I write a lot about hustling here. Planning ahead and patience seem to be the key to any good side hustle, and right now you’re reading my most successful one so far.
That’s right, my blog actually makes some money. Recently, it’s been the equivalent of an extra paycheck a month and I am solidly a part time blogger.
That being said, it did not happen overnight. I started brokeGIRLrich in July 2013 with a post called WTF is this Stock Market Thing? (Step 1). I’m not sure I even wrote Step 2 and it was a crazy rant about not understanding the stock market.
Either way, I just kept moving.
I was near the end of paying off my college debts and looking to the future and what I would do when I actually had some money. This made me pretty passionate about personal finance.
So that’s step one to making some money blogging.
#1 – Find something you’re passionate about.
Because you are going to have to write a lot about it.
I’m pretty passionate about not retiring to a cardboard box under an overpass. I’m also pretty passionate about traveling – which definitely costs money. Finally, I’m pretty passionate about my job, stage managing, which often doesn’t make a lot of money.
The project of how I balance all of these goals is what I focus on in my blog. It’s often very personal. Even when you’re reading a step by step factual post, you’re probably reading something I literally just did in my life (like how to Open an IRA or Calculate Your Net Worth).
Maybe you’re a lot less willing to delve into your personal life and that’s totally fine. If you have a lot of factual knowledge about a topic, go ahead and present that.
#2 – Just start writing.
Get into the habit of writing. If you haven’t done much since high school or college, you’ll find it’s probably rougher than you expected (I know that’s true for me).
If you can get 10 posts written and ready to go, you’ll be able to set up your blog with a few posts already on it and save a few for when you’re in a pinch for a post or some crazy life thing crops up and messes with your time to write.
Some people advise posting minimally and making sure your content is great. That might work for you, but I know it wouldn’t work for me. I need the discipline of blogging on a regular basis to make sure I stick with it.
#3 – Get technical.
Here’s the deal, it’s really easy to start a free blog and a lot more difficult to start a self-hosted one. But don’t let that stop you! Personally, I outsource almost all of the technical aspects of my blog to a great guy I found on Fiverr (Macedon – he’s awesome). For $5, I gave him my passwords to WordPress and my host and he set everything up for me.
I started brokeGIRLrich on a free WordPress.com site. I spent about 3 months blogging 3 times a week and dipping my toes in the online personal finance blogger community before making the switch to WordPress.org (the self-hosted version of WordPress sites – the one you have to pay for).
The main reason I made this jump was because I had plans for brokeGIRLrich to become another stream of income. In theory, I was all about having multiple streams of income – in reality, I wasn’t sure how to achieve it. So this was my first step.
WordPress.com sites really restrict what kind of advertising you can do and sponsors usually want to see that you have a self-hosted site. I decided to make a 3 year investment in brokeGIRLrich (since a lot of the things you had to sign up for had a 3 year option that made it the cheapest) and my goal was to at least make back all the money I spent by the end of the 3 years.
If the technical side of blogging scares you, here it is totally broken down:
Pick a Domain Name
You better like it, because it’s going to be as familiar as your own name pretty soon.
Brainstorm a few you like, but don’t get too attached until your run that name through Instant Domain Search. Someone else may have already bought it.
You can then register with a company like GoDaddy and the name becomes yours.
HOWEVER, several hosting sites also offer the option of registering your domain name as part of their hosting package, like bluehost.
Pick a Host
No, it’s not something out of a sci-fi movie. Your host stores your website and all of it’s files. It’s like a super fancy, internet connected hard drive. Sort of.
The two main ones that people often start out blogging with are Host Gator and bluehost. I honestly went with Host Gator and while the price was fair, I haven’t found the customer service to be that great. I plan on switching to bluehost next year when my Host Gator plan is up.
Some especially great things about bluehost include:
- You can get your domain name free when you go through bluehost.
- It’s really easy to install WordPress through them.
- They store automatic backups of your site.
- Solid customer service.
Setting up your host may seem intimidating, but it’s really pretty easy.
You simply set up a log in and select which plan you want. If you’re still just dipping your toes into blogging, the cheapest plan is probably fine for a year or two. If you’ve got big plans, up your storage to the average plan. If you’re starting a business and know you’ll have heavy traffic, go for the business level plans.
Then just click through each page of registration, it’ll all be pretty self-explanatory. When you get towards the end though, it will help your migrate over your website. If you’re super tech savvy and want to take care of this yourself, you can opt out. If you’re a technophobe like me, you can click the “omg, yes, please help me” button.
They bluehost control panel will let you select the type of site you want to use – for the vast majority of us, it’s WordPress, but they have a few other options too.
Once this is set up, your site is linked to your host. The host is saving all of your information and barring any catastrophes, you shouldn’t have to do much with it until you go to renew new year (or 3 years from then).
