I did a short series on how bloggers make money last year (It was so long I had to split it into three parts, which you can find here, here and here), but I thought it might be helpful to talk a bit about how I make money personally, and my general thoughts on what works for me and what doesn’t.

Blog monetisation is one of those things people don’t really talk about much, so it’s come to be viewed as a bit of a dark art, and some of that is for good reason: there are so many different ways to monetise a blog, and one of the main things I’ve learned over the years is that what works for one blog might not work for another, so it can be difficult to offer concrete advice. With that said, here’s the low-down on how I make money from blogging, in the hope that it might help someone, somewhere, somehow – or at least help demystify the process a little, if nothing else!

how my blog earns me more than the day job ever did: all of my blog income streams, explainedAt the time of writing, I have four main income streams from blogging, and I’m hoping to add some more by the end of the year. If I could offer just one piece of advice to anyone looking to earn a living from blogging, it would be this:

Diversify your income streams as much as possible

I guess this advice probably applies just as well to freelancers, or any self-employed person: it’s never really a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, because if you’re completely reliant on just one source of income, and that source dries up all of a sudden… well, you can fill in the rest for yourself, can’t you? If you’re just using Google Adsense, say, and then one day Google decides to ban you from the programme (Which can totally happen, by the way: it’s happened to me in the past, always for spurious reasons!), you don’t just lose your Adsense account – you lose your entire income: whoops!

Which brings me to my first income stream, which also happens to be the one I’ve been using the longest:

How I make a full-time living from blogging

Google Adsense

(I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of what each of these income streams are, or how they work here, but you can click here for an explanation of Google Adsense, if you don’t know what it is…)

Google Adsense tends to be many bloggers’ introduction to the world of advertising: it’s easy to set up, there’s no minimum traffic requirement, and you can be earning money from it within a few minutes/hours/days – or not, as the case may be.

Despite being one of the most popular advertising platforms around, Adsense gets a bad rap from a lot of bloggers. I’m a member of a few Facebook groups for bloggers, for instance, and I frequently see people telling newcomers to the groups not to even bother with it, because it makes no money, and just isn’t worth the trouble. That may well be true for those bloggers, but it definitely isn’t true for ALL bloggers: in fact, for many years, Adsense was my sole form of income (Yeah, I totally made that mistake I just advised you all against, and put all my eggs in the Adsense basket – I learned, though…), and it still accounts for a substantial portion of my monthly earnings.

(Aside: I’m not going to give actual figures in this post, partly because I’m not really comfortable with that, but also because it’s actually against the Adsense terms and conditions to disclose exactly what you earn from it.)

With that said, there’s a huge difference between what each of my blogs earn from Adsense. This site, for instance, earns far less from the programme (the Adsense ads are the ones at the bottom of each post, and in the sidebar, by the way…) than my other two blogs do, and I suspect this is part of a general trend, whereby “personal” sites will tend to make less from it than product or advice-based sites will. The reason for this is is pretty simple: Adsense is a contextual advertising programme, so, for the most part, it looks at your content and tries to serve ads which will match it. If you write about shoes, then, Adsense will show adverts for shoes (most of the time): the people who visit your site will (probably) be there because they’re interested in shoes, so they’ll be more likely to click on the adverts, which makes you money: simple.

If you write posts about what you had for dinner, or that one time you went for a walk and ended up touching an electric fence, however, Adense will have a much harder time working out what kind of adverts to display alongside that post, therefore you’ll have less chance of earning money. The other thing a lot of people don’t realise about Adsense is that it takes a lot of experimentation to get it working effectively: it’s really not just a case of pasting in the code and hoping for the best. We’ve spent literally years experimenting with ad placement, colours, etc, and sometimes what can seem like a tiny change to your layout or placement can make a huge difference to your earnings. A lot of new bloggers don’t realise this, so are inevitably disappointed when they make very little money from it.

