Why Your Blog Isn’t Making Any Money…And How to Fix It!

(Last Updated On: September 7, 2017)

Do you ever feel the pressure to “bootstrap” your business or blog?

Years ago, I had a blog, and I definitely got sucked into the mindset that I should try to spend as little money as possible on it. I spent about $60/year on my domain name and hosting. And that’s it.

To no one’s surprise, I never made a real income from that blog. After a year and a half of hard work, I shut it down.

When I decided to start My Adaptable Career, I knew I needed a different approach. A business approach. And what successful business owner would start a business with a yearly budget of $60? It’s laughable.

If your blog isn’t making any money, it’s probably because you aren’t investing in it. Here are three reasons why you should consider spending money on your blog or business.

You can make money from a blog, but you have to go about it the right way. These tips are super helpful!This post includes affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy something using my link, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read more on my disclosure page.

1. Bootstrapping screws with your mindset

Trying to do everything as cheaply as possible has a negative effect on your mindset. When you’ve only committed $60 a YEAR, it’s just too easy to bail on your business.

But, when you invest in your business, it’s a lot harder to quit when the going gets tough. And we both know it will get tough! If you’ve invested a serious chunk of money, you’ve got skin in the game. You’re so much more motivated to push through the tough times and find success on the other side.

2. Bootstrapping slows your growth

If you choose not to spend money on your business, it’s easier to fail because you don’t have the tools or resources you need.

For example, if you choose to use a free wordpress.com blog instead of paying for self-hosting and a domain name, it’s going to take you longer to grow an audience and build traffic. (Curious about what I use? You can find my fave blogging tools here.)

You may not be paying money for your hosting, but you are “paying” in other ways. Websites with free hosting typically have slower speeds, limited customization options, an inability to run advertisements, and lower search rankings than self-hosted websites. These limitations add up fast: your prospective customers can’t find you easily and don’t take you very seriously.

To me, that’s a big price to pay if you actually want to build a business.

That being said, you don’t need to overpay for blogging tools either. Download my Blogging on A Budget Tool List and find a list of affordable alternatives to some of the most popular blogging tools out there.

3. Bootstrapping can lead to bad decisions

If your business decisions are driven by what’s cheapest, instead of what will help you achieve your goals and serve your audience, you’re doomed.

Think about it. Will a restaurant that saves money by serving expired meat and hiring one waitress to serve 20 tables survive? Absolutely not. It turns out CUSTOMERS don’t want cheap if it means the quality is bad.

Your potential customers are going to feel the same way about your blog.

business plan for blog

The advantages of blogging as a business

1. Relatively cheap

The U.S. small business administration says the average start-up cost for a new business is $30,000, but small home-based businesses may have start-up costs as low as $3,000.

And according to Quick Books, start-up costs for a blog or home-based business are typically 3-10x less than start-up costs in other industries.

Even if you budget just $1000 to spend on your blog or business in the first year, you’ll be able to pay for tools, education, and services that can help your business grow exponentially.

Want to start or grow your blog on a budget? Download my list of affordable blogging tools here:

2. No need for investors

Many brick and mortar businesses need investors or bank loans to get started. As a blogger or web-based business owner, you will probably be paying your own expenses. This is much more simple and low-risk than needing to repay a loan or deliver returns for investors.

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3. Quicker profitability

I couldn’t find concrete data about how long it takes the average business to be profitable, but many experts agree that 3 years is typical. It can then take 2-3 more years to recoup the expenses from the first three years.

Many bloggers and web-based business owners will be profitable much sooner, some within a few months, others within 1-2 years.

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How to Spend Strategically

You’ve already invested a lot of time in your blog or business, so if you’re ready to invest money, too, here’s how to make a strategic spending plan.

Set a budget

Odds are, you’re going to be paying for blogging expenses from your own pocket. So, your first step is to figure out how much you and/or your family can afford to spend.

If the answer is $0, then don’t start a business right now. Start freelancing or get a part-time job and save up some money to invest in a blog later. In my first year of blogging, I paid for all my blogging expenses by freelancing. If you want to go this route, then check out my favorite freelancing course here.

If building a sustainable business is important to you, then really ask yourself: how much can you afford if you cut out a few luxury items and truly commit to your business?

Know your goals

Once you’ve set a budget, get clear on your blogging goals.

For example, my goal is build an email list, so I started paying for the email platform ConvertKit in my first month of blogging. Yes, I could have used a free Mailchimp account, but I knew the landing pages and advanced features at ConvertKit would help me grow my email list faster.

Know yourself

What are your weaknesses? Pay for training or tools to help you improve.

For example, I paid for a stock photo membership because I don’t enjoy taking pics, I don’t have photography equipment, and I know my audience expects lovely visuals.

I also paid for web/logo design services because it’s another weakness of mine. (Are you sensing a theme here? Visuals are not my strength!)

On the other hand, I’m a confident writer, so I haven’t outsourced any of the copywriting or content writing for my blog.

Track your ROI

It’s hard to track your return on investment with a web-based business because so many factors are intertwined. That being said, try to spend an hour or two a month evaluating if the money you spent is helping you achieve your goals.

