3 Smart Strategies I Used to Make My First $1,000 Blogging

Making your first $1 changes everything.

I still remember the first time I saw revenue from my blog. I received a $65 kickback I from helping a friend set up their new blog on Bluehost. It gave me the confidence I needed to know that I could actually do this thing—and the sanity to know that I wasn’t crazy.

After you make your first dollar, the next step becomes making $100, and then a full-time income.

Scott Dinsmore, creator of Live Your Legend, told a story in his How to Make Your First 1,000 on Your Dream workshop. It goes something like this this: In pure terror, Scott put up a web page offering one-on-one coaching to help people find work that they love. Then, he headed off to a friend’s wedding. And before he knew it, his phone buzzed, and it was an email from PayPal reading, “You just received $499.00 from [person’s name].” He completely lost it. Someone had actually purchased his coaching session offer!

Did that $500 allow him to immediately retire and live on an island? No, but as he put it, “It completely transformed my belief system. It proved to me that I had something that the right people would happily pay me for. And that changed everything.”

Money doesn’t just fall out of the trees when you start a blog, but there are plenty of opportunities to become profitable in many different ways. It’s all about how you view your blog and use your influence that makes the difference.

Sadly, many bloggers don’t ever make profit—they either give up on blogging before it brings in any revenue, or they simply don’t know how to turn pageviews and visitors into cash. On the other hand, if you take blogging seriously, there is a HUGE opportunity to make a living doing what you love.

Are you interested in creating a profitable blog or online business? Today I’m going to share with you a few actionable tips and tricks from my early blogging journey that will help you make your first $1,000.

1. Focus on being useful

If you’re an accountant you’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “cash is king.” If you’re a blogger, you’ve probably also heard the phrase, “content is king.” Dale Partridge, the blogger who inspired my entrepreneurial journey always says, “Content isn’t king, usefulness is.” Whether you provide usefulness through content, product, or something else, the moral is still the same. Focus on being useful.

If you’re a blogger, you should constantly be asking yourself, “What are my readers struggling with?” and, “What pain points can I help them solve?”

I hear the questions already. “What if I don’t have an audience?” That’s okay. Start by providing valuable content that appeals to those you want to attract.

Do you want to attract people interested in Fly Fishing in Alaska? Then write about how to tie flies in the rain, or whether to fish on the Talkeetna or the Kinik. Do you want to attract people interested in video set design, then write about lighting and microphone studio setup.

When my first blog launched in September 2014, I followed the footprint of many other bloggers by sharing content that was more random than your high-school dating life. Early career insights mingled in with marriage tips ran side-by-side with inspirational roundups, and other weird crap filled my archives. I was all over the place.

My wide range of blog topics was not only unappealing to the ideal audience I was trying to reach, but each post revolved around me. My interests, my career dreams, my marriage, my life. And it wasn’t helping anybody.

I started to gain some traction when a couple posts went viral, but it’s no surprise that my blog didn’t gain the massive momentum I had been looking for. Why would a new visitor, other than my mom, care about me or my interests? The content I was sharing didn’t benefit my blog visitors, and even more importantly, the content I shared didn’t benefit potential customers and clients.

So, in late 2015, I shifted the focus onto my audience. Instead of trying to draw in customers by shouting my name and interests from the rooftops, I started thinking of ways I could bring value to the very people I wanted to book my consulting services: lifestyle entrepreneurs.  With each post, tweet, and email, I ask the question: How will this benefit those who follow along? That one question alone sits at the crux of a good content strategy for your business.

Instead of posting personal posts on my blog, I began to transparently share valuable tips and fresh business insights to attract other business owners, portfolio work to highlight my expertise, and my client process to give business owners an inside look at what it’s like to work with me.

Instead of using my newsletter as a junk drawer of information, I invited lifestyle entrepreneurs behind-the-scenes for an inside look at the strategies I’m using to grow my blog.

Instead of offering a wide range of consulting services, I refined my offerings and began to gear them toward new entrepreneurs by including one-on-one coaching, startup planning, and content strategy.

And the craziest thing happened; potential clients and customers have found me. I gained their interest not by promoting myself, but by sharing content that they found valuable.

2. Focus on revenue

Your blog isn’t a business unless there’s a product or service for sale.

As a blogger, your content has no monetary value itself because you give it away for free. But good content does attract the right people to your website. Selling a product or service on your blog is an incredible way to add value to the visitors coming into your website. Sell them something awesome.

For Simon & Sons Company, our largest source of revenue is consulting. I sell my time to other bloggers and business owners in order to help them grow their brand and amplify their business.

These days, you don’t need retail space, a warehouse, or a manufacturing plant to sell product. You can create a brand new product in less than a week if you want. Valuable products can be physical like a t-shirt or a book. They can be digital like accounting software or social media automation. They can also be service-based, like consulting, writing, or designing.

If you’re a new blogger or business owner and you’re not sure where to start, that’s okay. Consider selling someone else’s product. This is called affiliate marketing. There are many different programs available from fashion, to software, to cookbooks, to website hosting.

The first dollar I made blogging was through the Bluehost affiliate program. They provide an absolutely killer product, (which makes it easy to sell) and they pay well ($65 per referral). In just a few short months of blogging I had made around half a dozen sales and had barely put any work into selling the product.

You can also publish advertising space with Google AdSense or Buy Sell Ads. My best advice for selling advertising is to be consistent—either choose skyscrapers or squares and don’t go overboard. Lastly, don’t rely on advertising as your primary source of revenue. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

Always use the Amazon affiliate program when you recommend products on your site. Almost every blogger uses this program in some way or fashion because once someone clicks your affiliate link and makes a purchase through Amazon, you get a 4-6% kickback on everything that was in their cart.

Hear me on this… you don’t just get affiliate revenue for just the one item you recommended, you get a kickback from all items that were in their cart. This is incredible, because if they click on your link and decide to buy a 65” smart TV and a Macbook Pro, you’re going to be a happy camper.

So the next question is, what should you do when you actually start making money? Is that okay? Should I keep trying to make more? YES!

Some people look down on successful bloggers and business owners who have leveraged their influence to make a good living. A blog is a business, and the essence of businesses is that it becomes profitable. To sustain your online business, you need to generate revenue.

On a recent Elle & Co. article the author mentioned that,

Striving to grow your business to make money isn’t greedy; it’s fundamental. While you may have started your business to pursue a creative outlet that you love, you won’t get very far if you don’t put an emphasis on generating a profit. While it sounds great to pursue your passion and not worry about money, it’s unrealistic.

So don’t feel guilty about focusing on bringing in more money through your business (and don’t call others greedy for making it a priority in theirs).

And they’re right. All businesses start with a dream, and you need profit if you want to pursue that dream long-term.

3. Pursue your dream

After I made my first $1,000, I kept working hard and made a few thousand more, I have a couple retainer clients that bring in a steady income, along with a number of projects in the queue.

I’m constantly pushing myself to dream big, and the next thing I’m working on is bringing in 100,000 monthly unique blog visitors, generating $25,000 in revenue, and capturing 5,000 email subscribers by the end of 2016.

It’s not going to be easy, in fact, I think it’s going to be really hard. Reaching my goals is going to take a lot of hard work, consistency, creativity, and dedication. If you want to follow along, subscribe to my newsletter.

Not only is it exciting for me to show you what goes on behind the scenes of this business, but it's even more exciting to think of the ways that this could benefit your journey as you follow along.

Dreaming is what business is all about. You dream, and then you execute on that dream.

What strategies are you using to grow your blog? How can I help? Let me know in the comments—I read every single one.