Most bloggers don’t make money from simply having a blog (although it would be jolly nice if we did, wouldn’t it?)
Often, a blog is a tool for converting readers into customers who purchase either products or services. Sharing valuable, free information on a blog is a way to establish credibility and authority in a specific niche. It’s a way to create relationships and establish trust.
Products and services are not the only way to go, though. If you are keen to start monetizing your blog you can also look at membership sites, affiliate marketing, advertising and sponsorship.
I’m going to introduce all six options in this blog post.
If you don’t produce products at the moment and you are trying to decide between offering a physical product and a digital one, I’d recommend going digital all the way.
While the initial time investment in producing a digital product such as an ebook or online course is large, once it’s done, it’s done. You can then focus your time and energy on marketing (and perhaps an occasional update to the product content). Essentially you make a thing and sell it over and over again. Who doesn’t love the idea of selling products while they sleep?
If you are considering creating an online course, I recommend Teachable as an easy-to-use platform. If you are interested in producing an ebook, Scrivener is a fantastic writing tool. I absolutely love the Learn Scrivener Fast course too (affiliate link).
If you already sell physical products, is there an opportunity for you to add a digital product or two to your product range? For example, if you sell hand-dyed yarn, you have a captive audience for digital knitting or crochet patterns. If you are a photographer selling cards and prints, could you sell stock photography to other bloggers?
Selling digital products is not the only way to go, of course. Personally, I have had success selling physical products using a monthly subscription box model. This was a huge learning experience for me, and while the venture was definitely successful, the considerable workload helped me develop a preference for digital products.
Being a blogger means you have a skill. It’s rare you find people blogging about things they are really bad at! You might blog about a learning process you are going through (learning in public) but even then, this means you are ahead of someone in terms of your skill level.
Could other people benefit from your skill? Is your skill something you could offer remotely/via the internet?
Examples of services bloggers could offer include:
- Virtual assistant
- Website creation
Could you offer anything like this?
A membership site is an online space where members typically pay a monthly subscription to access a community of experts and aspiring experts in their niche. Typically coaching and support is included in the membership, as well as access to exclusive resources and events such as webinars.
It’s essential to have an engaged audience to leverage the membership site model. You don’t want to set up a site and have a very small number of paid members. Much of the value in a community like this is generated by other members (this is one reason why it can be lucrative).
If this is something you’d like to do, I’d recommend spending a lot of time and energy building an interested email list. Perhaps consider starting a free community, maybe a closed Facebook group, in order to validate your idea for a paid offering.
Affiliate marketing is when you recommend other people’s products to your audience using a special link. If a purchase is made off the back of your recommendation (in other words, your special link gets clicked) you receive a commission.
To make serious money out of affiliate marketing, you need an engaged audience who trusts you. You should only recommend products you genuinely rate, otherwise that trust will disappear quickly.
Also, bear in mind you MUST make it very clear when you are sharing an affiliate link online. There are different rules and regulations for how you disclose this information depending on your jurisdiction. Ensure you check this out before you start.
If you are just getting started with affiliate marketing then check out Amazon’s affiliate programme. The payout rates are low, but as they sell most things, you can link to a lot of stuff. You could also investigate affiliate networks such as ShareASale and CJ Affiliate.
Don’t forget, it’s possible to set up an affiliate marketing network for your own products. There are various options for this - I've yet to set up my own affiliate programme so I won't recommend a specific service.
There are two ways to approach advertising on your blog. You can run private ads or use an ad network.
Private ads are ads created by you or a designer, and the terms of your advertising arrangement are negotiated directly between you and the prospective advertiser.
Usually, a blogger would approach a business to see if they’d be interested in advertising - not the other way round. If you plan to sell advertising space on your blog, you should provide your prospective advertiser with statistics relating to your blog’s readership to demonstrate to them that advertising with you is a good investment. This would include social media stats too.
I’d also recommend creating some form of agreement for both parties to sign outlining the terms of the arrangement. HelloSign is a great tool for getting agreements signed digitally.
Ad networks are basically an intermediary between bloggers and businesses looking to advertise. They handle negotiations and take a fee/cut for their trouble. Ad networks you might have heard of include Google Adsense and BlogHer.
If advertising is a revenue stream that interests you, be sure to vet your prospective advertisers carefully. Only work with businesses that appeal to your prospective customers. Also, don’t clutter your website with ads. It looks spammy. Be selective.
There are lots of different options for sponsorship arrangements. It’s a bit like advertising, but with a bit more scope. For example:
- You could write a product review on your blog, sponsored by the manufacturer.
- If you have a podcast, your episodes could be sponsored by a business (in return for a radio-style ad every episode and perhaps an advert on your blog).
- You could run a giveaway with sponsored prizes (incidentally, if you do, I am loving the KingSumo Wordpress plugin!)
As with advertising, I recommend having a written agreement in place between you and your sponsor/s to ensure expectations are clear.
So that’s my summary of some of the ways bloggers make money. What do you think?
Feel free to ask me questions in the comments below.