How Do You Make Money on Your Blog?

It’s a fair question. Blogging isn’t a typical job where you go to the office and get a paycheck, and most people are curious about how this blog generates an income.

First, a little back story. I started this blog in March of 2006 with absolutely no expectations — except that I probably wouldn’t keep up with it for long. I had never even kept a diary for more than a week.

I was a school teacher before we had kids, and I always expected to eventually go back to some type of work in the schools, but as my blog grew, it became increasingly obvious that I would continue to pursue this line of work. It provides an incredible amount of flexibility, which is awesome when you’re a mom with young kids, and I absolutely love what I do here.

During those early years, I cobbled together an income with various odd jobs — blog design, consulting, freelancing, etc. Now I’m happy to say that I put 100% of my time and attention into my blog because it’s finally self-sufficient, but that took about 8 years.

Nowadays I spend anywhere from 40-60 hours a week on the blog or blogging-related activities, and I make enough that my husband stopped bugging me to go out and get a “real job.” (And that’s as close as I’m going to get to naming a number, but yes, I do make a full-time income from this blog.)

A blog is just the 21st century version of starting your own business. The nice part is, the start up costs are low and the risk is small. The hard part is, well, everything else. Haha!

Like most people who are self-employed, bloggers wear many hats. It can be overwhelming at times, but as my revenue has grown, I’ve been able to hire out some of the tasks that I’m not so good at — like bookkeeping and design and technical stuff. That said, I don’t have a team — it’s just me, myself, and I! I’m okay with that, but it does make for quite the juggling act. So back to the original question . . .

There are a variety of ways to make money with a blog. Blogs can generate revenue with a combination of ads, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, and sales of products such as eBooks and online courses.

Many bloggers also take on freelance writing assignments, some form brand ambassadorships, others provide consulting to brands, and some even sign book deals or are paid for speaking engagements. It varies greatly depending on the type of blog and the goals of the person running the blog.

My revenue comes mostly from these three sources: ads, affiliate links, and sponsored posts. 

Let’s break it down.

Ads are pretty straight-forward. They are what you see on the sidebar and at the bottom of my site, and there are also some within the posts.

I’m a part of an ad network called AdThrive that manages my ads. I don’t sell ads directly to the brands, therefore, I don’t have a lot of control over what is advertised. In fact, a lot of what you see in the ads on my site is based on what you are shopping for and searching for — that is because Google runs the ads and they tailor the ads you see to your search habits. Pretty clever, huh? And a little bit creepy, I’ll admit, but that’s the way advertising works in this digital age.

With these ads, I’m paid based on impressions — which means how many times my blog is viewed. Every time a person clicks on a page or post on my blog, that is considered an impression, or a page view. Bloggers keep track of these stats with Google Analytics, and we often have to report our average monthly page views to brands when pitching ourselves for brand partnerships. But those page views also determine how much I earn from my ad network.

Affiliate links are commissions-based.

I use affiliate links when I link to the products I’m wearing at Loft, Nordstrom, and other retail sites, and I earn a small percentage of the sales made when you click on those links — anywhere from 2% to 15%.

The way this works is there are affiliate networks that connect brands and bloggers. The two main ones I use are ShopStyle and rewardStyle, so I don’t have a direct working relationship with each retailer; I get paid by the affiliate networks.

Rest assured, you don’t pay a penny more when you shop through my affiliate links than you would otherwise. I also cannot see what you actually purchase; I only see what product links generate purchases.

Sponsored posts are when I partner with a brand and write a post about their product or service — or sometimes just a related topic. I am paid a flat rate that we agree upon. I always tell you within the post that I am partnering with a brand, and I try to tell you towards the beginning so no one feels duped. Not that you should, because I only partner with brands I actually use and trust, but I do understand that feeling and try to be up-front so I don’t compromise your trust.

Besides the time that I put into my blog posts and the behind-the-scenes running of the website, it is very costly to run a website the size of mine. For example, my website hosting and image storage alone is $3000 a year. Plus my newsletter is expensive, there are apps and plugins to subscribe to, and it’s necessary to redesign my site every few years to keep it current. All of these expenses add up quickly, and without revenue from ads, affiliates, and sponsored posts, I wouldn’t be able to provide all of this information and entertainment for free.

