25 Actionable Ways to Make Money Blogging [September 2018 Update]
This article explores some fast ways to make money from your blog and some not-so-fast ones (but equally good, if not better). To cut to the chase, click here, otherwise…
Riddle me this: do you see blogs-turned-success stories and think “How did they do it?”?
And then, you probably just think to yourself (seconds after your heart skipped a beat and imagined living all around the world with your laptop serving as your main source of income): “Are they the rule, or are they the exception?”. Are they gifted, charismatic, super-talented, or were they a mix of well-prepared, right-person-at-the-right-time kind of people?
At least, I do.
I mean, don’t most of us think of ourselves as the exception in most hypothetical scenarios we run in our heads? Insert thought bubble here:
–“So, I start [this] company, and then [famous celebrity with an entrepreneurial mind and a soft spot for struggling yet inspired entrepreneurs, who shares the same sense of humour as me] discovers me, retweets me, and then it’s over for everyone.”
–“I come up with this seemingly nutcase business idea, nobody backs me, I bootstrap for about a year, nibble away at all my savings, and just before I hit rock bottom and get out of business a well-intentioned millionaire who shares my passion for overpricing bric-a-brac from the 00’s and loves to invest in questionable ideas, walks into my store and, this, kids, is how I now run this $300,000,000 net value company. Would you like some edible gold chips with your champagne?”
Thank goodness, with blogging you can be an entrepreneur without all this drama.
Starting a blog sounds so exciting; you can finally write about what you are most passionate about.
You’ve jotted down a trillion concepts, all the people who could help you, all the people you could help through your blog and accumulated publicity, the lives you are going to change with your work, and the contribution you are going to make in this world. This is all about leaving your mark here. And you soooo got this.
Your first blog post is up and you just wait for the sponsorships to start rolling in.
OK, so how will people see it? You decide to post it on your personal Facebook account.
You get a few likes and think “Maybe I didn’t clarify I am actually starting a blog and that this is the first article. Ok, let me try one more time.”
Then you repost, keep yourself busy for a couple of hours, rush to your Google Analytics page and you tap the number of views: 4.
“So, this is how it goes down”, you say, as you mentally wave goodbye to all your plans with yachts and business meetings with Madonna making it big in the business world.
But your content is so good, what’s wrong with people? Could they already be intimidated by your ambitions?
How are companies going to find out about you? How are they going to start sponsoring you?
I mean, after all, you quit your job for this. (Wait, what? No.)
Where’s the money?
The money comes from trust and reliability.
How do you get people to trust you? You write consistently and wait for people to come to you. You grow. And wait some more.
Here’s an analogy: writing a blog is just like growing flowers.
Both are appreciated when they are in full bloom, not as seeds.
It’s the trust in their potential that urges people to put their time in.
This is what happens with your blog; every article you post is a seed. Seeds alone will not make people buy the flowers. People need to see that the seeds can grow.
To grow your blog you need to generate this kind of confidence in your potential, especially if you are just starting out.
You need to show your new followers and remind the older ones why they should stick around with you, why they are there, what they are getting from you.
What do readers want to see on your blog?
This is not the question you should be asking right now. Don’t think about that.
Think about what you want to write about. This will attract the right kind of people.
Even if they are just too few, you will be addressing a niche market, all the better for the future of your blog and traffic.
Now, what should always permeate your blog and every post you publish is quality.
I was just reading this article earlier today and thought I should share this with you: meeting customer expectations is more important than outperforming their expectations.
So, give them what you promised them; otherwise, giving them something extra that just doesn’t add up all that much is not going to count towards a higher performance score on your part.
That being said, you must be able to provide 100% of the expected product and then move on to catering to that 101% to deliver the augmented product. [Don’t remember what these are? Well, this section here might refresh your memory].
Examples of famous bloggers making money from their blogs
These are not urban myths, but they are legends. Here are some of my favorite examples of successful bloggers. You have probably heard of some of these people (or their blogs):
Brandon Stanton (aka Humans Of New York)
The popular blog started as Brandon’s hobby back when he was unemployed; the blogger asks pedestrians in New York a question and then shares their answers followed by a beautiful portrait of the interviewees. The blog has gained immense popularity over the years and is now turning to its wide audience to fund its future and evolution (see further down).
What started as creating memories following the birth of his first son brought the best out of Casey Neistat who became a videoblogger and now is a cinematographer signing contracts with major celebrities and brands. Since the videoblogging era boomed, Casey has managed to differentiate himself early on by discovering his own style.
