What’s up people.
Today we’re going to talk about money. And blogging.
There are a few reasons I’ve finally decided to write this post. The first is, you’ve all been asking me about making money with a blog since forever ago. The second is, there is a lot (a lot!) of crap getting sold around the net right now teaching people how to make money online, and the last thing I want is for you guys to buy one of these courses for only $2,997 promising to make you a millionaire.
For those of you looking to get into blogging, I’ve already written a super in-depth guide about setting up your own blog and getting it to a point where you can start to monetise, so check that out if you haven’t already. This post is the other half of the puzzle.
Making money with a blog is actually really simple. You sell something, somebody pays you for it. That’s how McDonald’s makes money, it’s how Justin Timberlake makes money, it’s how blogs make money.
A better question would be, How do you find something to sell? Where do you find people to buy it? How do you know if they will actually pay for it? Hopefully, I can answer them all for you today.
Making Money With A Blog: From start to finish
The above diagram shows a typical cycle that a blog “customer” goes through. It starts with a stranger, let’s call him Mario, and he’s poking around the internet. He finds you somewhere, maybe on Google or Facebook. When he visits your blog or your Instagram page or your Youtube channel, you’ve turned Mario from a stranger to a visitor.
When somebody visits your site, your goal is to turn them into a repeat visitor. You want them to keep coming back again and again. To do this, you usually need to form a connection of some sort – you get them to Like your page on Facebook, follow you on Twitter. But the most effective form of connection is email. When a visitor gives you their email and subscribes to your blog, you now have a direct form of contact with this visitor. Marketers would call this converting visitors into leads. I prefer to call them subscribers.
Once you have some subscribers, you can contact them about anything you want. You can send them an email telling them your dog is sick, or you can send them a funny video, you could write them poems every day if you really want to. But you can also send an email to sell something. Ding ding ding. If anyone does end up buying, you’ve successfully converted your subscriber into a customer.
You had something to sell. Somebody bought it. You made money.
Of course it is possible for customers to skip steps in the process – for example, someone might visit your blog from Google and buy your product straight away. That happens too. But most connections loosely follow the process above (there are also income streams that run on a tangent to this process, such as advertising and partnerships – we’ll talk about them later).
Let’s take a look at the process in more detail.
1. Creating content
The first thing you need to do is create some content for your blog. Normally this would be a blog post, but it could also be a Youtube video, a webinar, or maybe it’s just a video on your social media page. The idea of the content is to give people something valuable, show them something interesting – basically get their attention. Some people are not so subtle with their content, and they’ll just make a video about how they live in a mansion and drive a Ferrari – you’ve probably seen those a lot. But you can literally make any kind of content you want – funny videos, stories, photography, vlogs, songs, it doesn’t matter. The key is that people love it.
Try and think about the first piece of content that brought you to my blog. Maybe it was a travel guide, or a story, or maybe it was this post you’re reading right now. Why did you click on it? Why are you still reading it? That’s basically what you need to create for yourself. Something that people want to read/watch/hear/see. Ideally it will be something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about also.
Again, the overall goal here is to create something that people will love. What do people love? Things that make them happy, things that make them laugh, things that help them, things that educate them, things that inspire them, things that solve their problems. So create something that will do one of those things.
2. Getting Visitors
Now that you’ve made something amazing, the next step is getting some eyes on it. How do you do this?
There are many ways. You could share it on your social media accounts, like Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram (one of the main ways I bring traffic to the blog is through my Facebook page). You can post on places like reddit and other forums. You can make Youtube videos that redirect to your blog. You could optimise your content so people will find you on Google or other search engines.
If you don’t have any traction on any of these platforms, you can simply pay for advertising on Facebook or Google.
Truthfully, if your content is actually awesome it will often promote itself. You’ll just need to give it a little nudge, and people will start sharing on their Twitter and BongoChat and whatever other social network is hot right now. But of course it always helps to promote it as hard as you can.
