I try to avoid writing about money directly here on Blog Tyrant (I prefer to focus on growth and engagement strategies) but lately a lot of people have been asking me how to “pay the bills” when your blog is brand new.
And in last week’s giveaway it really dawned on me how many people are now turning to blogs and the Internet in general to make a bit of extra cash when times are hard.
It might be a single parent looking to supplement a part time job, or a new graduate who can’t find work in a depressed economy.
So, I decided to write a detailed and realistic post about the topic in the hope that it genuinely helps someone out there who is just getting started in this blogging industry of ours.
Let’s jump in!
My story making money online
I thought I should start this post by talking a little bit about my own journey with making money online and especially in the world of blogging. There’s more about this whole thing in my guide to blogging.
It all started back at university when I decided that I really didn’t want to work in a 9-5 office job that I hated. I had a dream of working for myself so I could avoid things like office politics and spend more time on things that mattered to me. I also really wanted to make enough money that I could contribute meaningfully to some charities that I’m passionate about.
I should state that I really hated uni.
I would show up each day but instead of going to lectures I’d just go to the computer rooms and dabble around with blogs.
It was at this time that I first heard about Adsense over on ProBlogger.
It totally blew my mind!
You could stick some ads on your site and when people clicked them you would make money. It seemed like magic to me (I’ll talk about why I’ve changed my mind later). I remember talking to my good friend about it over a Chinatown lunch and at that moment we were both hooked.
Before I could complete my degree I fluked it and managed to sell a blog that I had been working on for 5-figures. It was then that I knew that I wanted to give this blogging thing a shot and decided to spend some more time focusing on it.
The fairy tale ends (or is postponed)
Unlike I lot of internet marketer stories, mine wasn’t just a meteoric rise to fortune.
Yes, that sale was huge for a student, but the money soon ran out and things like rent, food and bills started to stress me out.
It was then that I decided to start a little web design business and focus on getting small client jobs to pay the bills. It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t particularly like working with clients and so ended up cleaning a gym from 6am to 10am every morning.
This was hard work but a good solution because it gave me enough money to pay the bills and then enough time in the afternoon to come home and work on my blogging projects. During this time I sold other blogs for similar price tags and, despite some ups and very big downs, I kept going.
Soon I had that “breakthrough” with blogging and now make a comfortable living off it. I don’t know how long it will last but I feel so fortunate to have been able to tap in to the Internet’s potential and make a very decent living.
It’s been five years now and I’m finally able regularly donate to those charities. I find that if I focus on building up my business so I can support other people I am more motivated to work hard.
A visual overview to get started
I decided to get a little infographic made up to cover some of the main points of this topic. If you enjoy it I’d really appreciate it if you share it on Facebook or Pinterest.
As you can see, we have a few options that we can call on that make the whole process quite interesting. Let’s get a bit deeper into it now.
A warning about making money blogging
Before we get into the tips I want to just take a second to let everyone know that making money online, and with blogging specifically, is not an easy task.
As I mentioned in my guide to working from home, I really try to be as honest as possible with people about what it takes to succeed in this industry.
There are no get rich quick options that work for the long term.
In this post I’m going to focus on a few ideas that have worked well for me and other people that I know. Please be prepared to work hard and be patient as, like most small businesses, sometimes it takes well over a year before you start making profit.
How to make money when your blog is brand new
What I’d like to do now is go over some ways that you can make money online when your blog is really just in the beginning phases.
1. Work a part-time job (in the real world!)
This tip is not something a lot of people want to hear because it seems like most of us are trying to get away from that yucky job in the real world. But it’s important to recognize the opportunity that it gives us.
When you have a job you have a certain level of security. You can pay the bills and put food on the table. That is more than a lot of people have and it’s good to be kind of grateful for that. As I mentioned, I used to work as a cleaner from 6am to 10am so that I could come home and blog in the afternoons.
What we need to do is figure out a way to gradually increase our blogging/online business success and decrease the amount of time we spend at the day job. We’ll get more into that later but at this stage it’s a good idea to work a part time job until you can get that online income higher.
2. Find a freelance writing job
Freelance writing is one of the great opportunities that the web can offer those looking to get into more online work. Here’s why I like it:
- It hones your blogging skills
Writing as a freelancer gets you in touch with editors and topics that help you to become a better writer. This will help your long term blogging career in a big way.
- It is flexible
You can write one article per day and then work on your own stuff, or you can do 10 articles in a day and just focus on building an income nest egg.
- It’s abundant
As the net grows you are going to find freelance writing jobs springing up more and more. If you have a decent grasp of your native language there is a good chance you can find work producing content.
3. Offer services from your blog
Now we are going to move on to an on-site option. This one is a little more difficult but I remember having some good successes with it when I was first starting.
If you run a blog then there is a good chance (well, I hope so) that you are experienced in what you are writing about. For example, if you run a blog about website design trends then there you probably know a little bit about websites, online technology, and so on.
This gives you a unique opportunity.
For example, you could create a landing page on your blog that promotes a service where you audit website’s for a fee in order to improve the results that people are getting. These types of promotions are clever because they often lead to ongoing work where you help clients with future improvements.
