How to Start a Blog and Make Money – 2018

Part of my last New Year’s resolution was to start a blog. Basically, I wanted my own little corner of a creativity on the internet and was intrigued by the whole “you can make money by blogging” story. Long story short, I hesitated and doubted myself all the way until late July. Yes! I spent 7 months procrastinating and telling myself that I wasn’t creative enough, rich enough or even just interesting enough of a person to have my own little blog.

Your life doesn’t have to be an expensive, Pin-worthy Insta-story for you to own a successful blog. Or even a profitable blog. You can make a growing blog based off of your own creativity!

Fast forward to December 2017, this full-time teacher was still able to create a growing profitable blog within a few months as a beginner! I didn’t even need to invest hundreds of dollars in tutorials, software or e-books. I literally just committed to a host, chose a name and created content.

Blogging has truly been a blessing as I try and plan/pay for my upcoming wedding 🙂

So, if you are looking for an outlet for your creativity, or even just a way to make a side income (nothing wrong with that!)  start blogging! Like, now. I will even try to save you a couple steps along the way! Just read on 🙂

Here is my “How to Start a Profitable Blog in 2018”

This post may contain affiliate links and/or product links for your convenience. All opinions and advice are 100% my own. I only recommend products that I use, love and believe others will love. 

Step 1. Decide on your Niche, Niches or stay Nicheless!

I stumbled over this step at first. (pun intended) I panicked over the idea of choosing one niche to commit to when I am interested in so many things! I found out for myself that you don’t have to choose ONE niche. In fact, you don’t even have to choose a niche for your blog at all.

I’ve discovered that my traffic is not based on people finding my blog because they belong in my “niche”, but mainly by a certain post intriguing them enough to click.

I receive most of my traffic from my songwriting posts, but my style/decor posts are a close second place! I especially enjoy making beginner blogger posts to help other newbie bloggers out there. All of these topics are not really related, but they coexist perfectly on my blog. I’m glad I didn’t just stick with one niche!

However, if you are confident in having one niche, then go for it!

Step 2. Choose a Platform & Host

Think of your blog’s platform as the software in which you will create your blog. There are hundreds out there! WordPress, Blogger, Weebly… Wix. The list goes on!

I use WordPress. I started off with the free wordpress.com platform, however I quickly switched to wordpress.org and paid for my host (bluehost). The free version of wordpress.com was great, except in order to monetize my blog (make money) I would have to upgrade and pay $$. It was much cheaper to use bluehost and stick with wordpress.org.

There are bundles of free platforms out there for beginners, but they won’t make it easy for you to monetize your content. Some will not enable you to earn profit at all. Basically, if you want to even earn a few dollars here and there, you will have to commit to a legitimate website host.

I began my blog knowing that I eventually wanted to earn a side profit but, I didn’t want to hand over hundreds of dollars on something that I wasn’t certain would work out. I needed affordable. There are tons of hosts out there, but I felt bluehost was my best option.

I chose bluehost. Here’s why:

  • They are WordPress.org’s #1 recommended hosting company. WordPress powers over 25% of the world’s websites, so I feel like they may know a thing or two about hosting platforms!
  • They are affordable! While other hosting companies will charge you for their services AND your domain name (guitarandlace.com), Blue Host offers lower monthly rates AND you get a free domain name.
  • Bluehost is flexible! I was shocked to find out that other companies capped your website at a certain amount of views. Once you reached over that number of traffic views, your site would be locked and you would have to pay more money to upgrade. Not Bluehost! They give you unlimited views and will not lock your website.
  • 24/7 Support! I have yet to use this feature, however I am comforted to know that they will be there to assist me if I needed it.
  • Money Back Guarantee! This sealed the deal for me. I knew that I could try it and if I felt that I didn’t like what they had to offer, I could get my money back. Spoiler: I loved bluehost and am still using it.

Step 3. Sign up for your Host!

Since I use Blue Host, I will use their set up as my example. This is to show you how easy it is to sign up for a host.

Go to bluehost.com

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Click on the Green button, “get started now”

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I chose Basic, but I wish I went with plus for the extra features! Honestly, the price I paid for bluehost was made back in blogging profit within the first few months blogging.

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Choose Your FREE Domain Name. If you are unsure of what to choose, they will let you decide later!

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After Filling out your information, payment and billing address you will create your password and then you have your website! I use WordPress with bluehost, but there are other platforms as well.

