Ever wanted to start a blog? You’re in the right place. Blogging is one of my absolute favorite side hustles, as I’m sure you can tell from… my blog. You can blog about anything, and you can make money blogging about pretty much anything, too.
When I started this blog, I didn’t really know it’d essentially become an online business. I started it to document the road less traveled I was about to take in declining my law school acceptances. I was scared about what was next and knew I couldn’t be alone amongst Millennials feeling lost in their careers.
Monetizing my blog has become one of the greatest perks of my blog- which is simply writing about what I love. But don’t take my word for it. Bloggers like Melyssa Griffin, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, and Pat Flynn all rake in $1 million plus per year from their blogs.
In this post, I’m going to give you an overview of all there is to know on how to start a blog for your profitable side hustle.
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
Why you should start a blog
Exercise your creativity
You (yes, you) are more creative than you know. I remember when I started my blog, I’d often read about how people started blogging to have a creative outlet. I thought that meant that they were born writers or bakers or photographers and wanted a place to showcase their artistic talents. As someone that can’t even draw symmetrically, I hesitated to think that I fell into this category.
But, I soon found out that expressing your creativity is not, in any way, just about expressing an art. It’s about bringing your special talents and gifts to life and spreading your experiences and message with the world. This may sound a little hokey, but it’s so real.
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
Make extra money
Making money doing what you love, is there anything better? You can blog about nearly anything and still monetize it. Pinch of Yum is a recipe blog that makes multiple six figures a year. Avocadu is a health and wellness blog with a healthy income. The creator of Extra Petite (my favorite fashion blog!) makes a full-time living with her petite fashion blog. Millennial Money Man pulls in five figures per month from his personal finance blog. And, yours truly makes money right here on this very blog on building freedom through side hustling and personal branding.
You get the picture.
It doesn’t matter what niche you pursue. The most important part, actually, is that it’s something you really love. Blogging is time-consuming, there’s no way around it. And, if this your side hustle, your free time is already quite precious. So it’s critical that you love what you blog about to keep up your motivation to do so.
Below we’ll talk about the exact strategies you can use to make money while blogging.
Learn a new skill
There’s so much to learn when it comes to how to start a blog. First off, you learn to build a website! When I started Urban 20 Something, I did not know how to build a website. I was very intimated by hosting, servers, coding, and everything else. However, once I got past that roadblock, accepted it would be difficult and took the time to learn it, I not only had a blog, I had a new skill under my belt. Then, when I was traveling throughout Southeast Asia a couple of months later, I ended up finding an expat family in Thailand that was searching for a native English speaker to teach their son web design. Jobs!
That’s not the only skill you’ll learn. As your blog grows and you pursue your interests, you can learn so much about digital marketing, social media, e-commerce, copywrighting, the topic you blog about, and so on. The list is never-ending.
Build your portfolio
Professionally, if you blog about something career-related, this can be a huge asset to show potential employers down the road. Take the Man Repeller, for instance. This wildly successful fashion blog started simply as a way for Leandra Medine, the founder, to try and impress fashion magazines as she graduated from college and searched for a job.
Even if you don’t blog about your professional field, your blog can still be an asset. If it showcases some of the skills that your prospective employer is looking for, you will stand out.
Financially, your blog can be a really helpful way to get freelance work. The content you create on your blog is a portfolio of sorts and as such, you have a big advantage when applying for freelance jobs. If your blog is a photography blog, this will help you get freelance photography work. You get the picture. The point is that a blog is an excellent platform to store your impressive work and help you get paid to do similar work for others. Just another reason to start a blog!
What you could blog about
Think outside of the
As you are learning by now, blogging isn’t just a website with posts about your weekend or random memes. Blogging can actually be a very sophisticated online business, and I invite you to think of it as such. In fact, you don’t even have to use the word blog. You could call it a website or online business if you prefer.
Your website is a foundation for you to be creative in a way that lights you up and make money while doing so. So, whether you do this through creating Youtube videos, writing about startups, becoming a public speaker, helping others be more productive, literally anything, and you make money while doing so, that’s an online business. If you don’t identify with the idea of a “blog”, don’t pigeonhole yourself into it!
