Starting a blog is a great way to make new friends (and some moolah ! It could be a food blog, information blog or a lifestyle blog or personal blog.
While you might sell products (like cakes or jewelry) or services (like teaching or coaching) or information (like tutorials, courses or books) the blog is another potential income streams. Alternatively, a blog can become your main income stream. Note – building a blogging business and income will take time! This is not an overnight success or quick money making idea.
Starting out, a realistic income stream would be $0-200 per month. Over a couple of years, it can very realistically replace a full-time income.
I have been following Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income and his income reports. Rose Bakes, where she shared earning nearly $37,000 for the year after 4 years of blogging. The blog Pink of Yum share income reports of their experiment of monetising a blog, starting from earning $20ish for the month and now earning $30,000 per month from their blog.
How I Started
Angel Foods (the cake business) started in September 2010 and I honestly only got a website to put on my business cards. It was a free weebly site, which took me 2 hours to build and make ‘live’. Then I was off and racing making and selling cakes.
The photos in the gallery or portfolio were dodgy (every single person’s first photos are!) but I just needed a starting point and I knew it would improve over time.
I updated images every 2-3 weeks and also started a couple of blogs. In that first year I probably blogged … maybe 6 times?
I quickly learned that to get any sort of decent traffic (number of website hits) and better google ranking I would need to upgrade to a WordPress website.
So 12 months into the business I upgraded to a WordPress (.org) website hosted by Bluehost. Blogging was still sporadic at about one blog every 1-2 months. My website hits from weebly were about 1-3 hits per day, when I upgraded to WordPress it was about 10-20 hits per day.
I’m going to be completely honest, I had no idea back then (2011) how important writing regular blogs were. All I know was people said have WordPress, so I got WordPress. People said to have an opt-in and have people subscribe to your email list. They said ‘’the money is in the list’’, so I popped an opt-in on my website.
Related article: How to add Opt In to Your Website
The rest of the time I was running around like a headless chook. From caking, baking, decorating, going to the markets, deliveries and then I franchised in 2011 and had our first franchisee, so I was training her and helping her set up. Oh, and also marketing and advertising for more cake orders and for more franchises.
My #1 Biggest Mistake
So, inside my head got a bit messy with what to actually blog about. Do I blog to my customers about what is the most popular flavour or design? Do I blog recipes and video tutorials? Do I blog about building a cake business for potential franchisees? With that confusion came indecision and from indecision came inaction.
I wrote (barely) any blog posts. That was my biggest mistake.
It wouldn’t have mattered (really) what I wrote about, as long as I wrote and published and practised and got better with my blogging skills. Instead, it took me a couple more years to learn that mistake (I’m a slow learner.)
In 2014 I decided to upgrade my website to something sexier looking. That is when I had a stern talking to myself that I need to blog regularly and consistently, so that I can help more people.
Website hits (or number of page views) were about 2700 for the month of May 2012. Since then, March 2013 was 4111 hits, July 2014 was 9461 hits, March 2015 was 11,615 hits and January 2016 is 16,298 hits. April 2016 got 50,000 hits and December 2016 had 150,000!
How to Start a Food Blog & Make Money with It
Starting a blog and making money with it … well, that is really what we all want to know, isn’t it?
Just a heads up, I’m not an expert at all things to deal with blog & monetization (making money). This is what I have learnt in my experience (since 2010), researched, taken courses on and talked to other people about. I am a cake decorator with a food degree and lover of sweet biz dreams.
Oh! And I have made a heap of mistakes, so feel free to learn from them!
How Much Money I Make
At the beginning, I made $0 and I guarantee you will too because everyone starts at zero. From there you grow, improve and change. You add more content (blogs, videos, photos, articles, images), get better at SEO and therefore better google ranking (which that happens organically over a long time anyway).
Essentially, I am always – Trying. Testing. Tweaking. Repeating.
Nowadays I make $5000 per month. My blog fully supports me (pays me a wage) + pays a mortgage. Soon my blog is to retire my boyfriend from working.
Every month use to be different for me. At the beginning of 2016, I’d average (average) $1500 per month. Sometimes it is around $2000 to $3000 month and sometimes a little bit less at $700, though to be honest.
Related article: see my Income Reports here.
How to Start the Blog (Nitty Gritty Details)
Starting you will need a website.
There are free platforms such as Blogger, Wix, Weebly or WordPress.com (note – there is a difference between .com and .org). While they are great because they are free, it is difficult (if not impossible) to monetize a blog, as you don’t own the platform or content.
Nearly 80% of website owners are on the WordPress platform and it is the number 1 platform that is loved by Google for SEO (Search Engine Optimization.) Essentially, if you want to be found by Google (hint: which you do!) then WordPress is your answer.
(Note – there is a difference between .org and .com and you really want the .org.)
What I highly recommend is a self-hosted WordPress.org website. The WordPress platform is free and self-hosted means you pay for hosting so that you own the content. The hosting company I use and recommend is Siteground.
