It took me 16 years to build a portfolio that generates over $200,000 a year in income. It took only four years to build the same income blogging. Why?
1) Low barriers to entry. Depending on where and when you buy, you need $1 – $2M in capital to generate $50,000 in net operating income with property here in San Francisco. It takes at least $1M in capital to generate $23,000 a year in dividend income from the S&P 500 index. With both asset classes, you can also lose principal. With blogging, it costs as little as $2.95/month to run a website and you get a domain name for free. If things don’t work out, all you’ve lost is your time and a minimal amount of money.
2) Enormous demand curve. Financial Samurai can theoretically reach three billion people online through search engines, word of mouth, organic promotion, and advertising. If that happens, I’ll be worth billions and I’ll take each of you out to a steak dinner! However, in real estate, you can only lock in one set of tenants and raise the rent once a year. In the stock market, you are a passive investor with no control over dividend payouts or other strategic management decisions. With a retail store, you can only capture your neighborhood traffic. The internet is growing in usage and size every day.
3) Operating leverage. Because costs are generally fixed (hosting and domain registration), operating profits soar the more traffic and revenue you get. It’s not uncommon to earn 70%+ operating profit margins as a professional blogger, depending on how much you pay yourself. Very few businesses can compare.
Now that I’ve convinced you pro blogging is the best profession on Earth, perhaps you’re interested in knowing how much you can actually make? Before we get to the money, let me first highlight the types of people most suitable for succeeding as a professional blogger.
The People Most Suitable For Blogging
1) Creatives who enjoy writing. There’s no getting around the fact that you must love to write. You don’t have to be a good writer, you just need to enjoy writing as much as you enjoy eating a juicy double cheeseburger with garlic cheese fries. After a day of not writing, I get this insatiable need to be left alone for at least a couple hours to write.
2) Creatives who enjoy connecting with others. One of my favorite joys is bantering with intelligent people who have an opinion on the topics I write about. For those who wish they could live multiple lives to experience more of the world, blogging comes very close to vicarious living. There’s a great online community that is generally very supportive. If you used to have a pen pal, used to BBS, or enjoy meeting unique people, blogging is for you.
3) Someone with an entrepreneurial spirit. There’s a huge difference between being a freelance writer, a journalist, and a pro blogger. A freelance writer gets paid per article and is always looking for the next assignment. A journalist covers a beat and is paid by an employer. A blogger gets paid nothing per article, and must think long term to earn advertising and partnership revenue. The pro blogger is the Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Designer, and Chief Executive Officer. As a true entrepreneur, you wouldn’t have it any other way because you are in control of your destiny. You eat what you kill. And there’s nothing more rewarding than nurturing something from nothing.
4) People who always want the freedom to choose. Most people are unhappy with their jobs because they’re limited in what they can do. They’ve got a boss whom they might like, but resent being told what to do. They might have unqualified micromanagers who drive them crazy. Or, they might work at a company which produces a product or service that adds no meaningful value to the world. When you have the freedom to choose, even if you choose wrong, you feel much happier. In many ways, the feeling of being a blogger is very much like the feeling of having financial freedom.
5) People who believe they have the power to effect positive change. Every single blogger I know started their site because they were unhappy about something in their lives. I started Financial Samurai during the depths of the financial crisis because I was worried and confused. My net worth took a 35% beating, but I believed I could pull myself out of the doldrums and help others who were suffering rebuild their wealth. Since 2009, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have been able to improve their financial well-being by reading a simple personal finance site. My own wealth is much greater due to careful analysis and accountability online.
How Much Can You Make Blogging?
The people who make the most amount of money blogging tend to be those who got into blogging because they predominantly enjoy writing and connecting with people and then figure out the business side of things. The people who make the least amount blogging tend to be the ones who primarily blog to make money. Their content has no spirit, which means their content hardly gets read or shared.
In general, you can make anywhere from 1-10 cents a pageview. In other words, if you have 100,000 pageviews a month, you can make $1,000 – $10,000 a month. The range is wide because your earnings depend on your audience demographic. If your entire audience is under 18 years old because you write about cats for teens, then you probably aren’t going to make as much money as someone who writes about retirement planning for Baby Boomers. That said, there are plenty of examples of entertainment sites and YouTube channels that cater to a younger demographic that make millions.
Given the national household income is around $50,000 – $60,000 a year, simple math states that if you can generate 50,000 – 500,000 a month in pageviews, you’ll be able to quit your job and support a median family in your underwear through your writing endeavors. But of course, you should know by now that it’s never a good idea to quit your job without having a livable income stream on the side. Always negotiate a severance through a layoff so you can have a long enough financial runway to build your site’s traffic and income into something meaningful.
