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If you’ve started a self-hosted blog, chances are you want to earn from it. There are two types of income you can make from a self-hosted blog–active and passive. Yet somehow, the idea of earning a passive income online enchants new bloggers more than the idea of earning an active income.

Active income refers to the earning that requires you to provide a service in real-time and continuously, such as from a membership site, coaching services, copywriting, etc.   

Passive income refers to the earning that does not require you to market a product or provide a service in real-time or continuously, such as displaying third-party advertisement on your website. All you need to do is embed the code–a 5-minute job–and hope people will view/click the advertisement.

Then, what about the other types of blog income–income from selling your own courses, worksheets, sponsored posts, affiliate income, etc? Are they not sources of earning passive income online?

Yes and No.

Truth is no income can be considered passive income from the beginning. You have to put in the effort at some point to get a system in place–a system that will reduce, if not eliminate, your efforts in generating the income.

The Myth About Earning a Passive Income Online From Your Blog

Let’s consider the four most common type of monetization strategies that have gained the title of “passive income earner” in the blogging world.

Third-party advertisement

Let’s consider the work that goes into earning “passively” from third-party advertisement.

You need to sign up with an advertising network, embed the code on your website, etc. But, for you to earn a reasonable income from third-party advertisement, you need to have a high amount of traffic.

For this, you have to constantly work on your SEO skills and create blog posts and pages that are optimized to show up on search engine result pages. Because, you know, that’s where the traffic is going to come from.

Writing blog posts every week, optimizing them for search engines, researching keywords that are popular, creating attractive graphics, promoting on social media…all that goes into earning a passive income online via third-party advertising.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

Sponsored content

Another popular way to earn an income from your blog is to publish sponsored content.

Brands in your chosen niche (sometimes outside of your niche) will contact you to perhaps review one of their products or services on your blog, or post a photo of you using it on Instagram, or simply just mentioning them on your Twitter handle. There are various ways you can do a sponsored posts. In return, you get paid a certain amount–your sponsorship.

Needless to say, you should be extremely selective about the brands you choose to endorse. You are working hard to build your own following and earn the trust of your followers. Endorsing brands you don’t truly believe in is a surefire way to the bottom of popularity chart.

Be responsible when making your choice.

With that out of way, now consider the three scenarios I mentioned above.

    • Writing a sponsored blog post: Some brands provide the text and images you need to publish on your website, others don’t. If you are writing the review in your own words, it will obviously earn you more whereas prescribed content will earn you less.


  • Nonetheless, you still have to put together a blog post and then publicize it to your readers and across various social media channel.

With time, the post will fade into the oblivion and you will no longer earn from that post unless you choose to revive the endorsement.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

  • Endorsing on Instagram or other visual mediums: Numerous posts have been published about the reality behind the glitzy Instagram influencers (here’s one).

That one glamorous photo you saw on your Instagram feed this morning…it was probably just one of the many shots the influencer tried or hired a photographer for. It isn’t easy to get a perfectly-composed photo that catches attention and converts to a sale.

There is a lot of hard work that the influencers have to put in before they can quote a high price for posting a brand photo on their account. Don’t forget the many hours of brainstorming that goes behind how best to compose and then promote the product, such that it earns them a commission.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

  • Mentioning a brand on your Twitter account: Everything I mentioned for the Instagram point applies here too.

You have to have a long and genuine list of followers before an established brand will even approach you. And that’s where the money lies. Can you imagine the time and energy you have to spend in nurturing and engaging your followers on a daily basis?

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

The Truth About Earning a Passive Income Online From Your Blog.

Affiliate marketing

This is a very popular way of earning an income for bloggers. This strategy requires you to promote a product or service that they truly believe in. The product or service could belong to a name brand or a fellow blogger.

What is important though is that you really believe that the product or service you are choosing to market on behalf of someone else is worth its weight in gold. You are introducing your audience to another brand’s offerings. If your audience chooses to invest in that offering, it’s because they trust you. You have earned that trust.

It’s easy to get carried away and become an affiliate for 30 different products or services and hope that some of those will convert.

Let’s take the example of Amazon affiliation.

Almost anyone can apply to be an Amazon affiliate. Once approved, you can pretty much promote any of their listed products. But honestly, unless you are promoting high-ticket items, the earnings won’t be high.

Again, you have to spend your time and energy to find the right products and then promote the posts consistently so it remains in your audience’s field of vision.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

Creating and selling your own products or services

Of all the revenue streams I have listed so far, this is the hardest one for obvious reasons.

It requires a lot…A LOT…of time and work on your part to turn your products or services into revenue-earning sources.

Let’s consider a digital product-based business.

Creating a course or an eBook or even a printable planner requires a lot of research and hard work. A typical well-researched eCourse can take at least a month to create, given you are not working on anything else.

You have to come up with the content outline, determine the medium of delivery, write the content, record the videos, edit the videos, sync the audio, set up the course on your teaching platform…and so on.

And then again, the marketing–the webinars, the Facebook ads, training the affiliates, the email sequences…you get the picture.

What also matters is to keep the information current. In today’s age, technology is advancing at light speed. That means you have to regularly update your products so they remain relevant to your customers.

The same is true for a service-based business. Maybe you are a coach or a copywriter, in which case you are trading your time for money. You will be working against deadlines and trying to find new or repeat clients to keep up the income.

Not exactly passive income, in my opinion.

So then, is passive income just a myth?

Well, yes and no.

The way “passive income” is promoted on the internet is not right.

Come about it yourself: there is no passive income. If you want to earn money, you have to actively work for it. In some cases, the efforts needed to market your product or service may reduce over time but it never truly goes away.

When a successful course creator puts up a post on Facebook about how she earned $7,000 from her course just last night, that’s her marketing her product. Don’t even think otherwise.

Overnight success happens only to a handful of special bloggers. But what we don’t see is the sleep they have sacrificed and the frustration they cast aside before their blog became big. Success doesn’t come easily to anyone…not a single person.

For us mortals though, we have to work even harder than the ones who have succeeded.

Are you monetizing your blog the right way? Take this quiz to find out.

Over the next few weeks, I will add more posts about each of these monetization strategies and how your hard work and dedication will help you earn “active” income, not “passive” income.

See you then.

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9 Responses

  1. Hi Mala, I am in the process of creating an online course and I covered this exact topic yesterday.

    True passive income is extremely rare thing in online business. If you follow the 80/20 rule, creating a course is only 20% of the work, while other 80% goes to marketing, engaging with students, answering questions, creating promotional content, advertising, etc.

    The same thing with affiliate marketing. Yes, you wrote 50 blog posts that convert like crazy, but none of this matters if you don’t actively engage with your audience by answering comments on your blog or YouTube videos, posting content on social media, sending helpful emails, etc.

    Even if you manage to create truly passive income after 2 or 3 years of hard work, it won’t last forever. Your posts may rank on Google now, but in 5 years they will be replaced by newer and better content if you just let it be.

    Thank you for this great post, which will certainly help other people to understand the true nature of “passive income”


  2. So true, no income is really “passive.” To quote proverbs- the diligent prosper. Even (especially) in the blogging world. Great post!

    • Thank you, Jen.
      I was misled by the claims of passive income when I started one year ago. It’s been anything but a smooth ride. I don’t want that for my readers for sure.

  3. Pinned and visiting from Mom to Mompreneur! My goal for this year is to write more sponsored posts and contacting the company directly seems to work well so far. Blogging is time consuming for sure, but I love it!

  4. Thanks for sharing, I`m not yet an experienced blogger and this post will go along way helping me with things that are not yet familiar.Really appreciate you sharing this.

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