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Can You Actually Make Money Blogging?

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In my post a little while back about blogging goals, a few people mentioned hoping to make money off of their blog. There are plenty of articles out there that will make you think that you can make money from blogging, and there are definitely some people who do make a living off of blogging, but the reality is that blogging is a tough way to make money. I’ve written about this before, but since it’s come up again recently, let’s chat about that.

What are the ways you can monetize?

I think there’s a myth out there that if you have a blog and you posts stuff on it, you can make money. Blogging does not magically make dollars start appearing. You actually have to do (or try to do, anyway) particular things to open up the potential for income.

Ads

You have to get a whole lotta traffic in order to make more than a few pennies off ads. The more ads you have on your site and the more in your face they are, the more likely you are to turn off some of your readers so they won’t return. A lot of ads pay on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis rather than a cost per thousand views (CPM) basis, so simply showing ads isn’t enough to make much; you need people to actually click on them, which most people aren’t going to do.

Your options here are WordAds (WordPress’s ad program) or Google AdSense (although for that you need to either have the WordPress.com Pro plan or higher or be self-hosted). If you have >20-25K views a month, you might get accepted for ad management through companies like SHE Media or Mediavine. Given those minimum view requirements for SHE Media and Mediavine, I suspect that’s the range you need to be in to make more than a couple bucks a month from ads.

Also keep in mind that going overboard on ads can lose you readers. I talk more about that in the post How Much Advertising on a Blog Is Too Much?

Affiliate marketing

There are various affiliate programs you can sign up for, so that if someone clicks on your link and then buys something from the site you’re referring them to, you get a commission. Options include Amazon, CJ, Rakuten, ShareASale, and Apple Services Performance Partners. Canva, a popular graphic design tool, has an affiliate program that pays if you refer people who sign up for Canva Pro.

If, like me, you’re into mental health, options include Therabox and Cope Notes.

The level of success you have with affiliate marketing probably depends a lot on your blog’s niche and whether it’s associated with things that people would buy.

Donations

You can have a tip jar on your blog or use sites like BuyMeACoffee or Ko-fi, and that can bring in some money here and there, but I don’t think that’s something that can really be relied on as a steady income stream. However, having accounts on those sites can serve as a source of backlinks to your blog.

Sponsored posts

There are a variety of platforms out there that connect brands and content creators for things like sponsored posts or product reviews. Some examples:

For those brands that are looking to connect with bloggers, your domain authority matters. A key factor in DA is the number of backlinks you have (i.e. other sites linking to your site) and the DA of those linking sites. If you’ve got a low DA, you’re probably not going to get much interest from brands.

I suspect that it’s possible to go overboard with sponsored posts to the point that it starts to turn off readers.

Selling products/services

I think it’s certainly possible to make money by selling digital content, other products, or services, but it would require a combination of coming up with something that people will want to pay for, marketing it, and probably a decent helping of luck, too. The marketing piece is key, and that’s a separate skill set that I think a lot of us bloggers probably don’t have.

Another option is selling courses. There are various course creation tools that can help you develop your course, including:

These don’t come cheap, and you could potentially end up losing money on your course.

If you have books or digital items that you’re selling on Amazon or other platforms, your blog can be a way to market those, but the vast majority of your blog readers are not going to translate into book readers.

If you have a WordPress.com paid plan, you can make some of your blog posts premium content that people have to pay to read. Will you be able to make much money by doing this? Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I doubt it.

Off-blog options

You can also use your blog to promote things you offer on other platforms.

Course creation

Want to offer a course through a platform other than your blog? You can try Skillshare, or Udemy.

Medium

If you want to be able to write and get paid for it, Medium.com might be a good option for you (I’ve talked about Medium before in this post). Because writers get paid out of people’s Medium membership fees, you’re not having to convince anyone to open their wallet just for your sake.

However, there’s a lot of high quality content on Medium, and getting enough views to make more than a few bucks a month is hard, and it takes a lot of work. The exact figure varies from month to month, but less than 10% of writers on Medium make more than $100/month.

Premium content

Besides being a way to collect tips, Buy Me a Coffee and Ko-fi also allow you to post premium content that you charge people for.

