How to start a blog and make money blogging

Here's how you can make your first $500 from your blog

Making money blogging is an exciting idea. You can be your boss, live a flexible lifestyle, and work from anywhere in the world. Here’s how to start a blog and make money blogging.

The first step to making money blogging is to start a blog

The first step to making money blogging is to start your blog. I use and recommend WordPress as your blogging platform. It powers more than 35% of the whole web and makes it easy to start a blog even without any prior experience and tech know-how.

Best ways to make money blogging

Now that you have started a blog, let’s take a look at the most popular options for how to make money blogging.

Experiment, test and take your time choosing the methods that fit your topic and audience. Don’t force it as you will find that the best monetization methods will come to you naturally over time.

Pick and choose several of the methods below to diversify your income and turn your blog into a real business. Most of these options allow you to monetize a blog without ads.

1. Affiliate marketing: refer your visitors to purchase products

Affiliate marketing is the practice of recommending products and services to your visitors and getting a commission if they decide to make a purchase.

Thousands of companies who will pay you a commission on sales that you generate through your content.

Most of the big media sites such as the New York Times, the Wired magazine and BuzzFeed use affiliate marketing to supplement their reader revenue.

The affiliate marketing approach can be summed up in these 5 steps:

  1. Find opportunities in your market and products you are familiar with. You can enter a very broad market that appeals to a wide audience and offers many products for sale. Niches such as health, beauty, and fitness.
  2. Then you publish amazing informational content that truly answers questions real people have. This helps you build an audience.
  3. You also publish product-based content such as reviews, comparisons, how-to guides and step-by-step instructions. These are amazing and educational and help people use the product better, show how the product can improve their lives. The products you recommend must be relevant, useful and valuable to your audience and the needs they want to fulfill.
  4. You monetize without banner ads. You put the affiliate links naturally within the content itself. Banner blindness is a well-known phenomenon which was proven by several eye-tracking studies and has shown that visitors tend to ignore banners.
  5. Always remember to disclose your relationship with the company you promote.

So how do you find affiliate programs to join?

  • Amazon has a large affiliate program where you can earn a commission of up to 10% on anything they sell. Consider also using a service such as Genius. It helps you localize your affiliate links to the visitors coming from certain geographical areas to recover some of the revenue you might have lost otherwise.
  • Skimlinks scans your content and automatically inserts relevant links from thousands of merchants. You don’t have to worry about joining affiliate programs and thinking about manually placing links.
  • You can also visit a company site directly and see if they have an affiliate program. If they don’t, contact the company, explain your situation and ask if they would like to agree to do an affiliate deal with you.

2. Get crowdfunded by your loyal fans through subscriptions and donations

This one is all about you monetizing your audience directly.

If you’ve built a very passionate audience for your cause, a very effective monetization strategy is to let them fund you.

In exchange, you can reward those who pay you by reserving them premium access to some of your content.

Patreon is a platform that can help you accept funding from your true fans. A lot of video bloggers do this.

More than 50,000 creators use Patreon with more than 1 million true fans being monthly active paying patrons. 35 of the creators make more than $150,000/year while thousands earn $25,000/year.

Some creators also sell branded merchandise such as t-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs to the faithful fans.

Jason Kottke, one of the very first bloggers, allows fans to purchase yearly memberships to support his blog. And that’s even without promising any exclusive content.

PayPal offers these buttons too and it just might be the way for you to get rewarded for the help you provide to your readers.

You can also limit access to some (or all) of your content and allow your true fans to get access to it by paying a small fee.

Most major newspapers such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have these paywalls as one of their primary sources of income.

WordPress has plugins that can help you create a paywall on your own content, such as Memberful WP plugin. The alternative is to publish a premium mailing list that people need to pay to subscribe for.

There are so many opportunities and have a loyal audience of true fans opens all the doors for you to experiment and see what works best.

3. Work with brands directly and post sponsored content

Influencers are seen as a more trustworthy source of product recommendations than traditional advertising.

Depending on your niche topic, there could be many companies looking to get their products and services reviewed, used and covered by influencers.

There might be a possibility for you to create a classified ads section or a job board. There are WordPress plugins that let you allow brands to post their listings for a fee.

Most creators are regularly contacted by companies that want them to review products. Some pay for this service. Some send gifts, pay for trips or hotel stays or just give their products for free.

Some, especially those that are very influential in the fashion industry, can command thousands of dollars per sponsored post. See my guide on how to be a fashion blogger.

Many agencies work directly with influencers to find suitable sponsoring opportunities.

