make money with wordpress button

If you look up the phrase “how to make money with WordPress” on Google Trends, you will realize an interesting fact. The peak popularity of the term was reached in 2006, again in 2012, and then it started going down. Does that mean that it’s less and less possible to make a living through the most well-known content management system? 

The answer is no. It is still possible, and I dare say it always will be. WordPress has evolved into a complex system with money making opportunities on every step, if you know where to look. The fact that your neighbor has tried it and failed doesn’t mean you would fail too.

google trends preview

But let’s get one thing clear. There are ways of earning with WordPress that are easier – or rather, less difficult – than others. But none of these ways are downright easy. They will require substantial amounts of work, and a great deal of time to get it all up and running.

So, if that’s what you’re looking for, go ahead and read this article. If not, scroll a bit down to check some of the best survey panels in the sidebar, since taking online surveys is one of the easiest ways to earn a buck – admittedly, seldom more than that.

So, without further ado, let’s proceed with the five ideas how to make money with WordPress.

1. Advertising

This is the easiest and most seamless way on our list. And don’t get discouraged when people tell you that it’s the least lucrative. In spite of various ad blockers in place, many people will still see the carefully curated and targeted ads and click through them.

There are two basic models of advertising: the so-called CPC (cost-per-click), and direct advertising.

CPC advertising, also known as PPC (pay-per-click), is basically about getting paid a very small sum whenever someone clicks on an ad on your website. Thankfully, the CPC platforms, of which Google AdSense is the most well-known, are smart these days. They don’t serve random ads to random users, hoping to get lucky. It’s Google we are talking about, and they know a thing or two about all of their users. They serve dynamic ads in accordance with a particular user’s interests. On your part, you only need an approved account and an ad plugin installed on your site.

Direct advertising will usually pay more than mere cents. On the flip side, it takes more time to set up. You need to track down potential advertisers, reach out, negotiate the price and other factors. True, you can tweak the payment terms however you want, as long as someone’s willing to meet them. Still, this can prove a hard task if you’re not good with people.

It’s also possible to resort to direct advertising platforms that can connect you to prospect advertisers such as BuySellAds. If you opt for direct advertising, make sure to put up an adequate page on your site, e.g. Advertise With Us. There, you can make that initial pitch, so that potential advertisers would know that you’re eager to collaborate.

Best advertising networks: Google AdSense, WordAds, BuySellAds, AdClerks

2. Affiliate Marketing

The beauty of affiliate marketing is that it’s universally applicable. In other words, you can implement it in just about any niche or micro niche there is. Whether you run a blog about baking bread, cycling or 17th-century opera, there are products or services you can promote and get a commission off of every single sale that’s happened through your links.

And it’s not just Amazon Affiliate Program that I’m talking about. It’s the most popular and widely used one, but it’s far from being the only one. You can refer your readers to niche-specific products or services that will pay you for doing so.

Let’s say you’re a cat lover who runs a blog on the subject. Why only write about it? You might as well monetize your enthusiasm and knowledge. Just make a Google search “best cat affiliate programs”. You will get a list of sites that should be more than happy to collaborate. Read the guidelines and get to work! You will get commissions. Your readers will get recommendations from a source they trust. And the company will get a stable source of promotion that is (hopefully) well positioned in search engines. A win-win outcome for all!

A more convenient way would be to join a huge affiliate network such as ShareASale. They act as middlemen between you as a blogger and over 2,500 various merchants from all walks of life. 

Even if you only get $1 or a few cents per sale, it’ll add up if you have a large readership. But in some cases (e.g. hosting or marketing services), you can count on hundreds of even thousands of dollars per sale.

Best affiliate networks: Amazon, ShareASale, eBay, Shopify, Rakuten, ClickBank, CJ

3. Create WordPress Themes and Plugins

Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes and plugins. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for new ones! On the contrary – WordPress has been reinventing itself since its beginnings, and every core change opens up new opportunities.

