The Blogging for Money Conundrum
Thousands of blogs are launched every single day with the intent of making money. You can see just how popular this is by observing how many “make money blogs” and blogs about blogging exist. I’m sure you’re aware that only a select few make money bloggers have actually made significant and consistent money with their blog. That’s not to say that there’s no value in a blogger who is writing about the journey. I enjoy Caroline Middlebrook’s blog where she discusses her own efforts and talks through her opinions with readers. I also enjoyed following Ben Cook’s progress through his one year Blogging Experiment before he sold it.
The truth is that very few bloggers will ever make a full-time income by blogging. In my opinion, that opportunity is very much available, but few bloggers have the persistence, patience and ability to get there. What’s more likely is a respectable part-time income, but many are let down when they conclude that this is as far as they’re going to get.
Many bloggers tend to lean on ad revenue as a source of income. Top blogs can usually make a pretty good amount from ads alone, but most bloggers are fortunate to make a few hundred dollars per month. I’m not attempting to discourage anyone from going after ad revenue, it’s certainly a major piece of the puzzle in most cases, but I think most bloggers don’t really calculate how much traffic they’ll need in order to earn a living on ad revenue.
Why Blogs are Difficult to Monetize:
People are used to getting something for free
Blog readers have gotten used to the fact that blogs produce content for free. As a result, this becomes expected and many bloggers that try to develop some revenue streams face the difficult task of convincing readers that there is something worth paying for. An example of this is premium content, membership sites, or even e-book sales. We’ve gotten so much for free that it can be difficult to create something that’s going to lead people to open up their wallets.
Most blog readers visit a decent number of blogs and websites on a daily basis. As a result, they see the same ads over and over again, and they start to ignore the ads. Ad blindness makes advertisements less effective than they could be otherwise, and that means bloggers can’t make as much with the advertisements.
Affiliate sales can be frowned upon
Depending on the niche and the audience of a blog, placing affiliate links in posts can really offend some readers. When I first started blogging I put a couple of affiliate links in a post and I got a few readers who questioned the practice, including one who flat out was against it. Affiliate sales are a big source of income for many top bloggers, but if your audience isn’t ok with affiliate links (assuming they can even identify an affiliate link) it could be a big struggle to generate sales this way.
Traffic and effort has to be constant
I couldn’t even tell you how many bloggers I’ve seen over the past year that looked like they were on their way to running a very successful blog, but they gave up somewhere along the way. Not that many people are able to stay interested and motivated when it comes to building a blog, because it takes constant work. Take a month off with no posts and your traffic and income will fall, and you’ll have to build yourself back up again. Especially if you’re hoping to earn a full-time income, the consistency becomes an even bigger issue. As a part-timer you can probably deal with up and down income, but that might not be possible without another source of income to fall back on.
Compensation is usually not direct
I think most of us are programmed to expect to be paid according to the work that we put in. With blogging, you could spend hours researching and writing a post, but if it doesn’t do well you may not have anything to show for it financially. This is actually a positive, because once you’ve built a successful blog you can earn much more money for your efforts, but it becomes a discouragement to those who are just starting out.
Many traffic sources are difficult to monetize
When it comes to making money with your blog, not all traffic sources are equal. For example, social media is a leading source of traffic for many blogs, but these visitors are notoriously difficult to monetize. They’re not going to click on ads, they usually leave after seeing only one page, and they aren’t as likely to subscribe as other types of visitors. As a result, you may be able to produce impressive traffic stats and not even be able to really make anything significant from it.
Uneven playing field
Small bloggers trying to “compete” with blogs that have a full staff of writers are at a significant disadvantage. Additionally, established blogs have a much easier time than those that are just getting started. While I don’t think that this is really a negative to blogging for money, it does make it difficult for the little guy, and many don’t have the patience to make it to the other side of the fence.
What Can You Do About It?
1. Be realistic
One of the leading causes for bloggers giving up is the existence of unrealistic expectations. It’s a one in a million shot that you’ll be making a full-time income from a blog in a matter of months, yet that’s what some people have in mind. There’s nothing wrong with ambitious goals, but they should also be accompanied by some realistic understanding or there’s a very high chance of disappointment that won’t be overcome.
A part-time income from blogging can be pretty nice, but when you’re expecting much more it can be disappointing. Whatever your goals and intentions are, take some time to realize what’s involved and what others are able to accomplish. Appreciate and celebrate your small victories along the way and take a long-term approach to building an income.
2. Diversify income sources
Rather than just relying on ads to make money, why not find other ways to do so, such as selling an e-book, doing reviews, etc. While one source of income is unlikely to support you full-time, three or four may be able to do the trick. Take a look at top bloggers like Darren Rowse and John Chow. They make money in a number of different ways that all add up to a six-figure income.
3. Get creative
The income sources from your blog don’t have to be the typical ones mentioned above. Get creative and find some new ways to make money. Niche-specific job boards are getting very popular, and for blogs with a decent-sized and focused audience, this can be an excellent source of income. I mentioned Blogging Experiment earlier. When Max Davis bought the site from Ben Cook he turned around and offered a membership course on buying and selling websites, and he almost recovered his investment in just a few short months.
4. Provide a service
Many bloggers have the opportunity to sell a service in addition to their blogging efforts. Michael Martine wrote a post several months ago about selling consulting services through your blog. Services can be an excellent fit for bloggers. As you publish content on your blog you’re selling your readers on your knowledge and expertise. Once you’ve built some respect you’ll have a natural marketplace for your services.
5. Freelance on the side
While you’re building your own blog you may want to consider writing for others on a freelance basis. Freelance blogging can be a nice source of supplementary income and it may keep you motivated as you’re seeing real money coming in.
6. Build your name
Many pro bloggers earn a living by running multiple blogs. If this is the case, name recognition is very important. Once you have built an established audience at one blog you could branch out to another one and take many of your readers with you. Then you’ll have two successful blogs instead of one. We’ve seen this in practice recently with the quick success for NETTUTS and VECTORTUTS riding on the wave from PSDTUTS.
What Are Your Thoughts About Blogging for Money?
Do you blog with the intent to make money? If so, what’s your experience and what do you feel are the biggest challenges?