(Originally published May 13, 2021 at RonLWalter.com)
Are you like me when you start a blog (or were you when you started your own blog)?
You hear about how much money people are making and it's at the same time inspiring and intimidating.
But getting to that point seems like there's a freaking mountain in the way, doesn't it? We're standing at zero elevation and it just hurts your neck to look up at it.
Looking at my traffic numbers for this blog wasn't a great way to start the morning.
In fact, it made me want to crawl back into bed and curl up into a little ball.
My traffic yesterday wasn't in the thousands. Or the hundreds.
Not even the one's.
I mean, I get it. Everyone starts at that point. But my first post was 11 months ago. You'd think I'd have at least a LITTLE traction, right?
Know that feeling? Have you ever been there, and you wonder, how long does it take to get somewhere with your blog?
There's something encouraging for me in all this. It's a familiar feeling. I've been here before. Not that being here before is in and of itself encouraging, but I've been here with a blog that turned out to do pretty well.
My EntreCourier site currently has about 140,000 page views per month. I'm earning a full-time income, making money blogging. And that blog has been at this point.
The Story of a Blog that DID Start Making Money.
See, I can't tell you how long it will take for you to make money. There's no way I can predict if and when you'll get a significant number of visitors. I've started blogs that fizzled. As I write this, it's probably fair to say this one is fizzling.
And here's the thing: My story isn't going to be your story. My story with EntreCourier isn't even going to be the story of this site.
I may never see the same numbers I saw. It's possible I don't even get off the ground. You can say the same of your site.
So what's the point of sharing this?
Because sometimes, it happens. Maybe it happens quickly for new bloggers, or it's like what happened with me where it took awhile to get traction.
And when it does, we can learn from it. Seeing it happen somewhere gives us something to look at and learn from. And maybe it can inspire us.
Heck, I'm hoping it can inspire me. After looking at that big fat ZERO in my traffic, it's a good idea to get all the inspiration I can get.
Although I just thought of something. If you're reading this, I'm no longer at zero, am I?
Maybe that means I'm getting off the ground?
So how long DID it take to start making money with my blog?
By one definition, it was less than a year. By another definition, it was two and a half years. The real answer is probably somewhere in between.
I launched EntreCourier in April, 2018. However, it wasn't until about June of 2020 that I really started taking it seriously and put in the hard work as a blogging business.
I made my first Dollar in March of 2020. It wasn't until October 2020 that my earnings surpassed what I'd spent to get the site going.
And then things started getting serious.
Stage 1: Fits and Starts: Getting started.
Is April 2018 really a good launch date? I ask that because I shut it down a few months later. Wiped it off the board. Those early months don't even show up in the Wayback Machine.
For all anyone knows, it never really existed.
In January of 2019, I gave myself permission to start it up again. I'd shut it down because I felt it was getting in the way of other things. But then I figured out there was a potential for it to do something.
Even then, I wasn't really serious about it. I posted fairly regularly, averaging better than a post a week. But it was haphazard, to say the least.
Maybe the reason that I think it's helpful to share my story is that I was inspired by others who shared their stories.
I was listening to Darren Rowse's ProBlogger podcast. He said the turning point for him was when he decided to take his blogging seriously as a business. I realized I needed to do that.
And that's when things got serious. I committed that I was going to make money with this blog. Not only that, but I told myself it would be substantial.
In June of 2019 I committed to EntreCourier. It was no longer casual. I committed to learning the things I needed to learn to make it work.
It still was nearly a year before I earned my first dollar.
Stage 2: Getting Serious.
I committed to making money. Part of that commitment was a decision to not make money.
Are you confused yet?
One thing I knew was that I needed to grow my audience. So, I committed to just focusing on that.
That doesn't mean that's the way you should do it. In fact, as I commit to growing this site, I'm pretty sure I'll do a lot of things differently. Just wanting to be sure here, this is not me telling you how to do it.
For me, the decision was for a couple of reasons:
- I felt like the best way to build my audience was to provide helpful content with no expectation in return.
- Part of it was not knowing the best way to monetize. I believed that building my audience would give me the clues I needed when it was time.
Instead of trying to do all the money making things, I dove into what I needed to do to my site. Working on my business instead of in it. What's the best way to structure my site? How do I promote my site? What's the best strategy for finding my audience.
I linked my site to Google analytics. And man were those numbers depressing! But it's okay, I knew I was playing a long game.
I focused my content on answering questions that my target audience would be asking. Google seemed to like that strategy.
And then I really dove in. I launched a podcast and committed to a full month of daily episodes and blog posts. That to me was the real psychological turning point. It created a mindset that this is a serious thing.
I was committed.
Stage 3: Slowly turning on the revenue.
