You may have thought about starting a blog before but never got around to doing it, or you have a blog but you haven’t written a single post in the last 6 months.
You know who you are!
Given that we now have things like ChatGPT that can write whole blog posts about any topic you can think about, is it even worth pursuing blogging?
At the end of this article I am going to share how much traffic I get to my blog and how much it generates in revenue, so make sure you stay around for that.
So the main reason that I have my own website and blog is to have my own slice of the internet that is 100% mine.
It is my own space where I can write about whatever I want and no one can take that away from me.
I don’t have to cater to algorithms or worry about people unsubscribing if I write about something slightly off-topic.
There is obviously a lot of content about software development on there but I also write about philosophy, entrepreneurship, productivity and mental health as well. Anything goes.
It is my home on the internet. Everything that I write whether it be my newsletter or the scripts for my YouTube videos all go on my website so they are in one place.
I also like to write notes on the books that I read as it is a great way to actually remember what I have read.
Even though it is mostly for my benefit, other people can read them as well so they can understand what a book is about before choosing to read it themselves.
As a developer, blogging is a great way to share your knowledge.
There is so much to learn as a software developer that it is impossible to know everything. I can guarantee that even as a beginner you will know something that even the top software developers in the world don’t know.
Some people like to hoard their knowledge and keep it all to themselves but in my experience, it is always better to share what you know. You will find if you are open to sharing and helping other people then it will come back to you in a number of benefits.
Whether you call it karma or attracting luck, helping other people by sharing what you know is always a winning strategy.
I have also found that my thinking is a lot clearer when I write things down. I am not a great public speaker, talking into the camera doesn’t come naturally to me. So I write down most of what I am going to say in my videos if not word for word.
If I tried to just wing it and record a video without preparation, I would forget things and there would be a lot of “ums” and “ers” as well.
I often find the process of explaining what you have learned to someone else is a great way to clarify your understanding of a topic. It is easier to see the gaps in your knowledge and it will make you a better programmer as a result.
Blogging and writing on the internet is a great way to build a personal brand.
Now, I don’t really like the term, “Personal Brand”. It sounds like I am commercialising myself.
In some cases, that is what people are doing, however, for me it is more about showing people what I am about.
Whether you are applying for a job or going on a date, people are going to Google you.
If I search for my name the top 5 results are:
Believe it or not, I am not the only Alex Hyett in the world and some of the other results on the first page are for other people.
But by dominating the first half of the Google results for my own name, there is a high chance someone searching for me will find my stuff.
If I am applying for a job they will see that I write and do videos about software development for example.
Now imagine I didn’t have a website or a YouTube channel. If a prospective employer searched for my name they may find another Alex Hyett and think it was me.
I believe one of the Alex Hyett’s is a DJ, that’s great but it doesn’t help with getting a job as a software developer.
Unlike some developers, I am not going to tell you that you must have a blog as a software developer.
I know plenty of highly successful well-paid software developers that don’t have a blog, a basic website or even a GitHub account.
I have a blog, a newsletter and a YouTube channel because I enjoy writing and sharing my knowledge with others. I want to help you and other people. Everything else is just an added benefit.
If I apply for a development job then yes, there is a chance that all my writing will go in my favour but realistically it will go to the candidate with more experience rather than one that writes a lot.
I have been blogging for 8 years now but it is really only in the last 6 months of writing consistently that I have seen any traction on my blog.
Blogging is a huge time commitment. It can take several hours to write a detailed blog post, even longer if you need to include code examples as well.
If you have a full-time job, it can be difficult to find the time to blog. Especially if you have a family or other commitments outside of work.
In fact, when I started a new job in 2019, I didn’t blog at all for the whole year. I have actually written more blog posts this year than all of the other years put together.
The moment you have been waiting for, how much traffic and money do I earn from my blog?
Today my blog gets around 16,000 page views a month. That is not a huge amount, I know some people who get hundreds of thousands of views a month. However, traffic is increasing each month now that I am posting on a regular basis.
In fact, for the last 3 months, my page views have increased by 3,000 views each month which I think is quite good. If it continues at this rate then I may well be nearer 30,000 page views a month by the end of the year.
Some of that traffic is coming from YouTube but most of it is from Google search. Over the years I have tried to learn more and more about SEO and keyword research and it looks like that is finally paying off.
However, if Google does change its search engine in favour of an AI chatbot in the near future then that traffic could drop drastically. I will still continue writing as I enjoy doing it even if not many people see my posts.
So how much do I earn from my blog?
The income from my blog comes from 3 places:
I used to have Google Adsense on my blog but I only made around $0.03 a day. I could have made more if I filled my blog with adverts, which I did try once but I didn’t like how it looked.
