Blogging is the best business in the world. I truly believe this as someone who has run Financial Samurai, one of the premier personal finance blogs since 2009. I’ve watched blogging become an extremely lucrative space over the years, so much so that I left my investment banking job in 2009 in order to focus full-time on blogging.
Everything is rational when it comes to personal finance. As an Executive Director at a major Wall Street firm, I had a base salary of $250,000 and a bonus of up to $500,000 during good times. Nobody leaves a $750,000 a year job to blog full-time unless there wasn’t incredible financial upside as well.
Today, I now make more blogging than I made during my highest earning years in finance, while working 1/4th the hours and having 3X more fun. I don’t even feel like blogging is work because it’s fun being creative and connecting with readers. Because I can blog from anywhere in the world, it feels amazing to travel and blog at the same time.
How Much Do Bloggers Make A Year You Ask
Like everything good, you’ve got to put in the work. Here’s what’s possible for 70% of the population who is willing to publish 2-3X a week without fail:
Year 1: $1,000 – $10,000
Year 2: $10,000 – $30,0000
Year 3: $50,000 – $100,000
Year 4: $100,000 – $250,000
Year 5: $200,000 – $400,000
Year 6: $250,000 – $500,000
Year 7: $300,000 – $600,000
Year 8: $400,000 – $800,000
Year 9: $500,000 – $1,000,000
Year 10: $1,000,000+
As you can tell from the progression, there is a high correlation with time, effort and money. Too many bloggers quit by the first year, negating all their effort in the process.
The key to blogging is to stay consistent and keep on going for as long as possible! I always ask myself when it’s 10pm after a long day of taking care of my boy, why quit when I can keep on going? Everyone just needs to keep on going if they want to grow a successful blog.
1) Blogging Revenue Is A Function Of Traffic
The more traffic you can receive, the more revenue you will earn. Take a look at this chart on how much you can earn by pageview.
It’s not unrealistic to make between $0.01 – $0.10 per page view in many blogging niches across display and affiliate ads. So if you get 1,000 page views a month, you can make between $10-$100 per month. But if you can get to 100,000 page views a month you can make between $1,000 – $10,000 off of your blog per month.
You must consistently produce valuable content so that your readers start following and trusting you. Sooner or later, your valuable content will start getting ranked in the search engines like Google. Eventually, they will turn into perpetual traffic generating machines that allows your blog to continuously grow.
2) Grow Your E-mail List As Large As Possible
Your e-mail list is one of your most precious assets. You own the e-mail list and nothing can take it away from you. With search engines like Google, they might go through an algorithm update and de-rank your posts out of the blue. With your e-mail list, you can always reach your audience.
Those who sign up for your e-mail list are the ones who will come back and keep reading your content and who you will build enough trust with so they will buy your products or click on the affiliate links for the products you recommend. Successful bloggers out there are able to make between $0.5 – $2 per subscriber a month. For example, if you have 1,000 e-mail subscribers, you could generate $500 – $2,000 a month. Not bad at all.
Here’s the sign up link for the Financial Samurai private newsletter that comes out every two weeks. You can also sign up to get my posts in e-mail form every time I publish so you never miss a thing.
3) Write In A Lucrative Niche You Love
Personal finance is the most lucrative blogging niches. Think about it. We’ve got massive financial institutions looking to build their brands and sell their products. The banks have all the money! Further, there’s plenty of venture capital money going into fintech startups who are looking to grow their companies as well.
But don’t look down on other niches just yet. If you blog about food, that’s cool since everybody needs to eat. The market is huge! Just be the best food blogger out there with amazing pictures and variety for readers to buy from.
Here is an income statement from a very popular food blogger. Not bad right? Learn how to start your own website today with my step-by-step tutorial.
Most Profitable Blogging Categories
1. Finance / Personal Finance – It’s where all the money is, after all.
2. Boring Product Reviews – You can write endless product reviews on things you don’t even use to earn affiliate income. Just hire a bunch of freelance writers to do your work and you’re done.
3. Travel / Lifestyle – Who doesn’t want to live a glamorous travel lifestyle, blogging off the coast of Santorini? I would. The key is to sell the dream, baby!
4. Fashion – Look good, make money. The higher price the brand, the more you will make because luxury brands themselves have the highest profit margin in fashion. There’s an opportunity for males to get into this category because it is dominated by women
5. Health Products / Supplements – People are infatuated with health, life, and fitness. There are plenty of sports drinks, exercise drinks, health pills, etc that can be marketed.
