I‘ve been trying to make money online since I first started blogging back in 2007. I have followed all the advice and tried more schemes than I care to remember. But none of it worked.
Until now that is.
Before we get to the “what works” part, let’s pause briefly to consider what hasn’t.
Making Money Online • The Failures
Google Adsense – although I still run one small ad in my sidebar, the revenue is so small it is barely worth having. Even with traffic around 100,000 page views per month, I’m still only making a couple of bucks a month. The reason is that Adsense is pay-per-click (PPC) — meaning I only generate revenue when someone clicks on the actual ad.
I realise I could have more ads in more strategic places to increase the likelihood someone will click, but I think they look cheap and ugly so I’m not going to do that. (In writing this I’ve decided I should get rid of that fucker and put something else there).
Editing and Proofreading – even though I have two Masters degrees in writing, I haven’t been able to attract any clients to my publishing business. No idea why – it is just a dud (although I have had a few nibbles in the past couple of weeks). I suspect it is because most people who spend their time writing are pretty good at it already and don’t want or need an editor.
The Love Matrix Project – this was an online course I created teaching people how to love themselves by loving others. I did get a lot of interest in the course and around twenty wonderful participants enrolled. But it turns out that “coaching” is not for me — I don’t have a nurturing personality. Interactions with my clients was emotionally draining, took up a great deal of time and seemed never-ending. I stopped promoting it and the enrolments fizzled out. I’m not upset that it didn’t work out but I do miss using the “Love Ninja” logo.
Writing Books – the experts tell you that you can write a book and then rake in the revenue for years to come without having to do much except think about writing the next blockbuster. I wrote and self-published a series of novellas at the beginning of 2014 and promoted them day and night. It’s hard to know how many I’ve sold because Amazon have a complicated reporting system, but I’ve never received a cheque which means I haven’t reached the $100 threshold yet.
Article Writing – once I wrote an article for a major newspaper who paid me $1 a word. Instead of leading to fame and glory as I had hoped, it brought abusive emails and comments . The experience soured me on the whole idea of putting my story on a platform where I couldn’t control the comments. I have only half-heartedly pursued other paying markets and never been successful. I don’t write about popular things (humour, parenting, or food) so my choices are limited. I can’t imagine how I could consistently churn out enough material each week to cover my bills.
Enough of the gloom and doom, let’s talk about what works (for me).
Making Money Online • The Successes
Blogher – Blogher is an advertising network for women who blog. Revenue is calculated on page impressions (CPM – cost per thousand impressions). With my current level of traffic I am making much more than I do with Adsense.
Affiliate sales – I am an Amazon affiliate and if people click on the ad in my footer or use one of my book links, I get a few dollars. Amazon regularly send me gift vouchers and I use them to buy books. It’s a great arrangement.
My most successful affiliate link is the one for “Story is a State of Mind” which I can safely say is the best writing program I’ve ever taken. I have made back the money I paid for the course and more. The other links to premium website tools (PostPlanner, Social Warfare, WordPress Themes and Tailwind) return smaller amounts but more frequently.
Fiverr – although selling something for $5 ($4 once they take their commission) seems like a fools’ game, I am doing really well on Fiverr.
I could write a whole book about how to make money on Fiverr, but essentially you need to have a service you can either deliver in five minutes flat, or one that is a “gateway drug” to more expensive upgrades and repeat business. My specialty is creating high performing Pinterest pins and applying my proven pinning strategy to other people’s accounts. I have a roster of clients who I work for over and over again, providing me with regular, significant income.
The beauty of Fiverr is that all my clients are online business owners or their media managers. This means my customers see my prices as extremely reasonable and keep coming back for more when they experience the quality of work I produce and the results they get (plus they give me $ tips!).
Private clients – I also have private clients who pay me to do all the things I do on Fiverr plus a bit more. These folk are fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs who I have met through Facebook and my blog. I make my clients look like Pinterest superstars, help them freshen up their blogs and look after their Facebook fan pages.
The Most Important Part
My experience has led me to believe one important thing — financial success comes from offering services rather than products.
