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Make Money Blogging

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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. The online income wouldn’t help me quit my job. 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.

make money blogging

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 Sponsored articles were an easy way to make money back then, but it’s no longer valid.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.

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, Sign up at Siteground and they’ll help you get going for $3.95/month. That’s an awesome deal. (This is an example of an affiliate link.)

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 130,000 page views 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?

You can register your domain and get a hosting plan at SiteGround for just $3.95 per month. This is an example of an affiliate link and we’ll get a commission if you buy something from SiteGround.

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{ 39 comments… add one }
  • Ernie Zelinski March 27, 2015, 1:36 am

    “Have you thought about starting a blog?”

    Actually, I used to have two blogs about retirement. I wasn’t very successful in attracting a lot of readers. The blogs eventually seemed way too much work for the results I was getting. So I quit blogging.

    But sometime around 2006 I created a number of websites such at “The Retirement Quotes Cafe” to help promote my books. I have not added much to these websites over the years. Although these websites are not that professional, they provide me about $200 a month in Amazon Affiliate and Google Ads income. But the bigger payoff is that these websites help sell enough extra copies of the print and ebook editions of “How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free” and “The Joy of Not Working” on Amazon to make me another $400 a month in pretax profits. So the payoff from these unprofessional websites is still around $600 a month. The great thing is that I don’t have do any work nowadays for that income. That’s the way I like to roll.

    Incidentally, someone around two years ago offered me $15,000 for “The Retirement Quotes Cafe” website. I turned him down because I have a personal attachment to my “ugly” website that has often had the homepage ranked Number 1 on Google (out of 17,000,000 websites) for the search term “retirement quotes”. The other webpages have also ranked number 1 on Google for search terms such as “retirement poems” and “retirement letters.”

    Of course, Joe, I enjoyed your “peek behind the curtain” about your blogging success. It is a great inspiration for those thinking about blogging. I will refer people to this post and place a link to it when I update the ebook edition of “Career Success Without a Real Job (The Career Book for People Too Smart to Work in Corporations).

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:51 am

      Your model is the way to go. That’s synergy – as a corporate guy would put it. I may try to write a book at some point. Not really sure if anyone would buy it, though. 🙂

  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way March 27, 2015, 2:02 am

    Wow, you’re making 150,000 pageviews per month, pretty amazing! I have been thinking to start a blog someday, but as of now, I love reading blogs especially travel and pf blogs. You guys rock!

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:52 am

      Thanks! 150k sounds amazing, but a lot of blogs have much more traffic. The big boys have millions of pageviews per month. That’s pretty awesome.

  • Mr Zombie March 27, 2015, 4:59 am

    Hi Joe.

    Thanks for the open insight into your progress in the blog. Sometimes it seems like bloggers are almost embarrassed to say their website makes money for them, especially to their readers. But why, it’s a lot of work for you!

    I started about 6 months ago. But more as a way of setting out goals and providing myself with continuing inspiration to stay on the path towards FI. I didn’t want to make it about money as it seems like a huge task! Traffic has been growing which is awesome so maybe in another 6 months we shall see where I’m at and then consider monetising.

    Any tips? Not in terms of making money but in just keeping posting good content 🙂

    Mr Z

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:54 am

      Good luck! I think the way you’re doing it is the right way. If traffic comes, then you can try monetizing.
      It’s tough to keep posting good content. There are only so many financial topic… I think it’s best to share your life and make readers feel inclusive.

  • Jon March 27, 2015, 5:04 am

    I think what anyone needs to know when starting a blog is that it is not a get rich quick thing. You can read the online incomes of many successful bloggers and think that you will be able to quit working in 6 months and be raking in the cash. It doesn’t work like this. It takes a lot of hard work and time to make a decent, consistent income every month blogging. Most give up after 6 months because of this.

    This is to discourage anyone from blogging, but to help keep things in perspective. If your goal is to be earning a few grand a month in 6 months, blogging is not the avenue.

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:56 am

      Thanks for the reminder. I added it to the main article. It will take time to build traffic. Only a few people really strike it rich with a blog.

  • Retired To Win March 27, 2015, 5:57 am

    I’ve decided NOT to monetize my blog. At least not for now.

    As it is, my passive income exceeds my basic living expenses by 300 percent. So I don’t need blog money to make my ends meet. And my surplus passive income keeps piling up faster than I can find ways in which I am willing to spend it. So blog money would just add to the backup. Therefore I’ve concluded that I have enough money coming in as it is, and that I prefer to keep my blogging, as they say, “a labor of love.”

    Not giving myself the self-impossed stress and pressure of making my blog a money maker makes my blogging pure fun. At least, that’s my stand right now.

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:56 am

      Thanks for sharing. Not monetizing is good too. It’s a hobby and you enjoy blogging.

