Building a blog to retire off the proceeds? Think again!

And interesting post on Techmeme started my day this morning called Time To Hang Up the Pyjamas. It was an article by Daniel Lyons who had set up a highly-trafficed blog called The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs a couple of years ago. The gist of the article is that he put loads of effort into monitising the blog, but failed to generate anything that would surpass what he could earn holding down a normal job. Here’s a poignant part of his article:

My first epiphany occurred in August 2007, when The New York Times ran a story revealing my identity, which until then I’d kept secret. On that day more than 500,000 people hit my site—by far the biggest day I’d ever had—and through Google’s AdSense program I earned about a hundred bucks. Over the course of that entire month, in which my site was visited by 1.5 million people, I earned a whopping total of $1,039.81

A number of other blogs were quite quick to point out that the blog resulted in his rise to relative fame, a book deal and his new job at NewsWeek, but millions of bloggers around the world will never earn as much from AdSense as he did. What he DID DO, however, was raise his profile so that his net worth was much higher than it would have been otherwise.

Articles like this always help put blogging in perspective and help people focus on the why they blog. Using a blog to earn money isn’t impossible, there are a number of companies out there who will pay a blogger for their efforts, but it’s no different to being paid for dropping leaflets in someone’s mailbox. The amount you can earn is constrained by the time you have available and the moment you pull back you’ll see your earnings dry up. Selling advertising space on blogs is another money-earner, but without fresh, compelling content and the traffic it brings, well, that’s another non-starter. In my humble opinion, the worst reason to start a blog is to generate enough income to quit your day job.

On the other hand, a blog can do wonders for your profile, image and self-esteem. It can serve as an outlet for you to talk about your passion, to meet like-minded individuals, to show off your strengths and seek opportunities. A blog can help you build online relationships which will benefit you in the long term in many diverse ways. Monetary benefits are a possibility, but they’re always much harder work than you originally imagined when you decided to set down the blogging path.

photo credit: Dan4th


  1. Doing things (or blogging) primarily for the reason of making a buck does not sound very tempting to me but everyone has freedom to decide and for themselves… 🙂

  2. wouldn’t it be nice if you could make enough money off a blog to quit your day job?? too bad that will never happen. i like using mine for extra spending money (or right now to help pay for the ivf), but that’s about all i know i’ll get out of it.

  3. Well I guess to challenge this I should be earning a full time income from my blog – which I am not (yet).

    Many bloggers are clueless when it comes to monetising their blogs. Adsense can only earn a few pennies per click so why not use banners for clickbank products that earn you $30 rather than get 30 cents from Google?

  4. Very good post. I like how you brought out the non-monetary benefits, too. Sometimes, it’s difficult to measure how successful a blogger is. Money is but one element. But although the blogger saw a burst of money that month, this recognition may have brought future deals, too– things like product reviews, TLAs, etc. Those things come over time and are difficult to measure within, say, a month’s time.

    Also, our workforce seems to be changing. It no longer seems that ANYONE can get steady, full-time work anymore– not like the olden days, when FT work included benefits, vacation pay, sick pay, and a beefy retirement fund once you turned 65. Those days are over. For the under-40 crowd, the reality is that we have a handful of smaller jobs here and there and everywhere, and hopefully they all add up to enough to earn a living. Blogging is one element among many that hopefully adds up to be something larger.

  5. @Alex: I guess it depends on who your audience is. You’re more likely to get clicks than actual purchase behaviour, but one needs to match their monetising options against their target audience behaviour

    (example, note .. no Adsense on *this* blog, but I use it on others)

  6. Interesting points. Does give some nice perspective.

    Lately I’ve come to realize that if you’re not passionate about your blog topic, you’ll absolutely fail. Being passionate about making money blogging isn’t enough to keep you going. You have to be passionate about the subject you’re blogging about. Unless of course you’re blogging about making money online, but we won’t go there.

  7. What you quoted from Daniel caught my attention because he was clearly not doing many things right: “On that day more than 500,000 people hit my site—by far the biggest day I’d ever had—and through Google’s AdSense program I earned about a hundred bucks. Over the course of that entire month, in which my site was visited by 1.5 million people, I earned a whopping total of $1,039.81.”

    These numbers are pathetically low and I feel so bad for him that he got all this free traffic and did not know how to monetize it (and he is not alone because an average blogger according to Technorati pulls in a measly $5K a year).

    I want to emphasize (to potential bloggers and anyone who wants to understand if blogging is a way to make a living) that many online publishers (yours truly included) do so much better and we are talking at least 10X better than him. How? The key is picking the right niche and sadly enough (and contrary to expectations) politics or humor or business or technology are not. The most profitable niches that we operate in are what don’t get a lot of bloggers excited: beauty, makeup, health, relationships, etc.

  8. It seems like true (monetarily measured) success is an exception even in the cyber world.

    Last week one of my blogs had an insane traffic spike and served up a quarter of a million pageviews. Between the two ad networks that I use, I managed to rake in a whopping thirty bucks. I watch my traffic stats daily, counting my remaining visitors as they vanish into thin air, as quickly as they appeared.

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