I’ve been blogging and running online businesses for 20+ years. Admittedly, some of those years weren’t very successful in the income department. Way back in the beginning, there weren’t as many programs and platforms to partner with to build your online income streams.
These days, online business has become wonderfully sophisticated with dozens of ways to draw revenue from your blog or website. People often ask, “I hear about blogging and making money doing it, but exactly how does that work?” The answer is, LOTS of ways!
Blogging is one of the most versatile business ventures. You can talk about anything, find your own unique angle, tailor your online business to your interests, skills, and limitations and you can earn a full-time living doing it. (Usually not right away, but as you build on your foundation, the income grows. 🙂 )
“I thought bloggers just make money by putting those popup ads on their sites.”
Some do, but many don’t. There’s actually a dozen or more very different ways to earn money through blogging. The focus of your blog, your visitor’s need, your personality, skills, and preferences will all combine to help you determine which way or ways are best for you to generate income.
How do bloggers make money?
I’ve outlined a dozen different ways to make money with a blog. A good blogging business plan involves combining two to four of these methods to create income streams from a variety of sources. A very established blogger with a staff or a fabulous VA might be able to implement a few more.
Have a look and see which ones appeal to you.
1. Serving Ads
We’ll just start our list by exposing the big stinky elephant in the room. If you have a blog, you can place advertisements on your web pages and you may receive some cash for allowing other companies to assault your visitors with their obnoxious product offers. LOL. Okay, so it isn’t always that bad. Some ad networks are fairly respectable. They sit quietly and wait to be noticed. And then there are the “others.”
We all hate going to websites that are heavily laden with ads and you have to wade through the popups and boxes to find the actual article or info you’re searching for.
I’m especially frustrated by the video ads that just start blaring at you out of nowhere, sending you into a frantic scramble to find the ad and hit the STFU button. Or the pop ups that keep coming up and blocking your view of the content on the page.
Ads can slow your site down and you don’t always have control over the content, so monitor them carefully.
But all my disgust and bitterness aside, serving ads can bring in a moderate income for a blogger. It’s unlikely you’re ever going to make a full-time income from ads alone. If you choose to use them, they should be part of a business plan that includes other ways to generate income.
Also, I suggest you be sure that your ads are not creating so many frustrations for your visitors that you’re losing visitors because they don’t want the hassle of dealing with your ads. Find the balance, grasshopper.
While not exactly blog-centric, using Swagbucks earns me around $5.00 to $10.00 a month in points since I use it so often as I’m doing research for blogs. Swagbucks gives points to people who sign up for their service and use their search engine. Members can also watch videos, do surveys, or perform various tasks online to earn more points. Those points can then be redeemed for gift cards or donated to a charity.
I use my Swagbucks to buy Amazon gift cards because there’s always something I need that I can get on Amazon. (My credit card points go toward Amazon purchases too. I get lots of free stuff this way!) While it’s not a huge income earner, if you have to use a search engine anyway, why not get paid for it?
And, you can also become an affiliate for Swagbucks and refer others for points too. Sign up and start earning today!
3. YouTube Ad Income
If you don’t mind being on camera, and you have information that can be shared via a video presentation on a weekly basis (or daily—go crazy!), you can make some income from starting a YouTube channel and posting videos regularly. YouTube allows presenters to sign up for ad programs. That means you can be paid for every second that people watch videos that are served up before your video comes on. YouTube makes it easy to embed the videos in your blog post, so you’re basically doing a video blog, or vlog.
Some bloggers greatly prefer a video format over writing. They’re naturally well-spoken and prefer to talk through their thoughts rather than sit and peck at a keyboard for hours. This form of blogging has the advantage of being more personable. Visitors feel like they get to know you and connect to you and your message more readily.
Video is a big deal right now in the online business world. If you’re comfortable being on camera, why not take advantage and make some money in the process?
UPDATE: Just as I was finishing this blog, YouTube made an announcement that they are changing their policies again. From what I understand you will need 1,000 subscribers before you can sign up to earn ad income on YouTube. It’s a viable income source once you build your audience, however, you do have to do some work before that revenue stream kicks in.
4. Affiliate Marketing
Perhaps one of the most fun ways to generate income is through affiliate marketing. Think of affiliate marketers like matchmakers. They find great products that they like, then they share info about them with their visitors and if the visitors find the info useful, they may try the product too. Match made. If they buy a product or service based on your recommendation (made with an affiliate link), you get a commission. They don’t pay anything extra, so no worries there. Your cut comes from the profits of the company you promoted.
