Blogging and Writing

Are You Trying to Earn an Income from Your Blog?

Blog monetization options

This topic kind of flowed from a post I did a little while ago, Would You Advertise Your Blog on Someone Else’s Site? People’s comments got me thinking about the subset of bloggers who are quite focused on earning an income, and about differences in communities between income-oriented and non-income-oriented blogging, and then the various bloggers that straddle both worlds.

A Google search yields a variety of identically named articles on How to Make Money Blogging in 2021. Blogging gurus like Brandon Gaille talk a lot about bringing home the bacon, and they’re clearly very popular.

Yet there’s also a large chunk of bloggers who are blogging because they want to write and be part of a community, and making an income is either not part of the picture, or it’s a minor, on-the-side part. It seems like that goes along with other differences in approach. Some bloggers cross over very effectively, while in other cases, it can be pretty easy to quickly differentiate extremes in blogging purpose (full-on monetize vs non ) from a few surface indicators, like post titles being cookie cutter clickbait style compared to titles that are more unique, and perhaps non-SEO friendly because SEO just doesn’t matter.

Ways to monetize

Let’s talk about the different ways that people might try to monetize their blogs. And by the way, anyone who tells you that it’s easy to monetize and make a substantial amount is lying.

Ads

Displaying ads on your blog isn’t going to bring in much income unless you have massive viewer numbers. I ran ads through Google Adsense on my site from September 2019 to May 2020, and made a whopping $26 Canadian (about $20 USD), which I may never see because the minimum for a payout is $100. Granted, I very deliberately didn’t show multiple ads per page, but still. You have control over how many places on each post where you’ll display ads, and I really didn’t want my site to be really ad-heavy.

You can also run ads through WordAds, but they give you less control then Google Adsense over what gets served up to viewers. If you actually do get a shit ton of views, there are ways to make more money with ads. To partner with SHE Media they want you to have 20,000 monthly views, and Mediavine needs you to have the equivalent of about 60,000 page views per month. You can make more money with them, but they’re way too out of my league for me to have the slightest clue how much.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing involves using special links for a merchant site (e.g. Amazon) so that if people make a purchase after clicking on your link then you get a small commission.  It’s nice in that it doesn’t end up costing the reader anything extra, as the merchant has already figured that into their regular pricing. Affiliate accounts are separate for each country’s Amazon site, and there are minimum amounts you must hit before you can get a payout, which may be higher in countries other than your own. There’s also a minimum earning requirement to stay active as an affiliiate.

Sponsored posts

There are a variety of websites that connect influencers with brands, including Get Blogged and Influence.co. Brands may also find you on your blog or social media and reach out to you.

Donations/tip jars

Buymeacoffee.com and Ko-fi.com are the big players here. The basis are similar, although they do have some different features. You can get a link/button to post on your website to direct people to the coffee site, where they can make a donation or pay for content. You can also do short posts on those sites to content on your blog, which serves as a high domain authority backlink.

Premium/subscription content

Buymeacoffee.com and Ko-fi allow you to offer some premium content, as does WordPress. You can find out how to do this on WordPress here.

Patreon is focused on premium content.  People can sign up to be monthly patrons and get whatever content you create for them, whether that by writing, podcasts, videos, or whatever else you can come up with.  The payments go through Patreon, and they take a 5% cut.  You can set different membership tiers.  Alternately, you can charge people only when you create content.

Having a blog shop

You can also sell items, courses, etc., on your blog. The Woocommerce plugin is useful for this.

Income potential – let’s get real

There are plenty of stories online about people bringing in a lot of income through their blogs.  I suspect that for most people, the reality is much more like what I’ve experienced – trying to monetize a blog will end up bringing in little bits here and there, and that’s about the extent of it.

Earning potential is probably affected by how a blogger chooses to fit monetization into their overall strategy.  Is your primary purpose to stay true to your blogging roots and continue to interact with your readers in the same type of way?  Or is your primary purpose shifting from blogging to business?  If business is the primary purpose, then running more ads, working harder at affiliate marketing, and doing more sponsored posts may be good choices.  For me, blogging is my primary purpose, and that factors a lot into what I’m prepared to do business-wise.

