This is a guest post from Suzi Whitford of startamomblog.com.
Hi, I’m Suzi, and since childhood, I’ve loved playing on computers. My dad is a computer programmer, which created a curiosity in me how these bright screens and fun buttons work. I remember as a little girl I drew more in Microsoft Paint than I did with Crayola crayons. Fast forward a few years, and I was teaching college students how to code their own websites.
Jump a few more years, and I’ve left my lucrative corporate job as an engineer for a Fortune 100 company to become a stay-at-home mom. And now, in 2018, after turning my tech skills to blogging, I’ve taught over 34,000 moms how to start and grow their blogs. Along the way, I’ve also made enough money with my blog to pay off our car loans, eliminate our entire mortgage, and triple the yearly salary I made when I was in the corporate world.
It is so easy to start and grow a blog today. All you need is a good idea that helps or entertains others. If you consistently work to grow your blog and know how to monetize it, you can grow a successful online business in a few months. Today, I’m going to show you exactly how you can make money from your blog.
The Simple Formula of a Successful Online Business
To break down the perhaps overwhelming concept of what makes a successful business, I always tell my students, you need to first make friends and then secondly help those friends.
Step One: Making friends. Making friends means getting traffic to your blog and growing your email list and social media followings. The easiest way to get traffic to your blog when you’re just starting out is with Pinterest and Tailwind.
Step Two: Helping your friends. This is when you start to monetize. By making money? That’s right! When you have something your friends need, you owe it to them to tell them about it. You can recommend your own or affiliate products, online ebooks or courses, your services, place helpful ads on your blog, or create sponsored content that pertains to your readers’ interests.
6 Main Ways to Make Money with a Blog
Let’s deep dive into each monetization strategy below so you can build your successful online website from day one.
How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing
Let’s start with a very popular method to start making money with your website. Affiliate marketing is easy to start with, can be extremely lucrative, and is somewhat passive.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
According to Google’s dictionary, affiliate marketing is defined as “a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays a commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals.”
It’s a win-win for both the online retailer and you, the external website. You get the opportunity to promote a helpful product to your readers without spending months or years creating the product yourself, and the online retailer pays you a commission when a sale occurs.
Most beginning bloggers start monetizing their blogs through affiliate marketing with the Amazon affiliate program. Browsing through the pages of Amazon, you can find hundreds of products to recommend to your readers. And every time a sale occurs through your affiliate link, you get a small commission.
Monetizing a Blog with Affiliate Marketing – Pros
Affiliate marketing is easy because you don’t need a certain level of traffic to apply. Most affiliate programs take just a few minutes to sign up for to get your unique affiliate link. Although there are a few more elite affiliate programs may require you to first purchase the software or product before you can become an affiliate.
You can sign up for the Amazon affiliate program the same day you start your website. This enables you to add affiliate links to your first posts! So once you send traffic to your site, you’ll have the opportunity to turn those visitors into potential affiliate sales.
Affiliate marketing is also passive income to an extent. You just place your affiliate links once and then push traffic to the posts. There is no continuous customer support because you’re not the actual seller.
Monetizing a Blog with Affiliate Marketing – Cons
The cons of affiliate marketing are that the commissions could be low and you’re at the mercy of the affiliate programs rules – and things can change from time to time.
Affiliate marketing is a fantastic pillar of monetization to use on your blog, but it should not be your only source of monetization.
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
Most new entrepreneurs start with the Amazon affiliate program. You can also find hundreds of merchants such as Gymboree, Janie and Jack, Reebok, Wayfair, Tailwind and more on ShareaSale.com. Additionally, just a quick Google search of your favorite store (looking at you Target) could reveal an affiliate opportunity!
How to Make Money with Online Info Products
If you have a skill to teach or share, and you’ve built up a list of engaged readers, you can launch a successful online product quickly!
A few years ago it was cost prohibitive to create online products, courses, or membership sites. It took thousands of dollars to pay a website developer to set up your site correctly to host courses or membership areas. But today, that barrier to entry is gone!
What are online information products?
Online products can come in many different forms, such as ebooks, online courses, or membership sites.
Instead of teaching in front of a classroom, you can reach thousands of students instantly through online info products – whether in written form or via video! Your students can stop, pause, or skip around to different parts of your lecture to find what they need.
Even parenting blogs can use this strategy successfully. Susie, a mom struggling to keep her toddler busy, monetizes her kids activity blog through sales of her ebook. She now makes more with her blog than she did as a teacher!
