A friend told me that he would like to launch a website around a topic he is passionate about to bring an extra income. Making money online is an exciting idea. You can be your boss, live a flexible lifestyle, and work from anywhere in the world. Here’s how you can earn first $500 from your site.
Here’s a list of top money making sites to inspire you
Some creators publicly post their income reports which is useful for you to learn more about what’s possible to do and get inspired. Here’s the list of some of the top money making sites online:
- Entrepreneur On Fire – A business site making just under $200,000 per month by selling own products and doing affiliate marketing.
- Smart Passive Income – A site that’s helping people build a passive income business makes $100,000 average per month with 70% of that coming from affiliate links.
- Pinch Of Yum – A food recipe site that makes just under $100,000 on average per month with majority of that coming from display advertising and sponsored content.
- Just A Girl And Her Blog – A site about organizing your life and decorating your home makes approximately $40,000 on average per month by selling own products such as ebooks and courses, and doing affiliate marketing.
- Wait Buy Why – Elon Musk’s favorite site which makes more than $13,000 per month by being funded by its true fans with a monthly subscription amount of their choice.
- Kitchen Sanctuary – A recipe site making around $10,000 per month through freelance work and display advertising.
- The Modest Man – A fashion site making about $7,000 per month in a diversified way through sponsored content, display advertising, affiliate links and selling own products.
- Single Moms Income – A site about creative ways to earn and save money that makes approximately $6,000 per month through affiliate marketing, display advertising and freelance work as a virtual assistant.
- Easy Baby Life – A site about motherhood making just under $5,000 per month with a majority of that coming from display advertising.
- The Endless Meal – A recipe site making just under $4,000 per month through display advertising.
- Living Off Cloud – A site about creating various income streams online making approximately $1,500 per month through display advertising and affiliate marketing.
Three ingredients required to start making money with your site
First, these are the ingredients required to be able to bring in the revenue from a site. Make sure you work on these before expecting to make money.
1. Your content needs to be useful and valuable
You cannot just “sell” as that will affect your ability to build an audience. Sales pitches are not what people want to consume.
You won’t believe how many people expect to do well by publishing pure marketing messages. Just telling people about some product and asking them to buy will not entice anyone.
You need to have expertise in your topic and you need to create value through the content that you publish.
The best content is the content that relates to your audience, which people find useful and valuable, and that integrates promotional messages naturally within it.
See my full guide on creating content that people want.
2. You need to focus on 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.
Research the problems that you are looking to fulfill. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to see what people search for and how much companies are paying to reach those people.
Identify products on the market that are relevant to your topic and to the audience you’re trying to reach. Create content that is targeting people who are looking to make a purchase.
When people become aware of a need they need fulfilling, they go into an information search and look at the different alternatives before making a decision on what to buy.
People start the product hunt by doing a Google search when they are ready to make a decision and buy. You need to rank well for those searches to be near their wallets.
You can be the one that helps them evaluate the alternatives by publishing useful product reviews, detailed product comparisons and discount offers.
See my detailed advice on how to pick your topic.
3. You need to build a loyal audience
Making money online is all about building authority and trust with an audience. You need traffic to your content, especially targeted traffic from a specific group of people.
Without people visiting your content and without having a loyal and targeted audience, it will be tough to earn revenue.
Shift the way you think about the monetization. All the big sites sell banner ads on cost per thousand (CPM) impressions which forces them to chase page views. This is why they publish a large volume of content daily and report on all the trending topics.
They keep chasing visits, keep trying to get the page view count high and sell as many ads as possible. This strategy puts you as a creator on a treadmill of constant content creation. It is not realistic to keep at it for a longer time and it will burn you out.
Targeted audience is what can be monetized and whom sponsors want to reach. You don’t need millions of loyal visitors either. 1,000 true fans are enough for most projects.
If you monetize by selling your own product or doing affiliate marketing to your true fans, you can step away from the treadmill. Then you can aim to produce more of the timeless type of content, content that is not perishable and much more valuable than content that is instantly out of date.
