My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Mailbox: Just How Much Money Do You Make from Blogging?

Hundred dollar bills--straight out of the screen.
It is exactly like that.
How much do you make from blogging?
[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer them each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox.  Anything related (even tangentially) to writing is fair game. 

Charlie asks

I'm thinking of monetizing my own blog, but I don't know how much I can expect to make.  Your blog has similar traffic to mine, but sometimes you talk about making pennies a day, and sometimes you talk about making ten cents an hour and sometimes you talk about a dollar a day.  Obviously I'm not planning on getting rich, but your numbers seem to change.  Any chance you can break it down for me or tell me which of these numbers is the fake one?

My reply:

[Edit 10/14: this article is pretty old now and most of the information in it is obsolete. I no longer publish my exact monetary information and I make a little more than I wrote about here.]

[Edit 11/9/17 I still don't publish exact numbers or post screenshots anymore because people who don't live in the Bay Area sometimes don't understand cost of living and a lot of folks think artists should live destitute lives of squalor that Spartans would find austere, but last month was the first month ever that I could have paid rent, utilities, groceries, cell phone, and car bills from writing. No frills, but all the basics. (And my current living situation is three people sharing a two bedroom.) I work two other jobs, so I was able to do things like eat out a couple of times, pick brand name peanut butter (no seriously), buy The Contrarian a gift, purchase a couple of books, go on a date, and set some aside for a lean month and some for retirement, but if somehow I didn't have those side gigs, I could have paid all the bare-bones necessity bills with writing.]

I only lie to tell the truth, Chaz, and when it comes to hard numbers there's no good way to do that.   This isn't even "a certain point of view" that allows Obi Wan to wantonly be a pants-on-fire liar to young Luke.  Nope, these numbers are totally on the level. Besides, if my readers thought I was eating something more decadent than dirt-spiced rice, they might not shower me in twos of dollars a month, and I would have to give up the lifestyle to which I've become so richly accustomed.

I give 10% of everything this blog makes to a local children's literacy charity, and put another 10% straight back into improving the blog. (At this point the latter is more a hypothetical goal when I earn enough money, but that's what Hen Wen is all about.) However, in order to ensure to my readers that I'm not quietly slipping off to Barbados every weekend for Mai Tais and happy endings then just saying I'm making peanuts, I keep a monthly tally by screenshot of how much I've made through Adsense (the ads) and Paypal (the donations) in order to stay transparent. I don't put these posts on G+ or Facebook but anyone who wants to check up on my numbers is welcome to.

First of all, it's possible that the numbers have changed because the numbers have changed. I made more money in the past four months than I have in the ten prior to that. The amount I make is slowly going up. Understand we're talking about tens of dollars in a month here, not "real" money, so I tend to look at my progress by ratios instead of amount. ("I made twice as much this month as last month" sounds a lot better than "I made fourteen dollars instead of seven.") But even the "better" numbers of 2013 are nothing to exuberantly wet my pants over. (And yes...I just split the FUCK out of that poor little infinitive.) My first paycheck from Google came after 11 months of blogging. It looks like my second one will come around 6 or 7 months after that. I'm still a bit shy of being able to have an ensemble of nothing but Vera Wang dresses to wear to diplomatic functions.

(But I don't blog about that stuff.)

Still, at this rate I'll be a millionaire before I turn 280, so that's pretty cool.

What might also be confusing is the way I'm talking about the numbers. There's a big difference between a typical day and an average day. On a typical day I make a few cents. It depends on how many pageviews I've gotten but it's usually not more than a dime. I don't know exactly how it works, but I think pageviews from people with adblockers don't get counted, or don't get counted as much, because even on days I do REALLY well on Stumbleupon (which has an internal adblocker in its browsing program) I still make about as much as I would have without, but if I do really well on something like Facebook or Twitter, I'll actually see a few more cents roll in.

This is why I ask people to disable their adblock just for this site. Google ads aren't going to be pop ups and it's a cheap and easy way for someone to help me a tiny little bit every time they visit.  And the adblock will still be on for the rest of the interwebz.

Another month like this one, and it's Retirement City for me!
But some days....sometimes....someone clicks an ad. (Please don't click an ad unless you actually see something you are interested in--it can actually hurt me to get "fake clicks.") Depending on the ad, I might make 23 cents or a little over a dollar. Usually that happens once a week or so--you can see that last month was very slow.

So the average of trickle days and click days tends to be very different than either of them at their part. Averages can be misleading like that. Any statistic that uses the word "average" should be immediately suspect--especially if used for political gain. They just don't really tell the truth of what's going on.

I also get donations through PayPal. These are even more rare than someone clicking an ad, but they tend to be larger denominations. So they have an even more misleading effect on the averages. Most people have given me $5. A few have given me $10. One amazing person has given me $10 a month for four months, and has been such a positive influence that if I ever write a zombie story, the character with her name is totally going to make it to the helicopter pad. One guy gave me (I shit you not) $8.75 because as he put it "I've been genuinely entertained by you for at least three hours, so it's at least worth the price of a movie."

When you add in the donations for last month, I made about $25. During some months, donations are lower. I've never had them go higher, yet, but in theory, I know that is technically possible. Like...dark matter is technically possible...in theory.

When you add the trickle to the clicks of ads and the donations, and take a very rough estimate, it seems like a little less than a dollar a day is about what I can roughly expect from everything. That number is climbing up, but not with any measure of alacrity. Some of my big articles take me seven or eight hours to write (from beginning to end), so that's where the 10 cents/hour figure comes from.

Not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme.

One last thing I should mention. I monetized my blog right away because I did a lot of research that suggested it was the smart thing to do, even if it was only going to make a few cents and not truly be profitable for years. Several blogging websites said that if you wanted a money-making blog to set that up before building an audience. The reason being that if you take a blog that doesn't have ads and monetize it later in the game, people will leave because you've "sold out." (Apparently it's not okay to make money for something you spend hours and hours a day doing.) A lot of people don't put ads on their blog until they have X number of followers or Y number of hits per day. And predictably what happens is that when they first put ads on their site, some of those regular readers leave them. The places that gave this advice even pointed to studies where the EXACT same people who indicated they would leave a blog that "sold out" didn't have any problems with one that was monetized from the beginning.

How's that for the inherent hypocrisy of the human condition?

So, Charlie, if you've got numbers "like mine," you're probably still pretty early in the game, but people leaving when you add ads is something to think about.  Maybe you can ease people in by starting with a small ad at the bottom or write a post explaining your decision or something to help ease the blow.

That's where I get all those numbers. They're all true depending on how I'm looking at things at the moment.

I only lie about important stuff. And then I only lie to tell the truth.


  1. So those threesomes you are always going after probably aren't going to happen because you're rich.

    1. Yep. Those are purely because of the fame and glory.

  2. Suffice to say the retirement account is hurting just a bit.

    1. That sounds like a thing I know the meaning of.