Maybe you’ve been blogging for a long time, or creating a blog is something you’ve always wanted to do. Here are some tips for turning your blogging hobby into profit.
Blogging is arguably one of the best hobbies for people who like to write or have something they want to contribute to the conversation. For instance, a high percentage of politicians, scientists, business leaders, and journalists write their own blog or contribute to a blog designed to aggregate content around a central thesis. These people were among the first to jump onto the blogging bandwagon, so many of their blogs are decades old.
Among the advantages of blogging are:
- You can blog from anywhere, literally. Many platforms allow posts from mobile as well as laptop/desktop devices.
- Blogging is free or cheap (under $100/ year should do an excellent job for most hobby bloggers)
- Blogging is easy, requiring no coding skills. All you need is a topic people are interested in and where you have some expertise and writing ability.
- Blogging keeps your brain active, keeps you engaged in a community of like-minded folks, and provides permission to focus on topics you find interesting.
And, maybe best of all, you can turn your blogging hobby into profit, if you wish.
If you want to monetize a blog and start it as a side hustle, here’s are some recommendations to get you started.
Find the right platform
To write a blog, you need a platform that works to support your efforts. When your blog is just a hobby, free platforms work just fine. Two of the most popular sites are Blogger and WordPress, and each has its particular benefits- for example, Blogger is very user-friendly while WordPress offers more options. Do some research and work out which works best for you.
BTW, I offer a free step-by-step guide for creating your website (blog) that walks you through the process screenshot by screenshot, so even someone with no experience or technical ability can craft an impressive website in a little over an hour. In fact, I’ve included some discounts negotiated with services you’ll need to create your blog in the links on this document.
However, if you even suspect you’ll want to turn your blogging hobby into profit someday, you should start using a self-hosted platform because they provide better SEO (search engine optimization, which helps users find your blog), face less downtime, and are more stable than free sites like Blogger and WordPress. Some low-cost, self-hosted platforms include Hostgator, GoDaddy, and Bluehost. Here’s what you’ll need for a self-hosted blog:
- domain, which is often less than $10. Changing your mind later isn’t particularly tricky, although it involves redirecting to a new domain, which may not fit your needs.
- WordPress or Drupal content management system, which is free. Changing this decision is very time consuming and not advisable.
- A host, which will run you between $4.95 and over $100 per month. Price is only one consideration, so choose wisely since changing hosts is challenging unless you have some technical skills (or expensive).
- A theme, which may be free or cost less than $100 (one-time fee). Changing your theme might take some time, so I don’t advise changing your theme once you have a large amount of content.
- Customization. Themes are pretty generic and make it easy to plug in your content to make it your own. Free themes make it a little more challenging to get the look and feel you want. I recommend themes from Themeforest as they’re stable, mobile-friendly, and require less expertise to get what you want. Most include detailed instructions to modify the theme and offer options for colors, layout, etc.
- Plugins. Plugins add functionality to the basic operations coded into your content management system. Some plugins offer the drag-and-drop functionality you get with free websites without all the nasty side-effects that come with these websites.
Again, you’ll get step-by-step instructions for all these elements by downloading my free website document.
Explore your passion
Next, or maybe even before you build the website, you need to explore your passion; the passion that guides your efforts. Find a niche and stick to that, remember that you’ll blog about that topic for years. The topic should embrace both your interests and expertise.
To drive visitors, especially those who’ll come back to your website time after time, you need interesting and informative content and, when you’re passionate about a topic, your content fulfills those needs. Explore your competition from other blogs. Do you have a unique aspect to add to the conversation? Are there already so many strong competitors that gaining attention is challenging. Are there enough users interested in your topic?
Also, think about branding here; regardless of what your blog is about, you’ll need to create a brand for yourself as this sets you apart from your competitors. Use this brand archetype quiz to discover the best ways to brand your blogging business, one that achieves your goals.
Improve your skills
Creating a basic blog, especially if you’re really following your passion rather than hoping to monetize the platform, doesn’t require many skills. That’s part of why so many blogs exist on the Internet.
However, turning your blog from a hobby into profit isn’t so easy. Fluent writing is a crucial starting point for writing a blog people want to read, but there’s so much more you need to do to turn your hobby into profit. Here are some skills you’ll need to make the most of your blogging:
- Skills crafting images and video as these add flavor to your blogging and keep your visitors coming back. I use Adobe, which is pretty challenging but very adaptable. Other options are Canva, Pablo, and a host of others. Video platforms such as iMovie for the Max are pretty easy, as well.
- SEO (search engine optimization) is critical since much of your traffic comes from organic search. Hence, you want to optimize your content for both on-page and off-page SEO. Learn more about this by reading other posts as well as posts from other SEO experts such as MOZ, Search Engine Journal, Wordstream, and Search Engine Land.
- SMM (social media marketing), which is the other tool designed to drive traffic to your website.
- Analytics, especially Google Analytics, are the bible when it comes to optimizing your performance. By tracking key metrics, such as # of visitors, time on site, and bounce rate (among others), you glean valuable information to guide future efforts to build your audience.
- Coding, although you can do everything you want without writing a line of code, knowing some HTML (the code that translates your website into something visually appealing to visitors) and CSS (the style including elements such as color, size, font, and layout). Knowing how code provides more flexibility and, often, coding the content you envision is easier than accomplishing the same thing without writing code. Try W3Schools for free coding lessons and practice.
How to monetize your site
You won’t instantly make money from your blog, nor will you make money without something people will pay for, so you’ll likely write a lot of content before you start turning your hobby into profit. Here are some options for monetizing your website:
- Advertising, although you’ll need a significant number of visitors before advertisers pay to appear in your content. Adsense is one type of advertising. Adsense involves adding code to your site so that businesses using Google Ads display their advertising on your site. You make a little money whenever a visitor clicks on the link.
- Another type of advertising involves charging for backlinks to a company’s website. Since these backlinks are valuable, companies pay you to include their links within your content (naturally, not in a fake way). Often the website’s PageRank determines the value of the backlink, hence the higher your PageRank, the higher price you get from advertisers.
- Affiliate programs are similar to Adsense, except the payouts are much higher and may involve a simple link rather than an advertisement. Most affiliate programs only payout if the visitor you send to the company’s site purchases something.
- Drive sales from your blog. If you offer products to customers, a blog is a great tool to drive traffic to your site in hopes they’ll convert once at your website. Again, analytics help optimize buying behavior.
- Membership is the last tool I’ll mention. If your content is sought-after, visitors may pay to get the information much like subscribers pay to gain access to newspaper content.
Once you turn your hobby into profit, it’s no longer just a hobby and is a side hustle or even replaces other sources of income. When you have another form of income like this, you need to ensure you’re paying the right taxes as assessed by your government.
How much you pay in taxes depends on how much you earn from any other work you do (either as an employee or self-employed) and your circumstances. Still, you’ll need to let the relevant tax authorities know all sources of income by filing tax returns. If you have substantial earnings from your blog, you’ll need to file estimates 4X a year (in the US, other countries differ) and pay taxes on these estimates or face a penalty. This sounds scary, but it isn’t, you simply fill in a couple of forms and complete a tax return once a year.
The good news is you may earn deductions for business expenses like a home office that offset any profits you earn from other work, thus reducing your taxes.
Blogging isn’t a get rich quick scheme. If you’re expecting to earn massive amounts of money overnight, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It takes time and effort to become a successful blogger, so stick with it and keep learning as you go.
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