“Can you really make money blogging?” If I received a dollar each time someone asked this simple question, I would be rich!For some reason, people struggle to believe you can make money on the internet. And even once you get them on board, most can barely envision you making more than $20 per month. The funny part is, I actually did start out making around $20 per month.
While blogging is one of the most lucrative side hustles out there, it can takes months – and even years – to start earning real money.
From the day I launched this website, it took another ten months to start making at least $1,000 per month. Earning $1,000 per month was one of my earliest goals, and I was stoked when I reached that milestone!
Since those early days, my blog income has increased dramatically – first to $2,000 per month, then to $5,000 per month, and to $10,000 per month and beyond.
As of the fall of 2015, my blog had helped me earn over $1,097,575!!! While that number might sound out of reach, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Remember, I earned almost nothing at the beginning…then graduated to earning at least $1,000 per month after nearly a year!
Out of all the challenges I’ve faced with this endeavor, I still think getting to that $1,000 per month range was the hardest.
For some reason, going from zero to $1,000 in monthly income seems like a miracle, mostly because you're starting from scratch. Growing your income to $5,000 or $10,000 per month, on the other hand, is more about scaling up.
How to Earn Your First $1,000 Blogging
If your goal is earning money on the web, blogging can help you get there. And while it might take you a while to earn a solid income, it’s important to keep your eye on the prize.
The first $1,000 is the hardest, but I’m here to show you the exact steps it took me to reach this lucrative milestone.
If you want to earn $1,000 per month on your blog, here are the 22 steps you should start taking now:
1: Make a commitment to go all-in.
It’s easy to spend your sleepy weekend mornings dreaming of starting a blog. Unfortunately, dreaming isn’t even close to enough. No matter what side hustle you plan to launch, you must do more than dream – you have to act.
When it comes to blogging, I always suggest people commit to a full year before they even start. Keep in mind that you might earn close to zero that first year, and that your mom will probably be your biggest (and only) fan for a while.
When I started this website, I committed myself to the project with my whole heart. I went all in, folks. Because I felt that blogging was the future of business, I was determined to succeed.
If you want to succeed, you must commit to one year at a bare minimum. Without that kind of commitment, you’re destined to fail without really giving yourself a chance.
2: Pick a name for your blog.
Once you’ve committed yourself to success, it’s time to move on to the next step of your journey – picking a name for your blog. I can’t remember all the different options I came up with initially, but I do know I settled on FinancialCents.com for a while. But for some reason, something didn’t feel right.
Eventually, I started adding words to come up with a name that would stand out and landed on GoodFinancialCents.com. Even though I’m not thrilled with the name of my blog, I recognize that it’s not the most important factor of my business, either.
As you search for a name for your blog, don’t get so caught up in the process that you refuse to settle.
Make sure to pick something you like, but don’t overthink it too much. Once you have a few hours set aside to come up with a name, I suggest searching for possibilities on a website like GoDaddy.com. Most of the time, you can buy a domain for less than $13 per year.
3: Sign up for a host.
Once you buy a domain name, your next step is setting up hosting for your blog. There are tons of options out there for hosting, but Bluehost is definitely the least expensive when you’re first starting out.
I started with a company called Lunarpages, which is comparable to Bluehost but slightly more expensive. You can also consider HostGator, Siteground, and others. Regardless of the hosting company you settle on, you’ll be able to install WordPress for free and get started right away.
4: Pick a theme for your blog.
If you want your initial blog set-up to look professional, it helps to pick a premium theme. When I started blogging, one of the most popular themes was called Thesis. While it still exists today, there are a lot more options in 2017. Genesis, for example, is a popular theme option owned by Studiopress and the one I use for all of my sites.
Before you settle on a theme, make sure to brainstorm how you want your blog to look. Chances are, you’ll find a premium theme that makes sense with your blog style and goals.
5: Research, research, research.
Regardless of the blogging niche you choose, you’ll want to do a ton of research at first. I can’t tell you how much time I spent trying to understand the mysteries of blogging over that first year. I devoured every piece of information I found, mostly because I wanted to master the craft.
Fortunately, there are a ton of free resources for bloggers all over the web. Make sure to read everything you can about choosing an angle for your blog, building a readership, and monetizing your site. Over time, you’ll figure out how to implement everything you’ve learned.
The more research you can do early, the broader your base of knowledge to pull from will be later on.
If you want to know how to do something, Google it! While this may sound like the worst learning strategy of all time, you'll be amazed at what you find!
