Chic Pixel’s Ultimate Guide to Blogging Part 4: Money Matters

Chic Pixel's Ultimate Guide to Blogging Part 4 Money Matters

Welcome to the final installment of Chic Pixel’s Ultimate Guide to Blogging! In the first week, I gave tips on how to start a blog and narrow your blog’s focus to fit into a niche that’s perfect for you. The second week was full of specific post ideas, and how to keep going when the going gets tough. Then, in week three, I shared my favorite social media strategies and tips for cultivating an audience who will keep coming back to your blog.

For my final post, I’ll be tackling a somewhat touchy subject: making money off blogging. Can you earn a living off your blog? When, if ever, should you start trying? How can you ask for money without seeming tacky? I’ll be covering everything from affiliates, Patreon, ad revenue, and selling your own products. Plus, I’ve teamed up with Lauren Orsini from Otaku Journalist to give away a copy of her Affiliate Linking for $$$ Guide! Read on for details!

Should You Monetize Your Blog?

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a stigma when it comes to creators earning money off of their work, especially when it comes to things they offer online for free. You’re not putting your blog behind a paywall, so people are used to reading your posts without paying a cent, and ads are often seen as gaudy and obtrusive. If you’re the owner of a small to medium-sized niche blog, is it even worth the hassle to try to earn money from it?

I’m obviously biased, because Chic Pixel utilizes a number of forms of monetization, but I believe anyone can and should work towards a blog that earns some form of income. You spend countless hours crafting posts, sharing them on social media, and interacting with readers and other bloggers, and your expertise should be compensated!

The dream for a blogging fanatic such as myself is to someday make this a full-time gig, but the reality is most of us will have to settle for some extra pocket change, or scrape by with just enough earnings per month to pay for things like hosting fees and other site-related costs. Even if you do decide to take the plunge and quit your day job, you’ll probably need to supplement your blogging income with other freelance jobs, such as Lauren with Otaku Journalist.

But just because you probably won’t strike it rich immediately doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go! If you have developed a quality blog with an audience that appreciates what you do, there will undoubtedly be fans who will be happy to support your endeavors with money, either directly or indirectly.

As I alluded to at the end of my post on building your audience, I don’t believe your site needs to be getting insanely high pageviews to be successful. As long as you have readers who you interact with on a regular basis, you likely have what it takes to earn a few bucks. While it may turn potential readers off if you start a new blog and start heavily pushing affiliate links and ads day one, there’s no reason not to get started while your blog is still young. Not everyone who frequents your blog will want to or be able to support you monetarily, but with things like affiliate programs, where you earn a commission when someone purchases an item from clicking a link on your site, there are ways to earn money indirectly, too!

Gangsta money anime screenshot
Gangsta

Earning Money Through Affiliate Programs

I’ll begin with affiliate programs since it’s the easiest way to start earning money as a blogger. Some existing online marketplaces, such as Amazon, have programs where you can sign up for your site to be an affiliate. Once you’ve been approved, you receive a unique tracking code so that every time you direct someone to said store, you’ll receive a small commission if they decide to buy something.

The most effective way to use affiliate links is by linking to relevent products within the body of your posts. For example, in my review of Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World, I include a link to the game on Amazon so if anyone reads my review and decides to buy it from them, I receive a commission. You can also share affiliate links on social media, which I do by sharing new products I’m excited about or sales worth checking out. Just remember to disclose that they are affiliate links!

My rule for affiliate programs is that I will never promote links to a store that I do not personally shop at. You wouldn’t want to push your readers to buy somewhere only for the service to turn out to be horrible, would you? I actually canceled an affiliate account I had with a company a couple years ago after I found out they were promoting things I really did not agree with on their social media accounts.

The main issue with affiliate programs is they can change their rates or shut down completely at any time, making them a somewhat unreliable revenue source. Regardless, if you can find a site offers products are relevent to share with your readers and has an affiliate program, it can’t hurt to try it out!

