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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. Superb, it will definitely help newbies. But I’m aware of one more fact i.e. only 1% of total will do it consistently and make profit out of it.

    • I feel the curve here we can see is the most important while deciding our plan on monetization of a blog what d you think about it?

      • Yes quite rightly so,

        I usually monetize my blogs when they have substantial traffic on them, Readers come first, everything else after that.

        You develop a good readership money would follow, It is as simple as that.

  2. Amazing post, Darren. Affiliate marketing and AdSense are now my top performers right now. However, I also have some highly pageranked sites which makes me enough money with paid posts or sponsored reviews.

  3. Great to see the way your income streams has evolved over the years!

  4. Darren–Thank you for sharing your growth as a blogger. Many people think that they can quit their day job and the money will start automatically. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  5. The beauty of growing your income online is that you can run your business from anywhere in the world, just as long as you have an internet connection nearby and take your Dragon speech recognition software everywhere you go.

    • That is so true Drewry. that is one of the things that I really like about this line of work. I can fly back to the east cost of the United States to visit my parents without having to take time off from work. The only downside is that I have to set boundaries with people I am around so that they realize I am actually working and not able to chat with them.

  6. Great Post Darren,
    Blog monetization can be a bit overwhelming especially for newbie bloggers. Adsense and affiliate marketing are quite profitable, but my favorite is freelancing/offering of services.
    Also, I am glad you added a disclaimer at the end of the post so that some money oriented bloggers wont think you started making money after a month of blogging! ;-)

  7. Blog monetization is a very long growing thing, so to earn money from a blog you´ll have to be very very patient and do in the meantime between starting and earning all the right stuff to build visitors and re-visitors.

  8. My plan is exactly the same- to start with adsense, Amazon and another affiliate program. Thats it. But not until I have more content on my new blog :-)

  9. Love your posts!! Thank you!

  10. Thanks for the information. It’s true.. you have to experiment with different areas and find the one that works best for you!

  11. Why do you think Chitika worked so well as opposed to Adsense? Do they share a better % of the profit or have less spammy looking ads? I always though Adsense was the biggest and best, so just wondering if you had any insight why it worked so much better.

    • @thepotatohead- My name is Amanda and I am the new Publisher Acquisition Manager here at Chitika. We have multiple ways you can earn money with Chitika. One way is by becoming a publisher and running our search targeted ads. The other way is by becoming a referrer, where you can earn 10% for 10 months when you refer a publisher to Chitika.
      Happy Earning!

  12. Thank you Sir Darren. You are right, I would never get to a point without starting. One thing I will never forget from you is teaching me that building blogs is like building muscles… I have used that concept several times already and that is effective. I started blogging on blogger and now I migrated to WordPress as a self-hosted blog. I am serious and dedicated to my work and believe that this will pay off! You are a great mentor Sir.

  13. This was so fun to see. Thanks for sharing it! It was neat to see the evolution of your multiple income streams. It goes to show you that when launching a blog it doesn’t have to/likely won’t be perfect. It will grow over time. I’ve gotten caught up in the idea that everything needed to be 100% before launching but that doesn’t have to to be the case.

  14. Congrats on becoming an overnight success (in 10 years) We all gotta start somewhere :)

  15. It certainly takes a lot of time to figure out what will work for you when you are just starting out. Yours is a good examples of many possible income streams that could be explored once the traffic is there. Thanks!

  16. Great post Darren

    I’m kind of going about things the other way around. I’m already a consultant and sell copywriting services, and have recently started a new blog. I’m hoping to be able to monetize it without having to offer a service – as this is something I’m wanting to get away from after 14 years! Perhaps creating my own product is the next best step after the traffic to my site builds up a bit?

    Cheers!

