Warning: This post could change everything for you.
A couple of weeks ago, Ben and I finally got around to starting our first Facebook group specifically designed for bloggers and content marketers. So far it’s been wonderful; we’ve “met” tons of other bloggers who are looking to replace their full time income online, and we’ve been able to share some pretty helpful tips and tricks.
I’m glad we did this.
A few days ago I asked a question in the group which really opened my eyes:
I learned two things from the answers:
- We have really ambitious people in this group, and I love everything about that.
- Most members either
- Haven’t yet started their blogs but are excited about the possibilities, or
- HAVE started, but haven’t yet cracked their first $1K month
I realized that when I write income reports like this ($10k+) or this ($7k+), it doesn’t do much for people at $0 besides maybe inspire them. And while it feels great to motivate people and show them what’s possible, I want to truly help our readers.
I want to give real, actionable help.
Which is why I’m writing this monster of an article today.
The $1K Blueprint: How to Get Your First $1,000 Month Blogging
If you commit to following every single step in this article, you absolutely should be making money with your blog within a matter of months.
This isn’t another generic “how to start a blog” article (although we do have one of those if you need help getting set up).
That being said, this is a ton of work.
The first $1,000 you make online is probably going to be the most difficult money you’ve ever earned in your life.
There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s easier to make $1,000 flipping burgers (I’ve done both).
BUT, once you hit that $1K mark, the sky is the limit.
You’ll be surprised how quickly your blog can grow and your life can change once you get past the initial hurdle of profitability. You just have to stick with it to get to that point.
If you want to escape your 9 to 5 and make a full time income from home (and eventually more than a full time income), blogging is one way to accomplish that.
Note: This is a really long article, so I suggest you bookmark it so you can come back later. You can’t get it all done in a day, unfortunately 😉
So here we go, the $1K Blueprint:
Step 1: Decide what you want your blog to be about
The biggest mental roadblock I see out there: people thinking they need to come up with something 100% unique that has not been written about yet.
Or worse, thinking that you can only write about something you have a raging PASSION for.
Here’s something for you: I’m not “passionate” about the subject areas of our two blogs (personal finance and blogging/business). Sure, I really enjoy both topics, but it’s not like I have a primal calling to write about them. I just enjoy both things, and that’s enough to keep me going.
And yes, there are a million other blogs out there that already cover what Ben and I write about. The internet is a really big place, but I can promise you there is room for all of us.
So what should you write about?
If you want to make money from your blog, you need to treat every decision you make like a business decision. When it comes to deciding what to blog about, that means using some common sense:
Here are some things to consider:
-Obviously you want to write about something that interests you. Otherwise you’ll fizzle out after a while.
-Find something that other people are interested in too. If you choose to write about Himalayan basket weaving for men… you won’t have a lot of readers, and you’ll have a hard time earning any income. Try to find something that combines your interests with things other people also care about. For my main blog, I write about money advice. I’m a personal finance nerd but fortunately there are people online looking for that type of information too.
-You DON’T have to be a world class expert on your topic. You just need to know a little more about your topic than your readers.
Have a question about whether a particular niche has a good income potential? Post your question in the group and you’ll get tons of helpful feedback.
Step 2: Set up your blog, if you haven’t already
You’ve probably heard of WordPress before, but may be wondering what the heck it even is.
Think of WordPress as the backbone of your blog. It’s the easiest to use (and most powerful) content management system (or CMS) in the world. WordPress is what makes it possible for regular people like me and you to actually build and run a website without being a computer coder.
In fact, you don’t need any coding knowledge whatsoever to get started with WordPress. That’s part of why they are the best.
Ok, so you have two main options for starting your blog: “Self-Hosted” on WordPress or “Free WordPress”
Why is self-hosting with WordPress the best way to go?
Even though you have to pay for your own web hosting out of pocket, going this route allows you MUCH more flexibility in terms of site design and usability. And don’t worry, hosting is really inexpensive, especially if you take advantage of our 60% off coupon code with Hostgator (BTOP60). Depending on your hosting plan, it shouldn’t end up costing you more than a few dollars a month.
