Blogging for passive income is a huge aspiration for many people looking to start a new blog or niche site. How realistic is it, though? Is blogging really a passive income?
The last time I wrote about this was September 2007. Here is what I said:
Yesterday we moved house and today I am still without a broadband connection or even a telephone line. Luckily I have my trusty PDA and 3G otherwise you wouldn’t be hearing from me today.
Coincidentally, history repeated this week – we moved home again, and I have been without broadband. Fortunately, I have a 4G/LTE router and just enough of a connection that I could continue working.
Why is Passive Income Important to Bloggers?
Passive income means you can take a day or more off of work. It means you do not have to sit at your desk for money to come in.
This week of disruption has shown me I need to be more prepared for days when for whatever reason I can’t rely on my usual workflow. For now, I am OK because I have a day job, but should that day job go away how would my family finances be impacted if I got sick or when we want to take a vacation?
The thought struck me related to my past blogging income and how important a passive blogging income is for a safety net.
Is Blogging a Passive Income? People often say that, but how true is it?
What is Passive Income?
If you are not familiar with the term, let’s define Passive Income:
“passive income” refers to streams of income that do not require you to actively work.
While strict definitions differ, in most cases people would agree that if you can take a month off work and still earn good money then you have a passive income.
Examples of passive income would include book and music royalties, while your standard 9-5 job or freelancing would be examples of an active income. In some parts of the world, if you are not at your station and working when you are supposed to be, for whatever reason, you can be fired immediately.
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Is Blogging Passive Income?
Blogging is often put into the passive category because, depending on which monetization options you use, there is a chance to earn while you sleep.
That is not to say that work is not involved, it is just the work is put in at the start and then it pays off longer term without much additional effort. Much like writing a book or producing music, the effort of creating and promoting is intense, but afterward, you should get to earn off that work indefinitely.
Hollywood strikes and music streaming income drops are showing those business models might be breaking down where popular art is concerned, but the idea of up-front work for long-term gain is sound.
I still get Aweber cheques long, long after mentioning the email service on this blog, which is super passive, but I also traditionally made my main income by running online courses and consulting which is very active real-time work.
So not all blogging provides passive income, some of us earn in other more active ways. If you are paid to blog for other people as a freelancer then obviously you are “selling your time” – you have to keep blogging to get paid in the future.
Even a highly popular blog that is monetized with ads will have to keep posting and working on SEO to maintain the income level it enjoys.
This is why we talk about multiple streams of income – a good spread of monetization strategies is a good idea and the more sources of non-work income we have the more passive and stable we can make it.
Is 100% Passive Income Possible?
The only truly 100% passive blogging I can think of would be where you invest your money in a website run by a paid editor and with a team of writers. As an investor or owner, they would need to set up automatic payroll payments, but there would still be an occasional interaction with the editor if they want to be at least involved in strategy.
How to Earn Passive Income from Blogging: 5 Passive Income Ideas
Let’s drill down into some sources of passive income – the ways you can make money online with some upfront or maintenance effort but earn passively long term.
Passive Income Blogging via Ad Monetization
Earning advertising income, such as with Google Adsense, display ads, or one of the large independent ad networks can be amazingly hands-off because once everything is set up you do not necessarily need to put in any more effort.
Your upfront work is around setting up your website for visibility and growth, with content creation designed to appeal to social media and especially for search engine optimization.
Once you are accepted into an advertising network you will need to install their special code into your site, and once that is done the ads will start to appear. You will either get paid for each 1,000 ad impressions in the case of display advertising or per click in the case of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
Provided your traffic continues at a high enough level you can make decent money. You do however need a lot of pageviews to earn money from ads, especially when your niche has low ad prices. Niches such as personal finance will have much more valuable ads than promoting snacks or thrifting.
The challenge is you do not publish your website in a perfect vacuum, there are competitors who also want to get that advertising income, there are search algorithm changes, and there are changes in the niche or marketplace to contend with.
Many bloggers do not reach the stage where their content has been around for years, but for those of us who have stuck with it, “content decay” is a real and problematic thing.
Making Money with Affiliate Marketing
As mentioned earlier, affiliate marketing can be a great way to make a long-term income by putting in effort at the start, so long as you do it the right way and choose the right affiliate offers.
Even though the Amazon affiliate program is a first stop for beginners, because Amazon’s brand is familiar and trusted by most people, Amazon is not a great option for earning a full-time passive income stream because of the short cookie lifetime and the number of changes that Amazon pages go through.
It is a shame because regardless of the niche you are in, usually, they have everything you need to at least get some money from referrals.
A great boost to your long-term affiliate earnings will be to promote evergreen products and lifetime commission offers.
Evergreen products obviously have a big impact on the money you make from referrals into the future because if the product is superseded, replaced, or goes off the market, or out of fashion, then you need to go back and promote something different to keep earning.
This is a massive problem on my Maker Hacks site because technology is constantly changing and vendors go out of business (a reason I will not review a Kickstarter product).
While that blog has earned me six figures, it has not been passive – I still have a large project nagging at me to fix where one of the vendors’ websites now redirects to spam! Some of this is made easier with WordPress command line tools or search and replace plugins, but the fact I have been procrastinating shows how much of a chore it is to put right.
Make Money Blogging with Sponsored Posts and Podcast Sponsorships
Most sponsored posts are one-time deals, you get paid for publishing a post. That does not mean you can only get paid once.
If the business gets value from working with an influencer, perhaps they will re-up their investment.
For example, Podcast Sponsorships, email list advertising deals, and YouTube influencer agreements are often for a set duration, so if you can get a deal for a number of months then that is some predictable income into the future. Of course, the sponsor needs to get something out of the deal – would not be wise to get paid upfront and then go on vacation for six months!
Make Money with Digital Products
Entrepreneurs love digital products as an online business because of the high markup, lack of inventory, or logistical issues, and because most of the delivery and customer service can be automated.
Digital products include things like video courses, ebooks, downloadable templates, organizers, and software.
A cool way to work out what your target audience is willing to pay for is to start with affiliate products, see what sells, and then work out how you can improve on the winners.
Passive E-Commerce with Dropshipping and Print On Demand
Actual e-commerce, ie. having an online store and fulfilling inventory, is hard work. Running a store is a labor-intensive business, but there are alternatives that are much more passive.
The main choices are Dropshipping, where you take the order online but the product is fulfilled by a partner from their stock, and print on demand where the product is only created after the order is put through.
If this is your first time selling online then I would avoid dropshipping and stick to safer options. If you go with print-on-demand, ensure you work with a company that has a great reputation to protect your brand from legal consequences.
While it is possible to do very well with these options, it is not for the beginner and there are a lot of details to get right if you are to avoid overwhelming customer service issues and bad reviews.
Over to You
Do you think blogging is good for passive income? How long can you not work while having enough income to live off?
Please share your thoughts and tips in the socials …