This post includes affiliate links, but I only share things that I LOVE & think you will too.
So there are SO many ways to monetize your blog or website. Don’t have a blog yet? You should seriously do it. Like Right now. See my post HERE on how to get started on setting a blog up. Now when I started my blog as a brand new wife and mother, we were living on a super tight budget, in a tiny cabin which barely had running water on my in-law’s property. My blog really started as a creative hobby, and my heart was to give things away for free to other people who couldn’t afford to spend money. I was making stuff for myself, so why not share it? This focus on “giving away” things that I could otherwise sell ended up being a blessing, because it gave me an audience, and platform that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
I’ve been blogging since 2012, so about 4 years, and it’s funny to look back at the first time my blog made actual money. It was around $100 for a month’s worth of content. It really wasn’t enough for all the hours and effort I put into it, but it was money… I was getting paid to do my hobby. I was so excited. Now I look back and chuckle.
I just want you all to know that this isn’t a get rich quick thing. You need to develop quality content, be strategic and patient.
Honestly, there are so many little ways that I make money, they all aren’t directly from my blog, but they are all because of the platform that it has given me. I do everything from custom work, to manage business’s Pinterest accounts, writing sponsored posts, and I have three online shop front businesses. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I can’t breath from all that I do. Some of it is passive income (ads, Creative market, and Etsy for the most part) but a lot of it does require time.
Before I give you a glimpse into my “secret sauce” I have to say one thing.
I give all the glory to God for the success that I have had. Every time I ask Him for something, He gives it to me a day or two later. Sometimes I am just day dreaming and say, “It would be nice if I could have a relationship with such and such” BAM! An email from that company will be in my inbox. Then I daydream again, “It would be over the top lucky, but I think I can handle another big contract job…” and BAM, ANOTHER email from a company approaching me. WHAT?! God is so good to me, and He seriously has a great sense of humor. I know that He has blessed me so much because I am seeking my hearts desire and He wants me to be working on things I love, which allows me to work from home. That, in turn, gives me the ability to really do what I really love: being a stay at home mom. Wow, that’s amazing!
And let me just say this: I had no idea you could make money online… so just wait for it!
The first obvious way to make money is to sell something. I use Shopify for my personal storefront. It’s like $30 a month. Instead of attaching it to my current domain, I registered a new one with “shop” at the end before the .com
It’s a great, professional option for the self built entrepreneur, you don’t have to pay out of pocket percentage for every product you sell, like on sites like Etsy, and it’s very user-friendly.
Shopify actually gives you a free 2 week trial. I used it to set up & really perfect my products. It totally helps if you have your products, descriptions, prices and product photos all ready before starting your trial.
Etsy is another great platform. I personally use both Shopify & Etsy.
One of the best things about Etsy is that they have a huge search engine where customers can look up specific products. Sure, it’s competitive, but has a built in audience which basically gives you free advertising. It cost $0.20 to list something for 4 months, which isn’t too bad. But you also do have to pay a percentage of your overall sale once it’s been purchased.
One thing I also use Etsy for is commercial licences to use the freebies that I give away on my blog for things like products, and for logos.
Adsense, run by Google, is the biggest ad network. I also use marfeel for my mobile ads, and switch ads as a competitor to adsense. In addition, I also occasionally have permanent ads on my sidebar for companies I recommend & approve.
Ads are a hate-love thing. DON’T clutter up your page with them. DO place them strategically.
Honestly, I am not thrilled with my ad performance. Sure it’s good money, but I think it could (and should) be better when I look at my traffic numbers & growth. Here’s a number’s break down of the yearly totals in my four years of blogging:
I am thrilled for the extra income, but I have learned that I can’t make people click on ads, so I have focused on other types of revenue, like the ones below.
To be an affiliate, you just have to have some promote a product, use a tracking link to direct people to it, and then you get paid a percentage when someone purchase that product through your link.
But here is the thing about affiliates: I don’t have them just to make money. I only promote things I legitly like and want to share with others. Honesty is totally key in this area, as you don’t want to dilute your content with such and such, just because it makes you money. Be legitimate & relevant.
With that said though, I didn’t know how much you could make off of affiliate programs.
Currently I use 4 or so different Affiliates. The biggest paying one is CREATIVE MARKET. You literally just share in a blog post, pin, or share via social media, and every time you refer a sale, you get a 10% commission from every refereed customer’s first 12 months of purchases. They are right up my alley with digital design.
