How to grow a successful blog with a full-time job (11 Tips)

town of Placencia, Belize

Beach accommodations in the town of Placencia, Belize.

Unless you have a trust fund, you gotta work.

The problem is, work gets in the way of stuff like blogging.

If you’re single, you can probably get by working part-time unless saddled with school loans.  Or, you can dedicate all of your spare time outside of work, which is great.

But if you have a family, where do you get the time to start a blog?

It’s not easy.

I was full time by the time our first son was born.  Even then, it was tough getting started while working full time before kids.

I would wake up at 4 or 5 am on weekdays, do a bit after work (I worked long hours) and then blog on weekends.

If you have kids, weekends are busy; you have even less time.

The other problem is if you have a family, your blog needs to earn some serious money in order to quit a job. Kids aren’t cheap.

My Highest Earning Ad Network

What can you do?

First of all, don’t up-and-quit your job prematurely.

Don’t assume you can make it successful in 60 days and therefore quit your job as you get started.  Unless you have a lot of money saved up (and I mean a lot of money), the reality is it is nearly impossible to build a high cash flow website in 60 days.  It takes much longer than that.

Moreover, do it part-time to see if you like publishing a niche site or a blog.  It isn’t for everyone.  I’ve had many people interested in what I do.  I show them the ropes and it turns out they’re not interested. They have good jobs and the work involved building a blog isn’t what they want to do; their current job/career is a better fit for them.  Yes, publishing websites and blogging involves a lot of work – some of it is very tedious.

If you’ve done it part-time or dabbled and are certain it’s something you enjoy doing but still need monthly income, here are some ideas on how to build your blog while working a full-time job.

1. Be patient – take a long-term view

This could be the worst information you read or it might help.  Disregard if you disagree.

One option would be to lower your expectations and ramp up your patience.  Instead of thinking you need to quit your job in 2 years, shoot for 5 years or longer.  This mindset adjustment takes the pressure off.  Or, maybe you have no intention of quitting your job and plan on blogging part time because it’s fun and the extra money helps.  This is perfectly fine as well; there’s no rule that says you need to blog full time.  Many successful websites are fun by people who have a separate career.

Take it slow and steady.  Focus on quality.  Endeavor to build up a solid cash-generating asset.  Do it right.

If it means publishing 3 articles per month, so be it.  Make them good.

If you have kids, maybe you need to push it back a few years and plan for it to be an empty nest career.  I have young kids and I enjoy spending time with them.  They enjoy time with me.  I don’t think I’d put every extra hour outside of a full-time job into building a blog unless circumstances were dire.  For example, if I were laid off and couldn’t find a job I’d start selling writing services or something similar online.  In that case, you do what you gotta do.  However, if I had a reasonably good job, even if not a dream job, I’d stick with it until my kids were older.  It’s only a few years until they prefer spending time with their friends and then leave the house.  That’s my view of it and yes, it’s easy for me to say that I am able to publish websites full time.

Time outlook is interesting and for me has changed over the years.  When I was younger (in my 20’s), a few years seemed like such a long time.  I was very impatient.  I wanted a career ASAP.  Now that I’m in my 40’s with kids, 5 years doesn’t seem that long.  I’m perfectly happy putting things I enjoy on the backburner for 5 to 10 years.  For example, my wife and enjoy traveling, but a European trip or exciting jaunt in Asia with a 3-year-old isn’t the best vacation option.  When he’s 12, he’ll probably be more into it.  If not then, beyond that.  I don’t mind waiting.  In the meantime, our vacations are short road trips, camping trips and/or places that offer plenty of things for kids to do.

2. Save and invest in your blog

If you have a decent paying job and you can save up money each month to invest in your blog, it’s one way to speed up the process.  You might be short on time, but you may have money to invest.

IMPORTANT:  You need to carefully consider whether investing your hard-earned money in a blog is the best thing for your family.  It’s risky.  You could end up sinking thousands of dollars into content, software and services only for it end up going nowhere.  There’s no guarantee in this line of work.

On the flip side, you might invest $15,000 over the course of a year or two and end up with a $5,000+ per month cash cow making the $15K invested a great investment.

The point is don’t just blindly throw money at a blog, especially if you have dependents.

Should you buy a website with established revenue?