If you want to make money from Adsense, then, you need to have:

a) content which Adsense can easily match with advertisers

and

b) visitors who are looking for specific information

For a long time, this blog made very little from Adsense, because it didn’t fulfil that criteria. People don’t go to Google and type in “stories about people touching electric fences”, after all, and even if they did, it’s unlikely that Adsense would have a huge amount of ads to suit that content. (I mean, I HOPE not anyway: wouldn’t it be weird if it did? ) Earnings from Adsense have been slowly increasing as I start to add different types of content, but I don’t anticipate it ever being a huge earner for this site (It IS a big earner on some sites, however – my other two blogs, for instance, do much better on Adsense, because they’re more product based, and more tightly focused), which brings me to my next income stream:

how to make money from blogging

Affiliate Links

(For an explanation of how affiliate linking works, go here.)

After a few years of just using Adsense, I decided to add in some affiliate links, which I still use, via Reward Style and Skimlinks. As I said in my previous post on this, income from affiliate linking is really unpredictable. In general, I can predict roughly what I’ll make from Adsense every week: it goes up and down depending on the traffic to the site, but it normally remains within a particular range. Affiliate income, on the other hand, is all over the place: I can go days without making any money at all from it, then one day I’ll make more than I normally do in a week: you just never know.

For me, although it’s not the biggest earner on the site, I do make a reasonable income from it, and I think it’s worth doing, because, unlike Adsense or other image-based ads, affiliate links are unobtrusive: they don’t take up any space on your screen, they don’t look ugly, they don’t auto-play and annoy people… They are, however, intensely disliked by some readers, who will go out of their way to avoid clicking on them, and who deeply resent bloggers who use them. To be totally blunt, I don’t really understand that attitude – if someone enjoys reading my blog (which they’re obviously not being charged to read, even although it takes me a long time to create the content), then it seems quite petty to want to prevent me making a few cents out of it, so I continue to use the links, but if it bothers you to know that some of your readers might be put off by them, they might not be for you.

Another issue that affects what you can earn from affiliate links is the type of content you post. Affiliate income depends on people clicking the link and buying something – if you don’t normally link to many products, then that will obviously lower your chances of earning money using this method. In my case, despite appearing to shop non-stop, a lot of the clothes I feature are old(er) and out of stock, so I don’t earn anything from them. I’m also not able to do outfit posts as regularly as I’d like, because of time and weather constraints – blogs which feature a constant stream of outfit posts, made up of items which are available to buy now, will have a much better chance of earning money from affiliate links

Sponsored posts

Sponsored posts are a fairly new addition to Forever Amber, and I really only started doing them this year. As with affiliate links, some readers dislike them, so I don’t advise doing too many of these in a short time-frame, but, depending on your blog’s traffic and followers, sponsored posts can be very profitable. Again, I prefer not to give exact figures, but a couple of sponsored posts can almost double my income for the month, so they’ve definitely been a worthwhile addition for me. My traffic is low compared to some, but I know of bloggers who’re able to command at least a couple of thousand pounds per post – you have to have a LOT of traffic to be able to make that kind of money, obviously, but to answer the question at the start of this post, sponsored posts have been by far the most profitable form of advertising for my blog.

Earlier this year, I signed up with Handpicked Media, who handle all of my sponsored posts for me: they negotiate the fee and put together the brief, so all I have to do is write the post. They do, of course, take a cut of the profits in exchange for this, but it’s been well worth it for me: I love blogging, but I DON’T love haggling over money, and when I tried to sell sponsored posts myself, I found myself drastically under-valuing them, and ending up working for almost nothing, purely because I was too embarrassed to ask for more money. If you’re good at selling yourself, though, this is something you could always manage yourself – I just prefer to be able to concentrate on blogging, and let someone else look after the rest!

