How I went from an elementary school teacher to a blogger who makes a full time income online – here’s how to make money blogging in 2020. Affiliate links are included – full disclosure here.
OK let’s preface this post by saying : my goal in this online space is not to give business advice. But my goal is to serve my people here in this online world. Most of the time this takes the form of getting your home to be a beautiful place that you love being in and works for your family.
BUT in light of the current state of our world, I have had more questions than ever about how I make money online while working from home on this blog. I wrote a post years ago about this, but decided it was time to update it with how I make money from my blog in 2020.
I have no course to sell through this. I have no products that can help you with this journey. No business podcast is in the works. But I can point you towards resources and people that might be helpful for you if you’re interested in making money in this crazy online world.
This is a VERY text heavy post that has a ton of information – so I made it into a video for easier digestion for you! Click “play” to watch the video, and then bookmark this post for when you want to dive deeper into the specifics of how to make money blogging!
Now first things first…the question everyone asks:
Is blogging dead?
No. No no no. Let me say it again : NO!
While people aren’t reading blogs like they were when I started blogging ( *gulp* 10 years ago!!). They’re no longer a journal with fun anecdotes about your daily life.
If you use a blog correctly as a tool, then it will be your biggest asset, and the platform that will be the backbone of your income (as it is for me).
- You OWN your blog.
- We will talk about this later, but you do not own your social media channels. Unless you actually are the CEO of Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, etc…then you do not own your social media channels.
- Your blog should be the backbone of your content.
- While you can talk about things in shorter snippets on your social media channels, you should have the bulk of your content remain on your blog.
- A simple way to put it is that your social media channels can be seen as “appetizers”. They’re still offering value, they’re something that people would be excited to engage with, but they’re not the whole meal. Your blog is the full meal. It answers all the questions, has all the links, and is a comprehensive resource for your readers.
- It is a better long term plan
- If you post gardening tips on your Instagram or Facebook account – that’s great for a short term hit. But if you want people outside of your social media followers to see that content weeks, months, even years down the road, then you’re going to need it to be on a blog. This way when people are searching for specific gardening content online next summer, they can find your post. If you structure it the right way, you can provide those people with enough value, get them interested in your other content, and then eventually turn them into a loyal reader.
If you approach your blog the right way, it can be the source for your online success. I might talk about this in another post if there’s enough interest, but the goal when I’m writing 85% of my blog posts is to make them:
- FULL of value. Over-serve people without asking for anything from them.
- Searchable – so they can be found from Google and Pinterest
- Part of a bigger picture. If you can link to other relevant content on your site, it can help add even more value and you could potentially gain a faithful reader from someone who found you on a search for information.
An important note: When you are paid as a blogger, you have to pay self employment taxes. I have to estimate that around 30% of the income that I make will go back to taxes. So when you see numbers in this post, please remember that these are pre-taxed dollars and not take-home pay.
How do bloggers make money?
There’s a reason that there are so many question marks around this topic. There is no rule book. Blogging doesn’t have a job description with a checklist of things every blogger needs to do every day. It looks VERY different for every blogger, so I can only speak for myself. But I have been doing this for 10 years now – insane!! If I’m honest, it’s only been run as a business for 6-ish years. But I’ve learned a LOT in those years and things are constantly changing! Here’s how I earn a full time income (that is twice as much as I earned when I was teaching) in this online space:
Choosing a company to host your website:
I will first tell you that if you really want to make a substantial income through your blog in the long run, you will want to do it through WordPress. Don’t make the mistake of getting a WordPress.com account – make sure it’s set up through WordPress.org. I know easy set up blogs like SquareSpace and Wix are really big right now, but the research shows that those sites might have a harder time with ad income down the road, and they might not be indexed as easily with Google, so they could hinder your web traffic.
Once you sign up through WordPress, you will need to choose a company to host your blog. This costs a small amount per month (or a larger amount per month if you have more traffic to cover).
I’m going to say the unpopular thing here. You will see MANY bloggers promoting BlueHost to host your blog. The reason so many people are telling you to go through BlueHost is that they have a very large affiliate payout if people refer others to sign up with BlueHost for their websites (last I checked it was $60 / referral).
I was with BlueHost for years and it was OK for a little while – my site would be down occasionally but I thought that was normal. It’s not normal. Then when my traffic started growing, it was down constantly. Every time I’d get a spike in traffic, my blog would shut down for a few hours. I’d be on the phone with BlueHost and they would keep upping my price I was paying per month – and I would still get site down time.
After years of this, I finally switched and WOW I couldn’t believe the difference! I was originally with Orange Geek but switched to BigScoots last summer. I have been VERY happy with them, and have had basically zero downtime on my website. They’re reasonably priced (I have the Starter plan) and they are very responsive to any questions I have – they’ve always answered my questions quickly which I really appreciate.
You can check out BigScoots here if you’re interested in their website hosting.
If you have a smaller website or are just starting out, I would recommend going with SiteGround. This is who I recommended my husband going with when he started his website, and we have been really happy with their service and pricing. They don’t have the issues I had with BlueHost and I’d absolutely recommend them!