This is a very difficult question to answer.  Suppose you have a job that pays $60,000 per year and you’ve saved $200,000 or can get $200,000 via house equity, retirement funds, etc.

A $200,000 site will earn approximately $6,500 net income per month, which is enough to replace your current income.  However, you will deplete your hard-earned savings, or borrow the money, which is even worse.

I am not going to tell you that this is a good or bad idea.  It is up to you.  It’s risky.  But the upside could be very good.

If you buy a solid website that you are able to grow, not only will your net income grow, but so too will the value of the site.  That means the $200,000 is a good investment.

However, you could buy the site and either you are not able to run it well or something bad happens such as a main traffic source drying up.  You will not only end up with much less monthly income but your $200,000 will be gone too.  If you borrowed the money, you still have to pay it back. It could be catastrophic.

FYI, I would not borrow money to start/buy an online business.  It’s too risky.  I would invest money I have, but I would not borrow money.  Likewise, I do not borrow money to invest in stocks, but I invest in stocks with money I save.

If you’re single with no dependents, you can take on more risk.  If you have kids, it’s a much bigger risk.

Of course, people buy established businesses all the time or invest in start-ups putting up all their savings, home equity, retirement savings etc.  For some people, it works out (they turn out entrepreneurial heroes).  For many, it doesn’t work out and can be a financial setback from which they never recover.

3. Focus on one project only

I’m stretched building up 8 websites.  I’m doing it to grow my business and for the challenge.  I’m having fun trying to get newer sites off the ground.  But I do this full time and outsource work.

If you’re working full time, you have limited time and probably limited funds.

That means you need to focus on one project only.  Get that one project earning at maximum capacity first.

If you try juggling too much without enough resources to throw at it, you’ll end up with multiple money-sucking projects.

Of course, an exception is if you have a high-paying job and don’t mind investing $5K per month into your blogs.  But most folks don’t make that kind of money.  Those who do are usually very happy with their career and focus on that.  After all, if you make enough where you have an extra $5K per month to invest, that’s doing pretty well.

4. Choose a niche you know well

A tip for growing a successful blog faster is choosing a niche that you know well.  Assuming it’s a good niche, this can save you time researching and money on writers.

For example, if you can apply what you know from your job/career into a blog, do it.  I know it may not be what you’re most interested in, but you will have a level of expertise that will result in good, informative content faster.

If your vocation, job or career isn’t fodder for a good blog, is there anything else you know well such as a hobby or some other interest?

If there’s nothing, then choose something you may become interested in so that you are motivated to delving into the topic for a few years.

5. Avoid shortcuts

I used to take shortcuts and it’s hurt me more than it’s helped me.  Moreover, shortcuts, especially SEO shortcuts used to be very, very effective (pre-2012).  Of course, the first Google Penguin update resulted in a slaughter.  Since then, I’ve avoided shortcuts and it’s worked out well.  I’ve slowly built up a few decent blogs that have consistently grown.

What are shortcuts?

Primarily, I’m talking about building lousy links to your site to rank in search engines faster.  It’s not worth it.  It might work in the short run, but you could end up putting a lot of time and/or money into a website only to have it suffer a Google search penalty after a year or two.

6. Focus on the most important tasks

People who do this full time with one blog have the luxury to do everything humanly possible to expand their exposure and spend time on little tweaks that may or may not help.

People with very little time need to focus on the very most important tasks.

What are the most important tasks?

They are the tasks that generate 80% of results.  For traffic, it’s the traffic source that generates 80% of your traffic.  For revenue, it’s the monetization model that generates 80% of the revenue.  For example, if you’re going along and notice that whenever you promote something via email you generate a nice chunk of revenue, perhaps focus on growing your email newsletter.

On the flip side, if no matter what mail out results in no or little revenue, but your blog generates solid display ad revenue, focus on growing your blog’s traffic.

Avoid jumping around trying different things.  As soon as something is working, do that.

Another example, is be judicous about keywords you target and topics you cover.  You likely can’t publish 3 articles per day.  Therefore, focus on articles that have the best chance of generating the best return.  I have the luxury to publish content that may not be the most lucrative, but it still adds to the bottom line.  However, if I could only publish 4 articles per month, I’d pick and choose very carefully.