How I make money from blogging

Display advertising

Finally, I also sell advertising at the top of the site, and in the footer and sidebar. Most of this ad space is also handled by Handpicked Media: I have a few ad slots which I sell directly, but I’m probably going to remove these soon, because they don’t sell particularly well, and I don’t think they’re worth the space they take up on the site. The ads run by Handpicked Media, on the other hand, do much better (despite being much more expensive), so I keep those running, even although, if it were up to me, I’d have no adverts at all on the site – they ruin my precious layout, and I think they look pretty ugly, but blogging for a living is all about compromise: I could have a beautiful site, without any pesky ads at all… but I wouldn’t earn any money from it, so there wouldn’t be much point!

* * *

Ultimately, the most profitable income stream for YOUR blog will depend on:

a) Your traffic levels – in very simple terms, the more visitors you have, the more money you can make

and

b) The type of content you post. If you want to make money from something like Adsense, for instance, you have to produce the kind of content that ranks well on search engines, and covers topics that people are advertising for. (You could be number one on Google for the term “one legged purple pony”, for instance, but you’re probably still not going to make much money from writing about that…) If you want to make money from affiliate links, meanwhile, you’ll have to create content which contains plenty of links to products people can buy.

Oh, and no matter HOW you decide to monetise your blog, you’re going to need to have enough visitors to make it worth your while. And that’s the REALLY hard part…

30 Comments
  1. An interesting read. I’m thinking I’m going to do the complete opposite and make no money at all from my blog so that it remains a pleasure. The professional in me says, but why not start earning, and the hippie chic in me says, who needs money!!

    1. It’s interesting to me that you think the two are mutually exclusive, and that if you make money it can’t also be a pleasure. I absolutely love blogging: it’s my passion, as well as being my job, so I don’t really understand this mindset. Then again, I DO actually need money, and if I can earn it by doing something I love, then so much the better!

      1. You can absolutely be a wealthy hippie. In fact you can do more of animals, people and the planet when you have money to set up foundations, sanctuaries and help with causes. Money isn’t evil, money is freedom.

  2. Some really handy advice, thanks! And I totally agree with your attitude – I don’t understand begrudging a blogger wanting to earn an income at all. If it makes the site not fun to read or isn’t backed up by great content, fair enough, but otherwise I don’t see why it’s anyone else’s concern! I haven’t had much luck with Adsense, aside from a couple of spikes in traffic it seems impossible to make any money, even though I feel my blog is growing incrementally there really is no sign of anything on Adsense – ah well. I ‘m too scattershot with the content to attract affiliate links I think, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. And sponsored posts, so long as I’m told it’s sponsored, and it’s in keeping with the blog/author’s usual style, I really have no problem with them. I think when there’s a lack of transparency is when it gets muddied, but most blogs I read are just really good about it I guess! Great post! 🙂

    1. I just don’t get it.. I can understand why people might not like sponsored posts, if they feel they’re really out of place or whatever (I actually don’t mind them – it’s not like I’m forced to read them, so if I’m not interested, I just scroll past…), but I’ve literally seen people saying things like, “Oh, I absolutely loved this dress I saw on X blog, but I didn’t want to give her the affiliate income, so I closed down the browser, cleared my cache, then spent 20 minutes searching for the item myself, so she didn’t make any money!” and it just sounds so petty to me. I mean, you found something you like, and that you might not otherwise have seen – why would it bother you to think that the person who directed you to it to you might get a commission, which won’t cost you anything? Why go out of your way to prevent someone making a living, especially if their blog has helped you find something? To me it’s a bit like saying, “I love the food at X restaurant, but I really hate the thought of the chef making money out of it, so I go out of my way to avoid it!” Unless you really hate the blogger whose site you’re reading, it makes no sense to me.

      1. Wow, that’s a whole other level I didn’t know existed – unreal! I’m new to it but if I’ve found something I like via another blog I always try to mention them as the source as a courtesy. It didn’t even occur to me why you wouldn’t!

