This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission for purchases made through these links. Please read my full disclosure for more info.
Don’t be a blogger unless you like being poor.
At least for the first year or two.
I swear, just about everything I read online tells me how easy it is to make a living blogging.
I can be perusing a blog about pinching pennies and wouldn’t you know…a post about how blogging is a perfect job for stay at home moms.
And the other day, my favorite home-decorating-on-a-budget blog decided to throw in an article about how to blog like a pro.
Even all the work-at-home types of blogs tell me that blogging is the best way to make money online. In fact, right here on The Wary Worker, I wrote about how I helped my friend start a mom blog. A little secret: I was able to walk her through every step so it wasn’t too hard for her.
And then there are those bloggers who brag about how much they make each month: $20,000.00, $40,000.00, and even $60,000.00 a month. Some even say they made $1,000.00 before their blog was 6 month old. Really ? I hesitate to believe them all, I mean, how can a blog that is only a few months old make over $1,000.00 a month ? Because believe me, to pull off this kind of earning so early in the game, a blogger has to be pretty darn good at mastering all things in the bloggy world. NOT a simple thing to do.
The sad truth is, blogging is HARD WORK ! And there are many days when no money is to be made. No instant gratification here. And I have found a lot of the information floating around seems to be the same old blah…blah…blah…with a bunch of B.S. peppered in there, too.
Oh, and a lot of bloggers are not able to devote all their time to blogging because they have to keep their day job so they can eat…and pay rent…
But even through my skeptical eyes, I know there is real potential to making great money as a blogger. The key is being realistic about the expectations and not believing everything you read about how to make money with a blog.
So today I’m sharing my story. Expenses, income, and all the time I spent my first two years of blogging.
I kind of just stumbled upon blogging. When I left the 9-to-5 work world, I thought I could sit around writing cool stuff whenever I felt like it. So I studied some of the big guys. I followed a lot of pros in the blogging world, trying to figure out the real trick to creating a money-making blog. ProBlogger, Smart Blogger, Neil Patel…so many to mention. I read a lot and implemented most of what I learned the best I could.
Guess how much I earned ? The first year, ZIP ! Yep, nothing. The second year, just over $1500.00 bucks.
Guess I’m a real sucker for thinking I could be like all those so-called money making bloggers because it took me over two years before I started seeing real money. I was ready to give up so many times ! But I hung in there. And you know what I realized ? Blogging can suck. Big time.
I had no idea how much work this would be !
The Basics To Starting A Blog
The idea is simple:
1) Figure out what to blog about
2) Pick a domain name
3) Host your blog
4) Get it all set-up
5) Watch the money roll in
In theory, that’s pretty much it.
The reality is more like this:
1) Pick a Domain Name and stress over it for days
2) Have no clue how to get the blog on the web
3) Spend countless hours tweaking the blog, changing color schemes, and sourcing images
4) Pray the money rolls in before next month’s bills are due
Once I had my money-making blog idea set up in my mind, I had to learn some technical stuff. Not too much, just enough to get the idea from my head onto the web. So I thought. At first, I was a little confused about how to pull it all off because there was more to know than I expected. I consider myself to be a little bit technical-minded, but this is hard crap to comprehend. I eventually prevailed. Yay !
Here are the basic technical things I had to learn:
The first thing I did was take a look at WordPress.org (the best blogging platform, in my opinion) NOT WordPress.com. All I did was look at the website to see what it was about. I didn’t do any installing of anything. WordPress.org is free and I like that I actually own my blog assets. Not so with WordPress.com. Anyway, I wanted to see what the platform was like. Kind of ugly and clunky compared to now, but still a heck of a lot easier than trying to do it without a platform.
So, when I say platform, I mean it is how I create my blog. It’s where I manage my blog posts (aka: articles and writings), upload images, manage add-ons and plugins, and even see some of my blog’s statistics. It’s easy to use and I didn’t need to know any coding as long as I used the WordPress install option that comes with my web host, otherwise I was in for a real pain in the rump (I’ll talk about this in a minute).
The tutorials provided by WordPress.org are extremely hard to understand. It was way too technical for me as a new blogger. So I went to WPBeginner.com and picked up some good information on the basics of WordPress. Nothing beats actually using the platform, though, to see the whole thing in action.
At this point, I didn’t do anything with WordPress. There were other things to do first.
I needed a domain name, one that ended with ‘.com’ because it is the easiest one people can identify with. It took me a long time to come up with TheWaryWorker.com, at least a week of brainstorming and writing out a slew of possible names. I’m not sure it’s the best one I could have come up with, but at the time I liked it. And I thought it represented what I do: warily seek out ways people can work from home.