How can you find out what works when just starting?

This is easy.  Look at the bigger players in your niche.  What are their main traffic sources?  How are they monetizing?  Get on their email lists and see what they do.  If they don’t offer an email sign up, that’s something to take note of as well.  Do they have display ads?  Which networks.  Do they promote with affiliate links?  Which merchants.

Check Similarweb to see what their main traffic sources are.

It doesn’t take long when assessing the big players in your niche as to their best traffic sources and revenue model.

7. Reduce your cost of living

If you’re single or in a relationship with no kids, this is more feasible.  You can reduce your cost of living by moving to lower-cost-of-living countries.  In fact, if you sell services online and are able to get steady work, you can easily afford to live in many countries and live quite well.

Another benefit of a lower cost of living is you don’t have to get your website earning so much to do it full time.  There are many countries where you can live off $2,000 USD per month very comfortably.  $2,000 doesn’t go far in the USA or Canada.  Frankly, hitting $2,000 per month is very doable in a couple of years.  It’s hitting $10K per month that takes longer – and $10K is how much you need to make in many US cities and other Western countries in order to pay the bills.

What if you have kids?

That’s your call.  Plenty of people move to lower-cost countries with kids.  It’s a lifestyle decision.  It can be a very good decision for you and your family.  In many ways, it’s an attractive option.  Kids discover a new culture and enjoy a different way of life growing up.

It’s a decision you and your partner would need to consider carefully.  We stick around Vancouver (very expensive) because most of our family lives here.  I like the city as well.  However, even moving to the Midwest in the USA (i.e. Michigan) or the east coast of Canada would dramatically reduce our cost of living. That said, one benefit of staying in Canada is most online revenue is generated in USD.  Since the Canadian dollar is almost always 20% to 30% less than USD, the conversion to CAD results in a nice little bump.  Then again, taxes in Canada are higher, so it’s probably a wash.

Which brings up another point, there are lower cost places to live in the USA (or Canada for that matter).  If you’re living in San Francisco but can get a similar job in the Midwest or the South (away from the coast), you can cut your cost of living significantly.

8. Team up with your partner

There are many successful websites and blogs that are a result of a joint effort between spouses or partners.  If you’re both keen on this as a business, it can speed things up because there are two people contributing.  Even if you both work full time, you can split the work up.

Or, if you can pay all the bills from one person working, the other person can focus on the website.  This is a joint decision, of course.  This is a good option even if there are kids in the picture.  Once kids are in school, there’s more time available for at least one person to work on the site.  In time, when the site is a success, both people can work on it.

It’s also a good arrangement because with both parents on-board, parents can alternate working on the site evenings and weekends while the other parent takes care of/ hangs out with the kids.  Many parents work shift jobs that are opposite of one another; this would be like that.

What if your partner thinks blogging is a total waste of time or money and that you shouldn’t do it?

This is foreign territory for me.  I’m very fortunate because my wife supported me 100% from day one and still does.  She understood the business model immediately and never thought it a waste of time.

However, not all partners take this view.   I believe it would be very difficult if you have a partner who doesn’t want you to put time and/or money into such a project.

If this is your situation, without ever having been in it myself, here are some ideas to deal with it.

  • Treat it as a hobby:  Treat it like a hobby for the time being, just as you would if you play hockey a few times per week or read novels or build model trains.  It’s something you do on the side for fun.  You may not be able to devote as much time to it as you’d like, but you can get started with the hope that once you did start earning decent money, your partner will come around to understanding it could be a good business.
  • Come up with an arrangement:  Explain that it’s something you really want to do and that you won’t risk the family’s financial situation on it, but would like to be able to invest $X amount for the basics and be able to have some time each week to pursue it.  Suggest that if it’s going nowhere in 18 months that you’ll ease off the gas.  Your hope, of course, is that it’s generating a few hundred dollars per month in 18 months so that it at least pays for itself and then some.  That way you can continue it on the side, slowly growing it until the revenue is undeniably worth the pursuit to your partner.

9. Be objective about your results

Some people have fast success online while other people take a long time.  I fell somewhere in between.  It took me a little while to get going, longer than I thought it would.  It was frustrating.  I didn’t quit though because I really wanted it.