      2. That sounds a little crazy to be honest. And as a blogger I am a complete opposite – if I am reading your blog, I make it a point to click on all the ads! (I feel guilty for reading the Guardian for free so do the same there!)

  3. I think the problem of people with sponsored links is that they feel like they have been tricked. As if the blogger isn’t really expressing his/her opinion, but just praising a product that maybe he/she doesn’t really like, just for the money. But as long as the sponsorship is disclosed and you trust the blogger, I really don’t see why it should be a bad thing.
    About google adsense I’m curious, so you think you could put it in the blog from day one, even when you still don’t have readers, and see how it grows with time?

  4. It’s really up to you – it won’t make any money at all if you don’t have traffic, so in that respect it could be quite demotivating to have it there, and it could take up space you might feel was better used for something else. I see a lot of new bloggers stick Adsense on right from day one, and then spend all their time stressing about why it’s not making them money, when in fact, NOTHING will make you money if you don’t have any traffic. On the other hand, if you’re going to monetise your blog, it can be helpful to make it clear right from the outset that you intend to make money from it – at least that way readers know what to expect! Personally, I would concentrate on building up a following before worrying about monetising, but that’s just me!

  5. I totally don’t get the affiliate link thing- I would pay for a film or music because I am happy to give that artist or maker money in exchange for enjoying their output. I don’t pay for blogs or videos but enjoy them so I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t get paid too for those kind of links! It’s a direct way of getting to something, it doesn’t cost me anything but it means the blogger or vlogger can carry on producing content for me. No brainer really! And if I want to shop around for different prices/sites then obviously I can still do that. The only ones that I wouldn’t use are obviously international blogs where I’d need to look for a UK site to buy from instead. Sponsored posts I do think are more of an issue when they are really out of tone with a blog (I unfollowed one who started posting about childcare when she didn’t even have a child, and had never mentioned it previously- after 3 posts that was enough for me!) but if it’s done right then I’m ok with those. x

  6. Hi Amber, I hope you are well. I read on your twitter last week that you’re planning in writing a blogging ebook. That would be very interesting to read and I think it would be a brilliant idea for any ‘newbie’ bloggers to use.
    Anyway have a good week. xx

  7. Hello Amber,
    I was wondering if readers from outside UK who are automatically redirected a second time from the uk-link you suggest to another local website of the same brand ( like .fr for me as I’m french) will make you earn any money at all for the search you permitted.
    In fact I fear you don’t, and that’s a pity because in this case you are the person who got us interested in the brand or product and, for payment and delivery reasons, you might not be credited for your work which is valuable for the brand and the reader.

    1. I agree – I’m in France but read various blogs from UK, US, Germany and others and have often wondered how buying something on the French site works for the bloggers in those countries. Would be great if you (Amber) could fill us in!

      1. I’ve no idea, to be honest – I suspect it probably differs from network to network, and possibly from retailer to retailer!

  8. My goal is to hit at least 5K uniques per month so I can sign to Handpicked and start making an actual living from my blog. I’m currently at around 3.5K and I make nothing from the affiliate banners in my sidebar or my shop page which has a Shopstyle widget on it. My traffic is way too low to make any money from it.

    I LOVE blogging and I wish we didnt have to have adverts on our blogs too, but food needs to be put on the table, like you say, there has to be a compromise so it irks me when readers or viewers on Youtube complain about sponsored content. Everybody needs to get paid somehow, as long as the content creator does it with integrity and only promotes what they actually believe in, then why bother if it was paid for?

    1. Yeah, it bothers me too – I mean, the alternative to advertising is that content creators start putting their content behind a paywall and charging for access to it, and I doubt people would be happy with that, either! I guess it comes down to deciding whether you want the internet to remain free, or whether you want it just to be AD free… if it’s the latter, and people keep using ad blockers etc, a lot of sites will end up having to switch to a subscription model if they want to keep going: I don’t think people really consider that when they go out of their way to stop bloggers earning money!

