Is it possible to make real money as a blogger?
If you’re looking to make some extra money aside from your full-time job, or if you’re interested in making a full-time income working online working from home, blogging may seem like a dream come true.
Or… it could seem like a hyped-up fantasy that’s not really possible.
I’ve been working online since 2007, and full-time since 2008. Over the past decade, I’ve made well over $1 million thanks to my blogs. After working as a blogger for so long I can tell you that it is possible to make a good income with a blog.
But the truth is, building a successful blog takes a lot of work and some patience. The same can be said about any type of business. No business is easy or else we would all be doing it.
In this article, I want to talk about a few things that have been key in allowing me to make money with blogs.
Keys to My Blogging Growth
The things mentioned in this article are based on my own personal experience. Some bloggers take different approaches. I’m not saying my way is right or better, but I do want to share what has worked well for me because maybe it will resonate with you.
Before I get into the details, I want to mention that I’ve had many blogs over the years. Some have been successful and made money, others didn’t get enough of my time and attention and never really went anywhere.
The money I’ve made over the years has come from several different blogs, including the price I got for selling the blogs when I was ready to move on (more about that later in the article).
→ Related reading: How to Start a Blog (Step-by-Step)
1. Long-Term Approach
When I started blogging more than a decade ago, I wasn’t looking for a way to get rich quickly. I realized it would take a long time and a lot of effort for me to achieve the same type of success that I saw others having. I committed myself to build my first blog into a full-time income, but it took about 1.5 years of constant work, on top of a full-time job, in order to get to that point.
The hardest stage of blogging is the beginning when you have to build an audience and traffic from scratch. When you launch a new blog it’s natural to be excited. You’ve got a lot of great ideas that you want to share, and blog posts that you know people will love.
But then you publish the post and nothing happens.
No social media shares (aside from your own).
And hardy anyone even visits the blog.
That excitement usually turns to disappointment pretty quickly. And if the disappointment sticks around for a while you probably give up on the blog.
If you’re launching a new blog and starting from scratch and looking to make money blogging as a beginner it’s extremely important that you have realistic expectations. If you know that it’s going to take a while to really make progress and that you’re going to have to put in a lot of work upfront without really seeing any results, you’ll be in a better position to avoid disappointment and you’ll be prepared to have patience. By keeping your focus on the long-term payoff, you can fight through the challenging first few months when it seems like no one cares about your new blog.
During my first year or so of blogging, I was really active networking with other bloggers in my niche. I commented on other blogs. I wrote guest posts all the time. I was active on social media. And I would even randomly reach out to bloggers just to introduce myself and make connections. The networking aspect helped me a ton with getting links, social media shares, comments, and to find guest post and paid freelance writing opportunities.
I was also able to talk to other bloggers about the challenges of growing a blog. Some of those bloggers had a long-term focus and I could tell they were going to be successful.
Others were doing really well from my perspective. Their blogs were filled with good content and traffic was slowly but steadily increasing. But for some of them, things weren’t happening as quickly as they expected, and they gave up. In my opinion, most of them gave up before they gave it enough time to know if their blog truly was a success or a failure.
The biggest lesson here is that if you start off with a new blog and you’re expecting big things quickly, you’re going to get burned out or disappointed and you’re likely to give up.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to accept the fact that you’re going to have to work consistently for a while even without seeing any significant results, you’ll be set up for a better chance at success.
Although it almost always takes a while for a new blog to take off, once it starts to grow, things can really happen quickly. You can be plugging along with only slow growth for a long time, and then you turn a corner and traffic & profit start to increase very quickly. At that point, you may even be able to cut back on the hours that you spend working on the blog and still see your income grow.
2. Multiple Blogs
I’ve made a decent amount of money blogging, but it’s come from several different blogs. I’ve had many blogs and websites over the years, but 99% of my income has come from a total of 6 different blogs. Five of them I have sold, and this one, Vital Dollar, is the 6th.
There are plenty of successful bloggers out there who put all of their efforts into one blog and it’s worked out very well. That’s not the approach I’ve taken. I didn’t set out from the start to have a lot of different blogs, and I usually have no more than two active blogs at any point in time. But as I got new ideas and saw opportunities I would start new blogs.
In several cases, I was able to use one of my existing blogs to springboard a new blog due to a crossover in the target audience. Once you have a successful blog and an established audience (especially if you have a solid email list), there are a lot of possibilities to leverage that audience by starting a new project. It doesn’t have to be another blog. It could be an e-commerce site, a service-based website, or anything else that your audience might be interested in.
Before I sell a website I typically try to think about how I could use that site and its audience to get a new project off the ground quickly. If I have a good idea for a new blog or website I can get that started before selling the other site.
