You can blog and make money! We’ll show you how to get started, find your niche and monetise your blog with inspiration from successful bloggers.
Ok, so blogging isn’t the easiest way to make money. However the great thing is that anyone can do it and from the comfort of home.
All you need is something interesting to say and enough patience and dedication to build traffic and a following. But how do successful bloggers make their money? We’ve interviewed a couple of them to reveal their monetisation secrets!
Our guide gives you a concrete action plan to get your blog off the ground and grow it into a profitable small home business.
How to start a blog
Getting started with blogging can seem like a bit of a minefield, particularly if you don’t have much tech knowledge.
You have two main options when it comes to actually setting up a blog – you can use a free blogging platform, or you create your own website. We’ll take you through both, and outline their pros and cons, so you can make the right decision for you and your blog.
Free blogging platforms
Best for: Casual bloggers and those not interested in making money from their blog
Pros: Super easy to set up and completely free
Cons: Limits on customisation and video/image uploads, you often can’t place adverts or use affiliate links, you can’t create a custom URL and the platform retains the right to delete your blog.
There are a lot of platforms out there which allow you to set up a blog for free. You can be up and running in minutes, and it doesn’t take any technical knowledge to do so – it’s as easy as setting up a Facebook profile.
If you’re just wanting to blog casually and you’re not that interested in making any money from it, then this could suit you perfectly.
However, if you’re really serious about blogging then a free blogging platform can be very limiting. You’ll only be able to customise to a limited extent, and your blog will have a storage limit which could impact your ability to upload videos and images.
Plus, your blog URL will look something like ‘www.yourblog.wordpress.com’ – you won’t be able to get rid of the blog platform branding.
While some money-making options will be open to you, most free blogging platforms don’t allow you to place banner adverts or affiliate links on your site, which are key revenue streams for most bloggers.
However, if none of these things particularly bother you, here’s a quick run down of the best free blogging platforms out there:
• WordPress.com: Not to be confused with WordPress.org which allows you to create your own website, WordPress.com is a free basic blog hosting service that’s easy to use. However, you will have to put up with WordPress ads and branding unless you pay a monthly fee, and you can’t put advertisements on your site. There are also limited options for customisation and expansion
• Blogger: This is Google’s free blog hosting service, and it’s incredibly easy to use. However, the design options and customisation are very limited, and there aren’t a lot of options if you want to add new features
• Medium: With Medium the emphasis is all on the writing rather than design, and it’s used by lots of journalists, writers and experts. It’s a great way to connect with and promote yourself to a particular community, but you can’t run any ads and it’s difficult to create your own personal branding
• Tumblr: This is a micro-blogging platform, so it’s more of a cross between a blog and a social media account. Social media and sharing functions are integrated throughout, and it’s useful for blogging videos, GIFs and images. Again, there’s not a lot of customisation or design features here.
Create your own website
Best for: Dedicated bloggers and those looking to make money from their blog
Pros: Complete control over design and customisation, your own custom URL and the ability to use adverts and affiliate links how you like
Cons: You’ll have to pay – firstly for your domain name (URL) and then for hosting, but we’ve got tips on how you can keep costs low.
If you’re not a particularly tech-savvy person, the thought of creating your own website might seem quite scary – but it’s actually easy to do, and you can create one in just 20 minutes!
Save the Student’s founder, Owen, has written an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to show you how to start a website.
With your own website, you’ll be able to create your own unique personal branding (with your own URL), and there’s no risk of your blog being deleted by the platform – you’ll own the site and be in complete control.
Remember that the look of your blog can have huge implications on your readership – you want to create a platform that looks good, is easy to read, and makes readers want to return.
WordPress have an insane amount of templates or ‘themes’ for you to choose from – 2,500 to be exact! Take your time to decide on one that suits both your personality and the topic of your blog (and therefore your readers too).
Opt for something clear and simple, with space for large images and easy-to-read fonts (Comic Sans and Courier fonts are a serious no-no!).
What to blog about
This can either be the easiest or the hardest part of starting your blog.
The most important thing at this stage is to choose a niche to own and call yourself an authority in – the biggest mistake new bloggers make in such a crowded blogosphere is to start a blog without trying to do something interesting or offering readers something different.
For example, if fashion is your thing, rather than become a run-of-the-mill fashion blogger, why not combine your love for fashion with your big-hearted concern for the environment by creating a blog that focuses on environmentally-conscious clothing instead?
There are literally millions of bloggers out there covering pretty much every topic – your challenge is to find something original!
The worst thing you can do is a “Oh hey, this is my blog and I’m gonna tell you about things I like”. Unfortunately, readers of your blog aren’t really interested in who you are (well, not yet anyway); they want to know what you can offer them that will make them more knowledgeable/better dressed/better at life/a better cook etc.