See my complete guide on how to grow traffic and build your audience.
How to make money blogging: The most popular options
Now let’s take a look at the most popular options for earning an income online.
Pick and choose several of the methods below to diversify your income and turn your DIY-project into a real business supported by display advertising, sponsored posts, affiliate sales and other revenue.
Experiment, test and take your time choosing the methods that fit your topic and your audience the best. Don’t force it as you will find that the best methods will come to you naturally over time.
1. Affiliate marketing such as referring visitors to purchase products on Amazon
Affiliate marketing is the practice of recommending products and services to your visitors and getting a commission if they decide to make a purchase. Thousands of companies who will pay you a commission on sales that you generate through your content.
Even the New York Times entered the affiliate marketing by acquiring website The Wirecutter. The Times paid more than $30 million for the site which has affiliate revenue as its only income source.
The affiliate market approach can be summed up in these 5 steps:
- Find opportunities in your market and products you are familiar with. You can enter a very broad market that appeals to a wide audience and offers many products for sale. Niches such as health, beauty and fitness.
- Then you publish amazing informational content that truly answers questions real people have. This helps you build an audience.
- You also publish product based content such as reviews, comparisons, how-to guides and step-by-step instructions. These are amazing and educational and help people use the product better, show how the product can improve their lives. The products you recommend must be relevant, useful and valuable to your audience and the needs they want to fulfill.
- Rather than using banner ads to promote the product, put the affiliate links naturally within the content itself. Banner blindness is a very known phenomenon which was proven by several eye-tracking studies and has shown that visitors tend to ignore banners.
- Always remember to disclose your relationship with the company you promote.
So how do you find affiliate programs to join?
- Amazon has a large affiliate program where you can earn a commission of up to 10% on anything they sell.
- You can also join one of the larger affiliate networks such as Commission Junction, Clickbank or Shareasale which all feature opportunities from hundreds of merchants.
- Skimlinks is an option if you want an easy way to take advantage of affiliate marketing. They scan your content and automatically insert relevant links from thousands of merchants, so you don’t have to worry about joining affiliate programs and thinking about links.
- You can also visit a company website directly and see if they have an affiliate program. If they don’t, contact the company, explain your situation and ask if they would like to agree to do an affiliate deal with you.
2. Get crowdfunded directly by your fans through subscriptions
This one is all about you monetizing your audience directly.
If you’ve built a very passionate audience for your cause, a very effective monetization strategy is to let them fund you. In exchange, you can reward those who pay you by reserving them premium access to some of your content.
Patreon is a platform that can help you accept funding from your true fans. More than 50,000 creators use Patreon with more than 1 million true fans being monthly active paying patrons. 35 of the creators make more than $150,000 each per year while thousands earn more than $25,000 per year.
Some creators also sell branded merchandise such as t-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs to the faithful fans. Jason Kottke, one of the very first bloggers, allows fans to purchase yearly memberships to support his site. And that’s even without promising any exclusive content.
PayPal offers these buttons too and it just might be the way for you to get rewarded for the help you provide to your readers.
You can also limit access to some (or all) of your content and allow your true fans to get access to it by paying a small fee. Most major newspapers such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have these paywalls as one of their primary sources of income. WordPress has plugins that can help you create a paywall on your own content, such as Memberful WP plugin. Alternative is to publish a premium mailing list that people need to pay to subscribe for.
There are so many opportunities and have a loyal audience of true fans opens all the doors for you to experiment and see what works best.
3. Work with brands directly by posting sponsored content
Influencers are seen as a more trustworthy source of product recommendations than traditional advertising. Depending on your niche topic, there could be many companies looking to get their products and services reviewed, used and covered by influencers.
There might be the possibility for you to create a classified ads or job board using WordPress plugins where you would allow brands to post their listings for a fee too.
