Not everyone begins a blog to make money. A substantial portion of the blogs that are started every day begin because that blogger just wants to talk about a particular subject. Over time, if that blog becomes popular, its blog owner may find that they’re spending a good deal of time on their hobby.
When you see hundreds of unique users showing up to your blog each and every day, you may begin to think about monetizing your blog. Dreams of quitting your job and telling your boss what you really think about them fuel the entrepreneurial spirit, and you wonder what the best way is to approach making money from all of your hard work.
The great thing about making money online is the number of options you have.
No matter what your skill set, there’s a specific Internet money vehicle that’s perfect for you. Your blog doesn’t need to get 10,000 unique visitors every day to start bringing home the bacon. If you have any traffic at all, why not attempt to monetize those visitors? As long as you do it tastefully (i.e. not turning your blog into one big advert) then your readers won’t mind you trying to get some sort of compensation for your hard work.
In a lot of situations, the people coming to your blog are looking for help. When they visit your blog repeatedly, it’s because they’ve come to respect and trust you. If you’re not offering anything in the way of products or services that fit your niche, you’re probably leaving money on the table.
So, where do you begin?
There are many ways to make money with your blog. For the most part, they all fit into 5 major categories. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these types of moneymaking platforms so you can decide which to implement on your blog. We’ll start with arguably the simplest way to make money online.
1. Affiliate Marketing
You can begin to make money with affiliate marketing right now. There are tens of thousands of products and services (physical and virtual) offered by companies that will pay you a commission when you bring them customers.
You go to a site like Amazon and sign up as an affiliate. Then each product they offer is accompanied by a URL that’s unique to you. You place that URL or link on your website. When someone clicks on that link and purchases the product from Amazon, you get paid a flat fee or percentage commission. Amazon handles delivery, customer fulfillment, customer follow-up and every part of the transaction process. As far as simplicity, this is as easy as it gets. If you can install a clickable link on your blog, you can make money with affiliate marketing.
No matter what niche or market you’re in, affiliate marketing makes sense. There are literally millions of products and services available for this blog monetization model. Whether you blog about chakra crystals or widgets, there are products out there which pay a commission for each sale, and also make sense on your blog.
You might be wondering whether your customers will like the fact that you’re getting paid to promote products. As long as you’re ethical, they won’t mind. Think of it like this: never promote anything just because you can make money. Never tell your readers you liked something when you didn’t. Never recommend anything you wouldn’t recommend to your mom or a friend. Promote products because you like them, and customers will appreciate your honest reviews, and the fact that you share what you use with them.
- The process is super simple.
- There are a limitless number of products and services you can offer.
- No marketing skills are required.
- No need to pay for traffic, unless you want to.
- Your income is pretty much unlimited.
- You can get started without quitting your current job, adding this revenue stream to your blog.
• Some commissions can be very low.
• You have to be sure you’re dealing with a reputable company.
• Income can be sporadic, even if you have lots of traffic.
• Your links can get hijacked, and your rightful commission goes to someone else.
• Because this is such a simple and fast way to get started monetizing your blog, it can be extremely competitive.
• You get paid for every sale, so it’s up to you, not the company you represent, to get convertible traffic to your site.
Even with the negative considerations listed, affiliate marketing is usually the first thing bloggers do to monetize their sites. Just make sure you stick with someone who is reputable. Amazon has built a billion-dollar company based on the affiliate marketing model. You and other affiliates handle driving traffic to their site, so Amazon doesn’t spend anywhere near the money that a traditional company does on advertising.
They also work very hard to convert your traffic. This means that once you get traffic from your blog to Amazon, a premier effort is made to make the sale and pay you a commission.
Where to Find Suitable Affiliate Programs
Amazon is just one example of a respectable affiliate marketing company. Type “your niche” followed by “affiliate program” into Google and check the results. This will list companies that will pay you a commission if you advertise their products and services that fit your niche or blogging theme. You can also head to Commission Junction, ClickBank, JV Zoo and other online affiliate marketing companies and register for free. You can then browse their marketplaces, and look for affiliate marketing opportunities which makes sense for your blog.
2 . Advertising
Have you developed a decent amount of traffic to your blog? If so, the thought of earning dependable advertising revenue may be attractive to you.
