If you’re on the fence about starting a blog, you’re not alone.
I have people ask me about starting a blog all the time, and most are really on the fence about it. Something is holding them back, whether it’s the idea, the strategy, the implementation, the insecurity, or something else.
The good news is you can start a blog, and you can actually make money from it.
I’ve been blogging for three years, and I’ve had a lot of failures along the way. Below, I’ve listed the steps you need to take to start a money making blog. It’s a step by step guide for starting a blog with the intention of making money from it.
Okay, let’s get started!
Update: I published How I Made $45K Blogging In 1 Year While Working Full Time to share my journey.
1. Set up a website
First, you need to set up a website.
Use my How To Start A Blog tutorial to do this. It’s the tutorial I created from my own experience. I walk you through exactly how to set up a website from start to finish.
Also, download this free Blog Structure Blueprint to help you understand how to organize your blog. The better organized your blog is, the more likely people will stay on your site and read more.
Finally, take my Online Business Free Course – a free email course where I send you step by step actions to take over 5 days to have a blog up and running.
Once you go through those steps, you’re ready to move on.
2. Design your brand
The second step to create a money making blog is to design your brand for your blog and for social media. This means choosing a certain “look” for anywhere your blog touches (on your blog and your corresponding social media sites, for example).
Use consistent colors, fonts, and photos for your blog. On my blog, I have soft, feminine, neutral colors and I use two font types (any more than that would be too much). I use the same colors and font across all social media platforms, too.
I use photos from iStock Photo or Haute Chocolate to keep consistency with my images. The photos you use on your blog and on social media can be the difference between success and failure. Don’t underestimate your images.
Having a cohesive brand across your blog and social media platforms is very important. People will recognize your brand more easily and remember you more easily.
3. Start blogging with the end in mind
After your blog is set up and designed beautifully just the way you want it, you are ready to start blogging (yay)! And the first thing you need to do is start with the end in mind.
This post assumes your end goal is to make money from your blog. If that’s not the case for you, then you’ll have a different path to take to succeed. For example, if your goal is to become popular or somewhat famous online, you’ll need to do things very differently.
So, assuming the end goal for you is to make money blogging, you need to make all decisions going forward under the umbrella of starting a profitable blog.
In order to make money blogging, you need to solve your readers’ problems. Your blog has to focus on them.
This means you need to work backwards when deciding what to blog about. You should create “sales-centered” content (a term I learned from Create and Go in the course Six Figure Blogger). Think of potential products you want to sell (digital products you’d create yourself or promote through affiliate marketing) and create content around them (blog posts and opt-ins).
Create an editorial calendar (plan your blog posts) around potential products you think you want to sell. This is sales-centered content. Blogs that do this well are Making Sense of Cents, Create and Go, and Avocadu (all six-figure blogs).
What bloggers usually do (and what I did until I learned this from this course) is create random pieces of content and try to monetize the content by throwing in affiliate links randomly. Don’t do this.
To know which products you’ll want to promote or create in the long run, you need to do some research to figure out what your readers’ problems are and how you’re going to solve them. Because you want to make money blogging, you should not start a blog about your life or how cool you are. No one will read it. People care about how your life relates to their life and how they can learn from you. You can (and should) intertwine personal stories in your blog, but only for the benefit of helping your readers solve a problem. Your job is to find out which problem you can help your readers solve with certain products and create content around that.
Okay, back to the research. Here’s how I recommend doing research to create sales-centered content to eventually monetize your blog:
- Search on Pinterest, Google, and YouTube to figure out what people are already searching for
- Look at top-selling products on Amazon to see what people are already buying
- Look at your competition’s blogs to see what they’re selling
If you can’t find your idea anywhere in your research, it’s a red flag that you should stop with that idea and come up with something else.
Remember, your goal is to help your readers solve a problem they already have and are searching for. Figure out how you can do this and you’ll have a money-making blog.
4. Publish blog posts that are better than your competition
After you have a strategy about what you’re going to write about, you need to figure out how you’re going to write your blog posts.
