Bullet Proof Guide: How To Make Money From Your Blog


More and more people are trying to earn online – there are millions of  new blogs, start ups and applications already and many more are being created each day! While there are so many people working online, only some of them are  profitable ( I mean really profitable – not just making their living)!

In this article I wanted to scratch the surface about several well known, and not so well known, monetization techniques that you could implement in your own business. Even if you don’t have your own business blog yet – no problem, because even a simple understanding  how other people earn online will be a great help to boost your confidence to start! Yes, online business can be very profitable if you follow certain rules to monetize your site!

I consider there are three categories of people venturing online:


Most people just complain about their life and keep reading success stories but don’t do anything on their own! Remember that dreaming will not make your goals a reality! These people may earn some money to survive, but nothing impressive, they’re just afraid or too lazy to actually start something. If you are there – don’t worry, you are stepping out from that reality to discover a new reality! This is how I started, because I didn’t want to accept the reality everybody else had! What’s the Secret?  – Take action!

2. Average business (making a living)

Here I would rank fairly successful people, including freelancers who own blog businesses and share their thoughts and expertise to their established readership (50,000-100,000 unique visits per month). Most online businesses fall in this category, because the actual project idea is good, but there is something missing. Mostly it’s because such business owners are just hard working and have experienced in their own niche – be it design, web development, writing, but not so much in marketing, social media promotion or money management. They are just lacking motivation or expertise in some areas that are crucial for their business to grow. They probably don’t have enough money to hire people who could take on the tasks required to market a blog and take it to the next level. Most freelancers don’t have enough time to learn these new skills because they are doing everything themselves.

My answer to fix this – implement better monetizing techniques to earn more (the old saying goes ‘work smarter, not harder’) so you can afford to hire someone that has the knowledge and skills you may not! Another solution could be to change the vision – maybe you’re doing what everybody else is. Are you doing anything different, or unique,to grab more people’s attention?

3.Good, profitable business (enjoy living)

And then there is  the third category where the business seems to have everything it needs – established team, great content, social media promotion, marketing and some classic monetization techniques implemented. Most people do not make it to this level of success and those that do often stop here because they don’t know how else to improve! I myself face this challenge and I’m slowly moving forward and making improvements. I was at this stage for close to a year and I considered myself highly successful. I was comfortable, and because I felt successful I didn’t actively seek ways to improve.  I paid for this mistake – I lost a lot of loyal readers, who just saw the content wasn’t at the same level anymore.

My point?

Well, there are so many online businesses, but most of them are missing great monetization! Project ideas are great, but you need to show how the idea can make the money; what will make this new business profitable!  Ok, everybody can make money from Google Adsense, selling image banners, but this type of monetization is limited (rare exceptions)! You need to get more and more traffic to keep your income growing and that’s the problem because there are some limits in traffic growth.  For example 1WD was growing rapidly for 2 years, but then growth became much slower and when my income stayed the same for several months I started to worry!

How can I grow my business, if I cannot increase the income? All I can do is invest my money more carefully, but opportunities are very limited! Oh, and I didn’t mention that once your blog is huge you cannot increase your ad prices that much, because nobody will usually buy those ads (there are a few exceptions to this, namely the major blogs that are considerd the top of their respective niches).

How do you increase income then? Well..here are some other monetization techniques. There are a lot smarter ways to make money (like I said earlier, work smarter, not harder). I’m going to share with you some different techniques and options, explain how they work and can help you make the most of your blog.  This Bullet Proof guide will show you how to make money from your design blog! These tips were written specifically for design blogs, though the principles and methods can be applied to any blog.

Image Banner Advertising


Advertising, no doubt, is the most popular and classic way to earn money with a design blog. You can see a couple of banners on almost every design blog. Selling banner space is one of the main ways many blogs earn an income (they’re still the top income source for 1WD). BuySellAds is the top choice for blogs who want to sell their unutilized space. It simplifies the process of buying and selling advertisements so you don’t have to attract advertisers yourself. Instead you can just focus on the blog’s content and let BuySellAds do the work for you. However the biggest drawback is that BSA take 25% of your profit. Of course you can try to sell advertising space on your own, though it can be really frustrating and time consuming, so the majority of blogs use BSA.

