A few years ago, the mere idea of earning a salary level income from your blog seemed like a fantasy. With so many blogs worldwide, and maybe hundreds if not thousands of new blogs popping up over night, competition could seem fierce. However, put in perspective, blogs are now way more specialized and niche, so in fact you are not competing directly with all blogs out there, but mostly with the ones similar to yours.
This is where your story and your blog personality come into play.We live in the era of personal branding. The more your blog conveys who you are, the more your readers will identify with you, and will want to follow your journey.
The first blog that I created was in 2009 and it focused on fashion and basically just me posting my Polyvore outfits. I had over 1000 visitors a day, and posted 2-3 times a week. I enjoyed it, and although it was about fashion – a topic I am ever passionate about, it was still about 2 dimensional outfits, and not so much about me. In the meantime, through my work, I’ve been managing several education blogs for a couple of technology companies, both Enterprise level, but also in hustling startups. I’ve slowly realized that writing for a precise audience has incredible rewards and that a blog niche is a powerful thing. Yes, you might not talk to “everybody”, but you speak to the ones that matter to you. You have the power to be heard, share opinions, ignite conversations and spark communities.
I’ve learned to not think about the competition, but instead try to be as good as I possibly could and work to find my own blogging voice. The most powerful “niche” that you have is yourself! It’s your ambitions, your know-how and your attitude. Put them to work, and don’t underestimate your blogging potential!
Long story short, I’ve fallen in love with blogging and how telling a story and having a narrative can really help grow your blog and build a successful business around it, and I want to share my learnings with you. Starting a blog is actually fairly easy, but starting and growing a blog to be a profitable one, is a daily hustle and I am here to help you navigate through it!
This blog post focuses on the most important things to keep in mind in order to start a profitable blog or to grow your existing blog to new heights in 2020. Create the blog you love and turn it a revenue-generating business, that you can even convert into your main income.
Ready to dive in? Let’s get started.
How to Create a Profitable Blog in 2020
Use the sections below to navigate through this not-so-short blog post! 🙂 Feel free to bookmark this article or use the links to jump to the sections you are most interested in. The sections are meant to help you get the foundation you need to make your blog profitable from Day 1.
Step 1. What is “Your Thing”?
Step 2. Blog About Your Passion
Step 3. Create and Launch Your Blog
Step 4. Make a Content Action Plan
Step 5. Promote and Grow Your Blog
Step 6. Get Blog Subscribers
Step 7. Monetize Your Blog
The first step in starting a blog is to identify “your thing”. Where does your mind wander off ? What are you day dreaming about? What do you like to talk about, or write about? Sometimes it might be very easy to identify the answer to these questions, but other times, you might need a little help, such as writing down what you think you are good at, and then going from there.
If you are like me, you might have more than one thing you are passionate about, so you might end up with a list of a few different things, say 5-8. Now, the next thing you need to do is to sort these passions and to actually rank them. Putting a number on them might seem strange, but this is actually the simplest and most effective way to figure out where you stand. Give “1” for the thing you are most passionate about, and then drill down to the next topics. In many cases you might end up with a perfectly organized list. Sometimes, you might feel that you can group certain topics into one bigger one. Either of these is fine. This is a great exercise that will help you find your niche, so trust the process.
What matters most next, is to circle out the ones that you think you can actually become known for and make money from. To start a blog, you need to be able to become influential in a particular area by producing high quality, relevant and valuable content.
So, which of them do you think you are most influential in? You might be a travel blogger with a passion for healthy recipes, or a fashion lover with a passion for fitness. That’s where you need to start with, so more than finding your niche, aim for finding “your thing”. This is what will set you apart from everyone else and make you stand out.
And I will be honest and say that by identifying what “your thing” is, is the only way you will make money from your blog, and not the other way around – just wanting to have a profitable blog and then thinking what it should be about.
To sum it up: You need to write what people want to read and what gets them inspired. No matter what that is, from being a better person, cook, lover, writer or traveler. Express your emotion, tell your story and show your personality. That is what you have that is unique to you – make the most of it!
This step is closely connected to Step 1, and you might think for a second that they are one and the same. The truth is, once you have identified what your passions are, you have to zero in and make a strategic choice. What could you write about that makes that passion come across?