    • Dave March 27, 2015, 10:13 am

      That’s awesome! We have a lot in common. I like your last paragraph about not self imposing unnecessary stress, etc. I blog simply because I want to help educate & inspire folks to achieve financial success. If my book started making money, I’d plow it right back into helping more people. Been retired since 43 (I’m 44 now).

  • Laura G. Sweeney March 27, 2015, 5:59 am

    I used to blog many years ago, but I never integrated the ads or made much money at it; however, I am enthusiastic about blogging once again and have begun one new blog on Word Press and two new blogs on Blogger.com. I think I will reach a wider range by blogging in these two venues. I really appreciate it that you have given us more insight into how one might make some money through blogging and into how to promote blogs. I never thought I would really end up retiring at age 52. I thought I would teach in the public schools until age 60, but I now find myself needing to get out from under the umbrella of the corporate structure of public schools, and I am going to blog about my new life including my life in Italy. I have enjoyed following your advice and reading about your family over the years. When my email was changed for a short period of time, I missed you guys until I signed up again and it has been worth the joy of reading your posts as well as hearing about your family.

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:57 am

      Good luck! I’d love a guest post from you when you get a bit more established. It would be great to hear about your new life in Italy. They know how to live there.

      • Laura G Sweeney March 27, 2015, 10:34 am

        Okay, I would love to do that after I get over there. I happen to be fluent in Italian and that is one thing that will make it easier for me than it would be otherwise.

  • Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents March 27, 2015, 7:01 am

    I’m hitting the 6 month mark right now, and have generally found blogging to be much more of a hobby do-what-I-like-because-I-like-it thing than a money-maker. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the readership to really make my blog a passive income stream, but it’s cathartic for me so I continue on anyway.

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:58 am

      How is your traffic? Is it growing? Blogging is not passive at all. 🙂

  • Sarah March 27, 2015, 7:42 am

    It’s funny but I don’t see any advertising on your blog. I do see the Blogging for Dummies but that is it. I don’t think I ever see advertising.

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:59 am

      That’s good for you. 🙂 Maybe you have an ad blocker installed or something like that.

  • Samurai March 27, 2015, 8:34 am

    Thanks for the mention. Blogging is definitely a sloooow way to make money. But blogging to me is so much fun connecting with folks from around the world and learning new things. I didn’t realize the $250,000/$500,000 tax-free profit for real estate rule had changed in 2009, but a reader helped clarify it so beautiful for me.

    It’s all about the journey. Looking back 20 years from now and reading the articles will be a joy!

    Sam

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 9:59 am

      You’re right. We learn so much from our readers. It’s a great way to connect with like minded folks.

  • Zach Klimczak March 27, 2015, 8:34 am

    Hi Joe,
    I have a difficult time with blogging – namely from the perspective of “I’ve dabbled in a lot of stuff in my life, but have never ‘really’ mastered any one thing.” Likewise, I reason with myself “Oh, well, I could definitely talk about X for a little while, but, no one would really care what I have to say” and I end up talking myself out of blogging. I’d love to be able to (at some point) monetize a blog to bring me some passive income, but right now I’m just having a tough time rationalizing what it is I’d like to write about. I’d love to hear from someone who was in the same boat at some point.

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 10:01 am

      It’s definitely tough to blog consistently. That’s probably the most difficult part about blogging. Most people run out of things to say after a while. You can try it and see what happens. Maybe it will be successful. If not, it’s not an expensive investment. Good luck!

  • Justin @ Root of Good March 27, 2015, 8:48 am

    Thanks for sharing my story, Joe!

    I ended up making a decent amount from blogging but really just put the advertising up in hopes of covering the $100 or of hosting fees for the year. It was (and is) a hobby, and I like to have hobbies that are free since that leaves money in the budget for other fun stuff that isn’t always free (like traveling).

    As it turns out, it’s an okay way to make money over the long term. I write about what I enjoy and that generally leads to traffic, social media shares (more shares), and interesting collaboration opportunities (that sometimes leads to easy money).

    Like Sam mentioned, I’m still learning (aren’t we all?), and I get a lot from commenters that sometimes know more about the topic I discuss than I do! In the early retirement world, there just aren’t that many people around me in real life that are on the same path in life, so it’s very helpful to have a community to toss around ideas and give feedback (and tell you when your poop stinks).

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 10:02 am

      Thanks for your input Justin. I think the way you’re doing it is perfect. You blog occasionally and still enjoy great traffic. I might cut back to once a week at some point if I start a new small business or something like that.

      • Justin @ Root of Good March 27, 2015, 1:38 pm

        Sounds like a plan! I think I would end up with low quality posts if I put out 1 a day like some folks, or even 3-4 per week, since I’m not blogging full time. And eventually it would turn into a job if I had to stick to a strict posting schedule.

