7.02.2013

How I make money blogging

How I make money blogging == LaurenWayne.comThere's a subject everyone wants to know about but about which very few want to be the one to spill. Today I'm going to be that person!

MONEY.

I'm going to tell you just where my blogging income comes from, and give some tips for you to earn some cold cash for your cool words.

I admit it, I'm feeling too shy to disclose dollar amounts, but I've made up a couple helpful percentage charts for you, along with a list of advice on making more money blogging (some of which I have yet to take!).

A little intro to set the scene: I run a popular parenting blog, Hobo Mama; a review blog, Hobo Mama Reviews; and this here blog about blogging. I also co-run the fabulous Natural Parents Network. My income comes from monetizing all these sources, but the info below covers only my blogs.

I do not make enough blogging to quit my day job … of … um … blogging. And parenting. And writing unpublished novels and published poetry. I don't recommend blogging as a get-rich-quick scheme. It's a nice thing to try if you like writing anyway and if you want a little extra spending money. How much spending money depends on how popular your blog happens to be, which is partly a case of talent and hard work and partly dependent on old-fashioned luck. I think it's totally valid to pursue making money as a blogger (and as a woman and/or mother); I just don't want to give an inflated impression of income potential for most bloggers.

I started blogging and monetizing in 2007. That year, I earned $39. And I was excited! Woot! In 2008, I spent more money on blogging than I earned — there's one for the record books. But things looked up from there, and 2011 and 2012 were fairly decent in terms of earning a bit of money. (I really am embarrassed to say how much, because it's both higher than wee bloggers might make, but really low compared with actual salaries or the bigger bloggers. Sorry to be cagey. I'm sheepish coming and going!)

Here's a breakdown of where the income comes from for my blogs, via handy yet butt-ugly Excel pie charts, and then my notes on same:

2011 blog income:

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How I make money blogging == LaurenWayne.com
  • 53% advertising: This is both from ads I've sold plus BlogHer Ads. Most of my advertising income comes through BlogHer, though they currently have a waiting list to sign up for their ad network. They do have more restrictions than other ad networks, but it's been worth it to me to be part. I also do Google AdSense, which finally reached the payout minimum of $100 after five years. I know some people for whom AdSense is a huge money-maker, but maybe it's not so hot for parenting blogs — particularly the ones that exclude formula ads!
  • 11% sponsored posts: For me, these are through BlogHer. I've had a lot of opportunities to do these the past couple years, and I really appreciate the sure (and fairly generous) income. There are, however, ethical quandaries when it comes to sponsored posts because it's usually only the big companies who have money to sponsor, not the sweet, bitty ones you wish had that kind of ad budget. I know a few bloggers who rely on sponsored posts (through various companies) for needed income, so I know it's a good stream of revenue if you're amenable to the association with commerce and can find brands you're comfortable promoting.
  • 10% affiliate sales: Amazon Associates has been my best earner, even though the per-item percentage is low. I've written a few product-heavy posts that unexpectedly found a niche in search engines, so I lately have sold a lot of thigh-chafing preventers and nursing pillows. I've signed up with several different programs as well, and a few programs and brands do well with my audience. I outline those at my affiliate marketing education post here, so you can check that out if you're interested.
  • 25% giveaway/review products: If you're in the U.S., you have to report all income, even if it's in the form of goods or prizes. This includes barters for ad space, giveaway wins, and products you receive for review purposes. (Essentially, the companies are paying you for your blog post with products, and the IRS wants its piece of that.) I'd love it if this weren't such a big percentage of my income, and it did go down the next year, because it seems like an inconsequential "revenue" source to be so significant to my earnings (and be costing me so much in taxes).
  • 1% royalties: Here's a news story for you: Being a poet isn't a sure path to the big bucks. Who knew! However, I do know that selling your own products (whether that's an ebook, a course, a membership of some kind, downloads, music, magic beans … whatever resonates with your audience) is one of the best ways, if not the best way, a blogger can make money while still doing blog-oriented shtuff. This is why I'm thinking long and hard about what sorts of products I can generate that will do well with my audience. But I haven't quite figured that out yet. It's worth considering for you, though, if you're wanting a long-term income stream.


2012 blog income:

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How I make money blogging == LaurenWayne.com
  • 45% advertising: Overall ad revenue was up this year, so I'm all right with its being a smaller percentage.
  • 33% sponsored posts: I knew I was making more on sponsored posts, because I accepted a couple big assignments that made me giddy for how much I made. It's such a rush to be paid for writing, even if it's writing a review. I still feel uncomfortable every time I do a sponsored post (or social media promotion), but it really is a good source of income for bloggers.
  • 15% affiliate sales: My affiliate sale income more than doubled.
  • 7% giveaway/review products: I've cut way back on giveaways, because I find they're a lot of work for mostly non-readers to come visit. They're worth it if you're having fun, but then having to report the products as income does sting a bit at tax time.
  • less than 1% royalties: Um…yeah. This was actually about the same amount of royalties as last year, so percentage-wise it went down since my overall income went up.

Financial outlook

For 2013, I'm continuing to work on ad income and contextual affiliate links. I haven't done many giveaways, though I've got a couple lined up. I still enjoy my relationship with BlogHerAds and the sponsored opportunities that have come my way, so I'll stick with those. I'm really pushing this year to develop some sort of product to sell that makes me smile and strikes a chord with my audience, and I've been able to partner with Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama and Laura of Authentic Parenting on a natural parenting bundle sale, so that's been a great experience and a novel source of income.

Other ways I've heard or witnessed for bloggers to make money: book deals (the golden ring, yes?), freelance writing or photography, speaking engagements, coaching or consulting, and, as I was saying, various products: ebooks, downloads, cards with funny sayings, forum memberships, Etsy store, etc.

Money-making advice

My general takeaways for anyone interested in making (at least a little) money blogging:
  • Advertisers are worth pursuing, even if you need to start your rates out low. I'm liking PassionfruitAds.com for managing advertisements and invoicing.
  • If you're a woman blogger, it's worth considering getting on the list for BlogHerAds.
  • It's a good idea to plug in affiliate links contextually where you can, because those build over time and can be considered passive income. Once, you know, you actively install them.
  • If you need money fast, sponsored posts are a line of sure(ish) income, but there are ethical concerns there you'll want to consider. I don't know of the best companies to go through for sponsored posts, but maybe some bloggers will chime in in the comments.
  • If you want to do really well, it's best to come up with your own popular products to sell.
  • And, as a reminder, don't quit your day job just yet. Especially if it's being a mom, because that would be awkward. But do feel confident that it's totally ok to make money blogging, and it's ok to figure out how best to do it, and if you take off and become super famous and wealthy, I'll be cheering you on and saying, "Ah, I knew that blogger way back when…." Just remember to keep a healthy balance of writing what you're passionate about, connecting with the online folks you like, and saving room for your family and other personal-life sorts of things.


Further reading:


Happy bloggity monetizing!

If you have tips, suggestions, or feedback about monetizing your blog, let us know in the comments. I'd also love to hear what your income percentages look like if you're up for sharing!
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