The ability to make a living online may seem like a far-off thing that only other people do for some, and for others, it’s a dream that they work towards every single day.
You may be surprised to know that here at Teachable quite a few employees have our own online side hustles. Some of us are bloggers, others course creators, and others fall somewhere else on the spectrum entirely.
I’ve been blogging for about three and a half years now and making money blogging for three. In that time I’ve mentored a lot of other bloggers, and have guided them towards making a full-time income from their blogs.
And now I want to share all of my monetization strategies with you.
You can make money as a blogger in an infinite number of ways, and they are certainly not all created equal.
Some take longer but are more profitable in the long run, and some may be passive but less impactful. Everyone is going to have different goals and motivations when monetizing their blog, so understand that what might work for one blogger isn’t necessarily the best course of action for you.
How to monetize a blog
Like I said, the possibilities are endless, but I’m going to go over the five most common (and in my opinion, viable) ways that bloggers make money. These are:
- Running ads on your site. These can be on your sidebar, above your header, inline with your content, or over your images. Ads can be impressions-based or based on clicks.
- Participating in sponsored posts. Bloggers often partner with brands and publish sponsored posts highlighting a specific product on their blog.
- Affiliate income. By using affiliate links to direct traffic to products or services you’re already mentioning on your site you can get a kickback when people purchase.
- Selling your own service. If you have authority you can sell coaching or mentoring packages to your audience.
- Selling your own product. Creating and selling products like online courses can help create a full-time income for your blog.
Now that we know what the options are, I’ll break them down a little further so we can discuss the profitability, pros and cons, and what real bloggers have to say about their experiences.
Running ads on your blog
Many bloggers opt to go with an ad network for their first step towards monetization. Once you’re approved you’ll be given a code to put into the backend of your blog and your agency will begin running ads on your site.
Some agencies are better than others as far as targeting the ads and making sure they’re relevant to you and your site, while others will run any ads (even ones that might hurt your brand) without giving you any power over what is seen.
On a similar note, some agencies are more profitable than others. While some networks only give you credit when someone actually clicks the ad, others are impressions based.
Overall, the pros and cons look something like this:
- Ads are passive. You install the code once and get a check each month without any extra effort on your part
- The more traffic you get, the more you can make
- Ads can be an eyesore if you’re not careful about placement
- They aren’t super profitable if you have a small audience and don’t get much traffic
How to get started with ads
Many ad companies only work with bloggers who get a certain amount of traffic each month. Different companies will have different standards. Most bloggers start with Google Ads, as they are the most flexible and among the easiest to get into, while more established bloggers will work with more elite networks or forego ads altogether.
Once you’ve been accepted into your chosen ad network, it’ll be as easy as adding a small snippet of code into your website and ads will begin to appear.
Who do ads work for
Really, anyone. The thing is you can’t expect to get rich off of ads unless you’re getting millions of pageviews each month.
Ads are best used in conjunction with a larger monetization strategy rather than serving as your main monetization strategy.
Once you’ve grown your audience, you can make decent money with ads, but it likely won’t be anything to call home about.
There are hundreds (maybe even more!) of different ad networks you can get started with if you’re interested in running ads on your blog.
- Google Adsense
- Propeller Ads
Posting sponsored posts on your blog
Another way bloggers make money is by collaborating with businesses to write sponsored posts. Put simply, sponsored posts are to blogs what product placement is in movies.
You know when you’re watching ET and the classic Reese's Pieces scene comes on? Sponsored posts are the same idea: A product is naturally woven into a great piece of content.
Sponsored posts shouldn’t be confused for reviews—reviews tend to be boring. In contrast, a good sponsored post should be able to stand alone and still be valuable even if you took the sponsored portion out.
Here is an example of a great sponsored post by Kelsey of Blondes and Bagels. Rather than simply talking about the pros and the cons of the product, she instead worked the product into her post in an organic way, while offering actionable advice to her audience.
Of course, sponsored posts come with their own set of pros and cons
- Create relationships with the brands you work with—doing a great job on your first sponsored post with a brand can land you contracts worth thousands of dollars
- Sponsored posts pay well. Depending on your traffic, social following, and the brand you can make anywhere from $500 to $5000+
- You get free products. Nine times out of ten if you’re working on sponsored posts the brands will send you a swag bag full of products to try out
- These collaborations can be really time consuming between communication with your contact, sending drafts, making revisions, and going live
- Your creative freedom may be limited—brands usually reserve the rights to request changes on your content which can be frustrating
- They can be fickle. Some months I get dozens of sponsorship opportunities, other months I’ll get three or four
- Some audiences are touchy about sponsored posts. They will see them as you "selling out" or losing your authenticity. Ease your way in as to not upset your audience
Example disclaimer for sponsored posts:
How to get started with sponsored posts
Sponsored posts are harder to get started with than ads because you need a higher level of influence for brands to want to work with you directly.
The first step you should take is making sure that your site can actually provide value to the brands you hope to work with. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Do I have sufficient influence?
- Do I get consistent traffic?