  9. I think the trick with sponsored posts is not to do more than a couple per month, or maaaaaybe one a week if you’re a prolific poster (like you are). If you’re only posting twice per week but one of those is a sponsored post each time? Your readers are going to stop feeling you’re writing anything authentic. But for someone who posts just about everyday, I think one sponsored post a week would fit in just fine, you’re obviously getting value alongside the sponsored post.

    Sponsored posts sort of belie the way we see bloggers, even monetized ones, as doing for the love of blogging. It’s a rude awakening that no, sometimes that logger only wrote something because she needs to make some money today. And there’s two ways it can read – just as a general advert post, but still within the scope of who the blogger is… or it can read as “I can guarantee she didn’t actually like this, every single sentence is corporate jargon from the company’s press release.”

    Sometimes that’s not the blogger’s fault – I find that companies often encourage or outright tell bloggers to use really horrible jargon-speak that you simply cannot make sound natural in writing. But sometimes it’s a blogger who just isn’t really into the product just sort of word-vomiting and then hitting ‘post.’. It depends on the brand, and the blogger.

    If I see a blogger become monetized and then suddenly I get hit with five sponsored posts from them in the same week?

  10. Argh. I hit ‘reply’ by accident.

    If I see a blogger become monetized and then suddenly I get hit with five sponsored posts from them in the same week?

    I start to lose interest. I didn’t start reading the blog for paid product placement, but for authentic stories and connections to the blogger’s life. (Obviously, this would be different on a blog that is specifically for products like a beauty or shoe blog). If the blogger then goes back to her normal posting schedule, then yay! But if the sponsored posts KEEP slamming on and burying everything else, well… I get enough magazines in the mail. You know?

    I find this problem less with blogs that were already monetized when I started reading them, I think maybe just because they’ve already had the time to stumble and find their footing before I signed on? So maybe it’s just a growing-pains thing, and it’s just that totally-monetized blogs stilla ren’t a very old idea.

  11. Affiliate links don’t bother me, and neither do the occasional sponsored post, but when all of a sudden 5 out of 7 days worth of posting becomes sponsored, I get a little annoyed. One of my previous favorite blogs became that way. I still follow her just to get the 2-3 posts that are really HER, but she is no longer a favorite. Another, that was never a favorite to begin with, I just unfollowed.

  12. Thanks for sharing this info. As a keen blogger, writing obsessively to create content this still seems so far away for me. To make money doing something I love, now that would be good. But, it’s true, it’s all about the traffic to start with and that’s what I’m having trouble with. Don’t suppose you have suggestions as to how to make this grow?

  13. Thank you for the post I am going to read the other linked posts to get my head around some of them more x

    Miss Kitty Kaos (Adventures Of A Riot Grrrl)

  14. Amber, may I ask your advice on something? It’s a little off topic of this post, but I’ve been following your blogging advice, and in another post, you talk about being careful of posting images that aren’t your own on your blog, about some people being naive that a blog is a published article, to paraphrase you. I notice you only use your own photos in your blog, and I wondered if you’d advise against, say, posting a picture of a famous artwork, even if you quote your source? I hope this makes sense. Thank you!

  15. Well, all images are automatically copyrighted, so it’s always best to ask permission before using them – citing the source doesn’t make it legal to use someone’s images, it just makes it easier for them to find you! Some countries do have a ‘fair use’ clause in their copyright law which allows use of certain images under certain circumstances, but I’m far from an expert on copyright law, especially in regards to something like artworks, which I have no knowledge of, so my rule of thumb is to always ask before using someone’s images. I wrote a post on blogging and copyright here:

    http://www.foreveramber.co.uk/2014/10/blogging-copyright-basics.html

  16. I just read this post because i want that cupcake ant that coffee !!!

    Pregnancy cravings are a real and nasty thing …

    Other than that, where did you get that cupcake?????????????????

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