Chiara Ferragni (aka The Blonde Salad)
Originally known as “The Blonde Salad”, the Milan-based fashion blogger has made it to the top of the fashion world, with some 14 million followers on Instagram, a front-row seat at every fashion show, collaborations with major brands, and her own brand… at age 31.
Scott Schuman (aka The Sartorialist)
Scott Schuman left his job to take care of his younger daughter and he would capture with his camera the everyday streetstyle of New Yorkers. In fact, he was the one to coin the term streetstyle and start a new style of photography. Schuman has also won multiple awards for his work on the blog as well as outside of it, while he has also collaborated with major fashion brands.
A few quick thoughts
Doing my research for this article, I have come across so many examples of successful bloggers who make a living out of their blogging skills. But, as I mentioned earlier, I am indeed one of the sceptical ones. So I was intrigued to figure out how these bloggers worked their way to the top.
I am going to leave out certain factors such as being the right person at the right time (some call it luck, I prefer “preparation meets opportunity” as one of my favorite quotes!), knowing someone who knows someone in the right place (this is quite common in many countries), and timing. Timing refers to launching a blog in an up-and-coming field, or a field that gains popularity very fast during a specific period.
The reason why I believe these should not be factored in is that I am an optimist and a firm believer in eventually getting it right, sheerly through hard work. On second thought, optimist could be replaced by romantic.
Read this article if…
Starting a blog usually stems from an inherent need to explore a field and our thoughts. It also derives from a need to communicate these thoughts and discuss them. Now, making money from a blog is one of the perks of the medium, and you are at the right place if:
i) you are an expert, an authority in your field and you are trying to handle all this new traffic. You are wondering: am I making the most of my blog? What should I do to make [more] money out of my blog?
ii) you are just starting out in blogging, this article is of interest to you. The good thing about you just starting out is that you can gauge your competition, map it, define your blue ocean and your USP, and get out there all prepared. At the same time, we will show you all the growth techniques you need from Day 1, so that you don’t lose a single visitor who lands on your blog.
“Here’s how I made $45,000 in 2 hours.”
There are shortcuts to success, everyone (successful) knows that.
Don’t fall for this.
No such thing. Most likely, it took months, even a year of preparation AND 2 hours to make $45,000. The rest is click-bait stuff.
Below we present a list of fast-track (direct) ways and slow-burn ones (less direct) to monetize your blog.
I’m sure your good eye is already scanning the text to discover our fast-track growth recipes, while the other one is impatiently lingering here. Before you skip to the hot part, let me quickly go over why you need the foundational part.
If you are not established as a blogger just yet, you need to set up certain pathways through which you will increase your credibility and authority as a writer. By doing so, you are not asking your audience to first give and then receive.
In other words, they don’t have to pay for your service first, and then get something for free. This is the opposite: you produce and share for free tons of content that is useful and actionable.
This does two things on user perception: the first one is that they trust you as an expert; you give them a little taste of what they’re in for once they purchase your service. .
The second thing is that for you to be sharing all this content for free, your paid service must be a lot more worthwhile.
On a professional level, this keeps you on the tip of your toes at all times and urges you to excel always.
However, income-wise, we should factor in seasonality and random fluctuations, whatsoever. Even if you get recurring revenue on a monthly basis from paying subscribers they could either opt out at some point or downgrade at another.
Keep in mind that over the first few months of running your blog you’re going to need to focus on generating traffic before actually monetizing it.
Here are the fastest ways to cash out your blog traffic
Set up an Affiliate program
Whether your blog traffic has a steady rhythm of growing, or you are just setting out to promote your blog, a great way to go about growing your audience is through affiliate links.
If you belong to the former category, you will be cashing out your blog traffic big time.
In the latter case, you can set up an affiliate marketing program to benefit from your growing traffic.
To do this, you must map out your competition’s affiliate marketing programs first. While you’re at it, you can also consider these tried-and-tested tips to grow your email list from scratch.
By launching an affiliate marketing program, you enable your greatest fans or your most loyal followers to spread the word about your blog.
At the same time, they help you grow by increasing your sales or subscriptions.
In exchange for their loyalty and engagement affiliates get a fair share of what they brought in. This is usually about 30% of the deal.
Over time, you can scale your Affiliate Marketing programs to reward your most successful affiliates with bonus prizes, so that they remain engaged throughout.
Reach out to companies for paid guest posts
Start a side gig today. Use your blog as your portfolio to sell your services.
Whatever your superpower is, be it writing, photography, storytelling, music, you name it, you can increase your revenue by reaching out to companies.
Reach out to publishing houses or blogs and to offer your composition or editing skills at a price.