Well, there are a couple of good alternatives though:


The premier network for reaching creative, web and design professionals, The Deck serves up over one hundred million ad impressions each month and is uniquely configured to connect the right marketers to a targeted, influential audience.

What makes this ad service stand out from the crowd is they accept only top design sites, ensuring that traffic is very targeted for advertisers. They also only accept high quality advertisers who are selling good products, not just any old thing. The downside in my opinion, is that if you want to use their service, you cannot use other monetizing options, for example: Google Adsense.


Carbon Ads is an ad tech company behind a new kind of advertising network. Carbon connects advertisers to highly-relevant users through targeted verticals we call Circles. These circles are made up of influential publishers who lead, or are actively engaged with, their industries. To their audiences, Carbon brings well-designed, value-focused ads, displayed one per page above the fold, for quality brands, products and services that readers actually need and want.

Another promising new ad network is FuelBrandInc – very relevant for designers.

Affiliate Programs


If your blog generates a lot of traffic you should really consider affiliates as a serious source of income. If you’re not familiar with affiliate marketing –  it’s the type of advertising where you, for example, with your blog send potential buyers to a direct merchant. If done right it can be a win-win situation for both you and your audience.


Clickbank is one of the most popular affiliate networks which we use here at 1stwebdesigner because they offer the biggest payouts if you sell something. It’s not easy to convert visitors to actual buyers, but this is the best place to start. There are also good alternatives: CJ, which is very similar to Clickbank. Basically these two networks are the biggest ones and you’ll find the greatest variety of products, some of which could be really appropriate for your site.

Why to choose Clickbank:

  • Commissions of up to 75% — much higher than other affiliate networks
  • Digital products mean instant delivery and faster commissions
  • More reward for your efforts
  • Tens of thousands of products

Envato Marketplaces

Well, at least for our site, the Envato marketplace referral programs have worked really great. Why? Because their marketplaces are extremely relevant to our site – for themes we use Themeforest, for design elements we use GraphicRiver, for code snippets we use CodeCanyon sites!

I definitely suggest you check out the Envato markeplace referral program to get started easily. In my experience the image banners from the marketplace don’t work very well. Don’t over optimize articles, but it doesn’t hurt to add few premium selections for example to big slideshow gallery article. The reason people actually go to these marketplaces is because the products offered there are extremely high quality, something worth paying for! In my opinion, free isn’t always the best option and if I find something that can greatly save me hours of work for only $10-30, I will buy it without hesitating! Learn more here:  Envato Wiki site.

Another alternative is Mojo-Themes, which is kind of similar to Themeforest selling premium themes and templates.

Amazon Associates Program

Well, I haven’t earned millions there, because at least 1stwebdesigner isn’t focused so much on hardware and physical products. I would suggest if you’re in the design niche to seriously consider promoting popular design books, bestsellers on Amazon from time to time. While such promotions won’t make you a lot of money, it definitely doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on Amazon’s products.

Amazon is different because they offer very little, only 4% as a referral fee at the beginning, if you sell enough products in a month you could maker 6% or higher. What’s cool with Amazon is that though your referrals may not end up buying what they saw on you site, they may end up buying something completely different, and you’ll still make some money. The main task here is actually just to get people to go to Amazon, and they’ll do the rest! There are several ways to make money with Amazon, learn more here.

Other Monetizing Techniques

Premium Content: Memberships

Premium content is another great way for design blogs to earn some money. You can see many design blogs offering high quality content and tutorials for money. This is a great and effective way to make money if you’re able to deliver high quality content regularly. Nowadays when you can find almost anything on the internet, people are not willing to pay for mediocre content or content they’ve seen in ten different places. You have to be able to provide unique and high quality content so that people will be willing to pay for it. In most of the blogs you can access all their premium content for a fixed monthly fee. Check out Tuts+ and WDL premium programs to see what I mean and what kind of content people are paying for.

Tuts+ makes most if its money from their membership program, not advertising, not referral programs, but their membership program!

Selling Premium File Memberships

A similar way of earning money to what we just talked about.

