How Bloggers Make Money: Sponsored Content

Post synopsis: Are you a blogger who wants to make money online? Creating sponsored content is a great way of earning an income from your website. This post explores the ins and outs of finding sponsored blogging opportunities and creating sponsored content. 


You know how I got addicted to YouTube? By watching beauty videos!

That was some 8-9 years ago and online influencers and niche gurus were becoming a real thing. Beauty channels were especially huge on both YouTube and Google. Lifestyle blogs were making an appearance but all they posted really were “What’s my makeup routine?” “What’s in my bag?” “What’s my evening skincare routine?” etc.

How many of you have watched Michelle Phan and Elle Fowler videos–the numero-uno beauty gurus of their time? You would know why it was addictive, yes?

The production value wasn’t great during the first couple of years. I suspect most videos were shot on a computer webcam.

And then something changed.

In just a couple of years, drab backgrounds were replaced by sterile-white backgrounds with a bunch of flowers adding a pop of color. Photos and videos were whitewashed with super-high exposure but they were HD-quality and posed.

I would watch those beautifully-shot backdrops and the awesome, expensive makeup and skincare stuff and sigh. At some point, I may have even considered starting some beauty or skin care channel of my own–but you know, but the thought of even 10 strangers watching me made me quit even before I gave it a chance #introvertproblems

And along with all these changes, a lot of videos/posts started showing the “Sponsored” FTC disclaimer.

And thus began the second-oldest form of blog/video monetization–creating and posting sponsored content for public consumption.

Many “successful” online influencers today–both YouTubers and bloggers–grew their personal platform to a business by posting sponsored content.

So, yes, it’s true that sponsorship is one of the most profitable–not passive–ways of earning online.

But here’s the other truth: finding sponsored opportunities is not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of hard work and time before big brands will even consider hiring you to endorse them.

So, if you started a blog and want to monetize it by posting sponsored content, this post is for you.

How Bloggers Make Money: Sponsored Content

How to find sponsored blogging opportunities.

What is a sponsored content?

Sponsored content comes in many forms–be it a blog post, an Instagram photo, or a YouTube video. Basically, any product- or service-related content for public consumption that is created and posted in exchange for compensation by the endorsed brand is considered sponsored content.

For the purpose of this post, I will cover the aspect of sponsored content on blogs only.

How do I make money from sponsored content?

The compensation is usually decided by the brand but if you are a good negotiator and stand firm on your rates, many brands will agree to your terms.

Monetary compensation involves getting paid in cash. Plain and simple.

Non-monetary compensation could be in the form of free products or services, publicity, discount, etc.

Be aware that compensation by way of free products can be tricky. Not only are you required to disclose to your followers that you are being compensated but it may also affect your tax numbers.

Check with a qualified accountant whether such transactions are considered taxable in your country.

What kind of brands can I work with?

That’s completely up to you. You get to decide which brands you want to work with.

You may be someone who only wants to work with big brand names or you could be someone who is open to working with startups.

Irrespective of the brand you choose, it’s always a good idea to remain within your niche and choose products or services that your readers can truly benefit from.

Remember, even when you are writing sponsored content, it’s all about your audience.

For example, if you are a lifestyle blogger with the niche audience of women between 25-40, then marketing a mid-range skincare line might be a good idea. However, if you post content about the new programming software, it won’t interest them.

Can I write a sponsored post for my specific niche?

At a broad level, almost all niches can bring you opportunities to write sponsored posts. However, the more you niche down, opportunities are fewer but high-quality.

That said, brands in some niches are more open to hiring online influencers for their marketing efforts. A lifestyle brand is more likely to reach out to a lifestyle blogger than a scientific calculator brand reaching out to a calculator-enthusiast 🙂

Even within a broad niche, certain bloggers are more likely to receive opportunities than others.

For example, a beauty blogger is likely to receive more opportunities than a stationery products blogger. Both are considered Lifestyle bloggers.

Historically, the following niches have proved to be most profitable:

  • Make money online/online business/blogging
  • Lifestyle, especially beauty and style
  • Personal finance
  • Health and fitness
  • Food
  • Self-help/personal development

I know you have heard a lot about choosing a very specific niche but if you want sponsored posts or ad banners to be your mode of monetization, choose one of the aforementioned niches.

How to find sponsored blog post opportunities?

As with display ad banners, there are two ways of finding opportunities–contacting brands directly or via ad/media networks.

For a small- to mid-sized blog, working with a media network is a more realistic option compared to direct pitching. All you need to do is sign up them, share your social reach details, and depending on your stats, they will find suitable opportunities for you.

It’s completely up to you whether you want to accept or reject an offer.

Your social reach aside, many of these networks now require you have either a YouTuber following or an Instagram following. There might also be a sign-up fee.

Additionally, most cater to the Lifestyle niche. In their defense, Lifestyle is the most popular niche. It is also a very broad niche encompassing Beauty, Style, Gardening, Home Decor, Food, Parenting, etc.

Here’s a list of some media networks that can help you get sponsored deals.

Want more? Here’s a comprehensive list of companies that bridge the gap between brands and influencers.

What about direct pitching?

Working directly with a brand enables you to make more money simply because there is no middleman fee (network) to be paid.

Bloggers who have monthly page views of at least 1,00,000 can pitch their ideas directly to brands.

You can find the contact details of a brand’s PR person on the brand’s website or on their LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. That’s the person you need to pitch to.

Often, a brand may contact you directly. So make sure, you have your contact details posted on your website and social media accounts.

It is important, though, that you choose a product or service that is closely related to your niche and audience’s needs.

How to pitch to brands?

Once you have gathered the contact details of brands you want to work with, it’s time to pitch your idea to them.

The brand knows nothing about you. It’s probably the first time they will even hear your name. This is your chance to stand out from the hundreds of other bloggers who might be pitching their ideas to your preferred brand too.

Illustrate how you can give exposure to the brand and/or their product(s)/service(s).

But, the days of simply talking about a brand in your blog post or YouTube video are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Brands now want influencers to showcase their chosen product or service as part of their daily lives so that their audience can see how they can also benefit by purchasing the said product or service.

In short, what’s your story as far as the product or service goes?

This is where it becomes important that you are truly a fan or consumer of the product or service.

So, give some thought to your pitch–what does the product or service mean to you, how does it help you and your audience, how is it aligned with your values, why you and your audience will love it, etc.

Once you have a solid idea, put it in an email in the following format:

Hello {PR/Marketing person’s name},

{1 sentence to compliment the brand and why/how their message speaks to you}

{2-3 sentences – Include a short synopsis of your own brand. What type of blog you own–include URL, and how it is related to the brand’s message}

{2-3 short sentences – Why do you want to work with the brand? How the brand and your audience– a good place to include your social reach numbers–can benefit from this collaboration?}

{2-3 sentences – Pitch your idea–a working headline/title and a synopsis of the idea.

