more to buy something after clicking through from you, why shouldn’t you get a little kickback for referring them?

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Sell something

Whether digitally, like an e-book or a video series, or physically like a book, a magazine (ahem) or some cute handmade jewellery – use your blog to promote it! Your regular readers will be your biggest champions so often are more willing to pay for a little something extra from you. My advice would be to have a range of products – some high end and expensive and others more affordable in order to appeal to a wide range of people with different budgets and desires.

Sell yourself

(No, not in that way you filthy animal) Use your blog, and the things you write about, to sell your services – for example as a photographer, a graphic designer, a public speaker or a stylist. But how?

Don’t just tell people what you do, show them what you do. Your blog and your social media is the most perfect platform imaginable to do this. If you’re a photographer use your images to illustrate your blog posts (duh…) As a graphic designer you could offer advice about design as well as showcasing your design projects in a way that’s helpful to your readers (Shauna does both these things so well and loving her blog was actually the main reason I booked her to do my graphic design work!) As a public speaker or teacher you could write posts covering the topics you like to speak about and as a stylist you could style some shoots for publication which will showcase your epic skills. The possibilities are endless really. Don’t just tell people you’re a photographer/designer/speaker/stylist show them how damn good you are at your job. If it’s done beautifully and with integrity your work will sell itself.

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Brand Collaborations

Traditional advertising has certainly changed in many blog niches, particularly for fashion and lifestyle bloggers. Instead of simply throwing a banner advert up, brands are now pushing bloggers to create the content themselves and to work closely with their products. Maybe by using them in styled photo shoots, wearing them in outfit photos, designing a range for them or even having them sponsor a blog series. I read that Dior recently partnered with French fashion blogger Garance Doré and sponsored her video series, Pardon My French. That means she was paid to wear free Dior clobber on camera. Sheesh, It’s a hard job but I guess someone’s got to do it!

My only word of caution here would be that some brands will only offer the blogger free items in exchange for promotion rather than any payment. In the beginning this may sound very appealing (I mean who doesn’t love a freebie?!) and many smaller companies genuinely do only have limited budgets for marketing (remember the item they’re offering you isn’t free for them!) In this situation my advice would be this – if you love the company and would buy the item anyway, I think a collaboration like this can work well to a point. Both you as the blogger and the designer/company sending the item will benefit. However, just remember that you can’t pay your mortgage with free jewellery and I wouldn’t recommend eating a handbag.

Many larger brands or companies will try their luck by just offering a free item to a blogger and hope they will be so excited/flattered to be asked that they’ll blog about them for days! A little secret here – these larger and more well known companies usually do have some budget to pay bloggers, but they often won’t disclose this until you ask! Don’t be afraid to value your worth and broach the subject of payment. A simple reply like “I love your company and the item you’re offering and I’d love to work with you on this project. Can you please let me know your budget for this collaboration?” and just see what they say. Some will come back with a flat out ‘nothing’, others may offer you a token amount but some may surprise you with what they have available. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain so don’t be a scardy cat. They can only say no after all!

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There has been a HUGE debate raging for a long time about bloggers accepting freebies for review, and whilst it is a muddy topic, I feel that as long as you go into any deal with the utmost honesty it’s part of the job… and every job has it’s perks right? Make sure you tell the company from the outset what you will/will not offer them in exchange for a free item and always always disclose in your posts when you’ve been comped something or have been paid to write about it. Also it should go without saying, but giving someone a crappy review after they’ve sent you something for free is a big no no! I’ve actually never been in this situation myself, but if I was ever sent something and I didn’t like it I’d probably send the item back with a note saying thank you but I didn’t feel it was quite right for my blog.

This kind of monetisation has also caused many a naysayer to cry “sell out!” but really, this is one of the least spammy or ‘sell-outy’ (er yeah that’s a phrase) way to advertise. By actively engaging with a product or service the blogger is able to give a much more honest review of something to their readers, which is ultimately what they, and the brands themselves, really want. In my eyes its a win win situation. I really enjoy working closely with brands and businesses I love to come up with creative ways to promote them.

There is no magical money tree

… and neither is there a pot of gold at the end of the allusive blogging rainbow. Simply having a blog is not a means to an end and there is no quick trick you can employ to net yourself a fortune overnight. I honestly think that some people genuinely believe that us bloggers have some magical secret bit of code that we put in to our website’s backend and it suddenly starts printing money. If only.

