Is it possible to start a money making blog today with zero experience and a small budget?
That was the same question I had when I started my first blog four years ago. I had my doubts, but the allure of being my own boss and working from home was too much.
I literally said "fuck it" and went ALL IN and became a full-time blogger before I even knew what I was doing.
My first year was a total dud (made $0 TOTAL). I did everything wrong.
My mindset changed in my second year of blogging. I stopped trying to game the system with "tricks and tactics" and instead focused on building an audience. As a result I started making money and by the end of the year was making $3,000 per month.
In my third year of blogging, everything blew up (in a good way). By the end of the year, I was earning a six figure income. Read more about my journey here.
Are you curious about the process of starting a money making blog from scratch?
Let me answer a few common blogging questions first and then we'll get started.
Frequently Asked Questions about blogging
1. How do bloggers make money?
Bloggers make money a few different ways. Most monetize their blog in more than one way.
2. What does a blogger do all day?
Bloggers are part-writers and part-marketers. A typical day in the life of a blogger revolves around creating content and then marketing work to drive traffic to their blog. The split is more like 20% creating and 80% marketing.
3. Can you still make money blogging?
Yes! Blogging is not dead. Far from it. Awesome content (and products) that help people solve a specific problem will always be in demand.
4. How much does it cost to start a blog?
5. How long does it take to start making money?
This totally depends on what you're doing. If you're blogging aimlessly about random things you won't ever make money. If instead you treat your blog like a business you can start making money right away.
6. How much money can you make blogging?
What I love about blogging is that hard work is rewarded. Your earning potential entirely depends on how committed you are to making it work.
10 steps to a money making blog
Growing your blog
Making money with your blog
Okay let's get started!
Step 1: Start a blog
Many people get stuck at this step - paralyzed with fear and self doubt. What will people think? What if I fail? What do I even blog about?
But you've got to get over it and just dive right in. The risk vs reward thing makes this a no-brainer.
Here's the process of getting your blog off the ground.
1. Choose a niche. You need to find a niche that you have an intense interest in - otherwise you will quit. While you can make money blogging about just about anything, it helps if you choose a profitable niche right from there start. See my guide on finding a profitable niche here.
2. Choose a domain name. Find a catchy dot com domain for your new blog. Don't stress out if you can't find a domain you like. You can always change it later. See my tips on how to choose the perfect domain name here.
3. Get hosting. I recommend using Bluehost to host your blog. It costs less than $5 per month and you get a free domain name. Bluehost comes with the WordPress blog platform pre-installed so you can get started building your blog right away. Get my step by step guide on starting your first blog here.
Step 2: Design Your blog
"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." - Steve Jobs
You can design your own blog without needing to hire a web designer. You just need the right mindset (and the right tools).
Start by thinking of your blog as a tool that people use to learn something new. And what do people want in a tool? They want it to be useful and simple to use. When you keep this in mind, it will help you design a functional and aesthetic blog that just plain works.
1. Free themes aren't really free. There's plenty of free themes within WordPress. But as I'm sure you know, nothing is life is truly free. With a free theme you will be stuck with a basic design you can't modify (unless you hire a web designer).
2. Choose a theme for your blog. I recommend new bloggers use the Divi theme from Elegant Themes. This theme has a newbie-friendly drag-and-drop editor which means that, unlike other blog themes, Divi is fully-customizable.
3. Design a logo. Even if you don't have a creative design bone in your body, you can make your own logo. Go to Canva and use this logo maker. Designing your own logo is as simple as changing the text and colors and saving the file.
4. Build your main pages first. Before you start publishing blog posts, you need to build your website first. This means creating a homepage, a blog page and an about me page. These 3 pages will be the most important pages of your website.
5. Design your blog. My approach to blog design is: less is more. I find that blog design is more about not messing it up than trying to make it look awesome. The more you add to your design, it becomes exponentially more difficult to make it look good. I wrote a guide on blog design here.
Step 3: write awesome content
It's time to write your first blog post and start creating content for your blog. Here are some tips that help me create epic content.
1. Keyword research. Every blog post you publish should target a specific keyword phrase. Use autocomplete in Google search to find popular keywords in your niche. If you write content no one is searching for, you will not get any traffic.
2. Start with an outline. It's much easier to map out your blog post this way. For example, when I started writing this blog post I wrote the 10 steps first, then the key points within each step, then filled in the bulk of the content last. See my perfect blog post template here.
3. Write in a conversational tone. Your blog is not a research paper. Write as if you're having a friendly conversation with someone. It will make your blog posts easier to read and will make you more relatable.
4. Create content with a purpose. Did you write this blog post to get traffic? Get an email subscriber? Establish yourself as an authority? Sell a product? Every blog post you publish should have a clear goal in mind.