How do you make sure your content is amazing? Look at your competition. What are other people writing about in your niche? Then, make sure your blog posts are better. This doesn’t mean that you have to compare someone else’s middle to your beginning. But it does mean that you better know what you’re talking about. Be honest, authentic, and useful.
A few tips for creating content people will actually read:
- Focus on title and subtitles. Use titles and subtitles that are urgent and catchy (vague and boring will kill your post instantly).
- Focus on solving your readers’ problems. Your readers don’t care what trip you went on or what type of dog you have — they want you to show them how to lose 10 lobs by the end of next month). You need to make it about them and not about you.
- Give details and examples in your posts. Be authentic and genuine, weaving in stories that your readers can relate to.
- Survey your readers to know what they want. There’s no better way to know what to give your readers than to ask them.
Help your readers solve problems and be genuine about it. Publish blog posts that you can confidently say are better than any other blogger in your niche. This will help you feel confident promoting your own content as well as get you recognized by big sites.
5. Post consistently on your blog and on social media
The fifth step in building your blog is posting consistently.
People need to know when to come back to your site and social pages. Whether you post three times a week or once a week matters less than the consistency of it. This goes for social media, too.
If you can find one platform to grow, do that. I’m on several and value each of them, but if you can really build a huge platform on one, focus on what works best for you (each audience is different).
Think of magazines or shows you watch – they come out regularly on a schedule. Your blog should, too. It will help readers know when to come back.
6. Get traffic to your site
Once you are posting amazing content consistently on your blog and social media platforms, you need to focus on getting traffic to your blog.
You can do this through direct search engines (Google) through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), and through guest posting (getting in front of other people’s blogs).
To learn how to implement a good SEO strategy for Google read my post 21 SEO Tips. This will help you get better search results so people find your blog when they search for something online.
For social media, every platform is different. Take the time to figure out where your readers are and focus your energy there. Implement a specific strategy and take social media seriously. Focus on gaining obsessed followers there. For example, I read Strategies Worth Sharing and it helped me create a cohesive Facebook strategy.
I encourage you to focus on Pinterest and YouTube — both are technically search engines (people are on these sites searching for content), unlike other social media platforms. These are the best for building traffic for a new blogger because it’s not that hard to rank on these sites (but it’s very hard to rank on Google). A lot of people ask me for a Pinterest course recommendation, and the one I refer people to is Pinterest Avalanche by Create and Go. I love their courses because they give actionable steps that you can implement and see results from. Also, here’s a great blog post on the power of traffic from Pinterest.
Remember to focus on building a loyal following. Readers should trust you, like you, and want to buy from you. This will pay off big time down the road.
7. Focus on email marketing
After you’re in a rhythm of publishing amazing content and promoting it on social media to build loyal readers, switch your focus to building your email list.
The best metric to measure your blog’s growth and success is your email list. It’s extremely important that you take this step seriously. You’ll hear a lot of bloggers say “the money is in the list,” and they’re referring to the email list.
Having an engaged list of email subscribers is directly correlated with how much money you can make from your blog. Meaning, if you have an email list that opens your emails and clicks on your links, you are more likely to make more money (regardless of your pageviews of Facebook fans).
More than your social media followers or pageviews or anything else, your email list should be a high priority because you have the most control over your list (e.g.: Facebook can change its algorithm so you don’t have access to your fans, but you can always have direct access to your email list).
So, start capturing email addresses from your readers to build your list. You can do this in a number of ways, and I recommend doing it with a platform specifically for bloggers like Drip or ConvertKit (what I use). This is important because you’ll have access to forms, sequences, and tagging tools that you won’t have with other email servicers not for bloggers. I switched from MailChimp to ConvertKit and in 7 months my email list went from under 2k to over 10k. ConvertKit costs money, but it is worth it. You will have expenses associated with blogging, and once you’re making money this will get easier.
8. Monetize with display advertising, sponsorships, and affiliate marketing
Once you’ve done all the other steps, you are ready to start monetizing (woo!).
