I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was 2016, and I was just getting started in my career as a marketer. Like most people in their 20’s, I had a ton of student loan debt and not a lot of real-world experience or skills.
I knew if I wanted to accelerate things, I couldn’t just rely on my 9-5 job and go out on the weekends and party like most of my peers were doing.
If I was going to reach my goal of being debt free before 30, I knew I’d need to hustle on the side in something that would expand my skill set and help we build my resume and advance my career.
I turned to blogging about my interest at the time: Real Estate.
Eventually I’d go on to sell that blog–only working on it a few hours per month in the last year.
I made some mistakes along the way–but I’d recommend blogging to anyone that wants to accelerate their financial goals and have some fun along the way. Blogging is low-cost to start and has the potential to bring in decent income.
Here are the 7 lessons I learned about turning my blogging passion into profit.
Lesson 1: Pick the Right Niche
If you want to get into the blogging game, the first thing you’ll want to do is focus on a particular niche, or topic.
I made a semi-large mistake on this step. I had an interest in real estate, but I didn’t have any clue or plan for how I would monetize the site after I began having success.
Many new bloggers make this mistake. They go 100% in on a topic they are interested in, but they don’t think at all about how they will monetize it. A monetization plan is critical if you want to eventually turn your passion into profit.
I got lucky and was able to eventually sell my blog–but many end up stuck in the “hobby blogger” phase because they didn’t think about monetization from day 1.
If you want to get the monetization bit right, you can do a bit of strategic research from the start.
Let me break down how I think about blog monetization.
Let’s say you enjoy the following things:
2) International Travel
4) Personal Finance / Saving money
The best way to determine commercial viability for a range of topics is to check keywords around each one in the free keyword tool Ubersuggest and to look at the estimated “pay per click” for terms related to that topic.
Let’s see how our topics above stack up from an income potential.
Knitting is a hugely popular hobby, and one that certainly has the search volume to make it enticing to create a blog around.
But check out the cost per click analysis here on Ubersuggest:
Anything under $1 is extremely low these days, which means advertisers aren’t willing to spend much money to market to this audience.
This is bad news for those that want to try to make a living from their knitting blog.
Let’s take another one of our topics, personal finance, and see how that looks in Ubersuggest:
Keywords around the topic of “building your credit score” have a much higher CPC than what we saw with knitting.
When you see this, it’s a huge tip off that you’ve found a pretty strong niche to start blogging in. Eventually, when you build the audience around your topic, you’ll be able to generate income from it.
Picking a smart niche from the beginning will help you avoid issues with long term monetization.
Lesson 2: Don’t Just Rely on just Google Search Traffic
Getting traffic through Google takes a painfully long time.
I knew this when I was getting started with my blog, so I tried to figure out ways that I could get traffic through other sources early on.
I had written a post about the best places to retire in Florida, and I looked around for sites that I could link out to my new post. I stumbled upon this extremely niche site dedicated to helping people near retirement age transition to their new life. As it turned out, they had a section where you could link to content around the web–so I put my link up there and made sure to give it a click-worthy title and a nice thumbnail image.
After posting, I turned my computer off for the night and didn’t think much of it. I came back the next night–and much to my surprise I had gotten around 20 web visitors just in that first day the link was live.
I remember thinking how amazing it was that over 20 random people, that I didn’t know, were actually reading my content, clicking on the links, and browsing around on my site.
Over the next few months, I got thousands of visitors to my site–all from that one link.
This little boost gave me the momentum to get through that early period where Google isn’t sending any traffic through the search engines.
These days, I recommend new bloggers utilize Pinterest to help drive them traffic in those early days–but there are other great sources of traffic like Quora, Reddit, or YouTube depending on your niche.
Lesson 3: You’ll Never Predict Your Most Successful Posts
I spent an insane amount of time on my first blog post on the Real Estate Witch. I literally spent an entire month working on it.
The post was over 4K words, and was completely original research. The content was 10X better than anything else that was ranking for my target keywords–and I was sure that in no time, I would be soaking up the traffic with my blogging greatness.
It turns out–that post never ranked on the top 3 pages (that’s right–you had to click “next” two times to find it on Google).
All told, I wrote over 30 blog posts on the site, but it was really just 1 post that delivered all the value.
I remember checking my site in the keyword software tools, and they would tell me the organic traffic the site was bringing in was worth over $20K per month (if I had to pay for it through Ads).
95% of this was coming from literally one post. This post was short–only about 1800 words and was sort of a throw away when I first wrote it. I was in a Starbucks, and was able to crank it out before I finished my drink.