Most creators are regularly contacted by companies that want them to review their products. Some brands would pay for this service. Some would send gifts, pay for trips or hotel stays or just give their products for free.
Some, especially those that are very influential in the fashion industry, can command thousands of dollars per sponsored post.
A negative point to monetizing through sponsored content is that the content you end up creating can be less useful to your visitors compared to your best content.
If you can make a deal with a suitable company and you have complete 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 companies will contact you directly asking to buy reviews or text links. Even though many accept these, I would recommend you ignore these offers.
Selling links ruins the user trust, it’s not something search engines like either, and by accepting them, you risk being banned from the search results.
4. Sell your products and online courses
One of the best options for monetizing is to invest your time in creating a product or a service that is genuinely helpful to your true fans, which solves a problem that they have and that will provide enduring value to them.
The product that you sell should be related to what you stand for and what you talk about.
You are seen as the expert and the authoritative figure in that field and you have built the audience of people who trust you and follow you.
Pick an audience problem and cater to it. Dig in, and really focus on meeting their needs and answering their questions.
Create the content once, put it in a permanent form such as an ebook, a webinar or a private membership site and sell it over and over to bring you a continuous revenue.
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 to the amount of time you have in a day. It basically stops you from trading your hours for dollars.
On Udemy there are more than 20,000 instructors offering almost 50,000 courses between them and have made more than $8,000 on average.
You could charge a one-off fee or you could get people to sign up for a recurring monthly membership.
You will be selling a product just like you do in affiliate marketing but in this case, you’re selling the product that you own and get total profit from.
It does take more time and effort to create the product and you also have to consider customer support but if done well it’s more passive income than doing one-on-one coaching and consulting.
5. Do freelance work by being a coach, a virtual assistant or a consultant
This one focuses more on the credibility, authority and trust you have built as a creator skilled in a particular topic.
- You could become a consultant and charge clients for providing the services you specialise in.
- You could become a coach and charge for people to have one-on-one private sessions with you.
- You could also focus more on the freelance aspect and get paid to create content and write for other sites.
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 are 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 downside of doing freelance work is that it’s not a passive income and you need to keep producing something of great value to earn those fees.
6. Display advertising such as inserting Google Adsense banners
Google Adsense and other display advertising opportunities are one of the easiest ways to get started making an income from your site. It’s easy because Adsense automates the process of selling, displaying and optimizing the 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.
You don’t need to advertise that you have sponsorship opportunities, you don’t need to find advertisers, you don’t need to negotiate deals and manage payments and invoices.
You just join Adsense, choose how you want your ad to look like by matching the look and feel, install a piece of code and ads will start showing.
WordPress plugin Google Publisher Plugin, made by Google, will help you insert Google ads into your content. As an alternative to Google Adsense for WordPress users, you can try the WordAds platform made by people behind WordPress.
The alternative is to sell display ads directly to the interested advertisers. Identify products relevant to your audience, then simply approach the company and ask if they would be interested in sponsoring your site in exchange for a fixed monthly fee.
Discovering, approaching and in general dealing with advertisers can be a very time-consuming process compared to automated options like those above.
Display advertising networks either pay per click that your visitor places on an ad or per impression of the banner ad.
One negative aspect of monetizing using display advertising is that your site has to be broadly popular to make a living as you need a vast number of visitors to make a higher income.
Ad-supported platforms often pay less than $0.01 per view. Depending on the demand of the topic you cover, a click can earn you anything from few cents to several dollars.
Many creators try to increase click rates by displaying several advertisements per page or using more intrusive formats such as pop-ups, but these methods are not very user-friendly, and you will lose your audience by using them.
It’s also worth considering how tech savvy your users are and if they use adblockers on their browsers.
If your audience consists of many younger and tech-savvy people you may be leaving a lot of money on the table by using banner ads that they ignore.
The essential elements of a perfect landing page
A landing page is a stripped down and simplified page that you send traffic to. It’s focused on one objective. The aim is to convince a visitor to sign up for a mailing list or to buy a product. So what are the elements and the features of great landing pages that work and convert?