There are a couple of ways you can sell advertising space on your blog.
It’s also important to check what you get paid for. For example, some ads will earn you a small amount of money every time they’re displayed. This works well when you have lots of traffic. Other ads will make you money every time they get clicked on, and others will simply pay a fixed fee for you to place the ad on your website for a fixed period of time.
Option 1 — The DIY Method
You can handle the dirty work yourself, tracking down and communicating with companies that sell products and services which fit nicely with the theme of your blog.
You can then arrange for them to pay you monthly, quarterly or annual fees for placing clickable banners, graphics and text based ads on your blog. You handle pricing and implementation, and in return, you can develop a very reliable stream of income by selling advertising space.
There are plugins that can help make this easier, but essentially you’re running the advertising service yourself.
Option 2 — Use an Ad Network
If you’re a busy entrepreneur, you may want to consider joining an advertising network instead. These networks (like the Google Ad Network) do all of the hard work for you. They act as a go-between, finding companies that want to advertise on your website. They understand the going rate for different types and sizes of advertisements, and already have access to companies that are eager to advertise on a blog in your niche.
Advertising may not make sense for all blogs. As mentioned above, you need to get your traffic up to a decent number before you can command respectable fees. They find advertisers for you in exchange for a small fee. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of selling advertising on your blog.
• This income can be very reliable, bankable on a monthly, quarterly or annual schedule.
• If you have decent traffic, there will be plenty of companies willing to pay your advertising prices.
- If you join an advertising network, much of the work is done for you.
• The technical level of difficulty is advanced. You or your webmaster have to understand how to incorporate display advertising into your blog.
• Your site can develop a cluttered appearance.
• You may lose traffic, due to your readers and followers getting tired of seeing advertising all the time.
• Any blog or website tends to lose focus when there are too many marketing messages battling with your content for attention.
- If you choose an advertising network approach, you pay a portion of your revenue as a commission.
The Balance Between Making Money and Keeping Your Audience Happy
At some point in time you’re probably going to advertise on your blog. Just remember that your audience is everything. You’ve worked very hard to develop your reputation. Don’t tarnish your image with tons of irrelevant advertising.
The companies that develop strong advertising revenue find one or two applicable advertisers they can depend on. They develop strong relationships with those companies. They ensure that the products and services those companies sell makes sense on their blog.
Selling advertising to a company that sells brand-new automobiles on your “I Love Goldfish” blog doesn’t really make a lot of sense does it ? Stick with one or two reputable advertisers, keep your site from getting cluttered with marketing messages, and relate to your site theme.
3. Sponsored Posts and Working with Brands
Some companies attempt to build their brand and develop more exposure by sponsoring blog posts. They find authority sites and blogs, and attempt to piggyback off of the reputation you’ve built as a leader in your field or niche.
Bear in mind, you’ll probably have a rough time selling sponsored posts until you’ve built up some decent traffic and are looked upon as an authority on your particular blogging subject.
Once you establish your reputation, you’ll also find brands contacting you and offering you freebies. Whilst these freebies won’t earn you money directly, you’ll benefit from free goods that you get to use in your everyday life. And remember, you don’t have to review every product you receive for free.
How Do Sponsored Posts Work?
The process is pretty simple.
You already write blog posts on a regular schedule. When your blog becomes well-known, a company may offer to pay you to write on a particular subject. They have you incorporate their products, services or an opt-in link into your blog post. In some cases, you may even be offered a substantial fee to let the company write the post for you.
Some rather large companies are reaching out in an attempt to expand their brand through sponsored posts. Because you’ll be dealing with larger companies most of the time, you can expect to sign a contract and stick to those contractual obligations. Your site page rank, traffic, level of authority and other considerations will dictate how much you’re paid for each sponsored post. Work hard on building your own brand, and you can make $1,000 or more for a single blog post.
Even if you have very little traffic, a local off-line company may be willing to pay you $50 or $100 to get their name out there. Also, make sure you have a contract in place every time. Be professional, give discounts for repeat business, and you may find that sponsored posts are the perfect way for you to monetize your blog.
• The money can be very good.
• The process is simple, just writing a blog post like you already do.
• If you have a tightly focused niche you can charge high fees.
- You often get to work with brands and products you already use and like.
• You have to develop a lot of traffic first.
