When I decided a month ago that I wanted to learn how to start a blog and make money, I had no idea how much I would have to learn!
At the beginning of October, I found myself on a quest to figure out a way to make a little extra money each month. As I sifted through my search results and clicked link after link, a realization started to materialize: I can make money by blogging. Real money. Like, might not even have to work my day job after a while kind of money.
And so I began a journey to figure out how to start a blog and make money — a journey that I had no idea would be as involved as it has been. But it’s been so much fun to throw myself down this rabbit hole of neverending things to learn about blogging. So much fun, in fact, that I thought that it would be good material for a blog post—if only to look back at my own newbie-ness in a year and chuckle.
Disclosure: This post contains referral links.
1. You need so many skills to make money blogging.
I should note, blogging is not a random endeavor for me to have chosen. I used to freelance through Yahoo!’s (discontinued) contributor program and have always had a knack and passion for writing. What I didn’t bargain for, though, is that to run a successful blog, it’s not enough to be a talented writer. You also have to be a marketing strategist, graphic designer, networking mastermind, and business manager… or at least have the funds to hire people to wear all those hats for you.
You also have to build, design, and manage a website. It’s not enough to start a wordpress.com blog, as I’d originally thought. I got myself set up on fourtolove.wordpress.com and thought I was good to go until I started digging into training materials on how to make money blogging. You need to be on a platform such as WordPress.org (yes, this is a different thing, and it seems like most of the bloggers I follow use it), pay for site hosting (I chose SiteGround as it came highly recommended), and buy your own domain name. Starting a blog is truly building a new business from the ground up, investment and all. I am an entrepreneur.
2. Pinterest is key if you want to make money blogging.
Before I started blogging, I used Pinterest occasionally to save recipes, home decor inspiration, and party-planning ideas. But I had no idea at all how much content marketers rely on Pinterest. I did not realize that it’s basically used as a search engine. And I could never have dreamed that there were entire courses and even side gigs devoted to the myriad aspects of successful pinning, from designing eye-catching pins to optimizing keywords.
Even timing of pins is important, which is why services like Tailwind exist to automate your pinning and schedule for the best times of day. I feel I have a lifetime of learning to do about Pinterest alone.
3. Google doesn’t index sites right away.
It’s a good thing I learned about Pinterest and knew how to use Facebook to share my content because otherwise, I am pretty confident I would have written to an audience of zero during my first month. I learned from Elna Cain of Twins Mommy that Google puts new sites into a “sandbox” for at least a month while it figures out what kind of site yours is. So, optimize my keywords as I might, my blog posts would not have shown up in anyone’s Google searches during my first month. Now that I have hit my first “monthaversary,” I am hoping I might start to see a little bit of search engine traffic—but I still may not graduate from the sandbox for another few months. I did, however, manage to glean over 3,000 page views with over 1,600 unique sessions! That’s finishing the month with 15 published posts.
4. You need to build an email list if you want to make money blogging.
It became clear right away that most successful bloggers are building email lists. If someone visits my site one time, I have no way of knowing who that person is or whether she’ll ever come back again. Not to mention, reliance on Pinterest or search engines puts me at the mercy of algorithms and changes that are out of my control. But if I can somehow capture my readers’ emails, I can start an ongoing conversation with them and hopefully turn them into regular followers.
It turns out there’s a very specific strategy to get people to join email lists, which involves bribery by the name of “lead magnets.” You offer something valuable to readers in exchange for their email addresses. I haven’t yet figured out what to create that would be enticing enough for people to sign up and receive emails from me, or what I would necessarily even write if I grew an email list. But it’s definitely on my radar to tackle in a few months! (And of course, once I realized this is what people are doing, I noticed it on pretty much every website I have visited since!)
5. People make money by selling their own products and services on their blogs.
There are a bunch of different ways people make money blogging, including running ads on their sites, affiliate marketing, and writing sponsored posts. But the monetization strategy I would say intrigued me most over the last month is that bloggers create their own products and services to sell on their blogs. I might create a course, ebook, or printables, or offer services such as coaching, virtual assistant work, or graphic design. And they are charging a pretty penny for these products and services! This knowledge empowered me and opened new doors when I considered how I might make an income through my blog.
Now, as a side note, I think this is much easier to do in some niches than others. In my opinion, people are probably more willing to spend money on a product or service that is going to save or make them money instead of providing information or encouragement. I do not have hard evidence to back this up and haven’t tried my hand at publishing a book on baby sleep or a course on present parenting, so we shall see if I ever manage to prove myself wrong!
6. The income potential is sky-high with blogging.
I found blogging as a potential way to make a few hundred bucks a month, but it turns out, I was way undershooting my potential. Apparently, normal people make four to five figures a month with their blogs. Now, it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme by any means. It takes a ton of dedication, perseverance, creativity, talent, and hard work to make that kind of money with a blog. But I have become convinced—through various income reports, testimonials, and tons of trainings that all basically outline a similar formula for success—that I am completely capable of earning thousands of dollars per month with my blog.
Now, how did I do in my first month? Well, I invested in my site hosting and domain for a little more than $60. Then I spent almost $100 on a big discounted bundle of training that was being promoted by all the bloggers whose free email courses I had signed up for. And as for revenue? Well, I earned just shy of $6 through my Amazon Affiliate sales and about $2 through Google Adsense. And neither of these have hit the payout thresholds yet! So, again, it won’t happen overnight. But I am putting the pieces in place and believe that as my content, traffic, and understanding grow, so will my income.
7. I found a whole culture and community surrounding blogging.
I feel as though I discovered a secret world that I never knew existed. There are a ton of people out there running their own blogs. And it seems to me that many of the successful ones eventually turn their attention to coaching other people on how to start a blog and make money. Because of all their helpful articles, Facebook groups, Pinterest pins, ebooks, and courses, I have learned way more about how to start a blog and make money than I ever would have realized if I’d simply stuck my head down and started publishing posts on fourtolove.wordpress.com. If I’m being honest, I kind of want to be one of them one day.
But for now, I have learned what I need to focus on: creating lots of useful content that will offer solutions to problems, and learning how to market it effectively. My blog is nothing without content, and the content is nothing without readers! Hopefully, the profit will come in time. But until then, if nothing else, I have learned a bunch of new skills and found a fulfilling new hobby.