Figuring out how to put your blog to work is tough at any age.
And if you’re a particularly young writer — maybe even still in your teens — you may feel like you’re up against an impossible task. Even with all the creative energy and enthusiasm in the world, it can be difficult to figure out how to be taken seriously, let alone earn a living wage for your work.
But luckily, there are a few secrets to success… or at least to a better shot at it.
How to make money blogging, even if you haven’t turned 21 yet
Eva Baker is the founder of Teens Got Cents, a blog dedicated to teaching teens to use money wisely. She successfully used her blog to springboard into lucrative roles as a brand ambassador, educator and speaker for several financial organizations.
In short, she’s a successful blogger, which is already pretty impressive. But there’s one important twist.
Baker started her blog when she was only 16 years old. And within just two years, it had become her full-time business.
Teens Got Cents actually started as a school assignment.
Baker was homeschooled, and her stay-at-home teacher and mom, Charlotte, wanted her senior project to be communications focused with real-world value. Having recently fallen in love with Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover,” Baker realized there were few, if any, personal finance resources created specifically for teens — and suddenly knew exactly what to do for her assignment.
She worked hard on the blog, but she hadn’t intended to make it her career. “I didn’t have any big plans,” she admitted.
Nevertheless, she found herself becoming successful. Within months, Northeast Florida Healthy Start reached out to ask Eva to teach personal finance classes to teenagers; within a year, a local Jacksonville credit union asked her to become a brand ambassador.
Better yet — the gigs were paid. And well. Baker and her mom were excited, and a little surprised: “I was going to do it for free,” she said.
So when Baker was about to graduate high school, she knew she had to make big a decision. Would she move on to a four-year degree program, or make Teens Got Cents her full-time gig?
“I remember sitting on the hotel bed with my mom, sobbing, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life,” Baker said. The two were at the personal finance conference, FinCon, in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2015. Her mother had heard about the conference and, being an awesome homeschool teacher, flew the pair of them out to each FinCon starting in 2013 to help support and augment Baker’s project.
Surrounded by a community of friendly, like-minded money nerds, Eva, then only 19, made the scary decision to put college on the back burner and focus on the blog.
But despite her initial (and understandable) hesitation, it seems as if she made the right choice.
Having celebrated her 21st birthday only a month before our April meeting, Baker earns more than $5,000 per month from her freelance business today.
She even hosts her own conference, The Teenprenuer — which, in fact, she was deep in the exciting-but-somewhat-stressful throes of organizing when we met for coffee. The second annual event is coming up in June.
But Baker still found time to chat with me about how Teens Got Cents became so successful, and to offer tips for other young bloggers who want their writing to do more than simple self-expression.
Here’s what we discussed.
1. Research and strategize — even after you launch
Yes, you’ve probably heard this once or twice if you’ve done so much as Google “content marketing.”
But it’s worth reiterating. Because when it comes to making a blog into a business, a little planning goes a long way. (OK, maybe a lot of planning.)
It almost goes without saying that you need to have a very specific angle in mind before you sit down to write your first post, or even buy your domain. But Baker also made sure she had a logo, tagline, and even categories and content pillars set up well before the blog went live.
“We did a ton of research before we launched the website,” Baker said, citing Copyblogger as a valuable resource. She was also lucky — and smart — in that she had a tech-savvy family friend who could help with web design, keeping her startup costs low.
Furthermore, she didn’t make the mistake of thinking those strategic moves were over once the blog was live.
After regularly keeping up with posts for a few months, Baker and her mom sent out press releases to drum up interest in her project.
Sure enough, the media’s interest was drummed: Teens Got Cents soon appeared in local newspapers, magazines and daytime television — appearances that proved invaluable in creating lucrative opportunities for Baker down the line.
2. Use your youth to your advantage
Here’s a big secret: Your youth can actually be an asset.
Although it might seem like you have to work extra hard to be taken seriously, Baker found that her teenage status was enough of a novelty to be a boon to her business.
“Because I was so young, people gave me opportunities I might not have gotten otherwise,” she said. Impressed by how much she’d accomplished as such a young writer, companies were eager to bring Baker onboard under her own brand.
“Just being a teen, no matter what field you’re in,” can be a serious advantage, Baker says…so long as you’ve got the confidence and know-how to back it up. (Which is — you guessed it! — one more reason to make sure you do your research thoroughly.)
3. Yes, you have to network — but it doesn’t have to be scary
Baker describes herself as “an introvert by nature,” but networking is the basis of her business.
Almost all of her income is the direct result of making connections within the personal finance community, and subsequently finding gigs as a brand ambassador, speaker and educator.
She’s only just now experimenting with “traditional” blogging revenue streams like affiliate marketing, four years after launching.
Of course, writers don’t exactly have a reputation for gregariousness. So what’s the shy type to do?
Baker admits that networking was “scary at first,” describing her intimidation at her first conference in 2013. Her mother pushed her into conversations, admonishing, “We did not fly all the way out here for you to be standing against the wall.”
But once Baker started talking, she realized that networking really wasn’t so bad. Her best advice if schmoozing’s not in your nature? Develop a genuine interest in learning about other people.
“I don’t think everyone starts out just having that kind of interest naturally,” Baker said. Being authentically interested in others can be something of a learned skill.
But once you start seeing a room of people as a collection of interesting stories and ideas ripe for the unlocking, it becomes a lot easier to break the ice.
Another key piece of advice: Get over your fear of asking “stupid” questions.
Everybody’s afraid of coming across like they don’t know what they’re doing, particularly at professional events. But if you don’t ask for clarification about something you don’t understand, you’ll never learn anything.
Besides, everyone was a beginner at some point. If anything, people will likely respect you more for your willingness to admit ignorance — and your enthusiasm for learning more.
Yes, you can make money blogging… if you keep at it!
This just in: Writing ain’t easy. It can be discouraging to put in a lot of work without seeing any return.
But it is totally possible to make money blogging…if you have the perseverance to keep at it.
Baker’s success story is remarkable, but even she didn’t start seeing a livable income for more than a year into her project. And she knows she has a lot more work to do to make sure Teens Got Cents continues to grow.
But working hard and keeping a generous helping of hope is what the write life is all about — even if we regard that life as a bit of a love/hate relationship. And once you get it working, we think you’ll find few things more rewarding than making a living off the written word.
So what are you waiting for? You’ve got work to do, but you’ve got this. Plus, we’ll be here to help you every step of the way.
What are you blogging about? And if you’re not yet, what’s stopping you?