In the new medium, you can diversify what you normally blog about to expand your own skills and add value for your existing followers to join you there, too.
The benefits will be twofold as you will be giving your audience a new outlet where they can connect with you, and you will be reaching out to a new audience, too.
You run this blog and often post photos or videos of what you work on.
Do you take commissions? If so, then let your users know! If not, what’s keeping you?
Don’t be subtle about it; make things crystal clear. Tell your readers things like “I am fully booked until…”, “Commissions have opened for…”, “Two commission spots have opened up for the coming months”, and so on.
Another way to go about this is, along with every post that you share, to add a direct link to your “Hire me” webpage.
Alternatively, a short message “Contact us to book your own” and an email address will serve its role just as well.
Launch your own free courses (+a twist!)
Noone can resist a good freebie, and your online course will be no exception!
Had you ever considered launching a free course as a way to make money? Wait, it doesn’t make sense?!
Email Marketing can help you at it.
You see, as soon as users sign up for your course, with a little help from dynamic segmentation, you can create a new target audience.
As soon as they finish the course, you could set up an email marketing automation to upsell them to one of your paid online courses.
For someone who has just finished a course and has experienced the added value, they are going to be far more likely to take the leap.
This course could either be a complementary one, or a premium course, offered at a lower price.
Keep those who converted in a separate mailing list of more engaged users.
Launch your courses on a popular platform
Ever considered teaching at one point or another in your life? Well, now’s the time.
If you feel that you have achieved a certain level of mastery over your craft, upload your own course on a digital platform such as Udemy, Brit+Co, etc.
The market for online courses is vast so make sure to add your personal touch to your course to be an instant hit.
Accelerate your success by spreading the word across your audiences on other networks or launching a few ads to generate traffic faster.
Record your own podcasts
If you don’t have the time or equipment to set up and launch your own online course, you can try podcasts.
Podcasts are so much easier to produce; they are the no-frill version of video courses- plus, you’ll save up on that make-up and hair styling fees, too.
The great thing about podcasts is that you can sell them for almost the same price as you would your videos, and here’s why:
i) you’ve gone into the exact same amount of trouble to prepare the content as you would in a video course,
ii) you give users access to new insights and share fresh, unique content,
iii) the format of podcasts is such that allows for versatility; those who purchase can listen to the podcasts anywhere simply by downloading them.
Also, in case you wish to re-do a podcast or update it, you can easily do so without having to replicate the setting or repeat the outfit, like you would for a video tutorial.
Don’t ask me how I know.
Create and sell other digital products
What is your greatest strength?
For example, if you are an avid reader, you could use your blog to write digest articles or write your own ebook based off on the highlights of books. This could help those who buy your digital product to save time and get to the gist that every book has to offer.
Other examples of digital products you could sell include: case studies, plugins, Kindle books, etc.
Make sure to protect it digitally– this will prevent users from sharing it on their pages or forwarding it to friends:
Sell exclusive memberships
In case you already offer a membership option to your followers, how about making a pyramid of memberships?
This means that you could create different content for the different stages of the pyramid; the more eloquent and thorough your work is, the fewer people get access to it (i.e. premium memberships).
Give premium content to your most loyal subscribers.
But, at the same time, even those who cannot afford the full suite of your services, will be able to sign up for a smaller package with less money.
This will also serve as a great way for the latter to experience the quality of your service without the pressure of spending all their budget on a single service or product.
Consulting entrepreneurs or businesses for a living is not to be taken lightly, so only claim that you are a consultant if you have thorough experience of running a business in a competitive environment.
In the meantime, be sure to mention what that industry was/is and the time period when you did/do consulting.
Also, you must consider all aspects of your Non-Disclosure Agreement, which should serve as safeguards for those who choose to buy your services.
Offer highly specialized services to those who purchase your services, and give them premium consulting services which are tailored to their needs.
Hit the Donations button
The most straightforward way to make money is to ask users to donate.
Especially if you have posted free content that showcases the quality of your work, and users rely on your work on a regular basis, they will be more than happy to chip in to keep you going.
Au contraire, it is highly unlikely that users will help out a complete stranger who shows no proof of their work.
The communities of these platforms are more keen on sponsoring or funding projects than users would individually. Therefore, you get more chances to get featured and become more famous across a wider audience.
Run sponsored contests
Depending on the market and field you are in, you don’t need a humongous audience to get a company to sponsor your contest.
As long as you have a decent following that is engaged, then you can ask for companies to run a contest with a product of theirs.
This is a win-win scenario for both sides:
i) you start building business relationships with companies in your industry, no publicists or agents involved
ii) you grow your audience very fast, with zero marketing budget
iii) you build a positive brand image in the perception of your followers,
iv) the brands you do business with benefit from your targeted audience and can become a top-of-mind choice.