Step 4. To Invest or Not to Invest.

I probably spent every spare moment researching  “how to blog”. I listened to youtube videos on blogging, read how-to-blog posts and studied other beginner blogger’s growth. More than half of the content I stumbled on wanted my money. Bloggers were selling e-books on how to use Pinterest correctly, PDF files on how to grow your traffic to 250k in two weeks and basically everything I ever wanted as a beginner blogger all with an expensive price tag.  I almost caved, but glad I didn’t.

The truth is, thousands of bloggers are out there wanting to make money off of their blog. It’s become the Millennial Dream to be a work-from-home blogger! They will sell just about anything in hopes that we will believe in it. Now, I am sure there are some honest bloggers with real deals out there, but it’s hard to tell behind a screen.

Good news though! My blog grew naturally without all of the tutorials and guides. I saved all of that money and earned my own affiliate income through ads and product advertising. I didn’t have to claim that I loved Tailwind to make everyone sign up, so I could earn commission. In fact, I didn’t love Tailwind at all. It was barely mediocre for me! I would not feel right talking someone into paying for it, so I could walk away with a couple dollars.

What I’m trying to say is: Be careful with your wallets out there!

Step 5. Monetize your Blog NOW

You don’t have to wait for your blog to grow in order to monetize for profit! I earned affiliate income within my first month as a blogger!

More info on how I did that:

My First Month Blogging – What Worked & Didn’t Work

Second Month Blogging + Income Report

There are so many affiliate and ad companies out there that will accept new bloggers. As long as your blog looks like it has potential, they will take you in!

Currently, I make the most profit from Amazon Affiliates, Google Adsense and SurveyJunkie Affiliates. All of these companies accepted me right away. If you are interested in more, I’ve written an entire post on Affiliate Markets that Accept New and Small Blogs.

The best thing for me is, I am earning commission off of products that people purchase because THEY want to. There is never a time that I am falsely claiming that a product is amazing and life-changing in hopes that I will earn commission. Every product or company that I affiliate with is either something that I use and love or something that is my style and I would love to have!

Lastly, don’t be afraid of ads! Just about any site you visit will have a few ads here and there. It is so common that I don’t even notice them now.

I do believe that how you use ads will affect your traffic. If your blog is slow or hard to browse through because there are ads in literally every corner, you may lose the interest of your potential followers. I once visited a fashion blogger’s site, because I wanted to see where she purchased her sweater from. 10 seconds later an ad popped up covering my entire phone screen. I couldn’t click the tiny x without clicking on the ad which took me to some other site with more popups. It was a mess! I even tried visiting again, thinking I just didn’t press the x to my best ability (haha). Nope! I went through that pop-up mess again!

I am sure she is earning a pretty penny on that one ad, but it makes browsing her website nearly impossible.

In a nutshell, monetize your blog with class.

Step 6. Create Appealing and Evergreen Content

As a full time teacher, I do not have the time to write 3 blog posts a week. I rely on good, evergreen content. This includes “How To’s”, “Monthly Reports” and “Style Ideas”. Actually, most content can be popular all year long! Writing a post about a weekend sale that is only happening this weekend probably won’t be a post that continues to earn traffic. However, once your blog is established with followers you may earn more affiliate commission since shoppers are always looking for the current deals! Until then, evergreen content is your best bet.

My most popular posts are my songwriting how-to posts. My songwriting page has over 16k shares on Pinterest! What?! Here I am thinking that my content was vanilla at it’s best… a few months later and my songwriting tips are being pinned all over the world! (happy music teacher!)

My second most popular posts are a tie between my decor/style posts and monthly reports. My monthly reports are where I talk about what success my blog has seen during the prior month. As a beginner blogger I constantly read these type of posts! I found them to be inspiring and helpful to my own blog’s growth.

Step 7. Advertise Your Content in all the Right Places

Pinterest, people! Pinterest is my main source of traffic by far! I will tell you that it is slow at first. Nothing magical happens all of a sudden on Pinterest. (I do believe in miracles though, haha!)

It is all about growing your profile, becoming a constant pinner (of your content and other content) and of course having eye-catching pins. The more you pin the quicker you will grow.

How to Use Pinterest Analytics to Boost Your Blog Traffic.

As for creating “Pins”, I currently use canva.com. They make pin creating a breeze! I find that the desktop version is way easier to use than their phone app, but it’s nice to have both!

