Today I’m discussing a subject close to my heart. I’ve been blogging for about twenty years, initially about freelance writing and more recently about personal finance on my Pounds and Sense blog.
Although blogging hasn’t made me rich, it has generated a valuable side line income for me and continues to do so. I also very much enjoy sharing my thoughts on subjects I find interesting.
In this article I’ll explain how you can get started as a blogger and some ways you may be able to make money from it. But I’ll begin by answering the most basic question of all…
What is a blog?
The term blog derives from ‘web log’, but nobody uses that expression anymore! Most blogs are fairly simple websites, usually in a diary-type format.
Bloggers typically update their blogs once or twice a week (though a few do it daily). They normally focus on a particular interest, which could be anything from politics or photography to tropical fishkeeping. As well as providing text, the blogger may choose to add photos, graphics, drawings, and so on. Nobody knows for sure how many blogs there are, but current estimates put the total at over 600 million. One reason for this popularity is that few technical skills are needed. There are various blogging platforms that handle the tech stuff automatically, leaving the blogger him/herself free to focus on content.
What skills do you need?
Most blogs are primarily text based, so you will need some basic writing ability. You definitely don’t need to be Shakespeare, though.
Bloggers aren’t expected to turn out reams of perfect prose. Blogging is an informal medium, and the main requirement is to be able to write clearly and conversationally on your chosen subject (or subjects).
Some basic familiarity with online publishing will help, although as mentioned your chosen platform will do most of the heavy lifting for you. If you regularly post on social media, that can provide a useful foundation.
How to get started
To start blogging, you will need to decide on two things. The first is your subject matter.
You could of course just use your blog as a diary and write about your life. Unless you’re a celeb or have an unusual and fascinating lifestyle, however, few people will be interested and it will be hard to make any money from it.
I therefore recommend creating a niche blog. By this I mean a blog that focuses on a particular subject area. This should be something that will interest (and hopefully attract) a good-sized target audience. It should also be something you yourself find interesting and will enjoy writing about.
The other thing you need to decide is the blogging platform you will use. If you’re new to this field, there are two particular platforms I would recommend initially.
These platforms are great for novice bloggers, but they do have certain drawbacks. The biggest is that your options for monetization are somewhat limited (though you can certainly still make money from them – my first blog was on Blogger). You are also restricted to the features and templates provided by the platform concerned.
So sooner or later I recommend moving to a self-hosted WordPress website, which is what I use for Pounds and Sense. There will be some modest fees to pay for hosting and a domain name. But you will then have complete freedom over how you monetize your blog and be able to customize it to your heart’s content. In this short article I can’t go into detail about setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog. There is a bit of a learning curve but it’s definitely not rocket science, and there is plenty of advice and information online.
How to make money
And so to the nitty gritty! How do you make money from your blog? Here are the main methods that I (and other bloggers) use…
Bloggers are basically online publishers. And depending on your subject matter there are very likely to be businesses wanting to advertise with you, especially as your blog gains more readers.
If you want a simple solution, you can sign up with Google Adsense to have ‘ads by Google’ automatically displayed on your blog. You will then earn money any time someone clicks on them.
Businesses may also pay you to run articles on your blog, either supplied by themselves or written by you. This is one of my own best earners. Of course, you do have to disclose on the blog that the post in question is sponsored.
This is another favourite of mine. If you are writing about a particular product or service, you may be able to make money by including affiliate links. These are special links to a company website which include your tracking code. If someone clicks through to the business concerned and makes a purchase (or performs some other qualifying transaction) you will receive a fee for introducing them. Amazon has a popular affiliate scheme, or you can sign up with Awin, which lists hundreds of businesses looking for affiliates.
Building a list
You can also build an email list of people who visit your blog and sign up to receive updates and other info. You can then use affiliate marketing and other methods to generate sales (and commissions) from your subscribers.
Selling your own products and services
A blog can also be a great shop window for anything else you have to sell. If you offer consultancy services, for example, your blog can showcase your expertise. Many bloggers have also enjoyed success selling books and ebooks on their specialist subjects.
Blogging for freebies
Finally, you can profit through getting free products and services. Reviewing is one obvious example of this. If you review a book (or other product) you won’t normally be expected to return it afterwards. The author gains from the publicity provided in your blog post, so keeping the book is your reward for this. And you may, of course, also be able to make money by promoting it as an affiliate on Amazon or elsewhere, as discussed above.
I do hope this article has opened your eyes to the potential of blogging.
Obviously, I am a fan myself – and even though I am officially retired now, I still regularly post on my personal finance blog. I may wind down a bit as I get older, but the beauty of blogging is that you can do it as frequently – or otherwise – as you wish.
Blogging also has the attraction that it’s very flexible and you can fit it in around your other commitments and responsibilities. It’s open to everyone, even if you have health issues or disabilities. And it keeps your brain active as well!
Blogging isn’t a way to get rich quickly. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort you can certainly earn a useful side line income, and maybe even more.
Nick Daws writes for Pounds and Sense, a UK personal finance blog aimed especially (though not exclusively) at over-fifties.