Make Money Blogging: What It Really Means to Make a Living With a Blog

Daniela Sprung Last updated 02.12.2020
9 Min.
earning money with blogs
Last updated 02.12.2020

Imagine you apply and no one invites you. That was the reason why I started bloggerabc - my blog about blogging. Out of unemployment. What you need to consider if you want to make a living from your blog.

In 2012, I went to Switzerland for a job in online marketing. As luck would have it, my company had a corporate blog. That was like a gift for me. Because I have always loved reading blogs. And so I worked my way into all the topics: search engine optimization (SEO), writing for the web, content marketing, content curation and reach building. I established blogger relations in my business and networked with the scene. I loved what I was doing very much. But at some point it was time for a change and I went back to Germany.

I was highly qualified and had several years of experience working abroad, finding a new job was going to be easy. Or so I thought. The reality was very different, my applications kept getting rejected. When I asked why I hadn't been invited for an interview, nobody seemed to want to give me an honest answer. Apart from two people who told me: "Ms. Sprung, you were in Switzerland. We won't be able to pay you the salary you expect." Boom, that really hit home.

Coaching to success?

Interestingly, these were applications that hadn't asked for an expected salary in the cover letter. Instead of talking to me and telling me what their budget was, my application just landed on the reject pile. Simply because people thought they knew what I wanted to earn. It wasn't about how well my skills and abilities matched the requirements of the job. That gave me a lot to think about and I decided to get some help.

Tip: You also want to work as a freelancer? And avoid the typical mistakes of self-employment? Then read through our post from Jan Tissler : Avoid Freelancing Mistakes.

It was time for a coach to pick my application documents apart. While working together, he suggested I start a blog. The prospect sounded promising: "Ms. Sprung, if you do decide to blog, think carefully about it. The blog isn't just going to accompany you during your applications. In fact, the opposite is true: it will be your calling card on the web."

bloggerabc Daniela Sprung
The blog bloggerabc by Daniela

I slept on the proposal for a few nights. We also discussed the idea a few more times. But then my mind was made up: I'm going to start blogging. I had a lot of knowledge and expertise from my previous work with a corporate blog. The challenge was to build the blog as my own brand.

But how does building a brand work? Primarily by becoming an "expert" on a subject. This means you're intensively involved in the subject and make your knowledge public. In my case, through the blog. Although I don't call myself an expert. It's not up to me to call myself an expert, other people decide whether I'm an expert or not. But I'm passionate about blogging. It's what I live for and it's what I write about.

Rule 1: You need to be passionate about your subject

Think about a subject you're so passionate about you could wake up in the middle of the night and start talking about it. For me, the answer was crystal clear: blogging.

I wanted to create a blog that would help others find loads of relevant information on the topic. Without them having to put in loads of effort and trawling through untold websites. I wanted people to think of blogging when they heard my name. And when they thought of blogging: Daniela Sprung.

Rule 2: Building a brand takes perseverance

My resulting blog bloggerabc has always been an important part of my job applications ever since. The last sentence on my cover letters read, "And if you want to learn more about me, check out my blog bloggerabc. Or visit me on social media."

This meant interested employers could get an impression of me. At the same time, I proved on a living object that I knew about SEO, editorial writing, content management systems, community management, and social media. From then on, I published an article every Wednesday. And I networked with the industry. The result: my job search was over after six months. I got my first permanent job at a start-up.

Earn money with the blog

My responsibilities at the start-up included developing a blog strategy and a blog. I continued bloggerabc at the same time. So, little by little, the first freelancer commissions started coming in. At first, it was requests to write articles for company blogs. Then a company asked if I could optimize their blog.

Together with my coach, who became a friend and mentor, I prepared this assignment meticulously. The customer's feedback after the workshop was very positive. From then on, I'd got a taste for it. This was exactly what I wanted to do. And I mean unconditionally. Further orders from other companies followed. At the same time, I blogged for companies and platforms. I was constantly working on bloggerabc, my knowledge, and my vision of where I wanted to go with the blog.

Rule 3: Find your "why"

Think about your "why" and what you want to achieve. Why do you want to write this blog? Why this specific topic? What's your goal? Who are your target groups?

Once you've found your reason why, it's easier to stay focused. And to cope with setbacks. It drives you and helps you to realize your vision. Without it, you'll get frustrated with blogging. It can take a long time to build up a regular readership. Especially now, as the number of blogs has exploded in the last three or four years. There's a lot of competition, especially in the lifestyle sector.

My reason why was that I wanted to help other people find enough information about blogging in one place. I didn't want readers to have to distinguish between good and bad sources anymore. They should find everything they need for blogging at bloggerabc. It was important to me to make it as easy as possible for people to research the topic.

In the meantime, I not only write professional articles for magazines such as RAIDBOXES. I am also a lecturer for various training institutes in the areas of corporate blogging and social media. I give lectures on the topics and organise two event formats of my own on the subject: The Blog4Business and the Corporate Blog Barcamp. More ideas are already in the pipeline.