So where do you start once you get going?
That's part of why I waited. I wasn't sure the best way to get started. Do you advertise? How about affiliate marketing? Maybe I should put out an e-Book. Selling digital products or membership sites is popular. What about your own products like actually selling stuff?
For me, I just decided to work on content. I was tempted to create an e-Book but instead made that content into a series that I just put on my site. That may have been the most pivotal decision I could have made. It just took a few months for it happen (more on that in a moment)
EntreCourier focuses on gig economy delivery. Over time, I started seeing the things that were resonating with that audience. People were coming to find answers about insurance, or about things they would need to help them be successful. I picked up a couple of relationships with affiliate networks.
March of 2020, I made received my first payment. An insurance affiliate program paid me $104.
I picked up an Amazon Associates affiliate account. I think I've made about a dollar a day off that. It almost doesn't seem worth it, until you add it up a year and a half later. I found a couple of affiliate programs for delivery bags that my audience would use.
I bought some things that I could resell. The plus side is I made more than what I would from affiliate links. The downside is how much time it takes to fulfill orders.
A few dollars here, a few dollars there. Nickle and diming, it felt like. It never felt like much, but it was covering the costs.
Stage 4: Turning up the income.
The game changer was when my traffic qualified for advertising.
I stayed away from advertising as I got started. Mainly it was because Google Adsense and some of the low-end ad networks didn't pay well enough to make it worth doing.
Advertising money usually pays so many dollars per thousand visitors. Which meant you had to have several thousand visitors for it to turn into much.
I told you about the series that I created in lieu of an e-book. That made a huge difference.
I wanted to write the ultimate guide to taxes for gig workers. However, I took that and turned it into a series of articles on how taxes work for independent contractors. No one was putting that kind of information out, at least not nearly at the same level of detail as what I did.
And evidently, people were looking for the level of detail I provided. People were coming to my site because I was providing answers to the questions they were searching for. Traffic started taking off.
Passing the 50,000 monthly visitor mark made my site attractive to advertisement management companies and networks. I signed up with a company called Mediavine. I had no idea what to expect.
$700 for the first partial month. Over $2,000 the next month. Over $6,000 the past few months.
In a matter of months, I went from a few dollars a day to “this is my new full time job” money.
I want to call it passive income. In a way, it is, because every visitor is making a few cents for me now. I can go away for a few days and it's making money. But it took a long time to get there, to the point nothing feels passive about it.
When you look at the money, it looks like something happened overnight. But it was two a good two years of laying the foundation before it could happen.
Will there be a stage 5?
I don't know. I hear that for some, you hit a point and it levels off. For others things seem to snowball.
What I can tell you that as my blog has grown, so has my opportunity for affiliate income. More and better options have fallen into place.
Do I create a course? How about a membership site? Are there other opportunities to monetize? I'm still deciding. I want to see if I can grow another blog. (Any guesses which blog that is?). But also, the success of EntreCourier is opening the door to pouring more time into my passion project.
Would I do it all the same again?
Probably not. Some things I would, some I won't.
I'm curious to find out – would it be another two year process, or even a one year process, if I could get another profitable blog?
I'm guessing that it would take less time. I've learned a lot of things I didn't know that first year. In the first place, I know more best practices for building a site, better ways to get a lot of people to find me. So maybe I could take what I've learned and turn that into another good blogging business?
But then, at the same time, I ask myself every day, how much of the success of EntreCourier was being at the right place at the right time? Gig economy delivery has exploded in the past year. How much of my growth is because of that? How much is it that I was in the right place at the right time?
But that's why I'm kind of excited to see what I can do with this site. It's a chance to see if I can do it again.
I may sprinkle in some affiliate products earlier because I already have the relationships and now a pretty good idea where they would fit. I will wait on the advertising until I have as much traffic needed to get a quality ad program. Right now I want to provide a lean mean site.
There's less hit and miss nowadays. Maybe that makes a difference.
How long will it take for me to make a lot of money on THIS blog? I'm excited to find out.
My biggest takeaways.
I can't tell you that what has worked for me will work for you.
That's why I'm not going to try to dive into telling you HOW to blog or how to do affiliate marketing or any of those other things. There are so many who do that so much better than I ever could.
You may have different goals and different philosophies about how to do your content. It might make more sense for you to dive in early on some things. Some will do things completely different than I did and they'll blow me out of the water with their earnings.
And I'll celebrate that with them. Because this isn't about me telling you how to do it. But maybe my thoughts on what did work and why might be helpful. That's why I'll share these takeaways.
It started with a foundation.
One of the biggest keys to my success is in my time as a delivery contractor (the thing that got me into EntreCourier to begin with).
Not so much the delivery itself. It was the time.
