Turn your blogging hobby into cash
Mya Frazier • Bankrate.com
an estimated 70 million blogs and most don't make much
be created quickly and for free using online templates.
bloggers rely on name recognition in local markets to sell
It's the ultimate 21st century new media dream job: A
self-published blog that creates a steady income and allows you
to quit your day job.
But how do you turn your blogging hobby into cash? Despite the
obvious appeal, it's not an easy path and requires a disciplined
An estimated 70 million blogs exist today, and the vast majority
don't make squat. In fact, 95 percent of blogs are abandoned,
according to the blog search engine Technorati's state of the
Granted, there are success stories, such as Julie Powell's blog
that became a book that became the movie "Julie and Julia," but
the more common tale is of folks with day jobs earning some
extra cash. Bloggers who do make money -- even if it's just a
little -- seem to write on a consistent basis, have a passion
for the blogging topic and in some cases, a willingness to
embrace "sponsored" blogging.
Even so, if you want to blog for cash, keep in mind the following
words of advice from experts and bloggers.
Blogging isn't easy
As with any moneymaking venture, there are the
confounding cases of success -- the Amway millionaires of
Case in point: Elise Bauer of Carmichael, Calif., started a blog
Simply Recipes in 2003. As a Silicon Valley consultant, she
had little time to cook, "let alone learn how to cook beyond
what I had learned growing up," she says in her blog.
Three years later, Bauer's blog was ranked by Time magazine as one
of the 50 "coolest" Web sites and won "best food blog overall"
by the Well Fed Network, a Web compilation of food and wine
"She just wanted to show people you don't have to be a gourmet cook
to make great meals, and now she's one of the biggest food
bloggers in the world. She was an early ad network member with
BlogHer, and she's ... able to focus on it full-time," says
BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page of Palo Alto, Calif.
BlogHer is a blogging community for women that boasts 2,500
bloggers, including Bauer. It reaches 15 million unique visitors
per month, and its bloggers were eagerly courted by top
marketers at BlogHer's recent annual conference in Chicago.
Bloggers who attended wrote about the abundant corporate
freebies in their postings.
Camahort Page wouldn't disclose specific revenue figures for top
earners, but says, "The average income is about $300 a month,
but there are the outliers earning a living in each of our topic
verticals. It's that whole 80-20 rule. In each vertical, there's
a top 10 (percent) or 20 percent who are the biggest earners."
By choosing to team up with blogging networks like BlogHer,
bloggers outsource the time-consuming work of
promoting their blogs to advertisers. On BlogHer, they agree
to a 10 percent, fixed-cost monthly fee and the ad revenue
generated is split between the blogger and BlogHer, Camahort
Blogs can be created quickly and for free using online templates,
Blogger, and can host their blogs on affiliated sites, also
The no-brainer source of income for many blogs is
Google's AdSense program, which pays bloggers each time a
reader clicks on an ad from their blog.
If you're a blogger consumed by a day job, AdSense makes sense.
With just a few minutes to sign up, you can access a vast
network of advertisers through Google. Google automatically
matches ads that suit your audience's interests.
"If you can specialize in one sector, like pizza, and can become a
celebrity of the pizza-eating world, that's when Google will
pick you up," says Craig Agranoff, a Florida-based Web producer
who writes three blogs including
WorstPizza, where he reviews pizza joints.
Bloggers can also make money directly by tapping into the
money-generating power of affiliate advertising, such as
Amazon's affiliate advertising program, which pays bloggers
if a reader buys a book reviewed on a blog.
While driving reader traffic remains the lifeblood of any blog, not
all bloggers make money directly from blogs. Instead, they make
money because of blogging, either through consulting gigs,
business connections or book contracts.
Still, it's tough to make money. "My three blogs make money off of
Google Ads and '125 ads,'" Agranoff says, referring to small Web
ads that are 125 pixels by 125 pixels in size.
"At the end of the month, the money is very nice. You could
definitely make money off of blogs," he says. "What they don't
tell you at these tech conferences, where guys who are making
$100,000 off blogs (are speakers), is that you couldn't do it
without an (income) cushion."
A passion or diversion
Alabama-based Melissa King started her blog in
2005 to post copies from her writing as a journalist. But soon
her "writechic" blog, she realized she could pull in a
little income and "ramped up and regulated my writing for
informative and entertainment purposes," covering politics and
taking an irreverent tone.
"I discovered I could make money writing on a blog while scrounging
through want ads for freelance writing gigs," King says.
But income is erratic and it has yet to replace her regular writing
work. "I can pull in $50 and $650 a month depending on how much
I want to work," she says. "Regardless of how much or how little
is written, the actual writing has to be good, error-free,
interesting. That's the most important thing."
And passionate, if you're Jan Norris. A former food-page editor for
a newspaper in West Palm Beach, Fla., she launched
her blog about "food, restaurants, recipes and pre-Disney
Florida" in August 2008. She had left the paper but wasn't ready
to give up her love of food writing.
Norris spends 20 hours a week on the blog, producing content,
managing comments and answering e-mails, but continues to
supplement her income as a freelance writer for magazines and
"I would really like to get to the point where (the blog) is all I
do," she added. To drive traffic to her blog, she's joined
Twitter, the micro-blogging service, and she boasts 500
She has relied on name recognition in her local market to sell ads
to businesses there, such as the Florida Culinary Institute in
West Palm Beach, which runs banner ads on her blog.
It's a strategy that is gaining traction on the Internet, Agranoff
says. "Hyperlocal blogs have become very popular, like one
blogger who writes about things that are only happening in
Coconut Grove (Fla.)," he says. "Local advertisers want to be
Sponsored blogging drives cash flow
Another route for money-minded bloggers is to
team up with sites that pay bloggers directly, mostly to do
product reviews. For example, sites like
PayPerPost team bloggers up with companies seeking online
At PayPerPost, lists of "jobs" from companies looking to generate
buzz online are available to bloggers. As part of its
arrangement, PayPerPost requires bloggers to disclose sponsored
Most of these sites have a simple sign-up process, including basic
contact information, a short profile and links to your blog.
This form of blogging is controversial and can bring boos from the
bloggerati, which sometimes refer to it as "commercial
blogging." Additionally, it's questionable how long this
practice will remain the norm, with the Federal Trade Commission
considering whether to require disclosure of these practices,
according to recent news reports.
Andrew Bennett of North Attleboro, Mass., started his blog
Benspark.com in December 2003. He uploads a photo each day
and often blogs about camera equipment, in addition to personal
musings. Now he counts 1,767 Twitter followers and 1,000 Web
page views a day.
Bennett began making money from his blog in 2006, when he started
with PayPerPost, writing reviews of camera equipment. Since
then, he has averaged $5,500 in extra income annually. Bennett
also relies on cost-per-click programs with advertisers, running
ads at the bottom of his blog that put 11 cents to 18 cents into
his pocket when the link is clicked.
But turning posts into cash can be spotty. Bennett made $3.90 from
SocialSpark, another site that connects bloggers with companies,
for taking the "job" to review the XShot, a camera extender.
Then, he made an additional $23 from ads on his blog from Santa
Barbara, Calif.-based XShot LLC when six of his readers clicked
through those ads and bought the product.
"When I first started, it was like, 'Wow, free money,'" Bennett
says. "For me, blogging is a hobby that I'd like to turn into
full time eventually."
Mya Frazier •
Mya Frazier is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio.