Professional Blogger Business Model Explained

A professional blogger is somebody who makes a full-time living from their online publishing efforts, which is in direct comparison to a “hobbyist” blogger who simply publishes for fun.

The most successful pro bloggers will write and publish content in one specific niche, such as travel, parenting tips, cooking, or technology, for example.

Your income can come from a number of sources such as promoting the products and services of other companies, selling display advertising space, or even creating and selling your own digital products.

The really neat part about being a professional blogger is that there’s very little investment required to get started – you need a computer, an Internet connection, a website (free or paid) and the ability to write in a way that engages people.

You can also run this type of business from anywhere in the world, which is exactly what many “digital nomads” do.

Your earning potential as a blogger is almost unlimited, but it does take time to build your audience and your income.

With that being said, the most prolific professional bloggers earn anywhere from US$10,000 to US$100,000 per month.

How Professional Blogging Works

Blogging, or weblogging, has been around in one form or another since the late 1990s. The idea was that you’d keep an online journal, sharing your thoughts, ideas and everything else with the world through your “posts”. Posts are simply web pages that can be as long or short as you need them to be.

A blogger will generally publish information in a specific niche or market. So, a travel blogger might write a post about the “20 best hotels in Vietnam”, but a food blogger might create a post about the “10 things you need to know about cooking a great thanksgiving dinner.”

If this is starting to sound familiar it’s because you’ve been unknowingly reading “blog” content, and enjoying it.

The thing is that the world seems to be overflowing with bloggers – you can’t walk 20 feet in most large cities without bumping into one.

But what separates the professional blogger making a full-time income from the hobbyist who’s just massaging their own ego?

Regardless of the topic, the most profitable bloggers are those with strong personalities, and opinions that make them stand out in a crowd. Anyone can make money blogging, but if you want to do it full-time you need to have something to say, and an audience willing to listen.

Social Media

The best way to create a personal brand is via social media. And with a wide variety of free platforms to choose from, this is the only time in human history that one person can literally build a business empire from nothing, using freely available content and video marketing tools such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

The reality is that most bloggers get a lot of traffic from their social media marketing efforts, so running a truly successful (and profitable) blog means embracing social media as part of your business model.

How do Blogs Make Money?

illustration on how do blogs make money

The most profitable blogs rely on multiple streams of income – you should never put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to making money online. So here are the most popular ways to make money from your blogging audience.

Affiliate Marketing

You recommend a product or service you’ve used in the past, providing a link from your blog to the company selling that product or service. If one of your visitors buys through that link then you’re paid a commission.

Some affiliate commissions are tiny – in the $5 per sale range – but some of them can pay out $50 – $100 for each customer you refer.

The smartest bloggers will only recommend products or services that resonate with their audience e.g. food bloggers won’t recommend an auto accessories supplier.

Amazon and their Associates Program is one of the biggest affiliate networks on the planet, and their product range is especially popular with “mommy bloggers” whose visitors tend to make impulse purchases.

AdSense/Display Advertising

You basically rent out “slots” on your blog to Google or other companies interested in purchasing advertising space from you. AdSense is completely passive, in that you copy and paste some code into your blog, and when people click on the ads you get paid.

Banner advertising is slightly more complex because you’ll need to deal directly with different companies, discussing how many visitors you get per month, and how much you’ll charge them for x number of impressions (or views) of their banner ad.

Sponsored Posts

If you have a really popular blog you’ll be approached by companies or individuals offering to “buy” a blog post from you. They write the content and send it to you. Once you’ve approved it they then send payment, and you publish their blog post.

What you’re getting paid for is providing a link back to their website for search engine optimization purposes, or their blog post might be just a recommendation for their own product or service.

You should only accept sponsored posts from companies that match your audiences’ needs and also aren’t promoting anything spammy, seedy or just downright illegal.

Your Own Products

These normally take the form of digital products, in the form of eBooks or video courses. What some bloggers do is take their accumulated knowledge on a given topic, and then package it as a course for Udemy, or maybe just a downloadable PDF document.

