How To Make Your Blog Pay Your Bills

15 October 2015

Kitty Lusby is proud to present this great piece on how to make money from your blog. It was written for us by Ms. Kitty Lusby who we met recently at WordCamp Las Vegas. Kitty is an accomplished writer and blogger and shares her expertise frequently online. We hope that it gives you a few new ideas on how to drive additional traffic to your website and how to then earn money from those visitors.

My Story

When I decided to become a professional blogger, people thought I was crazy.

It’s not even a real career, they’d say.

Or, sometimes:

You can’t make money from a blog. I’m sure there are some REAL jobs out there that will pay you to write.

Nobody believed I knew how to make money online…

But here’s what happened:

Six months later, I was making enough money as a pro blogger to support myself. Blogging is now my full time career, and I’ve never looked back.

The truth is, when I started out, I had no idea how to make money as a blogger.

I wanted to take control of my income, since working “real” jobs in the mortgage industry meant that my paycheck, and therefore my livelihood, was subject to the whims of industry regulations, economic swings, and corporate politics.

That wasn’t my idea of a great lifestyle.

Writing had always been my personal escape – why couldn’t it be my career? Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know a single trick for monetizing a blog, and I was clueless about how to build blog traffic. All I knew was that some people were doing this full time and making money, and if those people could do it, then there was no reason I couldn’t do it to.

It’s been a long road, but I’ve learned a lot since those early days, and I continue to learn today. While I can’t exactly teach you everything I know in this one post, I can help you get a solid start towards blogging as a career.

You can start making money today.

This information isn’t just for new bloggers, either:

Whether you’re an experienced writer who wants to know how to start making money from your craft, you’re already making money and want to maximize that income, or you’re an entrepreneur who needs to know how to use a blog as a business tool, you’ll find something of value here.


How To Use This Guide

Successful bloggers diversify their income, meaning they make money from a variety of different sources.

Your blog will bring in multiple income streams if you’re willing to put forth the effort to build it, and as you grow your audience and hone your skills, you’ll make more money. To give a sense of that progression, the various blog income sources listed here are grouped like this:

Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced

Don’t let the labels fool you, though. Even the beginner methods can bring a serious income if you get good at them. Just because something is more difficult doesn’t necessarily mean it pays better.

This guide is meant to help you get started towards making money on the internet through blogging, so we’re not going into too much detail. Use this post to help you determine the methods you’ll use to start making money immediately, and identify anything you’d like to start working towards. Each item discussed will go over the pros and cons of the individual method, as well as give you some blogging tips that will help you on your way.


How To Make Money Blogging – Before You Begin

-If you’re looking for information on how to start a blog for profit, either as a career path or just as a supplement to your primary income, you need traffic to see results. Posting on a schedule, reading and commenting on other people’s blogs, and writing great content are Blogging 101: the first steps towards building a following. Even after your blog has millions of readers, those three things will remain key to your blogging success.

-Many people use blogs as sort of a virtual journal, writing about whatever they’re thinking and feeling on a given day. While that’s a great use of the medium, and you’ll hone your writing skills and make new friends, it’s not a good model if you want to blog for a living. Focus your content on a specific subject, brand, or idea, then stick to it.

-There is no such thing as a blog “for everybody.” Know what kind of audience you’re writing for. The more specific you can be when focusing on an audience, the bigger your audience will grow, because you’re speaking their language and giving them something they want to read.

With those three things in mind, you’re ready to start making money, and you can see that profit today.

Like this idea? Click to tweet



Affiliate Marketing

As soon as you start your blog, you can begin using affiliate marketing to make money. Affiliate marketing means including links to products and services that other people sell, and every time one of your readers clicks through that link and purchases something from that third party, you’re paid a commission.

For example, if you click this link and buy a boat, I’ll make a commission. That link is meant to just be an example, but if you DO buy the boat, it would make my day.