Given it is mostly developers who go on my website, we are pretty good at ignoring adverts or blocking them completely.
I now use EthicalAds which is specifically for developers. The main reason for choosing EthicalAds was because they are privacy-focused. They don’t spy on the visitors like the other ad networks do.
I only have to show one advert and at least it is relevant to those visiting my website. Some of the adverts are for non-profit projects as well which I don’t get any money for but at least it is for a good cause.
So last month, with 16k page views I earned $14.46. In fact, because I have only used this ad network since February it hasn’t reached the payout threshold of $50 yet.
This would be higher but because most developers use ad-blocking only 10k page views are counted. I also have a lot of traffic from India, which doesn’t pay as much as traffic from the US.
If you want to try EthicalAds you will need to have at least 10,000 page views a month to be eligible.
For those using the Brave Browser, I also signed up for their Brave Rewards program and they send me around 60p each month which is about $0.75.
On top of the ad revenue, I occasionally add affiliate links to my posts whether it be books that I have read or products I have used.
I mostly use the Amazon affiliate program which anyone can sign up for. You will see in my YouTube videos that I also have a few links in the description to books that have been helpful for me as well.
Generally, I make around $10 a month from Amazon affiliates but some of this will be from YouTube and not just my blog.
It is not a great amount but every little helps.
At the end of my blog posts, I also include a link to my Buy Me a Coffee page where people can donate money if they found my posts helpful.
In the last 3 years that I have had the page set up, I have had 3 people buy me a coffee which I am really grateful for so thank you if you are watching. That amounts to £12 ($15).
In total, my blog is earning me around $25 a month. Which is obviously not enough to pay the bills but considering I would write my blog anyway it is a nice addition.
I could increase my earnings by promoting more products and adding affiliate links everywhere but that doesn’t sit right with me. If I haven’t used the product myself I don’t feel right promoting it to my audience either.
Even though the website obviously doesn’t bring in much money it does help people find my YouTube channel and my newsletter which will hopefully bring in money in the future.
I would like to make some courses as well as write a book and my website will be a great help in promoting that as well.
If you still aren’t deterred about the lack of income and would like to start your own blog then there are a number of ways you can do that.
There are blogging platforms that are specifically for developers like Hashnode and dev.to. These are a great way to get started with online writing and increase the chances of your posts actually being read.
I would recommend blogging on your own domain though otherwise, you are just driving traffic to someone else’s business.
Hashnode offers this as an option as does Medium but you have to be a Medium member to have your own domain.
Ghost is another option, you can host Ghost yourself or pay for their cloud hosting platform. If you sign up for their hosting platform it doubles up as a newsletter as well but it can get quite costly if you have a lot of subscribers.
Another option is Substack which is a newsletter and blogging platform. It is completely free, supports custom domains (although this does cost $50) and they have a built-in discovery network. I use Substack for my weekly newsletter and it has been really good so far.
This is the route that I have taken. I have a slightly complicated setup with a custom-made Gatsby.js website hosted in an AWS S3 bucket with a Strapi CMS to store all my posts.
Personally, I wouldn’t go down this route to start with. One of the reasons I didn’t blog much in the early years was that I was spending too much time customising my website to get it to look exactly how I wanted it.
On top of that, you have to worry about performance and SEO which can take a long time to get right.
The main benefit of going down the static website route though is that it is the cheapest option if you want to self-host. You can host your website for free on GitHub Pages or do what I do and set it up on AWS. My AWS bill is $0.50 a month which is just the cost of the Route 53 hosted zone.
With a static website, you don’t need to worry about traffic spikes either as there is no database involved. When one of my posts got on the front page of Hacker News I had 10,000 people visit my website in a short period and it held up fine and didn’t cost me any extra.
In order to get my writing more exposure I then cross-post them to Hashnode, Dev.to and Medium. If you do this it is important to set the canonical link so that Google doesn’t rank their version over yours in the search results or mark it as duplicate content.
Dev.to has been especially good and I have had thousands of views and gained followers by cross-posting on their platform.
Whichever platform you choose I would recommend trying to build an email list. Having a large audience on social media or these other platforms is great but you don’t control the algorithm. Even if people love your content there is no guarantee that they will see all of your posts and there is always a chance the platform could kick you off as well and you would lose the audience you spent ages building up.
My newsletter stats show me that around 40 - 45% of the people subscribed to my newsletter read it each week. That is a lot more than the number of people who watch my videos or read my other posts. You don’t need a massive following if you have a decent email list.
You definitely don’t need a blog as a software developer but it can be a fun hobby with few added benefits on top.