If you clicked on this post, it’s probably because you have some interest in starting a blog and learning how to make money blogging. And you’ve come to the right place! But, I have one warning before I go on — blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Sure, I make a really good income right now, but it didn’t start that way.
Before I was a blogger, I was a high school band teacher who hated my job. It wasn’t the kids. I was just tired of working 70-80 hours a week on a teacher’s salary, dealing with angry parents, and realizing that teaching would never earn me enough to live the life I wanted.
So, I buckled down to pay off my student loan debt — living with the in-laws, driving a crappy truck, and just reducing my expenses as much as possible.
After paying off nearly $40,000 in student loan debt in 18 months, I wrote a Facebook post about my experience, and it went viral-ish. Next, I wrote a couple of articles for Medium and eventually started my blog.
I realized my peers (millennials) needed more personal finance education, motivation, and commiseration. I was pretty sure we all felt the same way about student loans.
All of that led to starting Millennial Money Man. And because I was debt-free, I took a wild leap and quit my teaching job after earning just a few bucks from the site.
But, how did I go from starting my blog to where I am now, a bonafide 7-figure business owner running multiple businesses?
The simplest explanation is that I identified a need in my audience and filled it through the monetization methods I’m about to cover.
But, let’s actually look at the even bigger question, how do you make money blogging? As in, how do all of us bloggers take our blogs from $0 to $100, $1,000, $10,000, and more?
I’m going to cover the most common ways to make money blogging. Every blogger has a slightly different strategy, but we all earn income in pretty similar ways, that is:
- Freelance services
- Display ads
- Sponsored posts
- Affiliate income
- Digital products
Most of us start with one and move our way through the list, and I’ll be explaining each, plus the pros and cons of each monetization method.
And if you’ve ever wanted to start your own blog, I’m going to cover the basics to get you on your way.
How to make money blogging: 5 realistic options for 2021
1. Offer freelance services through your blog
This is one of the most overlooked and underrated monetization methods for bloggers, and I think that’s because everyone wants to talk about more blog-specific income. But, because it can take so long to make a liveable income from sponsored posts or affiliate income, many bloggers start building their blogging income through freelance services.
Many of the bloggers I know have offered freelance services at some point, and some of them still do. For example, I did freelance digital marketing and blog coaching for several years to supplement my blog income, and it was a massive help.
Here are a few freelancing services you can use to monetize your blog:
- Writing: Freelance writing is creating written content for multiple clients, and it can be anything from copywriting, ghostwriting, writing emails, ad copy, etc. You can even share links to your work on your blog, using it like an online portfolio.
- Copy-editing/proofreading: Bloggers and online business owners often use editors and proofreaders to go over their work before they hit publish. An editor is a valuable asset, and if you nerd out over grammar and punctuation, this might be a good one for you.
- Photography: Not only can you use your blog to show off your photos, but you can also sell them and list your services. There are also sites like Shutterstock and iStock for selling your images.
- Web design: This is an in-demand service that pairs well with blogging.
- Graphic design: Another freelance service that fits well with blogging, and you can create logos, printables, blog graphics, infographics, and more. Besides selling your services through your blog, you can sell images on Canva.
- Digital marketing: Many of the students in my Facebook Side Hustle Course have created websites and blogs to talk about their work and to reach a larger audience. And because you can earn $1,000-$1,500/month per client, this can jumpstart your blogging income.
Those are just a few freelance services, and ideally, you’re leveraging a skill you already have or can find relatively inexpensive training for a new and profitable skill (like running Facebook ads for local businesses — what I teach in the Facebook Side Hustle Course).
Curious if your favorite bloggers offer freelance services? If you see a “Hire Me” or “Work With Me” button on a blog, that’s usually how you find out what services they offer.
If you’re a brand new blogger, you should for sure use your blog to list your services, but you can also find your first clients on websites like Upwork.
Pros and cons of offering freelance services through your blog:
2. Monetize your blog with display ads
You’ve seen display ads before — they’re the ads that sit on the top, bottom, or side of a webpage. Bloggers use them, and so do other websites. You can find display ads through networks like Google AdSense (where most new bloggers start), Mediavine, and AdThrive. This is usually the first blog-specific way to make money blogging.
