Whether you're new on the journey to Financial Independence or you've been traveling the path for years, you likely know that one of the staples of FI is establishing a side hustle. A good one brings in extra income that you can save in order to reach your money goals earlier. It can also bulk up your emergency fund.
A blog is one of the more promising money-making side hustles you can have. However, it has to be done correctly from the beginning in order to set you up to build one that lasts and makes money. If you take the easy way and go for a quick and free website, you could be creating something that only brings headaches down the road as your site grows.
Here is your complete step-by-step guide on how to start a blog. It's everything you need to do to give you the biggest chance at success. If you follow the steps laid out below, you'll have a much greater chance of creating something that you can be proud of, that has staying power, and that makes you money.
Before you go through this guide, it's essential to remember not to get hung up on any part of it. It's detailed because we want you to have all of the information that you need in order to make your blog the best that it can be. However, don't get so stuck in one area that you never get it launched. The most important thing is to get your blog out there and get some content on it. You can fix the things behind the scenes later, but you can't start to make money if you don't have a live blog!
Table Of Contents
- Determine Your Niche
- Outline Your Blog
- Understand The Cost Of Your Blog
- Set Up Your Blog
- Design Your Blog
- Write Polished Posts
- Optimize Your SEO And Keywords
- Enhance Your Blog
- Market Your Blog
- Monetize Your Blog
- Understand The Business Of Blogging
- Breakdown Of Your Setup And First-Year Expenses
- Final Thoughts
Determine Your Niche
The very first thing you need to do when you want to start a blog is to determine your niche. A niche is the specialty area on which your blog will focus.
How To Pick Your Niche
You should focus on two things when deciding on your niche. First, choose something you are extremely interested in. Pick the thing you friends and neighbors come to you for advice for–the thing you seem to have more interest in than everyone else. Doing this will ensure that it holds your interest and keeps you invested in your blog. If you love to bake, share your favorite recipes paired with photos on your blog. Maybe you've had a great experience homeschooling and want to start a blog to share resources and ideas.
The smaller the niche the better. You want be known for something. People want to know what to expect from your blog. Your readers, Google, and advertisers want to know exactly what to expect from your site. You will have an easier time getting traffic from Google, pleasing your reader, and getting advertisers if you are super clear on your topic.
Going too broad is a common mistake new bloggers make. A blog about everything is really a blog about nothing.
Determine The Audience For Your Niche
You can determine your target audience by asking yourself who you're writing the blog for and who will be reading your content. Your blog won't make money if no one sees it, so make sure you're writing content that reaches a wide array of readers. Once you know who your readers are, you can tailor your content to meet their needs.
Analyze Current Blogs With The Same Niche
Your next step is to analyze the current content that's out there already. You're probably not the first person to start a blog in your niche, so check out what your likely competitors are doing. Look for the most popular blogs in your chosen topic. What are they writing about? Read their comment sections. Which posts get the most feedback?
You do this for four reasons, all relating to setting yourself up for success.
- It will help you understand what people who are already reading blogs in your niche are interested in learning about. That gives you a great place to start when you begin to write your own content.
- See what else is out there and begin to separate yourself from your competitors. You want to combine the best elements from blogs you like and eliminate all the things you don't think work on your competitors' sites.
- Make sure that your niche is a viable source of income. If you don't find any big sites in your niche, this likely means that this particular niche doesn't have much potential for making money. You may want to reconsider your niche choice.
- Take note of the companies the big blogs are promoting. Those companies are likely potential sponsors or affiliates of your blog.
Outline Your Blog
Now that you have your audience and niche, it's time to outline your concept and decide on the details. Your blog will get off to a better start if you have everything organized before you set it up.
Purpose Of Your Blog
What is the point of your blog? Is it to share tips? Inform about the latest research on a subject? Showcase images? Sell items? Decide what your purpose is and create a short statement for yourself that highlights what your purpose is. When you write posts, look back at the purpose and make sure that everything you write relates back to the purpose. This will keep you–and your blog–on track.
Title Of Your Blog
The title is extremely important and you need to choose wisely. Once your name goes public and you start to build followers, it will be next to impossible to change it without losing readers and, potentially, sponsors, and ads. Keep in mind your niche, purpose, and audience when choosing your blog name.
Here are the top three things to consider when choosing your blog's name.
- Choose a .com address. There are lots of different domain extensions. It might be tempting to choose one other than .com because they're less expensive and more names are available through them. Resist the temptation. Up to 75% of all websites use .com as their extension. It's the first one users will type in when trying to find you online. The extra money is worth it if more people find your site.
- Make it unique. The internet is a crowded place. Think long and hard about a name that will stand out, but also speaks to you, your brand, and the info you'll share on your blog.
- Avoid hyphens and characters. Let's say you want to start a site about cupcakes and you call it the-best-cupcakes.com. The likelihood that anyone hearing you talk about your blog will remember to put in the hyphens is very slim, and if they have to search “the best cupcakes,” it might take a long time to get to your site. The same is true of numbers. If your blog is number1cupcakes.com, it's impossible to know by hearing the name whether you're spelling out the number or using the numeral. Stick to simple.
Click here for more tips on choosing the best title for your blog.
Lay Out Menu Topics
A typical site design has about six spots for different menus at the top of your site. You know your niche; what are the main breakout categories you're going to focus on?
Don't forget to make one of your menus “About Me” and another “Contact Me” or something similar. You want to make it very easy for your followers (or people who might want to put ads on your blog) to be able to reach you.
