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Blogs that make the most money - and how to set up your own

Blogs that make the most money - and how to set up your own

As research shows fashion bloggers typically earn £1,116 a year, we look at blogging success stories - and explain how you could make it pay

Kate Hackworthy's blog has won awards and brought her to the attention of top literary agents  Photo: Martin Pope
Could your hobbies be the start of a new career? Every day, thousands of Britons share their ideas and tips on food, fashion, money-saving hints and other lifestyle interests through their blogs. And some make good money - even undreamed-of riches.
Tales of bloggers making huge amounts from their websites are legion. Martin Lewis, the founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, is a prime example of blogging success. He started his newsletter blog in 2003, sent to friends and families, and in 2012 sold the resulting website to Moneysupermarket.com for a cool £87m.
But it's unlikely that anyone starting out today will make huge amounts - certainly not from a blog alone.
Denise Wallin started her travel/childcare blog - aroundtheworldwith ahighchair.com - a year ago and she is not making any money from it yet.
Ms Wallin, who has a background in marketing, posts on her blog once a week, combining it with part-time paid work and childcare. She said: "I don't think you can make huge sums on blogging. Maybe years ago, when bloggers were rare, it was possible to make lots of money, but not now. Brands are more savvy about the power of blogging these days: if you set up a beauty blog, for example, you're just one of many, so in marketing terms why are they going to advertise on your site? You're not unique."
Banner advertisements (across the top of your home page) are rare. More common is affiliate marketing - you earn a fee via an agency from a company if someone buys its products after clicking through from your site. A study from affiliate marketing agency Optimus Performance Marketing found that the typical lifestyle blogger could earn more than £900 a year from affiliate marketing on a blog.
The blogs that make the most money
Optimus surveyed 1,723 UK lifestyle bloggers who made money from affiliate sales and commission. Those involved in fashion and beauty (the most popular lifestyle blog topics) earned more than those in other sectors. Fashion bloggers typically earned £1,116 a year and beauty bloggers, £1,044 from affiliate marketing.
Mark Russell, the head of Optimus, said: "While for many a blog may be a side project that is occasionally updated during a quiet lunch break or free evening, our findings reveal that for others the upkeep and maintenance of a blog is of crucial importance, especially if they can earn some extra cash on the side."
Ms Wallin said bloggers who made money included those who offered their own digital products.
"There's a US blogger called Gala Darling (galadarling.com) who is very successful," she said. "She sells her 'radical self-love' - personal empowerment - courses via downloads from her site. I think this is a way to make money from a blog: you treat it as a springboard to your brand. You need to think outside your blog to make money." But she added: "I love blogging. I think it is obvious in a blog if all it's about is making money."
Another way to make money can be through sponsored posts: for example, a cakedecorating company might sponsor a food blogger's cake recipes. Wendy Gilmour, who blogs on fashion and style on her site thankfifi.com around three times a week and has about 10,000 hits a month, does sponsored contact with selected retailers. Her site, where she models clothes and accessories and advises on putting together looks, is like a high-end glossy fashion magazine and attracts sponsors from top fashion houses, including Ted Baker.
"Requests for traditional advertisements are rare," she said. "With a sponsored post, you get approached by a company which likes what you are doing and the market you are appealing to with your blog."
By comparison, with an affiliate you're paid a percentage of sales made by visitors to your site who click through and make a purchase. The payment is made via an affiliate marketing company.
Ms Gilmour said percentages varied from around 5pc to 15pc.
She started her site two and-a-half years ago with the help of her husband, a website designer.
"I haven't given up my day job," she added. "As with all freelance work, the earnings are not predictable. This month has been good because, in the fashion world, the spring and summer fashions are out - were I to earn at this rate every month I could afford to do it full-time. However, in July and August it can be very quiet. But I blog because I love it: it's a great creative outlet for me and I enjoy the connection I have with my readers."
How to get started
Setting up a blog takes minutes - but if you want people to read it you'll need to spend more time than that on it.
The easy route into blogging is using one of the popular free services such as Wordpress or Blogger. With these, the name of the blogging service will be included in your site's internet address. If you don't want that, you can always set up your own website. Companies such as 123-reg.co.uk sell website addresses. Costs vary; for example, halfwomanhalfbiscuit.co.uk was available this week for £6.98 for two years - ideal for someone wanting to blog about Eighties music and cookies. Less obscure names may well be sold out or come at a higher price.
If your blog takes off and you get a good level of traffic, you're likely to be contacted by companies offering affiliate marketing.
This is how it works: assume you're writing a cookery blog and mention a particular make of knife. Your reader clicks on that mention and is directed via the affiliate marketing company to the knife company website. If the reader buys the knife you earn commission on that sale.
However, the first step with blogging is to be honest with yourself. Have you got anything interesting to say in a blog that no one else is saying? Are you dedicated enough to put work into your blog: vow to post at regular intervals and try to stick to that schedule. You should also build your brand by directing people to your blog through social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
Do remember when you blog that once you've posted there's no going back. So don't put anything up that could get you into trouble or embarrass others.
From blog to book deal
Kate Hackworthy (pictured above) started her blog veggiedesserts.co.uk a year ago - and it has already won her awards and brought her to the attention of top literary agents.
Ms Hackworthy, from Newark, Notts, started creating desserts containing vegetables to tempt her two toddlers to eat healthily. She had been made redundant while on maternity leave and took a course on digital marketing. Now she spends a couple of hours a day developing desserts, such as kale and green apple cake and sweet potato latte, before posting one recipe on her blog every week.
"I am also on social media, talking to people and trying to boost my profile," she added. She said such sites were essential in pointing readers towards her site.
Unlike some bloggers, she has chosen to avoid taking advertisements or sponsorships, despite regular offers. She earns money via her food writing elsewhere. She has recipes published in newspapers and magazines, making an income of a few hundred pounds a month. But she now has a literary agent, who found her via the blog and hopes that a book deal is close. "I chose not to take advertisements and sponsored posts although I could be making much more money if I did," she said.
Her site costs around £60 a year to run and she has not paid out for special equipment: the photographs are taken with the same camera used for family snaps.

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