smart spending

Turn your blogging hobby into cash

"At the end of the month, the money is very nice. You could definitely make money off of blogs," he says. "What they don't tell you at these tech conferences, where guys who are making $100,000 off blogs (are speakers), is that you couldn't do it without an (income) cushion."

A passion or diversion

Alabama-based Melissa King started her blog in 2005 to post copies from her writing as a journalist. But soon after starting her "writechic" blog, she realized she could pull in a little income and "ramped up and regulated my writing for informative and entertainment purposes," covering politics and taking an irreverent tone.

"I discovered I could make money writing on a blog while scrounging through want ads for freelance writing gigs," King says.

But income is erratic and it has yet to replace her regular writing work. "I can pull in $50 and $650 a month depending on how much I want to work," she says. "Regardless of how much or how little is written, the actual writing has to be good, error-free, interesting. That's the most important thing."

And passionate, if you're Jan Norris. A former food-page editor for a newspaper in West Palm Beach, Fla., she launched her blog about "food, restaurants, recipes and pre-Disney Florida" in August 2008. She had left the paper but wasn't ready to give up her love of food writing.

Norris spends 20 hours a week on the blog, producing content, managing comments and answering e-mails, but continues to supplement her income as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers.

"I would really like to get to the point where (the blog) is all I do," she added. To drive traffic to her blog, she's joined Twitter, the micro-blogging service, and she boasts 500 followers.

She has relied on name recognition in her local market to sell ads to businesses there, such as the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, which runs banner ads on her blog.

It's a strategy that is gaining traction on the Internet, Agranoff says. "Hyperlocal blogs have become very popular, like one blogger who writes about things that are only happening in Coconut Grove (Fla.)," he says. "Local advertisers want to be there."

Sponsored blogging drives cash flow

Another route for money-minded bloggers is to team up with sites that pay bloggers directly, mostly to do product reviews. For example, sites like Bloggerwave and PayPerPost team bloggers up with companies seeking online consumers.

At PayPerPost, lists of "jobs" from companies looking to generate buzz online are available to bloggers. As part of its arrangement, PayPerPost requires bloggers to disclose sponsored posts.

Most of these sites have a simple sign-up process, including basic contact information, a short profile and links to your blog.

This form of blogging is controversial and can bring boos from the bloggerati, which sometimes refer to it as "commercial blogging." Additionally, it's questionable how long this practice will remain the norm, with the Federal Trade Commission considering whether to require disclosure of these practices, according to recent news reports.

Andrew Bennett of North Attleboro, Mass., started his blog Benspark.com in December 2003. He uploads a photo each day and often blogs about camera equipment, in addition to personal musings. Now he counts 1,767 Twitter followers and 1,000 Web page views a day.

Bennett began making money from his blog in 2006, when he started with PayPerPost, writing reviews of camera equipment. Since then, he has averaged $5,500 in extra income annually. Bennett also relies on cost-per-click programs with advertisers, running ads at the bottom of his blog that put 11 cents to 18 cents into his pocket when the link is clicked.

But turning posts into cash can be spotty. Bennett made $3.90 from SocialSpark, another site that connects bloggers with companies, for taking the "job" to review the XShot, a camera extender. Then, he made an additional $23 from ads on his blog from Santa Barbara, Calif.-based XShot LLC when six of his readers clicked through those ads and bought the product.

"When I first started, it was like, 'Wow, free money,'" Bennett says. "For me, blogging is a hobby that I'd like to turn into full time eventually."

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