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Our number one goal at DollarSprout is to help readers improve their financial lives, and we regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. Some of the links in this post may be from our partners. Here’s how we make money.
Over the past month, our blog has generated over $1,500 in extra money for our business.
And, to be honest, we really could have made much more now that we are starting to figure it all out.
Many times more. (Which, of course, is our goal for the coming months.)
But the experiences of this past month have taught us a lot about blogging and how to make money while doing to.
All-in-all, we generated nearly $2,000 on top of our normal business sales (we provide financial coaching for clients as well as investing programs). None of which would have been possible if it weren’t for our decision to finally get serious about monetizing our blog.
And the greatest part about all this? You can do it too.
Even though one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that there’s no substitute for experience, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve our same level of success (and more).
In this post I will hit on the main points that allowed us to make money blogging in the first month of trying to monetize our blog.
Update: We now make over $180,000 per month blogging.
Think you’re ready to get started? I don’t think so. But you will be after watching this:
(some colorful language/profanity if you’re around small ears)
Anything is possible, guys. Let’s do this.
Why You Need a Blog
It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business trying to drive sales, a Fortune 500 company with a website highlighting its services, or an everyday Jane Doe contributing to a lifestyle blog — you need a blog.
Because blogs put more eyes on you, your brand, and your overall message to the world.
Blogs generate leads.
Blogs push sales.
Blogs bring you closer to those you are trying to reach.
Many businesses will create a website, but then they just let it sit. But what’s the point of producing static content on your website that no one will ever find?
Unless you have an established website with a crazy good Google PageRank (among 200 other variables), have flawless search engine optimization (SEO), and rank consistently high for keywords in your niche, you’re probably not garnering enough traffic to support a business.
And that’s where blogs come in.
You write, you promote, you share. And if you produce high quality content, others will share it too.
Blogs help you establish authority in a certain area, help build trust, and act as a more personal avenue for reaching potential ideal clients.
Blogs can even work as a stand-alone business model (and many do). You don’t necessarily need your own products or services in order to make money blogging.
How We Made $1,500+ in Our First Month
While our blog generates only a fraction of our total gross revenue, I am thankful to have opened up another income stream that I didn’t really understand even just two months ago. The best part about the blogging process so far is that it has generated opportunities for us to scale and grow our business that I had never considered when we first started.
When Jeff and I started blogging about finance and investing last year, we knew that you could use a blog to generate income but we wanted to focus on building a library of content first, before we looked at ways to generate additional revenue. We wanted to focus on growing on a local level here in Virginia and then scale up and look for opportunities to make moves online.
And so we waited. And blogged. And learned some stuff. And then we waited some more.
And from all that, we learned there is never the perfect moment to scale your business.
There is never that perfect time that you’re going to realize that it is okay to start trying to make money off your blog. Simply put, the perfect time to get started is now.
How We Did It
Prior to blogging, our only income stream was through sales of our products and services in our online shop. Blogging regularly about the importance of investing and managing your finances allowed us to drive sales via social media as we consistently had a presence across just about every platform you can imagine.
That social media influence, coupled with our local sales has made up the vast majority of our business to date. And while that may continue to be the case, I’d imagine that as we get better at blog monetization, that the portion of revenue we generate online may soon exceed that of our direct sales.
But like I mentioned earlier, blogging opened up avenues for generating income that I hadn’t even considered as options just a couple months ago. Once we started taking networking more seriously and got a monetization strategy in place, things started to change. Fast.
Soon other writers/websites began to contact us about guest posting for them. Designers were contacting us about freelance web and graphic design projects.
We discovered what affiliate marketing was.
We tinkered with Google Ads and AdSense.
We were approached about paid endorsements and we generated our first media kit for paid advertising…the list goes on and on.
And literally none of it we had considered as means for generating income even as recently as last month.
A Breakdown of Our Blog Income
Google AdSense: $115.79
In case you don’t know what AdSense is or how CPC advertising works (cost-per-click), basically Google gives advertisers a pre-determined amount of money each time someone clicks on an advertisement on your blog (from as small as $.01/click to some keywords raking in as much as $100/click based on a bidding system/how competitive a particular keyword is).
We place small ads throughout our website (and within our blog posts) that help us generate a little bit of income each month. Google gives you everything you need to get setup and it doesn’t take much of any coding knowledge to insert it into a blog post (phew). We try not to inundate readers with a wall of ads that might detract from the user experience or hinder them in actually reading our content.
Affiliate Marketing: $1,100.00+ (Mostly on FlexOffers.com)
Not bad for our first month. This is just the start for us, though.
There are dozens of people (and companies) in our niche that are crushing that figure. If you have a blog that people read and a voice that people are willing to listen to…that’s worth real money to companies.
Affiliate marketing is a little bit different than display advertising (like Google AdSense). Instead of receiving payment each time a visitor clicks on an ad, you get paid only when someone makes a purchase after clicking your link.
So how is this better than cost-per-click (CPC)?
The commissions are higher. Since the company only pays you when they get paid from a sale, they are much more willing to pay publishers a higher commission. There is no risk to them since the sale has already been made. Keep in mind, though, driving conversions isn’t easy.
