How to Make Money As a Blogger
It isn't easy, but these five pointers will help
When it comes to a lifestyle-friendly business, blogging appears to have it all. You get to work from home, focus on a topic of interest and share your creative talents. But can you really earn a living as a blogger? And if so, what’s the best way to get started?
To help answer those questions, I recently spent two days at BlogHer15, the world's largest conference for women bloggers (and a few brave men). And I came away with some smart tips from the experts that can help prospective and current bloggers interested in making money from full-time or part-time work.
I went to BlogHer out of both a personal and a professional interest. I blog at Next Avenue and on my own site, MyLifestylecareer.com, which is about profiting from your passions in semi-retirement.
BlogHer Conferences Are Worth Checking Out
This year’s BlogHer event, held in New York City, featured successful bloggers including celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow (founder of the popular Goop.com), workshops on branding, social media and monetization and a whole lot of networking. BlogHer puts on one heck of a show and if you’re serious about learning more about blogging, I highly recommend you check out some of its upcoming conferences.
But now back to my initial question: Can you earn a living as a blogger?
But first, the bad news. According to the 2015 Women’s Blogging Industry and Business Annual Report — a survey of thousands of bloggers by iBlog magazine — very few bloggers earn much. In fact:
- Only 11 percent of respondents earned more than $30,000
- 68 percent earned less than $5,000
- And 57 percent made less than $2,500
That said, some bloggers earn six-figure incomes and 6 percent of respondents indicated they make over $60,000 annually.
Full-Time Vs. Part-Time Blogging
And I should point out that most of the respondents to this survey aren’t blogging full-time: 42 percent work full-time or part-time in a non-blogging job; 30 percent are stay-at-home parents and 18 percent own a non-blogging business.
Gwyneth Paltrow, however, is an outlier. She told BlogHer that she works on Goop “my whole day,” adding that “it’s an actual real job.” Goop gets more than 3.75 million page views a month, has nearly 1 million newsletter subscribers and has a 25-person team, according to the cover story in the latest issue of Fast Company.
But only 25 percent of the iBlog survey respondents said their prime motivation for having a blog was to earn a full-time income. Most blog because they’re passionate about a topic and want to earn some extra money in the process.
After analyzing the report, my main takeaway is this: blogging is a business like any other.
Despite the lure of an easy lifestyle (and claims of unscrupulous Internet marketers), you can’t expect to just start a blog, post a few ads and watch the money roll in.
Going from Hobby Blogger to Pro
If you really want to go from hobby blogger to pro, you must be willing to work hard, invest in training and stick it out for the long haul — expect to wait a year or more before you can attract enough traffic to monetize your blog.
How much you’ll ultimately earn and how quickly you’ll turn a profit will depend on the quality of your content, your market niche, how often you blog and, most importantly, how effective you are at promoting and monetizing your site.
There’s one more important consideration to factor into the profitability equation: Even if you don’t earn anything from advertising or sponsorship revenues on your blog, you might earn a very good income because of your blog.
Here’s why: You can use your blog as a platform to build your brand, which in turn leads to a greater likelihood of people buying your products and services. Successful bloggers, I heard, often monetize their blogs by attracting consulting and speaking gigs, sales of digital products, freelance work, book deals and even job offers.
So yes, it’s possible, to earn a living as a blogger for the patient and industrious.
That leads me to my second question: What’s the best way to get started?
5 Tips For Profitable Blogging
While there really is no one best way, here are five helpful tips about launching a blog and earning money from one that I took away from the conference:
1. Blog on a topic you are passionate about. I know that sounds painfully obvious. But multiple speakers emphasized the importance of choosing a topic you can see yourself writing about day after day, for years to come.
Most bloggers post at least several times a week and many post every day to continually build traffic. How often you’ll blog is up to you. “Do what feels right, what comes naturally,” said David Leite, creator of the cooking blog, LeitesCulinaria.com. “Start with your passion.”
Another panelist, Kat Kinsman, founder of TastingTable.com, emphasized the importance of having an authentic voice to distinguish your blog from the competition. She asked, “What is the story that only you can tell?”
2. Target underserved, but profitable, niches. One of the best ways to stand out from the masses and monetize a blog is to write about something people are interested in, but that other media outlets generally ignore.
For example, Erica Tannen, a former retail executive and founder of The-e-list.com, describes her site as “an excruciatingly opinionated guide to the Connecticut shoreline and best Connecticut shopping.” The hyper-local blog, which now has over 16,000 free e-newsletter subscribers (the money comes from ad revenues) and 74,000 monthly page views, includes reviews of restaurants, shops and tourist attractions, as well as notifications about sales and events.
“It took me a few years to make any money at all, but it's been great the last two,” Tannen said, adding that her blog now grosses “above six-figures.”
Says Tannen: “My ads completely sell out because I have such a targeted audience: women over 35 with annual incomes over 150K.”
She works full-time and currently has three part-time mom employees (each working about 20 hours a week) plus two interns. “I, of course, love it,” she said, “but am slightly exhausted by the frenetic pace and weekly deadline and am hoping to sell the thing in a year or so!”
3. Hone your photography and social media skills. In the past few years, blogging has become an increasingly visual medium. Consequently, visual social platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Vine are driving traffic to blogs. As a result, bloggers need to learn and develop strong photography, image editing and social media skills.
For assistance learning these skills, you might want to try sites such as Lynda.com, where you’ll find video tutorials on a wide range of topics including photo editing and video production. Membership starts at $25 a month; in some communities, you can access Lynda.com for free through your local library.
Alternatively, many community colleges and continuing education programs offer classes in social media and photography.
4. Get connected to other bloggers. Although blogging can feel isolating, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the number of bloggers who clearly knew one another at this event surprised me. So look for ways to create informal virtual alliances with other bloggers with whom you can share content, cross-promote and offer support.
This can prove financially beneficial for all involved, and is a nice way to combat the loneliness of the home-based blogger.
5. Invest in up-to-date training. The blogging landscape is continually evolving. When I attended BlogHer three years ago, sites like Pinterest and Instagram were just getting rolling. At this year’s event, there were multiple sessions devoted to learning about many types of social media sites.
Like any profession, and blogging is a profession, it’s critical to invest in professional training to keep your skills sharp and current as well as to learn about the latest options for monetization.
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help. In addition to the BlogHer events and site, some of my personal favorites for learning tips on writing compelling content, marketing and monetizing are Fizzle.com, MichaelHyatt.com and Problogger.net. All three provide lots of free advice (and more in-depth training and support is available for a fee).
Good luck and happy blogging!