{1 sentence – Close the email with positive words}

Best,

{Your Name}

{Your Blog name and URL}

{Your contact details, including social media}

As far as possible, send the email from a professional ID, such as [email protected]or[email protected]etc.

Once you have sent the email, give the brand a week to respond. At the end of the week, follow up with them by sending them another short email.

Bigger the brand, the more follow-up emails you may need to send. Don’t be disheartened. Following up 4-5 is normal.

What else can I do?

Be intentional about the brand you choose to endorse. Please don’t send an email to every brand in your niche.

It helps if the brand recognizes you even before you send your email. Here are a couple of ideas how you can do this:

  • Follow and engage with the brand on their social media accounts, especially Facebook and Twitter.
  • Recommend the brand to your followers on social media and tag the brand.
  • If you already use their product or service (as you should!), give sneak peeks of you using it.
  • Write a short, unpaid blog post or Instagram post (or a platform of your choice) that includes the said brand/product/service on your Wish List, Shopping List, etc.

Here’s a fantastic post by The Sway (previously known as The SITS Girls) on how they select bloggers to work with.

How to create a media kit?

Irrespective of whether you need to work with a brand directly or via a media network, you need to create a portfolio to showcase. A summary of your portfolio is called a media kit.

Often a one-pager, your media kit showcases a synopsis of you as an online influencer. At a bare minimum, it includes your:

  • Short bio
  • Blog Name and URL
  • Niche/target audience
  • Social reach, including your blog numbers
  • Cost

You may also choose to include your success stories, testimonials, how you can help as an influencer etc.

In short, your media kit is your blog resume.

Give it as much love, care, and thought as you would to a traditional resume when applying for a job.

Tiffany from Beautiful Dawn Designs has an entire post on creating a media kit and offers a free template if you sign up.

How to write a sponsored blog post?

It depends on your negotiation with the brand. They may or may not have specific ideas about how they want you to showcase their product or service.

This discussion will take place once the brand has seen your pitch and chosen to contact you. Be ready with a couple of different ideas.

Perhaps you want to include the product or service in a personal story; perhaps you want to showcase the product in use via a DIY YouTube video, or perhaps you want to write a simple text review.

No matter what approach you take, ensure that your post is an honest post.

  • Don’t rave about something you don’t believe in. It will damage the trust your audience has in you.
  • Don’t showcase a product that your audience has nothing to do with. It will tarnish your reputation and project you as a “sell out.”
  • Don’t talk about a service that your audience cannot afford. It’s a lost cause.

Other than the aforementioned guidelines, treat sponsored posts like any other post you would write with your heart and soul.

Do justice to both the brand and your audience.

That’s it. Plain and simple.

And now comes possibly the most important question for most of us:

How much can I expect to earn from sponsored content?

First and foremost, know your worth.

Just because brands can buy blog posts for $5 on Fiverr doesn’t mean you also charge $5 or less. There is something to be said about quality over quantity.

Let’s consider some of the components of cost calculations:

  • What type of post are you creating? A simple text review post will typically require less time and effort than a YouTube video or even a DIY activity post. Determine how much of your time and energy is going to be spent in creating this post.
  • Do you need to spend anything from your own pocket for this opportunity? Suppose you are promoting a hobby product by creating a DIY activity post. Include the cost of products you will spend in creating this post.
  • What is the perceived value of your brand? An established content creator will naturally charge more than a small blogger who is not as well-known. Dive into your social reach and analytics to determine the perceived value of your brand.
  • Do you have past success stories? If you have already worked with brands before, how successful were those campaigns? Do you have testimonials you can showcase?
  • What is the going rate for sponsored posts in your niche? Some niches are more profitable than others and it reflects on your rates. Try researching on Google about the going rate for sponsored posts. A typical freelancer charges about $250-$500 for writing paid blogs. Let that be your guiding factor too.

In fact, ask for more than you wish to be paid and then be open to negotiations.

Another important thing to remember is that if you are accepting free products instead of monetary compensation, you may be liable to pay tax on it. I would recommend avoiding these type of exchanges.

In conclusion, there are plenty of opportunities available to earn money from sponsored content. You just need to be patient and honest.

Do you have any experience with creating sponsored content? How was your experience? What advice would you share with new bloggers? Share with me in the comment box below.

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Are you a blogger who wants to make money online? Creating sponsored content is a great way of earning an income from your website. This post explores the ins and outs of finding sponsored blogging opportunities and creating sponsored content.

All About Advertising Banners and Advertisement Networks

Until a few years ago, displaying advertisement banners on blogs or websites was the primary source of income for most mommy bloggers. Banners would be found pasted across the header, footer, sidebar, within the post…basically, they would take up all the available white space on a website. What made them even more jarring to the eyes was that the advertisements were of poor design (color, font, etc.).

Even today most websites (both personal and business) show advertisement banners that are either static and unobtrusive (such as text ad on the sidebar) or dynamic and intrusive (such as pop-ups, exit intents, etc.). Visit any online news website and you will know.

But advertisement banners have come a long way. Not only have the aesthetics improved but the content is more targeted and often contextual. Bloggers now have the option to work directly with brands or join ad networks that offer you banners that best fit your website’s niche and audience.

How Bloggers Make Money: Advertising Banners

Displaying advertisement banners on your website or blog is a very popular method of monetizing websites. But is it the right choice for your website?

Let’s begin by understanding the display advertisement options available to you as a website owner.

Basically, you have two ways of doing this–work directly with brands or work with an ad network.

Working directly with brands

In such scenarios, a brand contacts you or you contact a brand to rent ad space on your website. The said ad could be in the form of a text, image, text+image, or even an animation or a video.

Don’t be surprised if many of the brands that contact you have nothing to do with your niche. Often, the brands send out scores of inquiries without filtering for a niche.

Related Post: The Truth About Earning a Passive Income Online From Your Blog

On the other hand, if it’s you who is going to reach out to brands, pitch to them why advertising on your website can be beneficial for them. Draw on your social proof.

Needless to say, if you are serious about building a blogging business or becoming an online influencer, you have to be very selective about the brands that you work with.

Now, assuming a good brand related closely to your niche pitches you an opportunity to display their banner on your website. It is common practice to quote a monthly rent amount such as this: your monthly unique visitors divided by 10.

Suppose you get 10K unique visitors on your website every month. You can pitch 10,000/10 = $1,000 per month.

Bigger influencers can charge even higher rates and some even invite bids.