There are dozens of such affiliate marketing companies out there – they work by acting as an intermediary to even bigger companies (Walmart, Target, Lowes, etc.) and drive sales to those advertisers. Some of the bigger affiliate marketing companies out there are, FlexOffers, CJ, and ShareASale. We are on all of them, but have had the most success so far with FlexOffers.
If you happen to blog about a relevant product and/or service that you believe will help your readers/is something you yourself use, you can get a portion of that sale if a reader ends up buying the product.
…and there are several other bloggers who absolutely smash that:
- Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents – over $68,000 in June alone!
- Holly @ Club Thrifty – over $22,000 in June alone.
- Rosemarie @ The Busy Budgeter – almost $23,000 in May alone.
Like I said, I clearly underestimated just how powerful a blog can be in terms of generating income for our business.
Don’t make that same mistake.
The great thing about making money through advertising online is that your earnings potential is virtually unlimited. The only limiting factor is how hard you are willing to work to grow your site.
Social Media Consulting: $160.00
One of the by-products of building a business online is that you learn a lot about marketing and getting your name out there. You have to, or else your business will never survive. And that marketing skill set, especially online marketing/branding, is valuable to other companies.
We never set out to be a marketing company when we first started DollarSprout, but when Jeff was approached about helping create a social media strategy and design images and for another company that was looking for help, we couldn’t pass on the offer.
Our success was beginning to get noticed. We came up with a rate for this particular project that we thought was fair to both parties, and they jumped on it. Looking back, we could have charged a lot more more. Oh well.
Remember what I said about there being no substitute for experience? This is a perfect example of that. We were new to this and undersold ourselves because we didn’t know any better. Lesson learned.
After finishing the project, the client was thrilled with the work and the results it was getting her, and said she would gladly refer us to others in her professional network (and that was after Jeff raised the rate for future projects by 50% due to the time commitment).
Below is a screenshot from our Pinterest analytics page. We’ve done pretty well over the past few months and have learned a lot about how to make that platform work for us. Hoping to hit 1,000,000 monthly viewers here soon.
Freelance Writing: $115.00 (One 800 Word Article)
I know I am going to say this over and over but when we first started our blog, we vastly underestimated its power to help network within our niche.
By writing our own content and sharing it with anyone and everyone we could find, we were really courting ourselves to other publishers in our niche.
Again, when Jeff was approached about writing a guest article for another finance website, we came up with what we thought was a fair rate for his time and quality of work and we pitched it to the inquirer.
After a bit of negotiating, we had a deal.
Sponsored Posts: $140.00 (One Article)
This one might be a little more difficult if you don’t already have an established following, but that’s okay! Most of this list doesn’t really require a loyal following or hundreds of thousands of readers each month to get started on.
Fortunately for us, being active on social media in the months prior to trying to make money blogging really paid off here. As of right now, we have a social reach of nearly 750,000 people each month. Starting a blog has helped immensely with that. What you can charge is largely dependent on your traffic and what an advertiser can expect to make back for paying you for a sponsored post.
We waited a really long time before ever accepting a sponsored post. Why? Because sponsored posts can come off the wrong way if you’re not careful.
If you wrote about eating organic on a fitness blog, would it be okay to accept a sponsored post for a new product that contained all sorts of GMOs, even if it were for hundreds of dollars?
If you co-owned a finance-oriented board writing about the importance of fiscal responsibility, do you think it would be morally/ethically okay to accept a sponsored post about pay-day type loans or to endorse the use of credit cards with exorbitantly high hidden fees?
Don’t sell out here.
When you start building traffic and have brands lining up for a sponsored post spot, please choose wisely.
Whether you work from home and you’re looking to bring in a little extra cash each month or you’re already an established enterprise, chances are there are things you could be doing to improve your cash flow, enhance your reader’s experience and grow as an authority within your niche.
Starting a blog is not easy work. It’s not impossible either.
If you take the time each and every day to grow your following through the many forms of social media, odds are you still start to see traffic start trickling in…and that trickling in can help you make money blogging.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay at home mom looking for extra cash or you’re an established small business looking for growth opportunities, you can make money blogging. And you can do it a lot faster than you think.
How to Get Started and Make Money Blogging
Blogging has to be one of the lowest risk investments you can ever make in yourself and/or your business. For less than $100/year you can try it and if you find out it’s not for you, you can cancel at no charge to you. HostGator offers such plans that start as low as a few dollars per month and scale up from there depending on your needs. For most of you, the most basic of plans will work until your web traffic begins to grow considerably.
You can pick your domain (ours is dollarsprout.com but you can use whatever you want), purchase a hosting plan through HostGator, install WordPress through CPanel and get started blogging in less than 20 minutes. Don’t be intimidated! Starting is really easy, and there are a ton of free resources out there that walk you through how to get started.
If you are indeed interested in blogging you can start a WordPress blog just like ours for as little as $2.75/month through our exclusive Hostgator link (use coupon code BTOP42 for 42% off!).
There are not many other industries that have such a low-ceiling to creating a business. And if it doesn’t work for you, you haven’t lost a dime.
Find your niche. Find what you like to write about. Go and make money blogging.