There's a joke that the easiest way to make six figures as a blogger is to get a six-figure job, then start a blog.
It's a reaction to the very MLM-style "I run a blog about starting a blog!" content that's prevalent in some circles on the internet. But flip it around and you'll find some very good career wisdom hidden in there.
The easiest way to make six-figures as a blogger?
Start a blog, and use it to get a six-figure job.
I'm not here to quibble about how much you can make based on your blog, because I am all in on the future opportunities for online education, the creator economy, and the value of building and owning an audience.
I am here to point out that most monetization advice is focused on building a massive audience.
But there's a lot of money you can make by creating content that serves a much smaller audience than you think.
I know, because it happened to me.
How my blog landed me my dream job
Five years ago, I started blogging about personal finance. For the first year, I was learning in public, which is a kind way of saying my posts were scattered and unfocused.
Over time I got better, which is what I think happens when you hold yourself accountable to publishing on a regular schedule and knowing your work is going to be seen by people.
Two years in, just when I was starting to think seriously about diving into the world of content creation full-time, I got an email from Shopify about a content marketing job.
"That sounds amazing," I said, because I had already creeped the job posting and thought it did, truly, sound amazing, "but the job is in Toronto and I just bought a house in Ottawa."
"That's ok," they replied, "we're open to remote for the right person." This was three years before we went digital by default (so yes, we're hiring where you live).
At every point in the interview process, my blog came up.
- Why did I run it? To build skills outside of work, explore an interest, and run my own thing.
- What had I learned? Pretty much everything you could know about how content ties to revenue, given that my entire business was content. Oh, and how to run a business.
- Who did I learn from? A long list of podcasts, books, and blogs that we talked about in my interviews.
I can't speak for the people involved in the decision to hire me, but given that my blog was 90% of my final interview, I feel pretty confident saying it at least helped get me the job.
I still run that blog outside of my full-time job, which is the easiest way to tell you that I am all in on the opportunities ahead for content creators.
If I didn't think there was value in it, I wouldn't still be spending time on it—and I know there are plenty of ways to earn six figures from a content-based business, even if you never want to use it to get a job.
A job isn't the only way to monetize your content—but it is the easiest
But starting a content-based business is hard. Building an audience is hard. There's a lot to understand, from creating the content, to market dynamics, to the specifics of your niche, to the tech stack you want to use. That's not even getting into the business side of things, like how hard to negotiate before you sell your podcast to Barstool.
Those are all things that influence your ability to monetize your content from a larger audience. But creating content that you can monetize through a job requires a much smaller audience, so you don't need to worry about growing a massive audience, or let your worries about only reaching a few people stand in your way.
If you're blogging (or podcasting, or creating videos, or speaking at conferences, because yes, those all count) in order to land a job, think of your addressable audience as:
- People who can hire me, and
- People I want to know in my industry.
To monetize your content by getting a job, it only really matters if those people ever see it and like it—and they're not terribly hard to reach.
It's a much smaller and more achievable audience to reach than millions of people on Youtube. It's also a wildly profitable niche, and if the internet has taught us anything, it's that the riches are in the niches. (A saying which to be clear, relies on the worst pronunciation of "niche.")
If writing about your work, your thought process, or your craft gives you a link you can add in an email to a hiring manager, and they think it's great, it could be the difference between getting the job or not. That one email could end up landing you a full-time salary.
Plus, creating content is one of the best ways to connect with people in your industry. Building a network online is a lot easier when you have a body of work people can read, watch, share, and use to connect with you and your ideas—and that network becomes how you connect with job opportunities, especially as more companies move to remote-first work. Networking is no longer something you can only do at local events.
If your small audience can help you in your career, and your career is how you make most of your money, that's a wildly effective way to monetize your content that isn't discussed when we talk about how massive creators monetize their content.
A few great articles that help you build connections with people in your industry could have an ROI of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career.
My blog has earned me six figures over the past five years, which is fantastic for a side hustle. The skills it helped me build also earned me my job at Shopify—and over three years, that's made me much more.
Creating helps you sharpen skills, too
If you've made it this far, you'll notice that creating content for people in my industry was decidedly not how my blog landed me my dream job. But I think that's an important note, because the value of creating content isn't just that it can help you build connections and reach a small-but-lucrative audience.
Creating content also helps you build skills that are only becoming more valuable.
Audience-building is a big part of being in marketing, which I am. That's why when I started my blog, I did optimize for reaching a bigger audience, in order to build my skills as a marketer.
I am fairly confident I got hired for those skills, not because Shopify was like, "Wow, your thoughts on personal finance for millennials are great."
But the skills you build don't need to be "audience-building" to have value in your career.
You might learn about video editing, or be more attuned to new opportunities on the internet, or learn new ways to approach problems, or sharpen one of the most important skills you can have in a remote-first world: writing.
You might also find, as I have, that creating content about your work helps you clarify your ideas, and figure out what you actually think. That clarity, and the process you use to get there, can have a massive impact on your career over time.
You can monetize a very small audience
Especially with more and more jobs opening up to remote work, I don't think there's anything more important you can do for your career than creating content that optimizes for a very small niche: People who can hire you, and people you want to connect with in your industry. At the same time, you can build skills that make you a more valuable contributor on any team.
And it's the easiest way, by far, to earn six figures from your blog, your podcast, or your Youtube channel.