5. Create content that solves a problem. Start with the mindset of how you can best serve the reader. Content that truly resonates is content that takes people through a transformation. If you can master the art of solving peoples' problems, you will make money blogging.
Step 4: Start an email list
It is incredibly difficult to earn income directly from your blog. After all, how many people purchase something from a blog post they just landed on? Rarely.
If you want to make money with your blog, you need to grow an audience. There's no better way to keep in touch with your audience than with an email list.
1. Get a custom email address. Log in to your hosting provider and get a personalized email like email@example.com. You will need one to send emails.
2. Sign up with an email marketing provider. To send our emails we'll need to use an email marketing service. I use ConvertKit since it's super easy to use and is very visual. For a free alternative, try MailChimp.
3. Create an optin form. Now that our list is set up, we need to create an optin form so people can sign up. If you use ConvertKit you can choose from a few pre-made layouts to add to your blog.
4. Write a welcome email. Once someone signs up to your list, send them a welcome email introducing yourself and letting them know what type of content they can expect going forward.
Step 5: Grow your email list
Now that your email list is set up, the next step is to grow your email list. Your number one job as a blogger will ultimately be getting people to join your email list. That will be the entry point into your sales funnel.
1. Create a lead magnet. Nobody will join your email list if you have a simple "Subscribe for updates" form. People need an incentive to join your email list. In comes the lead magnet. A lead magnet is a freebie you offer in exchange for their email address.
2. Design a high converting optin form. I use Thrive Leads to create my optin forms. There's lots of templates to choose from and editing them is extremely simple. Their best feature is the ability to conduct A/B split testing, which helps you design forms built to convert.
3. Optin form locations. It's not just the forms that matter, but how they are implemented on your blog. You can have highly intrusive (yet highly effective) forms that take over the entire screen or just forms within your content. With Thrive Leads, you can choose where and how your forms are displayed.
4. Create an email sequence. To really make the most of email marketing, you need to create a series of automated emails that are sent after a user joins your list. This is what's called an email marketing funnel. The goal is to build trust and credibility to eventually recommend products/services.
Step 6: Get traffic from Pinterest
Many new bloggers start by creating accounts on all the social media networks out there, from Facebook to Instagram to even Snapchat. But how much traffic can you expect to receive from these sites? The answer is zero.
Social media sites aren't designed to send you traffic. They are designed to keep you on the platform.
Pinterest, on the other hand, is designed to send bloggers like you boatloads of traffic for free.
Here's why getting Pinterest traffic should be your focus as a new blogger:
1. Free organic traffic. Pinterest isn't a social media site like Instagram is. It's a visual search and discovery engine. Think of it like Google with pictures.
There's a few ways to be found on Pinterest, but the main ways are the homepage (aka the smart feed), the search results page and via related pins.
Best of all, you don't need to invest a dime into paid ads to show up on Pinterest.
2. Targeted traffic. Social media traffic isn't all it's cracked up to be because any random person can wind up looking at your update. And a lot of un-targeted people looking at your post isn't going to do you any good.
What you want is people who are genuinely interested in your content - and Pinterest only shows your content to people who have engaged with similar content in the past.
3. Potential for virality. Social media is known for making content go viral. Pinterest can do that too. If a new pin takes off and starts getting saved by many users, it sends signals to Pinterest that there's great content behind that pin. Thus, the algorithm rewards that pin by showing it to a wider audience.
4. Long-term traffic. While viral traffic is nice, nothing is nicer than free traffic... for life? You see, on Pinterest your pins don't disappear. They stay there forever waiting to be found via search.
Best of all, users can continue to share and re-share your content, giving you continuous exposure for years to come. Just compare that to the average shelf-life of an Instagram or Twitter update.
5. Much faster to get than Google traffic. Hands down the best traffic you can get is Google traffic. But it can take up to 1 year to start seeing search traffic. And that's only if you've done SEO right. With Pinterest a new blog can start seeing traffic on day 1.
Step 7: Get Google Traffic
I mentioned earlier that it might take a new blogger up to a year to start getting a steady flow of traffic from Google. But this is only true if you've done the right SEO on your blog. Even though you won't be getting traffic from Google to start, it's still important to lay the groundwork for later.
Here are some strategies for having a blog that's optimized for Google search.
1. Keyword research. I mentioned this earlier, but before you write anything, you need to do some research first. If you write an article trying to rank for "weight loss" you're never going to get any traffic.
Instead, focus on a long-tail keyword that has less competition - but still has good traffic. I use LongTailPro for this.
2. Keyword rich titles and URL's. To rank in Google search, nothing is more important than the title. For example, if I was targeting the phrase "how to start a money making blog" I would make sure to mention the phrase throughout this article. 😉 I use Thrive's Headline Optimizer to help me write better headlines.
