Creating your own website can definitely be a great side hustle–if you take the time to monetize it.
But the problem is that many people who create websites have no clue how to actually make money with them.
When this happens, your website becomes a liability. You’re sinking precious time and money into something that isn’t giving you a return.
However, it’s entirely possible to prevent that from happening or to fix the problem if it has already started. You just need to know how to use your website to generate income, and in this article, I’m going to show you how.
Let’s look at 15 great ways you can monetize your website and turn it into a proper revenue-generating machine.
Dave Chesson contributed this post. Dave started his online career reading and listening to sites like Side Hustle Nation. After hustling like crazy, he was a guest on episode 145 of The Side Hustle Show. (His first podcast appearance!)
Since then, he’s gone on to create one of the largest book marketing websites in the world, Kindlepreneur.com, as well as a book marketing software company, PublisherRocket.com. Thanks to the many lessons learned here, Dave’s online work is no longer a side hustle, but a full-time dream career come true.
1. Sell Digital Tools and Apps
Your website is the perfect avenue to begin selling digital products.
For example, I created a software called Publisher Rocket that helps self-published authors market their books on Amazon. My website is the primary marketing platform for my software, and my software has really helped me monetize my website.
It is important to create a product that matches your audience’s needs. For me, Rocket is a great fit as it helps scratch a common itch for my target readers.
Nick’s Notes: Dave’s being modest. His software helped turn Kindlepreneur into a 7-figure operation!
2. Sell eBooks
Okay, so it’s no surprise that I’d recommend making money from books. However, there are actually plenty of websites that make money with this strategy. The popular site Copyhackers started by selling different eBooks to their audience, and now they generate seven-figures in revenue.
Even though selling eBooks isn’t exactly a new strategy, it doesn’t mean you can’t hop on board now. In fact, the market for eBooks is still growing, and is expected to show an annual growth rate of 2.7% between 2019 and 2023.
The beauty about monetizing your website with eBooks is you can create a product with low up-front cost (mostly your time), and test the waters with your audience.
Nick’s Notes: My 2016 book Buy Buttons earned almost $18,000 in its first year, largely as a result of being able to launch it to my website audience first.
3. Sell a Digital Course
Since Amazon has pushed prices for ebooks lower, one way to combat that and command higher prices is by packaging your knowledge into a premium online course.
Just identify a transformation your readers will want to experience and create a course that teaches them how to do it.
If you think developing a course sounds expensive, here’s some good news. Course creation platforms like Thinkific and Teachable both have free tiers you can use while you’re just starting out.
There are tons of examples of this in The Side Hustle Show podcast archives, but a couple worth checking out are Abbey Ashley and Nate Dodson.
Abbey created a course on how to become a virtual assistant, while Nate’s teaches people how to start a microgreens farming business. Both are now earning well over 5-figures a month from their courses.
Nick’s Notes: I’ve been experimenting with this monetization strategy as well, using Teachable to host my “Start My Side Hustle” course.
4. Offer Coaching, Consulting, or Freelancing Services
As a content creator, people come to you for your ideas. And many people are willing to pay for good ideas.
That’s why one way to monetize a website is selling consulting packages, even just hourly calls.
You can use platforms like Clarity.fm or Premium.Chat to facilitate these, or even a direct-booking tool like Calendly.
One extreme example of this website monetization method is Shirag Shemassian, a self-described grad school “admissions nerd.” His website helped bring in more than $650k worth of med-school admissions consulting gigs last year!
5. Branded Merchandise
If you’ve developed a solid following and brand, you may want to consider selling merchandise. Lots of people love showing their affiliation with a particular community by sporting branded merch. Some influencers use this as a way to monetize their podcasts, and you can do it with websites as well.
If your brand isn’t very prominent, you can tweak this strategy and sell merch that’s funny, relatable, and even helpful. The RideShare Guy, a popular blog, created hoodies for food delivery drivers that say “Tips Appreciated.”
It’s a clever way for people delivering food for DoorDash or UberEats to essentially ask for a tip without actually asking for a tip. It’s a simple product that works for that audience.