Ideas List For Posts
One of the most frustrating things as a blogger is to not have enough content for your blog. The best bloggers add to their blogs on a regular basis. The last thing you want to do is start to build momentum with your blog and then go days or weeks without posting because you don't know what to write about.
Sit down and make a big list of ideas for posts before you get your blog set up so you'll never run out of things to write about. Here's a list of 43 things to do when you don't know what to write about.
Understand The Cost Of Your Blog
After you have outlined your blog but before you start to build it, you want to finish your due diligence by mapping out how much a blog will cost you. This is a business venture after all, and business ventures cost money to set up and maintain.
Can You Blog For Free?
The short answer is yes, you can–but it's not recommended if you want to make money from your site.
There are lots of very good blog-building sites that allow you to start your blog for free. They include Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. These sites make it super easy to start your blog by letting you choose between several pre-set themes, giving you a pre-designed format, and basically just allowing you to insert your content and publish your blog.
There are times when free blogging is great, like when you are sharing updates on your life with family and friends. However, if you want to monetize your blog and use it as a side hustle, we urge you to rethink the free route. There are limitations to their functionality. The ease of setting up may soon be overshadowed by the struggle you'll have to get your blog to look the way you want and do what you want.
One other quick point to mention is that obtaining a website from one of these sites often means that your URL will have their name as part of your website address. So for example, if ChooseFI was hosted by Wix, our URL would be choosefi.wixsite.com. It's less clean and looks a little less professional. No significant business on the web has anything in the URL other than the domain name and the extension.
Cost For Your Blog
There is a wide range of costs to build a blog and keep it running. You can check out the complete breakdown of costs at the end of this guide after we walk you through what each cost is and why you need it. But so you can understand the cost upfront, we want to share with you what our recommendations cost.
If you follow our steps, it will cost you about $1,010 in the first year. About $658 of that is composed of one-time fees. The remaining $352 will be recurring charges for upkeep and programming. This total cost would be for basic services. If you want to go premium on some of the things we're going to mention, you'll pay more per year.
While there are certain things you must do upfront and other things that can wait until your blog is more established, we recommend setting it up fully from the beginning. This is a business venture. You should be prepared for your blog to make money. You know the saying: You get what you pay for. If you don't pay anything, it might backfire.
However, if you take the time and budget the cost from the beginning, it will save you tons of time and frustration down the road. It may also help you keep followers that would lose interest if you have to do a major remodel to your blog that kept it down for a while.
Set Up Your Blog
Now that you've done your homework and due diligence, it's time to get started building your blog! You need to have five things in place in order to get your website functional on the web and ready for you to start inputting content: domain name, hosting, content management system, theme, and security.
Let's define these terms real quick:
- Domain name–this is your .com
- Hosting–this is the company that holds the files for your website.
- Content management system–this is the “backend” of your site. Typically, WordPress.
- Theme–the customizable premade design of your site
- Security–keeps your site safe from hackers and keeps a backup of your site
This is the URL for your website. We already talked about why it's important and how to choose it. Now you need to know how to register that choice.
There are two different ways to secure a domain name for your blog. One common way is to buy your domain when you set up your hosting. When you do this you will have your domain and hosting with the same company. This is convenient but not recommended for a few reasons.
One, if you ever want to change hosting companies, which you may want to do as your site grows, it can be difficult to leave. Transferring a domain from one company to another is a pain. If you have them at separate companies you can move your files from one host to another and then just point your domain to the new host.
Also, if someone hacks your site they will have access to your domain and could actually steal the whole site.
The other way to do this is to buy your domain from a site domain registrar, like NameCheap, then point your domain to the company that is hosting your site. You just enter the domain name you think you want, and then you'll be told if it's available and how much it costs per year for you to own it.
The hosting provider stores all of the info for your blog, both the behind-the-scenes coding and the visible content and images. It's critical that your hosting provider be stable and secure so that your site is always functioning.
|Free Domain Name||For one year (renewable @ $17.99/year after)||No ($15.95/year)|
|Free WordPress Installation||Yes||Yes|
|Free Email Address||No - must subscribe to MS Office 365 and then can get one tied to domain name||Yes|
|Free WordPress Themes||Yes||Yes|
|Web Space (basic plans)||50 GB||10 GB|
|Free SSL Certificate||Yes||Yes|
|100% Renewable Energy Match||No||Yes|
|Price (basic plan)||1st Year: $59.40 ($4.95/month + free domain)|
After First Year: $113.87 ($7.99/month + $17.99 annual domain renewal fee)
|1st Year: $124.49 ($.33/month for first three months; $11.95/month after that + $15.95 domain)|
After First Year: $159.35 ($11.95/month + $15.95 annual domain renewal fee)
We recommend SiteGround. While it's a little more money overall, there are several reasons that the money worth it. First is the free email that has the same extension as your website. It presents a professional appearance to have your email address match your domain. For example, [email protected]
The second is reliability. In tests run by tech sites, SiteGround has proved much more reliable and consistent than Bluehost. SiteGround also provides a quicker speed for loading your blog, which is critical in today's world.
SiteGround is also now hosted on the Google cloud which ensures stability. That's also where the 100% renewable energy match comes in. Per a pledge that Google made several years ago, they are committed to buying enough solar and wind electricity to cover the electricity that they consume as part of their business. Good for the environment, good for you.
