Almost everyone should forget about making money directly from blogging. It’s so unlikely that it’s a total waste of your time trying. I am actually shocked at how ubiquitous the idea is that blogging is a get-rich-quick scheme. Or even a get-rich-slowly scheme. It’s not. Blogging is a great career tool for creating opportunities for yourself. But here are eight reasons you should stop thinking about money from blogging:

1. Big bloggers come from big media.
Usually I’m the first person to rip on print media as outdated and a dead-end career. But here’s something that maybe you don’t realize: Most big bloggers today have a strong background writing for print. For example: Erik Schoenfeld (TechCrunch), Owen Thomas (Valleywag), and I all wrote for Business 2.0 magazine at the same time. Ten years ago. Which means we had a ton of national media experience before we started blogging. Anya Kamenetz (Yahoo Finance) wrote for the Village Voice and had a very serious book published—before she started blogging.

2. Sure, there are exceptions. But you’re probably not one of them.
Let’s look at some people who have big blogs who didn’t come from big media. Heather Armstrong at Dooce. She’s a good one. Here’s what she has that you don’t: She’s a talented writer and a talented designer. She’s married to a developer who does all her tech stuff for free. And she has an amazing story to tell. She has the ability to translate her genius across many media—photography, memoir, twitter, and so on. She is a marvel. And you are not. None of us is. That’s why she is making so much money from her blog.

3. Even if you can do it, supporting yourself with a blog is crazy hard.
Most people had to do their day job and experiment with their blog and figure out what works and then do two, pretty much full-time jobs, and then quit their day job when their blog earned enough money. JD Roth did this at Get Rich Slowly. I did this with my blog (and nearly fell apart). Most people who do this do not have kids. Because if you have kids and a job you already have two full-time jobs, so you cannot add another. Blogging to support yourself is a complete full-time job. Read Gina Trapani’s post about how she is taking a break from blogging because it’s so life-consuming.

4. You probably have to be controversial to make money blogging.
Yes, there are some topics that do not require controversy: Productivity tools, for example. I think it’s safe to say, though, that that market is pretty saturated. You will have to find a good niche for yourself in order to stand out from the crowd. So you will have to be different, and the bloggers who are different have surprising things to say. And if you have surprising opinions, you’ll have people who tell you you’re an idiot. And if you are making good money from your blog, you’ll have hundreds of people telling you how you’re an idiot. Do you want that? Really? Will you be able to write another controversial opinion the next day or will you be too nervous?

5. You can make more money flipping burgers.
If you want to get your opinions out into the world, or you want to write a diary about your life, whatever—do that. But why do you have to make money at it? Most of you would probably like to write a bit, to get new opportunities, and then leverage the blog to do something fun. Most of you do not want to write blog posts optimized for advertisers. Really.

6. Please shut up about your book deal.
Books are not cash cows. They are time sinks. And they are marketing tools for something else. Like a consulting business or a speaking career or a blog. And people who are great speakers are seldom great writers, and vice versa. So don’t tell me you are doing a blog to get a book deal: Dead end. And don’t tell me it’s not a dead end because you’ll turn that into a speaking career. Show me someone that has worked for. Don’t tell me about Seth Godin. He had huge books before he started blogging. Not the other way around.

7. Blog for better reasons than money.
There are a lot of reasons to blog, but for the most part, money is not one of them. In the book, Blog Blazers: 40 Top Bloggers Share Their Secrets, Stephane Grenier asked forty bloggers what their definition of blogging success is. He talked with people like Seth Godin, Neil Patel, Ramit Sethi, and me. We all make a living online, and we all have big blogs, but almost no one in the book said money was the definition of success.

Bloggers defined success as things that mattered in their life: influence, connections, friendships, the ability to lead a conversation that matters to people. Some talked about a blog leading to other business opportunities.

8. Banner advertising is the mafia.
I have not had banner advertising on my site because I am so adamant that people should not blog to earn money—I don’t want to encourage anyone. I did take one ad. For Career Bags. I’m going to tell you something: The amount they paid for that ad was insignificant to me. But they let me do a lot of shopping on the site for free. Which was a huge treat. Shopping was fun. And I think about how much I love my blog every time I put my laptop into my Casauri bag.

