Earn Money Blogging from the Very Beginning with a Self-Hosted Blog

If you don’t want all your eggs in the Medium basket.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! (Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash)

I think we can all agree that Medium is awesome, right? I mean, you pay $5 a month for all the reading material you could ever want! Plus, you can write about whatever you choose and get paid for it! What is not great about that?

I couldn’t be happier.

But recently I’ve made it a goal for myself to replace all of my freelancing income with earnings from Medium.

That scares me.

I do not doubt that in time I will be earning enough to bankroll my extravagant (NOT) life! But, what happens after that? We all know that earnings on Medium are a rollercoaster. What is to stop Ev Williams from changing the algorithm again and dumping us down the toilet? After all, Medium is a business, and don’t kid yourself that Ev Williams and the board of directors of Medium wouldn’t choose their interests over ours.

So what do you do?

Recently, Frank McKinley over at the Facebook group, Medium Mastery, made a valid point about putting all your “income eggs in one basket.” I had to agree because I had been thinking much the same thing.

I already have one blog that is collecting dust, but I have an idea for another about blogging. I have many years of experience building blogs, and it just so happens that blogging is a hot niche and always will be. There are many ways to monetize a blog like that, and with some creative scheduling, I know I can put plenty of focus on it.

I thought since I was going to build my own blog, I would write an epic article and try to help any other Medium writers who are looking for ways to diversify their income.

Hang on — this will be a wild ride!

Note: None of the links included in this article are affiliate links. Everything I suggest I have used before and stand by it completely!

So, you are thinking of building a blog?

Starting your own self-hosted blog can be overwhelming. I know this; I’ve built many over the years.

And actually making money from it? It’s a tall order.

If you listen to many of the “experts,” they will tell you that it takes years of hard work to start even making pennies from your blog.

I’m here to tell you it’s totally not true!

Note: While I won’t be sharing the technical details of starting a blog, I will take this opportunity to tell that your best bet when setting up your blog is to use WordPress. The great thing about WordPress is that it is very easy to learn and there are numerous guides on the internet to help you with the nuts and bolts.

Purpose, topic, and niche

If you’ve been writing on Medium for any length of time, you probably already have a great idea what topic or niche you will be entering.

When I was getting ready to start my blogs, I remembered two topics I enjoyed exploring: anti-self-help and blogging. The great thing about those two topics is that they are explosive niches that people are constantly searching for information about.

To give you further ideas, these niches are some of the best:

  • Making money
  • Finance
  • Fashion
  • Food
  • Health & wellness
  • Fitness & weight loss
  • Productivity & self-help
  • Travel
  • Mom blogs

If your interests fall under any of these topics you are already on the right path. If the topic you choose is something you happen to be passionate about, even better.

Finding a name & buying a domain

The name you choose should be something close to the topic or niche you have picked. If you are setting yourself up as an authority, your name will work as well. Just know that your choice for a blog name will be heavily influenced by which domain names are available.

You really should get a .com if at all possible, but if you can only find the .net, it will work in a pinch. Just remember, if someone knows your blog name, but not the TLD (top level domain), they will always put .com!

Quick tip! After you buy your domain, grab all the social media accounts with the same name. At a minimum, get the Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts reserved.

Also, search to make sure no one else is using the same name. You wouldn’t want to name your blog “The Coca-Cola Blog!” A quick Google search will save you much trouble in the future. Spend some time thinking about your name because you will have to live with it for a long time.

Re-branding is a pain in the ass!

Getting hosting

I won’t spend much time on this, but I do want to make a recommendation. I’ve used a lot of hosts and seen some really bad ones. You need to pick one that will grow with you as your blog becomes more popular. You need to make sure it is fast. You don’t want a shared hosting solution like Bluehost (although some people swear by them).

What I suggest is to use SiteGround. You can get managed WordPress hosting for $3.95 a month if you pay yearly. They have SSD servers and are very fast. Setting up WordPress is a cinch because they use C-panel. They will grow with you, and you will never have a problem if you need support. I use the support chat because I am in the Philippines and it is best for me.

Do yourself a favor. Use them!

You need a theme

After you set up WordPress, you will need a theme. I wouldn’t use the standard one they start you with; it is not good for much. A theme is just software that drives the look and feel of your blog in the browser. There are thousands of themes, each with a unique look. The biggest thing you want in a theme is for it to be responsive, or it looks good on a computer and a phone screen.

When you are just starting, I wouldn’t spend money buying a theme right away. There are plenty of great free ones that can be upgraded to a pro version later on.

The free one I suggest you use is called EDGE. Edge is free to start and has all the functionality you need in the beginning. There is plenty of documentation online to help you get it set up correctly.

The Edge theme (Source: Themefreesia.com)

It has everything you need to grow your blog, and it is extremely fast (which you will find out that Google loves!).

Setting goals and planning your content

Before you do anything, it would be good to set a few goals. I often set goals about how often I post, how much money I want to make, and traffic targets. After you read this whole article, you will have a better idea of what you can realistically do for each of these.

As far as posting frequency, I would have a specific day or days that you post and publicize this on your about page. Then your fans will know when to expect new posts from you. Stick to it!

I plan only to post twice a week because I want my posts to be long and epic. I tend to write shorter pieces on Medium, but the blogging niche tends toward long-form content. Think about that before you commit to anything!

Before you launch your blog, you ideally want to have 5–10 posts published and a few more drafts ready to go. This will be the majority of the work you will do when setting up your blog. Ten posts are quite a bit, so plan your time wisely.

Your Brand

When you are starting, you don’t want to spend a lot of money right away. But, you want a unique look and feel for your blog and social media accounts.

