So you are a blogger and you have been at it for some time. You have spent precious time and effort thinking your content through. You have been publishing high-quality, polished content consistently, and visitors have started to flock to your website. What’s next? Well, you may be wondering if there is a way to earn money blogging. And if you are, you’ve come to the right place.
The first thing you need to remember is this: there are no hard and fast rules. If there were, everybody would be making a living blogging, and we know from experience that it doesn’t happen. So we are not going to give you an ironclad checklist. Think of this list more as a toolbox, and use whichever tools seem the most appropriate to you. After all, food blogs and review blogs (to name but two) are not going to benefit from the same monetization strategy equally.
Here’s what we’ll be talking about:
- The Direct Route: Paywalls and Donations
- Advertising: How to Get Ahead
- Selling Goods: Books And Merch
- Selling Services: You Are Your Flagship Product
The Direct Route: Paywalls and Donations
It is often said that the direct route is the best: if you want money from your blogging, you should ask for it. This section discusses the more straightforward ways of getting paid for your hard work.
The obvious way to monetize quality content is to sell it. The way to do it is to set up a paywall for your WordPress content. Paywalls are pretty straightforward: you pay or you don’t get to access the content.
The thing about them, though, is that visitors expect value for money: a lot of great online content is free, so asking for money will build up expectations. If people are paying for your content, they expect you to deliver, and to deliver exclusive, original, quality content.
Another downside of a paywall is that it will likely slow your website’s growth. A lot of your readers might get frustrated with a paywall, however little you charge, and just leave.
Bear this in mind though: keeping at least some of your new content free will keep your visitors coming. You don’t need to hide the entirety of your content behind a paywall – use the free stuff to hook them.
Donations and Tip Jars
If a paywall is not right for your website, though, perhaps you could solicit voluntary donations from your visitors. Appeal to their better nature in a way that is consistent with your brand, install a donations plugin or a tip jar plugin, and let your visitors show their appreciation of your fine work.
Advertising: How to Get Ahead
Advertising is a more circuitous approach to earning money from blogging. Here we will discuss some of the methods and best practices for online advertising.
Sponsored Posts and Reviews
The most direct way of earning money through advertising on your blog is probably to sell your blogging space. There may be a seller of service or product which might appeal to your visitors. If you are an authority in a certain niche, you may reach out to them, or they might reach out to you with an offer.
This goes double if you are running a review blog: a book review blogger might get free copies of books, a film review blogger might get invited to press screenings, while a cosmetics blogger might be sent samples, but that‘s more about saving money at best. If your blog has any clout, though, your unbiased opinion might be valued on its own, and you may get paid for an honest review.
You might also be offered money to write a positive or even negative review, but you should be very careful about that: your visitors might see through a disingenuous review and just stop coming. You might end up damaging your reputation and, ultimately, your bottom line.
You may also be wondering what to do if they don‘t reach out. The answer is simple: you mayreach out to them. A simple, politely-worded email supplied with relevant statistics (visitor data, social media following, and the like) might get your foot in the door.
Be mindful of any advertising law which may apply: depending on your jurisdiction, this form of sponsorship might be forbidden or restricted, liable to compulsory disclaimers or similar limitations.
Another way you could earn money through advertising is very directly placing your ads on your website. There are several services which facilitate this, the most popular of which is Google Adsense. The advantage of using Google Adsense or a similar intermediary is that you don‘t have to do a great deal at all: simply designate some space on your website for ads and let others do all the work.
There are two distinct disadvantages to this: you get very little control over the kind of ads which appear on your website, for one, and the amount of money you earn is limited.
There is, however, another route to earning money through ads: sell ads directly. You could do it the hard way, setting up the banners and links yourself, or you could install an ad management plugin and make your life a whole lot easier.
You can choose between several payment models: a simple flat rate for hosting an ad on your website, a CPC (cost-per-click) model, where you earn money for each click, or a CPM (cost per thousand impressions), where you earn money per thousand of views for each ad. If you are going the direct route, you have the most options, but you have to do your own price negotiation, invoicing, and control, while if you are using a plugin, you will be limited by the plugin‘s capabilities.
Affiliate marketing is the practice of recommending a product or service to your visitors and linking to it using tracking links, which let the seller know where their shoppers come from. Byreferring your visitors to sellers, you can earn a commission. There is a lot to learn about even the very basics of affiliate marketing before you start: the concept itself is simple, but the practice is, as usual, more complicated.
However, if you are new to this practice, you may be tempted to overdo it. If the product or service you are recommending is not consistent with your website style, you may appear like a shill rather than a blogger making a recommendation. Make sure your visitors know you are an affiliate, and concentrate on the products or services you use or would generally have no problem recommending.
