Make Your Failing Blog Earn With 3 Simple Questions

Carol Tice

Make your failing blog earn. Makealivingwriting.comDo you have a failing blog?

Most blogs are just…sitting there.

How do I know? Because I’ve been reviewing bunches of them as part of the coaching service I’m launching along with my upcoming e-book, Small Blog, Big Income.

At this point in the life of the blogosphere, I have to say I’m surprised. There’s no shortage of advice out there from mega-successful bloggers on how to build a blog-based business.

So what’s up?

I started asking these bloggers questions…and discovered a problem.

Failing blog’s house built on a weak foundation

There are some very basic building blocks that should be in place when you launch a blog — and often, they’re missing.

We press ‘publish’ because we can, without thinking through where we’re headed. The result is incoherent, rambling blogs with no apparent focus…and vague dreams of quitting freelancing and earning from our blogs that don’t come true.

The good news is, it’s never too late to lay a foundation for a blog that earns. Existing blogs can always be rethought and–with the answers to three basic questions–developed into blogs that earn.

Here are the questions you need to answer to make sure you learn how to make money writing:

Find your why

The first question I ask writers of failing blogs is about why they started their blog.

“What is your goal for this blog?”

It’s been amazing to see how many bloggers laugh nervously at this question, and then say:

“I’m not sure,” or

“I haven’t decided yet.”

When you launch a blog that has no goal, it will achieve nothing.

If you don’t have a focus, how will readers ever pick up on the drift of what you want to say? Why would they stick around?

Quick: Name a successful blog you read that has no goal to it. (Post in the comments if you’ve got one!)

Writers start blogs for many reasons — simply to have a creative outlet, as an online journal, for writing practice, to drive traffic to our writer website, or out of a passion for a particular topic.

And that’s all great.

But…if you entertain fantasies that your blog will become a platform for earning money, it needs a focused goal. You need to know why you’re writing this blog, to keep your posts on track.

For instance, when I started this blog, my goal was to share tips with freelance writers on how to earn more. Simple enough.

If you had a goal but now you see things have changed, it may be time to set a new goal. I recommend writing it down.

Imagine all the people…

Once you have a goal for your blog, the next question is:

“Who is the audience for your blog?”

You’d think if you have a blog topic, you know who the intended audience is for that topic. But again, I’ve been surprised by many bloggers’ answers, which typically run to:

“I don’t know.” Or:

“I’m hoping it’s everybody.”

That’s a surefire way to end up with a failing blog.

Even the biggest blogs don’t have an audience of ‘everybody.’ They have an audience of everybody who is interested in a particular topic.

Once you know who you want to read your blog, you can save oodles of time and do many things right. You can:

  • Write in the style and at the grade level of these readers
  • Use slang or acronyms this audience will understand
  • Create a ‘typical reader’ profile
  • Talk to people in your target audience and learn their needs
  • Figure out if these people have disposable income
  • Ask these people what they might buy from you

If you haven’t thought lately about who your reader is, see if you can create a profile– it’ll help you with the next step.

The myth of the magical cash machine

My third and final question for turning a failing blog into one that earns is the question that gets the most baffled looks.

“How will your blog earn money?”

Common answers I’ve heard recently have included:

“I hadn’t thought about that yet.”

“I have no idea!”

“I hope to write a book.”

“I tried Google AdSense ads, and only earned $1.”

Apparently, many bloggers think if they start blogging, an earning method will appear out of the mist. Money will simply appear when the time is right, like the Isle of Avalon emerging from the mists of the lake.

Or new bloggers think that earning methods like AdSense (or making a single e-book into a big seller), that work for bloggers with huge traffic, will work for their tiny blog.

Researching my e-book, I read quite a few of the popular ‘make money blogging’ e-books out there, and that’s what they all seem to say: “Master Google AdSense.”

What? This is a complete fantasy.

To give a spoiler heads-up on the basic gist of my e-book: What earns well for big bloggers with oodles of traffic is unlikely to earn much on a small blog.

Plan now, earn sooner

So how do you earn from a blog, particularly a smaller blog? Products or services your readers ask you for, that you involve them in creating. Not automated ad widgets, or affiliate selling a bunch of unrelated offers of dubious quality.

That’s why you need a goal. And a target reader in mind. Ideally, before you launch.

Then you can ask those readers what they need, build that offer, and successfully sell it — because it’s exactly what your readers wanted. And that’s how you’ll revive your failing blog and start earning from it.

What’s your blog’s goal, audience, and earning plan? Share it into the comments!

Small Blog, Big Income: Make your failing blog earn. Earn Money from your blog!




  1. Kristen

    As someone about to quit my job and move (what better time to tackle my freelance dreams?), this post is so timely for me! I’ve been working on a blog platform that I hope will give me the foundation to get started before I end up back in the 9-5 world in a few months.

    For me, the goal is to have an outlet that let’s me talk about the things I’m interested in, and maybe to build an interesting community along the way. Audience is people like me, “new adults” who are realizing they aren’t happy with where they are in life and want to get to a better place, and the earning plan is (hopefully) centered around affiliate relationships and sponsored posts. And maybe someday an ebook or online course…

    Information on pitching for affiliate relationships and sponsored content work is the #1 thing I’m researching – so much to learn!

    • Carol Tice

      Kristen, could you crystallize your concept of your blog into a blog name and tagline? I’d encourage you to experiment with a few. I worry that the vision is a little vague…and my experience is bloggers can waste a lot of time if they launch without a firm idea of that.

      Sponsored post offers come to high-traffic blogs, so that won’t be an option likely for a year or more after you start out…and sponsored posts need to be handled with care, or they can damage your credibility and make you seem like a sellout. Food blogs seem to do fine with them, but beyond that niche, beware. I don’t know anyone who’s getting sponsored posts from pitching around begging sponsors to sign on. I get approached daily at this point — companies scan the rankings and look for decent traffic. But I’ve chosen not to allow sponsored posts or outside ads of any kind, because of the reputation hit, and how ads alienate readers.

      It’s easier to start affiliate selling with a small audience…but again, there are a lot of minefields. You’ll want to sell only highly relevant products and services for your target audience, ideally those that you have used and can personally recommend. I outline all this in the Small Blog, Big Income e-book, but selling in this way, with integrity — rather than selling random stuff you grab off ClickBank — is the road to being able to sell earlier, to a much smaller audience, without driving them away. Check out my Products I Love page to see what I sell along these lines. I was making over $1000 a year selling just one of those offers, back when I only had about 500 subscribers!

      As far as what ebook or course to develop, the answer is simple: Ask your audience! As you acquire readers, you’ll want to poll, survey, chat them up, and learn about their top needs. The e-book outlines a process for developing offers WITH your readers that guarantees they’ll be successful.

  2. Goyllo

    It’s good to provide premium content for visitors rather than promoting low quality stuff via affiliate marketing.

  3. Chana

    My personal blog isn’t to earn money.

    It’s to put a story, a face, to the people living in Israel. Because the media makes us out to be anti-Muslim monsters. And we’re not. We’re just regular people who don’t want to be the victims in terror attacks.

    So the point is, normalization. Countering biased, lying, media.

    The audience is parents who take an interest in Middle East politics.

    But again, I never thought to make money off it. Sometimes I think I should, but I don’t want to kill my credibility.

    • Carol Tice

      I think political blogs are tough to earn from — but take a look at what similar sites are doing and see if you see an opportunity.

      You didn’t include your blog URL when you entered your info, so I can’t take a look…but if parents and Israel education is the target, maybe you could create a free product like “How to talk to your kids about Israel” and maybe develop an ebook like that, or a course along the way.

      • Chana

        That’s a good idea, Carol. I didn’t even think in that direction.

