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2017 State of the Blogging Industry

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part 7: the money

How bloggers make money

Money is a tool for accomplishing your goals in life. Whether you want to start a nonprofit, travel the world, buy a Tesla, retire early, or simply provide for your family, money is a tool for bringing your ideas to life.

Sometimes, we tell ourselves a story about how money will changes our lives, even when money is not actually the thing holding us back. But other times, money is the key to unlocking our potential and living a better life.

When it comes to blogging, and certainly professional blogging, money is what allows bloggers to spend the majority of their time running a business, investing in themselves, and serving their customers. Here’s what respondents had to say about money.

What products and/or services do bloggers sell?

In order to make money, you have to have something for sale. That’s fundamentally how a blog turns into a business. So we looked at how many people had a product or service for sale and whether or not those people made money over the past year.

Of all bloggers, 65% had a product or service for sale and 66% of bloggers made money in the past year. We found that 12% of bloggers with a product or service for sale did not make any money in the past year, all of whom were not-yet-pros. We’ll cover the bloggers who made money without a product or service for sale in a bit.

Of the pros, 95% reported having a product or service for sale versus 60% of not-yet-pros. Perhaps obviously, 100% of pros made money in the past year versus 60% of not-yet-pros.

You might ask: how is it possible that more bloggers made money than had a product or service for sale? We dug in to find out how it was possible and it turns out it may have been the wording of the question.

Do you have products or services for sale and did you make any money this past year?

We found that most bloggers who did not have a product or service for sale but still made money did so from ads. So why did they answer “no” to having something for sale? This is likely because allowing ads on a website does not seem to fit as either a product or service and our questions specifically asked, “Over the past year, did you have a product or service for sale?” Regardless of the reasoning, it turns out that no one, in fact, made money without having a product or service for sale if we lump ads in as a service.

If there is a definite line in the sand between those bloggers who make money and those who don’t, it is this: bloggers who make money have something available for sale.

But it’s not enough to know that bloggers had something for sale. We wanted to know what kind of offering bloggers most typically have for sale. Here’s what we found:

What kinds of products or services do you have for sale?

Digital products were far and away the most popular offering for all bloggers with 74% of all bloggers, 85% of pro bloggers, and 72% of not-yet-pro bloggers having a digital product for sale. These digital products could include ebooks, courses, audio programs, and other digital media. Males (82%) were more likely to sell digital products than females (70%), but there was not much difference between bloggers with and without children.

Services were the second most popular offering with 52% of all bloggers, 52% of pro bloggers, and 52% of not-yet-pro bloggers having services for sale. Bloggers without children (57%) were more likely than bloggers with children (49%) to have a service for sale, and female (54%) bloggers were more likely than males (48%).

Female bloggers (23%) were more likely to sell physical products than male bloggers (17%). On the flip side, male bloggers (11%) are significantly more likely to sell software than female bloggers (0.88%), which mirrors the lack of gender parity across the tech industry in general and in the coding, development, and software engineering professions in particular.

Just how much money do bloggers make? That’s up next.

How much revenue, expenses, and profit do bloggers rack up in a year?

Revenue is great, but it’s not nearly as important as profit for running a sustainable business. We divided the respondents into pro and not-yet-pro categories based on their profit, not revenue, for a reason. Profit goes in an entrepreneur’s pocket, while revenue is a vanity metric.

All respondents reported an average (mean) of $54,108 in the past year, with average expenses of $15,895 and profits of $38,016. Those numbers were largely bolstered by outliers within the pro blogger group, which you can see in the difference in average revenue and profit between pros and not-yet-pros.

Pros reported average revenue of $185,975 in the past year, with $47,912 in average expenses and $138,046 in profits. Compare that to $16,267 in average revenue, $6,769 in average expenses and $9,497 in average profits for not-yet-pros.

Bloggers who made money: What were your gross revenue, expenses, profit, best month, and worst month over the past 12 months?

Meanwhile, despite the fact that there are more female professional bloggers than male professional bloggers, we see a large gap in average profits between male bloggers ($49,638) and female bloggers ($30,892). That is a profit gap of 61% for female bloggers, which is three times worse than the full-time worker gender pay gap of 20% as reported in 2015.

We see a similar profit gap between those bloggers with children, who averaged $46,797 in profit, and bloggers without children, who averaged $19,381 in profit. That is a 141% profit gap, which is huge.

Both of these gaps are deserving of more research, but we especially believe that to be true of the gender gap. Why is it that female bloggers are earning less, on average, than males? Is this a systemic problem, a matter of deliberate choice, or something more complicated that combines many different factors?

For those bloggers who did not earn money in the past year, we wanted to know how much money they spent in the process of building their blog. This should be useful to new bloggers especially in helping to budget for the period between launch and income.

Bloggers who did not earn money in the past year spent an average of $953 building their blogs. Males ($1,150) spent more than female ($826) and bloggers with children ($1,129) spent more than those without children ($790), which mirrors the profit gap described above as well.

This seems to indicate that a new blogger could safely budget $1,000 per year of operations to get up and running before earning revenue. That said, keep in mind that not-yet-pros who earned revenue in the past year spent $6,769 on average, so those expenses will go up quickly as you make a concerted effort to grow your blog’s audience and income.

If you did not earn money this year, what were your business expenses?

How big are bloggers’ goals for earning money?

We couldn’t resist asking respondents what their goals are for the year ahead and we could not be happier that we did. The goals bloggers set for themselves are revealing of the psychology that drives us and the potential barriers we break through as we build a business over time.

What is your profit goal over the next 12 months?

We divided each respondent segment into those who made money in the past year and those who did not make money in the past year in an effort to understand whether making money in the past affects our goals for making money in the future. All of the results would tell us that the answer is a resounding “yes.”

If you have made money in the past as a blogger, you are more likely to set a higher goal ($79,852) for yourself than those who have not made money in the past ($28,754). This reflects a money mindset that has been widely covered in self-help and personal finance material around the web.

Males who earned money this past year ($99,934) are more likely to set higher goals than females ($67,544) who also earned money this past year. This alone is a 48% gap, which may be one factor in why male bloggers earn more than females.

Based on this data, males believe they can earn more than females, which is reflective of the fact that women are less likely than men to negotiate for higher salary and less likely than men to apply for jobs even when they are overqualified. As an industry, this is a huge opportunity to improve the state of the blogging world by encouraging more women to ask for what they’re worth and to set higher earning goals for themselves, especially if that does not interfere with other life goals.

One last note here: Pros are out of control (in a good way) with their earning goals, with their average profit goal for the next year coming in at $222,606. This represents the boost in confidence and the change in money mindset that comes from taking control of your own life by starting a blog and turning it into a profitable, sustainable business.

When we as humans see our potential by taking risks, earning rewards, and having complete autonomy over our work, we set the bar higher and higher. Eventually, the problem is not so much, “how much can I earn” but rather,

Why do I do what I do and how can I be a good steward of the resources I have by serving others?

That is the question we’ll be asking more and more of our customers as we support you in pursuing an independent living through blogging: How can you serve others by building a blog-based business?

Now that we’ve seen the full picture of the blogging industry, from the motivations that inspire a new blogger to get started to the income that rewards the risk we take as bloggers and entrepreneurs, we’ll close this report with a look at the biggest struggles bloggers face everyday.


What bloggers struggle with

Read next section →

Download the State of the Blogging Industry 2017 report