But the reverse is also happening where more and more bloggers start businesses as an extension of their publishing. And it makes sense.
One of the biggest challenges new businesses face is building an audience for their products. Bloggers, on the other hand, often work backwards, building an audience first by consistently putting out good content, and then exploring ways to monetize their traffic.
Starting a blog is easy if you just want to have fun. But if you’re thinking about making money as a blogger down the road, you’ll need to be strategic about how you set it up for success.
This guide will take a thorough look at what you need to know to start a blog and grow it into a source of traffic and income. And while it’s meant for those who haven’t started a business yet, it’s relevant for any businesses that want to get into the blogging game.
But first let’s answer an important question that may seem obvious at first.
What Is a Blog?
You’re reading one right now.
A blog or “web log” is a web page for content that you regularly add to and update. Unlike other publications and articles, blogs tend to take on a more personal tone that helps them connect more deeply with their audiences.
People start blogs for all kinds of reasons, including:
- Sharing their opinions, passions, or glimpses into their lives.
- Teaching others what they know.
- Building an email list.
- Developing their personal brand as an expert.
- Selling products or services.
- A combination of any or all of the above.
For these reasons, blogging can be incredibly fulfilling—especially when complete strangers start consuming your content—but it’s also a commitment.
Whether you publish daily, weekly, or monthly, it’s important to be as consistent as possible, not just in how often you publish but in the kind of content you publish as well.
It’s very rare for bloggers to see results right away, so keep in mind why you’re doing it to stay motivated in the early stages.
How to Start a Blog
The hardest part about blogging is finding the time and the ideas you need to do it consistently. Getting started, however, is fairly straightforward.
Starting a blog with the potential to be a business comes down to the following steps, which we’ll explore in detail:
- Consider the different opportunities to monetize.
- Pick an audience to serve.
- Choose a blogging platform, a domain name, and build your blog.
- Lay the groundwork for distribution.
- Planning out your publishing strategy.
If you’re wondering why we’re talking about monetization first, it’s because we need to think more like an entrepreneur than just a blogger in order to make this a profitable venture.
Different Ways to Make Money Blogging
There are a bunch of ways you can monetize your blog, depending on the kind of blog you decide to start. But people usually think of ads first for some reason.
The truth is, there are better and faster ways to make money with your blog that don’t require a massive volume of page views every day. It's twice as true if you can build a loyal audience, not just a large one.
You can make money blogging by:
- Selling physical products that align with your audience, whether it’s t-shirts or hot sauce.
- Selling digital products like resumes, photos, or designs that you create once and sell again and again and again.
- Selling services like writing, consulting, and design.
- Publishing a book and selling it as a physical or digital product.
- Becoming an affiliate for another brand and make a commission every time you sell their product.
- Donations powered by platforms like Patreon.
- Doing paid reviews/promotions for brands.
There are ample opportunities to monetize your blog, but you have to enjoy what you blog about in order to succeed.
Your most important consideration—more than making money—will be who your audience is and how you’re going to serve them.
Picking a Niche: What’s Your “Thing” Going to Be?
There’s no shortage of content on the internet. It may seem hard to stand out (it is), but there are two ways you can compete: By choosing a specific audience to focus on and by creating content that has something about it that readers can't easily find elsewhere.
You can do this in a number of ways:
- Focus on a specific location (e.g. New York).
- Focus on a specific segment within a larger category (e.g. not just recipes, but vegan recipes).
- Deliver your content in a different style or voice (e.g. humor).
- Compete with quality (e.g. in-depth posts on a topic that no one else is willing to do).
Choosing a Platform and Building Your Blog
This is where many would-be bloggers get stuck. They’re not exactly sure which platform they should invest their time and money on.
The choice usually boils down to a self-hosted or hosted platform:
- Self-hosted: These platform generally offer more customization options, but you will still have to pay a monthly fee to host the site yourself and it requires some initial setup. Wordpress.org is the go-to platform if you’re considering the self-hosted route. This guide from Smashing Magazine will walk you through it.
- Hosted: These platforms let you get started right away and some of them have built-in audiences. Some are free like Blogger and Wordpress.com (the hosted alternative to Wordpress.org) and some are paid.
When choosing a platform, think about the future and how you want to monetize your blog eventually. Not all platforms will give you everything you need, while some will give you more than you will ever need.
Some bloggers opt for free hosted platforms like Medium and Tumblr because they give you access to an engaged community of other bloggers and readers on the platform. We’ll discuss it in more detail later, but you can republish on these platforms to take advantage of their audiences—you don’t need to build your main blog on these free platforms to use them.