What are the Costs of Blogging and Can You Make Money?
When you’re sipping your morning coffee or your evening glass of wine and catching up on your favorite blog posts, have you ever stopped to think about the person behind that site? That they spend countless hours creating articles and videos for you to enjoy? Some of those bloggers monetize their sites and others choose not to take sponsor money and receive their “pay back” in other, non-monetary ways.
A very respected colleague and mentor of mine made a bold move on his very well-read blog last year when he announced he was adding Patreon to his site. What is Patreon, you ask? From Mark’s post (which I highly encourage everyone to read), he describes Patreon as:
Patreon is an application that allows your fans and readers to give a little back. This is the uncomfortable part of the church service where they pass around the donation plate : ) For the first time in seven years of creating content for you, I am asking you to think about sponsoring my work with a few dollars a month.
And why did he make this decision? Because we as content creators are getting our clocks cleaned on social media sites such as Facebook by the big guys like CNN and WSJ. Unless you have a lot of dollars to put behind boosting posts (and let’s face it… how genuine is that traffic), you’re just not going to be seen on Facebook.
What is the value of being “seen” on Facebook? It drives traffic to your site – from people who already support you and love to new eyes who may discover you. Why is traffic important to bloggers? Because if you monetize your site with ads or sponsored posts, the higher your monthly page views are, the higher your value to companies who want to work with you. Some bloggers don’t want to monetize their site which means they’re truly producing valuable content for you with zero dollars in it for them.
If you have never blogged or ran a YouTube channel (and let’s face it: it’s not for everyone), you would have no idea the costs that are associated with it. It’s not a TON of money, but money out of our pockets regardless. So I thought it would be worth while to share with you some of the costs associated with having a site such as mine and others, and the different ways that bloggers can make money – even if it’s just enough money to cover their costs.
Unseen Costs of Running a Blog:
Hosting – The hosting is like your house – it’s where your site lives. It’s where all your “stuff” is stored. Range: from $5 a month to $100 a month depending on the size of your database (the “stuff”)
Domain Registration – This is the right to use the domain name year after year. Range: $9 – $30 a year.
Web Design – This is the part that makes your site pretty AND functional. It can be a HUGE cost and one that doesn’t happen every year. You can either have something custom-built by a professional designer or you can DIY it with templates. Some templates are free and some have a cost. Range: Free to thousands
Photos – Including images in posts is a must and if you’re serious about blogging and not getting sued, you have to either take your own photos or pay for images to use. Range: Free (your own) to $1 – $10 per image
Cameras, Tech, Software, etc. – Gadgets if you will. If you’re a food blogger, chances are you have a nice camera and maybe even some lighting kits to take the best photos you can. Obviously, you need a computer and most people use their cellphones for at least some of their work. Range: $25 to thousands
Ad Words and Boosted Posts – This one can go under either “must have” or “nice to have” depending on the site. I opted for “must have” because as I mentioned before, the only way you’re getting seen is to boost posts on Facebook.
Time – By the time that I finish this post, I will probably have 2-3 hours invested in it. Even if I gave myself a small hourly rate of $50 an hour (which is a steal in my business) that still comes out to $100 – $150. Not to mention the time away from family, the time we invest in promoting on social media sites and so on. I have a gift guide that I’m getting ready to publish on Ten to Twenty that I guarantee that I have no less than 40 hours logged into that.
Nice to Haves:
Classes – Yes, even the best of bloggers need to take classes to stay on top of latest trends. Most classes are on-line and even self-paced and hosted by amazing people across the nation (and world). Two of my favorites are Content Brew from Melissa Culbertson and Daniela Uslan. Both of these women give a ton of free content to bloggers like myself and also have paid courses that are inexpensive and worth ten times the cost. Range: Free to $100+
Conferences – Another must to keep up with trends, meet brands, network with fellow bloggers and more. These are in person and almost all of them includes having to travel somewhere – usually a major city like NYC, Orlando, Los Angeles, etc. Range: $50 – thousands
Premium Services and Plug-Ins – This is something that you, the reader, really never see but it’s a necessary piece to a serious blogger. Whether it’s for a plug-in like CoSchedule which helps with scheduling and optimizing posts or a back-up service, a blogger can spend a fair amount of money in these services. Range: $5 – $50+ per month
Paid Contributors – This isn’t one that many have, but some bloggers have regular contributors that they choose to pay for original content. Range $25 – $100+
If you do some basic counting, those costs can add up pretty quickly and like me, most bloggers take those costs straight out of their pockets. Shoot.. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for stuff for my blog for the holidays. Not that I mind – I’m the girl who will take tech and gadgets over clothes any day. But, you can see that offsetting some of these costs – even if you just break even – is important. Which is why now, I’d like to share some of the ways that bloggers monetize their sites. And maybe, if they’re lucky, they’ll have enough left over to buy a margarita or cup of coffee!
How Bloggers Can Earn Money:
Sponsored Posts and Reviews: Companies realize the strength behind personal recommendations and working with bloggers is a great way for them to reach a very intimate and dedicated audience. Some bloggers will do these posts in exchange for just the product and others require payment. This goes back to what I mentioned before about the value of higher page views.
Affiliate Links – Affiliate links are a great way for bloggers to earn passive income and this is at NO COST to the reader. It’s usually a small percentage, but every penny adds up when you have costs associated with your site. I’ve gotten to the point where, if I have to buy something, I will actually look for bloggers who may have an affiliate link for that service or product just to help them out. For instance, there are affiliate links above and if you bought something by clicking that link, I’d make money and you’d get what you wanted for the same price. Win/win!
Banner Ads – These are the ads you see on the top, bottom, and sides of blogs. There are some that charge a monthly fee to take up that space and others that are part of an affiliate network. Same rules apply – you aren’t charged anything additional by clicking those ads and the blogger is rewarded.
Ambassador Programs – Some of these are paid and the blogger is basically a paid endorser of a product and sometimes (usually) you receive products and services in exchange for it. Example – I am an Ambassador for Netflix but I am not compensated with cash.
Financial Contributions – And we finally circle back to the beginning when I told you about Patreon. Some bloggers put virtual “tip jars” on their sites and you can donate/give anything from $1 to $100 or more. The Patreon is modeled after the NPR model of readers or supporters committing to a monthly contribution that the artist or writer sets and there are varying levels of support.
I hope this little peek behind the scenes helps you understand a little bit more about the in’s and out’s of running a blog and why bloggers choose to monetize their sites. Maybe the next time you run across a sponsored post or an affiliate link, you’ll be more inclined to purchase the item from your friendly, neighborhood blogger!