• You have to be considered a leading authority in your blogging niche.
- Sponsored posts can water down your intended message, and your reputation, since they’re intentionally written with a favorable slant towards some advertiser or company.
The Ethics of Sponsored Posts
Some companies will offer products to review. Some will ask you to give them a positive review. Consider whether that’s the best way to treat your readers. Many well-respected bloggers have a policy where they tell potential brands that they will never give a positive review without first trying and truly liking the product.
And if you want to make money with sponsored posts, there are a few things to remember. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC ) in the United States for instance, demands that you identify a sponsored post as such. At the end of the post, you simply state that the content was sponsored by whatever company paid you. When first getting started, you should probably contact local companies that make sense for your blog.
4. Selling A Service
There are many skills that go into running a successful blog: writing, photography, web design, marketing and so on. It makes sense, then, that many bloggers end up using their blog as a portfolio and selling their services to others.
If you’ve been getting compliments on a specific area of your blog — such as your photos or your design — then why not consider doing this as a paid service for others?
All it takes to get started is to create a new page on your website going over what you’ll offer. You can either put up a basic page asking people to contact you for more information and prices, or you can create specific packages and prices. The latter will help to filter out the time-wasters.
Many people start off cheap, but try not to undersell yourself. Once you have your first few clients under your belt, you can ask them for testimonials and display those on your services page.
Once you get lots of experience, you can even start outsourcing the service. For example, if you offer writing services you may eventually build a team of writers and perform the role of an editor to help you earn more money. You could even act as a consultant or coach to help others build a blog or start their own service-based business.
• For many, offering a service is the easiest way to monetize their blog.
• You get to earn some money while you build your blog traffic.
• Once you’ve been running your service for a while, you’ll find that your customers refer you to others.
• You’re in complete control of your prices and how much work you take on.
• You may end up working for other entrepreneurs who will offer you invaluable advice for your business.
- Services can be limited in terms of growth (because you’re usually limited to earning money by the hour).
- A service-based business can be somewhat uncertain, until you build up regular clients.
- Your client work can take a lot of time away from you working on your own blog.
- You may get burnt out, especially if you undercharge.
Many people use services as a stepping stone before they have the audience to make money from their blog in other ways.
5. Selling Your Own Products, Services and Memberships
Ask any successful blogger making 6 or 7 figures a year, and they’ll tell you they started out making money through affiliate marketing. Eventually however, they wanted to be true to their own voice or message. If this is your case, consider selling an information product or some physical product or membership. This allows you total control over your business.
In the Amazon affiliate marketing example above, your commissions start out very small. If you only sell a few items each month, you may only be rewarded 4% to 6% of each sale. If you direct traffic from your blog to Amazon and your readers purchase $1,000 worth of goods and services, you would only make $40 to $60 in commissions.
On the contrary, you get to keep 100% of the profits from any of your own products you sell. The people that show up to your blog are probably doing so because they know, like and trust you. They enjoy the content that you deliver, so they’re natural prospects for an information product, physical product or membership service that has your name on it. Unlike affiliate marketing, when you sell $1,000 worth of your own goods, you get to keep 100% of that money (minus payment processing fees, of course).
Another benefit of having your own products and services to sell has to do with affiliate marketing. You can pay commissions to other bloggers and online marketers that sell your products for you. You decide on the commission level, and even with just a few savvy affiliate marketers working on your behalf, you can develop a pretty nice monthly income.
Examples of Products to Sell
The most common online product for bloggers is an eBook — a digital, downloadable version of a book. It makes sense to start a product like this. After all, you write about your chosen subject all day long on your blog. Why not turn it into a book?
Some bloggers even take a collection of blog posts and curate them into a book. Although your readers could find much of the information freely available on your blog, many of them are happy to pay for the ease of having it all laid out in logical order in an eBook.
Courses and workshops are also becoming more and more popular for bloggers. Think of a workshop as a guide on how to achieve something. For example, food bloggers could run workshops on how to make icing for cupcakes or how to create gorgeous backdrops for food photos. A course would be a more detailed and more comprehensive guide, such as low-sugar baking or how to take food photos.
Some bloggers even create memberships based around their brand, such as monthly meal plans or paid newsletters or forums that readers have to pay to access month after month.
