How do I start a profitable blog?
If I wrote a FAQs list since I started Mind of Mica, that question would be at the top of the list.
And in case you didn’t know, I’m all about helping people start their own side hustles and businesses based on their creative passions. For some people, they want to start a side hustle from blogging. So that’s why this post is going to be your ultimate guide to starting a blog that actually makes money – because, like I always say, it ain’t a side hustle until you’ve actually earned from it.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a small commission if you decide to purchase through my links at no extra cost to you. The commission helps me keep me doing what I do, so thank you very much!
What You Need: The Basics
Before we hop onto the nitty-gritty of how to start a profitable blog, you’ll want to be sure you start off on the right foot. That means having the right foundations so that everything goes smoothly for you from the get-go.
So here’s a list of all the basics you’ll need for blogging, especially if you’re getting started for the first time.
If you’re unfamiliar with a term, a niche is the general type of topics you’ll be writing for your blog.
A lot of common blogs are lifestyle, fashion, fitness, and beauty blogs, but there are a ton of other blogs about literally anything in the world. (Case in point: equestrian blogs for horse-lovers, and gunpla blogs for model kit builders.)
I wrote a blog post about some cool niches you can explore, but chances are you already know what you want to lean towards.
Important note: When you want to start a profitable blog right from the beginning, you’ll want to stick to your niche and think of topics that are valuable to people interested in that niche. So if you blog about budgets for single moms, you might not want to post a list of must-have luxury cars.
Once you have a feel of the kinds of posts you want to churn out, you’re going to want to name your blog. Keep it related to what you want to say to readers. Or you could name your blog after yourself, as a lot of people do!
There’s really no wrong way to do this (unless of course you give it a name that has nothing to do with what you blog about), so don’t overthink it. Go with your gut when choosing The One, and then stick to it.
Actionable tip: In case you need extra help deciding, sit down and come up with a shortlist of 5 options you keep leaning towards. Then either ask for feedback from close friends or fellow bloggers. But remember the final decision is yours to make!
Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system is basically a place where you handle all your blog posts. So that’s where you’ll write, draft, and publish text, photos, even videos for your blog.
Most people prefer to use self-hosted WordPress (meaning WordPress.org, and not WordPress.com) because of the flexibility of the platform. I also personally use WordPress.org, and I recommend everyone use it too.
But there are all kinds of other CMSes available. An emerging platform that I find particularly promising is Ghost, which puts the spotlight back on writing – so it’s pretty cool for anyone that wants to put their blog posts first.
I’ve also heard of other content management systems like Drupal or Blogger. Squarespace and Wix also have their own blog options. So feel free to explore!
Actionable tip: Check out the options for blogs and see which one suits your need most. Take time to look at functionality, user interface, and any exclusive features that appeal to you most.
Once you’ve got your niche, your blog name, and have a CMS to use, it’s time to check if your domain is available. Your domain name could be the same as your blog name – as it often is!
But it’s also possible that your domain name deviates slightly from your blog name. This could happen because of domain availability issues, where your preferred domain name is taken by somebody else. Or you might opt to present your domain name differently than your official blog name.
Case in point: your blog name might be Thrifty Mimi, but you want your domain name to be shopthriftymimi.com.
Actionable tip: Do your research on Name.com if your preferred domain name is available! If not, don’t fret just yet because you might be able to buy it through your hosting provider, which is the very next essential thing on this list.
When you’ve got everything down, all you need to do now is choose a company that’ll “house” your blog and site. So that’s where a hosting provider comes in because they do exactly that.
Here’s the thing though: you don’t want to just choose a hosting provider just because it’s the cheapest. Usually these hosting sites just end up upselling you a ton of stuff every year, like an SSL certificate or email accounts.
You’re honestly better off with a fairly-priced hosting site that covers everything you might want and need.
I particularly trust FastComet. They’re very affordable, and their plans already include cool features like an SSL certificate, getting free business emails, and having 99.9% uptime. (That last one is so handy because that means your site won’t have much downtime, which is so, so, so important!)
When you’re out to start a profitable blog, you’ll want to install essential tools for automating your growth and influence. And some of these tools, you can get through a plugin.
For most blogging platforms, you’ll be able to install plugins, or additional “software” for your blog. These can be from anything from a Google Analytics extension, a contact form plugin, even to a Pinterest Pin-It plugin.
But word of caution: test your site speed regularly whenever you decide to install new plugins on your blog. Some plugins aren’t optimized very well, so they do slow your site down.
Actionable tip: Find out systems and processes you’ll need plugins for. I recommend getting a few of these, if you decide to go on a self-hosted WordPress blog: plugins for optimizing blog images, for connecting Google Analytics, and for allowing social shares on your posts.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
A customer relationship management (CRM) system, for some people, is simply an email service provider. However you want to call it, the best way any blogger can start a profitable blog is by having an email list.
After all, your readers can turn into loyal subscribers. And these loyal subscribers are the people who’ll buy your products and services – isn’t that what everyone wants when starting a successful blog?
Mailerlite is your best bet as a blogger when it comes to email marketing. It’s affordable without compromising on any features. I made the big switch recently and don’t regret a thing!
It’s been a breeze to set up automations, rules, and sequences for my subscribers. I’m kind of wondering why I didn’t take the plunge sooner!
