I started Retire By 40 in 2010 to share my journey to early retirement. I knew you could make a few dollars blogging, but I really wasn’t sure it would be significant. I didn’t count on the online income to help me quit my job or anything. Fortunately, I was wrong on that account. Retire By 40 is a big factor that helped me retire at least 2 years earlier than expected. The online income is quite a bit less than my old salary, but it still helps our finances tremendously. Our monthly expense is low enough that I’m adding to our portfolio instead of drawing it down. The blogging business has changed quite a bit since 2010 and you might wonder if it’s still possible to start a blog and make some money. I think it’s more difficult now because there is so much material online, but it’s definitely doable. Let’s see how I got started first and then I’ll share some of my friends’ experiences.
My Blogging Journey
Retire By 40 started off pretty slow with only a few readers. I knew I had to increase my readership first to make any money at all so that’s what I focused on in the beginning. Back then, the best way to increase your readership was to connect with other bloggers and promote each other. After 6 months, our pageviews (how many pages were viewed) increased to about 5,000/month and I made my first sale.
A company sponsored an article for one year and that’s how I made my first $50. Companies wanted links to point to their site because this increased their Google ranking. Sponsored articles were an easy way to make money back then, but it’s no longer valid. Google now penalizes sites that buy rankings, so we don’t do much sponsored articles these days. Companies can sponsor “nofollow” links that won’t increase their ranking, but that kind of business is pretty rare.
As we gained more readers, making money from online advertising became possible.
- Banner ads – These are ads that pay per 1,000 views. You can see these ads at the top of the site and on the side bar. The nice thing about these ads is that readers don’t have to click anything. They are kind of like TV ads.
- Click ads – These are the ads by media.net at the bottom of the article. If a reader clicks on one of these links, we’ll make a few cents.
- Affiliate links – These are links to services and products that I place throughout the site. For example, I put a link to a Lego set on Amazon in the What we’re teaching our kid about money We earn a small referral fee if a reader purchases something from Amazon. Also the Blogging for Dummies book above.
That’s how we make money from Retire By 40. It’s all advertising based and the more readers we have, the more money we make. Currently, we have about 150,000 pageviews per month. That translates to $2-4,000 of advertising income per month. (I will break down the online income and expenses in our monthly newsletter so if you’re curious, sign up with our email list.) In conclusion, you need a lot of readers if you want to make money through advertising. When I first started, you can make a some money through sponsored articles even when you don’t have a lot of readers. I don’t think you can do that now.
*Blogging isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It will be tough to even make a few dollars unless you attract a lot of readers.
Your blog as a platform
Another way to make money through blogging is to use it as a platform. Melanie, our staff writer, currently doesn’t make much money from her blog – Dear Debt.com, but she uses it to showcase her writing. She left her job to become a full time freelancer last year and she’s making good progress on this new career.
Freelance – Eric has been blogging for over 6 years and recently changed his blog’s name from Narrow Bridge to Personal Profitability.com. The name change had a big impact to his adverting income, but he’s more focused on hiring out his service now. “Most of my online income comes from freelancing, and I would not have this level of success without my own blog. Personal Profitability demonstrates my web design and writing skills, which are very valuable to have as a portfolio when trying to win new clients and get the best rates possible”
Create a product – You can also create a course like Steve Chou from My Wife Quit Her Job.com. They started a successful online store and Steve is sharing his expertise via this course. Incidentally, I think starting an online store is probably the way to go if your goal is to make money.
Write a book – If you are a good writer, then you can write great finance books like Todd at the Financial Mentor. Todd is a prolific writer and his in-depth articles are great.
Consulting – Lastly, you can leverage your successful blog into a job… Companies are always looking for new ways to connect to customers and bloggers are the expert in this field. Sam at Financial Samurai is consulting for 2 financial services companies and I think he’s enjoying it tremendously.
It’s harder now
In conclusion, I think it’s harder now to make money from blogging via advertising, but there are new ways to make money, too. The problem is that there is so much content online that it will probably take longer to gain readership. When I first started blogging, there were only a few early retirement blogs, but now there are many more sites out there. If you have something interesting to say, then don’t let me discourage you from starting a blog. I’m sure it will be a good experience and you’ll definitely make a little bit of money.
Justin started Root of Good 1.5 years ago and he’s doing very well with it. He never set out to make a ton of money and the blog has turned out to be much more profitable than he ever expected. His online income averaged about $1,000/month in 2014. That’s pretty darn good side income when you’re retired. He also does a little bit of freelance writing.
As for Retire By 40, we’re going to stay the course for now. I don’t have time to do any kind of freelancing and I’m still not ready to go back to work for other people. I’m sure there will be new ways to make money through blogging 5 years from now and I’ll keep my eyes open. Once the kid goes off to kindergarten, I should have more time to figure out ways to expand.
I hope you enjoyed taking a peek behind the curtain. Have you thought about starting a blog? If you’re a new blogger, do you find it difficult to make money from your blog?