Ideally, I want to do more than cover expenses. The business needs to be profitable and, maybe, something I can sell as a going concern, should I decide to move on to something else. In this post I'll look at some of the ways you can make money from writing a blog.
Advertising is the most obvious way to earn money from your blog. Unfortunately it's not particularly profitable when you're just starting out but it can grow into a significant revenue stream once you establish a sizable audience.
Ads come with the cave-at that they encourage people to click away from your site. Hopefully your content is compelling enough that when visitors see an ad they'll click on it, opening the link in a new browser window to look at later, and will come back to your site to finish looking at your content.
Google Ads (Ad sense)
Google Ads are the easiest form of advertising to implement and usually work on a pay-per-click model. Everything is automated once you set the ads up. Ads are nearly always relevant to your page's content and you get paid once a certain amount of revenue is reached.
The bigger your regular readership is the better your Google Ad revenue will be. Ad placement is key here. If you plan on hiding your ads away so they're not too intrusive you're doing it wrong. Ads need to be placed in key locations where people not only will see them but may even think they're part of your site's actual content.
Note that there are other ad systems similar to Google Ads out there but Google is the most proven and frowns upon competitor ads being shown on the same pages as their ads. As well, you don't want to load your pages with too many ads that get in the way of your content.
Selling Advertising Space
Selling advertising on your blog can be potentially more profitable than Google Ads but again the bigger your readership the more you can charge for advertising space. You can sell advertising space right from day one but you'll have an easier time convincing advertisers of it's value when you can show readership stats and page hits etc.
Never sell space for an unlimited amount of time, work out terms and conditions and how long each ad will run for, whether it will be site wide or just the home page etc. You could charge a monthly fee or a flat rate for a specific length of time.
In its self an email list won't earn you money, unless you're actually asking for payment to subscribe to your list. Which you may consider for a premium content list or member only content etc.
Generally though, you want to build an email list of blog subscribers so you can up-sell them additional content (like premium content, online e-learning courses, related products, advertising etc.).
An email list is a way to gather your audience together and speak to them directly at any time (usually through an email newsletter) rather than randomly trying to capture search engine traffic with your up-sells. You know subscribers are interested in your content so they're more likely to be interested in paid content.
There are many different email list building products you can embed into your site that will grow with you. I personally use Your Mailing List Provider which includes free and paid options once you out grow the free plan.
Affiliate programs are a way to earn a commission off sales made through related websites, products, courses and more. Like other forms of advertising it does encourage people to click away from your site but you do have a little more control with how you promote each advertiser.
For instance, if you're reviewing an application relevant to your readership and that application has an affiliate program, you could include your affiliate links within your review. You were probably going to link to the application's site anyway, so why not earn a commission for anyone who buys after reading your review?
CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) is one of the biggest affiliate networks where you can pick and choose advertisers relevant to your audience.
Creating E-Learning Courses
E-learning or Online Learning is one of the best ways to earn money with your blog. If you have a good knowledge of anything related to your blog chances are you can turn that knowledge into an online course and sell it to your readers.
There's the added advantage that because it's a course you created your readers won't be leaving your site to access it. Promotion of your courses can be quite organic as, anytime you write a post relating to topics your course covers you can use that opportunity to promote within the article.
E-learning courses can be promoted as something exclusive with limited seats, time, more direct access to you, as some examples that will allow you to charge premium pricing. Alternatively you can have courses available all the time at lower price points and go for volume sales.
Courses can be in the form of written material, articles, ebooks, video presentations (I personally recommend video as it's been proven to be more engaging, especially with difficult or complex subjects).
It's easy enough to create an host e-learning courses yourself but if you're going for volume sales you might consider hosting them on e-learning sites like Udemy or SkillShare for access to traffic and sales through their sites.
Sponsored Posts and General Site Sponsorship
Sponsored posts are similar to selling advertising space but here you get paid to write and publish a post based around an advertisers product or service. Generally you want to stick to products and services that relate to your blog's topics and themes so readers feel like they are gaining knowledge about something that relates to why they read your blog in the first place.
General Sponsorship deals are where you approach an advertiser to sponsor your blog for a set period of time in exchange for prominent advertising throughout your site pages, as well as mentions of the advertiser whenever appropriate to do so.
Arrangements vary but in general you'll want to stick to an agreed time period (e.g. 1 year, 6 months etc), for an agreed amount, with options to renew or cancel at the end of the time period. Blog-wide sponsorship should come at a premium pricing level. If you intend to offer this make sure your price is reflective of the high profile you're offering.
Book/ebook Publishing (packaging up blog post series)
If you have time to write a regular blog then you have time to write books... even if you thought you don't have the staying power to write a whole book. Packaging up your blog into a book is a great way to share your content with existing and new readers. Ebooks, in particular, can cost very little to make, other than your time, and there are even applications to help make the process much easier and quicker.
One option is to package your blog posts up into book volumes, releasing a new volume every time you reach a certain number of posts. One way to value add, for your existing readers, is to sort your posts into related topics (as chapters) in the ebook, rather than publishing them in the same order you wrote them.
If you write a series of related blog posts, when the series is done, why not release them as an ebook? You can value add by including additional information that wasn't covered when you published the series in your blog.
ebooks can be sold individually or used as a give away (one popular method is to offer a free ebook when people subscribe to your mailing list).
Blurb has their BookWright desktop app that makes designing and publishing Print and ebooks a breeze. There's also a new player called Designrr that makes converting webpages into ebooks relatively easy.
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There are certainly other ways to make money from a blog. For example, once your blog becomes established you may be seen as an authority in the field and could charge for public speaking engagements (as one example thinking off the top of my head).
In order to earn a full time income it's likely you may have to adopt several ways to make income. I would recommend against adopting all of them, thinking you'll make more money. Ultimately you'll be stretched too thin to give any of them enough attention to really make them work. It's better to stick to two or three and devote as much time as possible to them.
Next post I'll look at the financials of how much my blog needs to earn in order to at least make me a full time income. I'll be basing my numbers on the article How Much Money Does the Middle Class Need to Get By? by Katey Troutman. Although the article is from late 2015 I do think it gives some really solid numbers to work with rather than just pulling figures out of nowhere.