        I didn’t post my blog url because I don’t want clients to nix me based on my opinions on security and politics. If you like I’ll email you my blog link.

        • Carol Tice

          Chana, if you want me to take a look at it, I’ve got about 15 slots left for some dirt-cheap blog reviews as part of the presale of Small Blog, Big Income —

  4. Williesha

    These are great, and it’s the reason why I chose my personal blog to be critiqued. Like Chana, my blog was never started to make money. But now that I have started writing books, I realized I’m going to need to target them.

    My goal and audience is to give unusual women like myself an outlet – to be critical of current events, to shy away from stereotypical gender roles and interests (hence the title Nerdythirtysomething) while having to live within socially acceptable norms.

    But it’s never had a real earning goal other than very recently – using the portfolio to send to editors when pitching.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, to me freelance writers who are using their blog as a writing sample to get paid freelance writing gigs DO have an earning model — one of promoting your freelance business. That’s legit!

      The bigger challenge is how to move them into earning of their own accord. I have to say, I’m not sure ‘nerdythirtysomething’ accomplished what you want. I don’t get from that that it’s for tech-y young WOMEN necessarily. Could you write/do you have a strong tagline for it that enlightens us further?

      I think bloggers underestimate how critical your name/tagline combo are for orienting and attracting readers.

  5. Jennifer Waddle

    My goal is to encourage women in faith and life.
    My audience is mostly Christian women.
    I have books and small products but don’t know how to use my blog to earn money.
    I’ve tried a few affiliate links, but that usually fizzles out pretty quickly.
    Any ideas?

    • Carol Tice

      Plenty of them, Jennifer! You might want to check out the Small Blog Big Income presale — you get a free live Q&A where I’ll be doing a lot of blog reviews.

      I know the Christian/inspirational niche IS tough…but the question I have for you is — how did you develop those books and products? Was it in a vacuum, or did you involve your audience? I’m doing a lot of blog reviews right now, and finding that most bloggers’ products are developed without talking to prospective buyers. And the results are predictable, for any blogger with a small audience — low sales.

      Also…do you have a free product for subscribers to drive signups, so that you have an audience to involve in your product-development process? Both are key to creating offers that sell.

      Affiliate offers have to be highly relevant, and ideally things you have personally used and can recommend. Check out my Products I Love page here on this blog, for the approach that works reliably to affiliate sell when you only have a small audience.

  6. Eloise

    My initial goal was to show my writing abilities and knowledge about translation in order to get freelance writing/translation work. I haven’t really tried to build it properly and haven’t been good at posting as often as I should. But now I want to make it more focussed and build up an audience – I also plan to publish a novel soon, so I need to get myself a proper platform. It would be good to earn some money from it too! Just need to decide what to focus it on. I probably need to look towards the intended audience of my novel, but catching them through other interests (it’s a fantasy novel, which means a lot of potential teenage readers, but I want to focus my blog at adults) I do martial arts and am an MMA fan, so was half-thinking something along those lines.That wouldn’t fit with the current styling of my website, though. Decisions, decisions! I’ve pre-ordered your book – looking forward to reading more of your advice!

    • Carol Tice

      Eloise, lots of decisions to make there. In my book, step one of the 7 steps to earning is ENVISION. Too many bloggers just start going without a clear sense of WHY they’re doing it or who the audience is for it, or how it will earn.

      I think among my readers are MANY writers who began a blog just as a freelance-writing sample, but now are starting to think bigger about their slant, and how to make it into another revenue stream of its own…and I’m here to help!

      Try writing a 2-3 line business plan for it — ‘it will be named X, for an audience of Y, and its primary earning methods will be Z and Q.’ I think if you can do that, and it makes sense, and you see other blogs in that niche earning, you probably have a viable launch (or relaunch) plan.

      • Eloise

        Thanks for the advice, Carol. I’ll definitely do as you say! Looking at some of your advice, wondering if I need to start all over again with a new name/domain etc. It’s all part of the learning curve 🙂

  7. Kristen

    I’m putting together a plan for a Florida travel blog. I have two goals for this blog: provide writing samples for prospective clients and share my knowledge about things to do when traveling to Florida. Since those are my goals, I feel like my audience is potential clients and those looking for travel information.

    I’ve been tossing around different ways to make money with this blog. Down the road, I might be able to earn some money from sponsored posts, but I realize that will be rather difficult. I’ve also thought about writing an e-book. Perhaps something like, “Day Trips Around Tampa Bay” or, “Insider Secrets About Disney World.” I’ve also thought about doing some affiliate selling about travel products I’ve used and recommend.

    Thanks for raising these questions! I’m trying to put a lot of thought into this blog because I’d like to have a successful launch!

    • Carol Tice

      It’s hard to balance trying to get freelance writing gigs and monetizing a blog to a different audience of travelers.

      But…why not begin by creating a free ‘insider secrets of Disney World’ or something to offer to subscribers? Then, you could be building a list, AND you’d have an e-book sample to show clients. 😉

      Sponsored posts tend to come your way when you have a LOT of traffic…and may not be the best way to earn. What about giving Florida tours, or maybe affiliate selling tour companies’ offerings through a ‘products I love’ page?

  8. Caroline McCarthy

    Thank you for your insights Carol. I started my blog last year as a personal blog, but I also hoped to showcase my writing abilities to potential clients…….I’ve gathered poems and fiction I’ve wrote and published it on there as well. So far I have not shared it with anyone, other than two friends, so it is stagnant to say the least.

    My audience would be mums like me, but I’ve also documented some of my experiences of going through illness, which may also appeal to women going through the same experience.

    I’ve become disillusioned with it as I am taking too long to write posts and then I lack confidence in publishing them.

    Thanks do much for the information you provide. It is invaluable.

    • Carol Tice

      Caroline — there’s a lot of concepts there. Poetry, fiction, illness, memoir. It’s going to be hard to combine them in one blog and make it have a coherent theme and draw and audience.

      Sadly, if you’re looking for freelance writing gigs, fiction and poetry should be on a different site — that tends to send many prospective clients running. They think you aren’t interested in money-earning writing and just want to write your own stuff.

      If you’re taking too long to write posts and don’t feel confident about where this is going…it’s time to reassess. Blogs that earn tend to have super-motivated, passionate bloggers who love what they’re doing.

      Try writing a blog name and tagline that would define a specific topic and audience. If you can do that, it may help you focus it into something you could develop an audience with, and an income around.

  9. Luana Spinetti

    “Name a successful blog you read that has no goal to it”? Nope, I can’t name any, hahah 😀 Even my personal blog has a goal to it (besides, it makes a bit of money with sponsored content, so it still helps me with hosting bills?).

    I love this post, Carol. My blogs already have a target audience, but I need to work more on CTAs and social marketing, as well as make time to write more posts, because I tend to focus too much on client work lately (have to due to the limited time a day I can stay sit to work after I got injured last month, but I’m learning how to use my smartphone to write drafts… even for my blogs ^^ So far it’s working).

    ~ Luana

    • Carol Tice

      Sorry to hear you were injured, Luana!

      What are you using to write on your smartphone? I would think the thumb typing would drive me NUTS…

      • Luana Spinetti

        It was a bad way to start the new year, but I try to be positive about it. Hope surgery next month will fix everything.

        I installed the app and created an account just to write drafts, that I keep as such or publish privately just for testing purposes. Then I login to the account when I’m on my computer and copy/paste to my client’s or my blog.

        Typing on phone IS a huge pain… ^^;

        • Carol Tice

          I DO NOT type anything except quick texts on my phone! I don’t game on my phone. I don’t know how anyone finds that fun! Total torture.

      • Luana Spinetti

        And when I feel too tired to type, I use my phone to record vocal notes than I then transcribe and rewrite for my posts.

