The Ethical Guide to Finally Earning Money from Your Blog (Without Selling Out)

It’s like clockwork.

Every time I’m introduced as a “blogger”, one of the first questions that slips out of the mouths of my new acquaintances goes something like this:

“Oh really? That’s so cool! I’ve always loved to write. How do blogs make money, anyway?”

And I get it. When the term “professional blogger” comes up, you tend to picture a sloppy millennial lounging in pajamas until noon in their parents basement complaining about their lives online.

But that’s not exactly the whole story.

Sure, there are some bloggers who do that, just like there are some lawyers who only have one stronger addiction than GTA, and that’s cocaine.

But more often lawyers are normal people without any troubling addictions, and pro bloggers are influencers and online business owners with considerable expertise in their topics.

So blogs make money much like any business makes money: by offering products and/or services that solve a particular problem for their clients, customers, and audience members.

So if you’re finally ready to turn that blog you’ve been burning the midnight oil on into a legit business, one that actually makes money, and finally stop working so hard for free, I have good news for you…

  • You don’t have to rely on advertisements that pay you pathetically
  • You don’t have to hold your breath, cross your fingers and hope that brands will ask to sponsor you
  • And you don’t have to sell out by promoting an MLM pyramid scheme product that you don’t believe in.

In this guide, I’ll reveal several high-profit, high-potential ways to monetize your blog that have nothing to do with spamming your audience or get-rich-quick schemes.

So you can start seeing results like these:

Instead of like this big fat zeros every time you login to your PayPal account. But first, we need to address the elephant in the room.

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The #1 Blog Monetization Method You Should Avoid Like the Plague

Let’s play a word association game real quick:

When I say “monetize your blog!” what do you think of?

If your mind went directly to ads, you’re not alone.

That’s because (unfortunately) most bloggers start here, which is why you’re constantly being bombarded by horribly tacky (and often downright creepy) display ads on seemingly every blog you visit.

But let’s be real:

Blog ads are a terrible way to monetize your blog. They make your blog look like shit, you can’t control most of the ads that are displayed on your website, and they pay pathetically.

And I haven’t even mentioned the most important point yet: they fracture your reader’s hard-earned trust.

So why are blog ads so widely used as a monetization method? Two reasons:

  1. They’re stupid simple to set up
  2. Most new bloggers don’t know any better.

If you’re reading this as a new blogger who is in that “doesn’t know any better” boat, now you do.

And If you’re reading this as an established blogger who is imploring my sweet corner of the internet for ways to take your blog pro, please for the love of all that is good, do not monetize with blog ads.

You have other options. Check ‘em.

how do blogs make money?

Blog Monetization Method #1: Freelancing

Let’s say you’re chomping at the bit to earn some money from your blog.

Or maybe you’re just sick of seeing red every month between your hosting and email fees. I get it.

So if you’re looking for the quickest way to make a meaningful amount of money from your blog, freelancing is it.

Freelancing is by far the easiest way to monetize your blog initially. In reality, you’re not monetizing your blog itself, but using your blog as a portfolio or an authority builder.

You might think that freelancing is just for writers. That’s not true. This is a viable option and something that can actually pay quite well (don’t listen to the “starving artist” diatribe), but you can be a:

You can be a freelance audio editor, bookkeeper, artist, strategist. There are plenty of freelancing opportunities.

Freelancing may not be a long term play for you, but it can be a worthwhile exercise in learning how to work with clients, how to get paid online, and how to underpromise and overdeliver.

If you are just starting out with monetizing your blog, you should start here.

Oh, and if you have the illusion that there’s no way you can earn enough money freelancing to be comfortable?

One of my coaching clients, Nico, used this framework to take his brand new freelancing business from $0 to $10,000/month… in just under 6 months.

Blog Monetization Method #2: Affiliate Marketing

Ever buy a product or service from somebody who received a kickback or commission when you purchased?

That’s affiliate marketing.

Some people call this passive income. It’s not. They’re selling a dream that doesn’t exist.

To succeed with affiliate marketing, you need two things:

  1. A large, engaged audience with whom you’ve built considerable trust: People buy from people they know, like, and trust.
  2. A lot of insanely useful content: Nobody will buy from your affiliate links if they can’t find you. Insanely useful content builds SEO, links, and trust. It also makes it a no-brainer for your audience to buy from you.

Neither list building nor content marketing are even remotely “passive”.