If you have money for a logo and branding elements, you could use a service like 99Designs to create everything for you. It’s pricey but well worth it.

But there is nothing that says you can’t create everything yourself. You don’t need to be a Photoshop expert to do it on your own. All you have to do is use Canva. Canva has some great templates and branding elements that are premade! You just enter your own text, and they are ready to go. The best thing is that you can create unique graphics for each of your posts that are true to your brand.

It’s awesome. I would upgrade to “Canva for work” if you want all the functionality they offer. They also give you tons of free images and graphic elements.

Social media

You should have your social media set up before you launch, so make sure you spend a little time creating cover graphics and images for each of your posts.

It is necessary! (Photo by William Iven on Unsplash)

I don’t think you should start with too many social media platforms in the beginning. At the minimum, you should use Pinterest and a Facebook page.

You will find that Pinterest will be the main driver of traffic for you in the beginning as a blogger, so learn how to use it well. There are guides on the internet that will teach you everything you need to know. You need to create unique graphics, or “pins” for each of your posts, and pin them throughout the day. Some programs automate this process like Tailwind, but they are not free.

A Facebook page is a given, and even though they tend to change their policies about reaching your audience frequently, it still one of the best places for you to interact with your fans.

Later on, you can try Instagram and Twitter but start with a few platforms in the beginning. Your schedule will thank me for it.

Your email list

Take my word for it; you will want to start an email list from the very beginning. It is a little complicated, but there are plenty of guides that are just a Google search away!

The best email list services I have used are MailChimp and ConvertKit. I prefer ConvertKit because it is easier and has better functionality, but it also costs a bit more. If you are going to spend any money in the beginning, your email list will be the place you don’t want to cut corners.

Pick a service that will grow with you. You may have to pay $30 a month, but it’s well worth it.

Get your pop-ups and opt-in forms set up on your blog before you launch. You may find if you offer an incentive to sign up you will get many more email subscribers. The incentive can be anything from a checklist or a short eBook.

If you spend some time setting up your email list, you will make a lot more money in the future.

Do it!

Monetization

This section is the big one! This is where you will find out how to make money from the start!

MONEY! (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

I have some definite opinions on this topic, so read carefully!

Display Ads

Display ads are one of the quickest ways to make a little money, but let me just say that I hate them! I dream of an ad-free internet where we aren’t bombarded by advertising everywhere we turn. I may put one or two small ads on my blog for companies I trust, but I will never, ever join an ad network and plaster ugly ads everywhere. I hate them so much that if I encounter a blogger with too many ads, I will click away from their page.

You must decide how you feel about ads and act accordingly. It is a good way to make a little money, but I think it affects the look and readability of your content.

Enough said!

Affiliate marketing

If you want to make a lot of money right away without selling your soul to the ad networks, affiliate marketing is the way to go.

This is such a huge subject that I couldn’t begin to cover it here. I would suggest you Google it and do some heavy reading on the subject.

You are selling products and services for others, and you make a commission on each sale. Many people have made huge money using this method! It’s somewhat passive too because once you create your content and link to the affiliate offers, you can drive some traffic to it and sit back while the checks roll in.

There are some great affiliate networks like Shareasale and Clickbank but look around for the ones who represent their clients in a non-spammy way. There is a way to do it without being pushy and classless.

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to start earning right away.

Sell your own products and services

After you’ve established yourself somewhat and built a sizable email list, it’s a good idea to think about creating products and services of your own.

There are so many different things you can offer as a blogger:

  • Courses
  • Ebooks
  • Coaching
  • Freelance writing
  • Design services
  • Social media services
  • Software

The list is endless if you think seriously about it.

The key is to get to know your audience and find out what they want and need. Many times, your fans will tell you flat out what they want.

Maybe you’ve learned the secrets of driving traffic with Pinterest. Create a course or an ebook and send an offer to your email list.

The sky is the limit!

LOOK HERE! (Photo by Marten Newhall on Unsplash)

As Promised! How to Make Money from the Very Beginning of Your Blog!

You may have picked this up from what I’ve already written, but in case it wasn’t clear, I want to tell you how to make money right after you launch your blog.

The easiest method to make a decent amount of money is to set up a few affiliate offers in key areas of your posts. You don’t want to put more than three per post because you want to provide value with your content, not push sales at every opportunity.

After you are set up (this is also a good time to make sure you have the opt-ins for your email list set up) all you have to do is drive a ton of traffic to those specific posts by pinning on Pinterest.

You may want to have 3 or 4 different graphics for each post (made in Canva) because you are going to want to pin them multiple times throughout the day.

This should get you started:

It’s as simple as that!

Making it through the first year of blogging

The first year will be the hardest in your journey to be a successful blogger.

If I could tell you one thing, it would be:

In the beginning, no matter how hard it is and how much you think it sucks to be a blogger, DON’T QUIT!

Make it a habit as you have with your Medium writing. Make a schedule and stick to it! When you don’t feel like you are making an impact, just know that you are.

If something is not working — try something else! Be flexible and don’t be afraid to try something new.

As a last tip, the best thing you could do is get the support of other bloggers. Join a few Facebook groups (Sam H Arnold has one called Bloggers & Medium Support) or connect with other bloggers in your niche by commenting on their posts.

Don’t be a loner even if you tend to be a bit introverted.

Don’t be an island! (Photo by Igor Kasalovic on Unsplash)

I’ve covered a lot of ground, but I will offer this: if I can be of any assistance, please, let me know. Send me a private note or find me on Facebook. I may be able to offer advice that will save you hours of searching. If I can make some time, and you have the resources, I may even be able to help you build your blog.

Just remember: sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Good luck in your blogging journey and I hope it turns out to be more than you ever could have dreamed of when you started.