Although I've been blogging for over 8 years now, money came into the picture only when I went self-hosted.

A few people have asked me how much running a blog costs and how much I earn through it while keeping it as a hobby. While there are many articles on blogging full-time, it's hard to find a hobby blogger's perspective on this.

February 2024 marks 3 years since I started self-hosting and I have enough to say on this so I decided to share my experience to help anyone looking for information. As money transparency is even less than stats transparency in the blogging community, I hope that this encourages more of you to start talking about it as well.

In this post, I'll share the total of my blog income and expenses along with details on where and how I spent them/earned them. I'll also share some tips and suggestions that you can consider while blogging.

first, some context

I'm a hobby blogger and I talk about my hobbies and passions on this blog. When bloggers set out to earn, what to post about is carefully chosen based on interest and opportunity for income. No one chooses the niches I've chosen haha.

For the first four years of blogging, I was using a free WordPress site which was free and hence, didn't give many chances for income as well. Then, I chose the WordPress Personal Plan for a year (₹2400) which was a waste of money. (You can read more about my blogging journey here).

In 2021, I went self-hosted to have more control over my site's design and workings. (Read more here) As I was paying for it and there's no harm in earning a bit back, I opened channels to earn through the blog.

This context is necessary because it colours all my blog expenses and income. I spent depending on my budget and I only earned through whatever was easy. I didn't have the time to reach out and get opportunities and simply took whatever came my way.

As I've mostly seen only professional bloggers talk about blog income, I was under the impression that the only way to earn was through sponsored posts and brand collaborations. It took me a long time to understand what applies to my content and change my perspective.

Just as there's no right way to blog, there's no right way to spend on and earn from it. It depends on the person, the content, their goals, and their time. The most important thing is to be open to new ideas and grab opportunities when you see them.

Note: all amounts in this post are written in INR(₹) and rounded off USD($). USD amounts are according to the conversion rates in February 2024.

illustration of a person blogging in a cafe with an open book next to them and a cup of coffee

my blog expenses

Total: ₹24662 (~$298)

1. hosting and domain fees: ₹11,948 ($144)

The first expenses of self-hosting are hosting fees and domain fees, and they're usually the biggest chunk of expenses.

As an Indian who doesn't earn in USD, I couldn't easily go with the recommended "best hosts" that charge in USD. The converted amount was just too much for me. Eventually, I found that BlueHost.in offered plans in INR which were affordable for me.

There was a discount for first-timers and I could save the most by taking a three-year plan, so I went for that. BlueHost waived off the first year of domain fees so I had to pay only for 2 years later on.

Here's a breakdown (including taxes+GST:

  • Introductory hosting fees (+ security) for 3 years: ₹8864
  • Domain privacy & protection for the first year: ₹410
  • Domain fees (+ privacy & protection) for 2 years: ₹3084

The above is what is required to run the blog for 3 years.

When the term was almost over, I renewed both for another 3 years. Technically, I paid this within the initial 3 years but didn't include it in the above total since it is for the next few years.

Here's a breakdown of the renewal expenses:

  • Hosting fees (+ security) for 3 years: ₹12701
  • Domain fees (+ privacy & protection) for 3 years: ₹1920
  • Total renewal fees: ₹18461

Total hosting and domain fees for 6 years: ₹31268 (~$377)

Related: BlueHost review: pricing, support, & my experience

2. blog themes: ₹2,956 ($36)

Technically, you don't need to pay for a blog theme. If you're using WordPress, a bunch of free themes come with it. Other sites (like Wix) also have free themes available.

I had WordPress but didn't want any of the free themes so I searched for themes online. After doing a bunch of research, I settled on one for 50 USD. I was still debating if I needed to spend so much when I came across a steal deal for a different theme and almost immediately got it.

I got the Kylee More theme for ₹859. I customized the theme to bring my imagined aesthetic alive and used it for a year.

A couple of years later, I wanted a change and went in search of themes again with specific blog theme requirements in mind. This time, I got the Fairchild theme for ₹2097.

While looking for themes, I had to disregard a lot of them because of the cost. Most themes are priced at USD and were not in my budget. Thankfully, after researching for a few weeks, I found affordable themes that I'd love on my blog.