Ever wonder why many professional bloggers hail from the Midwest, the South, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Texas or international cities like Chiang Mai or Manila? Lower cost of living! It’s much easier to be a pro blogger if you live in an inexpensive area. Only a fool would try to blog for a living from San Francisco, Manhattan, London, Paris, or Hong Kong. If you find such fools, follow them, because they’ve beaten some insurmountable odds and probably have something worth reading.
Example #1: 100,000 Pageviews A Month, 3 Years Experience
Key Points From The Chart
* With roughly $51,144 in annual income, this blogger lives a comfortable life in Portland, Oregon. She blends lifestyle design and personal finance blogging topics together to reflect her personality.
* She found one product she loves that generates the majority of her revenue. Once you find that perfect product that fits well with your ongoing content, selling the product becomes easy. The only risk is product concentration. If the product changes its terms or goes out of business, she’s out of luck.
* This blogger has also found corporate consulting work due to the content of her blog. She writes articles for a corporate blog, edits articles for another corporate blog, and does additional book writing/editing for various clients. Her income split between her own blog, and consulting for others is a balanced 50/50. She writes articles for a corporate blog, edits articles for another corporate blog, and does additional book writing/editing for various clients. Her income split between her own blog, and consulting for others is a balanced 50/50. She loves the freedom of not having a structured 9-to-5!
Example #2: 300,000 Pageviews A Month, 4.5 Years Of Experience
Key Points From The Chart
* This blogger makes more money from consulting than from blogging. Once you become a recognizable brand in your niche, corporations will contact you for your online marketing, content marketing, and writing expertise. Individuals will reach out for your specific advice as well if you put up a consulting page. I’ve had steady corporate consulting income since November 2013, with many more opportunities I’ve declined. Corporate freelance opportunities are the biggest X Factor I did not anticipate when I left my day job in 2012. But it makes sense. Many professional athletes make more from corporate sponsors than they do from tournament winnings or NBA salaries.
* The key to generating sustainable online income is to find affiliate partnerships for products you use and love. If you can provide a 1-2 combo of providing value added content that answers an important question while also providing an actionable product to use, you’ve got yourself a home run. Every single product I highlight on FS is either free or will save readers time and money.
* There’s nothing better than selling your own product that you’ve spent your heart and soul creating. You are the product expert. This makes selling easier. I know my severance negotiation book works because I’m still getting benefits from it four years later. Not only have several dozen people written in to thank me for the resource, I’ve consulted with several dozen more people about breaking free from their jobs with money in their pockets. Your product can and will act like a lead generator for any consulting services you might want to provide. It’s a lot of work, but helping people with a specific problem 1X1 is tremendously rewarding.
* $151,200 in blogging income and $337,200 in total income might sound unachievable, but I can assure you the large majority of blogs which generate 300,000 – 500,000 page views a month like in this example earn similar amounts. You’re making more than bankers, techies, lawyers, politicians, doctors, journalists, and company executives. Yet nobody has any idea because blogging is not taught in school and gets very little respect as a profession. Your key is to generate as much traffic as possible by writing as much interesting and helpful content as possible. Sadly, great content doesn’t sell itself. Those who are the most self-promotional often get the most traffic, even if their content isn’t as good.
Example #3: 1,000,000 Pageviews A Month, 10 Years Of Experience
Key Points From The Chart
* The key revenue growth driver is affiliate partnership, which has more than quadrupled from the second example due to strong traffic, better terms due, and more concentrated topics that relate with the affiliate product. CPC/RPM income hasn’t grown at the same pace as traffic growth because the quality of the ads/products aren’t as good. The rise of ad-blocking software may account for part of the slowdown in growth as well.
* By having a large platform under a strong brand, a new product can easily generate $2,000+ a month e.g. XYZ For Dummies series of books. An online platform can hold an infinite amount of product. The only constraint is one’s effort and time.
* Corporate consulting activity goes down because the blogger is already making $900,000+ from his site. All non-blogging related income activity is done entirely for fun. He now charges $1,000 – $2,500 to write a corporate article where he also provides a linkback to generate traffic to the article. 1X1 career coaching revenue goes up as individual clients seek out this blogger’s expertise after 10 years of blogging and publishing over 1,800 articles.
* This pro blogger has introduced a podcast to provide more color and personality to his content. He recognizes that there are millions of people who only listen to podcasts, which he’d like to connect with. Given his blog traffic and established brand, advertisers easily pay $1,000 – $2,000 per 15 – 20 minute episode. If the blogger just produces one episode a week, he’ll make an additional $52,000 from his work, instead of the $12,000 I estimated here.