Instagram is another story. I believe it is truly useful in the fashion and home decor niche. I’ve read of blogs that receive most of their traffic and sales via Instagram, however I have yet to have success. It’s my own fault, though! I need to post more frequently. Goals, people! Let me know if you have any breakthrough tips for Instagram!

Closing Thoughts

Blogging is obviously an endeavor beyond a how-to post, however I feel these were the main steps that I took to get myself to where I am at now. It’s been 5 months of constantly growing and earning a profit from blogging, but I still feel like I have tons to learn from.

I feel like the best lesson learned was that blogging is more of a “slow cooker” instead of a “microwave”. Things definitely took time before I started noticing steady growth. Even then, I still had days where my growth seemed to decline. It’s really a learn as you go type of adventure!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions that you may have! For some reason my comment section closes itself after 4 comments. (Probably because I am using a free theme hehe) So, feel free to contact me via my contact page 🙂 

The Ultimate (11)   Make Money   Make Money (1)   proposal  11705e1b519c6bf54bc74d3b97d66f23

Affiliate Markets that Accept Small Blogs




What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is basically when a consumer earns commission for promoting a product and/or service. Simply stated:

You love a product –> You talk about that product –> You tell people where to find that product (via affiliate link) –> You get paid for bringing the company customers

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What role do I play in Affiliate Marketing?

You are the affiliate! You can advertise your favorite products/services via blog, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest… you name it!

Just make sure you always disclose when you are using Affiliate Links.  Not only is it required, but I feel it helps you to remain transparent and honest with your audience. Likewise, ensure that your affiliate links contain the “nofollow” attribute.

Example:Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 8.09.46 PM

Luckily, there are wordpress plugins that can do this automatically! I use “Nofollow for external link”.

What is an affiliate link?

An affiliate link is a unique link to a product or service that enables the merchant (company you are advertising for) to know that you referred the customer.

For instance:

nordstromrack.com would be the original link

http://shopstyle.it/l/jiGi would be your unique affiliate link.

(example affiliate link is not an actual affiliate link.)

Both links take you to the cardigan, but the affiliate link is specific to you. When your adoring subscribers click to shop that cardigan, Target will know that it was YOU who sent them.

Do I need a HUGE, successful blog to join an affiliate Program?

Nope! Sometimes you will find that affiliate programs only accept bloggers with a decent following, but don’t let that discourage you! I have actually found that a good amount of markets will accept newbies. Yay!



Will I even earn any commission as an owner of a small blog?

It’s possible! Will you earn enough commission to become a full-time blogger? Probably not right away, but heyyy, anything is possible!

Check out How to Use Pinterest Analytics to Boost Your Blog Traffic. I got my first 2 Viral Pins as a newbie blogger!

When I began Guitar & Lace, I kept reading on how you need to build this incredible following before even thinking of using ads and affiliates. However, instead of waiting (what still feels like an eternity) for my blog to grow, I decided to monetize within my first month.

Naively, I applied for almost every market I could find and ended up being declined by most. That’s fine! I ain’t mad… because some ended up accepting me!

I just feel, why wait? By the time my blog has a substantial following, I will have the affiliate experience and won’t be setting myself back with the additional learning curve.

I ended up making a little over $9 in my first month with just ads and a few affiliate links (I tried not to spend it all in one place!)

I’ve decided to celebrate all blogging successes!

Check out My Favorite Blogging Tools that helped me earn a bit of profit as a new blogger!

If this is something you are interested in, I have created s a list of “free to join” Affiliate Markets that I was accepted into as a new blogger!

While these markets did accept me as a new blogger with no blogging history, I cannot guarantee that everyone will be accepted. All markets and ad companies have their own requirements and criteria before accepting new affiliates. 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn commission if any products are purchased.  However, all opinions and advice are 100% my own. In order to stay truly transparent and honest, I only recommend services and products that I use, love and believe will benefit others.}

Affiliate Markets that Accept Small Blogs

1. VigLink

VigLink is one of the easiest affiliate markets to work for! Once activated, you will have the option of automatically turning all qualified outgoing links into an affiliate link. No tedious copying & pasting html codes on your part! You can also use their “anywhere” links for just about any product online. Basically, you copy the URL to the product and they create an affiliate link for it. No need to apply to every company out there! VigLink has a huge range of products suitable for any niche within their network!

Join VigLink

Ideal Blog Niches: Fashion, Lifestyle, Beauty, Frugal Living, Mom-Blogs, and just about any!

