Creating and owning a website has never been easier. Thanks to WordPress and other free content management systems like Joomla and Drupal, anyone can start their own site in mere minutes. However, just having a website is usually not the end goal. Most website owners want to earn money with it in one form or another.
That’s not an impossible dream. Plenty of people make a living with WordPress websites.
Yet, while the goal clear, the means often aren’t. How do you monetize a WordPress site? How can you create a full-time income from a web entity?
In this article, I will try to answer those very question. We will talk about several ways to earn money from WordPress and introduce a number of plugins that help you do so.
Ready? Then wipe the dollar signs from your eyes and let’s dive right in.
Proven Ways and Plugins to Monetize WordPress Websites
Below are a number of ways you can earn money from your WordPress website. Depending on the nature of your site, some will be more fitting than others.
However, keep in mind that this is not an either/or deal. It is possible to use several ways at once to monetize your site and many people do. You just need to figure out what makes the most sense for your website.
1. Allow Advertisement
Including ads on their site is one of the first things most people think of when it comes to earning money online, especially bloggers.
Why? Because it’s easy. All you need to do is paste a piece of code in a widgetized area and your site will start to generate an endless stream of money.
At least in theory.
In reality, ads are not all they are cracked out to be and come with a lot of downsides.
First, they easily distract from your content and make your site look cheap and amateurish, especially if the ads are out of context (which is often not in your control). Plus, their goal is to take you audience away from your own site, which is the last thing you want.
In addition to that, the payout usually isn’t great. Especially with platforms like AdSense conversion rates are usually low (especially with many people using ad blockers these days) and the pay per click is meager. Therefore, this road usually only works for sites with massive traffic.
If you want to give advertising a try nonetheless, there are different methods to choose from:
- Sell ads directly — One method is to sell banner space for a fixed weekly or monthly fee to interested parties. Prices depend on your traffic and the ad placement. Nice and steady income if you can get it, however, finding advertisers is not always easy.
- Semi-directly — Sites like BuySellAds let you list your web property and interested parties can rent the ad space directly from there. Nice because you don’t have to find advertisers yourself.
- Contextual advertisement — The most well-known example of this is Google AdSense. Place a piece of code on your site and visitors will automatically see ads according to their search history. Easy to set up and automatic but you have little control over the ads. Brenda Barron has an article about how to set up AdSense for WordPress over at Elegant Themes. You can find more networks here.
- Video advertisement — A slightly different option to use AdSense is to open a YouTube account and post the videos on your site. If you can get them in front of enough eyeballs, you can cash in on the views.
Here are also a number of useful plugins to include advertisement on your site:
- AdRotate — Allows you to place ads on your site and manage them from the dashboard. Integrates with many different ad services, has monitoring functions, and a pro version with more features.
- WordPress Ad Widget — A simple way to show ads on your site. Just place it in any widget area, upload the ad and you are done.
- SAM Pro (Free Edition) — Manage your ads within WordPress. Add them to your site via widgets, shortcodes and functions. The plugin connects with Google DFP and there is a premium version with add-ons available.
2. Accept Donations
One of the simplest ways to monetize your WordPress site is to ask people to chip in. Especially in the early times of blogging, publishers would often have a “buy me coffee” button on their site.
While no longer as common, some people still do this and with great success. For example, Brain Pickings prominently ask for donations from readers who derive value from the site’s articles.
You can even make regular monthly donations like a subscription service. It seems to be working.
However, usually you should not expect to make a huge income from donations. However, with a large enough and loyal readership it can be a nice side income to cover server costs and the likes.
Useful plugins for this:
- Seamless Donations — Enables you to quickly set up donations via PayPal including repeat contributions. Comes with tracking, thank you emails and additional features.
- Smart Donations — Accept donations via PayPal and Stripe. Includes donation forms, result monitoring and a number of different donation options.
- Give — The big fish in the pond of WordPress donation plugins used by more than 10,000 websites. Give can hand entire fundraising campaigns and is therefore highly customizable and chock full of features.
3. Offer Services, Coaching, and Consulting
In order to earn money with WordPress you don’t necessarily need to monetize the site itself, but can also use it as a gateway to your service offer.
This works especially well for freelancers. They can use the blogging function to get their name out and display their portfolio in order to attract clients who will pay them by the hour.
Setup for this monetization tactic is super easy. Just create a new page on your site, write down what you can offer to clients and provide a way to get in touch with you. Round it off with some testimonials and your existing portfolio and you are good to go.