All this being said, there’s still so much to be said for blogging itself. Some of my favorite bloggers that are crushing it under the traditional model of blogging are XO Sarah, Cupcakes and Cashmere, and the Confused Millennial.
(When I say traditional model of blogging, I mean they still produce consistent blog posts, their community lives on their blogs via comments, and they make most of their income from the posts themselves.)
Find your niche
I could write an entire blog post on this (and people have), but for the sake of efficiency, I want to mostly talk about what worked for me. It can be easier to hear an actual story than reading abstract advice on doing what you love.
Your niche means your blog focus or topic. It’s the main subject of your blog. Whether you’re in a food niche, a travel niche, a yoga niche, a business niche, etc., it simply means what your blog is “about”.
First up, why are niches important?
So, you don’t have to have a niche. If you want to be creative and expressive on many things, you don’t have to narrow yourself down. For example, Rachel from the Confused Millennial has a wildly successful blog and is the first to say you don’t need to have a niche. You can write about the travel in your life, the food in your life, your career, and your social life all in one place if you want!
So what’s the perk of having a niche? You can be seen as an expert within that niche! Then, if you want to create and sell products to your audience on that topic, they’ll already know that you’re an expert on it and will be more likely to buy from you.
Take Melyssa Griffin, for instance. When she began blogging, she wrote about everything. Her travels, personal development, blogging, goals, you name it. When she niched down and only focused on blogging and building an online business, she became the go-to website for that niche and now makes her living selling products based on her niche.
That said, there are still plenty of ways you can make lots of money without selling products if you want to keep your blog as a sort of catalog of sorts. We’ll talk more about monetizing your blog below. For now, keep in mind that as a rule of thumb, the more focused your blog content is on a topic, the easier you’ll be able to show your knowledge of the topic, and the more likely people will be to buy products from you on that topic.
And, remember, your niche can and will grow over time. And that’s okay! Don’t let deciding on one keep you from just starting.
The most important factor to consider when deciding on your niche
From the list of reasons to start a blog above, for side hustling purposes, I think that having a creative outlet and making money are the two most exciting. With this in mind, the most important thing to consider when deciding what to blog about is what you are passionate about!
It sounds corny but it’s true, and here’s why: you need to stay extremely motivated to have a successful blog as a side hustle. Blogging is a great side hustle but it’s extremely time-consuming, especially to do well. So, you need to be excited to wake up early in the morning to work on it before you go to work. You have to keep that going on the weekends when you’d usually be at brunch or watching Netflix. It takes sacrifice. But, you’ll barely notice that sacrifice if you absolutely love doing it. That’s why it’s the most important part of this equation.
Importantly, this means do not Google what the most profitable blog topics are. I get it, you want to make money from this. But, as we talked about above, you can make money blogging in ANY niche. If you have good content and engaged readers, money can come. Having good content and engaged readers takes time, so being passionate about your blog such that you’re willing to put in that time is what’s critical.
How I found my niche
For me, it was more than just deciding what I was passionate about. I am passionate about a lot of things! Travel, health, personal finance, wine… :). When it came to what I wanted to blog about, I instead focused on a unique story I had to tell. I knew that bringing my story and experience into blog posts would make it more relatable.
I started Urban 20 Something when I was declining my law school acceptances and didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was a very scary time for me, but I knew that I couldn’t be alone in my situation. There had to be other millennials debating on whether to go to graduate school and struggling with student debt. At the time, I did not know that I would end up quitting my job, traveling to Southeast Asia alone, learning to freelance to make more money, and becoming a personal branding guru. But, I knew I wanted to take my blog on the journey with me.
So, I focused then and still focus on how I got out of my quarter life trap to make my twenties and thirties as great as they could be. It’s evolved over time and it’s STILL evolving, but bringing my story into what I write is the foundation of my blog.
What’s your story? What have you been through or are going through that you think others can relate to? Or even, what do you want to do that you haven’t yet? Bring your blog on your journey with you!
