Can You Really Make Money From Your Blog?
The internet is awash with bloggers, and most of them seem to want you to join them.
(Cue the creepy scene: they lurch towards you chanting, “join us… join us!”)
Ok, maybe that’s a bit strong, but I’ll bet that you’ve heard somewhere that you can and should be making money from a blog. In fact, I’ve written a post on this very site about my intention to make money from my blog. It’s ok, it’s a blog about saving, managing and making money, so I’d better have a go at least!
The truth is, sometimes I do think about recommending blogging to my friends who want to increase their income, but I usually don’t.
There are far easier ways to make money, and this isn’t for everyone.
You can make money, but will you?
Whilst I will acknowledge that you can make money from blogging, I won’t tell you that you will. It’s possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Most blog posts on the subject tend to jazz it up and make it seem as if everyone else in the club is raking in big bucks.
This is partly down to something called survivor bias.
Survivor bias is a form of selection bias, which means that the data source used for analysis isn’t broad enough or doesn’t accurately represent the truth. In business (and let’s apply this to blogging), if we were only to observe success stories we would begin to think that we could take those successful models and work backwards to the source to divine what made them work.
If you read enough blog posts about how to make money blogging, or “how I made money blogging”, you will begin to assume that every other blogger is making money, and that by absorbing their information, you too can copy their success.
After all, when did you last read about “how I’ve never made any money from blogging” or “how I stopped blogging because I was losing money”? These types of posts are rare, and many of them include a caveat – “but I made tons later!” or then include a link to a blogging course. If someone’s stopped because they were losing money, then of course they aren’t around to write about it.
It’s equally important to consider the data from failed blogs as it is from successful blogs. The problem is, the failed blogs aren’t a visible presence online.
Back to why you’re being told to start blogging
Why do so many bloggers want you to join into a rapidly saturating market?
It’s simple: they want to make money off you.
To be fair, this is how the world works – information is traded for money. We do this freely when we buy books, after all.
When you take up a hosting package referred to you by a blogger, there’s a good chance they’ll be getting a commission for that referral. This doesn’t add any cost to you, so is generally a harmless thing, unless they’re pushing a product that’s bad value for money under the guise of a genuine recommendation.
Also, there are shedloads of bloggers who are promoting “how to make money blogging” courses run by themselves or other bloggers. Don’t forget Pinterest and other social media courses and ebooks. If you want to blog about blogging, this is a great way to make money, as your blog-reading audience is probably dead keen to join the ranks.
You shoud be aware of the self-reflexive trap that occurs in the creative sphere, where we only create work for other people in our industries. Emulating anothers’ formula too closely can lead to the cookie-cutter “me-too” model that doesn’t have real staying power.
As a member of UK Money Bloggers, I know many successful full-time bloggers who have written books and courses for those interested in the trade – these are useful sources of information for those who would like to learn the ropes, but it’s worth understanding that it has generally taken the authors many years to get to where they are, and as mentioned before, their successes should be considered alongside the other voices that have fallen silent.
Take that blog with a pinch of salt
Many blogs that are titled “how to make $xxx a year” are actually stories that should be called “how that person over there made $xxx a year”. The way to make $xxx? Be that person over there.
Can you do anything to be that person? Of course not. It’s ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with learning from other people’s successes, but don’t be sucked into the hype that tells you that this is the norm. Most bloggers don’t make much money, some make none at all, and they’re happy with that because they do it for the love of writing and sharing.
Don’t forget as well – people sometimes lie. They may exaggerate. One can’t know for sure, so it’s best to apply some critical thinking to the claims you read in articles that are vying for your business.
Do I make money blogging?
Yes, but not a full-time income. You can look at my early income reports and see how much I made from blogging in the early years; however, as I started to make more, I decided to stop reporting on it as it wasn’t exactly side income any more.
I could have made a lot more by now but I went the long way round and just started writing without a clue about writing for money. The only thing I knew about was Google Ads, which is a bit funny now since that might well be the worst thing to lean on for making money from a website.
Paying for knowledge – in money or time
In the last few months I’ve picked up on lots of things that I could have learned if I’d have paid to take a blogging course. But you either pay in money or time, and this blog is about living frugally, so I wasn’t going to invest my pennies in something that wasn’t a sure bet at the time. I paid in time instead, made lots of mistakes, did a lot of reading and listened to lots of bloggers.
As I stated previously, I do know of regular people who are making more from their blogs than I ever have from a job. Will that be me? Probably not, as I’m not those people, and I don’t necessarily want to do the things they do or have done, nor may I even be able to.
I’ve turned down opportunities to make some cash because they didn’t sit well with my conscience or fit the blog. Will I make money eventually? Hopefully – keep coming back to see!
Is it worth it apart from the money?
If you want to set up a little corner of the internet, I’d say go ahead. Why?
Yes, I may not be making a lot now, but I really do enjoy doing this! I have another website for my art and I’d pay for the hosting for decades without making a penny because it’s mine. That’s an emotional decision and I don’t care – it’s my art out there in the world and it makes me happy. That’s worth the money.
Also, I love knowing that Homely Economics might be helping people I’ll never meet. I enjoy reading the comments and learning new things from this that I can take and apply in other aspects of my life. It’s really improved my focus with my art as a business, for example, and as my art website is my visual and critical writing portfolio, this blog is another showcase for a different aspect of my writing work. It’s already opened up many opportunities to me – I’m hoping to write about them soon.
Finally, I want to move my main income source from location-dependent employment to location-independent self-employment.
My main aim is to earn enough from my books, artwork and lastly my blog to be able to live anywhere in the country. That would then leave the question of my husband’s income, and the location of his work, but one goal at a time, eh?
The point is that there are other benefits besides money, and I’m already enjoying those.
What have I got to sell you?
Nothing. I do have affiliate links for webhosts, where you can search for your own domain name if you like and sometimes grab one for 99p. However, buying a domain name or hosting plan through these links won’t be any different than through another provider – you just have to shop around.
If you want to start a blog, just compare providers, find the right plan for you and don’t pay through the nose for it! I’d definitely go for a custom domain if you can afford it, as some blogging groups (useful support networks) won’t take you seriously with a .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com etc. address, and you’ll look more professional should you want to start taking on sponsored posts and the like.
I got my custom domain quite some time after starting on Blogger and I don’t regret it. Still, if you can’t afford it or just don’t want to commit, go for the free option first – like I did.
Don’t be put off, just write.
What will it cost you?
That’s down to you. There are few businesses which require so little financial outlay, and that’s why blogging is so popular with stay-at-home parents. (I think that’s a great thing.)
Remember I said you pay for it in either time or money? Well, you need to factor in the time anyway.
It costs more than money…
It’s not as simple as many would have you believe – whether you decide to take a pro’s course or dig around the net for free information like I did, you’ll need to factor in the time spent in writing, editing, creating images, marketing on social media and getting to grips with the technological side of your website.
Yes, you can do these in your pyjamas (like me right now) but you’ll still need to spend time. Blogging certainly isn’t a get-rich-quick option, but neither is any creative outlet.
Can you make money from your blog?
Potentially, yes, but potentially, no.
If you want to read more of my advice on blogging, start with this post. It’s geared towards artists, but the advice applies to everyone.
Over to you…
Are you an aspiring blogger or a pro? Either way, you must have some thoughts about this post – let me know in the comments below!