The Honest Truth About What It Takes to Earn a Living Blogging11 min read

I don’t write about making money as a blogger that often, mostly because I believe there’s a lot of misinformation (and some downright counterproductive advice) out there, and aspiring bloggers tend to build some unrealistic expectations.

For instance, the notion that blogging is a source of passive income. There’s nothing passive about making money as a blogger.

Making money blogging is about consistently producing quality content.

Making money blogging is about networking and building an audience.

Making money blogging is about adding value to other people’s lives.

Making money blogging is as simple as asking yourself, “Would I pay to read a blog like mine?”

If the answer is no, then it’s time for you to do more, become more, engage more, entertain more, write more, and care more.

The honest truth about making money blogging is that there’s no magic formula, step-by-step guide, or sleazy marketing technique.

No one cares until you are so good they can’t ignore you. It’s not the services you sell, nor the online courses, or the ads, or the affiliate links. It’s how good you are with the words and ideas and thoughts you share, and how your readers love you for it.

If you want to make money blogging, you’ve got to make people fall in love with your words.

It’s as simple as that.

And that’s why I focus so much on all the other aspects. If you manage to write the kind of blog that people can’t go a day without, the kind of articles that people read over a cup of coffee in the morning, then you are going to make money, even if you don’t want to, even if you aren’t selling anything.

I am not kidding. People will literally email you to ask you how they can send you money.

The Bitter-Sweet Truth About Making Money Blogging

As a blogger, as a content creator, there will be many days when you won’t love what you do as much as you’d like. Those are the days that can make or break your blog. If you fail to show up, if you to provide your readers with fresh content, then you are losing trust, losing readers, and losing potential income.

If you want to make money blogging, you’ve got to learn how to work when you’re not feeling inspired. Or motivated. Or when you don’t have the time.

Let me say this one more time: the money you make as a blogger is the side-effect of your ability to consistently deliver quality content to your audience.

If being consistently creative is crushing your soul, or if it exhausts your mind, consider that trying to make serious money as a content creator may not be the right path for you.

Because competing with all the creatives who can produce every single day is going to break your heart.

If you want to make money blogging, learn to show up every single day, whether you feel like it or not. And, please, don’t tap-dance around the truth.

The Phenomenon of Reputation

If you want to make money as a blogger you’ve got to accept that you don’t earn money based on how proud you are of your work.

You make money based on your ability to compete with half a billion other bloggers. And a bunch of Instagram influencers. And millions of vloggers. And billions of hours of podcasts.

If you want to make money blogging, you’ve got to accept the fact that you not just asking for money, but you are asking for time.

And time is the most valuable commodity there is.

You don’t get paid for how good you want to be, you get paid for how good you are. You get paid for how good you are perceived as being.

And this means that, yes, you’ve got to slowly, painfully slow at times, work on building enough social proof. This means that, yes, you’ve got to work for free until someone offers to pay you.

This sort of dynamic is not for those who have fragile egos.

If you think you deserve to earn something just because you have a blog, you’re going to have a hard time trying to adjust to the reality of what it takes to actually earn money from a blog.

You Will Alienate Some Readers

The web revolutionized both the way we consume and the way we create content. The content creator rejoiced at the thought that there were no more gatekeepers.

It takes a few minutes to setup a blog.

It takes a smartphone, a pair of earphones, and some software to start a podcast.

You can start a YouTube channel with only a phone.

But, most of all, content was free. Fueled by a growing ads industry, most content creators replied on ads to earn an income.

Now, this isn’t ideal anymore, especially if you are just starting out or own a hyperniche blog that will never become popular enough to even become accepted into most ad networks.

But, because people expect content to be free, almost anything else you do to monetize a blog will be frowned upon, at least by a part of your readership.

Even running affiliate links and banners will often get some folks irritated, let alone trying to sell them a product or service.

Because of this, a lot of bloggers feel kind of sleazy when trying to sell their products, even though they’ve put a lot of time and effort into the products themselves.

If you want to make money blogging, then you’ve got to accept the fact that 99% of your audience won’t ever buy a single product from you. Ever.

The Moments That Don’t Make Much Sense

The so-called 9–5 job pays in direct proportion to your contribution and the time you spend at work. Most times, that is.

Content creation is different.

When you’re just starting out, fueled by enthusiasm, you invest a lot of time and energy to earn a few bucks, if that.

First month of blogging, way back in April 2012? I earned $1.05. First month of running ads? $80.46.

Considering that I spent 8–10 hours every day creating content, networking, and promoting that content, it would have made sense to give up.

Any reasonable person would quit at this point, and that’s why 99% of content creators either give up or lose their ambition to ever properly monetize their content.

It took me eight months to get my first $100 paycheck from Amazon from my e-book sales and some 60 days to earn my first $10 from the Amazon Affiliates Program.

Mind you, we’re talking about somewhat popular blogs, with audiences of close to ten thousand readers.

This why the reasonable decision is to give up. After all, no one in their right mind would ever want to work full-time for just enough to buy a cup of coffee.

But, on the other hand, if you understand the fact that you are developing a stream of income, not working a full-time job, you will begin to see that if a platform offers you the potential to earn $1, you can earn a lot more over time.

Because that’s what you are actually monetizing:

a. Digital content that can earn you income for as long as it’s available.

b. The audience.

If you want to earn more, you’ve just got to create more content and either grow your audience or turn your current readers into true fans of your work.

