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12 Blogging Income Streams [And the Story of My 10 Year ‘Overnight’ Success]

Today I was speaking with a blogger (I’ll call her Alice for the sake of this post) who was feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of monetizing her blog. She expressed that as she looked at other blogs in her niche, everyone seemed to be doing such amazing things. She said she felt she’d never be able to compete.

Other blogs in Alice’s niche were running online courses, selling out hundred people live events around the country, selling ads to fortune 500 companies, authoring best selling eBook and more. The thought of even beginning to monetize her blog in these ways was completely paralysing Alice!

It is so easy to be overwhelmed to the point of paralysis when you look at what other bloggers are doing. I know this from personal experience!

My advice to Alice was to keep in mind that all those other amazing blogs started in the same place that she was – without any income streams at all.

Often it is easy to forget this and see a successful blog as always being what it is today.

By way of illustration, I shared my own story

When I started blogging (here’s how to start your own blog), I did it as a hobby. I had no intention of it ever being more than that and there were no examples of people directly monetizing blogs.

Over the coming year and a half, my blog grew in popularity and the hobby became something of a passion and obsession. It also began to cost me money to run for hosting, domain, design etc.

Phase 1

Blogging Income 6

I began to dabble in monetizing with the hope of simply covering my costs. My first experiments were with Google AdSense and the Amazon Affiliate Program. The results weren’t spectacular but they were encouraging enough for me to keep trying. A few dollars began to trickily in but more importantly – I was learning a lot!

Phase 2

Over the coming months I continued to experiment with AdSense and Amazon. I vastly improved how I was implementing the programs (better ad positioning, writing reviews for affiliate products). I also began to think about how to drive more traffic to my blog. I even started a second blog (and then more followed)!

The results were that my income began to grow. I began to see my blogging as a part-time job and even began to wonder if it could one day be full-time.

Over the coming year I also began to also look at other forms of monetization.

Blogging Income 6

During this time I started promoting affiliate programs with other online stores. I also did something that terrified me but which became a great income stream, I picked up the phone and began to sign up advertisers directly. This was a period where I had to bite the bullet and start to treat blogging not just as a hobby – but as a business.

Again – these new income streams started small and were experiments. My first ad sale was for $20 for a month long ad. It didn’t bring me overnight riches but securing the ad taught me a lot and contributed to my overall income.

It was around this time I realised that while none of my income streams were enough to sustain me alone, a blog could actually sustain multiple sources of small income that could add up to something significant.

My goal was to go full time as a blogger. To do that I knew I needed to grow multiple streams of income and my blog’s traffic.

Phase 3

It was around this time that other Advertising Networks began to appear. I experimented with quite a few but the one I had most success with was Chitika. At the time, AdSense was my #1 source of income but putting Chitika on my site almost doubled that income overnight and allowed me to go full time as a blogger!

Blogging Income 6

Of course it wasn’t just that Chitika worked well. I’d also been growing my traffic, building reader engagement/community etc – but the extra income stream helped a lot.

Phase 4

It was around this time that I’d started ProBlogger as a blog along with a whole new range of income streams. I did monetize ProBlogger in the early days, using all of the above income streams but I found that ProBlogger was actually better to monetize indirectly.

By ‘indirect monetization’ I mean that ProBlogger began to grow my own personal profile and authority on the topic of blogging and I began to be approached to provide products and services that I could sell. The blog itself didn’t necessarily make money – but it enabled ME to make money as a result of the blog.

Blogging Income 6

For example, it was through ProBlogger that I landed my first paid speaking opportunity. I was asked to fly to Washington DC to speak at a conference – (all expenses covered plus a small fee paid).

Around the same time, I was approached to write the ProBlogger Book (the hard cover one that is now in it’s 3rd edition). This only came off the back of the ProBlogger blog.

Similarly, around this time I began to offer my services as a consultant to help people with their blogging strategy (a service I don’t offer any more).