A negative point to monetizing through sponsored content is that the content you end up creating can be less useful to your visitors compared to your best content.

If you can make a deal with a suitable company and you have complete freedom to create a great piece of content, this option is very attractive. Just remember also to disclose that it is a sponsored post.

You will also discover that many companies will contact you directly asking to buy reviews or text links. Even though many accept these, I would recommend you ignore these offers.

Selling links ruins the user trust, it’s not something search engines like either, and by accepting them, you risk being banned from the search results.

How to find advertisers for your blog

Here are some of my favorite ways of finding companies that may be interested in sponsoring your content:

  • Search Google for your keywords and phrases related to your content. Look in the “sponsored listings” and other ad areas of the search results and see what companies spend money on advertising there.
  • Check Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Identify the related brands that spend money advertising on these platforms.
  • Do some competitive analysis. Go to your competitors and other relevant sites and see which companies advertise there. What brand is in the sidebar? Who sponsors their podcast? What company is featured in their email marketing?
  • Identify conferences, trade shows and similar events in the field you’re working in. Find the official websites of these events and look at the list of companies participating, sponsoring, or attending.
  • Put a list together of all these enterprises you’ve discovered. Visit their sites, learn about the company, and find the contact details.

Next up is the critical, personalized email pitch that you need to send to each of the relevant brands.

How to get advertisers for your blog by creating a media kit

One way to better “sell” yourself at the negotiation stage is to have a beautiful media kit.

Your media kit should give potential sponsors the chance to learn behind-the-scenes facts and stories to supplement your content. It’s a resume for your blog and a sales tool.

A package of information that introduces your blog to the interested advertisers and answers their questions.

I recommend you develop a media kit. It can be a professional-looking PDF that you send via email.

What should I include in the media kit?

Your media kit should provide the potential advertiser with immediate access to the key demographics, traffic, and other metrics to help them decide whether to sponsor you.

It should be accurate, consistent, and up to date.

Explain the concept

Start simply by defining the values, and describing the concept behind the blog.

Advertisers pay a higher premium for ads on videos. Do consider introducing video content and then show the results in your media kit. Take a look at my guide on how to start vlogging.

Target audience and traffic

It’s important to show the potential sponsor what they are buying. Your traffic and your target audience are two primary motivators for the advertiser.

Share your traffic stats, the number of followers, and the number of email newsletter subscribers. Be prepared to back up your blogging statistics with graphics from your Google Analytics account.

You may also need to grant them access to your Analytics report. Google Analytics features a way to do that without giving away your username and password.

Add more credibility to yourself

Including third-party rankings from sites such as SimilarWeb.

Include also any third-party mentions and references

Include links from popular sites that mentioned you, links to your guest blogging efforts, any social media recommendations from influential users.

Search engine rankings

When people search the Internet for keywords relevant to your potential advertiser, and they end up on your content, you have a key selling point.

Show them how you rank in search engines for their product-related keywords. Compile a list of keywords that you rank for and include them in your media kit.

Advertising options / rates

Let the potential advertiser know what kind of advertising options you offer.

Include the position of ads, the size of ads, show it by including a screenshot which has the potential ad position marked. Don’t forget to include pricing for each of these.

4. Create and sell your own products and courses

Invest your time in creating a product or a service that is genuinely helpful to your true fans. Something that solves a problem and that will provide enduring value to them.

The product that you sell should be related to what you stand for and what you talk about.

You’re seen as the expert and the authoritative figure in that field and you have built the audience of people who trust you and follow you.

Pick an audience problem and cater to it. Dig in, and really focus on meeting their needs and answering their questions.

Create the content once, put it in a permanent form such as an ebook, a webinar or a private membership site and sell it over and over to bring you a continuous revenue.

This one-to-many approach helps scale your efforts and make more money than personal one-on-one coaching. It’s not limited to the amount of time you have in a day.

It basically stops you from trading your hours for dollars.

There are many sites such as Teachable, Skillshare, Highbrow, and Udemy that can help you run online courses on any topic.

On Udemy there are more than 20,000 instructors offering almost 50,000 courses between them and have made more than $8,000 on average.

You could charge a one-off fee or you could get people to sign up for a recurring monthly membership.

You will be selling a product just like you do in affiliate marketing but in this case, you’re selling the product that you own and get total profit from.

It does take more time and effort to create the product. You also have to consider customer support. If done well, it provides a more passive income than doing one-on-one coaching or consulting.

