How To Make Money Blogging in 2021 (57K in One Year)

by David Utke | Last Updated: September 13, 2019

You can make money blogging. It takes about 2 or more years of consistent, steady effort and knowing how to structure a blog around a topic that people will find helpful.

I’ve personally made thousands of dollars from publishing content online. It’s one of the best business models as it requires a lot of upfront work (which keeps lazy people at bay), but if you do it correctly you can build a long term asset that makes money fairly hands off.

Take a look at the results I got from promoting a 47$ ebook in the dating niche:

Thousands of dollars in affiliate commissions

Look at the results from a website I built 2 years ago:

How much blog traffic do you need before you start earning money?

Well that’s a simple question with a complex answer. For simplicity’s sake, 300 to 500 visitors a day minimum and around 10,000 page views is the threshold of where you can start earning a consistent income.

For most blogs your income will come from selling products, display advertising and affiliate marketing. Most new bloggers should focus on creating content and then leverage affiliate marketing and ad networks. These strategies only work when you start getting a few hundred visitors a day mind you.

To make money blogging is simple, but not easy. There are only four steps you need to follow.

  1. Pick the right topic
  2. Start Your Blog
  3. Create helpful content people want
  4. Build an Email List

Pick the right topic

Topic selection is what will make or break a blog. Most who start blogs tend to go to broad, generic or the copy more established websites (creating a website that is just an echo).

Instead, you should consider creating a topic on a specific niche that you have an interest in. Instead of creating a photography blog, go a step more specific and create an iPhone photography blog for example.

In addition, you need to find the right balance of a niche topic with a topic where money is being spent. Blogging on your “passion” does not work. We’re trying to make money blogging so focus on topics people care about and that have an audience around. Broadly speaking, the most profitable topics are:

Again, this in addition to niching down. Last, answer these three questions:

Launch your blog with WordPress

Next is to launch your blog once you have selected your topic. There are numerous platforms you can use. If you want to go the website builder route we suggest using Squarespace or Wix. For everyone else, getting a share hosting account and installing WordPress is your best option.

WordPress is a free and open source content management system. With it you’re able to install WordPress themes that you can customize without knowing how to code and you get excellent plugins to help optimize your on page SEO so the content you create actually ranks well.

Once you have your blog setup, next comes the hard work of writing blog posts over a long period of time.

Create Content for your Blog

To make money with a blog you’re going to need content, a lot of content. This is the barrier to entry for blogging because it’s easy to start, but the idea of writing for a year and making no money is too much of a deterrent for beginners.

Also, you need to create content people want, need and are searching for. Start a blog on a specific topic, build a brand and create helpful content related to your topic. It’s simple, but not easy.

This is why picking the right topic is very important. You have to have some interest in your topic and be fine with running your blog for years to come. No one will care more about your website than you, so if you start on a topic you don’t care about and are only doing it for money you will fail.

Start an Email List

For niche websites, an email list is not too important. But if you’re going to start a blog and YouTube channel where your the face of the brand you’re crazy to not build an email list.

Email is still one of the most effective ways to make money with a blog. Our favorite provider for bloggers is Convert Kit as they provide easy to use forms that don’t require any design skills to make work.

How to make money with a blog

Once you have a blog that has traffic, here are the different ways you can leverage to make money from your blog:

  1. Donations 
  2. Subscriptions 
  3. Advertising 
  4. Affiliate marketing 
  5. Selling a product 
  6. Selling your time 

Donations for your blog

Donations are what they sound like – people sending you money. But why would anyone do such a thing?

It goes back to value. If you provide enough value as to where you helped make a meaningful life change for someone, people will donate. Remember, you have no idea who specifically is visiting your website.

It could be a high paid executive for all you know searching for gift ideas for his wife and you help him discover the perfect gift with your website on fashion.

If you have every intention of creating products and running advertisements DON’T ask for donations.

PayPal

You can setup donation buttons with PayPal.com. You need to provide a way for people to give you money and Pay Pal is the ideal platform for accepting donations. You could also provide an address to send checks to if you like. But people tend to be most comfortable with using Pay Pal as a way to send money.

Also ask for donations too. People won’t give if you don’t you ask. So ask.

Use language that is simple and to the point like:

“If you want to support my work please consider donating to help cover costs of running this website”.

Next, focus again on value and don’t demand donations or beg. You have to give, give, give, before you get.

