As a new blogger, reading income reports from veterans in this field can be inspiring but also daunting at times. It really makes you put extra pressure on yourself and try to speed things along at the risk of putting crappy content out there.
But let’s get back to the real world for a second where these people blog full time and already have digital products, a following whose trust they have earned and constant page views. I guess the question I’m trying to answer by publishing this post is if you can still make money with your blog if you don’t have all of the above right away? And the answer is yes!
To encourage small beginnings and push you to go out there and test these strategies for yourself, I decided to share how I made my very first $100 blogging. The process wasn’t very daunting, but it took longer than I wanted because I happen to be in full-time employment and studies, not to mention constantly caring after a very adorable but distracting puppy.
That being said, it took me a couple of months of experimenting and growing my blog, but I’m confident that if you tweak the strategy and make it your own, you will see better results in a faster timeframe. Enjoy!
How I started
Read my step-by-step tutorial: How To Start A Blog In 2017 (The Overwhelm Free Way) to get you started.
Hosting my blog on Bluehost allowed me to monetize and customize my blog in a way that a free platform such as WordPress or Blogger couldn’t have. They have super affordable prices and my domain name came free for the first year. (Alternatively, you can secure a domain name at NameCheap).
If you’re serious about monetizing your blog I recommend looking into self-hosting as soon as possible. (This is the secret sauce to my blog’s success. Proof is in the pudding, or as I like to call it the other two free blogs I had and gave up on).
Read my post on What Is Hosting And Why Do You Need It As A Blogger here!
💎 BLOG THEME
The second most important thing is the aspect of your blog. Visitors decide scarily quick if your website is worth hanging around for. And why should they invest in anything you’re trying to sell them if it looks like you’re not investing in it yourself?
Now that you went self-hosted, you are no longer limited by the free themes that other 10 other million people have on their blogs (ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but you probably want to stand out and having the same blog aspect as hundred other people won’t help and it won’t be professional). ou can choose and install either a custom made theme or a premade one.
Read my post on 10 WordPress Themes For Female Bloggers & Entrepreneurs to get more ideas.
You can choose to work with a web designer or purchase a pre-made premium one, which I recommend if you are just starting out and don’t have hundreds of dollars to invest in it yet. I find that premium themes (not the ones sold by WordPress that you can install with their free version) are easy to find, affordable and make for a very professional looking blog.
I purchased mine of Theme Forest and got some tech support with it which it was super helpful down the line when I had some questions about how to customize it.
Another great place to go hunting for WordPress themes is Pretty Darn Cute Design where they have super affordable feminine themes that have tons of personality. I am simply in love with their designs!
The third thing that you should really invest in, especially at the beginning is a good blogging course. I had no idea such thing exists when I started so I resumed to buying blogging ebooks from Amazon and invested a lot of time into researching what I didn’t understand on my own. This only slowed me down because I had to get all my information from 10 different places which got confusing at times and got me all over the map.
If you are struggling with web design, understanding WordPress and branding your blog, I recommend you take Sarah’s course on DIY WordPress Web Design & Branding that includes a Canva Bundle.
Use the code “THESHEAPPROACH” to get 20% off the entire course and start building a stunning website today!
One of the bloggers I really look up to in the community, Abby, saw the need for such a course and she created Building A Framework (titled after her ebook series that is also worth checking out).
The course comes with video training on everything you need to know about setting up, growing a blog and monetizing it + the updated ebook, a 30 page workbook, access to a private support group and some other amazing bonuses. This is currently on sale for only $77 dollars until March 17th when the price will go up. (Update: You can still grab the entire course and the bonuses for $97.)
So this is your chance to really dive in the knowledge you need to pack yourself with to become a successful blogger because you already know it’s more than possible to make this money back in time.
What didn’t work
Going back to the methods I used to generate an income with my blog, there are a few that failed. For some, I simply didn’t have the right strategies in place. For others, maybe it’s just not meant to be. (Dramatic, but you need to learn what will work for your blog and audience and not waste any resources or time on the others.)
I applied and got into Google Adsense and implemented some banners in my sidebars and my most popular posts. While I made almost $10, they don’t pay you until you reach a certain threshold and I felt that my page views weren’t high enough for me to risk annoying visitors any further.
I also tried other smaller ad networks only to discover they look even spammier. So for the moment, I decided to take the ads off and focus on growing my audience first and see I’ll revisit the idea in the future when my blog traffic justifies it.
UPDATE: I tried a few new strategies and it paid off! Read my post on How To Get Your First Google Adsense Payment.
💎 SPONSORED POSTS
Since I started off as a lifestyle blog, sponsored posts were always something I was striving to have in the future as an income stream. I managed to get some collaborations with random brands when I started out but as my page views got higher, I started approaching companies asking for compensation. No such luck.