With the free version of WordPress, you don’t really have that much freedom to make changes to your site. Plus, WordPress actually OWNS your site if you use the free version (meaning, your site is technically not even yours). With the free version of WordPress, your website link even looks unprofessional; instead of a .com ending, your site will look like “yourwebsite.wordpress.com”.
I can’t think of even one successful blogger (in terms of income) that is using the free version of WordPress.
If you take your blog even remotely seriously (and want others to the same) self-hosting is what you need to do.
Here’s how to get set up with a self hosted WordPress blog
Choose Your Hosting Plan
Go to HostGator’s home page and select “Get Started Now”. This will bring you to a page that gives you 3 different packages. I recommend starting off with the Hatchling Plan:
If you are just starting out, the Hatchling Plan is all you need. First rule of business: don’t over complicate things and end up overspending!
Choose Your Domain Name
Once you hit the Sign Up Now button, you’ll be directed to the order form. The first item on the list is the most important one: your domain name! This is the one and only name for your website, so give this some thought.
It can be tricky coming up with a name that isn’t already claimed.
Tips for Choosing Your Domain Name
- Stick to just .com endings. Don’t bother using .biz, .info, .org, or any other endings.
- Make your domain name simple and easy to remember.
- Leave out numbers and dashes and anything else other than letters.
Enter Your Hosting Plan Information
This step just confirms what you chose in Step 1 (Hatchling Plan). If you want to change plans, though, you can do it here.
You’ll also set up your HostGator username, which is what you’ll use to access the back end of your site.
Enter Your Billing Information
Another straightforward step. If you can’t figure this part out, maybe this whole online biz thing isn’t for you 😉
Choose Add-ons That You Want
I recommend all of them, however, you can probably get away with adding them later (the cost starts to quickly rise).
If money’s tight, you can forego these things. If I had to choose just one add-on, I would choose the site backup option. Losing all your hard work is a buzz kill that I would not wish on even my worst enemy.
Enter Your Coupon Code
We’ve got you covered: use the coupon code BTOP60 for 60% off your order. We’ve partnered up with them to give our readers this exclusive deal not offered on their regular site.
This discount is merely a promo rate and not likely to last long! All the more reason to get started right now.
Review Order Details and Submit!
Once you’ve completed all the steps above, go through and make sure everything is the way you want it. I won’t include a screenshot since everyone’s checkout page will look slightly different based on their choices.
You’ll also notice that there are a few other free perks: 24/7/365 Phone, LiveChat, and Email Support AND a 45 Day Money Back Guarantee if you decide blogging isn’t for you. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
Once you’re all set, go ahead and hit Checkout and let’s get rolling!
Now it’s time to install WordPress on your site (don’t worry, it’s easy!).
To get started:
Go to HostGator’s Billing Login page:
Use the email address you signed up with and the password included in your order confirmation email.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll see a bunch of tabs on the top. Click on the Hosting tab.
Once that loads up, you should see an option below under “Special Offers” that says Get Started with WordPress Today. Click it:
That will bring you to a “QuickInstall” page, shown below.
Make sure your domain name is chosen in the “Application URL” section. Be sure to leave the box after the slash blank.
Then, check the “Enable Auto Upgrades” box. Enter your “Admin Email”, your “Blog Title” can just be your domain name (with spaces), then enter whatever you want your admin username to be.
Pro tip: Never make it “admin”! You WILL get hacked if that happens. Make your Admin User something unique. Lastly, fill in your first and last name, then click the “Install Now” button.
Finish WordPress Install and Log Into WordPress!
Once WordPress is finished installing, you’ll get a confirmation message giving you info for where to access your WordPress login, your username, and a randomly generated password to sign in.
Your WordPress page can be found at http://yourwebsitename.com/wp-admin/ – go to that URL and sign in.
And that’s it! You’re all set up and ready to go with your new domain.
Make yourself at home
You are probably going to want to spruce up your blog a bit with a fresh “theme”, aka design. Genesis is a popular provider of professional, low cost themes for bloggers. WordPress also has several free themes you can choose from. Go to “Appearance” on the left side of the WordPress dashboard and click on “Themes,” then pick whichever one you think looks best!
Step 3: Write Your First Blog Posts
At this point, you should have honed in a niche you feel comfortable writing about, and you should have your blog set up.