In less than 10 months of having an affiliate account with them, I’ve made over $6K. What?! Now obviously, I make more off of selling my products on Creative Market, but affiliate money for just for referrals, who could complain?!
HERE is an example of a post I did using my affiliate links to Creative Market. One great thing about being a Creative Market affiliate, is that ANYONE can apply & make money (you don’t even need a blog!) by simply doing things like pinning. And if it gets shared virally, the numbers keep on adding up in your favor. I do it for other people who’s content I love, making us both winners when something sells. Anyone can make referrals this way. I was SHOCKED by how much I made from referrals alone.What comes around, goes around. 😉
Do make sure that you disclose that you are promoting something through affiliate links though. I always do.
There are two type of sponsored posts. The first is where people hire you to write content for their site. The second is where business want you to promote their products on your site because they see your readership and content is applicable, and because they view you as a credible source to promote & get the word out about their products.
Now you have to be careful with the second one, because you don’t want to be forcing products down your reader’s throats. Because of this, I am very picky about what I promote, because it has to fall in line with my interests, and be applicable to what my blog is about. because of those high standards, sponsored posts aren’t a weekly thing for me. But I do have relationships with certain businesses that have turned into repeated sponsored posts.
I get scammy emails all the time from random companies asking to write articles for my website. That’s a big red flag to me. I only publish articles & sponsored content that is written by me, and I give a 100% honest opinion, while only promoting things I love.
How much do I charge? I calculate it based off of labor and traffic expectations, but it is usually in the hundreds.
Again, for any content that you are generating income from through affiliate links, or sponsored posts, you need to have clearly marked disclosures on that post. Don’t forget that.
Freelance writing is a great way to get your name out there. Personally, I’ve been in over 5 magazines, 1 published book, and numerous big name websites.
While similar to sponsored posts, freelance is more raw content based. For example, this post HERE is the blog post version of a Mollie Makes Magazine tutorial I wrote. And THIS post I did on SheKnows.
Now, the magazines are the main ones I’ve been paid for, but the “free/organic” features are a great traffic acquisition/new audience strategy.
I love working for small businesses. Digital design is something that is in high demand, and because of my blog & platform, I am able to have an edge on the competition. It’s as simple as my website being a “living portfolio” and having this simple ad on my sidebar:
Because of a built in followership focused on DIY Digital Design resources I am able to get digital design jobs from small businesses, and social media managing jobs without paying for any advertising. I’m not just doing ads in a newspaper- I have a living example of my talents & portfolio.
One thing I want to stress about starting out is that you need to build up a client base before you can charge the big bucks, but because you are a beginner doesn’t mean you should totally devalue your talents and work. And you shouldn’t be afraid to say no if you aren’t feeling your client’s style, or if they aren’t willing to pay you a reasonable amount. Personally I built my business starting out willing to do anything for any amount of money, just for experience. I spent hours on things I was only paid $15 for. This was partially because I started out with a “poor man” mentality, where I couldn’t possibly see myself spending money on things, so I felt I need to low-ball myself.
I was insecure about my capabilities, and while those jobs did set me up with a little more confidence, I’ve learned from my pricing mistakes. And you should too!
It’s the most intimidating thing to negotiate on prices with clients, but one piece of advice I was given by a designer in my field was that you shouldn’t be “comfortable” with prices you ask, or it isn’t worth your time. It’s SCARY to ask someone for $1K on a project, but you shouldn’t be working for anything less than what your talents and time are worth. I’m at the point where I have created pricing formulas that I’m happy with, and people can take it or leave it. But there is generally “a number” that most people are comfortable with for each product, and you just have to play around with that number until you see results. You need to decide if you will “undercut” the market, or be premium. I do both, depending on what product I’m selling.
Now I do all sorts of contract jobs, ranging from custom branding, to even running companies Pinterest accounts. Because I am comfortable with my pricing, I am able to make sure that all the different things I do don’t monopolize my time, and I do cut back on things that I’m not passionate about. One downfall of working at home is I always have the option to work. So I have to be very careful about not spending all my life, and the weekends on the computer. I generally try to go hands free off my phone and computer when my husband walks in the door from work.
So to sum up custom work: You are not a sweat shop. Remember that.
