A few years ago, I decided to start researching ways to make more money on the side of my day job. Searching “how to make more money” in Google kept leading me towards websites saying “start a blog”, fill out surveys, or join some silly apps.
After some thought, I decided to take a step towards creating an online business, and started a blog.
My goal with my blog was to see if I could turn it into an income stream and make money from blogging.
After 2 years of writing, hustling, and grinding away for hours and hours, I haven’t made a lot of money, but I have made some money.
Can you actually make money from blogging?
Short answer? Yes.
Long answer? It’s complicated.
In this post, I’m going to share with you my results from my first 2 years of blogging, what you can expect if you start a blog, the skills necessary for growing your blog, and an answer to the question if you can actually make money from blogging.
What a New Blogger Can Expect During The 1st 2 Years of Blogging
I launched The Mastermind Within on the 1st day of 2017. It’s now 2019, and I’ve been blogging for 2 years.
During this time, I posted a ton of content, redesigned this website a handful of times, made a ton of mistakes, and have made some money.
Overall though, after two years, my return from my blog is a large negative.
When I started blogging, I didn’t know how to build a following, provide value, and monetize this following.
Over time, I learned, but it’s been a long slog.
Below are the revenue statistics from the first two years of blogging on The Mastermind Within.
What You Could Expect in Your First Year of Blogging
In the first year (2017), I made $161 and received 40,957 page views (~3,500 page views a month).
Not included in the picture above is the expenses. In 2017, I spent around $1,300 on different software, website hosting, and education resources.
During this first year, I added nearly 175 pieces of new content to the website, but my marketing wasn’t fantastic.
I wasn’t on Pinterest, wasn’t doing any Facebook advertising, and wasn’t super consistent with my posting or outreach.
Also, I was still learning how to make an appealing website, and was struggling with focus for my new and existing readers.
Some of this was addressed in year two, but after one year, I still didn’t really know what I was doing (and it shows in the results)
What You Could Expect in Your Second Year of Blogging
During the second year, I focused in a little more, secured some sponsored content contracts, and continued to build up the content on the website.
In the second year of the blog, I made $2,520, and received 128,932 page views (~11,000 page views a month).
During the second year, I posted 3 times a week, but the main driver of the increase in traffic was from search engines.
For money making, I was experimenting with a lot of different ways to make money blogging, but none of them really worked out. Some were based around affiliate marketing, other ideas were based around ads.
One blogging money making method that did work out was securing a sponsored post contract with an advertising agency.
Sponsored content is not for everyone, but I wanted to see if it would be beneficial. For this website, it seems it has been okay.
In the second year, I hired a few people to help me with this blog, but the return on that investment was not instantaneous.
Overall, for the second year, I took a monetary loss of $650, as well as all of the time I spent on the blog.
Can You Actually Make Money Blogging?
Let’s go back to the original question, can you actually make money blogging?
Yes, you can make money blogging. Affiliate marketing, ads, sponsored content, partnerships, paid products – all of these can lead to income if done right.
I’m currently working on a paid product that could bring in $3,000 a month if done right. We will see the result when I’m done with the product!
Making money online is certainly possible, but will take effort and patience. For me, in my first two years, I made nearly $3,000.
However, to make this money, I spent about $4,500, and worked countless hours on writing, designing and learning how to become a better online business owner.
I made a lot of mistakes, but also have grown a ton from my experience.
During my first two years of blogging, I was exposed to the following concepts and experiences:
- providing value through your writing
- web design
- social media marketing
- lead magnets and email marketing
- search engine optimization
- community building and meeting other bloggers
I wouldn’t have learned any of these blogging skills, or had some amazing experiences with other awesome people if I didn’t start.
Also, what’s amazing about these relationships and skills is they will not go away over time.
For example, one of my side hustles to earn more money now is freelance web design. I design websites for small business owners who don’t know how to get started online.
Over the past 6 months, I’ve earned nearly $3,000 from this side hustle. This more than makes up for the loss I’ve taken on the blog.