Pick a Blogging Platform
To be honest, I can only really write about WordPress, since it’s the only blogging platform I know how to use. So let me, very biased-ly, say it’s also the best. It’s also free, which is always my favorite price.
Once you set it up through your host, you go to WordPress.com to log in and you blog the same way you did through your free account. It’s very simple.
And if all of this is still incredibly overwhelming, let me point you towards Fiverr once more and remind you that if you’re already shelling out all this money to set up your site, it’s totally worth $5 more for the peace of mind of having someone who knows what they’re doing just set all this up for you.
#4 – Join the Community
Now that you’re all set up with your website, start checking out other websites, going to blogger meet ups and any nearby conferences in your genre.
I know, without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am now with my blog or even with my own personal finances, without the personal finance blogger community.
I started adding my post to personal finance link ups – like the one we have here every weekend (Financially Savvy Saturdays).
I commented on every personal finance blog I could find – from the giant, well established ones, to others who were starting out at the same time as me. When I had questions, I would reach out through email to see if other bloggers would help me and most of the time they would! I went to conferences like FinCon and learned more than I could imagine about blogging and finance and networking and I made actual friends.
Seriously though, the best part about blogging for me has been the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned. Which is why it’s been so easy to stick with even when I don’t make much.
#5 – Start Looking for Money Making Opportunities
The world isn’t just going to know you’re trying to make money.
The first step I took was to add a Work With Me page. It starts with information about how to contact me and then it lists other places I’ve written (I list things I was paid for along with free guest post, since I’m still building that portfolio) and it links to my media kit.
Once you’re serious about making money, you need to build your media kit. A media kit is a single sheet with information about your brand, your monthly page views, your social media stats, your different advertising and sponsorship opportunities you offer and what you charge for them.
For sponsored content, charge higher than you’d think. I honestly would’ve started out charging something like $10 – but I saw a similar site was charging $100 for the same opportunities. I decided to start at $100, since I didn’t desperately need the money and have found that companies are certainly willing to pay that and more for sponsored content.
For freelance work, you have to take into account who you’re working for – again, for corporations, charge higher than you’d think. For other bloggers, charge what you consider a fair rate. I’ve written for as low as $20 an article for other bloggers and as high a $150 an article for businesses, and freelance writing is not the main way I bring in extra money through my blog.
You can also make money through advertising using sites like Google AdSense. These ads can go in your blog side bars or in the content of your articles and you get paid per click. I’ve only reached the Google AdSense pay out once since installing it (it has a $100 threshold).
You can also include affiliate links in your posts. A very popular one is Amazon. Say you’re writing about the best board games to teach kids personal finance skills. You can set up an Amazon affiliate account and link to each board game. If a reader uses your link to get to Amazon, you get a small percentage of whatever they buy, even if it’s not that game.
Lots of companies have affiliate set ups, so if you regularly write about or support a company and send business their way, look into it. If they don’t have a set up, you can email them and ask them about affiliate partnerships or even sponsored posts or paying for ad space on your site.
Let’s Break Down the Numbers
So let’s review. To set up brokeGIRLrich, I spent:
- GoDaddy – $22.51
- Host Gator – $286.56
- WordPress – FREE
- Technical Assistance – $5
- Blog Header Design – $80
brokeGIRLrich Start Up Fees – $394.09
- October 2013 = -$394.09\-$394.09
- November 2013 = $0\-$394.09
- December 2013 = $0\-$394.09
- January 2014 = $0\-$394.09
- February 2014 = $0\-$394.09
- March 2014 = $0\-$394.09
- April 2014 = $0\-$394.09
- May 2014 = $0\-$394.09
- June 2014 = $0\-$394.09
- July 2014 = $107.51\-$286.58
- August 2014 = $10.92\-$275.66
- September 2014 = $0\-$275.66
- October 2014 = $1.14\-$274.52
- November 2014 = $195.80\-$79.00
- December 2014 = $96.80\$17.80
- January 2015 = $305.26\$323.06
- February 2015 = $180\$503.06
- March 2015 = $100\$603.06
- April 2015 = $225\$828.06
- May 2015 = $303.08\$1,131.14
- June 2015 = $179.71\ $1,310.85
- July 2015 = $429.06\$1,739.91
- August 2015 = $0\$1,739.91
- September 2015 = $779.85\$2,519.76
- October 2015 = $754.25\$3,274.01
brokeGIRLrich total income 2 years in: $3,274.01*
*This number does not take any freelance writing into account. It’s 100% advertising, affiliate links and sponsored posts.
So, as you can see, blogging is definitely not an overnight success story, but you can make some money doing it. This is also 100% a part time job for me, many other bloggers have managed to take it to full time within the same time frame and completely replace their income from their previous job.
If you have any questions about how to get started blogging, I’d love to answer them (or direct you to the awesome folks who were able to help me out when I couldn’t do it myself)!