Bringing home the bacon with blogging:

One of the most common questions I get asked from readers is how to make money with blogging.  This is such a loaded question so I usually sidestep it or say “google it” or say I’ll write a blog post on it one day.  Well, I’m buckling down and doing it!  A close friend asked me and it was the kick in the pants I needed to pump this post out.  I’ll try to make my explanation as clear and concise as possible, but don’t count on my “wisdom” to change your life or anything.  I know there are a ton of posts like this out there, but all I know is how I’ve done it.  My approach may not work for everyone’s lifestyle or personality.  But maybe some of the tips will be helpful.  

photo by Andee McDonald

Before you get started, there are a few things to consider…

1.  First and foremost, it AAAALLLLLLLLL comes down to content.  
Content!  Content!  Content!  You HAVE to be proud of your content before you take any further steps towards trying to make money blogging.  I was blogging for two years before I decided to try to market my blog, so I was already established in the type of content I wanted to promote.  Decide before you begin the type of blog you want (lifestyle, craft, fashion, cooking, inspirational, etc.) and then run with it.  Keep in mind, too, that your blog is going to be your baby for the next little while as you try to build your following, so you have to just love it.  Don’t try to squeeze a triangle through a circle.  Be true to yourself and make your blog enjoyable and easy for you to keep up with.  
2. Tips about your blog layout.
A.  I would suggest establishing your blog title and layout/look before you attempt to market your blog so that it is professional, inviting, easy to read, user-friendly, and eye-catching.  This is all up to your personal taste and how much time/money you’re willing to put into it.  I personally like cleaner, crisper looks to blogs, which are often times the easiest to produce.  
B.  If you don’t want to outsource for your blog layout, I would suggest Googling how to do it yourself in photoshop or powerpoint or something similar and figure it out.  I’ve blogged long enough now that I know enough about it to get the type of look I want myself, and I’ve learned it all from Google.  Draw inspiration from your favorite blogs’ looks and layouts.
C.  Make your photos pretty.  These days you do not need a big fancy camera to get professional looking photos.  There are so many smart phone editing apps that you can get awesome photos from your hand held devices.  I do have a Cannon, but most of my pictures are from my iPhone.  My favorite phonography editing apps are Afterglow and Camera+.  When shooting your pictures, focus on lighting and composition to keep them interesting.
D.  People love different ways of connecting with their favorite bloggers.  Consider which social networks you are willing to dive into and offer clear links on your sidebar that allow your readers to easily connect with you in other ways.  Only offer links to the networks you enjoy and do yourself, though.  I love Instagram and use it a ton, which I have linked to Twitter.  Facebook pages are also great for providing updates and insights into your life with your readers.  And Pinterest—don’t forget that one!!!  Others I haven’t really gotten into are Linked In and Google Plus.  I’m sure there are more.  Also, make a button that your readers can post on their blog that will link their readers back to you.  Google how to make a blog button and you’ll be set.

E.  Keep in mind that you are putting your life on line.  Use discretion!  You are in control of how much you disclose.  For example, to protect our kids, we have decided to not post last names or pictures of our naked babies, etc.  We have had some really creepy experiences, so we feel very strongly about this.  Sit down and write out what you are and are not willing to allow to be on the www before you get started.

