Can You Really Make Money by Starting a Blog?

By Nick Wharton on 28 March 2016 7 comments

When people ask me what I do for a living and I reply, "I'm a travel blogger," I can pretty much see the confusion in their faces. They're thinking, How can a blog make money? Isn't that just a hobby? Who pays you? How much can you really make? Based on my own experience — and those of many other bloggers in different industries — I'm going to answer these questions (and more).

What Kinds of Blogs Make Money?

There are all sorts of blogs on the Internet and pretty much all of them have the potential to earn money.

You can make money from any type of blog if you actively search for income sources and monetize and market your blog in an efficient way.

How Many Blogs Are Out There?

According to WPvirtuoso.com, there is a blog created on the Internet every half-second. That's over 170,000 new blogs being created every single day! The same study also claimed that there were over 152 million blogs on the Internet in 2013. Given their calculation of a new blog every half second, in 2015, there would have been around 276 million blogs worldwide.

This may sound like a saturated market, and it is, but the vast majority of these blogs are hobbies, not careers. There are very few bloggers out there who are actively trying to earn a full-time income from their work, and thus, the competition is not as fierce as the above numbers would suggest. (See also: 22 Websites That Will Pay You to Write for Them)

Who Pays Bloggers?

Typically, bloggers earn income streams from many different sources, but overall, their earnings can be roughly broken down into three main categories.

1. Direct Advertising

This is when a company places a link or a banner ad on a blog. Typically, advertisers will pay a monthly or yearly fee for this placement. Banner ads can pay upwards of $300 a month, so if a blogger places three or four of these, the revenue will start to add up. Some blogs have 10-15 banner ads throughout their website, earning them thousands of dollars per month.

2. Affiliate Marketing

Another common source of blogging income is through affiliate sales. Basically, a blogger links to a product or service from their website. When a reader buys that product or service through that link, the blogger receives a commission.

There are affiliates for all sorts of businesses, like Amazon, Expedia, Alamo, and many more. For mommy blogs, affiliates may be for children's toys and craft products. For tech review blogs, their best affiliates are probably through online electronics stores.

3. Sponsorships

This is when a company pays a blogger in exchange for continuous promotion. It is not uncommon for bloggers to get paid to review free gear, free travel, and free services. The sponsorship opportunities are endless and can be available in many different industries.

How Many Hours Per Week Do Bloggers Work?

This varies greatly from blogger to blogger. Many people claim that they work upwards of 60 hours per week on their blogs! In my case, I left a high-paying, 60-hour per week job so that I could have more time doing what I love: traveling.

I work on my blog just four hours a day, five days per week... at the very most. The great thing about an efficient blog is that you don't have to put much time into it. Once it's built with a passive income model, it can typically earn money without very much work involved.

How Much Do Blogs Really Make?

Finally we get to the big question. Of course, the income that a blog can earn will depend entirely on the individual blogger, their work ethic, their niche, and the amount of readers that they have, but here are some good examples of real life bloggers making good money from their blogs.

Travel Blogging

My blog, GoatsOnTheRoad — and the freelance writing work that branches off from it — currently earns me over $5,000 per month after tax. At four hours a day, 20 hours a week, that income works about to be about $62.50 per hour. I would consider Goats On The Road to be a relatively successful blog in the travel niche, but there are many others out there that earn more than $100K per year from their travel blogs.

Caz and Craig earn a six-figure income from their fantastic yTravelBlog, and they also travel the world with their two adorable children.

Blogging Blogs

There is some huge money to be made from blogging about blogs! One of my favorites is Pat Flynn's SmartPassiveIncome. Pat is very open about his income because, like me, he wants people to know just how feasible a solid blogging career can be.

Pat earns over $1 million per year from his blog. He spends very little time on his computer and has lots of free time for his family. He is an inspiration to all bloggers and family men around the world.

Mommy Blogs

According to the Pew Research Center, there are more than 18.9 million women who write blogs. Of those nearly 19 million, very few are earning a full-time living from it. The top mommy blogs (like House of Rose Blog and Sunshine and Sippy Cups) make over $40,000 a year. That's a pretty good income considering they are able to stay home with their families all day and work in their pajamas!

Tech and Review Blogs

Probably one of the most lucrative and easily monetized forms of blogging, tech and review blogs make most of their money through affiliate sales. They review or talk about a product, and have an affiliate link to the product on their webpage. Every time someone reads the review and buys the product from their links, they earn a commission.

Tech Crunch is said to earn around $15,000 a day ($5,475,000 per year) through banner ads and affiliate sales, while Engadget earns around $9,800 per day ($3,577,000 per year).

Can Blogging Be a Career?

Absolutely. If you're looking for an alternative way to earn money, at a job that doesn't tie you into specific hours or one particular location, then blogging may be for you. There are opportunities available online that never existed in the pre-Internet world, and there is more than enough work to go around.

If you're looking for a change, you may want to consider blogging. With the most successful blogs earning over $1 million per year, it's definitely a feasible career choice.

To learn more about how to build a blog into an income generating machine, check out my Earning Money From Blogging section and get started today!

Have you created a profitable blog? How did you get started? Share with us in the comments!

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Guest's picture
Matt

Quick question for you Nick... Do you have any future plans (looking for idea here) to monetize your travel blog that doesn't include freelance work/isn't directly dependent on your time? Great article!

Thanks,
Matt

Guest's picture
Nick. W

Hi Matt,

I replied to your comment below, but it didn't place it in the reply field.

Guest's picture
Michelle Schroeder

I have a blog (www.makingsenseofcents.com) and I'm on track to earn $70,000 from it just for the month of March. I LOVE blogging and it has opened so many doors for me and my husband. We travel full-time and love life!

Guest's picture
Nick. W

Hi Michelle,

We know all about your blog! We were on it last night. Love what you're doing and you're a true inspiration to aspiring bloggers. It's funny that you commented on this post today as we were literally introduced to your blog this week :)

Keep up the incredible work. Would be cool to meet up somewhere on the road one day.

Guest's picture
Gail

Thanks for sharing your know-how's, and all those tips. Love the way you've broken everything down so it's easy and understandable.

Guest's picture
Nick. W

Thanks for the comment Gail and thanks for reading!

Guest's picture
Nick. W

Hey Matt,

Thanks for reading and great question. We are firm believers that passive income is the best way to go. Freelance writing isn't as passive, but when you get to write on excellent blogs like WiseBread and link back to your own blog, it definitely helps the traffic, which in turn can help with affiliate sales and product sales.

For income without hours spent on the computer... affiliates are the way to go. Our best affiliates include World Nomads, SiteGround, MyTefl.net (Tefl Courses), and HostelWorld. These along earn us a couple thousand some months and they earn while we're asleep.

The key is to know what your readers want when they come to the pages on your site. Find a page where they're on the final stages of booking, purchasing or reserving and you can make big money from it.

Contrary to popular belief, traffic numbers don't matter so much. The key is to have a niche and know your readers very well. If you're looking for passive income, I would say you should look at where your readers are on your site, how they browse it and where you can place affiliate links to make sales.

It will take a lot of tinkering before you get it bang on, but once you do... it can be a total jackpot. I know one blogger who makes $3000 / month from 3 articles alone that simply have great placement of affiliate links.

For more on passive income, you can check out the upcoming Travel Blogging Summit here: http://goatsontheroad.travel-masterclass.zaxaa.com/s/14367668733361

We'll be talking all about passive income and theirs some really great bloggers who we look up to participating as well.