Make a list of 5-10 blog post topics with the top passions that you identified. Is it easy to keep expanding on this topic? Do you get the impression that you have so much to say and new topics just pop into your head one after the other?
Then you might be one to something! Your blog subject!
If you need a little push, check out how to convert your passion and turn it into a blog that is relevant enough that people want to read.
An easy place to start is by following big themes that most people can identify with. These revolve around things that they want or crave in their lives, such as traveling more, being a better self, earning more, advancing in their careers, being happier, more fit, more stylish etc. Now think about how your blog will solve this for them and you might just found a way to turn your passion into a profitable blog:
- How to travel more
- How to be a better person, chef, mother, professional etc.
- How to be more healthy, mindful or fit
- How to earn more money
- How to be more fashionable, stylish etc.
- How to learn a particular skill or ability
- How to grow your business or career
Remember, your blog might not need to be about a single of these things, but it should define your passions, so feel free to mix them up. The “lifestyle blog” concept usually focuses on one bigger topic, with a few interlaced topics. For example, a fashion blogger, who also posts career growth posts.
From my own experience, you will change what you write about throughout your journey, so the best thing that you can do is to focus on quality first, that is what will make you rank in Google and grow organically (Get started with blog SEO with these quick steps), and not with spammy techniques. Focus on being yourself and sharing your unique story that is also useful for others.
Preparation first, now let’s get down to action!
Launching a blog might seem intimidating at first with the many tools available out there, and also with the millions of resources that want to teach you how to do it like a pro. The truth? You don’t need to be a pro in order to get started. You need to just pick an option and go with it! What you have to say matters more than what platform you use, so the best advice is to just get started!
That said, you still can do a little investigating beforehand and be smart about it. You will find that there are quite a few blog platforms such as WordPress, Blogger, Medium or Squarepace . All of them have their lists of pros and cons and it’s only normal and wise to compare them. Check out this post that guides you through the most important things to consider when choosing a blogging platform starting with hosting, domain name, design theme and branding.
To summarize the blog post I’ve linked to, let’s go through the key steps in creating and launching your blog.
- Choose A Platform. I’ve been blogging on pretty much all the biggest platforms I’ve mentioned above, but my favorite one by far is WordPress. It’s the most powerful and customizable of all, and the best thing is that it’s free, you only need hosting. My second favorite is Squarespace as it makes is effortless to run a website, has hosting included, however it comes with a monthly cost which might feel like quite an investment in the beginning.
- Choose A Hosting Provider. Hosting powers up your website, so it needs to be professional, reliable and easy to DIY! I highly recommend going with an established hosting provider as they sometimes have extensive support and they can even walk you through setting up over the phone or do it for you for a small fee. I recommend using GoDaddy, Bluehost or Siteground as I’ve used all of them and I know they have very easy, 1-click integrations with WordPress, so you’ll be able to set up your website in no time!
- Choose A Theme. Finding a good (not just pretty looking) blog theme is really important from the beginning and it really help you as you build your blog into a profitable business. A professionally designed theme is easy to customize, to update and to evolve with your needs (think sponsored content like banners, or lead generation email opt-in menus). My go-to WordPress themes for bloggers are created by Solo Pine and they have the best functionality and design. You can buy them for quite cheap ($50-$70) through Creative Market and they come with easy guides to install and to customize. You can also explore themes built on the Genesis framework. These themes have a set of features that works with a lot of other themes like a glove.
- Choose a color palette. Now that you have a theme, it’s time to customize it. Minimalist designs are among the most popular nowadays. This means usually picking a black and white theme with maybe 1 or 2 accent colors. I love getting inspired on Pinterest by searching “branding” or “design inspiration”. Also take a look at Adobe Color, Adobe’s very own palette creator.
- Create a logo. Oh logos, you could write a book about it! Branding is important, so make sure your logo matches the vibes and energy you want to convey. Getting a logo professionally created is probably the best, but this doesn’t mean you have to pay a fortune. For a quicker and more affordable way, check out Creative Market or Fiverr. These are great services that allow you find already created designs that you can alter to fit your needs or to find freelancers to work on your designs and to make sure you are getting the best design for you. These services will be way cheaper than hiring a designer, plus you’ll have more options to choose from.