        • Carol Tice

          Now THAT is a good idea! I know some other writers who do that as well.

          • Lloyd Hester

            You can also get voice to text apps so you can dictate on your phone which is doable with a bit of practise.

  10. Nicole Gregory

    Great blog Carol! Perfect timing too, how did you read my mind today? That’s knowing your audience!

    I started my blog with the intention to share my experience on how achieving inner peace has been the key to being a more loving person on the outside. I am still going that direction but working on revising it to be more relateable and less my story.

    My biggest learning curve so far is exactly what you mentioned, in needing to focus myself. I came up with a schedule where each day correlates with part of my mission to walk the fine line between taking care of oneself and giving back. Writing about peace in the news and discussing tough questions regarding peace.

    Currently along with my daily posts I am reworking older posts and cutting those not close enough to the brand in which I’m creating. I am terrified of monetizing as I did too early and lost readers. So now I’m trying to keep it more natural and im thinking, first free ebook offering to gain followers through sign up.

    Enjoy your writing very much!

    • Carol Tice

      That free product for subscribers IS the next step. If that helps you boost signups, it’s a sign that you have useful info for this audience.

      If you follow the steps in my Small Blog, Big Income ebook, you’ll never be ‘terrified’ of monetizing again — because you’ll KNOW you have a product your readers want and need.

      But paid products definitely come AFTER the free product, and building subscriptions up to where you’ve got 500-1000 people at least. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to earn enough to make it worth your while creating products.

      I’m not sure writing about peace in the news is on mission — what’s the useful takeaway for readers in that? Remember to always write in service of your reader, not simply because something interests you. It’s fine if the news brings you to an insight that will be valuable to readers — but don’t just sort of riff on your topic. Every post has to help readers.

  11. michelle

    Wonderful article. Thanks. I am brand new to blogging. A virgin blogger, but I started it to help discipline myself to write often and to post excerpts from my upcoming memoir. I would love some feedback or ideas on a new catchy blog name instead of just using my name.

    • Carol Tice

      Michelle — what’s your memoir about? To come up with a name and tagline for your blog, you need to figure out who you want to read this blog and what would catch their attention. Include the reader in your name or tagline, as I do here with “Practical help for hungry writers.”

      • Michelle Monet

        My Memoir will be about my life as a singer, entertainer and impersonator of Barbra Striesand around the world. It is my story of how I was an insecure shy kid and ended up singing on some of the largest stages in the world, how I overcame my fears, anxieties and panic, abusive ex hubby etc. My current BLOG is ‘excerpts’ from my Memoir. As far as WHO I would want to read the blog??? Lets see. Anyone! :)haa! What would catch their attention? Great question too! Ill have to think about that one. Anyone who wants to know some inside ‘scoops’ on showbiz or how someone with lots of talent deals with their insecurities, overcomes them etc. might be my ideal target market. Also on my BLOG I write random posts on creativity, since I am also a visual artist and writer. When I thought of a catchy blog name I thought something like ‘THE CREATIVE SOUL’. “JOURNEY OF A CREATIVE SOUL’. ‘DIARY of a CREATIVE LIFE”?, ‘THE CReaTIVE JOURNEY’, ‘A CREATIVE LIFE”. ‘JOurney of a CREATIVE LIFE..?? something on that line. Id love some more input.

        • Carol Tice

          OK…so we’re building an author platform to sell a memoir. Sounds like you could have some epic book signings where you do some of your impersonating also, maybe at a wine bar or something?

          The thing is, as you told your story there, ‘creative’ isn’t the key word I got out of it. More like something about overcoming fears?

          Also…don’t just blog your book. I’d include other posts that help people who’re insecure — they could riff on news stories, or your life today, or just something you found inspiring for being bold.

          And remember to blog in service of a reader. Naming your blog ‘diary of’ or ‘journey of’ is all about YOU. Your blog should be about helping READERS with THEIR journey. Try to orient the blog name and tagline in that direction.

          • Michelle Monet

            Thanks for responding Carol.
            YOu say ‘so we’re building an author platform to sell a memoir’? Do you mean I am building it?

            YES Overcoming fears! That is one of the ‘take aways ‘from my memoir. One of many actually.

            Yes I dont think I want to just BLOG my book. I definitely agree with you about posting other stories about inspiration. YES I do hear you about the ‘diary’ thing. It is too much about ME! No doubt. I do want my readers to feel that my story will somehow be relatable to their own life, fears ,etc.

            Writing a MEMOIR though is very self absorbed ya know? UNlike a blog:) I am hoping to merge the two somehow.

            Thanks again!

          • Carol Tice

            Well…I think great memoirs use personal story in service of larger themes that impact the reader. And yes, I mean you’re building it — just meant, we’re identifying the goal here.

  12. Scott

    Wow, this was a really timely article for me as well, so thank you Carol.

    I’m gratified that I actually had immediate answers to all three questions, because they’re actually explicitly detailed in my blog’s tagline, mission statement, and elsewhere.

    The mission of my blog is to discuss markets, money, and math, while promoting the values that make those things possible; reason and liberty. My primary audience is retail foreign exchange (Forex) traders. These are the people that sit around exchanging Japanese yen for Swiss francs and such all day. 🙂

    My earnings model consists of three products; paid subscriptions to a members-only section of the blog, ebook sales, and AdSense revenues.

    That being said, the blog doesn’t actually have any following or earnings to speak of at the moment. My challenge isn’t so much in defining the focus. It’s putting in the time to build the products, post consistently, and to figure out the best and lowest cost ways to market the content.

    But your article helped me realize that I’m on the right track, and to succeed all I really need to do is to keep my nose to the grindstone. So thank you again!

    • Carol Tice

      I think forex IS one of those niches where AdSense might actually work, if you have enough traffic…I feel like people accept ads on those sorts of financial sites.

      I love that you have a plan for earning…it’ll evolve as you get to know your audience. Don’t build any paid products before you create a free product and get subscribers. Then, you can ask them what they need from you.

      I’m not sure what sort of members-only content you might develop for this audience, but I’d love to hear, as a finance writer I’d be curious!

      Agree you’ve got your focus and know who your audience is. Now, you need to connect with them and build your authority.

      • Scott

        Hi Carol! Well, once again you’ve hit the nail on the head with this reply. I just realized that I’m causing problems for myself by trying to develop products first and an audience later. You’re right; I’m doing it backwards. However, a few weeks ago I did decide to create a free guide for new traders, using that to help build a following.

        As far as the details of the subscription content, I’m using what I think of as the “Investor’s Business Daily model.”

        You’re probably familiar with that paper. It’s founder, William O’Neil, wrote some books about his stock picking method, which he dubbed CANSLIM. But doing all the research that the method requires is very time consuming for most people, so Bill O’Neil started a daily newspaper that does all the work for you.

        So his books help sell the newspaper subscription, and the newspaper helps sell the books. After all, to understand the data in Investor’s Business Daily, you have to understand the CANSLIM method. So the books and subscriptions cross promote each other.

        That’s the model I use as well. My books describe my market analysis methods. However, doing the analysis is time-consuming. So in my subscription section (analogous to Bill O’Neil’s IBD), I provide a dashboard of weekly analysis results, so traders don’t have to do all that work themselves each week.

        Thank you again for this site and all you do!

        • Carol Tice

          Got it — and free product for subs you should definitely go ahead and do! Rest will flow from your audience input. Sounds like it’s got potential! Everybody wants to learn a method for doing well trading.

  13. Zoraida Rivera

    This article rang a bell. I’ve been wanting to create a blog for some time now to give families ideas and skills to work out the challenges of family life. It would be a blog for parents. The main goal isn’t making money, yet it wouldn’t hurt.

