Last Updated on November 3, 2020 by Jeremy
Six figures a year from blogging. That truly is a dream we all aspire to, isn't it?
As we've found out in our quest to make a real income from blogging, there are many ways to get to six figures a year in income.
But while you can approach this question from many different angles, as we plan to outline extensively below, one thing is certain: they are all very, very difficult to achieve.
Even though it is entirely possible to make six figures from your website, you must be prepared to work your butt off for it. In this detailed guide we share why that is.
Want to Make Six Figures Blogging? Consider These Four Income Streams
When it comes down to it, there are usually only four major ways you can make money from your blog. They are:
- Advertising – Selling display ads onto your website and earning by page views.
- Affiliate Sales – Selling other people's products for a cut of the profit.
- Direct Product Sales – Selling your own products for an even bigger profit.
- Freelancing – Selling your skills and services while using your blog as an opportunity board.
Want to write a book, sell photo prints, offer online courses, or promote an app via your blog? It is all direct product sales.
Want to sell other people's products? The affiliate game what you seek.
Want to sell links, place CPM display ads, or sell placements privately? That's all advertising.
Want to exchange your time for a flat rate or hourly fee? No matter what you can come up with, as long as you're doing it on a contract basis it'll still be freelancing to us.
There are nearly an infinite number of options on how you can make money online, but in the end they are likely going to fall into one of the four generic categories outlined above. So, what will it take to hit $100,000 annually in each? Let's dive into that.
How to Make $100,000 from Advertising
To make $100,000 a year from traffic alone, you'll need to look at two options: private ad networks or private ad sales.
While they sound similar, the approach you'll take in each is drastically different. But for either to work properly you'll need to ramp up your page views to world class levels.
Popular private ad networks, such as Adsense, accept nearly all applicants but may only really pay under $1 CPM per ad (cost per 1,000 impressions). This means that if you had five ads displaying on each page of your site, you may just get a few dollars per 1,000 page views site-wide. Do the math to determine what you need to make $100,000 a year and you'll quickly realize it is beyond reach of just about everyone.
More selective private ad networks, such as Mediavine on the other hand, tap into higher-paying ads in exchange for exclusivity from blogs with high traffic figures (Mediavine requires 50,000+ uniques monthly) and the right audiences.
These networks can offer ad rates as much as 10x what you can get for a similar ad in Google Adsense. Factor this out over even more ads displayed per page, and we've had RPMs as high as $50 per 1,000 unique impressions on our own niche blog.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that this means to make six figures from CPM advertising alone you'll need to generate over 417,000 monthly uniques on your website if you can hit around $20 site-wide CPM with a private ad network. Scale this up or down based on your site's unique income potential, and you can still see how we're still talking hundreds of thousands of page views per month all the same.
Thankfully, this is certainly not a ceiling for what you can earn from advertising as you can also pursue private ad sales to help supplement your income even further without giving any money to a middleman. These private sales (or direct sales) allow you to bypass private networks altogether and command your ideal ad price per unit- insofar that you have a buyer lined up yourself and are not part of a private ad network that prevents private sales (Mediavine lets you sell ads directly but they have to run through their service).
We've seen rates from competitors for as little as $5 per 1,000 impressions per ad to as high as $20 per 1,000 views on a single ad with the right niche.
In this case you have to do all the work to get the business in the first place, and negotiating these contracts week in and week out multiple times over is easier said than done (and we can count on one hand how many we've successfully negotiated in over a decade blogging).
So lets say you do have a great network of buyers ready to go, and you can easily sell four ads at $10 per 1,000 impression each. Well, you'll still need to break 200,000 monthly page views to hit your six figure target. A doable figure, but a lot of work at the same time.
To put it simply, to make six figures with CPM advertising you have to dominate on page views.
How to Make $100,000 from Affiliate Sales
To make $100,000 a year from affiliate sales, you'll need to sell a ton of low priced products or just a few high paying ones. Naturally, the former is much easier than the latter, yielding a similar problem to advertising as outlined above.
To give an example of earning potential, let's look at how many of a product you need to sell with the average commission rate of 5% (typical from most private affiliate networks). To make $100,000 you'll need to sell $2,000,000 worth of products every single year, and this can be achieved via a mix of the following breakdowns:
- Sell 200,000 items at $10 each (at $0.50 per sale).
- Sell 100,000 items at $20 each (at $1.00 per sale).
- Sell 40,000 items at $50 each (at $2.50 per sale).
- Sell 20,000 items at $100 each (at $5 per sale).
- Sell 2,000 items at $1,000 each (at $50 per sale).
- Sell 200 items at $10,000 each (at $500 per sale).
What you can actually sell depends on your niche, what you are able to promote, and what actually converts- naturally.
In the travel niche we can easily make a good number of $10 sales and low paying leads every day, but when we only net $0.50 per transaction we may end up only hitting a few hundred dollars per month in extra revenue for us (see our top travel affiliate programs here). Sales of higher priced items, such as train tickets, car rentals, or massive hotel packages do happen, but even at $1,000 a booking we are only making $50 per sale (and that is if the network even offers 5% to begin with- most don't).
Bloggers who make more money routinely send tens of thousands of clicks to their affiliate links in order to make a modest percentage of what it would take to hit six figures from affiliate sales alone.
To put it simply, in the travel field we'd have to sell well over five expensive products every single day, without fail, in order to reach our target. How many page views do you need to make that happen? Only you can answer that.
Some blogs can make five high paying sales in just 1,000 views. Others 10,000. We need substantially more, and therein lies the problem. The way to win on affiliate sales is having the right feature in front of the right audience at the exact moment they are willing to buy. Crack that and you can start killing it with this model. But for those who have not it is still a number's game all the same.