However, if you’ve been at it for a few years and are getting nowhere, you need to objectively assess whether you are doing a good job.  This is very hard to do because chances are you’ve put in a lot of time by this point.

While my growth was slow, things did grow so that was justification enough to keep going.  However, if after 5 years I was earning nothing, I would have concluded it wasn’t for me.

I can’t say when you should quit, change direction or whether you should.  It may take 5 years for any traction to take place, which is fine.  It also depends how much time you can dedicate to blogging.  If it’s very little, perhaps plugging away for 7  years okay because it’s a hobby you enjoy.  In this case, keep at it.  I would.

The point I want to make is if things aren’t progressing, you need to objectively assess whether you’re doing things right.  Compare your site with other successful websites in your niche.  Is yours better or is it just mediocre?

If you’re not producing something all that good, you need to figure out how to fix it, or treat it as a hobby or change direction.

10. Should/when to quit your job?

This is something I cannot advise.  Every situation is unique.  There are many considerations.

If you have a low-paying job with no real opportunity to advance, then once your blog is earning decent revenue, there’s not much lost opportunity quitting a dead-end job.

However, if you have a full-blown, high paying career, there is more to lose.  You may lose out on a pension (a huge consideration).  You may lose out on advancement that could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars (or millions).  You may forego stock options.  The opportunity cost can be very high.

I was 5 years into a profession when I went full time online.  I didn’t have a pension, so that wasn’t a consideration.  However, I did forego honing my professional skills which result in higher earnings in the long run.

That said, I continue paying annual fees to remain a non-practicing member in my profession so that in the event I need to return, I can without too many barriers.

I switched online full time when my online revenue was about 50% higher than my salary.  I can’t say that’s a measure you should use.  Some people wait even longer.

The best approach is to be prudent and to carefully consider every aspect of the decision including worst-case scenarios.  You need to ask yourself what you can do in the event do quit your job/career and your online business doesn’t work out.  What will you do then?  Will you have options?

11. Consider selling services to earn money online faster

If you have a job you absolutely hate and/or pays very little, one fast way to get money coming in online is to sell services, whether writing services, graphic design, outreach, etc.  If you do a good job, it won’t take long until you can charge reasonable rates on Upwork and/or Fiverr.

Once you have steady money coming in, you can quit your job and split your time between selling services and growing your blog.

Or, you can keep your job, moonlight selling services and use the extra money to invest in growing your blog.

While writing doesn’t pay as much as it did pre-internet, there are more writing opportunities.  Pre-internet, you needed to be exceptional to carve out a career as a writer since you had to get published in a print magazine or get a book published.  These days, the demand for writing is astronomical.  If you’re an okay writer, you can get work.  It won’t pay $.10 per word, but it can pay $.03 per word.  It’s not hard to earn an extra $30 to $50 per day as a writer.  As your writing improves, you can command more per word.  There are many writing agencies and services that charge $.072 to $.10 per word for high-quality content.  That means a 1,000 words will fetch $72 to $100.  If you freelance, you get all of that.  If you work for an agency, you’ll get 65% to 70% of it.

I know if I wrote full time, I could produce 4,000 words per day (probably more, but I’ll keep it a conservative estimate).  At $.072 per word that would be $288 per day as a freelancer or $187.20 via an agency such as Textbroker.  That would be $936 to $1,440 per 5-day week ($3,744 to $5,760 per month or $44,928 to $69,120 per year).

Please keep in mind, unless you’re a great writer, it may take a little while to work up to $.072 per word, but once there, as you can see, you can earn an okay living.

Take selling services to the next level…

If you freelance and end up with more work than you can handle, you can hire writers to fulfill orders for you.  You would need to vet the work carefully so that your clients are happy, but many huge content agencies started out this way.   Not only can you earn money from your time, but you leverage your reputation by bringing on more writers.

Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman
My Highest Earning Ad Network

What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • Elle Nad says:

    I have one question. I started my blog. it base on entertainment meaning tv shows and Movies around October this year. I can say it like two month and half blog. I got approve by ad sense around 23rd November. I got few dollars till today but one question to make more than 10 to 50 dollars per day do your blog needs to have more than six month or a year to make that amount of money or what. I have traffic mostly from us. Till today without buying i have achieved more than 99700 visitors in my blog. I hope you will answer me on this my page rpm is 2to3 it ranges there and cpc is always around 0.61 is it okay or i need to change something

    • Jon says:

      Hey Elle,

      Your niche won’t earn all that much per 1,000 visitors. You need a lot of daily visitors, but you’re in a niche where getting 30K+ daily visitors is totally doable if you put out good content. As for a timeline, that’s impossible to say. It all depends on your content, keyword research and how much content you publish each week.