If you don’t know what services to offer, here are a few WordPress-related ideas:
- WordPress development — Can you write plugins, themes and entire WordPress websites? Then you have your job already carved out for you. WordPress development can pay well and you can do it from anywhere. Maintenance and support are other viable options.
- WordPress implementation — Or are you not a developer but still able to create custom websites? Then WordPress implementation might be more for you. With a deep knowledge of the WordPress platform, themes, plugins and some CSS and HTML, clients will happily pay you to create web presences for them.
- WordPress consulting — Even if you are not too technically inclined but pretty well-versed in WordPress, you might be able to each and train others to get more out of their websites.
- Website setup — This is a job even beginners can do. There are enough people who need help setting up their websites, installing themes and plugins and configuring the basics. If you have an affiliate account for a hosting provider, you might even get paid for bringing in new customers.
- Content writing — Another way to earn money with WordPress is to write about it. If you have the skills to sum up information in a concise way, people will be happy to pay you to share your knowledge. Your own site is perfect as a portfolio and proving ground.
Of course, your service offer can also be something non-WordPress related like graphic design, SEO, social media marketing or an entirely different area such as life coaching or woodworking.
If you can find clients, offering services is one of the easiest ways to start monetizing your WordPress website.
- Portfolio by BestWebSoft — Quickly create a dedicated portfolio page with screenshots, descriptions and addresses. Also lets you display portfolio items anywhere on your site via shortcode.
- WP Portfolio — More suitable for web designers and developers this plugin generates a gallery from websites you have created and lets you add more infos about each project.
- Testimonials Widget — A plugin to insert testimonials anywhere. Use quotes, images, text and more, order them however you want and choose from different display options.
- Easy Testimonials — This one can add testimonials to your sidebar, pages or posts and offers many ways to display them. A pro version is available.
One last thing, if your plan is to go the service route, you might also want to look into portfolio themes.
4. Publish Sponsored Posts and Articles
In the beginning, many people create content on their website for free to attract visitors. After all, why would anyone pay you to write on your own website? Good question.
However, once your site is established and has enough authority, you will see that others will in fact like to do so.
With a well-going site, it’s not uncommon to be approached to write about other people’s products and services or link to their site.
Some will even offer to write posts themselves and only pay you to publish them. Additional content and cash, what’s not to love?
Plus, you don’t need much to get started. Just post that you accept sponsored articles on your site and state your policy about it. If you are serious, you might even sign up to one of the many sponsored post networks.
However, you need to make sure that you don’t overdo it and that the accepted content fits your quality standards. Otherwise you might hurt your site’s reputation.
There are even WordPress plugins to create front-end submission form for guest posts like Really Simple Guest Post Plugin.
For more on the topic of sponsored posts for bloggers, check this excellent article.
5. Start an Online Shop
Commerce is one of the oldest ways for humans to exchange goods.
The Internet has not changed this, but has created an ecosystem which makes it even easier. No need to set up a brick-and-mortar shop somewhere, today anyone with online access can now open their own venture and start selling to worldwide clients quickly.
The best thing: if you offer digital products (ebooks, software, videos, etc.), you don’t even need to purchase inventory. Of course, you can also sell physical products if you want.
An online shop is a great way to monetize your WordPress site and can either be set up as a standalone entity or enhance your content-centered website.
Useful plugins for WordPress online shops:
- WooCommerce — The leading WordPress e-commerce solution. Check out our beginner’s guide for more information. Can also be used to create online courses with an addon.
- Easy Digital Downloads — A plugin specifically made for selling digital products. It’s packed with features and free as the basic version with premium addons available.
- iThemes Exchange — Another plugin for creating online shops by one of the leading WordPress companies. Exchange can sell both digital and physical products and has addons for subscriptions and memberships.
- CoursePress — Use CoursePress to create online courses (both free and paid), create quizzes, video lessons, discussion boards and more. Additional features in the pro version.
- Pressbooks — A very innovative plugin that can be used to create ebooks from WordPress websites in many different formats. Great way to utilize existing content.
6. Create and Sell WordPress Themes and Plugins
Since we are talking about products: why not sell WordPress plugins and themes?
The WordPress environment has become a lucrative market and there are multiple WordPress companies with six-figure revenues and beyond.
Since themes and plugins are digital products, you have very little overhead. However, the effort involved in creating such a business is not necessarily small.
The hardest thing is to find something people really want. If you can solve real-life problems, people will happily pay for your solution.
On the other hand, no amount of promoting your WordPress product can make up for a shoddy idea.