Similar to blog premium membership, there are websites in which you can get access to high quality design resources for a fixed monthly fee. Some of the best examples are WeGraphics and MediaLoot. WeGraphics also has an affiliate program so you can earn some extra cash if you refer new people to their site. As you can see these websites are very specialized,but that doesn’t mean you can’t establish something similar on your own design blog.


Selling Books, Themes & Other Premium Products

Another popular way to earn money is by selling themes, icons, e-books and other design related material. It’s similar to the premium membership model, but the difference is that with this method you sell one specific thing for a one fixed price.

Smashing Shop is a great example how to make money online by selling e-books. If you have the time and knowledge to create a magnificent product, this can be very profitable.

You can learn a lot from them about how to go about selling a printed book. SM just released their new ‘Smashing Book #2′ and it has sold extremely well which proves that this approach can be profitable.


WP Plugins
is a revolutionary WordPress project, aimed at improving the quality, support for, and standard of plugins. They’re just like the App Store for the iPhone, except for WordPress. They assess, check and scrutinize every plugin to ensure that you get the highest quality product.


Elegantthemes is a small marketplace selling premium WordPress themes. They differ from similar marketplaces is that here you get unlimited access to all of their themes for a fixed price. You’re not just purchasing a specific file once, you are obtaining access to a strong and healthy community, frequent theme updates as well as full access to the support services.


IconEden is a premium icon marketplace which helps you save time by offering well-designed stock icons for your projects. They’re one of the best in icon creation and with stock icons picked from IconEden, you’ll never worry about the consistency, usability or simplicity. You can buy the icon sets separately or you can access all icon bundles for a single payment.


Case Study:PremiumPixels

I wanted to show you the site for someone who ties his design blog to his marketplace at Themeforest. Orman Clark offers premium free PSD files on his personal site almost twice a week – visitors love him for that and keep coming back. But how does he make money offering things for free?

He also owns very successful Themeforest account, where he regularly offers new and high quality WordPress themes for sale! And his work is really amazing, definitely worth buying. He is marketing himself and his products very well by cross-promoting his premium themes through his blog in a non-obtrusive way (which I love). He doesn’t trick people into buying his themes, just reminds them about his premium themes on his sidebar and right before you download any of his free psd files! PremiumPixels is great case study for graphic designers and developers who want to make their living doing what they really love the most!

Job Boards

Job boards are a great way to earn some extra cash and increase your traffic as well. They can also be very useful for your readers, but the trick is you need to have a good user base before you think about creating your own job board, otherwise no one will use it and you’ll just get an extra headache and make no money. Before you start,  investigate what others in your niche are doing right and most importantly – what they are doing wrong! If you have a chance to create a better job board then you might become successful without a huge blog presence, but in most cases I still would suggest to have a good reader base first.

Where do you earn money from job boards? Well, you can charge people for placing their job advertisements on your job board or vice versa, you can collect money from job seekers. Once you’ve built an effective and trustworthy job board, the ads will come naturally and it will turn into a great source of passive income. Not as easy to do as it sounds though.


Resource Bundles

Bundles are becoming more and more popular nowadays. Design bundles are premium resource packs which usually contain various apps, themes, icons, e-books and premium memberships for a price that can be as low as 10% of the bundle’s real value. BundleHunt is the most popular service offering bundles they call “treasures”. If you check out their About section, you’d see that some well-known design blogs (WebDesignerDepot, for instance) are contributing to this project.

Where is the money? Well, you may be able to sell your product as a part of a bundle. If you have something in one of these bundles, the irresistible price of the bundle and the quality of your product may drive a significant amount of traffic to your site, which may result in higher sales of other products you offer. If nothing else, at the very least you’ll be known by a much wider audience. Some bundles offer an affiliate program if you post a great article about the bundle.


MightyDeals offer unbelievable deals and discounts for creative professionals for a very limited time. The deals include products and services that are heavily discounted, usually 50% to 90% off.

I like their marketing technique, how they cross-promote their deals through many popular design blogs by placing advertisements in unique spots, which get really good attention because of their placement.