I would never say that about a banner ad. But I am about to capitulate and sign a contract with Federated Media, the by-far-biggest company for online ad sales. Federated is sort of doing me a favor. I mean, I have about 400,000 page views a month, which I think is less traffic than any of their other clients. I’m grateful to be part of Federated because I do, in fact, need to make money from my blog. But what I have done to get here—work two jobs at once while raising kids, sell equity in my blog and then almost go out of business, and spend about four hours on each post—you probably wouldn’t want to go through all that just to make money on banner ads. You probably have a way more efficient mechanism for earning money and you can blog on the side.

This seems like a good time to tell you the advice my writing teacher gave our who class in graduate school: Writing for a living is a very, very hard life. If you can do anything else for a living, you should.

So the idea that blogging will help you get rich: Forget it. Your chances of that are so slim, while your chances of gaining the other benefits of blogging are very high. So blog, yes, and do it to reach real goals, just not financial goals.

317 replies
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  1. Rosina deMaltby
    Rosina deMaltby says:

    How refreshing to see someone write, “…none is” and not, “…none are.” :)
    This is a great post. I was about to write something similar and thought I would check first to see if someone else had done so.
    I do make a tidy living by the written word. I have had two books accepted and I write, design and publish health magazines and produce various news vehicles for other clients. Blogging (both professionally for clients) and on my own blog is my passion and I had hoped to make a little something from it.
    I fully concur that LinkShare, Google adwords and other linking programs benefit very few. I know three bloggers in my neighbourhood who are making over $10,000 a month. One has a travel blog, another a blog about making money blogging (really ridiculous) and one celebrity blog that has millions of subscribers worldwide and is making over $50,000 p.m. but these are the exception. It amazes me how very much blogging resembles MLM in terms of getting anyone to read the blog in question. A few people have left comments on my blog, but they are the same people and I personally know one of them. I have had 1,200 page views in about six weeks and 460 blog hits. I don’t this could be considered good.
    I started my blog two months ago with high hopes but my stats are not improving. I bring in humour, rants and sound health/beauty advice but I am spending over three hours a day on trying to get people to read it.
    So bottom line, a great article and one I will print and ponder with my husband tonight. Thanks so much…

  2. Annie
    Annie says:

    Wow, what an inspirational article!
    Whenever I need a kick in the butt to continue what I started I’ll always come back to your blog! I’ve achieved a lot of “impossible” by your descritpion things,so thanks for making me realize I got what it takes to be one of the few who are going to make it! And once I do, I’ll definitely write a similar article! :-)

  3. Eric Wright
    Eric Wright says:

    Hey Penelope…you are right. Most people will never make money blogging doing it the way your talking about.

    However, you shouldn’t say that people can not make a living blogging…I have an exact science that I teach, that actually does make money…You are right again in that it is not “Get Rich Quick”, it actually takes work, but you can make a ton doing it.

    Our blogs average anywhere from $5 to $25 per day…per blog, and we can usually kick out about one or two a day in around 6 hours.

    I like your style…just make sure to have all the facts before you totally dismiss making money with blogs.

    Eric

  4. Rosina deMaltby
    Rosina deMaltby says:

    Since writing my response (two above), I will follow up by saying I am getting way more visitors, (9,000 page counts and still quite new). As for Linkshare, I did a small experi last week…wrote genuinely on a product line that I admire and incorporated a link in the blog. The items start at $16. Twelve people hit on it, went to the site, and bought nothing. I am certainly not expecting this sort of link to bring me in anything significant but I was surprised that none of those hits converted to a sale as I would call them warm if not hot. I do make money blogging professionally for a couple of companies but I would like to be a little more financially successful with my own.

  5. Kristian Hart
    Kristian Hart says:

    Well that would make it much harder for women, because most guys couldn’t give a crap about what people say that they don’t know or don’t know them. All they are is words from a name.

  6. Chris
    Chris says:

    Penelope, this is a great post although it’s being taken far too personally by many people as per the comments I have read thus far. This is not an attack on entrepreneurship or following your dreams as far as I can read into it. As with any money making venture that you decide to embark upon the question you must ask yourself is always the same: What is your core product or service offering? Simply blogging and attracting a following in a specific area will not keep food on the table (no matter how many banner ads you post)if your goal is to make financial gain. If you do however have a solid product or service and then use your blog or book as for as that goes as a tool to support it, then blogging can be a very powerful tool to generate additional revenue.