    Loz

  17. Excellent post. Well, Most of the bloggers know only few points on how to make income from a blog and you are really a PRO blogger Darren that you have explained all the 12 methods in such a nice way and flow that i would love to try all these methods.
    Thanks

  18. This blog really hit home. I do feel completely overwhelmed right now as well. I don’t want to give up. However, sometimes building up a blog network is something I don’t have the time, energy, or money to do. The promotional part about it is most time consuming. I only get maybe 10 to 20 page view a day and once in awhile maybe 40 page views. However, it’s hard because I can’t just focus on just my blogs right now. I have to serve all my clients and sometimes I get behind on posting. I just wish there was an easier way to do all this. I had a time when I did have a publication that was PR2. However, that was quite some time ago and lost PR after I changed to my own domain on one of my blogs.

  19. Great article. Thanks to Blogging, after 5yrs of working hard to help my fellow military veterans, I am now at the point where I have a consistent and growing fan base. I’m not working towards monetizing my blog as such.

    I completely agree with you Darren, this soesn’t come fast, nor should it. Readers and companies will will learn about your passion for what you write about, once that takes place they will come.

    I work for Military Times.com, thanks to my blog and finding passion for what I do. Takes time folks, do it cause it you love and you will get to the point Darren and others have, doing it as a full time job. Hopefully I can get there as well.

    Great article, thanks again for the advice. -Steve (American Veteran)

  20. It always calms me down to stop and think about where all the giant sites of today began. I mean the Huffington Post started out as a blog, as did Perez Hilton’s celebrity gossip blog. Now they are both major cash generating businesses.

    • You’re probably right. Sometimes I think it’s just a pipe dream–as if I should just stick to my real job (either writing or janitorial work). On the other hand, if I can write compelling enough of articles that clients accepted work from me over and over again, then perhaps I could also succeed at running my own network. The key is organization and delegation. I won’t be able to proofread, write, and run a series of blogs all on my own.

      I see there are many people who feel exactly the same way I do…and I wish I had time to reply to all:

      I too am glad that I found this post. I don’t feel so bad that it took the writer of this post 10 years to make it. It’s going on approximately eight for me (as a blogger). I know they say to get posts out there regularly. I try to post somewhere on my network daily. If not, a bare minimum of once a week. However, when I become knee-deep in client work I end up putting off posting on my own network for awhile. I will have to hire people probably, at some point.

  21. Great post.

    It can really be a minefield trying to build up your audience and then finding the right monetization that converts. I can totally relate this.

  22. Hi Darren

    Thanks for this post. I think i speak on behalf of all bloggers either starting out or returning to their blogs when i say that it has given us something to think about.

    There is so much out there that it can definetely be very daunting!!

    Laura

  23. I like this article very much and also i never see like this articles with very very very important information.
    Thanks for sharing this information.

  24. Great post Darren…..

    Its so easy to forget that there’s always a starting point for every blog. Nobody gets to the top instantly.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this.

  25. Finally you convinced Alice that she should start small and grow with the time like you did :)

    I was wondering what was the paralysis level when you started getting direct ads, as you said you booked the ad spot over phone. Actually what was your mind state at that time when you were speaking to the advertiser ?

  26. Its indeed incredible that you have been able to achieve this success over the last 10 years. I would be more intrigued if you can share with us the success that you achieve within the first three years of blogging. As most of us readers of your blog who are newbie and upcoming bloggers would love to understand the potential that blogging holds for us.

  27. I am not able to know in which phase my site is lagging could you please tell me it would be thankful for me.

  28. No doubt, Darren that’s why you’re called as a Pro-blogger, heavily inspired with you. And yes! everything starts with a small experiment, and continuous efforts like yours results in to multiple income streams.

  29. Most of my income comes from adsense or affiliate programs.
    However, looking at your post (which is great by the way) makes me wonder if I could get some additional income.

    After reading your post I am thinking in adding additional streams.
    Thanks,

    Rui from Nova York

  30. These are all great ways to make money with your blog, but I warn you that you FIRST will need to concentrate on traffic, without traffic, all the monetization methods in the world don’t matter. Work on your content and growing your audience first.

  31. Do let us know please that why the income through adsense is always too low inspite of having the good traffic.

  32. Darren,

    Thank you for sharing your story as a blogger.

    I used to start blogs about subjects that sold, but I never made a lot of money from it. This time I’ll go for something I’m truly passionate about; investing.

