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I have been addicted to income reports since I saw my first one back in 2008 or so. I thoroughly enjoy going through them, line by line, usually gathering at least a little inspiration for my own blog. I did income reports publicly for a few years, but it seems like everyone turned them into a way to sell the dream of “how to start a blog” – leaving out the fact that it took them YEARS to get to the point they were at.
The idea for this blog post came while I was on a coaching call. We were talking about how all the income reports had one thing in common: they were affiliates for a certain hosting company. Because I don't want to get sued, I won't share my thoughts about the company or their affiliates. What I will tell you is that nobody on this list is an affiliate for said hosting company. This means the curtain is truly pulled back, and you're getting the real deal here.
Do all bloggers make money?
The truth is, most bloggers will never make a dime. They give up too soon, and they focus on the wrong stuff. I hope this blog helps you understand what's needed to create a successful blog, and helps you set realistic expectations if you decide to start a blog.
I recruited bloggers from all levels; some are working on their blogs a few hours a week while others are working full-time. Some have one blog, others have several. Some have been blogging for a year, some have been blogging for 10 years. Another thing they all have in common? They believe in diversifying their income streams.
All 8 bloggers also span across multiple niches. Studying income reports is fun, but if they're all in the same niche (blogging about “how to blog”, for example), those results won't be ones you can expect to see.
I have gotten permission to use the names of some of these bloggers, while others wish to remain anonymous – though I'll still include as much information as I can, to paint you the best picture of what blogging really looks like financially.
Keep in mind these amounts are before expenses. Some bloggers have $100/month in expenses, while others have $1,000/month. It really depends on the niche they chose, how much they work vs how much they hire out, the tools they use, etc. As your blog grows, your expenses can start to creep up, so keep that in mind when you are starting your own blog.
How much do bloggers make?
The amount of money you make as a blogger is based on many variables, including:
- the way you set your blog up
- how long you've been blogging
- how many blog posts you publish, and how quickly you get to 50 posts published
- your niche/topic – what it is and how saturated the market is
- how good your photos are (especially if you're a food or craft blogger)
- if you do video
- how much guidance you have
- how well you utilize your resources
- how much traffic your blog gets
- affiliate marketing – varies greatly by niche
- products you sell
- and more!
Some of these things vary so greatly, it's tough to know the magic answer – or rather, it's easy to know there is none. There is even a little luck that can come into play, which throws all the numbers out of whack, if you ask me!
The way you set your blog up
Just like The Three Little Pigs and their houses, the foundation of your blog can determine whether your blog is successful or not. While there have been a small percentage of successful bloggers on other platforms, the industry standard – and only way I recommend – is self-hosted WordPress.
I personally use BigScoots for hosting. I used to use SiteGround, but they just weren't as helpful as I needed them to be (I'm not tech-savvy… at all). BigScoots has great customer service, answers all of my questions promptly no matter how much I annoy them, and best of all, their hosting is solid. I've experienced minimal down-time with BigScoots. It's important that your site is up as much as possible. If you continually have issues, Google may not like it as much anymore!
How long you've been blogging
Blogging is a long-term game. If you want faster money, I recommend starting an Etsy shop (or two), or setting up shop on Teachers Pay Teachers. While blogging pays very, very well in my opinion, it does take a year or two to start seeing results.
Not everyone has the luxury of that much income-free time to work on a project, which is why I teach multiple streams of income (fast and long-term) over in Passive Income Pathways. Whether you want to start as a virtual assistant while you're creating your first blog, or you want to build and flip blogs as your main source of income, I'm all about diversifying your sources of cashflow.
How many blog posts you publish, and how quickly
It is my recommendation that you publish at least 15 high-quality blog posts (each at least 1,000 words) within the first month of launching your blog. While it is true that quality is more important than quantity, quality and quantity are both important keys to getting ranked faster on Google – which means more pageviews, product sales, ad revenue, and income much sooner than if you took those 15 blog posts and spaced them out once a week over the course of 15 weeks.
Pssst…! Hey, you! Yeah, you. 😉 I'd love to have you over in my free Facebook group. It's called Passive Income Pathways and it's where I teach you how to make money from home – without scams, spam, or bullshit. Hope to see you there!
Your niche/topic – and the competition
I don't pay much attention to the competition. I started a side hustle blog two years ago and a financial blog this month, both which are super-high competition niches. This blog is earning me well over $5,000 per month – not including the membership I just launched – and I only work on it a few hours a week. This tells me that even though the competition is high, I deliver massive value and can hang with the “big dogs” in any niche.
