Jessica Arden Photography

Making it work

Sonja Likness
Dec 4, 2013 · 7 min read

This past year and a half has been pretty much Living The Dream for me. I’ve been a full time blogger at, which is a humor blog where I test pins from Pinterest (and usually fail at them). That’s right. I get paid to fuck shit up.

Blogging for money

Everyone always immediately asks (incredulously), “How do you make money from blogging?” (After someone asked me this once, his curmudgeonly friend piped up, “Oh she’s got a husband. She doesn’t need to make money at it.” I did not punch him in the throat. My restraint is legendary.) The answer for me has always been advertising. I don’t sell a product. I don’t really do too many sponsored posts or reviews. (Blogs with the f-bomb sprinkled liberally through them do not really lend themselves to that sort of thing.) But I do have blog traffic, and you can monetize blog traffic with advertising— to a point.

That point, though, is what will get you. I’m not going to sit here and give you a financial breakdown of my blog, but I will tell you that it takes a lot of traffic to equal a living wage, especially if your click-through rate sucks because your readers would rather stay on your page than click the ads in the sidebar. (It’s hard for me to feel bad about that one— It may be a monetary strategic fail, but it’s a total win for my content.) I had that much traffic starting out: A lot. Enough for a living wage. Hell, enough for a better living wage than my day job was giving me… especially after they laid me off. Heh.

But traffic doesn’t stick around forever sometimes. I wish it did. In my fantasy, my blog traffic would look like one of those viral line graphs that shows exponential growth as time goes on. Mine in reality looks like a huge motherfucking nuclear bomb explosion of traffic that has slowly dwindled down to reasonable levels. It’s hard for me to be too disappointed about that, too, considering that most people never even get to reasonable levels. I’ve been there and beyond. But the trend means that I’m making less and less money as time goes on.

Nuclear bomb explosion of traffic, dwindling to reasonable levels

Money can’t buy happiness, it’s true. But it’s a hell of a lot easier to be happy when you’ve got enough of it. And it’s real stressful to realize that the thing you’re depending on for your income is sloping the wrong way on the line graph. Could I still survive on my blog income? Sure, for now. Do I want to? Erm. That’s a toughie.

See, now it comes down to my goals: Is my goal to make bank on my blog? If yes, then I need to start whoring myself out more, or selling something, or monetizing in some way I haven’t thought of before. That’s smart business sense and I am not opposed to it. But it might not work. There’s risk involved that even if I do all these things, it won’t make me any more money, and it will drive away more of my traffic.

Blogging for something else

But if my goal is what it was at the start— to have fun writing a blog and attract lots of readers (and not necessarily to make money)— the stress is off. The blog is fun again. I’m not checking the numbers incessantly. I’m not “firing” ad networks for low CPMs. I’m not always hunting for new ad networks. I’m not obliged to accept a $500 sponsored post opportunity if it doesn’t sound like something my readers would enjoy. It’s about the fun and the writing, not about the widgets and affiliate links.

Why did my blog do the motherfucking nuclear explosion thing at the beginning? Well, partly because my traffic was coming from Pinterest, and Pinterest’s traffic did the same thing around the same time— so, timing and luck.

But partly, too, because I was having so much fun and that really came across in my writing. No-holds-barred, I-don’t-care-if-you-like-me, this-is-for-real kind of stuff. It was new and scary and exciting. It was the first blog I’d ever had that “clicked” for me. It was the first blog that pushed me to write outside my comfort zone. (You try failing publicly three times a week, at least, and pissing certain people off with your commentary in the process. It’s not comfortable.)

There’s freedom in going balls-out and trying something completely new, and not really caring if it makes money. (Dude, I was dumb when I started that blog. I had no idea how to make money, except some vague notion that Adsense could pay me at some point and that would rule.) You get to say what you want, make things your own, and do exactly what your instincts tell you, and damn the money.

Something else for money

Sounds great, except it means that I need another source of income. A day job. Sigh. Bane of the creative’s existence… But is it, really?

“Don’t quit your day job,” is a pretty good insult if you want to tell someone they’re not good enough to “make it” at whatever other talents they have. Most creatives see a day job as a necessary evil until they can quit and do what they want. I even had a former boss tell me once that I would never amount to anything as a writer if I kept my day job because I wouldn’t be able to fully commit to writing.

I’m pretty sure that’s all bullshit.

The evidence:

  1. While I had a day job, my blog’s traffic was building every day, and the nuclear bomb thing happened during that time, too.
  2. While I had a day job, I was blogging regularly— not five times a week, but at least twice a week.
  3. I was way more efficient with my blog when I had less time to work on it. It’s not uncommon now for me to spend half a day futzing around with a widget. Probably not the best use of my time, and definitely would not have happened when I didn’t have half a day to do that shit.
  4. This is a case of correlation and not necessarily causation, but I think it’s fair to point out that my blog traffic has been steadily decreasing since I started working on it full time, not increasing, despite my five times a week posting schedule, a blog redesign, fancy widgets, more ad networks, sponsored posts, writing a series of books, and all the stuff I could work on because I didn’t have a day job.
  5. Have you ever heard the “creative well” theory? You have a well of creativity inside of you, and if all you ever do is produce things, the well dries up, and you have to refill it, usually by consuming creative things or hanging out with creative people. Blogging full time is lonely. There is little interaction at all, and sometimes the creative well becomes a creative shallow little muddy puddle. I’ve been playing in that shallow mud puddle a lot this past year.
  6. The pressure is on. I did not realize how much pressure I was putting on myself to make the blog work until I accepted a new day job…

The big news

And there it is. That’s my big news. I accepted a new job. A day job. It’s a good one that utilizes a huge range of my skills, including the ones I picked up in my full time blogging gig. The people are super nice and smart. The commute is short. The money is good.

I’m conflicted, yeah. It’s been a year and a half of saying stuff like, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid for burning things in the oven and making face masks out of yogurt and tuna fish,” and, “I haven’t put on pants in two days,” and, “My blog is making money for me right now, while I’m sitting here watching The Avengers for the eleventh time.” Living The Dream indeed, guys.

But that stuff’s not going away. (Ok, well, maybe the pants thing.) I’m still going to be making more money at blogging than most people ever will, and it sure will be nice to have that extra moola to do fun stuff with, like go on vacation. And you know what else? I can actually go on a vacation without a computer because even if my blog makes $0 while I’m away and not posting, I will still have an income to come home to. I will still do crazy things involving weird leg hair removal methods and hot gluing my fingers together. The dream is not ending.

It’s just changing.

Sonja Foust is a humor blogger and author. You can find her most frequently at, testing pins from Pinterest (and mostly failing at them).

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