Looking to start a blog and make some money? We explore the tried and tested methods for making a profit as a blogger…
Blogging. It’s no longer only the hobby of the budding writer holed up in their bedroom.
Successful bloggers – or influencers, as they're also known – are changing the way we buy products and the way brands do their marketing. They're the new breed of celebrity. They're ordinary and relatable, although their lives can seem anything but, as they make their living solely from their online content – and live rather well while they're at it.
If you've watched on and thought: I could do that, you definitely aren't alone. The wonderful thing about the internet is that it's so accessible – it's actually incredibly easy, and pretty inexpensive, to set up your own website and start blogging, especially if you use a website builder like Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly.
But, once you've started, how do you turn your blog from a nice hobby into your bread and butter? Well, there are four key avenues you can explore, and we're going to explain them here.
How do bloggers make money?
There are four key ways in which bloggers make money: adding PPC, CPC, or CPM advertising to their site; writing sponsored content; sharing affiliate links; and branching out into other projects. Bloggers can also save money by attracting freebies.
Before we go into more detail about these methods, there's something important you should understand. Your blog will need to be generating a decent amount of traffic (in other words, attracting a good number of readers) before it can start to make money.
So, you will need your blog's content to be high quality, and to have a USP that keeps readers coming back for more. Really, that's the first step towards making your millions. The most successful blogs are born out of a genuine interest in something, and their content is natural, relevant and interesting as a result. This allows them to organically build up a loyal following, then monetise things later on.
But back to the question at hand. Once you've set up your blog using a website builder or ecommerce platform, and it's started to build a fanbase, how do you make money as a blogger? Here are those four methods, explained…
Have you ever noticed that book you looked at once on Amazon following you around the web? When you land on a blog, you will often notice external advertising – either as a banner at the top or bottom of the page, or in the sidebar (i.e., to the side of the page's main content). Sometimes, advertisers will even stage a site takeover ad that'll fill your entire screen. These ads can take the form of images, text, or videos.
Google AdSense and similar networks enable you to earn money for placing these adverts on your blog. This may well be an attractive way to make a bit of money with minimum effort – in the case of AdSense, Google administers, sorts, and maintains the ads itself, ensuring only relevant brands and products are advertising on your blog. As the blogger, you don’t need to be in direct contact with the advertisers themselves.
Generally, the adverts on your blog will be either:
1. PPC/CPC (pay per click/cost per click)
PPC adverts do exactly what it says on the tin. The blogger receives a small amount of money every time someone clicks on the advert.
2. CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions)
With CPM adverts, the blogger is paid a set amount for every 1,000 people who view the advert. How many people click on the advert doesn’t influence how much you'll make.
While these types of ads are easy for bloggers to set up, there is a general consensus that they are losing popularity among bloggers, as more ‘authentic’ ways to make money are becoming more popular (we'll explore those below!).
Advertising of this kind can also interfere massively with the sleek blog aesthetic that bloggers strive to curate, and can irritate even their most loyal followers.
2. Affiliate links
Affiliate links are a nice and simple way to make money as a blogger, even if your following isn't huge – in fact, you'll find that a huge percentage of the blogs and websites out there are making the money they need via affiliate links.
Essentially, affiliate links are supplied to you by a particular brand, for you to add into your content. An affiliate link looks like a normal hyperlink, but the difference is that, if the reader clicks that link, then goes on to buy the brand's product or sign up to its service, the brand will then pay you back some money. You can start building an affiliate marketing scheme on any of the best ecommerce platforms.
Typically, you'll take home around 7% of the value of the item that the user has bought. Usually, you'll still earn this money if the user clicks away from the brand's site, then comes back to it later – as long as they return within 30 days, and they haven't cleared their cookies – because the brand's tracking can recognise that their new customer initially found their product through you.
We can give you a transparent example of this in action right here. You'll have noticed earlier on in this article that we linked to a few website builders for you to try – Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. These are affiliate links, which means that if you click on them, decide that one of them is right for you, and go on to sign up to that website builder, we may receive a payment for having helped you to find it (at no additional cost to you, of course).
The key thing to know is that our top priority is helping you, our reader, to find the right product. That's why we only host affiliate links to website builders that our experts really like, and that we know will be able to help you create an awesome website. That's the philosophy you'll need to adopt on your blog – your affiliate links should be genuinely helpful to the reader, and should come from brands that you think are fantastic.
2. Sponsored content
Now, this likely won't be the way in which you start making money right away (unless you're already famous – Brad Pitt, is that you researching blogging on our humble site?). That's because, in the case of sponsored content, the blogger is usually approached by the brand first, not the other way around. You'll only be approached by a brand if they believe your post will reach enough relevant viewers.
