“So, what do you do?” – the infamous cocktail party question. I've replied differently over the years. When I worked full-time I said, “Oh, I work in marketing.” Then when I was working (mostly with clients freelance writing) I said, “I'm a writer.” Now after almost two years of self-employment, I've settled on “I run an online business,” because really…that's what it is.
But then when I reveal that I'm a full-time blogger the question becomes, “Wait…how do bloggers make money?”
I do believe that unless you're “in” this world, the one where you blog and make money online, it may seem kinda weird to outsiders, but I promise it's legit. Bloggers actually make money in quite a variety of ways. I've detailed some of my income streams here and there, but never in one big post – so here it goes!
How Bloggers Make Money – Broken Down by Level
Because I'm currently offering a course on how others can get started blogging, I get a lot of questions about how those who are new can get started right away. The short answer is that you can start monetizing immediately, but bloggers really only start to see money once they nail down a niche, start blogging consistently and build a (small) amount of real traffic. This is why the course I created my course truly for beginners; to help them nail those skills and get to a level where they can build on their own enough and start to see a decent income.
Tangent aside – there are lots of ways bloggers can monetize, so consider this your high-level overview and quick-and-dirty. 🙂
How Beginner Bloggers Can Make Money
These are the easiest way to get started making money with a blog. Google Adsense or other networks can give you ads where you earn money every time someone clicks. (There's also Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) ads, where you get paid upon a completion action like a purchase or email sign up.)
Typically this means advertising you sell yourself and not through an ad network, usually in the form of selling links (don't do this, this is bad) or ads in your sidebar or on your website directly – aka – no middleman.
Using the Blog as Portfolio or Lead Magnet for Your Business
Soooo many people overlook this because your blog isn't earning money for you directly, but it can be a huge marketing tool for you and your skillset. I still make money from the blog when people see it and then approach me to write for them on another blog or website, (which I still do from time to time, even though I changed my business model) so don't discount the blog as a tool to earn you income in other ways besides affiliates and products. LEVERAGE YOUR ASSETS.
How Intermediate Bloggers Can Make Money
Affiliates are an amazing source of passive revenue, but you have to have traffic in order for things to get sexy. It's a numbers game. If you have an affiliate link that converts at 1%, that 1% gets a lot bigger when it's 1% of 1,000 people vs. 1% of 100. You feel me? Still, affiliates are a great way for bloggers to earn money, and the best part is that you put the work in once and then promote it over and over.
I do earn money with affiliates, (see how I made my first $1,000 here) but I don't want to put all my eggs in that basket. See how Amazon just completely changed their affiliate payouts and screwed a BUNCH of people. I saw this early on when I had an affiliate relationship with Schmicken Loans and was making ~$300 per month from that one link. Then they discontinued their program and I was very disappointed but had to move on. It helps that I was diversified in a lot of different products and links.
This is why I prefer products, because with affiliates you're never totally in control.
Sponsored Posts and Reviews
If your brand has a certain amount of visibility, a big business or brand may approach and ask for publicity or coverage of a product their offering or an initiative. These can pay well. If you're not big, you can review products in exchange for a free one to use yourself which will hopefully lead to other paid reviews down the road.
It's a balancing act: between working with the brands and their priorities, charging what you're worth, making sure you're not burning out your audience when you start promoting your own stuff – sponsored posts can be a lot, and are a deceptive amount of work (they look easy but they're not.) Still, working with high profile brands is fun and raises your own clout and credibility. All it takes is one big brand to work with you and then you can leverage that when you're pitching/fielding pitches from others. I've been making money from sponsored posts since 2013!
How Advanced Bloggers Can Make Money
I have never had as much fun with my blog as I did when I started making my own digital products and worksheets. I had so much fun in the collaboration process with my graphic designer and I'm a little obsessed with worksheets. (See this post, here for proof.) Plus, they're another member of the passive income do-once-and-earn forever cannon. I'm still making money off products I made over a year ago!
Digital products are great because you can offer readers a low cost way to interact with you (and better still, get used to buying from you!)
I'm still testing this out, but so far t's promising. There's been way more interest (and positive feedback) on my own course, Beginner Blog Accelerator (which re-launches on April 19th!) than in my very first digital product, The Blog Yourself Rich, workbook. For over a year I felt frustrated by the low sales.
“Lauren, a workbook sounds like work,” my friend Christina said, “Courses seem more comprehensive and easy to use.”
And she's right. They are. They're also a higher price point so you receive more in exchange for your efforts even though you market a course in the same way you would a product.
Selling Your Site
Maybe you don't want to blog forever. Maybe you get burn out. Or maybe it's a legit business and you like building an asset and then selling it for a profit. Many bloggers sell their sites and make $10, $50, $100k for their efforts. This is a way bloggers and online business owners can earn money too!
I make money from all of these avenues (except the selling sites part….) which means my income streams are both diversified and also pretty small. Sometimes I feel I'm “nickel and diming” my way to an empire.
When I first met my boyfriend, Rich, we were talking about how I make money online and he said “Oh, I bet you probably make $600 each month from 600 different people,” and he's right! But really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Because really when you think about it – all of those small income streams have built up into one business I can run from anywhere in the world.
See more examples of how bloggers make money with my online income report series and total earnings from my blog “side hustle.” And keep your eyes peeled for the formal launch of my course, Beginner Blog Accelerator, now open!