My own monetization experience

I started out trying to partially monetize my site a couple of years ago, but it was only ever an on-the-side thing that I didn’t want to interfere with my main blogging purpose, which is talking about mental health with other people. This year, because I’m somewhat concerned about jeopardizing my disability benefits, I decided to de-monetize my blog except for being an Amazon affiliate. I scaled back on that, but the factors that played into that decision were that it doesn’t generate enough income to make much of a difference in anything, and also that is that it would be a big pain in the ass to go back and switch up all my affiliate links in book review posts to non-affiliate links, and I can’t be bothered, especially if I decided to go back and redo it in the future.

I have accounts with Ko-fi and Buymeacoffee, but they’re for the sake of backlinks and high-ranking images in Google Images searches. I know various bloggers include tip links on their site/posts, and I’ve wondered if people have any success with them. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to do, but it seems like the potential is limited when asking for tips for blogging from other people who are doing the same thing (i.e. blogging) and probably not being tipped for it.

Monetizing vs. non-monetiizing camps

I definitely don’t have a problem with people trying to monetize their sites, although in some cases, I’ve unfollowed bloggers because their approach became sufficiently income-focused that their blog just didn’t really appeal to me anymore. Actually, a few of those have been blogs that run ads for other bloggers. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with people doing that, but that overall really income-focused approach just isn’t the blogging experience I’m looking for.

What that does make me wonder, though, is if the monetizing and non-monetizing bloggers are, at least to some degree, in separate camps, does that limit the earning potential for a lot of those income-focused bloggers? I don’t think I expressed that very well, but it’s the same kind of thing that I wondered with using Twitter comment threads for blog promotion—if everyone involved is mostly in it for themselves, how easy is it for some people to break out of that and grow beyond the tit for tat?

Again, I’m not expressing that very well, but if one can earn some income on a blog that straddles both camps, does jumping fully into the monetizing grow the in come level enough that it’s worth losing the feeling of keeping one foot in the non/limited-monetization camp?

I’m certainly not describing all bloggers who are seeking to make an income here; it’s a certain subset within a subset I’m referring to that have crossed mostly or fully into the monetizing side of things, and I’m not even sure if I’m accurately conceptualizing it or not.

That’s where I throw it over to you. Are you trying to earn an income in some way with with your blog? Do you see differences between different communities of bloggers that relate to presence of or degree of monetization?

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77 thoughts on “Are You Trying to Earn an Income from Your Blog?”

    1. Then there are the sites that suggest anyone should be able to make a ton of money blogging, and I’ve got to wonder if anyone actually believes that, or if it’s just wishful thinking that makes them want to believe it…

  1. Fascinating! Iwas thinking about this very topic just a few days ago!. Not sure why it popped into my mind, I am not interested in monetizing at all.
    It may have been prompted by what seems, to me anyway, to be an increase in new sites following my blog that have some sort of monetization.
    Thanks Ashley Leia for your insights, well written as always. Cheers

  2. I definitely thought about it! But I decided to just blog for fun. Realistically, I knew I wouldn’t be able to remain consistent and keep up with posting. I do think it’s impressive when people can earn an income from blogging!

  3. I started my blog to clear my head and to share my views on my life, my “disabilities” and my struggles as a single dog mum.
    I do share my Ko-fi and PayPal links on the bottom of my posts, but am not running around begging for donations.
    That’s not 100% true, wait… When I had a €660 tax bill I had no idea of how to get that money as it’s half of my monthly income and I didn’t have any savings due to the need of moving homes and buying new things when I got divorced (and my ex kept some of my things because she liked them, I guess). So, no savings, huge bill… I tweeted and blogged about that. I asked people if they could spend a wee bit for me, if all my readers/subs would have given €2 I had been set… 😊 So yeah, I felt horrible and hopeless and then I did ask for help… But the majority of my posts is not focused on the readers needing to send me money. Sending me a wee bit won’t make you succeed in life, it won’t bring you much more happiness than knowing you helped me, for which I’m grateful…
    I would not mind to get some income from my blog, as in a way it could be seen as a recognition of my posts reaching people and doing good… But I’m also on a disability income and when I earn too much side income, it costs me way more than I would be able to keep…
    Hope this kinda answers your question. 😊 I know you check out my posts, so if I seem to be pressing this more than I think I am, please do let me know as I do not want to be like that, if you know what I mean… Thanks. 😊