As you can see, working with brands directly is much more profitable as far as display advertising is concerned.

Working with ad networks

For a mom blogger who is still in the early stages of blogging and without much social proof, working with advertisement networks is a more realistic option.

Don’t worry, mama! There are tons of ad networks that you can join beside the ubiquitous Google Adsense.

The reason Google Adsense is so popular is that it does not require a minimum number of page views to approve an account.

It’s true.

But the competition is tough.

According to some estimates, there are more than 440 million blogs in the world. A large number of these blogs today belong to stay at home moms who start a mom blog to either share their knowledge or to keep a diary of their mommy life.

Related Post: How to Monetize Your Blog

If ad networks were to approve even half of all the mom bloggers, they would be bankrupt within a few weeks. Therefore, many ad networks require a minimum number of monthly page views and may even apply geographic restrictions.

Google doesn’t stipulate these conditions but in return, it pays you just a few cents for every 1,000 views. When you have low traffic, mama, your monthly earning would be just a few dollars, if that. 

Here’s a list of five popular advertisement networks for small publishers. Review the terms and conditions to determine if you can apply to be on their network.

  • AdThrive: Major requirements:
    • Google Analytics installed and running and a minimum of 100,000 monthly pageviews
    • The primary traffic should be U.S. based
    • No previous advertising infringements and are not blacklisted by Google or other major providers
    • Content is unique, original, amazing for audiences and advertisers
  • Mediavine: Requires:
    • At least 25k sessions per month (not page views, but sessions)
    • A mobile-friendly site
    • You take down all other existing ads on both desktop and mobile
  • Adsense: The grand-dad of all ad networks, Google Adsense doesn’t stipulate any minimum requirements at the time of sign up.
  • Media.net: Part of the Yahoo-Bing brand, they don’t have any minimum requirements (just like Google Adsense).
  • AdClerks: No minimum requirements at the time of sign up.
  • Sovrn: No minimum requirements at the time of sign up.

Please note that even though these websites list no minimum requirements at sign up, they will still review your application and website before approving your account. Make sure you have an active website/blog with some basic pages–such as About, Blog, Contact–published publicly.

Also, please note that except Google Adsense, I have not used any of the other aforementioned networks. I used Google Adsense during my first month and earned a grand total of $0.49 – Yay! Then I removed all the ads.

How do you earn from display banners?

Display ad banners are programmed to bring in the bucks in several different ways. CPM, CTR, CPA, and CPC are some common ways of measuring performance and calculating earnings.

CPM: Short for cost per mille, CPM refers to the cost per thousand page impressions. So, if a thousand people visit your website and view an ad, you will earn a certain amount. For example, if the CPM rate for an ad is $1, you will need 1,000 of your website visitors to view that ad before you will earn the dollar.

CTR: Short for click-through rate, CTR is a way of measuring an ad performance that takes into account the number of times visitors click on an ad divided by the total number of visitors who saw the ad. For example, if 100 out of 1000 people click on an ad, your CTR will be 0.1 and you will be paid as per the CTR slab determined by the advertiser.

CPA: Short for cost per acquisition, this method pays only when a certain condition, such as sign up or sale is completed. For example, if 10 people sign up for the advertiser’s newsletter or make a purchase, you earn an amount for each of those people.

CPC: Short for cost per click, CPC registers the number of clicks on a particular ad banner. So, if 100 website visitors click on a CPC ad valued at $0.01, you will earn one dollar at the end of it.

Direct advertisers or online ad networks–who should you work with?

As you can see, almost all measurement methods put the publisher (such as you) at a disadvantage.

Ad networks keep a percentage of advertising money they receive from the brand and pass on the rest to publishers such as bloggers. Because there are so many mouths to feed, the earnings from ad networks are very little for a new mom blogger. For a big blogger whose traffic runs into hundred-thousands or even millions, of course, the amount could be something to write about.

Related Post: How to Promote Your Content (and Not Just on Social Media)

On the other hand, working with brands directly earns you more money because you get to pocket the entire fee. However, such opportunities are difficult to find for new bloggers. You cannot expect to start a new mommy blog today and earn hundreds of dollars from private brands. They will want to see a high amount of traffic on your blog in addition to proven social engagement. I am sure you are working on that.

Should you display ad banners on your website?

I have nothing against display ad banners, but personally, I don’t use them. If I ever reach a stage where I have 100K monthly traffic, I may give this a second thought but as of now, I am good.

But what about you, mama?

Here are some reasons why I am staying away from display ad banners (for now):

  • They pay peanuts: Listen, the only reason you would consider including banners on your website is that you want to earn from them, right?

But for an average blogger whose traffic numbers are not in the high thousands, most banners don’t bring enough money to pay monthly bills.

  • They compete for reader attention: Assuming you want to show ads on your website, I would recommend you choose ads that are customizable (to match your website aesthetics) and contextual (to match your content).

    Just the other day, I was reading a blog post on writing skills, and the website header was displaying a banner from a local grocery store with photos of potato, tomato, and eggplant. Often I also find ads from online clothing stores on a business website. Ugh!

If you want to show me an ad, at least make it relevant to what I am looking for at that moment.

  • They take up space from your brand: All the places where you can display ads are places where you can also promote your own products or services.

For example, let’s say you put up an add in the header or footer, you could utilize that space to show an awesome lead magnet of your own or promote a new course or service you are offering.

In the early days, ad banners used to be shown on the sidebar. But today, most websites are doing away with the sidebar because apparently, readers have learned to ignore the sidebar. So, you will notice that most established bloggers use the header area or the body of a blog post to display ads.

These are highly-coveted areas of your website. You should use this space to either display your own products and services or you should display high-quality ads. Please don’t spoil the aesthetics (and thus credibility) of your blog by display Adsense banners in the middle of your post or in the header.

That, however, is my opinion. You need to make your choice, mama.

Who can earn from display banners?

Let’s say you decide in favor of displaying ad banners.

To earn a decent amount solely from these banners, you need to have high traffic numbers on your website. The numbers, however, vary between third-party ad networks and private brands.

Most ad networks will require you to have a minimum number of page views of unique visitors.

Related Post: How to Rank Higher on Google and Explode Your Pageviews

However, the earning potential is much higher when you do business with a private brand directly.

Suppose you have consistent 10K monthly views, maybe you can charge the private brand 50 cents on a CPM basis. That means for every 1,000 views, you earn 50 cents. That’s about 1,000 dollars in your kitty per month.

Depending on your domain authority and traffic numbers, your CPM cost could be much higher.

How to get approved by ad networks?

Each ad network comes with its own set of terms and conditions for accepting new publishers.

