I was recently asked:
How can I earn enough money to maintain my blog or earn enough so it maintains itself?
To answer this question, I didn’t want to just list a set of tactics, although I have included them – there’s more to think about here.
We’re also going to look at scaling your blog on a budget, controlling your costs and a number of other things.
Before we get started, there are two extremely important things to point out.
Success in this area requires that you treat your blog like a business because you’re looking to grow your revenue – it’s difficult for that to happen when you think of as more of a hobby type thing, although it’s definitely possible.
The second thing is – Don’t expect this to happen overnight because this requires patience.
Are you in the right niche?
It’s an important question to ask.
When deciding on which niche to blog about you need to think about how easy it is going to be to make money (some are more difficult than others) and also how passionate are you about that topic.
You need to take both factors into account.
If you want to go into this in a bit more detail, check out my post on choosing the perfect niche for your blog.
Do you value your time?
Earning enough money from your blog so that it can maintain itself or just so you can cover costs is about more than using a set of blog monetization tactics, although you definitely need them.
I’ll be talking about blog monetization tactics further on in the post but this is important.
If we don’t value our time, productivity is usually one of the main things to suffer.
That’s one thing that I noticed; as soon as I put a value on my time I noticed an instant change in my productivity.
This quote probably says it best:
“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” – M. Scott Peck
Determining how much your time is worth isn’t always easy but it helps to think of it in terms of value rather than a specific figure that you could earn.
Are you controlling your costs?
When you’re trying to make sure that a blog pays for itself, cost control is incredibly important.
Your blog can’t pay for itself if you’re spending all of the money.
There are a crazy amount of tools on the market and it can get expensive.
You need to be asking yourself:
- Do I need this?
- What value will this give me?
- Will it save time/money?
It ties in well with valuing your time too.
With all these tools on the market it’s easy to think that lower end products/services may save us money.
That’s not always the case though.
For one, you generally get what you pay for and as the saying goes; pay peanuts and get monkeys.
Although there are some exceptions to this rule.
A great example of how this works is web hosting.
Let’s say you choose to host with a budget web host that costs you $5/month and you use WordPress.
And when things go wrong or you have questions for their support – the problem is pushed back on you and general questions are typically left unanswered.
Let’s say you put a value on your time of $25/hour and with all the chasing issues and finding answers to questions your host can’t answer for you take up 3 hours every month.
Every month $75 worth of your time is wasted and $5 hosting brings the total to $80/month.
Ok, $80/month isn’t leaving your bank account but all that chasing can add stress into the mix too, especially if you aren’t technically savvy.
That’s why going for a premium hosting service which offers better service and costs around $20-$30/month can often work out better in the long run.
What tasks can you outsource?
Sometimes it’s more cost effective to outsource the tasks that take you longer to do or you don’t have the expertise to do.
Although, you will need to ensure that your blog is actually able to cover the costs unless you have another source of funds.
Typical things to outsource:
- Blog editing
- Blog post writing
- Audio editing
- Video editing
- Graphic design
- Web design
- Web development
- WordPress setups and tweaks
Here are some outsourcing sites to try:
What if you want your blog to run completely on autopilot?
I don’t mean auto blogging (that sucks), what I mean is having someone that can ensure your blog continues to tick over even if you’re working on another project.
In those situations you are best looking into getting a freelance editor, part time or full time depending on what stage your blog is at.
That doesn’t mean that you should just leave your blog entirely, you built your blog and it’s only right that you maintain a presence there. Your followers would probably appreciate that.
This means you’ll have more time for other projects or more time developing other aspects of your blog, for example – optimizing the user experience, building traffic and ramping up how much money your blog is earning.
You can use some of the outsourcing sites that I’ve mentioned above, but ultimately sometimes the best editors turn out to be bloggers or copywriters.
Running a successful blog is about more than just ensuring each post is grammatically correct.
Well, it helps, but there’s more to it and usually other bloggers and copywriters understand that.
What about scaling your blog?
There is a strong correlation between how much money your blog earns and how much traffic you get.
But correlation doesn’t equal causation and traffic doesn’t always equal more revenue.
Building a blog audience is a big part of this but there are also some other factors.
You need the right monetization tactics in place that will allow you to generate revenue (more on these later in the post) and you also need to make sure your blog converts!