    Yet, I write poetry, fantasy and self-help and would like to integrate them, but read it wasn’t a good idea to do so. I wish to promote my work, much of which is for children. To make things more complex, I write in Spanish and English. I’m focusing on poetry and picture books this year because I’ve read about specializing.

    I have a background in education and counseling. I love writing, but I wish my family could see that all my hard work brings some money home.

    Any comments or clarifications are most welcomed.

  14. Nicholas La Salla

    Hi Carol! I picked Forest City Short Film Review for my coaching review. My goal is to provide independent filmmakers with a platform to be taken seriously on a critical and entertainment level. I am not sure how to monetize as of yet — I have a donation system in place for expedited reviews, but that is about it. I have been working on this blog for the past three years and can attract around 3000 views per month.

    Thank you for taking a look and for all of your advice.


    Nicholas La Salla

  15. Rory

    Hi Carol,
    Great article; thanks for putting distilling (and emphasizing the importance of) this part of the process. Although writing has been the main staple of my career, I just recently decided to get serious about developing a brand for my byline. I’ve been devouring your articles — it’s all so relevant!
    I can answer two of the questions, but I’m having a hard time on the third. I want to focus on the intersection of environmental concerns and energy demands, and my audience will be energy-industry and environmental professionals and academics. What would be most helpful for them is high-quality, well-sourced, unique content that helps each perspective understand how to best interact with and influence the others.
    There is some profit potential for recommending good books on the on topic, but I’m not sure that there is much potential for other products to market. Books and perhaps a paid-subscription service are on my radar, but any other ideas you can think of? Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      My experience is affiliate selling books is mostly a loser’s game — unless you have a ton of traffic, or those books are the $75 kind. 😉

      Maybe you could recommend an environmental engineering firm, if you’ve used them? Selling higher-ticket services or maybe certification courses in this area might work better. But first, build a subscriber list. 😉 Then, they can tell you what they need most and help you create products they’ll buy.

      • Rory

        Appreciate the guidance; thanks!

  16. Cynthia

    The third question makes me wonder if affiliate marketing or Adsense really work. I am an affiliate marketer but I haven’t had any huge earnings from it. My blog brings me clients, and they bring me money. So my blog helps me make money indirectly. But on second thoughts, my blog bringing me a steady stream of clients is much more worthwhile for me than people coming to my site and clicking ads. Another helpful post, Carol. Your blog is like my freelance writing bible 😉

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks, Cynthia!

      You point up one of the other BIG problems with Adsense and affiliate marketing: In essence, you’re sending YOUR reader away from your site, to buy from someone else.

      Many bloggers I hear from have your same report, Cynthia — “I’m using Adsense (or affiliate marketing), but I’m not earning much from it.”

      Which makes me ask — then why do you keep doing it? It doesn’t strengthen your reputation to refer people away for sales. That builds their relationship with wherever you sent them, instead of with your site.

      If your blog is getting you freelance gigs, taking down ads would probably help you get MORE clients, as it’s confusing to go on a writer site and see ads. It makes prospects wonder what your focus is.

  17. Rossi Thomson

    Thank you for your insights. I bought your new book and I am just now sinking my teeth in it.
    I started my blog when we moved to live in Italy from the UK a year and a half ago. I wanted to jot down memories of our time in this beautiful country and at the same time provide useful information to people planning to make the same move or looking for travel information about the Italian region we live in. Slowly I started adding some reflection-type posts, too. Initially I thought I should use my blog both as a diary/creative outlet and as a portfolio with sample articles to show travel sites and publications in order to get commissioned to write for them. It hasn’t worked out for me with regards to the former. I found that there is a huge number of eager freelancers happy to write for free and large newspapers and other travel/expat outlets are only too happy to use their services. I even wrote three rather successful pieces for the online edition of a huge and very respected British newspaper, but even though two of those articles were shared over a couple of thousand times on social media, the newspaper didn’t provide monetary remuneration, so I thought I should keep my best writing for my blog. I appreciate everything I learned about blogging since I started over a year ago and I am now developing a topic-specific blog which will be easily monetisable and very niche especially in comparison with my current personal travel/lifestyle blog.

    Best wishes,


    • Carol Tice

      Well, the NEW book isn’t out yet, so I’ll assume you’re reading How to Be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger. 😉

      There’s plenty of money in writing travel — but it’s mostly in writing for the travel COMPANIES. Because so many people want to write consumer travel, it is hard to find good-paying markets for it. But when you hit free ones — just move on! There ARE paying travel markets out there.

      As you’ve found, trying to combine personal diary with useful travel articles doesn’t work well. Those are really two separate blogs!

      So, what’s your ‘easily monetisable’ idea?

  18. Colleen Valles

    Helpful and timely post, Carol! I’ve thought about the first two things, but not really an earning plan. My blog is about slowing down and simplifying so we can make time for what we love. I think our culture focuses too much on busywork and not enough on the important work we were all meant to do.

    My audience is harried, stressed, working moms, who aren’t pursuing the things that are important to them, whether that’s a creative endeavor or volunteering or starting a business. I’d like to help my readers get to a place of calm, and focus, confident that what they do each day focuses on their priorities, on themselves and those they love.

    Right now, I’m trying concentrating on trying to guest post to grow my readership. I currently have four subscribers including myself, which is four more than I had in October, but still pretty pathetic. I’m having a bit of a tough time getting potential guest post opportunities to respond to me, so monetizing hasn’t been top of mind right now. Not sure what would be good for a blog like mine, though I know there are some really big bloggers in my niche. I appreciate any ideas. Thank you!

    • Carol Tice

      With 4 subscribers, there isn’t much monetizing to do right now — concentrate on creating a free product for subscribers, guest posting, and building your audience.

      There are definitely MANY blogs that do well in the simplicity/mindfulness/true calling niche — try Tiny Buddha or Zen Habits, for instance.

      Take a look at what the big bloggers are doing in your niche to earn, for ideas on what works! I feel like I see many creating mindfulness or meditation courses or events.

  19. Frank Phillips

    Good point! I’m saving this so I can act on it.

  20. Katherine Swarts

    Add one more to the “timely for me” list. I have two major niches–general inspiration/encouragement for those with mental-health/stress issues, and “showcase your expertise” services for fellow entrepreneurs. I’ve tried both inspirational and how-to-write blogs in the past without attracting much attention, and at present am in the idea stage of planning a blog that could combine the two basic ideas, as in “caring content.”

    I do already have several salable products (short books mostly) and more in the works, and have an appointment coming up to consult with two experts on “publicizing and monetizing your books.”

    Incidentally, if there’s anything harder to find than a successful blog with no goals, it has to be a successful written product that EVERYONE finds to their taste and NO ONE has anything bad to say about.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, that’s definitely a point bloggers need to keep in mind. I can assure you that as soon as you put something out, SOMEBODY won’t like it, will tell you it has nothing new they can’t find free on the Internet, and so on. Bloggers who aim to sell need a thick skin! As long as you have a core audience that tells you the information is helping them, those are the people to concentrate on.

      Katherine, as far as ‘caring content,’ — who would the audience be for that, maybe nonprofit marketing managers? And how would it earn?

  21. Michelle

    Hi Carol,

    This was a very insightful article!

    I want to start a blog with the purpose of sharing book reviews and advising readers what to read next and of the great authors out there.

    I imagine my audience to be mostly women from age 18 and up, as I read mostly women’s fiction and nonfiction in the form of self development. I believe my content it would appeal most to women although some men might enjoy it as well.

    The part I struggle most with is coming up with a kind of product I can offer. I have seen on other book blogs that they’ve given away a reading journal they created, which is a great idea, but I don’t want to be copying them. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks for sharing this great article! It gets me really excited about the idea of creating this blog.