In year three on my blog, I’m continuing to focus in and learn more about what makes my readers tick, how I can serve them, and what will lead to growth on this blog.
Can you actually make money online and make money blogging? Yes.
Will it be difficult? Yes.
Should You Start a Blog to Earn More Money?
Above, we talked about what you can expect during your first two years of blogging.
Maybe you are still thinking about starting a blog, or maybe you already have a blog and are looking to grow.
Buying a domain, getting paid website hosting, and installing WordPress on your website can be done in less than an hour for typically less than $150.
It’s never been easier or less expensive to launch an online business than it is today.
Even with my less than stellar results after two years, I’m still very thankful I took the plunge and started this website.
If you are on the fence about diving in deep on the blog, let me share some more thoughts on the benefits I’ve found from blogging.
The rest of this post will be talking about your mindset towards creating a great blog, how to start a blog, and my best tips I have for new bloggers.
Take Action and Do Work
On this blog, I talk a lot about the importance of action.
Back at the beginning of 2017, I started The Mastermind Within. I registered the domain, https://personalfinanceblogs.com, and got to work building out the website.
I decided to take bold action, and put my thoughts and opinions out into the wild World Wide Web.
What started out as an outlet to help others, to connect with like-minded individuals, to document my journey, and to potentially create an income stream has become all of this and more.
I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people and am looking forward to continue on this journey in year number 3.
It would have been easy for me to not start this blog, but I decided to take action and do the work. It would have been easy to not write thousands of words spanning hundreds of blog posts, but I decided to take action and do the work.
There are so many “hard” things that are necessary for success in this world. But, speaking frankly here, they aren’t actually that hard. The difficulty comes in the consistency and application of discipline.
Ideas are Worthless Without Action
How many million dollar ideas have you came up with over the last few years?
How many of those have you implemented?
For all of your ideas that you’ve implemented, what was the gain or loss?
I have plenty of ideas, but have realized that all of these ideas are worthless unless I actually try and capitalize on them.
Starting a YouTube channel, buying a rental property, starting a blog, getting started with a new hobby, getting into shape, building a new company – all of these things make for great conversation and goals, but without actually doing the work, nothing will come of it.
This blog, The Mastermind Within, wasn’t the most original idea. There are plenty of blogs which talk about personal finance, self improvement or entrepreneurship.
Here’s the thing: you don’t need an amazing idea the first, second, fifth or tenth time you do something. Surprisingly, taking action actually will lead to bigger and better ideas!
Over the last two years, I’ve seen some fantastic results personally, on the blog, and in my other hustles.
These results include:
- A crazy amount of content on this website
- Personal growth and self improvement from my hustle
- New relationships with amazing people
- A potential income stream going forward
Let’s go into these in more detail.
The Raw Output of Taking Action on Your Blog
In 2018, I added nearly 200 pieces of content to this blog, with the word count totaling 253,515 words. In 2017, I added nearly 175 pieces of content to the blog, with the word count totaling 216,269 words.
That’s a lot of freaking writing.
One of my life mantras is the following:
Simple daily disciplines over time will lead to MASSIVE SUCCESS.
Over 2 years, I stayed consistent with my writing and growth on this website.
There were days when I didn’t want to write, days where I didn’t have a great idea, and days where I could’ve just pushed it off for another day.
Now, I have a strong foundation, and with consistent efforts, you could create a site like this as well.
Personal Growth and Self Improvement from Blogging
Growing up, English was my worse subject in school. I got B’s and C’s in English, whereas in my math and science courses, I got mostly A’s.
In college, I graduated with a math degree, and only took 1 writing class.
Communication, English and comprehension has always been a struggle for me.
With these as weaknesses, why did I start a blog? If I’m bad at these things, then why try?
Something I like to do is spin situations and look at them from a different angle. With these weaknesses, maybe they are reasons why I actually should start a blog or podcast!
Blogging has drastically improved my communication and ability to think on my feet. Writing over 200,000 words in a coherent matter takes practice (my first posts looked horrible – and my new ones still have room for improvement!)
With this improved communication, I’ve seen improvements and an impact in my relationships and career.
Communication is incredibly important for having a successful career, and through my efforts to improve my communication, I’ve seen an increase in my salary at my day job.
Another skill I’ve learned from blogging is web design. As I discussed above, this new side hustle has helped me increase my side income.
Designing websites and making improvements to this website has been a lot of fun, and also helped me in my day job.
Learning HTML and CSS isn’t too difficult, but there is definitely a learning curve to get started.
Now, I’ve been able to market this skill and help others with their websites!
From blogging, I’ve learned a lot of great skills which will help me going forward in my hustles.
Making New Connections, Forming New Friendships and Finding Love
When I started blogging, I had no idea that there was a huge community of other bloggers who all loved talking about money, hustling and personal growth.
Over my first two years of blogging, I met and interacted with hundreds of awesome people at different meet-ups and media conferences.
I even dated someone amazing for about a year who I met through this blog!
A number of these people I met over the last year I now consider some of my best friends 🙂
Discussing interests, having accountability buddies, sharing great stories and experiences, and raising my “average” (you’re the average of the 5 people you spend your time with in all ways – wealth, social skills, health, interests, career success, etc.) has been so much fun and so great.
I’m very excited to continue to keep having fun with these new blogging and finance friends, but also meet new people too!
A New Income Stream
In the first section of this post, I told you that one of my goals with this blog was to make money. When I started, I took inspiration from other bloggers who had turned their personal website or blog into an online business.
As we saw above, through the first two years, I made roughly $3,000.
While this isn’t a lot, it has set the stage for a potential income stream going forward with the correct actions and efforts.
Time will tell if I’m able to make it into a profitable endeavor, but if others can do it, then so can I.
What Can You Accomplish?
One of the sayings I hate the most is, “I don’t have enough time for X.”
Yes, I do understand that there are situations where kids are involved, multiple jobs are being held, or because of past choices, there aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything you want done.
But for many people, a lot of time is spent on their phone, watching TV or laying in bed. Heck, I used to play 3-4 hours of video games EVERY DAY. That’s over 1,000 hours a year!
What is interesting, is humans underestimate how much they can accomplish in a year (or 3, or 5 years).
In my second year of blogging, I added over 250,000 words and nearly 200 posts to this website. In the past two years, I’ve added over 450,000 words and 350 posts to this website.
Could I have done all of this in 1 day? No.
Could I have done all of this in 1 week? No.
Could I have done all of this in 1 month? No.
What about 1 year? 2 years? 5 years? Yes 🙂 (I did it!)
Think about this for a second: in 5 years, you’ll be on this Earth for 43,800 hours.
How many hours does it take to reach your goal? 100? 200? 500?
I think you can carve out 100 hours in the next 5 years 😉
Spending 30 minutes a day for 200 days will hit lead to hitting your goal. Spend an hour a day for 100 days and you’ll hit your 100 hour goal.
I know you can do it.
Take action today. Do the work, and you’ll be on the path to success.
6 Steps to Starting and Growing Your Blog
At this point, you might be interested in starting a blog, but don’t know the next steps to getting your website started.
Maybe you are skeptical that you should start a blog.
There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t create a blog:
- You don’t know what you would write about
- You don’t believe your writing skills are up to par
- The time isn’t there to build and maintain a blog
- You don’t know anything about blogging and are scared to learn
While these are valid concerns, I will address each one of these concerns here:
You don’t know what you would write about
There are millions of things you could write about.
What are your interests?
- Do you like winter sports such as skiing or skating?
- You could start a blog talking about different hills that you have tried out or different skating rinks.
- Do you like traveling?
- There are many travel blogs (and the best part is, your tickets possibly could be tax-deductible!)
- Are you passionate about a certain topic?
- Do you know about personal finance, cooking, survival, fashion, fitness, or something else other people are looking to learn?
There are millions of things you could write about; it is important to brainstorm and think big.
You don’t believe your writing skills are up to par
When I started blogging, I knew my writing skills were not perfect (I told you above, I’m a math major, not an English major 🙂 ).