In this age of information overload, people don’t have time to become experts in everything. They don’t want to spend hours doing a course or reading a book. People would rather employ someone to do a job for them, than fiddle around trying to do it themselves. And if you add in a unique view of the world, demonstrated expertise and outstanding customer service, it becomes a sweet mix that is hard to resist.
Think about what you are good at, what you love doing, and what you find easy to do — if that is something lots of other people struggle with, then you’ve found your potential gold mine. Forget about teaching everyone how to do what you do, just do it for them instead.
Your Mileage May Vary
Most articles giving advice on how to make money online are written by someone who blogs about blogging, or blogs about how to make money online. Because I’m not one of those “experts” you should either (a) take my advice with a grain of salt or (b) take my advice as the gospel truth. All I know is what is working for me.
I hope you find a nugget of truth in this post, or an insight that saves you years of frustration working your guts out on things that are never going to work.
In a Nutshell
Find your thing.
Show off doing your thing.
Offer to do your thing for other people.
Do your thing for others better than you do it for yourself.
And you will have the time of your life and get paid for it.
If you have your own experience (good or bad) making money online, please share in the comment section below.
41 thoughts on “The Secret to Making a Modest Living Online”
This is a great post! I’m going to look into the blogher network!
Thanks Nina. Good luck x
I”m not sure if you are interested in pursuing editing work further but if you are, check out http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html – a forum for self-published writers. Indies are always looking for editing and, once you’ve done a few projects, word gets around 🙂
Thanks Kathryn for the great suggestion. I’ll look into it.
I never knew about these options until now. Thanks, Katie.
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Pattie.
These are all great option. An congrats goes out to you.
Thank you so much, Patrice.
I’m diggin’ it Katie! Good advice.
This is very helpful – I knew you were a good person to know. What I most appreciate is your willingness to share the information. Now, to explore Pinterest…. 😉
Yay – enjoy!
I so want to figure out my own version of this. I work full time, and doing on the side doesn’t allow me to make progress too quickly. Articles like this keep me inspired to keep plugging away. Thanks!
Thanks for reading and commenting, Suzi — glad you found it helpful.
Thanks for the honest thoughts!!
I love what you’ve had me do for my pinterest posts!! I can’t actually say it’s made a huge difference yet, but I really like the esthetics (and certainly a way of doing it I had never thought of)
Can I ask where you get your pictures you use for your posts—they are so cute! jodie
I use Google images and I use Search Tool | Useage Rights | Labeled for Reuse which filters for all the public domain images.
I buy stock images as well.
I would like to take this opportunity to let both of you know I’m putting a lot of my stuff in public domain, and I’m taking a lot in public domain and cleaning it up and posting it all on The Write Moms dot com. It’s set up as a store, but everything is free. That store part was just to give me a means to improve search and organization. It’s still a work in progress. I have a crap ton of pics to upload yet like bokeh and roses.
This is great information Katie. There is so much hype about making your fortune online in 10 minutes a day, and its refreshing to hear about your real experience. Like anything else, you have to work at it and find how you can add value.
How lovely to hear from you, Renee. Thanks for reading and commenting x
Your insight and talent are a big part of this too! Thanks for everything. I am getting ready to pimp you out big time.
Thank you, Anna. You’re the best ♥
This is wonderful advice, Katie! I have not figured out how to make money on my blog specifically. I do get paid for some of my writing but honestly, the blood, sweat and tears I put into it doesn’t exactly get the monetary value in returns. Just wondering about your blogher affiliate. Your site is so lovely and clean, where I’ve noticed others that are affiliated with blogher to be quite cluttered with ads. How do you manage to make money while staying so classy through blogher? Your suggestion of ‘doing’ for others is a great one. Thanks for another wonderful and inspiring post.
Lisa, I only have the one sidebar ad. I did toy with a banner ad at the top, but it was so intrusive I removed it. There’s a mobile footer ad too, but it is simple to close it and doesn’t take up too much space. I could make more money if I had more ads, but like you say, I don’t want to clutter up my clean site.
I’m slowly getting there. You’re right about blogher ads…and now I’m seriously thinking about removing my Adsense ads. Thanks for sharing this info Katie.
Glad you found it useful, Liv.
Bravo Katie! I’m not having quite your success with Blogher, but it is nice. My problem is my audience is mostly non-bloggers. I’m an Image Consultant and wonder what service I could sell them. Online styling is difficult at best! Your images are gorgeous.