You can do this without a big upfront inventory investment too, thanks to programs like Merch by Amazon.
6. Develop an Affiliate Blogging System
If you don’t have any products of your own to sell, you can sell other people’s stuff! Affiliate marketing is one of the absolute best ways to monetize a website. In fact, for many bloggers, it’s their primary source of income. The real trick is doing it the right way.
Suggested Playlist: Affiliate Marketing
Make money online by sharing relevant products and services with your audience. Here's a killer playlist packed with actionable advice from the pros.
First things first, you should only affiliate with honest suppliers you actually believe in. But once you’ve found the right affiliate partners, there are 4 different types of articles that smart bloggers use to monetize their websites.
Let’s look at each of them with some examples.
List of Resources Articles
Often readers will turn to their favorite bloggers or vloggers to get the best advice on how to do something — and which products or services can help.
For instance, as a book marketer myself, I’m frequently asked what writing and editing software I use. So I created a page where I list out all of my favorite resources.
It shows all the tools that I personally use. And since I’m a firm believer in these products, I’ve created affiliate partnerships with most of them, which earns me a commission when people buy through my link.
These are awesome articles written for people looking for information and validation on a particular product.
A good, honest review can help a prospective buyer come off the fence and actually make a purchase. Just be sure to get people to click on your affiliate link so you can get the credit and the commission for the work you did. Adding big, colorful buttons to your article can be a great way to do this.
Nick’s Instacart grocery shopper review is a great example to look at for how to write review articles.
Product/Service Comparison Articles
This is where you are apt to receive your highest affiliate conversion rate — when a reader is trying to decide between a few products or services and is coming to you for the answer.
That’s because the people looking for these articles are normally ready to buy. They just need a little help in deciding which product is best for them. Provide that answer, and there’s a good chance they’ll buy through you.
You can write these articles about basically anything. Here’s an example comparing the best self-publishing courses.
The best part is, you don’t have to recommend one product at the expense of the others. It’s usually just a matter of pros and cons. For example, more feature-rich products are usually better for advanced buyers with some money to spend. More basic products might be ideal for people shopping on a budget, which leads to the next type of article.
We’re a species of bargain hunters. According to Ahrefs, a keyword research tool, people search over 1,073,568 different keyword combinations every month that include the word “cheapest.”
Here are a few examples:
- Cheapest meal delivery service (1,600 searches per month)
- Cheapest gaming laptop (5,300 searches per month)
- Cheapest golf balls (300 searches per month)
People are looking for low-cost products in all kinds of categories, and you can help your readers find these smart buys.
This article about the cheapest meal kits is a great example. It compares the prices of services like Blue Apron, Dinnerly, and Hello Fresh to help diners find an option that fits in their family’s budget.
And if you buy any of the services, there’s a good chance the author of the article will be earning a commission.
7. Generate Website Advertising Revenue
Sometimes, good old-fashioned advertising will do the trick — especially if you have a high traffic website. When you offer to advertise on your site, you’re essentially allowing ad agencies to rent real estate in the margins of your webpages and put ads there.
Different agencies have different methods of paying out. Normally, they follow a CPC (Cost per Click) or CPM (Cost per Thousand Views). Although a CPM model is most similar to traditional advertising, the CPC model is more common on the Internet. CPC ads only payout when one of your site’s visitors actually clicks on an ad.
This may not surprise you, but Google is the largest source of advertising on the Internet. And they’ll pay you for text and display ads on your website. One of the great things about Google is they generate targeted ads to place on your website through keyword analysis and analytics of your website. This ensures that you are displaying ads that are likely to be clicked by your audience.
Other Ad Networks
Generally, ad networks other than Google aren’t quite as specific when it comes to posting relevant ads. They take a more generalized approach. Instead of targeting specific keywords, they target the broad scope of your website. This, in turn, can sometimes lead to lower clicks and lower revenue.
So, why would anyone want to utilize these other networks? Well, different networks pay different amounts. And some networks work with advertisers that might be perfectly targeted to your readers. When monetizing their websites, many site owners will experiment with multiple ad agencies to find the one with the biggest return.