You can check out SiteGround here if you’re interested in their website hosting.
This is the FIRST place to start making money if you are setting up your blog today.
Ads are the those squares on websites that are advertising companies and products outside of the blog you’re reading. Yes, they can be annoying, but that’s a way that bloggers can get paid to provide FREE content for their readers.
If you are starting a blog from square 1 : start with Google AdSense. You will have to set them up on your website yourself – don’t get intimidated by this! You can basically YouTube and Google all of these things!
Once your traffic picks up, you can apply to different companies that will manage your ads for you.
- Mediavine: once you have 25K sessions (not pageviews) per month, you can apply for Mediavine to manage your ads
- AdThrive : This is the ad service I use and can one thousand percent recommend! You have to have 100K pageviews/month to apply
How much money can you make from ads?
Here’s the thing : it varies so much. It varies widely between websites and niches. When I was with Google AdSense, I was making pennies for years. Like – actually pennies.
With AdThrive, I make anywhere from $6.00 / thousand pageviews to $14.00 / thousand pageviews. This is called your RPM. Lower RPMs happen generally in Quarter 1 & 2, and advertisers ramp up their ad budgets in Quarter 4 (around the holidays) which makes your RPM increase as well. If you’re doing the math, that means someone who is averaging 100,000 pageviews/month can expect to make between $600-$1400 a month on ads. And then you can do the math from there to see how the potential for making money with ad revenue is really a great way to generate income from blogging.
The beauty of ad revenue is the fact that it’s truly passive income. My ads are sitting on my blog, managed by Adthrive (which is a free service for me to use, I don’t have to pay for them to manage my ads) and I can keep making money off of these ads while I am not actively working or promoting my blog.
Affiliate links are a great place to set your website up for success if you’re just starting now, so it has the potential to pay off in time.
An affiliate link is essentially a commission you receive for recommending a product to a reader. They don’t have to pay extra, and you don’t have to worry about holding inventory for products.
There are a bunch of ways you can begin getting affiliate income. I will always tell people to diversify – in every area of blogging. When it comes to affiliate marketing, diversifying your platforms is really important as well. We are currently in the middle of this pandemic, and companies can choose to (and have chosen to) lower their affiliate percentages drastically. Thankfully, I have diversified my income enough that while this isn’t ideal, it doesn’t break my business.
Here are the affiliate networks I’m currently a part of:
- Amazon Associates
- Amazon affiliate links are the biggest chunk of my affiliate income. The beauty of Amazon linking is that basically EVERYTHING you might want to recommend is on Amazon.
- Amazon affiliate payments are paid monthly.
- This is where you see people linking to LikeToKnowIt. It makes up the next largest chunk of my affiliate income.
- I get paid bi-weekly (you have to have over $100 due to you every other week to get paid regularly). It took me a while to get to that point, but over the past few years I’ve been able to be paid bi-weekly.
- Through this platform, you only get commissions on sales that you make, not on clicks to those sales.
- I believe that it is invite – only. If you need an invitation and have a website/social media set up where your business would be a good fit for affiliate linking, then leave your e-mail in the comments below. I can reach out to you and see if I could personally invite you to the platform.
- This is a pay-per-click model, and works best for platforms like Instagram stories. You do not get commission for purchases, but you receive a few cents per click to a retailer’s website.
- Your price per click can go up if you get consistent sales from your links, and your price per click can go down if you don’t get a lot of sales from your links.
- I’ve put links in my Instagram stories and also on my blog, but I haven’t seen great success with these links embedded in my blog (nothing like the first two networks I listed). But I have had success from using them in short-form content like a Facebook post or Instagram story.
There are MANY other affiliate networks to be a part of such as Commission Junction, Share A Sale, ShopStyle Collective, and way more. I’ve been a part of all of those and have seen success for periods of time, but my consistent top earners are the three listed above.
Let’s talk about why your blog is so important again.
- I post affiliate links in my blog posts naturally – like products you need to buy to complete a project. Or home decor I bought to style a room.
- I then market that blog post on my social media, and might see some affiliate (and ad) revenue come in from it.
- But the really important thing is that recurring traffic you can get from Google searches and Pinterest traffic. Once you get steady traffic to your site, then your affiliate links really start paying off.
Can you see how this is a much better system for affiliate income over time than just a short once-and-done hit from an Instagram story affiliate link?
If you are brand new to blogging, this one will have to wait a little while. But if you have an audience who consistently shows up & trusts you – this is gold for companies to tap into.
Brand partnerships look VERY different from person to person. Basically here’s what it looks like for me 80% of the time:
- I get contacted by a brand (or you can reach out to a brand too) who wants me to partner with them (usually via Instagram messages, e-mail, or a platform I am a part of that brings brands and content creators together)
- MOST IMPORTANT: I research the company and make sure they’re amazing. My credibility is on the line when I do these partnerships. If I recommend a product or company that is junk, then my readers will lose trust in me.
