Can you really make money blogging? The simple answer? Yes, you can.
There are people all across the world who make a full-time living from their blogs. Some people run blogs about their kids, others document their travels.
- Annette White of Bucket List Journey makes $4,500/mo from her travel blog.
- Mark Herro of Sharpologist makes $6,000/mo blogging about shaving advice.
- Robert Farrington of The College Investor brings in $50,000/mo by helping people with investing.
This also means that building a successful and profitable blog is hard work. If you are willing to be patient, you can make it work.
Without further ado, here are 5 ways you are able to make money blogging.
1. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is the easiest way to start generating income from your blog. You don’t need to spend a lot of time up front creating something, like a course or an eBook. You are simply recommending products and services that are valuable to you and that your audience would find truly useful.
Even if you have a tiny blog without a lot of readers, with affiliate marketing you can make substantial income.
Step 1: Choose your affiliate program(s)
Typically, the highest affiliate commissions come from promoting online products and services. For example, a hosting company, BlueHost pays $65+ per referral. Now you know why most people recommend using it.
Here are some of the most popular affiliate programs out there:
- SiteGround, BlueHost, WPEngine, HostGator (most hosting platforms have affiliate programs)
If you are unsure whether a company has an affiliate program, just do a quick search “company’s name + affiliate”.
If you want to promote physical products, the commission is much lower. Usually, it’s just a few percentages of what the item is worth. You can find all physical products on Amazon Affiliate’s program.
For the majority of affiliate programs out there, you just need to sign up and you are good to go. For some, you might need to submit an application, so they know that your blog is a good fit.
Once you’re approved, you’ll get an access to your affiliate panel with your unique affiliate URL that you’ll be using on your blog.
Step 2: Set up affiliate links
Most bloggers set up their affiliate links and then forget about them. Instead, you should be continuously adding them to your site.
You can start by creating a separate page that is called “Resources”; “Recommended tools” or something similar. Then, make a list of all the products and services that you love. Then include affiliate links to these company’s that have affiliate programs. Pat Flynn from The Smart Passive Income has curated a huge list of resources and majority of his monthly income comes from affiliate marketing.
Another example comes from Bjork and Lindsay from Pinch of Yum who have created a separate “resources” page to promote physical products and services they love.
Another thing that is highly effective is to include affiliate links in your blog posts. If you are writing in-depth content about any topic, you’ll find yourself recommending products and services that you love anyway, so why not include affiliate links? Here’s an example, Derek Halpern from SocialTriggers wrote an article about building your email list and included a link to his own email service provider.
You don’t need to include an affiliate links to every single blog post, but it doesn’t do harm, if you do it once in a while.
If you want to get even more creative, grab your hosting company’s affiliate link and put in the footer. It’s basically free money.
Jonny Nastor from Hack The Entrepreneur is crushing this strategy.
One of the pitfalls of affiliate marketing is when people start recommending products that have high affiliate commission, but they don’t actually use or like. An example of this would be someone promoting a terrible hosting platform that pays a high commission but instead using a completely different hosting for their own blog. Even though it might make a quick buck, it doesn’t make sense long-term.
The bottom line, promote products and services that you truly love.
Most people learn faster if there’s someone showing them the ropes. If you’ve ever learned a second language, having a native speaker help and guide you is crucial. People pay a lot of money for all sorts of coaching because it helps them learn faster and more efficiently.
A few years back, Noah Kagan from Sumo offered one-on-one coaching for a limited amount of people. Even though the price for one hour was $1,000, the seats sold out FAST.
Here’s the thing, most blogs out there can be monetized through some sort of coaching.
You might be thinking, “Why would anyone pay me? I’m no expert.” Let me be blunt. The internet has changed everything. Back in the day, you would work for 30 years and then finally get a call from some big-shot producer or an agent if your lucky. No longer you need to wait for the permission and you don’t need someone to knight you.
If you know more about the topic than the person you are coaching and are able to get them the results they need, they’ll be happy to pay you.
There are 3 main reasons why you should consider monetizing your blog through coaching:
- You can charge premium prices since you’ll be working with people one-on-one.