It is essential that you find out what those terms and conditions are and ensure that your website complies accordingly.

At a very high level, following are some of the most common requirements to get accepted into ad networks.

  • Primary language: Most ad networks require that the primary language of your website be English. So, if you want to run a blog in, say German, you may want to build your website in English and provide translation tools.
  • Geographic restrictions: Many networks also stipulate that your primary traffic is from a particular geographic region, such as North America or the European Union. Typically, users from these locations earn higher ad rates than audiences based in Asia and Africa.
  • Minimum traffic numbers: Increasingly, ad networks require you to have a minimum amount of traffic flow. This can range from pageviews to sessions to unique visitors. It could also require you to prove that the number is stable or increasing over a predetermined period of time, such as 30 days or 90 days.
  • Website currency: Ad networks require that your website is an active one. For this, they require that you have 3-5 blog posts as well as basic pages, such as About, Contact, and Privacy published.
  • Exclusivity: Many ad networks require that you host only their banners. For example, if you sign up with Mediavine, they require that you not show ads from any other network or brands.

When working with a private brand, they may even ask you to place the ad “above the fold.”

This means it should be displayed in the landing area of your blog, i.e. the area that users can see without having to scroll down.

How to place banners on your website?

Once approved, brands and ad networks will provide you with a code that you need to publish on your website.

Ads can be published on your website in the following two ways:

  • Using plugins or widgets
  • Manually

In WordPress, you can install the sidebar widgets, such as Custom HTML, and then paste the code into that widget. When published the ad will show in the sidebar.

If you want to display the ad in the header or footer area, you can use a plugin such Insert Headers and Footers to paste the code in.

If you want to display the ad in the body of your blog post, switch over to the Text tab of your WordPress Authorware and paste the code where you want the banner to show up.

Where to place banners on your website?

The short answer is any white space on your website can host a banner.

Typically, you will find website owners display ads in the following areas:

  • Header
  • Footer
  • Sidebar
  • Within the post

Among these, the most effective places are the header area and within the post.

Most ad networks will provide pre-designed placeholders to display your ads. For example, header banners (also known as leaderboard) will typically be 728 x 90.

Head here to see Google Adsense dimensions.

Make sure your website theme supports the prescribed sizes.

So, those were all the tips I have for you this week.

What about you–do you earn from display banners? Which brands or ad networks have you found the most success with? Share with me in the comments.

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Displaying advertisement banners on your website or blog is a very popular method of monetizing websites. But is it the right choice for your website?

The Truth About Earning a Passive Income Online From Your Blog

If you’ve started a self-hosted blog, chances are you want to earn from it. There are two types of income you can make from a self-hosted blog–active and passive. Yet somehow, the idea of earning a passive income online enchants new bloggers more than the idea of earning an active income.

Active income refers to the earning that requires you to provide a service in real-time and continuously, such as from a membership site, coaching services, copywriting, etc.   

Passive income refers to the earning that does not require you to market a product or provide a service in real-time or continuously, such as displaying third-party advertisement on your website. All you need to do is embed the code–a 5-minute job–and hope people will view/click the advertisement.

Then, what about the other types of blog income–income from selling your own courses, worksheets, sponsored posts, affiliate income, etc? Are they not sources of earning passive income online?

Yes and No.

Truth is no income can be considered passive income from the beginning. You have to put in the effort at some point to get a system in place–a system that will reduce, if not eliminate, your efforts in generating the income.

The Myth About Earning a Passive Income Online From Your Blog

Is earning a passive income online from your blog just a myth? No matter how you monetize your blog--sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, Google Adsense, or selling your own eCourses or eBooks--you have to work actively toward generating a consistent income from it.

Let’s consider the four most common type of monetization strategies that have gained the title of “passive income earner” in the blogging world.

Third-party advertisement

Let’s consider the work that goes into earning “passively” from third-party advertisement.

You need to sign up with an advertising network, embed the code on your website, etc. But, for you to earn a reasonable income from third-party advertisement, you need to have a high amount of traffic.

For this, you have to constantly work on your SEO skills and create blog posts and pages that are optimized to show up on search engine result pages. Because, you know, that’s where the traffic is going to come from.

Writing blog posts every week, optimizing them for search engines, researching keywords that are popular, creating attractive graphics, promoting on social media…all that goes into earning a passive income online via third-party advertising.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

Sponsored content

Another popular way to earn an income from your blog is to publish sponsored content.

Brands in your chosen niche (sometimes outside of your niche) will contact you to perhaps review one of their products or services on your blog, or post a photo of you using it on Instagram, or simply just mentioning them on your Twitter handle. There are various ways you can do a sponsored posts. In return, you get paid a certain amount–your sponsorship.

Needless to say, you should be extremely selective about the brands you choose to endorse. You are working hard to build your own following and earn the trust of your followers. Endorsing brands you don’t truly believe in is a surefire way to the bottom of popularity chart.

Be responsible when making your choice.

With that out of way, now consider the three scenarios I mentioned above.

  • Writing a sponsored blog post: Some brands provide the text and images you need to publish on your website, others don’t. If you are writing the review in your own words, it will obviously earn you more whereas prescribed content will earn you less.
  • Nonetheless, you still have to put together a blog post and then publicize it to your readers and across various social media channel.

With time, the post will fade into the oblivion and you will no longer earn from that post unless you choose to revive the endorsement.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

  • Endorsing on Instagram or other visual mediums: Numerous posts have been published about the reality behind the glitzy Instagram influencers (here’s one).

That one glamorous photo you saw on your Instagram feed this morning…it was probably just one of the many shots the influencer tried or hired a photographer for. It isn’t easy to get a perfectly-composed photo that catches attention and converts to a sale.

There is a lot of hard work that the influencers have to put in before they can quote a high price for posting a brand photo on their account. Don’t forget the many hours of brainstorming that goes behind how best to compose and then promote the product, such that it earns them a commission.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

  • Mentioning a brand on your Twitter account: Everything I mentioned for the Instagram point applies here too.

You have to have a long and genuine list of followers before an established brand will even approach you. And that’s where the money lies. Can you imagine the time and energy you have to spend in nurturing and engaging your followers on a daily basis?

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

Affiliate marketing

This is a very popular way of earning an income for bloggers. This strategy requires you to promote a product or service that they truly believe in. The product or service could belong to a name brand or a fellow blogger.

What is important though is that you really believe that the product or service you are choosing to market on behalf of someone else is worth its weight in gold. You are introducing your audience to another brand’s offerings. If your audience chooses to invest in that offering, it’s because they trust you. You have earned that trust.

It’s easy to get carried away and become an affiliate for 30 different products or services and hope that some of those will convert.

Let’s take the example of Amazon affiliation.

