How To Earn First $500 From Your Blog

A friend told me that he would like to build a blog to launch his blogging career and earn income on a monthly basis. It is possible to make money from your blog and you may have read about many that do, but it is important to have realistic expectations. Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes hard work and is not going to happen overnight. Most sites will fail to earn any income, many will make some pocket change only, and a few might do so well that they can quit their jobs. My recommendation is to keep your day job but start working seriously on your online project in your free time (or in working hours if you can get away with it :-).

If you do make it, blogging allows you to build a career around a topic you are passionate about and have a very flexible lifestyle. You can work from anywhere in the world and you don’t even need to work all the time as your content archives work for you around the clock. So be prepared to work smart and to put in the effort into it as a part-time venture in order to achieve your goals and turn it into a full-time job. Here’s how you can make first $500 from your blog.

Make money infographic

Three necessary ingredients in order to make money blogging

First these are the ingredients needed to be able to bring in the revenue from a blog and turn your DIY-project into a real business supported by banner advertising, sponsorships, affiliate sales and other revenue. Make sure you have these sorted first before expecting to make money:

1. You need to build traffic and a loyal audience

Making money online is all about building authority and trust with an audience. You need traffic to your blog, especially targeted traffic from a specific group of people. Without people visiting your site and without having a loyal and targeted audience, it will be very difficult to earn any revenue. Targeted audience is what can be monetized and what sponsors want to reach. You need to create value for people through content that you publish to be able to attract traffic, to have visitors spread the word about your work and to start building trust. Have expertise in your topic and offer something that people find useful and valuable. See more on how to grow blog traffic and build your audience.

2. Your niche needs a buying market

The topic you focus on has to have a buying market and has to be monetizable. Some topics are tougher than others so make sure your topic has an audience interested in spending money if you want to monetize the site. See if there are products on the market that are relevant to your topic. See: How to pick your topic.

3. You need strategic but not salesy content

Don’t just “sell” as that will affect your ability to build an audience. Publishing sales pitches is not what people want to consume. You won’t believe how many bloggers expect to do well by publishing pure marketing messages. Just telling people about the product and asking them to buy will not do much to your bottom line. Best content is the content that relates to your audience, brings them value and integrates products naturally within them.

Create content that is targeting people that are looking to buy. People become aware of a need they need fulfilled, go into an information search and look at the different alternatives before making a decision on what to buy. People go to Google and do a search to start the product hunt. They are ready to make a decision and make a purchase. You need to rank well for those searches in order to be near their wallets. Do evaluate the alternatives by publishing reviews, comparisons and discount offers.

The most popular options for earning an income from your blog

Now let’s take a look at the most popular options for earning an income from your blog. To make it easier I’ll split the options in main categories.

First thing first though. Consider what the objectives of your blog are in order to figure how you should monetize. All sites are not created with the objective of making money. Businesses use blogs in addition to their social media marketing, to connect and be in touch with their customers. Professionals use sites to build their network. Some organizations use sites to acquire new customers and others use it to understand the changing trends of markets and initiate further research to develop new products. If I am running one such business, will I want to drive my readers away to a competitors website? When the core objective of my site is to promote my business, why will I want to advertise and promote somebody else’s business? In these cases building a mailing list and selling your own product make much more sense.

These are the different categories for the options you have when monetizing your blog:

Become an affiliate marketer

There are thousands of companies who will pay you commission for sales that you generate through your content. You join an affiliate program then post some links on your site. You earn a commission when someone clicks through your links and decides to sign up or buy a product on the other end. Create valuable content about the product, help people use the product better, show how the product can improve their lives, and get revenue when they click your link and buy the product. The product must be relevant to your topic and your audience. You must use it, it must be useful and valuable to you.

Find opportunity in markets and products you are familiar with. Are you using a product that makes your life easier? Have you read a book that inspired you? Become an affiliate and promote it. Visit their website, they probably have an affiliate program. If not, contact the company directly, explain your situation and ask if they can agree an affiliate deal with you. You can also join one of the larger affiliate networks like Commission Junction, Clickbank or Shareasale.

A note not to use banner ads to promote affiliate offers. Do you know anyone who clicks on banner ads? When is the last time you clicked on a banner ad? Traditional banner ads take away from the user experience. They distract users and because of that users tend to ignore ads. Banner blindness is a very known phenomenon which was proven by several eye-tracking studies and has shown that readers do not fixate on ads at all. There is also the rising popularity of different ad-blocking browser plugins. An increasing number of people use these plugins which automatically block all banner ads. This trend can be clearly seen as these plugins are usually placed towards the top of most downloaded plugins for Chrome and Firefox. Rather than using banner ads to promote an affiliate product, create some interesting, useful and shareable content that your audience loves. Put relevant affiliate links inside this content. Always remember to disclose your relationship with the company you promote.

