There Can Be Money in Blogging

When you hear me endlessly prattle on about how you should have your own site, publish your own feed, and the general power of writing, I mean it. But why? What’s the point of writing on your own site? So many.

  • Building an audience, because those people will help you with whatever your other goals are.
  • Gaining industry respect, such that it opens doors to other opportunities like conferences and jobs, which in turn open more doors.
  • Having your own personal reference to things you spent time thinking about before but are likely to forget.
  • Providing a place for friends and family to get to know you better.
  • Clarifying your thinking on a subject tremendously.

Not to mention it’s fun! But there can be money in blogging too:

  • You can run display ads.
  • You can use affiliate links.
  • You can offer paid memberships.
  • You could have a job board or paid classifieds.
  • You could publish sponsored content.
  • Heck, you could sell the whole blog one day.

You don’t have to do any of these things. They might be a complete and total turn-off for you to even consider. Fair enough. But for some of you, it might provide motivation. I started CSS-Tricks for the beer money, ran it for over a decade profitably and ethically, then sold it. I was motivated by lots of things, chiefly that other humans read what I wrote (!!), but also potential profit was a fun game to play. My CSS-Tricks outcome is probably not a super likely outcome for most blogs unless you’re trying to make it a career as I was, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

I would add that you’re most likely to do well at the money angle if you do it from your own site and you do it under a site name that isn’t, like, your human name. It seems to me the vast majority of people (and businesses) that do well with blogs do it on their own terms, not by flipping some profit-sharing switch on someone else’s platform.

That’s not to say you couldn’t start on some other platform and move. I find moving platforms a highly likely path for most long-term blogs. Manuel Moreale has a recent decision-making post on all this. I’ve had a lot of luck with WordPress myself, but as long as you like the authoring experience with whatever you choose, you’ll be good.


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5 responses to “There Can Be Money in Blogging”

  1. Mykal Machon says:

    Hey Chris. great post!
    Although I’ve never really thought about monetizing my blog in any way, I have thought about starting up a “dev blog” with some friends using something like Ghost or WordPress. I do really enjoy writing technical pieces but a lot of the time it feels like they don’t quite “fit” into my personal blog. I have ~5 posts finished and sitting in my drafts for this reason.

    Being able to stick to more personal stuff on my current blog without feeling pressure to maintain the development topic throughout would be awesome. The added bonus of being able to monetize / sell the content over on the new dev blog one day just sounds like a cherry on top.

    Manuel Moreale’s post is a great share and an apt summary of how to get started from scratch as well. If I can get my thoughts together on all this I might take Manuel’s advice and write a bit of a loose response to your post over on my blog re: starting a new blog in 2023.

  2. Cristian Dorobantescu says:

    I relate to this, but things have changed. I used to blog starting 2005, made some money and fame. Then I took a big hiatus in writing. Nowadays it seems very hard to make a difference, it doesn’t work for the most of us. So can you really make money if you start now and not 10 years ago?

  3. Todd Garland says:

    One thing that has been really disappointing about the web for the last ~10 years has been how people have migrated to sharing ideas and building their audiences on other platforms. There are plenty of reasons why you should do this, but it seems like it was done instead of continuing to build an β€œowned” presence on a blog or via an email list in conjunction with using the platforms for distribution. Anyway, I could ramble some more on this, but just wanted to say yes, I’d love to see people pull back some power from the large platforms and start to own their presence more.

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