2. Amazon Associates

Amazon was the first affiliate market that I applied for! The fact that they accepted me right away was super encouraging as a newbie. You literally can create an affiliate link and/or product ad for anything on Amazon. Basically the sky is the limit as an Amazon Associate! I mean, they are Amazon!

Join Amazon Associates

Ideal Blog Niches: Any Blog can benefit.

3. Shopstyle Collective

Shopstyle will feel like home to any fashion and lifestyle blogger! Think of your favorite fashion blogs. Most likely their “what I’m wearing” product links are thanks to Shopstyle. I am a huge fan of their website! The affiliate dashboard is very clean and girly. They also have a very helpful blog that provides fun blog challenges and extra assistance with using their affiliate program.

My favorite part is their simple widget generator! I can create widgets to link my audience to sale items, wish lists and items I have purchased. These look so much better than plain old hyperlinks!

For example, My Fall Dream list 🙂

Join Shopstyle Collective

Ideal Blog Niches: Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle.

4. Bluehost

Bluehost is first and foremost a great hosting platform for your blog! Likewise, they reward you with commission if you refer anyone to use Bluehost. As of now, the pay is $65.00-$120.00 per commission. You could possibly pay for a year+ subscription with Bluehost JUST by referring a new customer to them. BINGO.

You May Like: How I Sarted a Money-Making Blog

Join Bluehost

Ideal Blog Niches:  Your Bluehost hosted Blog!

5. Rakuten Marketing

Rakuten has been around since blogs were referred to as “weblogs” (late 90’s). However, Rakuten is anything but outdated! The dashboard platform is very user friendly, which is a plus for affiliate marketing newbies! They offer a wide variety of merchant companies to advertise for. Some notable companies include, Nordstrom, Sephora, Antrhopologie, Bloomingdale’s, Walmart, & Kohls.

Want to earn even more passive income? Check out –>10 Safe Ways to Make Money Online

Join Rakuten Marketing

Ideal Blog Niches:  Fashion, Lifestyle, Home Decor, Mom-Blogs & Frugal Living.

6. Google Adsense

I love how I can customize the appearance of my ads to fit my blog’s theme! Nothing is worse than visiting a site with huge, tacky ads.  I have heard from some bloggers that it is difficult to be accepted into Google Adsense, however, I was accepted as a newbie. Give it a shot!
Join Google Adsense

Ideal Blog Niches: Just about any! They use Native ads that will fit in seamlessly with your content.

7. Impact Radius

Impact Radius is a newer affiliate market. With that being said, I find them to be very innovative and user friendly. They have quickly earned their spot as one of the most preferred affiliate markets! They are home to some of the largest merchant companies such as ULTA and Target. Make-up and cardigans, people!!

Join Impact Radius

Ideal Blog Niches: Beauty, Fashion, Lifestyle, but I could see them fitting in with any blog!

8. Shareasale

With over 2,000 merchant companies, Shareasale is the ideal affiilate market for lifestyle bloggers! Once accepted, you can apply to become an affiliate to companies such as Shoe Dazzle, Stella & Dot, Warby Parker, the NFL Shop and so much more!

Join Shareasale

Ideal Blog Niches: Fashion, Lifestyle, College, Family, & Mom-Blogs.

9. CJ Affiliate

CJ (formerly Commision Junction) is easily one of the largest affiliate markets with name brand companies. They are especially perfect for lifestyle, fashion and mom blogs since they host a wide variety of retail stores. These stores include, Bed Bath & Beyond, Buy Buy Baby, LOFT and more.

Join CJ Affiliate

Ideal Blog Niches: Fashion, Home Decor, Mom-Blogs, but just about any niche would work!

10. Escalate Network 

 Escalate is the perfect affiliate market for advertising deals, coupons and food savings. They have extremely high ratings and an excellent reputation for providing real, honest deals. This is extremely important when trying to gain trust with your future subscribers! No one wants to return to a blog if the deal you are advertising turns out to be fake!

Join Escalate Network 

Ideal Blog Niches: Frugal Living, Blogging Blogs, Mom-Blogs, & Food Blogs.

I hope you found this article helpful in any way! Every blogger was once a new, beginning blogger. Let me tell you, the struggle is real! However, with a little optimism, encouragement and GRIT I believe you can be so successful with your blog!

Have you had any success with these affiliate markets or any others not listed? Let me know in the comments! Show us all your blog!

Best wishes to you and your blog!

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