Most who replied either didn’t have to budget for it or were willing to offer only product and “exposure” which I was not really interested in.
I must admit, I was a bit random with the companies I contacted and didn’t hear back at all from some because I didn’t have the right contact details for their PR contact. I decided this isn’t a path worth pursuing at the moment, but my media kit awaits tucked away in a folder if I ever go back to accepting sponsored posts.
💎 AFFILIATE MARKETING
I was so excited to get started with affiliate marketing (more about what that means in this post) that I jumped at any opportunity to become an affiliate. And that is what I did when I found out about this productivity e-course that was selling for $97 and I thought: “Jackpot!”
I wrote a fancy blog post about it and promoted it the best I could but I didn’t make a single sale.
My biggest mistakes were becoming an affiliate for a course I didn’t actually take (learned my lesson there) and starting with a high-value product when I didn’t have a strategy in place or the trust of my readers. Another big takeaway from this was the fact that you can’t sell something your readers don’t need, no matter how good your sales pitch or the actual product is. So know your audience! And find affiliate programs that are right for them!
What DID work?
💎 MY FIRST $100 BLOGGING
Now, onto the juicy part. Here is where my first paycheck came from:
$106.40 – affiliate sale commissions from promoting this ebook
$3 – referral commission from SendOwl
In the end, it was smart affiliate marketing that prevailed (and I didn’t include other affiliate sales I did because I didn’t get paid for those just yet). I learned how to adapt and I got to know my audience.
And did I mention that all it took was one epic blog post and one single product? (I’d be a pretty happy gal if I could get $100 for every post that I put out there)
To be more precise, I made the first affiliate sales by using Pinterest and directing people directly to the ebook sales page. If you’re interested to know how to do that, I have a free ebook / checklist on the topic. Just enter your email address below and get it today:
💎 MY STRATEGY
After testing the strategies in the ebook myself, which are all about making your first affiliate sale with Pinterest I became a huge fan of it (because I actually made my first affiliate sale with Pinterest) and wrote a detailed post about it where I reviewed the ebook and shared my strategies.
Some people are more likely to trust your recommendation if you actually share your experience with a product, so I began to have sales directly through my blog.
What I did was simple. Made my first affiliate sale (read all about it here) and duplicated the process to get the sales rolling in.
To automate this process and actually get people to read the blog post I used both Pinterest and Facebook as part of my promotion strategy and my attempt to make turn this into actual passive income.
For Pinterest I created 3 different graphics that link back to my blog posts using Canva (a free photo editing software) and stock photos (which are a must if you’re looking to draw people in). You can have a look of my board to see examples of my pictures and final results. I share my strategy in more depth in the free checklist I mentioned so make sure to grab that.
A real game changer in my attempt to automate this process was my subscription to Tailwind, a Pinterest scheduling tool. I was able to loop my own pins and repin them in group boards, gain more traction for them and even more followers.
Tailwind allows you to choose multiple boards for one pin (such a time saver), they determine the best posting schedule and you can shuffle the posting queue with one click and make sure it’s well spread out.
Tailwind tribes are another awesome feature that allows you to get traction on your affiliate pins and get more eyes on it and it works like an exchange of repins between the members of a tribe.
Try out Tailwind now! You get the first month free. I spent 10 minutes setting it up and it’s good to go for the next month, bringing in new visitors every day and automating the process every time I add a new pin.
UPDATE: A couple of months after I published the post, sales keep rolling in without me lifting a finger due to traffic brought on by Tailwind and Pinterest.
You might also be interested to read my post on 8 Ways To Improve Your Pinterest Game Right Now.
Facebook happens to be one of my main traffic sources, so I have no doubt a good portion of the sales came from there. The secret to getting quality traffic is to join relevant groups, participate and engage with people.
I promoted my blog post in special promo threads every Monday and was active during the week, answering questions about affiliate marketing and sharing my experience with people who were interested.
Don’t waste your time trying to spam and leave your link everywhere, but rather focus your energy on actually helping people out and solving their problems (I’m telling you, that’s the secret of a successful affiliate marketing campaign).
Grab my ultimate list of blogging and promo groups below:
Considering the little amount of time that I was able to put aside to blog (which translated in an average of 3 blog
posts per month at the most) this process took a couple of months for me, but I truly believe if you are a bit more organized and motivated than me, you can make this work at a faster pace.
Keeping in mind that I tested this affiliate marketing strategy on a single product, I am very happy with the results and I’m now looking to duplicate this strategy and see if it works for other affiliate products, once I take into consideration what I’ve learned from my failures as well.
And I cannot wait to share future results with you!
UPDATE: Since I have increased my blog traffic, affiliate marketing income has tripled as well. Check out my ebook above to learn how to do that and get more opportunities to monetize your website.
Are you struggling to monetize your blog? What have you tried and what worked? Share your experience below!