Blogging makes an amazing pastime and a powerful way to make money. When else do you have the chance to earn money by writing about things that actually interest you? But, being able to make money with your WordPress blog is still something that takes a considerable amount of work and planning.
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Making Money With Your Free WordPress.com Blog
That being said, if you have the right strategy in place, a WordPress.com blog can act as a good way to make money. Plus, that type of blog also acts as a good place to learn about making money online overall.
WordPress.com Blogs In General
The terms WordPress and blog can both refer to a number of different things, especially nowadays. For starters, WordPress.com is a blogging platform and it is possible to create and run a website using this platform entirely. Many people get started here, as the basic version of the platform is free and does offer a decent amount of flexibility.
There are also additional plans, starting from $2.99 per month, which offer additional features and support. For people that already use WordPress as a platform, moving onto these paid plans is often a natural choice.
At the same time, the underlying coding that WordPress uses provides the base for many different websites, including ones that have nothing to do with the WordPress blogging platform. For example, this current site isn’t hosted through WordPress at all, and never was, yet the underlying structure and function still uses WordPress’s coding.
Those are also known as WordPress websites, but more specifically, self-hosted WordPress websites. You can get the code to make the website from your host or from WordPress.org. Actually, self-hosted WordPress sites are better for making money.
So, in some ways, One More Cup of Coffee could be considered a WordPress blog too, just not in the sense you may have heard before.
The term “blog” is also a little confusing. It could be a noun or a verb, it could mean an online journal or a profitable website, or it could mean an article published on a blog. Crazy, right?
Making Money With WordPress.com
As a general rule, you can make money with a website in three ways. You can use ads, you can sell products directly or you can use affiliate marketing. The first two of these options are pretty straightforward, while the last one refers to the idea of promoting products through affiliate programs and earning a commission on your sales.
With affiliate marketing, you mostly rely on affiliate links, which take people to the company’s site, where the visitor then makes the purchase. As such, you don’t have to worry about stocking any product or doing any customer service.
These three techniques all have the advantages and limitations – but you can choose between them (or use a combination of the three) to make money on a typical website.
Not so with WordPress blogs. Instead, WordPress has some limitations in place that change precisely how you can make money.
First of all, WordPress actually offers its own way to make money. Specifically, there is a program called WordAds, which is an official program that WordPress promotes.
This program is similar to Google AdSense, where you are earning money for the ads that people see. One major difference is that this program is specifically designed for WordPress and WordPress themes. As such, the ads do tend to naturally fit in your theme and you don’t have to do a lot of work to get the ads set up.
However, this program is mostly restricted to people on the Premium and Business plans, so you have to be paying at least $9.99 to have access to it. If you do have high enough traffic and the right content, you may be able to get access with a lower plan but most people probably wouldn’t have that option.
Because WordAds is specifically designed for WordPress, it tends to be very easy to use and integrates well with WordPress themes. This also means that the ads will look good on any WordPress site. Ad programs can be hard to get your head around sometimes, so having one that is specifically designed for your hosting platform is appealing.
However, there’s a catch.
You can use WordAds to make money but you can’t use any other type of advertising platform. So, you can’t use Google Adsense or any of the other options out there.
Not only does this mean that you’re stuck with what WordPress offers but it also means that you’re subject to their whims in terms of how much you get paid and what the requirements are.
Personally, I don’t like the idea of being stuck with a single program and not having the option to shop around.
Now, as I mentioned before, there are two other methods of money. One of these is selling products directly. For the most part, this seems to be difficult or impossible to do via a WordPress blog. The key reason is that you can’t use plugins on these blogs, regardless of what membership tier you’re on.
WordPress does attempt to include a range of functions from plugins on their site but if you want something different, you’re out of luck.
Even with those functions, the lack of plugins majorly limits what you can do with a site. For example, plugins are used to create shopping carts and the ability to take payments, and they are also relevant for influencing many aspects of how a site appears, such as social media icons and the like.
So, not having the ability to use plugins makes it harder to earn money as well.
There are ways around this. For example, you could sell products via a site like Amazon and Etsy and then link to them from your WordPress blog.
This brings me to the final way to make money, affiliate marketing. Officially, WordPress does allow affiliate marketing, as long as that isn’t the primary purpose of your blog.
Additionally, there are some types of affiliate programs that you can’t use, like MLM programs, gambling or get-rich-quick sites. Basically, if the affiliate program could be considered immoral or manipulative in some way, it’s best to avoid it.
In theory, this means that you can safely do affiliate marketing on a WordPress blog. But, there is that line about affiliate marketing not being the ‘primary purpose’ of your blog.
Whether or not affiliate marketing is your blog's ‘primary purpose’ is a fairly subjective idea. After all, affiliate marketers often develop sites that focus on making money and also on providing genuine value and unique content. In fact, if you want to be successful with affiliate marketing, you have to create good content and value.
As such, you take a bit of a risk with affiliate marketing on WordPress.
Regardless of how well you follow their rules, the administrators may still view affiliate marketing as the primary purpose of your blog. If that happens, you risk losing everything and WordPress has been known to cancel accounts of bloggers for too much affiliate marketing.
That pattern suggests that you’re better off just sticking to the WordAds program and trying to make money that way. But, only having one option for making money is pretty bad, especially as the program isn’t easy to get into for people on the lower tiers of membership.
All of this brings me to one final issue, you never really have control. With a WordPress blog, you don’t have the ability to back up your site manually or easily transfer it to another host. This means that you can easily lose the entire thing if WordPress decides to cancel your account for any reason.
That might not be so bad if you’d just started blogging. But, imagine what it would feel like to lose all of your work if you’d been blogging for a couple of years.
Self-Hosted WordPress Is The Way To Go
It is possible to make money with a WordPress blog, especially if you are on one of their paid plans. Nevertheless, the limitations of WordPress blogs are pretty major and they strongly restrict your ability to make money. At the same time, even if you were successful with making money on WordPress, you risk losing your account and all of your work.
Realistically, the only advantage that WordPress.com offers is that it’s free to get started with. Personally, I recommend spending a bit more money (about $15/year + $20/month) and getting your own self-hosted WordPress site like me.