Authentically + Organically Monetize your blog

organically monetize your blog and finally make money doing it via i

We asked the question a few months ago, ‘is blogging ending?‘ and it would seem that way with so many bloggers just getting up and closing shop, but what if blogging is not dying but evolving (like all good things should)?  I think it’s time in the blogging evolution to discuss how people are actually making a living (and a good one at that) from their blogs. It may not be what you think. Being the pragmatic girls we are we thought it might be better to give you a real world example of someone that is making it happen.  Our lovely friend Sanae Ishida, as promised, is going to share how she went from 2 readers and making pennies on affiliate links to a 4 book (yes 4!) deal, a thriving passive income revenue stream and an ongoing consulting-authentically + organically monetizing her blog (and so can you!).

‘All of my current income has been generated because of my blog’.

We wanted to share this with you because I think a lot of people define success, especially with their blogs differently than they would any other business. Some bloggers are attached to the numbers, how many people are visiting each day/month and are waiting for sponsors to find their little slice of the internet, which in this blogging climate is probably not the best plan for blog success, but hopefully Sanae’s experience and pearls of wisdom will give you an ‘aha’ moment.

B: We know that in the blogging world numbers are king, can you tell us a little bit about your stats?

S: I actually don’t know how many readers I have since I don’t check my analytics anymore. I noticed that I started to try to create posts that would get more readers when I got obsessed with stats and I wasn’t as “genuine”. I never intended the blog to be a money-maker. It was and continues to be my happy place and trying to create content for numbers wasn’t a happy thing for me.

B: How are people finding you?

S: A lot of traffic comes from Pinterest, and a small percentage of that number turns into actual regular readers. But the vast majority of people are finding me organically, usually from other sewing/crafty blogs or Google searches about Japanese sewing books (which I’m obsessed with).

B: Can you tell us about your book deals?

S: The publishers did approach me BUT I had to come up with the book proposals/concepts. It wasn’t a given that I would get a deal, I think this is a common misconception that you get approached and just get a deal. It’s a collaboration that requires coming up with a concept that you’ll love to work on and that a publisher believes has market potential.

B: What would be one of the most important things you learned about your blog?

S: I think the main thing for me is the connections I’ve made and the community that’s formed around the blog. The kindest, funniest, smartest and most creative people have become a part of my life because of this online adventure.

Also, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to put yourself and your work out there. I won’t lie, it was scary for me. I know so many people doing brilliant, beautiful things, quietly perfecting their craft in a vacuum with the conviction, “if I make it, they will come,” but it rarely happens that way. I don’t think it’s about selling out or doing icky things to market yourself, but about engaging with people outside of your immediate circle with things you really care about. The book deals wouldn’t have happened if my editors hadn’t read my content and seen my illustrations.

I try to push myself to get out of my comfort zone and I strive to always, always be honest. One of the posts that seemed to have the most impact was the series I did about getting out of massive debt. It was terribly embarrassing to reveal that information but I trusted my readers, and I believe they trusted me in return — I still get emails about that series!

B: We love that you have taken a blog with no ads, no sponsors and organically grew an income generator. For those that are rolling their eyes thinking they couldn’t get a book deal I would love to discuss some of your other blog revenue streams that someone might be able to implement for themselves.

S: Knowing that I either had to start generating an income or stop blogging all together (my husband was very confused as to why I was spending so much time on the blog), I developed a monthly membership newsletter that has additional content, downloads, discounts, interviews and whatever creative content that I feel might be relevant/beneficial that month. I like to think of it as a more “deluxe” version of the blog. The idea popped into my head intuitively as a way to provide value using skills that come naturally to me.

B:  Could you please share the price of the membership and what you have generated from it thus far?

S: It is $10/month, in a little over a year it has generated an additional $6,000 towards my income (which up until the book deals was zero from the blog). I am still humbled and so grateful each month that someone would want to be part of the membership.

B: We know that you have managed to develop other income streams from the blog could you tell us more?

S: Because I have a focus on sewing content + sewing projects on my blog I was approached by an Asian publisher to review a translated craft book. I then actively pursued the publisher to do translations, letting them know I was fluent in Japanese if they ‘ever needed a translator…’ I kept mentioning it until finally they contacted me  (I think they were ‘alright already!’), it has become a fruitful relationship. I have translated 3 books so far, they take me about a week and I get $1,500/book. I have also had the opportunity for the occasional art show where I have sold my art directly and I am planning on teaching workshops! I started an etsy shop too, but that’s still in its fledgling stages.

B: I think it’s safe to say that it’s about thinking ‘outside the blog’ on potential monetizing opportunities. Thank you Sanae for allowing us to pick your brain!

In essence what we wanted to get at with this interview is that you can (and should) use your blog as a vehicle to showcase your work, your products and skills. It is a valuable platform that could generate you either an additional income or like Sanae become your means of generating your sole income.  You don’t need a monster following to do so either. We know of one blogger with a mailing list of 4 people that was able to sell over $5,000 in design consults to just those 4 people, she had built up enough trust and shared enough of her work that people were interested and willing to partake in her offerings when she was ready.  If you are wanting to take your business and blog to the next level we so hope that Sanae’s story and unusual opportunities got your wheels turning on who you might be able to approach for your blog/business.


If you have a special skill use your blog as a portfolio to showcase your work, this could garner the attention of someone in need of your particular skill set!

Don’t let the numbers cripple you. It’s better to have an engaged readership of 100 than a flighty one of one off visits from 100,000 individuals.

Is there premium content you could offer? Ie. Tutorials, courses, downloads, etc.

