I honestly never thought I’d be in a position to write this article, but here we are. At nearly four years old, Otaku Journalist is actually making a profit. And since I’m a journalist obsessed with transparency, I want to tell you all about it.
So here’s the backstory: it costs about $100 a year to keep Otaku Journalist online, and I don’t make a ton on a freelancer’s salary. My goal has always been to have it pay for itself.
Over the last four years, I’ve experimented with all kinds of ways to make money blogging. I’ve put up banner ads using Project Wonderful, and made literal pennies. I’ve used Google Adsense, and made nothing at all. Finally, I settled on becoming a Bluehost affiliate. I make double digits when people sign up with Bluehost through my link, so I only need a handful of clicks for Otaku Journalist to pay for itself. (The money goes right back to Bluehost anyway!)
That’s been perfect. For the past two years, Otaku Journalist has netted me $0, but it’s also cost $0 for me to maintain. I thought that was the end of my scheming.
That is, until I started to notice Amazon sending me periodic “gift cards” to my account. And the amount of money on each gift card was getting larger and larger. I forgot that I was an Amazon affiliate, because my affiliate links had never paid off before. And now I had an additional $150 in funds for 2013 alone, with no effort at all on my part.
What happened? Back in 2010 and 2011, I used to put affiliate links into lots of posts, hoping to make money. But since my blog was young and small, nobody ever clicked. Now, for some reason, some of my older posts, especially about Gundam building, are getting tons of traffic. And readers are clicking and buying Gundams.
Granted, an additional
$150 in eight months (update 4/2014: now more like $150 a month!) isn’t close to enough to live on. But it’s surprising to earn that much when I’m not actually DOING anything. Especially when you consider that Otaku Journalist’s 200 uniques a day are nothing in Web traffic.
Are you an anime blogger interested in making a little extra? Here’s what worked for me:
Affiliate programs, NOT banner ads. Project Wonderful works for big sites like Questionable Content (I believe it’s the bulk of Jeph’s income), but small blogs shouldn’t even expect to make a dollar there. Same for other ad services. What’s worked for me is affiliate programs with smaller click rates, but larger payoffs.
Create valuable content, not a shill. There’s a reason Gundam Modeling 101 is the most popular (and lucrative) article on my entire website. It’s not an ad for Gundams, but an extensively researched tutorial on everything you need to know to get started with model building. Readers aren’t stupid; they know when they’re being used.
Don’t be afraid to promote. So many anime bloggers seem afraid that somebody will bite their head off if they’re caught making money. But when it’s an affiliate link, readers are spending the same amount they would anyway. The only difference is that you get a cut for turning them on to it. You don’t have to go in the other direction and become a sales blog, but if you’re reviewing an anime, it makes sense to place an affiliate link to where the reader can buy it on DVD.
Give away your best stuff for free. The reason I’m so happy giving away my digital guides is because they’re the most valuable thing I can offer my readers. They’re what makes Otaku Journalist worth returning to. And in the end, that’s going to make more people come back—and click on affiliate links while they’re at it—than if I charged for my best work.
Try not to worry about it too much. They call it passive income for a reason. If you spend all your time checking your affiliate accounts and tweaking your site to get more clicks, you’re exerting way more energy than a couple of extra bucks a year are worth.
I realize there are people who make WAY more than I do who might have differing opinions. But whenever I hear about somebody actually making money online, I figure it’s some sort of spammy pitch to get my money. So I wanted to offer up one regular person’s perspective.
If you’re brave enough to share in the comments, let me know about your blog’s relationship with money. Do you think making money from blogging is disingenuous? Or, if you’re also a blogger who finds yourself in the black, what are your favorite money-making techniques?