Quick note: It's worth mentioning that many of the domain name sellers have branched out into hosting too. We don't recommend these as the best hosting provider option because they aren't as established as the two we've highlighted. We know that Bluehost and SiteGround are proven to be reliable and secure, and they provide you with all of the services you need to keep your blog up and running with very little input from you. The fewer things you have to worry about, the better.
Plus, we've already told you that Bluehost and Siteground play well with WordPress. What's WordPress? Read on…
Content Management System
WordPress is a content management system that helps you keep your content organized and looking good. When the internet was new, you used to have to create code to get a website to look the way you wanted. WordPress has done all the coding for you. You simply install WordPress on your site (you will do this with your host when you set up your hosting package), pick your theme, and start inputting your content. You can personalize many of themes to incorporate specific colors, fonts, layouts, and images.
The best part? WordPress is completely free to install and use! There are optional add-ons that will cost you money, but the basic WordPress, which is all you need while starting your blog, is totally free. More than 35% of the websites online today use WordPress as their content management system. If it's good enough for the Rolling Stones, Microsoft, and more than a third of other websites online, it's good enough for your blog.
A great thing about so much of internet being on WordPress is that everything is compatible with it, and there is tons of help out there if you run into a problem.
The only downside to WordPress is that you might find the number of themes and options overwhelming. That's where GeneratePress comes in.
GeneratePress is a lightweight theme that is designed to be easy to use and quick to load. That last fact is important: 40% of consumers won't wait longer than three seconds for a page to load. Three seconds. You need a theme that won't weigh your blog down while still giving it a high-quality look.
GeneratePress also keeps your blog looking good across devices, meaning it will look good on a phone, a tablet, and a computer. You can customize the basic look to incorporate your chosen colors, fonts, and layout.
GeneratePress has a free version and a paid version. Most website builders agree that the free version is okay, but the premium version is great. The premium version comes with 14 more add-ons and a lot more customization options. You also get a year of updates and free support.
If you are just starting out, we recommend the free version. It will do what you need it to do for your initial setup and launch. However, consider putting $49.95 in your blog budget for the future, which will cover the cost of the premium service for a year. As your blog gets bigger and you find you need to customize it more and more, the $49.95 will be money well spent.
Cloudflare provides an additional layer of security for your blog while also helping to speed up page-loading times. While your website hosting package already comes with a good layer of security, it's important to have more. The last thing you want to happen is to spend all of your time building your blog and the accompanying business and have it hacked.
They accomplish a faster page-loading time by setting up multiple data centers that help people have better access points to your website. The more ways they can get in, the less likely it is that the site crashes.
As with GeneratePress, Cloudflare has a free version that will likely meet your blog's initial needs. However, as soon as your blog starts to grow and you start to make money, you're going to want to bump up your Cloudflare to the Pro version. It will cost $20/month, but that's a small price to pay for the knowledge that your website is safe.
Design Your Blog
You've made your blog functional. Now let's give it personality.
Note: The design is the place where most people who are building their blog get stuck. We want to stress again to not let this happen to you. These decisions are important, but if it takes you more than a few days to get the design looking the way you want it, you should ask someone for help to make those choices. Don't get mired down. As you'll see, the design is really important, but your blog needs to see the light of day in order to become profitable.
Branding Your Blog
Your logo, the colors you choose for your blog, the font, the background, the images–all of them communicate messages about your blog and your business. They convey your personality through the screen. And while we like to say that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, the reality is that people are judging you based on your blog.
The goal is to give your blog a unique and distinctive look that relates to your niche so that your followers will recognize it every time they land on your page. So how do you do that? Brand your blog right away using these steps.
- Choose a color palette that is complementary to your content. Make it appropriate for your niche. For example, if you're writing a blog about kids' toys, you should use bright colors. If you're writing a blog on meditation, you may want to stick with soft pastels.
- Create a logo that you use on each page. If you have a graphic design background and can do it yourself, go for it. If you need help with this, try Fiverr or 99 Designs to hire a graphic designer to do one for you.
- Find a layout you like and stick with it. You want your readers to know how find your content easily on your blog. If you keep changing it around, you might lose readers.
- Pick a font and use it for every post. Again, you want consistency throughout your blog. Generally, sans serif fonts read better but choose one that you like that seems to fit the style of your blog.
Learn How To Find And Manipulate Images
Images and graphics are a key part of your blog. People expect pictures. Most of us scroll right past social media posts with no images and click through posts with no pictures. You need to have graphics as part of your blog.
Unless you are an experienced photographer who can take your pictures, you'll need to find them elsewhere. If you want a specific graphic, you can always go back to Fiverr or 99 Designs again. There are also a lot of free picture sites online: Pixabay, Unsplash, and Pexels are three of them.
If you want to play with the images you find by adding text or manipulating the color, we recommend Canva. It's free to use and can help you not only with the tasks we just mentioned, but it can also help you size your finished images appropriately so that they are ready for use in different places online. For instance, an image for social media should be sized differently than one used on your blog or in a logo.
Write Polished Posts
When you have the idea, the investment, the setup, and the SEO done, it's time to write your content.
Why Good Content Is Important
We feel like this should be obvious, but since there is so much bad blog content out there, let's deal with it.
You have to produce content that will engage your readers and keep them coming back. If you don't and you have no traffic to your blog, you can't monetize it and make it profitable. Since that's the end goal, you should make sure you write posts that are relevant, give action steps or advice, and are geared directly to your readers' concerns. We've all seen bad blogs, but we usually don't visit those more than once. The content has to be great.