Corporate Blog Barcamp
The Corporate Blog Barcamp

I earn my money from this variety of activities. Affiliate marketing, i.e. earning commission through referrals, is not something I have used so far. I had excluded this way so far. But that will change in the future. Because I use many products, which I recommend gladly and from absolute conviction.

But you have to be clear about this: Affiliate marketing and partner programs are usually only worthwhile with a high number of visitors or readership. Often it is only cents that are earned through such recommendations on Amazon & Co. Of course, there are also affiliate programs with which high sums are feasible. But there the products are also more expensive. Here it depends on solvent target groups that provide for the turnover.

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Passive income is a myth

Making a living from blogging is constant work. Even the digital nomads that you sometimes see so picturesquely in pictures with a laptop on the beach in a hammock have to work constantly. For example, some manage online marketing for others. Or they manage other people's social media channels. But of course they have to produce results, otherwise the job is gone.

Others promote their own products and services, which they may sell to you in advertisements with the promise "make money easily and quickly". These are the black sheep of the industry. But the fact is that they too have to create, advertise, launch, and constantly keep revising these products and services. And then sell them again and again.

Tip: What does it mean to work location-independently as a digital nomad? And what should you bring with you? Read our interview with Michael Hörnlimann. He has been living this way of working for many years.

What I'm trying to get across is that nobody makes money without doing something for it. Passive income is a myth and not a reality.

Making a living with a blog is work

I for one certainly work more hours now than when I was employed. After all, I have to take care of everything myself: I write articles for my clients and myself, develop seminars, prepare and follow up on consultations, accounts, marketing, acquisition, public relations etc. I'm an entrepreneur and always bear the risk of perhaps one day not being able to pay my rent, food bills, or insurances.

It's only with the texts that I don't earn enough. That's because text work is often not well paid. Platforms like content.de tempt companies to spend little(er) on content. Because there are writers there who offer articles for 2 cents a word. Or who work for idealistic reasons. The same is true for presentations.

One example: I was asked if I would give a 30-minute lecture. When I asked about payment, I was told there was no budget available for paying speakers. A colleague who'd already agreed to participate would also be there free of charge. A classic argument is that you're being given the opportunity to present your expertise on the day of the lecture so you can gain new customers and contacts.

My opinion on this: anyone organizing an event needs to pay for the location, catering, electricity, and staff. Why wouldn't these costs involve the speakers? After all, they're exactly what the visitors are coming for. You shouldn't just show your negotiating skills here, you should be able to insist on your fee. Or else decline the invitation.

Because the income does not go 1:1 all on my account. That's not a myth, that's a fairy tale. About half of it goes to taxes. Ergo, I have to earn enough so that I have enough net for myself. Not only do I have to pay my fixed costs, but I also have to secure my retirement - and put enough aside for a rainy day site . Because you don't always have permanent jobs or foreseeable fixed income for the next few months.

Daniela Sprung
Daniela at one of her lectures. Picture: Anke Sundermeier

My very esteemed colleague Jan Tißler from Upload Magazine (also highly recommended here) has written an article about avoiding typical freelancer mistakes. Among other things, he discusses how you should calculate your hourly rates. And what financial risks lurk as a freelancer.

Another point is time off. I don't have 30 days of vacation that I can take and just drop everything. I haven't had time "off" in at least three years. And I know that's not smart. Breaks and periods of rest are incredibly important. My problem is that I have a whole new sense of responsibility for my company. It means it's hard for me to let go. This is also part of being an entrepreneur: letting go, switching off, recharging my energy. It's something I really need to work on for myself.

Tip: Not everyone likes working from home or a coworking space. We've summarized the pros & cons of remote working for you. With tips for everyday life in the home office.

Positioning is everything

I'm very free in what I do and when. I can decide with whom I want to work and in which projects I want to participate in. I can implement my own ideas. Without having to ask permission. This also means I set my own prices. Independent of copywriting platforms or colleagues who sell below value. But I can only do that if I know what I stand for. You need to know where your expertise lies. Why would someone choose to work with you over someone else?

My tip: positioning yourself is the be-all and end-all. You'll only succeed when it's clear what you're offering or what your services are. If it's obvious why a customer should buy from you and not from a competitor, then it's easier to survive on the market. And this is ongoing work.

This is something I'd say I've achieved with bloggerabc. I'm constantly working on expanding my expertise. By communicating my added value and letting other people participate. The path is long and hard but also amazing. The people I've met along the way alone make me forget the difficulties. I've learned an incredible amount. This wouldn't have happened to me otherwise. And I'm nowhere near finished.

I hope I've been able to debunk all the stories around "making easy money" blogging a bit. And still promote this job. For more tips on this, check out my post on blog strategy. In it, you'll find advice on what to look out for. And why I'm very critical of the hype around blogging.

I'd really enjoy discussing these topics with you in the comments. I'm looking forward to hearing your views.

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Contributing photo: Ewan Robertson

Daniela Sprung is a blogger, content marketing & social media manager. With Blog4Business and the Corporate Blog Barcamp, she has created two events that are exclusively aimed at corporate bloggers for the first time in Germany. The focus of her work is consulting in the area of blogs, corporate blogs and social media. Photographer Author image: Anke Sundermeier.

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