Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Can You Make Money Blogging without Selling Your Soul?

I didn’t start blogging to find a way to make money. I did it, because I love writing. But at a certain point in exploring a passion, you have to ask: “Can I make money doing this? Can I find a way to monetize my passion?” Yes, you can.

Make Money Blogging

Photo credit: Images_of_Money (Creative Commons)

Freelance writing and book publishing traditionally doesn’t make a ton of money (unless your last name happens to be “King” or “Rowling”).

So we writers have to be inventive with how we support our families and keep the water on. Or settle for being starving artists. But these days, there is a third option: blogging.

You can do what you love, find ways to monetize it, and then use it to fund other less lucrative passions, like writing a book. That’s what I’m interested in.

The question is: Can you really make a ton of money with a blog, like all those “gurus” say?

Sure you can.

And no. You absolutely cannot.

Allow me to explain…

How to make a buck with a blog

I just got $120 worth of free books on Amazon. On a whim a few months ago, I signed up for Amazon Affiliates a few months ago and started linking to books I would’ve recommended, anyway.

I was surprised when the pennies turned to dollars without much effort on my part. I’ve since decided to save up my earnings and finally get a Kindle.

This is what blogging can do. It’s a fun little perk, but is it enough to quit your job and pay the bills? Well, no. Not in and of itself. But it is just one strategy among many in how people can make money online.

Here are other ways people make money online:

  • Affiliate marketing: Selling other people’s products for them and earning a commission on each sale. My Amazon story is an example of this. I’m also starting to see some fruit from promoting other products I believe in, like 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.
  • Product sales: Sell your own products (eBooks, webinars, iPhone apps, whatever). I’m working on a few of these myself. The trick is delivering value and only giving your community what they want.
  • Advertising: If you have decent traffic, you can sell ad space. (I’ve just started exploring this, but so far it’s been fruitful. Recently, to jump-start my advertising, I offered a 50% discount on Cyber Monday.)
  • Market your own services: If selling stuff makes your skin crawl, you can use a blog to build an online presence and brand and then use it to land consulting or freelance services. (I’ve had several people contact me about things like writing an eBook, SEO, and other topics I’ve written about.)

When I started placing Amazon links on my site, I was amazed at how quickly I started earning commissions. Then, I started promoting other products with higher returns.

And that’s when it became fun. When I would get emails in the middle of the night, informing me I had earned $10 here, $50 there — without having to lift a finger.

This led to a startling realization: You really can do this; you can make money with a blog. Without selling your soul. So what’s with the “no” part?

The gurus are wrong

The gurus say this is easy. They say you’ll make money fast. Just like they did. But that’s not true. At least, it’s not probable.

The reality is making a full-time living online is hard. Not impossible, but hard. This is why they call it “work.” You’re probably not going to make six figures with a blog. Not right away, anyhow. But that’s not to say you can’t make decent money.

I know people who make $20,000-$40,000 (USD) per year, which is nice, but nothing noteworthy. Even Darren Rowse, founder of Problogger.net, said he had to work very, very hard to make $36,000 his first year as a professional blogger, which is hardly stop-the-press kind of news.

In other words, there is no magic bullet. No success-over-night story. And if there is, you shouldn’t count on it. It takes work.

I don’t know about you, but this was a relief to me. I’m not interested in get-rich-quick schemes; I don’t believe they’re the smartest way to accumulate wealth. All the millionaires who remain millionaires practice something better:

Get rich slow.

If you want to succeed, you should play the long game, also.

So what do you do?

This brings us back to the beginning, back to writing for the love of it and using blogging to supplement your passion.

I’m not interested in being the next professional blogging success story. I just want to find ways to make my blog pay for itself. And I’d like to earn a little extra money to make the hours I invest into blogging worthwhile.

And if you’re a blogger, this should be your bare minimum, too. Even if it’s a passion project, there is no reason why your blog shouldn’t be able to eventually pay for itself. And then on top of that, your life.

My goal is to find creative ways to help others — ways that people are willing to pay for — to give me the freedom to do what I really love doing: writing. Without having to worry about paying the bills.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to getting started with making money blogging, read: Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income. And this book has been helpful, too.

What about you? Isn’t it time that your blog became your patron? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    I think your last point about marketing your own services is where the most potential power exists. From what I’ve heard, most 6-figure bloggers consult in some form or another.
    Unfortunately, I live in North Carolina – and we’re not allowed to be Amazon affiliates due to some genius moves by our politicians. Not that it would have put my kid through college, but any little bit helps. Oh well.