Don’t let anyone tell you that the primary goal of any website or blog should be traffic. It’s still important but there’s a few things you need to look at first.
Your key goals should be to build your audience and convert traffic. That could mean converting them into buyers, leads, subscribers or something else. And you need to put measures in place to ensure visitors come back.
When you have everything in place, then it’s time to work on your traffic.
There’s also a strong correlation between the number of posts you publish and how much traffic you receive.
Although, it is worth noting that typically longer and more detailed posts can often result in even more traffic.
So the question is how can we get more high quality content for our blog without substantially increasing our outgoings? After all, we’re looking to make sure the blog earns enough to cover its own costs and generate some profit if all goes well.
The answer is reverse guest blogging.
The idea is that instead of approaching people and asking if you can contribute on their blog, you ask them to contribute to your blog.
The benefits of reverse guest blogging (when done right):
- High quality content
- The content is free
- You can personally vet each writer
- You can reach out to influential writers that will help to boost your own readership
Now the question is, how do we do this?
There are a few ways this can be done, usually it’s going to involve some manual leg work no matter which way you do it. This is one way that can work very well:
- Identify the influential blogs within your niche that accept guest contributors
- Type the blog URL into BuzzSumo and identify the most popular blog content
- Check out each of the posts and make a note of the post URL, author name and their website along with anything else relevant (see below to grab my reverse guest blogging tracker template)
- Check the quality of any post before adding the author to your list (just a precaution, but if you choose the right sites initially then this shouldn’t be much of an issue)
- Contact the blogger and see if they are open to contributing to your blog
I find that focusing on those that have the most successful posts is a great way to increase the likelihood that the bloggers you approach will also have some degree of influence.
When you do contact these bloggers, it’s worth mentioning any potential benefits of writing for you but if your blog is quite new and you don’t have much of a following you may want to leave out specific figures.
Once you start to get responses you will need to ensure you have processes in place to streamline how you manage contributors.
Organisation is important, without it productivity falls and motivation follows.
I’m usually on the receiving end of requests from bloggers and brands who want me to write for them.
There are a number of big problems that people often make and it’s usually because of lack of organisation.
If you get into a mess then chances are the people who you contact won’t want to write for you.
Here are a few examples:
- Other members of your team contacting the same person
- Contacting the same person multiple times
- Contact the same person through their company website after they have agreed to contribute
What if you need more?
If you work as part of a larger team a spreadsheet in Google Docs may not be quite enough.
In these situations purpose built software may be a more viable solution. For that I’d suggest looking at a blogger outreach tool such as BuzzStream.
Blog monetization tactics
This post wouldn’t be complete without including any ideas on how to actually monetize your blog.
Before you use any of these tactics you need to consider whether they work with or against your blogging goals.
The average lifetime value of a mailing list subscriber is higher than a few $ or even a few cents that you may earn when someone clicks on an ad and leaves your website – a lot higher.
It’s worth thinking about.
It doesn’t have to be anything complex like developing some sort of software.
As a blogger you have skills and you can get paid to use those skills.
If you’re a subject matter expert, it’s worth considering consulting or offering training too.
You will need a dedicated page to list your services at the very least, but you’ll get better conversion rates if you have a dedicated landing page for each of your services.
Sell direct ads
Selling ads directly from your blog can be a great way to increase your revenue.
If you’re a WordPress user then there are plenty of advertising plugins to help you automate the process to some extent.
That would rely on your blog or you to get ad sales but you would get 100% of your revenue, or you could use a solution like BuySellAds.com – your site would get listed and put in front of potential advertisers, but it does mean giving up a % of your ad revenue.
Display CPC ads
I’m not a fan of CPC ads but it needs to be mentioned.
With CPC ads you will earn money each time someone clicks on one of the ads.
Typically, to make this worthwhile you will need a significant amount of traffic. The % pay out will depend on how much advertisers are bidding for the ads that are displayed on your site.
In the good old days, plenty of bloggers made serious cash with Google Adsense by working in niches that advertisers were bidding extremely high amounts. It was a great way to make money.
The downside now is that it’s difficult to serve targeted ads thanks to things like remarketing.
The other downside is that visitors will be leaving your site for just a few cents in some cases – not very worthwhile if your blog is new and chances are that it’s not worthwhile even when your blog is established.
And, there are plenty more ad networks than just Google AdSense. Check out our list of Google AdSense alternatives for more.
