See how nine bloggers made their first dollar online

“Can you make at least $20/hour through blogging?”

A reader emailed me this question. I didn’t even know how to respond because I’ve never actually calculated how much time I spend on blogging and what the hourly rate is of everything that I do. The numbers would likely scare me away from ever writing again. They would scare you away too.

I’m going to share with you the totally uncool story of how I made my first buck through blogging. I’ve also reached out to some friends that are now full-time bloggers to see how they started off. I must warn you that none of these stories are glamorous.

Start blogging for money

“We can offer you $20 for a text link.”

I couldn’t say yes fast enough. That was the first time that I ever made money online. I started this blog on November 7th of 2008 and I had no clue as to what I was getting myself into. When a random company somehow found my email and was willing to offer me money for a link, I thought that I was going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. I was ready to start posting motivational quotes and giving speeches around the world.

Around October of 2008, I decided to email a bunch of personal finance bloggers to see if it was worth starting a blog. I’m not sure why I even decided to do this. I sent a generic email to everyone. I was surprised by how many bloggers decided to respond to me with real feedback. I eventually ended up starting my own blog because I realized how easy it was to start (easy to start and extremely difficult to compete).

Before I made my first dollar made through blogging, how did I get to this point?

In 2007, I attended summer school. I did this so that I could have the majority of 2008 off from education while I tried to get rich quick. It turns out that getting rich quick isn’t such a quick process. I ended up reading inspirational articles from January to October of 2008.

What’s the point of this story?

You see, most people have some crazy rags to riches story. It’s easy to lecture when you’re at the top of the mountain. I’d rather share my stories from the bottom of the mountain because I know that we can all relate to that. I wanted to share the beginning of the journey.

How did the experts make their first dollar through blogging?

Let’s see what other bloggers had to say…

“I made my first dollar through blogging by selling an advertisement within a blog post. I believe it was for around $100 and I was very happy at the time that my hobby actually earned me an income.” Michelle of Making Sense of Cents.

Don’t feel too bad if you also have a humbling beginning because Michelle is now making way over six figures. She’s killing it with affiliate income and her own course.

“My very first dollar was made through an affiliate sale for a product on how to start outsourcing. $20.38 to be exact. It was the first time I realized that there might actually be something to this whole blogging thing.” — Sean Ogle of Location 180 .

We also had Sean on our podcast at Do You Even Hustle. I’ve been following his work since 2009 and he has been crushing it. Sean has traveled the world and his work has helped many rookies turn into serial entrepreneurs.

“I made my first $29 dollars online through affiliate marketing. At the time I was trying everything, and while I had placed display ads on my site, I still had not received any clicks. However, one day I got a payment notification from a financial service. One of the free trials had converted into a full membership! And I made $29. After that I started looking for ways to optimize my site to earn more from affiliate marketing. These days, I earn a passive income of around $500 to $800 per month from the work that I did those first few years to optimize my site.” — LaTisha Styles of YoungFinances.com

I’ve known LaTisha for a long time. She’s now making over $5,000 per month from what was originally her side hustle.

“I sold a widget for CardWeb. The widget was a box of text with 3 text links on it. This was back in 2006 when selling text links was a normal and natural form of advertising. I think it was a 6-month sale for about $100, so something like $3 per link, per month. I didn’t realize that was an extremely low price at the time, I was just happy to make $100 from a blog.” — Lazy Man and Money.

This was one of the first blogs that I ever read. Back in 2006, when blogs were still in their infancy, most bloggers relied on selling a few text links to make some money.

“I started blogging at the end of February 2010 and made my first $20 on a homepage text link ad on April 1. That was my wake up call that my new hobby could possibly pay for itself. I was fully self-employed by July 2011. Yay for blogging and this awesome online world of fellow personal finance geeks!” — Crystal of Budgeting In The Fun Stuff.

I remember when Crystal used to leave comments on here that were longer than some of my articles. She has tried her hand at numerous income sources online and has always been transparent about everything.

“The first dollar I ever made blogging came about 6 months after I started the site. I originally did what most newer bloggers do and slapped some Google Ads on the homepage, but even after a month or two only made about 5 cents! Eventually I had a company reach out to me that wanted to place a widget on my site, and we would split revenue from clicks. Based on a tip from another blogger, I asked for an upfront payment of about $300, and they accepted. ALWAYS see if you can get an upfront payment when putting advertising or widgets on your site. The worst the company can do is say no!” – Bobby of Millennial Money Man.

Bobby is new to the scene and you definitely want to follow him.

“I made my first dollar in December of 2007 by selling a sidebar, site-wide text link to some random finance company. I remember being amazed that someone would pay me $10 a month just for a little link. I was clueless.” — Phil Taylor of PT Money.

Phil helped me a ton when I was starting out. PT now runs FinCon and is arguably the most well-known personal finance blogger in the space.

“I wrote a $25 blog post for another website that was specializing in New York tourism. I can’t even remember the name of it now!” — Stefanie O’Connell.

I watched Stefanie present last year at FinCon and was impressed. She went from a struggling artist in NYC to a thriving entrepreneur.

What can you learn from all of these stories?

Always follow through on your projects.