So what is sponsored content? Well, if you’ve ever seen an Instagram post with “#ad” included in the caption, or read a blog post with a disclaimer that says something along the lines of: “This post is sponsored by *brand*, but all opinions are my own”, then you've seen sponsored content. In short, a brand has paid the blogger in question to photograph, review, model, share, or otherwise advertise their product.
Here's an example from meteorically successful blogger, Zoella:
As you know, I’ve had shorter hair for a good two years now and it’s the best thing ever! The only thing is that sudden desire for long luscious locks I get every now and then and then comes the absolute trauma of trying to find extensions that actually match my hair and are easy to style! I’m wearing the “The Superstar” by @easilockshair extensions in these photos in the shade lightest brown ombre (in case you have balayage like me) and I love it! You can shampoo, condition and style them like the rest of your hair & they’ve kindly given me the code ZOELLA to pass on to you in order to get 15% discount from easilocks.com if you fancy giving them a try or if you’re a bit bored with your hair! The team are also available on Instagram to give free online colour matches if you DM them :) Now I’m going to go and swish my hair about! #hairgoals #ad
If you become a successful blogger, you may be approached by multiple companies offering very different sponsored content deals. The challenge is knowing what will work for your site, and what will look too forced and alienate your audience. This means that turning down well-paid projects is a regular part of a good blogger’s life, and an important step in keeping content authentic.
Some brands will have very different approaches to sponsored content than others. Some will be happy to leave you to do your thing, while others will be set on shoehorning very specific phrases or sentences into your post – so that's also something to consider.
If you haven't yet attracted the notice of any big brands, don't worry. There's nothing to stop you from contacting brands that you love and politely telling them that you'd be interested in discussing ways in which you can work together. Just aim for smaller, local brands that are more likely to appreciate your interest, and only do this when you have a decent following.
And whatever you do, don't act as though you're in any way entitled to their sponsorship. Many a misguided blogger has been publicly shamed by brands that have no patience for being told that they could do with the help of an aspiring influencer.
4. Other Projects
When you have built a loyal following, you might decide to harness that popularity to branch out into different money-making exploits.
For example, if you're a food blogger, you might decide to write your own cookbook. If beauty is your thing, perhaps you could develop a makeup or skincare range. Many bloggers start their own podcasts, or start speaking at events. You might design and release merchandise that'll appeal to your supporters.
There are plenty of possibilities – a popular blog is a great springboard to success in all kinds of areas.
Influential bloggers are sent a lot of freebies from relevant companies. Why? Well, those brands are hoping that the blogger in question will talk about their product on their blog, thus putting it in front of their audience. This seems to be especially true of beauty bloggers, due to the sheer volume of new makeup and beauty products that are regularly released, and the fact that personal use stories are pretty powerful in this space.
While this will not, in principle, make you any money, it might save you some. Your status as a blogger may enable you to get things for free that you might otherwise have paid for. For example, a semi-established travel blogger looking to stay at a certain hotel on holiday may approach the hotel about getting their stay for free or at a reduced price, in exchange for promoting the hotel on their blog.
How do I go about starting a blog?
Bloggers are slowly but surely taking over the world, and there’s nothing to stop you from being a part of it. As we mentioned earlier, you should choose a subject or cause that you're truly passionate about, and start writing.
But what about actually setting up your blog? Well, while there are some dedicated blogging platforms out there, they're a bit limiting – often, your domain name (your website address) will need to contain their name as well as your blog's. In our opinion, the best way to start your own blog, and set it up for success, is to use a website builder or ecommerce platform.
Website builders are the easiest, fastest way to build your website. Many are very affordable – some, like Wix, even offers a free plan (check out our roundup of the best free website builders). Unlike with traditional web design, you don't need any coding knowledge to use a website builder. The majority enable you to build your site's pages with a simple drag-and-drop editor, and offer an array of stunning, professional-looking design templates to help your website shine (Wix offers over 500 templates for you to choose from).
Lots of website builders also provide top notch SEO tools to guide you in optimising your website for Google – meaning it'll rank more highly in the right Google search results pages, so more people find your blog.
But which website builder is right for you? There are enough of them out there, after all. That's why we've done the research for you! Check out our roundup of our favourite platforms – we’ve compared them on price, design, features, and ease of use, so you can easily pick the one that works for you.
How much money could I make as a blogger?
Ah, the unanswerable question. Bloggers are (understandably) not keen to disclose how much they make, so it is hard to put an exact figure on this.
At one end of the scale we have the likes of Zoella, who reportedly earns £50,000 per month. In the middle, we have the full-time bloggers who are making enough to live on. And at the other end, we have the vast majority of bloggers. Their blogs are a hobby, and they will make anything up to a few thousand pounds per year.
It all depends on the time and resource you're willing to invest in your blog, the size of the audience willing to read your content… oh, and the amount of luck you come across. But that isn't to say you won't be the next blogging sensation – as your mum will probably tell you, you won't know unless you try.