‘How do I make money at blogging?’ It’s probably the most frequent question I get.

Making money blogging? Not to start, sorry.

Making money blogging? Not to start, sorry. You will definitely put more into it than you get out of it for awhile.

Think of blogging as being a musician. At first, you play a lot of free or really really cheap gigs. With experience, you get paid. Some people reach the elite ‘rock star’ level but there are plenty of others making their living somewhere between starving artist and Lady Gaga. And that’s probably going to be you. But first, you have to play a lot of free gigs.

If you can’t blog for a year without getting a dime, move on friends. You don’t have the stamina to last in this industry. We need to do the web equivalent of playing in subways with our guitar cases open before someone gives us a paying gig. (Hey, I like this music analogy, maybe I’ll stick with it!)

Here is how people make money at blogging:

1) Advertising
You have probably noticed ads on websites. Someone pays for those! When your website has enough traffic, someone may want a spot on your website. You have some options here:

a) Sell/make them yourself. You can have your own rate sheet, usually in price per 1000 impressions or per click. People are not paying a lot for this. Trust me, I used to try to sell ads on a newspaper website for $150/month and had little success. Start small. Let’s say your blog has 20,000 hits/month and you charge $1 per 1,000 impressions for a small banner ad, that’s legit. You can always raise your prices as better offers come across your table.
b) You can join an ad network. Let’s say the idea of selling ads makes you ill. There are plenty of ad networks you can join (think Google Adsense or Blogher). The pros? They do the selling and all you do is display a snippet of code on your site and keep doing your thing. The ads magically appear and occasionally, you get a check. The cons? They keep 90ish% of that revenue. (And Google Adsense is especially stupid because they will only mail you a check when you make $100… which will take you forever to do. I don’t recommend it!)

Note: The first company that asks to advertise with you might be something sketchy (like in my case, lots of payday loan companies wanted real estate on my personal finance blog). Accepting ads is a dance of balancing the happiness of your readers and your capitalist tendencies. So record a cheesy pop vocal hit once in awhile but keep your core base of fans happy with your innovative music.

2) Paid writing gigs on other blogs/websites

People who like your writing will want you to write for their websites. Starting rate seems to be around $25/post for shorter posts. You can find plenty of paying blog gigs at Problogger’s job board but many people want resumes and at least six month’s experience. (See what I mean about doing your thing for a year before expecting a paid gig?)

3) Affiliate products

Notice how some bloggers recommend books or products? These usually have tracking links and, say,after you click on the book and buy it from Amazon.com, that blog author gets a kickback. It’s a lousy 3% but hey, for not having to do much, it’s kind of nice.

Different products/websites have different affiliate programs you can link into. There are some big players in the space like Commission Junction and Amazon Affiliates.

4) Selling your own products

After awhile you’ll notice that you may have enough material for an ebook or an online video course. Putting this together and selling it is something experienced bloggers do a lot. Clearly by selling your own stuff, you get to keep the most money.

So are there mysterious ways bloggers are making money online? As you see, not really. What they are doing is getting really proficient at blogging then taking that knowledge and using it to build their traffic (sell more ads), write for other websites, recommend products, and create their own products. 

Does it take time? Yes. Can you make money? Yes. Will it be a lot of money? Probably not… but at least not at the beginning. Can you do it? Absolutely.