As I am writing this post on how to make money blogging, the Bucket List Journey blog is earning me a six-figure yearly income. It is seriously hard to believe that a site that started purely from my passion for bucket lists has turned into a viable business that makes more than most corporate 9-5 jobs.
Did it happen overnight? Heck no. Can you make money blogging? Absolutely—that’s the honest to God’s truth—but it is going to take time and effort. If you think that blogging is a get-rich-quick scheme, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you…
Don’t have a blog yet? Then read this article—Become a Blogger: How to Start a Successful Blog in 6 Easy Steps
It typically takes a while because you need to have a readership in order make money and that means you have to write quite a few quality posts. With that said, you’ll want to have all the monetizing groundwork in place, so when the visitors start coming you are ready to start earning.
About Bucket List Journey
Before we delve into ways to monetize, let’s talk about this blog, Bucket List Journey. I started it over ten years ago and have worked my butt off since to figure out how to make it a success. It now has approximately 600 published articles on the site, and almost 500,000 pageviews per month. The site has been listed on several “top blog” lists and featured on reputable sites like the New York Post and Travel Channel (you can visit my Press Page for a full list). It currently grosses about $10,000 per month (which is continuously growing—woot! woot!).
A blog can make money in several different ways and a combination of the following seven are the ones that have worked for me:
1. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is often the first and easiest way that bloggers make money. This form of monetizing is when you add a special link to a product you are recommending. Then, when someone clicks and makes a purchase using that link, you will earn a commission.
You need to join a company’s affiliate program in order to get this special link. Not all, but many companies and products have an affiliate program (just search for “product/company name + affiliate program” to find one). You’ll find that some have their very own program that is accessed on their site, while others join a larger network that represent several companies. Here is a list of my main producing affiliate programs (listed in order of biggest money earners to least):
- Get Your Guide: GetYourGuide is a tour and attraction booking company, that offers experiences in almost every country in the world. This is is my biggest affiliate earner. BLJ Income: $500-$900/month.
- Amazon: Though Amazon’s commission percentage is not as great as many other affiliate programs, but they have a little bit of everything and make it very easy to sign up plus add links to your content. BLJ Income: $400-$600/month.
- Booking.com: Though many bloggers will use Expedia, Hotels Combined or Tripadvisor, this is the company I use for all hotel recommendations. BLJ Income: $200-$400/month.
- Viator: Viator is very similar to GetYourGuide, offering tours and experiences around the world. I tend to use them when I can’t find what I am looking for on GetYourGuide. BLJ Income: $100-$200/month.
- Commission Junction: Commission Junction (CJ) is one of the top affiliate marketing company that has thousands of brands to choose from. They will have everything from clothing companies to domain name sites to luxury resorts. When you sign up with them you have access to apply to an array of affiliate programs right from their database. Avantlink, Awin and Pepperjam are other affiliate marketing companies similar to Commission Junction. BLJ Income: $100-$200/month
- Skimlinks: Skimlinks is great for beginner bloggers, the technology-challenged or someone who may not want to get too involved in affiliate marketing. They give you one code to embed into your site and it automatically turns any links you insert into your blog into affiliate links, as long as the company is a partner with Skimlinks. If you don’t want to think about having to search, create and add affiliate links to every one of your posts, then this is perfect. If you are worried about embedding a code into your site they also offer a Chrome extension. With the extension you can go to a website, click on the Skimlinks icon to see if they are a partner and then it will instantly create a link for you to insert. This is how I use Skimlinks, since I don’t want it to automatically turn links into affiliates, because I like to have more control. BLJ Income: $50-$150/month.
You should start by picking a few affiliate options that would work with your niche and apply for their program. You will need approval to join from most of them. If you don’t get approved initially, don’t get discouraged! You may just need to build your readership a little more. Even so, still set up your posts as if you were going to insert affiliate links. This will make it way easier in the future.
Just make sure you are recommending quality products or you’ll lose your credibility quickly. I will typically write my article first, inserting products that I use and love, and then see if they have affiliates after.
