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A Reality Check about Blogging for Money

Reality Check

Last week’s article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that my blog earnings are in excess of $250,000 per year (a very ballpark figure).

The problem with these type of articles is that they report in a few words just one element of a story – in this case my earnings.

While it’s true that I have built my blogging to a point where I’m able to earn good money blogging there are many things that an article like the one in the WSJ didn’t (and couldn’t) mention about how I was able to build my blogging up to this point.

The impact of this missing ‘back story’ is that much of the reality of blogging for money goes unseen by those looking at blogging as a potential income stream – leading some to naively enter into blogging with false expectations.

Of course when these expectations are not met things can get ugly with disappointment and anger being a common reaction. What disappoints me as a blogger writing on this topic is that I regularly see other bloggers feeding their readers with hype and false hopes about how easy it is to make big money from blogging. This only adds to the distance between their reader’s expectations and the reality of blogging for money.

The Reality of Blogging for Money

So what is the reality of building up one’s blogging to a point where they can make a full time living blogging?

Here are five facts that I’d like to share about my own story to give a more realistic picture to those considering getting into blogging as a way to make a living.

1. It takes a concerted long term effort

I have been blogging for five years. The first year was not for money in any way (although I learned a lot about blogging in that year) and the next two I worked 2-3 jobs at a time (and was studying part time) while I built my blogging up from a hobby, to part time job to a full time venture (more on my story here).

I’m often asked things like – ‘I need to make $xxxx in the next few months – how would you do it with a new blog?’

The average age of blogs in the Technorati Top 100 was over 3 years when I last surveyed it – while the occasional blogger has a fast rise to frame they are the exception. Building a successful blog takes a long time (it takes time to build readership, to work out how to monetize it etc) so take a long term approach and pace yourself.

2. It takes luck

I won’t speak for other bloggers but in my case I was very fortunate on many fronts. I started blogging at a good time (it was a lot less crowded and competitive back then).

  • I stumbled on making money from blogs quite accidentally
  • I started my first money making blog on the spur of the moment and picked a topic (digital
  • photography) without knowing what I was doing – but for the time it was right)
  • I met the right people at the right time
  • Bigger bloggers discovered me at opportune times

The lucky list could go on – but I was very lucky. Of course some people ‘make their own luck’ and to some extent I agree with this – there are ways to increase your chances of being lucky – but some of it is outside your hands. Sometimes the luck comes and sometimes it doesn’t.

3. It takes a lot of work

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how blogging less can mean more from your blog (example 1 and example 2). While I agree with this – that doesn’t mean you can just come up with a few posts on a whim every few days and expect the traffic (and money) to come rolling in. Over the last 3 years I’ve consistently worked 40-60+ hour weeks on my blogging. At one point I was posting 20-30 posts per day (mainly news related posts back then). Most bloggers that make a full time living from blogging work corresponding hours on it.

4. Many don’t make much money blogging

I’ve often used the analogy of Professional sports people to highlight that in any ‘game’ there are many who play it – less who make a little money from the game, even less who are able to earn a living from it (just) and just a small group who make big money from it. The same is true for bloggers. I’ve run many polls here at ProBlogger on how much people are earning from the medium (eg) and on every single occasion they reveal that the vast majority of bloggers are making very little per month. While it is possible to make amazing money from blogging the sad reality is that most don’t make more than pocket money. Even some blogs who ‘deserve’ to make money blogging don’t.

5. It’s hard

One thing that I’ve found to be common with when I had small/new blogs and now having blogs that are doing reasonably well is that in both instances it can be really hard to keep them going. The pressure to keep coming up with fresh ideas, to respond to critique of others, to deal with jealousy when others do well and more can be difficult to deal with. On some levels it gets easier to deal with as your blog grows – but on other levels the demands that you face from a larger readership can at times be overwhelming. Most bloggers that I know (big and small) have at one point or another been close to giving up – I know I have.

Feeling Depressed?

I don’t want to put a downer on those of you wanting to take your blogs to a level where you could make good money from blogging – the fact is that it is possible and and increasing number of people are making a part time or full time living from the medium – but I do think it’s important to have a realistic picture before getting into blogging for money.