A blog will not make you money. Your blog is a vehicle for you to use to start making money. And this takes it’s sweet ass time. You have to launch it, write on it – every day – for a few months (at least), build an audience, get that audience to love and trust you, and then start developing ideas for monetisation. The notion that you can start a blog and start making money from the off is totally and utterly ludicrous.

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And remember, always keep it classy

However you choose to make money from your blog, having the utmost integrity is key. Not only by disclosing when you’ve been paid (or gifted) something to write about it (you readers will NOT like feeling like they’re being duped or lied to) but also with who you choose to work. If you get a slightly icky feeling when you think about it, or something just doesn’t sit right with you then listen to your gut. If you don’t like the way something feels, you readers probably won’t either.

The other thing to realise is that not all these avenues will necessarily work for your blog. I know many bloggers who do really well out of affiliate links or example, but I’ve tried it and never really made enough to make it worth the effort. Don’t be afraid to experiment and learn through trial & error what works best for you, your readers and your business.

Many bloggers have come under scrutiny for monetising their blogs with things like brand collaborations, affiliate links, ‘selling out’ to advertisers or by accepting gifts for review, but what many people outside the blogging bubble don’t realise is just how vital is it to have these various streams of revenue and to build these relationships. Without them our blogs simply wouldn’t exist. Bloggers need to be constantly thinking “what’s next?”, to question the status quo and push boundaries in order to stay ahead of the curve. We need to be savvy about how we create our content and inventive with how we make our money. While that might lead to some raised eyebrows, until a concrete and one-size-fits-all method to monetise digital publishing comes to light, bloggers will constantly have to develop and redevelop ways to earn a crust. It’s not an easy job – far from it – but it’s the best bloody job in the world.

Supporting Cast

44 comments

  1. hey Kat, just curious what blogging platform you started with? I have wordpress and it is really really difficult to put ads on there? (or maybe I’m not doing it right…)
    I changed it to a .com but need to buy my website and dont want to do it if wordpress isn’t a great platform to use.
    thanks in advance chick, loved this article!
    Louise

  2. Post author

    Louise mcg – i use wordpress.org. if you use wordpress.com (which is the free one) it’s limited as to what you can do with it (customisationa and such) Good luck!

  3. Very interesting info! Thankyou for sharing this so much! One of the reasons I’m such a fan is you are so honest! This is great! As a reader I do trust you! :) Great job on this blog as always and very useful info! X

  4. Behind-the-scenes peeks are the best…thanks Kat! We are planning on going the direct advertising route starting in June, as I have similar feelings about ad networks. They serve a purpose, but not a very big one!

  5. Wow! What a great post- thankyou for sharing your thoughts. I particularly like the line, “A blog will not make you money. Your blog is a vehicle for you to use to start making money.”

    It can all be a fairly confusing sort of blur for us ‘blogger newbies’. I started my blog because I love to write- but I’m more passionate about fostering positive self image, boosting self confidence, and I’m also a makeup artist.

    Time to sit down with a notebook and start brainstorming, I think… thanks Kat! Xxx

  6. Post author

    MJ: Just read the blog post you linked back to my about page. Just wanna say good luck with your blogging and I hope we get to meet at a blogcademy soon! Glad you found this useful :-) Are you in london?

  7. As always, Kat, your articles are so inspiring! I write a blog too but I never thought about making money out of it! My object is showing my native region in Southern Italy,make people love it, and hopefully organise their wedding there!! But, everytime I read one of your post I feel I can do much more and in better ways! Thanks Kat!!!! Anna x

  8. Great post! I was recently contacted by Dove Deodorants- basically (as usual) they wanted me to blog about them for free. When I responded (in a classy way) with my media kit they said they had no money for advertising – ummm seriously!? Can you smell that BS too? Their parent company is KILLING IT this year- like highest profits ever. Needless to say I (unfortunately) got pretty unclassy pretty fast. How
    do you deal with companies who you know can pay but still view blogs as third world nations -what I really mean is how do you ‘keep it classy’ when you get this kind of shit on a daily basis?

  9. Post author

    Sara – I just politely say thanks so much for thinking of me but no thanks and wish them luck with their campaign!

  10. This is great advice but I have a couple questions. Firstly, you can’t make any money if you have no audience and many brands and ad agencies wont collaborate with you until you have a substantial audience, I know as I am still under 10,000 visits per month despite having my blog for two years. I would like to know how to build a large, dedicated and passionate audience that I can leverage for a living.

    Secondly, if you don’t ever blog about things you wouldn’t actually buy or use, why do you need to disclose that you have been hired to blog about it? I don’t see it as duping your audience if you already believe in what you’re promoting.