6: Network with other bloggers.
Most people picture “networking” as something you do with strangers at a cocktail party. You stand in the corner, awkwardly chugging beer after beer. Eventually, you work up the courage to meet someone new!
Online networking is similar, except that you don’t have to dress up. And since it's online, you don't have to feel like a big weirdo for reaching out.
When I started blogging, I learned to participate in a popular forum where other money bloggers hung out. By connecting with other bloggers, I was able to build my network, learn some valuable lessons, and create new opportunities for success.
When you are starting out in the blogging world, networking with other bloggers is crucial.
If you’re unsure how to get started, try commenting on your favorite blogs and starting up conversations on social media. Over time, you’ll build relationships with other bloggers that can pay off down the line.
7: Publish your first post.
Publishing your very first blog post is a necessary, albeit scary, part of the process. Not only is it hard to start a blog out of thin air, but writing isn’t a cake walk, either. A lot of new bloggers think they’ll be able to crank out 3,000-word blog posts from day one, yet can barely squeak out a few words until they get the hang out of it!
The good news is, you don’t have to focus on perfection. Getting your first blog post published is a lot more important than making sure it’s the best post you’ve ever written.
Don’t forget that you can always go back and change things later on if you need to. Most long-term bloggers have upgraded all their content, including their very first blog posts, over time.
You might suck at first, but you'll get better with every word you write.
8: Write guest posts for other blogs.
Guest posting is a great way to build relationships with bloggers and bring new eyeballs to your website. Not only can it help you get your name out there, but you can build valuable back-links to your website, too.
Once your blog is up and running, offering to guest post for other websites is a smart move.
If you’re unsure who to approach about guest posting, reach out to some of your favorite bloggers via email or social media and just ask. While it’s tough to put yourself out there, remember the worst they can say is “no.”
If you want to see how far I've come, check out this guest post I wrote for Smart Passive Income in 2011!
9: Learn about keyword research.
As I started guest posting for other blogs, I began learning about keyword research. Instead of writing about random money topics, I learned I could optimize my efforts by targeting keywords with search potential.
The key here is trying to shoot for article ideas where I could rank in the search engines. You see, it’s not enough to write awesome content. If nobody reads it, what's the point? You have to make sure your articles are searchable for the long run. If not, you're just spinning your wheels.
My biggest breakthrough early on was coming up with a strategy to rank for “financial planner Illinois.” As a financial planner in Illinois, I wanted anyone who googled that term to find me.
But here’s something funny. After posting a query about how to rank for that term in a forum I belonged to, I received this message:
“Jeff, I noticed your thread in the forum and I just wanted to let you know that ranking for those terms is nearly impossible. With you being a one man shop and one website, you will never be able to compete with all the bigger investment firms located in the Chicago area. Sorry for the disappointing news.”
When you hear from naysayers like this one, don't listen. I have to say, this person was dead wrong. Because my desire to rank for this key word was so strong, I researched different strategies nonstop until I found an answer.
Eventually, my research led me to a friend who suggested I create a separate landing page for my business. For the title of the page, I chose Jeff Rose, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Illinois and added “Certified” and “IL” to help out with Google searches.
The cool thing is, it worked.
The bottom line: Learning some keyword research basics is crucial when you’re first starting out. Initially, I just used Google Keyword Planner. I would also just type phrases into Google and see what the suggested search would come up and focus on the long-tail version of the keyword.
For example, I would type in “Roth IRA” to see what else came up. As you employ this strategy, make sure to do your searches in an incognito window so your cookies don’t influence your search results!
No matter what, your #1 goal should be making sure you’re using your keyword in the URL, title, and body of each blog post. Make sure to check out this on-page SEO guide from BACKLINKO for more tips.
10: Set up your core website pages.
Even if you just want a place to write, you need more than a “blog” page for your website to become a success. Your core pages should include not only a page for your blog, but an about page, a contact page, and a page for disclosures.
Without these pages, it’s almost impossible for anyone to find out who you are. If you want people to find your website and learn more about you, it’s crucial to populate your site with the information people want.
Here's my “about me” page if you want to take a look. If anyone is curious to learn more about me, I have the information front and center where they can find it.
Keep in mind that your “about” and “contact” pages give you the opportunity to share your side of the story. Telling people who you are in your own words can be very powerful, mostly because it helps people get to know the real you.
More from GFC, Below
And, isn't that the point?
11: Find your community.