- Publish Your Blog. When your platform, hosting, logo and color palette are all done is time to get everything together and publish your blog. You might notice you’ll need to craft some text here and then for the “about me”, your first blog post or “contact me” pages. For this, the best place to start is with your mission. Share your story and think about why you’ve started and who are you writing for. I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” as a good exercise for this. Remember, your blog will evolve with you so keep it short and meaningful. Talk about how you plan to bring value to your readers and what they can expect from your blog.
Blogging with a purpose is key, but blogging without a strategy will not get you very far. We all know that without a target or due date we all fall behind, we procrastinate and we say life got in the way #TrueStory. If you are serious about starting a profitable blog, you just have to do it right. Stay committed to your passion and zero in on your blog goals by creating an actionable blog content calendar! Check out this post and get your Free Downloadable Blog Content Calendar that you can use to plan out your editorial calendar. It will help you make a plan and be prepared for the times when life gets busy.
Having a calendar should not make you stressed about your blog and your set dates. Decide on how many times you will blog and try to stay accountable. Whether that means 2-3 times a week, once a week or twice a month, having consistency will make you more determined and motivated in your blog journey.
If you are just starting out, plan out a few initial blog posts, ideally one in each category you want to focus on. These should be really thought out posts and will act like your foundational posts that will help set the tone for your blog and get people hooked on your blog.
In order to grow your blog, you need to get people to visit it first. Driving traffic and getting subscribers are an absolute must for any blog to be successful, profitable and sustainable as a business. But driving traffic might seem a tough cookie to crack, so you need to make it worthwhile for people to come to your blog. The things you need get right for this to happen are creating valuable content and making sure everyone knows about it, aka creating your community or your blog tribe. These will ensure you will make money from your blog and these key things will help you grow.
Let’s dig in deeper on what each entails.
Writing high-quality content, that is meaningful and makes people want to bookmark it come back to it, is by no means an easy job. But this is where your secret ingredient – your own personality, values or expertise come into play. Connecting with your audience means you write for them, trying to help them solve a problem or trying to help them become better. Place the focus on your audience and write content that’s motivating, educational or inspirational to them.
Maybe you’ll talk about starting a business, being a better parent or trying to teach them a skill. Whatever that content looks like, it needs to connect with your reader on a very personal level. Share your experience and bring your full personality to the table, share stories of your own struggles and how you’ve overcome them. People will always connect to a person more than with a brand, so make sure you use this to your advantage.
When people find that they can learn something from you, they’ll want to come back. That’s how they end up subscribing to your blog or following you on social media. What happens next is very important, how do you build on this initial connection, how do you capture them and make them part of a bigger pictures – that is the start of building a community. These are the people who will come back for you, or for your content (ideally a mix of both), and who will probably be the first ones to purchase something either from your content or services!
Exercise: Think about 3 blogs or social media accounts that you are following. Think about why you are following them and now think about why someone would follow you.
Content is king and community is queen.
Building one will help you get the other so you’ll see they are closely intertwined. Some people start a social media account such as Instagram and they realize they build a strong community which they later turn into a blog, website, eshop. If you already have a social media community on your personal accounts you could start with that by slowing introducing your blog content or telling them you have a blog post all about a particular topic and share the link. I also recommend using your personal profiles to disseminate your blog posts, that will get your friends and connections to support you (trust them!) and share your efforts.
Social media is so important for helping you maintain relationships with your community, so make the most of it. Concentrate your efforts on the platforms that make the most sense in your industry and capitalize on them.
Being everywhere? I recommend linking to your own social media accounts if you don’t want to create separate business ones. I did this for Pinterest which was my own moodboard, which I’ve slowly converted to fit my website’s needs. You could do the same, or start separate ones. The key is to be consistent and post regularly based on your content plan.
As you’re producing more and more content and growing your community, you need to think of the next step #AlwaysBeGrowing! You need to capture your audience and keep them engaged. You can get them to subscribe to new articles, behind the scenes content, free stuff or the best thing: products you create or services you sell. Always think about the end game and work towards it.