At the very least, you should sign up for the Amazon affiliate marketing program (click here to go to their site) since they have such a wide variety of products you could potentially market. There are a lot of affiliate programs out there, and you can use more than one. Just make sure that you’re marketing products your readers would appreciate and actually want to buy.


  • Low cost, high profit: It’s free to get started as an affiliate marketer, and if you’re good at it, you can make a lot of money.
  • You’re not responsible for product or inventory management. All you have to do is provide a link and get people to click on it.
  • It’s super easy to start up as an affiliate marketer, and you can make money within a few hours of deciding to get started.
  • You don’t need any experience or references to get started. You can begin the same day you set up your blog.
  • Your communication and marketing skills are going to get much better as you try new things and learn.


  • There are a few scammers out there, but if you only deal with reputable companies and you’re smart about it, you should be fine.
  • The income you’ll make starting out will probably be minimal until you build your skills and your following.
  • Unless you’re already a marketing genius, you’ll need to put forth a lot of time and effort learning to be effective in order to make a large income.


  • If you need to buy something, buy it through your affiliate links. Think of it as shopping in a store you own and getting the wholesale discount.
  • Instead of focusing on sales techniques, focus on building great relationships with your readers so that they’ll trust you and be more likely to click on your links.
  • Choose appropriate products for your readership. Don’t try to market adult diapers if your audience is young men who are into skate culture.
  • If you’ve been blogging for a while and you decide to start affiliate marketing, go through your old posts and add affiliate links to those, too.
  • Let your readers know that you make money when they buy products through the links in your posts. If you’ve built a relationship with them, they’ll be more likely to buy…and if you don’t tell them, they’ll still assume you’re making a profit on those products and they’ll feel like you’ve lied to them or tried to trick them.
  • Not every post can be a sales post. Try to keep affiliate marketing posts to a minimum – less than 1 out of every 3 posts should be marketing, and even that’s a lot. For a business, your blog should have no more than 1 marketing post for every 7 that you release. Most of your content should be interesting or valuable without asking anyone to do or buy anything.


Like this idea? Click to tweet

Display Ads

These are the banner ads you see in the side margins or at the top and bottom of posts on most widely followed blogs.

Basically, display ads fall into two categories:

Ad networks like the ever-popular Google Adsense are a low-maintenance solution where an agency acts as an intermediary between your website and advertisers to help you sell the space on your website.

Private ads are the same thing, except there’s no middle man – you connect directly with potential advertisers yourself.

Most people, beginners especially, use agencies because it’s easier, even though your profit will be slightly less than if you worked directly with advertisers.

You can monetize your blog without ads if you prefer. Some bloggers refuse to use advertising widgets at all, and that’s fine. In the world of blogging, everything is optional.


  • It’s an easy, low maintenance way to make money, and you don’t have to do much to maintain it.
  • Signing up with an agency is simple enough that a complete novice can do it.
  • Experimenting to get better results is easy, and you won’t wreck your content by changing ad placement or the type of ads that run.
  • You can start small and build to huge incomes as your blog grows.


  • If you expect a big income, you need to have big traffic numbers.
  • Too many ads makes your site feel spammy and can turn off your readership.
  • You don’t have control over the external links. If an ad links to a malicious site, it affects your credibility, though this is uncommon.
  • If you’re using an agency, you have little control over what your site promotes. If you have strong moral opinions, this could be a problem.
  • The more ads are on a site, the less effective each one is. You’ll need to find a balance that works for you.


  • If you’re going to sell ads, especially if you’re selling directly to advertisers without an agency, never leave adspace blank with an “advertise here” message. It makes it look like your site isn’t worth advertising on. Instead, fill the space with an ad for your own products, an affiliate link, or with other advertiser’s banners.
  • If you want to use an agency, here are a list of companies you might try: Google Adsense; Blogads; BlogHer; Beacon Ads; Federated Media; Sovrn;; Rivit.


Like this idea? Click to tweet



Product and Service Sales

As obvious as it seems, you can make money by selling things.