While some bloggers do talk about blogging as a way to make quick money I’ve not had that experience myself. Perhaps others do get rich quick from blogging – but I’ve not met any successful bloggers who’ve told me that yet.

Reality Check 2

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 and LinkedIn.
  1. Great article. It’s good, for once, to not hear the bologna dished out by establishment hacks like those responsible for the explosion of the Home Shopping Network.

  2. usually people give up because they actually don’t have the plans in mind on what are the key steps to look forward to in blogging. Like simply putting up little milestones for the month these bloggers failed to do that..

    more and more bloggers also feel depress because they fell to hit their target for the month. in short they were never contended of what they have right now. well, human as we are we don’t settle for what we have now..

    in some cases also, i doubt if passionate bloggers have updated blogs. a lot of bloggers claimed that they were earning a lot from their blogs because of passion. that’s pure lie. updated blogs are owned by money motivated bloggers. one updates his/her contents for him not to loss readers and in turn loss money.

    to sum things up, i would highly suggest new bloggers to look forward for passion in this case probability of failure is lesser compared to money motivated blogs. but of course a lot of money motivated blogs has succeed. no question about that .. but if you don’t want to suffer like what other bloggers had already.. be passionate for a start.. updating contents almost everyday is not about passion i tell you..

  3. Couldn’t agree more. I make my living with my blog site, but this is very much a full time job.

  4. I just started my blog and I am already finding that it is a ton of work, I am glad to see that working hard pays off.

  5. I agree with you Darren. Blogging not the easy way to make money. If some one try blogging just for money they will stay blogging just for a while.

  6. Yeah. They kind of just jump to the exciting part–a high dollar figure–without going into the details and the hard work that made it possible.

  7. For sure. It takes a ton of time ramping up your blog (especially if it’s a new one) and the competition is fierce. There are way too many “Make Money Online” blogs out there with only a few clear leaders like Darren and John Chow.

    For me the fun is actually starting a blog and watching it grow. I’m not a great writer so maintaining it is where I struggle.


  8. How do you add to a great article? Well, I can’t. I can say this, though. Darren is absolutely right about expectations versus reality. During my approach to the two year mark, I’ve thought about giving up blogging many times, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with money.

    The competitive pressure, if you let it affect you, can do as much to cause depression as the lack of making money. I’ve been there, several times.

  9. It’s great that you share this and advise people to be realistic Darren. There are too many bloggers out there who try to encourage others that they can make money from blogging overnight.

  10. Sooo appreciate your honesty here… I have to think it will help a lot of people… if they listen to you that is.

    I know that there are high expectations for people when it comes to making money blogging and sometimes those expectations are borderline ridiculous.

    I make a couple hundred a month… have made as much as $600 a month, but it fluctuates a lot and has sooo much to do with how much time I’m willing to invest into my blogs. It is hard work, you’re so right about that. Anyone who thinks blogging is a lazy man’s way to riches is very foolish indeed.

  11. I liked the images at the top and bottom of this, very original

  12. Hi Darrin, this is a great post. But I personally don’t think what the Wall Street Journal said….or didn’t say for that matter is misleading…I think the reader will be intrigued and want to find out more. This is great for all of our “Make Money Online” type of blogs! The first thing most people need to know is that making money is a constant hustle….a constant hustle! Thats why I named my blog Money Never Sleeps. Darrin you are a true hero and pioneer…keep up the great work friend!

  13. So true. I just started my blog and I can see that it is not easy to come up with fresh new content and topics, but nevertheless I can see how it can be a fun and addictive prospect. I say if you love writing about the topics you love, in due time it will pay off. Great article! Not a downer one bit, but a very realistic perspective on the subject.

  14. But like pro Sports, pro Blogging isn’t something people should give up if they REALLY want it.

    I guess that’s typically just what parents say to their kids, so forgive me if sound too much like your father…. but it’s true… don’t let the torch die, baby!

  15. wow thanks everyone for the comments on this one – quite overwhelming. I really do appreciate your feedback and encouragement.

  16. Wow, thats a reality check for sure.

    I would love to reach to a point where ur. Yes, not easy way but with all due efforts and hard way.


