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

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

Imagine you keep applying for jobs but never get further than the interview stage. That was the main reason I started my blog bloggerabc - a blog all about blogging. My unemployment gave rise to this blog. Have you ever wondered what you need to do to earn a living from a blog? I'll share my experience and advice with you in this article.

In 2012 I moved to Switzerland for a job in online marketing. As fate would have it, the company had a corporate blog. I was really excited about working on the blog as I'd always enjoyed reading them. I familiarized myself with all the topics: Search engine optimization (SEO), web writing, content marketing, content curation and range building. I established blogger relations in my company and networked with people from the blogging scene. I really enjoyed my work. But at some point, I felt it was time for a change and moved 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: are you also interested in becoming a freelancer? But you want to avoid the typical mistakes people make when going into self-employment? Our article from expert Jan is full of advice: how to avoid typical freelancer 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 spent a few days mulling it over and we also talked about the idea several times. Then I made my decision: I was going to start blogging. Thanks to my previous experience with the corporate blog, I already had a lot of knowledge and expertise. The challenge was to build a blog that would serve as its 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

The blog I start back then - bloggerabc - has been an important part of my applications ever since. The last sentence on my cover letter was: "If you want to learn more about me, take a look at my blog bloggerabc. Or visit me on social networks."

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, not only do I write professional articles for magazines including the magazine wp unboxed from RAIDBOXES, I'm also a lecturer for various further education institutes in the fields of corporate blogging and social media. I give lectures on these topics and organize two event formats of my own: the Blog4Business and the Corporate Blog Barcamp. Other format ideas are already in the pipeline.

Corporate Blog Barcamp
The Corporate Blog Barcamp

I earn my living from this variety of activities. Affiliate marketing, i.e. receiving commission from recommendations and referrals, is not something I have experience with. In the past, I'd even ruled it out entirely. But this will change in the future as I use so many products that I can really recommend honestly and with full conviction.

It's important to understand that affiliate marketing and partner programs are usually only worthwhile if you have a high number of visitors or readers. You often only earn cents from recommendations via Amazon & Co. Of course, there are also affiliate programs, where earning vast sums of money is possible. But products in these programs are also more expensive. You need to have solvent target groups that generate sales here.

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Passive income is a myth

Living from blogging is continuous work. Even the digital nomads, those people you may see with their laptops in a hammock on the beach, have to work constantly. Some take care of online marketing for others, for example. Or manage foreign social media channels. But of course they have to produce results or else they'll lose their job.

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 as a digital nomad independent of location? And what does it take? Check out our interview with digital nomad Michael now. Michael has been living this lifestyle for several 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.

Put simply, I just don't earn enough money with the texts I write. Because text work is often not well paid. Platforms like tempt companies into spending less on content. There are authors who offer articles for two cents per word. Or who work for idealistic reasons. The same applies to lectures.

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 not all of my income lands directly in my pocket. That's not a myth, it's a fairy tale. About half goes on tax. Ergo, I have to earn enough to have enough left over for myself. Not only do I have to pay my fixed costs, but I also have to secure my retirement provisions - and have enough to put aside as a buffer for quieter times. You don't always have permanent contracts 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 from Upload magazine (also highly recommended) has written about how to Avoid typical freelancer errors recently. He discusses, among other things, how to calculate your hourly rates. And what financial risks are lurking for freelancers.

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 enjoys working from home or in a coworking space. We've put together the advantages and disadvantages of remote working in an article. Including 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 this article has gone a little way to dispelling stories about earning "easy money" with blogging while still promoting the job. You can find more tips on this in my article on Blog strategy. In it you'll find more about what to watch out for. And why I'm so 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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Picture: Ewan Robertson

Daniela Sprung is a blogger, content marketing & social media manager. With her Blog4Business and the Corporate Blog Barcamp she has created two events, which for the first time in Germany exclusively address Corporate Bloggers. The focus of her work is consulting in the area of blogs, corporate blogs and social media. Photographer author picture: Anke Sundermeier.

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