- Make sure it fits with your overall message and niche. If it doesn’t – it’s going to fall flat. It doesn’t work well for you or the company.
- Sometimes I get offers that would be really beneficial financially, but it’s an awkward fit for my site/readers. Since I have to keep my sights set on my long-term goals, that trust that I have built with my readers is more important than a nice paycheck from one sponsored post. You have to be able to say no. It will make your “yes” that much more valuable.
- I ask them for more specifics of the work they’re looking for, and the timeframe they’re looking at for the project
- I have a general price point for sponsored posts but I increase the price if it’s a tight turn-around time or larger project that will take more time/resources to make happen.
- I write back with my asking price for the work, and give them an outline of what services I can provide for them
- Examples: Search engine optimized blog post, X number of pins to my Pinterest boards over X period of time, social shares across all accounts
- The brand accepts, asks to negotiate pricing, or declines.
- If they accept, then they send over a contract. It’s usually multiple pages long and has a whole lot of things to read through before you sign. You agree on dates for posting and deliverables you will give to the brand.
- Oftentimes the brand will ask for approval for posts before they go live, so I will often work on recording Instagram stories, putting text over them, and then send to the brand for approval. I will write a blog post and put it into a document to send to the brand for approval. There are usually a few revisions that need to be made before actually publishing the content.
Brand partnerships can be an amazing situation for all parties involved. They can also be a LOT of work, and don’t always work well if you haven’t set your pricing well or if the product/company isn’t a great fit for your site. Since we’re talking about numbers here, my range for sponsored posts with brands is usually between $2500-4800.
This is a part of my income that I’m committed to building up in 2020, and have seen great success from it so far. But with every new aspect that’s added to my business, there’s a lot trial and error, effort, and challenges along the way.
Product sales can be broken up into two categories:
- Physical products
- Physical products come with a whole learning curve when it comes to pricing, shipping, inventory, etc. But if it fits with your blog’s niche, then it can work really well to offer physical products to go along with your content.
- Etsy is an easy way to sell these products, but you can also get more technical and offer products directly through your website with a platform like WooCommerce.
- Digital products
- Online Courses
- This is the wave of the future for sure. With the crazy fast growing online education world, bloggers are at a prime spot to leverage their platforms in this area. We’ve been teaching people for years, and have a handle on what our audience wants to learn from us.
- Courses can be a LOT of work to set up (I worked on mine for MONTHS before finally launching it to my audience), but if you set it up correctly, you will not need to put out as much effort after your course is in the hands of the people who have purchased.
- I do not offer presets, but have many friends who have had great success offering Lightroom presets as a lower priced digital product offering.
- Digital Downloads
- I know of many people who offer paper products that are bought as digital PDFs and then the purchaser prints them out on their end. Again, another great way to offer a product to your readers but not have to worry about shipping or inventory.
- Online Courses
Blogging is a lot of work, it’s not a “get rich quick” game. It requires you to be flexible, pour into your readers in a genuine way, and constantly be learning the next new thing. I LOVE my job and the creativity it requires from me. I feel so thankful that I can do this job in a flexible way that works for my family, but that does NOT mean my job is easy. It’a lot of behind-the-scenes work, late nights, dry shampoo, and doing work that no one will ever see.
OK that’s a lot of information for one post. Can you let me know if this was helpful for you? I’d love to hear your feedback and let you know if there’s any other questions I can answer for you.
If you thought this was helpful or if you want to save this post for later, would you please pin this image? Thank you so much!!
And if you have any other questions you’d like me to answer about doing this as a full time business – can you leave those questions in the comments? I’d love to help – I’m an open book when it comes to this business!
This was such a great and informative article, Christina!
I learned so much!
Your honesty is so appreciated.
Thank you for sharing such a wealth of information! 😊👍🏻
Meg C says
This was really interesting! I don’t have a desire or skills to run a blog but I appreciate all the info and transparency about what type of $ you can make from this, you’re definitely one of my favorite bloggers/influencers to follow on Insta!
You are the sweetest, Meg! I appreciate that so much!! I am so glad it was informative for you!
Thank you for taking the mystery out of blogging, I really appreciate how authentic you always are! I’m a long time follower!
you’re so kind, Erin! Thank you for sticking around here!! <3
Thank you SO much!! Very helpful and you’re truly an inspiration!
Ah you’re so kind – I’m so glad it was helpful!!
This couldn’t have been written at a better time! I started working on a website for blogging just yesterday. And honestly, I was doing it for fun and to be informative on gardening and outdoor recreation. I don’t have plans to make money from it but your post has been super helpful regardless! Thank you!
Christina, you are a gifted, generous woman! Thank you for reaching out to bless others!
You are so sweet, Teri! Thank you!
I’ve seen and purchased courses that drag out a lot of this information where you’ve generously provided high level easy to digest details to get started. I would definitely want to learn more such as starting price ranges to charge brands when your just starting out, how to approach brands, how you organically grew your traffic and following etc. Thanks again this was awesome!