Help From Hit Publish
Most people who start a blog don't have a background in writing or journalism. If this is you, raise your hand. Now lower that hand to keyboard and click on this link to Hit Publish so you can learn how to write the best and most engaging content.
Hit Publish was created by the managing editor here at ChooseFI. She created this course for bloggers who need to know how to write captivating content that will capture readers and keep them coming back for more. It's a ten-lesson course that teaches you very valuable information:
- Why niching down makes writing easier and improves user experience
- How to use your personal story effectively
- How you can use Google to improve your content
- The five things you need to do BEFORE you start writing
You don't have very many chances in blogging to get it right before readers turn away. Taking the Hit Publish course will help you get it right from the beginning so your readers are getting quality work. Hit Publish stands out from the competition because it offers a writer much more content for a lower price than other courses.
The course cost starts at a one-time fee of $199 for lifetime access to all course modules and six months of access to the course's Facebook group. (There's a small monthly fee after that to continue in the group.) Upgrade all the way to premium access for lifetime membership in the Facebook group and one-on-one coaching with the course creator.
Finishing Touches With Grammarly
Hit Publish will teach you how to write it. Grammarly will make sure you punctuate it correctly. If you've ever seen a blog post where the author means “you're” but writes “your” or got the punctuation completely wrong, you know that it's a turnoff. Grammarly is installed on your computer and it will proofread your posts as you write them, highlighting any errors you make.
As you can see from the graphic above, it works on most of the platforms on your computer. Using Grammarly will ensure that not only are your blog posts spelled and punctuated correctly but so are any documents you create or social media posts that you make.
Grammarly offers a free version so you can give it a try. Once you realize how valuable it is, you'll want to subscribe so that you can upgrade to much more grammar help. Grammarly Premium is $11.66/month, billed as a one-time annual payment of $139.95. For writers who want to give great polish to their work, Grammarly is a must-have.
Optimize Your SEO And Keywords
In order to get your blog to show up on in search results, you'll need to optimize your SEO and put keywords to work.
What Is SEO?
SEO is an acronym that stands for search engine optimization.
SEO (search engine optimization) means using various tools and strategies to help your site place higher in search engine rankings like Google or Bing.
Here's how it works. The more authority and relevance your site is deemed to have by these search engines, the higher you'll rank. The higher you rank, the more likely you are that someone will click on your content and find your page. The more page views and visitors you have, the more likely you are to be able to get sponsors or paid ads on your blog.
So you can see that monetization can be helped or heeded by your SEO abilities. You can do things to encourage Google to rank you higher. More on that after we define keywords.
What Are Keywords?
Like SEO, the word “keywords” has been tossed around a lot in the blogging world. Let's define it for you.
A keyword is any search term (it can be one word or a phrase) entered into a search engine that produces a results page where websites corresponding to that work or phrase are listed.
Knowing what people are searching for in your niche and how many times they're searching for it will give you a good start on writing your content. You want to write pieces that use frequently searched keywords. That gives you a better chance of getting a higher ranking in search engines.
There are qualities like search volume, competition, and word count that make a keyword more or less valuable to a search engine. The more qualities a keyword has, the higher value it has and the more impact it has on your blog when you use it.
Tools To Help With SEO And Keywords
This all may sound very techy and confusing. The good news is that you don't need to hire an IT person to optimize your SEO and make sure you're using the best keywords. You just need to have the right tools in place and then use them correctly. There are lots of marketing toolkits online that can help you with your SEO and keyword usage. We've highlighted three for you: SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz.
They have similar basic offerings. All three give you SEO research, content analysis, keyword research, track rankings, and backlink analysis. All three are even priced virtually identically. Each is about $99/month for their most basic plan if paid monthly, and each gives you a discount of around 20% if you pay annually instead of monthly.
There are some differences between them. For instance, SEMrush and Ahrefs give better keyword research results, while Moz gives a better technical audit of your site. If you want a more in-depth analysis, we invite you to read this report on all three marketing toolkits. It goes into great detail with each feature and explains which marketing toolkit works best in different scenarios so you can choose which one is right for you.
The bottom line? Because they all have very similar features with very similar prices, we honestly think any of them would work for your basic SEO and keyword needs. SEMrush has a free seven-day trial period and Moz gives you a full 30 days for free. Ahrefs still charges during its trial period, but it's only $7 for seven days. If you're serious about getting really good SEO and keyword help, give each one of them a try and see what works best for you. After the trial period, they're all $99/month.
Hit Publish will show you how to find the right keywords for your posts and how to use them in your content.
Enhance Your Blog
If you want your blog to grow beyond a basic readership, you'll need to become an effective marketer. You'll also need to know which mediums are best to add to your blog so that you can reach more people.
Should You Have A YouTube Channel?
A YouTube channel is a space where you organize all of your videos, link to your online content, and give viewers some basic biographical information about yourself. Sounds simple and maybe even a little fun, right? Let's discuss the pros and cons of adding a YouTube channel to your blog.
Pros Of Having A YouTube Channel
- It doesn't cost anything. It's free to set up a YouTube channel and it's free to add content to it. It will likely cost you money eventually (see the first “con” below), but it won't cost you anything to get started.
- You can give video tutorials. Let's say, for example, that your blog is about baking. If you try to use a podcast to go through the recipe in a podcast, list the steps, and then try to describe the finished product, you're never going to have the same impact as you will when your followers can see the finished product for themselves. A video lesson can give you a lot better results.