Once again, these income streams started small (in fact writing a Book isn’t generally a big income stream for most authors) but they each contributed to the overall revenue from my blogging, which was now adding up to be a lot more than I’d ever earned from any other job (keeping in mind that I’d been blogging now for 4-5 years).

Phase 5

Most of the above income streams have continued to grow but other opportunities have presented themselves as new technologies emerge. While I’d previously been approached to create a hard copy book, we began to see the emergence of eBooks. While people previously had asked me to speak at their live events we began to see people delivering content via virtual/online courses and conferences.

Blogging Income 6

I began to experiment with creating eBooks and membership areas to my sites. eBooks have gone on to become my main income stream (both with ProBlogger eBooks and Photography eBooks). The main income from eBooks tends to come in fits and starts, when we either launch a new eBook or run a sale/promotion on one but even when we don’t have these events happening they still steadily sell each day in small numbers. Again, contributing to the overall revenue.

I also added the Job board here at ProBlogger.

The job board is an interesting example of what I’m talking about today. It has never been a spectacularly huge income stream but it has actually been a pretty steady source of income over the years. We generally see 1-2 new blogger jobs advertised every day and that $50-$100 per day in income adds up over time. I’ve not got the exact figures but I’d estimate that over the last 5 years it has brought in over $100,000! I’m glad I started it!

By this stage my income was growing to the point where I was able to bring on others into my team. This started with some very part time outsourcing of small jobs but in more recent times has enabled me to hire a number of team members to help run different components of my business.

Phase 6

The final income stream has become a growing focus of my team and I (although I have to say it’s not a massive income stream at this point) has been running events and conferences.

Our annual ProBlogger Training Event here in Australia has grown in number each year and this year we think it’ll probably turn a small profit. Having said that, my intent with these events is not to make a lot of money. Rather, it is about giving something back to the Aussie Blogosphere (it is also great for branding and gives me a lot of personal satisfaction and fun).

We’ve also started to run some smaller more focused workshops (our Email Marketing workshop in Melbourne still has a handful of spots left).

Blogging Income 6

My suspicion is that events will be something we’ll see expand a little in the coming years.

Final Thoughts

Let me sum up with a few thoughts, disclaimers and words of encouragement:

Keep in mind that all of the above has happened over 10 years. While today there are obviously 12 or so income streams (although I’m sure I’m forgetting something) they all started quite small and as experiments.

There have been moments where it did seem like I had rushes of income, those rushes were usually the result of several years work and investment of time and money.

I also would say that in each case, I started each experiment not really knowing what I was doing (on at least some level) but really seeing the experiments as a chance to learn. For example, my first eBooks were taking previously published blog posts and updating, completing and adding to them to offer readers a more convenient way to access my content.

At the time I had no idea if that would work and the design and delivery of the eBooks was fairly basic. In time I learned what did and didn’t work and was able to grow the sophistication of my delivery systems, design, authoring and marketing to the point that it’s become a fairly well-oiled machine.

The key is to pick something to try and to see whether it connects with your readership and to learn as much as you can while you’re doing it. Often you end up evolving what you do to the point that it is a better fit for you and your blog – but you’ll never get to that point without starting.

Update: I’ve since published a followup to this post that gives a split of the different income streams.

Also check out our guide to making money blogging which gives a good overview of the topic.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. This is an awesome list. I have tried Amazon Associates without any success. For the past 5 years, only Adsense has worked for me and nothing else. Its high time now that I should start looking for alternatives. Thanks.

    • How are you using it? I find links within blog posts work the best for me. Never had much success with widgets to be honest.

      Anyhow, the key to making affiliate sales is gaining the trust of your audience. When they trust you, they’re more likely to spend their money to buy something you recommend.

    • @SD- My name is Amanda and I am the new Publisher Acquisition Manager here at Chitika. Did you know you can run Chitika Ad’s with Adsense Ad’s? Did you know that we just signed a multi year partnership with Yahoo!? Let me know if you should have any questions on how to sign-up and monetize your web/blogsite:)

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Darren! I’ve been “dabbling” in monetization myself, and it’s go to have an explanation of future endeavors – to give me an idea of direction. Appreciate your writing skills!

