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I know, I know, there a million of these articles out there, and I find them all a bit biased towards the author’s preference. Whilst I do have a preference, I also know what it’s like not to have £75 to drop on hosting and a domain name.
Especially when you’re not guaranteed an income, and even if you are successful, you won’t a decent return for a year or more.
This blog is aimed at helping writers make money online. It’s not geared at making a quick buck. We want sustainable careers that don’t involve *shudder* marketing.
Marketing is a useful skill, and very important, but my preferred method is attracting people to my writing by writing what people want to read, not begging people to read it.
If you just want somewhere online to put your writing that you can direct people to, then I’d pick either Medium or wordpress.com.
Making money for free by writing with Medium
Medium is a platform that hosts your work for free.
It has a simple interface that doesn’t allow for much in the way of customisation, but that’s ok because the layout is fine, and it saves us wasting time on design elements.
In order to read Medium articles, users pay a subscription. I pay £45 per year.
You don’t have to pay to join the Medium Partner Programme.
Although, a lot of Medium writers apparently only engage with writers that are paid up members (you have a green circle around your icon if you’re a member).
It’s not easy to make money from Medium. You have to post a lot, use the write tags, ask to be published in publications etc etc etc. So it ain’t easy. But it’s free.
My main issue with Medium is that you’re pretty much locked into one monetisation method (they allow but discourage affiliate links), which is the partner programme. It pays by how much time people spend reading your articles, but it is subject to change.
They used to pay by claps, before switching to reading time. Great for those that write long form content, not so much for the poets.
If you want to write fiction, Medium is pretty much the best way to make money online without going down the traditional publishing/marketing route.
It’s almost impossible to get users to a fiction website without drumming up a huge following elsewhere.
So try Medium if you’re strapped for cash or only interested in writing fiction.
Starting a free website with WordPress.com
WordPress.com is WordPress’s own hosting service. You can get to grips with the interface for free, and then upgrade (at a price) to get plugins and monetisation options.
I think it’s too expensive personally, and the free version doesn’t allow plugins, so is very limited. The monetisation options are limited to their own ad network, which doesn’t get great reviews.
Still, if you have no budget and want to get your writing out there, you can always write a load of posts in wordpress.com and then get hosting and transfer it over. The lovely people at Siteground do all that stuff for you.
How much does it cost to start a self-hosted blog?
Most hosting companies have a pretty cheap introductory offer – my first year with Siteground was about £50, and now I pay about £200 annually for unlimited websites.
As well as hosting, you’ll need a domain name (www.something.com).
You can get them from your hosting company, but I get mine from Google domains because they’re cheaper – usually £10, though popular ones sell for exorbital prices.
What you don’t need to pay for when you start blogging
Honestly, you can take my word for this. I’ve paid for some unnecessary blogging crap in my time.
Assuming that you’re a writer, that just wants a blog that can provide them with enough income to stay at home and write all day (in a couple a years, before you get excited), all you need to pay for is hosting and a domain name.
You do not need to pay for a premium theme
I’ve written a whole article about this here.
It isn’t necessary. It just isn’t. Go and grab a generatepress theme for free. Yes, I have an affiliate link, but I don’t get anything unless you pay to upgrade to pro, which you don’t need to do (I haven’t).
GeneratePress is super lightweight and fast which is pretty much all you need from an SEO perspective.
It allows you to change colours and fonts and add logos and stuff, but doesn’t give you a million options and confuse the hell out of you.
You do not need to pay for a fancy email address
A email@example.com is no less likely to end up in someone’s spam filter than a gmail one.
You can usually get a free email from your host, but I’m sticking to Gmail.
Ok, for those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s apparently extremely unprofessional to have a gmail email address, and you will be judged harshly.
In my eyes, professionalism is about being professional. Not about your email address. Plus, so-called professional email addresses are as easy to come by as standard ones, so why make it a bit more difficult to reach inbox 0?
Most importantly, setting up and configuring a new email address is time you could have spent writing content.
You do not need a Pinterest scheduler
I know it’s tempting. I subscribed to Tailwind and it took up too much of my time for too little return.
AND THEN I DID IT AGAIN.
Please heed my advice: Tailwind is NOT a magical way to get more traffic. It’s amazing at increasing vanity metrics like monthly unique viewers, but it takes a lot of time and effort to get clicks through to your blog.
I have a manual Pinterest strategy in the works, but still I’m trying to perfect it. I’ll keep you posted. It involves a spreadsheet, if that’s your thing.
Do start a Pinterest account though – get a business account and link your site (you can do it through Jetpack). Create 15 or so boards relevant to your niche and pin some stuff. It won’t hurt, and you can do it whilst you’re watching TV.
Similarly, schedulers for Instagram and Facebook will not magically gain you a massive following, otherwise we’d all be doing it.
You do not need a course
Ok, this is only my opinion, but it’s my website, so my rules.
The world of blogging moves quickly. Courses become outdated quickly, and aren’t always update in a timely manner.
It’s just…not really worth it.
You’re better off learning how to make Google like you. Not how to scam Google, or hack the algorithm because algorithms change. But learn how to create content that Google deems good enough to show to a lot of people.
And that’s what I teach. For free. I’m not saying I won’t shove an ebook on Amazon in the future, but I PROMISE to never create a blogging course. Or ask for your email address.
Because I’m sick of it. And the only way to stop it is to not play the game.
I might do webinars in the future, but not ones that are 40 minutes of tips and then a 20 minute sales pitch. No hate, but EVERYONE’S doing it.
You don’t need to pay for a keyword planner
1 – They’re expensive
The big boys like ahrefs are literally hundreds of pounds annually. No thanks.
2 – They’re not accurate
All those stats on search volume and difficulty are an educated guess. Most search engines, including Google, don’t release that data.
Ubersuggest is a popular free one, but I’m not a fan.
3 – Google works just fine
Put in a search term you want to rank for, look up the competition. If you can’t compete, see what else google suggests. Accurate and free.
Sure, it’s time consuming, but set a day aside when you’re starting out. It’s the most important part of your content strategy.
I personally don’t use an SEO plugin. The readability and SEO traffic light system is very old-fashioned and promotes keyword stuffing.
You don’t need photography equipment
If you’re not a photographer, don’t run out and buy a DSLR.
Firstly, the camera on your phone is probably fine. Secondly, does your niche actually require you to take your own photos? Peruse Unsplash first – you may find all the pictures you need there.
Whilst it’s true that Google does prefer unique photos to stock images, it can’t actually see them.
If you need to take a few snaps of the step by step process of sewing a tote bag, they don’t need to be great quality – they just need to show what’s required.
If you don’t have any money to start, I’d go with Medium. I sometimes write on there because I can write stuff outside my niches. Personally it’s too volatile a platform, but it’s a great way to learn how to write for the internet whilst saving up for hosting.
Having your own self-hosted website is the best foundation to create a great income from writing. You can still post to Medium, but I wouldn’t recommend using Medium exclusively, because you can’t control the monetisation.
A lot of people syndicate their content to Medium from their own site, so if you build an audience on Medium you lead them to your website later.
If you afford to go self-hosted, go for it. Hopefully you can make the money back within the year – 10,000 pageviews per month is attainable in 12 months, Apply for a premium ad network and you’re away.
If your niche lends itself to affiliate products with big commissions, it could be even sooner.