You have a strong voice and opinions, you’re addicted to social media, and you hate wearing pants — sounds like the perfect ingredients for a blogger! If you're considering turning this hobby into a career, there is one very important question to ask: how do bloggers make money?
From a distance, blogging seems ideal as a lifestyle-centric career that offers freedom, creativity, and convenience. Whether you kept a Live Journal as a teen or you are devoted to writing TV recaps, it can be a bit of a jump to monetizing those skills. Making money on blogs can be done — look at Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. But the truth of the matter is, most bloggers do not earn very much, nor did they get into blogging to generate income.
According to the 2015 Women’s Blogging Industry and Business Annual Report, which surveyed bloggers across 25 niches, blogging as a full-time job is on the decline. Only 22 percent of respondents worked on their blog between 30 to 35 hours a week, and 55 percent reported working 5 to 20 hours. The annual income in 2014 for the majority of bloggers (68 percent) is less than $5,000 ($417 per month), and only 11 percent earned over 30,000 annually. Blogging is certainly not a viable get-rich-quick strategy. It can take a very long time and a lot of constant effort to drum up enough traffic to monetize your blog successfully. But if you're thinking of starting your very own blog, this is what you should know.
Follow Your Passion
Your passion should be the key motivation for starting a blog. Whether you are obsessed with music, fashion, humor, DIY, and so on, writing about what interests you will help you find your authentic voice and unique style. Since developing a new blog takes time, energy, and constant attention, there will be days when your focus wains. If you are truly passionate about the topics and the project, you can overcome any content fatigue.
Find Your Niche
Finding an interesting niche of focus helps a blog standout. If you are providing content in a unique way, or feeding an underserved market, that will help set you apart from the herd. When designing your blog, ask yourself what kind of audience are you aiming for and what is your target demographic? Who is your ideal reader?
Lindsey Joelle Rhoades, writer for The Village Voice among other publications, and founder of the music blog AudioFemme, spoke with Bustle about her top blogging tips: "When you're just starting out, the most important thing is to build an engaged audience. It helps to have a specific niche that you cater to — one that is wide enough to have a large following, but specific enough that they'll be dedicated and you'll be adding something new to the conversation." Rhoades elaborates, "For instance, AudioFemme wasn't just a music blog, of which there are many. We specifically founded it to showcase the women writing about music, which gave us a different, powerful angle."
Promote Your Blog
You want to spread the word about your work anyway possible so using social media expertly is a must. Not only does promoting on social media help build traffic to your site, it also gives your audience other ways to interact with your blog. The 2015 Women’s Blogging Industry and Business Annual Report found that bloggers considered Facebook their main traffic driver (above even their own site), and they ranked Twitter and Pinterest also as important to their business success.
Each of these platforms can serve your blog differently. If you are starting a food, DIY, or fashion blog, picture-centric sites like Instagram and Pinterest are essential. If you have a humorous blog, Twitter is perfect for publishing quick jokes and commenting on events as they unfold. Rhoades also encourages bloggers to think of different elements they can incorporate on their site to make the viewer experience more interesting: "Can you add a video element or a podcast? Give your audience options in terms of interacting with your site." The more ways an audience can interact with your work and brand, the better.
Collaborate And Network
Another way to expand your blog's audience is by making connections with other writers you admire. By reaching out to bloggers in your niche and making online relationships you can gain support, advice, and even friendships. These relationships can also lead to opportunities for cross-promotion, such as doing a "guest blog." There are also many wonderful conferences to make connections, such as BlogHer, among others. "The Internet is not actually a contest, there's plenty of it to go around," says Rhoades, and these techniques can help you reach new followers and gain devoted fans.
Check Your Analytics
"Once you've found your niche and built a little network of connections, you'll start to see traffic go up. Even if it doesn't seem like much, stick with it. Try to produce quality content without too much of a lapse between posts. You don't necessarily have to inundate followers with content if it's of a certain quality, but radio silence is bad, very bad. You can use Google analytics to track your traffic, set viewership goals, and the like," suggests Rhoades. See what draws people to the site and when viewership declines, and adjust accordingly to improve engagement. Do not expect a blog to be successful right away, Rhoades says. "Take time to think about what brings people to your site and build on that!" It may take a bit of trial and error, but it will make for a stronger site in the long run.
Monetize Your Blog
The most common way to monetize a blog is by running ads against the content. As Rhoades explains, "Once you're generating steady traffic, you can use AdSense or a similar program to help you monetize. With AdSense, Google places ads on your site (you designate the area where the ad appears but cannot choose the ads) but they take care of billing the advertisers and send you a check, making it a virtually painless process."
Yes, at first the checks probably won't even buy you a pack of gum, but in time, they will grow along with your followers. Many bloggers also gain revenue by writing sponsored posts. However, ultimately you are building a brand for yourself. They say, "Do what you love and the money will follow," and who knows? With the success of a blog you may be able to leverage it into a book deal, speaking engagements, among other profitable opportunities. You may even be able to start a savings account!
Go get 'em tiger!