Almost anyone can apply to be an Amazon affiliate. Once approved, you can pretty much promote any of their listed products. But honestly, unless you are promoting high-ticket items, the earnings won’t be high.

Again, you have to spend your time and energy to find the right products and then promote the posts consistently so it remains in your audience’s field of vision.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

Creating and selling your own products or services

Of all the revenue streams I have listed so far, this is the hardest one for obvious reasons.

It requires a lot…A LOT…of time and work on your part to turn your products or services into revenue-earning sources.

Let’s consider a digital product-based business.

Creating a course or an eBook or even a printable planner requires a lot of research and hard work. A typical well-researched eCourse can take at least a month to create, given you are not working on anything else.

You have to come up with the content outline, determine the medium of delivery, write the content, record the videos, edit the videos, sync the audio, set up the course on your teaching platform…and so on.

And then again, the marketing–the webinars, the Facebook ads, training the affiliates, the email sequences…you get the picture.

What also matters is to keep the information current. In today’s age, technology is advancing at light speed. That means you have to regularly update your products so they remain relevant to your customers.

The same is true for a service-based business. Maybe you are a coach or a copywriter, in which case you are trading your time for money. You will be working against deadlines and trying to find new or repeat clients to keep up the income.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

So then, is passive income just a myth?

Well, yes and no.

The way “passive income” is promoted on the internet is not right.

Come about it yourself: there is no passive income. If you want to earn money, you have to actively work for it. In some cases, the efforts needed to market your product or service may reduce over time but it never truly goes away.

When a successful course creator puts up a post on Facebook about how she earned $7,000 from her course just last night, that’s her marketing her product. Don’t even think otherwise.

Overnight success happens only to a handful of special bloggers. But what we don’t see is the sleep they have sacrificed and the frustration they cast aside before their blog became big. Success doesn’t come easily to anyone…not a single person.

For us mortals though, we have to work even harder than the ones who have succeeded.

Are you monetizing your blog the right way? Take this quiz to find out.

Over the next few weeks, I will add more posts about each of these monetization strategies and how your hard work and dedication will help you earn “active” income, not “passive” income.

See you then.

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Is earning a passive income online from your blog just a myth? No matter how you monetize your blog--sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, Google Adsense, or selling your own eCourses or eBooks--you have to work actively toward generating a consistent income from it.

How to Start a Blog When You Are On a Budget

So you’ve decided to start a blog and become a blogger…a professional blogger. Good for you! It’s a fast-growing community of awesome people who are driven to live life on their own terms. Blogging success stories are shared in every popular media. Bloggers are replacing traditional celebrities in many endorsement deals. These “bloggers” are now known as “digital influencers.” They have the power to make or break upcoming brands with their reviews. They are also teachers, mentors, coaches, and employers. They are the new face of the digital world.

And you want to join the club.

But if you are looking for someone to tell you how to start a blog for free and make money, my friend, it’s not happening. Because professional blogging is a business and no business can be started without at least a token investment.

But worry not.  Even if you don’t have the huge budget to invest in the business of professional blogging, it’s fine. 

That’s the beauty of most online businesses. You can create a blog easily for as little or as much as you can afford. Really!

You can start a blog today by paying less than $100 a year! Of course, you can scale up when you can afford to do so. No hurry.

In this post, I am sharing the absolute essential tools you need to start your blogging business even if you are on a budget. Remember, these are all things that your business NEEDS, not WANTS.

However, keeping in mind that some of you may be better able to afford paid products, I am also listing some paid products that I truly believe in.

Let’s start.

How to Start a Blog on a Budget

How to start a blog even on a tight budget

Disclaimer: All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not cost you anything extra. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.

No time to read the whole post? Grab the “whats” right here; read the post for the “whys.”

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Domain

If you want to start a blog, the first thing you absolutely need to invest in is a domain name.

What’s a domain? That’s the address of your website. Yes, your blogging business needs a website. Your “blog” will be a component of your website. This will be the place you will direct potential clients to when you meet them. This will be the place search engines will list on their result pages.

Now, look–you can start a free blog on WordPress.com or Blogger. In fact, if you are absolutely new to the blogging world, I encourage you to do just that. Create a free blog and work on it for 30 days. By the end of the month, if you feel you can keep up with the consistent content creation, go ahead and move your blog to a self-hosted site (more about this in the next section).

But, once you come up with a name for your blog, buy that domain right away. Because those things sell like hotcakes. Your chosen name may not be available after 30 days. *Buying your domain name should be priority #1.

Here are some options to buy your domain name:

  • GoDaddy: They are one of the most popular domain registrars in the world. GoDaddy’s registration process is simple and takes literally 5 minutes. Additionally, most available domain names come pretty cheaply for the first year. Subsequent years will typically cost a lot more than the first year. This website, Momchakra.com, is registered with GoDaddy until 2020.
  • *SiteGround: Another up-and-coming domain registrar, *SiteGround is better known for their hosting packages (more on that in a minute). If you buy their hosting package, you can register your domain for free. I cannot talk about their domain registration process because I haven’t done it personally. However, I have gone through their web hosting process and customer services, and trust me, *SiteGround is worth their weight in gold.
  • Namecheap: In the last few months, I have seen Namecheap come up in several discussions. Turns out, their offers are truly cheap. You can buy certain domains for as little as 80 cents…a year! Typically the “.com” extensions are costlier (~$10) than the uncommon extensions, such as .website, .ca, etc ($0.8, $1.88, etc). Again, I do not have any personal experience with Namecheap but you can give them a try.

Bonus Tip: Before making the payment, search Google (or Groupon) for valid promo codes to get additional discounts.

Hosting

Most domain registrars also offer hosting packages for your website files. So, at the time of purchasing your domain name, you can choose to purchase the hosting package from the same company as well.

It may sound reasonable to keep buy the domain name and the hosting package from the same company. However, it’s in your own interest to keep your domain registrar and hosting company separate. This is because if for some reason you decide to change your host company (most likely to be slow site speed or bad customer service), you will most likely want to move your domain too. Then, it’s like setting up your website from the scratch all over again with the new companies. Instead, if you register your domain with one company, you just need to change the name servers (hosting company) details. Here’s a good post that explains why it may be better to go with two separate companies.

Okay, with that out of the way, I recommend *SiteGround as your hosting partner. Their hosting packages are reasonably priced and offer great features. Buy their *StartUp plan, which is targeted at new website owners and is priced at $3.95 per month. But more importantly, their customer service is excellent. And that is important for someone who is just starting out and overwhelmed with 10 other things they have learned. And most likely, they are not tech-savvy either.