- You’ll find out more about your audience. By coaching one of your readers, you’ll discover your audiences fears, desires, dreams and you’ll be able to take all of that information to resonate better with your readers. This becomes very handy if you end up creating an online course later.
- It’s a great way to create raving fans. If you have a successful coaching relationship, you’ll be able to get great testimonials and best of all, they’ll refer you to their friends.
Now that you know the benefits of coaching, how can you get started with it?
Step 1: Think of the #1 pain-point your audience has
If you’ve been blogging for at least 3-4 months, you can look at your existing content and see what blog posts are most popular. If you are just getting started with blogging, head over to BuzzSumo.com and type a URL of a blog who is an influencer in the niche your in.
If I was in the self-development space, I would type “James Clear”, who runs a leading blog on self-development.
BuzzSumo shows you the most-shared blog posts, and you want to examine some of them. Ask yourself, “What problem is that particular blog post trying to solve?” Chances are that if you’re in the same niche, your audience has very similar problems and paint points.
Once you’ve done some research, pick a problem that your coaching program will solve.
Step 2: Decide on the structure of your coaching program
What are some of the things that could be part of the coaching program that could make your clients successful? Here are some things you could consider:
- How many skype calls a month?
- Do you want to provide a video-recording of the calls?
- Are you going to provide home-work or action items to complete?
- Email reminders or weekly check-in?
- Access to you via email/skype/text/phone?
If possible, start off super simple. It can be one Skype call a month and weekly email check-in’s. You don’t want to add unnecessary work for yourself or for the client.
Step 3: Get testimonials
Testimonials are crucial to create social-proof and show your potential coaching clients, that you are capable of helping them. It might be tricky to find testimonials if you haven’t done any formal coaching yet.
Here’s a tip, you’ve probably have done some informal coaching over the years. Maybe you’ve helped out friends or family with your advice. Maybe you’ve written articles that have inspired people. Reach out to these people, offer them a short free coaching call, and ask to give a short testimonial.
Aim to gather 2-3 testimonials or success stories that you’ll be able to use.
Step 4: Decide on the pricing
Most of the time people underestimate how much they should charge. You want to charge a monthly retainer and not an hourly fee. Here are some examples that can help you determine what to charge.
Bryan Harris from VideoFruit charges $3,500/mo for one Skype call a month, weekly check-ins and reasonable email access.
Kimanzi Constable who helps people build lifestyle businesses has quite a few different pricing plans.
Chelsea Baldwin from TheCopyPower charges $2,000/mo.
Don’t stress too much about trying to find perfect pricing, since I guarantee that your pricing will change over time.
Step 5: Set up a few internal processes
There are a few tools that will make your life a lot easier. GumRoad is a simple to use payment system, that will allow your coaching clients to sign up and get billed monthly on a recurring basis, without you have to worry about sending invoices. It will take just a few minutes to set everything up and you’ll be good to go.
You may also want to use TypeForm, so the potential coaching clients fill out an onboarding survey or an application. This will be beneficial to find out more about potential leads and filter people who are serious about your program and who aren’t.
Here’s a sample coaching application for a fitness industry.
Step 6: Pitch your target market
Now it’s time to pitch the people you know via your email list. You don’t need to have a big list to make this work. You could either try to go for the sale right away, but generally it’s a better idea if you are just getting started offer a free 30 or 45-minute coaching call that will provide some value first and then go for the big pitch.
Nagina Abdullah is a health coach, and she has been very successful with offering one free coaching call first and then turn them into paying customers.
Here’s the exact email she sends to potential customers:
If you end up offering free consulting calls, make sure to have an on-boarding application in place, so you are able to filter out people who are just wasting your time.
Even if you have a tiny list of 100 people, you’ll should be able to close some coaching clients.
What if you don’t have an email list, blog or anything yet? Don’t worry. You’ve probably sent out thousands of emails over the years to people, some who you are close to and some you you’ve lost touch with.
Instead of trying to pitch your friends and acquaintances, send them all an email and ask if they know anyone who would be potentially interested in your coaching biz. You can even offer an incentive, such as $100 for every client referred.
Rinse and repeat once you have a few coaching clients.
Step 7: Run your first coaching call
Doing a coaching call isn’t as scary as it sounds. As with everything in life, you get more comfortable once you do it over and over. Don’t let fear hold you back.
