Wake up late in the morning, bang a few sentences out on your laptop or tablet, post your blog entry, and wait for lots of readers to comment (and check out your blog's ads). Then watch the dollars roll in to your bank account. Sound too good to be true? It is. True, some talented folks have turned this dream into a reality, thanks to the popularity of their online blogs. But they work darn hard at it.
There are millions of blogs (short for web logs) out there, the vast majority of which never make a cent, but a hardworking (and lucky) few earn six figure incomes for their owners with little more than a laptop, a digital camera and some snappy writing.
A great example is Ree Drummond, an Oklahoma homeschooling mom living on a working cattle ranch with her husband and four kids. Drummond started her blog The Pioneer Woman in 2006 out of boredom, but diligently posted daily on the mundane pleasures of country life. She quickly gained fans with her quirky, confessional writing and beautifully photographed down-home recipes. By 2012, she was getting more than 23 million page views a month, had published two cookbooks and a memoir, and launched a new cooking show on the Food Network [source: Fortini]. Another cookbook came out in 2013.
Of course, runaway blogging successes like The Pioneer Woman are not typical. According to a 2013 survey by the technology Web site Technorati, more than 80 percent of bloggers earned less than $10,000 per year. Indeed, 52 percent made less than $1,000, while a select 4 percent made more than $100,000 [source: Technorati]. In today's social media landscape, it isn't enough to make occasional blog posts. Most successful professional bloggers grow their "brand" and drive traffic to their blog by actively posting on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.
Making money blogging is a challenge, but it can be a little easier if you know what you're getting into. Click over to the next page to see where you might fit in with the four types of bloggers.
The Four Types of Bloggers
While all bloggers post content to the Web in much the same way, they do it for a variety of reasons. Some simply blog for fun, without the expectation or desire for compensation. Others try to make money with their blogs, earning income from a number of different sources. Then there are those who already offer a product or service, but use their blogs to promote their businesses and gain new clients or customers. Below is a list of the four different types of bloggers, as identified by Technorati:
- Hobbyists. This is by far the largest group in the blogosphere, the Web's extensive network of blogs. Hobbyists account for some 60 percent of all bloggers and tend to write about their lives and interests without any real expectation of income.
- Professionals. Eighteen percent of bloggers consider themselves professionals. These independent bloggers can be broken down into two subgroups: part-timers and full-timers. Part-timers, which represent 72 percent of this group, supplement their existing income with blogging. The remaining 28 percent are full-timers, who earn their entire income from their blogs. Professionals blog about a wide variety of topics, including personal musings, parenting, sports, politics and technology.
- Corporate. Companies or organizations pay these bloggers to post on the company Web site either full-time or as part of their full-time jobs. Corporate bloggers (who make up 8 percent of all bloggers) typically share expertise, promote their brand and try to attract new clients. Grocery chain Whole Foods hires a team of writers to post daily on its Whole Story blog with kids' recipe ideas, healthy eating tips, new products and behind-the-scenes stories about its producers and growers.
- Entrepreneurs. Like corporate bloggers, entrepreneurs maintain blogs to share expertise, promote their brand and attract new clients. However, entrepreneurs are not hired simply to blog; they actually own the companies or organizations they're promoting. This group represents 13 percent of all bloggers.
Of course, knowing the different types of bloggers isn't enough to turn your personal blog into a virtual money tree. Read on for some specific tips on how to make money blogging
Tips to Make Money Blogging
This may go without saying, but the most profitable blogs are the ones that get the most traffic, or visitors. To maximize the number of people reading your blog, you need to pick a topic that you love, and that other people are interested in as well. Choose a general topic like "healthy living" over a more specific one like "dieting." This will attract a wider variety of people to your blog and prevent you from running out of material about which to write.
So how do you get people to find your blog out of all the others out there? In addition to posting your entries on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, experts recommend you comment on other blogs and include a link back to your blog site [source: Williams]. You also need to post on a regular schedule rather than only when you feel like it. Some bloggers do a batch of posts at one time and schedule them to go out on different days.