There are a couple of different types of display ads you can use to make money blogging:
- CPC/PPC. These are used pretty interchangeably and mean “cost per click” or “pay per click.” Basically, any time someone clicks on one of those ads, you get a small payment.
- CPM. This stands for “cost per thousand impressions.” For every 1,000 people who see these ads, you get a small payment.
I’m saying small payment because display ads really don’t pay a lot. It can also take a little bit of time to figure out how to optimize them on your site. Your impulse might be— put them everywhere; that’s more money!
But the reality is that too many ads can take away from your reader’s experience, and without readers, you won’t have anyone to see your ads.
However, once you figure out your ads strategy, it’s pretty passive income because the ad networks really do most of the work.
I see a lot of new bloggers start with display ads, but I honestly think they’re better once you’ve built up your audience a bit. The reason is that display ads don’t pay very well, and they can take away from your blog.
The upside about making money from display ads is that it’s a fairly passive way to offset some of your overhead costs, like blog hosting.
Pros and cons of making money from display ads:
3. Publish sponsored posts on your blog
Sponsored posts or brand partnerships are when you create content that promotes a specific company or brand. The sponsored deals you get vary from blogger to blogger and company to company, but it’s usually a blog post or two, maybe a social media post, and maybe even a shout-out to the company in your emails.
The key to doing sponsored posts well is to find brands and products that are a good fit with your audience.
It would be weird if I published a sponsored post about shoes, right? A $10 wine club? While I could argue that $10 wine fits in with budget content, it’s still a stretch. My brand is personal finance and making money, so the companies I work with must fit my content.
The key is to always offer your readers valuable content. Sponsored posts can come off as scammy if you don’t focus on your readers — remember, it’s all about their experience on your blog.
When you find a company that’s a good fit, sometimes they find you, you can negotiate the specifics of your deal, from:
- Type of content (blog post, social media posts, email marketing)
- Length of content
Many companies will give you very specific language to use in your posts, and others just let you write the post the way you want. In addition, you find opportunities through sponsored post networks like Aspire IQ, TapInfluence, and Clever.
I haven’t done many sponsored posts because I’m pretty picky, but below are some examples of sponsored content you’ll find on M$M:
You’ll need more pageviews for sponsored posts than you do with display ads, but that doesn’t mean you need 100,000+ page views per month to earn a decent amount from sponsored posts.
One of my favorite bloggers, Michelle of Making Sense of Cents makes around $10,000-$20,000/ month from sponsored posts, and she and her sister Alexis, of Fitnancials, put together a course called Making Sense of Sponsored Posts to teach you how to do sponsored posts well (as in not scammy and always keeping your audience in mind).
Learn how to find brand partnerships and how to charge for them
In Making Sense of Sponsored Posts, you’ll learn how to find brands to work with, how to charge for sponsored posts, rules, and strategies to find even more brand partnerships.Check Out Making Sense of Sponsored Posts
You can learn more about the course and how to make money blogging with sponsored posts at Making Sense of Cents Sponsored Posts Course Review.
Pros and cons of making money on your blog with sponsored posts:
4. Earning money with affiliate marketing
This is what most bloggers think of as the holy grail of blogging income because it can feel fairly passive and pretty lucrative at the same time. But, getting to the point that you are able to have a successful affiliate marketing strategy means you’ve already put a ton of time, energy, and probably some cash into your site.
So, what is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when you work with a company to promote a product or service on your blog. You are given a unique link that you insert in your posts, and when a reader clicks on that link and makes a purchase, you’ve made a conversion. Then you’re paid for each conversion.
Just like sponsored posts, the companies you work with should be related to your blog’s niche, brand, and message. And, they should provide your readers with even more value.
One of my long-time affiliates is Personal Capital — a fintech company that offers personal wealth management services, both free and paid. You can tell from that description that they fit in well with my content, but it’s also a service I use. This all builds reader trust and makes for a better affiliate relationship. And, oh yeah, the link above is an affiliate link for them.
