How I Made $0 In 13 Months of Blogging

And you, too, can be just like me!

In all seriousness, that is my actual earning statement after officially blogging for 13 months (well, more like -$99 due to hosting and domain name). I’m writing this post for two reasons:

(1) It is insanely easy to glamorize the lives of your favorite bloggers, or to envy those that actually make a living at this; they make it look so easy. When you think, “Hey, I have ideas, I want to blog, too,” it’s disheartening to see what appears to be everyone else, except for you, succeed.

This is called survivorship bias. Lots of people fail or struggle, you just don’t see it. This post is me showing the world (okay, the optimistically nine people who regularly read this blog), that I have tried and failed at generating any kind of “side hustle” income from this blog. That I have spent easily over 100 hours of just writing for negative financial returns. We so rarely publicize and try to learn from failures.

(2) Making money from blogging is like 90% hustle, and we need to pay respect where respect is due (And in some cases we need to stay away from techniques that simply make us feel…”icky” for lack of a better word).

Our Journey

In the first ten or so months of blogging, we had zero social media presence. We didn’t even share with close friends and family since, you know, anonymous. We did magically get some clicks – mostly linking back from posts on the MMM forums in my signature and people attempting to go to a coding nonprofit that somehow redirected to our site. The latter was legitimately half of our web traffic.

That’s a lie, actually. We were the majority of our web traffic just by checking the site was up and that the format was optimized for smart phones. A few clicks a day from people that were not us was HUGE.

pageviews

Actual page views in weekly buckets, as taken a few days into October. Any page views before March were very minimal, since we did not advertise or tell anyone about the blog.

Of course, if we were promoting the blog (even in a very minor way), there should be profit, right? But ads really mess up the visual aesthetic, plus they don’t tend to bring in much revenue anyway without a lot of page views. Also everyone hates ads, and they can really make a site feel spammy.

We’d read enough posts about how to make money through blogging to know that affiliate links are where it’s at. So we applied, always honest about our actual traffic. Basically, if there was some service or company we were going to mention anyway in a post, we’d apply to get an affiliate link. And we were accepted to everything we applied for.

We also posted on average slightly over once a month, which really didn’t help our popularity. I had grand plans of getting a small stockpile of posts, to pad any lapse of productivity or unexpected events, and to post at least one article a week. Everyone said consistent, quality content was key. I didn’t listen. Rather, I had a really hard time following through.

I have inattentive ADD, and it can be painful to follow through with tasks or commitments, even if I know I will feel better at the end and be happy I made an effort. On the other hand, sometimes I get hyper focused and fly through task lists. Ironically, this only makes it more difficult to apply myself during “low tide,” since it can seem like so much effort for little progress. And while Fergus definitely helps, this blog is mostly my disfigured baby.

We persevered, we just never got into the right posting rhythm, nor did we do all the social media tricks like planning tweets at the optimal time, spamming article links every half hour, and incorporating pop up ads to sign up for a newsletter (Though if you really want email from us, you can sign up to be notified of new posts <<<over on the sidebar or in the Bloglovin’ box down below vvv, both being very unobtrusive so as not to interrupt your reading experience. You can join the five others currently signed up. Yes, two of those are me and Fergus).

I’m getting better, but there’s a special kind of exhaustion I get from social media, and marketing in general. It’s the feeling that we have to read everything, check everything, know everything. Each tweet must be perfect and witty, or at the very least a little clever. It’s not my nature. Plus, does everyone start out just following and being followed by other personal finance blogs? Am I the only one that didn’t realize my first readers would be other bloggers? It’s kind of difficult to get affiliate $$ if your readers are hawking the same goods.

For other promotions, I did reach out to do a guest post on Millennial Money Man, forcing a spike in traffic, but a single guest post is not a shortcut to fame and glory. Being featured on a Friday Feast post on Think Save Retire for our $4/mo smart phone plan gave us a big spike as well. We’ve had five click-throughs to Amazon, but no “bounties.”

