How to earn money off a blog?
December 3, 2019 4:12 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for a simple, straightforward toolkit for turning a blog into an income-generation centre. UK based. Not interested in signing on with an expert, can you help navigate me?

Mrs. P and I have an editorial plan for an interior design blog focused on late Edwardian and early Victorian 2-up, 2-down homes. We live in one, so that solves a lot of the logistics.

I have had a terrible time with WordPress and want to find an extremely simple and cost-effective blogging pathway that incorporates ads, affiliates, Instagram, Amazon, etc without being heartbreakingly complicated. Major bonus for winning ways to blog by mobile phone.

There are a lot of experts out now, selling high earner courses. We met with some interior design bloggers who cautioned us about these courses and the importance of just getting started. Now, they are selling us courses.

We don't mind buying a course but can follow instructions about setting up in a straightforward way.
posted by parmanparman to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I am looking for a simple, straightforward toolkit for turning a blog into an income-generation centre

Identify a product that Amazon sells that is expensive enough that the referral bonus is lucrative, write enough SEO optimized content that you're the number one to three hit in Google for the subject, sit back and profit.

In other words, there's not really such a thing as what you're asking for. Unless you're getting significant traffic interested in buying something then and there, the amount of money you make from online advertisements is pretty insignificant. Blog about what you love, not as a business.
posted by Candleman at 5:21 AM on December 3, 2019 [17 favorites]

Check out income school. While they have pay course options, the free content is good and all that you need.

Since you mentioned interior design, Laurel Bern is a designer who has a blog and a blogging guidebook which runs around $150 USD.

Good luck.
posted by seesom at 5:40 AM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Check out Authority Hacker. Paid courses but lots of free content. Also Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. They have a paid course but it’s very very reasonably priced. I got started in this space with Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income content, but Pat is doing so many different things today I’m not sure his stuff is still as relevant in this space as it once was.

It’s very possible to do what your asking, many do. (Although perhaps not by ignoring the tools of the trade, which unfortunately usually include Wordpress). But it’s not easy, and not guaranteed. You are essentially investing your time instead of your money, and it’s a high risk investment.
posted by cgg at 6:24 AM on December 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

As someone who has blogged for a living in the past: think of it this way -- if there was a way to make good money which did not require understanding industry-specific technology, wasn't difficult to monetize, and didn't require a significant investment in time and money, everyone would be doing it. This is going to require learning how to do all the parts, or paying somebody to do the parts you don't want to.

There's no easy way to get things working beyond the out-of-the-box Wordpress; I'd recommend looking at paying someone to set up your Wordpress system for you, versus learning how to configure Wordpress yourself, and then they train you how to use your own system (setting up other people's Wordpress like this is a way my wife pivoted her freelance income as blogging shrunk in profitability). They should be knowledgeable enough to get the core system and the plugins you need to have it work how you want without you learning an entirely new technology. Unfortunately I don't have any recommendations on how to find one.

These days, advertising doesn't do squat unless you've got millions and millions of hits. Even the huge media organizations getting millions of hits aren't making money off advertising and are closing up shop, so don't get too optimistic. If you cut out "advertising revenue" as a goal for your blog because it's more work than profit, this may simplify what you're trying to accomplish.

As you've noted with your competitors "selling courses" -- the way to monetize a blog today is to sell a product, and the blog just drives traffic to your checkout page; your blog is advertising for the thing you sell, the blog is not the product. Actually, this has pretty much always been a profitable model (I was a paid blogger for a company selling a subscription service years ago), but non-product-sales blogging models are shrinking in profit.

You mention Instagram, which gives a look at a post-blog world: do you even need a blog, if you're doing Instagram? If you're splitting up your viewers between Instagram and your blog, you possibly are losing somebody somewhere. What we found with Twitter was that people rarely clicked through to the blog post, even in tweets that had a lot of exposure; I suspect Instagram is like that or even worse (since they don't really encourage linking away from Instagram); maybe if your blog is going to be image-focused and you can post to Instagram on a very regular basis, you may be exerting extra work to also maintain Wordpress when these modern content sharing platforms are sufficient. This also fits your "blogging from a phone" requirement since Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/etc are all phone-friendly interfaces.

To summarize: if you want a blog set up, pay a service to set up Wordpress for you; identify what you're selling and how to receive payment for what you're selling; look at non-blog methods of delivering your content to your readers and see if a blog is really worth it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:47 AM on December 3, 2019 [15 favorites]

Things bloggers/content creators make money off of:
- Affiliate programs
- Courses, which generally do not contain any big secrets but gives purchasers a sort of warm fuzzy insider feeling
- Coaching, which is mostly like paying them to seem like a friend
- eBooks, which generally also contain freely available information but the price point is low enough that a lot of your content consumers will buy it as a form of tipping
- Sponsored content, IF you've got enough social media followers
- Youtube ad revenue
- Instagram somehow
- Merch
- Writing for television, film, print publications, and/or publishing books
- Getting a TV show

Things bloggers do not make money off of:
- Blogging

There is no underpants gnome here; almost nobody makes money off text words anymore. Case in point: the site you're on right now, huge alternative media outlets, wonderful literary magazines, all of which are teetering on the edge of shutdown if they're still alive in the first place. The Toast, ffs, couldn't stay afloat and wouldn't have stayed open as long as it did without someone supporting it out of their pocket.