  • http://informalthumbsup.com roy

    thanks Jeff,

    I’m a new blogger, and I’m always trying to figure out if it’s time to start monetizing.  What do you suggest as a good mark to reach? 

  • http://www.CrazyAboutChurch.com Charles Specht

    I hope to make enough just to pay for the annual expense of hosting my blog.  That way my wife won’t give me dirty looks every time I log in.  :)  LOL

  • Anonymous

    Hey Jeff! Thank you for the upbeat article and suggestions. Having not done any of this, I’d like to perhaps explore it as you did with Amazon, just to get my feet wet. 

    Where did/do you link to books, as you said, you would anyway? Within articles? What’s the strategy, so to speak?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Garry, I linked to books where I normally would, and I think that’s crucial. It needs to feel organic, not forced. You can be intentional, just don’t overdo. And never recommend something you haven’t used yourself.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    About two weeks ago, Michael Hyatt posted an entry titled How to Monetize Your Blog Without Selling Your Soul. 

    His opening line was “I didn’t start blogging to make money from it.”

    Today you posted an entry titled Can You Make Money Blogging Without Selling Your Soul?

    Your opening is “I didn’t start blogging to find a way to make money.” 

    Soul mates?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Wow. You would think I copied him. (I swear I didn’t.) Interesting. I actually originally entitled this post “Is It Really Possible to Make Money Blogging?” Then I changed it to, “Can You Really Make Money Blogging?” And then finally what it ended up being. I forgot about that post from Mike. This was actually a re-post of a newsletter article from several weeks ago (before Mike’s post). Not to be defensive or anything. ;)

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

        The matter is under investigation. Please keep yourself available and don’t leave the country until further notice.

        • Anonymous

          hahahah coincidence? maybe *suspicious look* kidding:)

  • http://www.caroljalexander.com/ Carol J. Alexander

    Thanks for the balance, Jeff. I’ve earned a whopping 68 cents off Amazon in about 4 months. I’ve applied for an AdSense account but just can’t bring myself to litter my blog with the ads. So, I work on developing my own product, driving editors to my site in hopes they will give me assignments, and otherwise, try to have fun.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Carol. We each have to find what works for us. Now, go buy a gumball with that 68 cents. :)

  • http://workoptions.com/ Pat Katepoo

    Carol, I’m with you re: Adsense “litter.” I encourage you to develop your own products. Selling my own ebooks online (since 1997!) has been *far* more fruitful than any other monetizing route I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many).  

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yeah, I kinda hate Adsense. Though, some sites (e.g. dailyblogtips.com) make it look not-so-bad.

  • http://www.distractedbyprayer.blogspot.com Shannon @ Distracted by Prayer

    As usual, you are about 200 steps down the road from me, and I love that!  Less trial and error.  Thanks for giving me something new to think about.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome, Shannon!

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    I’ve been tossing around the idea of trying to make some money from my blog. I know it won’t be a ton of money, but even if it’s enough to cover the cost of hosting, it would help. Thanks for the tips!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Exactly

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Funny thing about advertising. It’s pretty much the *second* oldest profession, if you know what I mean. Print grew fat and complacent on the easy money of interrupting their offering with ever more commercial garbage. Radio and television followed suit.

    Today, we see “new media” outlets all but gloating at the contraction of “legacy media” due to reduced advertising revenue and take rates, all the while engaging in the very same business model – build an audience, monetize through advertising. It’s thin, fleeting value.

    What I particularly like about this piece is the subtle reminder to diversify. Work the day job and MULTIPLE side hustles. Using myself as an example, the new year will arrive to find me already out of the gate in pursuit of multiple, smaller income streams. 

    + Publishing
    + Community Development
    + Event Organization
    + Professional Development Services
    + My 9-5 Day Job

    When I look at the A-listers (preferably from a distance), I see them developing multiple income streams as a means of diversifying their risks. Advertising, consulting, speaking, publishing – they are constantly tailoring their offerings to a variety of audiences.

    Smart move, imo. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Agreed

  • http://www.wakeupcloud.com/ Henri Junttila

    I started my blog because I loved writing and I loved the topic, and then I asked the question: “Can I make money with this?”

    The answer at the time was hopefully, maybe.

    Now? Definitely yes.

    It’s hard work, but fun. I can’t not do it, which is where you want to be.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Henri. :)

  • http://twitter.com/junhax Paul Junbear

    I believe in creating a product and using the blog as a launchpad. eBooks are gaining much popularity, but the quality of it is slowly decreasing — so really creating something for the audience that helps them in anyway possible is definitely an effective way of creating an avenue of income for the blog.

