Not everyone starts a blog with the ultimate goal of going full time. In fact, blogging can be a great way to earn extra money each month. With the right niche and helpful automation tools, you can blog in your spare time while making some money too.
Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. But it does require a bit of planning to do it right. This ultimate blogging as a side business guide will give you the blueprints needed to start (and sustain) a successful blog.
Prep Your Blog
Before becoming a blogger, you need to put in a little prep work. The hardest of which is picking a niche. A niche is a well-defined (and profitable) subject you’ll blog about.
What’s in a niche? It could be anything, really. If you want to be a part-time blogger, choose a niche you love. When you write about the things you truly enjoy, you’ll never feel like you’re actually working. And, as a bonus, you’ll actually earn some money for sharing your thoughts on your favorite subject.
If you need a little niche inspiration, consider this, the most profitable niches fall into one of these three main categories:
Remember, these three categories are super broad. You don’t just want to be a “money” blogger. Instead, you want a really defined niche. For example, let’s say you enjoy a good bargain. Your favorite store to bargain shop is Target. You religiously check their weekly ad, online coupons, and Cartwheel offers to save big on everyday purchases to once-in-a-blue-moon splurges.
Great! On your blog, you could share your Target shopping tips and tricks — give shoppers alerts on sales, suggest stock up items, and provide markdown schedules on clearance. This very targeted niche (no pun intended) could fall into the broader “money” category while also discussing a subject matter you truly enjoy — Target shopping and saving (win-win!).
Don’t worry if a niche isn’t immediately jumping out at you. And even if one is, take a day to think about it. Your niche will drive your blog’s content and, with it, the amount of money you make. You wouldn’t start a brick-and-mortar business on a whim — and you don’t want to hastily jump into a blog either 🙂
So, think about the three big categories (love, money, health) and start jotting down ideas. For a little inspiration visit the ‘For Dummies’ book people.
Check out their active categories. If they’ve written a book about it, that subject has the potential to be profitable.
The For Dummies people spend a lot of time and money researching potential niches — if it’s profitable they’ll publish a book about it. If it’s not, they won’t.
So, if there’s a subject there you feel could be a potential niche for you — you can also feel pretty confident it has the potential to be profitable.
Once you’ve picked a narrow niche involving a subject you actually enjoy, you can move onto the next step: Setting up your blog. This step can seem daunting, especially if you’ve never been involved in the creation of a blog or website before.
But fear not! I’ve discussed this in GREAT detail in my No-Fail Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Blog. In it, I reiterate the importance of picking a niche, help you pick a domain name and, of course, go through the process of selecting a host and installing WordPress. There’s even an included handy guide of free WordPress themes you can install to give your blog the perfect look without spending a penny.
This guide will show you everything (and I do mean everything) you need to do to go from blog idea to owning your own piece of Internet real estate. I promise, it’s easy. Just make sure you set aside an uninterrupted 20 minutes to go through the process, step by step. Once you do, you’ll be the newest member of the blogging community — welcome!
Prep Your Posts and Pages
Now that your blog is up, it’s time to get it running. The content you create for your blog will make or break its success — no pressure, right?
Don’t panic. Creating amazing, share-worthy content isn’t a matter of luck. There are many steps you can take to ensure everything you publish is as equally amazing as the next post.
Before you get to work writing content for your blog, you’ll need to create a roadmap. In the blogging world, your categories are what will give your blog content direction. All you need are 3-5 categories and 3 or 4 subcategories under each one.
For example, here at Work from Home Happiness my main categories are:
- Work from Home
- Side Hustles
- Online Entrepreneurship
And under each of these broad categories, I have specific subcategories I talk about:
- Work from Home
- Job Leads
- Company Reviews
- Extra Income Ideas
- Job Search Advice
- Selling Services
- Finding Clients
- Setting Rates
- Side Hustles
- Beginner’s Guides
- Online Entrepreneur
- Passive Income
- Affiliate Marketing
- Infopreneur/Solopreneur/Creative Entrepreneur Ideas
Having these categories and subcategories helps me maintain focus and makes sure I stay on topic with my blog’s content. When someone visits your blog for the first time, you want them to know what it is you’re talking about. Having set categories and subcategories in place ahead of time will go a long way in helping you stay on point.