Write about trending topics
One of the most common ways to make money from your blog is to write about trending topics.
Now, provided that you update your blog frequently, two things happen: a) users know they can turn to your blog for information (ergo you build an engaged audience), b) you earn money from ads displayed on your blog.
Essentially, Google Display Network displays ads on your blog. [Interested? Here’s 7 tips to master the GDN.]
It’s a lot of work, but …it pays!
Be a guest speaker at events
Your blog is proof of your hard work and expertise on a field or topic.
It also shows your dedication, expertise, consistency, organization skills, reporting skills, and your passion.
These are the attributes that any event organizer would want for their invited speakers to have.
So, everything you do on your blog has a potential to be cashed out in a number of ways and events are one of them.
Add a section to your blog/website where visitors can book your services for an event or schedule a skype call with you.
Here’s how Neil Patel does it on Quicksprout:
Click here to see what users see once they click the link above.
Do referral marketing
I was looking for ways to help you make money from your blog and build a relationship with your readers, when I came up with referral marketing.
On the one hand, it’s an insane way to grow by rewarding engagement on your users’ part. For example, every time you post a blog or add a new product/service to your eshop, you could ask users to share them with their friends or people who might be interested in these. The ultimate goal for your users will be to win something: their sharing your post will be granting them more entries for your contest, etc.
On the other hand, this method builds on gamification, that is a great brand-building strategy that helps increase brand loyalty!
Other similar examples you might have come across are the “Refer a friend” option whereby users refer other users for $5 off their next purchase for example. Here’s how Firebox does it:
This is what the subscriber sees in their newsletter:
When you click that button you are redirected to a page that walks you through the process and looks like this:
Another good example of this is AirBnb and the way they reward users for inviting their friends to the platform, as well as those who accept the invitation, too:
Set up a Patreon page
I’m going to start with a recent example. You are probably familiar with the popular page of Humans of New York.
Earlier this month, Brandon Stanton (blogger) announced he will be joining Patreon.
So, now, to view more posts from his blog, users will need to become patrons to “unlock” various posts.
The crazy cool thing about this is that Brandon’s posts have always generated so much buzz, particularly due to the eloquent answers of the people he interviews.
As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed over the years that one of the most common questions among the audience (users) is what question Brandon asks every time to get such beautiful answers, so spot on, so charged with meaning.
Visiting HONY’s patreon page I saw that all locked posts come with a hint: the question Brandon asked.
As soon as I saw the top post “How do you get people to open up?” I thought, “hey, that’s an interesting one. Let me see the available subscriptions one more time.”
Create a gated section on your blog
Along the lines of launching a free online class and then up-selling registrants to a paid online course, you can set up a gated section on your blog, or produce “sneak-peek” or “preview” content for the gated section.
In other words, if you run a blog about music, you probably upload articles, or tunes which your users can listen to and download.
To earn a few extra bucks, you can create a gated section which can be unlocked by subscribers only, and it could feature a list of new tracks updated regularly, or interviews from distinguished composers; all the extra fun bits of your work, only with a price tag for your biggest fans.
What is your blog about? What kind of super-content could your gated section be about?
Be an Affiliate
As a blogger, your say is important to those who follow you. You can use your influencer status to promote certain products or services you use or approve of. This is not the same as getting sponsored by the respective businesses, as this is on an affiliate basis.
For instance, the Amazon Associates Program does exactly that: you can choose your favorite products from millions of “trusted e-commerce leaders” and promote them through an affiliate link.
For every customer who uses your link you will be getting the respective cut, as specified by every seller.
This is another fast way to make money from sharing tips as well as build a good name for you among your fans for helping them out.
Follow these practices for long-term growth
The following steps are not direct revenue-adders; that being said, it will be a while before you see your savings increase.
But, to my mind, to earn a sustainable revenue from blogging as can be, you should invest time and energy in all pathways that could potentially return a multiple of their original value.
So, just because your Instagram account does not pay you directly to post beautiful images or add great captions, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an account and regularly post images, grow as an account, etc.
Because, by the time you have a decent following you will be able to redeem all this hard work of yours; you can reach out to businesses to suggest various ways to collaborate with you, or you can even launch your own merchandise collection.
The point being, in a world changing so fast, we cannot but have a finger in every pie!
This way, we will be prepared for whatever the future holds for the online communities.
Gain authority in your field
Grow your personal brand. Do everything it takes for your target audience to acknowledge your expertise.
