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 I also realized 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 $40,000 in student loan debt in 18 months, I wrote a Facebook post about my experience, and it went viral-ish. I wrote a couple of articles for Medium and eventually started my blog.
I realized my peers (millennials) needed more personal finance education, motivation, and commiseration… I was pretty sure we all felt the same way about student loans.
All of that led to starting Millennial Money Man. And because I was debt free, I took an insane leap and quit my teaching job after earning just a few bucks from the site… my wife is an amazingly supportive woman even with legitimately crazy ideas like that.
But, how did I go from the start of M$M to where I am now, seven figures later?
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
1. Offer freelance services through your blog
This is often one of the most overlooked and underrated monetization methods, 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.
A lot of the bloggers I know have offered freelance services at some point, some still do. 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.
Here are a few freelancing services you can use to monetize your blog:
- Writing. This can be copywriting, content creation, article writing, 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 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, you can sell them and list your services.
- Web design. This is an in-demand service that pairs well with blogging.
- 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).
The pros of offering freelance services through your blog:
- Can provide some immediate income while you build your audience and work on other monetization methods.
- You can use the skills you already have, which cuts down on the time it takes to start earning money.
The cons of freelancing through your blog:
- You are trading time for money, so it’s not passive income.
- There’s a limit to what you can charge.
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 1,000 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 where to put them and how many. 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.
Pros of display ads:
- You don’t need high numbers of traffic to start placing ads on your blog.
- Pretty passive over time.
Cons of display ads:
- Ads can be obnoxious and can slow down your site if you do too many and don’t do them well.
- You won’t make enough from display ads to sustain a full-time income.
3. Publish sponsored posts on your blog
Sponsored posts or brand partnerships are when you create content that promotes a specific company or brand. These deals 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 them in your emails.
The key to doing this well is that you need 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 $10 wine club? That might work.
The key is to always offer your readers valuable content. Sponsored posts can come off as scammy if you don’t focus on your readers – remember, it’s all about their experience on your blog.
When you find a company that’s a good fit, sometimes they find you, you can negotiate the specifics of your deal, from:
- Type of content (blog post, social media posts, email marketing)
- Length of content
Some companies will give you very specific language to use, and others just let you write the post the way you want. You find opportunities through sponsored post networks like Aspire IQ, TapInfluence, and Clever.
I haven’t done a lot of these because I’m pretty picky, but here are a couple of examples of sponsored posts I’ve done on M$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 people, 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 to teach you how to do sponsored posts well (as in not scammy and always keeping your audience in mind).
In their course, Making Sense of Sponsored Posts, you’ll learn:
- How to find brand partnerships
- How to charge for them
- The rules you need to follow when monetizing with sponsored posts
- Strategies to get even more sponsored post deals
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 of sponsored posts:
- You are giving your readers even more valuable content.
- You can build long-term relationships with brands (i.e., more opportunities to earn income in the future) when you do sponsored posts well.
Cons of sponsored posts:
- This is more trading time for money. You have to put work into the post, and it’s a one-time paycheck.
- You can lose readers if you aren’t focused on what they want.
4. Earning money with affiliate marketing
This is what most bloggers think of as the holy grail of blogging income because it can feel pretty passive while being pretty lucrative. 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 maybe 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. You are 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. I work with Personal Capital for this very reason… and yes, that’s an affiliate link.
Often times, 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 them in their daily life.
Bloggers can find affiliates through networks like:
As far as being passive income, affiliate marketing feels that way because those 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 $50,000 per month in affiliate income. Her first course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is one of the best affiliate marketing courses out there, and it’s really affordable for what you learn.
If you want to learn her exact strategy, her course teaches that, including:
- How to find and apply for affiliate programs
- The rules of affiliate marketing
- How to implement an affiliate marketing strategy
- How to convert your readers
You can learn more about the course at my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course Review.
Pros of affiliate marketing:
- Affiliate income can feel passive over time.
- Can provide value to your readers.
Cons of affiliate marketing:
- You need a high number of page views to make money blogging with affiliate income.
- You aren’t in control of the market. If the company drops you or changes policy, your income can take a hit.
5. Sell digital products on your blog
Many larger blogs, including M$M, have started promoting their own courses and/or products. I’m sure you’ve seen this trend, and there are a few reasons why:
- You are in complete control of the product, from creation to sales.
- You can create products that fit your unique audience.
- You get to directly help your audience with something you’ve created.
- 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$M for help with saving money, paying off debt, and making more money, my products (courses) are meant to fill those needs. I guess I could start selling t-shirts or wine koozies with the M$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:
Bloggers who do well selling digital products will also have a robust email list, but more on this in a minute.
Pros of monetizing your blog with digital products:
- You’re in control of every aspect of the product(s) you’re selling.
- You can leverage your knowledge and expertise.
Cons of selling digital products on your blog:
- Your reputation is on the line if you sell a crappy product.
- It takes a lot of time to build your audience’s trust.
How to start a blog
If you read through all of that and said yourself, “hey, I want to make money blogging!” then you need to start with a blog.
The great thing about blogging is that anyone can do it (for real) and you can blog about anything you want. 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 choose 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.
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), ActiveCampaign, or Convertkit.
- Use Facebook to grow your audience. Not only should you have social media accounts for your blog, you can also run Facebook ads to target potential readers and bring them over to your site. You can learn more at Facebook Ads for Bloggers.
- 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 Money Lab’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 that:
- Helps with the installation and set-up process of a WordPress blog.
- Teaches you how to use it.
- Helps you make it look awesome.
- Makes sure you have the essential tools ready to go.
The only thing you need to pay for is 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.
My biggest tip for how to make money blogging…
Build credibility and a loyal readership.
You’re never going to make a dime from your blog if your audience doesn’t trust you. 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.
How do you do that?
Always give your readers high-quality content
You don’t need amazing 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.
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.
This is important for every type of blog. 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.
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.