    Best
    Chris

  7. John
    John says:

    Gee, I’m crushed. I really thought all those people claiming to make millions blogging and willing to sell me their system were telling the truth!

  8. Desi
    Desi says:

    The third of you that “enjoy” this article, only enjoy is enough to promote your own blogs, hence the reason you’re commenting.

    The other third of that “hate” this blog, don’t understand that she knew how controversal this blog would be and how much hate she would get.

    And neither of you really understand how she pulled 2/3rd of the readers into her trap, while another 1/3 didn’t even pay attention to this entry….

    Great entry! Though i felt offended at times…

  9. Emperor
    Emperor says:

    When you don’t have anything to say, you won’t make anything of it. If you tailor your message to your audience, it becomes a bit easier.

    If you start a blog around a good concept, and you know how to market that concept, you can make money at it. If you start a blog without a concept, just to make money, you will most likely write about making money, which is over-saturated anyhow.

    I have a company whereby I try to publish my fiction and art. Thus, to promote the company, I started a blog. The blog is very clear and concise, and despite having several differet topics, my advertising is aimed expertly at my audience. Now, the blog makes enough money to pay for all of my webhosting fees. So any sells I make from the actual site, have less of their profit margin devoted to advetising and online support.

    So while I do agree on some of your points, I disagree that you can’t make money from this. I have an insanely high CTR and I build some customers from it, so I enjoy it.

  10. epigreebets
    epigreebets says:

    Very Recently, there has been a great deal of litigation by the
    US Federal trade comission against blogs and website promoters
    for not publishing their advertising revenue, or potential
    relationships with ad networks.

    What are your personal ideas about how this could impact
    the blog world?

  11. parenting BY dummies
    parenting BY dummies says:

    This is my first visit to your blog and I’m glad I came today. I blog because I like it (and from time to time get some random free thing that makes me smile, mostly because I like getting boxes in the mail), but other people (particularly my mom) are convinced that this will lead me to a lifetime of wealth. She is always coming up with ways I can blog my way into a book deal or a reality TV show. Thing is, I don’t even want to write a book (or have a show). What would I even say? Who would even care? I think I’ll send her over here and let you tell her the ugly truth of it. Thanks for the info! Your new blog-stalking-I-do-this-for-free-and-I-like-it friend:)

  12. MIke
    MIke says:

    Hey, I make $15 – $20 a month with my blog. Am I a success? Now if I can duplicate that by 100 blogs I can quite my part-time job. :-)

  13. Jolene Taylor, PHD
    Jolene Taylor, PHD says:

    Not to nitpick dear, but I thought you might like to know that you appear to have a typo in your article… unless you meant to say “our who class”… please see below:

    This seems like a good time to tell you the advice my writing teacher gave our who class in graduate school: Writing for a living is a very, very hard life. If you can do anything else for a living, you should.

  14. benz b
    benz b says:

    This is a load of crock! You can make money with your blog. Go to my site and see my accounts of my experiment of how to make money posting links for Google. I have noted how I started, how much I made, and how long it takes. I am now getting a check every month from my blogs.

  15. adamsjacson
    adamsjacson says:

    Nice posts.I have read many blog and this is greatest one helpful and informative for me thanks. its really interesting and i like to read it.its gave me grate knowledge.

    …………..
    adamsjacson
    thanks”

    Money Help

  16. The.Anonymous.Lurk3r
    The.Anonymous.Lurk3r says:

    One great example of a (financial) success story is Brooke Magnanti, formerly known as Belle de Jour, author of the book “The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl” which was based off her popular, critically acclaimed blog memoirs. Her story was later adapted into the TV series “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”.

    I know she’s the exception to the rule, and that the odds are against most would-be bloggers hoping to quit their day jobs, but it seemed like such an obvious precedent that I had to point it out.

  17. Antonia Jenner
    Antonia Jenner says:

    I started my blog last May. I have since acquired the business of three organizations who have seen it and asked me to create a blog for their organizations. I just decided to monetize it and am making $120 this month. Hardly much but it is building. You can make money through blogs if you believe that this is what you will do and plan accordingly.

  18. EmmaK
    EmmaK says:

    My blog is not controversial and I don’t write for print media yet I got a book deal for a humourous parenting book and to some extent my blog got me noticed so I’d say that point is moot.