With that being said, it is a much easier road if you can find a topic that isn't too high in competition and isn't too saturated. At the end of the day, I feel it's more important to choose a topic you're passionate about than it is to worry tooooo much about the competition.
How good your photos are
If you're a food or craft blogger, or if you're a travel blogger who is taking their own photos, they need to be good. I mean, good good. We all start somewhere, so don't let this be a roadblock if you're not a great photographer, but food and craft bloggers are expected to have a certain quality of photos. Though, I will say, my crappiest photos have gotten the most traffic … so maybe there's something to be said about real shots.
One of my coaching students, Krystal, from Casa Desai, is a wonderful example of how food photographers should take photos. Hers are stunning! I've taken professional photography courses and still can't nail the shots as well as she does. Take a peek at her excellent food photos. They're just… *chef's kiss* … perfection.
Another great example of a successful new blog is this blog about historic Virginia. I didn't realize there were SO many things to do and see in Virginia, but Katie has done a great job showing why everyone should visit.
Not great at photos? You're not getting off the hook that easily. There are other options if you aren't a great photographer. You can use free stock photos or buy stock photos; you can hire someone to take photos for you; or you can, ya know, practice and get better at taking photos.
On the other hand, if you're awesome at taking photos, try your hand at selling stock photography. It can be very lucrative!
If you do video
Video has been known to boost a site's authority as we all as your credibility. If you can create videos that go along with your content, you can climb the ranks a bit faster.
I rarely do video, but it's a 2022 goal of mine to get more consistent with it. Encourage me by subscribing to my YouTube channel, pretty please?!
How much guidance you have
Following the right people – and avoiding all of the wrong ones – is no easy task. There are very few “gurus” I recommend listening to. I have been led down the wrong path too many times and am a bit jaded, if I'm being honest. I even signed up for a $10,000 coaching program earlier this year and it was disappointment after disappointment. I cancelled almost immediately but still had to pay $2,000. Expensive lesson to learn…
Ricky from Income School is one of the more honest folks out there teaching about how to blog. He shares helpful information, and rarely have I disagreed with Income School's methods.
Income School's membership, Project24, is one of the ONLY blog-related courses I recommend. If you have a budget, I recommend checking it out. The team over at Income School really knows what they're doing and their recommendations can be trusted!
Before you follow someone's advice, ask yourself: what do they get out of this? If I follow their advice, do they make money? If the answer is yes, that doesn't mean you should skip the advice!
It just means you should use discernment on whether you should continue to listen to them or not. I only follow people who consistently deliver free value now, and I only buy paid products from those people.
No more getting sucked into Facebook ads from random businesses. Been there, done that.
How well you utilize your resources
There are a gazillion resources out there for blogging. The most under-rated one? PLR!!
PLR, or Private Label Rights, is content you can buy and use as a starter for your blog posts. You will want to change the PLR, add to it, and make it a completely new piece of content before hitting publish, but it can literally cut your blogging time in half.
A lot of people don't use PLR because they don't understand it. It used to be used by super spammy marketers rather than profitable bloggers. Now, many profitable bloggers use it with great success.
A few weeks ago, someone told me that a marketer they follow was teaching you can't rank on Google if you use PLR. That couldn't be further from the truth: all of the posts I use PLR on are ranking just as well as my from-scratch posts. In fact, I wrote a blog post about how to use PLR to rank on Google because I love PLR that. much.
Utilizing PLR is one thing that has gotten several blogs off the ground much faster. I have a free sheet of my favorite PLR providers right here, if you wanna check it out.
Another resource that is totally under-utilized by the blogging community? AI writers. Right now, marketers are using the heck out of tools like Jasper, Outranking, etc but a lot of bloggers aren't.
Why not? Maybe it's a purist thing – same reason they don't want to use PLR. But for me, AI has helped reign my ideas in and write blog posts faster than I did before.
Check out my Jasper blog posts if you'd like to learn how to use AI for your blogging journey.
How much traffic your blog gets
While traffic is just one metric out of many, it can be a decent indicator of how much ad revenue you are making. The amount you get paid via ads varies greatly based on niche (and whether you use video content or not), but the more pageviews you get, the higher your ad revenue can be.
I don't put ads on my blog until they're going to make me at least $500 a month (or more) – because I hate how ads look. I would rather deliver ad-free value for as long as possible, but ad revenue is really nice, passive income... so I definitely have ads on all of my blogs as soon as I reach that threshold.