Again, ask yourself how you found this post. Did you find it on Google, Facebook, did a friend send it to you? That should give you some clues as to how to get visitors to your own content.
3. Converting visitors into subscribers
When you get a visitor to your page, they’re usually looking for something. For example, I get quite a few people searching for information about cheap flights, or travelling alone. They arrive from Google, they read about how to get a cheap flight, and then they leave. I never see them again.
I don’t have a problem with that, and you shouldn’t either. That’s why the blog post is there – for people to read. But ideally I’d like that person to return to my site again sometime in the future, and maybe he or she will become a customer.
Therefore, perhaps the most important step in this process is converting your visitors into subscribers.
The way to do this is to collect their information. If you can collect their email address, it means you can contact them again in the future, telling them about new blog posts, old content they might be interested in, and even products that you’re selling.
The trouble is, very few people are going to just give you their email address. We live in a “what’s in it for me?” world. People rarely give something for nothing, however, people absolutely love getting something for nothing. Therefore, to get more subscribers, try offering them something for free.
If you scroll down to the very bottom of this post, or visit my Subscribe page, you’re going to see a box that asks for an email address.
This box is known as an “opt-in box”. It gives your reader the opportunity to subscribe to your blog. You can see that my subscribers receive a free 75 page ebook about how I started my life of travel. In marketing speak, they call this a “lead magnet”.
Now you can’t just offer anything for free. If your lead magnet sucks, nobody will subscribe. And even if they do subscribe, they will look at your sucky lead magnet and then hate you for wasting their time. That person is never going to become a customer. They’re never going to visit your blog again. If you’re offering a lead magnet, it needs to be above excellent. You need to offer something that will actually help people, something of massive value. There are no shortcuts here. You need to give.
Again, the goal is create something people will love.
4. Making the sale
Now that you have subscribers, you are in a position to offer something for people to buy. You simply email your subscribers and tell them about it. But what can you sell?
The first option is to sell your own product. It could be an information product, like an ebook, it could be a physical product, like a bag of coffee, or it could be a service, such as consulting or advice. You create the product or service, then you sell it. Pretty simple. My premium ebook Triple Your Travel is an example of my own product.
What if you don’t have a product? You could sell somebody else’s product and earn a commission. This is known as selling as an affiliate. When you become an affiliate of a product, the creator of that product will give you a unique link. If someone uses your unique link to make a purchase, you will earn a commission. If you look around my website, you’ll find many examples of affiliate products – my blog post What’s In My Backpack? is a good example. In that post many of the products listed are from Amazon. Because I am a member of the Amazon affiliate program, I earn a small commission (about 4%) on any products that people buy through the links in that post.
Another example is my Triple Your Travel guide, which is also sold by affiliates. Whenever another blogger promotes the book and makes a sale through their link, I pay them a commission.
This is how most online businesses make money
This process is not exclusive to blogging. Most people making money online loosely follow this same process. Go scroll through your Facebook feed right now. Do you see any sponsored posts? You’ll probably see one within the first ten seconds. That’s people advertising for visitors. But it’s not just any content. I’m willing to bet my pinky that it’s offering you a lead magnet – a free report/guide/training/ebook/donkey. In exchange for the lead magnet, they’ll be asking for an email address. That’s them collecting leads. Once you enter your email address, they’ll probably send you an email with something for sale within the next few days. If you thought their free product was good and helpful, there’s a chance you’ll buy their premium product. That’s them turning leads into customers. It’s exactly the same process.
5. The Fifth Element: B2B
Blogs make money in a lot of ways. Although the four steps above shows the primary process, there is also a fifth component; B2B, or business-to-business. This represents things like advertising, partnering with brands, sponsorships, and selling professional services. Although rare, some blogs do not sell any products or services to readers, and make all their income through B2B relationships. However, these income streams are all still dependent on the four step process above.
If you want companies to buy ad space from you, you will need awesome content, whether it’s a Youtube series, a podcast, blog posts, photography, or anything else, because you still need to attract visitors, and you’re still going to build a subscribers’ list and social media followings to keep visitors coming back to your site. No company will be paying to advertise on a site with no readers.
