Thursday, November 14, 2013

Make Money With Your Blog: How to Add a Tip Jar

Lots of people think making a living from a blog is easy. Just pick a topic you like, or that you know a lot about, and start writing articles. Pretty soon you'll be able to cut your day job down to part-time, and soon after that it's easy street thanks to the miracle of modern technology and the civilization-wide stretch of the Internet. For those of you humping your mattresses to this capitalism wet dream, allow me to throw some cold water on you.
The only thing smaller than this picture is your projected earnings.
For those having trouble reading this little image, it's a chart of the average earnings for readers over at ProBlogger. More than 50% of those bloggers earn $99 or less a month. Only about 14% of these bloggers (who I am using as a representative population) make enough money to pay their bills from blogging alone. What I'm trying to say is that having a blog, even a successful blog with a lot of traffic, doesn't necessarily guarantee you can quit your day job. This is especially true because if you are a blogger (like me) then you can't tell your readers to just go and click an ad (which I am not telling you to do) because that's where your paycheck comes from. What you can do though, is pass the hat.

Adding a Tip Jar to Your Blog

Take a look at the upper right side of your screen. Most people who read blogs tend to develop tunnel vision because all of the ads are off to the side, so you might have missed it. You see that big "Donate" button? That is yet another way that this blog puts money right into my pocket.

One of many.
If you're a blogger who wants to get more money out of your blog there's no reason not to install one of these buttons. At worst you waste a couple of minutes of your time. At best your devoted fan base will hand over cold, hard cash for you to write articles, draw a comic, make ridiculous videos, or do whatever it is you do that draws crowds of morbidly curious Morlocks from the bowels of the Internet.

Step One: PayPal

I'm going to assume everyone reading this, particularly my fellow freelancers, has a PayPal account. Log in, and when you get to the home page go to the Merchant Services button along the top of the page. Click that.

Step Two: Button Creation

Click the "Create Payment Buttons For Your Website" option. This will take you to a basic screen where you can select a "Donate" button just like the one this very blog boasts. Once you've created the button there will be a long list of code for you to use. Highlight and copy that code.

Step Three: Apply the Button

If you happen to have a BlogSpot blog then this is going to be easy. Go to your blog's Layout tab, and find a place where you can put a gadget. Click the section of your blog you want the button on, then scroll down the list of options. Choose the "HTML/JavaScript" button that allows you to use third party features. Paste your PayPal button's code into the next window, then click save. Name the button, and bam, you have a way to skip the middle man entirely!

So I'm Good Now, Right?

I wouldn't quit my day job, if I were you.
Depends on what you mean by good. If you have a readership of thousands who are willing to throw their pocket change at you every month, then it's entirely possible you're done with regular, offline employment for good. On the other hand if people aren't clicking ads on your blog, what makes you think they'll take the time to throw you so much as their two cents? Especially if you aren't following the basic formula to make money blogging I talked about here?

There are success stories about people, largely webcomic artists, whose fans were so eager for more strips and more stories that they paid for the artist to work at home full-time. There are also stories about young adult manuscripts that hit it big, and stories about husband/wife writing teams who paid off their mortgages by self-publishing smut. You know what you don't hear about, though? You don't hear about the years of effort those creative types put in to polish a product that readers wanted. You don't hear about all the networking that had to be done, all of the late nights and costly convention trips that were made. You don't hear about all the ground work that went into the huge success that, to hear the story, sounds like it happened overnight. Lastly for every one story you hear about where someone made it big I guarantee you there are hundreds, if not thousands, who are trying to pull the same trick. Odds are you, and I, are one of the latter instead of one of the former. So rather than using gimmicks, or begging for readers to drop a nickel in your cup, it's a much better idea to create solid, evergreen, actionable content that people will find useful for years to come. Or to make cat videos. That usually works out pretty good, too.

As always, my thanks for dropping by and checking out the Literary Mercenary. It's your page views and commentary that keeps this blog going, so if you want to see me cover something don't hesitate to contact me and ask for it. If you'd like to follow me then pop on over to Facebook or Tumblr and hitch your wagon to my page. Also, if you happen to have two cents to spare, toss it through my donate window.


  1. Neal:

    Just went to PayPal and learned that the Donation button is specifically for non-profits. How did you deal with this?


  2. Debra,

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have re-read the text, and contacted PayPal's customer support. Hopefully I'll have a definite answer and/or corrections shortly.

  3. To answer your comment Debra, the Donate button is appropriate for any site not actually selling something. So while it is ideal for not-for-profits, it is also used for writers, musicians, videographers, etc. who are essentially passing the hat. Received confirmation from PayPal today.

    Thank you for commenting too. It lets me know people are reading.

  4. Thanks for looking into that! I was a little concerned when I read the description on the PayPal site also. I want to publish my short stories to a blog and collect donations for each one, I was wondering if it was possible and you've answered that well. Thanks again! :-)

  5. Here are some Pros and Cons of having a DoFollow Blog: TF blog comments