So, -$99 in profit. $5-$6 / month in hosting with Digital Ocean (referral link for $10 off, and we get $25; Not recommended unless you are comfortable with using a linux console, and looking up and fixing random techy issues that may crop up). Then we paid $22 for the domain (two years). Plus money for utilities…and I might be able to include this chromebook as a blog expense as it was half the reason I bought it? Anyway, at least $99 in the hole, and much more in “lost” time. 

totalprofot

Profit! Oh wait, what’s that negative sign doing there?

Brief interlude here – can we just talk about all the bloggers writing posts on how to make money blogging by posting affiliate links for BlueHost and other services? Like, that’s super pyramid-scheme-y, no? Plus BlueHost is kind of awful. Would you buy something on Amazon that has 2 1/2 stars? No? Me neither…

So What Now?

Oh, you’re still here? Shit…umm – I mean awesome! I totally have a plan here. This is the written word. It would be patently ridiculous if I was improv’ing this.

Let’s think…say it in music, right? (nod to Mr. and Mrs. PIE)


We can either follow our instinct
Or take advice from every joker
We can either be distinct
Or wind up merely mediocre
But not me
Not me

I’d rather be 9 people’s favorite thing
than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.

I’m not going to quit. I enjoy writing, and I enjoy doing random research on things like low cost phone plans or international transfers. Increasingly, I’m building relationships with others – becoming part of a community. If I end up gaining nine friends or nine hardcore readers, that’s honestly worth it.

You have a story to tell, pull your novel out of that sock drawer!
You have a painting to paint, you best paint it and then paint some more!

In fly the vampires, oh my the vampires, then die the vampires,
filling you with life, creativity, all that you heart should be, out go the vampires
Die vampire, die vampire, die vampire, die!

Just listen to the whole song. Trust me, the vampire references make sense in context.

I’m not going to let anyone stop me from doing something I enjoy, even my own self-doubt or impatience. If I stop feeling compelled to write frugal travel posts, I will simply stop. Because I can.

Plans Going Forward

I’m hoping to get a schedule and process together that works with me and not forced on me. As a visual person, I’ve even put up a sort of Kanban board for posts. I’ve got dozens of ideas to write about, that I’m excited to delve into, but it’s very hard to keep organized. Seeing a visual representation of posts-to-come and the steps involved make me motivated to push forward. It’s still early, but I hope this energy sticks around.

kanban board for blogging

It was so fun coloring these! Who else is team colored pencils vs. markers?

And you know what? I’ve restructured my use of social media, too. There are about a dozen or so blogs that I really enjoy, that always have unique content and really interact with readers. I’ve put them in my RSS feed (Hey Feedly – what up, bro!), and those are the ones I read regularly and comment/share the most. I still go through my main twitter feed, but there’s less of a feeling of having to sift through everything to find the pearls. I’ve also picked up Instagram, which is great since now I get a daily dose of puppy dogs and nature pics, and everyone gets to see how adorable Fluffster is.

I guess I’ll still post referral links, since we have them available. We won’t be signing up for more programs for quite some time, though. It’s just way too much effort for little return with our levels of readership. If anything, I’ll focus on the “Silicon Valley method” of business development – get users (readers), then worry about profit. Though, you know, you could be the change I wish to see in this world, just saying. You could totally head over to Fluffster Recommends and put some treats in this poor, starving dog’s belly.

fluffster_starving-1024x768

Fluffster starving. All fur and bones, that one. His vet must be on something to think Fluffster could stand to lose a few.

Anyone Out There?

If any of this struck a chord or was interesting – let us know! Share a story of failure, or commiserate, or let someone else know they’re not alone. Comment, tweet, or otherwise give an indication that humans read this.

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44 thoughts on “How I Made $0 In 13 Months of Blogging

  1. We started blogging a little over a month ago. I didn’t think that I would be making $$$ anytime soon. If I did it would be after our retirement possibly. I have a full-time job and I find it very difficult to find the time to do all the things you mentioned above. Currently, I just want to post about our progress and see where it takes us. I love the FIRE community and I am already learning a lot. For now, that is all that matter. Good luck to you on your journey.

    • It is interesting that a lot of personal finance bloggers seem to “make it big” close to or right after retirement. It might be a combination of free time and just feeling more free in general – being able to say what you want without fear (and as a result having an easier time finding your niche).