If you’ve been sold on the “make money while you sleep, watch Netflix or go on vacation” or the “four hour workweek” madness, remember what your mama always told you:

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Succeeding at affiliate marketing isn’t as easy as some shady internet marketers try to sell you.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Affiliate marketing can be rewarding, enjoyable, and yup — insanely profitable. Every month, I earn at least a couple thousand dollars from affiliate marketing, promoting products I love.

And no, you don’t have to have a blog about making money online to succeed with affiliate marketing. I’d actually say this is going to make sure you don’t succeed (after all, it’s what all the cool kids are doing these days).

You can earn affiliate income in most niches…

Affiliate marketing is for almost everyone. As long as you do it right and follow a framework, you can succeed with affiliate marketing.

If you already have a blog, I recommend checking out Michelle’s course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. She earns $50,000/month+ in affiliate income from her personal finance blog and can teach you how to do the same.

Click here to check out Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

(Please note that this in and of itself is an affiliate link and I’ll get a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you buy through my link. It’s an excellent course that I’ve personally vetted, and even recommended to my mom =))

Blog Monetization Method #3: Brand Sponsorships

If you were blogging a few years ago, you’d be familiar with sponsored brand collaborations.

Now, these are more common for social media sponsorships and podcast sponsorships, rather than blog sponsorships — unless you’re a fashion or “lifestyle” blogger.

That’s because bloggers can usually earn more acting as affiliates for the products and brands who would otherwise sponsor them.

Brand sponsorships are when a brand pays you to work with them to expose your audience to their brand, either on social media or on your website itself.

You might think sponsorships sound a lot like advertising, and you’d be right, but there are a few differences:

  • Usually with brand sponsorships you work with the brand directly, rather than using an outside advertising platform like AdThrive or Google Adsense.
  • You’re paid far more with sponsorships and you can control who you work with, unlike with advertising.
  • If you do work one on one to place an advertisement on your blog, usually it’s a one-time fee or placement, and you just set it and forget it. Brand sponsorships are more in-depth, and usually more intentional with how they get in front of your audience.

I don’t do brand sponsorships with Unsettle, but in 2015, Eurail sponsored Marissa and I on our trip to Europe.

To succeed with brand sponsorships, you usually need a large, engaged social or podcast audience.

Blog Monetization Method #4: Coaching and Consulting

How would it feel to earn thousands of dollars per month from your blog by genuinely helping people?

If that sounds good to you, then coaching or consulting might be your jam.

I hesitated to lump coaching and consulting together, as they’re not one and the same, but ultimately this is working 1:1 with clients to solve a problem or provide a service.

  1. Consulting requires more hands-on work from you
  2. Coaching is helping the individual successfully do the work themselves (and guiding them through it).

It can be difficult to find consulting opportunities through blogging (most online companies hire freelancers to do the work for them, and most individuals hire coaches), but coaching is a great place to start monetizing your blog… if you could do it well…

And not everybody can.

When I say do it well, I mean provide massive amounts of supportive value to your coaching clients.

As a coach, you can make anywhere between $100-$1,000 (or more) per hour. You wouldn’t start out with premium prices. When I started as a coach I earned about $100/hour. Now, if I were taking clients I’d earn far more than that:

how blogs make money

Every time I’d find myself with a full client load (of about 5-6 clients), I’d bump my prices up. Coaching used to make up around 50% of Unsettle’s income.

So what kind of coach can you be?

You’ve probably seen business coaches, leadership coaches, fitness, health, and nutrition coaches, and sports coaches in the past.

You can also become a…:

You can even niche down, like Arianna Taboada an entrepreneurial maternity leave coach.

Coaching isn’t a get rich quick scheme (though nothing in this guide is), and you shouldn’t become a coach just to make money. Coaching requires a high level of involvement and investment, and continuous improvement.

Blog Monetization Method #5: Digital Products

Bloggers usually start making money from their blogs by selling ad space on their websites.

When they realize the error of their ways, they’ll either switch to or add affiliate marketing to the mix.

But when they get really serious about treating their blogs as a business, they decide to create their own products.

For a blogger, digital products are the bread and butter. I’ll talk about physical products in a bit, but digital products is anything that can be delivered electronically without having to shop.

Things like:

Digital products like these are usually used as a tripwire – or a smaller, less expensive product that leads to the sale of your “flagship product” (which is often a higher priced, premium product).

Want to monetize your blog but don't know where to start? Get my FREE report 10 Free Tools That Reveal the Product Your Audience is Begging For to finally start making money from your blog… the right way.