That being said, I have been able to work on these skills over time and have developed a skill set that has helped me in my day job and in other settings.
Communication is extremely important in today’s world.
You don’t want to put in extra time to build a blog
As I will discuss later in the post, I only spend about 5-10 hours on this blog a week.
Setting up your blog does take some time initially, and depending on how big you want it to grow, you can put as much time in as you want.
As I said before, after setting it up and getting it rolling, you probably will spend 5-10 hours on the blog a week going forward.
You don’t know anything about blogging and are scared to learn
There are so many amazing resources on the web to learn about content creation, web design, email marketing, and successful blogging. Later in this this post, I’ll provide some amazing blogging resources which have helped me grow my website.
With these concerns out of the way, how can you start your blog today?
Steps to Setting Up Your Blog
There are 6 steps to set up a blog:
- Choose a topic
- Choose a domain
- Get web hosting
- Install WordPress
- Design your website
- Write your first post!
Let’s dive into each one of these.
1) Choose a topic
First and foremost, you need an idea for starting the blog.
For The Mastermind Within, the idea was to start a community that focused on discussing trying to live a balanced life. A balanced life would include being financially successful, holding a great job in the field you are passionate about, and pushing to grow over time.
For you, what are passionate about?
- Is it helping others?
- Winter sports?
- Do you love DIY projects?
- What about planting flowers?
There are many different avenues you can take here.
2) Choose a domain name (website name)
After you have picked a topic, now is the fun part: coming up with a website name.
This name should be simple and memorable (3-5 words).
For this website, the domain name is https://personalfinanceblogs.com.
We picked The Mastermind Within because we believe everyone is the creator, owner, and master of their lives. In addition, when someone is called a Mastermind, there is the implication the person has control on their lives.
By reading our blog, you can become more successful in life and become the owner of your life.
Once you have an idea for your domain, you can check the domain availability on a website like Instant Domain Search, or when you go to buy paid hosting.
3) Get paid web hosting
A web host is the server your website runs on. Web hosting is like the land, and your website is the house on that land.
Why paid web hosting?
When starting out blogging, some people will start with a wordpress.com or a blogger.com blog. While this is perfectly okay, there are so many limitations for designing, monetizing and growing your following on those sites.
It is possible to still have a free blog, however, to have complete control over your website, and have support if something went wrong, I still recommend a paying for web hosting.
For web hosting, you want a web hosting service that has been reliable, stable, and high performing.
Personally, I’ve used Namecheap, Bluehost and Siteground, and now have all of my websites running on Siteground. Siteground is super fast, affordable, and has great customer service.
If you need paid web hosting, I recommend Siteground. I will earn a commission if you buy through following link, but I truly believe Siteground is a fantastic web host for bloggers.
After clicking over to Siteground, for new bloggers, you can get the start-up plan, and then create your account.
Once you find a domain that is available, then you will enter your personal details and select the package information settings.
I recommend getting the “Domain Privacy Protection” for $0.99 a month.
If you are trying to stay anonymous, this will hide your name and phone number from others. For the other settings, I don’t select any.
The only one I considered selecting, in addition to the “Domain Privacy Protection” setting, was the Site Backup Pro. For me, I back-up my site manually, and save some cash.
4) Install WordPress
After purchasing hosting, it is time to get WordPress. To continue with our analogy, Siteground is the land, your domain is the house, and WordPress is the materials to build the house.
Just like you can pick different materials (i.e., wood floors vs. carpet), you can pick different blogging software.
WordPress is a fantastic blogging software application which makes managing and customizing your blog very easy.
After the install, you are ready to get to work on the web design and content 🙂
5) Design Website
There is a couple of things that are important to mention at this stage.
1) Theme (Free or Premium)
When you first start-up WordPress, you will probably have the generic WordPress theme activated.
This theme is fine for starters, but this one is as default as they come and may not have the customization you want.
There are many free themes you can get. The positives for these themes are they are free, and they will have more customization than the default WordPress themes. The negatives are there may be little to no support, and the theme may get abandoned and become outdated over time.