Want to see an affiliate post in action? You can see a good example of Affiliate Marketing I used on my blog is the Board Games Bucket List: 50 of the All Time Best Ones to Play article. There, I described how the game was played, and placed a link going to Amazon where you can buy the actual game. For every purchase of the game, I get a percentage of the profit when the lead comes from my site.
2. Sponsored Posts
Once you’ve managed to fill up your blog with articles and raised a nice number of visitors, brands will start contacting you for sponsored content (make sure you have your email or a contact form on your blog!). A sponsored blog post is content that is produced because of a partnership between a company and publisher. Basically, a company pays you to talk about their brand or product on your blog.
The main difference between sponsored posts and affiliate marketing is in the way of earning money. In affiliate marketing, you earn based on the number of clicks and/or purchases the company gets from your site. More clicks and conversions from your site mean more income for you. While in sponsored content, the company typically gives you outright payment for the content you’ll be posting.
When it comes to sponsored content, the company or their public relation agency usually reaches out to bloggers or publishers to get featured on their site. Companies have a greater risk if they ask bloggers to write sponsored content because they will be dependent on whether the story will pick up and generate conversions. That’s why a company chooses an already established blogger with a wide reach and a large number of monthly traffic, so their investment would return as quickly as possible. As a blogger, it’s also your responsibility to give the company their money’s worth should they tap you to make sponsored content.
Some companies aren’t concerned how many clicks to their website/product your article will produce, that are just looking for “link juice”, a backlink to their site that may give them more authority in the search engines.
If you don’t want to wait for them to come to you, you do have a couple choices. You can pitch companies directly or join sponsored post networks that are like agents working for brands. If you want to pitch yourself, you’ll need a media kit that includes your brand information and stats. There is no real protocol except your pitch should be professional and you need to remember that they are going to want a return on investment (ROI), so you need to make sure whatever you are offering is legit and you’re not just after free stuff.
Joining sponsored post networks is a little bit easier, but be prepared to weed through all the companies that you may not be interested in. These networks work with hundreds of different brands and will contact you when your profile fits what they are looking for.
There are many partnership networks that you can join, but here are the top ones that I belong to:
Every sponsorship is different, sometimes it’s a product in exchange for exposure and sometimes it’s paid. Each contract and negotiation is different and you have to determine what you feel comfortable with.
BLJ Income: $550-$1250/article
Whether your blog has a killer tagline that would be excellent on a mug or you’d like to sell your perfectly concocted pork rub—who doesn’t want to sell their very own merchandise? When people buy your merch, it means that they support and love what you do, and that feels pretty damn good.
Creating and selling your own products or shop may seem like a daunting task, but there’s actually easy ways to get started. Print-on-demand companies, like Printful and Printify, offer quality base products that you add your own design to. The best part is that there’s no investment costs because you don’t have to pay for the product cost until someone places an order! Combine one of these companies with a shop webpage using Shopify and you are all set!
My store buck & co, literally started because of a tank I created that was worn in one of my Instagram posts—it said “Bucket List Boss” and people loved it! It took watching a few dozen YouTube videos and about two months of work for my store to be live. Now you can get my signature tank top and a variety of other bucket list merch. Don’t forget to send me a picture of you slaying my collection!
4. Display Advertising
How many times have you seen those long banner ads at the bottom of a site you’re visiting? Or video commercials playing in the sidebar? These are both forms of display advertising. Some bloggers will partner directly with an individual company to create a display advertising campaign suited for them both, but most these days are using an ad network company.
These ad networks work by matching advertisers with the content of your blog and your site’s visitors. Based off your demographics the advertiser bids for a spot on your site, and the highest bidder gets the space. The ads displayed are always changing, depending on the visitor, article content and time of day.
To use one of them, you just need to sign up and install some code (most will walk you through doing this or do it for you).
The ad networks are responsible for creating and monitoring ads, so all you have to do is set up some code in your site and choose where you want your ads to appear. You can make some very good money having these style ads on your site (it is the bulk of my income), but the bigger ones won’t work with you until you have some decent pageviews per month. Here’s a list of the main ad network companies listed in order of least amount of traffic needed to be accepted to most:
- Google Adsense: Most bloggers start with Google Adsense, including myself, because you don’t need much traffic to use it.