There are a lot of things about making money as a blogger that demand of you to be unreasonable:

  1. 99.99% of your audience will only be there for the free stuff. In order to make any real money, you’ve got to put out a lot of free content in the hopes that a small percentage of your readers will purchase your paid products.
  2. You need to slowly and painfully build a portfolio of work that can earn you an income.

One of the bitter-sweet truths of blogging is that little by little, a little always becomes a lot.

If you don’t have the patience, the inner fortitude, the passion, and the enthusiasm to keep going when it makes sense to quit, you are not going to build a proper side-income from your blog.

The Mindset Shift Critical to Earning Money as a Blogger

A creator doesn’t get paid for their time, for their effort, they get paid for the quality and impact of the content they share.

This is something every content creator must be aware of on an emotional level.

Otherwise, it’s easy to lose heart. It becomes quite understandable to give up or treat blogging as a hobby of sorts, never quite investing enough time and energy to grow an audience that is capable of providing you with an income.

If you want to earn money as a blogger, you need to adopt the following mindset:

  1. Become excited by the prospect of earning more because you understand how content creation works: the more effort you put in, the more you earn in terms of income, the more you grow your audience. If you can earn a dollar, you can earn ten thousand times that.
  2. Understand that a piece of content earns money for as long as it’s available to the public. As your audience grows, so does the income your earn from it.
  3. It takes a while to build trust with your audience, meaning that it takes a while to build the kind of engagement levels that are crucial to growing an income stream from content creation.

Sounds simple, right?

Well… it is. But it’s not an easy thing to do.

A mindset is not something you know to be true, but something you feel to be true. It may sound corny, but it’s extremely important not to lose heart as you work towards monetizing your blog.

Ultimately, making money blogging is a game of patience and consistency, not wishful thinking and high hopes. It’s the snowball effect, not a random avalanche of dollars.

This is the main reason beginners have a hard time building momentum in terms of content creation, building a network, growing an audience, or earning money.

It just doesn’t seem to work. The feedback (or lack of it), the statistics, the engagement, all of them point to you driving a hundred miles per hour towards a brick wall.

But it’s far from being true. You have yet to build enough trust with folks for them to buy your products or consume your content. You probably don’t even have the skills to create the type of content that they’d genuinely be glad to pay for.

This takes time. A lot of it.

But you are setting yourself up for heartbreak and failure if you lose your drive because you are not earning the kind of money you were expecting to earn.

As you create more, you will earn more. The trick is to keep punching those keys, to keep uploading those YouTube videos, even though you’re not seeing an immediate payoff from your work.

Keep in mind that a little by little always becomes a lot.


Accept that you will need to do the work. And you won’t always love the work you do.

There’s nothing romantic about working with purpose and drive. You need to give up on idealistic notions; idealism destroys every deal.

Lastly, accept that making an income from blogging is not about being a brilliant writer, it’s about consistently producing content that your audience can relate to. Writing this type of content is not magic, it’s not art, it’s a skill like any other that you develop over time.

Accept that making money blogging is so difficult because 99.9% of content creators mistakenly believe it’s supposed to be effortless. It’s not. It’s risky. It’s painfully slow. It’s terrifying at times. There’s a lot of uncertainty you have to handle, while punching those damn keys until your hands hurt.

But it’s also worth it. Not because you can go out and buy all the things you don’t need with the money you earn, but because earning money from the words you share with others is validation that you have an impact, that you have become an influence in an overcrowded online environment.

This is what the money means: it’s another cold metric that shows you how much people care about your words and stories and ideas.

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Cristian Mihai
Became Internet famous by the age of 23. Never recovered. I write short author bios all over the web. I’m an acquired taste. Don’t like me? Acquire some taste.
Articles: 133

15 Comments

  1. Great stuff as usual. I’m lucky that I still feel the drive to keep at this, even though I’ve earned about USD10 from Medium so far. Thanks for being transparent with your earnings and inspiring other bloggers out there!

    • Hi Stuart,

      The trick is to keep going. Little by little, a little becomes a lot.

      Now I am averaging $12 per day, which is more than I earned during my first week in March.

      • Since Medium became a paid service I have left. Is it even worth signing up unless your at a certain level with your writing that people actively read your content? Thanks.

      • To be honest, it’s much more competitive than WordPress.com.

        But there’s so much to learn, so much content, so many brilliant people to connect with.

        It’s an entitely different breed. Well worth the trouble, but it does require a lot more effort to build a platform there.

      • Your content is excellent so being surrounded by other great writers will push you to get better.

  2. Your wisdom drips of the page (screen), highly inspirational person. Money is not my aim as a writer reach is, but to get either you have to become a master, you have to write content as you have stated, that people would pay for. 🙂

  3. Haha! I am so psyched at my first $5 after 3 months of blogging! Thank you for that post it’s good to know that I’m in good company. xx

  4. The important thing is to keep going. Great work Cristian.
    I’ve not yet earned anything from Medium though. Lol

  5. Cristian, your honesty is refreshing and so rare. I mainly focus on the personal blogs of those who are old or almost old, and most of us are not blogging for an income. Yet nearly all your advice applies to us too.

  6. Thanks for your wisdom and insight. Passion for writing is what keeps me going. Blessings to you!

  7. That question ‘Would I pay to read a blog like mine?’ Really cuts deep for me. As someone with some confidence issues, I find it really tricky to believe in the things that I write or say. I’m working on it and I suppose the more I get in touch with my authentic voice, the more people will like what I write.

  8. I enjoy this post. Thank you for being transparent.

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