An essential part of making money from affiliate income is to always disclose your affiliates. You’ll notice disclosures at the top of blog posts, and they say something like, “Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.”
Oftentimes, your affiliate deal might offer your readers a special discount when they make a purchase, and that’s one form of value. But, value also comes from promoting products that will actually help your readers in their daily life.
Bloggers can find affiliates through networks like:
As far as being passive income, affiliate marketing feels that way because your affiliate links can still generate income on posts that you’ve published weeks, months, or even years ago. You’ll have to keep bringing readers to those posts and continually publish awesome content overall, so it’s not 100% passive.
The same Michelle I mentioned in the sponsored posts section crushes it with affiliate marketing — she makes around $50,000 per month in affiliate income. She has an affordable and affiliate marketing course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing that covers the basics and much more.
Want to learn how to make money with affiliate marketing?
The Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course teaches you how to find and apply for affiliate programs, rules of affiliate marketing, how to implement a strategy, how to convert your readers, and more.Check out Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing
You can learn more about the course at my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course Review.
Pros and cons of affiliate marketing:
5. Sell digital products on your blog
Many larger blogs, including M$M, have started promoting their own online courses and digital products. I’m sure you’ve seen this trend, and there are a few reasons why:
- First, you are in complete control of the product, from creation to sales.
- You can create products that are tailored to your unique audience.
- You get to help your audience with something you’ve created directly.
- Finally, selling digital products can be pretty lucrative.
This is another one when your audience is key — okay, they (you readers) are always key. You are the ones I’m showing up for, so I need to make sure that my products align with your needs.
Because you come to M$M for help making more money, my digital products are meant to fill that need. I guess I could start selling t-shirts or wine koozies with the M$M logo, but I’m not sure that’s exactly what you need in your life.
If you’re asking your readers to give you their money, then your digital products should enhance their life.
With that in mind, here are the types of products you can sell through your blog:
Digital products fit in with virtually every blogging niche. For example, I’ve seen food bloggers sell digital cookbooks or courses on food photography. There are personal finance bloggers successfully selling budget worksheets and planners. Home decor bloggers can sell ebooks on design, color theory, and design planners.
My business partner and I used Teachable for our courses until we did a complete site rebuild to host our courses and a membership-only site for our students. Course platforms like Teachable are really solid ways to start creating and selling courses because they basically have pre-made course templates. As a result, they can be much less expensive than building your own site, and you can test your course idea before committing to complete website rebuild.
It’s worth mentioning that bloggers who do well selling digital products will also have a robust email list, but more on this in a minute.
Pros and cons of monetizing your blog with digital products:
How to start a blog
If you read through all of that and said to yourself, “Hey, I want to make money blogging!” then you need to start with a blog.
I highly recommend checking out my step-by-step guide for starting a blog. It even includes a video guide, and here are the 3 steps I’ll walk you through:
- Step 1: Find your blogging voice and message: This is how to pick out a niche topic to blog about.
- Step 2: Starting a WordPress blog with Bluehost: WordPress is probably the most popular blogging platform, and Bluehost is a hosting service. This is the exact path I took when starting my site.
- Step 3: Install WordPress and make your blog look awesome: This step covers how to install WordPress and pick a professional-looking theme for you blog.
The great thing about blogging is that anyone can do it (for real), and you can blog about anything you want. But, of course, you will need to pick a niche, so start by thinking about what you’re passionate about, what you’d like to learn more about, or what you can teach other people.
I chose personal finance because I recognized a need for that type of education among my peers. I wasn’t an expert on the topic, but I knew I could teach through my experiences. That’s exactly why blogs are so appealing to readers — they are about real people sharing real-life stories. They can be very accessible and authentic when done well.
After you pick a niche, here are some tips for starting and growing your own blog:
- Just start writing. Don’t worry about the length of your posts or bad grammar (Grammarly exists for a reason). Just get a feel for your voice and put words on a page.
- Engage with other bloggers in your niche. Follow them on social media, share their articles, and comment on their posts. You can find out more about what your audience wants, and this will also help you narrow your focus.