And that higher priced product for many bloggers tends to this next one…

Blog Monetization Method #6: Teaching Online Courses

Every once in awhile, somebody internet famous comes out of the woodwork with a new way they’ve made a shit-ton of money through their blogs and online businesses.

A couple of years ago, that was affiliate marketing.

But over the past couple of years, that method has been selling online courses. There are courses in almost every niche. You’ve seen courses in digital marketing, like…

My How to Earn $1,000/Month on Etsy course, Nathan’s Instagram Domination, Michelle’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing and others.

But online courses don’t have to be just about making money online. There are courses like:

Online courses can be a lucrative way to monetize your blog and teach your audience something massively valuable, and they can be priced much higher than a digital product or ebook.

Blog Monetization Method #7: Membership Sites

If blogging and business income has one downfall it’s this:

It’s uncertain.

Unlike with your 9-5 paycheque, you can’t always estimate how much money you’ll earn from month to month.

That can make budgeting difficult (though not impossible) and larger purchases a little scary to follow through with. Even if you make far more money with your blog or online income than you do your day job, it’s still difficult to wrap your head around.

That’s why this form of blogger money making is considered the “holy grail of online income”: membership sites.

A membership site is an online community, usually with resources and information that you pay a monthly fee to be a part of.

So if you charge each member $30/month, and you have 50 members, you can earn $1,500/month. This is an over simplified calculation (there are factors like “churn” to consider) but you get the idea.

Membership sites may have monthly lessons, group coaching calls, and likely have forums or another method of community involvement with other members. Examples include:

You can also monetize your blog by charging your members to be part of a Facebook group or a forum, like Ryan Levesque’s Next Level Mastermind.

Membership sites do require far more maintenance and work than many other build-and-sell products, but they quash the common frustration of unstable finances.

Blog Monetization Method #8: Summits and Events

This is more of an advanced monetization strategy, but it exists nonetheless, so it deserves to be talked about.

If you’re bold and at least somewhat well-connected in your industry, you can monetize your blog through online summits and events.

This is where you charge a fee (like an event ticket) for a virtual conference.

Just like an in-person conference, you’d have presenters and workshops and teach around a specific topic. This isn’t a common way to monetize, but it’s been done in many niches:

These may not be for you if you’ve never monetized your site before.

Blog Monetization Method #9: Physical Products

When you think of the word product, you usually think of something you can buy in a store like WalMart or Ikea — physical products.

Physical products are anything you can hold in your hands. Unlike digital products, they’re shippable and you send them out in the mail. For example:

Most bloggers prefer digital products. Being responsible for manufacturing or ordering, shipping, and tracking physical products negates a lot of why many people want to become bloggers anyway (to have the freedom for digital nomadism, to travel, etc).

But there are ways around those common issues (like Benny’s story) like dropshipping, fulfillment centers, or just outsourcing it.

Blog Monetization Method #10: Apps and SaaS

Ever wish an app or program existed?

Something that would help you achieve something specific? Or maybe what you need does exist, but you have an idea on how to improve it.

That’s one way you could monetize your blog – by building the app or program you wish existed.

If you have a frugality blog, maybe you’d create a couponing app. If you have a sleep training blog, maybe you’d create a sleep cycle tracking app.

This isn’t the most popular blog monetization method because it can be costly and involved — most people aren’t developers who can create a functioning app or program others would be willing to pay for.

But some bloggers have been super successful with this. Bloggers like:

I say find what you’re good at and stick to it. If you aren’t a developer or don’t know one intimately, monetize through the other methods in this guide.

Don’t Take the Easy Way Out. Here’s Where to Start with Monetizing Your Blog

Most bloggers will get scared of monetizing their blogs the right way, and take the easy way out: display ads.

This is sad. Not only will ads hurt the design of your site, but they’ll also fracture the trust of your audience.

Plus, they make you a pathetic amount of money.

Instead, here’s what I’d suggest:

Step 1: Use the free report, 10 Free Tools That Reveal the Product Your Audience is Begging For (click the link to get it) to create a digital product tripwire.

Step 2: Find 3-5 products you love and use regularly related to your niche and become an affiliate for them in your emails and blog posts.

Step 3: Use the data you collect through your “what are you struggling with” email and blog comments to develop and idea for a membership website or online course.

This is the most direct path to creating a sustainable career from your blog that doesn’t make you sell out.

Click here to get 10 Free Tools That Reveal the Product Your Audience is Begging For to finally start making money from your blog… the right way.

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