- Easy to share on social media. “Going viral” can go a long way towards getting you followers, sending visitors to your blog, and building your overall brand. While you can't force something to go viral, you can help the odds by making it easier for your viewers to share your content. YouTube provides links to its videos and gives you ways to allow others to embed your videos on their sites or in their social media so lots of people can access your content with just one click.
- Really unique stories can be told. There's a reason television replaced radio. It's very compelling to be able to both see people and hear their stories. It's intriguing to visually watch someone create content or handle issues. Having videos that tie into the content on your blog can engage your followers on a totally different level than just a blog can.
Cons Of Having A YouTube Channel
- It can get expensive. But wait–we just said it was free, right? It is free to start a channel. However, it's not going to be free to produce consistent, high-quality content. The bigger YouTube channels you see where everything looks polished have lights and microphones and expensive video equipment. They make it look easy, but in reality, a lot of them have help producing the videos as well as the setups.
- You could be drawing your viewers' attention to your competition's videos. While your video is playing on YouTube, the site also highlights a lot of similar videos on the side of the screen. If you're doing a makeup tutorial, for example, there will be seven or eight other makeup tutorials screenshotted and linked that are next to your video. That makes it easy for your viewers to get distracted away from your content and into someone else's, especially if it's clear that the other person's video content HAs a better production value.
- It's hard to stand out. It takes time to gain traction and viewers. About 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. How are you going to stand out? How are you going to get people to consistently come back to you rather than the hundreds of other people who already have similar videos posted? Having a YouTube channel doesn't guarantee overnight success of your brand.
If you have the time to make it work, a YouTube channel can be a great point of connection between you and your followers, and it can engage them on an entirely different level.
Should You Have A Podcast?
Podcasts are currently all the rage. It seems like everyone has one–but is it worth the time and effort for you to do one to complement your blog?
First, what is a podcast? It's an audio program on a specific topic that can be accessed whenever a potential listener would like and listened to on a variety of devices. Just like with having a YouTube channel, there are both pros and cons to having your own podcast.
Pros Of Having A Podcast
- Build community. Brad and Jonathan started ChooseFI as a podcast back in 2017. Since then, it has not only become a very successful podcast with over 200 shows but also spun off into an active community in the real world. The ChooseFI Facebook group has more than 65,000 members. That one big group has dozens of smaller city-group spin-offs. The people in the spin-off city groups have occasionally gathered together to socialize and share tips for becoming FI in their respective cities. An in-person community has sprung from a podcast, and both have created a bigger following for the blog.
- Accessibility. As we mentioned, a podcast can be accessed any time a listener wants on almost any device (with internet access) that a listener has. That makes it easy to get your message out. If a listener subscribes to your channel, they will also be notified every time you upload a new podcast.
- Works with multi-tasking. Both a blog and a YouTube video require a user to read something, which takes all of their attention. A podcast, however, can be listened to while people are doing housework, driving, exercising, etc. giving you more of an opportunity to reach people.
- Easily incorporate guests. Unlike with a blog, which requires you to do a sit-down interview and then write about that, or a YouTube video, which requires all participants to look camera-ready and often be in the same space (though not always), a podcast makes it easy to incorporate guest. They can call in to your podcast and participate whenever it works for both of you. It doesn't matter where they're located or if they look great. You talk with them for as long as you want, make the edits on your end, and then post. It's easy on both the guest and you as the host.
Cons of Having A Podcast
- Inability to interact immediately. A visitor to your blog can ask comments and you can reply. Someone watching your YouTube video can do the same There really isn't a way to interact with a podcast in a similar fashion.
- Accessibility. We know we listed this as a pro too, so hear us out. Not all podcasts work on all formats, so you have to do your due diligence and make sure that you're able to reach the most people with the format you choose. Even then you may inadvertently be leaving some people out of being able to hear your podcast.
- Time. Whereas a blog entry is fairly straightforward to produce once it's set up, a podcast requires editing and formatting. This requires more time and effort to “publish” a podcast when compared to a blog post.
If you decide that podcasting might be the right way to enhance your blog, here is a comprehensive article on how to start your own podcast.
If you push to do both a YouTube channel and a podcast in addition to your blog, you will likely find yourself stretched too thin. However, becoming well-rounded and utilizing multiple mediums that best fit your niche can add value to your blog and bring in lots of new visitors.
We recommend you make sure your blog is up and running with good content on it and good content planned for the near future. Then take a look at our reasons why you should have a YouTube channel or a podcast. Assess which one would best fits your content and your niche. When you've made your choice, take the necessary steps to start the one that will work for you and get going.
Market Your Blog
As we've said a couple of times in this article, your blog will never become a business that makes a profit unless you have readers. In order to attract readers, you'll need to do some marketing. We're giving you four different types of marketing here. You can choose the one (or more) that you think will work best with your blog.
One of the easiest ways to get people coming back to your blog is to get them subscribed to an email list. Once they're on your list, you send them regular emails with links to things that are back on your site.
We're highlighting two email marketing services here: MailChimp and ConvertKit. We picked them because they're two of the most popular email marketing services online today and they offer everything you need in an email service, especially as you're starting out. Here's how they compare.
- Free plans. Both offer free basic plans. MailChimp gives you up to 2,000 contacts in their plan and ConvertKit gives you 500.
- Free templates. MailChimp offers some basic templates for different things, whereas ConvertKit offers more than 30 premium landing pages.
