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You are working a 9 to 5 job or perhaps you are in between jobs or still in school and want to start a side hustle that's simple to start, can be managed easily and more importantly, will earn you more money. There are a ton of great side hustle business ideas out there and starting your own blog where you share your expertise and provide value to your audience is one of them, which if done the right way can become a very profitable way to earn more money.
But how do I know this?
"You are right here reading my own blog which earns me thousands of dollars a month."
Well, you are right here reading my own blog which earns me thousands of dollars a month. Not only does blogging help me share my expertise as a money expert, it helps me build my brand awareness, grows my audience and it gives me the opportunity to work with some amazing brands, try out some awesome products and, based on the content I have created here, I also get paid to write for several other outlets amongst other things - all of which contributes to my earnings.
And the best part of it all? You can do it too with some time and commitment.
In this blog post, I'm going to share the tools and resources I use as well as advice and strategies (all based on my personal experience) that have allowed me to grow this blog and make thousands of dollars from it each month.
**FYI, this is a long post so if you need to, bookmark it and come back to reference it as you complete each step.
First things first, it's pretty easy to start a blog
Don't let the fancy websites you see online fool you. It's pretty easy to start a blog as long as you are willing to spend time setting it up the right way and I'm going to walk you through it. Starting a blog consists of a few key things you need to do and they include:
- Step 1: Decide on a topic or niche (I'll tell you some of the popular ones)
- Step 2: Choose a domain name and get hosting
- Step 3: Set up your website
- Step 4: Start creating valuable content (that you share!)
- Step 5: Monetize your blog
You'll also need specific tools and resources to help you get things started the right way. I'll mention the different ones that apply to the different steps as you read through, but to provide an overview, you'll need:
- A host for your site
- An actual blog and template
- Stock photos and a design resource
- An email marketing platform to engage with your audience
- Social content sharing tools
Step 1: Decide on a topic or niche
First and foremost, before you spend any of your valuable time (or money) setting up your blog, you need to decide on our topic or niche. You'll need to determine what you'll be writing about and who your ideal audience is. This is a really important step.
When your blog has a content theme, you'll attract an audience interested in learning about the particular topic you write about. If you write about a million different and completely unrelated topics then it will be hard to get your audience to stick around because they simply won't be interested in all the different things you are sharing.
For example, I write about personal and business finance topics for women - that's my focus. Sometimes I write about fashion or beauty or relationships, but I write about it from the perspective of how it relates to money. See where I'm going with this?
Some of the most popular blogging niches include:
- Health and wellness e.g. Fitness, healthy eating
- Food e.g. baking, cooking
- Beauty and style e.g. fashion, hair
- Personal improvement e.g. personal finance, running a business
Whatever niche you decide, you want to be sure that your content is helping your audience solve their problems - It's all about adding value to keep them coming back.
Step 2: Choose a domain name, get hosting
This is the name your blog is going to be called so choose wisely. Once you've decided on your blog name, be sure to do a domain name search to make sure it's not taken i.e. search YOURBLOGNAME.com. I chose a blog name (Clever Girl Finance) that would make it immediately obvious what my content was about and who it was for. However, there are no rules to naming your blog.
Over time your blog name will become synonymous with the content you create, just make sure you like the name you choose! It shouldn't cost you that much to purchase your domain name alone (without hosting) and once you find a name you like, I recommend that you buy it. I can't tell you how many times I've thought of a domain name, searched for it and saw it was available and then procrastinated and the next time I tried to purchase it, it was taken. My advice would be to purchase it right away and keep it until you are ready to use it.
Once you've purchased your domain name, you are going to need hosting. Hosting is essentially where your blog and its content will be housed. My recommendation on where to purchase your domain (and hosting) is BlueHost.
I'm a huge fan of BlueHost because their pricing is affordable (seriously, they start at $3.95 a month for a free domain name + hosting), they have 24/7 customer support and a money back guarantee. Also, I know a ton of other bloggers with massive sites who use and love them without any complaints.
Step 3: Set up your website
Once your domain and hosting are out of the way, it's time to set up your blog and you have a couple options.
Option 1: You can install your blog directly on BlueHost by using WordPress. They are the most popular blogging platform, due to their great SEO capability and easy to use, plus since a ton of people are on WordPress (about 25% of the world's blogs - wow) there are also a ton of resources available to help you. BlueHost has a tutorial on how to set it up and it's very simple - all you have to do is follow the instructions. Once you've set up WordPress, the fun can now begin and that is selecting your theme and blog design!
Option 2: You can purchase your domain name but host your blog elsewhere and there are some excellent alternatives one of which is Squarespace. Personally, I used and loved Squarespace for several years for different websites I owned and they've evolved tremendously over the last few years.
If you chose to use this platform, they provide the hosting for you and so all you'd need to do is purchase your domain name and connect it to your Squarespace site. Again, this is also very easy to do and they have a great tutorial here.
Step 4: Start creating valuable content
Ok, so your blog is ready to go - now this is where you'll need to put in the effort to create your content which in turn will help you grow your audience, improve your web rankings and get closer to turning your blog into a profitable business. Like I mentioned above, creating content has helped me earn money with my blog, work with brands, grow my audience, get paid to write for other outlets and more.