Least Profitable Blogging Categories
1. Music – Not even musicians are making big bucks now due to 99 cent downloads and piracy.
2. General News/ Politics – So much divisiveness in this country. You can plan off the angst, but it will probably make you angry and depressed.
3. Cooking / Gardening – Everybody has a cooking recipe to sell and a gardening hack to grow vegetables.
4. Toys/Games – Although there’s this one kid Ryan, 7 years old, who supposedly makes over $5 million a year from YouTube reviewing games.
5. Religion – If you can get fiery fanatics to follow your site, you might actually make a lot of money like Mel Gibson (made $500M in the Passion of Christ) and other celebrity preachers. But overall, it’s hard to sell products and earn ad revenue here.
How To Make Money Blogging For A Living
Once you build an incredible platform with a strong brand that resonates with the world, you can really leverage your platform for incredible opportunity.
The internet is great for scaling. And if you have a brand that scales, then you’ve got yourself a real winner. Financial Samurai is now an established brand in the personal finance space with roughly 1.5 million organic pageviews a month.
Financial Samurai is a fierce brand that slices through money’s mysteries with no BS content. Everything is written based on experience because money is too important to be left up to pontification.
With Financial Samurai, I can do the following to monetize this site.
1. CPC Ads (Text link ads and banner ads)
Google Adsense is the most common CPC ad network you can join. Every time someone clicks on an ad, you will get paid sometimes pennies, and sometimes a whole dollar or two, depending on how lucrative the keyword is.
For example, “life insurance” is a much more valuable keyword than “hot dogs” because if a life insurance company can get you as a customer, they stand to make thousands of dollars off you over the years. With hot dogs, you might only spend $10 – $50 and that’s it.
I first signed up with Google Adsense in 2009 and quickly got BANNED after two months because I was clicking my ads to see if they worked, and to see if I could make some extra money. Don’t be a fool like me. Google knows if you have fake clicks. Don’t click your own ads.
2. Affiliate Links (CPA = Cost Per Action)
Once your blog gets to around 30,000 pageviews a month, it’s time to really focus on earning money through affiliate links.
Affiliates are products that fit well with your content. Every time you refer a new user to the affiliate platform, they will pay you a referral fee (affiliate fee).
The secret to great affiliate marketing is to find the best products that fit your best content. Because I am infatuated with real estate, stocks, bonds, and early retirement, I’ve naturally found affiliates in the real estate, investing, and wealth management space.
Once your blog’s brand and traffic is strong enough, you will begin to get inundated by a plethora of affiliate opportunities. It’s important to only choose the best ones you use, otherwise, you’re going to seem like a used car salesman. Here’s my Top Financial Products page where I highlight my absolute favorite products that will help readers save money or make money over time.
3. Sponsored Posts
Once you get big enough, brands will want to tap your community by offering to write a sponsored post. Writing a sponsored post on a reputable blog is also a great way to gain valuable links back to their website. Links are the currency of the web.
Just be careful that Google is not a fan of blogs publishing lots of sponsored content. Search engines want your original content, and not have your site be a factory for advertisements. When you host a sponsored post, make sure to disclose it is a sponsored post.
For a sponsored post, you can earn as little as $20 to up to $5,000 on average. Sometimes, brands will ask you to update a post you already wrote with new information to make it better too. If you are able to rank well for certain keywords, or their brand, then you have more bargaining power.
Believe it or not, the most Financial Samurai has ever earned from a sponsored post was $30,000. That was a great day. All I had to do was update my existing post with new information since the post was actually 2.5 years old. I thought it was a fair trade for sure. I proceeded to invest the entire $30,000 into the stock market because I thought it was funny money.
4. Direct Advertisement Buys (CPM = Cost Per Thousand Impressions = RPM = Revenue Per Thousand Impressions)
Some brands or companies will reach out to you to put a banner display ad on your website to promote their product. Let’s say you’ve got 1,000,000 pageviews a month like Financial Samurai. The brand offers you a $20 RPM, you stand to earn $20,000 from a single above the fold banner ad. The CPM is from the company’s point of view given it is a cost to them.
You can fill up to three direct banner ad buys above the fold (first page). Unfortunately, real estate above the fold is limited to the size of a screen. With more people surfing the net via mobile, the real estate is getting smaller.
5. Social Media Influencer
Some big companies will host Twitter chats with a particular hashtag. In exchange for you answer questions or participating in the Tweetchat with the hashtag, they might pay you anywhere from $100 – $3,000 for an hour session. The pay all depends on how large your Twitter following is.
Brands also pay if you host Facebook live or Facebook chat sessions as well. Instagram is also a popular place for brands to pay influencers. I’m not on Instagram because I think it’s such curated fake stuff that makes people unhappy.