I spent maybe 2 hours in total on it.
This one post is what generated almost all of the value of my blog–and it ultimately ended up being the reason my blog was eventually acquired.
The truth is, when you’re doing this online thing, you never know what piece of content is going to put you over the top. Give yourself as many shots on goal as you can–and eventually you’ll have a huge hit.
It’s never going to be the one you expect–so just keep researching and creating content.
Lesson 4: Blogging Compounds Like Investments
If I could go back in time, I would have started 4 blogs back in 2016–not just one.
Blogging is truly like planting a tree. It takes years to see any results from it and time is your biggest asset.
Even if you only spent 2 hours per week on your blog–over the course of 5 or 10 years–you’re going to start to see your effort compound–much like small, consistent investments in an index fund.
During my last year of owning my blog–I spent approximately 3 hours on it. 3 hours over the course of an entire year. And guess what? The traffic kept growing.
Over time, the links to the site had matured, the content was moving up the rankings on search, and more traffic was coming in.
Other bloggers have seen this happen as well. After a few years of building up the site–they decided to take a year off, or cut back on their time spent working significantly and their income was on par–or even grew, when they took a step back.
When you read an income report from a blogger that made 7 figures but only worked on it part time, that’s the magic power of compound interest at work.
The content they created months or years ago continues to work–sort of like an investment in an index fund compounding over 20 years.
Venture capitalist and blogger Tom Tonguz points this out with data supported from his own content marketing efforts.
Lesson 5: It’s OK to Not be Consistent
Unlike social media channels, it’s actually OK to not be super consistent with your blog.
There were times that I would publish a blog per week–and other times where I would go a month or two without publishing anything.
Often times, folks will not start their blog because they think they need to be able to devote consistent effort with zero breaks while juggling a hectic schedule. The truth is, there were times that I barely worked on my blog when other things came up in life. I worked on it when I wanted to, and tried to get as much done as possible when I was in the “flow.”
You’ll need to ruthlessly prioritize, and only focus on the most important things when you’re getting started to avoid burnout. If it stops being fun, give it a break and come back when you’re in the mood.
Again, the success of your blog is measured in years–not in months. Blogging is not going to get you quick cash, but it can end up being a great investment over time.
Lesson 6: Don’t Sell Yourself Short
When you finally start to have some breakthroughs and the traffic starts to roll in–don’t be tempted to grab that “quick buck” doing something that won’t be good long term.
At some point during my blogging journey, I was approached by a number of people that wanted to run a sponsorship, or post guest articles on my site in exchange for money.
Most of these were shady and spammy–so I ignored them–even though at the time I wasn’t making any money from my blog and could have used the extra income.
Holding off, and protecting the integrity of the site made it a lot more valuable in the end and helped me keep the authority of the site high.
It’s OK to run ads or link to affiliate offers, just make sure you’re always promoting a high-quality product that you, yourself, would use.
Lesson 7: Your Blog Will Become Your Personal Brand
One thing that was unexpected from my blog was how it contributed to my personal brand as a marketing professional.
Starting and running the site became a large part of my professional identity, and really helped me to build my resume early on in my career when I didn’t have a ton of professional experience.
My site gave me a real, quantifiable asset that I could use to prove that my skills in online marketing could drive measurable impact.
There were even some companies in the real estate industry that reached out directly that wanted to work with me as a consultant or full-time employee.
The value from my blog went way beyond the actual asset itself–and it’s indirectly helped me propel my career–and helped me earn 10’s of thousands of dollars beyond the ultimate selling price.
Going into it, I knew it would help me increase my knowledge and skills with SEO–I had no idea to the extent that it would be a springboard for me professionally as well.
If you have even a shred of interest in a career as a marketing professional, starting and growing a blog is one of the best things you can do for your resume and personal brand.
As I mentioned, blogging is not a get rich quick scheme, but it is a great way to turn your passion into profit long-term. Like other investments, your efforts with blogging compound over time and if you stick with it long enough you will see results.
I was able to turn my passion into profit by selling my real estate blog, Real Estate Witch, for 5-figures even though I barely worked on it the last year I had it!
I learned a thing or two about blogging along the way, and my 7 most essential lessons are:
- Pick the right niche
- Don’t just rely on Google traffic
- You won’t predict your most successful posts
- Blogging compounds like investments
- It’s okay to not be consistent
- Don’t sell yourself short
- Your blog will become your personal brand
While different things work for different people, I’ve found the above to be very helpful when building a blog and turning passion into profit from blogging. Starting off with these things will get you well on your way.
Stick with it and the fruits of your labor will come.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.