Laurie from Laurie B Style is a great example of someone who does this very naturally in a helpful and creative way. Of course, she’s not a beginner, but this is a really good example of how you can incorporate extra services into a blog.
This type of strategy applies to almost every niche and can help you save some funds that will go towards growing your blog in a way that is directly related to your blog’s topic.
4. Help small businesses with their online activities
This one is a combination of on-site and off-site money making but is something that I have used in the past to help me make an income using the Internet.
The idea is simple: there are millions of businesses out there who are looking for help with their websites, blogs and social media presences. If you can setup and run a blog and build a mailing list then you are already ahead of literally 99% of these business owners.
What this allows you to do is go approach local businesses in your area and offer to help them maintain or setup their online marketing in a professional and methodical way. You can charge an hourly rate or charge per project.
One of the best strategies for this comes from Neil Patel – you email them with two actionable improvements that they can make on their website and then offer further advice at a fee.
I really like this option because, again, it gets you working in your own area. Your blog will act as your “business portfolio” that shows clients what you can do, and then you’ll learn lots of different skills as you work with clients and continue to develop your own blogging assets.
5. Build a landing page to promote a specific offer
When your blog is new it’s tempting to think that you need to wait until you have a certain amount of traffic or email subscribers before you can start making money. This isn’t really true at all and one thing you can do is building out a beautiful landing page that can start making money right away.
I’ve written about this a little bit here so I’ll just go over the details briefly.
- Pick an affiliate product that you love
The first step is to join an affiliate program for a product that you use and love. It needs to be in your niche and something that you would recommend to a family member. Don’t just pick anything.
- Build your landing page
A landing page is just a page on your blog that you don’t post in the regular blog section. In this case, however, it might be a really big piece of long form content either about the affiliate product or, better yet, one that just mentions the product as a small but integral part of the whole article. For example, your affiliate product might be a great yoga mat and your article might be a complete beginner’s guide to yoga.
- Promote your landing page
The next thing you do is start sending traffic to your landing page. For example, you could go out and do guest posts and link back to this big article. You could run Facebook Ads that are targeted towards the right audience. You could link to other bloggers in the post and then email them and ask for a simple tweet. Here are some more traffic tips.
Ideally you want to build this whole funnel so that everyone who subscribes to your blog gets introduced to the main content pieces that you wish to promote. If, for example, you sign up to my mailing list you will see how I promote pillar articles over a fortnight.
6. Offer your services to other bloggers in your niche
This one is closely related to a few points above but I wanted to write about it individually because it can be so effective if you do it right.
When your blog starts to get bigger you get inundated with tasks. For example, a typical day at my company involves research, writing, planning, side-project development, accounting, bill paying, sleeping, graphic development, cat maintenance, ad campaigns, etc.
It is too much for one person.
I currently have a few staff but a lot of bloggers just try to do it by themselves. That might be because they don’t think they have enough funds yet, or they are just a bit overwhelmed at where to find the right staff.
This is where you can jump in and offer services at a competitive rate. Share your blog with them and say that you’re willing to work at a reduced rate because you want to learn from them.
It’s a win-win situation because you get to practice as well as making a few extra dollars doing something that helps everybody out.
Quick tips on making money from your blog
I want to finish this post by giving you some quick tips that you can think about and implement when you are just starting out with your blog.
- Don’t use Adsense
A lot of people ask me about Adsense. Pretty simple: I don’t use it. As I said above, in the early days I thought it was amazing but I’ve come to realize that sending people away from your site for a few cents is a bad business model. Instead look at the next point.
- If you can, get them on your mailing list first
Once you have a person’s email address that person is more likely to engage with you and your offerings. That means future posts, affiliate promotions and much more. Email marketing is still the most effective form of online business and, best of all, it is very stable.
- If you don’t have a premium offering, look to a varied mix
If your niche doesn’t allow you to promote or build premium products (anything over around $100 per unit) then think about getting a solid mix of offerings and building it up over time. I remember Darren Rowse saying that initially Amazon Associates was a really small source of income but over the years it has really started to add up. Think eBooks, affiliates, consulting, books, etc. and you’re starting to build an income stream.
- Don’t let short term web income ruin your blog’s brand
I would much rather go back to cleaning a gym than offering some crappy dieting product that doesn’t work. I know a lot of people reading this need to make a bit of extra income quickly, but it’s very important to not ruin your blog’s long term brand and image over a few quick dollars. Even if you have to work a basic entry job offline for a while it’s a much better option.
- Study people who have done it
There are a few blogs out there like ViperChill who transparently write about almost everything they do. Some of the posts on that website are worth thousands of dollars in paid courses and teach you so much more. Try and find a few people who have genuinely made it online and learn from what they do. It takes years off the progress.
If after all of that reading you’re still feeling a bit lost then please make sure you read on to the next paragraph.
What questions do you have?
Please let me know if there is anything that I have missed in this article or if you still feel a little bit confused. I really like learning about what problems you’re facing and will do my best to help you out if I can. Also, if you know of an effective way to make money in the early days it’d be great if you could share it. Please leave a comment below and let me know.