- Is my audience engaged?
If you didn’t answer yes to all three of those questions, take a step back and focus on your problem areas.
Sponsorships need to be mutually beneficial. The brand benefits you by offering you product and compensation, in return you need to provide a benefit to the brand whether it’s in driving sales, traffic, or brand recognition.
Once you’ve done that you’re ready to start working with brands.
There are two ways you’ll go about this: Working with a network or working with the brand directly.
Working through a network
There are dozens of networks that serve as a middleman between bloggers and brands. They’ll act as your main contact for communication and often times you’ll never speak to an actual brand rep directly.
Working with networks means you’re legally taken care of and you’ve got a team who is going to ensure you get paid, but that also means that team is going to be taking a cut of that pay, too. When working with networks rather than working directly with the brand you can expect to be paid less.
Examples of sponsored opportunities with Social Fabric:
Working with brands directly
Other times a representative from a brand may reach out to you directly and you can negotiate a partnership without a network. When this happens the brand is either going to pay very well or be looking for free exposure. I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 there will be no middle ground.
When working with the brands directly be careful to really read the contract, as it’s going to be covering the brand, not you.
You can also consider actively pitching brands that you’re interested in working with. This is scarier than simply going through a network or waiting for a brand to approach you, but this is a more active strategy that can ensure you make more money.
When you’re pitching a brand you want to be concise and to the point, while conveying who you are and what you can do for the brand. To give you an idea of what a pitch email can look like, here is an example I sent to a hotel:
For more information on how you can work with brands on sponsored posts, you can check out this video where I dive in deep into brand collaborations.
Who do sponsored posts work for
Sponsored posts work for bloggers who are already organically talking about their favorite brands and products in their blog.
Sponsored posts aren’t reserved for any one niche or type of blogger. Anyone from mommy bloggers to food bloggers to tech bloggers can make a significant income by partnering with brands for sponsorships.
There is no right size you need to be to start working with brands, but in my personal experience, my sponsorship offers were few and far in between until I reached 10k monthly page views.
Bloggers need to be careful about accepting sponsored posts, though, as your audience may be more attuned to your habits than you’d expect. Pushing products that you don’t genuinely use or enjoy can come back to hurt your business in the long run by ruining trust with your audience.
- Tap Influence
In my experience, sponsored posts can be very profitable if you’ve effectively captured an audience and have a decent following. In fact, sponsored posts are my favorite way to monetize my blog.
Creating a connection with brands and getting to try new (and often yet-to-be-released!) products is a lot of fun, and after you brush up on your negotiation skills pay very well, too.
Monetizing with affiliate marketing
Another way that bloggers who regularly talk about brands, services, or products monetize is by using affiliate links.
Affiliate links give anyone who drives traffic a kickback if someone clicks their link and purchases at no extra cost to the buyer.
Affiliate marketing is a lot like ads where your audience has to take action for you to make money. Here are the pros and cons:
- If you’ve been blogging for a while you can add relevant affiliate links to popular posts and you’ll start making money quickly
- Affiliate links are fairly passive. You can add them to a post once and make money indefinitely without extra work
- Some companies offer large affiliate incentives
- In niches like fashion blogging, many affiliate links often pay pennies per purchase
- You rely on people actually buying before your affiliate cookie expires
How to get started with affiliate marketing
It seems to be a fifty fifty split between programs you can just sign up for, and ones you need to be accepted into, so even if you’re just getting started you shouldn’t have much trouble joining a few networks.
Once you get accepted, your first step should be going back and adding affiliate links to your highest performance blog posts. These are posts that are already getting views and engagement so you can start gaining traction right away.
In the future, when you’re writing blog posts check to see if you can link an affiliate rather than a direct link. Once you’ve gotten enough affiliate links added in your backlog of content, you’ll begin to see consistent passive income trickling (then hopefully pouring) in.
This is what pulling an affiliate link from Amazon looks like:
Who affiliate marketing works for
People who already have some sort of audience or traffic will see the most immediate results with affiliate marketing. But really affiliate marketing is great for anyone who talks about resources or products on their blog.
And it doesn’t matter your niche, either. There are affiliate programs for any niche imaginable.
You most commonly hear about fashion bloggers making their living using RewardStyle and their Instagram app, LikeToKnowIt, but no matter your niche you can find a program for you.
For example, if you ever talk about any product that you can find on Amazon, they have an affiliate program. Or if you’re a blogger who blogs about business and the services you use, you’ll likely find that most of them have affiliate programs, too.
I use affiliate links on my post helping people set up their own blogs, and use a clear disclaimer to let my audience know I'll be getting a commission.