Tip: when considering themes, check if the required framework comes with the theme on purchase. I found a theme that I loved and could afford but later realized that the framework had to be bought separately which put it out of my budget.

3. resources: ₹9,684 ($117)

This is a completely optional expense. When I went self-hosted, I was determined to make the best of my expense. So, I looked for resources and bought a bunch of them. The resources were ebooks, courses, templates, etc. that provided information and guidance to blog better.

While I got many for free or by signing up for something, many good ones were available at a cost (and artists deserve to be paid for their labour!). I didn't buy everything because most of them were too expensive for me. I also started spending on resources only after I made back my hosting expenses from the blog.

I spent little by little to grab small resources over time. Everything was ₹500 to ₹1000 at a time but they added up over the years. (Not gonna lie, I'm a little shocked by how much I ended up spending. This is almost as much as my hosting expenses.)

Was it worth it? Yes. Some of them did not help but most were really helpful which helped me improve this blog and eventually earn more than what I spent.

If you're looking for some free resources, check out my resource library!

4. miscellaneous: ₹74 ($1)

I was exploring different affiliate options when I came across AWIN. It provided affiliate links for Book Depository so I signed up. I had to pay ₹74 when signing up (I don't remember exactly why). I haven't earned anything through it though.

illustration of a workspace with laptop, open notebook, pen, phone, and a plant

my blog income

Total: ₹86,663 ($1046)

1. sponsored posts: ₹8,146 ($98)

I always thought that writing sponsored posts was the best (and easy enough) way to earn from blogging. I have seen many bloggers do sponsored posts. However, the opportunity for sponsored posts doesn't come easily or often. When they do, the amount offered is usually less than your work's worth.

In 3 years, I've written two sponsored posts. That's it. Did they pay well? Yes. But I'll admit that I got them purely through luck.

My first sponsored post was in collaboration with Storytel within a few months of launching this blog. It was a dream collaboration because I was actually using Storytel at the time and loved the platform. I wrote this post on audiobooks, added links to Storytel, and highlighted a limited-time offer that they wanted to promote.

It was the first time that I had to specifically rephrase and edit my content according to feedback from someone else. The entire process—being contacted, coming up with ideas, negotiating, writing, payout—took about 2 months. I was paid ₹1000 (~$12) which was fine for my writing efforts but honestly wasn't worth the amount of time I spent over those months.

I went through with it because I had committed to them but the experience made me wary of sponsored post opportunities. I properly researched the standard rates in USD and INR after that and was ready to demand what my time was worth.

The second one was a few months later when Intellifluence was new and they were looking to collaborate with bloggers. They were paying ₹100* for a post on any topic around influencers/bloggers which linked to 2 articles of their choice. It was an amazing opportunity because I had all the writing freedom and got good money. I wrote about my blogging journey, included the links, and was paid in 2 weeks.

The period of collaboration with bloggers ended soon and no other opportunities worked out, unfortunately. I was lucky to have seen it at that time.

Both sponsored posts were in the first year of self-hosting. Literally nothing after that. It turned out that not many paid well for writing an entire post and required giving up some amount of creative freedom.

* ₹7146 was ₹100 at that time. INR to USD conversion rates have dipped like crazy 🥲

2. link inserts: ₹15,701 ($189)

I thought link inserts were a good and easy way to earn from the blog like sponsored posts. I've seen bloggers earn quite a bit from inserting links to their existing posts. What I thought was true, to an extent.

Like with sponsored posts (and just about everything, I guess), most opportunities don't offer according to the blog's worth. I've gotten a lot of emails asking for the link insert price and no replies after I told it. Few try to negotiate for a lower price which is way less compared to the standard according to my blog's traffic and Domain Authority.

But when it works out, it's the easiest way to earn. All that's required is adding the link to an existing post, maybe with a slight verbiage change or addition.

In 3 years, I've done 3 link inserts, each for $75*. 2 of them were within a week, somehow. The price may seem high but I found that it's (a little less than) the standard for my blog's statistics.

Link inserts are also highly based on luck, it's not guaranteed. Unless you're advertising your services, the chances of someone stumbling upon your blog, with a related link, and willing to pay the right price are minuscule.

* INR to USD conversation rates strike again because 75x3=225 but right now it amounts to $189 🙂

illustration of a typewriter with paper loaded in it.