- Ezoic: Ezoic’s payout is better than Google Adsense, but you need 10,000 pageviews per month to join.
- Mediavine: Mediavine requires 50,000 pageviews to join, and it is the company that I currently use.
- Adthrive: You’ll need the most pageviews for Adthrive (100,000!), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than the rest. I was with Adthrive for a couple years and they were fantastic, but I recently switched to Mediavine. Why? Because the payout for my blog was a little better.
Whichever ad network you may choose, weigh in the pros and the cons for each one, and don’t be afraid to do your due diligence by testing a different one out—just know the cancellation policies!
BLJ Income: $5500-$9,000/month
5. Press Trips
Many companies and destinations understand the importance of a blogger/content creator having first-hand experiences with what they are promoting—it forms credibility between the reader and writer. This is especially true for travel bloggers who need to experience a destination in order to take photos, share on social media and write truly personal articles.
Tourism boards, tour companies, event organizers, pr agencies, hotels and so many other companies organize press trips as part of their marketing plan. For example, a city’s tourism board will partner with me to write a “bucket list” for their destination (like this St. Louis Bucket List). Based off of my preferences and the knowledge they have of their destination, they organize hotels, transportation, meals, activities, and in my case, all the best things that may make it onto the destination bucket list that I will write.
Typically, these trips are fully paid for by the organizer and can be any length of time—I’ve been on everything from 2-days to 2-week trips. With that said, each partnership has to be negotiated to be beneficial for the all parties involved. In the beginning you will most likely have to reach out to the companies directly and send them a pitch, but after you gain some traction proving you are a solid partner, companies will begin reaching out to you.
I have done dozens of press trips, you can see a list of them on my media kit page, and it is my favorite type of partnership.
Average BLJ Income: $250-$500/each day of trip
Don’t ever think a press trip means you get a “free vacation”! Press trips require A LOT of hard work, especially if you want to be known as a credible content creator who gives a good ROI (return on investment).
With ebooks becoming popular and dozens of self-publishing print houses on the market (here are 12 of the best ones), your dream of writing a book is not impossible! Plus, you could actually make some money from doing it. This is especially true if you have a fanbase and email list that you are able to easily market to.
Of course you can spend time shopping publishers and agents, though this route will be much harder, especially for the first-time author. The exception may be if your blog is super successful and/or your niche is extremely specific, then the publisher will see more potential for making more sales. That’s what happened to me, a publisher was looking for someone to write a book about bucket lists, and found my blog. Seven short months later, a book was born—Bucket List Adventures,
Note: Writing a book was one of my hardest bucket list checks ever, especially for my mind. Between the research, writing and rewriting, it’s a wonder that my brain didn’t explode into a million pieces. At one point I actually Googled “writing a book sucks” to see if someone out there could sympathize with my pain. FYI: There were plenty of people of could!
Just like all ways to make money with a blog, earnings from a book vary depending on a number of factors. I did not get a big advance for my book, but I will continue to earn royalties for years to come. With that said, those royalties are tiny. Next time, I would self-publish an ebook since there would be little overhead costs involved besides marketing.
7. Creating an Online Course
People are always wanting to learn from successful people, so creating an online course is a great idea if you’re recognized by your readers to be an expert on a specific topic. In my case, since my blog is about giving the tools and inspiration to live your bucket list, I can make an online course about how to save money for your goals or the secret to creating and living your bucket list.
If you are struggling to figure out what your course would be about, take a look at what type of questions your readers are asking you. Most of mine want to know how I can afford to travel or how do I face my fear to make checkmarks on my bucket list. Both of these topics could be turned into a course.
Teachable is one of the platforms where you can share what you know and make it available for everybody. It is an online service that allows you to create and sell your courses.
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They say that when you are doing what you love it doesn’t feel like work, and that couldn’t ring more true. Using these monetizing techniques I have been able to turn my passion into a lucrative career, and you can too!
Here’s a bonus: If you have that 40-hour per week job, you can keep that and still earn money from your blog on the side. Blogging can indeed can take a bit of work, especially when you’re just starting and you have other responsibilities to think of, but you just have to be patient and keep working on your craft.
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