    Seneca said:”Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
    Preparation makes ‘overnight success’ possible. In the end it’s all about working hard and and learning from successful bloggers like you :)

    Chris

  33. I have just set up my blog and I am working through your “first week of blogging” book. This really gave me some perspective and helped me understand the idea of monetizing my blog. It is definitely on my to-do list as I get things going.

  34. Great Post Darren!!!

    I’m not a blogger but i really got motivated by this post.. Thanks man

  35. Too Good Post Dareen, its just mind blowing the way you express the journey very simply though the images. Thanks for writing this valuable post :)

    Thanks

  36. I think the most people and his trip on Phase 3 :(

  37. 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. I think by looking at how Darren started off simple and basic and then slowly worked up to complex is definitely one of the factors that led to his success.

  38. Great post Darren. The images made the article really easy to understand. I’m still getting on with my Phase 1, but totally looking forward to take my blog upto Phase 6 :) Saving this article to keep a track of my progress as I move ahead!!

  39. Hi Darren,
    It seems that you have put all or most of your experience in this little post. You shared a lot and given people a great idea as well as provided precaution who wish to become a full time blogger. The post also has a great personal touch. Thanks for sharing.

  40. I realized that to get a blog income is not as easy as newborns who wish to run directly. And so also with a king who originally was a prince.

    Even Confucius once said “journey of a thousand steps always start from small steps”, then without the first step, we are not going to touch the finish line.

    Regards,
    Andika, of Indonesian (BALI)

  41. I personally skipped around your example… I started with ebooks, products and memberships… then did events (whoa.. thats a lot of work). Now I have come full circle and I am back to blogging more.

    Its crazy how much traffic a well written post can bring to your site. Particularly if you can kick it off with an email to your list then sprinkle some social shares…. Then .. Bam!… with a well placed optin on your site… the email list grows even more.

    Man I wish I paid more attention to blogging.

    Oh… I also discovered blog posts in a series are a good idea… it gets the reader ready for the next one and a reason to return. LIke a batman episode where the dynamic duo are stuck over a pit of alligators…. and of course you have to tune in next week to see what happens.

    Anyway… great post!

    • I agree with Robert:

      “Oh… I also discovered blog posts in a series are a good idea… it gets the reader ready for the next one and a reason to return. LIke a batman episode where the dynamic duo are stuck over a pit of alligators…. and of course you have to tune in next week to see what happens.”

      If you get really good at it, it’s kinda like the cliffhanger at the end if a fiction thriller chapter.

      Like Robert said, you have to tune into the next one to see what happens!

      ~ darlene :)

  42. Wow- GREAT information here Darren.

    There are a few key points that really resonated with me:
    1. A successful, money-making blog is not an overnight deal
    2. You had multiple streams of income from various sources
    3. You experimented and tested theories

    You had successes and failures along the way, but you kept at it. Also, your information connects with readers because it truly helps them.

    Thank you for taking the time to reveal your process, and for explaining all the hard work you put into your blogs.

  43. First of all, great post darren. I have gone through the process of cold calling advertisers as well, and I remember feeling a bit nervous. It got easier after a while, because it feels less like ‘selling’ and more like providing a service.

  44. This is an amazing read. There are many bloggers that do not realize that there blog is a business. If you treat your blog as a business and monetize it correctly, then any bloggers will find themselves building a following and profiting from their blog. This is the perfect read for anyone trying to monetize their blog successful. Well done!

  45. Hi, sorry for my english…

    Darren can you tell me, how many visitors must have a blog before starting to publish any kind of publicity?

    Thanks Max

  46. Jimmy Frai says: 06/05/2013 at 7:10 am

    This is interesting and gives us very good ideas. I Thank you very much for the information!

  47. This is one of the best post I’ve seen about making different income streams via blogging. I just created a blog earlier this year. I am in the experiment stage with a lot of these streams. Thanks for the motivation and advice.

  48. This is a vrey inspiring story on how to have succes online. We should all take some positives from this story! Thanks

  49. Thank you for sharing your sincerity. A great article and great income as well.
    I think to have a successful today you have a lot of effort, perseverance in addition to specific strategies and more.
    Thank you for sharing your