Making Money Blogging

Hey hey! How about that title eh? Just putting it all out there. I just couldn’t think of anything more appropriate, so there you go.

I’m joining a few of my favorite lovely blogging ladies today for the next post in the Growing Your Blog series my pal Kate dreamed up:

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Yesterday Nester shared her thoughts on authenticity in blogging and her post and the comments were a great read – check it out here.

Today I’m sharing more on a topic I know bloggers and non-bloggers alike are curious about – making money on a blog.

First, let’s hear what the other four ladies had to say, then I’ll share my advice:

Nester

The time I get to spend at Nesting Place is directly related to how much money I earn, that's just the cold, harsh truth. My husband and I are hoping to be debt free early this year and it's been great to help contribute to that. The best advice I've ever heard about monetization and blogging is to diversify where your money is coming in from. I have private ads, corporate sponsors, ebook affiliates, my own ebook, network ads and from time to time 3rd party sponsors. Relying on any one of these methods alone is risky, but as a whole, I can usually count on an average income per month. I go into more detail at this guest post at Funky Junk Interiors about how I've made a business out of Nesting Place if you are wondering more about each of those methods.

My best money managing tip is something I heard from Simple Mom :: Open an ING account. I opened one three years ago and have an ING checking account where my Network Ad income is automatically deposited. That account is linked to my PayPal and our regular joint bank account. I also have SEVEN ING savings accounts {emergency fund, taxes, Nesting Place expenses, accounts for my boys, braces...stuff like that} ING lets you have up to 25 savings accounts for free. I like ING because it's all online, you get a debit card and checks and you can set up automatic payments into your savings accounts. For my private ads {etsy shops} I have an assistant who does all of the billing because I've figured out, I always forget to bill everyone so basically, I make more money when I have an assistant because she actually bills people.

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Kate

I started my blog without any intention of making money but as a hobby and creative outlet, and mostly to document the continuing progress on our home remodel. I didn’t have any sponsors for an entire year, only Google Ads which made next to nothing. I remember getting my first Google Ads check for $13 and being so excited! As traffic grew due to a growing readership, I started getting sponsors for the sidebar, mostly small businesses, and they all found me. In 2010, I signed on with Haven Home Media (HHM) as my ad network. Google Ads and HHM both account for 60% of my income, the rest comes from sponsors and writing gigs. I don’t make much from affiliates, I suppose I should be better about that, and I have yet to write an eBook (all that extra time ya know…). I’ve read all sorts of good things about SocialSpark (have yet to try it) and do get approached a lot to do paid sponsored posts for companies large and small, but I turn 90% of them down, unless it’s a brand I trust and would be comfortable promoting to my readers (and of course there is always the requirement of full disclosure for those arrangements).

The cool but unexpected thing is that through consistent content over three years, the blog has grown into an actual business where I made an income in 2011. But with that growth comes the cost of maintenance (server, accountant, costs for projects, travel expenses, etc.) and taxes that must always be filed. To keep track of it all, I use PayPal for billing and Quickbooks to document income, receipts, and other expenses.

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Marian

When I first started blogging, I thought I would never have ads on my blog. Almost a year in, though, I realized this was a full time job and I needed some income for it. I am now a part of an ad network and I use Google Ads. Both are awesome, because they require almost no maintenance. I also accept private sponsors. That form of monetization requires a lot of upkeep, but it’s fun to spotlight small businesses or products I really love. And, since I’m sure everyone is curious… Yes, you can make a good full-time income off of a blog. It’s worth all of the work to grow your blog.

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Jen

I started my blog as a family blog – and didn’t even know you could make money from your blog back then. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years. If you are thinking of monetizing, making an advertiser/sponsor section on your sidebar is a great way to start. (WordPress, for example, has some wonderful plugins that automatically rotate your ads, schedule ads and track clicks.) Also, be sure to create a media kit that includes facts about your blog, who reads your blog, your latest blog stats (use Google Analytics to track and update your stats). But keep in mind also, sponsors care about more than just numbers – if you have a specific niche and an engaged readership, that relationship you have with your audience can be more important than numbers.

An ad network is a way to make money from your blog without having to manage the overhead of sponsors and advertisers. Google AdSense is an easy way to start, and your revenue will increase over time. Whether you like Google ads or not, you may want to try a few different networks and see what works best for you. (I use a few networks and rotate them around.) Many of these networks don’t restrict you to using just one network. Finally, there are companies that match bloggers with advertising campaigns. If you’re interested, they will present you with the brand’s campaign and you can decide whether or not to participate. Examples are: CleverGirls Collective and SocialSpark. This can be a good way to start working with major brands.

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And now my two cents. Har. Get it? Two cents…post about money? OK, I’ll move on.

Anyhoo, I first blogged about making money as a blogger in this post a couple years ago. I started my blog in May of 2008 and didn’t accept my first ad until January of the following year.

If there is one piece of advice I have about making money blogging, it’s to not expect to make money blogging. ;) Meaning, don’t start a blog with the goal of making it your “career.” I’m 100 percent positive the most successful bloggers I know (that make the most money) did NOT start their blog thinking, I’m going to make meeeeellions!! Buwhahahahaha!!!

OK, I have two pieces of advice. The other is to take the advice of your financial advisor and like Nester said above -- diversify! Change it up, take on different types of ads, look into different ways to make some moolah.

