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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.

How Much Money Did You Earn from Blogging in October 2008?

It’s time for another annual poll here at ProBlogger – this one asking readers how much they earned in October 2008? I’ve run this poll a number of times over the last couple of years and the results are always interesting.

Just to qualify it – I’m asking about ALL blogging revenue that you can tie to your actual blog. Advertising, affiliate revenue, revenue that your blog might have brought in in terms of consulting etc. As long as you feel your blog drew the money in then I’m happy for it to be included.

In October, How Much Did You Earn from Blogging?
View Results


Looking forward to seeing your results.

How to Find Advertisers for Your Blog

In this video Gary Vaynerchuk answers how to monetize your blog or video blog with a practical illustration.

Of course you need to have at least some traffic to pull in advertisers – but once you do, if the advertisers are not coming to you yet – go to them.

PS: this actually works. When I started my first camera blog I couldn’t attract big advertisers like Canon and Nikon – so even in the early days when I just had a few hundred readers a day I began to contact local and online small businesses with a photography focus. I was amazed at how many of them were willing to buy advertising. The money wasn’t massive but land a few of them and it adds up.

The beauty of this is that as your traffic grows you’re able to charge more to these advertisers (give them traffic and many of them will stick with you). It also shows other advertisers that you’re attracting advertisers (which can stimulate new advertising).

Read more about Finding Advertisers for your Blog

How Bloggers Make Money Online without Blogging [POLL RESULTS]

Last month I ran a poll here at ProBlogger which asked readers if they make money online from sources other than blogging.

The result was almost completely split with 1022 of the 2053 people who responded saying Yes and 1031 saying no.

make-money-non-blogging-sources.png

Some of the comments on the launch post of this poll revealed some of the ways people are making money online from sources other than blogging. They include:

  • Website Design
  • Flipping (selling) Websites
  • Selling ebooks
  • Youtube Partnership program
  • Freelance writing, graphic design
  • Teaching and Consulting
  • Owning other types of websites (directories, forums etc)
  • Business Documentation site
  • Developing web applications
  • Online Surveys
  • Paid to Click Sites
  • Selling Products and Merchandise
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Writing on User Generated Content (Revenue Sharing) Sites
  • Make Online Games
  • Online Store – Selling Products
  • eBay
  • Selling Art
  • Business Referrals
  • Market Research
  • Software Development
  • Working as a Transcriptionist
  • Membership Sites
  • Generating Sales for Off-line Business from Websites

Lots of good ideas there and a nice reminder that there’s plenty to explore outside of blogging.

My own list of online money making sources that are not directly blogging include running a forum (advertising revenue), newsletter lists (affiliate marketing and some advertising), consulting (limited), selling a course, job boards, working at b5media (very part time)… and that’s about all I can think of.

10 Ways to Make Money BECAUSE of Your Blog

What if I told you that there’s a way to make money as a result of your blog where you don’t need to have a single ad on your blog, where you don’t have to run any affiliate programs and where you don’t have to write any paid reviews?

Would you be interested?

Make-Money-Because-Of-Your-BlogImage by iDream_in_Infrared

Much is written about how bloggers make money through selling advertising space or running affiliate programs on their blogs. However there’s a second, somewhat hidden, group of bloggers who make a great living not directly from their blogs – but indirectly as a result of them.

Instead of using their traffic to sell advertising or promote products to earn commissions from – they leverage the traffic to their blog in another way – usually to sell themselves.

Today I want to highlight 10 ways of making money BECAUSE of your blog – as opposed to making money directly from it via advertising, paid reviews or affiliate programs.

1. Consulting

The blogger consultant model is simple. You give away information generously on your given topic and then sell your services to help people apply your teaching to their personal situation with some personal attention from you.

Bloggers who also act as consultants generally charge for their time by the hour, but I’ve also come across some who have landed ongoing consulting work in their field of expertise and have been signed up on retainer by companies.

Some might think that it’s just bloggers who blog about blogging who pick up consulting work (I’ve done my fair share) but it’s not the case. I’ve met dating bloggers, marketing bloggers, photography bloggers, craft bloggers and more who all offer their services in coaching, mentoring and training their readers one on one.

2. Book Authorship

It is becoming more and more common for bloggers to be approached by book publishers to write books. Chris and I were approached to write ProBlogger the Book by Wiley, Gina from Lifehacker landed a 2 book deal, Frank from Post Secret has done numerous books, Steve Pavlina has one coming out soon…. the list goes on and on. Sometimes book are heavily based upon the blog itself – other times the book is completely new.