Substack lets people to pay to subscribe to your newsletter. Convincing people to do that strikes me as something that would be very difficult, but some people do make money that way.

With Patreon, 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 up different membership tiers that give patrons access to different things. Alternatively, you can charge people only when you create content.

Podcasting

I have no idea how easy (or not easy) it is to monetize a podcast, but I’m guessing some of the options are similar to blogging, like ads, affiliate marketing, and promoting your own products/services.

Selling products

Options for selling things on sites other than your blog include:

I haven’t used any of these platforms so I don’t know how likely it is that people will just happen to stumble across your items as they’re browsing around, but I’m guessing that marketing skills are very important for making money on these platforms.

Social media

What I’ve noticed from browsing through brand/influencer platforms like the ones mentioned earlier is that brands seem to be looking for people to promote stuff on social media, and Instagram particularly, rather than on blogs. I suspect that’s because it’s far easier to rack up views on social media platforms than it is on blogs.

I don’t know if this is just my perception or if it has some basis in reality, but it seems like it’s gotten more common for people to expect to be able to monetize the content that they generate. And if that is the case, I wonder if social media becomes a more appealing thing than blogging for people to focus their efforts on in order to maximize their earning potential.

A reality check

The internet is a big place, and there are a whole lotta people creating content on their various platforms. Even if only 10% of those content creators are hoping to monetize, that’s still a lot of people hoping to get money, which makes for a lot of competition. If we narrow that down to blogging, let’s say that 10% of bloggers are hoping to make an income out of doing the same thing as that other 90% of bloggers are doing without any money involved.

No matter how good your writing is, there is so much good free content out there that convincing people to pay to see your writing is not going to be an easy task. Despite all the articles out there telling you how easy it is to make thousands of dollars per month, I think the harsh reality is that the vast majority of bloggers would be extremely lucky to be able to bring in $100 a month.

It’s probably also worth considering if your blogging experience would suffer by focusing on trying to monetize. If you’re able to bring in a bit of money, but it’s frustrating and makes blogging feel like work, how sustainable is that likely to be?

So, is it possible to make money from blogging? Yes. Is it likely? Absolutely not. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t try to monetize, but I think it’s good to be realistic about expectations.

Is monetizing a goal that you have for your blog? If you’ve tried to monetize, have you had much success?

Blogging toolbox: graphics of toolbox and wordpress logo

The blogging toolbox series has tips to support your in your blogging journey. It includes these posts:

40 thoughts on “Can You Actually Make Money Blogging?”

  1. Thank you Ashley. I enjoy your posts on Blogging insights. Lots of great information in this one on sources.
    I think that the most successful bloggers who get paid for their work, already have some fame or influence –like the Cristiano Ronaldo (footballer) and Justin Beibers of the world.

    1. I agree. And I think there are also some people, like Mark Manson, that started early and got themselves established before it became common for people to try to monetize their blogs.

  2. Meghan McDevitt

    I’ve thought about trying to monetize in the past, but for my little blog it just isn’t worth it. I realize that I write for me. If other people like it, cool.

  3. Agree with the above comments and thanks again Ashley for a super informative post. I have tried to use my blog to promote my books on Amazon, and I’ve had very little success with that. Part of it is that I have a “real” job that takes my energy every weekday, so I’m not inclined to devote much to marketing efforts. When I have free time, I want to write, not think about ads! The other reason is that I dislike pestering people, and I too dislike being nagged to buy stuff, subscribe to things, or worst of all leave a tip. Huh? Why would I tip someone for blogging when we’re all blogging too? It literally makes no sense at all…

    1. Yeah, I don’t think fellow bloggers who do the same thing for free are likely to be a source of tips.

      I also hate pestering people. And I wouldn’t weant to push people to do things that I wouldn’t want to do myself, like subscribe to things.

  4. I would have loved to be able to monetise my blog, especially circa 2006-2008 when I was extremely depressed, not earning any money and blogging was my main activity, but given the type of things I want to write about (which admittedly was rather broader in the past, probably too broad and unfocused), the size of my readership and my lack of marketing ability, this was never a real option. My blogs have only ever been read by a handful of people and I like and appreciate them too much as friends to put a “buy me a coffee” button or the like on it.