Some other agencies to consider include:
- Burst Media
- Tribal Fusion
Because she already had a ton of content and visitors to her blog on raw feeding for dogs, Mediavine ads earned Kimberly Gauthier $3500 in her first month!
8. “Invisible” Ad Income
If you don’t want to clutter up your site with ads, Repixel [no longer active] might be a compelling alternative.
The service lets you earn money from other companies that might want to reach your audience. After you paste in the Repixel script and set your prices, other companies will be able to market their offers to your readers around the web.
This is all invisible to viewers when they’re on your site, and might earn you $1 per 1000 pageviews per advertiser. The cool thing is when you can “stack” several advertisers at once — increasing your earning power for no additional effort.
9. Sponsored Posts and Promotions
You don’t have to join an advertising network to make money through ads. You can also work directly with brands that want a sponsored post or email blast.
Nick has an entire page here on Side Hustle Nation devoted to attracting these kinds of opportunities.
Even the New York Times runs sponsored posts:
If your readership is big enough, it’s totally possible to charge over $1,000 for a single sponsored article — and sometimes several times that.
10. Create a Directory
Depending on your site’s niche, you can use your website to play the role of matchmaker and create a directory or job board. These resources, when done right, are incredibly useful and also attract a lot of readers.
Directories used to be all the rage online, and they’re still handy in the right setting.
With these directories, the more niche you can go, the more effective you’ll be. There are a bunch of cool directory plugins for WordPress that you can choose from. Odds are you’ll find a plugin that will even allow you to accept payments with user submissions.
For example, Brett Lindenberg built a directory of food truck suppliers as one way to monetize his FoodTruckEmpire website. When we spoke, he was earning $60k a year from the site, part-time.
11. Build a Job Board
In a similar vein to directories, if suitable for your audience, a job board can be a great money-maker for your blog. This works especially well in the B2B and online business space, where you can’t just pick up the local newspaper and check the classifieds.
A great example of this is Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger. The website all about blogging offers one of the best job boards around for article writers.
While applicants can browse listings for free, businesses pay a fee to list their jobs on the board and can pay extra to have their listings displayed at the top. Websites of all sizes use the ProBlogger boards, and I even use the site when I’m looking for writers.
12. Sell PDF Copies of Your Articles
Okay, this one may seem a little odd, but stick with me. If you create some great in-depth content for your site, then you can sell PDF copies of your articles for a small fee.
One of my favorite blogs, Wait But Why, offers readers the opportunity to buy PDF copies of all their articles, along with joining their Patreon (more about this later).
When you click through to purchase, you’ll see that each article is only $2, which is a low enough cost to tempt many readers. The low price point won’t allow you to earn a full-time income from your website by itself, but it’s a great supplemental source of income.
For example, the site sells the PDF of this article pictured, along with selling copies of their “life calendar,” mentioned in the article, for $20.
This strategy works well if you have a loyal audience and your content is long-form and offers tons of value to readers.
13. Accept Donations
Speaking of loyal audiences, another popular way to monetize a website with an active audience is through donations.
The most popular platform to accept donations is Patreon.
Basically, Patreon (and platforms like it) allow creators to accept monthly donations in exchange for hidden content. This usually means extra articles and additional bonuses.
While more popular with Podcasters and YouTubers, there are some websites making good money with Patreon. Here a couple that come to mind.
Wait But Why, which we spoke about earlier, has over 4,000 subscribers on Patreon who donate every month:
With tiers ranging all the way up to $100 a month, you’d assume the site is making good money.
And if you think that’s impressive, just check out the Patreon for Humans of New York. The popular website has over 20,000 subscribers who donate at least $1.50 every month. So, the site is earning $30,000 a month at the bare minimum, just through donations.
Now, odds are you won’t get to $30,000 a month just through sponsorships, but a small piece of the pie is more than fine.
Many Patreon users also have an option for website viewers to leave a one-time donation (usually through PayPal). This is a great way to make a little money from people who don’t want to donate every month.