I have friends that have been talking about starting blogs since 2008. Nobody cares about the project that you ALMOST started. The most awkward form of conversation is when a friend brings up something that they almost did. Who cares?

I’ve failed many times while trying to make money online. When I first started, I wasn’t even sure how I would generate a penny through the web. I just knew that I wanted to write articles and try to help people in the process.

On that note…

Just start.

You don’t have to worry about every single detail in the journey. Just start. I remember I had the ABSOLUTE worst design in the world when I first started. Here’s a screenshot of it below. I was so proud of this design. I posted about my new blog in a forum. I went to bed excited that night. I thought I was going to wake up to rave reviews of the design. I had a few messages telling me how I needed to change my theme immediately.

Making money from blogging

Don’t ask me why, but I thought that this was just the coolest theme around.

You’re going to have a humble beginning.

This past weekend I saw CM Punk make his fighting debut on a UFC PPV. That’s very rare because most of us will start at the bottom of our respective career paths. This is okay. I don’t want you to be intimated by the end goal. I want you to break your goal down into smaller steps. You have to start somewhere and you’re likely not going to start at the top of the mountain. I want you to get into the habit of enjoying the journey.

You have to help people.

I know that the term “providing value” has become a cliché. I totally get that. You still have to do something that helps people though. Nobody wants your pointless rants or to read about how your day went. Readers want results.

Jacquelyn paid off $48k worth of debt and Matt quit his job to make tables. Those are examples of readers that accomplished something. You have to be in the business of solving problems. Everyone wants results. Nobody cares about your problems.

Check out our episode of Studenomics TV on this…

Can you make $20/hour blogging?

Your first goal should be to make $20 period. Then you can start thinking about the hourly rate.

You can easily start your own blog right now. I put together a tutorial on the topic. I started a blog back in 2008 when you needed a very tiny amount of coding talent. Now everything’s so automated and it’s easier than ever to get started.

[The only six steps you need to start a blog right now. You can also get start for $2.95/month plus a free domain right now. Sign up right now!]

Stop loitering and start solving some problems. It’s okay to start small. You’re not going to close million dollar deals right off the bat with your new blog.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain

14 thoughts on “See how nine bloggers made their first dollar online”

  1. This was both really fun, and really interesting to read! I wanted to start my blog for a couple of reasons:

    1. To hold myself publicly accountable to the goals I’ve set for myself, and
    2. To become more fluent on the subject matter

    Writing about a topic forces me to think about that topic more deeply than I otherwise would. And thinking about things deeply allow me to become much more fluent on the topic. My topic is money….and who doesn’t want to be better with money, right!?!

    Thanks for the great post, Martin!

    1. I agree with that. I started writing so that I would be more accountable. You can’t be writing about personal finance and then be not living up to your own writing.

  2. Blogging in 2016 still works, but if you can find something valuable to offer, you can profit from any blogging niche. I made my first dollar from an affiliate and I was excited, but I knew from then that, it’s still possible to make money from blogging.

  3. Great post with a real-life examples or role models who made their first few bucks via blogging. I must admit a fact that it took me 3 months to earn my first dollar. Initially i thought i should give up and blogging isn’t for me, But i didn’t quit, i slowly started to increase my traffic and finally made some money. This happened few years back, now I’m making good income via blogging even though i don’t work anymore. Hardwork of years now made me not to worry about future anymore.

    There is a lot of scope in blogging and this post really reminded me of my old days.

    Have a good day mate!

  4. Martin,

    This is a great and inspiring post. I hope that some readers run across it and decide to start their own blog and follow along in these other bloggers footsteps.

    I ran across a post just like this about 4 years ago and decided to take the plunge. It was a great decision for me. If anyone is in doubt, let me be one more advocate for starting your own blog. I’ve made over $30K with mine over the past 3-4 years. Since I blog in the personal finance arena, it has also pushed me to improve my savings like crazy! As a result, I am over $70K to the better for having started my own blog. And, this does not even count all the dividends and capital gains I’ve realized my educating myself about investing the in stock market…

    If you think blogging will be too difficult or confusing, it won’t be! If I can figure it out, then just about anyone can. It will only take about 15 minutes to set everything up, and then you can get started cranking out your first post. As Martin mentioned, everyone has to start somewhere.

    My first blogging buck was through google Ads. I think I made something like $0.23 in the first month :-). Now, I make $500 – $1,500 a month mostly on residual income through different affiliate links and sponsored posts. With all of my blogging skills that I have honed, I am contemplating also starting freelancing gigs with UpWork.com to see if I can earn $60 – $120 an hour with copywriting. I have hundreds of blog posts in my portfolio to show potential clients. This is a huge side-benefit to blogging. It really does open up opportunities above and beyond just a side-hustle income.

    Blogging really does pay off – now it’s time for you to decide. If you’re ready to give blogging a chance, then click on Martin’s link and sign-up now!

    1. I accidentally became one of the first producers to make money on YouTube. It was a lot of fun back in the age of viral videos. I never did understand how to drive views. My most popular material was not my best work and vice versa.

      I just started blogging, not as an income source, but because I thought I could help somebody enjoy achieving financial independence as much as I have.

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