If you skipped to this section and haven’t done the first two steps, please go back and do them. You need to make this happen and stop just reading about it.
Ok, so now it’s time to write some epic blog posts.
If you have the end goal of earning income from your blog, you need to be strategic in the type of content you write and how you write it.
Here is a basic framework you can and should use for planning out your content, at least to start. The main goal here is to get you in the habit of writing articles that you know people will want to read… you don’t want to waste time writing to an audience of 0.
Simple as that.
Why is this strategy so effective?
Because the leaders in whatever niche you are blogging about are already making money. And probably a lot of it.
They have cracked the code, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to emulate their success.
That being said, be cool. Don’t outright copy them.
How to structure your blog posts so people read them
Repeat after me:
I will not use walls of text.
I will NOT use walls of text.
I WILL NOT use walls of text.
Using massive walls of text is the quickest way to kill a blog post.
The way we were taught in school to write is NOT how you want to write for your blog. Big paragraphs, pages and pages of SOLID TEXT, etc, are not going to make readers want to stick around.
See what I mean:
So, no long paragraphs. But what about structure? Do you write blog posts like an essay?
Yes and no.
The key here, again, is to break up your articles into bite size chunks. Here’s a template you can steal:
Write enough posts to fill up your theme’s homepage (so it doesn’t look empty). Then, it’s onto the next step.
Step 4: Pick ONE social media network and OWN it
When Ben and I first started blogging, we tried to be everywhere, all the time.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Quora, Quibb… we were all over the place.
And you know what?
For the longest time, our traffic sucked. I mean, it REALLY sucked. We weren’t getting anywhere. And we weren’t making any money.
That’s when we decided to try our hand at Pinterest- a platform neither Ben or I had ever used in our lives up until that point.
And let me tell you, Pinterest changed everything for us.
For new websites, ranking high on Google is just not going to happen overnight, but Pinterest can be your secret weapon. It is, bar none, the best way to get your name out there if you are a new blogger.
For most new bloggers, I recommend focusing exclusively, 100% on Pinterest to get your first significant stream of consistent traffic. It really is the best use of your time at this stage of your blog.
Here’s what you need to know to dominate Pinterest
Get a business account and set up “Rich Pins”
You want to make sure you aren’t using a personal account to build up your Pinterest profile for your website.
With a business account, you’ll have access to Pinterest Analytics, as well as the ability to create “Rich Pins”. You can also pay Pinterest to promote your pins with a business account, but that’s definitely not necessary. We experimented with about $50 worth of promoted pins before figuring out we could make our pins go viral on our own, without the help of ads.
Rich pins make your pins stand out just a bit more by adding a bold link title in your pin description. Getting rich pins is really easy (and free, don’t worry). You just need to confirm your website with Pinterest.
Create a “Best Of” Board
Once you have a business account, the next step is to create your “Best Of” board.
The purpose of this board is to house only pins that link to content on your own website. This is not the place to pin other peoples’ stuff. You can (and should) make a bunch of other boards for that.
When other users are looking at your account and deciding whether or not they want to follow you, they are going to be looking for this board to give them a sense for what type of content you yourself are contributing to Pinterest. In your board description, be sure to include lots of keywords that users might be searching for.
Ideally, you’d like to have at least 50 or so pins on this board. If you don’t have that many pieces of content, don’t worry. See the next step.
Make multiple pins for each blog post
This is important for a few different reasons.
First, it’s always smart to A/B test your pins. You could write the best blog post in the world, but if I don’t feel like clicking on your pin, you’ve just lost the game.
“You could write the best blog post in the world, but if I don’t feel like clicking on your pin, you’ve just lost the game.”
Experiment with different image backgrounds, different calls to action (CTA), even different keywords in your description.
The other benefit of making multiple pins is that it makes it a little easier to run up your total pin count on your Best Of board. This helps when it comes time to apply for group boards, as you want to have a decent portfolio of pins that you can share.
I generally try to make 2 or 3 pins for each article. But sometimes I make as many as 10 pins if I feel it’s an article that deserves to get some real attention.