- A/B testing. This service is offered by ConvertKit but not by MailChimp. A/B testing is where an email marketing service does a test before sending out an email to the majority of your email list. They send out the same email to a randomly selected 30% of your email list. Half of those get an email with one subject line, and the other half gets one with a different subject line. After four hours, the system analyzes the data to see which subject gets the most opens and then sends that out to the remaining 70% of your list. It's a great way to give yourself the best shot of the most opens per email.
- Segmentation features. These are things like filters that allow you to send emails to certain portions of your list and not others. ConvertKit includes these in the free package. MailChimp has segmentation features for an additional fee.
- Email design. MailChimp's drag-and-drop email design is much more user-friendly and allows you to create an email that looks professional and is really tailored to how you want it to look. ConvertKit's is a little more basic and doesn't allow quite as much manipulation of their basic templates.
- Automations. This piece is huge. In order for your blog to eventually make you money, you need a solid and effective onboarding process for getting those subscribers connected to your blog. ConvertKit is more advanced than MailChimp when it comes to new subscriber onboarding, nurture or drip campaigns, behavior-based or choose your own adventure paths. However, ConvertKit's free plan doesn't come with these automations. The cheapest ConvertKit plan with automations is $29 per month.
We recommend ConvertKit. Even at the free level, it does more for you than MailChimp does and sets you up better for success in an email marketing campaign. Then, when you are ready you can spend the extra for packet with the Automations. If people who follow your blog can't easily subscribe to it, you're going to have a difficult time getting your blog to make money. ConvertKit really sets you up to succeed.
If you are the kind that wants to poll your readers to get their feedback on what's most appealing about your blog, put SurveyMonkey on your radar. You can ask your readers questions about what they like and don't like about your blog (or anything else). Then you can use that information to make changes to your promotional strategies and even the type of content you produce.
A SurveyMonkey basic account is free. That account allows you to send out an unlimited number of ten-question surveys. While you can collect as many responses from that as you want, you'll need to upgrade to a different plan if you want to see more than 40 as that's all the basic plan will allow. Remember, there are no contracts so you can always upgrade for a month and then cancel your subscription if you only need to view your survey responses for a short time.
Sometimes the best way to pull in readers to your blog is by referrals. Referral marketing where you promote your blog through word of mouth–or in this case, through words from the computer. ReferralHero has designed their whole business around helping you build yours through things like giveaways and ambassador programs and pre-launch waiting lists for courses that you offer. They work to entice readers to come to your site and bring others with them.
The basic package from ReferralHero is $49 a month, so it's not cheap. While this is a great way to launch a new product or service that you're offering, it's likely too pricey for most bloggers who are just starting out. We recommend that you file this information away and use it when you need referrals for new offerings on your blog.
If Facebook is your preferred social media platform, there is a great course on how to expand your audience called Facebook Ads for Bloggers.
In 12 modules and a big bonus section, Bobby Hoyt and Mike Yanda, the creators of the course, teach you from start to finish how to use Facebook to grow your audience, and when you're ready, use that to scale your affiliate and course offerings.
You'll learn best practices in things like creating your ads, how to troubleshoot them, and how to land your first client.
While Hoyt has designed the course to be for people who are looking to get into marketing on Facebook as a full-time job or part-time side hustle, all of the strategies that he talks about apply to how you market your personal blog. The cost of the course is $397, which is lower than a lot of other FB marketing courses.
Pinterest And Instagram Marketing
Social media is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to attract new readers to your blog. The only question is, which social media sites do you target and how do you market to them? That's where Blogging for Profit comes in.
In their 16-module course (plus bonuses), they teach you all different kinds of things, but we love the later modules that dig into Pinterest and Instagram and how those forms of social media can really bring people to your site when they're used effectively. They also talk about other helpful things, like how to plan out your content and how to secure paid advertising to bring in more money.
The Blogging for Profit course is $247 and we recommend it as a fantastic investment in your business. Many other blogging courses are a lot more money for a lot less content. You can join their waiting list now!
Obviously, if you did all of these, it would cost you a lot of money. We recommend that you think about your potential reader. Which email service will allow you to create messages that keep them coming back to your blog? Which social media platform do they spend the most time on? What is the most effective channel to reach them? When you answer those questions, you'll know where to invest your money.
Monetize Your Blog
This is the part where you learn how to really make money with your blog. Until this point, you've been actively setting it up and preparing it to make money for you. Now's the time to put it to work.
There are lots of different ways that your blog can make you money on a regular basis. We have highlighted five of the biggest ones below. The great thing about each of them is that each one, with the exception of subscription services, is largely a passive income stream. That means that once you do the initial work to set something up, you do little to no work to collect the money. Your readers are simply clicking on something and you're receiving a portion of the sales from whatever they're clicking.
At first, you're offering your readers your content for free. But as you gain followers, a great way to make money is to offer them exclusive members-only content for a monthly subscription fee.
Patreon allows you to set up a database of people who have paid to subscribe to exclusive content. If your blog is on baking, it might be a special recipe and video of how-to tips. If you blog about finance, it might be an in-depth look at different savings accounts and which makes is the best for you. You get the idea.
You decide how much to charge your members for this content. Do your research on other bloggers who might offer a similar subscription and see how much they charge. It's important not to overvalue yourself or undervalue yourself, so pricing is key. The profits add up quickly. If one person pays $10/month to subscribe to your content, that's $120/year. But if you have 20 subscribers, now you're at $200/month or $2,400/ year.