Creating your own products is one of the quickest ways to build recurring passive income because you only invest time in creating the product once, but you can sell it over and over again to your new visitors.

Your Email List

The most successful bloggers start building an email list from the day their blog goes online.

This list will initially struggle to get past 100 subscribers, but once you have several thousand people on your email list you can quite easily generate money by sending them a daily or weekly email promoting your own products, or products sold by other companies.

So, in the end, you can potentially earn thousands of dollars per month for sending one email per week to people who already love what you do.

How Much Can I Make From Blogging

There are two types of bloggers in this world: Those who are making a full-time income (and then some) from it, and those who make absolutely nothing. 

But when it comes to how much you can earn, the sky is pretty much the limit – and that means income in excess of US$100,000 per month, every single month.

One of the most famous bloggers out there is a lady named Ree (Ann Marie) Drummond, who started her blog ThePioneerWoman.com way back in 2006.

What was initially a blog detailing her personal journey as a city girl moving to live in the country, quickly became a full-time job, generating enough money for her to build a media empire.

This “hobby” blog quickly went from zero visitors to over 4 million unique visitors per month by 2011. Experts estimate, based on her traffic and audience, that she’s earning US2 million dollars each year just from selling display advertising space on her site.

Oh, and her life story has been optioned as a movie with Reese Witherspoon set to play her.

So, if your goal is to make a couple of hundred extra bucks per month to help pay with the bills, then that’s entirely doable.

If, however, you’re willing to dream big and work hard, there’s no reason why your blog shouldn’t replace your salaried income within a few years.

Examples of High Earning Blogs in Action

The idea of blogging appeals to you, but can the average Joe or Josephine generate a full-time income from blogging? Yes, they absolutely can.

There are many different niches you can choose for blogging – here are four of the most popular:

Travel Bloggers

Matt Kepnes is something of a personality when it comes to travel bloggers, mainly because he earns over US$50,000 every single month from his blog NomadicMatt.com, doing something he loves and helping others.

He generates the majority of his income from selling budget travel guides, with titles like “Travel the World on $50 a day” and “The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking”.

Matt built a hugely profitable blog while traveling the world, visiting 80 different countries in the process.

If you want to learn how he did it, you’re in luck! Matt put all his secrets together in a great course on how to become a Travel Blogger called The Business of Travel Blogging. You can read more about it in the “Training” section of this post HERE.

Mommy Blogs

As the title suggests, these are moms who put their knowledge and skills of being a parent and managing a family, to work in their online publishing efforts.

A great example of what’s possible here is Holly Homer’s blog Kids Activities, which helps parents find lots and lots of activities to keep tiny hands productive and out of harm’s way.

Holly generates most of her income through selling display advertising, but she also earns income from a number of affiliate programs.

Financial Blogs

The 2008 financial crash taught millions of people the actual value of money, the dangers of unsecured debt, and how important budgeting is. Trent Hamm – the founder of TheSimpleDollar.com – had financial issues that came to a head in 2006, forcing him to take action.

Once he’d figured out how to resolve his own money problems, he then went about sharing that same information with others.

His site currently gets one million unique visitors per month, with significant income coming from affiliate commissions for promoting credit card offers.

Food Blogs

pinch of yum food blog

Pinch of Yum, a blog that started as a way of sharing their love of food with others, has turned into a full-time business for Lindsay and Bjork Ostrom.

This husband and wife team has grown their blogging income from just $20 per month in 2011 to over US$95,000 per month at the end of 2018. Yes, that means they’re on course to earn over US$1 million per year as you read this.

Their blog was so successful that a couple of years back the couple decided to start a website called Food Blogger Pro. This is a membership site that teaches people how to start, grow and monetize a food blog.

You can read more about the Food Blogger Pro training below.

What You Need to Get Your Blog Up And Running

A Domain Name

The first thing you need when starting a blog is to buy a catchy domain name. If you need help coming up with something memorable check out my guide on How to come up with a blog name.

