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Most people think that a blog is a little hobby project. Sign up for a free account, post a few sentences about what you ate for lunch, and you’re done. Right?

Serious blogging is far more than that. It’s one of the fastest-growing professions in this decade.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have official data on the number of full-time bloggers yet, but it writes that blogging is one of the most vibrant and growing industries. A combination of low barriers to entry, low overhead, and abundant opportunity makes blogging an attractive option to anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit and a love for writing or photography.

If you’re at all interested, you’re probably asking one of the two most common questions I get: How do blogs make money? And… How long does it take to see an income?

Here are my answers…

How Blogs Make Money

There is a massive variety of ways that people monetize blogs. Some examples include:

  • Banner ads – This is the digital version of a printed ad that you’d see on the pages of a glossy magazine.

    You can either strike a private deal with an advertiser for a monthly, quarterly or yearly flat fee, or use a network like Google Adsense or that pays you based on the number of people who visit your blog or click on their ads.

  • Affiliate marketing – You can recommend products and receive a commission each time someone clicks on a link on your blog to make a purchase.

    One woman I know makes thousands each month through a website that reviews treadmills and elliptical machines, high-dollar items that pay large commissions. Others find success through affiliate marketing with low-dollar, high-volume products like backpacks, luggage, makeup – you name it!

  • Freelancing – Your blog is a living, dynamic business card. Through it, editors and publishers can find you and ask you to write freelance articles for their sites. I’ve seen bloggers featured on CNN, the Today Show, and more. All found because their blog became their personal calling card.

How Long Does it Take?

The industry rule-of-thumb says it will take about two years before you start making serious money as a blogger. I define “serious money” as enough money that you feel its impact on your daily life. It’s cash that can cover the costs of travel or some other passion… provide you with a good second income or replace your income all together.

Of course, you can’t twiddle your thumbs and expect the money to show up in your checking account. You do need to write, promote, and have fun.

Once you have a decent number of articles on your site, coupled with the right ads, blogging can change your life in ways you never imagined. Better yet, it will change the lives of others, too. Readers will send you notes telling you that you’ve taught them, inspired them, and brought joy to their lives.

The money that you make as a blogger, you’ll discover, is nothing more than an external reflection of the enjoyment you’re getting… and the value you provide.