How to start a blog
Here comes the technical part of this process. This was one of the hardest parts for me when I was starting out. Don’t worry, though, you need not know any coding at all! I will walk you through the whole thing and it’s much better on the other side.
What will your precious blog be called? You can have it be the name of your blog or business, or even use your first and last name. As a rule of thumb, try not to use any dashes or punctuation. And, people also advise that you don’t use numbers since it can be confusing as to whether you type out the numbers or use the number keys. (You can tell I listened to this advice.)
I suggest using the site Namechk.com to search your domain prior to purchasing. Not only will it tell you if your domain is available, it’ll also tell you what’s available on social media platforms.
You can use a website like Hover to purchase a relatively inexpensive domain name. (I don’t recommend using Go Daddy as the founder actually killed an elephant. Seriously, who does that?) You also can simply get a domain name when you sign up for the hosting plan I recommend below.
Hosting your website simply means deciding which platform will host the website on the internet. You can do this one of two main ways: pay someone else to host it or host it yourself. I definitely recommend the latter.
Now, WordPress is where and how you create your website. WordPress itself is free. But, the website you create on WordPress needs to be hosted somewhere. I recommend hosting it on Bluehost, which is what I use for all of my websites. Bluehost has had terrific customer service in my experience. This was especially critical in my early days when I had no idea what I was doing. It’s also very inexpensive and easy to get started with. In fact, follow my step-by-step tutorial here to get started in just 20 minutes.
How to make money blogging
Of course, you can start a blog just for fun and not make any money off of it. There’s plenty of value in having a creative outlet that allows you to create, write, and connect with others in a way that you might not during your 9-5 job. That said, you can make money blogging about just about anything. So, why not combine your creative outlet with a method of side income? That’s the path my blog has organically taken and it’s my absolute favorite side hustle (not to mention my most profitable!).
I and many other bloggers make money through affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small commission when someone purchases something I recommend through the link on my blog. Now understanding how affiliate links work for bloggers, I make sure to purchase through their links when they recommend something useful and am happy to do so. I want their blogs to stay in business so the bloggers can continue providing valuable content.
One of the most passive ways to make money blogging is by advertising on your website. It can take a lot of traffic to even make a little bit of money with ads. So, it might take a while before you have the momentum to use this method. The appeal, though, is that you literally have to do nothing to make money this way. Ads are placed for you and your readers do the rest.
You can use your blog to advertise services you have. This could be tutoring or consulting, for example. A lot of business bloggers also offer business consulting. Productivity bloggers can offer time management coaching. Career bloggers can offer resume and cover letter consulting services.
You get the idea. No matter what you want to blog about, you can definitely find a way to provide a one-on-one service to readers so that your advice and knowledge is customized to them so that you can better customize your advice and knowledge for them.
One of the most lucrative but labor-intensive ways to make money blogging is by creating and selling digital products. It can take a lot of upfront work to create the product. But, because it’s digital, it can take almost no money to produce and can be sold over and over again.
For instance, ByRegina.com makes her money off of the Ebooks she’s created. She blogs about monetizing info products and, when readers are ready to take action on what she blogs about, she has Ebooks on the fly for them to purchase. Or, I sell this Boss Life Business Plan.
If you want to blog about baking, you could have baking Ebooks ready for purchase. If you want to blog about self-care and self-love, you could make digital gratitude journals ready for purchase. You get the picture.
The phases of blogging as a side hustle
As you can see, there’s a lot to blogging. There’s a lot to creating one, maintaining one, and a lot of potential in one. You can use it to exercise your creativity, connect with a new community, get your message out to the digital world, make extra money… if you do it right, a blog can do all of those things!
But, to do all those takes work. While it’s inspiring to see a lot of bloggers making a lot of money while blogging, it’s important to remember that a lot of those bloggers are full-time bloggers. This isn’t their side hustle. So, if you do pursue a blog, just remember that it’s a long game. It’s not an easy way to make money quickly (like freelancing can be).
One of the ways you can grow your blog while working full-time is by focusing on the stage your blog is in. It’s way, way easy to start blogging and feeling like you need to do *everything* all at once. I have been and still am guilty of doing this. Below is a rough outline of what you can focus on in which stage of blogging. This way, you can feel confident you’re using your precious spare time wisely.