    1. I don’t find your site pushy at all.

      It’s so frustrating that being on disability benefits can basically force people to live in poverty. People should be allowed to make some money on the side to support themselves while they’re too disabled to work. This will be my first full year on disability, and I’m a bit worried that when I file my taxes next year they’re going to decide that book royalties counts as employment income and therefore I’m capable of working.

      1. Thanks for letting me know! I am sometimes too blind to see certain things right in front of me… So getting a different view on it from someone else can actually help. 🤗

        Yessss being on disability here sucks as well, just like our tax system. We have an ex partner alimony, that should support the low income ex for a while to get back on his/her feet. I got a meager €100. Because I got that, they cut my benefits with €85 and… Then I got fined for extra income taxes, €660 over a year… So I got €100 – €85 – (€660:12=€55)… In the end, being eligible for the alimony cost me €140 😂 😂 😂 But, my (richer) ex could claim back part of that meager €100 she was willing to pay me monthly! It’s so weird here!

        I totally agree that we should be permitted to earn a small extra income tax free to support our more expensive lives, as people with chronic illness often have many extra health bills to pay… So yes! If we’d be allowed to earn a wee bit tax free that would be so welcome… I struggle each month to make ends meet, and without my parents or some friends, I would have gone bankrupt… 😔

        I hope your royalties won’t be bad for your taxes/income! I’ll cross my good fingers for you 😉

          1. Yup, unfortunately that’s how crazy our taxes work… 😔 I was very grateful that some kind people donated a bit to my Kofi and PayPal to pay that €660 bill. It was really making me feel very badly…

            So I really hope your earnings won’t get you in any kinds of trouble that would cost anything 🤞🏻

  4. I’m not trying to make money directly from my blog, but it is my continued hope that at least a few people will enjoy my writing enough to buy one (or more) of my books and leave a review. Thank YOU, Ashley, for being one of those kind folks! I also enjoy buying books from bloggers I like, so it works that way as well. I’m not as fond of “sponsored” posts where a blogger is suddenly yapping about a product, but whatever. Easy enough to skip, and if they do too much of it… easy enough to unfollow. I despise the “tip jar” concept. Why on earth should I fling money at fellow writers because they have a blog? Instead, I’ll just tip myself for blogging daily. Ah, just bought some earrings from Amazon (pats self on back) ~ good job, me! 😀

    1. I feel like there’s got to be a good way for us blogger/writers to collectively market our books more effectively than we can individually, but I haven’t managed to figure out yet what that way would be…

  5. I don’t want to make money from my blog, but I would like to earn money from freelance writing. Was it me who mentioned about the difference between bloggers, I remember saying something a while ago… I love the blogging community too much, and I think i’ve said this before, but when I mention a blogger, it’s because I like them and their content, not that they’ve paid me to advertise them… just doesn’t sit right with me.

    1. I think it may have been whatever it was you said that prompted me to write this post. If I was more focused I might be interested in trying freelancing, but with my head being as scattered as it is, I’m better off sticking to just writing for myself.

  6. I would love to make money from my blog but I haven’t the faintest clue how one goes about that. My blogging purpose right now is three-fold: 1) connect with people who are engaged in mental health stigma reduction 2) express myself in efforts to do the same 3) come up with / learn / share some coping mechanisms for bipolar diagnosis and anxiety management. I have tried submitting a manuscript to various publishers in the past several years but the only traction I get is with self-publishing. That is not what I am looking for right now.

  7. I am blogging since 2007 , although new in wordpress .. Have tried to monetize or earn money but failed miserably… Still trying… But blogging is something I love beyond making money…. But yeah.. Who would not want to make some ..so I keep on trying… Hahahaha.

  8. I do put affiliate links in my blog but it doesn’t really amount to anything. Not yet, anyway. I’ve had many other gains from blogging other than making money, so it’s still worth it.