I do my best to keep ads from over-powering my content, and I only take on affiliate partners and sponsors that I can wholeheartedly endorse, but all three are necessary for the blog to run smoothly and for me to do this as a job.

I hope this post helped demystify the topic of how to make money blogging. It’s a fair question, and one I know a lot of people wonder about. I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have. Just leave a comment on one of my posts, or zap me an email. My inbox is always open. Ha!

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22 Responses

  1. I still laugh when I hear about the “how much do you make” story-when you told me that during our visit a few weeks ago I couldn’t believe it. Apparently if you write on the internet you must be a complete open book 😉 I might disagree with the point about not starting advertising from the get-go. I’ve seen lots of bloggers get big backlash for all of a sudden monetizing their blog. People like to know what to expect and if you have some Google AdSense ads on your site from the beginning at least people know that you want to eventually makes some money doing this. It doesn’t mean that you should go out to get private advertising & an ad network but just simple text ads can make your readers aware that eventually you will be adding more. Just my 2 cents 😉

  2. Thanks for this informative post and thanks for not making it look easy! I get a little tired of hearing bloggers with a bazillion followers telling me how easy it is to make money online. I like that you keep it real.

    I have a confession, though, I like it when bloggers reveal how much they are making online. It has really helped me decide whether or not I think it’s worth it to put in the effort or if I’d be better off expending that energy elsewhere. I know one blogger that breaks down the income he makes and shows you exactly where it all comes from and I have really enjoyed learning that. However, I respect the fact that most bloggers don’t feel comfortable doing that and shouldn’t feel obligated to do so.

    I also admit that I’ve asked that question to a blogger friend that you and I both know personally, but it was in a private conversation and I would never have asked if I knew she didn’t mind telling me. (She had willingly volunteered the information publicly in years past so I didn’t think she would mind me asking her current status).

    Thanks again for the inside scoop on an area that I’m still learning and deciding on.

    1. Well, yeah, we all like it when people reveal what they are making, lol. Especially when they’re doing something like what we’re doing. And discussing rates in private convo is certainly different, and sometimes very helpful.

      It’s not easy, but it definitely can be fun!! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the great post! I will be the first to admit that when I first considered starting a blog it was only for the money. But I learned real quick (and 3-1 million closed blogs later) that if I’m not going to blog for the love of blogging or at the very least love of what I’m blogging about then it ain’t gonna happen. My blog is brand new….I started regularly posting on it in July (yes that brand new =)) but I love what I write about and I love the actual blogging/writing part. If I eventually make money great! If not great! I don’t see myself stopping just because it’s not a paying gig.

    Thanks Jo-Lynne for the great advice! =)

    1. Anna, I think you nailed it with this, and I wish I had added that caveat: ” if I’m not going to blog for the love of blogging or at the very least love of what I’m blogging about then it ain’t gonna happen.”

      The love of what you are blogging ABOUT is truly key. You get burned out REAL quick if you aren’t passionate about what you’re writing about.

  4. We both started our blogs around the same time and you always have been so good about being focused and knowing what you wanted. It’s amazing the difference in how it turned out! It does take a lot of dedication and determination to make it in the blog world, and you really have shown people how to do it.

    1. Honestly I wasn’t focused at all (and I’m still not entirely sure I know what I want, lol) but when opportunities started coming, and I was having so much fun, I started trying to figure out how I could make this internet thing lucrative enough that I don’t have to go back to work when the kids are in school (our original plan). The design biz was definitely the biggest piece of the puzzle, although I am kind of phasing out of that now that paying blogging-related opps are increasing.

      But as you know, I’ve been doing this for 6 years, so it has definitely taken me longer than most to get to the point where I actually consider this a job. Some start out and within a year are making a career of it. But then again, when you and I started out, the idea of making money blogging was virtually unheard of. It’s only within the past few years that it has become a real possibility. So I guess it stands to reason that people starting out now will find success a lot quicker than I did.