If making money is your priority, you should focus your content on super-high-end affiliate items (probably home furnishings, in your case) and anything you can tie in to supplements, laxative smoothies, and shelf-stable food products for after the Rapture. Maybe start a makeup line. Get a rich family. If you bother with an actual blog, you probably will have to use WordPress, as sponsors want to see very specific analytics that you can get with plugins (and if you want to sell the site, it's going to need to be something a buyer knows they can move), but mostly they want to see your social follower counts so the blog can probably live on an alternate's just that WordPress is gold standard and not that hard to work with, so your issues with it might be an educational issue, which could be a stumbling block if you aren't ready to hire someone to set it up and run it for you (or find a better host with a one-click install so you only have to slap a theme on that meets your needs, that's what I do).

It just doesn't work like you think, and mostly never did. There was a moment, a few years, where lightning struck a lucky few. A handful of design, food, personal finance, "mommy" (I don't like this term but it's one most people know), politics/news/media blogs turned into businesses or their creators became industry leaders. I was around in the boom and I personally know one, maybe two blog millionaires (the big money came from selling the sites), several who pivoted to apps or software and did well, a few who turned that work into corporate jobs that either still pay well or the stock options turned out to be glorious, a dozen writers who still write for a living but not on personal or media-related blogs (except as marketing, maybe) and probably 15+ people whose names would still be recognized but there was never any real money or they ended up in debt from failed pivots to New Media or business offshoots. Plus many many people who made good content and were good writers and pretty much nobody remembers them and it was only ever a hobby.

There is no direct line to Making It Big. There's nothing wrong with being ambitious, but that's not enough, and you may have to give up aspects of the project that you love in order to try to bring in money. I can say, from knowing design-related content creators, that having one house won't be enough, you'll need access to new locations on an ongoing basis - if you're willing to do what you gotta do to make it happen, get connected with brokers who sell such properties and feature those for money and fresh content, but make sure you never come off as inauthentic! You'll need to hook up with several streams of access, probably, unless you're looking to become flippers. It's...a lot. Generating public attention (on a wholly uncontroversial topic!) that is sufficient to return any income requires an immense amount of legwork that can be basically a full-time job, except for no pay.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:31 AM on December 3, 2019 [19 favorites]

Nthing what's already been said here; there's no magic bullet. I can speak to my experience a bit. I run a niche website that's become more guidebook than blog. It covers an idiosyncratic sport in a limited geographical area. It's become the top google hit for the sport in the American mountain west. I'd hazard to guess that the number of people interested in my sport in my area is roughly approximate to the number of people interested in late Edwardian and early Victorian 2-up, 2-down homes, but I'll be honest, I don't have a great idea of the size of your market.

My website has been around for a couple of years now. I get about 55,000 hits per year. I tried per-click advertising, but it was worthless - think pennies per month.

The sport I caters to requires gear, and that gear can run from $200 to $800 for someone starting out in the sport. I survey gear and have Amazon affiliate links to gear I recommend. Those links generate $400-500 in revenue every year.

I've never tracked how much time I've put into the site, but the hourly wage doesn't amount to a whole lot. I like writing about the topic, so the income is just gravy to me, but it would be a big gamble in terms of time if the goal was income generation.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:45 AM on December 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Forget your blog. Concentrate on Instagram. Try to become an affiliate seller with all your suppliers, you’ll have to stick to big brands that have affiliate programs.

Create beautiful content. Work your hashtags. Post every single day. Be consistent in your style and imagery. Create beautiful content. Create beautiful content.

Publish Instagram stories on a regular basis. By that I mean everyday. Use the link function to link to products to your affiliate partners. Be transparent to your viewers when you are using affiliate links. Don’t always use them. Sometimes just link to great products and content to build credibility with your followers.

Do this consistently for 6 months to 2 years and if the stars align and you get over 100k followers approach some of your partners to do sponsored content.

Forget the blog.
posted by like_neon at 10:49 AM on December 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

I had a personal finance blog 10 years ago which made money but not enough to be anything like full time. I spent about 20 hours a week on it, including learning Wordpress. I have subsequently gotten an excellent job out of that experience and turned it into a very enjoyable and reasonably well-paid career.

I agree with others that what you want to do isn’t easy, may not be possible for anyone to break in to effectively any more, and you definitely need to identify what you are selling.
posted by plonkee at 11:24 AM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, I think UK-based makes it harder. The monetised blog scene seems to be very US-centric.
posted by plonkee at 11:26 AM on December 3, 2019

Just a copyediting question. I'm wondering if you could have switched adjectives when writing up your post. Early Victorian and Late Edwardian are many decades apart. The other way round makes sense though.
posted by Morpeth at 4:07 PM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

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