...with a small readership and little list.
When I decided to get serious about blogging, I read as much as I could about monetizing my blog. At first I was overwhelmed and confused, but as I kept reading every article and eBook I could find I realized there were a few typical ways to monetize your blog.
You’ve probably heard of them: advertising, affiliate sales, sponsored posts.
I still had this feeling that those kinds of monetization methods were kind of cheesy in a way - having ads all over my site didn’t appeal to me, and pushing other people’s products (when there simply aren’t very many related products in the category I was blogging about) felt icky.
And when you have a small readership, those types of monetization aren’t very effective. You have to have huge traffic and email lists for those to really work for you.
I tried to email potential advertisers and sponsors but rarely heard back. I signed up for all the affiliate programs in my niche and put up the banners and links. I was doing everything that the bloggers said to do and it wasn’t working! I seemed to be reading that most bloggers were seeing most of their income come from ads and affiliates, and I thought I was doing something wrong.
So when I did finally start making money, I was surprised to see how different my income streams looked when compared to other bloggers.
Given, my blog is in a totally different niche than the bloggers that were giving me advice - something very specific and not saturated like “fashion” or “lifestyle”. (The figures and numbers below refer not to the Femtrepreneur blog but to my “first” blog which is a few years old).
I wanted to share with you how I make money blogging, just to show you that it is different for everyone and there is no “one right way”.
Most importantly, I want to impress to you that you don’t need a ton of traffic or a huge list to make money blogging!
My rookie mistake when I decided to monetize was relying on monetization methods that are solely dependent on high traffic. Ads and affiliate sales do well if you have high traffic, which I simply did not. Of course I wanted huge numbers, but I didn't want to wait to make money until the traffic caught up to my aspirations.
I learned that there are other monetization methods that don’t rely on traffic, so my income is independent of how many page views I get.
This was the biggest thing I learned: Don’t focus on income streams that rely on high traffic to do well, that’s a slow game (it works for bloggers who have been around a long time, but it didn't work for me).
Instead of selling other people’s products via ads or affiliates or sponsors, focus on being your own business. Focus on selling your own items, physical or digital. If you’re a fashion blogger, start a clothing shop! If you’re a food blogger, sell a recipe eBook. If you’re a designer, sell graphics or themes.
Blogging as a business is moving towards this shop + product based model. With so many bloggers saturating the space, ads and sponsorships are not longer the only, or even the best way, to make a living blogging. The new blogger needs to sell her own products, and that can be anything from crafts, to digital downloads, to service packages, to art and photography lessons. It's hard to make a living selling other people's stuff for a small commission when you have a small blog.
Don’t wait around for your traffic to increase, advertisers and brands to “pick you”, and your blog to get big - just invest in yourself and make something today.
On that note, here is how I actually make money blogging - all the details are here, no vague answers. This is the stuff I wish I could have read when I was in crazy research mode trying to figure out how to make the transition from hobby to business.
I offered private ads on my blog as sidebar banners, and have a select few businesses that I like to support and work with. Small businesses, Etsy shops, and people that share my values get a spot (not just any old ad). I don’t actively court advertisers, but if someone contacts me and it’s a good fit then we do it!
Private Ads: $100/month
The only affiliate program I’ve made a cent off of. It’s just easy to use Amazon affiliates, you don’t have to sign up for a bunch of different programs, and they have EVERYTHING. I recommend books, cameras, things I use, and more. I don’t make much with it, but it’s easy enough to use that I keep doing it anyway.
Amazon affiliates: $100/month
Digital Products (eBooks, classes, and virtual service packages)
This is the thing that changed my blogging life. I was making less than $10/month with my blog at the time and wondering when the hell I was going to be able to live off of the blog I worked on day and night.
As an experiment I wrote a mini class and discreetly put it up on my website. I didn’t advertise it and I didn’t mention it because I just wasn’t sure it was any good and I was positive no one would want to sign up for it. Alas, people did slowly start to sign up. And signing up. And signing up. I was shocked. I realized that you don’t need to have high traffic to make money blogging, you just have to have something that people will really want and that is genuinely helpful and valuable. This could be a helpful eBook, a video class, a live seminar, or one-on-one offering. Offer something that people need help with.
Digital Products: $2,000 - $4,000/month
Having a blog makes you an authority, which you should use to your advantage! I get hired to give talks and lectures at various schools, workshops, events and oncferences around the country and it’s a very fulfilling and fun part of my blogging life. I love when my online world connects to the real world!
I don’t do a speaking engagement every month, but I usually earn anywhere from $500 - $1,000 (plus free travel!) for giving a lecture.
Just make sure that you state somewhere on your blog that you are available for speaking engagements and give some examples of what you usually talk about. Speaking engagements aren’t regular income, but a nice bonus every so often. If it’s something you like to do, you could always seek it out.
If you’re not a good fit for a university or college lecture, then set up your own workshop! If you’re a DIY blogger, do a local craft workshop in your town. Give a talk at your local library or town hall about your subject. Make it happen! I did my first few lectures for free, but after that you should feel confident charging a fee.
Speaking Gigs: $500-$1000/month (6-10 per year)
Writing for other blogs
Writing for other blogs is a great way to get paid and grow your own blog with a byline. I get paid to write for other blogs in my niche, which also send lots of traffic to my site when I do these “guest posts”.
When you become more established, it’s completely appropriate to ask for compensation for writing for blogs that are bigger than yours. If you’re just starting out, then you probably want to offer to do it for free in return for a link to your own site. I got most of my writing gigs from knowing the bloggers in real life either from hanging out at conferences or workshops.
I don’t make a ton of money guest blogging, but it has the added value of driving traffic to my site which would have cost money in advertising fees so it’s a win-win! I usually try to do 2-3 guest posts per month, which really helps my blog grow.
Guest blogging: $100/month
...And that’s it! My 100% transparent blogging income break-down.
Are you surprised?
The main takeaway here is that you can make money blogging no matter your blog’s traffic or size, if you know what your readers want. The blog I’m referring to in this post gets maybe 200 views/day. If you have any questions for me you can always shoot me a message, I’m happy to answer.
How do you make money blogging? How do you plan to monetize your own blog? Let me know in the Comments!
And if you're new to blogging or online business, or you just feel like you need to get your act together, I have something for you. It's called "Find Your Niche" and it will help you plan out your blog or business so that it's unique, focused, and primed for becoming a REAL business, not just a hobby. If that sounds like something you need, you can get the guide here.