Can you really make money blogging? I mean, real, “replace your day job” kind of money? Yes, you can. But don’t just rely on my words. Let’s look at real life examples of eight high-earning bloggers. How do they do it, and what can we learn from their success?
These people were no gurus, marketing experts or published authors when they started. They were “ordinary” people just like you. But they learned one thing early on — they had to treat their blog as an online business.
Without that mindset, it will take you much longer to figure out how to make a living blogging.
How much can a blogger make? That depends largely on two factors: the niche and the monetization methods. And, of course, whether you blog full-time or just have a few hours per week to put into growing your online business.
It also depends on whether you:
- prefer to stay a solopreneur, i.e., run your blog mostly on your own, perhaps with the help of a family member, or a virtual assistant, or
- choose to become a full-fledged entrepreneur, with employees, an office, possibly a warehouse, etc.
The income level of the successful bloggers you’ll meet in this article ranges from allowing for a modest lifestyle to supporting families with two or more kids to multi-million dollar businesses.
So, let’s jump in and learn how to make a living blogging from the real experts — the “everyday people” who built real businesses, based on something they know and love (not by teaching others how to become a successful blogger).
Patty “Sassy” Knutson Makes a Living with her Vegan Cooking Site
Niche: food, vegan cooking
Primary monetization model: coaching services
Secondary revenue streams: ebooks, ecourses
When Sassy started vegancoach.com in 2007, she knew nothing about the online world except how to check emails and do Google searches. But she knew she wanted to turn her skills as a personal chef and nutritional consultant into a scalable business. A business that didn’t depend on exchanging her time for money and one that she could take with her wherever she went.
Four years later, her website had grown into a thriving coaching business and multiple secondary income streams, including her own ebooks and a weight-loss ecourse.
Two years further on, her husband Jeff joined her in running their service business, which is now their main source of income.
Sassy’s top blogging advice
“If you are considering starting your own online business, you really must be prepared that you might succeed at it. You must know that it is a business, and a business takes time to grow. And then it must be tended to on a daily basis because there is ALWAYS something to do.
That’s why I highly recommend that you LOVE the topic you are writing and teaching others about because it will keep you going when the road gets long and winding. Fortunately, my topic is my life.”
Mary and Dave Morris: Successful Front Porch Bloggers
Niche: porches, DIY home decoration
Primary monetization model: selling ad space (Google AdSense, site sponsors)
Secondary revenue streams: contractor referral network, affiliate programs, ebooks, calendars, t-shirts, mugs
Mary and Dave dubbed themselves “kitchen table entrepreneurs” early on because they worked from their kitchen table in the first 5-6 years of their business.
To this day, they remember the date when they made their first 77 cents from their business: April 20th, 2009.
A month later, their daily income was 10 times that, and growing fast. Within 18 months, Mary was able to quit her day job. She and her husband have earned their living from their online business ever since.
Their blog was so successful that they were featured in major media networks, like Fox News and Blog Talk Radio. Even by Google in its annual economic report for the state of Tennessee.
Mary and Dave’s top blogging advice
“We love being a solopreneur couple, but we have seen ups and downs over the years for sure. With Google algorithms changing constantly and all the changes in the internet, it’s a rock and roll ride. At times, frustrating and disappointing, but we are proud we’ve held our own over the course of time.
Being a solopreneur couple requires dedication and a ton of consistent effort. We’ve put in countless hours.”
Luke and Hollie Barber’s Speech Therapy Online Business
Niche: speech therapy
Primary monetization model: apps
Secondary revenue streams: ebooks, PDF downloads
When they started, Luke and Hollie monetized their website via the typical beginner models, i.e., with Google AdSense and Amazon affiliate links. But despite their growing search engine traffic, these two passive income methods combined only made them a couple of thousand dollars per year.
They also offered some ebooks for sale, but the real income boost happened when Luke noticed something interesting in their Google Analytics stats: their “word lists” were the most popular pages, and the majority of people visited them from their mobile Apple devices, iPads and iPhones.
The idea for their first app was born. Has the app been successful? You bet. It was the primary reason why Luke could quit his job as a speech therapist. Since then, he and his wife have developed six more apps. The couple and their four kids live comfortably on the income from their online business, which brings in $100,000 per year.
Luke’s top blogging advice
“Begin building your email list early on, even if you don’t have any products to sell yet. Your email list will be your most valuable asset for driving traffic, understanding who your audience is, creating your first product, and making sales.”
Luke shares four more great tips for becoming a successful blogger in his interview.
Ashley Cotter-Cairns Makes a Full-Time Income in Online Comic Book Trades
Niche: comic books
Primary monetization model: buying and reselling comic book collections
Secondary revenue streams: eBay affiliate program, ebooks, video courses, Google AdSense
Within a year after starting sellmycomicbooks.com, Ashley landed his first major comic books collection, at an investment of $3,000, which resulted in total sales of between $10,000 and $12,000.
His site also brought in a bit of AdSense and eBay affiliate income, but the numbers didn’t get interesting until the second year.
Now his blog generates a full-time income for Ashley and his business partner Sean, plus two full-time employees, plus a part-time shipping assistant. Ashley’s profit is into six figures after salaries and costs.
Ashley’s top blogging advice
“There is more than one way to turn a visitor into a customer.
The key is to think like your visitor. Imagine their pain points. Try to anticipate what it will take to make them get out their wallet and pay you for your expertise.