Selling Goods: Books and Merch
Once you have made a name for yourself, your visitors might want to own a piece of you. In this section, we will walk you through some of the ways you might indulge them.
Setting Up Shop
You could earn money selling both physical and digital goods, but in each case you will need to set up an online store. The software we heartily endorse is WooCommerce: a comprehensive webstore solution with a fully functional free version. If that‘s the route you want to take, bear in mind that setting up WooCommerce will take some time and effort.
And then you need to think about possible tweaks which your store might need, such as getting your WooCommerce SEO right, creating enticing product images, integration with Facebook or Instagram shopping, to make the best possible use of your social following… The list goes on. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make your WooCommerce store suit your brand and style.
Merch is not only a way for you to earn money, it is also a way for your visitors to show appreciation for your work, it is also a way for them to publicize being your fan, and potentially driving more of their friends and acquaintances your way.
You could go the easy way, and just slap your logo on some generic, no-name products: t-shirts, mugs, key chains, or you could invest some time and/or money in design and come up with cool branded products people would gladly use anyway – take it from this proud wearer of a Welcome to Night Vale necktie.
Either way, design is hard and prototyping may be expensive. You could try knocking out mockups and putting the issue to a vote by your visitors. That way, they get the merch they want, and you get more visitor engagement.
eBooks and Books
If you have created a lot of content which can be organized into a book, perhaps you can sell publishing rights for it. After all, this is how Allie Brosh (Hyperbole and a Half) and David Wong (Pointless Waste of Time, Cracked) got on people‘s bookshelves with Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened and John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders, respectively.
Book publishing is a whole different kettle of fish when compared to blogging, though, and the exact circumstances vary wildly from country to country, so we can‘t go into specifics here. If you are willing to sell an ebook of your blog posts yourself, though, there is an easy way to convert a blog into an ebook.
Selling Services: You Are Your Flagship Product
Your skills and knowledge may be of use to others, and they may be willing to pay for them. This section discusses some of the ways in which that can happen.
If you have succeeded in establishing yourself as an authority on a certain topic or a certain niche, you may be paid by other blogs and even mainstream media to produce guest posts for them. This goes double if you have a distinct style and may also have ancillary effects: other blogs‘ readers will learn about you and your blog, and you will have earned yourself some new visitors.
An ancillary way to earn money is to sell your knowledge, expertise, and know-how in your field. Even if it‘s an informal field, some corporations and even individuals may be interested in your input as a proofreader or a fact-checker, or possibly long-term, as a coach or a consultant on a regular basis.
The best thing about this is that it requires very little investment, if any: simply set up a contact page (whether using the in-built solution your theme might have or by installing a contact form plugin), outline the kind of services you offer, and keep working on your public profile as a knowledgeable person.
There‘s a good chance some people will want to learn how to be successful bloggers themselves, and this is where you can go a little meta: you could set up an online course on blogging in general, or blogging in your particular area of interest.
There’s a lot to be said about creating an online course, and this is not the place to go into specifics. We will say that in order to make a convincing online course or workshop, you need to come up with a professional-looking lesson plan and a way to organize it: a learning management system, or LMS. Make sure your courses are informative, well organized, and professionally produced.
While similar to an online course, a webinar is a live online event. Your visitors might want access to a lecture by you, or a panel of all the contributors to your blog and you can set up a payment avenue to it. Those visitors who appreciate direct contact might be willing to pay for it, but a webinar audience typically expects some level of interaction.
There are plenty of webinar tools for you to choose from, but if you are not prepared to at least field some questions from your audience, maybe they are not a good fit for you.
Being a Pundit
Similarly, if you are viewed as an expert, even unofficially, by the online community at large, you may be approached to appear in other media: on radio, television, and podcasts, or invited to contribute an article to a newspaper.
You could also leverage your online following to get public speaking jobs: conferences, especially conferences which specialize in your areas of interest, may need speakers and lecturers.
Bear one thing in mind, though: about everybody thinks that, if they can talk, they can also speak, and about everybody is wrong about that. Speaking in public, be it for the media or at conferences, is much harder.
In order to even get these gigs, not only do you need to be knowledgeable and available, you also need to be personable, good at networking, and at least a decent speaker.
As you can see, there is no shortage of paths money can take to find its way to a consistent, popular blogger. Some of these methods, such as ads and tip jars, can be used by anyone, while others, such as webinars and other paid gigs, depend on your blogging clout: your blog needs to be popular and influential for you to make them work. It‘s the getting there that‘s the hardest bit, though, with staying there probably being the second hardest. Still, we feel we have provided you with a substantial toolkit which will help you make money blogging no matter the size of your operation and your following.