Brand your pins to stand out
I’ll be the first to admit, I could have done a much better job of this when I was first making the pins for our first personal finance blog. I just didn’t know any better.
Then one day as I was scrolling through my Pinterest feed, this pin caught my eye:
Before I looked down to see who the creator of the pin was, I knew it was going to be from Pauline Cabrera over at twelveskip.com. Without even realizing it, I had subconsciously begun to recognize her purple-themed pins with the crisp block font. And I knew that those pins led to really good content… so I clicked on the pin and ended up reading her article.
That’s when it dawned on me how important branding is when it comes to creating your pins, as long as you have great content. The ONLY reason I clicked on that pin and went to her website was because it stood out to me in the sea of pins on my feed.
So since I’ve launching BTOP, I’ve been keeping Pauline’s focus on awesome branding in the back of my head. Here’s a look at how my pins appear now:
There’s a few key points I’d like you to note with these pins:
- They all have some amount of our main brand color: orange.
- Pins that have both scripts and block font perform well.
- The background images are all very light/white themed. This makes the text stand out more.
- I don’t have a rigid format for each pin. I switch it up constantly, while still keeping the same theme.
- Each one has both a logo and our .com address. Brand recognition, y’all.
Having rock solid brand recognition is SO important if you want to be recognized on the platform.
After creating your initial batch of on-brand pins, you can also experiment with making “off-brand” pins. I go over a lot of the strategy behind that in my Pinterest Design Course, but it’s beyond the scope of this article.
A lot of people use Canva or Photoshop to make their pins, but I’m old fashioned and just use Powerpoint. Whatever works best for you is fine. PowerPoint is what I used in school for projects, so it’s also what I use to make pins. The course goes into way more detail in terms of actually making your pins.
Join Group Boards
This is where the real magic is with Pinterest. If you don’t know yet, the number of followers you have on Pinterest doesn’t mean much…it’s all about how many (engaged) followers are on the group boards that you contribute to.
Group boards are seriously the greatest thing ever.
You want to be on as many as you can, to start. Even if they are only remotely related to your niche, get on them anyway. I cannot stress that enough.
So how do you get on these group boards? You gotta hustle.
The first step is to compile a list of boards that you would like to join. The best way to do this is to look at what group boards some of the top accounts in your niche are contributors to. You can also use PinGroupie.com and search for group boards centering around different topics.
Each group board admin is going to have a different way that they want you to apply to their board. Some want you to email them, some prefer a DM, some want comments, and some don’t give you any directions at all (that’s when you go full on stalker-mode and go to their website and search for their contact info).
Mass group board application means a lot to keep track of, so I recommend using a spreadsheet similar to mine below (we applied to well over 100 but this screenshot only shows the first 56 boards).
Once you have your spreadsheet started, it’s time to get to work and start contacting all of these people.
It’s going to take you a long time, and most of the time you will never hear back and you’ll never get added to their boards. That’s just the way it goes, and it’s okay. You gotta cast your net wide and understand that rejection is just part of the game.
Here’s a basic outreach template you can use. However, keep in mind that board owners get a lot of these requests. The more personalized and unique you can make your email (and if you can offer them something in return, bonus points to you), the better your odds of being added.
I was hoping to catch you and see if you would be open to adding me as a contributor to your ___________ (actually link to the board, they may have several and this makes it easier for them) group board.
I regularly write about __________, ___________, and __________ topics on my website that would be both interesting and valuable to your readers. I also like to regularly promote and highlight other members of the community so that everyone benefits from collaborating.
My Pinterest profile: ____________
My Pinterest email: __________
Thanks a bunch,
Put Your Pinning on Autopilot
This is where automation comes in.
Instead of manually pinning each of your pins to your group boards all the time (along with finding other peoples’ stuff to pin), there is software out there that takes care of all that for you. And it’s awesome.
Ben and I have used a few different programs, but our favorite by far is Tailwind.
One of the coolest things about Tailwind is how it can tell you which group boards you are on are performing the best for you. With that info, you can really double down on what’s working (and eliminate what’s not working).
And you don’t have to get the paid version if you are not ready for that yet. You can get by for now with just the free trial, but eventually you will need to make the investment. To be fair, I would say it’s easily the best money we’ve spent on our blog so far out of the dozens products and services we have bought.