    • Carol Tice

      Michelle…there are a million book-review sites out there. I’d strongly recommend doing some heavy research before starting another one.

      Affiliate selling books tends to earn little, even with a substantial audience, because the price of books is so low. (I know, I tried it!)

      I think these sorts of blogs are fairly tough to monetize…but take a look at what Goodreads and the other BIG sites like this are doing for earning strategies.

      I’d also think about two things:

      1) Niching your audience so it’s not all women 18 and up, and all genres. It’s probably too general.
      2) What sorts of content you could provide IN ADDITION TO reviews. It’ll probably take more than that to stand out. When I Google ‘book review blog,’ I get 330 MILLION results.

  22. Bethany

    I’ve thought about starting a blog chronicling my journey to living a greener life, and reviewing green books and products. My audience would be young adults who want to move beyond recycling, and learn how to really live a greener life. My goal would be driving people to a writer website (the environment is one of my niches), and maybe monetize at some point. Does this sound feasible?

    • Carol Tice

      Research it, and see if there are some popular blogs in this niche, and if so how they’re earning. Young adults aren’t necessarily an audience with a lot of money…but freelance writers are broke, too, so it may still be feasible. 😉

      Also, if the blog is the main focus, you might sell under a ‘hire me’ tab on the blog, rather than building a second site for writing. If the blog is popular that can convert well.

  23. Amy

    Hi Carol,

    I am just starting to seriously consider freelance writing and have found your site to be incredibly helpful! I am considering a blog to showcase some of my writing and also to help earn a bit of extra income. I found your specific advice to be both helpful and in line with what I was already thinking. I’m not quite ready to divulge my thinking publicly yet, but I do have an amateur question in line with this thread: how do I find other blogs on the topics I am interested in (i.e. potential competition)? I’ve tried google–seems very broad. Pintrest helps, but I feel like I’m missing something. Suggestions?

    • Carol Tice

      Put keywords in SEMrush, is one way. Google also has a ‘blogs’ tab, though they’ve redesigned and hidden it pretty well, or you can search blogs or BEST blogs.

  24. Kate

    Hi Carol,

    I started my blog just under 2 years ago to just start something different and new. Also to take my mind off of my 8 to 5 job that I had grown tired of, burned out from and needed to feel like I can make a difference in my life and maybe others. I have since quit that job and am working the same job at a smaller more personalized office. But I’m still feeling terribly stuck and want to do something different. Trying to figure that out, and I have neglected my blog. Mentally it’s tough to focus on writing when I am burned out and frustrated w/ where I am.
    Anyway, when I focus, the goal of my blog is to tell people about trips that my husband and I have taken and things we have done to hopefully get them to do the same, or get them to try something new. In our free time, we go to breweries and wineries and when we travel that is what we seek out, new places. I haven’t asked my audience what they want, I will do that! My audience I believe has disposable income, they like wine and/or beer and traveling, they are 35 to 60 (I’m guessing mostly). As far as making money and goals, nothing concrete. A friend of mine suggested I create different tour itineraries for my audience. But, I haven’t obviously done that, I have lots of doubts. However, your suggestion to ask my audience would be quite appropriate, so I am not guessing and wasting time on something that people may not even want!
    When people go to my blog there is an immediate pop up to sign up for my newsletter, however, I haven’t done that either!! I must admit, I’m terrible at setting goals, however the more I type this, the more I realize that is what I need to do, weekly and even daily to keep focused and get things done.
    Any ideas, suggestions, critiques, etc I am open to. I know that you had worked a full time job and managed to become 100% freelance writer in a short amount of time. I have been in retail sales for 30 years and struggle with figuring out what other income streams are out there. It’s as though my head thinks one way, but my heart tries to push me another direction, or directions.

    Thank you

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like a great niche, Kate — I’d cook up a free guide to 10 great beer & wine tours around the world, or some such, for subscribers to drive more signups, for starters. And then yes — start asking. Maybe you and your husband could lead some tours and earn that way! I know someone who does this as her blog niche — Travel Belles, she leads all-women tours —

      • Kate

        Thank you Carol! Great ideas. We have been doing some wine tastings locally, but featuring wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy then Italy, that gets the ball rolling to open my eyes to a much larger picture.

  25. Diana Murdock

    Hi Carol, yep. Perfect timing for me as well. I just started a blog last month about my ex and his recently diagnosed CTE. The plan for this is a little bit of everything. To tell his story (his past and what now lies ahead for him), to reach out to other women/family in this situation and offer support, and to offer insight into the disease. I’m not certain how to monetize it as of yet. I was waiting for your book to come out, actually. I published the initial post just to get it rolling. I will be adding more to the site in the next week or so, like CTE research information, photo gallery, etc., as I keep thinking of ways to expand this.

    Any thoughts of different ways to monetize the blog?

    • Carol Tice

      Diana — first, you’ll need to crystallize your focus beyond ‘a little bit of everything,’ which doesn’t tend to be a concept that can be monetized.

      I’d recommend broadening it beyond this one diagnosis — many people deal with a sick spouse or ex.

      I always remember how Mary Jaksch blog Goodlife Zen started out with a tagline along the lines of ‘improving your Zen practice’ — very niched to only Zen practitioners — but later became Practical Inspiration for a Happier Life.

      And suddenly, the audience was much broader. See what I mean?

  26. Mopelola Gloria Adeyeye

    What’s my niche. I started a blog but am scared to put anything out that may be a book in the future? I am just yesterday realized I may be a writer. I always thought I was 100% artsy, but i have been on a mission to find what I am good at. I am fascinated by downtown baltimore city, I am just scared enough to work there. I was born in New York City, I was Raised in Lagos city, Nigeria. I work in Baltimore City and I live in Downtown Columbia, but when I go for a walk or ride on the bus I see things, I see the smiles on their faces, I see people helping each other and I see the history right there in downtown. When my muse is working I write down stories from nothing, like a rain or a homeless person. I take pictures and post them. I look at the buildings in downtown where i work and I see history. I also see that it is slowly being urbanized.But I seared after listening to the escaped video and nobody writes about them people only write about the beautiful places, like restaurants, events etc

    Thanks a bunch!

    So how do I find a niche when I want to go back to sewing, I plan events and deliver balloons. I Collect antique clothes and accessories to sell and I want to help teens, divorced and widowed parents

    • Carol Tice

      Those are a lot of interests!

      The answer is to find the intersection between one of your interests and a topic that people would pay money for.

      There are some great visual blogs that I believe do well, such as Humans of New York.

  27. Ben Russell


    Thanks for all the wonderful advice. I’ve been reading your site extensively this past week, as I’ve decided to take writing more seriously. I have a consistent client that is not a mill, per se, but the rates are similar. While other “conditions” (deadlines, payment times, staff interaction, etc.) are better with this client, I’d like to expand, improve, and diversify.

    The goal for my blog is to share what I learn about freelance writing as I learn it. I’d like to take my audience on a journey of my success and failure, showing how well adapting can help a writer to push through mistakes. Secondary goals include creating a record of my progress for my own benefit and cross-promoting my growing freelance business and social media. Basically, it’s meant as a marketing tool for other products or for other platforms to sell other products, but it won’t be its own money-maker.

    My intended audience is aspiring writers who have yet to take the plunge, and experienced writers stuck in unsatisfying routines that could use some perspective. I don’t want to directly monetize my blog, but I do hope to tie it into my freelance business network. I should be able to seamlessly drive traffic to my social media. I don’t know what additional services to offer yet, but I have a few ideas. I could provide more in-depth explanations of how I self-market, land clients, and run my business. I’ll also ask my audience once I have more of a readership.