Bundlehunt is owned by a bunch of developers, marketers and social media experts who, once in a while, like to put together bundles of high quality software, aimed at empowering the creative community. Because we are fond of our bundles, they call them “treasures.” Some call them “premium resource packs”. Maybe because it is a premiere service within the design community offering outstanding apps, templates, icons, eBooks, hosting plans and premium memberships for usually less than 10% of it’s real price.

Well I must say their deals are impressive and this kind of thing can be done by anybody! Well, there is a trick – you need to know the right people and get those people and companies to trust you to actually get these deals.


Do you want to know where this bundle idea started? It started with Groupon just a few years ago. Groupon’s founder just figured if companies can unite to buy something for lower price…why not use this same idea for individuals? It’s a win/win situation!

Email Newsletter

Every blog and business should have its own email newsletter and contact list! Why? Because email marketing is the most immediate way to promote your products, resources or new sites! Before you start promoting anything you of course need to provide value and build trust, but once it’s done – possibilities are limitless! Those bundle sites actually rely a lot on their email marketing, where they promote their latest releases to people who actually are interested in their deals!

Build an active list of at least 500 people and you have a very targeted and profitable business! I am just explaining the basics here though, there are a lot of hidden techniques how to make income from email marketing, how to do super successful product launches with an email list alone! Some successful examples are the SmashingMagazine Newsletter and actually 1WD is also working on building a list by offering free e-book and a seven day email course to encourage people to subscribe!


When you sign up to Graphic Design Blender’s newsletter you get access to a free ebook.


I hope you’ve got a little insight about how to make money with your blog. These techniques can not only make you some money, they can also increase your traffic and attract new visitors. Try not to overdo it with monetization; don’t forget about your blog’s primary goals. Relevant, high quality content is what will draw people to your site and keep them coming back, if you have the content and the readership, the money will come.

Well, if you enjoyed this article, let us know because it only scratched the surface of how some people make money on the Internet! If there is enough interest and demand I am considering doing some case studies and interviewing successful designers and developers who have turned their hobby a full time business!

Do you want more case studies? Do you want detailed guides:

  • how to set up your job board?
  • how to approach companies to get good deals from them?
  • how to build relationships?

Let us know, I would be happy to show you how to have a rewarding and successful future! I have been passionately researching and trying many different ways to monetize 1WD and I have very good relationships with some of the biggest and most successful design blogs – I believe I can teach you something and I would be happy to teach you (and learn a few things myself, no doubt) by doing case studies and interviews with successful people!



  1. Scott M Peters

    THanks for all the good info, I will try to put some of it to good use and if I do well we will speak.
    You sound very savy in areas I would very much like to be involved in.
    Furthermore I like the you way write very understandable to the agverage person and that has always made me
    feel comfortable to belive in somebody who can relay a concept without losing the reader.
    Scott N Peters

  2. wajahat

    very informative…………… thax for gathering all the information

    keep up the good work

  3. wajahat

    very informative article…. keep up the good work…… and we certainly want more case studies on this topic….

  4. Very nice!
    But you should go more for design related posts rather than going into the Blogging guides..There are a plenty out there already..!

  5. Lisa Wood

    As a blogger who knows that you can make money blogging – it does take a certain technique, the right keywords and understanding of what you are blogging about. It took me three years to make money with my blog and that was only when I joined a program that works. You need to know what to blog about, how to blog, and why you are blogging. To be successful takes more than a dream – it takes time and dedication. It takes a reason bigger than yourself to keep on going.


    • wajahat

      Hey Lisa,

      could you guide me a little how to use keywords effectively. What techniques did you learn during the program?


  6. Al

    That was a very clean and comprehensive guide to affiliate marketing.

    What’s more important I think is to find out what works with every person’s blog. Some people like to pick a few and focus on them, but I think it’s best to use all of these affiliates and find out what works best for you. Of course you need a good traffic to be able to do all sorts of experiment with the type of ads you put and also positioning.

    Good article though.

    • Well, yes..that was my point.. I tried to focus on Web Design niche though..where monetizing techniques can be a little bit similar. But yes..of course each specific angle requires specific customization. I just wanted to lay out many different monetization techniques..just to show how it’s possible to earn money in this niche.

      100% truth – experiment a lot to see what works and what doesn’t, that’s the way of actually start making some money.