If I had a penny for every time I was told this, I would have…well…..fifteen pennies! Which is probably what I would make a month if I monetised my blog!
It is something that I hear and read quite often and it really makes me sad. For all kinds of reasons. And then frustrated for a couple more.
Why? I think people underestimate the work and effort it takes to blog, as well as the nature of social media. It must seem like a quick and easy way to make money. Many people seem to wish to make money by blogging while they study, raise children or as a sideline in addition to a regular job.
Firstly, I don’t make money on my blog. With WordPress (my blog platform), if you have your own domain (which I do) you can be approved to receive income from your blog (as I am) via WordPress advertising. If you do not have a domain, WordPress places random ads on your blog to financially support the free platform it gives to millions of bloggers. But the ads are not relevant to the content of the blogs and some of them are offensive (ridiculous ‘miraculous’ weight loss cures for example) so I actually pay a fee to not have any ads on my blog.
Well, firstly for me it is a hobby. I want to write when I want to and what I want to, without worrying about offending advertisers. This is also the reason I don’t solicit free things to review.
Secondly, my blog is never going to be big enough to earn any significant income – I have about 400 views per hour.. I don’t see the point of potentially annoying my loyal readers with banners and links.
Thirdly, I have built a relationship with my readers over the years and I don’t feel it is something I could exploit to make money.
I also want to be able to stop when I want to. When it is no longer fun I want to be able to just close and delete it.
But, as a blog reader, for others who come to me tell me they want to start blogging so they can make money I say:
Find a unique niche
- the days of making easy money by blogging are long gone. The market is saturated and most people have moved to other forms of social media – YouTube, Instagram, Twitter. So you will have to work way harder than you may have had to ten years ago. Blogging is a somewhat aged and unwieldy way of doing things compared to new social media channels.
- you need to find a unique angle if you wish to have any hope of succeeding in a saturated market. Something that has not been done before, or something that has not been done well before.
- have a look at blogs like PurseBlog, Advanced Style, Man Repeller, The Sartorialist. They have captured niche markets by doing it in a unique way.
- you need to have some wiggle room to adapt to a changing market. Philofaxy is an example of this – they started out writing about just Filofaxes but have been able to expand and include new organiser brands. Their affiliate links are very discreet, and their huge archive of technical information and free insert downloads keep readers returning. In addition, there is now a sister blog about traveler’s notebooks.
Don’t put the cart before the horse
- see if you like blogging first before you even think about making money
- keep your blog for at least six months before trying to monetise Grow your readership base, iron out the kinks, sort out layout, decide on a theme and have a decent archive first. There are so many excellent features in the blog software but you need to figure them all out first and give your readers a smooth and professional experience if you want to make money. You cannot be learning and making mistakes while someone is basically paying to read you.
- blogging is hard. It is always easy in the beginning but you need to post regularly to maintain your numbers and draw in new ones. If you do it as your job, or even a hobby for money, it is like any other job. Some days are hard but you have to just suck it up and do it anyway. If you don’t blog regularly, people will drift away.
- blogging is time consuming. You need to find new topics, elaborate on your niche theme, engage readers, get your message out in other social media (Facebook pages and groups, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest) without spamming.
- You need to interact, because social media is just that – social. Not a one way channel from you to your readers.
Choose your advertising carefully
- don’t harass your readers with loud garish graphics, flashing banners or pop ups. It is the quickest way to lose them. I will not return to a blog that does not give me a peaceful reading experience
- don’t make every single post one about free product placement. Your readers need to trust you rather than feel you are using them to make commission on the things you are plugging.
Use premium options
- the basic blog platform is free. But there are many add-ons that you will need to invest in if you wish to keep a long-term, professional blog going. You may want to test for a few months using just the free options, until you know whether blogging is for you. Some premium options are – custom themes, extra space, your own domain, online support, and even an entire business concept.
Watch your grammar
- there are more grammar police on the internet than anywhere else and a badly written blog will lose you readers.
Watch your design
- no garish colours, flashing gifs
- make your blog easy to navigate
- if you have a choice between form and function, choose function
- find the right balance between text and graphics
- choose a blog theme that suits your content – there are special themes designed to showcase image-heavy or text-heavy content in the best possible way.
Know your plug-ins
- there are so many plug-ins to help you but you need to experiment with them.
- some examples are plug ins that add shopping carts and sales features to your blog if you do sales, check for dead links, or add ‘you may also be interested in’ links below your posts
Build a relationship with your readers
- respond to comments on your blog
- comment on other blogs – not just to get links or people following you back to your blog, but considered, interesting, comments
- be active in the related online communities so people can get to know you as a person
Know the financial and legal implications
- tax authorities often monitor blogs to see how many things you are receiving for free or how big your readership is. They will then demand you declare your income if it is over a certain level. Make sure you know what that level is
- in many countries, you need to clearly state on your blog whether something has been given to you as a gift or if you are receiving money for affiliate links in your blog
- know the copyright law for images you are using in your blog
- watermark your images if you don’t want them stolen.
How many views per day to make money?
- I guess it changes all the time, but here is a very interesting article breaking it down and explaining why certain content makes you more money. The author’s wife at time of writing made $10 per day from her food blog, with 15 000 views per day.
Questions to ask
What do I want to write about? Is anyone already doing it and how? What will my USP be? Will I be able to keep it up for many years? What blog platform to use? What will I name it? Is the domain available? Is it easy to spell? Is there another blog with a similar name?
Things to do
- within your niche community, build up relationships and a reputation. Answer questions, be helpful, comment on blogs, become known
- register on free blog platforms and play with the software so you can see which you prefer. Check if the domain name you want is available on that platform
- once you decide the software, play around with it so that you know how to format, schedule, edit, tag, embed links and videos, debug them if necessary for use on Facebook (Facebook has a debugger tool). Creating category and tag clouds is also often valuable if you want to keep people browsing your site.
- learn basic HTML so that you can hard-code any text or image that is not behaving
- look at the premium options to see which will suit you
- research who is writing what and how you can brand yourself so that you stand out from the crowd
- find out tax ramifications if you wish to do this for a living. Do review items or gifts need to be registered at the tax authority, how do you declare any income from your blog. Tax authorities frequently monitor blogs
- start to design how you wish your blog to look – colours, layout etc.
- set readership goals. Don’t be too ambitious in the beginning as you may get discouraged. It takes a while to build a loyal readership base
- get yourself set up on social media so that you blog posts can automatically feed to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
Once you have been blogging for a good while and have your readership up, explore the ad options. For example, WordPress has an ad feature from which you can receive income if you have your own domain. The downside is you cannot control what the ads are.
You can also use affiliate links. For example if you were an Amazon affiliate and linked to a product in your blog, whenever someone clicked that link and bought the product, you would receive a small commission.
Some blogs have donate buttons on them where people can click to donate – mostly it is a donation for a cup of coffee but I am sure it adds up.
I would avoid anything that pops up or has huge flashing banners as these put people off. I refuse to go back to a blog that assaults me with ads, no matter how good the blog is.
Earned currency is not just monetary
I don’t earn money from my blog but it has been a way of branding myself.
- I do social media for four small companies, under their name rather than my own. I received these commissions because the companies were familiar with me from my blog.
- I have also been featured in two magazines which has resulted in several speaking engagements about Boerboels.
- It has brought me new students who started reading my language articles.
- It looks very good on a CV.
- Most importantly, it has given me many wonderful new friends.