Pay-per-click ads like Google Adsense and display advertising

Google Adsense is the easiest way to get started making some income on your site. It is easy because Adsense automates the process of selling and displaying ads for you. You place a piece of code and Google delivers text and image ads that are relevant to your audience and your content. Google pays per click and depending on the popularity of the topic you write about, a click can earn you anything from few cents to several dollars. You just join Adsense, choose how you want your ad to look like and install a piece of code on your site and you are set to start showing ads. AdSense lets you customize the appearance of ads to match the look and feel of your site. WordPress plugin Google Publisher Plugin, made by Google, will help you insert Google ads into your blog.

The alternative is the many advertising networks available who mostly use CPM (cost per thousands impression) where you get paid by the number of impressions. Popularity of your site is an important aspect that decides whether you should consider this type of banner advertising as you need a very large amount of impressions to make a decent income. Many of the biggest sites online only rely on banner ads and increasing page views in order to increase their revenue.

Negative side of Adsense and display advertising is that many people have banner blindness (many visitors dismiss banner ads as they find them intrusive), tend to find ads annoying and ignore them. This leads to a very low click percentage. You also need a high volume of visitors and clicks in order to earn a decent amount. Most try to increase click rates by displaying many and large advertisements such as those in pop-ups but these methods are not very user friendly and you will lose your audience. Even though adding an ad on your blog is an easy method, in general most bloggers will make very little from PPC and other advertising.

Sell advertising (banners, podcast/video ads) to brands directly

You can sell banner ads and other sponsorship slots directly to advertisers. This one is a bit different than the one above as here you agree on a fixed monthly fee for example that you charge in order to display a banner on your blog. A much better and profitable option in general.

Find products relevant to your audience and simply contact the company and ask if they would be interested in sponsoring your site. This normally involves banner advertising and you get paid a fixed amount per month. Consider also selling advertising on your videos or your podcasts as these can command even higher fees than traditional banner ads.

Negative for this method that it can be a very demanding and time consuming process compared to simple options like Adsense. Here you need to identify potential advertisers, get in touch with them and negotiate and make a deal. Still if successful it can be very rewarding.

Most of the banner ads you see in sidebars of blogs are not paid for by the advertisers though. Majority of bloggers only have affiliate deals or pay-per-click or PCM deals to work with. I understand when people use banners if a company wants to pay them a fixed monthly fee to display their banners. If your site is big enough to attract these offers, it seems like a fairly easy and simple way of making an income. If your site is popular and you are getting a lot of page views or advertising offers, then you should certainly consider putting up a couple of banners at least.

There is nothing to fear and nothing to lose in approaching advertisers to see if they are up for a partnership with you. Check out my guide to learn how to approach and pitch advertisers.

Sponsored posts and paid reviews

Depending on the topic of your blog, there could be many opportunities for you to get paid by companies and brands for writing product reviews or in other ways promote their products, events and services.

Most bloggers are regularly contacted by companies that will send them products to review. Some brands would pay for this service, some would send you gifts or just provide you free products. Bloggers are seen as more trustworthy source of product recommendations than for example traditional advertising, hence there are companies out there looking to get their products reviewed, used and covered by bloggers.

Some bloggers for example, especially those that are very influential in the fashion industry, can command thousands of dollars per sponsored post on Instagram or on their blog.

Negative point to this are that you don’t necessary get paid very much unless you negotiate and the content you end up creating is of less worth to your visitors compared to the best content. If you can make a deal with a very targeted company and you have freedom to create a great piece of content, this option is very attractive. Just remember also to disclose that it is a “sponsored post”.

You will also discover that many people will contact you directly asking to buy reviews or text links. Even though many bloggers accept these, I would recommend to ignore these offers as selling links normally ruins your user experience and is not something search engines like and you risk being banned from the search results.

Be a freelancer, a coach or a consultant

This one focuses more on the credibility, authority and trust you have built as a blogger. You could become a consultant and charge clients for providing the services you specialise in. This works best when you have proven your skills and built your credibility. For example you could become a coach and charge for people to have one-on-one private sessions with you on specific topics related to what you do.

You could also focus more on the freelance aspect and get paid to create content and write for other sites. For example some blogs would actually pay you to submit quality guest posts for them to publish. Many websites are looking for influential and authoritative contributors that they would gladly pay for. Some are looking for copywriting help where you can submit content as a ghost writer without having your name on in public. All these may be time consuming and depending on your name may not pay the most but you get to practice your writing and the payments do add up over time.

The negative of this is that you obviously need to work and produce something of value to get that one-off fee. It is a time consuming work. This makes it not as passive as some of the other income options in this post. If you go for it here’s what to look out for.

Create and sell your own products

One of the best option for monetizing is to invest your time in creating something that will provide enduring value and bring you continuous revenue. Create the content once, put it in a permanent form and sell it over and over again. This one-to-many approach helps you scale your efforts and make more money than the personal one-on-one coaching which is very limited with the amount of time you have in a day.