  19. simone
    simone says:

    I have two blogs
    http://fromrattopositiveparent.blogspot.com/
    http://www.cambridgecheapskate.blogspot.com/

    The latter was started to learn about blogging several years ago when not many people were blogging. The first one was started so I could have more exposure as a parenting writer.

    I agree with what has been said above, blogs are like calling cards for journalists, people in marketing or niche experts and can only generate revenue indirectly, as parts of a career strategy. I don’t think advertising is bad, provided the blogger only plugs something that is relevant to their beliefs. I have joined a scheme but would only blog about certain companies if they offer great discounts on something a parent might want to buy or they are offering something interesting. If all they are offering is 10 per cent off the RRP, I don’t bother. There is a fine balance between blogging and becoming an advertising platform.

  20. Make Money Online with Michael Erik
    Make Money Online with Michael Erik says:

    Hmm…why not say “much money” and “at first” in the title, instead of not at all period dot? Some points well taken. Others not so. You mention one exception to the rule but – there are TONS more that make it NOT an exception. Judd Burdon, Yaro Starak, Josh Spaulding, Shoemoney, Jon Chow, Ken Evoy, Lisa Irby, Darren Rowse, Brian Clark…the list goes on and on and on…and they ALL started small. SO if bigger companies and media swallow them up due to the name they already have made and traffic they already get (myspace…twitter…feedburner…facebook…etc!!!) – IF they allow it, then that came AFTER they were a success not before…the bigger companies more often put others’ ideas to work when they had their own dry spells and had to keep their ears to the ground for the other buzz…as opportunists to find “the next big thing” when their wells of creativity and their MBAs and EVPs couldn’t create it themselves. You forget about their need for entrepreneurs. Exceptions? Hardly. A constant fleet of new creativity while saving R and D etc. Please don’t make people fold over to big corporations and media through this kind of thinking – it is these people who take such big giants in new directions or if such big giants are too inflexible for the change in the market of individuals…can make them fall!

    • Teri
      Teri says:

      Most of the people you mention blog about making money blogging.  That’s how they make money.  They’re selling a dream.

  21. Mike
    Mike says:

    You obviously know nothing about blogging. It’s VERY possible to make a good amount of money blogging, you just need to know what you’re doing. Don’t listen to this guy, if you think you can do something, then you can.

  22. Adam F
    Adam F says:

    Well this article is fairly old at this point, but still feel the need to comment.

    I think the key point that you forget here (and maybe someone commented already) is that people are lazy. Americans especially are lazy. Creating a blog and throwing up some Mafia banner ads will not magically make you rich.

    Just like anything, it requires a lot of work and dedication. Is this so different than my desk job as an engineer though? I had to go to school for 4 years to get my job. During the first 6 months of my job, I was fairly useless, at least until I understood my role.

    Interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

  23. jordan
    jordan says:

    i have been blogging since 2007 and i am one of those people who believe blogging would earn me money yet until this very moment i still don’t but still believing i would because of so many blogs that i read that you can earn from blogging. but that belief has changed just now after reading your post and steffan’s. what you two have written in you blogs are but true. i really appreciate you did post this because this really have awaken from dreaming of getting rich out of blogging.

    thank you very much for this worthy information.

    best regards,

    jordan

  24. Jaime
    Jaime says:

    Afraid of competition? The fact is most blogs aren’t great because most people aren’t writers, they’re not writers because they don’t practice, plus they have other things pulling for their time besides blogging.

    It takes time to become a good writer, it takes time to nurture a blog. Success takes time, that’s all. Don’t discourage those who might eventually become great one day. I will admit my BF is a programmer and he does help me if I have problems with my website.

    But its just easier for writers to get a blog on Typepad, Blogspot, WordPress, etc. and get things going. Also Heather was a web designer, so she clearly wasn’t clueless about web design.

    If people had told these successful bloggers to not bother writing online, and if they had listened they wouldn’t have become the success that they are today. Btw, have you seen most blogs?

    They’re boring. Most blogs bore me to tears, but that’s because there are many people who aren’t writers, and don’t have the knack for writing, they don’t have the knack for writing because they haven’t developed it yet, plus they blog about boring things like what they ate for breakfast.

    I agree with Adam F when he wrote many Americans are lazy, but obviously people do start blogs and make money from writing, they put a lot of sweat into it though. Its hard work just like anything else in life.