I know ads can be annoying, but remember: bloggers are delivering content for free; the least we can do is put up with a few ads.
How you handle affiliate marketing
I absolutely love affiliate marketing! At first, it totally intimidated me, but now? It's one of my main sources of income.
The reason I was intimidated by it for so long is because all I really saw was either Amazon affiliate marketing, which doesn't pay well enough for my liking… or very spammy, dishonest affiliate marketing, which I'm not interested in having anything to do with.
The truth is, you can do affiliate marketing – and you can do it well, without being a sneaky snake slimeball. I always do what I call the “Grandma Test” before I start working with an affiliate. Would I recommend it to a grandma? If the answer is no, I don't sign up for the program.
Affiliate marketing is about connecting your readers with products that will make their life easier; at least, that's what affiliate marketing is to me.
Put the work in to find some solid affiliates that pay better than Amazon does. In my course, I talk about finding your “golden goose” – that's the magic behind making a lot more money with affiliates. A golden goose is an affiliate program that pays you a nice chunk of change – even better if it's recurring revenue, like I found with AI products like Jasper.
The products you sell
Selling digital products is one of the best ways to get started building passive income streams online, without a huge investment.
I'm writing an entire blog post about products you can sell via your blog, but a few include:
- worksheets and workbooks
- ebooks and guides
- printables like bookmarks
- and more!
I use Canva to create all of my digital products (except courses – though I use Canva to help with those, too). Haven't quite mastered Canva yet? You can use PLR to create your digital products!!
PLR is basically a legal cheat code: you start with a template or even a completed ebook, add your branding and value, and hit publish. Then you make all the money – it's PLR so there's nobody to split it with.
Some creators use PowerPoint for their worksheets and printables, like these awesome preschool printables from one of my coaching students, Beth Ann.
How do bloggers make money?
The bloggers in this study make money from various sources, including:
- ads (Ezoic, Mediavine)
- physical products
- digital products
- freelancing/virtual assisting
What do bloggers sell?
At least one blogger on this list uses a Cricut and/or Glowforge to sell physical products. Cryssi uses a Cricut, and she also does sublimation. I absolutely love the business model that is so easily created with a Glowforge and I highly recommend buying one if you want to get into physical products.
I always tell people it's basically like printing money!! I know that sounds a bit like an exaggeration, but it's the easiest/best money I've ever made.
The term digital products covers everything from worksheets and workbooks to email and video courses.
8 Bloggers + Their Income
Finally, 5,000 words later, let's talk about the bloggers! I'll cover how much money they're making and how they're making it, how many hours a week they spend on their blogs, and how long they've been blogging. I'll also include their best piece of blogging advice! I love hearing perspectives from other bloggers.
Note that I use the words “blog” and “business” interchangeably. My blog makes money, but because of my blog, the businesses I've created also make money. It's difficult to separate everything like that, so just know these numbers are based on entire businesses – with everything coming full circle to the blog.
BLOGGERS!! Would you like to be included in this post or in my upcoming content?
Fill out this form. You can remain anonymous if you'd like.
Cryssi, Caffeinated Minimalist
Cryssi writes a blog about minimalism. She has been blogging for just over a year, and makes approximately $1,100 per month. Spending between 20 and 30 hours on her business, she makes money from her own digital products ($100), and her own physical products ($1,000+).
Advice from Cryssi: Stay consistent and on topic for your blog. Deliver value. What would you like to find on your blog? Create that content!
Debi, Our Wabisabi Life
Debi has a lifestyle blog with delicious healthy recipes that makes nearly $4,000 each month. She's been blogging for 11 years, but taking it seriously for about 8. She works about 15 hours a week on her blog.
Debi's income comes from ad revenue ($3,200), affiliates ($300), and digital products ($50). Her virtual assistant work brings in an additional $3,500 per month.
Advice from Debi: Just write. No matter if you feel like no one sees it, write – and then promote it. If you write it, they will come! Don't get frustrated.
Anna, In the Playroom
Anna runs a UK-based parenting lifestyle blog called In the Playroom. She makes $5,400 per month between her two blogs. Anna has been blogging for 10 years and she works on her blogs 20 hours each week.
Ad revenue ($1,350) and freelancing ($4,050) are how she makes money.
Advice from Anna: Just keep going, you can't always be the best at everything so don't compare with other people – just do you, and be consistent and persistent.