Landing pages are simple
Usually all the unnecessary elements are removed from a landing page. There is no navigation menu that can lead the visitor to another page. There is no sidebar that takes the attention from the main objective. There is no large header image, there is no footer.
All the elements that don’t aid the visitor into taking the action that you want him or her to do are removed.
A very strong and prominent call to action
The objectives are simple and clear with a very strong and prominent call to action. Tell visitors what they need to know and tell it to them right away. Tell them how you will fill their needs or they will click on the “Back” button and leave.
- Call to action is on many landing pages repeated several times throughout the page.
- Call to action is focused on information capture.
- Call to actions are normally buttons that want people to subscribe for a mailing list, buy a service or buy a product.
Your unique selling proposition
Unique selling proposition is a brief description of what you are offering. The USP is very clear and in focus.
The focus is on the value that this offer will bring to your life, to your business. It explains you the benefits of the product and what you will miss out on if you don’t go for it.
Curiously this is normally all about benefits and not much about facts and features of the product or a service.
Features and facts come second to the benefit. Say what your product is, what people will get and how this is better than offers of your competitors.
Work on the high-converting copy
You can’t make a visitor buy the product in the first sentence, but you can lose him or her right away. Landing pages are the playground of copywriters. The copy of the page is what your offer depends on so the copy must be amazing.
First thing a visitor should see is a strong headline that explains why the visitor should stick around and explore further.
- Write as the omniscient narrator (3rd person). Selling points, information, and humor are all usually stronger in this voice.
- Don’t assume familiarity with the reader. When the 2nd person is used with a voice that assumes too much familiarity with the reader it can sound like traditional marketing copy.
- Don’t antagonize the reader. E.g. “Get fit, fatty!” “Take a shower hippy!,” “Eat a burger hipster!”.
- Don’t overuse hyphens and avoid exclamation points.
- No schmoozy marketing copy. You need to be credible and trustworthy. Avoid traditional marketing cliches like positioning the product as the obvious solution to the reader’s imaginary problems. EX: Do you have this problem? This is the solution!
- Avoid unsubstantiated superlatives: Worst/Best. Thing. Ever. Superlatives and overly generous adjectives will not only fail to sell—they’ll kill your integrity and trustworthiness.
- Avoid broad, unsubstantiated claims like “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”. Same reason as the above.
- Never write unsubstantiated, opinionated selling points. Just present the verifiable, objective facts in a fun, engaging, way and let the readers decide for themselves if it sounds like something they want.
- Avoid abstract words that don’t mean anything. Adjectives: unique, great, perfect, interesting. Verbs: optimize, enhance, utilize, maximize, all the -ize’s. Corporate speak: proactive, efficient, productive, innovative, ideation, etc.
- Avoid repetitive use of the imperative. The reader doesn’t want to be told what to do. Just describe things without insisting that the reader does anything in particular. If they like how you describe it, they’ll figure it out on their own.
- What you get and price points. Clearly explain the value. What are people getting? How much do they need to pay? All necessary details should be included.
- Answer every question a customer will have. Put yourself in the shoes of the target audience. What question do they have? What are they wondering about? If you don’t answer all the questions, they’ll ask it 100,000 times to customer service, and customer service will be here til midnight.
- Don’t list vague, generic selling points that could be used for any business in that industry (i.e. “relax and relieve stress” for massages). Highlights should be aspects unique to the business. Make people want the product or the service.
- Concrete details are stronger than vague ideas like “makes a great gift.” They’ll be reading “makes a great Valentine’s gift” on every ad they see for weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, so this has the potential to be more marketing noise.
- Word highlights as compelling selling points so that they matter to the reader. Rich, concrete description sells with integrity.
- Features vs. benefits. A feature is what something is. A benefit is what it does. Features are preferred because they are rich, concrete details. If a feature is not compelling enough, reframe it as a benefit.