There are hundreds of domain registrars online where you can buy your domain, I will simplify things for you with my 2 Golden Rules of buying a domain name:

  1. Don’t EVER buy your domain name at GoDaddy.
  2. Always buy your domain name at Namecheap.

There really is no reason to buy your domain anywhere other than Namecheap, they have the best prices, free Whois privacy and they will not try to mercilessly upsell and overcharge you like Godaddy.

Just be sure you don’t sign up for Namecheap’s Web Hosting while you’re over there. I list some MUCH better options below.

A WordPress Website

Please DO NOT even think about starting your blog on a free hosting platform like Blogger.com. Yeah, it is called ‘Blog(ger) – but it is owned by Google, and Google is Evil.

There have been plenty of articles written about why investing your time and energy in a blog that someone else has control over is a bad idea, and they are all correct.

You want to have total control of your blog – which means a self-hosted install of WordPress.

Yes, there are other self-hosted platforms like Joomla or Drupal and I could spend the next 1000 words explaining why you should avoid them – or you can just take my (and every other internet marketers) word for it and use WordPress.

If you need help setting up your WordPress site check out my Guide to setting up a WordPress website. Most legit web hosts have One-Click installs of WordPress so getting the basic site online will be pretty simple.

Hosting

You are going to need somewhere to host your blog – which is where web hosting comes in.

Unless you are incredibly lucky, or a great promoter your blog traffic will most likely start off slow so there is really no need to spend an arm and a leg on hosting at this early stage of the game.

Siteground is all you really need to get started.

Their “Start Up” plan is only $3.95 per month for 1 website, but for an extra 2 bucks a month you can get the “Grow Big” plan which allows you to create an unlimited amount of websites.

I would go with the Grow Big plan as once you see how fun and easy it is to put up your first WordPress site you will want to build more.

Siteground's "Grow Big" plan is best value for newbie internet marketers"
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Siteground is one of the cheapest legit hosts out there. Their servers are rock solid, support is great and the downtime is practically non-existent.

When your blog starts getting more than 500 visitors a day and you have some income rolling in, you may want to consider switching to something more rugged like Kinsta.

Kinsta is quite a bit more expensive. The “PRO” plan is $60 a month, but if you are making money from your site it is well worth it.

If you get a sudden spike of traffic from a social media post that goes viral, and your budget host crashes, you stand to lose far more than Kinsta’s monthly fee.

A great middle-ground between Siteground and Kinsta is WPXHosting. Their “Business Plan” is $24.99 a month and allows you to create up 5 individual websites.

WPX Hosting - reasonable pricing

In multiple tests, WPX Hosting was ranked as the fastest host online. With speed being a HUGE Google ranking factor it may be worth it to skip over SiteGround and start your blog on WPXHosting if you can afford it.

A Wordpres Theme

A WordPress Theme is what makes you Blog look and act the way you want it to.

You can use just about any theme as a Pro Blogger as long is it allows your readers to easily navigate your site and find your most important content.

Luckily with WordPress, you can change themes with the click of a button so you are not locking yourself into a theme that you may regret later.

Astra & Generatepress

The safest choice you can make is to start off with Generatepress or Astra Theme. They are both extremely flexible and the basic versions are free.

When combined with a page builder like Elementor (also free) you can get some truly stunning results.

I own the multisite versions of both Astra and Generatepress and use them on a total of about 30 sites. This site runs on Astra.

Both these themes come with some very slick “Starter Sites” which you can copy to your website with just a couple button clicks.

The Starter Sites install Demo content and images on your blog which makes it easy to see exactly what your site will look like once you start adding your own content.

The way these 2 theme makers get you to spring for their paid plans is to withhold some of the coolest starter site skins for their paying customers.

But there are still enough free starter sites between the 2 themes that you should be able to find something you like.

My suggestion is to just install both themes, browse through all the starter sites, and go with the theme that has the starter site you like best.

The Genesis Framework

There is another option I would like to mention as it seems a huge percentage of Bloggers use it.

It’s called the Genesis Framework. It is a very clean, basic theme that you bolt ‘Child Themes” on top of to make it look and act like you want.