  3. Hi Darren,
    I sure am glad you started your job board too!
    I employed two awesome bloggers for my backpacker/travel website.
    Through their stories, I have already seen a meaningful increase in engagement and that will mean more traffic and revenue will follow. What I also find really amazing through is the impact we will be having on many others who backpack around Australia!
    Such is the power of blogging and a jobs board. Thanks a bunch.
    Quinn

  4. Hey Darren!

    Totally awesome post, thanks for sharing. :-) I shared it on my Facebook page today and this is what I said,

    “I love Darren, he’s been a great leader in this industry. It’s neat to see how his income came about, I personally started with affiliate income, membership site, then ebooks/reports, then advertising sales. It shows you that having a biz online CAN be truly UNIQUE to who you are. Enjoy the article, I know I did. And Thanks to Michael Hyatt for sharing the article on Facebook today. ;-)”

    Hope you have an incredible day!

  5. Thanks, Darren. Not only is it great to see the steps it took to get to where you are, but I’m so glad you addressed the issue of your 10 year “overnight” success. I find this to be one of the most common misconceptions people have about blogging (I once had a new blogger ask me, “I need 40K by July. How do I do that?”). Great post.

  6. One of the best and most encouraging articles I’ve seen on ProBlogger.net Well said and done. Currently reading the ProBlogger book v3!!!

  7. Learning from your experience is enough encouragement to go on as a blogger, though i started with adsense, over time i have seen the need to introduce another income method to my blog, affiliate marketing seemed the next destination.

    I actually learnt one thing from all the monetizing methods you shared here, you kept mentioning building your traffic which is to say the methods may not have worked if your traffic wasn’t growing. This is one point i will definitely consider while monetizing my blog.

    Thanks for such a great encouragement…

  8. You know what would’ve made these graphics even better? If you’d sized them according to how important they are. :) Making $100 as an Amazon affiliate and $10,000 selling ebooks isn’t the same thing but on the chart they could both be “income sources.” (I’m in no way suggesting that’s how your own business goes but it’s relevant to many bloggers.)

  9. Excellent post Darren.

    Interesting that ebooks came in towards of the end of your monetization path…because you’re such a good writer.

    But your example is an excellent lesson is diversification.

  10. Great post! I’ve been thinking more and more about how to add different streams of income to make blogging my full-time job. There are definitely some great suggestions here that will help me to grow.

  11. It is an awesome article. That’s I like about your way of giving value to others.

    This is something we bloggers need to know.

    I’m starting on blogging but rest assured I’ll start trying some of the income tactics.

    Thanks!

  12. You are an inspiration Mr Rowse and I love that you’re so willing to share your experience and help others. What a top bloke.

  13. Your words do wonders for motivation!

    It is interesting to see that I am currently exactly at the phase as you described your phase 2 here.
    So far, I have had a great success with Adsense only. The other income streams would come and go, but Adsense is the one that is steady and sound.

    I sometimes accept direct advertising by the companies who approach me via email to ask, but I’m really picky, and I don’t allow any product to be advertised on my blog. Maybe that’s why I haven’t seen much success with direct ads so far.

    Nonetheless, I will try to follow your path, and experiment with different things in a small way. So, we’ll see what happens.

  14. Thanks for sharing! I just started paid speaking engagements and blogging workshops locally for pet businesses and published 2 eBooks last month. It’s a start!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    ~ Kim

  15. This is a great infographic! Thanks Darren for sharing the larger picture for us. Sometime I tend to get too focused on one method. Cheers, Nate

  16. I love that you shared the whole process with us, Darren. It’s encouraging to remember our heroes had to start small, too.

  17. At least it’s a good feeling to feel that AdSense is not the only source of income for website content publishers. While Google AdSense is a great way to make money, one should always diversify their internet income strategies, as Darren mentions in this post. :-)

  18. Great post! I too have started off similar. I have just started speaking at seminars and workshops, and next I hope to release some ebooks.