3. affiliate links: ₹58 ($0.7)

I've always seen bloggers put affiliate links on their blogs and social media posts. Despite hearing that it's hard to earn from affiliate commissions, I thought that it must be enough because most bloggers are affiliates.

Only when I tried affiliate links did I realize that it's useless unless you're in a good niche and/or have a large following.

I've been an affiliate for Amazon, Book Depository, and Bookshop for a good amount of time. (There's a 4th company too but I don't remember which.) I've made a grand total of ₹58 over the years.

There are a few glaring problems with affiliate programs:

  • The odds that a person buys through an affiliate link in a post are low because they have to be in the buying mood, they should know/like the seller, the item's price must be affordable for them, and buying/shipping options should be good. Despite my site receiving a good amount of traffic and the links getting a few hundred clicks, none of them generated value.
  • As someone outside of the US/UK/AUS, there are few platforms where I can be an affiliate.
  • The commission rates for purchases through affiliate links are usually abysmal.
  • Being an affiliate for Amazon isn't very viable as I use .in and most of my audience uses .com.

When I got notified that I earned a bit through an Amazon affiliate link, I was surprised. When I looked at my dashboard, I realized that I earned a commission for a grocery item. A user must have clicked a link on my site and ended up buying something that they needed without my mention. I had a good laugh and removed all affiliate links from my site.

4. coffees: ₹8,780 ($106)

Forget affiliate links, coffee tips are the way to go! I didn't have any link through which blog readers could send me tips before I went self-hosted. Although I had seen it on other blogs, I didn't know whether people actually used it.

Well, I was in for a surprise. A $2 tip may not seem like much but it can add up to a lot over time. Obviously, it requires good content that readers love enough to give tips when they don't need to. But, in my opinion. that's easy enough.

Also, receiving coffee tips feels so good. Every time I get one, it makes my week, because someone liked my content enough to go out of their way and pay. That's the biggest compliment.

Sometimes, my friends use it to gift me differently and that makes me really happy too 🥹🫶 (I'm counting these in the total though because I'm too lazy to check how much my friends sent and exclude it.)

Speaking of, if you like this post (or my content), feel free to buy me a coffee! ☕️

5. art commissions: ₹1,274 ($15)

As you may know, I make all the graphics and illustrations on this blog myself. I didn't consider fully dipping into art commissions because it requires a lot more skill than I have. But if one does come my way, I try to accept it.

Technically, earning through art commissions is not a direct result of the blog but what I earned was possible only because I show my illustrations on this blog. I've done two art commissions and both were because of this blog.

Since I don't advertise it, I don't get a lot of opportunities. Both my commissions were in my first year of self-hosting when I had started drawing such illustrations and showed them off haha. I also priced them less because I was a total beginner.

an illustration drawing of a girl using her laptop

6. sales: ₹1,224 ($15)

If you read a few guides on making money through blogging, you'll notice that the overwhelming advice is to sell something—templates, ebooks, guides, worksheets, etc. Selling makes the most money and is technically "passive income" so it's the thing to root for.

Listen. Selling something is hard. Especially when you're selling content. You have to have a big enough audience who trust your content and will buy your product, you have to spend a bunch of time making something amazing, and then you have to market it a lot.

Unless your traffic keeps growing and many people reach your blog ready to buy, selling a product is not passive income. You have to keep promoting it. Tell me, how is it passive?

After hearing that it's the way to go a lot, I tried it. I actually enjoyed the process of making it because it pushed me to make something different and I edited it so many times through feedback from my friends. However, when I launched it, it didn't do well.

I wrote and launched "SEO Case Studies on The Wordy Habitat's Blog Posts". I learnt how SEO works deeper through experimentation and my blog posts' statistics and shared what I learnt in this. I totally admit that there's no way it was going to blow up because it's incredibly specific to my blog and my way of learning.

I priced it at $3 which is quite low. I made 5 sales in total.*

It didn't do well due to multiple things: the product was personal, I hated promoting myself too much and I did not feel like shoving it in everyone's faces, and I forgot about it after a while.

This way of earning is not my thing (maybe in the future but not now). It's not like I'll launch something and everyone will fall over themselves for it. Selling can take more time and effort than creating. As someone who much prefers creating over selling, this path died soon.