As an example, let’s say you might be writing fashion styling blog posts now, but later you can get users to subscribe to access a free full capsule wardrobe, and then in time you start selling your capsule wardrobes to your email audience.
You might be thinking, “Wait, but I can still do these things for my blog and promote them on social media.” Yes, you are right – you can do that too. But you have to take social media reach into account too, ie. the number of social media fans who will actually see your posts. With the current social media reach being in decline, your audience might not even see most of your social media posts. The average reach rate on Facebook is around 30%, whereas on Instagram and Twitter is 50%. Your community will not be seeing all your posts, so your outcome will be less that you expected.
However, by building and nurturing your own community as email subscribers, you will be the “owner” of that audience, and you can use it your way without having to pay extra to reach your own community through ads. As traditional as you might find it, email is still of the highest converting marketing channels, so use it to your advantage! Building your blog subscriber lists is the best investment you can do for your blog as it will allow you to make money as a blogger and convert your passion into your paycheck.
How to get blog subscribers? First thing’s first: create a opt-in form for your blog.
Creating an opt-in might feel a little intimidating at first as you might think you lack the expertise to create a form, but are also worried about how to “do it right” in terms of sending out a blog newsletter, or an email campaign promoting your free or paid resources. Don’t over-think this. Set up the opt-in first and then consider what is meaningful enough to be shared via email. Sometimes, a weekly newsletter might not make sense and you could only email people when you have something new to share or to promote. The good news is you get to determine the pace of your emails, so make it fit your blog.
How to create an opt-in?
You can start by using a free form from MailChimp or use a specialized tool like LeadPages, ConvertKit or Drip. In the beginning, I think the easiest thing is to go with a free tool such as MailChimp, as you will not be needing that many advanced features, so it will take the pressure away from trying to make money from your list right away.
- Decide on the blog post that will be the driver of your opt-in subscribers.
- Create a free content (freebie) or extended content. This could be a more in-depth resource related to your blog post that you can detail more about in a Word or PDF. It can be an actionable how-to guide, checklist or resource that will make readers give you their email address in exchange for. That is ultimately the way you will grow your list, via a fair exchange.
- Send them the resource via email when they subscribe. I found this is easier to do this in MailChimp by creating a separate list and then customizing the thank you email form to include the link to your resource. You can also setup an automation trigger in MailChimp that automatically sends users your freebie in an email.
- Think ahead. When you create your opt-in form, be transparent and say that by subscribing to your resource, they will also stay up to date with your blog and other resources.
That’s it! As you grow your blog you can customize the look of your forms and choose a different tool for opt-ins that has more customization and which you can optimize based on the different freebies that you have. Yes, you should consider creating multiple freebies as you advance in your blogging journey. You can also think about the best way to segment your lists based on the different types of resources you create. If you are a business blogger you could create a travel deals list and maybe a list for travel guides.
There are many ways to make money from your blog, but as in any business you have to keep in mind that what you put in you get out. You have to be patient and grow your blog with passion and you’ll see quite a lot of hard work. Trust me when I say that if you commit to your blog, produce valuable content and you build your community, you can grow your blog to so many avenues and make money from your blog.
I am going to walk you through the most common ways to make money from your blog: ads, affiliate programs, brand collaborations, selling your services (digital or physical), selling your know-how (consultancy, courses, workshops or events). Let’s dive right in!
Paid ads. Make money when people view or click on a link or image banner on your blog. You can insert ads on your blog’s sidebar, footer or throughout your blog posts through an easy to setup code snippet. Image or text ads will then show up for your readers based on your article topic or their browser cookies. You might have noticed already when you visit a website, your browser stores a cookie and then you will see the ads of that particular brand on other websites that you visit or on social media. This is called remarketing and a lot of it happens on blogs like yours.
Affiliate programs. This is one of the best ways to make money from your blog. You can sign up to a few affiliate networks such as Skimlinks, CJ, RewardStyle or Shop Style Collective and make money if people click on your link and they make a purchase. This way to make money from your blog is actually very powerful if you share brands and tools you already use and you that you can honestly recommend. For example a great laptop bag that you bought, or a software you use and love, such as Adobe Lightroom for editing my photos which I’ve mentioned in a previous post.