    Here’s my problem: I’m worried about committing to a name. Again, I have a few ideas, but I think they’re all cheesy. I’ve even scoured a dictionary for potential alliteration options!

    I feel like I could take cues from other bloggers in a similar space. Do you have any other favorite writing blogs to give me some name inspiration?

    Thank you so much. As soon as I am able, I plan to join the Den, and until then, I’ll read and re-read your free ebook.

    Best wishes,


    • Carol Tice

      Ben…I have to tell you, there are already about 1,000 writers doing exactly what you describe. “I’ll write about how I break into freelance writing.”

      Here are the problems I’ve seen with these sites:

      1) 99% of them are going nowhere. No comments, no traffic, no subscribers, no shares.
      2) The other 1% are selling advice about how to do it — even though THEY ARE NOT YET A PROVEN SUCCESS AT DOING IT THEMSELVES. Not to be old-fashioned, but where I come from, we call that…fraud. Having a couple good months does not a freelance expert make.
      3) A blog about how you’re a newbie freelance writer isn’t necessarily the best positioning to show to prospective clients, who’ll realize they don’t have to pay you much. I don’t think it supports getting good freelance rates.
      4) If there’s an audience out there that’s more broke than my audience of aspiring, mid-career, and established writers, it would be an audience of only aspiring writers.

      I can’t caution writers enough to BEWARE of brand-new freelance writers who want to be your freelance business coach, or sell you a course about how to break in. I actually had a mentee recently who told me the name of her business coach — and I about fell over, because it’s someone I happen to KNOW has been a freelance writer for under one year!

      In Freelance Writers Den, I scrape many of these people off the sidewalk after they follow the amateur advice these instant-gurus gave them, and ended up homeless.

      Any freelance writer who hasn’t survived at least one major economic downturn (I’ve been through three) is someone who has little knowledge of what this really takes, when the chips are down.

      I don’t think your primary worry is choosing the right name for your blog here. It’s that you’re starting a blog about an area you don’t know anything about yet. If you have a passion you already have experience in, you may do far better focusing on it.

      A lot of freelance writers think they have to write about writing if their blog is to attract clients…but it’s not true at all. What you need is a SUCCESSFUL blog, in any niche aside from porn or politics. That’s what attracts prospects.

  28. Sereena Assih

    I’m considering starting a blog exploring the idea of ways to earn a full time income working part time hours.

    Do you think this would be a good idea for a niche?

    I currently have a part time job in a call centre, and although I’m exceeding all targets and am a candidate for promotion to another role, I’ve been told this is unlikely to happen unless I want to go full time.

    At the moment, that’s not what I want to do as I have three young children and an elderly Grandma who I help care for.

    My idea is to post twice a month, and interview people who are already generating a good income in part time hours so they can share their tips and experiences.

    I hope to monetise it so it can fund my exit from the day job, and also act as a writing sample for prospective clients.

    • Carol Tice

      Sereena…I’m not sure there are that many people out there who DO generate a full-time income working part-time hours, really. I’m sure there’d be reader interest, but not sure how you’d develop the content.

      You’d need to do so much more than ‘post twice a month’ — you’d need to guest post, network, find mentors and collaborators. There’s a lot to promoting a blog to get an initial audience!

      I’m sure there’s strong interest in the idea on the reader side — but does your current part-time job give YOU a full-time income, where you’d have the authority to write on this topic? If so, that would help.

      • Sereena Assih

        Thanks for your insight and pointing out the issues to consider.

        Unfortunately my part time job doesn’t pay me a full time income…I wish it did.

        My interest in the subject comes from the frustration of trading pounds for hours and the limits that places on your earning potential.

        Is it possible to have a successful blog based on interviewing other experts as the main content?

        I’m thinking along the lines of the Eventual Millionaire with Jaime Tardy.

        Her blog content consists of video interviews with entrepreneurs.

        Thank you.

        • Carol Tice

          Well, there are lots of entrepreneurs. Certainly, people do make blogs out of interview content…I’m just not sure how many interviews you could find for that theme. And there’s a credibility issue — why do we believe these people only work part-time hours? We just take their word for it?

          • Sereena Assih

            Thanks again, perhaps I’ll rethink the topic.

        • Carlin

          I think you should start the blog of your dreams. There are other people who have interview websites that make money. They also make money because the provide value to people. And, if you do start it, you should check out people who do interviews on their sites…. you have a great idea worth pursuing.

          Check out for ideas.

          • Sereena Assih

            Hi Carlin, thank you so much for your encouraging words. I’ll check out the link you posted.

  29. Kristi

    My blog’s goal when I developed it was to help new moms learn the parenting ropes by providing tips, shortcuts and relating to the craziness of being a parent.

    My readers are new moms, late 20s to late 30s, who are shell-shocked by the whole newborn thing, going to back to work (whether in the home or out of it) and looking for answers to solve parenting problems (sleep, feeding, entertainment, discipline, etc.). I target those moms from pregnancy through baby, toddler and preschooler stages. I aim for the content to be conversational, practical and heartfelt, and not afraid of talking about the nitty gritty of parenting.

    I abandoned my blog at the end of 2013, just as it was gaining some real nice traffic (10,000/mo.) because I started getting paid writing gigs. I only had so much free time and I chose to use it on the paid gigs. However, I had made a bit of money from the blog through sponsored posts for the American Cancer Society and Dove.

    Now that I’ve gone full-time freelance, I’m thinking about ramping up my blog efforts again to see if I can generate an income stream to supplement my freelance writing. Ideas for monetization include:

    1. Sponsored posts

    2. Amazon store (I think you can create a store page on your blog and populate it with your product picks and earn money through the associates program. I would stock it with my fave newborn essentials/layette items, breastfeeding and pumping items, parenting books, strollers, carriers, toys, etc.)

    3. Google adsense

    4. Creating an ebook. Something along the lines of “101 Tips for New Moms” but snazzier.

    5. Freelance gigs – hopefully I’d get some interest from companies in the kid/pregnancy space

    What do you think Carol?

    • Carol Tice

      Can’t wait to get my ebook into your hands, Kristi.

      Nobody with traffic at that scale earns anything meaningful from either AdSense or an Amazon store on their site. Really, just save yourself the time. And those are all about sending people AWAY from your site to buy from someone else…which doesn’t build your bond, your authority or credibility with your readers. Now, you’re just another site that’s junked-up with ads.

      A better way to go is the Products I Love page format you can see on this blog.

      Apparently you WERE getting sponsored posts. If they didn’t make people unsubscribe, maybe that’s working? But there’s only so many of those you can do before you start to lose credibility and just seem like a site of ads.

      An ebook, certainly! Or three.

      And yes, it could be an audition piece for freelance gigs. But I’d think more on the monetizing strategies, because I believe ads also drive away prospects. They assume hey, you’re monetizing your blog, so you don’t really need my work. It’s hard to play it both ways, with overt ads and using the blog as a writing sample.

      • innocent Akoma

        what a wonderful article! I am new in blogging, my goal is actually to help small businesses and new start ups with information that could enable them establish and successfully run their businesses.
        my target audience are the small businesses and start ups in Nigeria. my problem now is how I can be focused and to align my skills and years of experience to properly educate them. I will equally will be involved in freelancing and coaching later. however I do not know a lot about blogging, I seriously need your help. please kindly look at my site and advice me more, thanks.

        • Carol Tice

          Innocent, I’m going to do a free blog feedback day on a post coming up next week, as the Small Blog, Big Income e-book launches, so stay tuned for that! That ebook, along with my How to Be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger, will probably both be very helpful to you.

