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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.
  1. you really have been through a great blogging journey :) i am inspired. I too like chitika more than adsense, its best for US traffic.

  2. Interesting story and comments! I’m working hard on making my blog work for me – but not in ANY of the ways addressed here. One reason being that I have tied myself, willingly, to a very specific geographical area, so many of these monetisation methods will simply not work for me. Thus I see my blog as more of a showcase for my skills and passion, and as sort-of rolling CV.

    But there’s another aspect of this story and the comments that leaves me bemused. When I repeatedly see terms such as income strategies, commission rates, affiliate marketing … I just go, “Whoa!” It all seems to have nothing to do with me. Which may be why I’m broke, despite how hard and professionally I work on my blog!

    Further, there’s an aspect of this whole approach to blogging that I find a bit creepy: It comes across to me as a sort-of close relative to the self-help industry. Everybody’s selling stuff to everyone else. Where is the good, where is the humanity? Where are the magic and the stories? (Although I do realise that this site is, strictly speaking, about blogging strategies, so is probably not the best place for insights about individual bloggers and their stories …)

    Could be I’m just too much the old-school journalist/storyteller. Could be, too, that is costing me.

    • So true about the everyone selling stuff to each other.

      • evi, after I posted he above comment, I actually went through and looked at all the links associated with the 50+ replies to this post. A bare handful were addressing topics that really seem to be their true passions. The overwhelming majority though, looked and smelled just like Problogger itself, with similar topics, aims, tone and language. Each to his own – but as with all cults, it is intrinsically boring! :) Obviously, this website and its ilk are not for me!

  3. Excellent and honest post!

    Like many bloggers monetization is constantly on my mind, I have learned rushing it can be detrimental.
    The key issue as you’ve explained is to experiment. One size doesn’t fit all and different niches require different approaches.
    Split test everything and eventually you’ll find what works for your blog.

    All the best

  4. I would like to add one more thing which is very important called Paid Reviews. This is one which everyone should give some thought. Every Website owner should place a Paid Review details on their Advertisement section so that advertisers can directly contact us for paid reviews. Some my paid reviews earning are much better than adsense earning that’s why I am recommending this to all.

  5. great post, Darren!
    for those of us who haven’t quite managed to pass 10 years or so in business, its a great lesson to learn from… I think its not how you’ve managed to earn more over the years, its the evolution, which is the best learning for me from this write-up….

  6. Hi Darren,

    Amazing, amazing, amazing post!

    I agree, AdSense is a great starting point. Many people don’t realize it takes years to get where you are.

    Alice is a perfect example of someone I mention in my post here http://ifoodreal.com/i-want-to-start-a-food-blog-where-do-i-begin/. Yes, research your competition but don’t over do it. At some point she has to stop looking and start doing, and it will come. When looking too long it starts to hurt eventually.

    Reading other food blogs helps me al ot but I do it on occasional basis for the main reason not to get caught up in it and get discouraged that everyone else is “better”.

    • And what if actually we don’t get in with adsense. I started my Blog and adsense never worked.

      So I just left and learnt adsense and became a freelancer, In ad optimization :) just wanted to tell you there are million things one can do out of a blog adsense is just a part

  7. This is a very good and comprehensive article. I like the graphs and how you approach things in phases. Depending on your credibility you can accelerate into phase 4 and 5 quicker and skip some of the earlier phases if you want to.

    In phase 4 you could also consider doing micro-consulting to your readership through http://www.wyzerme.com/ which is a service I built for professional bloggers. You can set your own price, or even just use the service for free if you don’t want to charge money but do like the capabilities. I wrote up a little article on how to get started here:

  8. Great post Darren! Wishing you even more success.

  9. It’s very usefull for me… I’m still beginer in blogging world..

  10. Very useful information.

    I’m about to dump Google AdSense off all my sites, it’s a waste of time with the click through rate falling every month and amount per click plummeting. Plus, I detest Google and everything they stand for, so don’t want a penny of my hard work to go into their bank account.

    Have already started with a couple of affiliates that I’m very happy with (much more money than AdSense in just the first few weeks) and also have several ebooks I’ve written that will be available soon.