Here’s a sample of the main affiliate programs I use:

  • Amazon – Amazon is one of the biggest online retailers, so it goes without saying that their affiliate programs is one of the most promising. Unfortunately, however, it’s not available in all countries, and the US and Japan Amazon stores definitely trump pretty much everything else (Amazon Australia, for example, only offers Kindle products). If you’re lucky enough to have access to the Amazon Associates program (their name for their affiliate program), I highly recommend signing up. You will earn 4% commission for your first 7 sales, after which it will bump up to 7%, and you can elect to be paid in Amazon gift cards or directly to your bank account. For tips on how to make the most of the Amazon associates program, I recommend this informative episode of ProBlogger’s podcast.
  • CDJapan – While Amazon has an amazing range of products, I’ve found that CDJapan has been great for my specific niche, particularly Japanese otome games! Since it’s a Japanese store, they offer a lot of merchandise that can’t be found elsewhere at reasonable prices. CDJapan offers 5-7% commission depending on how many sales you get per month, but you can also earn commissions from your own purchases (which Amazon does not allow), and you may choose to receive your commission in CDJapan points or Paypal.
  • Tokyo Otaku Mode – Tokyo Otaku Mode has frequent sales, an extensive points system, and free shipping for orders over $150, making them a great affiliate option for Japanese pop culture bloggers. The downside to their system is they do not have the ability to link to specific products yet, and they only send a monthly report rather than allowing you to see how your links are doing in real time. However, you’ll earn an 8% commission for all purchases, which is a very good rate!
  • Jlist – The best commission rate I’ve found related to my niche, however, is at Jlist: they offer a whopping 10% for all sales! The payout threshold is $25, which is the lowest I’ve seen, as well. Jlist offers a wide range of anime-related merchandise, as well as Japanese snacks, games, and some NSFW products, too. Unfortunately, I’ve had some issues with them in the past (delayed/lost packages, frustrating customer service), but they’ve always resolved things eventually and my links continue to do well, so I’ve decided to stick around.

Be sure to have a look around for stores that are relevent to your own niche and see if they have affiliate programs! [Giveaveay closed] To get an even bigger jump start on earning money as an affiliate, comment on this post with a sentence or two about what niche your blog caters to (or what you would like your blog to be about if you haven’t started one) to be entered to win a PDF copy of Lauren Orsini’s Affiliate Linking for $$$ Guide! One lucky winner will be randomly selected on Tuesday, March 14th at 9 pm EST. 

Patreon, Tip Jars, and Ads

When I started blogging, Patreon didn’t even exist! But these days, it’s easy for creators to set up a Patreon account to earn money for pretty much whatever you want to get paid for. A lot of bloggers have Patreons now, but I haven’t used it due to the fact that it’s usually customary to offer pledge incentives of some kind and I don’t feel I have the ability to do that at this point in time. If you do decide to give Patreon a go, it’s important to remember that Patreon as well as Paypal deduct fees from your monthly pledges. For some examples of successful Patreons, I suggest checking out Anime Feminist and Tiny Cartridge.

In lieu of a Patreon, I have a Paypal donate button that people can use whenever they feel like tossing a few bucks my way. It can be an easy alternative to a more structured service like Patreon, but the revenue is pretty inconsistent. With both Patreon and donate buttons, you’ll need to be sure to remind your readers  you have them through social media or in the body of your posts, or it’s likely they won’t even notice they exist.

Another method of monetization I’ve tried with varying degrees of success is advertisements. There is, of course, Google AdSense, but I personally have stayed away from it due to the ads really turning me off whenever I see them on other sites! Plus, it takes a lot of pageviews to earn money from traditional banner ads these days.

Ads specifically catered to your audience that you personally negotiate with relevent parties, however, may be worthwhile. I have done one large takeover ad at Chic Pixel before, and that paid very well because it wasn’t based on clicks or impressions, but I was also approached by the company because I blogged about things that were related to their product. That’s only happened once in 6 years of blogging, though, so I’m not holding my breath for another opportunity!