    No one is born a marvel, they are made, they are made because they had time, opportunity, and day jobs to support them while they’re blogs took time to grow, but those who stick it out have a good chance of making it. You make it sound impossible but its not.

  25. 2345
    2345 says:

    Agreed with the last commenter. It’s not impossible to make it. The same difficulty applies to many other professions, thus, it shouldn’t be told as a blanket statement that only those who’ve currently reached success in their area had what it takes, and that the door of opportunity after them is somehow closed. It’d be more constructive to write ‘why’ most won’t make lotsa money blogging, instead of implying/saying they just can’t. Otherwise, wake up calls Can be sobering.

  26. Yakezie
    Yakezie says:

    You haven’t visited the Yakezie. Many of our blogs in our network make over $1,000/month. Some make $3,000, and even $8,000 a month!

  27. SimonontheSofa
    SimonontheSofa says:

    Hello Penelope

    I know this is an old post but wanted to say some sound advice on many levels. so many people are promoting that you can make millions from blogging now. Another marketing tool. http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/ Yaro is one of them. So it is possible depending on what you have to say and sell of course.

    Everything is possible and there are only opportunities.

    Anyway Just found your site via twitter, had a look around as you do, and thought id share you write well. Best wishes

  28. Peter
    Peter says:

    I have to say, overall, I’m split on this post. First and foremost I’m a big advocate on free speech and am a writer, and because of that I respect your right to your own opinion and applaud you for putting it out there. It felt a little on the side of smashing dreams to me. I think we all realize it wouldn’t be an easy task to earn good money off a blog, but to not even try? Pick your favorite actor. I’m sure at some point in his life someone told him he should give up and he’d never make it big in hollywood, and now he may be one of the best paid actors in the country. Why? Because everyone is a unique person and what may not have worked for one may come naturally to another, so at the very least, give it a shot if it’s something your passionate about. Also the post seemed a little contradictive to me. At one point in the post you explain how it is near impossible to make a living from a blog if you have kids, because with your actual day job and kids both already being full time jobs a blog would become a third. Later on in the post though, you mention how you had a day job and have kids. Are you saying your capable of doing things we are not? You also mention that, “there are exceptions, but you are not one of them.” You list several people that have made a decent living off their blog, and I could most likely name 100 more, so why is it that they are all the exceptions and we are not? Did we not come into this earth the same way, are we not all of flesh and blood? How do you know who the next exception will or will not be? I do, however, respect the realism you are giving. You have experience in the subject, because it is what you do, and so you know as well as anyone that this may not be an easy task for most people. I would say though, that if it is something you are truly passionate about, go for it. Sure, you can, “hedge your bets,” and “minimize your risk,” along the way but if you never even start then you won’t get anywhere. If you do try you may be a huge success, or an epic failure, but at least you will know and have tried. Well time to end this comment now as I’m writting it from my Sidekick and the thumbs are getting tired, but hey at least I didn’t call you an idiot, right?

  29. Michael R. Douglas
    Michael R. Douglas says:

    You can make more money flipping burgers. Hahahaha :) agree! that if you want to get your opinions out into the world, or you want to write a diary about your life, whatever – do that.

    Good one

  30. John Burnside
    John Burnside says:

    A well written post in both style and content. You can tell by the size of the comments that its well written and controversial creating conversation but i have to say i don’t agree with a lot of the points. Particularly I don’t agree that you shouldn’t blog to make slow money, its an excellent and fun way to make a bit of money on the side.

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  32. Mao Yang
    Mao Yang says:

    Whoa…what a way to rain on my parade. I just started blogging and the thought of making some money on the side was definitely something I was looking forward to. I don’t know how other bloggers have been able to make money but I believe that I am at the same advantage as they are so I will continue believing that something great will come out of my efforts. Thanks for painting a reality for me but I think I’ll take my chances.

  33. Stu Lisonbee
    Stu Lisonbee says:

    Love #4 and #7! I often tell bloggers that if they want traffic, blog about the most controversial thing they can think ok of, then take the less popular view. The blood will be flying in no time :)

    A good friend of mine is what you might call a “blogging purist.” He considers the idea of making money with your blog a cardinal sin.

    Me? I tend to think the best way to make money blogging is by writing posts for other people’s blogs. If you’re a good writer, ghost blogging isn’t bad business these days. Having a CEO blog is quite a trend, but those CEO’s a. can’t write and b. don’t have time to even if they could.

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