5. Be a freelancer and sell your writing or coaching services

This one focuses more on the credibility, authority, and trust you have built as a creator skilled in a particular topic.

  • You could become a consultant and charge clients for providing the services you specialize in.
  • You could become a coach and charge for people to have one-on-one private sessions with you.
  • You could also focus more on the freelance aspect and get paid to create content and write for other sites.

Many sites look for influential and authoritative contributors that they would pay for. Some look for copywriting help where you submit content as a ghostwriter without having your name on in public.

All these are time-consuming. Depending on your name may not pay the most but you get to practice your writing and the payments do add up over time.

The downside of doing freelance work is that it’s not a passive income and you need to keep producing something of great value to earn those fees.

6. Ads for blogs such as Google Adsense banners

Adsense advertising to make money blogging

Google Adsense and other display advertising opportunities are one of the easiest ways to get started making an income from your blog.

It’s easy because Adsense automates the process of selling, displaying and optimizing the ads for you.

You place a piece of code and Google delivers text and image ads that are relevant to your audience and your content.

You don’t need to advertise that you have sponsorship opportunities. You don’t need to find advertisers. You don’t need to negotiate deals and manage payments and invoices.

You just join Adsense, choose how you want your ad to look like by matching the look and feel, install a piece of code and ads will start showing.

WordPress plugin Advanced Ads will help you insert Google ads into your content.

You can also put ads without Adsense. As an alternative for WordPress users, you can try the WordAds platform made by people behind WordPress.

There are many more display advertising networks such as AdThrive, (which is Yahoo!/Bing version of Google Adsense), BlogHer (for blogs with a female audience), Sovrn and Mediavine.

The alternative is to sell display ads directly to the interested advertisers.

Identify products relevant to your audience. Then simply approach the company. Ask if they would be interested in sponsoring your blog in exchange for a fixed monthly fee.

Discovering, approaching, and in general, dealing with advertisers can be a very time-consuming process compared to automated options like those above.

Display advertising networks either pay-per-click that your visitor places on an ad or per impression of the banner ad.

One negative aspect of monetizing using display advertising is that your blog has to be broadly popular to make a living. You need a vast number of visitors to make a higher income.

Ad-supported platforms often pay less than $0.01 per view. Depending on the demand of the topic you cover, a click can earn you anything from a few cents to several dollars.

Many creators try to increase click rates by displaying several advertisements per page or using more intrusive formats such as pop-ups. These methods are not very user-friendly, and you will lose your audience by using them.

It’s also worth considering how tech-savvy your users are and if they use adblockers on their browsers.

If your audience consists of many younger and tech-savvy people, you may be leaving a lot of money on the table by using banner ads that they ignore.

Top money making blogs list

Some creators publicly post their income reports which is useful for you to learn more about what’s possible to do and get inspired. Here’s the list of some of the top money-making blogs online:

  1. Entrepreneur On Fire – A business blog making just under $200,000 per month by selling own products and doing affiliate marketing.
  2. Smart Passive Income – A blog that’s helping people build a passive income business makes $100,000 average per month with 70% of that coming from affiliate links.
  3. Pinch Of Yum – A food recipe blog that makes just under $100,000 on average per month with the majority of that coming from display advertising and sponsored content.
  4. Just A Girl And Her Blog – A blog about organizing your life and decorating your home makes about $40,000 on average per month by selling own products such as ebooks and courses, and doing affiliate marketing.
  5. Wait Buy Why – Elon Musk’s favorite blog which makes more than $13,000 per month by being funded by its true fans with a monthly subscription amount of their choice.
  6. Kitchen Sanctuary – A recipe blog making around $10,000 per month through freelance work and display advertising.
  7. The Modest Man – A fashion blog making about $7,000 per month in a diversified way through sponsored content, display advertising, affiliate links and selling own products.
  8. Single Moms Income – A blog about creative ways to earn and save money that makes about $6,000 per month through affiliate marketing, display advertising, and freelance work as a virtual assistant.
  9. Easy Baby Life – A blog about motherhood making just under $5,000 per month with a majority of that coming from display advertising
  10. The Endless Meal – A recipe blog making just under $4,000 per month through display advertising.
  11. Living Off Cloud – A blog about creating various income streams online making about $1,500 per month through display advertising and affiliate marketing.

3 ingredients required to make money blogging

First, these are the ingredients required to be able to bring in the revenue from your blog. Make sure you work on these before expecting to make money blogging.

1. Your content needs to be useful and valuable

You cannot just “sell” as that will affect your ability to build an audience. Sales pitches and banner ads are not what people want to consume.