3. Speaking

Bloggers spend day in and day out writing content for their blogs and so for many it is not too much of a stretch to translate the principles that they are writing about into verbal sessions at conferences or other public speaking opportunities.

Often these sorts of speaking engagements are not for any kind of payment but once you build your profile in a niche the paid opportunities do come along for many – particularly when you’re asked to speak in-house for companies or organizations.

4. Training

There’s some overlap here with ‘speaking’ as in many instances speakers are engaged in a training capacity – but some bloggers also take the ‘training’ that they do in another direction and run their own training courses for readers. They leverage the traffic that they have do direct people to training either online (membership sites) or even offline into real life training events.

One blogger who I’ve seen do this really well is David Hobby from Strobist who has successfully run a variety of real life training events on his niche (photography lighting). He’s also done spin off DVDs of the training which he sells.

5. Freelance Writing

I’ve had many approaches for this myself and see quite a few other bloggers land this type of work. Their profile and expertise on a blog leads other websites, blogs, magazines, newspapers etc to ask them to contribute in a paid capacity.

This might be a newspaper column, a regular staff writer role or even a one off paid contribution.

6. Selling Services

Once you establish a readership on a topic other opportunities can arise to sell a variety of services from your blog. Here at ProBlogger I added a job board (something many blogs have done), Blogger Timothy Sykes makes tens of thousands a month with an ‘stock market alerts’ service, Shoemoney is introducing ‘Shoemoney Tools‘ (a great resource for bloggers actually – I’ve been playing with it the last few days).

Another example is Kevin from Real Lawyers have blogs who offers lawyers and law firms a blogging solution.

7. Selling E-Resources

Again – there’s some cross over here with some of the above but it’s something that we’ve seen a lot of bloggers doing (or attempting to do) of late with the creation of ebooks, membership sites, tools and software that relate to their niche.

8. Landing ‘Real’ Jobs

One of the great things about starting a blog that builds your profile and perceived expertise in an industry is that others in that industry begin to see you as an attractive addition to their staff.

I’ve seen a number of bloggers write about this over the years – Steve Rubel is one that comes to mind as someone who became very well known in the PR industry and was head hunted by a PR firm as a result of his blogging.

9. Finding Business Customers and Clients

Another indirect income earner that many bloggers tap into is leveraging their blog’s profile to send find new clients and send new business to their offline companies.

In a sense their blog becomes like an advertisement to their company’s products and services.

There are literally thousands of ‘business blogs’ who do this. The key is not to make the blog purely a sales pitch or marketing device but to make it a destination of value to readers and to let this sell you and your business.

What’s Number 10?

Every week I ‘meet’ (virtually) bloggers who are making money from their blogs in ways that I’d never considered before. There are certainly some creative people out there coming up with some innovative ways to build blogs into income streams.

So I’m leaving #10 in this list up to you. What other ‘indirect’ ways of making money from blogs do you do or see others doing? I’d love to see examples of any of the methods above or any other that I might have missed. Can’t wait to read your number 10s!

8 Jobs for Bloggers

If you’re looking for a job as a blogger then the ProBlogger Blog Job Boards have seen 8 new jobs advertised in just the last 3 days. Actually there’s more than that – because some of the ads are for more than one blogger and one has already been filled.

Here’s the latest batch:

There are also quote a few other jobs still open from the last few weeks here. Jobs like these are being filled very fast so to get notified of them within minutes of them being posted subscribe to the blogger job board RSS feed.

If you’re looking for bloggers….

If you’re looking to hire a blogger for your blog the job board is a wonderful place to find them. The RSS feed is subscribed to by thousands of bloggers, jobs appear in the ProBlogger Twitter feed (subscribed to by over 9000 people) as well as appearing on the front page of ProBlogger.net (seen by hundreds of thousands of people every month). Jobs also get picked up on a number of other job sites that track and aggregate our jobs! That’s pretty amazing exposure for your job considering it only costs $50 for 30 days.

When Should I Put Advertising on My Blog?

In this post Daniel Scocco answers to a question by Warren:

I started a blog about Professional Lifestyle a little over a month ago. It already has gotten 16,000 visits, has almost 100 subscribers and has a google page rank of 4 (somehow). Should I put up advertisements at this early stage?

Ah, the ever controversial question of when should one start to monetize his blog. If you ask 100 bloggers what they think about it, I am sure you will get 101 different answers.

Instead of trying to come up with a definitive answer, or a fixed number of months that you should wait for before bringing up some ads, let’s just evaluate the Pros and Cons of monetizing a blog early in the game as opposed to waiting a longer period.

