Some bloggers blog as a hobby, something to do in their spare time as a creative outlet. Other bloggers monetize their blogs (through AdSense, sponsored content, display ads, or affiliate programs) to earn a bit of extra pocket change. And some bloggers hope that they can turn blogging into a full-time career.
But is it possible to earn enough as a blogger to do it full-time? And if so, is it sustainable long-term?
First, let’s talk money
Whether or not you can afford to quit your day job and live on blogging alone is completely up to you. You alone know how much you need to earn in order to maintain your lifestyle. So, once you determine the amount of money you’ll need to earn in order to blog full-time, the next step is to figure out if your blog has the potential to earn that much.
It’s easy to get excited when you read about how some top bloggers are earning upwards of $1 million per year. But it’s also very important to be realistic: highly-successful bloggers like BryanBoy, Pink Peonies, and Man Repeller are the exception, not the rule.
It’s a lot harder to determine earning potential for lower- to middle-tier bloggers, because most bloggers don’t disclose their earnings – talking about money is taboo, you know. But here at AmpliFound, we’ve got a ready-made case study: me!
I ran my own affordable fashion and shopping blog for seven years (from 2006-2013), and I’m ready to break the taboo and talk! First, some factoids about my blog:
- The majority of my blog’s revenue came from affiliate links (mostly ShopSense, some RewardStyle). I featured some sponsored content once in a while.
- In the blog’s heyday, it got an average of 75,000 unique visitors per month.
- I posted between 15-20 posts per week, and each post had an average of 5 links, which meant that the blog had an average of 75-100 affiliate links per month.
- I spent 15-20 hours blogging per week, on top of my full-time work.
Now, the earnings! Depending on the time of year, I’d earn anywhere between $300 and $2000 a month from my blog. The highest earning months were October (when I posted Halloween costumes every day of the month) and December (because of holiday shopping). Earnings would usually drop off significantly after the new year, and peak again in fall and winter. But the earnings weren’t consistent on a month-to-month basis, and even if I’d managed to earn $2000 every month, that wouldn’t have been enough for me and my family.
Since my story doesn’t apply to everyone, here are some more statistics for context’s sake:
In 2012, ProBlogger did a survey of 1,000 bloggers to find out their monthly earnings:
About 50% of the bloggers earned less than $100 a month.
Also in 2012, Jeff Bullas posted some statistics that showed that only 8% of bloggers earn enough to support a family, and 81% never even make $100 from blogging.
The moral of the story? Most bloggers will never make enough money to quit their day jobs.
Is Blogging Sustainable?
But say that you do. Say that you work really hard and build a great blog with high-quality content and engaged readers, and you earn enough money that you can support yourself or your family from your blog earnings. Does blogging in general have a future?
Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, but in the past year lots of big-time bloggers have moved onto other endeavors (see: Andrew Sullivan, Dooce, Young House Love). Furthermore, lots of really smart people are saying that blogging is on the decline.
In this article, Vox’s Ezra Klein claims that two things factor into the decline of blogging:
The first is that, at this moment in the media, scale means social traffic. Links from other bloggers — the original currency of the blogosphere, and the one that drove its collaborative, conversational nature — just don’t deliver the numbers that Facebook does. But blogging is a conversation, and conversations don’t go viral. People share things their friends will understand, not things that you need to have read six other posts to understand… The other reason is that the bigger the site gets, and the bigger the business gets, the harder it is to retain the original voice.
Nieman Lab‘s Jason Kottke has a similar outlook:
The primary mode for the distribution of links has moved from the loosely connected network of blogs to tightly integrated services like Facebook and Twitter. If you look at the incoming referers to a site like BuzzFeed, you’ll see tons of traffic from Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Stumbleupon, and Pinterest but not a whole lot from blogs, even in the aggregate. For the past month at kottke.org, 14 percent of the traffic came from referrals compared to 30 percent from social, and I don’t even work that hard on optimizing for social media. Sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy aren’t seeking traffic from blogs anymore. Even the publicists clogging my inbox with promotional material urge me to “share this on my social media channels” rather than post it to my blog.
And the folks at ProBlogger say:
So how many blog comments do you get, huh? Is it anything like the number you had four years ago? I doubt it very much. Practically every blogger I’ve talked to has said comments are on the decline. Why? Two words: social media. Readers are not only using social media to find your content, they are also using their favourite platforms to interact with it, and you. A reader is more likely to share your post on Facebook and leave a comment there than write something on the blog itself.
What does this mean for you as a blogger?
Does that mean that you might as well pack it in and give up your dreams of being a full-time blogger? Absolutely not, but it does mean that you’ll need to work hard to keep up with what kind of content and interaction resonates with your readers.
It’s also important to keep in mind that most top bloggers aren’t making 100% of their income from blogging. Successful bloggers often have side products or businesses that earn them plenty of money. For example:
- Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess have written books, developed two smartphone apps, and run an online shop where they sell craft supplies, e-courses, and more.
- Jessica of What I Wore has taught fashion classes at a local college.
- Joy of Oh Joy! regularly designs products for collaborations.
- Rach of Pink Peonies has her own jewelry collection for sale.
- Gala of Gala Darling, Shauna of Nubby Twiglet, and Kat of Rock n Roll Bride have collaborated on The Blogcademy workshops and online classes.
- Kendi of Kendi Everyday owns a brick and mortar boutique.
- And pretty much every top food blogger out there has written a cookbook.
So, if you’re going to be a full-time blogger, always be on the lookout for (or create your own!) opportunities to expand into other avenues.
So, IS blogging sustainable as a long-term career?
Not for just anyone. But if being a full-time blogger is your dream, and if you’ve got the money, drive, passion, and ambition to give it a shot, then go for it!