For starters, it might be wise to stick with a free theme.
For The Mastermind Within, we use the XTheme. This is a premium theme and costs $59.
The reason why I decided to go with a premium theme is premium themes are supported, the layout is more professional and the customization is superior to free themes.
To install a theme, go to the Appearance tab on the left sidebar of the WordPress dashboard, and select themes. You will be led to this page:
Plugins are extensions to a base WordPress theme. These extensions help you do many specialized tasks.
Some plugins I use and I suggest are the following:
- Yoast SEO
- Helps a TON with your writing
- A spam blocker – no one likes spam!
- Contact Form 7
- A simple and flexible contact form
- Pretty Link Lite
- A plugin to convert ugly links into pretty links
- WP Rocket
- A plugin designed to improve user experience and page speed
- Reduces the size of your media files and improves page load speed
- Sassy Social Share
- An awesome social media sharing plug-in with the ability to share to 100+ platforms
- TinyMCE Advanced
- Enables advanced post editing features
Depending on your goals, there are thousands of other plug-ins out there you can use to make our website perform how you want it to perform.
3) Integrate a Free Email Service
Growing your brand and following on your website can be done on social media, but an email list is what you want to start building from day one.
To start building an email list, you need to sign up for a free email service.
After signing up for an email service, you will create a list and a form to collect emails.
Then, after creating your email form, embed this form on your website and you can then collect emails.
These email platforms keep the data safe. But for your customers, they need to know exactly what you are doing with it.
4) Site Layout and Design
Once you have your theme and plugins, you can start to customize the layout of your website.
Go to the “Appearance” tab on the left sidebar and click “Customize”. Here you will be able to customize many different aspects of your website, from fonts to widget placement to backgrounds to menus to headers and footers.
There will be many different combinations you can choose from.
Find the one that is best for you!
If you need more customization, then you can create a child theme and change the template files.
6) Write your first post (and then your second and third…)
After completing the first 5 steps, you have your idea, you have your website, you have your design. Now, it’s time to produce some content for your readers.
Here’s the awesome thing: you can do whatever you want!
Maybe you want to do an introduction page, or an about me page.
It’s possible you want to get right into writing about your passions and save the intro page for later. Maybe you want to start promoting a product, such as an e-book, right away.
The possibilities are endless! You now have your own platform to do whatever you want on it!
Resources to Help You Grow Your Blog
Now, that you’ve set up your blog, you are probably wondering, “What’s next? How can I grow this website?”
There are a number of fantastic resources I’ve used over the past two years which have helped me improve my knowledge around blogging.
- Google Analytics
- A free and very powerful website traffic tracking software from Google
- Google Search Console
- A free and very powerful website search engine tracking service from Google
- Content Inc
- One of my favorite books, Content Inc is a fantastic resource about content marketing and building a content based business.
- Do You Even Blog
- Pete McPherson has created an amazing blog and podcast all about blogging. His posts and tips are amazing for helping new bloggers get to their goals.
- Lindsay Lawless, for Pinterest
- I hired Lindsay and she has helped me grow my Pinterest over time. She grew her personal Pinterest to 5,000,000 monthly impressions, and now she helps others improve their Pinterest accounts full time.
- Code Academy, for web design
- I learned how to design websites through Code Academy, and then through practice. Without the basics though, I would have never succeeded.
- Canva, for graphic design
Searching on Google will lead to some other amazing blogging resources, but these should definitely help you get started.
Will You Make Money Blogging?
In this post, I’ve provided you some amazing resources and tips to get your blog started, or get your blog growing.
As I mentioned above, I’ve gained some amazing skills, met some awesome people, and created a space for myself on the internet for my thoughts.
While this website might never become profitable, the connections and abilities I’ve acquired are totally worth it.
For you, my number one tip is to start, and be consistent with your actions.
Simple daily disciplines will lead to massive success over time.
Can you actually make money blogging? Yes.
Will you love blogging even if you don’t make money? Absolutely.
If you have any questions or comments about blogging, web design, or marketing, feel free to contact me. I read and respond to every email.