* people who bought it: y'all are gems 🫶

7. ads: ₹51,480 ($620)

As far as passive income from blogging is concerned, nothing is more "passive" than ads. Link inserts are the closest but ads win by a big margin.

Most people don't speak about ads when talking about ways to earn from blogging. Why? Is it because it seems like a cop-out? Or it's not a "good way" to earn? Why??

For a hobby blogger who barely has time to write content, ads are the easiest way to earn. And it lets you do what you love which is write! You don't have to look for paid opportunities or sell a product.

I started using ads long after I should have, honestly. It would have been useful when I had peak traffic on this blog. As earning through ads is directly proportional to your traffic, you have to focus on writing & posting more and doing SEO. All you have to do is work on SEO, honestly. (Check out my SEO strategy here 👀)

Earning through ads is also consistent. You won't get a lot in one month and nothing in the next few months. With the heavy use of advertisements nowadays, there is no dearth of opportunities to show ads on your site. You don't have to go searching for opportunities either.

However, while ads have its pros, it does come with a few cons:

  • Earnings through ads may be consistent but it is also less. For comparison, I earned $75 through one link insert and it takes months to earn the same via ads. Google Adsense is notoriously known for paying a pittance (however, it's also the most popular ad network that doesn't have requirements).
  • Ad networks that pay well have sign-up requirements. For example: Mediavine requires 50,000 sessions in the previous 30 days (per Google Analytics), otherwise, you can't sign up with them. SHE Media requires 20k+ page views per month.
  • Well-playing ad networks use contracts. When you sign up with them and agree to show ads, you have to sign a contract with them. There's no such thing with Adsense and you can turn it on/off whenever you want (which is probably why it pays less), but most others have them.
  • Ads often slow your site down. As it involves showing dynamic content on your site based on factors like the viewer's location etc., it can reduce your site's loading time. Since loading time is a factor for SEO, if your site is slow, your posts won't rank higher. Essentially, you need traffic to earn more but enabling ads can reduce your traffic over time.
  • Ads can bring errors to your site. As I write this, my site shows ads from SHE Media which brings many errors. They're not visible to the viewers but affect the loading time and smoothness of the site. I am in conversation with the support team to fix them because the errors significantly affect my site's loading time and traffic.

The above seems like a lot of negatives but it depends on each person whether they outweigh the pros or not. Would you rather earn passively with the chances of a slower site (which, in many cases, doesn't even feel that slow)? Or would you rather spend a lot of time looking for opportunities to earn with no guarantees?

I have a love-hate relationship with ads. I like the ease and money but I hate how they affect my site and traffic. I keep yoyo-ing between keeping them and removing them.

Here's a breakdown of my earnings through ads:

  • Google Adsense: ₹17531 ($211)
  • SHE Media: ₹33949 ($409)
illustration art of laptop, mug and a plant

opportunities i declined

Earlier, I said that it's important to be open and grab new opportunities. However, there is merit in choosing the opportunities you say yes to. Saying yes to everything might sound good but may not be worth it in the long run.

1. guest posts

When I went self-hosted, one of my "ground rules" was to not accept guest posts. I let others write for my blog before and while it helps my blog's post quantity, it doesn't work out in other ways:

  • I'm particular about the "vibe" of this blog. Even if another writer's style is similar to mine, I can't make changes or edit their words.
  • I often update my old posts to make them more relevant. I can't do that with another person's post.
  • When I want to delete posts or shut down the blog, I feel guilty.

I had decided to not allow guest posts and vowed to not be tempted by any offer. Well, turns out that I didn't have to worry. All the emails I receive with offers for writing posts for my blog are from random people who don't write about my niche. Sometimes, they claim to want to write about anything as per my wish as long as they include their links.

Even if they offer to write the content and pay for it to be published on my site, I'm just not okay with that.

2. most link inserts

Above, I shared that I have done 3 link inserts in total. That's because out of all the ones I had an opportunity for, they were the only ones that fit my blog.

70% of the link insert requests that I get are for links that don't relate to my blog at all. They'll be about finance or something. Even if the other party doesn't mind, I mind. My main priority is to have good content which includes good sources. If the link doesn't look good or relate to any of my content, I decline the offer.

endnotes

Before I started writing this post, I was sure that it would be a short one. I didn't realize how varied my income modes have been. And as usual, I have a lot to say about everything.