Phase 1- Creating content
Create the gold before you unleash it to the world! This means writing blog posts, having photos taken of you for your site, getting your social media platforms up and running, and beautifying your website. At this point, I also recommend making a couple freebies that you can give to your readers for free in exchange for their email address. The way this works is that in a blog post, you offer your freebie in exchange for their email. So, the reader will give you their email address and then download the freebie right then. This will be incredibly valuable as you build your blog because your email list is the best way to keep in touch with you readers and turn them into returning readers and fans.
During this stage, patience is key. It’s definitely frustrating feeling like you’re putting so much content out into the world but not seeing much traffic, subscribers, followers, and so on. It can feel like you’re giving so much and getting nothing back. That’s normal. Remember you have the long game in mind. If you were getting lots of traffic to your site but had nothing impressive to show them, they will probably never come back again. So, create the gold first.
This phase will vary in length for everyone. As a very rough recommendation, I’d try to be in this for a month or so. The ONLY reason I give any time recommendation is because it’s important to eventually pull the plug and move on. You could spend forever tweaking your content. Eventually, you have to hush your inner perfectionist and publish.
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
– Reid Hoffman
Phase 2- Open the traffic gates
Once you have some solid content in place, you can open up the traffic gates and show the internet what you’re made of! There are endless ways to bring in traffic. The good and the bad news is that they’re always changing, too. The most consistent platform I use to bring traffic in is Pinterest. It brings in so much more traffic than Instagram, Twitter or Facebook combined. The reason for that is because Pinterest is actually a search engine, not really social media. This means people can find your content by searching for information, in contrast to social media. And, it means your content cycles through again and again, instead of getting chronologically pushed down, like on social media. When I began blogging, I took a wonderful course called Pinfinite Growth by Melyssa Griffin and I attribute much of my blog success to this course. I highly recommend it.
During this stage, openness is key. This is a learning-heavy stage where you’ll learn so much about what your audience likes, where your readers find your blog from (social media, Google, etc.), what you like creating, and what more you need to do. Continue to create content, post on social media, and capture emails. I’d also recommend coming up with a simple content calendar during this phase. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, but you’ll grow faster if you stay consistent. Post consistently, engage with readers consistently, and stay on brand.
This phase is much longer than the first. Again, it will vary for everyone and in many ways, the stage never ends. But I’d recommend staying in this learning-heavy period for at least six months. Then, you can start monetizing.
Phase 3- Build a community
This phase is really just an addition to phase 2. Phase 2 will never really “end”. You should always be trying to bring in new traffic, figuring out what people like, and of course, figuring out what brings you the most joy! After you’ve developed more comfort and consistency in the system you have for creating content, you can really focus on your community.
This takes work. A community of people all reading your blog that you’ve never met isn’t that easy. For me, the most effective way to foster a community has been to really focus on my email list. Since you’ve started growing your email list from the beginning, you want to make sure those people don’t forget about you! And, you want to be there as a resource for them. Don’t email them only when you have a new blog post. Do so consistently and give them value for free. They are your community!
Phase 4- Monetize your blog
You can slowly incorporate this throughout your phases as you see fit. But it’s important to get to know your blog, your audience and yourself. You don’t want to come off as or feel sales-ey.
But, once you have decent traffic, an engaged email list, and good content, go ahead on up to the section of this post on how to monetize your blog and go for it!
Will you start a blog?
If you do, please send me the URL! I would love to see it.
As you can gather, there are so many amazing things about blogging. It’s a wonderful way for young professionals to get creative, learn more skills, make extra money, network, and so on. The possibilities are endless.
The cons? It’s so much work. I spend at least 20 hours a week blogging outside of my 9-5 job. I love it, but it’s definitely something to consider. Another “con” is that it takes a while to monetize. If you’re looking to side hustle to reach a big financial goal like pay off a credit card, save for a wedding, or something else with a clock on it, this might not be for you.
Starting one is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my twenties and I’m so grateful to have the chance to do this every day. Please let me know if you do, too!