How I Made My First $500 With a Small Blog

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If you've started a blog but your pageviews aren't high yet, don't despair. You can still make money with a small blog. This post shows exactly how I made over $500 with my small blog, and I plan to make more in the future!
If you’re wondering how to make money from a small blog, you are in the right place.

When I started this blog, I planned for it to be a place to document my journey to financial freedom. I never planned on making money from my blog, although I did throw up some ads to try to cover costs like hosting.

I started this blog in January of 2015. It was all just a bit of fun. In the beginning, I had no idea Pinterest was even a thing  nor that people made real money blogging.

When I discovered Pinterest, I started to read about bloggers who were making serious coin from their blogs. MIND BLOWN! It is completely possible to make money from a blog. I couldn’t believe it!

Before I started my blog I’d had a taste of working from anywhere when I took a contract gig with a former employer whilst we travelled in Mexico and the US, but I was still firmly in the mindset that blogs are for fun, and *real* work is for money! Haha. I was so wrong.

Firstly, blogs are real work – SO.MUCH.WORK – (seriously, I probably spend at least 30 hours each week on my blog) but you can make a lot of money blogging.

I’m nowhere near full-time blogger status yet, but I’m all about celebrating the small wins, and thought this post might be useful for new bloggers starting out (as I was 18 months ago), to show you how you can make money from a small blog (I currently have around 15k/mth page views).

Note: If you’re considering starting a blog for profit, check out my guide to the best courses on blogging.

The 3 Ways I Make Money With a Small Blog

1. Affiliate Marketing

The first money I ever made from my blog was from affiliate sales. I make money from affiliate links when readers click on those links and take a specific action – either signing up to a free service like Swagbucks or Ebates or by making a purchase on SiteGround or Amazon.

Affiliate marketing is probably the best way for a small blogger to make money, as, unlike advertising, it’s not completely dependent on page views. Higher traffic helps, as more readers = more potential clicks, but with a small and engaged audience, you can still make money.

If you’re interested in affiliate marketing and willing to invest money into learning how affiliate marketing can skyrocket your earning potential (even with a small blog) I highly recommend you check out Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, the course by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner from Making Sense of Cents.

I’m halfway through her course and am on track to make back the course fee – this month!!  She really does know her stuff – after all, Michelle earns over $50,000 a month through affiliate marketing, and she shares all of the best tips in her course.

I’ve written an in-depth Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing review here if you want more information about the course or click the link below to go to the course page. Check out Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing TODAY!

Here’s How the 4 Affiliate Programs I Belong to Work:

Swagbucks

Total earnings to date: $100 USD

I earn a couple of dollars when a reader signs up to Swagbucks using my link. I have text just like below on posts related to making money or saving money, throughout my blog:

You can earn extra funds with Swagbucks. Swagbucks lets you earn free gift cards for taking surveys, watching videos, shopping online and more! Join for free with this link and you’ll receive a $5 sign-up bonus: Join Swagbucks Today

Ebates

Total earnings to date: $10 USD

Ebates pays me per referral, once the reader has made a qualifying purchase. Ebates is a cash back service that works for a lot of online travel booking engines, meaning I can get $$ back on every travel booking I make. This is absolutely genius! I have a dedicated post on how to use Ebates and will add this information to all relevant posts. The earnings on this are low as I’ve only started to promote it in the last month. If you want to sign up to Ebates, you can do so here: Join Ebates Today

SiteGround

Total earnings to date: $200 USD

SiteGround is a website hosting service and they saved my arse when I was having trouble with another popular host earlier in the year.

They transferred my site for free and had me up and running within an hour. Since switching to SiteGround, I haven’t had any downtime at all. I whole-heartedly recommend them.

I’ve recommended them to blogger friends and added the affiliate links to my site in the sidebar, plus created a dedicated blog post on how to start a blog, which contains affiliate links.

Amazon

Earnings so far: $2 USD

Amazon has an affiliate program called Amazon Associates. You can link to any Amazon product like LED bulbs or a stroller for a baby and if the reader makes a purchase within a certain amount of time, you get a % of the sale. It’s a tiered system, so you start off at 4% and it goes up from there.

