The True Cost of a Blogging Side Hustle

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Woman working on a laptop

Blogging is one of those side hustles ubiquitous with a mega earning potential and ease of getting started. In fact, every month there are approximately 70 million blog posts being published.

But is it as simple as buying some low-cost hosting and writing some content? Or have the days of writing thin content and not being aware of industry terms such as SEO optimization made this less of a realistic side hustle?

When 63% of bloggers make less than $3.50 per day and only 2% of bloggers earning over $150k per year (source), it begs the question what is the true cost of starting a blogging side business?

Why The Blogging Business

I had been lured into the world of blogging like many others, gobsmacked by huge earning reports and the chance to start an online business I could operate from a beach house anywhere in the world.

But having owned my own business since graduating with an Economics degree over 15 years ago, time had always been a major factor for me.

And then my life took a series of unforeseen changes in direction.

My fiancee of 7 years left me, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 33, and to top the whole thing off, COVID hit.

So was this the optimum time to finally embark upon my blogging dream? Would this newfound time be enough to carve out a new business venture for me from a small slice of the internet?

Or had I really taken on more than I chew?

The False Allure Of The Blogging World

I own and operate a fast food restaurant business and regularly put in 50-60 hour weeks. This is something I am used to and what the industry demands in order to remain variable and profitable.

But with the ever impacting nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been forced to operate on a reduced schedule, which has allowed more time for my blog.

But when I first started, I was blissfully unaware of how much time was really needed in order to compete with the millions of other successful blogs out there. The internet is awash with glorified income reports and list posts highlighting simple steps to get more traffic and make more money.

But the truth of the matter is blogging, like any other business, is multifaceted and requires a considerable number of skills and talents in order to achieve growth and success.

At the core of the business model for blogging, content is key. This lesson you learn pretty quickly, and on the face of it seems pretty simple.

Write a well-written post and the job’s done, right?

Wrong!

But more on that later.

When I first started a post would perhaps take me a couple of hours at most. And now, after my education has progressed, I will often spend 10-15 hours producing long-form content that is written for my readers and optimized for Google.

And unfortunately, the daily tasks involved with growing your blog don’t stop with a well-written post. I routinely spend 30 hours a week or more also completing tasks involving:

  • Promotion on social media
  • Backlink building and outreach campaigns
  • Site optimization and functionality
  • Keyword research and competitor analysis
  • Affiliate program management
  • Content outsourcing
  • Finance monitoring
  • Continual education

So does this mean blogging is actually not worth your time? Is massive growth and online success reserved for the lucky few?

I made my first affiliate sale after a few months, grew my Domain Authority into double digits, and have managed to be featured in the New York Times and Business Pundit.
In my limited experience thus far I have concluded that success is achievable. But the costs, both financial and emotional are far higher than often advertised.

Spend Money To Make Money

I believe with blogging, much like any other successful business, you truly need to spend money in order to make money. And this unfortunately goes far beyond that of your initial hosting and setup commitments.

The largest worthwhile and necessary cost is that of continual blogger education.

The industry’s most attractive feature is the ease with which it is to enter the market, with seemingly low barriers to entry, anyone can start a blog.

The problem is, you need to become well versed in the minutiae of not only producing worthwhile content that drives traffic but also the myriad of other online business-related activities.

From affiliate marketing tactics, sales funnels, content outsourcing, SEO, email marketing, and every other skill needed to succeed. A successful blogger must wear many hats, and in order to not fall victim to overwhelm and misinformation, investing in credible education resources is a must.

I have found enormous value in finding other bloggers within the industry that offer credible advice and suggestions. There are some great Facebook groups you can join, and often there will be great course suggestions in which you can trust your investment.

As you may have already begun to notice, the blogging business model goes far beyond that of a low start-up cash injection and a few hours here and there. It is in fact a full-time commitment that requires constant learning and adapting in order to scale a viable business that can stand the test of time.

Google, Pinterest, and Everything In Between

As many bloggers do, my journey into blog promotion started with the popular search and discover platform Pinterest. In the glory days, bloggers could create eye-catching pins that linked to relevant blog content and drive hundreds and thousands of monthly visitors.

This traffic could be monetized with display ads and affiliate marketing, and within a short space of time, one could enjoy making 4 or 5 figures per month.

Alas, with Pinterest moving in the same direction as its predecessors, the seemingly endless flow of free traffic appears to have somewhat dissipated. And in order to grow an online business that can attract high monthly visitors, attention has switched to Google and the long-term play that is Search Engine Optimization.

The challenge now is for new bloggers to survive the game of growth and withstand the lengths of time it can take to actually start making money.

Perhaps it is not the experience of every new blogger, but from what I have seen, many have lost significant Pinterest traffic and decided to diversify their traffic sources.

SEO is a long-term play and requires education and continual implementation. I believe if you have the staying power and time to commit, then you can be successful with your blog.

The Main Cost Is Time

And so what it all boils down to is our old friend time.

There are side hustles and wealth-generating ventures that will show returns in a more timely fashion. So the question you need to ask yourself is, do you want to start a blog?

The benefits and potential earnings of blog ownership are undeniable, and many have enjoyed extremely lucrative success.

I believe the key takeaway from my message is that with most things in life, you will get out what you put in. And unfortunately, the old days of fast growth and quick income are perhaps no longer realistic.

The overwhelming amount of things you need to learn may be discouraging. But if you can dedicate a couple of years to mastering and honing your skills, learn from the best, and implement strategically and methodically, then growing an online business is within reach.

If you have the time, inclination, dedication, and drive, then starting a blog may well be the perfect side business. And if you can survive the first couple of years, it may develop into a life-changing business where you yourself can produce eye-watering income reports and pictures of yourself with a laptop on a beach.

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