The Internet is the great equalizer: everyone has something to say, and now everyone has a platform where they can say it. As print media gradually dies, thousands of writers, media critics and aspiring journalists turn to blogging as a way to express themselves, and a lucky handful manage to turn it into a full-time source of income. Making money through blogging isn’t easy, but it is doable: it just takes patience, hard work, and a savvy sense of how money and the internet work together.
Choose the right platform
Making money with blogging is absolutely impossible if you don’t start on a platform that actually supports monetizing your blog. Writer-focused sites like Medium are great for discovering great content and sharing your work, but no amount of traffic is going to make you money if your blog is only on Medium, because it just isn’t a platform that supports monetization. WordPress and Blogger both support ad placement and have wide networks that allow you to promote your work and connect with other writers. If you want more flexibility and are willing to put a little extra work into the networking, build your own site from the ground up, which gives you the most flexibility when it comes to monetizing your content.
Build a regular audience
The single best way to build up an audience is to produce quality content, every day. Even in the vast, over-saturated marketplace that is the internet, high quality content finds an audience, whether because it’s funny, moving, insightful or simply unique. Having said that, you can speed up the process of building an audience by being aware of traffic generating strategies and by cultivating your network. Especially if you blog on a particular topic – be it music or antique flea circuses – you can aim higher in search rankings by choosing keywords and optimizing your content for search engines. Your most likely readers will be people who share your interests, so by making sure you rank high in searches you put your content in front of people who search for those interests.
Networking is also a key element to building an audience quickly. Many blog platforms allow you to follow or subscribe to other blogs. Comment regularly on blogs you like with relevant observations. Engage in dialogue with more established bloggers who share your views, and you will find that some of their audience trickles over to you. You can also offer link shares to boost your search rankings and improve your visibility in the blogging community.
Establish yourself as a credible expert
The combination of regular, high-quality content and a dedicated readership gives you something absolutely crucial to long-term success as a blogger: credibility. When you’ve established yourself as a credible source – even if it’s just a source of opinions – it becomes exponentially easier to drive traffic to your site. Some of this will happen passively: other blogs, websites and Facebook posts will link to and share your content. But you can also take an active hand in leveraging your credibility. Offer to write guest posts on other blogs with intersecting interests: not only does this widen your audience; guest post opportunities often pay.
Give your readers the tools to pay you
No matter what form of monetization you choose, as a blogger you are earning money from your reader. Sometimes it is as direct as a donation straight to your PayPal account; other times the money comes through an advertising network, but every dollar you earn from your blog is the result of a reader being there. If you’ve built up a dedicated enough audience that it is growing organically and could provide you income, the next step is to give that audience the tools to give you money. There are a few ways to do this:
- Ads: usually by going through an ad or affiliate network, you can place ads for products and services on your blog. These ads pay out either per impression – every time a certain number of people view the ad – or per click – every time a reader clicks on the ad. These ads usually cost nothing to embed on your site, and they generate passive income, though not always very much.
- Direct donation: you can also offer your readers the opportunity to donate directly via a PayPal button. Bloggers with particularly devoted followings often do fairly well on PayPal donations.
- Crowdfunding: while KickStarter and IndieGoGo aren’t designed for ongoing efforts, crowdfunding platforms designed for blogs, web comics and web series are beginning to spring up. With crowdfunding, you offer your supporters extra perks in exchange for regular small donations.
- Merchandising: you can, of course, run ads for your own products in your blog. Whether it’s a book on the same subject as your blog or t-shirts with your face on them, offering merchandise to your readers is a great source of income.
Of course, the most successful bloggers use a combination of these tools. While it is definitely possible to overwhelm your readers and appear to be giving them a hard sell, choosing a smart combination of monetization options can make it very possible to make a living as a professional blogger.