Do I need to spend on or earn from this blog? No. I went self-hosted to have freedom over my site. I tried different ways to earn simply because I'm curious and, won't lie, any income from a "hobby" feels great. I want to try everything in blogging, even if it's only tangentially related (I lowkey abandoned my resource library after a while but my newsletter is still going strong!).

Since I've tried a lot over the years, I wanted to share my experiences and opinions to help anyone looking for information. I always thought that I didn't have many options because I'm (mostly) a book blogger. I won't lie, it is definitely hard, but it's not impossible.

Does this mean that I will quit my day job and become a full-time blogger? LOL, no. How much I earned in three years is around my one month salary now. So, no way, haha. I need more money to spend on books 😌

So, if you're a book blogger (or any niche blogger), know that you have several options. If you have something unique to offer, you can make up an option. Don't think that something isn't viable before you try it.

flatlay illustration of a wooden table with a potted plant, open book, sticky tabs, a phone, coffee, and airpods on it.

chat with me!

I hope this post was informative and helpful! If nothing else, I hope it satisfied some nosy curiosity haha. When I was a new blogger, I was soo curious about these things and never found a proper candid post going over multiple options. I mainly wrote this post because such information isn't easily available.

What do you think about spending on and earning from hobby blogging? Have spent on your blog? Have you earned from your blog? What are your thoughts on using ads? Let me know in the comments!

photo of Sumedha

Sumedha spends her days reading books, bingeing Kdramas, drawing illustrations, and blogging while listening to Lo-Fi music. Read more ➔

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13 comments

  • Nicole @ Thoughts Stained With Ink says:

    This was really great to read, Sumedha! I really enjoyed it (especially as someone who is self-hosted but doesn't make money off their blog). Thank you so much for spending the time writing it!!

    Reply ➔
  • Manjushree says:

    Hey hey! This question has been itching my mind for a long time but I never prioritized to ask you about it but this has been super helpful even though I'm not into blogging. This puts into perspective about how much of financial effort goes into the work. So happy you were this transparent. Thank you! 😍

    Reply ➔
  • abookowlscorner says:

    I love how you're always up working to break the taboos surrounding stats and give us all the details! 🤗 This post was fascinating, and you deserve to be really proud that you're able to support your blog expenses through blogging itself!

    Personally, I just make a really big loss on mine, though ... 😂 I wanted to be able to choose a specific WordPress theme and also have the option to ban ads from my site, so I chose the cheapest plan available that allows that (Premium, I think?). But I don't earn a single cent off my blog - which mainly comes down to German tax laws. If I were to earn something from my blog, I'd have to register it as a secondary source of income, and that just seems way too complicated to me! 😅 Like, I'd have to fill out SOOOO much paperwork, probably tell my main employer that I have the blog (No thanks! 😬), and then I have no idea if I'd even earn more than I currently do with the extra tax deductions I'd have to pay... So I'm perfectly happy just having my blog as a hobby that I invest a bit of money into and have the opportunity to chat with like-minded people as my "reward" instead!

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      thank you, Naemi! i try haha.

      okay the German laws sound exhausting?? whatever we earn, it's linked to our "PAN" (every portal we use asks for it) and it automatically shows up in our taxes whether we add it as a source of income or not. i don't think i'd monetize the blog if i was in your place either.

      Reply ➔
  • Jerry Vanschaik says:

    Thanks so much for your time and effort on creating this post. I am writer, coffee novelist to be exact, and hobby blogger. I launched my blog about 6 years ago to support my books but honestly, have never been sure what to do with it after that. I blog because I love to write and enjoy writing the posts. The rest of it, that is most of the time spent on the blog, can be a chore. And WP is clunky to work with. But, I just decided to try to sell my novels via my blog and so your post landed in my inbox at just the right time! I will refer to it going forward. Thanks again!

    Reply ➔
  • Yesha says:

    This is a great insight and it's amazing you could earn more than you spend on blog. As of now for me, Ads money pays the selfhosting fees but I haven't got any extra. Some even pays for reviews but so far I haven't ventured in that and I don't know how comfortable I'm with that. I will text you if I get any sponsored or link insert opportunities as would need to know how that works.

    Reply ➔