    1. I think the marketing aspect is really key. People who write well but suck at marketing are unlikely to make much, whereas people who are good at marketing but mediocre writers probably have a much better chance of earning money off their site.

      1. To be honest, this reflects my thoughts about writing in general, not just blogging (admittedly interpreting “marketing” broadly). But as I don’t seem to be good at anything else, it seems I have to give it a go.

        1. I think good writing definitely has value, and it’s a matter of finding someone (like a publisher) that has access to that marketing skillset to actually get the writing in front of people’s eyeballs.

  5. That’s a great tips🌹
    I love reading your post ❤️
    So, I see all those tips as not a good side in making cool cash.
    Surely, blogging should be a hobby 😊

  6. I have never tried to make money from blogging, and I wouldnt wwant to. It would make blogging into a sort of job, and thats not what I want for my blog. Xx

    1. It’s tough when you’ve got the few people that are really successful (like Brandon Gaille) being the most visible sources when looking up info about monetizing. They make it sound so easy.

  7. A long time ago I used to have a blog where I had reasonable traffic, and tried monetization through Google ads and various affiliate links. I never made a penny. Nothing!

    What I did make money with was through selling photos or artwork on products on Zazzle. I uh, probably still have the account, but never look at it. Being in Europe, cashing in from Zazzle was a Hazzle. I never managed to get any of it. It probably wasn’t more than a hundred bucks in total, for one afternoon of putting some work on products.

    I believe monetization is almost impossible, so stopped caring. Having a job is easier. And writing for the sake of writing is more fun than writing to make a couple of pennies.

  8. I think fashion and lifestyle bloggers are more likely to be able to successfully monetize their blogs, especially if their style/decor is appealing to their readers who may want to click through blog links to purchase the same look. I agree, overall it doesn’t seem to be an easy way to go..

  9. Great post that cover some really important points 😊 I wouldn’t mind monetizing, but I don’t want to clutter my layout (not the current and not the one I’m working on) with ads.

    The marketing piece is a problem, as well as finding something others would benefit from. Besides, I have low traffic right now – that’s what I’d like to improve first 😅🙈

    I enjoy writing, it’s the promotion part I like least 😂 But…you can pick up some new skills along the way, and that’s always something 🤷🏻‍♀️

  10. 🙂 Well, Ashley, this is where the help of social media comes in. Many of the top bloggers have used YouTube as well as podcasting to help boost their brand (They call out the name of their website via those services and people come flocking to their websites).

    Before you can make money, people need to know of your existence on the world wide web.

    So, to answer your question, “Yes, people can actually make money online.”

  11. Great post. I also suspect (but have no evidence to back this up) that monetizing blogging would have been earlier to do in the early-mid 2000s when blogs were still sort of novel, social media wasn’t as much of a thing, etc. I recently rewatched Julie & Julia (I was on an airplane – there weren’t a ton of options) and it struck me how dated the idea of getting all these press hits and book deals off a blog was. It’s probably better for bloggers to accept that none of that is going to happen.

  12. Johnzelle Anderson

    Great post. Buy me a coffee has been the most lucrative source of blogging/podcasting income but hasn’t exceeded $100 in all time. I receive an occasional $10 check from Amazon affiliate or podcast ad. I’ll keep my day job lol. Blogging and podcasting are hobbies for me. You’re right, a lot of competition in trying to monetize.

  13. This is a super cool post! I think blogging is a very versatile tool that we can use for all sorts of stuff. I use mine to advertise my own practice for patients to find me! It’s worked quite well, also. I’ll have to check into some of these others, though. Thanks, Ashley 🙂

  14. My guess is 0.000000001% of bloggers make a decent less than $100 per month.
    As you rightly put it everything is available free of cost.
    One should simply enjoy blogging rather than struggling to get money 💰 out of blogging.
    Again there is no harm in trying to get some additional money.
    Something is better than nothing.
    But the results are discouraging.
    Thank you Ashley for this interesting post.

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