      And can I just say that I appreciate you stopping by to comment!? I have been such a lax blog reader/commenter lately.

      1. I know, I don’t even post on my own blog, let alone read other blogs. I started my blog for a different reason (to get back into the swing of actually writing) so I have never been focused on how I can “use my blog for good”, ha ha, it was all for a different reason (which eventually, I would love to reveal). I love all of the opportunities that are available to people just through the internet.

  5. Great post, Jo-Lynne! I 100% agree that it takes time! My blog is just about a year old and my goal for the first year was to break even. I Dream of Clean surpassed that goal (but it’s not like it was that much $ in the first place). Now that I’m into my second year blogging, things are definitely starting to pick up more than I can imagine. I suppose releasing an ebook helped in that regard too. It really does seem like patience is key!

  6. Even though I am still very green in this blogging world (I only have had my blog for 1 month), I have read enough about this topic to understand and wholeheartedly agree with everything in your post. Great way to succinctly and eloquently put it all in one place for us.

    I definitely do want to make money in the long run, but for right now I’m trying to focus on building some content, and getting my name out there (FB page, twitter, commenting on other blogs, etc.) My friends and family love reading it, and they can tell I enjoy writing it. THAT is first and foremost the most important thing. Now that I’ve got this ball rolling, I would keep writing even if it was only for my kids to read when they’re older.

    I suppose I could create a PR friendly page. Although I don’t know exactly what to include there. And, I have NO idea what a “media kit” is. LOL! But, I would love to do some freelance writing (actually have been researching that a bit). And, I eventually will move my blog from wordpress.com to wordpress.org where I’ll have more flexibility and control.

    Thanks again, Jo-Lynne!

  7. This is a great post but I would add or at least emphasize the sheer number of hours you have to put into a blog verses the pay. And that it’s not just writing posts, not even close. If you just want to do it for the money but you have some other income source (like say, my engineering job or even my photography job) you have to look at the hourly pay rate to decide if it’s worth it. A really lucrative blog (or income from other sources related to blogging) requires beyond full time hours. They may not be standard 8-5 hours but there’s a ton of evening and weekend hours put in. A TON. I think most people who see blogging as convenient, easy money have no idea the hours someone like Colleen or Audrey put in.

    Anyway, I love blogging for the sake of blogging and I’m happy for the little extra spending money it affords. 🙂

    1. Absolutely, and I almost added that somewhere in there, but it was getting so long, but yeah. It is 24/7, round the clock, weekends, holidays, vacations, and I”m not complaining. It’s just that it is really hard to walk away from it. And when you do, you inevitably miss a great opportunity or something.

      That’s why I said, there are plenty of easier ways to earn a living.

      That said, the flexibility and sheer fun of it make it all worthwhile to me! 🙂

  8. LOVE your post. I’ve thought about using my blog to make money (when I was writing on a different blog and for a completely different reason than I blog now).

    In regards to people asking how much you make…my husband does that, but in his culture there is NOTHING off limits to any one. It kills me some times and at other times just embarrasses me but he is such a friendly person that everyone knows he means nothing by it. He is just honestly curious and wondering if he should get in that field somehow.

  9. My friend actually sent me this link via email today. I teach English in a high school and will be utilizing blogs this year with my students. I know quite a few college students–and recent college graduates–who have lined up paying social media related internships because their work is available to see and read in their blogs. It’s a great way to promote yourself when you’re competing with tons of other people.
    Thanks for the info.

  10. It’s funny, but I’ve probably been blogging for at least 8 years. Just for fun, and to refine my writing, I guess. But I’ve often wondered if monetizing/doing it for money would actually focus me more, so I don’t just let it slide. I guess it’s all about making what we want to make a priority. Until/unless I decide on a topic that I’m absolutely mad about, I think I’ll continue to be a hobbyist.

    So grateful to have come upon your neck of the internets, friend.

  11. Great post! Just wondering as to how to apply to like to know it to make my account available to others? 4!-!& you

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