Putting your work into a permanent form is very important as it will allow you not to need to keep recreating your value over and over again. The best way of putting your content into a permanent form is to create your own product. Your product will provide value even when you are not physically present and it will allow you to take a break from posting new content once in a while. It will basically let you stop trading your hours for dollars.

You can develop something that is genuinely helpful to people, that solves some kind of a problem that they have. Package the product in a specific format and sell it. Your product can come in many formats. This could be e-books, webinars, video and audio courses, group coaching, private forums and membership sites. You could charge one-off fees or you could get people to sign up for recurring monthly membership.

The product that you publish should be related to what you stand for and what you site about. You are after all seen as the expert and the authoritative figure in that field. You have built the audience of people that trust you and follow you. The best way of seeing if there is a demand for a specific topic is to look at what works best on your own site.

What type of articles did get the most buzz, the most page views and comments? About what do people contact you with questions the most? This will give you an idea of what people like from your content, and what people see you as someone with authority and knowledge about. If you try to cater to everyone, you won’t sell anything. You’ll be debating on both sides. Instead, pick an audience and cater to them. Dig in, and really focus on meeting their needs and answering their questions.

You will be selling product kind of like you do in affiliate marketing but in this cases the products that you own and that you get complete profit from. It does take more time and effort to create the product though and you also have to consider customer support but if done well it is a bit more passive income than doing one-on-one coaching and consulting.

Pay-to-view premium content

Limit access to some (or all) of your content and allow people to get access to it by paying a small fee. Many big newspapers have these types of paywalls as their main source of income these days. As usual WordPress has plugins that can help you create a paywall such as Memberful WP.

Amazon Kindle Publishing, YouTube Partnership and others

You can use your existing content to earn passive income on other platforms. For example if you produce many videos and upload them onto YouTube, you can become a YouTube partner and monetize your videos.

Similar to this, you can add your site to the Amazon Kindle store and get paid when people read your content on Kindle. You can actually read blogs on Kindle and many people do. See the Kindle Blog store here for a list of blogs that you can subscribe to. It takes about 5 minutes to set this all up and is a new revenue stream for your site so no reason at all not to do it (open to US/UK bloggers only). Amazon Kindle Publishing for Blogs is a self-publishing tool that allows you to submit and sell your content on the Kindle Store. This is the quick process you have to go through to get your site approved and stocked in the store:

  1. Go to the Amazon Kindle Publishing for Blogs
  2. Create a new Kindle Publishing Account (free)
  3. Add your site via a simple one-page process

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Ask for donations

Depending on your topic and the readership of your site, a donate button might be one of the easiest and most effective ways of monetizing. This is one of the original ways bloggers used to make money back in the early days. It could still be effective in some cases. PayPal offers these and it just might be the way for you to get rewarded for the help you provide to your readers. Ask for donations.

Sell your branded merchandise

Some bloggers can built very passionate audiences for their cause. In these cases one of the ways to monetize is to create branded merchendise such as t-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs.

Let brands post on your board

Depending on the type of audience that you have built there might be the possibility for you to create classified ads or job boards where you would allow brands to post their listings for a fee. Again WordPress features plugins that can automate this for you such as Another WordPress Classifiedd Plugin.

On the way to your first $500… and then what?

Pick and choose several of the methods above in order to diversify your income. Experiment, test and take your time choosing the methods that fit your topic the best. Don’t force it. You will find that the best methods will come to you naturally over time as you build your content archives and your loyal audience. Create the best site you can and grow your traffic, readership and trust. Then strategically monetize using one or more of the above methods and you will be on the way to your first $500 in revenue.

If you keep working hard on this, work consistently over a longer term, and as long as you never give up, in due time you will become a success and your site will start making even bigger amounts. What it comes down to now is that you must take action into your hands. It is not enough to read all the “become a problogger” advice – you must start creating something. You must put in the consistent hard-work, create a great blog, and you must find and connect with your audience. And you must do this daily for a long time, before you slowly start getting the results, and start being able to live the blogging dream.

When you do start creating a large name with a large audience for yourself and you start making decent income online you will have several options:

  • You could quit your daytime job and focus completely on your blog.
  • Or you could use the authority you’ve built with your blog to get yourself a more prestigious or higher paying job.
  • You could get a publishing deal and write an old-fashioned paper book that may become a bestseller. Many bloggers have actually achieved this.
  • You could extend your brand by going into offline events where the money could be even bigger. Many bloggers have not only accepted high-paying fees for speaking at events.
  • Some bloggers have even organized and put together their own themed events in the real world.
  • Have a new, great idea? Use the audience you have built to raise the money for your new project by crowdfunding.
  • Another option is to sell your blog if there is an acceptable offer at the table and you feel that you have done what you could for this topic.