* With over $1,000,000 a year in revenue working 25 hours a week, the blogger has the freedom to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He practices Stealth Wealth because very few people will relate to such an income level, or very few people will believe he makes such an amount from a blog. The general tendency is to try and discredit a person whom you don’t believe. It’s much better to blend in and continue the belief that blogging can’t be a true profession.
Transitioning Into Blogging
When I left my job in 2012, my online media company was generating around $6,000 a month, which is not that much if you have a $4,300 a month mortgage. But with my established passive income stream of roughly $7,000 a month and a seven figure/a high six figure severance check, I had little pressure to try and monetize this site. If I had done so, I’m pretty sure the articles would have been much less interesting because I’d probably have focused on writing a whole bunch of credit card review posts.
Unless you’ve been able to negotiate an enormous severance package, I don’t recommend anybody just leave their job to try and become a professional blogger. Based on my experience, and the experience of dozens of other professional bloggers I know, it takes a minimum of one year or more likely two years to make any sort of meaningful income on a consistent basis ($1,000/month). But after that, the sky is the limit!
Given it’ll probably take you two years to earn enough to pay your mortgage or rent, I strongly suggest everybody start a site while working a full-time job. Nobody is going to deny you the freedom to write your own personal journal online due to the First Amendment. And if you feel they will, simply write with a pen-name. Obviously never write about your employer, share inside information, or denounce people you work with. Be positive and focus on a different niche.
Consider the two years as an incubation period with little downside risk for whether you can really keep up your writing schedule. See if you enjoy the process. To me, progress is addicting. Your upside is very rarely capped on the internet since the demand curve is so large.
Write What You Feel Strongly About
After spending 13 years working in Equities/Investment Banking and getting my MBA, it’s been very easy to write about investing in the public markets. Ironically, I didn’t write much about investing until after I left my job in 2012 because I didn’t want to risk blowing myself up at work if there was some sort of conflict of interest. Instead, I wrote a lot about real estate investing and being a landlord.
When you write from experience, writing becomes so much easier. You don’t have to do as much research or make things up as you go along. You can draw from real life examples to share your advice. Writing from experience also gives you a lot more authority than writing through pontification.
Today, it’s not enough to just report the news and interview a few sources. Consumers want to also hear your opinion of the subject matter. Part of the reason why the journalism industry is getting decimated is because journalists can’t throw in their own personal analysis for fear of being biased. But thanks to the plethora of ways we can now consume news, e.g., Twitter, news has become a commodity. Therefore, for you to thrive, you must have an opinion, backed with enlightening analysis.
Anybody reading Financial Samurai for at least a month knows that I’m very opinionated about certain topics. For example, I don’t think anybody should contribute to a Roth IRA before first maxing out their 401(k). I think the reason why so many of us are spoiled or clueless about money is because we haven’t suffered enough or seen true suffering by people from around the world. I think getting a 30-year mortgage is a waste because interest rates will likely be low for the rest of our lives.
You may disagree with my views, but I provide some very thorough analysis as to why I think the way I do based on experience.
Only when you write based on experience and strong interest will you be able to maintain a consistent production schedule. Not only will you be able to write consistently, you’ll also be able to write more affectionately. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” as one saying goes. Readers can tell when you’re “shipping it in” or putting everything you got into your craft.
As your site grows, you’ll attract more and more “tourists” who will judge you based on one piece of writing and never return again. Even if only 0.1% of your 100,000 readers hate you, that’s still 100 people who will try and make you feel bad. You must grow a thick skin and embrace those who dissent. Once you start getting nasty comments or hate mail, you know you’ve arrived!
Example #4: 4,000,000 Pageviews A Month Food Blogger
Leverage The Internet For Everything
At age 40, I’m fortunate enough to clearly remember what life was like before the internet. Life is so much better now. The amount of free and useful information online is amazing. What used to take 10 hours to write might only take two hours now thanks to the ease of finding sources. It used to take days to get written correspondence delivered or a stock confirmation. Now communication and trade confirmations are instantaneous. It used to take days to get written correspondence delivered or a stock confirmation. Now communication and trade confirmations are instant.
There’s nothing better than starting your own website to own your brand online and earn extra income on the side. Why should LinkedIn, FB, and Twitter profit off you? With your own website you can connect with potentially millions of people online, sell a product, sell some else’s product, make passive income and find a lot of new consulting and FT work opportunities.
I never would have imagined not having to ever go back to a day job again due to my online income. Start your own WordPress website like mine today. What used to cost thousands of dollars and days of your time now can be done for much less in only 15 minutes. Once you own your own site, it’s much easier to get a job, sell a product, and tell your story. You never know where the journey will take you!
For those who need help, I created a step-by-step tutorial on how to start your own blog here.