As mentioned, almost all domain registrars provide hosting packages. Beside *SiteGround, the following are also popular hosting companies:

Special mention for Squarespace, which is a relatively new kid on the block. Squarespace offers very professional-looking website designs but comes with a subscription fee that is almost priced double of *SiteGround.

Irrespective of which domain registrar and host you choose, make sure you are signing up for these additional services either from your domain registrar or your domain host:

  • SSL: Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, is a standard security protocol to ensure that any data transmitted between the server and browser is encrypted for security. In simpler terms, no third-party can intercept and read your data. Let’s not discuss the NSA and the CIA here 😉
    Another reason SSL is important for your website is that Google has decided to downrank or eliminate the websites without an SSL certificate from their search result pages. Not showing up on world’s #1 search engine is bound to hurt your business.
  • Domain privacy: Check this! Unless you pay to protect your personal information on the web, it’s up for sale and public consumption. Don’t believe me? Search my website on WhoIs. You will find information about my host partner, domain, and website. But you won’t find my address and phone number because I have paid to protect those details. *I suggest you do too!

Website/Blog Builder

So, you have your domain name and self-hosting package. It’s time to build your website/blog.

But first, you need to choose a blogging platform (technically a content management system or CMS).

At this point, if you are confused about domain, host, and blogging platform, here is the example I like the best: the host server is the building you want to reside in; the domain name is the unique address of that building; the blogging platform is how you decorate your apartment in that building.

The options are aplenty, but WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platform in the worldaround 19,500,000 websites on the entire web use WordPress.

Hosting sites, such as *SiteGround make it really easy for you to install WordPress–in fact, it’s a “one-click installation.” Awesome, right?

At any point, if you get stuck, just chat up one of *SiteGround’s amazing customer care team and they will help you out instantly.

The other common blogging platform you can give a try is Blogger. Google owns this platform. As expected with Google products, a positive user experience is their top priority. Blogger interface is very intuitive and comes with a variety of themes and customization options. Sadly, it is not as robust as a self-hosted WordPress website–as essential for an upcoming or established business.

Squarespace is also a good complete package solution should you choose to go with them.

However, WordPress trumps the aforementioned options because it’s just much more robust than all of them put together. With WordPress, you can select among thousands of free and paid themes and plugins (see next two sections for details).

Theme

A theme is a pre-designed visual template for your website. It is what gives your website its unique look.

After you set up your blogging platform (hopefully WordPress), you will see a default theme that comes with every new blog installation.

Now, it’s time to find a free or paid theme that reflects your brand vision and matches your sense of aesthetics.

Here’s the thing: beauty is a trap and themes are nothing but beautification of your website. As a new blogger and website owner, it’s very likely you will spend hours trying to get the “just right” look for your website.

Don’t.

Find a good free theme and focus on building your content repository. That’s all you need to do when you start a new blog.

Here are three free themes that I think can work wonderfully for your new website/blog.

  • Sydney: This is a great business theme and looks very professional. It can give any paid theme a run for their money. I gave it a try but found that it requires some time to set it up like their demo page. And time is something a preschooler mom lacks. So, I switched to Total.
  • Total: This is the theme I have used for the longest time. Truth be told, there is a lot you can do even with the free version of this theme but right now, my focus is on content building. I am not bothered whether I can create clickable image boxes on my homepage (something the paid version offers). As I grow my blog and start offering products and services, I will need to do that but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
  • Elementor: This is not exactly a theme but a page builder that works with most pre-installed themes. It helps you create customized visual layouts for your posts and pages. This plugin can give any professional page builder a run for their money!

Free themes are great but may not give you hundreds of features that a paid theme will. So, if you feel you need a lot more control on your website, go with a paid theme. But remember, the key to staying within budget is to purchase your NEEDS, not WANTS. And you don’t NEED a paid theme until your business has grown to revenue-generating state.

As of March 2018, I have purchased only one paid theme–*Isabelle from Bluchic and I am happy to recommend it to others. It’s a wonderful, clean theme to work with scores of customization options.

Here are some theme marketplaces and recommended paid themes you can consider:

Plugins

So, now you have your blog/website almost set up. Now it’s time to add some widgets or plugins as WordPress calls them.

Plugins allow you to add additional features to your website/blog, such as a content calendar, legal disclaimers, email collection form, etc.

Note for this section: Those on platforms other than WordPress, please do your own research to find options. Due to my lack of experience with other platforms, I am unable to suggest a resource of similar authority.

When you start a new blog, it’s natural to get carried away and install any and all plugins that promise to boost your profile and reach. However, the downside of installing too many plugins is that it will slow down your website tremendously. Did you know any website that takes more than 3 seconds to load fully is considered a slow website by the Google Gods?

Here’s a list of just the essentials plugins that will keep your new blog or website in good shape.

  • Antispam: Spammers are no longer limited only to your Inbox; they are ready to infest your website too. Most bloggers who start a new website or blog do not know they will be bombarded by spam bots within hours of setting up their blog. These will typically come in the form of incoherent comments on your blog posts. If you are wondering why spam bots are let loose, it’s to leave links on your website, which in turn boosts the owners’ page rank (learn more about SEO techniques, including backlinking, in this post). To block these spammers out, install a free antispam plugin, such as Akismet. From my experience, Akismet is a fantastic antispam plugin that is on point 99.99% of the time.
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is your secret sauce to finding loyal subscribers. People who find you on SEO are more likely to stick around because they came seeking your content intentionally. They are not random visitors from Facebook promotion thread who are interacting just because they have to as part of the promo thread rule. Therefore, do everything you can to boost your SEO (sign up to receive the Boost Your SEO Juice Cheat Sheet). Make SEO your #1 priority–not FB, not Pinterest–SEO is your long-haul partner. Following are your top 3 options:
    • Yoast SEO: This is a fantastic and probably the most popular free SEO plugin. It comes with pre-defined text fields, which you need to populate for SEO purposes. Additionally, it offers suggestions on things you can do to make your content more SEO-friendly.
      Yoast SEO comes with a paid version too, which allows you to optimize for long-tail keywords, enable redirects if you change your blog or post URL, etc. But really the free version is good enough.
    • All-in-one SEO: This is another popular free SEO plugin with features similar to Yoast.
    • Squirrly: You guys, I recently installed this plugin and I LOVE IT. It is, by far, the most robust SEO boosting plugin I have come across. It’s jam-packed with additional features, such as weekly website audits and reports, suggested copyright-free images, etc. Do give it a try!
  • Social sharing: You can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape–that’s social media for a blogger/business owner.
    • *Social Warfare: This plugin allows you to customize the share buttons so they are consistent with your brand style and colors. You can also choose from some pre-designed button styles. Plus the cool feature of having a floating set of buttons that moves with your readers’ scroll direction. This ensures your readers don’t need to search for the share buttons if they want to share. I used the free *Social Warfare plugin for about a month before upgrading to the pro version ($29 annually) because it’s just so bloody good! Here’s a look at the features of the pro version over the free version.
    • Sumo: Another diamond in the dirt, Sumo also offers a free and a paid plan with features similar to that of *Social Warfare. But Sumo does more. It’s a hybrid between a social sharing plugin (like *Social Warfare) and an email service provider (like *MailerLite). Yes, Sumo allows you to create landing pages and build an email list. The only downside to Sumo is that it slows the website down to a great deal. I have seen a difference of up to 3 seconds full load with and without Sumo. On the internet, 3 seconds is a big deal!
    • Jetpack: This plugin is a multi-utility one. With this one plugin, you can add social share buttons, see analytics data, image optimization, additional themes, downtime monitoring, auto-publish to social media, etc. Jetpack is a fantastic starter plugin but you know what they say about the master of all trades…