For those with a traditional business background, or for businesses who are using blogging as part of their outreach program, selling your products and services might be your primary income stream for your blog. In fact, a lot of people start blogs specifically to sell their products. It’s a fantastic business model.

Don’t limit yourself to physical goods, either: one of the great things about the marketplace today is the availability and popularity of purely digital products, like ebooks, online courses, and premium entertainment content. This is an opportunity to be really creative!


  • There’s no limit to profit potential, especially with digital products that have very little associated cost.
  • If you’re crafty, this can be a good way to market your handmade goods.
  • You get all the benefits of a traditional store, but you’re working out of your own home.
  • The blog enables you to reach a larger audience than a traditional store would.


  • Success in sales is a full-time (and then some) job.
  • If your focus is blogging, not sales, then selling products on your blog can detract from that. Your blog might become an online store.
  • The skills required to succeed in online selling are different than the skills you develop as a blogger. It’s a new business to learn.
  • Sales of physical products require inventory management and shipping, and there are costs involved.


  • If you know you want to sell products on your blog, start with affiliate marketing first and build your skills. Later, you can use affiliate links AND sell your own inventory for best results.
  • Make sure that your blog and your products are both directed at the same audience. For example, if you know that in 1 year you’re going to write a weight loss book and sell it online, tailor your blog to attract people who buy weight loss books.
  • Selling access to premium content, or selling subscriptions to certain content or digital products, creates an ongoing income that doesn’t require much maintenance.
  • It’s not quite the same as selling to your audience, but you might also consider selling some of your photography as stock. You can learn more about selling stock photography at iStockPhoto.


Like this idea? Click to tweet


Instead of working for an employer at an hourly rate, freelancers complete specific jobs for a portfolio of clients and are paid for completing that job.

Sometimes you’ll pick up a one-time assignment for a company, but more often, freelancers form relationships with a core group of businesses that regularly enlist their services. If you’re diligent, you can find a variety of freelance jobs in blogging, social media marketing, and other types of writing and digital services.

Freelancing can be an income in itself. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.


  • Legitimate freelance jobs pay more than the same job at an hourly rate. If you select your clients carefully and work full time at it, you can earn a significant income.
  • Researching and writing about a variety of topics is fun and interesting.
  • Many paid blogging opportunities allow you to byline, including your name, a brief description, and a link to your website with the article. This can be used to expand your personal brand.
  • Because you’re getting honest feedback from other people, your writing skills will get better much faster than if you only worked alone.
  • You’re building a reputation as a blogger and a professional.


  • Successful freelancing requires some business savvy to accomplish.
  • It’s time consuming. When you’re new, you’ll do a lot of work for little pay.
  • Working with clients can be challenging. Some of them are better than others.
  • There are a lot of low-paying jobs out there, and if you take them, you’re essentially wasting your time.
  • You need to be a proficient blogger with a portfolio of good content before you start looking for clients.


  • If you decide to start freelancing, go through your blog and improve your old posts. Clients will be looking through your content to see if you’re consistently good.
  • Read a lot of really good blogs to get a feel for the style of writing that works best for you and your clients. You’ll need to be more flexible as a freelancer.
  • Once you build your skill and you know you’re good, know what you’re worth. Don’t take clients that pay $10 per post, and don’t be afraid to ask for more. Bonus tip: If you’re asking for higher pay than what’s listed, offer to complete an assignment for them and let them see it before they decide whether or not they want to publish it at the rate you requested. If you’re as good as you think you are, you’ll get paid for your work.
  • It’s okay to do a little bit of guest blogging (writing bylined posts on other blogs without being paid) to build your portfolio, but don’t waste too much time doing work that doesn’t pay.
  • If a client asks you to ghostwrite a post (you write it but somebody else’s name is on it) the industry standard is that they should pay extra.


Like this idea? Click to tweet

Paid Promotions – Sponsored and Underwritten Content

This is a little more advanced than the other topics in this category, but you can get started when you’re fairly new.