I started out on a weebly website because I had no tech-techy skills. Within a year I knew I needed to upgrade to WordPress but knew within my heart of hearts that it was not in my natural skill to build a website. I had two options – to DIY and figure it out OR pay someone else to do it. I decided I did not have any desire to learn how to build a website. (I’m a caker! Not a computer wiz.) I figured I was best making cakes while someone made my website.
Note: Many of the links listed below are affiliate links, meaning I will earn a small commission or referral fee if you use my links (at no extra cost to you). Those commissions help support this blog and my family… so thank you for using them if you can! Heads up… I’m going to tell you about earning money with affiliate links below… so keep reading!
1. To get started you require a domain.
This is the URL that you type in the navigation bar when looking for a website (otherwise known as your website address.) For example – this website domain name is http://rebekahallan.com.
There are loads of variations of a website address such as: .com, .com.au, .net, .info, .online, etc. Is one better than the other? No, not really. See, Angel Foods is a .net and that does not affect my Google-ability or my SEO. (The steps and strategies to SEO and getting good Google ranking I’ll share later on.)
2. Once you have the platform (WordPress.org) and the domain name (URL) you then need to host it.
Now, I’m not going to even pretend I understand what hosting is, but here is an analogy that I have heard and kind of makes sense to me.
Think of the URL as your street address. Adding a WordPress platform gives you the land on which to build and hosting creates an empty home, adding a theme gives you furniture and accessories.
That is why I have always said – should you ever decide to ‘move house’ or change hosting company or URL then all that you need to do is copy your website files to the new hosting company or domain name.
For hosting I recommend and use Siteground myself. That are a great company, amazing customer service and have had zero downtime. (Plus they offer free migration service, moving your content for free!)
3. The fun bit – setting up your blog and making it look pretty!
This usually means choosing a theme and adding content. If you visualise a theme as the rooms or walls being put up in an empty house. The content is the photos and words that furnish and accessorise a room. Ultimately both will be what the website will look like.
A theme dictates the way your site will look – it applies colour and fonts and basically takes it from meh to WOW! You can get free themes or premium themes. The advice of our guest expert web developer in Blog Business School is ‘’buy the best you can afford’’.
The Angel Foods theme is custom built from WAQA Studios. This means you can’t purchase the theme separately from them building your website for you. I do recommend them, the website is gorgeous and it is user-friendly, SEO friendly, responsive to all platforms and all that jazz.
A great theme is ‘Sparkling’, which is free (!) has a premium and modern look with a full-screen header image. It is optimized and responsive to all platforms and has a full-screen slider for your portfolio or gallery. (Actually, in Blog Business School there is a 30 min class that takes you through the setup of this theme – you will literally have a website within 60 minutes if you follow the Quick Start Guide in BBS.)
I have heard that people love the StudioPress theme for WordPress.
My top tip looking for a theme is to make sure it is responsive to all platforms. That means it looks great and easy to navigate whether you are on PC, tablet, iPad or iPhone.
Having said that, here are some affordable designers that I’ve come across and/or heard good things about:
- The Posh Box
• Kimberly Gosney– works with Headway theme
• Genesis Developers – there are loads of designer’s or developers, check out their portfolio and prices.
I personally used developers who are not necessarily a budget option. I chose them for a variety of reasons, being WOM recommendation and experience with my email service provider, shopping cart, etc.
- WAQA Studios – Stuart’s team rock at $1000-2000 packages. The Angel Foods website cost was $1500US and I am head over heels in love with it.
• Chase Bros – Clayton built my sales website (for Cupcake Business in a Box) in 2012, connected the site with social media, shopping cart and email automation.
• Ellissa Jayne – my bucket list for website developers and she is totes doing my up-levelling of my digi home. She has skills out the wazoo and custom designs from scratch and you are breathless at the result. It would be around $5000 AUD.
But if you do want to build yourself, there are some themed that are ‘ready to go’ with just dragging and dropping a logo, header, colour, etc. I have heard about Foodie Pro designed for food bloggers.
4. Note about security – It is important to note now that you will need some type of backup system and internet security.
A common misconception, can be that only big website get hacked. This isn’t true. Like any house can get burgled, so can any website. You need website security.
I highly recommend Sucuri and have used since the beginning of (internet) time in 2011. I have never been hacked. It runs continuous scans and I won’t get into the jargon.
Oh, and I just read that Sucuri do website backups (as a precaution). I use Backup Buddy for backups and my VA set it up so it backs up daily. (I actually had my 4th website last year completely lost. The database or something vanished overnight. Because it was a relatively new site and I was DIYing it… I had forgotten to back up. Needless to say 80+ hours of work and $1000 in contractors is down the drain. Because I didn’t back up.)
5. Email marketing
Over 98% of website traffic will navigate away without contacting you or buying from you! Noooo!
Collecting (capturing) my website traffic email addresses is extremely important to my business and marketing strategy. I create an ‘opt in’ being I give something of perceived value for free (free videos, checklist, PDF, book, information). Then my email system ‘collects’ the email subscribers, automatically emails out the freebie and I can then stay in contact with them via an email newsletter.