Courtney, a former elementary school teacher, has a course on photography skills and makes a full-time income with her blog!
I give moms the confidence to start and grow their blogs and have multiple courses, many of them free to help moms get started planning their blogs and edit beautiful pictures without expensive or hard-to-master programs.
Monetizing a Blog with Online Information Products – Pros
Online informational products can be extremely profitable. Unlike affiliate marketing, the profit margins can be over 80%. You also have the flexibility to charge the highest price your readers are willing to pay.
Monetizing a Blog with Online Information Products – Cons
The cons of online informational products are that you first have to build an engaged audience before you can do a successful launch. Creating a product without knowing exactly what your readers need can be a shot in the dark. You could waste months of time writing an ebook or creating an online course if you haven’t taken the time to build an audience to understand their pain points.
Additionally, because creating online information products is easier than it’s ever been before, the competition is fierce. The best way to stand out in such a market is to build a loyal following and serve your readers consistently. Even just 1,000 true fans can turn your blog into a full-time income.
How to Get Started with Online Info Products
If you know the topic of your online product and the transformation you want your reader to go through, it’s easy to create the product.
You don’t need fancy equipment or expensive software to create online products. You can use Google Docs to write an ebook or take videos with your iPhone. The hard part is not creating the product, it’s building the audience.
How to Make Money with Ads on Your Site
The first thing people think about when you mention monetizing a website is probably the hosting of ads on a site for which you’re paid according to the number of website visitors or sessions on your site.
What are blog ads?
Advertisements are images or banners that you place on the top of your blog, in the sidebar, or inline with your posts which, when clicked, direct your readers to another merchant’s products.
Monetizing a Blog with Ads – Pros
The biggest advantage of advertisements on your website is that once you set it up, it’s completely passive.
As your traffic increases, you can increase your advertising income by adjusting ad placement and potentially moving to an advertiser offering a higher cost per click or CPC.
To roughly estimate how much you can make with ads, you need to know the cost per click (CPC) and the percentage of your website viewers who click the ad (click through rate or CTR).
For example, if your CPC is $1 and your click through rate, CTR, is 1%, you can make $10 per 1,000 page views.
Monetizing a Blog with Ads – Cons
The disadvantage of ads is that the passive income is very low unless your website has a lot of traffic. Most blogs need to have thousands of visitors a day to see meaningful income from adding advertisements.
How to Get Started with Ads
Most beginning bloggers start with Google Adsense. It’s easy to install and you do not need to meet a required minimum pageview count per month to apply.
How to Make Money with Sponsored Content
Have you ever seen the commercials where a celebrity talks about a new gadget or product, and at the end of the commercial states, “this advertisement is sponsored by …”? That’s a sponsored piece of content! The celebrity was paid handsomely for endorsing the product, and you could be paid too, on a smaller scale, for writing sponsored content on your website.
What are sponsored posts?
A sponsored post is a blog post that you write for a company and publish on your own blog. The sponsor company pays you to share it with your readers. Basically, you’re acting as an extension of their marketing department. It’s similar to affiliate marketing, where you promote a product that is not your own, but instead of a commission on the sales, you get compensation upfront for your sponsored post.
When you’ve built up a loyal following in a particular niche, it is easy to approach a company to pitch or apply for sponsored posts. If you have a large email list, lots of traffic to your blog, or a large social media following, companies may even reach out to you.
The compensation from sponsored companies could range from free products to a few hundred dollars. The larger your audience the more you can charge for sponsored posts.
Monetizing a Blog with Sponsored Content – Pros
You could receive free products to test out and share with your readers. You may also build a very strong relationship with your sponsor and increase your earnings over time. And bonus, if it’s a great fit for your audience, you’re getting paid to create content!
Monetizing a Blog with Sponsored Content – Cons
The biggest potential drawback of writing sponsored posts is that the content could sound unnatural, alienating your regular readers and eroding their trust in you. Sponsored posts may require you to follow guidelines, such as word count, clicks in a certain time period, number of visitors, and verbiage. It’s much less passive than advertisements or affiliate marketing.
How to Get Started with Sponsored Content
Before you reach out to companies to apply for sponsored content, you’ll need to create your blog’s resume, also known as your media kit. This is a page on your website that gives a total overview of your blog, traffic numbers, email subscribers, your ideal reader, who you are, and why you’re a good candidate.