      Glad to hear you also find enjoyment being in the FIRE community! Good luck to you as well. 🙂

  2. I loved this! I recently posted my blog income for my beginning month, and technically the “blog” only made me like $15. Which once I factor in expenses, its definitely negative. I wanted to post it to show people that hey – I might make some good money SOMEday, but guess where I started? With $15.

    • That’s awesome! You definitely have to start somewhere. I’ll check out your blog income post for sure. 😀

      At this point, our goal is just to break even too.

  3. Thanks so much for having the guts to share this! I just started my blog two months ago, and have been wondering how realistic my hopes of blogging income were. And I feel the same way about ads, except I eventually caved, although I try to keep mine as unobtrusive as possible. Those ads have earned me a grand total of $1.22! For now, I guess the biggest payout is having a place to practice my writing, and the hope that I can contribute in some way or another.

    • Haha, you’re welcome – Thank you for reading!

      As long as you’re enjoying yourself and feel good about it – definitely keep writing. 😀

      Plus $1.22 is still more than I’ve earned 😉 Out of curiosity, how many page views does that correlate with? I was trying to get an estimate and figured maybe $1 for every 100 page views, but I couldn’t find any concrete earnings on that.

    • So in terms of page views, it sounds like I have a similar problem as you. I have Google Analytics linked to my page, but it seems that a lot of views are just ‘bots’ or ‘crawlers’ since the time on page is often 0:00. Secondly, the page view data from Google Analytics is different from the data from Google Ad Sense! Anyway, since September 24, which is when I set up Google Ads, I’ve had 84 page views according to Google Ads, and 255 according to Analytics.

    • Interesting – thanks for sharing! It sounds like it’s similar in some aspects to how YouTube is monetized, in that it’s hard to give any sort of $/view figure, and that “views” are definitely not the same as “monetized views.”

      It seems like it’s roughly what I thought it might be – namely that I’ve probably missed out on a few dollars in ad revenue.

  4. I’d love to monetize my blog, but I’m using the free version and no hosting software yet, so right now it’s all education on how to make money and get traffic. I don’t necessarily need it to be a full time gig, but wouldn’t mind it though. I may have to learn about affiliates a bit more,but I know for WordPress Ads, they require at least thousands (didn’t specify other than thousands) of views per month, and will actually hold your money until the month you break $100. Thanks for the article, I enjoyed reading it and actually learned something.

    • I know I would be hard-pressed to find someone that wouldn’t mind making money on something they enjoy doing. 😉

      With Affiliate programs, we’ve been signing up with places like ShareASale and the like – where I think they mostly just want to make sure the websites are not just a bunch of links – that there is actual content and all the pages on the sidebar are populated. Pretty much any company you like has some sort of affiliate program or is signed up for an affiliate website like ShareASale – just search “[Company Name] affiliate program”. Amazon too – though they kick you out if you don’t get any bounties after a number of months. It looks like you can also sign up for Google AdSense without a minimum # of views, but no clue if there’s a minimum dollar amount before payout. Of course, like my article says – not a guarantee you’ll make any money! I wish you better luck than I’ve had. 🙂

  5. I think most of Google’s ads are pay per click, and not per view. It also seems like different ads pay different amounts per click- apparently there’s some bidding system. There’s so much to figure out! I guess all this learning is another benefit of blogging!

    Oh, and by the way, I used my blogging to justify a chromebook purchase too :-). They’re sweet little things!

    • So much to learn about T_T I’m going to choose to ignore it for now and live in blissful ignorance for a while.

      Nice on the Chromebook! They have some downsides, but they’re great for blogging/writing and surfing the internet. 😀

  6. This was so honest and refreshing – I loved reading it 🙂 you are doing great, plus we all go at our own pace anyway. I’ve been blogging around 6 months now and I am just realising that I need to schedule social media so that I don’t need to spend a lot of time on it. Hopefully this will also help with page views and allow me to just concentrate on writing content!