    Definitely an insightful post and something to consider for us bloggers who are going to live and breathe this craft for the rest of our lives.

    Have a great weekend Jeff

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Paul. I agree — I’ve been discouraged by the abundance of junk out there. I hope I am not adding to the noise.

  • http://twitter.com/thewritershelp Jackie Paulson

    The amazon affiliates does not apply to USA if it does please help me.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Hi Jackie. Yes it does, but not in all states. Where do you live?

  • http://www.mindnod.com Chris

    Jeff, thanks for this. I was beginning to think the whole blogosphere stank of bullshit. I have made a few quid here and there but nothing to shout about.
    Adsense is definitely not the way to go, no one will ever get rich that way unless there names are Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt.
    I’m definitely beginning to see blogging as a way to market myself rather than as a way to make money.

  • http://evenonesparrow.blogspot.com even one sparrow

    “This brings us back to the beginning, back to writing for the love of it and using blogging to supplement your passion.”

    YES.  That’s it.  If anything else comes of it, then that’s a great perk, but writing for the love of it is the whole point, and the reason I started blogging.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      right. me, too.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    If you are blogging to make money you better love writing and be willing to sustain your effort for the long haul otherwise you will soon be just another “former blogger.”

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    Thanks for this perspective. I’m enjoying building my online presence while continuing my regular consulting work. As you say, it takes a lot of work to find your community and convert the relationship into a transactional one. Meantime, I’m finding great pleasure in sharing the value I have. Then, getting a regular response – that’s doesn’t always happen in consulting work.   

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Alan. appreciate what you’re doing!

  • Anonymous

    Blogging has been my quandary. Now I have more to think about.

  • http://www.successfulblogging.com/ Annabel Candy

    Hi Jeff,

    Not sure if I’ve commented here before but I’m always reading:) I’ve been blogging almost three years but only properly (by which I mean with my own domain name) for 18 months at Get In the Hot Spot which is a travel blog.

    Then in March this year I started another blog about…. er…. blogging!

    What I’ve found is that blogging (even when off topic) has helped me win more web design and copywriting business which is great as I’ve been self-employed in that field for 15 years. I live in the sticks so getting business nationwide and internationally which is what blogging has helped me to do is a huge benefit of blogging and why I’ve become passionate about blogging as a marketing tool for writers and small business owners.

    Now I’m experimenting like you with advertising, sponsored blog posts (which I recommend you try if you don’t already) as well as selling my book and a little affiliate marketing.

    It does feel a bit soul-less doing the selling part. I’m happy to write sales copy for other people but hate the word monetization and am not keen to “montetize” my lovely readers. Still, it has to be done. Yes, like you I started blogging for fun and for the love of writing but when you do it well that takes time so it makes sense to make sure you’re paid for your time, energy and passion.

    My biggest tip would be to create several income streams as I do by selling services, advertising, my own product and other peoples. As far as I can tell it’s the only way to make it work and go from cents to dollars.

    We should also bear in mind that this industry is still very new. So while we may be earning relatively little this year and in our blog’s infancy if we fast forward 10 years and keep producing solid content we could be earning relatively lots;)

    Hope to meet over a glass of bubbles when that’s the case:)

    Happy blogging everyone!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, annabel! I think the trick is to not think of it as selling yourself, but selling services/content/products that people need.

  • http://twitter.com/AJonesPUA Anwar Jones

    Thats the toughest hing I have had to think about since I started blogging. I love the niche that I am in, but I’m still new to marketing myself and becoming an influence in the blogging community. 

    Question: Do I have to completely own my domain to have control over my CSS on my wordpress blog?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      you need to be self-hosted, yes.

  • http://www.tillhecomes.org Jeremy Myers

    Great post, Jeff. 

    I am at the point now where I am using my blogging income to pay off my hefty school loan. Now, if I can just keep this up for the next 10 years until the loan is all paid off…. Ha!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      cool!

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  • http://www.i95dev.com Henry Louis

    Hi Jeff! I have totally impressed by reading this post. This post would give some better knowledge about how to make money by blogging. Keep updating.

  • Rorr7223

    I enjoyed your article “Can You Make Money Without Selling Your Soul”. Quick question. Does the blog have to be related to your product?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Um, I guess it depends on your product, but yes, I would imagine so. If you want to sell any, that is. However, one point to make is this: the blog can BE the product. :)

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  • Anonymous

    Great article,

    While I was looking for a way to start making money online, I friend of mine told me that I can start working from home and to make $3,000/mo.I didn’t believe it, but I tried.I couldn’t believe when I saw my first payment …$460 for only one week were into my paypal account.LOL!

