I quit my corporate design job in 2013 to start blogging full time. I remember when I announced what I intended to do, there were always 2 reactions: the first, a very positive and sincere “that’s amazing – well done!”. And the second one was without fail the big question:
“So how do you make money from your blog?”, to which I responded: “I have no idea, but as soon as I find out, I’ll let you know.”
Fast forward 3 years of full-time blogging and I finally have something to show for it.
I love doing research, so when I first became a full-time blogger, I read every book, blog post and comment on how to make money blogging. And I found that there are actually quite a few ways in which to monetise your blog, some of which I was able to do very successfully and others, not so much.
I am busy writing the book on making money through blogging in South Africa specifically (if you are keen for that book, let me know by signing up on the pre-order page here!), but in the meantime, let’s look at the top 5 general ones.
This list assumes that you a) have awesome, unique and ultimately shareable content, b) have a following outside of your family and friends, and c) are truly passionate about blogging (cause you need dedication to do this!)
INCOME DERIVED FROM THE BLOG DIRECTLY
I mention this first because I want to get it out of the way. You may have noticed that I do not have any ads on my blog and there is good reason for that: I don’t like them. I find it terribly disturbing when I am a page, leisurely reading an article, and I am bombarded with flashing ads telling me to buy something that I searched for yesterday. So I decided right at the very beginning already that I won’t have banner ads. Not flashing ones anyway. Every now and again a sponsor asks me to have an ad in my sidebar, and then I will put one up only if I design it myself and it effortlessly and elegantly goes with my blog’s style. Saying that, I believe that many blogs make good money through ads, and good for them.
Ads are usually placed in the side bar or above / below the header of your site. They are typically paid for in 3 different ways:
- pay per click (you get a small amount for every click to the linked site)
- pay per view (you get a small amount for every eyeball on the add – this is quite rare)
- fee per month or per campaign
The more visible it is, the higher the rate you can charge. Above the fold ads (ads visible immediately when someone opens your page without having to scroll) are typically the most expensive than those lower down on your landing page or on subsequent pages.
2. Affiliate marketing
An affiliate program is kind of like advertising in that you put a link on your blog (typically in the side bar) or header, and for every purchase that results from the clicked link, you get a percentage of the sale or a fixed amount. Many retailers especially offer this kind of marketing tool. Same as with ads, I am not keen on them for my own site (apart from Shay Cochrane’s images because she is AWESOME! and links to Zoho Books because they uncomplicated a very complicating part of my business) although some bloggers make A LOT of money from them.
For both of these revenue streams to work, you need high traffic on your site.
I love doing sponsored posts, as long as the product is in line with my blog’s purpose (to inspire and empower) and as long as it is a great product. I mostly get contacted by PR companies on behalf of their clients to do sponsored content – either once-off or on monthly retainer. Here are some examples of sponsored posts. Gumtree; Efekto / Wonder; Bostik
It used to be that PR companies would be able to send you loads of stuff and then you’d have to write about it on your blog. And I did that for about 2 years. Products don’t pay for anything however, so the ideal is to get both products and a fee for writing a post. I sometimes still do a product-only post, but mostly now my sponsored posts are paid for. Always be honest in a sponsored post – about the quality of the product and about the fact that it is sponsored. Your readers will appreciate that you are forthcoming!
4. Products and Intellectual Property
These can be any product that you create and sell through your blog, whether it’s an actual product, a book or ebook, a course or some other online product. This can be a very powerful moneymaker – if you have the right product!
Actual products have merit, but there are the logistics to consider. You not only have to handle the product manufacturing or buying in itself, but also the packing, shipping and any returns that may happen. This of course takes a lot of time and or profit. So since you are in an online space, it is really worthwhile to consider getting an online product going.
Virtual products are created and then left – you can literally sell them in your sleep without doing a thing. Just like that!
(I will go into more detail on how to find your perfect product in a future post – watch this space!)
The quickest way to create some intellectual property, is to write a book. I know, much easier said than done. But if you put your mind to it, you can do it. Margaux and I wrote our book in 1 month, and I say “wrote”, but it is more like “made”. The first version, a 16-page ebook, consisted of 30 projects and we were going to sell it for $3 on the blog (now it’s free – get yours here!). We really didn’t sell many – like 10! – and then I decided to send it off to a few publishers to see if they would maybe want to take it further. That’s how the book got picked up by Random House. Serendipitous, sure. But we put in the work FIRST and THEN got the deal. Depending what your niche is though, you probably don’t have to make a book, you can just write one. And then sell it!
There is a lot of information out there on self-publishing a book and I won’t go into it in this post. But just to consider: 50 Shades of Grey was self-published. Think about it.
It’s not just books though. Everything that you write on your blog is your intellectual property. So if someone wants to use it, you should be compensated. Compensation can be in the form of traffic – this has a place – but more and more I find that especially overseas companies want to buy the content that I have already published on Homeology and republish it on their platform, and they are still willing to back-link it to me. This really is best of both worlds and a great payoff for all those years of hard work.
For the longest time I thought that this would be bad for SEO, but then I read this article and decided to go for it.
5. Spin-off Projects
So maybe someone loves what you do on the blog and they would like you to do something on their blog or for their brand. This are spin-off income, or money derived from your blog but not through your blog. These can be anything from paid guest blogging and lecturing to speaking gigs and a TV show (all real life examples, I promise!). I have had some pretty interesting spin-offs come my way and I find the longer I blog, the more they become. These projects tend to be more time intensive but can make up a very large chunk of your income over a year.
This is how I got into Pro Blogging. It started as a single spin-off for me, but developed into my biggest source of income over the last year. Homeology is a portfolio of my blogging work and other companies come to me to create content for them in the same way. I negotiate a fee and frequency and start writing! I mostly stay within my niche – this is where I am most fluent – but I do have some clients outside of home decor and design as well.
Here’s a chart of my income for 2016 (projected till December).
- 47% Content Creation: I make most of my income through pro blogging.
- 15% Ebooks: another great revenue stream – these are books that I write for my clients.
- 14% Lecturing: I am a guest lecturer on blogging and interior design.
- 11% Royalties: this is for my book as well as content that is sold directly from my blog.
- 8% Blog: income directly from the blog through sponsored posts.
- 5% Other: some design consulting and products (I only launched my first product this month!).
I hope this article shows you that you can definitely make a decent income with blogging. For the first year, I made… nothing. During the 2nd year, I did a TV show and wrote for various clients and had some projects that started to build into a proper income. During the third year, I was able to build a consistent income stream that surpasses my corporate salary – and I am doing what I love, from home, in my own time, on my own terms. Over the next year, I plan to build the blog section so that it rivals the content creation section, and get products to match!
I’d love to get your feedback on this post! And if you want to know more about the South African blogging environment, sign up here for my new book. I’ll let you know as soon as I’m done with it!