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A Reality Check about Blogging for Money

Reality Check

Last week’s article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that my blog earnings are in excess of $250,000 per year (a very ballpark figure).

The problem with these type of articles is that they report in a few words just one element of a story – in this case my earnings.

While it’s true that I have built my blogging to a point where I’m able to earn good money blogging there are many things that an article like the one in the WSJ didn’t (and couldn’t) mention about how I was able to build my blogging up to this point.

The impact of this missing ‘back story’ is that much of the reality of blogging for money goes unseen by those looking at blogging as a potential income stream – leading some to naively enter into blogging with false expectations.

Of course when these expectations are not met things can get ugly with disappointment and anger being a common reaction. What disappoints me as a blogger writing on this topic is that I regularly see other bloggers feeding their readers with hype and false hopes about how easy it is to make big money from blogging. This only adds to the distance between their reader’s expectations and the reality of blogging for money.

The Reality of Blogging for Money

So what is the reality of building up one’s blogging to a point where they can make a full time living blogging?

Here are five facts that I’d like to share about my own story to give a more realistic picture to those considering getting into blogging as a way to make a living.

1. It takes a concerted long term effort

I have been blogging for five years. The first year was not for money in any way (although I learned a lot about blogging in that year) and the next two I worked 2-3 jobs at a time (and was studying part time) while I built my blogging up from a hobby, to part time job to a full time venture (more on my story here).

I’m often asked things like – ‘I need to make $xxxx in the next few months – how would you do it with a new blog?’

The average age of blogs in the Technorati Top 100 was over 3 years when I last surveyed it – while the occasional blogger has a fast rise to frame they are the exception. Building a successful blog takes a long time (it takes time to build readership, to work out how to monetize it etc) so take a long term approach and pace yourself.

2. It takes luck

I won’t speak for other bloggers but in my case I was very fortunate on many fronts. I started blogging at a good time (it was a lot less crowded and competitive back then).

  • I stumbled on making money from blogs quite accidentally
  • I started my first money making blog on the spur of the moment and picked a topic (digital
  • photography) without knowing what I was doing – but for the time it was right)
  • I met the right people at the right time
  • Bigger bloggers discovered me at opportune times

The lucky list could go on – but I was very lucky. Of course some people ‘make their own luck’ and to some extent I agree with this – there are ways to increase your chances of being lucky – but some of it is outside your hands. Sometimes the luck comes and sometimes it doesn’t.

3. It takes a lot of work

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how blogging less can mean more from your blog (example 1 and example 2). While I agree with this – that doesn’t mean you can just come up with a few posts on a whim every few days and expect the traffic (and money) to come rolling in. Over the last 3 years I’ve consistently worked 40-60+ hour weeks on my blogging. At one point I was posting 20-30 posts per day (mainly news related posts back then). Most bloggers that make a full time living from blogging work corresponding hours on it.

4. Many don’t make much money blogging

I’ve often used the analogy of Professional sports people to highlight that in any ‘game’ there are many who play it – less who make a little money from the game, even less who are able to earn a living from it (just) and just a small group who make big money from it. The same is true for bloggers. I’ve run many polls here at ProBlogger on how much people are earning from the medium (eg) and on every single occasion they reveal that the vast majority of bloggers are making very little per month. While it is possible to make amazing money from blogging the sad reality is that most don’t make more than pocket money. Even some blogs who ‘deserve’ to make money blogging don’t.

5. It’s hard

One thing that I’ve found to be common with when I had small/new blogs and now having blogs that are doing reasonably well is that in both instances it can be really hard to keep them going. The pressure to keep coming up with fresh ideas, to respond to critique of others, to deal with jealousy when others do well and more can be difficult to deal with. On some levels it gets easier to deal with as your blog grows – but on other levels the demands that you face from a larger readership can at times be overwhelming. Most bloggers that I know (big and small) have at one point or another been close to giving up – I know I have.

Feeling Depressed?

I don’t want to put a downer on those of you wanting to take your blogs to a level where you could make good money from blogging – the fact is that it is possible and and increasing number of people are making a part time or full time living from the medium – but I do think it’s important to have a realistic picture before getting into blogging for money.

While some bloggers do talk about blogging as a way to make quick money I’ve not had that experience myself. Perhaps others do get rich quick from blogging – but I’ve not met any successful bloggers who’ve told me that yet.

Reality Check 2

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I think the real money in blogging is talking about it rather than doing it :)

    There’s a huge demand for training in blogging. Do they teach blogging at TAFEs and universities? No. Should they? Yes!