  • Image optimization:
    Images play an integral role in a website. They not only add visual relief but are meant to complement or supplement the text-based content. However, images can quickly slow your site down and eat into your web space.

The following plugins help reduce the size of image files (compress) on your website, thus saving you web space and speeding up your website. The difference can be up to 70% in most cases.

    • WPSmush: A very basic image optimization plugin, WPSmush is a very unobtrusive plugin that goes about doing its job in the background. WPSmush saves you a lot of time by processing the images on a bulk basis, i.e., it optimizes images as you upload them and can even compress several images together in the background while you go about your blogging business. And yes, do not be worried about the loss of image quality because WPSmush compresses but doesn’t compromise (the quality, i.e.).
    • ShortPixel: This free plugin offers a free and a paid version. I installed the free version, which allows you to compress 100 images every month. However, at the time of install, I had about 143 images on my website so the plugin stopped processing after it reached the limit of 100. However, three months have since passed and by default, I should have been able to compress 300 more images. But I haven’t been able to compress any additional images. I would like to believe it’s some kind of a glitch with my website because I have heard really great reviews of this plugin.

Contact Form

If you want your readers to contact you, they can either email you or they can submit their query in a contact form. Both these contact details should be included in your Contact, About, Services/Work with Me page(s), etc.

Contact Form 7 is a simple form-based plugin that collects your readers’ Name, Email, and Query/Suggestion.

Remember though that any emails collected through these type of contact forms or emails can NOT be tallied toward your email list. It’s illegal because the reader has shared their email ID to contact you. To join your email list, the readers need to express written interest and intent for doing so.

Therefore, Contact Form 7 allows you to add an acceptance checkbox for any condition, including joining your email list. If you reader checks that box, you can manually add that person to your email list.

Email, Sign up Forms, & Lead Magnets

Your email subscriber list is the biggest asset of your business. It allows you to be in touch with your existing and potential clients and that’s what makes money.

You can use Sumo or Contact Form to collect emails but you cannot email your subscribers using personal email services, such as GMail, Yahoo, and whatever other services are out there. That’s illegal.

For marketing emails, you need to sign up for services created especially for marketing.

The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from. Some services even provide free services until you reach a certain number of subscribers. Others charge a monthly fee right from the beginning.

For a new blogger on a budget, I highly recommend *MailerLite.

  • Mailchimp: *THIS ISN’T A RECOMMENDATION. THIS IS A RANT.* When I started blogging professionally, I signed up for the free account of Mailchimp. It seemed to be a popular option and it was free for up to 2,000 subscribers! Wow! I thought I had hit the jackpot. But the frustration of using Mailchimp started soon after. It wasn’t intuitive to use and a truckload of headache. The opt-in form designs were amateurish and it reflected on my signup rates. But worst still, open rates were abysmal and I wondered why. Turns out, emails from Mailchimp are known for getting dumped into the Spam folder. So, if the subscriber can’t see your email, how will they open it? The nightmare didn’t end here. One fine day, I got a notification and an email from Mailchimp saying I had violated their terms of use and so they are disabling certain features on my account. Say what? What terms could I have violated? I wasn’t even marketing or selling anything; I didn’t include affiliate links in the email; heck, I wasn’t even talking about making money online (all things Mailchimp apparently doesn’t allow). So, I wrote to them asking what terms did I violate. It’s been 9 months and I haven’t heard from them. Here’s a screenshot from this morning.

So, what I am saying is, even if you are on a budget, don’t sign up with Mailchimp. Or do it, but at your own risk. There are many bloggers who use Mailchimp and seem happy using it but I do NOT recommend them.

  • *MailerLite: After the Mailchimp debacle, I found *MailerLite. It offered a free account but up to 1,000 subscribers. I thought to myself, “Well, 1,000 is a big number. Even though I am losing out on 1,000 more free subscribers–compared to Mailchimp–I should give this a try.” You guys, from the moment I started using *MailerLite, I wanted to cry tears of happiness. It was soooooooooooo easy to use and I could create pretty opt-ins. But more importantly, *MailerLite was offering the automation feature even for a free account (at that time, Mailchimp automation was a paid service). Automation helps create a process that sends out prewritten emails to all new subscribers, or to subscribers who complete a certain task and sets of the “trigger.” *MailerLite also allows you to create beautiful landing pages and sign up forms and most features that paid services offer. For all new bloggers and future business owners, I recommend *MailerLite with my eyes closed.
  • ConvertKit: This is one of the favorite email services of most bloggers these days. I had the opportunity to use it for two months free of cost because of a promo they were running. I found that the setup process was a little advanced for an absolute beginner but once you are set up, ConvertKit is a breeze. They offer very advanced features, such as tagging your subscribers according to their current place in the blogging journey, or any roadmap for that matter. You can dive deep into getting to know your subscribers with ConvertKit. *MailerLite also provides this “tagging” feature but it’s very limited. The reason I didn’t jump on the ConvertKit bandwagon was that I wasn’t ready to pay for this service yet. My email list is not very long (300 odd) at the moment and I have open rates in the high 40s. I think I can live with *MailerLite for several more months. When the time comes, I will have to decide whether I want to upgrade to *MailerLite’s paid plan or switch completely to ConvertKit.
  • *Interact: I spoke about using Contact Form to collect email IDs but also mentioned that you need to have a special checkbox to ensure people who contact you also want to join your email list. The other way to collect subscribers is offering your readers a free resource–known as a lead magnet–and asking them for their email IDs in exchange. Typically, you would create a short PDF document with exclusive tips or a cheat sheet as your lead magnet. But another fantastic and more engaging way to collect emails is to have them take a quiz. The quiz is tied to an actionable blog post or list of action items and to see that list, the reader gives you her email ID. If you’d like to create your own quizzes, give *Interact a try. They offer a fantastic quiz builder that is intuitive and easy to use. Their help center is a gold mine to equip you with product tutorials as well as done-for-you quizzes that you simply need to embed on your website.
  • Freebie delivery: If you choose to create a digital, downloadable lead magnet, you need a way to deliver it. The easiest way to do this is to upload your free resource on Dropbox or Amazon Web Services (AWS) and then provide the link to the file in your email created on *MailerLite or your chosen service provider. These are all free options you can use when you start a new blog.

