If you’re reading this article, you likely have heard the buzz about people making a dang good living working from their basement or living room or somewhere else that’s not a cubicle around the corner from an angry and demanding boss. If you know someone personally who’s had any success with blogging for income, maybe you’re more of a believer that it can be done.
I’ve made a good part of my living writing articles and publishing them online for more than the past decade. This website itself, Prosperopedia.com, is an example of the very thing I’m going to tell you about now: how to make a living as a blogger.
Some of the reasons I’ve found for becoming a professional blogger are these:
- It’s easy: If you like to write, it’s just a matter of pushing out coherent ideas that can be consumed by others
- It’s predictable: If you are persistent, there is very little chance of “failure” like you see with some other kinds of entrepreneurial ventures, many of which can drain a person’s savings and cure him of any desire to try again.
- You can make a ton of money: Most professional bloggers (meaning they do it for a living) make at least a comfortable living. Those who are more ambitious can scale their income to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
- It’s like you’re always in school…except you’re not poor: Blogging and publishing niche content online has introduced me to some of the useful (as well as the most random) information available. If you like to learn stuff and share what you’ve learned, you’ll do really well as a blogger, and you’ll have fun doing it.
What Exactly is a Blogger?
The term “blog” has been around for about twenty years. It is a shortened version of the term web log. Historically a blogger is essentially any person who writes and publishes information online, including articles and other content ranging from political news and opinion to household tips and advice to bantering about random goings-on. As the blogging industry has matured, those who have figured out how to make substantial livings blogging have become much more sophisticated than simply posting whimsical musings, and there are now many more resources that help bloggers succeed at turning their hobby into a full-time living. Later in this article, I will share several blogger success stories I know of that grew from creative outlets for ordinary people into significant full-time incomes, even hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
As the world has discovered that carving out your own piece of property on the internet can be highly lucrative, blogging has evolved quite a bit since its earliest form. Old-school blogging typically refers to a collection of chronologically organized posts. Another entire industry has grown out of blogging. It’s very similar, but differs in that i doesn’t have to focus on the blogger personally.
I’m talking about the increasingly popular approach niche content websites. Niche content websites don’t typically have such a personal (meaning the content is largely about the blogger) focus. Instead, creators of niche content websites publish information (articles, videos, infographics, etc) centered around particular subjects. For instance, you’ll find ones about how to care for your home, reviews and guides to travel destinations, music instruction, and lots of others
The pages published on a niche content website are typically less chronological in nature. The content is more evergreen, meaning that it has a much longer relevance period and doesn’t “expire”.
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A Checklist for Becoming a Blogger (or a Professional Niche Website Owner)
Here are the steps you’ll take to get into the world of professional blogging:
- Choose a Topic
- Set Up A Website
- Publish Useful Content on Your Website
- Drive Traffic to your Website
- Monetize Your Web Audience
These steps are pretty straight forward, but they do take some work and some patience. However, anyone who is willing to follow this pattern and be consistent in their writing and publishing habits for 6-12 months, will find that they can earn a substantial income and ultimately replace their job.
Choosing a Topic for Your Blog
To get started in the blogging world, you first need to determine a topic you want to write about or an approach you’re going to take. Many bloggers or niche site creators like to focus on a specific topic (for instance, natural medical remedies) while others tend to write about whatever’s on their mind, which could range from predicting the result of an upcoming sports event to explaining how to clean chewing gum off your pet llama.
You can be successful with either approach. It all depends upon your personality and what motivates you. If you like to simply share your experiences and brain dump what you’ve learned throughout your life, you can use that approach. If you’d rather spend your time talking about a particular topic you like, that works too.
Many bloggers find it useful to focus a particular website on a topic for which there is a potential to write over a hundred articles. My idea with Proseropedia.com was to share my knowledge about building wealth and being successful. I also am using this site as a way to learn more about topics that include education, employment, health, finances, and self-improvement. Many of the articles I write are on topics that are of interest to me. I research what I want to learn about, and I lock in what I’ve learned by writing and publishing an article based on my research.
In choosing a topic for your blog or niche website, I highly recommend putting on your shortlist topics that you know a lot about or that you are highly interested in learning about. Recently, I had someone tell me that she had decided to write about snakes. I asked her if she liked snakes. She said, “No, I hate snakes!” Her husband had suggested the topic to her because he had heard that snakes might be a good topic for blogging. If she were to go with the recommendation, this potential professional blogger will likely have her blogging experience ruined, and she will likely stop before making any progress. She probably won’t even make it half way through her first article. For your blog to be successful, you need to feel motivated to continue writing, and writing, and writing.
Here is a video I’ve found helpful about how to choose a niche from Ricky Kesler and Jim Harmer, who call their blogging program Income School.
