Are you a photographer looking to make money with blogging? There are several ways you can launch a WordPress Blog that will generate a full-time income, all while letting you own your own business and do something you love! While generating a full-time income with a blog will require some effort and preparation, it is an attainable goal, especially with the wide range of income streams that today’s business environment offers. In this guide, we’ll take a look at how your blog can generate money for you at almost any level of traffic with strategies like:
All of these strategies can be employed to complement your existing photography business revenue streams, including things like bookings, stock photography sales, and licensing your images. For more on how to sell photography online through other sites, consider checking out our guide dedicated to that topic here. If you’re looking for more information on how to launch a WordPress blog of your own and start making money with it, keep reading right here!
What is WordPress?
If you’re brand new to blogging, you might be wondering, “What is WordPress?” After all, it’s probably the first thing you see whenever you read any information about blogging online. WordPress is a tool that bloggers and web content creators of all types can use to quickly create and maintain websites of all kinds. While it got started as blog-focused software, it’s now used to create websites of all types, helping creators share a wide range of content. One thing to remember is that WordPress is more a foundation and framework to use when building a site. While you could create a website from scratch with it, thanks to WordPress’s massive userbase, there’s a wide variety of plugins, tools, templates, and resources available to create a website with.
One of the leading tools for creating a focused photography website in WordPress is NextGEN Pro. NextGEN Pro is a bundle of plugins that offers all the functionality you could want for building your photography website, letting you quickly set one up and start making money. Whether it’s the direct eCommerce features, print fulfillment, Stripe support, or digital downloads, this plugin covers it all. Using these tools, it’s easy to see how you can start selling your images from your site quickly and easily.
Before we start selling, however, we first have to look at how you’d set that site up. One of the first things you’ll need when setting up a website is a domain name. The domain name, like imagely.com, is a virtual “address,” telling visitors where your site’s information is located. Just like real addresses, these have to be unique, and for these domain names, you have to pay to register yours. Fortunately, this cost is just a few dollars a year and paying that fee guarantees that your site will have an easy way to be accessed into the future.
To get started, consider some of the names you’d want to use for your site. Perhaps you are already doing business under a name, like John Smith Photography - if your name is unique enough, you can probably snag the .com version of that name from a registrar (the company in charge of registering domain names) for just a few bucks. If you have a more common name or want a more general term, like NYC Photographer, someone may have already registered it. Buying an already registered domain name can be complex and expensive, so it’ll be outside the scope of this introductory guide.
Instead, consider registering an alternate or more creative version or considering other suffix options. While .com suffixes have been the gold standard for many years, particularly among consumers, trendy tech companies have made suffixes like .io more acceptable. What’s particularly fun about these alternate endings is the ability to integrate them creatively into your name: consider something like a photography portfolio written as “TomsPhotographyPortfol.io.”
New top-level domains, meaning that bit at the end like .com or .io, have also recently become available, including most notably .photography. With these being new, there’s a good chance your preferred name might be available there while it isn’t available in .com. The downside to these custom TLDs is that they can be more expensive to renew than the more pedestrian suffixes available.
If you have a domain name in mind, and it’s available, it’s easy to register it. Just choose a registrar, like Google Domains or Hover, select your name and pay the registration. Once you’ve got it purchased, you’ll have to come back one more time after setting up your hosting to pair the two services together, but this is very easy to do.
Along with an excellent domain name, you’ll also need some type of hosting for your site. To continue the metaphor that your domain name’s registration is like an address, hosting is like the building you put on your plot of land. If you’re looking to host a WordPress blog, hosting can be straightforward. Many hosting services offer packages designed specifically for hosting blogs, frequently with the settings already configured for you to add your site and start receiving visitors. WordPress itself provides some recommended hosting services, viewable here.
Different hosting packages can be differentiated by their features, speed, capacity, or the amount of help and support you get from the hoster, so make sure to check around and find the right mix of price and features for your needs. Keep in mind that you can move your website to a different host once you get things set up, but it’s not an easy process - spending a little extra time finding the right option for you now can save a lot of work down the road. Also, be aware of promotional pricing. A cheap rate for the first few months can balloon up to a higher cost down the road, forcing you back into moving your site or paying a much higher fee.
With those steps out of the way, let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits of setting up your site over going with an all-in-one product. There are various website creation services out there, and if you watch any YouTube videos, you’ve probably seen them sponsoring ads. While these ads make it seem like a great option, these services can suffer from a few problems. As already discussed in the hosting section, not controlling your costs can be a big problem. The first few months of setting up your site and building the initial content and user base can be slow from a revenue perspective, and dealing with ballooning costs can only make things feel worse. These problems can be even worse when your site has less “portability” - if you make a site on one of these services, odds are you can’t move it at all, unlike WordPress installs, which can be moved if necessary.
Additionally, these services often cost more every step of the way. While you can easily upgrade your hosting package with most WordPress hosts to accommodate a more significant site or more traffic, you often have to step up to a new level of plan with these other options. This might mean paying for features you don’t need or facing another increase in your bill.
Not being able to customize things even extends to the site's core functionality. They advertise that they are straightforward to set up, but that’s mainly because every setup is the same. While the sites can look cosmetically different thanks to different templates, you often can’t dig in and indeed tweak the site to your needs if that’s something you’re interested in. This can be important for some of our strategies for monetizing your site, where things like SEO and referral links can be much more optimized with complete control of your site.
