Updated September 9, 2021
There are a lot of people selling the idea that you can make money online. It’s everywhere. I can’t watch a YouTube video without somebody screaming at me about how I can make millions off their system. (By the way—if you’re standing in front of a private jet or a Bentley instead of in it, I’m assuming it’s probably not yours.)
I was first exposed to the idea of making money online 10 years ago. I started listening to a podcast called Smart Passive Income and became fascinated with the possibility.
Passive income. Could you really earn money while you’re sleeping? The idea sounds almost too good to be true.
I decided to write this post now, especially because, full disclosure, Roostervane does make money. However, it’s not a full-time income, although I hope it will be soon. I also do consulting.
All around me I see people with fantastic knowledge and ideas, and yet for some reason, they’re not the ones making money blogging.
So, if you have something great to give, something you really want to talk about, you may have wondered if it’s really possible to make money blogging.
And I believe it is.
But I also want to tell you that it’s not easy. In this post I’ll give you some cautions, and then I’ll tell you how to make money blogging. Yup, I’ll tell you how to blog for a living. Like any other job, it takes a ton of hard work. But it’s possible.
Before I start, let me say that blogging is not the only way to make money online. I’ll write more about other ways in the future—but there are a lot!
This post may contain links to affiliate products, which–if you choose to purchase–pay us a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to support our work. We only promote products we’ve used and love.
I’m a proud affiliate partner for Bluehost, which is what I used to start Roostervane. If you want to start a blog, I totally recommend them! Click here to check your domain name and get started for $2.95/mo!
It is totally possible to make money online. It is even possible to make a living online.
It’s harder than you think
Like any other job, or business, it is possible to make money online.
But it takes a super long time and will probably require serious effort, not just put towards writing, but also put towards learning digital marketing and technical skills.
A few years ago, there was a book that came out called the Four Hour Work Week. As the title suggests, the premise was building a company online that takes little work. I’m sorry to tell you that the people who make serious money blogging don’t have a four hour work week in the beginning years (eventually you can).
At first, it’s more like a 74-hour work week.
It will take a long time
There are stories about people who threw up a blog and four to six months later were making 6 figures. I suspect that these are the exceptions rather than the rule, and I find it really hard to believe beginners could do this.
Expect to fail. Expect a steep learning curve.
Overall, it takes a very long time to build traffic—the type of traffic that could make you money. It takes time to develop the content and get it found. And unless you’ve got thousands of dollars to buy traffic through advertising, you’ve got to do this the old-fashioned way: by posting great content that eventually gets shared by people and ranked by Google.
How much traffic you need to make money will depend.
If you are trying to sell a book, a course, a product, or advertising, you will probably need a lot of traffic.
If you are trying to sell consulting, speaking, or leads for an offline business, you can probably get away with much less.
But either way, it will probably take longer than you think.
There is a steep learning curve
When I started Roostervane, I had already been studying blogging for a decade. I just hadn’t really implemented.
I knew a lot of the basics around what it takes to build a blog that makes money, although refer to point above, it still took longer and was harder than I thought. I had taken SEO courses on Skillshare.
I knew how to schedule posts on social media. And I knew how to launch a blog on Bluehost—you know why? Because I’d launched at least four!
It’s a crowded marketplace
Do a quick Google search for how to make money blogging, and you will quickly see that there are a lot of people in this space now.
It’s not hard to understand why. In fact, I suspect most of us are enamoured with the possibility of making money while we sleep, and the idea of sitting on a beach somewhere while our bank account grows.
The story of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, who founded the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents and makes $50,000 a month while she sails the world with her husband is inspiring, but it’s the exception. Most blogs dry up and disappear, or at best break even, and she (and those like her) had the advantage of getting to the market years ago.
It’s a ton of work
Let me tell you my experience.
I’ve been working on Roostervane for over a year now. There has never been a week when I have worked less than 40 hours on it. I really love it; there’s a reason why I do this. If I didn’t, I would be doing something else. This is not a 10-easy-steps to get rich online sort of place to be.
There are predators
You know what one of the most profitable online niches is?
Selling things to people who want to make money online.
There are a lot of people who want to separate you from your money. So, if you’re going to get into this game, you will need to have your wits about you to know what’s worth paying for and what is not.
Unless you have a lot of start-up money behind you, most things out there for bloggers are not worth paying for—at least not until you have proved your niche and your concept.
So how can you make money from blogging?
Okay, so now that we’ve got that list out of the way, how can you actually make money blogging?
Let’s get into it. First of all, you’ll need to build…
- A solid niche
- Great content
- A monetization strategy that fits your brand.
As you start to get that into place, you can start making money. Here’s how:
1. Sell Consulting or Coaching
I think this is probably the easiest one. And to be honest, you don’t necessarily need a blog. If you want to establish authority, and you want to write, you could even just post the occasional thing on LinkedIn or Medium and sell your services.
But if you start a blog, it cements your credibility and authority in a certain field. And if you can combine that with an offering where you are using that expertise, you are more likely to get clients, especially if they are clients who need what you have to offer.
If you have a value offer that’s clear, consider including a “work with me” page on your blog that sells consulting packages and prices and gives people a place to reach you.
Pros- you can get it up and running relatively quickly.
Con- it’s not passive. The minute you stop selling, or stop using your time for consulting, you are not making money.
2. Sell a Book
I know writing a book is interesting for a lot of Roostervane readers.
You can totally use your blog to develop your writing skills and build an audience. And eventually, you may choose to sell a book to them!
Hey, that’s what I did! (You can find my book here)
You can either sell a book directly on the blog, either through using program to protect it or by using a book printing company to Dropship your books.