Cristina, Shoe Tease
Cristina runs a fashion blog for shoe lovers. She makes $10,000 a month, has been blogging off an on for 12 years, and works 25 hours per week on her business.
Ad revenue ($6,000) and affiliates ($4,000) are how her blog is monetized.
Cristina's advice: Own your niche. Don't think too much and learn as you go. I learned so much by doing things incorrectly!
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Melissa Russo, The Farm Girl Gabs
Melissa is the owner of a farmhouse blog called The Farm Girl Gabs. TFGG makes approximately $5,000 a month, from ad revenue ($3,000), affiliates ($200), digital products ($1,000), and physical products ($300). She's been blogging for 8 years, and spends 20-25 hours a week on it.
Melissa's advice: Don't overthink and don't be a perfectionist. Hit the publish button and you can always go back and make edits and enhance your posts. Also, start building your email list from day one.
Dee, Conscious Debt-Free Life
Dee from Conscious Debt-Free Life makes $250 per month and has been blogging for 8 months. She works 30 hours a week on the blog, and her income comes from affiliates ($150) and digital products ($50).
Dee's advice: Start now. Don't worry about being perfect. Every week, improve your blog. Blogging is a long-term commitment. You may not see quick income, but consistency always pays.
Natasha runs a wonderful dog blog where she teaches pet owners how to care for their pup's overall health and wellness. The blog is 3 years old and it brings in $500 per month, $400 from ads and $100 from affiliates. She earns an additional $1,000 per month freelancing.
Natasha, OM Shanti Pups
She spends about 15 hours a week on her blog and has BIG goals!
Natasha's advice: Do NOT give up, and find something that you are motivated to write about long-term. It took much longer to make money than I expected, and it would've been so easy to just switch to freelancing completely or start working for a company. That wasn't what I wanted for my life, so I kept my goals in mind and kept pushing through.
Now I make some income, and often reinvest it back to continue growing. I'm aiming to be above $2k a month by the end of 2022, with a long-term goal of $5-10k months. I've come this far so I know I can do it, and so can you!
Diversify your traffic sources early on by learning as much as you can about SEO, promotion on social media, and utilizing your email list.
I've seen so many horror stories of Pinterest accounts getting deactivated or accidently marked as spam, or Google's algorithm suddenly tanking a site's traffic. By having a variety of traffic sources, it will get you through those issues without your traffic crashing entirely.
Sadie, Passive Income Pathways
It's difficult for me to say how much I made and where it all came from, because I don't track it very well. However, I started a side project about a month ago called Passive Income Pathways and am tracking the income from it. It's a membership with multiple courses inside – all about monetizing and building your blog.
I utilized my free Facebook group, along with a small list (>1,000) I had here on SadieSmiley.com, and launched PIPs on Black Friday, getting 85 sign-ups equal to $7,000 in revenue. This is a recurring amount that I'll receive each month, minus a little for churn.
There is also some income coming in from people buying my Etsy Empire course and Lightning Fast Content Creation course individually rather than through the membership, which they can do at any time (no launches).
The membership will launch once a quarter (at least for now), and my goal is to get to 500 members. 500 members at the lowest tier price will be $25,000 coming in each month.
I believe I can hit this goal by the end of 2022, though a stretch/push goal will be to reach at least 300 members by July of 2022. Only a little over 200 to go, which is about 115 for my launch in January and about the same for my launch in April.
I plan to create more free and low-cost digital products to get more members into PIPs. Part of PIPs success is sharing stories from current students. I need to get better at doing that.
Sadie, Single Mom Budgeting
I added this one in because I just started it and haven't made a dime yet, but in a year, I'll come back and update it with my income – no matter how big or small. 🙂 The site isn't even officially “live” yet, but I needed to put it out here so I get my ass in gear and work on it. 😉
TL;DR What did I learn from this data?
It's no secret that I'm not a numbers person, at all. I love words. Numbers confuse me.
Numbers aside (do with those what you will), I learned what I already knew: consistency is key, and published is better than perfect.
When all the profitable bloggers I interviewed gave basically the same advice in different words, I knew a lot of what I have been teaching over the years is finally sticking!
Their advice is 100% true: don't worry about being perfect. Even seasoned bloggers aren't perfect. Focus on delivering value to your readers, don't try to be everything to everyone, and start your email lists and digital products from day one. On that note, you can sign up for my email list right here.
Too many bloggers WAIT to make money with their blogs, when they really don't have to!