Sell your own products
One of the big things that I’ve picked up from Shane Melaugh in a group interview that I published last year was that the real difference to his success came when he started releasing his own products.
If you can create your own themes, plugins or software then you definitely have a big advantage but it’s not the only way.
Creating an eBook or a training course out of what you know can be just as successful.
Getting started with selling your own products is extremely easy thanks to the technology available.
Platforms like Podia and SendOwl make this process easy.
Want to learn more? Check out our post on platforms to sell digital products.
A lot of brands are looking for exposure and some are willing to pay for it.
Selling sponsored posts can be a good way to generate some additional revenue.
It’s important to ensure that you label any posts as ‘sponsored’ and it’s worth adding the nofollow tag to highlight to search engines that it’s a paid link.
This does mean waiting for marketers/brands to approach you, but you could try using sites like PayPerPost that pay bloggers to review products etc.
Paid newsletter with exclusive content
This is another option that you could try, although it’s not as popular as it used to be.
Having said that, despite how much free content there is on the web, some of the best content is kept locked away from public consumption.
Create a paid membership site
Membership sites are a great way to generate recurring revenue.
You could offer exclusive content, a paid forum or both.
These typically work best when you continue to add value and give your members a reason to stay with you.
Thanks to the likes of WordPress, there are plenty of solutions available to help you get started. I’ve included some membership plugins in this post for you.
Promote affiliate programs
Affiliate marketing is probably one of the most popular ways to earn money from your blog.
When you sign up for an affiliate program you will get your own special referral link, when someone clicks on the link and makes a purchase you will get a commission.
The best way to do this is to promote products you’ve used, that way you can write detailed reviews.
You may want to promote affiliate programs to your list, but your subscribers will appreciate it if you don’t turn your list into a ‘every single one of my emails is promoting a product’ type list.
It’s worth noting that certain niches will have affiliate programs with very low commission percentages whereas others will be a lot higher.
Plenty of products will have their own affiliate program where you can sign up directly and others will use an affiliate network.
If you’re struggling to find products, check out our post on affiliate networks to join.
Promote CPA programs
CPA stands for ‘Cost Per Action’ – it’s similar to affiliate marketing because it involves the use of a referral link but it relies on people performing a certain action for you to get a pay-out.
The ‘action’ required can vary. Some may be email submits, others may be software downloads or product purchases.
Some programs will offer you as little as a few cents, whereas others can be in excess of $30.
Typically the higher the pay-out, the less likely someone would be to complete an action.
Getting signed up for a CPA network is usually more of a challenge than getting approved for any old affiliate program.
In fact, to get signed up for a few listed below I had to have telephone interviews and send over various pieces of information. That was a while back, not sure if that’s changed.
Start your own ecommerce store
What? Create my own ecommerce store? Yep, you read that right!
This is definitely one of the most challenging monetization strategies we’ve discussed in this list, but bear with me for a moment.
Let’s say you run a food blog for example.
There is no end to products you could sell to your readers.
The easiest way to tackle this would be to sell recipe based ebooks to your readers – with an ecommerce approach you’d make it easy for people to add multiple books to their order.
And from a user perspective it would work out well because they can pick and choose what they like.
Then there’s all of the physical products you could sell. Anything from physical recipe books to utensils.
But let’s step back from all of the cool possibilities for a moment and return to the real world.
This isn’t an option for everyone, so I’d recommend putting a lot of thought into this if it is an option.
If you want to sell physical products then you need some seed money but you also need to treat your blog like a real business and it may involve hiring support staff & storage space. All that can make it tricky.
Then again, you don’t have to go down the route of physical products – digital products can be just as, if not more effective. And it’s easier to do.
But how do you actually launch your own online store? You’re going to need an ecommerce platform.
There are heavy-duty platforms like Shopify and Big Commerce but you could opt for something a lot simpler. For example, platforms like Sellfy allow you to create simple ecommerce stores fast.
Then, there are platforms for selling digital products. Some of these allow you to create a store front, sell directly from your website, or both.
Now, if you decide to sell ebooks, you’ll have a few other options available. For example, you could opt for a marketplace such as Amazon which would sacrifice a share of profits in exchange for access to their built-in audience.
Over to you
Making money from your blog isn’t always the easiest thing in the world but if you are doing something you love and you’re in the right niche, if you try hard enough you can make it work.