Now I mentioned the affiliate side of Creative Market, but I also have my own products on their site.Once you find your niche, you can branch out and monetize it. Creative Market is how I’ve monetize content.
This shop has really become my baby. Like I said before, I started out my business with a heart for giving everything away for free. Then some of my sweet readers really encouraged me to start selling some of them, particularly on Creative Market, which is a platform for handcrafted, design content from independent creatives around the world. It took me forever to finally take the leap. I was so insecure about putting myself out there, especially because I’m self taught. But guess what, I beat those demons in the back of my head telling me I wasn’t good enough, and finally created my first paid products last March. In my self doubt, I expected to maybe sell one or two products every now and then. Instead I have been blown away by sales, amounting to a full time salary.
Now, not everyone is into creating digital art like me, but I just want you all to know that it is possible to follow your dreams, stay at home with your babies, and work in your pj’s and bring in the bucks. You just have to strategize, and take those leaps of faith.
The last thing I want to say is be smart. There is time intensive labor, and passive income labor. If it doesn’t make a difference in your end product, outsource as much as possible with automated processes.
Not every product is digital, but you should evaluate your whole process to figure out how to make it as passive income as possible. For example: you may start a business knitting. That’s great if that’s your passion, but that means that you will be creating products that require your precious time every single time you sell something. Instead, if you do something like an instant download, you have invested all the time on perfecting that product upfront, and once it’s available to purchase on your shop, you don’t have to do any more work… it sells again, and again, and again. While you still have to do customer service every now and then, you have cut out 95% of the work, which allows you to focus on new products, changing the baby’s diaper, and just chilling. 😉 Even in the non-digital area, where you are tied to a physical product, figuring out ways to streamline and optimize your processes will make life much better than just jumping into whatever you’re planning on doing without a well thought out strategy.
Here’s my story on this one. I started selling commercial licences for my freebies, and attached my email address for those who wanted to use commercially. For over a year, I hand typed all those emails, because I wanted to take everything on a case by case basis, and keep my prices private. I eventually started doing canned emails, which saved some time, but was still a headache. FINALLY I decided to make my prices public, and went ahead and published a listing on etsy for people, and placed that link on my freebie posts instead of my email. Because of that, people could directly, and effortlessly go see the price, read the instructions, and purchase WITHOUT even talking to me. YES! SO much better for my time.
Here are some ways to automate:
-Write an FAQ post with commonly asked questions.
-Have a canned email response for generic inquiries, and customize as needed.
-Hire someone to do certain “out sourced” aspects (I a control freak, so this one was hard for me)
-Create Digital Products.
-Write an Ebook.
So a few readers have asked what my traffic numbers look like. So first off, I’ve been doing this for 4 years, have had many posts go viral, and optimized my images for pinterest especially (read more about all that on POST 1.) Right now I am almost at 10 Million Views all together. On a daily basis, I get around 10-17K visitors, depending on the season. But I didn’t start out like that! Everyone starts at 0. Just remember that. I find that quality content is the most important thing, then optimizing via social media is what gets you noticed. Also, you don’t need mega numbers to monetize successfully through third party sites like Etsy, for example.
I’m going to break down some numbers for you all now, so you can see how much, and where I’ve made my money over that past year (2015):
Custom, Sponsored, and Contract Work: $22,881.00
Combined Shop Incomes: $22,197.00
Total Before Taxes: $60,000.00
A piece of advice really stick to is to study your competition. See what the businesses you most admire are doing, and do it better. Don’t straight out copy people. That’s not nice. But mimicking other people’s business strategies will help you see what you can do better, and help you build up your brand.
This year has proven to me that with lots of hard work (as in working until 4 am to get stuff done on a regular basis) it is possible to make money online. Honestly, this year has really been the first year where I have actually made “real” money off blogging, but I feel like this is just the beginning. If it weren’t for other bloggers sharing how much they’ve made, I may have given up on the financial side of this hobby turned business. I want to share how I did it to benefit others like me.
Again, I have worked my butt off. I joke not. This stuff I do is super time intensive, and I am strategizing and working on making it more “passive income” oriented. But like I said several times: it took me 4 years to finally make a good paycheck off of it.With that said, when you are doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like hard work.
In conclusion, because of my experience, I am really interested in the developing these businesses, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. I hope this series has been eye opening to you, showing you that if I can do it, you can too! (Warning, you just might go a little crazy!)