The first thought that came into my head is that you could work with online businesses who sell clothing and offer to make them those Polyvore outfit photos. Could you knock one of those out in a few minutes?
Set yourself up on Fiverr, look at what other people are doing, and see what happens.
I haven’t played with polyvore much. I’ll give it a shot! BTW, I was leaving bucketloads of worthless FB groups and accidently left Anarchy. Look for me to reapply..hangs head in shame.
Whatever happened to Anarchy, Katie? I thought I was part of it….hmm.
I never understood how the BlogHer affiliation worked. I’ve been published on BlogHer but I just don’t understand (never researched it) how to partner with them.
I also never looked into affiliate links. I’ll have to research both of these things, because what I do is not a service someone would look for so BlogHer and affiliates might be the way to go. Thanks, Katie.
The funny part of all this is I thought about Fiverr for about 3 years now, maybe, I have a horrible sense of time, but I thought it would never bring me any money so I ignored it. I should have tried it out more huh?
For me, I made the most money writing SEO for Copy Press when I made their Macys.com team, but I couldn’t keep up with the work and deadlines AND take care of kids. I sometimes hit up places like textbroker for a little extra cash here and there.
My second money comes from graphic design for Indie Book Publishers.
My third from Cafepress stores. I used to make a couple hundred a month from one store, but then everyone started selling on cafepress and now I make more like a hundred a year, but between cafepress and zazzle, I turn around and use it to buy Christmas gifts for adults. Last Christmas, I had some left over, so I bought Jen Mann and Nicole Knepper coffee mugs.
Then I made a couple fonts and make about a hundred a year now on that with myfonts.com.
I tried Freelancer dot com, and nothing. Too much competition for a newbie to get noticed.
I have book ideas I want to do this year, and I think I’m going to pursue that a little, but now I know not to expect much. I just want to create things at this point, but I need to start thinking more along the lines of making money at some point in my life. It’s just up there with cleaning the house. I don’t want to do it. I just want to sit and create crap for a while. To me, the internet has become my arts and crafts time.
You might want to look into Upwork.com.
My New Year’s resolution is to figure out what I want to do with my blog. That was also my resolution last year. I’m pinning this article!
Thank you for sharing your experience in such an honest and open way Katie!
This is the year I have to figure it all out and you’ve just helped me in a big way.
(Congratulations on finding your secret sauce!)
Hi Katie! Congratulations for finding your “groove” to make money from your blog. while I don’t have that intention from my blog it is still really interesting to hear what works for others. And I agree, you have managed it and still maintained the beauty of your blog which isn’t always the case. As always, your honesty and willingness to share what you know with all of us is deeply appreciated. May all your efforts continue to bring you even more in the future! ~Kathy
I’m the editor at Post Planner, and I originally came to this post to thank you for mentioning us.
But.. I got lost in your inspiring blog post and read it twice. There is a lot of insight and wisdom here, and I’m sure this article will be a wonderful resource for so many people.
Thank you for sharing your story — and for mentioning Post Planner.
Oh, and I’m totally going to become one of your Fiverr clients. Ha!
This was very inspiring.
I love a good no-nonsense message, and this was one of those.
Yes, we need to be true to ourselves. Our hearts know what’s best for us and it’s up to us to listen and take action from that place of truth and joy.
Thanks for the reminder 🙂
Great post. I didn’t understand the point of Fivrr until reading your description. And I’ll look at blogger. I recently set up an affiliate account with Amazon but haven’t listed anything yet.
This was SO refreshing to read, thank you for the encouragement
I have posted things on blogher, but I don’t make any money from it, perhaps I’m doing it wrong…..sigh….
Hi! Just found your group board this evening. I would like to join, btw!
But as far as the article, thank you for the rawness of it. That is what I am setting out to do for my community. With all the noise online these days about “making money” it can be draining. I have definitely had my share of walking away for a bit then becoming reinspired again! I have looked into Fiverr before, seems like great work. My goal is to get to regular passive income, so I will gear more towards courses (big or small, not sure yet) or something along those lines. But the sky is the limit and I’m having fun serving my community for now. Love what you are doing!
Comments are closed.