3. Keyword in the URL. The "slug" of your URL is the last part of the URL. For this article it's "money-making-blog". By default, WordPress writes your entire title out. Keep it short to make it clear to Google what your content is about.
4. Keywords in your content. In addition to keywords in your title and url, you need it in your content as well. While Google is really good at figuring out what your content is about, you still should mention your exact keyword phrase several times throughout the content.
5. On page SEO. A well optimized blog post has your targeted keyword phrase in the title, the slug and in the content. But don't stop there. You should also have your keyword phrase (and related keywords) in your image alt tags and in the headings of your article. I wrote more about on-page SEO here.
6. Yoast SEO Plugin. This plugin is a must-have to write a Google-optimized blog post. Add your keyword phrase and you get an instant SEO analysis of your blog post. See more must-have plugins for new bloggers here.
7. High quality backlinks. The best way to get more backlinks is by writing epic content that gets shared by other bloggers in your space.
Other ways of getting backlinks includes writing guest posts, being a guest on podcasts and buying them (will get you penalized by Google if caught).
Step 8: start to monetize your blog
This article is all about how to create a money making blog - and we've yet to talk about how to monetize it! This is by design. You see, you shouldn't focus on making money right from the start. Your focus should be on building an audience.
Once you have traffic - now is the time to try some monetization experiments.
If you are in a high-traffic niche that's difficult to monetize, your best bet to making money with your blog is going to be display ads.
With display ads, you are paid regardless of whether the user makes a purchase. Sounds sweet right? You don't have to sell anything. You just place an ad on your money making blog and you get paid. Simple. The more traffic you have, the more you get paid.
1. Apply to a display ad network. The most popular ad network is Google Adsense. It's incredibly simple to sign up and place their ads on your blog. The downside here is that their payouts are pretty low. For higher payouts try the Mediavine network once your blog reaches 25,000 sessions per month.
2. Sponsored posts. If you have a lot of traffic, your blog metrics are going to look real good. This is exactly what advertisers want when looking for a blog to partner with. Create a contact form and mention you accept brand partnerships.
Step 9: learn how to sell with affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is when you get paid a commission for selling someone else's product. The best example is the Amazon Associates affiliate program. With Amazon it's even better because you get paid a percentage of everything that's in their cart - not just the product you were promoting.
Here's why affiliate marketing is great for new bloggers looking to start a money making blog:
1. You don't have to create a product. It takes a long time (and money) to create a product. You put in all of this work and what if it doesn't even sell? You can avoid taking this risk by just selling other peoples' products.
You also won't have to deal with shipping (if it's not digital) and customer service (refunds, can't log in, can't download product, etc).
2. You learn how to sell. Many new bloggers are put off by selling. They always say they don't want to sell anything. But what needs to happen is a mindset shift. You are not a sleazy salesman. You are a helpful person recommending a product that will improve their lives. This is why I have zero shame dropping links in blog posts - I actually use what I promote!
When you learn how to sell, you learn not to focus on the features of the product, but rather the end result of using it.
3. Additional content ideas. To start, find several products in your niche you want to promote across any affiliate network. Write a separate blog post (product review) for each of these products. Then pit two (or more) products against each other (product comparison).
4. You learn what sells. The easiest way to make money with affiliate marketing is promoting a book on Amazon or a low cost product on Amazon. This is extremely helpful in learning what sells and what doesn't. Once you figure out what types of products your audience likes, you're ready to move onto the last step in creating a money making blog.
Step 10: create your own digital products
I've saved the best for last. If you really want to start a money making blog - you need to create your own products.
It's important that you take this step at the right time. Far too often people start with creating a product before knowing what to sell and how to sell it.
Here are some products you can create, regardless of your niche:
1. Ebook. This is by far the most popular (and the cheapest) digital product to create. It is not difficult to write an ebook. Just open up Word or Pages and start writing. You can even use content from your past blog posts in your ebook. Convert your doc to pdf and you're done! For an ebook cover you can design it with Canva and then create a book mockup with MockupShots.
2. Course. You're the expert who has their own blog. Your readers are all potential students. Create a video series and offer it as a course. You can create your course using Thrive Apprentice. It's what I use for my blogging courses.
3. Coaching. Depending on your niche, you can offer a more personalized service like one on one coaching.
4. Add your product(s) to your email sales funnel. Remember the email sequence from earlier? At the end of your funnel is where you will promote your product. Don't be afraid of the direct sales approach because by now, everyone who has made it that far down your funnel is a fan of your work.
There you have it, 10 steps to creating a money making blog. If you've found this post helpful, I'd appreciate it if you could pin it on one of your Pinterest boards!