How to Make a Living as a Blogger in 2021 (No BS Strategy)

Sitting on the beach, sipping piña colada, and making a living blogging doesn’t sound so bad right? Here’s how to achieve just that a few years from now.

Blogging is cute and all but… how do you actually get this thing monetized? 

I for one didn’t build a website from scratch and write dozens of 2000-word blogs just for fun. It’s safe to say a huge chunk of us are blogging (or thinking about blogging) because it pays well and it pays passive. This means we get fat wads of cash while sipping on a piña colada at a fancy beach or while binging through an entire Netflix series. Whatever floats your boat.

Lucky for us, there’s a truckload of ways to make money from blogging. Today, I’m going to run through 5 proven monetization tactics complete with overview, tips, and step-by-step process.

  • Display ads with Google AdSense
  • Write sponsored blog posts 
  • Use affiliate marketing
  • Sell digital products or services
  • Integrate paid subscription or membership models

Consider this blog a no-bullshit guide on how to make a living blogging. Let’s get started.

But first, a word to the wise

All the tactics listed here teach how to make a living blogging, but these are absolutely not get rich quick schemes. This isn’t a pyramiding scheme with plenty of costs behind the scenes. 

Yes, these tactics are proven to net as much as a six figure income, but like with anything else, it’ll take time. Money doesn’t grow on trees, after all (although that would be pretty cool). 

Manage your expectations, accept the rude number of failures that come before a win, and just arduously push forward. That’s what living and making a living is all about.

Display ads with Google AdSense

Putting up ads with the help of ad networks is the most basic way to monetize a blog. It’s great for newbies who want to earn ASAP. Just display an ad and get paid for every click or view. 

But there’s a catch: advertising is tricky. Do it wrong and risk losing readership. Why? Because people hate ads. 

Ad blockers have 198 million active users for a reason. Sure, we can always set up an ad blocker wall but if anything this just makes matters worse. 74% of ad block users leave websites when faced with this wall. You’re practically killing your biz here. 

With stats like this, it’s easy to think advertising as a money-making tactic is hopeless in 2021. The good news is this isn’t necessarily true.

The top reasons why people hate ads are because they’re annoying, intrusive, and disruptive. Ad networks like Google AdSense and Media.net know this. They show ads that are high quality, match user interest, complement the topic of a blog post, and don’t disrupt the user experience – all automatically. 

With smart advertising, earning that moolah is quite literally just one click away.

How to do it: 

  1. Apply to a good quality ad network like Google AdSense and Media.net
  2. Make room for ad spaces in your website, but be wary of placement and quantity. Think about it from the perspective of a reader. Try not to hog the website or disrupt their experience.
  3. Start displaying the ads and constantly assess its performance. This helps you know what ads repulse the audience, and what attracts them like bees to honey.
  4. Wake up with money in your bank after a good night’s rest. Tooth fairies got nothing on this.

Write sponsored blog posts

If you’re not fully convinced that advertising will rake in money, there is a way to earn without ads. Enter sponsorships.

Write a blog post about a product or service that your blog readers would need, milk it without being too pushy, and get paid for it. It’s pretty straightforward stuff. No need for ad clicks or views, just on-brand, money-making content.

Another upside to doing sponsorships is the ball’s in your court. The blogger calls the shots and sets their own rate. 

It’s important to check in with local laws for this, though. In USA, sponsored posts have to follow the FTC’s Endorsement Guides— this says to explicitly disclose when a post is sponsored. But again, it varies per area.

How to do it:

  1.  Slap together a compelling media kit detailing stuff like audience demographics, website traffic, and social media following. This’ll help the company check if a sponsorship with you would bring in results or if you’re the right fit.  
  2. Reach out to companies related to your niche. Charm and negotiate your way to a sponsorship deal. 
  3. Write that shit. Edit edit edit. Format. Build links. Do all the usual stuff you do as a blogger.
  4. Revisit local laws on disclosure and make sure you’re complying.
  5. Hit that ‘Publish’ button.

Use affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is the art – take note, I say ‘art’ and not ‘act’ – of suggesting products and services to blog readers with the use of special tracking links. When someone buys the product or service after clicking that link, a referral commission is earned. 

How much are we talking? 

For reference, a six-month old blog way back in 2017 netted a pretty sweet $3178 with majority of the income coming from affiliate networks. Bigger bloggers earn way more— at least $100,000 monthly. It’s actually one of the most profitable ‘how to make a living blogging’ tactics out there. 