But there is another way to help increase your commissions on the affiliate model, and those who are making well over six figures from affiliates have found this has been a key to their success.
One way to get around the low commission slump is to negotiate your own affiliate sales with companies and cut out the middleman affiliate network altogether. If you get a high profile brand that is paying you 5% via an affiliate network, odds are good that network is getting a cut to the tune of 5%, 10%, or even 15% off of your work.
So if you find you are converting a reliable number of sales, why not negotiate an offer with the brand directly? Perhaps a combination of a 5% discount to your readers and 10% commission to you would be enticing if you can convert a sale or two every day. You've doubled your earnings, offered your readers a value (likely generating more sales), and netted the brand more profit from each sale by going outside the affiliate network. A true win all around!
Of course, this is quite difficult and takes a lot of time, patience, and relationship building to make work- just like private ad sales (which is why most people don't do it).
A final option in this case is to push yourself to promoting digital products where the costs are much higher and margins are much greater- resulting in a bigger commission opportunity for affiliates. This is why you'll see many bloggers promoting online courses, blogging products, and other similar digital creations. The reason most do this is that with the same $250 sale the blogger may only make $12.50 with a hotel but may make $75 or more on a digital product.
When you do the math, you'll quickly realize why everyone pushes these.
The money is just too good to pass up.
How to Make $100,000 from Direct Product Sales
If affiliate marketing isn't your thing, you could always try direct product sales.
In this form of money making you create the product, arrange its distribution, and increase your profit margin substantially as the profit is, quite literally, all yours unless you have affiliates promote it for you.
For digital products your costs may be as low as paying an annual fee for a distribution service, and for more tangible goods or services such that your margin may decrease a fair bit if recurring costs are involved. But in any event you should be able to make far more than 10-20% that the best affiliate products offer, which means your sales requirements takes on a more attractive structure like:
- Sell 10,000 items at $10 profit per sale.
- Sell 1,000 items at $100 profit per sale.
- Sell 100 items at $1,000 profit per sale
- Sell 10 items at $10,000 profit per sale.
This one is perhaps the simplest of them all because you can directly control the profit you make off any given sale. If you write a book and sell it at a $5 profit margin, you'll need to sell 20,000. If you create a course where you make $200, then you only need to sell 500 (and so on and so on).
The struggle with this category is figuring out how to convert sales, which as anyone who works in the sales funnel can tell you is the biggest challenge of them all. Our first book, for example, only sold a few hundred copies. While we made over $1,000 in gross sales, we also just barely broke even on the costs. So those who pursue this route may find the best luck with multiple products, in multiple outlets, over multiple attempts in order to diversify their income streams.
- In this one we should also mention the donor based service, Patreon, which follows a similar income model to direct product sales (although in most cases is minus the actual product). Here, each donor pledges a fixed monthly amount that you can rely on to help you run your site in exchange for premium features. To get $100,000 on $1/month you only need 8,333 donors. To get $100,000 on $10/month you only need 833. To get $100,000 on $1/publication you may only need about 650 if you publish three times a week! Check out an interview we conducted with Adventurous Kate about Patreon for bloggers here.
How to Make $100,000 from Freelancing
The topic of freelancing is like going down the rabbit hole when it comes to making six figures. Many bloggers use their brand to promote their skills and services to try and build new revenue streams that will get them over this threshold, and there is a simple reason why- the money is there.
But whereas the above three categories only require the upfront work while (hopefully) continually making money over time, freelancing is something you have to put your time and skills into on every single assignment in order to earn money. You may be hired for a week long project here, or a month long assignment there, or you work on something as a one-off that you get paid for when it is delivered.
All of these are freelancing, and your blog is the springboard to showcase your skills and bring in new work.
So, what's it take to make six figures here? Well, you could do the following:
- Do 1,000 activities for clients at a rate of $100 per.
- Do 400 activities for clients at a rate of $250 per.
- Do 200 activities for clients at a rate of $500 per.
- Work for 40 hours a week at a rate of $48/hour.
- Work for 20 hours a week at a rate of $96/hour.
- Work for 10 hours a week at a rate of $192/hour.
The problem here is that we cannot define what “activities” and “work” means as it truly relates to your skills and your brand. Maybe “activities” could mean writing a blog post or taking a photo. Or perhaps performing a one-time social media takeover. Maybe “work” means becoming a VA (okay, not for those rates), managing social accounts full time, or working on a marketing campaign for a short period of time.
The options are near endless.
The real point we're trying to convey here is that you can sell your skills as a deliverable (and get paid for completion) or you can sell your skills at an hourly rate in order to meet your goal. To get to six figures in income from this stream alone, you can tell that you're going to have to charge quite a bit if you want to make it work. This means you have to be the best, show that you're the best on your blog, and command the rates worthy of the very best.
Can you do that?
The Solution? Do a Mix of Everything
When it comes down to it, none of the above options are easy.
If any one category was a slam dunk in making six figures blogging everyone would be doing it.
To excel in blogging you have to master your craft and really dive down deep into the categories above- be it through monstrous page views, an engaged audience, or leveraging your skills for new work opportunities at high rates.
While it is next to impossible to make six figures from any one category alone, things do get easier if you can leverage parts of each. Perhaps you can make $20 CPM on 200,000 monthly page views, make affiliate sales on 1,000 products worth $100 at 5% commission, sell 1,000 of your own products at $20 profit each, and freelance your time for a few hours a week at $100 per hour.
That sounds a lot easier to achieve, doesn't it?
Okay, maybe it doesn't, but it does give you a clearer path on things you could do to get to the six figure target. In the end, that is really all that matters.
Now that you have your ideas, go do it.