Once you’ve made a shortlist of topics you are interested in, it’s time to use some intelligence to figure out which one is most likely to produce income most efficiently for you. To do this, you’ll need to plan ahead regarding how you will monetize your website. A long time ago, my wife and I created a niche content website about how to use Photoshop and how to build websites. We were able to drive lots of traffic to our new website very quickly (about 300 visits a day within the first 3 months). However, when we attempted to monetize our traffic with Google AdSense, we quickly found out that advertisers in that niche were not paying very much (averaging about 10 cents per click) and the major affiliate account we had only reported receiving one completed sale for over 10,000 referrals from us.
If you think ahead about what products or industries match up with your content and think through the price ranges and margins associated with those products, you can naturally figure out which ones will be the most profitable for you. For instance, my older brother, who is an attorney, started publishing information about legal deeds related to real estate on his legal blog. When he installed AdSense he often got as much as $4 a click. Apparently real estate attorneys are willing to pay a lot of money for leads.
The same reasoning goes for affiliate relationships. As you are considering which niche to pursue, think ahead about what affiliate and monetization methods you will use, and factor that into your decision process.
Set up Your Website
The simplest way to do this is by publishing your content using a free account on blogger.com or wordpress.com. However, most serious bloggers buy their own domain (rather than publishing on a sub-domain of blogspot.com or wordpress.com) and set up a website using the WordPress installation files on their own hosting account.
I will be publishing more content on Prosperopedia about the specifics of how to build an effective website, including a comprehensive overview of how to get it done. You’re welcome to follow what I demonstrate, or you can check out Google or YouTube for “How to set up a wordpress website.” There’s a lot of free information out there for you to use.
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Publish useful and instructive articles regularly on your website.
I often use this analogy with bloggers who are just starting out: imagine you have an hourglass on your desk. Instead of sand, it is filled with 200,000 words. Your objective is to turn that hour glass over and get those 200,000 words written and published in the form of 100-200 highly useful articles covering various topics on whichever niche you’ve selected. Once you’ve completed that task, you will likely be making close to $10,000 a month (depending on the competitiveness of your industry, the effectiveness of your writing, how well you monetize your topic, and a few other factors) on your blog or niche content website.
Right now I am working with a group of more than twenty bloggers who are starting up with the intention of either becoming full time bloggers or establishing multiple thousands of dollars each month of residual income. I’m working with them to get their respective blogging goals accomplished within the next year.
Together, we are all participating in what I call the $10K Challenge. Our focus is to publish 5 or more 1,000+ word articles each week. We hold ourselves accountable by using a Google Drive Spreadsheet that we all have access to. We meet once a week and report on how well we’ve done over the course of the previous week. For those who complete the challenge, either $10,000 in revenue or 50,000 page views by June, 2019, they are entitled to go on a group cruise paid for out of their earnings.
If you want to be serious about your goal to become a professional blogger, I’d suggest you set up an accountability structure. It doesn’t need to be as formal with as large a group as I’ve described, but it’s imperative that you have a system, a person to enforce your persistence.
The biggest challenges I have seen people have with becoming successful bloggers is a lack of commitment: an inability to be consistent. Writing even two articles a week will at least move you forward towards a steadily growing income that can replace your current job.
Drive traffic to the website using search engine optimization and social marketing tactics.
If you simply write good content and publish it on a website, you are bound to get traffic ultimately from Google, and from people sharing your content on other websites and on social media. Some people, including the guys at Income School, advise not doing anything to speed up that process. But, I have found that it’s better to accelerate your organic traffic and revenue growth by assertively building your social media audience and using other strategies to proactively get links to your website. If you’re interested in pursuing that route, here are a couple resources for you:
- Beginner’s Guide to SEO
- Beginner’s Guide to Social Media
If you feel like that using social media and doing link building would bog you down or distract you from writing, don’t worry about it for now, just focus on writing and publishing content.
Monetize the traffic with ads, affiliate links,doing lead generation, or selling products.
There are several different ways you can monetize (earn money from) the traffic on your website, including:
- Affiliate programs
- Lead generation
- Selling your own product(s)
Monetizing Through Advertising
To monetize your blog or niche website using advertising, you can start by setting up Google Adsense or other automated advertising programs. In this model, you are paid an amount based on how many impressions of an advertisers ad are shown to visitors on your website.
You are paid a higher amount each time someone clicks on that ad. For each of these programs, you have to apply and be accepted. Adsense is the easiest one to be accepted into. Other, more selective programs, including Subvrsn, AdThrive, and MediaMind.
Some advertising programs you simply arrange with various advertisers pay you a flat fee per month to have their add on your sidebar, or header, or something like that.
Monetizing Through Affiliates
One of the most popular ways to monetize a website is through affiliate relationships. When you become an affiliate, each time someone clicks a link on your website, goes to the affiliate website, then purchases something there, you earn a commission on that sale because you referred the traffic. Amazon Associates is one of the most popular product based affiliate programs. Commission Junction is a large affiliate broker. Also ShareASale is an affiliate broker that has a lot more small businesses in their database.