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  • http://www.makethemoneyonline.com/ Make The Money Online Dot Com

    Great post. Making money online is definitely the way to go. The opportunities are endless. However starting out can be quite tough. http://www.makethemoneyonline.com has some great content on how to get started

  • http://twitter.com/LaraBrittWrites Lori Sailiata

    Jeff, your approach to things makes me glad I found your “Tribe.” My name is not to be famous or rich, but to have a meaningful life which includes reading, writing and good company. Let’s hope the money will follow. 

  • Tay_freddy

    starting online business a bit patient find a profitable niche after create one page around niche . driving targeted traffic to your …… http://www.im-advantage.com/

  • adam

    Thank you so much for this blog entry… I’m starting a blog right now that talks detailing the struggle between faith and the reality around you. I haven’t posted anything yet because I want 20 “evergreen” posts that I can pick and choose from before I even start with one (if that makes sense). This blog entry really inspired me to keep writing… just for the love of it (but hey, if I could make 20000 a year on top of that, I would be OK, seeing as I do feel like you could put me in the “starving artist” category right now and my wife and I are expecting next month)

  • Karen

    What necessary tools does one need to become a successful writer?  Yes, a creative mind thinking outside the box is nice, but, I am meaning sources to keep you organized. I have pieces of paper with things written on them of many years. So, it’s as simple as a pen or pencil and paper? Let you tell me.

  • http://www.jeremybuzzard.com/ Jeremy Buzzard

    I am a new blogger.  Thank you for writing this post.  I agree with your sentiments on these things.  I hope one day to have enough traffic to merit some monetization.  

  • james

    This is very informative!from now on i will be subscribing your blogs.hope you post more.great article.

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  • cebruce7

    Hi Jeff,

    The webinar is full, but I registered for it.

    Any help?

  • sincerly sifa

    I am starting to think that I should start a blog because I currently do a lot of writing as a grad student and what better way to get my name out there. I thought this article was superb.
    Thanks again!

  • http://searchingforthehappiness.com/ Wendy McCance

    I have had a blog for a year and a half. For almost the entire first year, I wasn’t thinking about making money off of it. I finally got serious about my blog, switched from WordPress dot com to my own domain added an estore, have done product reviews and offer my writing and social media services. It has been a slow climb, but I can see where it could pay off if I stay focused and creative with what I am trying to achieve. Thanks for sharing your experience. It helps people like me want to continue to push ahead.

  • wally

    Blogging should always be centered around something you like and have a passion for..if these 2 things are first, the money follows. Thanks Jeff for this great article! http://www.thesitereview.com

  • Dionne

    The internet is the best business model. It is better than a brick and mortar store because you can reach a worldwide audience. There will be many new billionaires created in the next 20 years from the internet.
    http://www.myonlineincomejourney.com

  • http://www.empowernetwork.com/almostasecret.php?id=dusches tait_marsh

    thanks for sharing a great informative resource with us.Money making is really a tough nut to crack but doing blogging intelligently you can earn well :)

    • http://webmoney.gr8.com/ Harun Rashid

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  • Vince Blair

    Blogging should be something you enjoy. True bloggers write from the soul and have a huge passion about it. Here is another blog Ive found that gives some amazing blogging training (http://www.empowernetwork.com/vinceblair/blog/how-to-make-money-blogging-secret-strategy-inside/)

  • magi

    This is what blogging can do.great article
    i enjoyed god bless you
    http://www.websitetomake.com

  • WiseNation

    Nice post :)

    “The trick is delivering value and only giving your community what they want.” I absolutely agree with you. It is all about giving something of a value to others. If people will enjoy and find what you do useful, they are going to come back to your blog, trust your recommendations, become your fans and make your blog viral.

    Carol Tice from http://www.makealivingwriting.com for example, claims to make a 6 figure income from a small blog with a not-so-high amount of monthly traffic. She is helping others, has loyal readers and provides them with very worthy information. In return she receives a very decent income and ability to inspire other bloggers, just like us.