If in doubt, put surveys on the site and ask your customers what they struggle with. Their answers will provide you with both content and product ideas. And the language they use will help you to write great content and craft sales pages exactly expressing their desires.”
Boo and Tony Peel: Travel Bloggers and Zimbabwe Experts
Primary monetization model: commissions from hotels, lodges and tour operators
Secondary revenue streams: vacation planning services, ebooks (travel guides), Google AdSense
About 8 months after Tony and Boo started publishing great content on their Victoria Falls Guide, they had their first booking and made a small commission. Soon after, business inquiries started to soar.
Today they have 3 full-time consultants. Each year, they book hundreds of itineraries for people visiting Zimbabwe.
Not only does their online business provide them with a living, it has also helped them get out of debt and move back to their home country. Read more about this couple’s extraordinary journey here.
Then check out our recommendations for best travel affiliate programs to join as a travel blogger.
Tony’s top blogging advice
“Stick to the [Solo Build It!] Action Guide. It’s not a 10 DAY program, it’s a 10 STEP program. Some steps will take weeks depending on your time availability. Don’t try to jump ahead of yourself.
Do the research part diligently, nail down your niche and then create great unique quality content. It takes time, so be patient and don’t give up. If you do this, success in some shape or form is guaranteed.”
Carl Trent: From Side Hustle Blog to Team of 50
Primary monetization model: online magazine subscription
Secondary revenue streams: calendars, ebooks, coffee table books, travel agency commissions
An air traffic controller for 27 years, Carl knew that he had to retire at 55 (mandatory for his job). That deadline was 8 years away when he started searching for how to replace his income and have fun doing it.
The best place to start is with your passion(s). Carl’s lifelong passion was Walt Disney. He knew he wanted to “do something” centered on Disney.
DadsGuidetoWDW.com was born. 10 years later, Carl’s “side hustle” has grown into a flourishing business with a team of 50 people. Initially he had monetized passively with AdSense. But once he had retired and had more time to work on his online business, he developed his own product, a monthly digital travel magazine. That’s when his income really took off.
Carl’s top advice about how to make a living blogging
“You need to have something to sell of your own. You can do it with affiliate products if you find a good one. But the best thing you can have is your own product to sell. That’s the best thing. Informational sites are cool and they’re fun and if that’s what you’re looking for, fine, do an informational site.
But if you’re looking for a living, a way to make money, a way to supplement an income, you need to start with some sort of product, some kind of idea about a product.”
Taylor Flanery Replaced a Lawyer’s Income Blogging About Household Tips
Niche: household tips
Primary monetization model: affiliate marketing (Amazon and other affiliate programs)
Secondary revenue streams: Google AdSense, sponsored content and product reviews
When Taylor first started blogging, she was dissatisfied with her job as a litigation attorney. She was looking for a job that would allow her to spend more time with her kids and could be done from anywhere. A website/blog seemed ideal.
From the very beginning Taylor had a business mindset when it came to her sites. They were meant to make her money. Her first income goal was a moderate $500 per month.
Several years and a lot of hard work later, the income from Taylor’s sites now fully supports her family. Both she and her husband were able to quit their day jobs.
Taylor’s best piece of blogging advice
“Over and over, as I’ve met successful website owners, no matter what their niche, the thing they all have in common is putting in the time and work, consistently. Building an online business is hard work, and it isn’t quick and easy.
It will most likely take you several years to really get in the groove and begin to make serious money, although you can begin to see some more modest results sooner. But don’t compare yourself to those farther ahead of you. You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. If you focus, put in the time daily, and hustle, you can do it too.”
Richard Bergman’s Blog on Deck Building Became a Multi-Million Dollar Business
Niche: deck building
Primary monetization model: selling his own physical products
Secondary revenue streams: none
Richard comes from a family of builders. When he developed his first deck building product, the Titan Post Anchor, he knew he was onto a winner. But how would he convince hardware outlets to distribute his product if they had never heard about him?
He needed proof that his product sold. He turned online. Following the SBI! Action Guide, he created decksgo.com, a content website around building decks and backyard home improvement.
Not only does his information-rich niche site drive traffic to his online store, but — more importantly — it opened up the doors to hardware distributors in the US and Canada, who are now selling Richard’s products.
Having an online business was fundamental for Richard to make his offline business a success. What started out as a small side project grew into a multi-million dollar company.
Richard’s top blogging advice
“Be very honest with yourself. Choose an area you are fired up about. Pick something with an economic future but that you really enjoy and will enjoy for the long term. I started with a guitar site/product. I love guitar to this day but will never be a guitar authority. So that is not my long term play.
I loved building from a young age and always will. That was my long term play. Figure that out before you spend precious time and money on something that won’t work.”
Watch Richard’s interview below or read his case study here.
How to Make a Living Blogging: The Key Takeaways
No matter what your area of expertise or your passion is, you can earn a full-time income with your blog. However, there are a few key characteristics that separate the high earners from the low earners.
To join the ranks of successful bloggers, you need to:
- have a business mindset from the get-go
- research the profitability of your niche before you start
- have a solid understanding of your ideal customer
- plan how you are going to monetize (although this can change as you get to know your audience better)
- listen to your audience and build a relationship of trust with them
- always, always provide the highest quality of content — content that answers your readers’ questions, fulfills their desires or solves their problems.