    Your post made me realize I’m moving in the right direction :)

  11. Hi Darren,

    I love the idea of testing over time. I added 4 income streams to my blogs through advertising, gifting, and offering my services – a few ones there – and like you, I tested and tweaked and started off small. Always dream big, really, really big, and be prepared to start small, to work your way up to that dream.

    Thanks for sharing!


  12. What a amazing post. I have search may website for knowing about blogging income but your blog is best and effective for me. Really i have get effective information to your blog.

  13. This has been the greatest post I read off ProBlogger so far.

    Good job, Darren!

    By reading your story, my confidence is definitely stronger. I rushed into the blogging world for quick money and after 6 months with making less than $10, I was a little it upset. However as I always enjoy learning from experts, I found ProBlogger and Smart Passive Income. The amazing details from these blogs keep my business ideas alive. Now from you, I found more valuable resources and I am learning like crazy.

    Even though up to this point, I still can’t say I will be successful by any means, I believe the whole learning experiences will benefit me for my whole life!



  14. Great post! You have told frankly enough! It has the ability to encourage newbies to this field like me. I have inspired much. Thanks for this frank article.

  15. I recently held off creating more pages on my website and started writing a free ebook on internet marketing. I was writing about starting one of the last chapters on monetisation when you tweeted this article.

    Although I have studied internet marketing for about four years, I just started to teach it online because of questions I was receiving from my clients.

    A lot of newbies usually have this wrong impression that internet marketing will make you money fast. It is a great thing when people like you Darren, who have been around for a decade correct this impression.

    It takes a lot of hard work to make money online. I frankly have not met anyone who made ‘substantial’ income online within a period less than four years.

    And if they do faster, it is usually because they channeled already existing traffic to a new site or blog like you mentioned you did with ProBlogger.

    Articles like this not only tell me I am on the right track, they also make me know what I should be doing more.

    Keep ’em coming Darren! Great piece!

  16. I wonder 10 yrs later if I’ll be this “overnight” successful. Thanks Daren

  17. Happy to know that you’ve gone too much successful by your work of 10 years Darren sir. Thanx for sharing this article. Actually, I was thinking to get success in about 1-2 month’s work and now I can see that it takes a bit time to get success but at last you get it if you work hard..

  18. Love this…!! I would love to be part of Phase 7 ! My blog is http://imglobal.me/blog/author/3517 I would love your thoughts! The profits are 100% which I had not heard of before.

  19. Great post,i as a blogger is still battling with adsense

  20. I just started working with a client who wants to monetize her blog. This case study is perfect timing! And I like the idea that the revenue streams all come together to support a business model. It’s like buying stock in 10 different companies: if one isn’t doing so hot for a while, the others can pick up the slack.

  21. Nice little post! Its nice when bloggers show all the work they’ve done and all they learned over the process.

  22. I just found this blog and the information is very inspiring and also shows what focus and persistence can do. Mr. Darren I hope I can also live on passive income, because it is very frustrating live on the rat race.


  23. Great Post Darren and good article about you and your success.

  24. Nice post..I am just trying to Monetize my blog…I will try to implement them.

  25. My two favorite things- Evolving and “you’ll never get to that point without starting”

    My blog is constantly evolving. I have a lot going on in my head and at times that translates to my posts or my audience. Sometimes it’s blogging magic ( is there such a thing?) other times is falls flat.
    But I’m fine either way because each day I learn and I grow.

  26. Amazing article! It has helped me a lot!

  27. Just would like to mention your article is as astounding. The clarity to your place up is solely nice which i may suppose you are a skilled on this subject. Fine along with your permission let Pine Tree State to clutch your RSS feed to stay up so far with close post. Thanks 1,000,000 and please continue the profitable work.
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  28. Caprice says: 05/16/2013 at 5:10 am

    Great post, Darren! I appreciate the information. My question concerns NicheEmpires.com. Can this be a good route to start a blog business? Do you, or anyone else, know of someone who has been successful in getting started with NicheEmpires.com? I have questions about it and don’t know where to go for answers. Thank you.

  29. Hey Darren, great to see you posting!

    I’m just at the point where I’m hiring writers and starting a couple of other blogs besides my primary, but it is a scary proposition for me. I finally am at the point where the blog is making money, and now I’m about to reinvest that money into hiring two writers in the hopes that it will continue to grow.