Reach out to a company directly if you feel your website and audience is a perfect fit for their product.
Look for the company’s contact information at the bottom of their website and email your pitch, or (because sometimes pitch emails get lost), you may need to get a bit creative. To stand out, you might create a pitch video, tag the company and share it on social media. Ask your followers to comment and tag the company in the post to get their attention. I’ve seen this work well for fellow bloggers! Create a dedicated media kit page just for that company and pitch! You never know what great relationship could build!
How to Make Money with Services and Freelancing
Want to make money today? Do you have skills you can offer to help someone else grow their business? Then freelancing may be the perfect solution for you!
What is Freelancing?
Freelancing is offering your services to a business or company while you remain self-employed. It’s client work on your terms. You offer your skills and pitch to clients; if they agree to your terms and payments, they pay you for your time.
Monetizing a Blog with Services and Freelancing – Pros and Cons of Services and Freelancing
You can start right now! Set up a quick one-page website that acts as your online resume. Include a few testimonials, an overview of your skills and past work, and a method for future clients to contact you.
The more rare and in demand your skills are, the more you can charge for your work.
Even busy professionals can start a side hustle by freelancing while they still have a full-time job. It’s not for everyone, but it can replace your income if you don’t mind sacrificing your Netflix cravings.
Monetizing a Blog with Services and Freelancing – Cons
One drawback to freelancing is that you can only scale so much. You have a limited amount of time available – and you’ll need to leave time for billing, bookkeeping, and finding new clients. But there are ways to be creative with your skills and help others.
Many freelancers turn to creating online products once they have mastered their skills. This allows them to scale infinitely.
How to Get Your First Client
There are numerous ways to get your first client, but I’ll cover two below.
The first is to join Facebook groups in your ideal client niche. Say for example you offer baby sleep consultations to help parents and little ones get a few hours of solid rest. You can join any one of the thousands of mommy Facebook groups and see where you can help. Don’t just join the group and pitch, you’ll probably be removed by the admin. Instead, find posts and threads where you can offer advice and help, build relationships and eventually, let people know you offer services. That’s the slow method.
A faster method to get your first client is to run Facebook ads targeting your exact niche. With Facebook you can dial in to exactly the person you want to help. On your one-page website, include a free ebook or printable to gather the email addresses of future clients. Then direct your Facebook ad traffic to your website and follow up with those readers that sign up for your freebie. Thousands of online coaches and entrepreneurs follow this exact method to expand their client base.
How to Make Money by Selling Physical Products
Do you have a physical product that you plan to sell online? Congratulations! Instead of waiting for customers to enter your store, you can now reach thousands of customers online! Let me help you make your physical product fly off your online shelves!
Choosing a Platform to Sell Physical Products
There are countless platforms to choose from when selling physical products. I’ll cover four popular ones below.
Amazon: You can sell your products on Amazon. The obvious benefit here is that the Amazon store is already filled to the brim with potential customers! Include clear visuals, such as high-definition photos and videos, a terrific write up and description combined with raving reviews, and your product will do well on Amazon.
However, the competition is fierce, the rules are strict, and negative reviews have a serious impact on your sales.
Shopify: One of the most popular e-commerce platforms is Shopify. You can create your online store easily with any of the Shopify themes and by using their 24/7 live chat support. The platform also allows you to track sales and growth trends, manage unlimited products, and fulfill orders in a single step. There is no transaction fee per sale. Instead, you’ll pay a monthly fee for the hosting of your Shopify store.
There are over half a million businesses powered by Shopify. Take for example, Brooklyn Biltong, a delicious meaty snack perfect for your post-workout protein cravings. Their Shopify store looks clean, crisp and is filled with rave reviews. This is exactly what you can do on the Shopify platform. The owners of Brooklyn Biltong do not have to think about web design and difficult integrations. Instead, they focus on selling their product.
Etsy: Think of Etsy as your local Sunday market. It’s where you go if you want handcrafted unique items -items such as one-of-a-kind wool scarves, specialized wooden baby toys, or personalized bridesmaid makeup bags.
As a seller, It’s the perfect solution for selling your products without any of the web design and development headaches.
Unlike Shopify where you’re selling from your own website, Etsy is a marketplace and takes a transaction fee on each of your sales.
WooCommerce (self-hosted): If you already have a blog or website and want to start selling physical products, you can do that without creating a whole new website or store. Using the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress sites, you convert the traffic you’re already getting to your blog into paying customers.
