5 tips for making a living from your blog
As in many areas, only a small minority of bloggers manage to actually make a living from their blogs. Starting a blog should be motivated, first and foremost, by a desire to share information and opinions, to exchange ideas, to respond to a community with the same interests. However, in order to be able to devote further time and energy to it, the temptation for monetization creeps into the blog, as well as the desire for blogging efforts to produce some kind of revenue, even if it’s not much. That’s why as many as 39% of bloggers blog because they hope to make some kind of income from it.
Define an editorial line
A blog should follow some essential best practices. Defining an editorial line, prior to producing content, is necessary no matter what, but it becomes all the more important when you want to make money from your blog. More than anywhere else, having a handful of passionate followers is more valuable than a large, diverse audience.
Identify your audience
What make the internet—and therefore also blogs—unique is that after decades of centralized, uniform publishing standards, it’s now possible to publish material that’s refined and adapted for each particular niche, each particular community of enthusiasts. If you try to reach everyone, you’ll reach no one, or in any case, not a wide enough audience for your subject that you could hope to monetize.
Find a unique angle to approach your subject to stand out from the crowd
So you’re reaching a specifically identified audience? Great! But do you have anything new to say to them? If you have a blog about photos, and you give an explanation of the exposure triangle, or you devote several pages of your cooking blog to your pound cake recipe, you might have a hard time making your content stand out from the thousands of articles that already exist about these topics, even if your pound cake is legitimately better than the rest. You need to take the time to study what exists already about the subject you’re writing about and to ask yourself what value you can add. It’s only with this necessary (but not sufficient) condition that you can plan to promote the content that you create.
Once you know what you’ll be talking about to whom, you can start start to look for different mechanisms for monetizing your blog.
Don’t rely too much on ads to earn money from your blog
The temptation to monetize traffic to your blog by integrating ads your visitors are sure to see along their path through your site is strong. Very simple solutions like Google Adsense, media.net, or ProppellerAds help you generate your first revenue. But the totals are often more modest when compared to the loss in quality of your users’ experience on your site. The effectiveness of this approach, then, may not be sustainable in the long term, since it risks stunting your blog’s growth.
The other aspect of depending on ads for monetization is that they depend on being able to generate traffic permanently. But internet traffic is by nature variable, and as such you can never really be sure of your website’s ranking and the traffic that will come its way from search engine and social media algorithms. By putting all your eggs in one basket you risk, depending on a Google or Facebook update, having your revenue stream interrupted one day to the next. That makes having multiple paths of monetization for your blog.
Diversify your revenue sources to better make a living from your blog
If it’s difficult to imagine getting your revenue exclusively from the traffic your blog generates, it can make more sense to convert your visitors into buyers. Monetization based on purchases can take several forms.
Make a living from your blog with affiliation
If the content that you produce creates a link with your audience and encourages them to make a purchase, it’s only natural that you should receive a commission. That’s the basic idea of affiliation: the commercial website that you’re sending a potential customer knows that they got there from a tracking link that you put on your blog and returns a portion of that sale to you, usually between 3% and 10% in most cases.
So that you don’t have to contact all of the vendors who might be interested in reaching your audience, services exist to offer you turnkey solutions for affiliate links. That’s the case with large vendors such as Amazon, Zappos, Best Buy, or virtually any other large, online retailer in your blog’s subject area, but it’s also possible with affiliation platforms like TimeOne, Awin, or Tradetracker. We would note that on some platforms, it’s possible to register as an individual and hence earn affiliate money without having to incorporate as a business. In this case, it’s up to you do whatever may be necessary in your local jurisdiction to report your earnings.
A sponsored post is a blog post, or a social media post, intended to promote a product, a brand, or a business. It’s the economic model used by influencers, for example.
This means of financing is of course not as easy to implement as ad banners or affiliate links, but it pays much better for bloggers, for those who have the fortune to have a large and targeted enough audience to attract sponsors.
If you can get your audience to buy things outside of your site, why not directly offer your own merchandise? Without having to think about how to implement a costly and complicated supply chain, you can offer virtual products, like e-books, video trainings (if you are able to produce content with a higher value than what can already be found for free online.)
You can also offer your own, original merchandise, going through a provider like Zazzle or RedBubble, for example. If, however, you are tempted by the “e-commerce” life, and you want to make a living selling your products from your blog, that’s also an option:
Use your blog as a showcase for your expertise
And if your blog were primarily a means to put forward your expertise in a particular area? It’s easy to imagine that the content that you share for free with your readers illustrate monetizable skills and knowledge. For a business looking to hire a freelancer, a blog with a strong following or a lasting presence on social media will be a good measure of the quality of the blogger and will speak louder than a résumé and a list of past customers.
That’s also more true if you want to offer trainings in your area of expertise, whether that’s digital marketing, photography, music, or whatever your skill may be in. A blog that’s had continuous engagement over a long period of time will help you rest a little on your status as a legitimate expert in order to offer your services.
Earn money with your blog by offering subscription content
This might be the holy grail of blog monetization: a scenario in which your audience is ready to pay you directly in order to access your content, without sponsor, without purchasing products, just for the rare quality of what you are able to transmit through your content. Considering the large quantity of content available for free online, you’ll need a fairly unique expertise in order to make this model work, at least enough to maintain your independence. The subscription blog model is generally very marginal but one that may be on the rise following professional newsletters and podcasts.
An intermediate solution could be to provide specific content to subscribers, via Patreon, or encourage visitors to donate with tools like Buy Me A Coffee, for example.
Make a living with your blog by building relationships with key players in your niche
Whatever method you choose for monetizing your blog, your content alone is not enough to become an indisputable authority in your specific field. A blog is neither a reference journal, nor a television channel that can impose a top-down communication policy. You’ll need, then, to do some research on the influential actors in your area.
Be active in the online ecosystem
Since it’s no longer possible to have a blog without bringing it to life on social media, be sure to show interest in more than just your own work: take part in the debates in your field, follow other blogs, and sources of content that sometimes compete with your own, be active in your area. This active monitoring working will make you a key player, particularly if the niche that you are specifically targeting is very precise. Communicating with the most influential players in your field enables you to enhance your expert status and facilitates the monetization that can help you make a living from your blog.
Be present at IRL events
If you want to professionalize your blog, even partially, it should also exist outside of the internet. The area in which you’re looking to enhance your expertise has a life outside of the internet, in trade shows, conferences, and round tables that you need to attend physically. Your blog is only one way to transmit what really counts, more than your passion, your expertise, or your personality—you yourself.
You’ll need, then, to communicate with your peers outside of your posts, by finding more “traditional” means of expression like events linked to your field or area.
Making a living from your blog requires patience
If you’ve come to this point in the article, you will probably be disappointed to discover that there’s no magic formula for quickly earning substantial revenue from your blog. Pulling together a loyal and engaged audience, establishing your legitimacy and expertise in a well defined area and demonstrating your capacity to create value with your blog and its many extensions on the internet and in real life requires time, energy, and determination. And the best way to maintain that determination is to be motivated by a passion moreso than by the need to make rent.
Get ready for the long haul, find your own niche where the competition is not as tight, and find the right time to start making money from your blog. And don’t forget to properly report your earnings when you make some!
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