Signing up for affiliate programs is fairly easy. Most of the time it involves filling out a form online, telling them your name and web address, and giving them some idea about how you plan to market their product or service as one of their affiliates.
Hint: Don’t say, “I plan to spam the heck out of my friends and family, and post unrelated and unwanted affiliate links in every blog comment, FB group, and subReddit that I can.” The company will deny you the opportunity to become an affiliate.
Try to create a respectable plan that follows Internet etiquette and adheres to any rules the company may have laid out for their affiliates.
To be most effective, the affiliate programs that you apply for should appeal to your audience. Think about trying to solve problems for your visitors and finding the software, products, or apps that will help make their lives easier. These are the affiliate programs that will get the most engagement on your site and earn you steady commissions.
If you want to learn the ins and outs of affiliate marketing, check out my resources on the topic.
FREE EBOOK: 25+ Ways To Market Your Affiliate Links
COURSE: Social Media Side Hustle
5. Selling Your Products
Another way to generate income online is to create and sell products of your own. This could be a book, a template, tool, craft, kit, printables, tutorials, software, apps, homemade beauty supplies… You get the idea. Anything that you create/make yourself has the potential to become a product.
You can install a store on your website using WooCommerce plugin or Shopify. Or partner with Etsy and they will provide you with a beautiful storefront and take care of all the sales taxes and help you determine shipping, all for really reasonable prices.
You don’t necessarily have to work alone on your product. There are many companies you can partner with to create a product. Maybe you have a signature saying or a favorite quote you mention often. Put it on a t-shirt or coffee mug and offer it to your customers.
You may not even have to keep any inventory in stock. Some companies offer fulfillment services for a fee. You design the product and do the marketing. They receive the order, make the product, pack and ship it, and you get a payment at the end of the month for being the brilliant mastermind behind the plan!
6. Creating an affiliate program
Once you have a product to sell, you can greatly increase your income by inviting others to become your affiliates and allowing them to help market your products to the world. The more people working to spread the news about your amazing products, the more traffic you will get to your site and the more opportunities you have to convert visitors into customers. There are numerous companies that specialize in helping business-minded people like you develop an affiliate network. They have systems in place that make the process very easy.
Set up involves filling out some forms and getting your tax info straight. You also have to determine the delivery method for your product, which varies depending on whether it’s digital or physical. The companies I have worked with are very good at guiding you though the process. It’s in their best interest to help you get rolling because it’s how they get paid too! Once the initial setup is complete, often all you have to do is approve payments at the end of the month and collect your share. Sweet!
Here are some companies that allow you to set up an affiliate network for your product:
This affiliate platform hosts some of the biggest names in the business. Set up an account them apply to be an affiliate for the programs and products you want to promote. Or upload your product and invite others to promote it with you. You can literally find 100s of products and companies to promote.
Sell digital products, including ebooks, software, music, videos, keycodes, etc. You upload your files, copy and paste the code for a “buy” button and that’s it! DPD handles the payment and delivery of your product. And you can create an affiliate program as well!
Great option for the individual with digital products to offer. Very affordable and super easy to use. I am a huge fan!
ClickBank is a HUGE network that attracts intense marketing types from around the world. There are some real go-getters on this affiliate network and they can launch your product to the moon if your offering strikes a cord with a broad audience.
Teachable is a popular platform for setting up online courses. They offer the option to create an affiliate program with their Basic or Professional plans. Your students can become your evangelists and help you sell your course!
7. Creating a Course
If you have knowledge to share with the world and the desire to teach, creating a course is an amazing way to earn passive income through your blog. Develop a course that takes people through a process, record the lessons, then utilize one of the online education hubs that have formed over the years to serve the classes to an audience. I use Teachable for my courses.
When it comes to earning potential, you can make your courses free or charge upwards of $2000, depending on the subject and expected outcome.
This is a great way to walk people through a process that you have developed or teach them a method that you have learned through trial and error. One of the most popular classes on one of the teaching portals I’ve worked with is on watercolor painting.
A woman who loves to paint with watercolors developed a class teaching some watercolor methods and people LOVED it. They signed up by the thousands. She makes big money, and she has to do very little to earn it.
The great thing about courses is that once you have them created and all set up, people can buy the course and go through it at their own pace. You don’t have to be there to hold hands or walk anyone though the process directly. It’s all automated…amazing!
8. Offering Services
Do you have experience and skills in an area that people need help in? You should offer your services through your website.
Maybe you spent years doing web design at a marketing firm. You could blog about various aspects of web design, and offer your services as a designer through your site. People looking for information on how to design a great site will see your articles and the great layout of your site, and they will want to work with you.