    I believe that the more value your give to others, the more you can have in return. A lot of people turn to blogging just to make some “ez” $, but they do not understand from where it all comes from. I have a started a blog on my own not so long time ago, and I believe that in future all the hard work and dedication will pay off. Motivation, inspiration, and breaking stereotypes http://www.yynation.com

  • http://www.margottea.be/ Margot

    Thanks for sharing! :) I love to see other people’s take on this subject. I love love love to blog, it’s like the best hobby ever, but blogging is also time-consuming and when you want to take it to the next level good hardware like laptop and pro camera help a lot although they’re not “necessary” but then it’s nice to know that maybe maybe if I work hard I can earn back just the money I spend and maybe a little more without having to promote things I don’t want to promote just to make some money, set up ads that ruin the beautiful look of my blog, .. If I make money from my blog I’d like it to be on my own terms, just like you did, without selling my soul! :)

  • aceclue

    I love blogging, it is an amazing way to earn money in multiple ways. Even if you are a freelancer, blogging can really help with the job. There are lot of ways to monetise a blog.

    The most important thing however, is to focus on building loyal readers and targeted traffic (the one that aids conversion) on the first lunch before you start chasing dollars.
    Thanks for sharing this info

  • Shahzad
  • shan the caliph

    Some nice ideas!

  • @modscribery

    Haven’t heard much about making money blogging without just selling ad space (which I don’t particularly want to do). Thanks for the tips!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome!

  • Jai

    Thanks jeff for sharing for blogging post.. i love blogging..i known some trick for money making but you sharing multiple option for money making from blogging..I got new idea from this post..i should try this idea in own blog..

  • Jonas Thorslund

    http://www.etoror.com a golden nugget

  • http://www.blogwitharianne.com/ Arianne Cregar
  • Jimmy

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  • http://worldstartopvotes.blogspot.com/ Henry Rutherford Hill

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  • waqas

    Hello Jeff you are right. This is difficult to make a living with on line income. you need to work very hard with patience. http://www.tasteblogging.blogspot.com

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  • http://www.blogmat.net/ Mohammed Saimon

    Very nice post. For making money from blogging a blogger has to work very hard and he has to be enough patient.

    Thank you

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  • Alexandra

    I would like to know how to make money from blogging anonymously. My blog will be about a very sensitive subject and I do not want to be identified for the sake of my young children. It is a subject I am very experienced in and feel passionate about. I am not really computer savvy and concerned that my identity could be discovered.

  • http://www.foreveraffiliateinfo.com Mathew James

    Thanks for a well written article. I have been blogging for a while now and really enjoy it. The most important part of blogging to me is to find a niche that you are really interested in, write great posts and then enjoy the benefits of monetizing. To me this is a better approach than choosing a niche because you think it will be profitable.

  • http://xperteria.com Hamza Ghani

    Amazing post Jeff!! love it :)

  • Eric

    Thanks Jeff good information and good tips will try to apply them on my blog http://www.end9to5grind.blogspot.com

  • Sohaila Rahimi

    Great article. How come you don’t have any ads here, it seem like you have a lots of viewers and how do you get to the first page. I am a blogger and I’ve got a great fan page, please tell me, ty.

  • FrugalSoldier

    Wonderful article. I believe that if you are blogging about something you are passionate about then it will show through your work and you will gain a following. Ultimately, if you take the time to learn how to monetize your blog you can and will earn money.

  • http://www.tiagoprofits.com Tiago S.

    Fantastic article Jeff and very realistic! In my opinion the main problems I see with many bloggers are 2:

    1. Not having a plan

    2. Not using the right tools to improve their blog performance

    Simple things like the WordPress plugin “Pretty Links” can make all the difference between an amateur blog and a professional one.

    In our blog we show you the best free plugins you can use to upgrade your blog speed/usability/performance, etc: http://www.tiagoprofits.com/13-best-free-wordpress-plugins

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  • http://www.mybimfuture.com Leslie Fritz

    Good stuff! thanks for sharing. I am new to the blog world and it is great seeing what others are doing.http://www.leslieafritz.com

  • Kristian

    That was a very interesting read. I started about 3 months ago as a hobby and it is very hard work, which explains why I am still up past midnight typing this now! The problem with the the “system gurus” and their false promises of instant riches is that it makes people think that it is all a big scam and it is impossible to make legitimate money as an amateur blogger. Making a little money is not that hard, but scaling up to make a full-time living is very difficult. I don’t know if it is possible for me, but I will have fun trying. http://kidsafetyfirst.com http://howtolearnios.com

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    Jeff, your article makes sense and is a balanced approach. Finding the time while working is my biggest challenge, but I’m going to keep on, and checking in with advice from integrity bloggers like yourself. Thanks

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      Excellent Mark!

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