3. Worked in Popular Niches / Industries
If you want to start a new blog and you’re trying to decide what you should write about, you probably see a lot of conflicting advice. Niche websites are very popular, especially for affiliate marketing. Most niche websites and blogs are created to target a very specific niche audience rather than a wide audience. For example, instead of starting a general fitness blog that would cover all aspects of health and exercise, you could start a blog for marathon runners.
Most people who run successful niche websites do a lot of keyword research to find low competition keywords that will make it easier for them to get to the top of Google’s search results. The idea is, by focusing on a specific niche and long tail keywords, you can avoid a lot of competition and achieve success easier.
While I’ve had some success with niche websites, and I’d actually consider my fifth successful blog (one that I sold in 2018) as a niche blog, the majority of my experience is in very popular, very competitive niches and industries. I’ve had blogs on graphic design, photography, travel, and now personal finance. All of those topics are extremely competitive and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of active blogs covering similar topics.
My approach has been to try to take a very small percentage of a big market. Yes, it’s true that there are a lot of design, photography, and travel blogs. But there’s also a huge audience that’s very interested in each of those topics.
Not only is there a big audience that you can tap into, but there is also money to be made if you have some success in a popular niche or industry. In a lot of cases, you don’t need to be a dominant player in one of these niches to be very successful with your blog. You just need to connect with a small percentage of the overall audience that’s interested in your topic.
I would much rather spend my time on an industry or niche that has a lot of other bloggers and a large income potential than a very tiny niche with almost no competition, but low potential income. That’s just my personal preference, others do very well in small niches. And as I mentioned, I have had some success with niche websites and blogs, but it’s a small percentage of my overall business through the years.
My advice to other bloggers is, if you really want to start a blog in a popular industry and you think it’s something you would enjoy, go for it. But be realistic that it is going to take extra work to succeed.
I think it’s also important to try to find your unique angle. A lot of leading blogs crank out several new posts each day and they make money based on the volume of content they produce. As a single blogger, you can’t compete with a blog that has a team of writers. Don’t attempt to get traffic based on a high volume of content, and don’t try to break news, because the bigger blogs will always have an advantage.
4. Multiple Streams of Income
If you’ve been interested in blogging for a while, you’ve probably come across some blogs that publish monthly income reports. These income reports usually show how much money the blog makes broken down into different categories, and sometimes even by each individual source. If you’ve seen income reports from successful blogs, you may have been surprised to see how many different sources of income they have. Usually there are many different affiliate programs, a few products of their own, some sponsored content, maybe services offered, and often ad revenue.
During the early days of my first blog I was making money only from services that I offered, and I promoted those services through the blog content. Then after realizing that I didn’t want to do client work forever, I shifted my business model to ad sales. Banner ads and AdSense accounted for almost 100% of my income for probably about two years.
When my first blog really turned the corner was when I added some other streams of revenue. I continued to sell banner ads and use AdSense, but I also started selling digital/downloadable products, and later I started using affiliate links to really increase the revenue. When I combined multiple streams of income, I saw my business grow very quickly.
The multiple streams of income can also be attributed to having multiple blogs and websites. Once I have a blog that’s turned a corner and doing well I like to start working on another website or blog, and that ultimately, if it’s successful, it will lead to a different stream of income. Having multiple websites or blogs making some money frees me up to make decisions about selling one of them, which leads me to my final point.
5. Selling Blogs
One of the reasons I love blogging is that when you’re building a profitable blog, you’re creating a valuable asset that you can sell (if you want to).
I know plenty of people who make a really nice income working as an employee for someone else’s business. But if they choose to leave their job, they’ll stop making money from that employer the day they quit. The exception would be sales reps with some sort of residuals.
If you own a profitable blog you can sell it when you decide you’re ready to move on to something else. The amount you’ll get will vary based on a lot of factors, but in many cases, you can get three years worth of profits, and sometimes more. That’s a huge incentive to build a successful blog! In fact, the thought of selling a blog was one of the motivating factors for me even before I was making money as a blogger.
Over the years I’ve sold several websites and blogs, and it’s accounted for a large part of my overall income. In 2010 I sold a blog for $50,000. In 2013 I sold a blog for $500,000. In 2016 I sold a few blogs together for $500,000. And in 2018 I sold a blog for $216,000. In total, that’s more than $1.25 million just from selling blogs. Of course, along the way I made some money from those blogs before I sold them, but getting that lump sum and being able to move on to something else has been a big part of my business model.
Like just about anything else in life, there are pros and cons to selling a successful blog. Yes, getting about three years’ worth of profit is really nice, and so is freeing up your time to do something else. But there’s no guarantee that your next project will be successful, so there is always some risk in selling a blog or website that is running smoothly. And if you sell too early you could miss out on some of the rewards for all of the effort that you put into building the blog.
Even considering those cons, I think that selling a blog is a great opportunity. If you’re able to have success with your next project and replace your income, you can build your net worth pretty quickly by cashing out.