I haven’t added many Amazon links yet but have plans for more in the future. It’s been difficult for me to figure out how I would use Amazon, as I’m in New Zealand (where we don’t have Amazon) but over 60% of my readers are from the United States, followed by Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. So far, I have only promoted Amazon in the US but I will install EasyAzon so I can easily redirect readers to their local Amazon site. That should see conversions rise.

2. Advertising

Adsense

Earnings so far: $165 NZD (paid out)

I have Google Adsense ads sprinkled through the site. Originally I had them in the sidebar and the header only, and made a few dollars a month, maximum.

My Adsense income really started to increase once I inserted the ad code inside my posts. At most, I have 2 inside a post, in a small square shape which works well on mobile. Since then I’ve gone from $2/mth to around $60/mth in income from Adsense.

3. Freelance Writing

Earnings so far: $175 USD

I wanted to add freelance writing as it’s an excellent way for bloggers to make more money. I have zero experience of freelance writing, but I’ve written over 50 posts on my blog, and that serves as a portfolio to potential clients.

Last month I got my first freelance writing job – $175/USD for a 750-word article. Before I started blogging, the thought of writing 750 words for publication in a major online magazine might have overwhelmed me. But now that I write regularly, my first thought was ‘What? You’ll pay me THAT MUCH for just 750 words?’, whilst I did a little happy dance around my living room.

It took me just under 3 hours to research and write that article and less than 15 mins for revisions from the editor. At nearly $60/USD per hour, I felt it was worthwhile. I’m quite picky with the freelance gigs I’m applying for, as time spent writing for a client is time I’m not spending writing my own stuff for this blog. I won’t work for a pittance.

Read more about getting freelance work on Upwork here.

Can you make money from a small blog?

So far, I’ve earned well over $500 ($608 USD or $827 NZD to be precise) from my small blog. It’s not a lot but it covers costs and it shows that it is possible to make money without a huge amount of page views.

(2018 Update: I’m now earning a full-time income from my online business – read about that here and my thoughts on blogging about blogging here).

Plus, that feeling of creating something from scratch that actually brings in money cannot be beaten.

If you’re interested in blogging and want no-BS blogging tips sent (very) occasionally to your inbox, subscribe here. I’d love to share what I know and all the good stuff I learn along the way.

Do you have a blog? Are you making money from your blog? Do you have any questions or tips you’d like to share? 

12 thoughts on “How I Made My First $500 With a Small Blog”

  1. Blogging has been a main source of online income for me since 2007. I mostly make it from sponsored posts. I also do some freelancing. I am working on affiliate marketing now though, since it seems much easier to earn with once you get it going!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Emma. We all have to start somewhere and it looks like you’ve got the ball rolling! I’ll definitely consider some of these ideas as options for myself in the future!

  3. I’m still working on my strategy (I rely on affiliate marketing but am pretty minimalist and picky so advocating products is a limiting approach – I’ve only just started my new site so time will tell), but I do have one post from four years ago that makes me $5-10 most months on the Amazon programme. It was a wedding invitation how-to (to an extremely small audience) that used scrapbooking equipment from Amazon. I wasn’t expecting that! Unfortunately that’s a sustainable niche for me, but a useful illustration that the right content can provide ongoing returns.

    Do you read many books? Personal finance book reviews would provide a nice lead in for some Kindle links, and I’d be interested in reading your reviews! 🙂

  4. So great to know that you are making money from freelancing – that’s where I’m targeting. I”m also glad the smaller blogs can make a bit of money too – its so much work, its nice to know you can get something back 🙂

  5. I’m looking for a balanced life too and working many hours a week on my blog -funkytexastraveler.com. So far, it is a labor of love but I want earn as I write. How did you get your freelance jobs? Thanks for the encouragement for a newbie. Linda

    • Hi Linda, blogging does take a lot of time at the start but it’s worth it. I got my freelance jobs from Upwork. I used my blog as my portfolio and created a profile on there. It’s free to use so perhaps start there?

  6. Wow! Thanks for this awesome resource. Saved this on my favorites tab. I think I might take Michelle’s course in a couple of months! You’re killing it. I think one of the hardest things to get used to is quality vs. quantity. Loved this keep up the hustle!

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