Tip: Write out your domain name to see if it can be misinterpreted or misread. My sister almost named her blog The Pen Is Read, with the domain name being thepenisred…see how it can be misread?
Once I settled on the name, I had to buy it. My first expense but it was a little one. Domain names are pretty cheap and I bought mine through GoDaddy.com. I paid $2.99 for mine and as of this writing they are still that price. I had the option to roll my domain name into the cost of a hosting plan but since I already had an account with GoDaddy I bought it through them (I used to own a gardening website in the mid-2000’s).
More on combining the domain and host cost in a minute.
Tip: Domain names have to be renewed every year in order to keep it.
The Web Host
On to the next step: buying the hosting plan (aka web host). The hosting plan is where my blog lives within the world wide web. The general idea was to pick a web host that has been around for several years and has a few different plans so I can increase my bandwidth as my blog grows.
This is my second expense: About $100.00 a year, each year my blog is alive. Actually, the first year was only around $45.00 because I got a new user discount. Love that !
Remember earlier when I suggested using a web host to set up the WordPress platform? This is what you need to read for that. Getting a hosting plan can be a little bit confusing and kind of intimidating, but host companies have made it really simple. Fortunately, with simple one-click set-ups, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Plus, you can buy a domain name (if you haven’t done so with GoDaddy yet), select a hosting plan, and set up your blog on WordPress all in one place.
When it comes to selecting a web host, it really doesn’t matter for the new blogger, and there are several good ones to select from. Personally, I like and strongly recommend using InMotion Hosting because they offer a few host plans for new bloggers. I have been using them for over a year and have had absolutely no problems.
Here’s how to get going with InMotion Web Hosting:
InMotion’s WordPress web hosting is currently $5.99 a month for the beginner plan and you can host up to 2 websites or blogs. What I like best about InMotion is the fact they have data centers on the West and East coasts of the USA with a 99.9% uptime, ensuring my blog is always up and running. The set-up process is quick and easy with free WordPress set-up. A very smooth transaction.
To get started with InMotion, go to their homepage (you can click on this link) and hover on the WEB HOSTING option in the menu. Then click on WORDPRESS HOSTING
From there, you can select your hosting plan – I recommend the Launch plan for new bloggers. After you select the hosting time frame (12 months or 24 months) you can buy a domain name (if you haven’t already done so through GoDaddy) and then select to have your blog automatically set-up on WordPress.
When all’s done, you’ll get an email from InMotion telling you what your next steps are.
A few other great web host options that will walk you through the process and get you all set up on WordPress are:
- Bluehost is a popular option because they are cheap.
- SiteGround is an inexpensive web host with 24/7 customer service and a bunch of add-ons for your blog. Like all the others I’ve mentioned, you can register your domain name and set it up on WordPress with a few simple clicks.
WordPress has a ton of nice looking themes for a new blogs and I love the idea that I can easily change my theme any time I want to. And a great theme is vital to an awesome user experience.
Believe me, you can spend many hours looking through the themes until you find the right one. I went through 5 themes in the first two years of The Wary Worker before I fell in love with this current theme (manta). It’s simple, smart-device ready, and has a lot of customization features.
And I spent many, many hours looking through and testing the themes. Fun but exhausting.
A lot of the so-called blog experts will tell you to buy a theme. I honestly don’t know why. I suppose so they make a little bit of a commission by referring you to a particular theme developer. To me, buying a theme isn’t necessary because WordPress has made the effort to screen every theme they have in their repository. And did I mention there are a lot of them to look through and test before you install ?
What It Really Takes to Start A Blog To Make Money
So now that I’ve gone over all the technical stuff, I want to get into the real nitty-gritty of starting a blog to make money.
What The Pro’s Are Not Telling Us
First of all, don’t think you’ll be making passive income with a blog. Why? Because passive income is money that comes in on a regular basis with little effort. In the beginning, a blog is not a source of passive income. You can easily work at least 30 hours a week brainstorming ideas, writing and re-writing your articles, editing images and doing research. This is a never ending process so saying your blog is a passive way to make money is plain wrong.
Second, Quit telling yourself you just want to make a few extra bucks each month sharing what you know. If this is your goal, don’t start a blog. The time investment is too great. If you’re going to work as hard as you will, then striving for only a few bucks is silly.
Third, when you think you know everything about running a blog, think again. Changes are always happening with the search engines, social networks, and advertising options. You have to keep learning and trying new things.
Lastly, it is possible to make a lot of money blogging. It’s also possible to fail and lose just about everything. Blogging requires skill, knowledge, discipline, money, and – probably most importantly – TIME. You won’t have a successful blog overnight. Probably not even for at least a year. Think you can hack it ?