    Looking forward to the future.

    Carlie Hamilton.

  19. I am an adsense earner and i am earning well but not has high as you’re making though, but it is still a success. I am planning on diversifying my root, maybe venturing into the affiliate world and see how my revenue will turn out. your post is truly an inspiration to me. thanks and God bless

  20. Thanks for letting us begginers know that it can happen it just takes time and readjustment.I also think its important that every “expert” was a begginer at one point and there is nothing wrong with not knowing everything.Going to go study those steps again I think I am in phase one still

  21. Darren, this is quite a useful list. Thank you for sharing it. I will explore the amazon affiliates to see if I can plan for it.

  22. Amazon associate is a great platform but the commission rate is really low. I mean if I promote an ebook and if anyone use my affiliate link to buy it then I will earn less than 5% commission which will be less than half a dollar. So for me amazon associate is NO, but then their are many great platform like clickbank, shareasale and others which have proved to be a real income stream for my blog.

    • I hear what you’re saying Vivek, however as I say in this post, all the small income streams can come together to something significant. For me Amazon started very slow but over the years has added up to be something pretty amazing (at least I think it is) as I shared in my recent post on the topic.

  23. Thanks for sharing your valuable experience with us. I’m sure that it will help a lot of people like me whose blogs are still in the nascent stage. Now, i will also try to generate some income from the sources you mentioned.
    Thank you again!

  24. I’m so glad you wrote this post, Darren. Like the shampoo ad, it won’t happen overnight but it will happen … if you keep at it and have the interest and drive to do so.

    It’s 5 years since I started my business – it wasn’t a blog business to start with but the blog was the centre of my marketing. I could not have written the 5 year plan that has eventuated. And I’m SO glad I stepped out of my regular salary comfort zone to have a go because not only have I increased by income but the biggest bonus has been creating a “job” that I truly love.

  25. Amazing the infographic, Job board is one of the advanced monetizing approach for authority blog, not very suitable for Niche sites.

    • A job board certainly isn’t for every blog – however if you are a niche blog and there are people hiring in that niche then even a smaller blog could do ok out of it if there’s nobody doing it – in fact being a fairly narrow niche blog could be the key as all your readers will be there looking for specific information on that topic and if the jobs match the topic it could convert pretty well.

      • Sure, I think of a huge traffic blog would be a ideal place for the advertiser places jobs reference to a specific niches like security guard training or writing freelancers, High quality content and target traffic should be a key to job board success.

  26. Thanks Darren for the wholesome list of your income stream. One thing surprises me is that Chitika is in your list, I am a registered member with Chitika but so far with no real success there… maybe it’s time for me to revisit Chitika again? lol

  27. All I have to say for people who are saying that ad networks like Amazon, Adsense and beyond aren’t working for them, trying getting more traffic before you say you think they don’t work. Yes they do work, but work on a blog full time for a year before you try monetizing your blog and then you will see the results.

  28. Great work Darren, you did a amazing work to share this post with us. I do appreciate this post. Blogging is good platform to learn & share what’s in mind to front of world. I never miss anything related to Blogging. so I glad of you for sharing this such a great article.

  29. Works quite different with South African traffic unfortunately. Although affiliates works great here.

    • Affiliate needs the readers to make purchase, This is the most difficult monetizing method, isnot it? But the CTR for adsence is low?

  30. Any guesses how much traffic is needed to have proper job posting. Currently I earn a little amount via back-fill jobs only.

  31. Thank for the kind words I am glad you liked the post ..you’ve complied a great checklist I like the idea of Best Content on Your Blog.

  32. Well really a great post. You have spent too many years online and hence you are earning so much hope that days comes for me soon.

  33. Darren,

    Great post. Simply outstanding.

    I will be using this for anyone who asks me “how to make money blogging.”