6. Advertising Of Your Content
Running Facebook ads and Google ads are two of the most popular ways to monetize your content. If you spend $1,000 on a Facebook ad, but can convert $1,100 in affiliate revenue and another $200 in CPC revenue, then you should do this all day long.
While this definitely requires some Facebook and/or Google ad testing, over time when you find the winning combination. The key is to test, test, and test. Start with a small ad budget and promote your most popular post or page based on what you see in Google Analytics.
7. Your Own Course Or Product Revenue
Course revenue takes a lot of upfront work. But after you are done, each course you sell is practically 100% profit margin minus the transaction fee – usually 2.8% from Paypal.
The only product I have created is a severance negotiation book called, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye. I wrote it in 2012 after I negotiated my own severance worth 6 years of living expenses. I thought it was a no brainer since there was and still isn’t a book like this out there.
The book has since been updated for 2019 and sells for $75 after the $10 promo code. It regularly generates $4,000 – $5,000 a month. Best of all, it has changed people’s lives for the better and provided way more value than the cost.
How To Engineer Your Layoff has helped build the Financial Samurai brand as a savvy, fight-for-your rights persona. If you write about career, entrepreneurship, and travel, and freedom related topics, you should definitely sign up to be an affiliate of my book. I pay out 40% – 50% of each book sale.
8. Corporate and Private Consulting
At one point, I was making $30,000 a month consulting for three financial technology startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. As someone who build a reputable platform online, they needed my expertise to help build their platform as well.
I also do personal finance consulting on a regular basis through my Financial Samurai Consulting page. Each month, I consult with 3-4 people on how to negotiate their layoffs. My book has not only made me an expert in severance negotiations, it also serves as a lead generator.
Consulting is one of the big, big bonuses I did not anticipate after leaving work behind in 2012. Your blog serves as proof that you know how to build an audience, how to generate revenue online, and how to build a brand. Every single company out there wants to do these things.
Check out the income statement of a personal finance blogger who generates a 300,000 a month in pageviews. He makes roughly $186,000 a year through consulting alone!
9. Podcast Advertising
If you have a blog, you might as well have a podcast. I’ve gone the simple route and recorded my reading and ad libbing many of my posts on my iphone. Then I’ll just upload the audio file at the end of most posts and there you go. I’ve got a podcast.
A smart blogger repurposes his or her content as much as possible on different platforms and different types of media. I don’t know what my download statistics are for the Financial Samurai podcast, but I’ve regularly been offered $800 – $1,200 per episode. You can generally make $20 – $50 for every 1,000 episode downloads.
10. Speaking Gigs
Once you’ve written a book or have a large site, you will be invited to various conferences for speaking gigs. The fees range from $500 – $10,000, depending if you are a keynote or a side speaker. You’ll also get your conference pass for free, and also get to build a larger community of people who will follow your site and your social media accounts if you give a good speech.
Because I like my privacy, I don’t do speaking gigs. However, it’s good to know that I can earn $10,000 or more at each conference given Financial Samurai is a large and established site now.
11. Freelance Writing
Freelance writing is the low hanging fruit. If you have a blog with some relatively interesting content, it makes you far more marketable than someone who says she is a freelancer, but has nothing online that shows her talents.
When you are first starting out, it’s smart to freelance to earn income. But more importantly, it helps get your name out there because often times, the company you freelance for will allow you to link back to your website.
I did plenty of freelance writing for other blogs and affiliate partners the first three years. These articles were some of my best work and it really got my name out there. Freelance writing is like guest posting, but getting paid.
Blogging Is The Best Business In The World
I love blogging because it’s cheap and easy to start and has endless scale. With 3 billion people online and growing, the upside potential is unlimited. Further, you only need a little bit of the internet to make a fortune.
I highly recommend everybody start their own blog today. Check out my step-by-step tutorial on how to start a blog in under an hour. Back when I started in 2009, it cost me $1,000 to start and took me days to launch! Now, you can start for under $60.
Everybody needs to brand themselves online. Don’t let LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, Quora, and other sites get rich off you. Get rich off yourself! Not a day goes by where I’m not thankful for starting Financial Samurai. My site has provided my wife and I the freedom to travel the world, retire early from our jobs, and take care of our boy.
About the Author: Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 as a way to make sense of the financial crisis. He proceeded to spend the next 13 years after attending The College of William & Mary and UC Berkeley for b-school working at a couple bulge bracket firms. He owns properties in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Honolulu.
In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $220,000 a year in passive income, much of it thanks to real estate crowdfunding. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.