How Long Does It Take To Make Money With Your Blog? (My Answer To This Common Question)
How long does it take to make a blog profitable? How long does it take to reach a certain income level? I get asked alot… and here’s my full answer.
I get asked this question all the time. For instance, take this question that I Was asked by an attendee of one of my webinars…
How long does it take to turn a blog into a business which you can rely on (making about 3-4K USD per month)?
Or this one from one of my email subscribers…
Please let me know how long you think it takes to make a blog profitable (and how profitable), assuming you have 3-4 free days a week to invest.
I felt I needed to create a definitive answer to this. Something that I can refer people to over and over again as my official answer to this question.
There’s a lot of bad answers out there to this question. So-called “blogging gurus” giving baseless answers like 1-2 years. Others have given different numbers, all equally baseless.
You know it takes work. You’re smart enough to know you cannot expect a bunch of money overnight.
But, a REAL answer to this question of how long it takes to make money with your blog would HAVE to entail a game plan.
This blog post can be the start of a “fast track” to generating revenue with your blog. It doesn’t have to take 1-2 years at all. But, it does take focusing on the right things and treating this like a real business.
So, let’s do this…
First Off, Let’s Get Something Straight…
A blog is not a business. And a blog (alone) will never be profitable.
A blog is merely a marketing vehicle. It is a place that you publish content… and the purpose of that content is to attract people so that you can ultimately sell them something.
So, you can think of a blog in the same vein as a commercial, or a yellow page ad, or any other thing which you can clearly see is a form of advertising. Now, obviously a blog is different in that it isn’t all sales and yellow highlighters. Blog content is fundamentally different and designed to lead with value. But, let’s not lose sight of the blog’s fundamental purpose.
This isn’t just about details of vocabulary. It is fundamental to the mindset that you need to succeed.
A blog and a business are fundamentally different. A business is the thing which makes money. The blog is designed to be a public marketing vehicle for that business.
The business does what all businesses do. It provides a product or a service to a market who demands it in exchange for money.
Blogging is a form of communication. You are creating content for others to consume and to communicate a message. That’s awesome! However, without a business behind the scenes, it really isn’t much different than water cooler talk.
Why Focusing Just On Your Blog Isn’t The Answer
If you come into this thinking that the blog does the earning of money, then it will lead to you focusing on the wrong things. And focusing on the wrong things is a sure-fire way for this to take absolutely forever.
Think about it…
If you think the blog makes the money, then you would go into it fully focused on just the blog. You’d do what bloggers do. You’d write a shit-ton of blog posts, stress out over posting schedules, spend a bunch of time tweaking your theme, engaging in social media all day, etc…
But, all that is like a big hamster wheel. It just spins and spins and spins. You may build up some eyeballs. You may build up a little following.
Having a community and audience is awesome. It is potential energy. But, without that business back there, it remains only potential energy. No income will come from it.
So, the answer to not having it take forever to generate an income is…
Keep blogging in perspective. And focus on building a real business that offers something valuable to people who want it.
Where The Money Comes From
So, let’s talk business…
A business provides a product or service to a market which wants it in exchange for money.
It is about solving their problem or fulfilling some desire for them.
Let’s look at our options:
WORST: Banner Advertising
Now, ask yourself an honest question…
Do banner ads provide a product or service, or fulfill a desire for your audience?
Likely not. Banners fulfill a need for businesses, but not for your visitors. Not only that, but the value of banner ads has been commoditized. The average cost for 1,000 impressions of a banner is around $2.80. The publisher split on that revenue is often around 70% – or $1.96. So let’s be real…
You drive 1,000 page views and you might make around $2.00 for your troubles.
Worth it? I think not.
Yes, putting multiple banner ads on the site can multiply your efforts. But, the math isn’t in your favor. You worsen the user experience on your blog. People are blocking the ads left and right. And, the businesses you serve with those banners only win if your readers LEAVE your site.
BETTER: Affiliate Marketing
Selling third-party products on your site is a better way to go. At least when you are doing this, you are on target…
You are solving the needs/wants of your market by way of solutions offers by a third party. You make your money on the commission.
It works better in some markets than in others. Not all markets have a bunch of things you can promote in this way. And trying to do this on the back of something like the Amazon Associates is going to be rough because the commission rates are so low.
If the market you’re looking to serve has solid offers with affiliate programs and good commission rates, then you can build revenue in this way.
BEST: Build Your Own Offers
I vastly prefer and recommend that the product or service be your own offer. This gives you full control and 100% of profit.