I can't tell you how many audiobooks and podcasts I listened to. My days were spent trying to absorb as much information as possible between and on the way to all those deliveries.
Long long ago I learned an important lesson from the book The E-Myth. The best thing you can do is work ON your business, not just in your business. I think that's why all that listening time paid off.
I invested in some online courses to figure out how to set things up as well as I could. How should I structure my site? What are some things I could learn.
Then it grew with a content strategy.
I'm noticing something very similar between the start of my EntreCourier blog and the start of this blog.
It was all about me. It was more about my ideas and my thoughts and experiences.
No one comes to those blog posts any more. There's a lesson in that. Probably a similar lesson to that big zero visitors that I saw.
You know what was bringing people in? Content that was answering their questions. I started to learn what my audience might be looking for and started providing great content that answered those questions.
Along the way I found out Google likes that approach. And Google will point more people to you because of it.
It was solidified by this one principle:
I gotta tell you, there's so many times I'm tempted by the question: How can I turn this into something for me?
But people aren't here for me. They're here for themselves. They need something answered or they need to figure out how to do something.
How can you help them get what they want?
I really do believe that if you do that first, the other stuff eventually falls into place.
The important thing is, people are smart. They see through it when it's real obvious that all you're doing is looking out for yourself.
Right away as I say that, a site pops up in my mind. I don't need to tell you what it is, because there's probably another site that comes to your mind when I mention this. I don't trust a thing I read on that site. Why not? Because I'm pretty sure there's a financial incentive. With my example, it just feels very obvious that the main reason he endorses something is because it pays the best.
You know the kind of thing I'm talking about.
And if you can see it, so can your audience. For me, it was just that much more motivation to not be that guy.
Provide value, first and foremost.
Expecting nothing in return.
Maybe this is an extension of what I just said.
But to be honest, I did struggle with whether I was doing the wrong thing by starting to monetize. Am I making a mistake offering affiliate links or taking advertising money?
Some people are going to question my motives, even if I think they're pure. I can't do anything about that, other than be as genuine as I possibly can.
Ultimately, if I'm providing value with no expectation of anything in return, people will see that. For the most part anyway. That's the important factor for me, anyway.
I don't care if someone chooses to use ad blockers. I still hope that my content helps them. It doesn't matter if they want nothing to do with any of the affiliate products I might recommend. I want to help them.
I feel like if I can sincerely maintain that attitude, I won't cross that line to where everything I'm putting out there has a financial incentive.
Consistency was huge.
I've started other blogs. They all failed or went nowhere.
Or was it that I just never committed to them?
When I got serious about EntreCourier, I really got serious. I committed to 31 straight days of content. And while I'm not doing anything daily, I've stayed consistent.
I tried to keep the monetization within my standards.
I said I want to provide value.
That means I'm not going to promote stuff that doesn't provide value. I have to really believe something can help my audience before I put anything about it on my site.
Do I really mean it when I say I want nothing in return? For that reason, I don't want to hold back on my best information just so I can lure people into paying for it.
That's ultimately why I decided not to put my tax guide into an e-book. I just felt it would do more good putting it up there. Ultimately the advertising revenue from those pages ended up giving me far more than an e-Book would have. So that strategy paid off.
But I'll let you in on a secret: I had no idea that would happen. Not a clue.
When I decided to include advertising on my site, I visited a ton of websites to see what the ads were like.
You know the annoying ads that take over the site? I hate them anywhere else, so why would I put them on my site? And then there are those sites where the ads aren't so bad. They don't seem to get in the way. To me, it was worth waiting until my site could qualify for something like that.
I think that was the key for me to balance that desire to provide value and still making money off my site. If I could be consistent with the streams of revenue that I chose and with my values, I didn't feel a conflict.
For me, playing the long game paid off.
It was worth waiting until I started to monetize.
It's easier to say that now. Back when I was shelling out for hosting, podcasting services, plugins and all that with nothing in return? I won't lie. Sometimes I wondered if I was throwing money away.
But I honestly believe that patience led to greater success. That was because I could build a foundation. I was okay with putting a lot of time in to consistently provide quality content. And I was constantly thinking of what would actually genuinely help my audience.
Will that work every time? No. Will that work if I try it again here? Who knows? Will that work for you? There are so many variables that I couldn't begin to tell you how you should do things.
But these are the things that made a difference for me.
There are so many things out there that you can focus on. Social media, building an email list, learning how search engines work. All those things make a difference. Successful bloggers are creating their own success stories with a lot of strategies. Maybe some would have worked even better for me. Maybe mine wouldn't work for you.
For me, waiting and being patient was far from the easiest way to go. It took awhile before I saw a penny from my blog. As I see it, it was worth the wait.