    • Thank you so much, Francesca! That means a lot. 😀

      It’s so true that everyone is different. You have to find your own pace, your own schedule, and just do what makes you happy. Even Fluffster has to learn that not everyone loves him and wants to give him attention all the time (weird people >.>), and that he needs to concentrate his efforts on those that do.

      Good luck to you! Let me know how your new schedule works out.

  7. Thank you for your honesty. I only just started a brand spanking new blog, and have been suffering some of the early angst. As a former newspaper journalist, who wrote to an established readership, it’s a little intimidating to have to “create” your readership. But, keep on keeping on, and I will too.

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your story!

      That’s such an interesting perspective as a former journalist. As an engineer more used to technical papers, I almost expect no one to fully read my reports (which might be helping my positivity on this blog). Though it’s still very intimidating to “create” readership!

      Just keep hopping. 😀

  8. Hey there!
    Thanks for the shout out, and great post! We’re certainly in the red with our blog, but then it really is just a hobby at the moment. Whenever we get readers or comments we’re pretty excited, it’s good to know someone’s reading it.
    We just use Jetpack stats. No idea how accurate they are but who cares! If there’s people commenting there are people reading, that’s our attitude.
    I won’t rule out trying to monitize at some point, but certainly not at the moment. I want to enjoy it for what it is and not feel any pressure to produce. If family time wins over blog writing time, that’s fine with me!

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      I think you’ve definitely got the right attitude. Family time should always win over blog writing time. 🙂

      No clue either on Jetpack stats – that’s what we’ve been using as well. Eh, as long as we’re having fun and can start a conversation, that’s all I care about right now. The best thing about not being paid is not having to worry about being paid. 😉

  9. I’m glad this is the first post of yours I’ve read. It made me giggle under the covers. I’m pretty sure that if you added it up over the past ten years, my net return from blogging on my blog (after domain and hosting and other expenses) is something like -$2000. Maybe slightly high but not by much.

    Pretty terrible for a PF blogger, huh? Except in that time, as a side effect of blogging, I’ve tripled my income from my real job in an industry where 5% raises are considered top notch, made some incredibly fulfilling friendships, paid off over a hundred grand in debt and built up a huge financial foundation.

    I may want to have income directly from the blog, it would be awesome to help pay for Seamus’s (our rescue pup) chronic health management, but I’m not going to fall over in a ditch if I don’t. I haven’t yet!

    At this end of the journey, my life is already so enriched by the experience of blogging and learning from and about my reader community that it’s almost petty to demand that the blog also yield income. But as any good PF blogger, I’ll take it if it does 😉

    And I’ll tell you what else – I love the various circles in the community for what I can learn but it’s the bloggers who write about their story and lives who are going to stay on my reading list. Not the business bloggers. Not surprisingly, my small but loyal band of readers feel the same way.

    I suspect you’ll build your own along the way.

    • Thank you for reading, your kind comments, and for sharing your story!

      That is incredible what you’ve been able to do IRL as a side effect of blogging. I never even thought to consider the indirect financial benefits of blogging, and it looks like the social/community aspects are everything I thought they were and more.

      That’s also a very healthy outlook on blog income – if it happens, great, but there are definitely more important things to focus on. “A loyal band of readers” is exactly what I want to build. 😀

      Now you’ll have to excuse me as I look for every Seamus picture available ^_^ (Also I can so relate on veterinary expenses – I’m planning a post on what we spent/are spending for Fluffster and good-lord-I-don’t-believe-in is that dog expensive. Let’s just say “bloat” is not a word you want to hear from a vet, as it will immediately be followed with “emergency surgery” and $$$$$)

  10. Yeah, I used blogging as a resource rather than a means to an end. I’m by no means opposed to it generating income but I’d almost prefer that it generate opportunities so that I don’t have to give up my happy place.

    OMG bloat. I worked with Great Danes for some years so yeah, I know The Dreaded Bloat. You’re in luck – Seamus is also anonymous online but he’s contributed some lookalike photos for his 3rd anniversary post that went up a few weeks ago.

    • You’ve really made my weekend with your comments 😀 – that’s such a great sentiment with your blog being your happy place, and with the friendships you’ve made.

      Great Danes have it the worst with bloat; I can’t imagine having to go through that more than once.

