Pertinent to some discussions being had around here:
I'm thinking about starting my own blog. I don't expect it to make me stinking rich, but what are the chances I can quit my day job and make a living just by blogging? I see all these success stories, but how much money can I really make?
If you're passionate about a subject and you have decent writing skills, blogging definitely could be an alternative career path for you. The short answer is, yes, it is possible to make a living—a very good one, even—by writing online. On the other hand, the hard truth is most of the millions of bloggers today don't make enough to support themselves just with their blogs. Let's take a look at what's involved.
Blogging as an Occupation
There are two main approaches to professional blogging: You could be a freelance or employed blogger for an established company or site (like those of us here at Lifehacker), or you can start your own blog from scratch.
Getting a job as a professional blogger is much easier than starting at ground zero with your own blog. Those who get a job with an established company can earn a good living right off the bat.
Setting up and monetizing (ugh) your own blog, however, takes a lot more work, like starting your own business. There's no real career path or trajectory to base expectations on. Some people have made hundreds of thousands of dollars writing their blog (or sold their blogs for millions), while others have yet to make a cent from theirs.
The truth is, it's not as easy to carve out your space on the web and make a name for yourself as a blogger today, as it was back when blogging was brand new. And it takes a lot of time to build your audience to the point where it's successful. (The most successful, multi-million dollar blogs today were started around 2005 or earlier.) So it's definitely not something you can get rich quickly with, though many people do work on their blogs full time.
How Much You Can Earn
Salaries for bloggers vary widely. This report from Glassdoor shows ranges from $19K to $79K a year for the title "blogger," while other sources say the 14% of bloggers who earn a salary make, on average, $24K a year (or $33K for corporate bloggers). Likewise, freelance bloggers can make anything from under $10 a post to $100 or more for a relatively short post.
As for running your own blog, a survey of 1,000 bloggers by Blogging.com in 2012 found that 17% are able to sustain their lifestyle or support their family with their blogs, while 81% never make even $100 from blogging. The other 2% spend less than 2 hours a day blogging but make more than $150K (Tim Ferriss types).
Another survey, this one of 1,500 ProBlogger readers who said they're trying to make money by blogging, found that 9% make between $1,000 and $10,000 a month and 4% make over $10,000 a month. But the vast majority makes less than $3.50 per day. (Most of these were blogs less than two years old, though.)
How much you could make would depend on several factors, including how often you blog, the quality of your content, how competitive your topic is, and how effective you are at building an audience and generating traffic. Plus a generous sprinkling of luck.
A blog itself isn't really a business—it's more of a platform for other income streams. Your content alone won't likely make you money. Instead, you'll have to get advertisers, sell services like consulting or speaking, use affiliate marketing to get a percentage of sales from links people click on your blog, or maybe offer products like ebooks or premium content to actually generate income. ProBlogger has an excellent post about these different ways you can make money.
Success Won't Come Quickly or Easily
Don't let this discourage you, but just know it could take months, if not years, to start making a living with your blog. Heed this advice from blogger Amy Lynn Andrews and Angela of the Coupon Project:
I always tell folks that I worked for 8 months on my blog before receiving a single check! You have to make sure you are committed and passionate about what you're blogging about. Focus first on quality content and bringing in traffic. And if you NEED the money…like NOW? Don't start a blog. Get a day job.
I'd say give yourself at least 6 months before you start pulling in an income. And even then, it'll most likely be coffee money.
The other reality is you'll probably have to product a ton of content to generate meaningful income—and that's a significant time investment. Writing at least one post a day is best, but that one post could take hours of research, writing, and editing, depending on the content. It's hard work.
If you do this on the side, it's also possible to rake in a substantial amount of money, perhaps enough so you can finally do it full-time.
It's okay if you started your blog because you love to write, but if you're waiting on your blog to make you rich, it won't.
Because it's a blog and not a business.
Sometimes I think we just need permission to do the things we love without having to make a living at it. So I'm giving you permission. I'm telling you it's fine for you to have a blog that gives you an outlet for your creativity, allows you to talk about things that are important to you and lets you stay connected to friends and family. You don't have to try to monetize your joy.