Now I’ve been blogging for a while (almost a year now), I get asked frequently how I make money from it, and how I earn my living from it, so I thought it was about time I wrote a guide on how to start a blog that you can make money from and earn a living. It’s not been an easy process and it has taken work, but I’m now at the stage where I now have more financial freedom, and I’ve been able to leave my permanent contract and work more flexibly when it suits me, thanks to blogging. I really enjoy the whole process: writing, creating images, doing the photography, networking and promoting, and of course social media! It’s given me loads of opportunities that I wouldn’t normally have had plus lots of nice things – they aren’t free, I write a review in return which takes time and effort, I like to do a good job for the client, especially if I’ve enjoyed using the product. If I haven’t or thought there were negatives which is rare, I’ll point out to the brand or PR what I think and will say so in my review. I also make money from sponsored campaigns with brands and PRs, and guest posts.
It’s also given me a platform to educate in my area of expertise – Midwifery, breastfeeding and early days parenting. One of my most popular posts is How to settle your newborn in their own bed at night, and midwives and doulas all liked my post You know you’re an on call Midwife when… On a more personal note, I’ve started to tell my story of love and loss in my series The Gift I couldn’t keep, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I discovered I love writing reviews, and since I started doing them, they’ve always been well received.
So if you’re thinking of starting your own blog which you intend to make money from, or monetise as it’s called in the business world, here is my step by step guide.
- Find your perfect blog name and register the domain. There are plenty of free platforms to blog if you just want to hobby blog (e.g wordpress.com, blogspot), but if you’re serious about it becoming your business then you need to register a domain name. I started with a free platform on wordpress then bought a domain name through them, then went self hosted. I have both the .co.uk and the .com for each of my websites so I have secured the domains, the .co.uk ones are parked domains, so if people type in midwifeandlife.co.uk they immediately get redirected to midwifeandlife.com. The cost varies depending on what you choose and who you go with, but it shouldn’t be more than £15-20 per year. The .com and .co.uk domains are most popular and get taken first, there are plenty of other endings you can have but it’s always beneficial to have the .com and .co.uk. I also have one other through GoDaddy and two more through TSOhost.
- Choose a web host. I host both of my websites (this one and mamafoodie.co.uk) through TSOHost, a UK company with really good support and they’re very reasonably priced. I pay only £14.99 for a year which covers both my sites. They have different options depending on the traffic you get, with the option to upgrade if you need it – so far I’ve been fine staying on the lite package, they let you know if you’re getting close to needing to upgrade. I am no web designer or technical guru, TSO talked me through it! You can get 10% off any hosting package through my discount quoting MLife10 when you check out. I originally started blogging on the wordpress free platform as I had no idea what would happen with it, if I’d known I’d have gone the ‘self hosted’ route from the start, because it gives you so much more freedom, plus you get taken more seriously by brands. If they see your blog with .wordpress.com at the end they won’t choose you – not always, I still got some review opportunities when I wrote on the free platform, but no sponsored posts, plus when I changed over it was like looking at HD after watching analogue! I wrote about the transfer process from wordpress.com to self hosted wordpress here, you’ll save yourself a hassle if you start off self hosted.
3. Pick a theme – once you’ve set up your website you’ll need a theme. There are loads of free themes on wordpress to choose from to start, they’ll often lure you in with a flash preview but then you find to get that look you need to upgrade. Have a play around and see what you like best. They’re relatively easy to customise and get the look you want. When you’re self hosted you can pay to use an external theme, in the end I went for a pipdig one and I’ve customised it so it’s more individual, it cost £40, they provide initial and ongoing support and upgrades. There are also loads of pretty themes on offer from Etsy, choose wisely if you’re paying, some of them require adding plugins and a knowledge of coding, something I don’t have! I’m still playing around with my business site. I also use Thrive for my landing pages and sometimes to create content, it’s very user friendly, just drag and drop elements, it makes it easy to write a great looking blog post and automatically compresses your images – take a look at this one I wrote with thrive and you’ll see what I mean. I paid £49 for the content builder and landing page plugin which is a one off lifetime fee with free updates, I can also use it for both websites at no extra cost and it’s the most user friendly one I know. I may at one point use their themes too but it’s a monthly cost.
4. Find your ‘niche’ – this gets bandied about a lot in the blogging world, the narrower the niche the better the audience and the more targeted the ads, therefore you get a higher conversion rate. It’s better to have 1000 targeted readers than 5000 that don’t engage. I used to be more broad but now I stick to parenting and pregnancy, alongside blogging tips.
5. Get writing! Creating great, shareable content is what gets you noticed. You may also want to pitch to brands if there are any particular ones you want to work with.
6. Research – I spend lots of time reading blogging tips, mostly on Pinterest, or from fellow bloggers, there’s a wealth of posts out there. The blogging community is super friendly and we’re always sharing tips and passing on information
7. Join the community – there are a number of facebook groups which have been invaluable to me, I’ve ‘met’ lots of lovely people who I now count as friends. They also often share opportunities for paid posts and reviews, plus PRs and brands often recruit from them. My favourites are UK Bloggers, UK Parent Bloggers, and UK Blogger Opportunities There are also groups specifically to reciprocally share your posts, tweets etc. which can give you a boost. Talk to other bloggers, share each other’s content, guest post on other’s sites. Comment on other people’s blogs, get noticed. Participate in link ups.
8. Social media – sign up for social media accounts in at least the big 4 – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest with your blog name and get networking and sharing. Don’t forget LinkedIn, if you’re already on it, add that you’re a blogger and share your relevant content.
9. Join blogging directories and sites relevant to your niche. I’m on mumsnet, netmums, pickablogger, tots100, parentblogger rise, activate by bloglovin, sheknows and probably some more I can’t remember! Tots100 also have Food, travel and homes and interiors sections and are an important ranking tool for some brands. Since I started I’ve seen my rank climb from 1000 something to start with to now 341 and working with them on campaigns such as this one for Simply Beef and Lamb.
10. Sign up to affiliate marketing programmes. Almost everything can be linked to as an affiliate, it means if someone clicks on your link or an ad on your site and buys something, you get a commission and the buyer doesn’t pay any extra. Effectively the brand pays you for driving the sale. I use affiliate window which has loads of well known brands, Affilinet, eBay partner network, skimlinks and Amazon associates. Affiliate window charges £5 but that goes back on your balance and you get a payout when you reach the payment threshold, I’ve already made mine back.
11. Sign up for Google adsense – it’s not the only form of adverts but it’s easy to install and they pay per view as well as per click and the ads are targeted, which is where a niche blog comes to its own, the more targeted your audience is, the more targeted your ads become therefore visitors are more likely to click on your ads and maybe buy. You choose where and how many you display. They have a £60 minimum payout, which I have yet to reach! I’m getting there though. Affilinet also do ads and they’re super easy to put in with a plugin, they’re targeted, but you only get paid if someone buys something after clicking through, so I don’t use them as much.
Here’s what the wordpress interface looks like, it’s basically a bit like a word document. You can see where I have the option to edit with the thrive content builder, which you then edit as it looks as a web page. The other plugins you see are nofollow, where I can make any links nofollow (you can easily do this in thrive too), and my affilinet ads button.
I hope you found this post useful if you’re looking to set up a blog. I’d love to know how you get on, and please let me know if you have any questions. When I was starting out I got help from more experienced bloggers which I was so grateful for.
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