There are a variety of ways that you might get paid for writing specific content on your blog, but mostly you can divide it into two groups:

Sponsored posts are posts on your blog that you write in conjunction with a business who is paying you to write it. Sometimes, they’ll give you a specific topic, and sometimes they’ll give you the actual completed content.

Underwritten posts are your content, whatever you would normally write, and a company pays to include a note like “This post is brought to you by!”


  • If you’ve built a big following, these types of posts can pay a lot.
  • They don’t require that much extra work. You’re already putting content on your blog, and now someone is paying you for it.
  • It’s a natural cure for writer’s block. Someone else’s ideas are ending up on your blog.
  • If the company is smart, they’ll heavily promote the post, so you’ll see a spike in traffic.


  • Too many sponsored and underwritten posts will turn your readers off fast. Use sparingly.
  • You’ll probably need to learn how to give a sales pitch in order to land a deal with a company who will pay you to post.
  • This works best for established bloggers, though you can find some smaller businesses who will sponsor content when your blog is just beginning to grow.


  • You MUST tell your readers that a post is sponsored or underwritten. First of all, the company is paying you to do that, and second of all, your readers trust you and they’ll want to know if you were paid to recommend something. Preserve their trust by being transparent.
  • Limit your use of this posting style to keep your readership. If your blog becomes the equivalent of your readers’ junk mail folders, they won’t read it.
  • Only promote businesses and products that have some kind of value for your audience, and that already market to the same demographic. If you do this right, your subscriber list will actually grow.


Like this idea? Click to tweet



Building Your Brand

For most ambitious businesses, this is usually the big goal:

When you’ve built your brand to the point where it has intrinsic value, people will pay you just to use your name. At this point, you’re no longer selling products or services, even if you have a webstore; you’re selling YOU and your image.

As a beginner, it might be difficult to grasp this concept, and this doesn’t have to be your goal. You can make a significant income from the other methods listed in this piece without ever executing a complicated business plan to turn your blog into a marketable brand.

At this level, the money comes from things like product endorsements, speaking engagements and appearances, and collaborations with other successful businesses.

For example:

The blogger Bakerella, who started the cake pops craze, has built value in her own brand. She has branded toys and books, and works with major companies that want to use the Bakerella name in their own marketing.

Since I’ve mentioned disclosing your business relationships so many times, I should tell you that I have no affiliation with Bakerella. She doesn’t even know I exist. I just like cake pops.


  • There’s a very high income potential.
  • You’ll find a degree of fame at this point, even if it’s just in your specific niche.
  • An array of creative and fun opportunities will find you.
  • As your brand grows, you’ll get invited to do cool things like attend movie premiers or go to gala events.
  • The intrinsic value of your brand will result in passive, or residual, income. You’ll get paid just for being you.
  • You’ll be offered more speaking engagements than you can handle.


  • This is probably the most difficult way to make money with a blog.
  • It takes years to achieve this level of success, and your skills will have to be quite advanced.
  • Only disciplined, determined people make it this far. Most people give up.
  • At this point, your blog is a business. You have a little less creative control because you have to focus on the brand.


  • If your goal is to build a brand, you should read books like What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee Yohn. And, yes, that is an affiliate link.
  • Start with a long-term vision, then set short-term goals that will help get you there. Every action you take should bring you closer to the end goal.
  • Don’t neglect other streams of income, but work them into your long-term plan.
  • Blog flipping, also called domain flipping, operates on a similar principal. Some entrepreneurs will start a blog and build a following, creating some value for the brand, and then sell that blog to eager buyers for a potentially large sum of money. It’s the same thing as house flipping or selling off successful startup businesses, but in the virtual world.


Like this idea? Click to tweet

It’s a lot of information to digest, but don’t let it intimidate you. You don’t have to do everything listed here to see success as a professional blogger. Figure out what you want out of blogging, and go for it!

Are there any ways that you make money blogging which weren’t listed here? Leave a comment! The rest of the community would love to hear from you.