It could be an information product (like an online course), a “done for you” service, consulting, or even software if you’ve got the skills (or the partnership). Point is…
You can create an offer that exactly matches YOUR audience.
It starts with questions like:
- What is the transformation that you’d like to deliver to people?
- What is the outcome you want to provide and help people achieve?
- How can you help them achieve it?
- And, is it an outcome people really truly want and have proven they will pay for?
And don’t forget the option of providing a service. Many people dismiss that because all the “gurus” are out there talking about selling training courses.
Online courses are great, but they carry the inherent promise of a lot of work. It makes the pathway to income take longer. And nobody said it was the only option.
Service and consulting is a highly viable option that allows you to make an offer out of thin air. It might not be sexy with all this conditioning out there about the dangers of “time for money”… but there is nothing wrong with time for money. Especially in the beginning. It isn’t as if you’re going to stay that way. But, selling your time is a great way to begin and to create a business quickly without a long onramp.
How Long Does It Take?
Let’s get down to it here…
If all you do is set up something to sell and then proceed to blog your face off in an effort to promote it, this is gonna take forever.
And I assume you don’t want this to take forever. So, we need to spend our time wisely.
Once you have the guts of your site set up, you could generate your first sale within days. This doesn’t have to take long.
But, you’ll need a few things…
Prerequisites To Speed
In order to build up your online business without it taking forever, there are some things you will need. Some of them are mindset related while others are simply things you can get.
#1 – Have Some Startup Capital
If you think you can do this without spending any money at all, you’re hallucinating. All businesses have startup costs. This one is no different.
Further Reading:Online Business Startup Costs: How Much Should You Expect To Spend To Start A Money-Making Blog?
#2 – Be Willing To Use Paid Advertising
Part of your startup capital should be delegated to kicking things off using some paid advertising such as Facebook Ads.
You need something to “prime the pump”. Something to kick this thing off of zero. Just like an EMT might kickstart somebody’s heart with the paddles, you can use paid ads to kickstart your business.
It radically speeds things up.
When I kicked off my little side RV blog for fun, I set up a lead magnet and ran a Facebook Ad to it. Before I knew it, I had built up an email list with over 1,000 subscribers. For a brand new blog. If I hadn’t done that, it would have gone nowhere even despite me blogging my face off.
Further Reading: Blog Launch Plan: How To Launch Your Brand New Blog From Scratch, In 14 Steps (Updated For 2020)
#3 – Enter A Market With A Plan
We both know that some markets will be harder than others.
I’ve seen my share of people fizzle like a weak fart when they have no idea what they’re doing yet decide to try the “make money online” niche or the “weight loss” niche.
Competition is great, but you cannot play a game of “follow the leader” and just enter tough markets like that willy-nilly. You can’t come up with another “me too” copycat site, run a few paid ads to it and somehow rise above the noise. It should be no surprise, too, that such markets will be pretty expensive to advertise in, anyway.
You need to have a real plan.
You need to have a unique value proposition.
You need to be offering up something that is congruent with you and your skills – and also something people actually want.
I know that can seem pretty difficult at the beginning. And I’d be lying if I said anybody could do it.
But, I’m here to help you. And I won’t BS you around. It isn’t my style. 🙂
Your Plan Of Action
Your plan of action is not simply to start a blog based on a hunch and then proceed to blog your face off. That isn’t likely to lead anywhere.
We want to aim squarely at establishing product/market fit.
We have 2 main goals:
- Rapidly prove that we can build our email list reliably.
- Come up with some kind of offer that they will buy.
Once those things are in place, then everything we do with our blog will have purpose.
The overall plan of action is as follows:
- Find your market and begin starting conversations.
- Find out what they need and want. Gather information about what they’re looking for and who they are, what they’re feeling, etc.
- Build your website MVP. I call it the minimum site framework. It will consist of a main landing page to get the optin, an about page, a contact page, and a thank you page.
- Build your first lead magnet and hook it up.
- Run a paid ad campaign to test the lead magnet with your target market.
- Based on testing, make adjustments or pivots to the lead magnet until we have one that converts reliably. Optionally pause the ad after this is achieved.
- With the people now on your list, reach out and have conversations with them. Our goal is to further develop our customer avatar profile and arrive at our hypothesis for a good offer.
- Build the offer and sales page for it. Note that you are NOT building your product yet. This is an offer. We will offer it as a pre-sale.
- Turn your ad back on and now test the opt-in paired with your offer. Test sales.