What email marketing program to use?
A lot of people use MailChimp to start with (free up to a certain number of subscribers) and I use and recommend ConvertKit. I migrated to ConvertKit in April 2016 and am head-over-heels in love with CK. I collect over 3000 email subscribers monthly, organically (read: no paid advertising), can create a landing page (otherwise known as a sign-up page or opt-in) in 2 minutes flat AND create a content upgrade in less than 10 minutes!
How to Make Money (the juicy stuff)
My biggest income earner use to be affiliates. (Affiliate is where I recommend a product or service I have used myself and at no extra cost to you, if you click on the clink of my recommendation and you purchase, I earn a commission.)
If someone clicks on that link and purchases then get paid a commission, like from Siteground, Craftsy and others through Shareasale.
This is my biggest income earner.
Your own products are anything you write or create or record yourself.
From eBooks to physical books, to courses or eCourses or workshops, services, business consulting, mentoring, information, teaching or training, digital or graphic work, programs, membership sites, tutorials (whether photo, video or a combination) …. and the list goes on.
Ad Networks & AdSense
Ad networks is selling advertising banner ads on your website. It is a company that connects websites that want to host advertisements to advertisers.
I started with ad networks placing ads on my website since July 2016 and makes about 15% of my income.
I have yet to do this and something I am going to explore this year.
It is about being open to a company of a product or service paying for you to use their product, doing a review of sorts, blogging about it and also letting your email subscribers know about it.
I would think this is more suited to a website with larger amounts of traffic (over 10, 000 sessions per month), I would think.
Affiliate Earnings: Tell me more
For example I recommend Siteground as a website hosting company as I use them myself for nearly all of my websites. I signed up to Siteground affiliate program and once approved them give me an affiliate link. This link is usually janky or ugly looking, but that doesn’t matter. When I talk about Siteground, I highlight the word ‘Siteground’ and using the hyperlink button in WordPress (it looks like 2 links of a chain) and I paste in the long, ugly, affiliate link.
The person doesn’t necessarily have to pay straight away for you to get ‘awarded’ the commission. Each affiliate program and tracking link with have a ‘cookie system’ where they will continue tracking your link for a period of time. For example the cookie might be tracked for 7 days, 1 month, 6 months or forever. So even though someone might navigate away, if they return to the same product the tracking cookie will recognise they have previously clicked on that affiliate link. (I’m not going to pretend I 100% understand how, but it is cool!)
A commission depends on or varies which each affiliate program. For example, Siteground pays a flat fee of $50 commission for up to 5 sales per month (and then $75 for sales between 6-10). Some programs pay a percentage of the total spend (anywhere between 3-50%).
When I say I use and recommend… that is important. I don’t necessarily go around looking for an affiliate program of something I have never used or would try myself.
If I do a course for example and love it, that is when I ask if they have an affiliate program as I plan on recommending them anyway!
I am signed up to a couple of Affiliate programs. One of the biggest (for me) is Shareasale.
Shareasale has heaps (probably hundreds) in the affiliate network so I’m sure you will find something to in their affiliate network for your own blog.
I am an affiliate for Restored 316 WordPress themes, because I built this website on their pink theme, so naturally use and recommend them!
Another affiliate program I use is Amazon Associates and eBay Partner Network. With these two I can link up to just about anything that is for sale and can make a small percentage. Amazon Associates is used a lot in America and other countries don’t necessarily get tracked or awarded with that sale (I have to look into this further.) I have not have a success with this affiliate program, while others can make a lot of money.
Own Products & Services: What will sell
The biggest income earner is my own products, being membership, eCourses, eBooks, programs and 1:1 consulting.
My biggest income earner, that makes sales daily is my membership sites. It is the bees-knees of monetizing, as it is a recurring monthly fee. Even at a small price point ($1 to enroll and $9 per month after that), each sale adds up and like I said it is my biggest income earner.
Now bear in mind, not every single one of my products is a raving success. To be honest, I have had more flops than wins, but I would never have known if I didn’t try!
I started out selling cakes (cupcakes, cake pops) and then franchising. I wrote an eBook and some mini eBooks, a cake business eCourse, Amazon books all with varying degrees of success. My signature program membership site Cake Business School where I combine training + sales + marketing is my biggest seller, but I would of never of know that without trying and testing all the other products.
I also now sell live workshops and courses, which vary between 2-hour workshop and 4-week course. I sell before I create and that is getting me great results.
I also work 1:1 with people as a business consultant-mentor, because people asked for it! I remember when I started out with my online business that I felt completely alone and isolated. I just wanted help with figuring out the details and making decisions. I completely understand the Analysis Paralysis for the Entrepreneur.
Phew, that was a long post, thank you for staying to the end!
I would love to hear from you.
How do you monetize your blog? What works for you (or doesn’t work)? Comment below.
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