But that’s all easier said than done. To get you started, here are a few of our top tips for finding your niche if you’re struggling:
- Look at other blogs – This should be your first port of call. What is most popular? But, more importantly, what’s missing? Find the gaps in the market that no one else is covering
- Use Google – What are people searching for? Use Google suggested searches and auto-complete to explore certain topics and what kind of information people are looking for – if they’re searching for it, that shows there’s a demand
- Search forums for common FAQs – Forums are the places people go when they can’t find the answer to their questions anywhere else. What are people asking? What do they need advice/help on? This will show what people are interested in and what there’s a lack of available information on
- Track current trends – What stuff is in the media right now? It’s good to pick a topic with longevity (you don’t want something that will fall out of fashion), but if you can piggy-back on a trend early on, you can quickly establish yourself as an expert on it before anyone else. Searching #journorequest on Twitter shows what kind of people/topics journalists are currently reporting on
- Think about different types of content – Could you do tutorials/how-to guides? Reviews? Interviews? Lists? It might not be what you write about, but how you write about that sets you apart
- Identify your own interests and passions – While all of the above are important, there’s no point in deciding to write a blog about something you have zero interest in. You’ll quickly get bored and people will spot your lack of enthusiasm. Make sure you’re writing about something you actually care about.
How to increase your blog traffic
So you’ve put the time and effort into creating your own website, you’ve come up with a kick-ass topic to write about and you’ve published your first posts – but where are all the readers?
You can’t just expect people to magically find your blog and start reading it – you have to promote it! It’s not easy, and it takes some serious hard work and dedication, but here are some crucial tactics:
Use social media
As with any business nowadays, you’re not likely to get noticed if you don’t have social media accounts.
We recommend setting up pages/accounts for your blog on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and even LinkedIn (you’re essentially your own business anyway, right?). Design these accounts in a similar colour scheme/theme to your blog so your brand is consistent and easy to recognise.
Use them to promote new posts and tag fellow bloggers/influencers/companies who might share your content and help it to reach an even further audience.
You could also dabble in some paid advertising to help your blog reach a wider audience, or run a competition to generate more likes. Once you’ve got the followers, keep them interested by posting on a regular basis (not just for new blog posts).
Connect with other bloggers
Make yourself known to those blogging on similar topics to yourself. Despite the fact you’re technically a competitor, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by how supportive the blogger community can be.
Many bloggers even have a ‘links’ page on their site that they use to link to loads of their friends within the community (in return for a link on your own blog, of course!) which will help a lot with your SEO (that’s search engine optimisation – how likely your blog is to pop up in Google searches).
If you engage with and share their content, they’ll likely return the favour – you could even work on some collaborations!
Jump on news stories
If something happens in the news that’s related to your niche, get involved. This is what we refer to as ‘news jacking‘ and it can work a treat for getting you some great exposure!
For example, say you’re a food blogger who focuses on Paleo dietary cooking for those who suffer from gluten intolerances (there’s your niche audience right there!).
A report is released in the news that states research has found that gluten is much worse for our health than previously thought: the bread and pizza-lover’s world collapses.
But now’s your chance to shine, since you’ve been preaching this on your blog for ages! (Disclaimer: this report is entirely fabricated – we don’t know anything about the benefits of Paleo).
Use this news story as leverage to promote your blog. Get on social media and say your bit (using multiple appropriate hashtags, of course), get involved in discussions and even reach out to journalists to say you’re available for comment (don’t forget to search #journorequest on Twitter).
If you’re really great at owning your niche, the journalists might even come to you!
Create viral content
Creating viral content will help you reach a new market and in turn increase your readership. Again, we understand that this isn’t so simple!
The key to creating viral content is to tap into controversial or highly-discussed topics related to your niche blogging field (as you can imagine, quite often this also involves newsjacking, as mentioned above).
As this is your niche, you’ll be passionate and opinionated about it, and so be able to post an opinion that people want to read and share with their mates – in turn, pulling in a whole load of shiny new readers!
How to make money from blogging
Affiliate marketing works by adding tracked affiliate links into the text of your blog. You can make a small commission every time a reader clicks through to a site you recommend and makes a purchase.
The links will lead readers to the website of a brand, and the money you receive is to say ‘thanks’ for sending some of your lovely readers to their site.
Almost all online eCommerce websites have an affiliate program of some sort, including Amazon, Topshop, Asos, and Apple.
Sign up to Affiliate Window – a huge affiliate network where you can promote thousands of well-known brands and services from around the world.
Money saving blogger, Claire Roach from Daily Deals UK, reveals:
We mainly use affiliate marketing as our main source of revenue, although there’s also Google AdSense on there for an extra few pounds each month.
Affiliate marketing is in many ways a natural fit for bloggers. As Ceri Jones from ceriwrites.com suggests:
As a blogger, you’re always recommending products and services to your readers. A lot of companies offer affiliate programs so it’s really easy to find relevant programs to join and start earning commission.
The key is to be authentic and genuine with affiliate marketing. Write reviews and articles with your honest opinions and don’t encourage your readers to buy something if you don’t think it’s a good product or service just because the payout is high.
As a more visual advertising medium, you can sell banner advertising space on your blog page to brands who relate to your readers.
Adverts can be placed really anywhere, but commonly are found across the top of blog pages or within the sidebar.