    With that being said, I do get tired of seeing bloggers trying to make money off other bloggers. They seem to be endless, and always claim to have wild success with making money or getting pageviews. But when you read their post, they do nothing out of the ordinary to have that success, so it makes me question their claims.

    1. I tend to have my doubts about that, too.

      The only times I’ve ever made much of anything with my Amazon affiliate links was when people who used my links ended up buying psychiatry-type textbooks. I normally don’t look at what people buy because it feels kind of creepy, but the few times I saw bigger amounts, I was very curious.

  9. That’s understandable, it’s been something I’ve been debating over for quuite a long time but I just thought fuck it 🙂 as it happens, I’m starting to receive emails from bloggers about who they are advertising for the mo th ahead, and 6 or 7 of them are the same bloggers they advertised the previous months… I just don’t get it. That’s another thing I was going to mention, it’s becoming more and more apparent that some bloggers will only comment on other blogs if they’ve received a comment first. They don’t go out of their way to read it because they enjoy it – it seems very much like they will only comment if it benefits themselves. That’s my view.

    1. I think that comes down to Twitter comment threads. I see people post their link and say they’ll return any comments they receive. It seems to me like it would actually require more effort hustling than the effort required to just genuinely interact with other blogs.

      I wonder with the advertising how much actual money exchanging is going on, and how much is people swapping “ads” on each others’ blogs to make it look like there’s demand for their advertising.

  10. I like to make some money from my blog but I hate banners and posts which are solely copy to sell stuff. I try a middle way but am not sure if it works. I love to write and would love to help people with the books I review. And I think a link back to posts with a similar topic is just polite but maybe I am a bit old-fashioned with that. I certainly have not much idea about SEO and can’t be bothered to dive deeper either. There are different communities of bloggers but I always thought it’s more along blog platform lines rather than how people blog. But that definitely has changed.

    1. I’ve never blogged anywhere other than this blog on WordPress, so I’ve never gotten a sense of what other platforms are like.

      I think it shows when a blogger has made the effort to try to find that middle way, and it sends the message that they’re genuine in their interactions. It may be slower to build up to earning that way, but I think it makes for a better experience for all involved.

  11. I’ve never thought of monetising my site, and did include the donate button in a couple of posts, but it never has been a source of income for me. Hopefully one day it does help say, in promoting my books or something. Great post!

  12. I came here to WordPress to promote a free book that I wrote on values. I’m now realizing there’s the community aspect of this blogging world that I could care less if I made money, or if anyone read my book. I guess you could call me a Soul Blogger.

  13. I wouldn’t mind to build my site and earn something extra while doing so. That being said, I don’t want that to be the only purpose (even though it started out as well that was part of the goal). I want to provide something of value, and still need to find my own style I guess 🤷🏻‍♀️ Right now I try to work on being somewhat consistent, well that and learning Pinterest (until my account was suspended and flagged as spam for some reason 😅).

    Even though I don’t write in a field close to yours, I love the mix you bring and that’s the reason I come back and read more.

    1. Thanks!

      Pinterest is strange. My account was randomly suspended once and flagged as spam. They fixed it, but didn’t tell me why it happened. For the last several months, the issue has been that the vast majority of my new pins get 10-20 views, while my older pins are doing great. Pinterest’s explanation is that this is because they favour new pins. Um, okay… That makes no sense at all, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.

  14. I don’t know about actual bloggers, but I know a fair few non-bloggers who have the sort of thinking that oh well, these days it’s easy to become famous and make money because you can blog, you can do YouTube, podcasts, Instagram, TikTok and what not and if you know about SEO and what people want to read/watch/listen to you can even become a millionaire. People don’t seem to realise that the famous influencers they see are just a minority that happened to float to the surface of the Internet. If anyone comes with this mentality into the world of blogging, I feel for them as it must be painful to have your expectations brutally trampled by reality.