  17. Thanks for filling in the blanks, Darren. I also get annoyed with those stories that go, “So and so started out with nothing and today makes 6 figures!” Um, so what happened in between? No I know! Still, it’s nice to know what’s possible. I was happy to earn $50 from the ads on my blog! Now I can raise my sights. :)

  18. Agree.. it’s not so easy like “they” describes..

  19. Thanks for the reality slap. Sometimes we need it.

    It’s so easy to get discouraged. You write posts you think are pithy and fun to read, but no one reads them.

    You post and post and your numbers barely move. And of course no traffic no cash.

    Lately I have been a little obsessed with our stats…trying to wean myself off of that since like you note…it takes time to build readership.

    It’s hard not to be impatient.

  20. I’ve found it very difficult to make money blogging. I reached $100 with Google Adsense pretty quickly, but then they claimed fraud and canceled me, even though I never violated the TOS. Now I’ve tried a new approach of having people write for me, and I hope it pays off soon. I don’t know of too many other comedy/comics sites with multiple writers.


  21. like what U mentioned “leading some to naively enter into blogging with false expectations.

    Of course when these expectations are not met things can get ugly with disappointment and anger being a common reaction.”

    my friend is being very very disappointment for adsense, he think , he could be get an easy money from internet without monetize and just registered and display the adsense for his blog.

  22. @haris
    I believed google have some theory to determine what do you do on your ads. then their put their cookies on your PC , track your IP & ethernet then analysis for your Click graphic.

  23. Confucius say: Man who sit on tack get point. You do have a way of pounding home your points. No wonder your Blog is so successful.

  24. One hundred seventy three comments on a blog piece? That’s insane. I’m happy as a kid with a new toy when I pass 20.

  25. He’s right you know.

    I’ve been blogging for about a year and although I am earning ‘alright’ money, I’m a long way away from making a living from it. At least I am heading in the right direction- slowly.

  26. I am a realtor who loves to blog about my local area. Do I make money doing it yes and no. Do I directly get paid for it – certainly not. Do I get rewarded down the road because someone reads my blog and likes my voice and then decides they would like my Real Estate expertise – absolutely. Since I started my Real Estate blog in July I have gotten 5 listings and 4 or 5 buyer clients. I have received two more “inquiries” just this week that may turn into a listing and a buyer client. Blogging and Real Estate go hand in hand. I am lucky because there are very few Realtors in Massachusetts who are blogging. I know this will change at some point.

  27. This is a hard truth but I get so depressed sometimes that despite my full efforts to make my blog get better with quality contents I still land up getting disappointed. I learnt one thing from this post of yours that I need to wait patiently to get more popular among bloggers. To add to it, I have been into serious blogging only for a few months now. I will keep my fingers crossed and continue to do my work.

  28. Those are some facts lets face it..

    Sometimes you have to be at the right place at right time!!

  29. The internet has made it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business indeed, but that does not mean there isn’t work to be done, quite the contrary. An online business implies a lot of work and time. Those blogger ‘gurus’ are fast to showing you their big revenue figures implying that all happened overnight. What they don’t disclose is the amount of money they usually spend on setting up their sites, the cost of advertising, and the time and effort involved on building their blogs. – Javier.

  30. As a songwriter & writer, i’m pretty much used to the odds being stacked up against me earning money, and blogging is no different ;-)

  31. Money is Great! Everyone loves money. But lets face it, if you want a good site, write about your passion. If you are lucky and interesting, yes you could potentially make some money.

    But if you don’t enjoy what you are writing about, it will become a job and not an obsession. Face it, the great sites are from people obsessed about the topic.

  32. Thanks, for posting such an interesting topic. I am a newbie blogger. I am a handicapped and unemployed person, looking forward to earn from home.

  33. This post is excellent.

    Thank you very much for sharing what you’ve been told and what you’ve come to notice about blogging and making money.

    My goal is to make just 5% of what ProBlogger makes per year. Even that will make me happy. :]

  34. What a great post. While I have been preparing to start up my first proper blog, I have done quite a bit of research into the monetizing potential (or lack thereof). My blog is created out of a love for the theme (cars), but if pocket money can be earned as bonus, I would naturally gladly accept that. However, almost all the posts I have read regarding monetization have been suspiciously positive. It’s nice to see a post like this that tells me my skepticism isn’t totally unfounded. Reading JohnChow.com has also been of much help.