  2. No, I don’t believe tertiary institutions have caught up with blogging and other web 2.0 concepts yet in their marketing and communications courses.

  3. Nappy_Rash says:

    Sir, I have to agree with you here. I think there are better was to make money if you can write well and about interesting things. Traditional journalism is one obvious option of course.

  4. RSA online says:

    The blog riches rush is very much like the gold rushes of the past. Only a very few lucky and hardworking individual get the wealth, but thousands give it a go.

    What’s the blogging equivalent of picks, spades and denium jeans? Templates, plug-ins and books about blogging?

  5. Reality hurts, even though some bloggers give their effort it doesn’t to make any results.

  6. Jim says:

    Thanks for your honesty. The reality check puts the topic on course for those like me who haven’t yet jumped on the blog bandwagon.

  7. Very useful post. I guess I won’t be giving up my day job some time soon. I’ve often thought blogging has been over-hyped as a source of income. It’s a nice hobby, but I wouldn’t want to live of it.

  8. Tressa says:

    Hi, I enjoyed your article. I have been blogging for a about a year and a half. All my blogs but one have died in my process of learning.

    I have since started a new blog which I hope will be successful, but you are right you always have to have great content and market your blog. I have been blogging for free for almost two years, but I enjoy it. congrats on your success.

    T
    http://www.traffic101.org

  9. Parantar says:

    i want also to blog for money but i can’t make a dollar per day. hehe

  10. MD says:

    I started my blog because i figure its better to spend your down time on writing about something you enjoy, rather than reading celebrity gossip.

    An article that I wrote on my blog is somewhat related to this post. I feel that too many young people are looking for ways to “get rich quick.” When in fact anyone that is rich has worked hard for it (aside from lottery winners and people who inherited money)

    The sad truth is that people who are offering advice on how to get rich quick are not actually rich (suprising eh?) these people get rich by selling “get rich quick” ideas and books..

    The one in a million people that got rich “quick” will attribute their success to hard work, passion, and a clear vision of where they were headed… Just my opinion…

  11. I too am a suspect of your article. It is way harder than anyone talks about and it takes 10 times more work than most invest.

    I think that an approach that can be successful is to just write because you are actually passionate about the topic you are writing about, and then the rest will fall into place (with luck and good timing of course).

    anyway, good article.

  12. Hajib says:

    I agree with you Darren… but i’m quite sure if we working hard, we will success… no such easy money….

  13. Adarsh says:

    Very true. I started off as a money minded blogger. But now i realize my mistake. Now i am looking at my blog in a more ethical manner. Monetizing my blog is not the only aim i have in mind now. Thanks to my experience and your posts

  14. Shafar says:

    Very Interesting article…

  15. Timon Weller says:

    It is hard work, and there is no easy roads as well, but it is always worth it… :)

  16. Ruth Stewart says:

    Great article!

    It’s interesting that there is always an element of luck involved, and a good bit of right time right place.

    I guess like most businesses its good to give it six months to a year to get off the ground before thinking about earning from it.

    I think we are told so much about making money NOW and everything is NOW and we are all worried that we might miss out because everything is a limited offer that we get into the mindset of everything happening instantly.

    Its a case of slow and steady wins the race. A good philosophy. I feel much more chilled out about it now!

    Best wishes,

    Ruth

  17. Mike says:

    Great article. Making money online is probably one of the hardest ways to make an easy living.

  18. 073 says:

    You make it sound so easy…thanks anyway but this blogger is leaving with no usefully information, can u believe that? So much info and still – nothing for me.

  19. Moonlighter says:

    Very good reality check. Just happened to write a blog on similar lines today after which I stumbled upon yours. Very true indeed. After a few months of random postings on my blog, it is quite clear to me that to make money one has to approach it as a businessman would and not as a content writer. Good content is always great but spreading the word and getting the audience to stick is certainly hardest. A businessman would find ways to market good offers in order to make money. Some get overzealous and you then see these scamsters with their dragnets spread.

  20. Fact #2 says “It takes luck.”
    I contend that luck has absolutely nothing to do with it.
    A former pitcher with the Chicago Cubs, Scott Sanderson, said, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

  21. Lisa says:

    I’ve discovered blogging has potential. I made the mistake of trying to do too many blogs at once, so now I’m combining two blogs into one. I even bought my own domain name. Now I will have two totally different, but focused blogs. That’s easier to manage. One of my blogs feeds into my website that I’ve had for several years. The other blog I’ve added a forum to try and expand the conversation. It’s new, so time will tell. I understand it takes time to build up an audience. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is the necessity for a newsletter. You’ve got to build a list. It took me 70,000 visitors before I figured that one out on my website, but now I get it.