You can also use a wish list instead of asking for donations. Wish list? On many websites like Amazon you have the option to add products you want to a wish list. You can use this instead of asking for a monetary donation.

Who’s this for?

Donations are ideal for free software or for public interest websites. If you have a blog and want to do this, a better alternative would be to use Patreon.

Otherwise, if you have every intention of building a business with your website by selling products, providing a service and/or running advertisements DON’T ask for donations.

Subscriptions revenue for blogging

Subscription revenue is the most difficult, but most lucrative from of revenue for blogging. There are many platforms where you can setup an on going subscription model in order to support your blog.

Patreon – The easy to use option

Patreon is an excellent membership, subscription revenue option for bloggers and YouTubers. What makes Patreon so great is that it’s easy to setup and has brand recognition. Most people have head of Patreon or have a Patreon account so getting people to support your work has less barriers to entry.

Patreon works best by giving subscribers a clear and specific monthly benefit to support you. This can be in the form of members only content, discounts or more access to you.

Memberpress – The WordPress option

Memberpress is a premium WordPress plugin that allows you to create a membership website. If you want to create a your branded platform that you control. This is the best option if you’re a blogger using WordPress.

Teachable – Create a Membership

Teachable is primarily focused on selling online courses. But they do allow for you to setup membership websites or products that have a set monthly cost.

Display Advertising

Display advertising is an excellent way to make all of your blog posts money pages by showing ads on your blog posts. Sometimes you’ll create content that simply is not product oriented. With advertising, it allows everything you publish to have the potential to make money.

You have limited control over what ads appear when you use a contextual ad program because the program automatically scans your content and determines what keywords and what ads make the most sense based on your content.

This is good however because people ignore irrelevant ads.

Click fraud

We know what you’re thinking, “why don’t I just have my friends click on my ads 10 times a day”?

This is click fraud. You’re not the first person to think of this. It violates the terms you agreed to as a publisher, and companies can track consistent unusual click activity. Stay away from click fraud and focus on your unique selling point and helping people instead.

*See our guide on the best display advertising networks for bloggers.

Direct Ad Sales

Selling ads works by either you reaching out to companies for partnerships OR  by companies and individuals contacting you directly to make advertising inquiry. When this starts occurring, people reaching out to you it’s a good idea to set up an advertising page outlining the positions and the costs to advertise on your website (if you choose to advertise of course!).

Don’t setup this page until you start getting emails asking you to advertise and if you want to do private ad sales in the first place. Selling ads can be a bit of a hassle, but software today exists in such a manner that it can allow you to easily manage the buying and selling of ads on your website yourself.

All you need to do is determine what kind of ads you are willing to run and what the sizes are. With smaller ads you can have more of them and charge less for each one, larger ads you can charge more (so long as it’s only one or two large ads).

Affiliate display ads

The most common way to promote things as an affiliate is through a special link, but organizations, business, and product creators do create advertisements called “creatives” for their products to help affiliates drive sales.

Affiliate advertisements are ads, but they work a little different in the sense that you will get a commission based on purchase. You’re not getting paid based on clicks or page views as you do with traditional advertising programs.

Why would anyone do this? Well for example, a lot of companies will pay over 100$ per commission. So it makes sense to advertise high earning affiliate programs on your blog.

Affiliate marketing

The BEST way for blogs to start making money. Affiliate marketing is when you sell other people’s or companies products and services and receive a commission on the sale.

Affiliate marketing has numerous benefits for the affiliate:

Affiliate marketing has numerous benefits for the company/person:

Affiliate marketing is very, very misunderstood by the public at large. This model may appear an easy path to wealth or at the very least some sort of online income – but it’s actually quite difficult to make sales.

Having success with affiliate marketing is trust based and physcological based. You need to connect with your audience and show them you understand their problem and you understand how a certain product or service can help them.

You do this by again building a brand, promoting relevant products and services and being helpful. From practical experience, you’ll have the most success with affiliate marketing for products under $100 as it’s more of an impulse buy.

How To Make Commissions

To earn money with affiliate marketing simply requires you to get targeted and relevant traffic and then put relevant offers in front of that audience.

Review posts

Review posts are highly effective if you know what you’re creating content on a topic you know and understand well. Where bloggers go wrong with review posts is thinking they can create short, useless posts about a product.

I normally like to create 2,500 word long posts that review a specific product category and then cover the pros and cons as well as a buying guide.

Tutorials and guides

Better than reviews, demonstrate knowledge. Demonstrate how something works and how you’re benefiting from it. Mention a product or course if it makes sense. Also show people how to do it for free and without the product.