You can get pretty creative with stuff. For example, Matt Bochnak has a “Buy Matt a Beer” page on his motorcycle repair website:
(You can see he’s also working the merch monetization strategy as well!)
14. Offer Paid Memberships
Whereas sites like Patreon only offer the option for some gated content, with a membership platform on your website, you can custom design the ideal experience for your audience.
A membership site can include:
- Gated content
- Online courses
When it comes to creating revenue for websites, memberships are almost like the holy grail. The opportunity for reliable monthly income is incredibly appealing.
According to The Membership Guys, here are a few types of membership models you’re most likely to see:
- The drip-feed: This is the most popular membership model. In this system, members are given access to the private member’s area, with new content added monthly. The monthly additions make sure your members won’t run out of quality content to look at. You can also drip your content on a schedule so all members go through the exact same information delivery. So, no matter if you join the membership in January or October, you get the same experience.
- All-in: This is where members get access to all the member-content from the time they first log-in. This model is handy as some people don’t want to wait a month until the next batch of content gets released.
- Member community: If you want an engaging membership, you’ll want to develop a community around your site. You can have forums, message boards, and live chat. The best online communities are based around a specific niche topic; something that ties everyone together.
- Fixed-term: These types of memberships are usually short-term, and have a logical conclusion. For example, a 28-day detox is a common fixed-term contract.
- Product or service: You offer a product or service every month to members of your site. Something like a meal delivery service or Dollar Shave Club are great examples of a monthly product membership.
Or, your membership can be a hybrid of the different models.
For instance, Carol Tice has over 1500 members for her freelancer writer’s community. Inside, there’s a monster archive of helpful content, a discussion forum, and other “member’s only” goodies.
15. Re-Purpose your Articles
In some ways, this final strategy is kind of a bonus.
Often we only have one main source of content for our website. For example, you may have a podcast, a YouTube channel, or a killer blog.
However, there’s one problem with that. Not everyone consumes content in the same way.
So, you can look to re-purpose your content to generate an income from your website.
For example, let’s say the sole form of content on your site is a blog. Well, you can quite easily turn that blog post into a YouTube video. You don’t have to read the post word-for-word — just cover the main points.
If being on camera isn’t your thing, you can even use a site like Lumen5 to help create your own videos.
Then, if you really want to get fancy, you can take the audio from the YouTube videos you create and turn those into a podcast.
This gives you two new platforms to publish on, and that brings many of the strategies I’ve mentioned back into play — like ad revenue, sponsored content, and selling products.
Don’t be fooled; re-purposing your content still takes work. However, since you already have a bank of content to work with, the research stage of your content creation has already been done for you. If you have a large blog, then you may slow down the blog for a year while you work on creating videos and podcasts.
By re-purposing your content, you can generate extra ad revenue, along with the added exposure of using multiple platforms.
Nick’s Notes: I’ve followed this strategy to help build my YouTube channel to a $150-200 a month passive income stream.
Don’t Let Your Website Be a Liability — Monetize Today!
If you’ve already done the work of creating your website, why not make some money from it? It just takes a little bit of know-how.
After paying for hosting, development, and design costs, your website can turn into a money suck. But once you get your site to start paying for itself, you can begin to actually capitalize on its success.
Give one (or all) of these approaches a try, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what happens. That’s exactly what happened in my life. And now, I’m able to live off the money generated by my website. So I know it’s possible!
If you’re wondering which idea to start with, consider asking your readers in a survey — especially if you’re debating between a few different product ideas. That feedback can help you choose the smartest path forward as you look for a monetization strategy that fits your website and your goals.
Big thanks to Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur for contributing this post, and for jumping on the podcast to record an audio version! Main Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash.
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3 thoughts on “How to Monetize a Website: 15 Legit Strategies to Try”
Excellent ideas, Dave. I have got some new babies (blogs) in hand. I would like to go with affiliate marketing. Still, your monetization ways are quite interesting. Seems sponsored ads would help in a better way.
Nice and helpful post for me. Thank you so much for sharing.
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