  • DAN says:

    You are candid and right on Jon with your article here, as usual. I’m finding the minimum 5 year plan to be most realistic. The passive income sales pitch is a joke, currently. There are just too many changes with Google and Amazon for me to feel comfortable starting a successful affiliate or ad-network website.

    I had to start over again with a new niche choice after Amazon changed their commission structure. Even just dealing with WordPress aka Gutenburg, current page builder pros and cons and the evolution of themes coming and going takes time to fathom.

    Does one choose Seo Yoast or Seo Press plug ins. The great SEO Yoast has supposedly pulled features out of its free version. These are examples of time consuming research and decisions for an optimal website.

    Another similar example is Wordfence vs Ithemes. Its almost like you are climbing a mountain, and you get halfway up the mountain. Suddenly the mountain seems to get taller so you are now 1/3 of the way there.

    I can’t give up. I have come too far and my other skills have diminished with age. I do like the challenge, so I am comfortable adapting to a new, longer time frame for success. Such is life, at least in the affiliate marketing world Nice article Jon!

    • Jon says:

      Hey Dan,

      Yeah, it’s not easy, but until you’re making some good money, I wouldn’t get bogged down with small details such as your theme choice and whether Yoast is okay to use. I use free Yoast on several sites and it’s fine. All of the hassles you mention are total distractions. Don’t sweat that stuff. Focus on good content and good keyword research. If you’re a link builder, focus on building good links. That’s it. That’s the stuff that makes money.

      • DAN says:

        OK Jon, I’ll try.

        Its just you run into all these specialized gurus on the internet and you want to learn from them. Example, if I wanted to learn facebook advertising or paid traffic, you are the guy to read. I comb youtube on various subjects and you bump into a guy like Adam at WPcrafter.com who has a million videos on wordpress strategies.

        When I joined the Thrivemembership lately because of the videos that Shane produces and the conversion tactics thrive uses, I knew that if I used the affiliate link for wpcrafter.com to join Thrivemembership, I get a free $300 in courses on wordpress from security to use of thrive architect and did the same with astra theme course he teaches. He tests Yoast and SeoPress and says well the second one is now better than Yoast because…………Well you take his word for it since he is a bonafide expert in wordpress.

        Its the trap where you want to do everthing right now instead of going back to correct later where a mistake can cost you. Just like I recently learned that using silos is a strategic way to avoid the sandbox for a new website with strategic link juice strategies. It’s not getting any simpler and I just fall for the bait.

        Same reason I read your blog ,since you offer value. Oh ,what is that you have blog post today, “alternatives to Ahrefs”:, hmmm saving $200 per month! You know I’m going to check it out. Just my experience here. I guess I prefer to be quite detailed. Anyone else here experience similar?

        • Jon says:

          Hey Dan,

          The thing is, who has time to watch a million videos on WordPress strategies. I have one strategy and that is to publish as much excellent content and get it ranking and earning as fast as possible. That’s my driving focus every single day. I seldom buy courses and when I do I rip through them in minutes looking for the one or two nuggets that is a new idea. If I get that much from a course, I’m happy. I don’t bother with anything from Thrive except Thrive Leads for opt in forms and thrive Architect for the few landing pages I need (i.e. email sign up pages). Otherwise, all that customization is a waste of time unless you set up some great templates that speed up your publishing.

          By all means watch videos and learn from a variety of people, but at some point you know enough to dig in and build up a site to $25K per month simply by publishing great content based on excellent KW research and/or link building or whatever your chosen traffic methods may be.

          One area I probably waste too much time on is testing ad revenue options – different configurations and networks. I’m obsessed with squeezing out a few bucks from existing traffic, but I have wasted days doing this. On the plus side, I do pretty good with display ads because I have tinkered so much. Otherwise, I’m all about publishing content every single day.

  • >