      I found the post you mentioned. Awwww! His stand-in is a great model. Also that sucks so much with the recurring infections and other medical woes. It sounds like our first year with Fluffster and his magnetic attraction to parasites (Except in poor Seamus’s case it’s chronic 🙁 ). It takes so much energy to be constantly vigilant. Then once you think you’re in the clear – new problem crops up. 🙁

  11. Thanks for this 😊 So much in this post spoke to me and how my blogging experience BAs been. I do love it but have certainly asked myself why the heck I do it sometimes. I’ve got adsense on my blog that generates little in the way of income and haven’t even attempted affiliate links yet. I guess that puts me in the build up a following first category! Good luck in the next 13 months!

    • You’ve very welcome! Thank you for reading. 🙂

      It’s just got to be a labor of love at our levels – for better or for worse! I’m just glad I’ve been able to find so many lovely people in the comments that are in the same boat.

      Good luck to you, as well – I love your blog name, by the way!

  12. Thanks for writing this – I just started blogging – did it for a creative outlet and really had no idea what a “thing” blogging had become! I feel similarly overwhelmed by social media promotion too – but it’s getting more fun. Good luck – I’m your new fan!

    • Awww, that’s so sweet of you to say. I’m glad the post struck a chord with you – Beautiful blog, by the way!

      Like most things, I’m hoping we can adapt to social media (while at the same time not becoming slaves to it!). It was one of the last things we thought about with respect to our blogging “to-do” list, but it’s seeming more and more critical for gaining traction.

  13. If blogging doesn’t miraculously start making you hundreds of thousands of pounds, it doesn’t mean you can’t make money writing for someone else- the tone of this article was spot on! I’m on twitter and try to only publish posts up to twice (unless I’m in a bloggers talk on something specific and have an article that’s actually relevant to share, which has happened, like, once).

    I started blogging in July and sometimes I feel stressed if I struggle to meet my self imposed schedule… then I realise I have no readers, and no one is waiting for me to post anything! (feel free to get your tiny violin out for me!)

    Keep writing… when you can 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Sarah!

      Haha, that’s so true about the perks of not being popular. I’m just now finishing up a post for tomorrow that maybe should have been posted two weeks ago – but that’s okay. And, hey, as long as we’re happy with how we spend our time, everything’s shiny.

      You have the most adorable stone tortoise, by the way!!

  14. I’ve only been blogging for a couple of months and definitely get envious with all the money being made on the web. I try to read up on how others make all their money but honestly I have no idea how affiliate marketing works. I feel like I’ve read tons of websites on how folks do it. But to date I’ve made $1 on Amazon affiliates. Anyway hopefully it picks up soon 🙂 Really appreciate your honest opinion!!!

    • Woo, $1 a month is infinitely more than I’ve managed!

      Thanks much for your comment, and for telling your story. Don’t trust anyone who’s trying to sell you the secret of success – it seems like invariably that secret is to sell the secret to other people for a profit. 😉

  15. It must be hard to not see any results after 13 months. But you know what I respect more? It’s the commitment to keep going when times are hard and to continue to believe in ourselves. Success is just round the corner, we just have to keep moving. Try, learn, do better. I am sure you will get your results soon, don’t give up! 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words!

      At this point, I’m not going to go crazy looking for results/profit – I’m going to focus on doing what I love and building a community. 🙂

  16. I totally appreciate your frank posting. Like Mustard Seed Money, I’ve recently started blogging (about 4 months ago). So far, I’ve made $0 on advertising and about $80 from a promotional content that I wrote. I have to admit, trying to make a living as a blogger is hard. I never expect to make a single dime on my blog but that invitation to write was definitely a good surprise.

    Perhaps you can try to reach out to other website and help to promote their websites for a fee?

    • Thank you for reading and commenting!

      $80 is definitely a great start. With my current levels of readership, it seems unlikely other websites would care too much if I promoted them. I think down the line, doing this with affiliate programs of companies I truly believe in would be a great idea. 🙂

  17. Hang in there! I had an existential blog crisis a few months ago where I didn’t know what I wanted my blog to be ~ and then I realized it didn’t have to be anything! I find experimenting with blog growth stuff fun so I’ve been playing around with Pinterest, etc. I do use Bluehost on all of my sites and my fiance does too – perhaps we were lured in via the pyramid scheme – but I haven’t had problems with it yet? Maybe it has to do with having lower traffic? IDK. I’m always surprised when people complain about it.