If you are fluent in programming languages, this could be a great option. Apart from this knowledge, you also need good research skills, to pinpoint a problem that users face but no plugin has solved it yet.

Luckily, finding that magical spot isn’t so hard at the moment. WordPress has recently rolled out Gutenberg, a new, user-friendly page builder and editor. It opened up an entirely new space for themes and plugins developers. You may want to catch that train, since there will be a lot of money there, and the competition still hasn’t grown fierce!

If you’re after WordPress themes as a source of income, check out our previous blog post for some in-depth insight.

And if you aren’t crazy about creating things from scratch, you can always earn an extra buck by tweaking and customizing other people’s websites. WordPress does boast of being user-friendly, but you’d be surprised how many people face difficulties with their themes and plugins on a day to day basis. And they are often willing to pay someone to make their life easier.

Best theme and plugin repositories: WordPress.org, ThemeForest, CodeCanyon

4. Convert Your Site Into a Membership Website

The most common examples of membership websites include reputable newspapers. Just like the term says, you can only access particular content there if you’re a member. Which usually includes paying a fee.

This option will work best if you specialize in a micro niche. The competition won’t be so tough, and you will have a much better chance to establish a meaningful and deep connection with your audience. Which, in turn, means that they are more likely to pay for your content. True, you won’t have nearly as much traffic as global niche websites. But it will also be that much easier to rank on search engines, and impress your content-hungry readership.

But don’t think that it will be easy to milk your visitors just because they are hungry for high-quality content. You will have to nurture them through a proper sales funnel, feeding them a bunch of content for free, and saving the best morsels for premium members. Even when you get a nice list of paying subscribers, the work doesn’t stop there. You have to nurture them further so they don’t unsubscribe, and you have to keep wooing new prospects to replace the ones that have died out.

For example, The New York Times will allow you to read three articles for free each month. If you want more, you will have to subscribe for a small sum. Should you proceed for free, you will only get article snippets, as if to get a taste of what you’re missing out.

Charging fees to your members isn’t the only way to monetize your site. You can take it hand in hand with email marketing, as a way of upselling or nurturing your most loyal customers.

Best plugins for membership sites: MemberPress, Paid Member Subscriptions, Restrict Content Pro

5. Turn Your Site Into an Online Store

eCommerce is one of the most common ways to monetize your site. That’s possible even if you aren’t selling physical products but services or digital stuff. From a technical perspective, all you need is a functioning website with an SSL certificate for additional security, as well as an eCommerce plugin. As it happens, WooCommerce is currently not only the most popular, but also the best of these plugins.

The setup process is wonderfully swift and simple. You don’t need to break your head over any details, as the plugin will guide you through them. Enter your store location, currency, shipping and tax info, payment method.

And then, you can go on and add your products. If you’ve ever written a single post of any kind in WordPress, you’ll know the drill. Add the product’s name, description, image, as well as technical details such as price, discount, shipping cost. So much easier than setting up a brick-and-mortar store, isn’t it?

woman buying things on an online store

As you can see, starting your own online store is a no-brainer. So, are there any challenges to this option?

Naturally, there are. Your store needs to be found by as many potential customers as possible. To do that, you need to do your SEO and marketing homework. Running a relevant blog on your website is not only a great supplementary activity to engage your visitors. It’s also vital from the SEO perspective. And did we mention social media? Yep, there’s much grinding in store for ya (pun intended).

Best plugins for eCommerce: WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads 

Conclusion

These five ideas are good enough on their own, but the best thing about them is that you don’t have to opt for a single one. In fact, it’s recommendable to combine a few of them, especially if your site isn’t well established. It would require more effort and hassle, but after a few years of hard work you would be able to sit back and enjoy the sound of cash pouring into your pockets on every turn.

There’s another thing they have in common. Setting them up is insanely hard, but once they’re up and running, maintenance won’t be nearly as troubling. Every single one of them, if done right, can scale enough to replace your full-time job. Roll up your sleeves and get to work!