  15. I’ve never seriously considered making money blogging, as my blog is very much an outlet for expressing myself and I’d be worried that if I tried to earn some real money I would no longer be able to be as genuine in it as I normally am. Also it sounds like a lot of hassle and I don’t want blogging to feel stressful. So, while I’ve never said that I am never ever going to make money blogging, it seems rather unlikely.
    I did play around with Ko.fi on my blog for a while, just as a way of experimenting, at the beginning of my current blog. I’d seen the buy me a coffee thing on several blogs and I was like “Oh wow, do people actually get any money at all from it?!” But even if this does work for people with a lot followers, my following at the time was way too small for it to work out, plus something about it feels slightly off.
    Personally I tend to avoid blogs that are very clear about being monetised, because they tend to be more annoying with very strongly clickbeit content, and they often feel more iimpersonal and I don’t really get the real feel of the person behind the thing. If I have a choice between a bigger, monetised, very professional-looking blog and a smaller and more personal one where both talk about roughly the same topics, I’m usually far more likely to choose the smaller one, unless the monetised one has some real advantage to it. It’s also intimidating for me as a sociophobic to see a post with like 500 comments under it. It starts to feel more like a forum than a blog and I guess there can’t be real connection between the author and the readers ’cause how can you engage with all or even almost all of your readers individually when you have this many.

  16. The blogger income report by Brandon Gaille that you linked to is interesting, as is his story. Some points of information that I would have loved to see graphs for: 1) what year did the blog start, 2) how long has the blogger been blogging, 3) how many months was the given blog monthly income level maintained.

    My totally unfounded hypothesis is that given that blogging is more saturated, and that more people are going to Instagram and podcasts (although these are sometimes an extension of blogs), I get the sense that it is much harder to start a blog that will generate a significant income now than it was several years ago. And not that it was easy years ago. But I do think it is harder now.

    I can’t blame anyone choosing to monetize their blog. I don’t, but I have a full-time job (and a part-time job) outside of blogging. It does make the interaction a little uncomfortable in ways I can’t fully articulate. But I can’t judge anyone who chooses to go that route.

    1. I found an interview with him where he said he started it in 2013, and his purpose right away was income. Ia agree with you in terms of saturation. It seems like a lot of the big money-making blogs are about how to make money blogging, and the people who’ve been around for a while have a clear advantage there.

      I also agree about it being harder to make money now. Not only have so many people moved over to Instagram, podcasting, and other platforms, but it seems like there are more people trying to monetize, which further saturates that particular corner.

  17. There is definitely a difference in blogs that are there out of love of writing and monetized blogs. Like you, I prefer the intimate ones that don’t have strategic or clickbait-y titles. I’m still new to the blogging world so I’m not thinking about making money from it yet, I’m just hoping to get some new friends and people enjoying my posts!

    1. That’s a great approach!

      FYI, the wrong URL is associated with your Gravatar, so people clicking on it aren’t taken to your site. To fix this:
      1) In the WP app, go to “Me” at the bottom of the screen, or in the browser version, click on your Gravatar image near the top right of your screen.
      2) Go to “Account settings.”
      3) Find “Web Address” (below this, it says “Shown publicly when you comment on blogs.”
      4) Update to your current URL.

  18. So well explained. I blog judt to share my thoughts and keep me creatively occupied. Monetization is not on the horizon and never will . You are right, in most cases the desire to earn overshadows the content.
    Stay blessed always
    🙏🌹🙏

  19. A thoroughly interesting post Ashley – l found it is an interesting segment when you discussed the twin camping grounds … l tried that with my terminology of a Cosmopolitan blog which some people didn’t quite understand, and many saw me still as a personal blog – which back then l wasn’t, but what l had originally planned was to create a twin camp blog on monetising and non monetising campers …….. BUt – l have now come to the belief that in order to achieve that successfully, l no longer believe you can have a twin camping site – because the ”fluffies” as a friend of mine recently referred to them as, may not buy into that concept as it might not appeal to their determined blog journey of writing only to be social.

    The business blog l am starting to build once l have finished finalising the extraction of the Cosmopolitan angles from the Guy blog will again approach the twin camping concept – but in niche only and that may work, who knows.

    It’ll be fun seeing what rises from that approach though.

    1. I think the issue with cosmopolitan vs. personal is that cosmopolitan sounds more like an approach to mix of content, while I think most people think of personal as a purpose, specifically a purpose other than business.

