Sellout….It is the ugliest word that’s routinely hurled at creative individuals of all types. This goes for writers, artists, musicians and anyone else who makes a living (in part or in whole) on the back of their creative endeavors.

That being said, money and art have to mix at some point. You need your money to support your art, whatever it may be, and that is equally true for bloggers and other authors online.

So how do you make money from your WordPress blog without selling your soul? There are many different ways you do that, but it’s important to find the right model that works for you, your niche and your site.

1. Advertising and Sponsorships

For many, advertising is a foul word. However, it doesn’t have to be if done well.  Advertising that isn’t intrusive and doesn’t get mixed in with the content can be a very simple and safe way to earn money from your site. However, this means keeping your ads away from your editorial content physically and figuratively, ensuring a total separation of the paid message from your creative one.

This can be tricky if you find yourself writing about the companies that advertise on your site (it might be wise to favor sponsorships as you can control who advertises better), but with proper disclosure this doesn’t have to be a major problem.

All in all, if you don’t intrude on your readers needlessly and don’t let your advertisers influence your work, you can host ads on your site without worrying sacrificing your integrity.

2. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing, such as through Amazon, Commission Junction and other companies, can be a very risky way to earn money from your site. However, if you properly disclose your affiliate links and, once again, don’t let your potential to earn money color your opinions you should still be able to sleep at night.

Though this seems simple, it can be very difficult. Giving a bad review of a product means making less money on it from affiliate marketing. However, giving a good review just to earn the extra money is the very definition of selling your soul (not to mention your readers) to the highest bidder.

That’s why it’s important with affiliate marketing to maintain your disclosure at all times and always write as if there were no affiliate links at all. This will help your readers trust your opinions more and, in the long run, buy more of the products you do recommend.

3. Sell Products

Selling both physical and digital products on your site is often a natural way to earn cash without worrying too much about the moral implications. After all, since you aren’t working for third parties, there are fewer conflicts that can create ethical dilemmas.

However, it’s important to remember that, as with advertising, you don’t want to overload your reader with promotion and you have to make sure that the products you sell fit you and your brand.

For example, a site about physical fitness probably doesn’t want to sell bottle openers. Finding merchandise that can fit well with your brand and your message can be a great way not only to earn money, but also provide additional benefit to your site’s readers.

4. Sell Services

Selling services, such as consulting, design or writing, can also be a natural way to earn money. As with selling products, there tends to be fewer potential conflicts. However, you can still run into them as you may have to write about companies you consult or otherwise work for.

As with other means of earning revenue, it is important to disclose any relationships you have with the parties you write about. However, it’s also important to respect the confidentiality of your clients and never reveal information told to you in confidence.

Always remember, with your services, that your writing is the advertisement to lure people in for your services. Though it might be tempting to hang onto information that may be of value to your clients, you have to remember that your clients are paying for your time, not just your knowledge.

There is no way that mere words on a screen can take away from that.

Therefore, it’s very rare that you should not give away information for free out of fear it could hurt your business.

5. Speaking

Finally, bloggers are a hot commodity in many circles for speaking engagements and some earn a good living doing little else other than traveling the world and being paid to speak at various events.

This can be a difficult niche to break into and it may require many years of constant promotion and speaking at free events to build up a reputation. However, once you do it can be a fun, fast-paced and lucrative business.

Still, it’s important to remember that your message needs to remain consistent. This can be hard when companies and conferences may want you to change what you say for their audience. You need to be clear and consistent, and that may mean turning down some jobs to keep your integrity intact.

In the end, the most important word you need to learn when it comes to making money from your site and not selling your soul is “No.”

Learning when and how to say “No” is crucial to maintaining the important balance between your blog and your finances. It can be tough, especially when times are tight. However, those who maintain their integrity do much better in the long run than those who sell it off.

After all, with both blogging and business, trust is everything. If you’ve sold off your integrity, there’s no way others can trust you and that impacts both your readers and potential future business partners.

On the other hand, if you’re the person everyone looks up to, then they will also be clamoring to hear what you say and to do business with you. At that point, most likely, the money will start to find you.

Kyle Eslick is WordPress enthusiast who took his passion for WordPress to the next level in 2007 by launching as a place to share hacks, tutorials, etc. Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleEslick!

  1. Dean Saliba says:

    I have made a lot of money over the years by writing sponsored posts. That is something that causes a lot of debate among bloggers. 🙂

  2. Selling your time (services) and physical products (or virtual for that matter), are a great way to do this in an ethical way.

    When blogs are loaded to the hilt with ads and Adsense, I want to hit the back button fast.

  3. Brad Dalton says:

    I think its ok to right about a list of useful solutions, some free and one or two premium with an affiliate link. If the products and services solve problems and you can also offer a coupon why not?

    What i don’t like is adsense all over the place with products that aren’t related to the content of the site

  4. We are attempting a modified crowd source approach to providing reviews for our niche market (premium themes for wordpress, magento and tumblr). By combining a personal review, interviews with the template makers themselves (Where available) and ratings for key metrics from actual users, we hope to provide a fair and unbiased review for the available products.

    If someone clicks through and purchases something, we should be compensated, but we are not tied to any one product over another…and it is important that we make that distinction I think.

  5. Hillary Bost says:

    Commission junction is a great company. I have used them for some other projects of mine but you are right you need to be careful about disclosures and such.

  6. Thanks for the info, Lior. I have a 2 questions and would like your comment on them.

    1. With reference to Advertising and Sponsorships – Is it correct to say that these are the same? If so, how do you find these opportunities? Is there a way to actively seek them out as opposed to waiting for them to find you?

    2. When you place affiliate links in your post/articles/emails, do you place a high importance on any sort of disclosure that you are an affiliate? Just how important is it to state this?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. Raj@ Blog Writing Service says:

    In my opinion, monetizing a high quality blog by way of ads is ethical. Of course, the emphasis is on QUALITY of the content on the blog. If its useful to the readers, its fine enough to monetize the popularity of such a site…

  8. Great post. I wish more people thought about this kind of thing.

    I agree that it does feel a bit like selling one’s soul when including advertising on a blog but on the flip side, it does help support the activity. My solution to any ethical question on monetization is simply to only advertise products that I actually use (and like) in affiliate links, and when I do a review to be absolutely honest about the product.

    The truth in reviews may limit sales of certain products, but I’d rather do that then be responsible for somebody making a bad decision based on what I wrote. A bad review can actually be an opportunity to steer people towards products you do believe in, which can satisfy a dual goal of helping people make informed decisions and making a few advertising dollars.

  9. Hillary Bost says:

    awesome tips thanks so much for the great post.

  10. Hillary Bost says:

    Thanks for the tips, I am working on monetizing my blog right now.