Speaking of affiliate linking, that’s one of the easiest ways to get started making money with your web presence. Many websites and services offer affiliate linking, but for an easy example, we’ll look at one of the most common: Amazon. Amazon affiliate linking boils down to “When you send a visitor to Amazon, and they make a purchase, Amazon pays you some amount of money.” What’s great about this is that Amazon doesn’t care what they end up buying - if you were talking about a memory card. They end up buying a camera and lens, you can still get paid, and even better, you get paid a portion of the value of that camera, not just the original memory card.
Affiliate linking is one of the most common web monetization strategies, outside of just straight-up selling things, for a reason. It’s effortless to get started. You just have to register with your desired affiliate partner, like Amazon, and provide them some information about the site you’re planning on working from. This is often simple information like about how many visitors you receive, what the domain name is, and why people come to your site - the reason behind this is that the affiliate wants to know that you’re getting traffic legitimately, as, after all, you are representing their brand in some small way.
Another significant aspect of affiliate linking is that you aren’t limited to just one small application. Suppose you have a web presence on other platforms outside of your specific website, on something like YouTube. In that case, you can also use your affiliate links there, assuming you’ve correctly registered with the affiliate partner. This means you can monetize your viewers anywhere they engage with your content across the web, opening up multiple additional streams of revenue.
Lastly, affiliate linking benefits from what I like to call the snowball effect. When you imagine a snowball rolling downhill, it keeps picking up snow and getting bigger, and the same goes for affiliate linking. There can be a very positive cycle between growing your content, growing your affiliate revenue, and building new things. This is only amplified by the fact that most affiliate links will continue to make you money even after they have been posted for a while, assuming people are still clicking on them. This means that a blog post you created six months ago about what gear you bring on a photoshoot could still be generating income for you today.
Affiliate linking isn’t turn-key, however. One of the first requirements, which goes for every monetization strategy, is that you have to have an audience. The audience doesn’t have to be huge, but they do have to exist and engage with your content. Fortunately, even a tiny audience can start to add up - generating even a small sale or commission can feel great and motivate you to keep producing content.
Another challenge to affiliate linking is complying with the rules. These rules can come from many places. The affiliate partner, like Amazon, often has a whole set of rules about where you can place the links, the disclosures you have to mention alongside them, like “Make a purchase using this affiliate link, and I may receive a commission from the store”, and even what sort of content you can also display on the website you’re hosting the affiliate links at. All of these rules are in place to protect both their brand and the program, and violating them can not only get your payments eliminated but even get you kicked out of the program. Other rules may come from regulatory authorities you are subject to, including things like the FTC, so make sure you understand the legal requirements when operating your business.
A final challenge to the affiliate linking line of business is that you are beholden to your affiliate partner. They set the rules, they control the payouts, and you have to work out any issues with them. This means that they can do things like change the amount of money you receive, subject to your agreements with them. One day, the rate for commissions might be 4% but drop to 2% just a few months later. While these devaluations are less common, they can be hugely impactful to the amount of money you make from those links. A significant enough change could prompt you to look for a new partner, but this might negate the large backlog of valuable links that you’ve already created unless you’re willing to go back and change them.
Selling Your Images
If you’re looking for a more straightforward way to make money from your website, consider selling your images. Fortunately, tools that provide automated fulfillment can make this very easy. Automated fulfillment lets you sell prints, then passes that order information off to a professional lab that handles the printing, packing, and shipping for you.
The advantage of this setup is clear: your store is open 24/7, requires no work from you, and allows you to sell professional-quality prints to anyone the fulfillment service can ship to.
Beyond physical prints, you can also consider selling downloads - these feature an excellent profit margin, letting you drop your prices much lower than a comparable physical print, and can serve as a great way to start selling to customers.
Having this ability to serve a wide range of prices is essential because print sales (and digital sales) can be very slow to get started. Even established photographers can have a tough time finding an active enough market to sell their photography into, so don’t get discouraged. Instead, consider this a way to expand your business into some additional revenue streams.
Tutorials, Presets, and Training
This one might not be for everyone. If, however, you’re an established photographer in a unique niche, you can consider selling tutorials, presets, or training courses to other photographers. This is a more high-touch line of business than print sales, as you have to produce and market content, which can be very intensive. Furthermore, the potential market is significantly smaller, and your customer acquisition cost will be substantially higher (assuming you don’t already have a massive audience of other photographers).
Selling these products from your WordPress site can take a variety of different forms. Perhaps you offer access to a blog or series of educational videos or offer a purchasable download of Lightroom presets, but whichever method you choose, keep in mind that it can be challenging to compete with free content. Several photographers on platforms like YouTube produce and distribute this style of content for free. As a result, if you’re selling a product, you have to offer a significantly better user experience. This means being on top of customer service issues or tailoring instructional material to a particular audience.
Newsletters and Blog Subscriptions
The idea of a paid newsletter has started to come into everyday use with the rise of Platforms like Substack. With a blog, you can monetize your writing in a couple of ways: you could offer a subscription, a per article price, or even just a “donation jar” to accompany your work. While each of these approaches comes with its plusses and minuses, it costs you nothing to offer a way for your visitors to support you.
Building a sustainable revenue model for your WordPress blog isn’t an overnight business. Whichever combination of income streams you choose to pursue will take some work to set up and involve producing content, editing photos, writing entries, or producing products. Fortunately, all of these approaches can pay off in the long run, and they all work well together. As you build your WordPress blog’s backlog of content, your site will only become more valuable to both you and your visitors. So, check out some hosting options and get to building! With a bit of hard work, you can create a WordPress blog that will generate income for you. If you’re looking for an all-in-one WordPress plugin for your photography website, consider Imagely’s line of products. For more information on making money from your photography, make sure to follow our blog and social media for more tips and guides!