Virtual assistants are becoming very popular as more and more people choose to work from home. Hey, the self-employed need an administrator too! Social media experts who can manage social media posts and engagement for a company are another popular service. Graphic designers can offer logo creation, business cards design, and other design services to their audience.
So do you have some skills you could market to the world? Or would you like to get some training to develop skills that will allow you to offer a service? There are tons of great online training programs out there to get you started.
Everyone needs mentors! But if I can’t find one in my circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, I have to look elsewhere. Online coaching services are becoming incredibly popular for this exact reason. If you’re an expert in an area or field, consider hanging out a shingle and helping people by coaching them. You can schedule phone calls or there are great online “meeting places” like Zoom that allow two or more people to meet up on screen and talk.
Coaching can be done on a one-on-one basis or in a small group, which is usually offered at a lower rate per hour since you are helping several people at the same time and they can learn from one another’s questions. Most coaches do have some training or certifications to lend credibility to their services. Depending on your state or country of residence, you may have to get some licensing to offer this type of service.
Consulting is similar to coaching, but in more of a business capacity as opposed to coaching, which is more personal. People want to find an expert in a field to share their expertise and help them sort through the chaos and find focus. A consultant can take months or years off of a difficult process by sharing their knowledge and helping people find the right path.
If you were a Human Resources Manager of a huge corporation for 20 years, you could offer out consulting services to small businesses needing help solving human resources problems. Maybe you went to school for marketing and worked in the field for ten years. You could offer to help online business people develop an effective marketing plan to skyrocket their sales. If you were a designer, you could offer design critiques and consults for online businesses. Opportunities are available in every niche. It’s just a matter of developing your services and finding your audience.
LinkedIn is a great network for finding the people who need your professional consulting service. If you haven’t signed up for an account, get on that!
11. Sponsored Posts
Companies are always looking for ways to promote their products to their target audience and get some serious word of mouth out about what they have to offer. One way that companies do this is to partner with bloggers with established audiences to review their product and share
This type of income-generating post is awesome on several fronts. First of all, you will likely get some free swag, as the companies send you products or memberships free of charge for you to review. Often you get to keep the product. Second, you get paid to write your honest opinions about the product. Third, you get to be the one to introduce people to cool, new products on the market.
There are numerous companies online that facilitate matching bloggers with sponsors wanting reviews of their products. The only downside to this form of income is that you usually have to meet certain traffic levels in order to qualify. If your blog is fairly new, you may have to wait and work on generating traffic and apply when you reach their thresholds.
You can partner with many companies that send you free products through Share-a-sale if you want to give sponsored posts and reviews a try.
12. Membership Site
One final method of generating income with a blog is by setting up a membership site. These are becoming increasingly popular as a way for online entrepreneurs to set up training and mentoring hubs. Someone with a lot of knowledge to share can create numerous courses which members can then work through at their own pace.
The membership site owner usually offers exclusive content, special emails or newsletters, private Q & As, and provides coaching and personal access to members of the group. Members pay a monthly or yearly fee to maintain their membership. This model has been particularly successful for weight loss membership groups, author training membership sites, and blogger training programs.
You may have seen a membership site offered another way. Have you ever started reading an article only to get halfway through and see a message that if you want to read the rest of the article, you need to join a group and pay a monthly fee? You are offered exclusive content, and special emails, and insider information in exchange for your membership fee.
These types of content-centric memberships are niche focused, targeted at solving some very specific problems and answering key questions for the members. The finance industry often employs this technique of offering insider information to a membership club.
BONUS: Ask for Donations
Oh, I almost forgot. Some people simply place a “Donate” button on their site and invite people who appreciate their content to share some love through Paypal or another donation gateway. People who use this method are very consistent in reminding visitors that if they read something helpful and want the author to continue to be able to provide content, please contribute. I’m not sure you could earn a full-time income this way, but you could probably pay your hosting fees. 🙂
So what did you think? Was there one or two income methods that stood out to you in this post? If you are just starting a blog or if you’re a fairly new blogger who wants to monetize your blog and start earning passive income, then choose one strategy and implement it. Work on it for a few months, then add another. Watch your income grow month by month! Exciting!
Not a blogger yet? Maybe you’re still on the fence about blogging, trying to decide if it’s something you want to try. If so, I would LOVE to help you get started. I’ve put together a FREE video course with video lessons that walk you through the process of setting up a blog and getting the basic foundation laid. If you’ve been holding back starting a blog because the technical aspects of blogging intimidate you, fear no more! My video tutorials make it super easy.
You can look over my shoulder and watch as I set up a blog and explain the process as I go. You could be up and running by the end of the day! What are you waiting for? It’s FREE!