If you want to get sponsorships or collaborations, you need amazing content that people love so that you can bring visitors to your site and build an audience that a company will want exposure to. No company will sponsor a blogger with no following.
If you want to sell professional services, such as writing or photography, it still begins with your content. Companies will not be hiring you to write content or take photos for their websites if the writing and photos on your own site are not amazing.
Again, it’s the same process; leveraging an audience by creating something that people will love.
Here is a list of different B2B possibilities:
- Display advertising
- Email advertising
- Brand sponsorships
- Brand ambassadorships
- Sponsored posts
- Instagram marketing
- Offer services (writing, design, video)
- Press trips
Where most bloggers fail
Bloggers struggle at most steps of the process, myself included (especially myself included!) but I find it’s having the wrong mindset that holds most of them back, because it forces them to ask the wrong questions.
When people ask me for blogging advice, the first question they ask is always (yes, always) how to make money.
How can I earn at least $5,000 per month? How can I sell more books? I need at least $2,000 to support my travels. How can I do that?
My answer is always the same. It’s the wrong question. The real question is, How can you create something amazing? How can you write a blog post about X that is more helpful than every other blog post about X on the entire internet? How can you create something that makes people go wow? How can you create something that makes people smile? How can you create something that solves people’s problems? How can you create something that helps people live a better life?
If you can answer those questions, the rest of the process falls into place. You won’t need to ask people to subscribe – they’ll already be hunting for your subscribe box. You won’t need to ask people to share your content, they’ll do it anyway. And as you’ve seen above, those things will eventually lead to you making money in the end anyway.
It’s the same issue that feeds into every part of the process. How can I collect more leads? Some bloggers will read somewhere that the trick is to create a lead magnet, and they’ll rush some guide or e-book together and slap it on their site. Of course, the crap lead magnet doesn’t get them anywhere, because the question isn’t “How can I get more leads?” The question is “What is a problem I can help my subscribers solve? What questions do they need answered? What is something that will help them today?”
My free ebook So You Wanna Be A Traveller? took three months to write, edit, design and publish, and I update it every year. That’s a product that people value. It’s a lead magnet that sticks. I’ve even had readers insist on paying for it even though it was free. Others emailed me asking for other books of mine they could buy.
Notice how in this situation I didn’t even have to try and sell anything. People were literally asking if they could buy something. Like I said, the goal is to create something that people love. The rest will fall into place.
Notice the mindset change that is necessary. Blogging is not like an office job where you show up, punch a time card, collect a check and go home. You need to actually care about your customer, or in this case, your reader. You need to be invested. You need to genuinely want to improve their lives. You need to offer massive value for free – 99% of the people who visit your blog will never buy anything, never pay you for anything, never say thank you, and you need to be okay with that. You need to take joy in helping people for the sake of helping people. Can you do that? Be very frank in that assessment. If you’re only willing to help people when they pay you, blogging is not for you. It is estimated that 96% of blogs on the internet are abandoned, and this is why. The money can never come first. It is always reader first, blogger second.
As a homework exercise, go and subscribe to twenty or thirty blogs and see how they interact with their audiences. I’ve subscribed to maybe a hundred over the years, mostly for research purposes, and some bloggers send out offers every month, some every week! And unsurprisingly those are blogs I never care to read. In fact, I don’t even remember their names. The blogs I actually enjoy and follow all have one thing in common – they give, give, give, give, give.
Use these resources to get started
It can be hard to find a (free) resource that teaches you this entire process. However, now that you know the process, it is much easier to find resources that teach a single part of it. For example, if you have trouble finding visitors you can find several good blog posts about that particular topic. If you have trouble creating a product, there will be many good blog posts about that topic also, and so on. Here are a few things to get you started:
- If you’re new to blogging, I have a free step-by-step guide to setting up your own blog. It covers everything from getting a brand new blog online to earning your first dollar. You can click here to go there now.