    Congrats on 10 years of “building” success! :)

    Craig

  34. Darren, Thanks for the post. It is very encouraging. In the end it seems not to matter what you do but that you do something. The point is to take action, learn, do again and learn more.
    Up to today we all should have realized that overnight success is nothing but a wish. The same is about not spending any money on a business – it’s a wish but not realistic.
    When I sometimes read the posts e.g. at the Warriorforum – I have xx dollar to spend every day/month what should I do? I can just say: save it, invest in tools and write, write and and write more :-)

  35. It’s an amazing story and a good lesson for those who want to become millionaire in a day. Patience & perserverance is key to achieving anything. I look forward to more posts like this which motivates us a lot.

  36. That’s wonderful Darren, I would like to know how can I generate more traffic? I am offering some services mainly in my website but I do own a blog which I want to make my own mainstream source of income. Help much appreciated. Thanks!

  37. Sidney says: 05/10/2013 at 12:19 am

    Thanks for sharing Darren. One step at a time … I plan to publish posts and then consolidate them into an ebook. Do you provide training on the best way to approach blogging your book?

  38. Really great article here! Thanks Darren. Any idea how much traffic you should be aiming for before you start monetizing it?

  39. Darren,

    Just wondering why licensed content never became part of your income stream. Problogger ( and the photo site) provides a steady source of high quality content … were you ever approached by others to license your content to republish on their site? the publishing world has been doing syndication and licensing forever … wonder why not bloggers?

    RHonda

  40. I Made Over $3,000 in Only 7 Days with a Simple 30-Page Report.

  41. Thanks Darren as a new blogger I need all the encouragement I can get. Humbling and inspiring to learn that even the guru of blogging took a while to get going.

  42. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey with us. I’m sure you’re an idol among many people/bloggers. The thing I think that puts most people off is the fact that it’l take a substantial amount of time to earn a decent amount of money, and people want it over night. But the advantage of blogging over say a decade, or even half the time, gives one the experience in trying different methods, and learning what works for them. The most wonderful time I’m having is the learning process. My blog is to young to qualify for Adsense (I’ve tried) but I know consistency and determination and the willingness to succeed will pay off.

  43. I must say, this is an extremely interesting post. I’m still a beginner, so I think I’ll start out with AdSense. Although I don’t think affiliate sales will work out for me.

  44. Sweet journey! I guess diversifying is key point here – you can’t just relay on one single source of income.

    (Do you accept guest posts? I have something interesting on the topic of making money with a blog. Thanks!)

  45. Such important advice for anyone wanting to monetize their blog. I think that you have been a flag bearer in Australia fro making money via blogging, and everyone should pay heed to your reiterated comment that blogs ultimately succeed due to diversified income streams. The thing is, as Nikki says too, you have to keep at it and have the desire to do so, and I think that perhaps with each passing year and increasing competition, it’s even more important to remain, flexible, opportunistic and supple to the fickle demands of monetisation.

  46. Very timely, thanks Darren! Like Craig’s post from yTravelblog, it is great to read posts like this that clearly explain success doesn’t come overnight and it takes time, commitment and passion to generate income from blogging. I’m still in the very early stages of generating income from my websites. Reading this has given me the confidence to get myself out there and start experimenting! :)

  47. Darren, I have been into Blogging domain for the last 5-6 years now. Here is the list of monetization programs I had used so far:

    1. Google Adsense
    2. Amazon Affiliates
    3. Clickbank affiliates
    4. Paid Reviews
    5. Selling Text and Banner links on my blogs
    6. Working as an affiliate for web hosting, themes and plugins
    7. Selling my seo and WordPress consulting services

  48. Motivation is always required to newbies in every field.Like that in blogging also inspiration and motivation is important.Thanks for sharing your income streams.

  49. Ashley says: 05/12/2013 at 3:28 am

    Really liked your post, it was greatly detailed and organized. It is overwhelming to start a blog and compete with others who has vast amount of experience, but your right, they did start where we were. It takes time to build a successful blog. Thanks for breaking down the actions you took when starting this blog! Great advice!

  50. Its really nice to have such a large variety of income streams for a blog as income gets more stable over a period of time . Though i also used media.net on one of my blogs and working fine for me :)

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