Before getting on with the arguments, though, we need to define what is early and what is not, right? I would say that an early monetization strategy is one that inserts ads on the blog from day 1, up to 6 months of its existence. That is, if you plan to insert ads after 5 months, that would still be considered an early monetization strategy for the sake of our discussion. Anything over than 6 months will be considered a long term monetization plan.

Pros of Monetizing Early

1. Your readers will know what to expect
If you bring ads early in the game, all the readers will know that apart from the joy of writing, you also expect to earn some money along the way.

2. Might contribute to the credibility
If you manage to get some respected companies as sponsors, or if your banner ads look really professional, the credibility of your blog might increase. All the major portals and mainstream websites have ads around, so a first time visitor might even think that your blog is more established that what it really is after seeing the ads.

3. Increased motivation
Different people get motivated by different factors, but you can’t deny that getting some money for expressing your ideas and sharing your knowledge on the Web is pretty exciting. Sitting in front of your computer day after day with the need of coming up with quality content might become a burden for some people, and the money factor might help them to stay consistent and engaged with the blog.

Cons of Monetizing Early

1. Some readers will get annoyed
Whether you like it or not, most Internet surfers hate ads. Sometimes they will bear with the annoyance: if the content is really good, and if they have been visiting a site for a long time. Guess what, with a new blog you probably don’t have that many loyal readers, so the ads could actually make you lose potential ones. Even if your content is top notch, some first time visitors will not give you the benefit of the doubt. As soon as they see the ads jammed around they will go somewhere else.

2. Might hinder your success with social media
Users of social media sites like Digg or StumbleUpon can sniffle a “let me load this with ads to make some bucks” websites from miles away. If you are planning to use social media to promote your website on the early stages, the presence of ads, especially too much of them, might hinder this strategy.

3. More difficult to find your voice
Blogs are all about conversations. Many people read blogs, as opposed to traditional mainstream media, because they want to see the facts from a different angle, with some clear opinions mixed once in a while. That is, they want to see the voice of the author of the blog. Defining your own voice is particularly important on the first few months, and bring advertisements might work against this objective. Some people, for example, might conclude (wrongly or not) that because you are running ads right from the start, your goal is mainly to make money, and that you will write whatever you need to in order to achieve this goal.

Pros of Monetizing in the Long Term

1. Focus on growing the blog exclusively
As soon as you bring sponsors or AdSense on your blog, you will start spending time and energy tweaking the ads, thinking about how to increase your earnings, managing the advertisers and so on. If you decide to go ad free for the first few months, on the other hand, you will be able to focus exclusively on the content of the blog and on its promotion.

2. More time to figure what monetization method will work better
If you start playing with advertising and sponsors after 6 months or so, you will be in a better position to evaluate which monetization methods will work, and which are not suitable for your audience or content type. Bloggers that start with ads early in the game, on the other hand, constantly switch between AdSense, CPM ads, direct sponsors and what not, mainly because they don’t know their audience well enough.

3. More monetization options
Apart from having more time to understand your audience, a long term plan will also open the doors to more and better monetization options. With a new blog that has small to average traffic levels, for instance, it would be difficult to find direct sponsors or to get accepted inside high paying ad networks.

Cons of of Monetizing in the Long Term

1. Some readers might react down the road
If you start your blog without ads and keep it that way for a long time, some readers might think that they finally found a pure soul that does not to want to get corrupted by the bloody moolah. Guess what, once the ads start popping in they might consider that you sold out, and some criticism will appear (Robert Scoble knows a thing or two about this…).

2. Money left on the table
If you decide to go without ads in the beginning, and after a while your traffic starts to grow consistently, you will inevitably wonder how much money you are leaving on the table.

3. Design problems down the road
Bloggers that start using ads from the beginning will probably design their blog or choose a template that is suitable for their monetization strategy. Bloggers that use a long term monetization strategy, on the other hand, might find down the road that their layout is not really compatible with ads. As a result they will either be forced to redesign or be limited in the monetization options.

Over to the readers

When do you think a blogger should start monetizing his blog? Is there a rule of thumb for all blogs, or it must be evaluated on a case by case basis?

Daniel Scocco is the author of Daily Blog Tips, and he is currently running a Blogging Idol contest. If you want to compete with fellow bloggers to increase your RSS count, check it out.

How Much Free Content Should I Put in My Blog?

In this article Daniel Scocco answers to a question by Jana:

Where does a blogger draw the line between putting up free content versus releasing an eBook? I’m all about an informative blog with great articles…but an eBook seems to be a good revenue point. So, should an eBook have exclusive information in it that you don’t share on your blog? Or is the value of an eBook found in it being an edited and formatted compendium of your blog?