- If you are ready to set up your blog, I highly recommend hosting with Dreamhost. They are one of the most affordable hosts out there, and unlike most big hosts, their support is great! I haven’t had a blog-related mental breakdown since (and I was having them often). You can get your blog up and running today by clicking here.
- To create email sign up forms like the ones I have on my blog, I recommend using Thrive Leads. It’s one of my favourite plugins and makes creating sign up forms super easy. It also has A/B testing, integration with all the email providers and lots of other good stuff. Super powerful – it’s worth every penny. Click here to check it out.
- The email service I use is called Mailerlite. It is so affordable and has all the necessary features for building an effective list.
- For a summary of all the other tools and resources I use on my blog, you can check out my Blogging Resources centre.
- To get started with affiliate marketing and finding an offer to promote, it helps to join an affiliate network. The four I currently use are Flex Offers, CJ, Share-a-sale, and Affiliate Window.
And finally, if you have any questions about these resources, or the blog post, you’re welcome to email me or leave them in the comments below. I’ll answer them the best I can!
Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. All items recommended above are resources I use here on my own blog and are honest recommendations. No items are sponsored and I pay for all my resources in full. For further clarification you can read my Disclosure Policy here.
Great article Bren! I’m not sure any website or blog owner should be comfortable with 99% of their traffic not buying anything though. That is unless they’re not trying to make money.
Hey Steve, thanks. I think it depends on your industry. If you’re running a Shopify store or something, then you’d probably expect more customers. From what I’ve experienced blogging is different. I definitely don’t purchase anything from most blogs I read. Most people I’m chatty with get at least a million page views a year (myself included) and we definitely don’t convert 10,000 per year (1% of those) to customers. A good friend of mine gets closer to 5 million per year and he’s definitely not making sales to 50,000 people (not even close). That’s just from people I talk to though which is mostly within travel – could be different in your and other circles!
Great post. I started my blog last month and your post is super helpful! Thank you. What I m having trouble with is people not visiting my website. They stayed in Instagram. Any advice in the matter?
Hey Claudia, I don’t really use Instagram, not as a traffic source anyway. I could write a whole book about traffic generation but as for social media I would probably concentrate on Facebook and Pinterest if you’re looking to boost page views.
Hey Bren… You’re such a great writer and believe it or not İ think İ just found a role model. I am a new blogger myself, İ want to grow my blogging and blogspot doesn’t seem to be helping me do that. İ recently checked wordpress premium so before paying for it İ was just wondering if it would be worth it to pay around 350 USD for it. Besides wordpress is there any other platform for blogging. Do you hav any advice for me
Thank you in advance
Hey James, no you definitely don’t need to pay that much for a blog! Should only be 3 or 4 bucks per month when you’re starting out. Have you seen my guide to building a blog from scratch? I’m sure it will be helpful for you: https://brenontheroad.com/guide-to-starting-a-travel-blog/
Thanks for this very informative blog post. Really read it thoroughly and I just can’t help but nod and agree. Your writing style is very comprehensive and all in layman’s term. Easy to understand and it seems like we’re just having a face to face conversation. Kudos to this!
I am also a freelancer (a VA) and does writing and a whole lot of things and I’m planning to really and seriously start and set up my freelancing business. Your blogs just really help me and guide me all the way through. Looking forward to more of your blog posts! Regards.
Glad it was helpful!
Just found your blog via Pinterest and suscribe which proves your point in this post!
I read lots of your post in one night and i have a quesion for you, i’m a travel blogger from Turkey, but my pages doesnt have hit like i expect, but my 4 photos(in blog post) at top 10 of the search places in google images and that may me think like should i do post have lots of picture in it or do what to see or eat illustrations as a photo then maybe write a little shorter? I am oppen to any other succestions.
Hope to hear your answer
Getting traffic to your blog is a large topic – too dense for me to cover here. I suggest looking into SEO, Pinterest and Facebook, and the basics of content marketing. Good luck!