If you're especially ambitious, you can set up a tiered subscription system like this, which gives several levels of subscription option and offers different content at each level.
Patreon charges a small percentage of your sales each month for their service. For their most basic account, they'll charge 5% of what you make in a month using their services.
It's important to remember that you still need to put out general info on your blog even while offering subscriptions. This will help to entice new people to subscribe and give them a teaser on what they're missing by not paying for the exclusive content.
Set Up A Store
You can make a lot of money by selling things online. While those things can be actual physical products, they can also be things like downloadable or printables that require no physical mailing on your part.
Etsy is an online marketplace with a handmade items and vintage finds. They have everything from crafts and jewelry to furniture and tools. There's also a whole market for downloadables, which are PDFs that you put up for sale on Etsy and when people click to buy them, they're sent a link to download your PDF. If you have a blog on budgeting, a sample budget and a blank budget might be items that you could sell as downloadables.
We could spend whole posts teaching you about how to sell on Etsy, but we're going to leave that to experts. The same people that brought you the course on Blogging for Profit have a companion course called E-Printables Side Hustle. The course is entirely about creating those downloadables that we mentioned–how to make, them, market them, set up your Etsy shop, and streamline it for success.
Etsy charges fees for listing things for sale on their site. As of the publication of this article, it's a $.20 listing fee (one-time), 5% transaction fee, and a 3% + $.25 payment processing fee. So if your item costs $10, the first time you'll get $8.75 profit and Etsy will take $1.25. After that, each purchase will net you $8.95 while Etsy gets $1.05.
We've focused on Etsy as an example here, mainly because they're a very well known place to sell online. However, there are other e-commerce sites that can also be a place to set up your store. They include Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, and WooCommerce among others.
Affiliate marketing is when you earn a small commission for sales made that originated at your blog.
For example, let's say you have an affiliate marketing relationship with Amazon, have a blog about dogs and you really love a particular leash. You promote that leash on your blog and use a special link that your reader can click on to buy it. That link has come from Amazon and when your reader clicks on that link to purchase the item, Amazon sees that the buyer came from your site and they give you a small commission from the sale. Easy, right?
Fundamentally yes, but there are lots of rules that surround affiliate marketing. Like just about everything else on our monetizing list, there are people who are already experts in this and we want to direct you to those people so you're getting sound advice and great guidance to do everything correctly from the start.
Making Sense Of Affiliate Marketing is a course that will teach you everything you need to know about how to harness the power of affiliate marketing and make some good money.
This course is $197. We found similar courses for hundreds of dollars more. This one will save you money and teach you what you need to know.
Ads And Sponsorship
Ads are exactly that–companies place ads on your site and you get money when someone purchases the product or service that's marketed in the ad. Google Adsense is the most popular way to put ads on your site and get paid for them. WordPress has put out a great article on how beginners can get started using Google Adsense on your WordPress site. We recommend you start there to learn how you can monetize with ads.
Sponsorships are like ads, except with a more formal relationship. They agree to pay you money in exchange for you promoting them, their product, or their service on your blog. A sponsor may pay to be mentioned on your blog in general, just in certain topics, or even just in one specific post. You need to decide on pricing and how much you'll charge for people to sponsor all or part of your blog. This article on how to get sponsors for your blog will tell you everything you need to know, including six key tips to securing sponsors.
Create An Online Course
If you've noticed, we've referenced a lot of online courses in this guide. These are people that we have vetted that we think can add great value to your blog and help to make you money. Each time you purchase a course, the creator (obviously) gets paid for it. Why not create a course of your own?
Classes can be created to teach any number of skills. In addition to the courses we've promoted, here are several ideas for ways you can add a course to your blog.
- Photography blog. Create a class on how to take the perfect picture. Include the camera you like, lenses, framing, digital software you recommend, etc.
- Financial responsibility blog. Create a class on budgeting 101. Teach your students how to start from scratch to create a budget that works for them.
- Dog blog. Teach people in an online course how to train their dog. Take it from the first day home until the dog is fully trained.
- Baking blog. People pay big money to bakeries to make cakes for all kinds of occasions. Create a course that teaches them how to bake and decorate a cake all on their own.
Teachable can help you create any course you can imagine. They walk you through how to set everything up, how to customize your course, and how to make it look beautiful and professional.
The basic Teachable package will cost you $29/month, but it should give you everything you need to start your course. As you grow in students and content, you can opt to move up to a larger plan.
As with the strategies to market your blog, it's likely financially impossible to commit to each of these monetization opportunities. Even if you did find the money to do it, you would be stretched so thin on time to the point that your product would likely suffer in quality. To start, choose one strategy of monetization and focus entirely on that. When you become successful at that one, you can invest more time and money on branching out to other ones.
Even after you monetize, you still have to have great content to keep people returning to your blog. Learn how to create that content with Hit Publish.
Understand The Business Of Blogging
It's important that, from the very beginning of your blog, you treat it like a business. We've already discussed the fact that this blog is not filled with family pictures or personal stories. It's designed to make you money. As such, you need to put structures in place from the very beginning that will allow you to manage it like you would manage a business.
When you start keeping track of your expenses, it might seem tempting to use an Excel spreadsheet.
However, we recommend using a bookkeeping software system right from the start. They're very inexpensive and the advantages of using it make it more than worth the money you'll pay for it. These advantages include more professional-looking invoices, better sales management, estimating quarterly taxes, and easier tracking of daily expenses and income. Quickbooks and Freshbooks are both very viable bookkeeping systems that do everything you need them to do.