I decided to sell on Amazon. Why? Although it’s a little restrictive–Amazon makes some rules about how you can do it–literally everybody knows it. Most people are totally comfortable with buying things on Amazon, and Amazon also has a really good restrictive technology that stops people from stealing your book.
One idea, if you want to make money selling books alone, is to choose the type of books you want to write carefully. I write narrative non-fiction, but if you have advanced technical knowledge you can probably create educational eBooks for people in your field and charge a lot more. An in-depth, educational guide to new advances in geologic lab work or project management in highway construction might sell for $250 a book. This is why niches are so important and can be so lucrative.
Pros- The income is passive. It will keep coming in month after month.
Cons- With popular books, you need to sell a LOT to make a reasonable income off of only book sales. For example, a $10 book that sells 5,000 copies a year would make you $50,000—not a bad income. But you’ll need the audience to match that. If you sold a trade book for $250, you’d only need to sell around 160/year to make the same amount.
3. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is when you recommend products or services on your blog and you get a commission from that person or company who sells it.
We do this on Roostervane. For example, when we recommend books with the Amazon Associates program, and people buy, we get a commission. We also recommend certain products or services that we use all the time.
For example, we always recommend Bluehost for building blogs. Why? Because that’s where I started, and I love it! So Roostervane gets a commission, and the person who is completely overwhelmed about the number of blog hosting services out there gets to know how I—Chris—did it. Win-Win.
There are a huge number of affiliate marketing programs out there, so if there is a product you use and love and you know it would help people, it’s usually pretty easy to recommended and get some money from it.
And this brings up the crucial point. Only use affiliates that you’ve used and will help your audience. Otherwise you’ll lose credibility.
When I recommend a book or a web host, it’s really just giving my stamp of approval to something someone would probably buy anyway.
Some sites, such as product review sites, are perfect for affiliates. For example, Darren Rowse started a blog called Digital Photography School. Darren recommends cameras, so when people buy them, he gets a commission.
Pro- Totally passive income. Earn money while you sleep.
Cons- Affiliate programs can get a bit complicated to manage, and you need good traffic or strong advertising of your affiliates to make commissions.
You can make money using ads on your blog. However, if you want to make enough money to eat, you will need some serious blog traffic.
Any money you make is better than nothing, I suppose. But there’s a reason why Roostervane doesn’t have ads right now. I’m not interested in slapping ugly ads on the site for a few extra dollars a month.
For example, you can start with Google Adsense—but you need 50,000 views a month.
But the real money comes once you get to high views. Even at 50,000, the better option is to monetize with ad networks, who work with you to place ads on your site—from what I’ve seen, the result is much sleeker and better integrated. For example, Mediavine is a popular ad network that manages ads for you.
Now, if 50,000 views a month sounds like a ridiculous amount, it is—at first. After a few years of consistent blogging in a niche, especially if you’ve done some keyword research, you’ll get that much traffic. But realistically, most blogs don’t hit those numbers in their first year.
Pros- Passive income off an existing audience.
Cons- Need a high traffic volume and ads can take away from your website experience.
5. Sell a Course
Selling courses is a way that a lot of bloggers monetize their site. And Roostervane is no different. After talking about networking in post after post, telling people that they needed to network to get jobs, I decided to launch a course to walk people through what I meant.
I imagine that online courses might be a great fit for a lot of Roostervane readers looking to monetize a blog. The readers of Roostervane are mostly highly-educated people, many of whom have experienced teaching. It seems like a no-brainer that this skill could be sold online.
Some bloggers build a course directly into a WordPress blog, as I’ve done. I use a plugin called LearnDash that lets me create courses here.
You could also create a course on a third-party platform like Kajabi.
Pros- Passive income for a long time to come.
Cons- Creating a course takes work and know-how. You need to consistently sell it and do customer support for refunds and technical support (or hire someone to do it).
6. Start a community
I once started a community for Roostervane, and it was a lot of fun! There were so many great people and we had such good conversations.
A community is a great way to get more face to face time with blog readers and create relationships. It is a lot of fun.
However! It’s also a lot of work, especially compared to the strategies about which you mostly set and forget. So don’t stumble into starting a community. Be intentional about it.
You can host a community on a blog itself, or on a third party service.
Pros- Great way to build strong relationships with your readers and recurring income every month (based on a monthly membership model).
Cons- It takes a lot of work to keep a community going and growing. It’s almost a full-time job in itself.
7. Paid Promotion
There are different ways to do paid promotion. In the past world of blogging, this meant a sponsored post—where an organization paid you $500-$2,500+ per post. Obviously the amount charged is in line with your audience size.
This model is being replaced by the social media influencer model, where a lot of paid promotions are happening on social channels. Obviously you don’t need a blog to monetize, say, your Instagram feed, but if you’re a blogger with large social channels this could be an option too.
Pros- It might not take much work on your part to monetize your channels with paid content.
Cons- Paid content can hurt your brand a bit on social channels if people get sick of seeing it, especially if it’s not totally relevant. Paid content on a blog can actually hurt your SEO rankings. You need a big audience for it.
So can you make money blogging?
As I said at the beginning, monetization is totally possible. But it’s not easy. However, there are a ton of great ways to do it—this post has just given a quick summary of these.
If you want to monetize, my first advice to you would be to choose your niche carefully. But then get really good at building an audience, traffic, and great content.
My second piece of advice–treat it like a job. Work hard to learn everything you can about blogging, building traffic, and monetizing, and this will become a lot more possible. That’s how to make money blogging.
Most bloggers use a mixture of the methods above to monetize their blogs–you’ll probably do the same. But before you monetize, you gotta start! That’s the first step. So go!