You can put up free cheat sheets, record tutorials and how-to videos for free, and so on; everything it takes to get traction on your blog and build your list.
Another way to nurture lasting relationships with your readers is to connect with them on their favorite platforms to discover more about what they want to see from you.
For example, you can try sending out automated marketing campaigns such as “Survey buyers“. This will get you the kind of feedback you need- the awesome thing about this is that you can automate this campaign to go out at specific intervals.
Other ways to connect would be Facebook polls, Instagram polls on stories, etc.
All of these ways are indicative of the flexibility with which you can connect and reach a larger percentage of your following and thus, know them better.
Launch an eshop with what you make
What more direct way to monetize your blog traffic than to set up your own eshop?
If your craft is not …crafty, make sure to find creative ways to fill up your merchandise collection.
You see, consumers are more likely to respond enthusiastically to a complete collection of merchandise rather than one or two individual items.
So, for instance, if you are a writer, you can write short stories for friends, lovers, or stories celebrating family bonds. You can also custom print your own
Can you make your name a household name? So, launch your collection and start growing your business!
Put up how-to videos of your craft or something.
No doubt, when your users get stuck, they will turn to you for your paid services or affiliate links on other eshops to buy what you are recommending (so you get your commission and cut).
Build your social media presence
Grow your following across social media to gain negotiation power.
This is another indirect way to help monetize your blog.
You see, besides doing everything that is directly related to monetization, you must ensure your blog keeps growing.
Otherwise, you will not be able to scale your blog into a bigger business.
The negotiation power comes into play when discussing with potential sponsors about your cut when promoting their products.
Don’t buy followers because doing so will take its toll on your user engagement rates, and ultimately your negotiation power.
Join forces with other influencers
Make friends, not competitors. Pair up with other successful influencers in the area and hold conferences or workshops.
You can make it all about promoting a sense of community, rather than building a competitive landscape.
This will also elicit a similar feeling across your following.
I have a few very characteristic examples of that. I recently took up Lettering so I started following lettering artists and joining their Facebook groups.
Within the group, there are always “students” who actually get paid for their work.
And I love how when they ask a question about what they should charge a client, or how to pull something off, etc. they always get immense support and comments from the rest of the group.
At first, I thought this was counterintuitive. I would expect people to keep to themselves and try to protect their trade secrets.
Instead, the trade secrets were on the table and they were common trade secrets.
Same with my Acrylic pouring and Fluid painting groups (ok, maybe my hobbies sound funny).
Workshops, tips, advice, random discoveries, flash sales in stores, everything is shared in those groups.
Grow your following by synergizing with other influencers who are as successful as you are. Increase your exposure smartly.
Alternatively, grow your audience by co-hosting an online show/series of webinars with famous influencers who will also share this with their audiences.
Schedule offline workshops
Another way to monetize your blog traffic is to bridge the digital world with the real world. In other words, you can hold workshops in areas where you are most popular.
Your loyal fans will jump at the opportunity to join their favorite influencer teach them in person.
This serves not only as a great way to meet your fans in person but also to engage in meaningful in-person conversations with them.
Synergize your social media channels
As mentioned earlier, your social media profiles are neither optional nor mandatory, of course. However, they can be characterized as complementary to a 360 profile.
As an entrepreneur, especially if you are just starting out, you will need to be accessible to all, at least until things start clearing out and the majority of your following’s whereabouts show.
The advertising part is not budget-free, but I consider it an important investment in growing one’s own digital presence.
By choosing to grow your following on other social media channels, you create synergies among your profiles.
This way, you can see which channels your loyal followers are most active on.
This will give you a lot of insights regarding what your target audience looks like.
Ultimately, you will be able to make more informed decisions particularly thanks to this data.
Update your Instagram profile with linktr.ee
Here’s why: Your Instagram follow is made up of people who love what you do and know where to find you.
But your Instagram profile is also viewed by hundreds or thousands of potential followers who are not perfectly aware of what you do.
By adding a linktr.ee to your profile you can direct users to different media or networks (such as your eshop, gallery, Facebook page, etc.), like 3d direction signs!
BONUS tip: Ask your Instagram users for reshares. Your most loyal fans will be happy to do that for you.
In exchange, you can do a shoutout on your Instagram stories. It will be a win-win scenario for both sides.
The best way to go about your blog is to be genuine.
By genuine, I mean genuine in every aspect: your content, your intentions, your goals, your fears and concerns.
Start with the tips you like best, mark your progress on a chart, and revisit your schedule regularly.
You will soon have created a comprehensive plan that you can rely on to automate your steady growth.
Show the world what you are made of.