    It will be nice when one day I can actually pull some money out and call it MY income! :)

  30. hi Darren
    great post in starting i used to thought that their is only one way and that is google adsense to earn money from your blog but then i heard about affiliate marketing, chitika but your article really add many new earning stream (many of them i never heard before) in my knowledge so thanks for such a nice article :)

  31. Darren- Very well written! Thanks for the LOVE! My name is Amanda and I am the new Publisher Acquisition Manager here at Chitika! Did you see the press release last week? http://chitika.com/yahoo-partnership.

  32. This is a truly inspirational journey. Thanks for sharing, it gives me the motivation to keep plugging away on my blog.

  33. Now in all those 10 years how many times did you feel like giving up or that you were just spinning your wheels and getting no where? I think so many people give up before they even really get started because in this day and age its often now-or-never attitude.

    Stories like these are always interesting to see where someone as successful such as yourself originally started.

  34. Love how you revisit and explain how your overnight success took 10 years. I was just revisiting everything and realize I need to go back to the basics and make things better – yes I am making money with adsense but not a lot yet. My amazon affiliate don’t convert very often – need to revisit that area too – ads from others have helped

    Thanks for all that you share

  35. I was very impressed with this blog article. I have absolutely no illusions of making any blogging bank without first putting in the time to make my blog popular. I honestly didn’t realize that there were so many income streams that a blogger could utilize. I plan on doing some research into utilizing some of these on my blog in the future.

  36. I love to read a success story. And not one that is overblown hype that suggests you can become a millionaire in a week.

    It’s a long old road and at times very testing. People who learn you blog for a living normally do not quite grasp the level of work involved in this game.

  37. I really agree with you Darren I was getting drastic improvement by using Chitika in my blogs make its value high as both way financially and ranking terms too.

  38. Hell no. There are so much that i have to try. I’m still on the first phase according to your post. It’s even tougher now to get traffic to try the first phase. It would be nice to try all those things.

  39. Like many bloggers monetization is constantly on my mind, I have learned rushing it can be detrimental.
    The key issue as you’ve explained is to experiment. One size doesn’t fit all and different niches require different approaches.
    Split test everything and eventually you’ll find what works for your blog.

    All the best

  40. Hello Darren your story is great but let me ask you a question,

    I have seen millions of blogs successfully earning money, but all of them have one thing in common that they teach how to blog and that is a really profitable niche, You can monetize well in this niche.

    But what if your niche is something else. Can that be monetized that well? For example my new blog has a niche about sharing success stories of people, though I am happy with what I am doing buut would that be profitable I really doubt that, why would people use affiliate links or even read that blog frequently which shares sucess of others. So What you say about this ? Is every niche monwtizeable and How much one can succeed? Kindly reply if you have time

  41. Definitely nice to see that someone else is taking a similar path. I started only on Adsense but decided to start expanding into all other revenue streams. It is slow but slowly growing!

  42. I am a big believer in using what I call the “Leveling Up System” in anything I do. I am a Dungeons & Dragons nerd, I play RPG video games. All of these have your character starting out at level 1. As you gain experience you progress in levels, which in turn progresses your abilities. Slowly and systematically you build your skills and successes.

    You have to start at the beginning with an end goal in mind and level up along the way. Success is really about starting out simple, setting a goal, and being persistant and dedicated to achieving that goal.

  43. Blogging is really a good business. But firstly, we should learn after that we should continue to think about earning. This post is really a inspiration for all bloggers including me.

  44. Great Work Darren, I am glad that I pop in and got some idea to boost my traffic. Thanks for your great articles :)

  45. Great post Darren.

    Its good to see what you have done and learned in the process and been able to allow others to benefit from it.


  46. very nice blog!!

  47. This is an encouraging article, Darren! I tend to loosen up whenever I feel target has been achieved. Thanks for the reminder.

  48. Very useful post! I learn from this post that persistent hard work will pay for a regular income and which are the most trustworthy methods to follow. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  49. Hi Darren,

    Nice graphics and love the way you present your order of use different networks.

  50. Truly an inspiring story and it is really motivational, I know that all bloggers out there really started small and eventually grew big through the years because of dedication and hard work.

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