Once you establish your blogging niche, you have to find out where your community hangs out. Is that a forum, a Facebook group, or somewhere else?
As I mentioned already, I did a lot of networking in a personal finance blog forum I found early on. This particular forum no longer exists, but I made a ton of connections there that still benefit me to this day. These days, I do a ton of networking in private Facebook groups and mastermind groups.
The bottom line is this: Look for places where bloggers in your niche hang out. Then, join those groups with a “help first” mentality. If you go in asking favors, you’ll come off as tacky and annoying. But if you join with the goal of serving others, you’ll build real relationships that last.
12: Snoop out your competition.
The internet is so vast in its offerings that it’s nearly impossible to write a blog on a topic not covered elsewhere. In addition, every niche has a range of top blogs that bring in the most readers and the highest incomes.
If you want your blog to succeed, you should figure out why the top blogs consistently pull ahead in your niche. What are they doing right? What steps are they taking to build traffic that no one else is? What kinds of topics are they covering?
Look at the most popular blog posts on top sites and figure out how you could take that topic and make it your own. Keep in mind, you don’t want to copy people – you want to become better than they are.
In addition to conducting your own research, you can use tools like SEMRush to find out which keywords the top sites are angling for.
13: Set up your social media accounts.
If you think you can succeed at blogging without worrying about social media, think again. By and large, social media is one of the best tools you can use to build your readership and bring traffic to your blog.
One of the first steps you should take as you start blogging is setting up social media accounts for your website. And remember, you don’t want to use your regular social media accounts for your site! You need to set up new accounts devoted solely to your business venture.
Once your social media accounts are up and running, you’ll want to install social media buttons on your blog. This way, readers who want to follow you on social media can do so with a simple click. Read this post for help setting up social media buttons on your sidebar or footer on WordPress.
Here's an example that shows that I mean:
14: Write your first epic post!
While getting any type of content up on your site is a huge accomplishment at the beginning, you’ll eventually want something better. Over time, you should make it a priority to write at least one or two epic posts per month.
An epic blog post is one that’s longer and more comprehensive than almost anything else you write.
Not only are longer posts more educational for your readers, but they tend to have good SEO value, too.
My first “monster” blog post was a Roth IRA conversion guide I wrote in 2009. While this post has been updated a few times since then, the original version was more than 3,600 words long!
I wrote this post because I knew it was going to be a hot topic. You see, the IRS lifted the income restrictions on Roth IRA conversations that year, meaning anyone could do it.
If you feel like something could become a “hot topic” in the future, it’s smart to get ahead of that topic with the biggest, most comprehensive blog post you can muster. Trust me – you won’t regret it!
15: Start gathering emails.
As a blogger, one of the most valuable resources you have is your email list. People who sign up to receive email updates about your blog are your hardcore followers, so you want to do this right.
Adding a pop-up or email capture button on your website early on is crucial. If you wait too long to start capturing emails, you’re only hurting yourself!
While you’ll initially send your email list updates about your website, you'll hopefully graduate to promoting your affiliates. You can also use your email list to build sales funnels that guide your readers toward products you believe in.When it comes to blogging, your email list is practically money in the bank. That’s why you should start capturing emails right away.
My favorite email service provider is ConvertKit hands down.
16: Learn about monetization.
As a blogger, I’ve made money in a million different ways. My website not only brings in ad revenue, but additional funds through sponsored content, affiliate marketing and more. While it’s hard to nail each monetization effort from the start, you’ll want to start with these bare bones strategies from the very beginning:
- Ad revenue – You can earn ad revenue on your site through Google Adsense, Media.net, AdThrive, and others. This ad revenue can ebb and flow based on the amount of traffic your website brings in along with user engagement. Once your blog is up and running, you can experiment with ad agencies to find the right fit.
- Sponsored posts – After your blog becomes established, you’ll start receiving inquiries about sponsored posts or direct advertising. While pay is low at first, you can eventually charge $5,000 or more per sponsored post.
- Affiliate Marketing – Affiliate marketing lets you earn blog revenue by promoting products you believe in. In my epic post on The Best Places to Open a Roth IRA, for example, I get paid any time someone clicks through my page and opens a brokerage account.
While monetization is important, you shouldn’t worry too much about it during your first few months.
The most important steps to take at the beginning are getting your blog up and running, then adding content as you’re able.
Once you have at least twenty awesome blog posts on your website, you can move to the next step.
17: Write your first money-making post.