Quickbooks features an accounting system for just $1/month for the first year for anyone who is self-employed.
You'll get the first month free, and then the cost goes up to $15/month at the end of the first year. In addition to the things we already mentioned, you'll also be able to track your mileage and maximize your Schedule C deductions. If you want to add tax prep help through TurboTax, it will cost you an additional fee per month.
Freshbooks doesn't feature any accounts specifically for self-employed individuals like Quickbooks does, but its plans are a little bit more comprehensive. Fees are $6/month for the first year and then, like Quickbooks, it will go up to $15/year. Freshbooks offers the ability to accept payment online via credit card and bank transfer, automated bank imports, send estimates, and project budgets among other things.
We recommend Freshbooks. It's true that it will cost you an extra $60 the first year. However, after that first year, the price is the same and the value you get for that money is much higher with Freshbooks than it is for Quickbooks, making the additional fee for the first year well worth it.
Set Your Blog Up As An LLC
Again, if you're treating your blog like a business, you have to set it up that way. Making it an LLC gives you several advantages. The most important one is that it separates your business finances from your personal finances. This is critical because if someone sues your business at some point, they can't also come after your personal finances because you've separated them. In addition to that very important reason, it also reduces your paperwork (because you're spending time trying to separate things yourself) and gives credibility to your business.
You might be wondering about the differences between an LLC, a sole proprietorship, a corporation, and a general partnership. Here is a table to help you understand the differences and similarities so you can see why being an LLC is a good choice.
|LLC||Sole Proprietor||Corporation||General Partnership|
|Business duration can be perpetual||x||X|
|Can be owned by another business||X||X|
|No required annual meetings||X||X||X|
|Limited Liability Protection||X||X|
|Can issue stock||X||X|
|Can choose to be taxed as an S-Corp||X||X||X|
|Can report profits and losses on personal tax returns||X||X||X|
|Created by state-level registration||X||X|
When you're ready to create your LLC, you can do it in three easy steps with Inc Authority. They'll take you through the process, explain every step, and get you set up so you're officially an LLC.
Use Expenses To Lower Your Income Tax
Since your blog is a business, you can use the expenses of that business to lower your income tax. (This is another reason why an LLC is important to make it official!) You can deduct all kinds of expenses, including the cost of your home office, your internet and phone bills, your vehicle use, any business travel expenses, and even your start-up costs. Check out this list of 15 tax deductions for the self-employed for a comprehensive look about the tax advantages to your business.
Outsourcing And Working With A Virtual Assistant
When you start your blog, you're likely going to do everything yourself. Doing so will save you money and give you valuable insight into every area of your blog and how it functions.
However, as your business (your blog) grows, you might want to explore hiring some help to keep it running efficiently and effectively. Virtual assistants are a great support for your blog. A quick search of Fiverr will show you that there are a lot of people who are available to help with everything from data entry and web research to handling your emails and managing projects. Take your time, vet a few, negotiate a wage, and then hand off parts of your business to this person to run.
A great time to hire a virtual assistant is when you're ready to branch out from your blog and add a YouTube channel or a podcast. Creating either of those will take a lot of time, which means you'll have less to spend on your blog. Hiring someone to manage the blog will mean it's still running well and attracting new readers while you spend your time enhancing it with new content mediums for your readers.
We also want to point out that the Blogging for Profit course, which we previously recommended for things like monetizing your blog and managing your social media, also contains a module on virtual assistants. The value of this course just keeps increasing! When you can learn how to get better at least three different parts of your blog, the fee of $247 is absolutely worth it.
Your blog needs great content in order to make it profitable. Learn how to make that content relevant and attractive to your readers with Hit Publish.
Breakdown Of Your Setup And First-Year Expenses
As we touched on earlier, preparing your blog to be a business is not free. We've mentioned a lot of different things you can invest in, both initially and as your blog grows. We want to break down the total cost of setup and first-year expenses for you. This chart will also tell you what we think is crucial for setup out of everything we've discussed because those are the only items that are included.
|Product||Cost for First Year|
|Logo||Fiverror 99 Designs||$15* (price may vary but we feel $15 is a good price)|
|Write Great Content||Hit Publish||$199*|
|Perfect Your Grammar||Grammarly||$139.95|
|Social Media Marketing||Blogging For Profit||$247*|
|Affiliate Marketing||Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing||$197*|
|LLC Registration||Inc Authority||Free to setup through Inc Authority; filing fees vary by state|
|TOTAL||$1,010.39 (plus cost of filing an LLC in your state)|
It might seem steep, but consider that $658 of that are one-time fees. That leaves $352.39 annually to run your blog. Keep in mind that that price doesn't account for some increased fees in things like web hosting and bookkeeping after your first year. However, even figuring in those increases, you'll still likely be around $500 to run your blog each year.
The cost will increase as you add things to your blog (like a YouTube channel or podcast) and as you make adjustments in how it's run as it grows. But your revenue will also be growing right alongside the expenses as you gain more and more followers, which leads to more money from ads, affiliates, and subscriptions.
Blogging as a business is vastly different than blogging for pleasure. It's an investment in both your time and your finances, but it has the potential for a great return on that investment. We have given you a great starting point to jump off and create your own business right from your own computer, making money by creating content about things you're passionate about.
Do you have your own blog? Leave a link in the comments below!