Yet, that’s only the first step. After that, need to build the actual product.
For that, you need to either be a developer or able to hire one. Plus, you need to be ready to maintain your product after publication.
However, once you have a product, you can easily sell it on your site via Easy Digital Downloads or one of the other e-commerce plugins above.
7. Set up Subscriptions and Memberships
I have already mentioned subscriptions and memberships. If done right, they can be a very lucrative way of monetizing your WordPress site.
The idea is simple: for a monthly or yearly fee users get access to something you have to offer on your site. This can be an online course, premium content, a forum, support or else.
In contrast to other content and downloadables, this is not a one-time thing but repeat income as users only have access as long as they pay. No surprise that this practice is becoming more and more popular.
Plugins that help you set it up:
- Membership 2 — Transform any WordPress website into a membership site. Control access to downloads, content, videos, forums, support and more. The plugin can handle recurring payments and everything else. A pro version is available.
- Ultimate Member — A free membership plugin with paid extensions. Great design and usability. Features include member directories, user profiles and more.
- MemberPress — A premium plugin for membership sites with a very good reputation. Offers content protection and drip content, coupons, members-only area, options for affiliate programs and more.
In addition to that, the above-mentioned iThemes Exchange and WooCommerce also offer add-ons for subscriptions and membership sites.
If you want to dive deeply into this topic, check out Chris Lema’s detailed membership plugin test.
8. Affiliate Marketing
A big focus of monetizing WordPress sites is on e-commerce sites and selling stuff. However, who said you need to sell things that you have created yourself?
It’s also possible to push other people’s products and get a cut of the profits, a practice that is called affiliate marketing.
One of the best-known examples of this business model on the net is Pat Flynn whose sites have earned millions in affiliate commissions.
Typically, to make this work, websites will publish product reviews that contain affiliate links. Other people also do banners or add affiliate links to their newsletter.
The advantage of this type of monetization is that payouts are usually higher than with ads, making it easier to generate significant income.
You can also decide by yourself what to recommend on your site and advertise things you actually care about. In fact, that is a good idea in general as readers can usually smell it from miles away when you are not genuine and only do it for the money.
However, one of the best ways is to check your favorite products and companies and see if they are offering an affiliate program (e.g. the makers of the Genesis framework).
That way, you can recommend your favorite products and even get money when someone buys it. Awesome, right?
In addition to that, a number of WordPress plugins will help you with your affiliate marketing:
- ThirstyAffiliates — Offers affiliate link management and helps inserting them into content. Also comes with link shortening/cloaking and many more features.
- Auto Affiliate Links — This plugin can automatically add affiliate links from Amazon, Clickbank, Envato and more providers to your content. For serious affiliate marketers only.
- Amazon Link Engine — Makes Amazon affiliate links international so that they work in every local Amazon store. However, it needs signup to the maker’s platform.
In addition to the plugins above, many of the e-commerce solutions above also offer modules for selling affiliate products that you might want to check out.
9. Create a Job Board or Business Directory
Our final way of earning money with your WordPress site is to turn your website into a business directory or job board.
One of the best known working examples of this monetization tactic is the Problogger job board.
Posting a job there costs $50 for 30 days and new ads appear every day. I’ll let you have a look and calculate by yourself the amount of revenue this job board is generating.
To do a similar thing with your own site, here are a number of plugins that will help you do so:
- Business Directory Plugin — Build any type of directory, free or paid. The plugin supports recurring payments with different payment gateways, customizable form fields and lots more.
- WP Job Manager — Lets you add a job board to your WordPress site and manage everything from the WordPress backend. Automattic has their hands in it which should be an indicator for quality. However, you need a premium plugin to monetize listings.
There is also a premium alternative for job boards named WPJobBoard that I have heard good stuff about. However, if your sole goal is to create such a thing, you might be well served with a specialized theme of which you can find a list here.
So, is It Easy to Earn Money From WordPress?
Making money with a WordPress site is absolutely possible. In fact, it has never been easier, the tools to monetize WordPress sites are readily available.
As you have seen above, there are many ways to do so. Some are easier or more lucrative than others, however, all of them provide legitimate ways to earn an income through your site.
When deciding which way to go yourself, don’t forget that these methods don’t exclude each other. Many monetization techniques can (and should) be combined for maximum effect.
Just be sure to deliver what you promise and always put giving value to your users first. You will see, if you can create a resource that solves real problems for them, they will be happy to pay you for it.
Do you know any other ways to monetize WordPress sites? Anything to add to the above? Let us know in the comment section!