Make sure you don’t start monetizing before this step, even though you’ve been thinking about it and have had the end in mind from the beginning.
You should focus on your brand, your content, and your following first. It’s too much to focus on monetizing, too. You’ll fall flat and your readers won’t trust and love you. I’d say the first few steps could take a couple months, on average, but you can certainly do it in one month if you put in the time for it.
Once you’re ready to monetize, I think you should start with advertising, sponsorships, and affiliate marketing (not by selling your own products).
The reason to start with these monetization strategies first is that you need to understand the sales process before you sell your own stuff. You’ll learn about making money online with advertising, sponsorships, and affiliate marketing without putting in so much effort by creating a product that no one wants to buy (which I’ve seen bloggers do a lot and it’s devastating).
Affiliate marketing is important because you’ll learn the sales process from other bloggers by selling their products. Once you’ve mastered the art of affiliate marketing and understand the sales process, then you can move on to your own products. The course I refer people to for affiliate marketing is Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. The creator is not only a friend of mine who I trust, but she’s built a six figure per month blog, most of which comes from affiliate marketing.
So, your job in this step is to focus on making a few thousand dollars from your blog through advertisements, sponsorships, and affiliate marketing. If you’ve done all the previous steps and have a loyal following with at least 1,000 obsessed email subscribers, this should not be that difficult (but remember, it may take some time). Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to move on.
9. Create and sell your own products
Once you’re making a few thousand dollars per month from blogging and have your loyal reader base, you’re ready to monetize by creating your own products. This is where I am with my blog. I just took Six Figure Blogger, a course that gives you a specific strategy for monetizing your blog. I don’t recommend this course if you are a brand new blogger – it’s definitely more advanced.
There are many ways to make money selling your own products on your blog. You can sell physical or digital products (think mugs and cute tee-shirts versus eBooks or online courses).
Selling your own products is where so many bloggers make a ton of money. If you follow the journey of one of these bloggers, though, you’ll see this is usually not done successfully right away after starting a blog. Most six-figure bloggers never start monetizing by selling their own products right after launching. It’s after building a readership base and perfecting other monetization strategies that she then launches her own products successfully.
Something I learned in Six Figure Blogger is that Sales = Traffic x Conversion Rate. This formula means that in order to have consistent sales and make a lot of money from you blog and from your products, you need to have a high conversion rate and/or a lot of traffic. The traffic component is how many people visit your blog. The conversion rate is the percentage of people who buy once they’re on your blog. Both of these will come after you’ve spent time building your platform, email list, and trust with your community.
Creating your own products is the ultimate way to make money blogging. Income potential is unlimited and you have complete control over the process. It’s also the most challenging so it should be done last. You need to have a big audience and know the marketing and sales process well. But once you’re here, it’s magical.
A Final Note!
If you’re on the fence about starting a blog, but know that you would love to make money blogging, I encourage you to just start.
I just went through the tension of starting something brand new that I had no clue how to do when I started my YouTube channel last month. It was painful. It wasn’t easy. But starting was the hardest part, by far.
Starting is the hardest part of monetizing a blog. You can always change course along the way (that’s what I did when I rebranded from theFinancegirl.com to NatalieBacon.com). So, there’s no need to think it has to be perfect now.
Follow the steps above and you’ll be well on your way to creating a money making blog.
The rest is up to you!
P.s – here are my favorite free blogging resources:
- How I Made $45K Blogging In 1 Year While Working Full Time Free eBook – this is a look into how I made $45k blogging in 1 year while working full time
- 7 Surefire Ways To Boost Your Blog Income Overnight – this download has really applicable tips for taking your blog income up a notch asap
- 120 Awesome Blog Post Ideas – this gives you soooo many blog post ideas
- The New Blogger’s Guide To Guest Posting – this is a download that shows you how to get started guest posting on other blogs
- Blog Structure Blueprint – this is a template that gives you a visual for how to organize your blog (I used this when I started)
- 10 Steps To Take When A Post Goes Viral – this is a download that gives you specific tips for what to do when a blog post goes viral