Generating income from your blog isn't easy (after all, anyone with Internet-connection and an idea can start one), but it's certainly not impossible. Here are ten steps that can help you make money from doing what you love:
1. Identify your niche. The single most important part of having a successful blog is to find the thing you are passionate and genuine about; otherwise you won't be able to sustain content. You need to be willing to think and write about this topic almost every day – or at least a few times a week. Find a unique angle to help you stand out in your niche.
2. Content is king. The main rule about content is that it be good: well-written, well-produced, well-edited. There are great blogs about obscure subjects that do well because the content draws readers (see craftastrophe. net - funny posts with great pictures about bad crafts). Great content does not necessarily imply high-literary writing or gallery-ready photography. It means having a distinctive and well-honed voice that engages readers and leaves them begging for more (see amalah.com - Amy Storch's voice is what carries her content. She's funny, and you feel like she could totally be your best friend).
3. Display ads. Companies will purchase space on your site, usually along the top, bottom or side. These are called banner or button ads and are a source of recurring revenue. You can do this independently or through an ad network. Be aware, this only pays well if you have high traffic. You cannot make a living off of ads alone; unless of course you have page views in the multiple millions.
4. Affiliate marketing. This is where you sell someone else's product (usually a person or company that you trust or value) on your site. It's a "clickthrough" form of advertising. Your readers need to take some form of action, from signing up to a newsletter to buying a product before you see revenue. Amazon is the best-known and easiest. You host a simple widget and your readers can click and make purchases based on your recommendations; you get a commission. Again, you won't get rich doing this.
5. Sponsored content/content-integration. A company pays for placement or product-association on your blog (always disclosed, of course). Be aware, you will need to work hard to develop your audience, your brand, and to promote yourself. If you make a name for yourself in your niche, trust me, companies will notice you. That said, you can always approach them yourself – you'll need to have a well-developed pitch for this - or make yourself known to PR companies, and let them know that you're open to working with relevant brands they might represent.
6. Text link ads. This is where a word, or series of words, on a blog or website are hyperlinked to a specific page on a different site. You can either get paid per link or have a flat fee for publishing the link. Be warned: Google has rules about irrelevant links, and bad link ads can lower your Google Rank. Limit the number of these ads, and make sure they fall within Google guidelines (for example, they're coded as 'no-follow'). These aren't hugely lucrative, so many bloggers forgo them entirely to avoid the hassles.
7. Google ad system. This is one of the more popular forms of revenue generation, but not a lucrative one. Unless you have outrageous traffic, you will see little income; maybe enough for a pack of gum. Google displays simple text and images on your blog that are targeted at your content and reader demographics.
8. Sponsored blog/blog section. Some companies will sponsor a page or section of your blog, if the content is relevant to their brand. You can set up a fixed price and period of time for the relationship. The amount charged varies by blogger. This kind of arrangement commands higher rates than display ads because the company 'owns' a portion of the blog. It doesn't compromise integrity any more than any other kind of advertising does, as long as there's clear disclosure and a good 'fit' (i.e. fashion or beauty brand sponsoring a style section).
9. Sell your services. We all know blogs are a great platform for sharing thoughts and opinions with others. But how about using it to generate new business? You have a captive audience, so why not take the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and business moxie. If your blog is about style and you are a style consultant – let people know. Perhaps they want to hire you for some extra help. Create a page on your blog that outlines your professional skills and gives contact information for anyone who might want to engage you.
10. Social media consulting. Hire out your expertise in social media, once it's developed. As a consultant you know more than how to blog, Tweet and use Facebook – you know details about specific communities and what motivates them. Promote yourself on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or tap contacts in your community. If you want to be considered for spokesperson gigs, speaking or other media-related activities, consider reaching out to a PR, talent or speaking agency.