If you see a potential opportunity from a company that has reached out to you–go for it, make it known you have a specialty in ‘X’, even if you get rejected at first your skill set may be needed at a later date. They won’t know if you don’t tell them!

If you want a book deal, research how to put together a book proposal so you will be ready when either opportunity knocks or inspiration!

If you have any questions for Sanae or us feel free to leave them in the comments and we will try to answer them as best as possible!

P.P.S. If you like this watercolor graphic (it’s a Photoshop brush!) We will be giving it away soon when we announce our next Foto Rx launch. Sign-up to be notified and in on the download!


9 thoughts on “Authentically + Organically Monetize your blog

  1. Thank you Vicky for the visit! Your site is lovely, this post was definitely a labor of love, it is hard to talk about money but Sanae’s story is so very inspiring!

  2. In this article you write about “defining success”. I’m trying to figure out what a “successful” blogger can expect to make per year.

    According to this interview with Sanae:
    Her income up until her books deal was zero.
    Her newsletter brought in $6,000.00 per year.
    She had 3 book translations @ $1500.00 each for a total of $4500.00.
    Grand total annual income: $10,500.00. (Not including the books deal)

    Sanae said she also sold some of her art — which I hope brought in tens of thousands of dollars so she could actually live on her blogging income.

    “All of my current income has been generated because of my blog.” This statement sounds inspiring to those of us considering the leap into blogging, but “income” could be anywhere from $1.00 to millions.

    A gross annual income of $10,500.00 before expenses is not what I’d consider a living. It’s not an insignificant amount of cash. It would be a nice second income, but one can’t live on that amount alone.

    I certainly don’t think that all blogs must make lots of dough. A blog that never makes a cent can be a beautiful and rewarding thing. But if we’re going to “define success” and discuss ways to monetize a blog, then is $10,500.00 considered a “success”? Yes, it brought her book deals, but there were years of working her butt off for no pay and she still had the expenses of a blog. If she added up the book deals plus every dime she’s earned from her blog, subtracted her expenses and then averaged it out from the time she began her blog to now, I wonder if that figure would be an amount one could live on?

    I am not sneering at her income or judging whether her blog is “worth” doing from a monetary point of view. Obviously, she has been a great success no matter how one defines it. I’m trying to have realistic expectations of what income I might be so lucky to earn should I jump into the hard work of creating, maintaining and growing a blog. Does the career of blogging have a different definition of financial success?

    I’m not sure if I’m making myself clear — but if you have any thoughts I’d love to hear them.


  3. Hello Harriet!

    Thanks for the visit + comment! First, I think I should make clear this post isn’t about making blogging your career (as a professional blogger, per se), it’s about using your blog as a vehicle/leverage to spot opportunities to monetize, ie. the translations, which initially were just a query to review a book, which Sanae turned into an income stream. Or for another blogger to line-up design client work (using their blog as their portfolio), or whatever specialized skill you may have to be able to use the blog to showcase it and attract that client/collaboration or pursue that collaboration. Most of us blog because we love it and we share what we love. For Michelle and I that might mean getting an opportunity to shoot something like a book cover;) an opportunity that would have probably never have happened if not for the blog and showcasing our photography/editing/styling here (yes, we got paid)!

    Up until a couple years ago Sanae made NO money from her blog, in less than two years to turn that around and start to generate an income of any kind is a huge leap! When she started the blog, she wasn’t trying to make it about making money, but life and circumstances made it so she had to reconsider a unique way to generate income from her blog (thus her monthly subscription was born) and this was more about discussing that shift. Her goal for 2016 was to only make 20k from her projects (which includes her blog) she doubled that and we are only in May! Anyone that has blogged for any amount of time knows that any income from a passion project like a blog is a thrill. I have to be honest here and say ANY income from a blog feels like a ‘win/success’ to me, but we wanted to inspire people that are blogging to look for that alternative way to find income streams that are an organic extension of what they are already writing about on their blog, the opportunities are there if we are open to them or create them and by alternate I mean not waiting for some company to buy a sidebar ad or sponsor a post, an ad network to take you on or any of the ‘traditional’ ways that people try to monetize their blog and fail. I know a huge blogger that actively goes after sponsors she never waits for them to come to her, it’s a practice that could be done for a smaller blogger as well, go after the sponsors that are a good fit for the blog and readers and is realistic for what you bring to the table. We also wanted to show that you don’t have to be HUGE blogger to generate an income from your blog, if you have a community of readers that are engaged than it’s definitely a quality over quantity situation.

    That being said there are plenty of posts that discuss ways of monetizing your blog via Google ads, ad networks, etc. We just don’t have experience with that to speak of here. We are happy you commented, because if you were thinking that maybe others are too and hopefully my long-winded explanation was of assistance:) Feel free to ask us any other questions, we are happy to answer! Wishing you success!

  4. Tristan,
    Great explanation! I’m new to blogging and I’m trying to govern my expectations. I definitely want to monetize my blog but maintain high standards and lots of fun as well. I now understand the angle of the article and you did a great job of using a modest but high quality blog that has found a real, if small pot of gold to highlight the many ways one may define and gain success as a blogger. There were nuances about blogging as well as making money in your article that your explanation revealed. Thank you! I stand educated!

  5. Thanks for posting this! I’m very new to blogging. I would love to build a loyal group of readers first and foremost. Knowing there’s potential for monetizing without covering my blog in ads or constantly promoting affiliate products is great news. Great info!

  6. Wow, this was fascinating! I’m a professional fashion and wedding photographer, so I make sure that my blog’s photography is always of the highest standard. I really hope that I’ll be able to start using my blog more and more to get me clients booked, or even start working with more of the brands that I love and admire, be it locally, nationally or internationally! Gotta hustle for what we want :)

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