  35. This is a true headmasters “reality check” with a big rap on the knuckles so people pay attention. A business is a business, it takes time to build and hard work to maintain.

    Yet its wonderful to see from these comments that people haven’t gone and thrown themselves of the top of high buildings but are just quietly agreeing that, yes its hard, and then getting on with the job.

    It’s such a nice dream, to write some articles and make a mint. The truth about marketing is it’s a nightmare of organisation that eats time and twists your common sense.

    So the one solid positive that has come from this thread is the agreement that only the combination of passion for a topic and a love of writing makes blogging worthwhile.

    Taking up blogging is pointless without them. But if these two facets are already cut and you’re going to be blogging anyway, you may as well make the best damn blog you can.

    With that in mind, thanks for the tips and tricks you consistently share with those of us engaging in this madness.

  36. Interesting information. I’m blogging more just to practice writing.I’d like to eventually get into technical writing. I find it interesting that people are drawn to the idea of making a lot of money with little or no work. Even a professinal blogger still has to work for his money :-)

  37. Great article. I disagree. Blogging for money doesn’t have to be hard. It’s hard if one wants to do it on their own without asking entrepreneurial coaches for help. They’ll save one time by giving tips like check your traffic stats and keywords to see what people look for. That lets you write what people want to read. Another example is have affiliate links and useful info.

  38. Oh shoot, and to think I left my full-time job haphazardly for this… OH man.

  39. Great post Darren…this should certainly help to provide some insight into what it takes to get to your level.

  40. Darren,

    thanks for this information. Yes, you’re right it’s very easy to get into blogging with false expectations that by having presence on Internet is equal to quiting one’s job almost immediately…in matters of weeks or few months. It’s good to have people like you sharing this kind of experience. My my blog…I’m facing the truth :)


  41. P.R.E.Z. says: 04/01/2008 at 9:53 pm

    Well I’m the odd man out to an extent. I believe in everything Darren said….except the luck part. I don’t believe in luck and I don’t believe in coincidences.

    I’m blessed to be able to write and I know that if I work hard at whatever I do, educate myself, and persevere, I’ll be successful. However, it depends on what your definition of success is. If you think success is making a six figure income, you have a long road to tow. If you think success is making a five figure income, you have less to tow but you still have a lot of work to do.

    A wise man once said, “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

    If money is your motivation, prepare to be disappointed. But if you do it because you’re passionate about writing and what you write about, you’ll make it. Keep on keepin on.

    God bless.

  42. Great post!

    I concur with the majority of responses above, a cracking read, great to see an article where the ‘hype’ of making ludicrous amounts of money through blogging is removed.

    I think you really have to love what you’re blogging about, in order to maintain your interest in blogging once the initial excitement of blogging wears off.

    Kudos to you!


  43. It’s funny you say number 2 because I was actually going to write an article about it. If anyone would had started blogging back in the day and they know what we do today… Well heck. They would be on top of the world right now.

    I guess your site’s a good example. But you do have good content so it kind of evens out. You deserve to be where you are.

    Isn’t crazy though? That to think if you just started blogging a few years later, I may not be here leaving you a comment right now?

    That’s crazy.

  44. Sergio Raya says: 05/11/2008 at 3:00 am

    I’m new to blogging so thanks for all the hard work you guys do in keeping guys like me in a “reality check.”

  45. really?is there a chance for a blog talking about the way of making money?

  46. I suspect the real money in blogging is writing about it and doing the speaking circuit. Nice post Darren.

  47. Thanks for sharing about the “truth” and “behind the scene” of blogging. Many myth about get rich quick from blogging is not truth.

    Readership is very important to determine the success or failure. Fresh contents is the lifebloog for the blogs.

    Focus, Consistent, Persistent and Perseverance are key success factors for the bloggers to gain the readership and thus profit from blogging.

    To Your Success
    Bryan Hee

  48. I wonder if it’s possible to make money by treating a blog like realestate

    ie. Buy a domain, install a blog, write or get some content written promote the blog, sell blog to investors.

    It would be nice to hear any stores about this approach.

  49. This post should be given to every new blogger! ;)


  50. Well, best get and early start!

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