Content Creation

The beauty of blogging is that you can create content and graphic for free and sell it for a profit. This is why so many people love the online business–the investment is just a fraction of what a physical product business or even a service requires.

Text

As a blogger, you can write your content directly into your blogging platform’s Authorware. But, if you work from multiple places (home, coffee shop, park, traveling etc.) and need access to your content at all times, Google is always there to rescue you.

Use Google Docs to write your content or create your lead magnet; use Google Slides to create your webinar presentations or more visual lead magnets; use Google Sheets to track your blog growth or expenses; and use Google Forms to survey your readers.

All four resources sync across all your devices and can even be used “offline,” that is when you have no or poor internet connection.

Graphics

Images not only add to the aesthetics of your website but when used intentionally, they can be fantastic supplementary and/or complementary resources for your blog. However, good images and illustrations come at a cost.

Enter free stock images.

Stock images refer to generic images that are available to the public for free or paid use. Earlier, stock images were usually low quality or were badly composed. But nowadays, you can find very high-quality, professional-style images for free.

To get these images you don’t have to pay (but you can get even better images or a bundle for a few bucks and you own them forever).

I use the following two websites to download fantastic, copyright-free images…for free.

However, the downside to free stock images is that every second blogger is also using the same images. Also, one never knows when the terms of use may change. Do your due diligence before downloading any “free” photos.  

If you want your graphics to be customized and personal, but more importantly free of copyright hassles, consider using your own photos. You could either click your own photos (free, free, free!!) or you could hire someone to do this for you (may get pricey!). YouTube is full of tutorials on how to take your own professional-looking photos.

Once you have source images, you may want to edit those or compose a new image by combining other graphics or text elements to your existing photos. Use Canva for free image editing. Canva offers a lot of features to create or customize your blog graphics or social media graphics. It’s a lot for a free resource. However, if you upgrade to a paid plan or choose a service like PicMonkey (also paid), you get a lot more control to create even better graphics.

Social Media Schedulers

You don’t need schedulers to see your social media grow. It takes a little more time and effort to see growth without the schedulers but social media schedulers are examples of NEED vs. WANT.

I do not use any free or paid schedulers. That is to say, I don’t schedule anything on social media. I put aside 15 minutes every morning to live post on Pinterest, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Twitter. Then throughout the day, I pin and tweet three more times–each time pinning 3 pins or tweeting three posts of which 1 is my own. That’s it!

Did I forget to tell you that social media is my highest source of traffic, especially Pinterest (57%) and Facebook (36%)? That said, my business goal this year is to optimize my posts fully such that they rank on first of the result pages. Here’s what I am doing to push my rank up.

However, if you would like to schedule (remember you still need to put aside time to schedule too), here are some free or trial options that you can upgrade to paid options.

  • Buffer allows free scheduling up to 10 posts per account at any given time
  • Tailwind offers free trial up to 100 pins and 30 Instagram posts
  • Board Booster offers a free trial for 10 days and up to 500 pins
  • Hootsuite offers a free trial for 30 days with all paid features
  • Facebook native scheduler

Learning

Know that the field you have chosen to be your profession is constantly evolving. As a savvy business owner, you need to be on top of things. You have to be aware of what the latest trends are and what strategies are working.

Lucky for you, bloggers are giving away a lot of information for free in exchange for your email ID (remember lead magnets?) Just keep your eyes open and sign up for the best free courses, weekly podcasts, Facebook groups, and webinars hosted by gurus who have proven results.

Here are a few free courses/resources, which in my opinion are as good as any paid courses in the market.

Now, you can find all the information online for free but that takes time. Alternatively, invest in quality courses that are affordable and provide a ton of value. I have personally bought these courses and found immense value in them.

  • *Blog by Number by Suzi Whitford: This is a great resource for a beginner blogger. The course is packed with information–blog set up, image creation, lead magnet creation, finding subscribers, etc.
  • *List by Number by Suzi Whitford: If you want to get serious about building your email list, buy *List by Number. Suzi details the process in great detail. While she bases the content on ConvertKit, the learning can be applied to any email platform.
  • *Find Your Tribe Online by Jen Snyder: While Suzi’s course, *Blog by Number, is geared primarily toward a beginner, Jen’s course targets those who are past the set-up stage. *Find Your Tribe Online will help you find and connect with your ideal niche audience. Jen gives you information on hundreds of Pinterest Groups, Facebook Groups, and guest blogging opportunities you can leverage to “find your tribe online.” She even gives you email scripts you can send to the group and blog owners to help you join.
  • *Fantastic Freebies by Jen Snyder: You know how important it is to grow your email list. As discussed earlier, offering free lead magnets to your readers in a great way of building your email list. *Fantastic Freebies helps you create high-value lead magnets that have a higher chance of converting. Honestly, you will find an overview of this information in *Blog by Number, *List by Number, as well as *Find Your Tribe Online, but *Fantastic Freebies goes a lot deeper because that’s the focus of the course.
  • *Blogging to Win by Allison Lindstrom: This course is an extraordinarily detailed course for bloggers at all levels–beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Yes, this is a tiered course and you get to choose the depth of information you require for your own needs. What sets *Blogging to Wins apart from Suzi’s and Jen’s courses is that it’s very clearly a course for professional blogging. Blogging to Win Intermediate package starts with articulating your blog vision, goals, business plan, etc. much before diving into blog set up, lead magnets, etc.
  • Paid conferences: Good conferences are pricier than most courses but allow you to not only learn from the best but also allow you the opportunity and privilege to meet other bloggers, business owners, and mentors in person. Popular blogging conferences include BlogHer, FinCon, and Mom 2.0.

To recover the cost or to pay for paid options, monetize your blog. Be sure to invest 100% of your earnings back into the business until you start earning an ROI of 100%.

Now you know how to start and run a blog on a budget. There is no denying you will eventually need to start investing in your business to see big number growth, save while and where you can. You can do it!

Okay, I am winded now!

If someone you know can benefit from this massive blog post, please share it with them.

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How to start blogging when you are on a budget