It's a good idea to create a content calendar or plan each month on what you'll be writing about and how often (daily, bi-weekly, weekly etc). Not only will this help you stay on track as you create content, it will also ensure you don't run out of ideas of what to talk about on your blog (You can spend some time looking at the type of content the big bloggers in your niche are creating to help you get inspired). I use a free tool call Asana to plan out my content calendar and blog post content. It keeps me organized and I can set reminders for myself so I don't miss my content creation deadlines - it's pretty awesome.
In addition, you'll want to enhance your content with photos and graphics to make them more appealing and easy to digest depending on the topics you create. For stock photos, I love pixabay, the images are free and they have a really broad selection. And for my design and graphics needs that I don't need to outsource, I use the paid version of Canva since I have a team but I started out with their free version which is also excellent.
A few other tips on creating content: The spell checker is your friend (and mine too). Also be sure to break up long paragraphs, use bullets and create easy to read and interesting headers based on your topic etc. A visually appealing, well written and well-organized blog is not only attractive, it will make people want to share and that's exactly what you want!
Other key things to do as you create valuable content for your blog
- Build your list
Your list of subscribers that is! These are the people who will sign up to receive content from you because they have a high interest in what you are blogging about. The reason why you want to build a list is because this will be an audience that you actually "own" and you can communicate with directly via your newsletter and other email announcements. Even if people follow you on social media, you don't own those followers.
This means that if for instance, Instagram goes out of business today, your followers will be gone along with them. Also growing your own list of subscribers means you can let them know when you launch products or services and turn a percentage of your subscribers into actual paying customers.
You can encourage people to sign up for your list by providing them with a freebie like a checklist or mini eBook (I've built out an entire resource library) and be sure you put your subscribe button in visible areas on your blog.
To host my list, I use a platform called ConvertKit and I love how robust it is when it comes to tagging my audience into categories based on their interests, sending automatic welcome emails, their easy to set up sign up forms that I embed throughout my blog (you'll see one at the end of this post - I hope you'll sign up!) and much more.
I started out using MailChimp but as my email list grew I found it a little difficult to categorize my audience in the way I wanted and MailChimp was turning out to be much more expensive. While there are many features MailChimp has that I love, ConvertKit works so much better for my needs as a blogger and is more cost effective too.
- Promote your content.... everywhere
As you create content, you want to make sure people are reading it and that your blog is getting noticed so don't be afraid to share it far and wide. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc are just a few social media sites where you can get started with promoting your content (hey, you can even start with friend and family!).
In order not to get overwhelmed though, pick one or two platforms to start and set some time aside once a week to schedule your content for sharing. I use Later (specifically for my Instagram) and SmarterQueue (for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) and love them both.
Step 5: Monetize your blog
This is where all your hard work will pay off - by monetizing your blog! and there are a number of ways to do it. You can:
- Create digital products like eBooks, webinars and worksheets
- Create physical products - depending on your niche the options are endless
- Create a course and/or offer coaching based on the content you share / problem you help your readers solve
- Become an affiliate and share products you love and use
- Have advertising on your blog
- Build brand authority through your content that will invite brand collaborations and attract other opportunities.
Start with one of these avenues and then add on others as time goes by. These streams combined can create a highly profitable blog (and business) for you.
- Traffic matters
One thing that I really want to stress when it comes to building a profitable blog is that you can't build it and expect people to just find it and flock to it in droves - it doesn't work that way. You are going to have to proactively attract your audience to get the traffic flow going and that includes sharing your content everywhere and with everyone. Some of my favorite ways to share my content are through Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, on my podcast and on my YouTube channel.
Keep in mind I only started podcasting and creating videos on YouTube after my core idea of having a blog had been established (about a year+ later). I also encourage my existing audience to share my content that they've found to be most valuable to them as well - like this blog post.
- Be patient
Once you build a blog, scaling it can take time but if you are consistent, you will reap the benefits. As your content library and audience grows, opportunities to monetize your blog will increase as well - from increased advertising revenue to opportunities to work with brands, getting paid to review products or even creating your own courses and/or digital products for sale - there are a ton of possibilities to make your blog extremely profitable but the foundational piece of your blog, is quality content first.
Courses that have helped me (and can help you) become a better blogger
After a while of blogging, I got to a point where I felt like my blog was starting to plateau and so I decided to invest in my business (and myself) by researching and taking a course to help me scale. I'm all about my personal and business development and this was one of the best decisions I could have made.
I took the six figure blogger course created by Alex and Lauren, an amazing couple who teach people how to really monetize their blogs into 6 figures based on their experience growing their health and wellness blog and their business blog - In 2017 alone, they made over $800,000 from their blogs so they definitely know what they are talking about. This course was amazing BUT it required some serious hard work which it was totally worth it and while it was an advanced course, they also have courses for folks at different levels when it comes to blogging.
Those are my insights on starting a blog - I hope they are helpful and you are motivated to build a profitable blog that will increase your income!