    I would like to see more talk on how to build a dedicated audience, thanks :)

  11. Also, for your readers, blogging has made me realise what I am really passionate about, my blog has evolved and I now know that I really love lifestyle journalism. My new goal is to use my blog as a sort of CV to get hired to write about events and places, so as Kat says, you won’t make money from your blog, but you can use it as leverage.

  12. Post author

    Hi The Dame Intl – so its quite difficult for me to answer your first question about building an audience in one short comment… theres not quick fix answer i can give you really. you’ll have to come to The Blogcademy I think! BUT you can still give affiliate links and google ads a go with a small audience. theres no minimum traffic you have to achieve to sign up for them.

    As for your second question – its just about being honest really and if youre in the US it is the law that you have to disclose if you’ve been paid for something…

  13. Hi Kat,
    I too have recently started a fashion blog in Australia and am keen to explore how to monetize the site. So thanks for your great advice. Cheers

  14. Hi Kat,
    I too have recently started a fashion blog in Australia and am keen to explore how to monetize the site. So thanks for your great advice. Chee

  15. Finding ways to earn a passive income online is much easier these days than back in early 2000. There are dozens of opportunities to choose from. You just have to know where to look or know the right people who can provide that information in their newsletters.

    Here’s a quick way to get started earning your first passive income stream.

  16. I think that showing integrity by disclosing that you are being paid for affiliate links or are reviewing a product you’ve been given as a freebie is a great point to make. In fact, it’s now a legal requirement to do so.

    It’s an important point so I’ve shared it on blogbods for the newbie bloggers. If you write anything else insightful about blogging do share it with us there!

    I also loved your comment about it not being the easiest job in the world – but it’s the best. Couldn’t agree more.

  17. Hi kat

    A really useful article. I will take your advice. Your site is great and what beautiful photos!

  18. i just started an Entertainment, gossip, gist,new and events blog about African news. i have been thinking of monetizing the blog but no idea.
    Thanks cause this has enlightened me the more about blogging

  19. Hi Kat, Awesome article and really gave me some good idea’s. I just wondered if you could take a quick look at my site and tell me the best options to get most out of it, Do you think i should create a “Hire Me” tab for reviewing products or writing articles for other companies/sites? As this is what i love to do i love to write about game/tech and cant think of anything else it is i would like to do. Thanks for any help you can give :)

    Regards.
    Chris.

  20. Am from Nigeria and I really gained alot from your article. I think i really need to brainstorm so i can be able to monetise my blog because am yet to get a penny. I love writing about the entertainment industry but with a touch of humour and maybe wanting my audience to learn from people i talk about

  21. Hi Kat,

    I blogged for a couple of years before but I did it purely to try and make money. My mistake was not writing about what I loved, I wrote only about topics that would generate traffic.

    If you don’t love it, you won’t last. Lesson learned.

  22. Hi Kat,
    Interesting article, thanks. I have two websites – one is just a general interest site, the other is a Science Fiction site. The general main one gets between 80,000 and 100,000 hits a month but makes about a dollar. I just have adsense on it right now. Maybe I should do more. I am learning coding so I can make it look better but not sure what else I should do.
    You article made me think I should be getting a little more.
    Maybe join an agency?
    Thanks,
    Jason

  23. Very informative article. My above blog is new, so right now I am using only Adsense Ads and Affiliate Marketing-Amazon links to sell their product, which is one of the best Affiliate programs. I am having 1-2 and even sometimes like in Christmas times more sales.

    Thanks for the information.

  24. I have to say that from all the articles I have read on how to get profit with a blog, yours is the best. It is A M A Z I N G how helpful this article has been for me. I started my blog because I really felt the need to talk about art and to share art around me, however I am looking forward on implementing some of this strategies.

    urbanartblog.com

  25. Just got self hosted 2 months ago and it has been a slow climb. And I have noticed that many PRs emailing will try to get you to lower your ad/sponsored post rates. Is it wise to decline? Or when do we make exceptions?

  26. Very helpful advice! I been thinking about it myself but at the same time its weighing on me if this is something I would want it to be come! I’ll have a think about it but thank you for the advice!

  27. I came across this article while trying to read more about blogging. Got self hosted just 2 weeks ago. For now it’s not all about the money. I just want to create some awareness about natural African hair/ products/ beauty back home African (Cameroon) precisely. This natural hair movement seem to be moving around Europe and USA with little or no impact in most African countries. Thanks for the advice. Your honesty is what made me to drop a word.I will definitely need tips to your article some time soon.

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