Build Your Anime Blog
Another way to earn money through blogging is by making your own products to sell, like Lauren Orsini’s ebook Build Your Anime Blog!

Offering Your Own Products

While bloggers 10 years ago may have made careers out of ad revenue alone, these days everyone is talking about the power of creating and selling your own products. Think of it this way: if you have a blog, you already write a ton. Why not publish an eBook and place an ad for that in your sidebar, instead of an ad for some other site or product? The initial time investment will be high, but once you have a great eBook under your belt, you can recommend it to everyone who visits your site.

Unfortunately, I don’t have firsthand experience with this myself yet, but it’s very high on my list to do after I’ve completed my thesis and have a little more time to dedicate to the site. I’m already brainstorming ideas for my first eBook! Lauren has published two directly related to topics she covers extensively on Otaku JournalistBuild Your Anime Blog and Otaku Journalism. If you can rework something you’ve written about on your blog before, you’re already partway there! While it may seem counterintuitive to charge money for something you’ve written about for free in the past, find ways to add value and make the eBook version the most comprehensive/compelling option. If a whole book sounds too daunting, you could always make a shorter product like a workbook.

There are also ways to offer products on your site that aren’t eBooks, such as webinars, consulting services, and pretty much anything else you can think of! For example, since I do freelance Japanese to English translation, I could advertise that more actively here when I’m in between projects to help get the word out. There are so many options!

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to start earning money off of your blog, because you deserve it! At the very least, make it a priority to sign up for one affiliate program and start finding ways to work those links into your posts and social media without inundating your readers. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see big results immediately! I just joined Amazon affiliates at the beginning of this month due to previously being unable to because of convoluted tax reasons. So far, I’ve made exactly… $3.08. We all have to start somewhere!

Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post about your blog’s niche for a chance to win a PDF copy of Lauren Orsini’s Affiliate Linking for $$$ Guide! Giveaway closes March 14th at 9 pm EST. 

If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to say a huge THANK YOU for reading Chic Pixel’s Ultimate Guide to Blogging series! This was my first time doing a multi-post guide, and I had a lot of fun writing it. Please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email and tell me what was most helpful for you, and if there was anything I didn’t cover that you would like to see a post on in the future! If you enjoyed this series, I would greatly appreciate it if you considered supporting the site by shopping at my affiliate links or sending me a small tip. Happy blogging!

About Anne Lee

Also known as apricotsushi. Anne can be written with the kanji for apricot (杏), and sushi was the most quintessentially Japanese thing I could think of when I was 13, resulting in my goofy, albeit memorable, nickname.

  • Marcus Estrada

    Yay, I’ve read and enjoyed all of your Guide posts. Great work, Anne! It feels like we have been blogging for a similar amount of time, or at least, that I discovered you (and other great bloggers like The Gay Gamer’s Bryan) when getting more into Blogger years ago.

    Let me tell you that monetization is definitely a tough topic and you’ve made me feel a little better about it. Like you touch on, it really feels like something us bloggers are like “not allowed to do” for some weird reason. Whenever I do make a Jlist or CDJapan purchase I try to use your links, so they totally work!

    Your post reminded me of one of my biggest goals in writing…. To write a book. I know if I don’t do it (it’s non-fiction, focused on a specific aspect of gaming) that someone else will. SO I NEED TO JUST DO IT. eBooks in particular open up the realm of publishing I think, because physical book publishing has always seemed a little “scary” in my opinion, even though self-publishing totally exists.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this series, Marcus! You’re definitely one of the bloggers I’ve known the longest, and it’s so nice to feel like a part of a little digital community 🙂

      And I really appreciate you using my links!! The hardest part about using affiliate links is striking the right balance between reminding people that you have them and sharing other things that don’t include links. I’m always surprised when people who have been around a while don’t know I have an affiliate link to a certain store, so I always have to remind myself that not everyone sees everything the first time when I worry about tweeting my links so much.