I know a lot of bloggers who use pricier alternatives that deliver the same features, and Mailerlite is free for your first 1,000 subscribers. Pretty cool, if you ask me. It’s also really easy to set up automations and multiple opt-ins and sequences. But I also hear it’s harder to get your account approved, so just try your hand at whatever suits your fancy!
But my personal pro-tip: if you’re still at a point where you’re unsure of where you want your blog to go but don’t want to start paying for all your subscribers right away, just use MailChimp. It’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers, and that’s honestly the most cost-effective among every other option.
Quick note about MailChimp
While MailChimp has the most bang for your buck (figuratively-speaking) with the free plan, it might not be the easiest to use. I’m talking about having multiple opt-ins on your blog.
And if you want to start a profitable blog, you need to grow your email list through multiple opt-ins, especially as a new blogger figuring out how to monetize for the first time.
Valuable Action Steps
Engage in Support Groups
Now you probably know that to really start a profitable blog, you’ll need traffic. And there a few traffic-building tips I’ve got to help you get started.
The first is to join groups for fellow bloggers. There are a ton out there, especially on Facebook.
I also believe in women helping women, so I joined Style Collective, a membership community that encourages support and growth for lifestyle (and even fashion) bloggers. I learned so much from their courses, and being able to engage with like-minded ladies has been nothing but stellar!
Actionable tip: Do a quick search on Facebook for blogger groups. Try keywords like “Blogger” “Blogging” and play around with words like “blogger support,” “blogger network.”
Invest in Learning
In my first-ever blogging update, I mentioned that I grew my email list by 2,275%, made money, and grew my traffic to hundreds of views a day – all in one month.
And I honestly couldn’t have gotten that far in such a short amount of time if I hadn’t enrolled in courses and tools that fast-tracked my growth. One of the first purchases I made for my blogging journey was the MailChimp email course I mentioned above.
I also bought this inexpensive Pinterest Masterclass, a 70-minute long workshop on how to use Pinterest to gain traffic. The course helped me explode my engagement and following on Pinterest. And guess what? My Pinterest account currently is responsible for getting me at least a thousand views per day.
But another course I invested in eventually was this Blog for Traffic e-course that taught me step-by-step how to get more traffic and subscribers to my blog by getting guest posting opportunities, offering freebies, and really nailing down that Pinterest strategy.
Remember, your blog is an investment. So you want to invest in things that help you grow right from the get-go.
Actionable tip: Enroll in valuable blogging courses that meet these criteria: 1) are easy to follow, 2) have actionable steps, and 3) give you a bang for your buck. I’m also plugging in my links to the courses for Pinterest, MailChimp, and growing blog traffic that I mentioned!
Have a Monetizing Strategy
How can you start a profitable blog without having any monetizing strategies?
There are a few ways to go about this, so I’ll be talking about three traditional monetization strategies (that may or may not work and why), and then newer strategies that I personally find the better option for monetizing a blog!
Ads might have been the best way to earn money through a blog or site in the past, but nowadays? I wouldn’t recommend just using ads as a strategy to make money blogging. You might risk cluttering your blog and brand, and no one wants that.
If you’ve got a big enough reach and following, you could ask brands to sponsor a post. While it might take a while before you can do this, there’s still something exciting about working with brands you believe in.
Some people only use affiliate marketing on their blogs. I personally find it all right to promote affiliate links in certain contexts. I just warn people against marketing any products that directly compete with their own. (We’ll see what I mean in the next section!)
Selling Digital Products and Services
I mentioned how other bloggers use affiliate marketing to make money blogging, and that’s because a lot of other bloggers allow affiliates on their own products or services. But, if I’m being honest, I totally recommend selling your own digital products and services.
You could sell an ebook that’s super-valuable to your readers. Or have a freelance service to work with people who love your brand.
For example, I sell a special goal-setting weekly planner, The Goal-Getter Playbook, on my blog. I get a good amount in sales every month, so that goes to show how digital products are great for making passive income.
Starting Online Courses
You could also go the route of the online course! I love online courses, and as of writing, I’m in the process of making my own.
There are always people out there who’ll want to learn something you already know a lot about. So go on and start creating!
Lead Your Readers through a Sales Funnel
Now, it’s not enough to just come up with monetization strategies, products and services. You’ve got to sell that stuff, man!
And I don’t mean messaging everyone you know, spamming every Facebook group you’ve got. I mean really leading your readers and subscribers through what we call a sales funnel.
So it can be as easy as, say, someone comes across your blog post on Facebook. And then by the end of the post they see an opt-in freebie. Later, after downloading your freebie, you send them a series of valuable emails that end with a sales pitch. Then ta-da!
This step might take a while to master. But once you’ve got this down pat, you’ll be well on your way to starting a profitable blog!
How to Start a Profitable Blog Recap
Whew! We covered a lot in this post about how to start a profitable blog, didn’t we? So here’s a quick recap of everything to get you started on turning blogging into your very own side hustle:
- Nail down the basics: niche, name, website management and hosting
- Set up essential plugins and tools for automation
- Grow traffic and email list subscribers
- Have a clear business plan and sales funnel
Leave me a comment!
Do you have or want to start a blog? What strategies for monetizing are you going to try?