At first, I thought my blog would take care of itself but I eventually learned that there are some tools that would help things go a little bit smoother
And they are:
- Images. High resolution images are super important to make a blog interesting. Pixaby , Pexels, and Unsplash are great places to get free images where you don’t need to give credit to the creator. But a lot of the images have been used on other blogs and you have to look through a lot of them to find the right one to compliment your blog post. Every once in a while I am able to take a decent picture with my phone to use in my posts.
- Editing. Just about every image I put up on TheWaryWorker.com needs some editing. The size is often wrong, I like only part of the image so cropping is necessary, and sometimes the hue is just a little off. Ugh. I can honestly say that I HATE EDITING IMAGES ! It is so time consuming. And throw in the need to make Pins for Pinterest, I can easily spend 4 hours editing or creating a few images for one blog post. The two online photo editors I use ALL THE TIME are Pixlr and Canva. And They’re free !
- Backup. Don’t lose your hard work! You need to back-up your blog on a regular basis. To do this, I recommend installing the BackWPup Plugin. via WordPress. This plugin makes copies of your blog on your web host server or to a Dropbox. If you don’t have a backup of your blog, you’re going to be so mad with yourself. Believe it or not, a lot of web hosts don’t do backups…unless you buy an upgraded plan.
Skip Some Things
I don’t like to take shortcuts because the outcome isn’t always what I hoped for. But in the case of blogging, it’s OK to skip some of the “rules”. They can always be picked up later, when things are running smoothly and you can possible afford to hire people to do things for you.
Here are the things I decided to either shortcut or skip all together, even though other bloggers will say I absolutely shouldn’t:
I Only Use Pinterest
At first, I thought I had to be on all the social medias. At least that’s what I read. Do you have any idea how long it takes to manually post blog stuff on Facebook, Twitter, AND Pinterest ? Hours. Literally hours every week. Not only are these things big time sucks and it’s really easy to get distracted, the chances of my blog posts being noticed and then actually read – before slipping beyond anyone’s view – are pretty slim.
So, being on ALL the social medias is not necessary. At least not at first. I decided to focus on building my blog first, then getting up on Pinterest. At some point, TheWaryWorker.com may go up on Facebook, but not for a while. I tried Twitter but it seemed my Tweets got lost in the flow so I gave up after a few months.
I’m sticking with Pinterest because it’s a search engine before it’s a social media platform. The only issue I have is creating good Pins. Like I said, I can’t stand editing images. Maybe some day I’ll hire someone from Upwork to create my Pins, but for now I do it all on my own.
One resource I found to be extremely helpful with my Pinterest endeavor is this Pinterest marketing course. It’s a 2 1/2 hour long on-demand course that showed me the best Pins to create in order to get the traffic I needed for my blog. It cost me $11.99 and my blog traffic has exploded (and so has my earnings).
Opt-ins Are Out
Gosh, another one that everyone thinks is so important. I guess it is if my blog got slammed by Google. And by slammed, I mean Google decided to hate my blog and drop it way down in the search results and no one can find it. In this case, an opt-in would be a way to retain my readers – I would send emails to everyone who ‘opted-in’ as a means to still be on their radar.
An opt-in newsletter or email list is a way to stay in touch with visitors, maybe offering a freebie if they enter their name and email in a cute little pop-up or sidebar invitation. I haven’t done this yet. Personally, I don’t read 90% of the emails I get from the blogs I opted into and I don’t see this as something that’s essential when first starting out. I think I will concentrate on building a great blog first – one that people will want to opt into at a later date
Write A Lot ?
Some say write every day, some say write twice a month. How do “they” know how much I should write ? I write whenever I feel inspired because otherwise I will write crap that nobody’s interested in.
But writing is the biggest eater-of-time I deal with. This post, for example has already taken me six hours to write. And I didn’t have to do any research. I just started writing from my personal experience and it has taken me how long already ???
And let’s not even talk about all the edits, changes, and second-thoughts when it comes to writing. I could go on forever but then that would mean more hours to finish this post.
So yeah, I write when the mood strikes me. As my blog grew, and I focused on helping my readers, coming up with new topics became easier. And so did writing.
What’s This Thing Called SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Once my blog was up and running on WordPress, I needed to get it ready for the search engines to find it. I was almost fooled into thinking I needed to submit my blog / domain name to Google. Turns out, it’s just not necessary. Google will find it eventually.