Next, you want to build your following to increase your stats to make your blog appealing to potential advertisers.  There are several ways to do this, and again, it all comes down to what appeals to your personality most and how much time and money you are willing to invest in this process.
1. Keep in mind that you might have to spend money to make it.
You may have noticed by now that your favorite blogs usually have a tab or page on their blog that offer “sponsor rates” for those who want to advertise on their sidebar.  The higher the blog’s stats, the higher the prices to sponsor on their blog are because your ad will be seen by more readers (getting more bang for your buck, if you will).  Some blogs also offer purchasing a guest blog post, which is a great way to get exposure for your blog and your personality and your content all in one shot, as it allows you to post your own article on someone else’s blog.  
2. If you aren’t willing to fork out the dough, there are other ways to get exposure that are effective, too.
A.  If you don’t want to spend the money to be seen, I would recommend networking with other bloggers who’s blogs are about the same size as your own.  I have “button swapped” and exchanged posts a lot in the past with other blogs who have a similar following as my own and it has not only helped build my following by drawing other blog’s readers to mine, but it has also lead to some really neat friendships.  
B.  Network with other blogs as much as possible.  Leave comments if you have time, but don’t worry about leaving a link to your blog.  That doesn’t usually come across as one would hope it would.  Participate in blog hops and link parties and things like that.  The more you participate in them, the more you will learn about them and then will be able to host them with success in the future.
C.  PINTEREST IS YOUR BEST FRIEND!  As you become more familiar with your blog layout and html, you will be able to easily insert “pin it” widgets into your posts.  This is the single most successful tool I have encountered in building my following.  Pinterest pins can spread exponentially and if you have strategic catch phrases and teasers on your pins you can draw a lot of interested readers to your post.  And if they find your CONTENT appealing (see, it always comes back to content!) they will want to stick around.   
D.  Once you are established in your “niche” you may consider hosting giveaways.  You can either provide the prizes yourself or giveaway ad spots on your sidebar or collaborate with other bloggers or businesses to giveaway products they promote.  If you make the entry requirements to include subscribing to your blog or other social network links, then it can be an effective way to build your numbers quickly.  This worked really well for me up to a certain point, but I have steered clear of it a bit recently because I don’t allow for comments on my posts.  It could work great for you, though!
You have now established a professional and appealing blog that you think is worthy of bringing in some extra cash.  As you continue to build it, there are a few ways you can make money from your blog.
A.  Google Ads:  You sign up for this through blogger and, depending on your statistics, you make a certain amount of money per click you get on the Google Ads that appear on your sidebar.  This is the easiest way to bring in money.  You really don’t have to do anything except provide good enough content that attracts readers who will see the Google Ads.  
B.  Sponsor Spots:  This is another great way to bring in money, but it requires more time and energy from you, as you will have to manage the sponsors yourself.  Advertise somewhere on your blog how much you charge to host an advertisement of specific size for however long you want  (for example, I offer $15 for one month and $25 for two months for a 200 x 200 sized ad).  The more your stats grow, the higher you can charge, as we’ve discussed a little above.  You can easily set up a PayPal account to exchange funds for free with those who want to purchase ad space from you, and then you will have to coordinate with your sponsor the exchange of the button for you to host.  Don’t be afraid to send emails to your favorite bloggers or online stores to let them know you are accepting sponsors, and maybe offer them a special invitation deal to get them interested.  You can also charge to do review posts of products or things like that.  Keep in mind, though, that if you are going to charge for ad spots, it’s only fair to your sponsors to post consistently so that they get their money’s worth (for example, since becoming pregnant I am not as consistent as a poster, so I have cut down on my rates big time).  So it does put a little more pressure on you to upkeep your blog.
C.  Affiliate Marketing:  Affiliate marketing is when you sign up through specific websites to host specific companies’ buttons.  When someone links to that company’s website through the button on your blog and makes a purchase, you get a commission.  These specific affiliate websites do a lot of the managing for you and issue you payments as you get them.  Again, the higher your stats, the broader your options are of which companies will want to be affiliates with you.  You may or may not qualify for certain companies.  I use the website LinkShare to pick which companies I am affiliates with.  Often times there are also “affiliate” tabs on online stores’ home pages that explain how you can work with them.  The best way to make money this way is to pick companies you already love and promote their products in your blog posts so that people will want to link to them through your site.
Some final thoughts:
Building your blog enough to make money off it is not easy.  It’s a rare occasion that a blog just explodes with little effort going into it.  Don’t expect that.  You will hate your blog sometimes and you will get anxiety and you will have identity crises and you will feel a lot of pressure.  But stick with it and you really will see results!  Just stay true to yourself and your interests and don’t take it too seriously.  Also know that, in spite of your pure intentions, you will most likely offend some reader at some point and that reader will feel passionately about leaving you a mean and nasty comment.  So be prepared to deal with that too, hahaha.  It happens to every blogger at some point, so don’t let it discourage you!  Blogging has been such a blessing in my life, in spite of it’s ups and downs.  Good luck, have fun!
*I would direct anyone with more questions about anything discussed above to Google.  I honestly can’t tell you how much I learn from Googling how to do bloggy things!!*