    • That’s so awesome you were able to relax and experiment with your blog! I’m still feeling a little anxiety, but it’s slowly going away as I’m focusing on having fun. 😀

      There are definitely lots of people with good results on Bluehost – I think it’s just that when there’s a problem, the support is maybe not as good as from some others? I have a friend who lost all her data, for example, when they just randomly messed up and deleted her site. :-/

  18. This is really interesting. I didn’t start my blog to make money. I didn’t even know you could. My blog is about helping people save money on feeding themselves, (eatnotspend) but maybe after my year of cooking, writing and photographing for it I should be looking into hosting ads. I have all original content and hundreds of click throughs every day. How do I go about getting someone to advertise on it? I work full time so direct people to it through Twitter on my commute and lunch hour so not a lot of time left. Btw I enjoyed your story

    • That’s great traffic for a young blog! There are ~3 main ways to make money on blogs: (1) Ads – Look into Google AdSense – that seems to be a very popular route, especially for smaller blogs – tons of tutorials and the like out there. Larger blogs can rent out banners more directly with companies (2) Affiliate programs. The biggest/easiest one being Amazon. For you, you might link to some kitchen gadget you really like, and if anyone clicks through to the Amazon page and buys something, you get a % of the sale. Lots of other companies have affiliate programs, too, so you can look them up as appropriate when writing an article. Amazon would be the best place to start, in my opinion. (3) Sponsored content – companies pay you to post an article or tweet something about them – I dislike the sound of this one the most because there’s no way around sounding spammy.

      Good luck in the future, and thanks for reading!

  19. Great post….which I found through your social media! My sister and I have been blogging for just under 12 months now, and while we haven’t profited any, we’ve definitely enjoyed the experience. The blog has been a great way for us to monitor our financial goals and stay on track.

    Personally, I’ve loved meeting all of the other pf bloggers out there. Everyone is so cool and nice and has such great ideas about things. It’s probably my favorite part of blogging now.

    I’m so glad you’re sticking it out! I’ve read like 6 posts since I found this one and love your writing. Maybe one day we’ll blog ourselves rich, but in the meantime, let’s be friends?

    • Sorry for taking so long to respond – I’ve been MIA on this blog for a while and wasn’t being properly updated on comments.

      Thanks for reading and for the kind words! 100% agree that it’s great to just be in the community and making new, inspiring people. Absolutely let’s be friends. 😀

  20. Ugh, all the bloggers shilling Bluehost … WORST.

    And lately, mixing it up with ConvertKit and Tailwind…

    It is exhausting.

    I’m hoping to create some products of my own in the near future – in the meantime, I do make a trickle through ads, the odd sponsored post and I’ve made a few bucks off affiliate income so far. Not enough to get paid out yet though…

    • Yesss – so blatant and all over the place. It took me reading through quite a few “how to kick ass at social media” posts before realizing that they almost invariably ended with using those $$/month subscriptions that no newbie blogger could afford. And of course, the people writing about how to be great at blogging have fantastic SEO, so it’s almost hard to find a useful article about blogging that isn’t shilling the same products.

      Haha, I hear you on the affiliate income. We just got our first $10 of affiliate income (Aaaa! So cool! We made money [if you ignore all the costs of running the site…]! This could actually be a side hustle!), but they have a minimum of $50 before pay out.

      Thanks much for reading and commenting. 😀

  21. Thanks for this post! It’s so honest!! I just started blogging to make myself get better at writing. It’s definitely done that–when you’re putting your writing out there to the world, you feel a distinct pressure to not sound like a rambling lunatic! I just signed up to get your posts–so I’m follower number 6! Hoorah!

    • Aww, thank you so much for the kind words and for following. ^_^

      Good point — blogging definitely helps you become a better writer! Good lord, if you could see some of my first drafts…

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