WooCommerce integrates with Stripe, PayPal, UPS, and many more to make selling your physical product from your site easy.
With WooCommerce, you can sell physical or digital products. You can also give customers the option of pickup, local delivery, or shipping, and even customize options available based on customer location. You can also set a flat rate or set specific rates for each of your products, or offer free shipping for certain products or locations. Taxes can also be automatically calculated based on your customer’s shipping address. Easy!
The WooCommerce plugin is free to use but you do need a self-hosted wordpress website which can cost between $5 – $30 per month depending on your hosting plan.
It is one of the most customizable e-commerce platforms for your online business, but requires a little bit of technical know how – or at least a willingness to try.
Monetizing Your Blog with an Online Store – Pros
Profit margins can be high. Depending on what you choose to sell, you can scale your income infinitely – and with drop shipping, your online store may not require too much of your time. Pro – Also, your store is always open. You can track and retarget customers easily to personalize their shopping experience. There is far less overhead than a physical store and you can reach anyone around the globe.
Monetizing Your Blog with an Online Store – Cons
Not everyone wants to deal with setup, payment gateways, shipping, and customer service (if that’s you, use a marketplace instead of a self-hosted store!). Supplier headaches can cause sleepless nights, and constant competition to offer the lowest pricing and best deals on shipping can eat into profits fast.
How to get more customers to your online store
Regardless of which platform you choose to sell your physical product, you’ll need visitors to make sales.
So how do you get more visitors to your online Shopify store, Etsy page or blog? You need to go where the cool kids hang out. Where do you see big crowds gather online?
The big social media giants, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest entertain and inform millions of potential future customers every day. Think of these social media channels like a huge dam, you just need to create a little stream from the dam to your store.
But how do you create that little stream of future customers? You can write short posts on your Facebook page, post gorgeous flat lay or lifestyle pictures on your product’s Instagram account, and save those same images to Pinterest to get more visitors to your store. The only catch is, you need to do this consistently to continue to grow your following and traffic. Using a scheduling tool such as Tailwind can help you get a steady flow of future customers from these giant social media channels. (Did you know Tailwind now works with Instagram, Pinterest, AND Facebook?!)
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When Should You Start to Monetize Your Blog?
If you’ve started your blog and want to turn it into a money making business, you can start monetizing from day one. The fastest way you can make money online is by offering yourself as the product through freelance work.
Affiliate marketing is a close second when it comes to ease of making money online, as you’re promoting and selling someone else’s product. Sponsored content and digital products are both lucrative, but take time to create. Making money by selling ad space on your blog is a good idea if you have large amounts of traffic, but that takes time to build.
And lastly, if you want to or already have a physical product, you can start selling it as soon as you have your website up and running.
The first challenge is having a product to sell, the second more consistent challenge is getting a continuous stream of traffic to your blog or online store.
All forms of website monetization require traffic and an audience. Selling informational products or offering freelance services require less traffic because your profit margins are large. These are great strategies to start out with if you have a very small audience.
Once you have a more established, audience you can make a full-time income through affiliate programs, physical products, sponsored posts, and advertisements on your blog. Because commissions and profit margins with affiliates and physical products are lower and you’ll need more sales, it may take a while to get your blog to the point where it can support this. Sponsored posts and advertisements require large audiences to pitch and generate a high CTR.
What all Successful Online Businesses Have In Common
Regardless of which platform you use to sell your products or services, you’re going to need visitors to your website. Some methods of monetization only require a few visitors per month to make a full-time income. Take for example the freelancer offering up her services as a baby sleep consultant. She may only need 5-6 clients per month to make $2,000. With a low conversion rate of 0.5%, she’ll need 1200 unique visitors per month to her blog. That’s doable!
On the other hand, the couple behind Brooklyn Biltong selling jerky will need thousands of visitors per day to their Shopify store to make a full-time income. They most likely have a higher conversion rate than the freelancer, but their profit margins are much smaller.
Tap into online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and direct a trickle of that traffic to your own website and you’ll be on your way to making six figures with your online store!
Suzi Whitford, mom to three little munchkins, is a former Industrial Engineer who turned to blogging as a creative outlet after the birth of her first daughter. She teaches other moms how to grow their blogs and shares the methods she uses to make over $30,000 per month from home. Get started today by enrolling in her free blog plan course.