The best way to get ideas? Have a search around bloggers in your niche and see what they do.
• Developing an information product is easy.
• You keep 100% of the profits.
• There’s no end to the number of products you can create.
• The people who come to your blog are there for your content, so when you release a product with your name on it, conversions to that audience can be high.
- You can have affiliates sell your product for you.
• You have to handle order fulfillment and customer service.
• Creating a product could be technically or even financially daunting.
• You are responsible for all marketing.
- Without a smart product launch and consistent traffic, sales can be low to begin with.
You absolutely must have your own type of product to offer. If your blog is relatively new, don’t be concerned if you don’t have a product to offer… yet. Take as much time as necessary to create a quality product, whether it be a physical or virtual one.
However, if you’ve been blogging for years and have not released your own product yet, you should concentrate on marking this off your to-do list. Owning your own product or service is an excellent way to build your brand, and to be viewed as an authority figure in your field.
Bonus Tip — Selling Your Blog
One way to make money with your blog is by selling it. Some people find after a couple of years of blogging on a particular topic, they’re “burned out”, or simply want to move on to another genre or niche. This is when selling your blog might make sense.
Blogs may sell for $100 or $1 million. It depends on the audience you’ve built, and verifiable numbers like traffic and page rank. Once you can show that you’ve built your blog up to a substantial level traffic wise, if you know where to sell your blog, all your years of hard work can pay off with a nice one-time payment.
• This allows you to move to another niche.
• It can offer a substantial one-time payment.
- There are websites which make the process of selling your blog, domain or website a very simple process.
• You’re officially out of the blogging business when you sell your blog.
• If you move to another market, you have to begin the process of developing a reputation as an authority figure all over again.
• You may not realize as much money as you had hoped.
FreeMarket, SitePoint, the Digital Point Forum, SEDO and WebHostingTalk are a few websites where you can sell your blog. You can also reach out to the audience that you’ve built. If you’ve established an email list through your blog, and you definitely should, you may have a loyal follower who would love to step in and take over your blog for you.
A Note About Taxes for Bloggers
Just starting out, you may not think you’ll be making a lot of money off of your blog. That may or may not be the case. Just remember that you do have tax considerations. If you make money off of your blog, that’s considered income. Depending on where you live, you could have substantial tax obligations to live up to.
Don’t wait until your blog starts making you a lot of money to worry about tax problems. Get started immediately keeping the appropriate records. If you’re not sure where to begin, just take the following blogging tax tips into consideration.
1 — Expenses
You’re going to have expenses relating to your blogging business. You may have to purchase a PC or laptop, printer, fax machine and other hardware. Your Internet service, hosting fees and possibly even a portion of your monthly smart phone bill are all considered “ordinary and necessary” blogging expenses.
2 — Your Home Office
A lot of bloggers begin at home. This keeps their costs down, and allows them to work their blogging business in bits and chunks of time around their personal and work obligations. Depending on what country you pay taxes in, you can claim a percentage of home insurance, utilities and even your mortgage or rent as a reasonable expense. But you must be able to show that this is exclusively a work space.
3 — Advertising
If you spend $50 advertising your blog on Google AdWords, that’s a deductible expense. Business cards, snail mail direct marketing and online advertising are all deductibles you should track.
4 — Hobby Versus Business?
In the United States and some other countries, your tax obligations are different depending on how your business is viewed. You may consider your blog a serious business. If the IRS, or some other national tax authority, considers your blog a hobby, they will hold your allowable expense deductions up to the amount of your blogging income. Incorporating, keeping meticulous records and presenting yourself as a business professional can help identify your blog as a business instead of a hobby.
The bottom line is this… tax time is headache-free if you keep great records. If you’re unsure whether an expense qualifies as a deduction, keep the receipt anyway. If you track any and every expense which may possibly pertain to your blogging business, you’ll be prepared when the dreaded taxman comes around.
The 5 main ways to monetize your blog mentioned above contain dozens, if not hundreds, of subcategories. If you need a little help digging down deeper into the monetization techniques we just covered, the following resources provide some great help.
Blog Marketing Academy — http://www.blogmarketingacademy.com/top-10-blog-monetization-strategies-ranked/
First Site Guide — http://firstsiteguide.com/blogging-and-monetization-tips/