- You must be creative and intuitive. Follow your heart. In your heart lies the answer to the question “why would someone buy this?” Ask it to yourself. Answer the question in language that relates to someone.
Additional ways to build trust and credibility
- You might see a picture of the creator of the product – human face enhances credibility and trust.
- You might see a list of testimonials which includes pictures, names and positive reviews from past customers and people that have purchased the product.
- You might see a list of sites where the product has been featured.
- There is normally also a guarantee – for example if you don’t like the product or if you don’t get any results from using the product you can claim money back within next 30, 60, 90 days. Some even go for longer and even lifetime periods.
- Social proof is another element of a landing page that is there to build credibility and trust. Do embed social media buttons and do show how many shares and likes you have in social media.
Consider a sample or a video preview
A sneak peek preview is another important element in order to show the quality of the product you are offering. You could for example allow people to download one chapter of your book or watch a shorter version of a training course.
On many landing pages you might see a video where the product creator tells you the benefits of his product or you have guide through the product and what it offers.
Make sure your video is great and that it helps add value and converts your visitor. If it doesn’t do that it might not be necessary to embed a video.
Making people watch a video makes them stop reading the rest of your copy so test and see which way works best for you.
Ask for an email address
For better conversion rate try asking for an email address first. Getting a smaller commitment from your lead is a great first step towards creating a great relationship with a future customer.
Landing page WordPress plugins
There are several landing page plugins that you can try and work with in order to figure out the one that fits your needs best.
- Parallax Gravity – Landing Page Builder – This plugin allows you to add multiple sections within your landing page. For each section you can set a background, add any type of content more.
- WordPress Landing Pages – This is a quiet advanced option that is definitely worth a look. It gives you the ability to monitor and track conversion rates, run a/b and multivariate split tests and much more.
Should I quit my job to start a website?
It’s possible to make money from your site, but it’s important you have realistic expectations. The idea of quitting your job, leaving the rat race behind and doing something on your own terms is the fantasy that appeals to many cubicle bound employees all around the world.
It’s a great idea, a great dream to have and definitely something that can help get you motivated to achieve big things.
Finding yourself stuck in a boring job reading about all the people who have chosen to follow their passion can tempt you to give it all up and pursue the unconventional path.
But blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. Don’t jump into it though assuming that just having the courage to pursue a different path is the only thing that matters, while everything else are just small details that can be worked out afterwards.
Most sites will fail to earn any income, some will make some pocket change only, while only a few might do so well that they can quit their jobs and planning is key in this process.
Everyone needs to pay the bills after all and just leaving your job to start a site you have thought about is not very responsible in most cases.
My recommendation is to keep your day job but start working seriously on your idea in your free time (or in the working hours if you can get away with it 😀).
You start small without taking too many unnecessary risks.
Having a steady paycheck is very comforting in these situations, as it allows you to keep your living standards while investing your time in things that have the potential to make your life better in the future.
Starting a start is less about becoming rich than it is about turning a comfortable profit from your hobby.
And building a site where you can make enough money to replace your day job is very hard work and is not going to happen overnight. During these long months, you can live off your salary or savings while working on growing your audience.
On the way to your first $500… and then what?
Keep working hard on your site, work consistently over a longer term, and as long as you never give up, in due time you will become a success and your business will start making even bigger money.
What it comes down to now is that you must take action into your hands. It’s not enough to read all the “become a problogger” advice – you must start creating something.
Create a great site, find and connect with your audience. Do this daily for a long time, before you slowly start getting the results, and start being able to live the internet marketing dream.
- You could then quit your daytime job and focus entirely on your site.
- You could use the authority you’ve built with your site to get yourself a more prestigious or higher paying job.
- You could accept high-paying fees for speaking at events.
- You could get a publishing deal and write a bestseller book.
- You could extend your brand by putting together your themed events in the real world where the money could be even bigger.
- You could also sell your site if there is an acceptable offer at the table and you feel that you have done what you could for this topic.