Once you get a significant amount of traffic, you can start thinking about earning money. The most common way bloggers earn income is through online advertisements. A popular way to begin publishing these is through Google's AdSense, a free service that matches ads with content on your Web page, then pays you based on how many people view or click the ads for further information. Other companies, like Blogads and BidVertiser, sell your advertising space to the most relevant and highest-paying advertisers possible. Like AdSense, these companies pay for every click on an ad, but they also charge a commission. (Blogads charges a 14 to 30 percent commission on each ad sale).
Generally, advertisers pay bloggers for every 1,000 readers that view their ad, a number called CPM (cost per thousand). The average CPM in 2012 was $2.66, and it is projected to rise to $4.68 by 2017 [source: Del Rey]. At the 2012 rate, a blog that gets 1 million page views a month can pull as much as $2,660 from a single advertiser. The most popular sites demand higher CPM rates. Another method is cost per click or CPC, where the blogger gets paid only when someone clicks on the ad.
Affiliate programs are another way to make money with a blog. Here, you team up with a company and link to a product or service on its Web site any time you mention it on your blog. Like advertisements, you typically get paid when someone clicks through to the affiliate Web site. If someone then purchases a product after linking to it from your blog, you also get a cut of the sale. Amazon and Apple's iTunes run popular affiliate sales programs for clothing, gadgets, books, music and other products.
Finally, you can earn money by selling merchandise on your blog. Darren Kitchen, author of the Hak5.org computer hacking blog, made $5,000 a month selling stickers, T-shirts, baseball caps and computer hacking tools on his Web site in 2011 [source: Murphy]. Other bloggers have attracted the attention of book publishers, making thousands of dollars by putting some of their blog posts in print.
Finding Blog Sites That Pay
It's a little more difficult to find Web sites that will pay you to blog than it is to do it independently. Many companies and organizations require you to have a certain amount of blogging experience and expertise before they will hire you to write for them. However, it can be worth the extra effort since the pay is a nice supplement to the advertising revenue on your personal blog.
Some companies will pay bloggers to write about their products on the blogger's personal Web page, in an arrangement called pay-per-post. In many cases, companies will give free merchandise to bloggers who review their products. The good news is that you don't even have to be a high-traffic blog — 500 page views a month will earn a $300 kitchen product [source: Faw]. There are also Web sites like PayPerPost, Review Me and SponsoredReviews that can connect you with large and small sponsors. The tricky part is disclosing your relationship with the sponsoring company without sacrificing your credibility as a writer. There are also legal issues. If you don't fess up to receiving freebies, you can run afoul of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Read the FTC's guidelines on dot-com disclosures.
If your heart isn't set on posting to your own blog, there are a number of companies and organizations that will pay you to post on their blogs. The pay for these "freelance blogging" opportunities can be similar to pay-per-post (perhaps $25 per post), though some pay much more. Many of these employers offer steady work, paying bloggers for numerous articles over the course of many months. Finding these jobs requires a little bit of searching, but luckily there are a number of Web sites that post announcements for blogging work, like Freelance Writing Jobs, ProBlogger and Freelance Switch. Ideally, you could eventually translate this freelance blogging experience into a full-time career with a company or organization that uses its blog to reach out to customers or supporters.
Remember, in the U.S. all money you make from blogging must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service as self-employment income, even if you don't receive a 1099-MISC. There is no minimum amount — $600 is often wrongfully cited — for reporting blogging income on your tax return [source: IRS].
Perhaps the best advice for a blogger looking to earn a healthy income is to be patient. Big paychecks don't come overnight. Many of the most popular bloggers worked for months -- or even years -- before their Web sites began to earn much attention and revenue. For this reason, it's crucial that you blog about something you enjoy, or you'll never last long enough to be successful.
More Great Links
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- Del Rey, Jason. "Forrester Reduces Its Forecast for Online Ad Spending." AdAge. Oct. 9, 2012. (Sept. 2, 2013) http://adage.com/article/digital/forrester-reduces-forecast-online-ad-spending/237647/
- Fortini, Amanda. "The Pioneer Woman Gets Lost on the Range." The New Yorker. Feb. 3, 2012. (Sept. 2, 2013) http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/02/the-pioneer-woman-gets-lost-on-the-range.html
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