        Most of the rewards I get from blogging are the intellectual challenge of putting together information in a cogent and interesting manner plus the social interaction with others.

        • retirebyforty March 29, 2015, 9:10 pm

          If I don’t have a schedule, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it. Schedule is a good thing for me.

  • Chris March 27, 2015, 10:11 am

    Hey Joe,

    I’ve been following your blog for about a year now and would like to know… What aspects of your blog do you hire out, or outsource?

    Have you used services like Elance, Guru, and Fiver? I have, with some success, and some not so much.

    • retirebyforty March 27, 2015, 10:49 am

      On Retire By 40, I only hire out one article every 2 weeks. I do everything else. I guess I’m a control freak. I really should outsource more tasks to make life easier.
      I used Elance for my other site – Midlife Finance. On that site, I hire out everything. It’s not working out well, though. The traffic is not increasing and I’m thinking about selling the site.

  • David Michael March 27, 2015, 10:31 am

    Joe…
    Thanks so much for doing a blog article on blogging.

    I’ve been thinking of doing one for years but a busy life seems to get in the way and so many outdoor pursuits in Oregon keep us active and happy! So I am content to read your blog and wish you continued success.

  • Dave March 27, 2015, 10:32 am

    Good read. I love personal finance blogs & yours is one of my tops. In fact, I’ve listed it in my book, my blog & my Facebook page. Keep up the good work. Like you, I retired early. My wife at 34 & a couple years later, me at 43. Our passion is helping others achieve financial success.

  • Pennypincher March 27, 2015, 10:49 am

    Great informative sharing! Glad to see you have Vanguard on board as an advertiser. After going thru many great finance books, blogs, papers, and talking to advisors, stockbrokers, a hedge fund manager (!), etc. recently, I went back to Vanguard w/my $ and they solved my problem beautifully, simply, the low-cost index way. I’d recommend them to anyone. Read their books, check them out.A great fund company.

  • Jason March 27, 2015, 11:28 am

    Joe,

    Good stuff. Thanks for allowing us to peek behind the curtain, if you will. 🙂

    I’ve experienced something pretty similar. Although I never set out to make much (any?) money from blogging, it’s been an incredible way to connect with people in ways I never would have had otherwise. So the value is really in the relationships, because it takes a good long while to make much of any kind of income at all. But I think either you enjoy it or you don’t. As a job, the pay is crap. But it’s a great way to reach out to people in a really wonderful way and, hopefully, make a little extra active income to supplement or speed up one’s retirement.

    Best regards!

    • retirebyforty March 29, 2015, 9:09 pm

      I don’t know if the pay is that bad. 🙂 The hourly rate is actually pretty good. As long as you don’t bill the endless hours surfing the net, that is. It’s great to build a community.

  • Jason B March 27, 2015, 12:10 pm

    I’ve been blogging a little over 2 years. I didn’t get serious about it until last year sometime. I’m currently having the biggest month (views wise) ever. I know 2015 will be great for me and my site.

  • Tawcan March 27, 2015, 2:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing your methods for making money with blogging, great information. Still debating whether I should monetize my blog or not but probably should work on the traffic first. 150k pageview per month would be great if I can reach that in the near future.

  • Gopi Chandra March 27, 2015, 5:50 pm

    Thanks for the excellent article on blogging.

    Can you please share how to get started blogging?
    Which company to use for hosting, blogging, marketing blogs etc?

  • Vi March 28, 2015, 6:53 am

    joe. I really enjoy your blog. I read yours weekly partly for the financial conversations but mostly because it’s like visiting an online friend who makes no demands! Keep up the great writing. I refer younger colleagues to your blog. Please keep the personal touch!

  • Lila March 28, 2015, 3:40 pm

    Blogging has always been around but they used to call it “journaling” and actually blogging first took off in the early 2000’s when Movable Type and Blogger platforms came out. I’ve seen a lot of blogs come and go, others have stayed. Even in the beginning during the blogging explosion it wasn’t anything that was easy to make money at. It has always been a difficult thing to make money at.

  • Jason March 31, 2015, 9:37 pm

    Great read! I have a few thoughts on “blogging” and making money online. What I have noticed is that people choose “blogging” with no real knowledge of SEO, keyword research, or monetization. Instead, they blog about personal finance or some topic they are interested in, and then burnout 6 to 12 months later when they aren’t making any money. IMO, there is no money in “blogging.” If you want to make money on the internet, you really need to understand keyword research, SEO, sales funnels, email marketing, and finally monetization. Each one of these takes a ton of learning and hands-on implementation to get them right. After these are mastered, you can make money online doing “blogging”, e-commerce, etc. Sorry if this is a bit of a rant but I noticed a lot of comments about not making any money online and I just think people need to understand it’s a whole lot more than buying a domain, setting up hosting, and posting on a regular schedule.

    Thanks for the peek behind curtain!

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