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Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

Every now and again I get an email from a ProBlogger reader excitedly telling me that they’re about quit their jobs to become full time bloggers. More often than not they are new bloggers who for one reason or another have it in their minds that blogging for money is a quick and easy thing to do.

This post is yet another attempt (I’ve done this 2-3 times a year since 2004) to help bloggers thinking about blogging for money to get a realistic picture of what is possible.

I always struggle a little with responding to these emails. On the one hand I love the enthusiasm that new bloggers often have and don’t want to be responsible for squashing it and leaving them despondent.

Blogging is an exciting medium, it is filled with many possibilities (one of which is profit), it is a lot of fun and it is possible to make a full time living from doing it. In fact it’s possible to go beyond making a living from blogging – (stories like this one about a 1 man blog being sold for $15 million illustrate this).

HOWEVER…..

The reality is that most bloggers never sell their blog for millions…. in fact most bloggers don’t even come close to a full time living from blogging. Every time I’ve surveyed my readers on how much they earn the majority report that they’re earning less than $100 a month with most of those earning less than $10 a month.

Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

The simple answer to this question is – yes.

It is possible to make money blogging. In fact it’s quite likely that if you try to make money blogging and stick with it for the long haul that you will make at least some money blogging – however ‘some’ money is different to ‘much’ money.

Can you Make MUCH Money Blogging?

Again – the simple answer is yes. You can make a lot of money blogging. The example of the $15m blogger above is one example. My own experience is less spectacular but is another story of a blogger making a good living from the medium (I’ve been earning well into the ‘six figures’ range for a number of years now.

It is possible – but every statistic I’ve ever read shows that it’s not likely, at least for the majority of bloggers, to make ALOT of money blogging.

As mentioned above – I’ve surveyed my readers a number of times on their earnings. One of these surveys was back in May 2006 (I did one with very similar results in November 2007 and things seem similar in the current poll I’m running on this same topic) where I found that my readers were earning a large spread of income levels from blogging:

can-you-really-make-money-blogging.jpg

While 7% reported earning over $15,000 a month (I suspect this is a little inflated – some people tend to pick extreme results in polls just because) 57% report earning less than $100 a month. 30% reported earning less than 30 cents a day.

I don’t know about you – but that chart is both sobering and inspiring all in one. It shows quite clearly that most bloggers are not making much – but does also seem to indicate that there are some bloggers out there who are at least making at least a part time supplementary income from blogging.

Getting Your Expectations about Earning Money from Blogging Right

OK – some of you are possibly quite depressed by this stage. Should you give up on your dreams of making a living from blogging? Is it all too hard? Is it worth it?

Don’t give up but be Realistic.

My encouragement to all bloggers with the dream of building a blog that makes money is simple. Get into the game – but do so with realistic expectations. A few thoughts and tips to help you get those expectations right:

Aim for the sky but set your sights on the next step

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. Very early on in my own blogging for money story I began to see the possibilities of earning a good living from blogs. Dreams are great for motivating and inspiring you – but they can also be a distraction and set you up for disappointment. Allow yourself time to think about ‘what could be’ but then get yourself focused upon the next step you need to take to take yourself in the direction you want to end up.

For me this was about setting realistic goals of what I could achieve in the next month. Each month I had the goal of increasing monthly traffic to my blogs by 10% on the previous month. This meant that over time I would see exponential growth to my blogs. With a goal of 10% growth in mind I then set myself ‘tasks’ – concrete things that I could do to achieve the goal (writing certain amounts of posts, networking with other bloggers etc).

Don’t give up your day job

There may one day come a time when you can give up that job and focus upon blogging full time – but that time is not likely to be now for most people reading this. My own experience of this (I share an extended version of my story of taking blogging from a hobby to a full time thing in the ProBlogger book by the way) was that I worked a number of part time jobs and was studying part time in my early days of blogging. As my blog income grew I slowly decreased the time I was working other jobs.

I actually was working a part time job even after I was earning a full time income from blogging. I wanted to have a backup in case things went pear shaped (in fact this was smart because at one point Google reindexed my blogs and my blogging income largely disappeared for a couple of months).

It’s really important to be responsible with cutting off other income sources in order to ‘go Pro’ as a blogger – particularly if you have a family relying upon your as the main income earner. I’ve seen a number of very sad stories of people taking this drastic action only to leave their family without income.

I’ve previously written about this in a post about Monkey Bar Blogging.

Take a Long Term View

Most successful blogs take years to build to their potential. It takes up time to:

  • build a large enough archive of posts
  • to build up loyal readers and subscriber numbers
  • to become known in your niche, to ‘get blogging’
  • to find your voice
  • to get authority in the eyes of the search engines…. etc

None of this just happens. It takes years to grow a blog.

It’s NOT Passive Income

Another common misconception about blogging for money is that it becomes ‘passive income’ – that you can sit back and let your blog earn you big dollars while you enjoy your lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong – there are a few ‘passive’ elements to the income that a blog can generate. For example:

  • I could go away for a week today and not post anything on my blog and it would still earn me money
  • posts that I wrote 4 years ago continue to generate income for me

Yes it could be argued on these fronts that the income is somewhat passive. However blogging for money is a lot of hard work. Most bloggers whose blogs make it big time put a lot of time and energy into building their blogs. Most that I’ve met have worked beyond full time hours on their blogs over years.

This isn’t to say that it’s not fun – one of the things I’ve discovered in the last few years is that hard work can be a lot of fun (who would have thought) – but there are days when it is very time consuming and challenging work.

Not all Blogs are Created Equal

I am often asked – ‘how many visitors a month do I need to earn $XXX?’

While I’d love to be able to give people a formula for working out the answer to this question the reality is that every blog is so different from every other blog. I’ve worked with hundreds of bloggers over the years and each time I do I relearn the lesson that no two blogs are alike.

Blogs vary from niche to niche (ie a finance blog will earn differently to a craft blog which will earn differently to a tech blog) – but even within niches they will perform very differently (I’ve had two photography blogs over the years and they couldn’t be more different).

I bring this up because quite often I come across bloggers who model their blogs after other blogs – sometimes to the point of copying every aspect of them. Unfortunately this isn’t a great way forward. Most successful blogs cut new ground, have their own voice, blog in their own style and tackle a topic with their own perspective. As a result they grow differently, attract their own audience and monetize differently.

Do learn from other blogs and bloggers – but also attempt to find your own way.

Further Reading:

I’ve talked about these issues numerous times in the past here at ProBlogger. One post that you might want to look at if you’d like a few tips on how to build a blog is a post I wrote some time ago outlining 18 Lessons I’ve learned about Blogging.

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 have got to see that it really is not as easy as it seems when some people think that they can just cut their job and straight away replace the income from the job with an income from their new blog.

    There is quiet a learning curve to actually making it happen right and getting the kind of results that you want. I am always going to be learning when it comes to my blogging, i have been going for just on 12 months and still sitting in the under 30cents a day, range probably much under.

  2. Yes you can make money. If you have the patience and the will to learn something new everyday.

  3. Most likely you can make money from your website or piles of websites and use your blogging talents to driver traffic / page rank to the sites. The blogs won’t make much unless you become #1 or 2 in your field.

    Here is my blog – not making any money (but it is on wordpress) –

    http://thevacationer.wordpress.com/