If you hate technical stuff and just want to get a slick site up quickly, that looks 90% of the way you want it to look, then the Genesis Framework may be just what you are looking for.

Unfortunately, there is no free version of Genesis. The basic theme costs $59.95 and then you can expect to spend another $29.00 to $79.00 for a child theme.

The good news is that this is a LIFETIME payment so they don’t hit you up with yearly or monthly rebilling as most premium theme makers do.

Genesis makes some great child themes but there are also many 3rd party child theme developers that deserve special mention.

If you’re creating any sort of female-centric blog there are 2 great child theme providers you should take a look at:

Pretty Darn Cute theme samples

NOTE: There are literally thousands of WordPress themes on the market, free and paid. If you need more help choosing a theme be sure to check out my Guide to Picking a WordPress Theme.

Auto Responder

If you ask a successful blogger what they wish they had done differently when they first started out, 99% will say…

BUILD A LIST FROM DAY 1!!!!!

The old saying ‘The Money is in the list” is especially true with the Blogging business model and will ultimately be the difference between making “Starbucks Money” or “Quit Your Job and Travel the World” money.

Building a responsive email list should be at the top of your to-do list as early as possible but please don’t let that stop you from getting your blog online and publishing your first batch of articles.

So, what is the best autoresponder for the Pro Blogging business model?

Once again, there is no need for anything fancy here.

Unless you’re planning to build your blog into a Global Media Empire like Ree Drummond from ThePioneerwoman.com, you won’t need a lot of fancy automation and form integrations.

You just need an autoresponder that has a simple interface and will make it fun and easy for you to log in and zip off a daily email to your readers.

My pick is GetResponse for its simple, intuitive writing panel and straightforward sending options. They currently have a 30-day free trial, so you can check out all the features and see if you like it before you commit to a monthly plan.

Aweber also has a 30-day free trial so if you find the GetResponse interface not to your liking, you may want to check out Aweber as well.

I prefer GetResponse, but many of my marketing friends have massive lists on Aweber and are very happy with it.

Best Pro Blogger Training Courses

There are some good sites and courses about how to start a blog, but they are all pretty general. With this business model, more than any other, the steps to success vary greatly depending on what niche you select to blog about.

To make it as a Food blogger you may need to generate a huge following on Instagram, whereas if you are in the Kid/Mommy space you would want to concentrate on Pinterest instead.

This is why you should at least have a general idea about your niche before you purchase any training I recommend below.

Here are my current favorite courses for the Pro Blogging business model:

The Business Of Travel Blogging By Nomadic Matt

If you want to become a travel blogger, there is only one course you should consider buying… The Business of Travel Blogging by Nomadic Matt.

This course was put together by Matthew Kepnes who took Nomadicmatt.com from a tiny independent blog about his world travels, to a world-class site that competes head to head with behemoths like Lonelyplanet.

There is no one with a better pedigree in the Travel Blogging niche that Matt Kepnes. This is a guy who knows first-hand the steps needed to take a passion for travel and turn it into a full-time income.

The Business of Travel Blogging is part of a series of courses under the banner “Superstar Blogging”. The other courses in the series are:

All 4 courses are presented in a series of video tutorials, case studies, and interviews with experts in the fields. Here are some of the perks of joining the Superstar Blogging community:

All of the courses are reasonably priced at $99 each – but at check-out time you will get an option to add any of the other courses to your shopping cart for an additional $49 bucks.

Food Blogger Pro

Lindsay and Bjork Ostrom Creators of Food Blogger Pro Training

If you want to become a food blogger then you should consider signing up for Food Blogger Pro. The membership is only $29 a month which is a steal considering what you get for it.

If you aren’t in a buying mood, they also offer a nice little free ebook called – 10 Mistakes Bloggers Make – which is worth downloading.

Here are some of the benefits of joining Food Blogger Pro – I’m feeling a bit lazy so I will just copy them right off their site (hope they don’t mind):

Pros/Cons of the Pro Blogger Business Model

Pros of the Pro Blogger Business Model

Cons of the Pro Blogger Business Model

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