      I suspect that people respond differently to variability in mix of content and variability in level of attempt to sell. I might be very happy to read a cosmopolitan mix of content on a personal (as in non-monetizing) blog, but less interested in reading a similar mix of content on a blog which has an in-your-face focus on selling. That’s not because of my own purpose in writing, but because my reading preference is blogs that are community-oriented rather than so monetization-focused that they lose a sense of natural reciprocity.

      1. I agree with that Ashley, however, as you tried to ‘explain’ tthe various concepts in your post and referred to l am not sure if l am explaining this very well, l use the same phrase. i am against in your face advertising and l always have been – l personally think that a fine balance can be achieved as in ‘twin camping the demograph’ but it is indeed a fine line.

        How can you appeal to community in a business style? Well you achieve it by offering more of a cosmoplitan approach to ‘selling via community’ as opposed to a direct OY BUY from me attitude.

        A mixed batch of content can be done BUT, l am no longer sure if that can be achieved directly with a blog – NOT saying it can’t be done, but l no longer can see an easy path with a cosmo approach, but a niche approach with a niche styled community.

        Your blog was aimed at that appraoch, you had/have a community of niche cosmo followers and that’s the way it can be achieved – as in you are not adopting techniques of OY BUY from me directly – instead you are getting to know the community.

  20. Hmm, the  Brandon Gaille post you linked to made me think. My dad has said once in a while that he thinks he’d be able to make money blogging, and I’ve always laughed at the idea. I was also floored that Brandon thinks low income is$2k/month – like wow, I’d kill to make that amount. But, clearly if one is good at those few niches and has appropriate strategies which evolve at certain milestones…you can make some money. Must be nice to have a make the $4k(?)/month he mentions, not even looking at those eye wateringly high degree of passive income at the high bracket. Now if only we all could make a comfortable amount of passive income to not have to worry about survival… I can only wish.

    As for me, nah, monetizing isn’t my cup of tea, even if I look at income figures and drool. I write to connect with friends in this warm, supportive,kind community.

    1. I think those income figures fail to convey how hard it is to make money from advertising. You need a shit-ton of viewers, and you need to serve up a shit-ton of ads, which is going to be a total turnoff to bloggers interested in community. When I ran a single Google Ad displayed per post for somewhere between 6 months and a year (I don’t remember exactly), I didn’t even earn the $25 minimum to get paid out.

  21. I think that you could blog at your own pace, and make some money whenever you see a chance, especially if you love blogging. If you focus only on make money it is probably going to hurt the quality of your content a lot. So, the good level would be when u do it for love and making some, not doing bad work and focus just on the money, going that way will eventually drive you to stop it.

  22. Can you sign up for WordAds without a monthly subscription to WordPress premium and still generate some income?

    I was under the impression that you have to have a WordPress monthly premium subscription in order to generate money from the blogs you post?

  23. I tried without a premium and it took me on an infinite loop, so I guess to earn an income through ad revenue you have to have a premium subscription lol …well thank you for this blog it was very insightful! I wish you well

  24. I don’t mind a little bit of ads, but if there are too many, I just go elsewhere. I think what matters is why one is blogging — I’m doing it to gain a following for when I publish my novels, so I don’t want to scare off people with ads that would earn me pennies. actually, I pay wordpress the $5/month so they don’t run their ads that I don’t make anything from…

  25. I am brand spanking new to this world. In fact, this is the first comment I’m leaving with my WordPress account. My tendency is to re-search things heavily before starting, and building a website and blog has not been any different. Depending on where you look, it’s either a ton of work and nearly impossible to make money with a blog, or you can make a six figure income after a couple years of effort. Realistically, I don’t expect to make much with the site I’m planning on building. I want to do this more to share my knowledge and experiences, but the fact is that I have to pay the bills. I’ve been looking into the best ways to monetize my blog without being obnoxious about it. I have no clue how much I might make, but I doubt it’s a ton. I would like to make money to take care of my animals, help with my living expenses, and put towards my mission of helping others, but I also want to stay true to myself and have a quality website with quality content. I hope I’m going to be able to juggle all of those things and still make at least a bit more than the hosting costs

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