  22. Tyler Toone says:

    Darren, thanks for the reality check – more than anything it makes me realize what a lazy turd I am for not blogging more consistently on the blogs I manage. Oh well, I suppose I need to add that to my resolutions and kick it in high gear to make something happen. Anyhow, thanks for the great post and the reality check.

  23. Hi says:

    Hi, I’m Raven and all I want to make is $500-$800 a month. Do you think that’s feasible or am I way off base. Any suggestions…Thanks.

  24. Hi Raven. yes, it’s feasible, but it won’t be easy. I think the best way to make money is to have a product of your own. Adwords and other advertising networks are getting less and less worth the effort. I know some people with niche blogs with a Google PR 4 or better who make $100 – $300 per month from text link ads. It took them a year or two to get to that stage, but once you get there it’s reasonable easy to maintain with a few good post per week.

  25. Agree. Your own product or service is the way to go. Or like Problogger, write an excellent book !

  26. Blogshot says:

    I think the real money is in talking and writing about it rather than actually doing it :) Most of these internet business gurus make their money by promising other how to make money online.

  27. Thanks for the reality check. It is a little hard to handle how low the odds of me succeeding even on the level I need. I’m still in a bracket that gives me a hope that I may be able to achieve it, if in this period of my life I expect to sustain myself upon my blog, I need only around $600 each month, and according to you’re post, 8% of blogs manage exactly that, and 22% of money making blogs make that or better.

    I know that I still don’t stand much of a chance in the world of bloggers, but even if I don’t have probability on my side, I still have hope of making at least the money I need to get by during this period of my life.

  28. Big Roo says:

    Now if there was just some way to monetize blog comments ProBlogger would be rolling in it. I wonder what the record is for the number of blog comments. Methinks we need a donatetocomment plugin :)

  29. What you say is very dissapointing, I’m working hard and im not getting any result. Thank you anyway

  30. Roberta says:

    I have a ton of people asking me how I do what I do and thinking they can be a success overnight. That’s the hardest part about explaining what I do for a living. It usually goes something like this: Friend: “I wanna do what you do”. Me: “Well, it takes work. I do this for a living, it pays the bills…” Friend: “Teach me, I have a few minutes” Me: “Wait, what?”

  31. Wait a second. You mean to tell me that I won’t be making millions in a couple of months from my blog, just by having it and showing ads?

    This is an outrage. I knew I should have started a celebrity gossip blog instead of a college student personal development site.

    What was I thinking???

  32. Nicole J says:

    This is a great post! I’ve been asked by peers if the reason I started blogging was to make money. and the reality is no…It calls for time that I don’t necessarily have at the moment.
    You offer great insight and a “REAL” look into what blogging for money entails. Maybe one day for me, but definitely not anytime soon. (And I’ll remember everything you’ve said) :)

  33. Musa says:

    Good post, I think we shall all eventually get there. Its does take time like you said.

  34. CJ says:

    You’re not going to make money online overnight regardless of what anyone tells you. I am honestly really sick of people expecting that out of there new ventures because that just isn’t the way that the online industry works. If you want to make money online, it’s completely doable but you need to be patient.

    CJ

    http://www.CjsReview.com

  35. If you treat your blog like a business you will not only create a better blog, but you will have a better chance and making money. I’m not saying make it work, i’m saying sit down and plan it out and decide what you want to accomplish. We planned our blog/site from Jan-Easter (april 12 2009) and launched on Easter. We have been steadily gaining popularity each week and we are still going!

    Webmaster; ttmyt.com

  36. Casey says:

    I thank you for telling the truth about blogging. That makes a difference to me. Now I know what I may be in for in the future with my blogs.

    Thanks

    I liked your post so I mentioned it to my readers in a blog post because I want them to understand the truth.

    http://www.yolablogger.com/index/how-to-use-a-free-yola-website-to-earn-income-in-one-day-without-spending-one-cent-

  37. Goldstar says:

    I wonder if anyone has written a post about Twittering for money :)

  38. Dickwave says:

    Not only is earning at blogging difficult. Earning at anything on the net is not easy. Too many tell you it is. But don’t believe that BS. It’s dedication and consistancy in the posting that does it. Just like anything else. Imagine if somebody advertises ” Learn to play all Beethovens piano sonatas in one month. No experience necessary”. Ha ha ha!

  39. Anja says:

    Earning money blogging is indeed difficult, but blogging is easier than some other jobs and I find it so much more enjoyable.