Affiliate link disclaimer example:
- Amazon Affiliates
- Reward Style
- Adobe Affiliates
- Get the full list here
Blogger Jessica Slaughter has had a lot of luck with affiliate links and says,
“My most successful method for monetizing my blog is writing relatable, organic content and naturally including Amazon affiliate links. The posts that make me the most money are posts that people actively search for and stay relevant months beyond their publish date. If you’re not consistently getting eyes on a post with affiliate links, it’s not going to make you much money! For example, one of my highest earning posts is A Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Studyblr. There are only five affiliate links in that post, but they naturally fit into the content and the post itself has retained its relevancy/popularity for over a year, constantly getting fresh eyes on those links! I also wrote a post expanding on these tips here. "
Monetizing by selling a service
Now we’re getting into the good stuff: selling your own services. This is a great option for anyone who has a unique perspective or skillset to offer (i.e. everyone).
Using your blog as a platform to sell an outside service is a great way to drive traffic to what you’re selling, build trust among your audience, and establish a need for your service.
For your service, think anything from coaching, to consulting, to copywriting, or anything in between.
With this model, you might be working 1:1 with clients, or working in a group atmosphere.
When it comes to monetizing your blog, this has very high potential for significant income, but it does come with its own set of pros and cons.
- You’re in control - you’re not relying on getting sponsored opportunities or your audience clicking on your links and buying. You get to create and sell a service that you can create demand for with your blog
- You get to monetize your expertise. It’s a cool feeling to know people want to spend money for your unique talents and perspectives
- You can create an automated workflow to draw in clients
- There is that initial period where you might be trying to get your first customers with no luck. It’s hard to promote yourself without social proof
- If something happens to you where you’re unavailable to coach or copywriter or do whatever it is you’re doing, you’re out of income
Who selling services works for
Selling services is great for somebody who has already established an audience who trusts them and has proven their skill set.
For example, if you’re going to be coaching people on how to train a marathon, you yourself should have a marathon or two under your belt (and have documented those experiences on your blog to gain legitimacy).
Anyone can go online and try to catfish people into buying a service from them, but if you want long-term success you need to work on establishing yourself as an expert in an area you’re well versed in.
Monetizing by selling a product
Much like selling a service, selling your own product is great because it puts you in control. There is no need to rely on getting sponsored posts or hoping that your audience clicks on your ads. The more you promote and hone in on your target audience, the more successful you can be.
Products can be anything from online courses to ebooks to worksheets or even physical products.
Creating an online course is an easy way to establish yourself as an expert in your niche and make a consistent living online.
Like everything else, though, creating and selling online courses come with a set of pros and cons.
- Puts you in control, the more you target your audience and promote your offering, the more you can make
- You are able to monetize your expertise
- You can create a course once and sell it over and over again for years to come
- They are more time consuming to create than other products like ebooks because of the video element
- There can be a learning curve with creating and editing your online course
Who selling products works for
Selling products is a great option for any online entrepreneur, regardless of their niche. We’ve seen people sell successful online courses for any topic you can imagine. From iron deficiency in goats to yoga for bro’s — we have people successfully selling courses on the topic.
Selling products is an especially great option for those who have an established audience, as they’ll see the most immediate return when they launch.
Which is right for you?
Chances are, you’re going to find that combining these options will work best for you and your business.
Of course, we have seen plenty of people make their entire living just selling online courses or just running sponsored posts on their site, but it’s best not to put all of your eggs in one basket.
And maybe none of them are going to be an exact fit, either. There are plenty of people who aren’t necessarily monetizing their blog so much as they’re using their blog to brand themselves and get their name out there for opportunities outside of their blog.
I’ve met speakers and coaches who have a blog, but don’t consider themselves “bloggers.” Their blog serves as a commercial to their expertise, but they’re making money speaking or coaching, not because they have a blog.
Helping people find your blog
Now, to make money as a blogger, you’re going to need people actually reading your blog. Like I said earlier, a blog isn’t what makes you money, influence is.
To gain that influence you should be promoting your blog post and using SEO, or search engine optimization, to help point people in the direction of your blog.
The more people who are actively following and engaging with your blog, the more potential you have to make money.
How to get blog traffic with social media
- Use a service like BoardBooster to cycle through pins on your Pinterest account keeping your content fresh and at the top of people's feeds.
- Use IFTTT to cross post your Instagram pictures to other social media sites.
- Use a service like Narrow to keep your Twitter feed on your Target audience's radar.
How to get blog traffic with SEO
- Think about what it is people are going to Google to find your page. Use that key phrase in your blog post copy.
- Cross link posts on your site. If you're writing about how to make cake frosting and in the past you wrote about how to make cake batter, link the two. It will help build your site's SEO.
- If you mention another website in your blog post, email the owner to let them know and ask if they'll add a link to your post within yours. The worse they can say is no, but if they say yes you'll be building your web of backlinks.
- Check out this SEO resource by Eduardo.
Once you have the traffic coming to your blog, you’re going to want to capture your readers and turn them into active and engaged audience members. You can do this by offering lead magnets, or encouraging them to follow you on a social media site where you’re active and engaging.
What’s important is that you’re active and consistent, and solving problems for your audience.
Once they begin to trust you, then you have influence. Click to tweet: Blogs don't make money, influence does. Learn how to gain that influence & monetize it.
Have you tried monetizing your blog? Where did you get stuck? Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to help you out!