      Then the other problem is authenticity – I don’t want people to think that just because I have an affiliate link in a review of a game that I’m purposefully saying nicer things to get people to buy it! So it’s a constant battle, haha

      Anyway, that’s really exciting that you have a book in mind! It sounds like you have a really good idea of what you want to do, too! You definitely just need to do it!! I have a couple book ideas (some related to this blog and some not) and I’m honestly pretty excited to have my thesis out of the way so I can devote more time to them later this year. Let’s do our best to get some books out there!!

      • Marcus Estrada

        This post got me thinking back as to like how discoverabilty even worked, as Twitter was not nearly as prevalent as it is now. For me, anyway, the way I found out about other blogs was through blogs linking to others. It’s funny how relevant that still is, just that now it can be much easier to get the message out there via Twitter.

        Every so often I forget to use an affiliate link >_<. Fortunately, there are not too many blogs vying for my attention so when I do use them it's usually your links specifically. Speaking of… that Saya figure is calling out to me on CDJapan. Here's hoping it's still available!

        Well, the idea for my book has been there for probably over 5 years now XD. The hard thing – or the stopping point – is the scope of the topic. But, the more I think about it I could always break it into volumes or some such. I've seen that for some other video game history-related books out there.

        Oh hey, have you ever participated in Nanowrimo? That is a good way to just force yourself to right – as thousands of people are doing it along with you. It helps to get beyond the "ugh everything I write is trash" mood (that's my mood when thinking about writing a book, anyway!) and just get stuff WRITTEN.

        PS: I waffled on entering the contest but sure, I'll do it then! My PixelPacas blog has the goal of catering toward games that really aren't going to get attention on mainstream sites. For me, that breaks down into the categories of visual novels/eroge, retro DOS games (they don't get nearly as much love as, say, NES!), and casual games.

        • Thanks for entering the contest!! I hope I didn’t pressure you haha

          That’s a really interesting point you make about discoverability – I definitely didn’t initially find you or Bryan at The Gay Gamer through social media, so linking was just as important as you say!

          I’m suuuuper interested in this video game history book idea! I definitely think there’s an interest in that sort of thing! Whether it’s a genre, series, or specific game, really deep dives into a specific video game topic are really fascinating!

          I haven’t actually participated in Nanowrimo, though I’ve definitely seen people do it! It sounds like a lot of fun! Maybe I’ll give it a shot this year since I’ll have submitted my thesis by then 😉 Right now I just can’t add another thing to juggle to my schedule, haha

          By the way, looks like Saya is still available! Here’s my link XD http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/aff/click.cgi/PytJTGW7Lok/4785/A520529/product%2FNEOGDS-225471

          • Marcus Estrada

            It’s fine! 😛

            Thanks for the kind words! For some reason I am also very protective about the book topic (though, like I said, someone could easily just write their own without ever getting the idea from me LOL). In any case, I can chat a bit more about it in private so perhaps I’ll DM you later :o.

            Years ago I did participate in Nanowrimo and completed it. However, my goal was not actually to write something particularly interesting but just prove that it was feasible to write that many words in a month. The exercise alone got me more capable of simply writing, even when I don’t want to write. So if you ever end up having time (this year, or in the future) then it might be worth giving it a try!

            Awesome, also thanks for your link! I’m going to wait until I get paid next to order… so hopefully it stays in stock for <2 more weeks. For some reason my card doesn't work with them anymore so my only option is PayPal which charges immediately, as far as I know.

          • Hehe yes don’t divulge all your book secrets here! If you ever want to chat about it more at length I would be happy to privately!

    • By the way, if you would like to be entered in Lauren’s affiliate guide giveaway, please leave a comment with a sentence or two about what niche your blog caters to!

  • Zoe Le Loir

    Thank you for this. I’m actually taking over an affiliate blog that Lauren had but found she wasn’t using much, she was kind enough to offer the site to me. Something I’m very grateful for.