Reapply to Group Boards That You Never Heard Back From
Just because you were rejected the first time doesn’t mean you should give up. There’s a bunch of reasons why you should revisit your spreadsheet every few months:
- The board owner might have missed your DM, email, etc
- Your profile might not have been good enough back then, but now it’s much better
- They could have just forgotten to add you
No matter what might have happened the first time, go ahead and get back in touch with them. You have nothing to lose!
Don’t use the exact same script, and be sure to remain polite and courteous.
Step 5: Begin monetizing your blog
You were probably wondering when I would start talking about actually making money from your blog, weren’t you?
Well the truth is, most bloggers never actually make any money from their blogs. And you know why?
Because they skip straight to the “making money” steps without putting in all the necessary foundational work. And then, when they do the blog monetization stuff and don’t see any income, they give up (or worse, make an excuse for why it didn’t work out).
This stuff takes time!! Like I said, the first $1,000 you make on the internet is the hardest money you will likely ever make. But after that hurdle, there are no limits to your income. A $1K month leads to $2K, then $5K, then $10K, then $25K, then $80k+. I’ve seen it happen many times.
Before you do anything in this section, you should have completed the following:
- You should be in our free Facebook group
- You should have a topic you enjoy and that appeals to many people.
- Your blog should be set up.
- You should have your first 5-10 high quality posts written.
- You should be well established on one social media. Ideally Pinterest.
- You should be getting absolutely no less than 5,000 monthly visitors to your site. If you aren’t there yet, revisit Pinterest. Figure it out.
Without traffic, your blog will never make any money. That’s just the truth.
The rest of this section assumes you have the above items done. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this can happen without a solid foundation.
The best way for most new bloggers to begin making money
Most of our income today is from affiliate marketing, which is a commission-based form of advertising on your blog.
Essentially, for every sale/lead/signup your blog generates, you get a small fee. Most commissions are between $1 and $100.
This model works best if you are promoting things that directly relate to your content. For example, on our personal finance blog, we promote affiliate products that help our readers make, save, and invest their money.
Why do I advocate for affiliate marketing over creating your own product or some other method of monetizing?
Because it’s the best way for you to learn how to sell. Creating your own products take a ton of time, and then promoting them takes even more time and effort. It’s just too big of a risk. When you are just starting out, you are much better off promoting an already successful product and taking a commission on your sales.
Affiliate marketing is just the most practical way to make money for a new blogger. And don’t worry, you can make really good money doing it (about 75% of our $10,000 in earnings last month was from affiliates).
How to find affiliate products to promote on your blog
Hopefully you already have a few products in mind that you personally use and like.
If not, go back again to the leaders in your niche. They most likely do some form of affiliate marketing on their blog (probably in addition to selling their own products).
Go back to their most popular posts. What do you see them promoting within these posts?
Chances are, if an affiliate product is appearing in a successful blogger’s most popular articles, that product is making the blogger a lot of money.
It might make a lot of sense for you to promote the same product (assuming you are familiar with it and believe in it). Being authentic definitely helps in converting affiliate sales.
Once you’ve identified the products you want to promote
You should have a list of 5-10 affiliate products related to your niche that you have seen other influencers promoting that you want to have on your blog. Now it’s time to become an affiliate.
“Affiliate networks” are websites that connect bloggers with hundreds of companies that advertise via affiliate marketing. By joining a network, you will instantly have access to apply to as many affiliate programs as you’d like.
Here are the main networks I recommend joining. Between these few, you should have access to just about any company you can think of that has an affiliate program:
There are many other networks, but these are big players and should cover most of your needs.
If you come across a company you want to promote and you don’t see them on any of these networks, send the company an email and ask if they have an affiliate program!
Find out which posts of yours are getting the most traffic
This will be your starting point for placing affiliate links on your blog.
Yes, you are going to go back and edit your old posts.
Read those articles again and try to spot areas where there are opportunities for you to drop an affiliate link. Again, authenticity is important- don’t force it.
An example of how this works:
Pro tip: Because of the nature of affiliate marketing (where you are essentially recommending a product to your readers), text links tend to be far more effective than pre-made banner images. Text links feel more natural and “real” in an article, which means a higher level of trust.