  30. Roberta Griffin

    Hi Carol,

    I haven’t begun a blog yet because I’m not sure of:

    1. If my blog idea is realistic – Short stories based on paranormal
    2. I’ve sold one screenplay (Paranormal/Horror) and am currently working on the first book of a trilogy that is also paranormal.
    3. I also would like to offer copywriting services as a source of income as I continue to work on my screenplays and books.
    4. Should I keep my copywriting website separate from my blogging and book site? Or should I link them or keep them all on one site?

    In looking at what I just wrote, the only way I can foresee making an income from my blog is by selling my books, which will be not too far down the road. So in order to do that should I blog about paranormal events, create short stories and post them to my blog? Any advice will help. I am going to order a copy of your book for guidance but I thought I might get your thoughts on my idea for a blog, if you have a moment.

    • Carol Tice

      I’d definitely keep the copywriting separate — fiction confuses companies and makes them think you don’t really want their gigs.

      Congrats on the screenplay sale! I had one piece optioned once…didn’t go anywhere but it was good for $20K in option fees. 😉

      A blog is definitely a great way to help build reader interest and sell books — think about what you could do in posts that would attract the readers you want. And then…guest post and get in front of similar authors’ readers, and for portals for your genre.

      For more blog tips, secret hint — I’m going to do a day of free blog feedback on launch day for SBBI, right here on the blog! Everyone who comments that day will get a piece of feedback, and I’ll actually look at each writers’ blog. Going to be fun. 😉

      • Roberta Griffin

        Thanks Carol. You’ve given me some great advice. Looking forward to launch date of SBBI 🙂

        • Carol Tice

          It’s today, Roberta! You can get it at

  31. Adriana Lipa

    The goal of my first blog was to practice my English after starting a life in Ireland. My audience was just my family and friends and, however, it might seem unimaginable in XXI century, I didn’t mean to earn on it – as an introvert, I was rather looking for a space where I can speak and get used to “being put out there.

    I want to start a new blog about the entrepreneurial movement because I have many friends who started their businesses, I am hustling myself now on photo stocks and two websites.
    I think that it could be cool if I could earn money from it by making it an advertising platform where entrepreneurs can connect with people who need them. Also, I could write an e-book on how to start your own business with ideas and real-life examples (case studies).

  32. Freda

    Hi Carol, Just found your post thank you for the great info. I have been blogging for a while but have only now decided to start earning money through ebooks and Adsense Thanks for the great and timely post. I started my blog with no plan in place just random posts about Caribbean Food, Travel and lifestyle.( ) I get lots of visitors to my blog but had no way of getting those visitors information.
    I am now in the process of adding a opt in form with a free giveaway offer, or something else in that line
    I have been approached to guest post on a few blogs and started a few guest post but slacked off after awhile because of lack of focus.
    I am now ready to become more serious about my blogging and need some ideas on how can I make my blog more profitable ? Should I have a blog name. I will be checking out your book small blog big income. Thanks again for sharing such great information. God bless Freda

    • Carol Tice

      Freda, for a spot of feedback on your blog question, see the post coming up on Wednesday!
      But one tip in the meanwhile — if you’re serious about earning from a blog, you’ll need to get it off free Blogspot.

  33. Freda

    Hi again Carol question 2) should have read Should I have a blog name change) Thanks again for taking the time to answer

  34. Carlin

    “When you launch a blog that has no goal, it will achieve nothing.” This is so true. The other thing I found frustrating when I first started blogging or making niche websites was how to be authentic. My goal was often to try to be someone I wasn’t because I thought so and so was really freakin’ cool. Authenticity is often the first step of creating a blog that has a goal. Love your advice 🙂 I just found your site recently and find your work inspiring. Thanks for being authentic!

    • Carol Tice

      Authenticity definitely rules the Internet. People can really smell it, even through those wires, when you’re feeding them a line.

      I saw your site is about setting up “affiliate sites,” where the whole point is just to affiliate sell. Does that work, where you sell no products of your own? I’ve really rarely met anyone who does well that way, just grabbing a bunch of affiliate stuff and sticking it on a site. It doesn’t deliver much value to readers, if it’s all products you could get in scores of other places, too, I find. But I’d love to hear your experience.

      • Carlin

        It’s interesting that your takeaway is that the goal is to “grab a bunch of affiliate stuff and stick it on a site”. That’s not the goal at all.. in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The post on the front page is about writing quality content that adds value and helps consumers make an informed decision on what to buy. and Darren Rowse are great examples of a successful affiliate site… and his site is a prime example. In fact, he speaks to his affiliate sales on Problogger and how he tweaked his content strategy on DPS to increase affiliate sales by talking not just about photography tutorials, but he spent more time writing product reviews and inserting affiliate links into his content to increase affiliate earnings.

        In my experience, I have one site I focus on that is about camera bags and gear used with photography. I am a bag designer and a photographer so writing about both on one blog makes sense for me. I love both niches and can speak about both with confidence. My income is not enough to live on, but it is enough to make me keep writing and see where it goes over the next couple of years.

        Now that I make a little bit of extra cash and have learned a few things, I also want to write about what I’ve learned. Adding in affiliate links to products makes sense on the blog you saw yesterday. If I can offer advice and produce quality content that helps people in their own quest to make money online, why not benefit from it if they use a product I mention or have found a useful tool also?

        Affiliate marketing isn’t just grabbing links to stuff and sticking it on a site. I am sure people make money that way, but that’s not what I am advocating.

        • Carol Tice

          OK, well, relieved to hear that!

          I’d challenge your notion that Problogger is an affiliate-oriented site. I think the main thrust is to sell his own products, and he ALSO affiliate sells. He sells his own public speaking and e-books, among other things. That’s the positioning that works well, in my experience.

          And he’s a successful affiliate seller because his audience is HUGE. Which is my point in my new ebook — most of us will never have that size audience, and need to sell in other ways than the big guys. People like Darren who launched in the early days of blogging had a much less crowded field than we face today, too, and it was so much easier to build a very large audience.

          Certainly, putting in affiliate links that are relevant to readers while you’re talking about is OK…but as your income level demonstrates, not a way for a small blogger to make a living.

          As you report, it’s a ‘little bit of extra cash’ — because strongly affiliate selling to a small audience yields small money.

          It’s not a route to a full-time income for a low-traffic blog, because sending people away from your site to buy other things dilutes your authority and doesn’t build your relationship with your readers. You’re just one of thousands of sites like that. Why should they subscribe to yours, or click your links?

          At some point, you need some unique products or services of your own to sell. Simply putting affiliate links on all the posts you write in the end makes the blog feel salesy, and people catch onto that. It’s a turnoff that sends readers away, when they get your whole point is to affiliate sell them stuff. It quickly becomes clear the real point of every post is simply to deliver an affiliate link, rather than to truly help readers with their problems. I think it’s telling that you don’t mention anything about what your readers’ main pain points might be and your mission to help solve them, just about how you hope to affiliate sell products.

          If you’re at least writing about products you have personally used and can recommend, that strengthens your hand.

          I meet many writers in your boat, who’re hoping putting affiliate links on their posts, or banners in their sidebar, will be their route to a full-time income. But for most of us, that won’t pan out, as we’ll never have 1 million monthly views (the kind of traffic level that makes affiliate selling truly viable as a solo strategy for earning real money).

          I hope you get a chance to read the e-book, as it maps out a proven program for earning a full-time income without having to be the next Darren Rowse traffic-wise! Sounds like you have some real potential for that with the knowledge you have in your niche.

          • Carlin

            The “main pain points” for my readers are how to get their camera gear around town in a bag they like. I write about camera bags. Linking to camera bags via affiliate links is completely valid and justifiable to the readers. They need to be directed to a place to buy the bag – affiliate links are the breadcrumbs leading the way to a site where they can purchase the product.