Considering that Jana talks about revenues, in this article we will cover only paid books that are created (mainly) with the purpose of generating money for the author. In other words, we will not cover the cases where someone writes a free eBook to promote his website, to build an email list, to offer a bonus to RSS subscribers and so on.

The first question that one needs to answer is the following: is my blog established as an authority in its niche, or am I established as an expert in this niche?

Notice that the two parts of this question do not walk together necessarily. One can have an authority blog or website without being a well known expert. Consider Sitepoint.com for example, they are one of the most respected resources for webmasters on the Internet, and yet the site is not associated with any particular person (but rather with a group of authors).

The opposite can happen as well. Muhammad Saleem is a social media guru, and yet his personal blog is not very well known. This is because his strategy involves mostly guest appearances on high profile blogs, as well as on the direct interaction with the communities of the various social bookmarking sites on the web.

Now going back to our initial question, if you answer is no, you probably should keep putting free and quality content out there.

Do not think about this free content as money left on the table, but rather as an investment.

Whenever you create free and high quality content, and publish it on your blog (or on other blogs and websites), you are both building your credibility and making prospects enter your sales funnel. That is, they are getting in contact with your material and ideas, and over the time they will become more inclined to take that relationship to another level (by purchasing your eBook, for instance).

If, on the other hand, you think that your blog or your person already have enough credibility to get an eBook on the market, then you have three main possibilities as far as the origin of the content is concerned.

1. Blog into book

The first possibility is to use completely the content that is already published on the blog. As Jana correctly pointed out in her question, there are many people out there willing to spend money into freely available information that comes edited and formatted.

This editing and formating, and the fact that the information will be contained in a single, easily searcheable document, will probably save people time. And time, is money (sorry for the cliché).

The advantage of this method is obvious: the content is already written, so the author will just need to gather, edit and format it. The downside is that you won’t be able to charge a lot (else people would just go to the trouble of finding the information themselves).

Leo Babauta had a good success with this strategy. He turned his most popular articles into an eBook titled “Handbook for Life,” and started selling it for $6.95.

2. Almost unique

The second possibility is to use some of the free content on your blog, and then to build on top of that to create a more complete and appealing eBook. This is the strategy that I used on my eBook.

It was a natural process, and it all started with a single post. The post was titled “The 7 Characteristics of Good Domain Names,” and it attracted a large amount of comments, links and traffic.

The buzz that it generated was a signal that people were interested on the topic. After a small research on the web I discovered that there was no eBook focusing completely on “how to find domain names,” therefore I decided to write it.

That initial post became the first chapter of the eBook. The rest was unique.

3. Completely unique

Finally, you can also write an eBook from scratch. It might even cover points that you wrote about in the past, but you would need to rewrite them under the framework of an actual book and not of a blog post.

The obvious downside of this strategy is that it will take much more time than the other two. The advantage is that all your current readers and prospects are potential buyers. Even the ones that have been reading your blog for a long time will have a reason to the eBook. It comes with fresh content, after all.

Conclusion

There are no rules defining how much content you should give for free, and how much content you should charge for. The first corner-stone is to establish your blog or yourself as an authority in its niche, and from there, depending on your availability of time, you should decide what kind of eBook you want to publish, if at all.

Another interesting question is the following: are ongoing training programs the new eBooks? But this is for another article!

Daniel Scocco is the author of Daily Blog Tips. You can stay updated with his blog tips by subscribing to his RSS Feed.

How I Make Money Blogging – Top Income Streams Update

How I Make Money BloggingOnce every 3 months I update my Make Money Blogging page here at ProBlogger with my top income earners for that last quarter. Today I made the update for the last three months (March to May 2008).

My top income earners for the last quarter were:

  1. AdSense (previously #1)
  2. Chitika (previously #2)
  3. Private Ad Sales (previously #4)
  4. Amazon Associates (previously #3)
  5. Miscellaneous Affiliate Programs (previously #7)
  6. Shopzilla (previously not in the list)
  7. ProBlogger Job Board (previously #6)
  8. WidgetBucks (previously not in the list)
  9. Miscellaneous Ad Networks (previously #8)

I’ve included where it was previously ranked in my income streams so you can see how things have changed (and where they have not. AdSense and Chitika continue to dominate although Private Ad Sales have been making a move, as have affiliate programs.

You can read a complete description of each one and how I’ve used it in the Make Money Blogging post.