Blaugust 30- Lesson: Have Real Expectations for Blog Monetization

Today I’m going to talk about lessons learned about monetizing a hobby blog. I don’t generally like to talk about making money from blogging, or what I earn, because I’ve never really blogged with the express intention to make money. Turns out, it’s just something that happened along the way for me.

Back when blogging was all the hype, a hand full of dedicated and very lucky bloggers managed to make a living off of it. Word got around, and then suddenly, everyone wanted a piece of the pie. Just set up your own blog, write a few posts and you’ll have money rolling in!

Only… that’s not how it works.

It didn’t work that way back then, and it really doesn’t work that way now with video often being an overshadowing influence on the written post. Folks have moved away from wanting to make money online with a blog to wanting to make money online streaming or posting YouTube videos.

While I have no authority in the video side of content creation, I’m going to guess it’s probably not any easier to launch a professional channel than it’s ever been to make a living wage off of blogging. I’d never given into the idea that it would be, and that’s why I didn’t try too hard to monetize my own blog.

Lessons About Making Money from Blogging

Lesson 1 – If you’re blogging only to make money, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Especially starting out. You’ll put money into hosting, themes, plugins, etc. and unless you’ve really stumbled upon a lucky gold mine, you won’t see a cent of it back because…

Lesson 2 – It takes a lot of long-term hard work, writing, and research to make any serious money from blogging (or content creation in general). Building a blog and an audience does not happen easily or quickly. There is no “if you build it they will come” magic to content creation. Especially with so much competition.

Lesson 3 – No traffic, no earnings. Focus on building a relationship with your audience before you think about making money from them.

Lesson 4 – Monetizing a blog takes a lot of time, dedication, and patience. If you don’t have all three of these in some fashion, you may want to reconsider your goals for blogging.

When I say reconsider, do I mean quit blogging? No.

I mean you should consider tempering your expectations about what kind of income you hope to get from a blog.

Some Actual Numbers

Even when you start making money from your blog – depending on so many factors I can’t list them all – you may not make very much in the beginning.

I run several hobby/creative blogs. Only my main blog has enough traffic to be monetized. For years, I’ve hosted my own blogs without ever seeing a cent in return – I’ve spent far more on my hosting and blogs than I made. This was a personal choice as blogging is a hobby for me.

But when WordPress notified me that I could try out for their WordAds program, I decided to give it a whirl. The one catch was that I had to upgrade my WordPress package account – which meant that I’d be spending more to host with them. The hope was that WordAds would bring in enough to pay for my hosting upgrade… eventually.

Here are some real numbers from when I first started with WordAds. Keep in mind, my blog was already 4 years old in development before I tried to monetize it.

Are you ready?

As you can see, my very first month (at the bottom) I didn’t even break $2.00 in earnings. I struggled with a lot of ups and downs for months. But I wasn’t focused on my earnings, thankfully, or this could have become really discouraging really fast.

Over time, this trend changed. I’m not sure what caused this, to be honest. I have been bringing in more traffic (thanks to pillar posts), but I’m also seeing that the quality of the ads on my blog (and the CPM) have improved.

It hasn’t been until this year that I began to see a stronger upward trend in my earnings.

Last month, my earnings were $29.33. For some unknown reason, it shot up to $45.02 (so far) for this month. I don’t expect this to be a new average for my blog, but I’d love it if it would be!

Seeing that WordAds only pays out once you hit at least $100, the faster I can hit that payout threshold the sooner I can actually see my earnings. Hosting with WordPress costs me $90 a year for this one blog (this doesn’t count the other blogs, domains and hosting I have). So, generally, this blog has been able to pay for its hosting for the past two years.

This year, I’ve already been paid once. With this unexpected jump, I foresee a second payment, so this actually pays for the cost of the blog hosting with a bit of a profit (which actually just pays for the cost of all my other webhosting). I’m perfectly pleased with this, as small as it seems. When a hobby pays for itself, that’s fine with me!

To Summarize

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to make money blogging. Obviously, there’s some folks who are invested and lucky enough to do so. But it’s more rare than you might imagine, and it takes a lot more work than you expect.

The numbers above shows a more realistic look at monetizing a hobby blog. Just a reminder that:

  • My blog was already 4 years old at the time I began WordAds – I’d already built a small audience
  • My blog is a more generalized hobby blog without a heavy focus on any one topic
  • I didn’t work too hard to monetize my blog as this wasn’t my focus in blogging
  • Once you join WordAds on a WordPress hosted blog, you can’t advertise with other networks (unless you pay for a business package) – so this is 100% earnings just from WordAds and no experimentation with other networks

I’m sure there are folks out there who know a lot more about all of this than I do. But this is just a look at my experience in monetization.

The bottom line – Blog first and foremost because you love the topic(s) you write about and because you want to connect with other people. If money eventually comes from this, that’s just a cherry on top.