The Purpose of Categories
Pretend someone stumbles upon one of your blog posts on Pinterest. The article is an amazing how-to piece on repurposing an old dresser. The reader loves the article and decides they want to look around your blog for more amazing DIY ideas and home decor advice. But as they start looking around, they can’t find any related content. Instead, there’s an article about grocery budgets and another about what you did this past weekend — not at all what the reader was hoping to find. So, they leave — likely never to return again.
You want to hook your readers from the beginning — having a cohesive blog with well defined categories and subcategories does that. It lets readers know what they can expect from you from the beginning and never leaves them guessing about what you may talk about next!
So, before you sit down to write your first post willy-nilly — stop — write down your 3-5 categories and 3-5 subcategories and keep it handy for reference. You can jot them down on a piece of paper or use a Google Doc to keep track of them — just make sure you reference it frequently to make sure you’re staying on subject!
Now you have your name, niche, categories and blog set up, it’s time to add some amazing content. In the beginning, blogs look bare. That’s okay. A quick fix is to sit down and write 5-10 blog posts that you immediately publish. This makes it appear that your blog isn’t brand new (even though it is) and gives your new readers some material to browse through.
Create Your Content Strategy
Your personality will play a huge role in your blog’s content. Your posts may be funny, informative, slightly snarky, light-hearted — or any combination of writing styles. Some people will love your unique way with words and others will hate it — no problem. That’s the great thing about blogging — it gives you a chance to connect with like-minded people who appreciate your approach to your chosen niche 🙂
So, whatever your style and tone, make sure to keep it consistent. You don’t want to start off writing funny, pun-filled posts and then suddenly switch to serious, academic style writing. It’s confusing and will likely turn off readers you worked so hard to get!
As a part-time blogger looking to earn extra money, you may be tempted to skimp on your post length. But I’m going to strongly recommend against teeny-tiny posts. Instead, focus on creating longform content. The exact definition of longform content varies. Some people say it’s anything more than 750 words. Others say a post needs to exceed 2,000 words to qualify.
For me, longform content is somewhere in between — I make it a point to write blog posts that hit at least 1200 words. Now before you start freaking out, thinking that number of words is akin to writing a novel — it’s totally doable. Just make sure you’re sitting down to write posts with ‘meaty’ topics. You want your posts to be a certain word count but you also don’t want them stuffed with fluff.
Create a Content Calendar
Now that you’re a blogger, you’re going to need an editorial calendar — especially as a part-time blogger. This will keep you organized, on track, and keep you from feeling burned out. After all, blogging as a side business should be a fun way to earn extra money, not a stressful time suck. One of the easiest ways to prevent blogger burnout is to create an editorial calendar.
Simply put, your editorial calendar will show, months in advance, which posts are going live and on which dates. When you have posts scheduled out in advance, you’ll never be scrambling last minute to come up with a post idea or, worse, throw something up on your blog just for the sake of posting.
There are a number of both free and paid plugins you can use. But you don’t necessarily need a plugin — you could keep track of your posts in Google, create a spreadsheet or even an old fashioned desk calendar — really, whatever works for you is fine! Just make sure you brainstorm topics, create content, and schedule everything out in advance. This means when you go to sit down to write once a week, you know that post won’t be going ‘live’ until a month or two later. So, if something happens and you can’t work on your blog during a busy week, no problem, you’ve created a content calendar that keeps going even when you’re tied up.
My personal favorite editorial and scheduling plugin is CoSchedule. It costs money each month — but there are several ways to save on your subscription. If you write a review of CoSchedule on your new blog, you automatically get a 50% discount!
Monetize Your Blog
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably pretty eager to learn how to monetize your blog so you can make extra income each month. And, it’s a good idea to start monetizing right out the gate so, as your traffic grows, so will your income month over month. Bloggers all create different strategies when monetizing their blogs — and as you get more comfortable with yours, you’ll likely make changes and tweaks to maximize your earnings, too.
But to get started, consider these common ways to make money as a part-time blogger.
As an affiliate marketer, you get paid a commission for referrals you make. Even if you have a small blog, you can earn big with affiliate marketing. It’s all about recommending the right products/services. If you were a fashion blogger, you would recommend your favorite clothing and brands. You wouldn’t, however, recommend tech products because your readers turn to your blog for advice on fashion — not electronics purchases.