To be honest, the easiest – and most evergreen – way to rank well on search engines is to solve my reader’s problems. Then, I can hope the leaders in my niche like my blog posts and mention my blog within one of their posts. How do I get their attention? learn what my readers want and write solutions. The leaders will eventually find me.
When it comes to keywords, I don’t worry about them too much. I know that if I write something about a specific topic I am naturally using keywords that relate to that topic. I also know that synonyms of popular keywords work just as well.
The best tool I have found to make my blog search engine ready is the Yoast SEO plugin. It works with my blog posts and gives me clues on how to improve my writing for readers and the search engines. I installed it via your WordPress dashboard by clicking on the Plugins tab (in the left side panel) and searching for Yoast SEO
I obsess over who’s visiting my blog. Using Google Analytics and Google Search Console are necessary for figuring out how people find The Wary Worker and also determine which issues need to be addressed. Now that my blog is aged, I glean a lot of good statistical information but at first I had little data to work with.
What About Traffic?
Traffic. The route to a blog’s success. But getting people to my blog is so frickin’ HARD to do. I have spent a lot of time reading, re-reading, and forgetting a lot about how to get visitors. I have poured over a ton of articles about blogging, scoured countless online communities, and scoffed at a crap load of bad advice about how to get visitors.
When it came right down to it, the best traffic building technique was to present my content in a way that was not the same-old-same-old stuff, offering solutions and building trust naturally.
How ? A few different ways:
- By actually solving problems. My readers want answers to specific questions, so I strive to provide those answers. I prowl other blogs in my niche as well as forums, Facebook posts, and product comments to see what my potential readers need help with.
- I often mention a few good resources in some of my articles, This eventually gets the attention of those resources and potentially result in some traffic and new readers.
- As I write my blog articles, keywords relevant to my writing naturally work their way in. The ever-evolving search engines will pick-up my blog posts and present them in the search results. This hasn’t happen overnight, though. Fingers crossed it will at some point during my blogging career.
- There are other ways to try to get my blog known, like guest post writing, using all the social media, and commenting on other blogs. Yeah, they work, but the results are either short-lived or barely work.
As I mentioned in the beginning, a lot of bloggers like to write about their monthly earnings; how much they’ve earned and from what source.
Turns out, the blogs that claim they make a ton of money took at least four years of HARD work to become high earners. And as those blogs grew, so did the management responsibilities. Hiring writing freelancers, paying for a premium blog design, paying for advertising and marketing, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
But when it comes to actually making money, there are several ways to do it:
- Affiliate marketing
- Creating and selling an online course or ebook
- Contextual advertising
- Sponsored posts
I signed up for Google Adsense and put some of their contextual ads in the sidebar of TheWaryWorker.com I make a little bit of money this way, but not much. Even after a couple years. A while back, I applied for another ad network, media.net, but they turned me down because I didn’t have enough visitors.
I also do affiliate marketing. This is where I recommend a product via a link on my blog and get a commission if someone buys the product through the link. This is a pretty good money-maker for me (finally) and is easy to implement. Commission Junction and Rakuten are the two networks I use to find merchants with things I think my visitors will be interested in.
But did I start making money right away with affiliate marketing ? Nope. Nothing my first year and just over $1,000.00 my second year.
I actually broke down and bought a cheap affiliate marketing course that showed me the ins and outs of this money-making stream. So worth the $11.99 dollars. There are other affiliate marketing courses I would love to take, but crap, they’re so expensive ! Still on a blogging budget here.
What I Spent My First Two Years Of Blogging
$47.99 for my domain name and web hosting
$60.00 web hosting
$14.00 domain name
$11.99 Pinterest Marketing Course
TOTAL SPENT YEAR TWO: $97.98
What I Earned My First Two Years Of Blogging
Contextual Ads: about $500.00
Affiliate Marketing: $1097.00
Total Earned Year Two: $1,597.00
NET EARNING OF $1,499.02 !!!
Alright, I admit, not too great but like I said: MAKING MONEY AS A BLOGGER IS HARD WORK.
What’s Next ?
Fortunately, I have the ability to blog as much as or as little as I want without restraints or commitments. I’m in my third year with TheWaryWorker.com and my earnings have continued to go up. I still work hard trying to keep my content interesting and gain new readers. I still read everything I find interesting related to blogging. I do a lot of research and writing and yes, even photo editing.
It took a while to get to where I am now, but if it hadn’t been for the resources I mentioned throughout this post I’m sure I would still be struggling to make a few thousand a year.
What about you ? Now that you know what to expect, ask yourself if it’s right for you. Do you think you have the time and energy to get a blog going – and keep it going? Hopefully, these tips will help you if and when you decide to give blogging a try.