            In regards to creating my own content….the next step for me would be to design a line of camera bags, have it manufactured, and launch my own product line via my camera bag blog. The blog would be the perfect advertising platform.

            At the moment I don’t have the time to do that because I am launching a brand in another product niche related to home goods. Can’t do everything! 🙂

            Yes, traffic is everything, and to get more traffic one has to produce quality content.

            I’m at about 3,000 viewers monthly right now in my little camera bag blog world and happy with the progress and direction things are going 🙂

            It’s not a super deep niche with high price points, but it’s something I enjoy writing about and curating posts about.

            I’ll take a look at your book. Thanks!

  35. Kathy Gaudry

    You have so clearly defined the problem that so many blogs face today. Many writers have not organized their thoughts (remember high school English class?), plus they know very little about a business plan. If people are quitting their day jobs to blog, they had better prepare a business and marketing plan to assist them in the transition to self-employment. Good job, Carol–you are telling them like it is!

  36. Emmanuel Uzoezie

    Hello Carol.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts why blogs fail and I must say that starting a blog without know “why” your blog is out there is actually one of the main reason blogs fail.

    One of my main reason for my own blog is to review internet marketing products and share more ideas on how to build an online business, and I noticed that when I have this focus in mind, I am able to deliver more value to my target audience and walk along my designated path.

    Sometimes, it might be difficult to remain focus with so many distractions online from social media to youtube and the rest of them. But if we can really remain focus on our goal, I believe blogging could be more profitable.

    Thanks for sharing!

  37. Myria

    Hello Carol,’

    Thank you very much for the advice. As of now I am still trying to figure out how to exactly find my target audience. I started my blog last year, have got a few thousand views so far. I know what my target audience is, but don’t necessarily know how to go about finding the information needed to reach them.
    I currently no longer have a job, and am working to figure out freelance writing, and making my blog profitable. My site is currently being revamped to make it better for acquiring more readers.
    What would you suggest for someone who is trying to find out the information needed to reach the target audience that want?

    • Carol Tice

      Myria, have you read my Small Blog, Big Income ebook? It lays out EXACTLY how to build your blog to earn. I’m also running a mastermind based on the principles in the ebook —

      • Myria

        I haven’t read it yet, but I most certainly will read it. How long would you say it took you to begin to earn money from your blog when you started it in 2008?

        • Carol Tice

          Well…as you’ll read in the book, I did a lot of things wrong (that you can skip by reading the book!). From when I got serious about building it into a business in late 2009/early 2010, it took about a year, I’d say. Again, I could do that faster now, knowing what I know at this point. But that’s the point of my mastermind, to avoid a lot of wasted time.

          I wasn’t really TRYING to earn from it until late 2010 — wasn’t selling anything. Which I really recommend — not trying to sell right off the bat. It won’t work, anyway. You need to build some rapport first…the book outlines how to go about that.

          • Myria

            Great thank you so much for the information I will be getting the book

  38. Fitzerrol Rose


    What would you suggest for a brand new beginner , just to get started ?


    • Carol Tice

      Well, I’ve written about 10 ebooks now, filled with what I suggest 😉 A lot depends on what you’re trying to achieve, as a freelance writer. Maybe you’re looking to launch a blog, since you’re commenting here on a thread about personal blogs?

      But a short answer would be: Get started. Find a client (or write a blog post and press ‘publish’). Get some feedback. Listen closely — and respond. Get better. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Really, I haven’t done much else, for the past decade. 😉

      • Fitzerrol Rose

        Thanks Carol. I like it.

        No way to do it, but”Just do it “, …like Nike says.

  39. Richard Haynes

    Excellent article and expert advice that many of us are looking for.
    I started a blog several years ago for older adults looking for fitness information and pre and post rehabilitation as I work in the field of physical therapy.
    Not sure if I am too vague but I tend to favor total joint replacement rehab and fitness as I have gone through one myself and stay actively training. I know there are thousands of fitness sites on the web and the big boys or corporations’ who write on joint replacement as well to compete against.
    I want to have this as a means for passive income along with my field work in physical therapy.

    • Carol Tice

      Maybe you could position yourself as an unbiased, personally informed expert source — “no big corporate ties, just straight talk about knee rehab.” I think people love that sort of thing, where there isn’t big pharma or big med behind it.

  40. M Jay

    My goal is to help medical cannabis users find the freedom and knowledge to comfortably medicate while traveling.

    My audience is the 21 and up crowd who consumes cannabis and has an expendable income.

    I have no idea how to monetize on my blog. Please help! 🙂 Thanks!

  41. Tom Brown

    Thanks Carol for the great advice. I am more of a talker than a writer so it’s easy for me to write blog posts if I use a speech to text app.

    • Carol Tice

      Hey, whatever works!

      At one point, long ago, I was a temporary secretary for the great talk-show host and comedian Steve Allen. He kept a tape recorder with him at all times, and was constantly leaving audio reminders and notes for himself about ideas he had…so you’re in good company. 😉

  42. Amy Price

    Hi Carol,
    You have TONS of great advice! I actually just started a sewing blog. I’ve had a sewing business, more like a hobby business, for many years and have made a small income making stuff for people, sewing lessons, and having an ETSY shop. I started the blog because of the affiliate marketing and being able to eventually make an income.
    MY GOAL/FOCUS….something I have to think about in more detail I think.
    My AUDIENCE- Age 13+, people in the beginner stage of learning how to sew.
    HOW WILL MY BLOG EARN $-Affiliate links thru related sewing products that fit into my post content. I also would like to market my own handmade items that I put in my ETSY shop. I also would like to review sewing products and be able to provide affiliate links with the hopes that people will purchase the product I’ve reviewed.

    As I write all this, I’m feeling I may be to vague with what I want.
    P.S.-I am reading Small Blog Big Income from my BC Stack Purchase.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Amy — glad you got SBBI and the BC Stack! Hopefully the exercises in there can help you clarify.

      Remember that blogs with low traffic rarely earn much from ads, and it’s a challenge to earn through affiliate sales as well. Hope you can snag my SBBI sequel — “Advanced Ninja Tricks for Profitable Blogging,” which has a lot of practical ideas for creating serious income with a small blog.

      Sewing I think is a notoriously niched and low-ticket niche — most of what you’re buying doesn’t cost much, so it’s hard to earn. I wonder if there might be room for a learn-to-sew COMMUNITY though?

  43. Sarah H


    Great Post! I think it’s definitely what I needed right now. I just graduated from a MA where I studied public relation, advertising and marketing. I’m looking for an internship somwhere but in the meantime, I would like to start freelancing as a content writer. I started a blog a few years ago. It was initially about books, tennis and a bit of pop culture. The thing is I’d like to use my blog as a way to showcase my writing skills, but I also know that the topic I’m writing about won’t help me attract clients. I haven’t posted much this year because I was busy with school and not particularly motivated.

    Anyway, now that I’ve read your post, I think I finally get how to monetize a blog. But I’m still not sure how I could make *my* blog monetizable. The topic are know more about are books, tennis, skin care and politics but I don’t think any of these niche are very marketable.

    I Wonder if I shouldn’t write about branding (which is something I studied) or maybe try to talk about businesses…In any case, your article was very helpful! Thanks for posting it!

  44. Stacy Sare Cohen

    Good, relevant points, as always, Carol.

    I’m in the process of launching a new blog. My goal is to provide insights, tips and best practices about SEO, SEM and content marketing strategies. The audience is clients who want to generate more inbound traffic to their website.

    • Carol Tice

      Stacy, have you taken a look at this? ? If you’d like support on launching your blog and making sure it’s really positioned to earn, my group can help you save a lot of time. 😉

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