Some bloggers earn $10,000+ each month with affiliate marketing. It’s not a stretch to think you too could earn even a fraction of that each month as a part-time blogger. For an in-depth look at affiliate marketing, including programs you might want to join, check out my post on how I went from $0 to $2,500 a month in affiliate income in just 5 months.
Advertising Out the Gate
I’m going to come right out and say it: Ads can be annoying. When you’re trying to browse a site and get bombarded with one pop-up after another or full-page ads that are next to impossible to X out of, it can be a major turn off. And that’s why, if you choose to use ads, it pays to use them sparingly. In other words, don’t plaster your posts and pages with a ridiculous amount of ads. Chances are, you’re not earning that much from them anyway and they’re likely preventing you from developing a loyal audience of readers.
Many bloggers forgo ads altogether in favor of creating their own information products. An information product can be any type of digital creation available for purchase on your blog — eBooks, workbooks, courses, webinars are all smart ways to turn your knowledge into paid-for products.
As a part-time blogger, you may be particularly drawn to creating and selling digital downloads on your site since the income made is completely passive. In other words, you can get paid over and over again for doing the work once.
For a complete look at information marketing and how you can benefit from selling info products as a part-time blogger, check out my beginner’s guide to info marketing.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to monetize your blog — affiliate marketing, ads, information products — you’re going to need an audience to make some money. Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need a huge following to see profits each month, but you do need to get people to visit your blog and interact with it by either making a purchase, clicking an ad or viewing a recommended product.
As a part-time blogger, you’ll rely heavily on social media to promote your latest posts and interact with readers. But social media can be a total time suck. And the last thing you want to do is spend all your free time promoting your blog by endlessly tweeting, pinning, and posting — it’s a surefire way to burn out quickly.
Instead, take a cue from pro bloggers out there and take advantage of automation.
Social media automation tools send social updates on your behalf so you don’t have to monitor your accounts 24/7. As a part-time blogger, this makes you look active on social media each and every day even though you may only spend a small chunk of time once a week on social media.
Now this doesn’t mean you should never login and check what’s going on with your social accounts. It does mean, however, that you can spend less time on social media and more time creating killer content and growing your audience (and income).
There are a number of free tools you can use, like Buffer or HootSuite, to start scheduling social posts. My go-to social scheduler is CoSchedule (the same plugin I use for my editorial calendar). CoSchedule lets me easily share old blog posts and keep track of what I’m sharing and how often. The best part is I only spend about an hour each week scheduling my social posts which results in about 50% of my traffic each week.
Pinterest is currently one of the most powerful tools you can use to drive traffic to your blog — regardless of your niche. When I just started out, I thought there was no way Pinterest made sense for a work-from-home blogger like me. After all, Pinterest was all DIY, fashion, recipes and pretty pictures, right? Wrong.
While Pinterest is very much a visual social platform, you don’t need to be in visuals-heavy niche to be successful here. Instead, make sure you create “pinnable” images for each of your blog posts that you can share on Pinterest. I use Canva to do this. It’s a free and easy tool you can use to quickly create vertical images that stand out on Pinterest. There’s even free templates you can use for inspiration.
Once you have pinnable images, you’ll need to start pinning. The secret to success here is pinning around the clock. As a part-time blogger, it’s not practical to sit in front of your computer all day waiting to send out your next pin. That’s where automation it’s a huge helper — and traffic driver to your blog.
While Hootsuite and Buffer are great for Facebook, Google+, Twitter and even Instagram, Pinterest requires a little something extra. That’s why there are scheduling tools exclusively for pinning.
My two personal favorites are Tailwind and BoardBooster. Really, it comes down to personal preference on which you’ll like the most. Fortunately, you can try them both for free before you commit to one or the other. You can try Tailwind for an entire month for free by using this referral link and give BoardBooster a try by using this referral link.
Part-Time Blogging Success
Remember, you’re not likely to see blogging success overnight as a part-time blogger. But, you can create a killer content strategy combined with social media automation that helps your blog grow and, with it, your income each month.
Feeling stuck? Leave your questions in the comments below! I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. Don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Happiness Digest for extra tips and at-home inspiration. You’ll also gain access to the free resource library, created for out-of-the-cube thinkers like you 😉