For example, I spend $5/month on a subscription to BoardBooster, a social media scheduling tool that I’ve set up to automatically pin my new blog posts on various group boards (Click here for the full tutorial). This has been a huge time saver!

And, ever since I started paying for BoardBooster, Pinterest has become the biggest source of traffic for my blog, and my Pinterest following has quadrupled.

It’s a great return on my investment of $5/month.

Ready for a more detailed look at how I’ve tried to spend strategically in 2016? Here’s a breakdown of my goals and my expenses.

coffee and list

My 2016 goals

I started my website in February 2016. These were/are my goals:

1) Grow my email list.

2) Create a routine and systems that will give me enough free time to create a course in 2017.

3) Find a niche and start building my authority.

My 2016 Expenses

Some of my expenses are yearly and others are monthly. For monthly expenses, I calculated a total based on the month I started paying for the tool through the end of December 2016. This gives you an overall picture of the total amount I will have invested in my business in 2016.

There are cheaper alternatives to many of the tools I use. If you want the complete list, you can download it here!

Infrastructure

I chose to pay for self-hosting, a domain name and a professional email address in order to make my business look more professional and help me build my authority.

Hosting – $230
Domain name and professional email address– $33

Marketing

Many experienced bloggers say that you should spend just as much time promoting or marketing your content as you spend creating that content. In order to find my audience and attract subscribers to my email list, I’ve paid for the following marketing tools.

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ConvertKit (email marketing) – $29/month x 11 months= $319
Buffer – $102
BoardBooster – $5/month x 7 months= $35
Social Warfare – $29

Design

Did I mention that design is a real weakness of mine? 🙂 Once I settled on a niche of productivity for solopreneurs, I realized that my audience cared just as much about design as content. So in August I invested in a blog redesign and branding package and a 3-month subscription to a styled stock website. I also started paying for Canva for Work, which has been a great design AND productivity tool because it saves me time when designing images for my blog posts and social media.

Divi theme – $70
Canva for Work – $12.95/month x 5 months = $64.75
Styled stock subscription- $75
Blog design and branding – $720

Learning/Professional Development

Again, because growing my email list and engaging with my email subscribers is my top goal, I took a course on email marketing. It was really helpful (you can see my results here) and will be a resource I refer back to in the future when I create my own course and integrate a sales funnel into my email.

I also spent about $20 on books. I learn well through reading and have implemented many of the strategies in both books. I also like having these books on my bookshelf to refer back to.

Email Lists Simplified– $39
SEO 2016 (book)- $10
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (book)- $11

The grand total for my first year of blogging: $1737.75

And how did I pay for it? I work part-time as a freelance writer, which more than pays for these blogging expenses.

The Exceptions to the Rule

Now that you’ve seen my expenses, you might be thinking, “Yeah, but what about all those bloggers who are making five or six-figures and hardly spending any money at all?”

Here are some things to think about when you look at other bloggers’ income and expense reports.

Some bloggers may not be including all of their expenses on a monthly report. For example, if the blogger pays yearly for many services, he or she may not list them on a monthly report.

Bloggers who have tons of experience may not need to invest as much. They can spend less in some areas because they have already developed those skills or know it’s not necessary for their particular biz.

Some bloggers have outside support, such as a spouse or friend who is willing to do coding or design for free. Or they may have extra help at home so they can devote more hours to their blog or biz.

Remember, many of the tools bloggers spend money on are meant to save time. For me, Buffer, Canva for Work, BoardBooster, and ConvertKit are all productivity tools in addition to their primary function as marketing and design tools. But if someone has 40+ hours a week to devote to their business, they may not need to pay for these tools.

Your takeaway

Ultimately, you’re the boss. You get to decide how to spend money on your business. With all the posts out there glorifying the bootstrap mindset, remember that it’s okay (and usually wise) to invest some money in your business.

If you set a budget, know your goals, and spend accordingly, you’ll likely see fast growth and feel more invested in your business.

I’d love to hear from you: what’s the best investment you’ve made in your blog or business? Or what is holding you back from spending money on your blog?
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  • Thank you for writing this! I’ve been wanting to understand how to effectively invest in my blog business. I have been trying to bootstrap this whole time due to unforeseen debt that has accumulated and I’m already working full time as a PT. But it really helps how you broke down each tool you invested in. I definitely need to find something to automate my social media marketing since that is my least favorite part. Thanks, Emily!

    • Check out buffer– you can use the free version to schedule up to 10 posts at a time. So if you’re on a tight budget, this will at least help you schedule social media updates for a few days at a time for free.

  • Hey Emily, thanks for a great post. My partner and I launched our blog last week so it’s nice to read an article and get reinforcement that we are on the right track. We’ve treated it like a business from the start and yes it sometimes means spending money on superior tools to save you time and to appear more professional as well. We have also made it our goal this year to launch a course too.
    All the best,
    Nick | livingtoroam.com

    • Congrats on your launch Nick! Your smart to treat it like a business from the start. As I mentioned, I didn’t do that with my first blog, and I was doomed from the start. I look forward to hearing about your course!

  • I am super guilty of being cheap with my new blog. This was a well explained perspective and I think you have a great point! I may have to loosen those purse strings a little. Thanks