It’s a good idea to do your homework as a coach before the actual coaching call. Once you have a deeper understanding, you’ll be to do some research and provide a better solution. As you get more used to coaching, you’ll find yourself being able to provide solutions on spot.
If you are comfortable, I highly recommend doing the coach call over video-call, since it comes across more personal. If you are using Skype, you can record both audio and video calls with eCamm so you can relisten yourself and look for improvement as well as give the full recording to the client as an extra.
Ideally, you want to have a few high-paying coaching clients and then have a course on the side. Let’s head over to the next way to monetize your blog!
3. Create and sell an online course
The best part about creating and selling an online course is that you’ll be able to create passive income. With consulting, you are trading time for money and since we all have 24 hours in a day, you are only able to take on X amount of clients.
On the other hand, if you have a course, you are able to put it on an autopilot and have it generate money for you.
Here’s how it typically works. You put out great content on your blog, visitors read the content and subscribe to your email list. Then you’ll send them an automated series of emails and then go for the big pitch to sell your course.
Here’s how to do it, step-by-step.
Step 1: Find out what your audience wants to buy
I often see bloggers spending hundreds of hours creating a course that nobody is interested in. Instead, a better way to do it is to do some research and find out what the particular audience really wants. Once again, it’s important to consider what problems and challenges my audience has.
If you know these things, you’ll be able to solve real problems for your audience, and yes, they will be happy to pay for it as well.
Step 2: Brainstorm and come up with the lessons
Once you figured out the #1 pain point your audience has, your goal is to solve that problem through your course. Spend some time to come up with a catchy name for your course and list the lessons.
If you need some inspiration, you can find hundreds of course names with modules and lessons at CourseList.
You want to brainstorm the smallest first course as possible, because:
- You don’t want to create bunch of lessons that you audience doesn’t care about
- You want to get the course out there as fast as possible
Paul Jarvis used this same exact strategy when he first got started. He realized, that even though he wanted to create an in-depth course that would take months to create, he settled for less than 10 lessons to start off with.
Step 3: Pre-sell the course
Yes, you read it right. Once you have a name for your course and lessons planned out, you want to pitch it to your audience.
There’s one prerequisite though. Your audience has to trust you in order for them to pay for whatever you have to offer. If you have an email list and you’ve been providing them value for a long time, it will be an easy sell. If you are trying to pitch a bunch of random people via email, you’ll have a hard time making a sale.
When Heidi Marie, a professional designer was launching her course, she sent an email with an embarrassing story to create trust with the audience and pre-sell course offer.
By sharing a vulnerable story, her audience appreciated it a lot. Earning the trust of your audience isn’t a one-time thing. It takes time like building any real relationship.
Since you are pre-selling the course, make sure to tell that to your audience. You can offer them an early bird discount and provide a date when the course will be available.
For the setup, you don’t want to overcomplicate things. Instead of spending a lot of time trying to get everything perfectly set up with payment processors and other plugins, I highly recommend using a platform such as Teachable or Thinkific.
Step 4: Create the course
Once you’ve made your first few sales, it’s time to get to work and create the course. You’ll be way more motivated to create the course because you’ve already had people pay for it.
It can be a video course, it can be a text-only course. Depending on the niche, and what you are comfortable with, put yourself your audience shoes and figure out what would be the most helpful to them.
The best part about launching a course this way is that you don’t spend too much time creating stuff people don’t need. You’ll end up getting feedback from your audience, and you’ll be able to go back and add/remove lessons over time.
4. Create a paid private community
If you already have a tiny audience, it might be a good idea to monetize your blog by creating an exclusive community for your readers. This is an excellent way to create raving fans for your blog as well as create a steady stream of extra income without having to do much extra work.
Here’s some math for you.
- 100 VIP community members paying you $39/mo = $3,900/mo
- 100 VIP community members you $39/mo = $19,500/mo
Most successful insider communities are built around a specific niche and for a good reason. If you are passionate about something, you want to talk to others, ask advice and meet others who are in the same boat as you.
Here’s how you go about executing it.
Step 1: Choose a value proposition
Put yourself in the shoes of your reader. What are some things that they struggle with? What are some things that keep them up at night?