Go back through all of your articles and find opportunities to include affiliates. This will take you some time, but hey, what’s new…
Going forward, this should be your mindset when writing articles:
Most articles that you write on your blog should be done with the dual purpose of helping your readers AND converting an affiliate sale/signup.
Note: I said “most,” not “all”.
If you want to make money from your blog, very rarely should you write just for the sake of writing.
Your blog is a business.
With that said, don’t forget that your readers come first. Your content should always provide value to your readers, even if they don’t click on an affiliate link.
If your blog devolves into an affiliate spam fest, you will lose readers.
For example, right now I’m going to plug an amazing affiliate marketing course that I took from Michelle Schroeder-Gardner that I am now an affiliate for (she makes over $50K a month from affiliate marketing). I’m talking about affiliate marketing, she has a course on affiliate marketing. It feels “right.”
And I dropped the link after giving you a ton of value in the article. It shouldn’t feel sales-y.
There are other ways to monetize your blog
Affiliate marketing is not the only way to make money from your blog. The reason I am focusing exclusively on affiliate marketing in this $1K Blueprint is because, in most cases, it is the most practical way to earn your first $1,000 from your blog.
You can mess around with Google Adsense or try to get some sponsorship deals, but the reality is that A) you won’t make much from Adsense, and B) it’s tough to get sponsors for a brand new blog.
Affiliate marketing is most likely your best bet.
And after you start to understand the affiliate marketing game and have success with it, then I am all for creating your own products, getting sponsorships, etc.
That’s the Blueprint for Your First $1,000 from Blogging
Did I cover everything there is to know about blogging in this post?
No. Not even close. And that’s on purpose.
What I did do is tell you everything you need to know to start taking action now. Today.
If you follow every single step in this article (and don’t skip anything), you will have a real foundation for your blog to begin earning consistent, meaningful income.
Here’s the thing, though.
Most people aren’t actually willing to do all of this. In fact, the vast majority won’t even try.
There. I said it.
The Blueprint is right there for the taking.
Scroll up. I’ve shown you 90% of what is needed to run a multi thousand dollar per month blog (and no, the last 10% isn’t a “secret”, it’s just higher level tactics that aren’t important at this stage).
I’ve given all the info, for free, and now you just need to make a decision on if you are going to use it.
I read this on Seth Godin’s blog a few days ago, and I think it sums up this blogging opportunity well:
Here’s a keyboard, connected to the entire world. Here’s a publishing platform you can use to interact with just about anyone, just about any time, for free. You wanted a level playing field, one where you have just as good a shot as anyone else? Here it is. Do the work.
That’s what we’re all counting on.
For you to do the work.
What you should do next:
→ Bookmark this post. This is your guide.
→ Join our free Facebook group for bloggers. Say hi.
→ Set up your blog using the tutorial above. Don’t forget the coupon code, BTOP60 for 60% off.
→ Start (strategically) writing 5-10 high quality posts based off past successes in your niche.
→ Find a social media to dominate. I recommend Pinterest. There’s information in this post.
→ When you are ready, consider enrolling in my Pinterest Design Course. Making appealing pins is a skill you need to have and there is no way around it.
→ Find affiliate products you want to promote and join networks to get access to those programs.
→ Revisit your original articles and insert affiliate links. This may require to you heavily alter some posts– that is okay.
→ Consider enrolling in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing to further hone your affiliate marketing skills. I’ve taken the course and can tell you that it is worth the investment.
→ Write more conversion-oriented articles, make more pins, and keep putting yourself out there.
Are you willing to commit to this?
Listen: I know this stuff can be intimidating when you have no clue what you are doing. It’s easy to put it off and not really commit. It’s easy to wait for “inspiration” to hit you.
But here’s the bottom line. If you take the time to learn the game, blogging can truly change your life.
I know it’s changed mine.
I have complete freedom to live life on my own terms- not an employer’s.
Our blog is on pace to bring in around $100,000 in revenue this year, and I know that this is just the start for us.
We started at $0 just like everyone else.
We are not special. We just put in the work.
YOU CAN DO THIS.