Let me start by saying something important. I don’t get the notion that a blogger is “selling out” because they make money doing what they do. Obviously I don’t agree with that. Blogging takes more time than you ever think it will and takes effort and work. Therefore, if you can get paid, by all means…get paid.

Sure, I see ads that annoy me. I see sponsored posts I’m not interested in…but I still say all the power to them. That blogger is trying to make the most of what they are putting out there and I think that’s a good thing (although, yes, there’s always a point of going a little overboard.)

Personal ads are the first and only advertising I had on TDC for a long time. That January years ago, I put up a post letting the world (or the 50 people who read my blog at the time) know that I was accepting ads.

I felt like this:

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I was SO uncomfortable about the whole thing. Still am. UGH.

At the time, I had just over 2,000 page views a day. My ad space was $10 a month.

Here’s another nugget of advice from a “seasoned” blogger (can we call almost four years seasoned?) – I highly recommend you wait till you’ve been blogging at LEAST six months to take on ads.

Actually, a year if you can. I was only nine months in to it, but I had a surge of new visitors the fall before I took on my first advertisers. Honestly, if I could go back in time I would have held off and waited a bit longer.

Why? Just because you need time to figure out where your blog is going to go. You may be able to post five times a week at the start because of the rush, and then realize the time it takes and slow down. Advertisers like consistency.

Or you may start off with one focus for your blog and find a new interest takes it in a different direction later. Businesses are looking for a site that matches their audience.

After I took on some private ads, I started with Google:

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These are SO crazy easy to put up and use! Go to Adsense to set up an account (if you blog on Blogger you’ll probably already have one). Just pick out the size you want, grab the code and put it on your page. It really is easy and they guide you through the process.

You get paid through Google based on impressions and clicks on your ads. Some days and months you’ll make more than others, but it’s great, consistent income. Even if “income” is just $4.36 – the amount I made my first month. ;)

Next up I moved on to network-type advertising. It’s similar to Google, but instead it’s a private company that works with advertisers for you. You put their code on your blog and it kind of does it’s own thing. The ads will change based on key words they pick up in your content.

These are my favorite. :)

In my experience, they pay the most. They are easiest to work with because you don’t do much and you know what to expect. Sometimes Google will put up an ad I’m not particularly thrilled with, and then I have to go in and block ads from that site.

For a while, I worked with a network called Juice in the City and it went great for a while. They changed their format and it no longer worked with my audience, so I was thrilled when I was contacted by a new network called Haven Home Media. These guys are fantastic and I’m thrilled to partner with them.

I’ve also worked with Rivit Media and they do a great job too – many of the Michael’s campaigns you see in blogland are through them. I have not worked with BlogHer but have heard great things. Another reputable company for these types of ads is Federated Media.

Sometimes you have to sign a contract for this type of ad, or they may have some guidelines you have to follow in order to keep your ads up. (Mine do not.) Just ask as many questions as you need and find out all the details before signing on the dotted line!

Finally, a couple of weekends of the month (sometimes less, sometimes more during the holidays), I do giveaways. Businesses pay me to blog about their product and then they give away something to one (or more!) of you.

I know some bloggers don’t charge for giveaways and I say all the power to them! I think starting out you should test the waters and try a few without payment. But I (and my advertisers) believe I’m providing a service – sending hundreds if not thousands of new visitors to their site, not to mention exposing their products and brand to tens of thousands.

I still struggle with TDC being a business. Sometimes it’s hard for me to treat it as such because I LOVE WHAT I DO SO. But doing giveaways for a fee is one of those business decisions. I believe you undervalue your blog as a business (if that is what it turns into, which happens often) if you do too much for free.

These are all my personal experiences and thoughts – take them or leave them. :) All that being said, I’m picky. If I don’t like the products a company sells for a giveaway, I politely decline. If an advertiser isn’t a right fit, I let them know. I don’t take on any types of ads that would annoy me if I saw them on another site. I get approached daily with offers, and I decline most of them. I try to be deliberate and consider my readers as much as possible.

The million dollar question that I always want to know is how much a particular blogger makes doing what they do. Without going into too much detail, I will say you can absolutely do “well” as a blogger.

I now make much more than I did working full time – and that feels kind of weird and icky for me to say, because I don’t want to sound like I’m all oooowheee, check me out, I rule.

I say that because I want to encourage anyone who wants to blog or is blogging that you can make money doing this. You can help support your family, you can make some extra spending money. My income allowed us to become debt free much faster and allows me to keep doing fun things to our home that I hope continues to inspire you.

And that inspiring part is my very favorite part. :) Blogging (can be) a job, and if you’ve been at it long enough, I believe it’s one you should make money doing. If you want to. 

But I still find it hard to consider this work, especially when it’s this fun. Probably the best job ever.

I hope that answers some questions about the elephant in the blogland room. ;) If you blog and have any other advice to add, please do so! If you’re a reader and want to share what you like to see when it comes to ads, I know we’d love to hear from you too! (Constructively, of course.)

And if you have any other questions, please let me know and I’ll address them soon! Be sure to check out Jen’s advice on utilizing social media on Wednesday, Marian’s photography tips on Thursday, and Kate’s thoughts on finding balance on Friday.

P.S. I think I said “blog” 847 times in this post. Annnd that is all. :)