Are you hoping to start a blog that will earn a side income for your family? I’m going to walk you through some of my best tips for growing a successful money-making blog in your free time.
I don’t usually blog about blogging, but since it has made a huge impact in our finances (what I normally blog about), I share some blogging insights every now and then. I’ve had many of you reach out to me about starting a blog too, so I wanted to share some tips that have helped me succeed over the years.
Besides being a great way to hold ourselves accountable (as we paid off six figures of student loan debt) and a great place to share ideas and encouragement (and have you share ideas and encouragement with us), this blog has been a substantial source of income for our family. In 2015 we paid off just over $32,000 of debt. Before my husband’s new job in September, his base income was just $39,000.
How in the world did we pay off so much? That sort of payoff on that sort of salary was only possible because of side income, which primarily came from this blog.
If you are passionate about your blog topic and willing to work hard for a while before making any money, then you can turn your blog into a valuable platform too.
To help you get started on the right foot, here are 16 simple tips to creating a successful money-making blog:
1- Come up with an awesome blog name.
Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you come up with your name:
- Easy to remember — You want people coming back and telling their friends, right?
- Easy to spell — Avoid cutesy spellings that could be confusing.
- Not too long — This goes along with easy to remember, but also easy to read as a website address.
- Gives a hint as to what your blog is about — You want to pique readers’ curiosity and give them a reason to click over to your site.
- Something you love — This is going to be your “brand,” so make it something you are proud to promote.
2- Go with a self-hosted WordPress site.
If you have plans to make money from your blog, then you will want to have a self-hosted blog on the WordPress.org platform (not blogger or WordPress.com). Having a self-hosted site means you have to pay for hosting. It will be worth it though. I have a complete tutorial for how to set up you self-hosted WordPress blog complete with screenshots and simple, non-techie directions.
3- Blog about what you love.
This might go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Choose to write about topics you love. You’re an expert at something. You have a unique perspective. Your passion and personality will shine through your writing. If you’re bored, then your readers will be bored too. Plus, if you’re not writing about something you are passionate about, you will burn out long before you make any money. You’re likely going to be working for free for a while. That’s much easier when you’re writing about what you enjoy. (Read about why I started this blog.)
4- Organize your site.
Make a navigation bar that makes sense and makes your content accessible. Visitors should be able to tell in a glance what your blog is about and what topics they can expect to find there. Brainstorm a list of blog posts you will be writing. How would you divide them up into categories? Three to five categories is just about right. You can have subcategories within your categories as well. It helps to draw it all out on paper.
5- Keep it a secret at first.
Don’t worry, you’ll you’ll have a chance to shout it from the rooftops soon, but in the beginning you want to keep your site a secret. You don’t want your first visitors to come and read an article they love only to find that you don’t have anything else to read. They’ll wonder if you’re planning to write more or if you were just a fly-by-night one hit wonder. Once you have about a dozen posts covering the various main topics your blog will cover, you can start inviting people to visit.
6- Have a Pinterest-friendly image for every post.
By Pinterest-friendly, I mean you should have a long (giraffe-style, if you will) image with an eye-catching relevant photo. Add some clear text to the picture to pique the interest of those who will see the image on Pinterest.
7- Make every post inbox-worthy.
Don’t post just to post. A blog post is not the place for announcements like a change to your blogging schedule or a funny thing you saw on your shopping trip. Those are social media status updates, not blog posts. You want your subscribers to know that when your blog has an update or they receive an email from you, it’s worth their time. Each post should add value. I think this is one of the huge differences between a hobby blog and a blog for profit. If you can’t write at least 500 words about the topic, then it doesn’t deserve its own post.
8- Use great photos to make your Pinterest images.
You’ll quickly find that good free stock photos are hard to come by. They just plain aren’t as good as the ones you pay for. Plus, they are used by lots of bloggers, so you’re likely to see the image you choose used by lots of other bloggers. To start, I recommend Bigstock photo. You can get a 7-day trial with no strings attached where you can download 5 photos per day (that’s 35 images total!). Look for photos that you will need for future posts and stock up during the trial.
9- Proofread your posts.
Everyone has typos that slip through. That is understandable. I know it happens to me. Reading through your posts slowly (or out loud) one final time before publishing will help you catch the majority of errors. If spelling and grammar aren’t your thing, have a friend or a family member go through each of your posts before you click publish.
10- Be kind. Always.
Unless you have a brand that is built on sarcasm or mean-ness, then strive to be kind. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. When you’re communicating with the written word, I find it best to go above and beyond when it comes to kindness, as people cannot always read your tone of voice.
11- Use clean language.
Maybe this is just a personal preference, but if a blog has profanity, I will stop reading and likely not return. That is a huge turnoff for me and I know I’m not the only one. Foul language will limit your audience. Sponsors will avoid working with you too, as they don’t want their brand associated with a blog that is offensive.
12- End your posts with a question or two.
Reflective questions help foster interaction. You’ll get to know your readers and gain new insight from them.
13- Respond to comments.
Readers who comment on your posts are engaged and eager to hear your response to what they have to say. Get in the habit of responding quickly to comments so you don’t get behind.
14- Have a plug-in that emails your responses to the commenters
I use this one and like it. If you’re taking time to respond to comments, then you definitely want the readers to actually see your responses. The majority of readers won’t return on their own to find your responses. Getting your response in their inbox keeps them engaged.
15- Download the Alexa toolbar.
Alexa is one of the website rankings out there. Though no ranking is perfect or completely accurate, the Alexa rank is a commonly accepted measure of where your blog stands. Essentially, only people who have the Alexa toolbar installed can “vote” on the popularity of a site. You cast your vote just by visiting a site. Since you’ll be visiting your site more than anyone else, having the Alexa toolbar helps to improve your ranking.
16- Start collecting email addresses.
While some plug-ins or themes allow you to collect emails so subscribers can receive every post by email, they aren’t all that useful when it comes to sending out your own newsletters (which is where the value in your email list lies).
While you might now have the money to spend on Convertkit (that’s what I use) right out of the gate, you can start out with something like Constant Contact that has a free trial period then moves into reasonable rates.
WAIT! What about making money?
You may have noticed that none of my 16 tips related directly to making money. That wasn’t an oversight. That was completely intentional. There is so much more to think about, plan, and do before you even think about earning money. These tips will set you up for success so that you’ll be ready to monetize. If you focus on making money before you have a solid foundation, you’ll fail. It’s that simple. Focus on great, accessible content and community, and then worry about the money.
You definitely can earn an income with a blog on virtually any topic, but it’s definitely not a quick buck. It takes work and dedication, especially in the beginning when you aren’t seeing any profits. Down the road when the money starts coming, it’s easy to keep going. Put in the effort in the beginning that will set you up for success in the future.
In fact, if you want to turn your blog into a business you need to start treating it as such. Even if you’re not earning any money yet, you should be tracking your blog finances. If you aren’t keeping track of your expenses, you won’t know when you become profitable. I use Blog Finance Spreadsheets to track and categorize my income and expenses, which simplifies tax time. Blog Finance Spreadsheets are perfect for all levels of bloggers, even if you’re just getting started now!
Once you have a blog, it really can earn money. If you’re interested in seeing the details of my blogging income each month, along with other tips and tricks, you can join my behind-the-scenes blogging email list to get the scoop.
If you haven’t started your blog yet, now is a great time to get started! Here is a tutorial to get a self-hosted blog set up.
How about you?
- What tips would you add for starting a successful blog?
This post contains affiliate links for products or services that I use and love. For more info, see my disclosure policy.