Post bottom

Mention a relevant product at the end of your page or blog post in a short and sweet manner. So the majority of the page content should not be product related, it should be content specific. At the end, if there is a relevant product or course to mention, mention it.

For example:

“So that’s it. If you want to dive deeper into affiliate marketing by learning how to sell products and help people without being sketchy my close friend Mark has a great course on building passive income. It helped me get started online, maybe it can help you too?”

Email

When writing an email and wanting to include affiliate links you must for spam reasons make the email long and of high quality. To get the best conversions from my experience is to mention a link 3 times. Once in the beginning, once in the middle, and once at the end.

Affiliate ads

As previously mentioned, put up affiliate ads in your sidebar of related products and services. If you’re selling ad space then it makes sense to have a few different ads. But if it’s affiliate ads, keep it to a minimum as too many options will cause people to click nothing. Remember you always need to direct people. Depending on the size, 1-4 affiliate ads are appropriate.

Resource Page

Again, people are a bit skeptical of “products I love” pages or “resource pages”. So to build trust, set out to make a high quality resource page with links to products, services, and content you recommend. Not everything you link to needs to be an affiliate link. Set out to make it a win-win for everyone involved.

Sell your own products

Products can be anything from a PDF e-book, to a combination of videos, audio and written content. The real question is what is the best medium to deliver what you create. The two main options are to either send the product directly in email or to have a private page on your website with a download link.

The price points for what you create will vary as well based on their perceived value. A best practice is to have one product have three price points. This tends to generate more sales than having a single price point, and it generates the most sales of your middle price point (which from a physiological perspective looks like the best deal).

Before creating a product however, you must go through the process of market research. Understand your market, use the words they use to describe their problems, look for ways to differentiate yourself from others with already existing products. DON’T copy anyone, simply understand the problems your target audience faces better than they understand it themselves.

This of course takes months of research, surveys, and talking to people – but it’s what will help your product be successful in the end because people will be telling you what they need.

Pay attention to naming and design as well. These must match your brand and must also instill trust by having a level of professionalism.

Take your time and do it right the first time. Every interaction people have with you online must be of high quality. Always.

Ebooks

For actual tools people use online the most popular way is to turn a Word document into a downloadable PDF that you put on E-Junkie and simply sell it on your website. You could also take that book instead and put it on Kindle.

Which is better? Kindle or selling an ebook directly on your website?

The ebook route is better if you’re planning on making the ebook a part of a bigger course. For example, you have 3 tiers. Tier 1 is the ebook, tier 2 is the ebook and some videos etc. It also makes more sense if your ebook has a very specific appeal like you’re making a study guide for some test or you’re teaching someone how to do something specific and technical.

What price should you place your books at if their on your website? 12$-39$ seems to be the range. The higher the range, the more specialized the content should be. If you’re going to charge say 39$ for the ebook, then it should the low end of a three tiered package.

Overall though, for strictly publishing ebooks, Kindle for the long term is the way to go. You’ll make more money in the short term using the E-Junkie model and selling via your website only. But once your book is on Amazon, you get enough sales and reviews, sales will stay fairly consistent.

Just look at JohhnyFD.com – he’s been making 200$ a month, every month off his travel book on Thailand. OH wow, $200, that’s it?

Hey pal, I don’t see you making an extra $2,000 a year from Kindle.

Courses

Courses in combination with an email list and YouTube channel are quite profitable. You can use a course marketplace like Skillshare or Udemy or you can self host your own course using an LMS plugin.

The best option for most however is to use the Teachable platform. They take care of all the aspects of creating an online course from the sales page, to accepting payment and hosting all your course materials. Teachable makes the process easy.

Sell a service

The last way to make money blogging is to sell a specific service. In general, we suggest using a 3rd part website like Fiverr because they take care of all the technical details that go into selling a service online like payments, deliverables, feedback and more.

Then you can drive your audience to whatever platform you’re on be it a gig like Fiverr or a coaching call service like Clarity.fm.

How to Make Money Blogging – Conclusion

Blogs can make a lot of money and provide a lot of unique opportunities for creative professionals to earn online. Though blogging is a slow process, if you’re willing to put in the work you can eventually make money blogging.

David Utke is a professional blogger, web designer and a highly rated user experience consultant. He translates technical skills in an easy to understand way for beginners with his educational tutorials based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 16k YouTube subscribers.