I experimented with ads before, and decided it wasn’t for me.
But the default thinking is still that bloggers primarily generate their income through advertisements.
Here are a few reasons why I don’t do ads:
- Low relevance: you came to my blog to read thought-provoking essays, not to see banners of anti-wrinkle creams
- Site speed: I want my blog to load fast, and ads take up space. Plus, ad blockers are popular these days.
- I don’t like them as an end-user: if I don’t like ads myself, why would I expect my readers to be different?
After years in blogging, I realized that content creation is just a vehicle for building authority, which can then be parlayed into a number of monetization models.
Let’s explore 7 blog monetization strategies that don’t require you to put gross banner ads on your website:
1. Affiliate links
Affiliate advertising works by getting a cut of a sale if people click on your link and purchase something, whether it’s a product for Amazon or a hosting service.
This first one might seem like a cop out, because using affiliate advertising is still…advertising. But there is a subtle difference.
I enjoy being an affiliate because I only recommend things that I use myself. My heuristic for choosing what to promote is passion. If love a book/product/tool enough to tell my friends, I’ll be happy to promote it.
(Do NOT promote products just for the money because it’s not going to align with your content or audience.)
If you’re passionate about service you already use, why not get paid to share a resource?
2. Digital downloads: eBooks, courses and other learning materials
Instead of advertising someone else’s product, you can sell your own knowledge.
When I realized that building a UX portfolio is a huge pain in the ass for designers, I built a course called The Ultimate UX Portfolio.
Is there topic that you’re better at explaining than most everyone else? Consider creating a digital course or ebook around it.
Personally, I’ve bought anything from helpful $7 short PDF guides to hundred-dollar courses on design and marketing.
3. Membership or subscription
The Netflix model! People are willing to invest in new, premium content that adds value to their lives.
One niche example from the design world is GoodUI.org. The website offers a lot of A/B testing designs for free, but for a subscription you get new templates and case studies to implement those A/B tests on a monthly basis.
There are many ways to do this, whether it’s an online school teaching Google analytics or an exclusive Facebook group dedicated to men’s personal development.
4. Speaking & Events
But you don’t have to be a former president to earn from speaking.
Personal development writer James Clear has spoken at Google about habit setting, and startup founders get paid to speak at tech conferences.
By leveraging your blog to become an expert in a topic, you can earn speaking opportunities at events, training seminars and conferences.
Better yet, you can create your own events that like-minded souls (e.g. your readers) would be interested in attending.
Coaching is one of the easiest monetization models a blogger can start out with. And it doesn’t require you to be an ultra-spiritual life coach.
Creating useful content is the best way to establish your knowledge within a given field. Through the trust and authority you create by blogging, readers may be interested in getting direct coaching from you.
After writing a lot about UX, I started getting a lot of inquiries to review portfolios and resumes. So I decided to charge for my time and set up a UX Career Coaching service.
There are many ways to conduct coaching, whether it’s 1-on-1 as described above, renting out a space to hold a workshop or even conducting group coaching in an online group.
6. Sell merch
When you create a movement, brand or core message that resonates, opportunities arise to put that on merchandise.
The wildly popular Wait but Why sells T-shirts and posters that represent the blog’s illustrative style and core ideas.
Artists and designers are naturally positioned to sell merch. A prime example is The Oatmeal, which has a hardcore fanbase that gobbles up merch from funny mugs to card games.
It’s common for music artists to sell branded merchandise, whether it’s T-shirts, pins or stickers. Why not do this for your blog?
7. Just ask for the monayyy
Lest we forget, simply asking for money is not only OK, but is a viable strategy for many creators.
In 2010, my friends generously donated money for a volunteer trip to Haiti. All it took was a PayPal logo and a blog post explaining how the money was to be used (pre GoFundMe days).
Maria Popova of Brainpickings makes a tremendous earning from subscribers who support her phenomenal writing.
New services like Patreon eases the process for fans to support creators.
Example: ukulele teacher Cynthia Lin uses Patreon to create custom content for her most diehard students, who can also vote on future projects or tutorials.
What are other ways to make money online?
Case in point – ads are no longer a necessary part of making money online.
Have an alternative to generate income through blogging? Let’s chat.