- In full communication with subscribers, tweak and pivot your proposed offer until it sells. Our goal is simply to have adequate conversion rate that it makes up for the cost of advertising. We want to (at minimum) break even. Ideally, we make some money.
Want more detailed help to follow the plan?
This process doesn’t have to take very long.
With the right tools, building these pages doesn’t have to take long at all.
By using paid traffic, you radically speed things up. You WILL get the traffic. Ads remove the traffic building pressure. Our only goal here is to test conversions.
The faster you lean forward on this, the faster you’ll get the results.
If you screw around, are slow to make decisions, or act afraid to do anything, then this will drag out.
That’s about the simplicity of it.
In the end, you will have a proven product/market fit. You will have made your first sales (something most bloggers could never claim to have done)… and you’ll be on a solid foundation to build your blog upon.
David. This Is Different Than I Expected.
Yeah, I know. But, I’d rather give it to you straight.
If you would prefer to simply blog and share without any thoughts of selling anything, you go right ahead. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it helps make the internet a much better place for us all. But, don’t expect that to pay your bills or enable you to quit your job.
I don’t care how much time you have to throw at this… if all you do is blog, it won’t lead to an income magically. A few people pull it off, using banner ads or some affiliate marketing. But, while some of the blogging gurus might give the impression that’s easy… it really isn’t. A few years ago, I saw a stat that said 81% of bloggers don’t even make $100 in an entire year. I bet the actual number is much higher than that. It is a little tiny minority of bloggers out there who manage to make real money simply by blogging.
So, I encourage you to think outside the blogger box.
The blogger box is this stereotype created by some of the big blogging gurus out there. The one where they paint this cool picture of sitting in a coffee shop, blogging. And money pops out. Where they have location independence and freedom of time.
All that is very real, but the blogger box is that box you get into where you think that achieving those things relies upon blogging alone.
And it doesn’t.
The blogger box usually excludes thoughts such as offering a product or service. It tends to exclude sales of any kind. The blogger box usually excludes anything that actually generates money because they stubbornly cling to the idea of banners and affiliate links as the only way to go. It is such a limiting point of view and self-defeating.
Realize that having a solid product/market fit and selling it does NOT mean you have to become an annoying salesy type. Not even remotely. The way we structure the funnels, you are most definitely leading with value. People only get offers when they’ve already demonstrated interest. This whole setup is MUCH more respectful of your reader than assaulting them with banner ads!
Okie dokie? 🙂
Alright, so that’s my official answer.
It will save me from giving half-assed replies in emails that really don’t give the question justice. It is a common question. So, now I’ve answered it properly.
If you want to follow with me as we execute this plan together, your next step would be to get your free copy of The Online Business Roadmap.
Thanks for this! I just built this beautiful website, set up my opt-in and have a funnel off my opt-in. I’ve been working on this for almost 8 hours a day and I get nervous I won’t make anything. I’m going to try paid promoting like you said. I have no job, so I guess I gotta make it work! Lol
This has been eye-opening!
I’m excited about getting started on this. I’m soaking up everything I can. I keep having to make myself return to that original principle to keep the idea of serving others as the focus. It’s easy for my mind to start wandering and think about the money! I can do this!!!
What I like about this so far is that what you are talking about is something I call “principles.” You’ve labled truthfully what blogs do, and what they do not do (a blog by itself is just words – it does not make money). I don’t want a “get rich quick without any effort” scheme. I just want to know the principles that success would be based on. Thanks.
You’re welcome. 🙂
I’ve really learnt a whole lot from you.
This concept of using a blogging as a means to an end instead of an end in itself is powerful.
It puts the “no limits” tag on what one can achieve online.
It’s similar to allocating resources to the most important things and that’s building the value ladder of a business, the 80/20 way.
Thanks again for sharing 🙂
Hey David. I love your views about bloggers and business owners. There is also solid advice in this article, and as a proud member of the lab I wouldn’t expect less from you. I’ve been following your site for years. Thanks for the knowledge you provide.
Thanks, Stella. 🙂
David – Love your style. Simple, direct, actionable and utterly without any BS.
As Sharron said, it has really shifted my outlook at how to make money with a blog!
Awesome. Thanks. 🙂
This is an awesome pillar-post, and something that’s needed to be said in a straightforward, no-BS, way, for quite a few years. – It’s changed something in my outlook too; even as one of your students.
I can’t help thinking that you might have put a number of bullshit-gurus out of business… Which can only be a good thing in all honesty. 🙂