Browsing through the affiliate advertisers in those affiliate brokerage programs – Commission Junction and ShareaSale – will give you a good idea of what types of affiliate programs exist and how much of a commission they’ve give you when you refer traffic to them.
Almost every major company who sales products online has an affiliate program or uses an affiliate broker to give commissions. Some of the affiliates that I use on Prosperopedia.com include US legal forms and LegalZoom. I like to legal documents available for purchase in articles relevant to real estate and other legal topics I write about. A good way to find complimentary affiliate programs is to search for your topic niche and include “affiliate program” in your search.
Monetize Using Lead Generation
Lead generation involves collecting contact information from visitors to your blog or niche, which you can sell to a third party. On your affiliate website, you will publish information that causes visitors to give you their contact information with the intention that someone from your site is going to contact them with more information about a product or service they are interested in. For instance, on Prosperopidia, I have written articles about how to get a good mortgage to buy a home. If someone comes to read that information, then requests information to get a mortgage, I can sell that lead to a mortgage company I think will treat them well.
The lead generation approach to monetizing your website works well in situations where there is a sales process involved instead of just a transactional interaction, which is a situation that is better for affiliates.
I have worked for technology companies in the past that have sales teams that are willing to pay over $100 for each qualified lead that they get. Especially for industries where there is high lifetime customer value. They can afford to pay a significant amount just for the opportunity to speak to someone who is shopping for the product they sale.
Monetizing By Selling Your Own Product
This method of monetizing a website is how I have made most of my money in the past. Up until the last few years, my online business model has involved setting up wholesale accounts with suppliers, publishing their products as a catalog on my website using a shopping cart system, and making a profit on the markup I have from my wholesale price to the retail price that I sold each of the products for.
The ecommerce drop-ship model I just explained focuses much more on products and using blogging and content writing to drive traffic to the product pages. A major drawback with this particular model is that you quickly get away from focusing on writing content and instead have to deal with customer service, keeping up with your supplier’s inventory, handling shipping and returns, and dealing with other issues that are not exactly fun.
Another method I have seen used to monetizing a website selling a product involves building an audience, understanding the ecosystem and chemistry of that audience, and creating a digital product, or sometimes physical products as well, that can be sold to an eager audience that has essentially asked specifically for that product. Some of the success stories I will introduce you to below have used this approach very lucratively.
This video from Income School has some good ideas about pros and cons of various monetization strategies.
Some Blogging Success Stories
I am going to share a few success stories I have followed of people who have gone from just starting out to making well over $100,000 a year blogging. One of them makes over a million dollars a year. In all these stories there’s a common thread. Once each of these people saw the potential with what they were doing, they became focused on seeing the entire project through. That characteristic – being resiliently committed to an end goal – is what I’ve seen separate people who are living the dream as a professional blogger and others who consistently talk about it and castigate about why they are not so “lucky”. If you can develop that characteristic, you can have a success story similar to theirs.
The girl referred to in this blog is Abbey Lawson. She started her website in 2012 to function as a creative outlet while she spent her time as a stay at home mom and her husband provide income for their family. They published their income reports from 2014 through the end of 2016 . The last three months of reports they shared, show revenue on their blog in excess of $40,000 a month. Based on what I can tell about their traffic increases since that time, I would estimate that there monthly revenue has topped $100,000.
Jill Nystul started this blog as a means of therapy to overcome addictive behavior. You can read her story on her about page. From what I can tell of her traffic data and the way she monetizes her website, I‘d estimate that she’s making over half and million dollars each year. All this began by just writing about one good thing each day starting in 2011.
If you ever Google anything about succulent plants, you’re likely to end up on Alyssa Turley’s blog which she started based on her curiosity about plants that could survive in desert climates. Now the website provides a very good income for her, her husband, and their family.
Steve Chou, the owner of MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has openly stated that he had set a goal years ago to eclipse one million in annual income from his blog, and he has said that he has reached that goal.
Jim Harmer started building niche websites to earn money while going to law school. Once he finished law school, he was making enough money that he decided not to become an attorney, but to become a professional blogger. Recently, he teamed up with his high school buddy Ricky Kesler to create a system for people to follow to create income for themselves that replaces their job within a two year period. They call themselves Income School. Their YouTube channel contains a lot of actionable videos.
One thing that I’ll warn you about when it comes to Income School that these guys get dead wrong: link building. I don’t know how it is that they’ve missed the fact that Google uses inbound links as a very important “authority” factor for ranking websites, but if they were promote effective link building strategies to their following, they could change the name of their program from Project 24 to Project 12 or even Project 8, since link building acts as an important accelerator for search rankings.
Will Yours Be The Next Blogging Success Story?
This introduction to blogging for a living gives you an entire framework you can use to get started. There’s obviously a lot more to learn, but you should now have a good idea of what it takes to become a professional blogger or niche website owner. We’d love to hear your success story in you want to share it with us in the next six months to a year.