You can earn income in one of two ways. CPC (cost per click) means you’ll get a set payment for every reader who click the advert, while CPM (cost per thousand) means you’ll negotiate a set payment for every 1,000 ‘impressions’ the ad gets.
With the growth of AdBlocker plugins the CPC and CPM can be low, but it does depend on your industry and there is little harm in trying them out.
A quick way to get started is creating an account with Google AdSense.
Advertorials and sponsored content
According to the selection of bloggers we spoke to, one of the best ways of monetising a blog is through offering sponsored content opportunities (or advertorials). These are essentially adverts in the form of a paid-for article or blog post.
So for example, Adidas bring out a new swimwear line, and you have a women’s sport fashion blog. Adidas might offer to pay you to publish 700 words plus four images of their products in a blog post. You may also be able to add some affiliate links on top.
Having a strong niche audience tends to work the best for this monetisation method. Once you’ve grown your audience, brands will often find you (rather than you finding them).
As Kenzie Harvey, from beauty, fashion, lifestyle and travel blog LemonaidLies says:
I have only ever had sponsored content opportunities come to me though PR companies, either directly or through apps like the Instagram agency Takumi.
Social media posts
If you have a strong social media presence (in fact, some people make an entire blogging career just through Instagram alone!) then you’ll be very attractive to brands. You can charge per post/re-post and the fees can be surprisingly high.
You’ll just have to work hard on building your followers first – your ‘social proof’ (or how many people follow you on social media) is seen by brands as proof that readers will like what you post about them, too.
Occasionally, members of the press (or even brands who have a blog of their own) will get in touch if you’re a particular authority on a certain topic, asking you to make a little cameo appearance on their website.
For example, if you’re particularly knowledgeable on cooking on a budget, a newspaper might get in touch and ask you to contribute some budget-friendly recipes to their cooking magazine.
This is where establishing your niche and honing it comes in handy! Become an authority on your topic and the opportunities to make cash will eventually flow in.
Working with an agency
Believe it or not, blogging has become so popular in the world of advertising that agencies exclusively catered to pimping out bloggers to big brands have popped up all over the shop.
Working with an agency can be lucrative and offers you security, but you’ll need to have a really decent following to be scooped up in the first place.
Agency fees are also incredibly high, meaning only the biggest brands will be able to afford working with you, and smaller independent companies will be scared off.
Depending on the kind of blogging business you’re aiming for, this may or not work to your advantage – to use the example of ethical fashion blogging again, signing up to an agency would probably prevent you from working with small independent designers.
Sell digital products
If you have skills or advice to offer, another option is to charge a fee for access to eBooks, video tutorials, courses or workshops.
In order to make this option work, you need to be able to show you’re extremely good at what you do, or that your content has proven to be incredibly valuable. This isn’t easy.
It can be pretty difficult to convince online communities to pay up, as there’s a tendency for people to think everything online should be free of charge. Worth a try though, right?
Selling newsletter space
It’s also an option to charge a brand for either advertising space or a mention in your weekly/monthly newsletter (if you have one!).
However, you’ll need to build up a decent size mailing list for brands to consider this.
Use your blog as a stepping-stone
Using your blog to promote your own business or even land yourself a job is another (albeit indirect) way to make more cash with your blog.
If you’re one of the growing number of students starting their own business or selling stuff online, your blog is the perfect platform to promote what you have to offer (although don’t go in too hard, or you’ll put readers off).
You can also use your blog as a sort of online profile to build your credibility that will ultimately get you a good job.
Think of it this way: your blog is like your own small business in itself, and by showing potential employers that you can do this successfully, you’re showing that you’ve got an entrepreneurial mind, and know how to achieve success with it.
The biggest challenges when monetising a blog
Nothing worth having comes without hard work and a few challenges. So what were the biggest challenges faced by those bloggers who have managed to make money from their blog?
Be under no illusion that blog monetisation takes time. Many bloggers only make pennies from monetising their blog each month – and this is after having worked on their blogs for a while.
To have a chance of creating a full-time income through blogging, again, you need to have multiple income streams from a selection of sources. However, if you remember this simple equation, you will be on to a good start: a larger following with more clicks equals more opportunities to make money from your blog.
As Olli from The Coco Creativ suggests:
Many bloggers decide to monetise quite early on their blogging journey. Blogger Urszula Makowska explains:
Another big challenge faced by bloggers is competition. Kelle, from lifestyle website It’s Kelle’s Space, suggests:
The blogging market is saturated with lots of aspiring bloggers fighting to be seen. However, if worked on with dedication and consistency, it is possible.
Ceri Jones add:
Finally, rules around affiliate marketing are constantly evolving, which brings further challenges when monetising a blog.
Can you really make money from blogging?
As we have seen, the answer is yes! But how much money you can make from blogging is variable. That’s the nature of monetising a blog at the start, however with time bloggers can do very well.
Monetising a blog takes time and relies on you having some traffic. The more readers you have, the more attractive you are to advertisers.
To make a decent income from blogging, think about having multiple streams of income coming in from different sources and through different means.
Are you a blogger with some tips that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them! Please get in touch with us.