On How I Make Money Writing Online

In recent weeks, there’s been a lot written online about how to make money (or even a living) writing online. There have been several who use advertising to help support their online work, some who sell products (or are an affiliate for products) online to support their efforts, and there are those who offer premium content to readers if they become members (or patrons) of their website. What’s more is that the pieces I’ve been reading are also delving into how one is going to be able to make money writing online in the future.

All of the points made by my fellow writers are very valid. I don’t necessarily agree with using the methods employed by every one of the writers, but not because they don’t serve to bring in revenue. For example, I’m not looking to start up delivering premium content anytime soon because I feel I don’t have the readership to make it all that worthwhile at the moment and I also simply don’t have the time generate any more quality content right now. If anything, I’d be more likely to do more guest posts elsewhere than to do offer up a premium service for members when I do have more time available. The same goes for premium podcast content (as Dave Caolo and Shawn Blanc offer), although I did consider it when putting ProductiVardy to rest not too long ago. With a Lifehack podcast still in the works and Mikes on Mics doing very well, it’s just not something I’m willing to do.1

I have to admit that I’m not fond of sponsored RSS feeds all that much, either. Don’t get me wrong – I understand why they are being done and how they can bring in revenue, I just don’t find them all that useful for my readers. In fact, I have to wonder when you start hearing about companies like General Motors pulling their ads from a vast portal like Facebook if the RSS sponsorship isn’t all that much of a sustainable model for revenue anyway. Sure, you can charge far less than Facebook and hit a more targeted and measurable audience, but for how long? I skim my RSS feed most days anyway – and I most certainly skip sponsor messages in those feeds that employ them. I’m sure I’m not alone.

My friend Pat Dryburgh recently left FusionAds, and he offered up his reasons in a recent post, whereas I’ve recently joined the ad network known as Carbon (again, thanks to Devir Kahan for pointing me to them). I’ll bet I’m not generating a whole lot of revenue for them right now – and maybe never will – but I’d much rather have an ad network with elegant-looking ads on Vardy.me than GoogleAds. Carbon helps pay for my hosting, and that’s simply a bonus for me right now. And to be part of an ad network gives me a sense of credibility (I think), as opposed to GoogleAds which just makes me another person that serves up noise.

So…the overarching question is: How do I not only make money writing online, but make a living writing online?

Here are my sources of income:

  • Editor at Lifehack
  • Contributor at Cult of Mac
  • Writing for 2 ghostwriting clients on retainer

The above income portals are generally reliable in terms of how much I earn. If any of these were to drop, I’d have to find another reliable source of income instead.

When it comes to other income derived from my writing online, it breaks down as follows:

  • Selling eBooks
  • CarbonAds
  • Ads on Eventualism
  • GoogleAds
  • Sponsorship income

These sources of revenue are not guaranteed in any way, shape or form. So I consider them bonus income as a result. GoogleAds income comes from several sources, most notably Eventualism (which also receives requests from time to time for standalone advertisements that I broker). Sponsorship income also comes from various sources, but most recently it happened with my old ProductiVardy podcast. Any revenue from the Mikes on Mics sponsorship goes back into the podcast for the time being.

It’s by writing for the big sites (Lifehack, Cult of Mac) that I can afford to write for myself – and for my audience – without having the filters or applied niches that the big sites dictate. Unlike Ben Brooks and Stephen Hackett (who also weighed in on this topic), I do this full time so I can spread myself out as such. As I mentioned, I won’t go the patronage route now because it’s becoming a crowded space and I believe  the well of patrons will dry up faster than those who ask for patronage will.

Again, I don’t want to even create that aura of premium payment for content on my site. Buy my upcoming book (or past and future ones) instead. Come see me speak. Listen to Mikes on Mics. Read my stuff elsewhere. Support me in other ways.

The bottom line is that I’m a writer — whether I get paid or not. But I’ve been doing this in a space I’m familiar with long time now; I know where to look for the money and how to spread it out so I can support my family and my writing (as well as my lifestyle) in the process. If you want the lifestyle bad enough, you’ll find a way to maintain it.

And once you get really good at it – and as Ben puts it, “work as little as possible” – then you’ll be able to refine your options even more. And then the other bottom line you might worry about won’t be such a worry anymore.

Photo credit: Simon Lieschke (CC BY-NC 2.0)

1Although I have considered working up a t-shirt like Mr. Blanc has or maybe a coffee mug or something similar.