Once you’re ready, you should come up with a strategy for your very first money-making blog post. This could be an affiliate review of a product you use and love, a personal case study comparing several products or services, or something else. As long as you’re promoting or describing a product or service you can actually sell, you have the potential to earn some cash.
Your money-making post could even be one of those monster blog posts I was talking about. One of my most popular money-making posts is called 100 Ways to Make $100 Fast. While this post started with just a few affiliates, I’ve updated it to include additional money-making opportunities over time.
As you try to nail down your first money-making post, make sure to use some basic keyword research to optimize your efforts. With the right product and keyword strategy, it’s not that hard to write a blog post that can bring in $1,000 or more each month on its own!
18: Expand your reach even further.
At this point, you should have a basic blog with at least 20-30 blog posts. You should be focusing your time on gathering emails, writing new content, and learning SEO. You should also have a growing social media presence that continues to expand every day.
From here, it’s all about scaling up. To get your name out there – and to get new readers to your blog – you want to make sure people see your name all over the place. You can accomplish this goal by:
- Commenting on other popular blogs. People will see your comments and (hopefully) click on your website to learn more.
- Join Facebook groups. While it might seem like other bloggers are your competition, blog friends are one of the biggest assets you can have. Make sure to cultivate relationships with other bloggers early and often.
- Stay active on social media. If a reader bothers to tweet you, you should respond. Remember, your readers have the power to share your content and bring even more people to your website!
19: Create a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a freebie you offer readers in exchange for their email address. This was something I failed to implement early on. I waited way too long to create a lead magnet for my website, mostly because I was overthinking it and focusing too much on perfection.
But when I finally launched my 1st lead magnet The Money Dominating Toolkit, the number of emails I was gathering more than doubled overnight.Your lead magnet doesn’t have to be fancy; it can be a one-page PDF filled with tips, a checklist that focuses on your area of expertise, a printable resource, or a simple email course.
20: Nurture your email sequence.
Once you start gathering tons of emails and gaining momentum on your blog, a service like ConvertKit becomes a necessity. With ConvertKit, you can segment your email list so you’re not sending the same email to each of your readers every time.
Since your website probably focuses on more than one main topic, having this option can be a game-changer!
Eventually, you’ll want to start employing sales funnels into your strategy. With a sales funnel, you’ll send certain readers a series of emails aimed at tempting them into a purchase or an affiliate sale.
While you can set up a sales funnel manually, the best way to nurture your email list is with a service like MailChimp or ConvertKit!
21: Review your top content.
Once you have a few monster blog posts and affiliate reviews up on your site, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your progress. By reviewing and updating your best content, you can make sure it’s accurate and give it the best chance at climbing up the ranks in terms of search engine optimization.
Some of my best – and most lucrative – blog posts have been completely overhauled at least five times. To make real money blogging, you have to keep your best content fresh and accurate all the time. The best way to do this is to keep a list of your top producing posts so you can update them at least 1-2 times per year.
22: Survey your list.
You know what's better than being awesome? Becoming better every year. As you grow into your role as a blogger, the best way to improve yourself is to ask your readers how you're doing – and what you could be doing better.
Creating a short survey for your list of subscribers can help you receive valuable feedback you can use to improve your website and, eventually, your profits. A tactic I borrowed from Derek Halpern of Social Triggers is asking “What's the #1 thing you're struggling with?” Since I have a financial blog, I ask what they are struggling with financially. For our Marriage More blog, we ask what kind of issues our readers are dealing with when it comes to their marriage. If you have a fashion blog, you could ask for your reader's biggest wardrobe frustrations. If you're into fitness, you would ask about your reader's biggest problems with diet and exercise. If you want to get more detailed information, you could even tie those questions into a short survey you can create for free with Google Forms. It doesn't matter how you get the information, as long as you get it.
Remember, your readers are the reason you're able to make money. The best way to grow your income while helping others is to figure out their pain points and create products, resources, and content that can help.
Start Making Money Blogging Today
If you follow every step on this list and commit to blogging for a full year, you will start earning $1,000 per month or more. It may take longer than you want it to, and Lord knows it won’t be easy.
But, I believe in you. And, you know what? As long as I have been blogging, I have never seen someone pour their soul into it for a full year and fail.
If you're feeling overwhelmed and unsure how to get started, I totally get that, too. That's why I created a free email series that can show you the step-by-step process for creating a profitable blog. By signing up today, you'll receive regular emails with action items to follow.
You can earn money blogging. Heck, you can even get rich. But remember, it all starts with that very first step.