    It’s on stationary, office items, and writing instruments of destruction. Things I love and have a lot to write on it all and can make frequent posts on the blog so as to keep it fresh and offer more quality content for any readers. I’ll be happy if I make enough to pay monthly hosting, any upkeep (like paying someone for graphics or to write a post,) and maybe to buy a couple beers at my favorite bars during happy hour.

    I’ve found these posts on your Ultimate Guide to Blogging to be invaluable. Thank you so much for writing and sharing them. =)

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad this series was useful!

      A blog about stationery and office items definitely sounds like my jam… Especially if you cover cute stuff, too! 😉 You have a great outlook on the money side of things – it’s great to focus on just having the blog be self-sufficient (i.e you’re not losing money by doing it, heh) and a little extra money for a treat here and there is a great added bonus!

      • Zoe Le Loir

        Yes, the focus will mostly (or maybe fully if I think that is better) be cute things. Lauren originally had the blog as Kawaii Stationery. Might actually go with that. Pondering.

        I need to get on that. I have lists of items on Amazon that are awesomely cute and useful, though I do need to get a number of them so I can write about them with hands on experience or, if something isn’t up to snuff.

        And that is the aim, enough to pay the costs of running it and if I can manage to get a couple drinks out of it a month, well, that’s just awesome. =)

        • Good luck! I’d love to see it when you get it running again 🙂

          • Zoe Le Loir

            I’ll let ya know! And thank you for the encouragement, Anne! =)

  • Greg Vendramini

    Again, thank you so much for the informative guide. I’ve read a lot of guides on how to get started on this, but hearing about it from your favorite bloggers is always nice.

    As I told you once, I really wanted to start a blog but I face a crucial problem: In my native tongue there are not nearly enough people interested in my niche, but in English there is way too many competition. In the end, I always end in the “I could do both languages, but that’s a whole lotta work and to maintain twice as much presence on social media is a suicide”, and don’t do any of them.

    Thanks to your advice I’ve decided to give a try to start my blog about pop culture focused on the positive, feel-good things. I think there is way too much hate on the Internet (and in the world in general) that we need to focus more on the bright side of life.

    Again, thanks for the tips, and I’ll make sure to show you the finished product once I have it.

    Cheers!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Greg! I’m glad you’re going to start up your blog and it sounds like you have a great focus. More positivity is always good 🙂 Best of luck!

    • Congrats Greg, you won the affiliate guide!! Lauren should be getting in touch with you with a PDF version shortly 🙂

      • Greg Vendramini

        Yay! 😀
        Thank you so much!!
        I was going to start brainstorming about my first blog post next weekend, but I’m so hyped I’m already typing out topics and ideas for my first post.

        Thank you (both you, and Lauren)!

  • Maggie Schoepke

    Very informative! Thanks for sharing 🙂 You and Lauren’s posts are always particularly inspiring and I hope to apply the advice you guys give to my own blog someday. It’s an ani-blog of sorts where I mainly write Christ-centered reviews on the anime I am currently going through. Once in a while I post a tutorial of an anime-related DIY, which I think would be cool to somehow tie into selling my own products…Still brainstorming ideas up for that, but much appreciated for you encouraging me to do so! Thanks again, what an awesome blog series 😀

    • Thank you! I think it’s great that you’re trying to find aways to incorporate tutorials and think of ways that you could monetize that. Depending on what kind of DIYs they are, you could sell patterns or nice printable PDFs of the instructions, or just sell the nice versions you’ve made for the people who would rather buy one then make it themselves 😉 Best of luck!

  • Mia Moore

    I haven’t read your previous posts in this series but I’ll have to go back now, this was really informative and well-researched! I currently blog about cosplay and geek lifestyle, but soon I’ll be splitting the cosplay content into its own site. 🙂

    • Thank you Mia!! I didn’t know you were thinking of splitting off your cosplay stuff into a separate site, but that definitely makes sense! I can’t wait to see it!