- Set up an email list early on. I know some bigger bloggers who neglected this in the beginning, and I know they regret it. An email list will help you tell your followers about new posts and will help you earn money from your blog once you’ve grown it more. Setting up an email list is really easy to do with an email service provider like Mailchimp (best for beginners because it’s free for the first 2,000 subscribers) or ConvertKit.
- Use social media to grow your audience. You should have accounts on social media for your blog. Focus on one at a time, so you don’t feel overwhelmed in the beginning. You’ll want to follow top influencers in your niche and interact with your followers. I had a lot of success running ads on Facebook when I was first growing my site. I ran ads to high-performing posts, and it gave me a massive traffic bump.
- Learn SEO. It’s never too early to learn SEO, and at the very least it can tell you the types of content people want to read about. My favorite resource for learning SEO is Larry Ludwig’s SEO for Bloggers course.
Need help starting a blog?
If you’re interested in starting a blog but want a little help putting everything together, I created Launch That Blog to do exactly that. It’s a free service when you sign up for Bluehost through my exclusive link and pay for hosting services, which cost as little as $2.95/month.
Bluehost is a blog hosting service that stores all of your images, copy, videos, and more. This is the platform I started M$M, and paying for hosting services is how you retain ownership of your blog content once it’s published.
Here’s what you get for free with Launch That Blog:
- Installation and set up of your WordPress blog
- One year free domain
- Website theme
- 10 essential plugins every blogger needs
- 4 training resources, including video and PDF guides
- $500 worth of bonus training
You need to pay for hosting, which is only $2.95 per month through Bluehost. Seriously, that’s it. Jump over to the Launch That Blog page to learn more about the service and bonus freebies.
Ready to start your blog?
Bluehost is my favorite hosting platform for new bloggers because you can build a professional-looking site for as little as $2.95/month. It also comes with self-hosted WordPress, which is the platform most professional bloggers (myself included) use today.Get started with Bluehost
4 biggest tips for how to make money blogging:
Tip 1: Build credibility and a loyal readership
You’re never going to make a dime from your blog if your audience doesn’t trust you. But, again, you don’t need to be an expert. I still wouldn’t call myself a personal finance expert. But, you need to show your audience that you are working for them.
Tip 2: Always give your readers high-quality content
You don’t need perfect grammar to produce high-quality content. But, you do need to research topics when it’s appropriate, link to your sources, speak honestly and openly, and make sure your posts are readable.
With that last point, I just mean breaking your thoughts up into paragraphs, bullet points, etc. If everything looks jumbled together no one will be able to read what you’ve written anyway. Hard truth, but I have to say it.
The internet is full of resources to use on your blog. Share that stuff when you lack the knowledge, experience, or just can’t articulate a point the way another site can.
All of this stuff takes time, but it will show in quality. Your readers will notice, trust me.
Tip 3: Engage with your readers outside of your blog
One of the best parts of my job is the amazing group of people in my Millennial Money Man Facebook community. Every single day they remind me why I’m doing all of this.
They share debt payoff stories, tips for saving money, their wins, and their losses. We even have an opossum mascot named Esteban — IYKYK.
This is important for every type of blog (not the opposum part, but the community aspect). You’re a real human being and so are your readers. They really do become like a family over time, and interacting with them shows them that you care.
Tip 4: Listen to your readers
It’s not enough to like comments or say “thanks.” You have to actually hear what your readers are saying to provide the type of content they want and need.
If you ever want to sell a product or have them click on one of your affiliate links, you need to know what’s valuable to them before monetizing in those ways.
One personal example is that I’ve noticed my own readers have become interested in learning about student loan refinancing, so I recently published some more posts about that to help them. I even found a great affiliate for student loan refinancing, Credible (who I heavily vetted before even telling my readers about them).
That’s listening to your readers, and it really does drive your content and your blog overall.
Final word on how to make money blogging
Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you listen to your audience, provide high-quality content, and monetize your blog with the ideas I listed above, you might one day be able to put your notice in and blog full-time.
The reality, though, is that most bloggers quit around six months after starting their blog. Those gains are slow and minimal when you start. I was there. You hit a wall and want to give up.
Know that it gets better. There is still money to be made from blogging, and I wouldn’t be in this game if I didn’t believe that.