In my first post Blogging for Dollars (and a Few Cents Too) I discussed how challenging it is to make money from blogging. However, it’s certainly not impossible. Many people make a good income from blogging and some even quit their jobs to earn a living solely through blogging. Such successful bloggers include Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, Joanie and Heather of The Krazy Coupon Lady, David and Tom Gardner of The Motley Fool and, lest we forget, your very own Steve of I’ve Tried That.
How does one go about making money from a blog? There are quite a few tried and true methods such as selling advertising and reviewing products. Other methods, such as writing a book or creating software, take more time and work. Here are some common as well as uncommon ways through which bloggers make money:
One of the simplest and easiest ways to make money from your blog is to monetize it through Google AdSense. Given your level of blog traffic and the keywords for which your blog is optimized, AdSense earnings range from just a few pennies to even $100 per click. Affiliate programs such as Amazon Affiliates, Clickbank and ShareASale offer you the opportunity to make commissions on product sales, leads and clicks. You can also work directly with companies to place banner and column ads on your website; typically these ads earn a given amount of dollars per month or year. Finally, text link ads are a little less obstructive and also earn a monthly/yearly income or commission per sale.
The next big step in making money from blogging is to turn out a product and sell it. The product involved should somehow relate to the topic of the blog. Books, software, guides and educational courses can all be designed to fit this requirement. Bloggers who successfully sell products on their blogs include Michael S. Brown, Darren Rowse (via Digital Photography School, not Problogger) and Steve Kamb.
Companies and manufacturers may send you free products to test and review on your site. While such compensation isn’t monetary, it still involves receiving a good and/or service in exchange for your work. Sometimes, the reviews involve all expenses paid trips to attend conferences or observe product demonstrations. In other cases, you may be asked to host a Twitter party and tweet about a product for one hour with other attendees. These Twitter parties do pay rather well; a one hour session is compensated at the rate of $750 to $5,000.
- Membership programs.
Membership programs, such as a subscription-based forum or job board, offer several lucrative benefits:
• You make money on the subscription signup.
• You sell that subscription again and again over a period of months or even years.
• You maintain and increase your audience as well as the amount of time that this audience spends at your blog (i.e., session length).
• You increase the chances of selling your own products.
• You increase the chances of ad clicks/views and affiliate sales.
The downside to creating a membership program is that you simply cannot leave it alone once you’ve gained members and subscriptions. You will need to update the material and/or moderate the forum as well as answer member questions and issues. In essence, you will be working a part-time to full-time job just keeping up with your members.
Bloggers who run highly popular blogs eventually are asked to teach and/or speak at conferences and other events. As a teacher or speaker, you can make money by charging a fee for your service. You may also decide to sell your instruction through webinars and/or podcasts. Such monetization works especially well if your blog’s forté lies in money-centric fields such as investment, personal finance, employment, debt consolidation or ecommerce.
If you are considered to be an expert in your particular niche, you may wish to charge a consulting fee for private mentorship programs, one-on-one phone calls or evaluations. However, be prepared for some tough questions and the occasional dissatisfied customer. To get a feel of what such a service entails, first offer it for free or through a money-back guarantee. You may also need to partner with several other niche experts in order to handle questions and issues.
- Direct buyout.
If you have a reasonably successful blog and want to cash out on it, selling your blog for profit may be the best option. Typically, you will get at least two times the yearly earnings of your blog during its sale. This sum of money can be substantial, allowing you to pursue other investment opportunities or simply retire from your blogging career. Alternately, your blog may be targeted for buyout by big-name publications like Time, CNN, The Huffington Post, etc.
Most bloggers don’t think about soliciting donations from their readers, but if you’ve resisted the urge to populate your website with pop-up ads and banners, many of your readers will appreciate this gesture and donate to your site. Bloggers who have successfully instituted donations on their websites report getting $10 or even $100 per donor.
My biggest disclaimer: Purchase your own domain and hosting
All of the above monetization strategies will be difficult if not outright impossible to implement if you use a hosted blog service like Blogger or Blog.com. How can you tell if you’re working with a hosted blog service? Your chosen domain name will be included with the service provider name; for example, instead of obtaining a domain name like http://www.mydomainname.com, you will instead obtain http://www.mydomainname.serviceprovider.com. This will wreck havoc on your SEO (search engine optimization) and ability to control advertising.
Some service providers put up their own ads on your blog while others prohibit you from commercializing your site. Because you lack control over your own blog, you won’t be able to monetize or design it the way you wish. Your best bet, therefore, is to eschew “free” hosting services and purchase your own domain name and hosting. Doing so is fairly cheap and is explained in detail on paid hosting sites like HostGator or NameCheap. You can then create your website and blog with free publishing programs like WordPress.