A good way to enhance affiliate commissions is to create blog posts around how to use them, or how to be successful with X by using product Y. This can apply to to software, services or physical products like for example, how to wear your leather jacket with office outfits.
The most important thing to remember? Be truthful, always recommend products and services you already use and love.
Brand collaborations. You might think that you are too small to do brand collaborations, but the reality is that if you produce good, relevant content and have built a community around your blog, it’s not that hard for brand to want to work with you. The key is to have something to show brands such as a proven record of your abilities.
I recommend creating a media kit. This can be as simple as a Word document or PDF that you link to on your blog under “Work With Me”. In this document, you can include a summary of your blog, your target audience as well as traffic and content engagement metrics. As a best practice, you could include the number of your followers, and mention any brands you’ve previously worked with, or have promoted. You can also mention what type of collaborations you are interested in doing and encourage them to reach out to discuss the next steps and rates. It’s always better to talk about rates after an initial email or conversation. This way you can influence the rate in your favor provided they have a negotiable rate. Make sure you create a form or an email address where you can be reached.
And now what? Now you wait or you take matters into your own hand? Introducing pitching.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to brands you love and let them know about you, share your media kit and try to build connections. Send emails or Direct Messages on Instagram or Twitter telling brands why they should pick consider you to create content for them. Some will not reply, others will say they’ll consider you for next campaigns, but even if 1-5% end up replying you will have a new brand name on your media kit and you will slowly build from there. There are two categories of pitch emails: introductions, and content pitches. Introductions are pretty self explanatory, it’s usually you telling brands you exist. But the other ones, the content pitches are where magic actually happens. Approach brands with a plan and a mission, telling them you are considering including them in a blog or guide and asking if they would be interested to collaborate. You might receive free product or they might actually be interested in sponsoring your content.
How to start? Write an introductory pitch email or message and send it to brands you think would want to work with bloggers like you or who already work with bloggers similar to your size and audience. The more, the merrier, as in the beginning it might take a while until you get noticed. But as you grow your blog, you’ll notice that brands will start to react to your content more and more often.
Sell Your Services (digital or physical)
You can use your blog and your community to sell your services, whether digital or physical if you can prove that you can deliver enough value and fuel your readers with the motivation that it takes to purchase your products. The first rule for this is to determine out what ignites their need to buy your product and why you are the right source for them to get access to this. Start by making a short list of the things you can “productize” from your blog. Maybe it’s a more in-depth resource, a full how-to guide, a cook book, an email online course or a jewelry collection.
After you’ve identified one of the things you can potentially sell, it’s time to put in the work in and create the content. You’ll need to factor in creating and setting up your products, finding a way to deliver them, figure out pricing and a payment system for your product. I think WordPress with WooCommerce can be a great way to manage selling for your physical or digital products. I also recommend looking at SamCart, Etsy or Shopify if you want a tool with more options for selling and marketing your product.
Sell You Know How and Skills
As you start growing your blog and you start making money blogging, it’s time to think about creating multiple revenue streams that will make your blog more profitable, and convert into a sustainable business. Working on your blog, you’ll develop all sorts of skills – from content creation, photo editing, marketing, sales and boost your social skills. As you level up and expand your know how, you need to think of ways to put your new skills to use.
Do you have great social skills or event planning – create a meetup or workshop! Are you good at content writing and social media-start freelancing! Do you like to help other bloggers, entrepreneurs, or marketeers – start consulting! There is no limit to where you can expand to, it just depends on building the right skills, and adapting your blog to fit with the new exciting revenue streams.
In addition to this, my best advice is to never stop learning. Go to conferences, local events or meetups. Reach out to people and ask for advice, go on coffee dates and focus on building relationships with bloggers in your city.
I also recommend reading online articles and learning about different blogging related topics (content writing, social media, SEO, analytics, paid advertising, webinars), as well as taking classes to up your skills on various topics related to blogging, especially in the beginning. My favorite way to learn lately is by taking classes on Udemy, SkillShare, or Udacity. Most of them are very affordable and I think that investing in yourself is always worth it.
WOAH! And here are all my tips for creating a profitable blog in 2020! Congrats on making it till here, I hope you got some useful tips and ideas on how to grow and monetize your blog! With all these tips you can take your blog to the next level.