You won’t believe how many people expect to do well by publishing pure marketing message templates and banner ads. Just telling people about some product and asking them to buy will not entice anyone.

You need to have expertise in your topic and you need to create value through the content that you publish.

The best and most effective way to monetize a blog is without ads.

The best content is the content that relates to your audience, which people find useful and valuable, and that integrates relevant products and other promotional messages naturally within it.

2. You need to focus on a buying market

The topic you focus on needs a buying market and has to be monetizable.

Some topics are tougher than others so make sure your topic has an audience interested in spending money if you want to monetize.

Research the problems that you are looking to fulfill. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to see what people search for and how much companies are paying to reach those people.

Identify products on the market that are relevant to your topic and to the audience you’re trying to reach. Create content that is targeting people who are looking to make a purchase.

When people become aware of a need they need fulfilling, they go into an information search and look at the different alternatives before making a decision on what to buy.

People start the product hunt by doing a Google search when they are ready to make a decision and buy. You need to rank well for those searches to be near their wallets.

You can be the one that helps them evaluate the alternatives by publishing useful product reviews, detailed product comparisons, and discount offers.

3. You need to build a loyal audience

Making money online is all about building authority and trust with an audience. You need the traffic to your content, especially targeted traffic from a specific group of people.

Without people visiting your content and without having a loyal and targeted audience, it will be tough to earn revenue.

Shift the way you think about the monetization. All the big sites sell banner ads on cost per thousand (CPM) impressions which forces them to chase page views.

This is why they publish a large volume of content daily and report on all the trending topics.

They keep chasing visits, keep trying to get the page view count high and sell as many ads as possible.

This strategy puts you as a creator on a treadmill of constant content creation. It is not realistic to keep at it for a longer time and it will burn you out.

The targeted audience is what can be monetized and who sponsors want to reach. You don’t need millions of loyal visitors either. 1,000 true fans are enough for most projects.

If you monetize by selling your own product or doing affiliate marketing to your true fans, you can step away from the treadmill.

Then you can aim to produce more of the timeless type of content, content that is not perishable and much more valuable than content that is instantly out of date.

Should I quit my job to try to make money blogging?

It’s possible to make money blogging, but it’s important you have realistic expectations.

The idea of quitting your job, leaving the rat race behind and doing something on your own terms is the fantasy that appeals to many cubicle-bound employees all around the world.

It’s a great idea, a great dream to have and definitely something that can help get you motivated to achieve big things.

Finding yourself stuck in a boring job reading about all the people who have chosen to follow their passion can tempt you to give it all up and pursue the unconventional path.

But blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Don’t jump into it though assuming that just having the courage to pursue a different path is the only thing that matters, while everything else is just small detail that can be worked out afterward.

Most bloggers will fail to earn any income. Some will make some pocket change only. Only a few might do so well that they can quit their jobs and planning is key in this process.

Everyone needs to pay the bills after all and just leaving your job to start a blog you have thought about is not very responsible in most cases.

Keep your day job but start working seriously on your idea in your free time (or in the working hours if you can get away with it).

You start small without taking too many unnecessary risks.

Having a steady paycheck is comforting in these situations. It allows you to keep your living standards while investing time in things that have the potential to make your life better in the future.

Starting a start is less about becoming rich than it is about turning a comfortable profit from your hobby.

And building a blog where you can make enough money to replace your day job is very hard work and is not going to happen overnight.

During these long months, you can live off your salary or savings while working on growing your audience.

On the way to your first $500 in blog revenue… and then what?

Keep working hard on your blog. Work consistently over a longer-term. As long as you never give up, in due time you will become a success and your business will start making even bigger money.

What it comes down to now is that you must take action into your hands. It’s not enough to read all the “become a ProBlogger” advice – you must start creating something.

Start a blog, find and connect with your audience. Do this daily for a long time, before you slowly start getting the results, and start being able to live the internet marketing dream.

  • You could then quit your daytime job and focus entirely on your blog.
  • You could use the authority you’ve built with your blog to get yourself a more prestigious or higher paying job.
  • You could accept high-paying fees for speaking at events.
  • You could get a publishing deal and write a bestseller book.
  • You could extend your brand by putting together your themed events in the real world where the money could be even bigger.
  • You could also sell your blog if there is an acceptable offer at the table and you feel that you have done what you could for this topic.
Categorized as Posts

By Marko Saric

I’m on a mission to help you share what you love, get discovered by people who love the same things too and make the web a better place at the same time. Find me on Twitter and Mastodon too.