I gotta emphasize the art behind this form of monetization, though. 

There are thousands if not millions of affiliate programs out there that’ll analysis paralysis your ass to outer space. I’d go so far as to say majority of digital products have affiliate programs. Not everything will work for you, but choosing one that does is mind-blowingly easy when done right.

I’ll give a personal example. My niche as a blogger is digital entrepreneurship. This means I write about cool shit like podcasting, blogging, and vlogging for aspiring and seasoned digital entrepreneurs. When I chose affiliate programs to join, I considered:

  • What my readers would like and find useful
  • What is related to my niche 
  • What I myself use or would use

It’s definitely not furniture in Ikea. Or video games in Steam. 

Instead, I went on to market Bluehost, Teachable, and KWFinder. These are tools, platforms, and services that digital entrepreneurs would need. 

How to do it: 

  1. Find and select products and services to promote from affiliate marketing website and programs like ShareASale, Amazon Affiliate, and Commission Junction.
  2. Use a WordPress plugin like PrettyLinks to manage and track performance of affiliate links.
  3. Get that unexpected dose of moolah while you’re out for a drink with friends. Double the fun.

Sell digital products or services

“Blogging is already a lot of work. Why in the fuck would I make digital products and services to add to my list of responsibilities?”

My dear friend, it’s called scaling up your business. 

It may be hard to see blogging as a business activity, but it is. We wouldn’t be earning, otherwise. You wouldn’t be reading this blog, otherwise. We’re not just bloggers, we’re business owners too. This may sound intimidating to newbies, but the sooner you accept this fact, the better your performance will be.

Once you’re well-established in your blogging niche and you’ve got that healthy traffic, it’s the perfect time to scale up and sell digital products or services.

The good thing about digital products is they’re a lot more low-maintenance than they seem. Sure, birthing one takes time and money and mental fortitude, but after it’s out, it essentially becomes self-sustaining. 

Never underestimate the wonders of snowballing and the power of a loyal following. These are the things that help with how to make a living blogging.

There are tons of digital products you can build and sell on a website. There’s e-books, worksheets, templates, online courses, and if you’re feeling chatty, even a paid webinar or workshop. Digital service is a whole different thing – stuff like freelancing, consultancy, and coaching.    

How to do it: 

  1. Decide on what digital product or service you can best offer. Conduct market research to make an informed decision that will give you the highest ROI possible.
  2. Bring that product or service to life. I can’t go into details here since the how of it varies depending on the type of product or service. But hey, we can work something out! If you want how-to’s on those, leave me a message and I’ll come up with something.
  3. Market the hell out of it through social media, ads, more blogging, etc.
  4. Sit back and relax as more passive income comes through the door.

Integrate paid subscription or membership models

Once you’ve managed to turn readers into raving fans, they’ll go all ‘take my money!’ just to see more of your work. Leverage this by releasing exclusive content – videos, podcasts, downloads, live Q&As, etc. – that’s only accessible after paying to be a subscriber or member.

Unlike the other proven tactics here, how to make a living blogging via paid subscription model is a lot more labor-intensive. There’s a need to consistently produce premium content alongside the blogging. There may be a need to hire someone or outsource a freelancer to help manage the workload too. 

Still, it’s worth the hassle. Done right, the payoff is a lucrative, regularly recurring and growing number of paid subscribers.

How to do it:

  1. Assess if there is a market or audience segment willing to pay for exclusive stuff and what they’re willing to pay for. This is market research, basically.
  2. Build a membership site with a WordPress plugin like MemberPress.
  3. Like blogging, constantly put out good content and engage with subscribers.
  4. Watch as you hit a 6-figure income.

Next moves

So that’s it! 5 proven tactics on how to make a living blogging. Here’s a quick recap of our top takeaways:

MethodRecap
Display ads with Google AdSenseThe most basic, easiest, quickest way to monetize; but be wary of obnoxious and intrusive ads that can lose readership; use quality ad networks like Google AdSense and Media.net
Write sponsored blog posts Earn without the pesky ads; you call the shots on how much you’d like to earn; check in with local laws on disclosure
Use affiliate marketingCommission-based income stream; with millions of affiliate programs to choose from; choose what your readers are most likely to buy
Sell digital products or servicesA method of scaling up your business, not just blog; products include courses and e-books while services include coaching and consultancy
Integrate paid subscription modelsLabor-intensive tactic; exclusive and regularly posted content for raving fans; 

What income stream are you implementing first?

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