Let’s say you run a blog that helps developers create online products and become financially independent. People who read your blog struggle probably with a few things, such as:
- Keeping motivation up when building something
- Feeling of isolation and not having people to ask questions from
By creating a simple community, these problems will be solved for that particular target audience. Now think of you own niche and industry, would an insider community help your readers and make parts of their lives better? If the answer is “yes!” you’ll be able to resonate with your readers and get them to sign up easily.
Step 2: Decide on the structure & pricing
I highly recommend starting your private community off by offering access to one of the following channels:
- a simple forum
- a facebook group
- a slack channel
If you look around, many private communities offer “exclusive” video courses for members, weekly coaching sessions, masterminds, dozens of PDF’s and other stuff to add more value and incentive to get people to sign up.
Do not worry about creating all of this right now. Your goal is to choose one channel from above and focus on that. You can always expand later by creating add-ons.
Now’s the big question, how much are you going to charge? Most private communities charge a monthly fee, but you can always go with one-time payment as well.
You want to charge enough to attract serious and active members to the community. The more people pay for something, the more they value it. If you’ve paid $3k for an online course versus a course that you got for free, you’ll probably follow along more carefully with the expensive one
When pricing, don’t forget about your target audience. If your community is for lawyers, you may want to charge much more than creating a community for college students wanting to study more effectively.
Also consider, what’s the minimum amount of people that would make this community work? Some private communities work perfectly with just 5-6 people in it, other’s need hundreds of people to function. This can change your pricing strategy quite a bit as well.
Step 3: Set up the community
Ideally, you want to set up the private community under your own domain/blog. Yes, you could always build a simple group on Facebook, I don’t think that’s safe in the long run. Facebook can change their algorithms any time, and you might not be able to reach/communicate with the members as effectively.
A more premium plugin is called DisCourse that is quite fancy but costs a bit.
If you feel like building your own community using different plugins isn’t for you, going with Slack works perfectly as well. With Slack, you are able to create a Slack channel, where your people can communicate with each other effectively.
Here’s how you can set up a community with Slack.
All you have to do is to head over to Slack.com, sign up and create a new “Team”.
You’ll notice that the channel you’ve created is automatically called “#general”. You can change that name or add different more channels that you think would benefit the community. If I was building a community for bloggers, I would include a few channels, including #feedback (where people could post their recent projects and ask feedback) and #small wins (where people can post their recent accomplishments), etc.
Finally, if you’re done creating the channels, head over to settings and add your newly created channel as “default channels”, so if new members join, they’ll automatically see them.
Step 5: Make the community active
The worst thing you can do is start selling access to the community, a few people sign up and then find out that the community is completely inactive.
That’s why it’s a good idea to make a list of people you know, who would fit in to the community. Then, invite them to be part of it for free or with a serious discount. Before selling the access, you should have members who are active and actually can provide value. This way you’ll be able to provide social proof, and once new members join, they’ll get a lot of value out of it.
Step 6: Set up the offer
Once you have some traction and community is slowly taking off, you are able to actually charge others to be part of it.
You can create a separate page on your blog for the sales-page and address a few things.
- Who is the community for?
- Benefits for the people who sign up
- A few testimonials
- Images of the actual community
Here’s a sales page for MegaMaker community aimed towards solo-entrepreneurs.
You can get away with not creating a sales page at all and including all of the information in an email with a link to direct payment or an application.
Step 7: Keep the community active
Whether you ended up creating a forum, slack channel or something completely different, your #1 goal with the community is to keep it active and value driven. Imagine if a new member joins your community and posts a question and gets no replies whatsoever. I bet that they will not come back and probably will even ask for a refund.
Here are a few things you can do to keep your community active:
- Put in the effort to get to know people who join
- Make sure that if a question goes unanswered, you answer it personally (especially important in the beginning stages)
- Organize video-chats for top members
Moderation is also important, to keep the community clean from spam and useless self-promotion.
Don’t wait to get your traffic or email list to a certain point. The best thing you can do, it to start monetizing your blog right away. Instead of waiting for the perfect timing, try one of the methods above and see what works for you.
What’s your favorite way to monetize the blog?