If you're reading this article, there's a 99% chance you have no idea who I am. And that's okay.
I've been blogging for half a dozen years, but I'm nowhere near famous. I'm barely a household name in my own house. 😉
But despite my lack of name recognition, blogging has benefited me tremendously. It's provided me with free trips, great paying freelance projects, and one $25,000 check.
Why am I tell you all of this? To make it clear that you can benefit from starting a blog. You don't have to be famous, special, or even smart.
With a bit of hard work and creativity, you can have fun, get free stuff, and even earn a bit of money on the side.
Yes, you can join me as a growing number of relatively obscure, yet somewhat successful “micro-influencers”. That is, people who have a small audience (perhaps a few thousand followers), but are still of interest to brands and advertisers.
Yes, blogging takes a bit of work. And you probably won't see much benefit for the first 6-12 months. However, once you figure it out, a casual blog on the side can be an incredibly fun, and effective, way to make extra money and get all kinds of free stuff.
I'll discuss the ins-and-outs of blogging in other articles. For now, I want to share some of the ways I've been able to leverage my blog for free stuff (and money).
Whether you've been blogging for a while, or have never written a blog post in your life, I hope you find this list beneficial in building up your own success story.
Here are 10 things I've been able to get for free as a blogger.
1. Free travel
The easiest way to receive free travel (and a great place to start if you don't have an audience) is by referring people to Airbnb.
If you share your Airbnb link and someone signs up, not only do they receive $40 off of their first stay, but you receive a $30 credit after they complete their first stay (and yes, those are my referral links there).
After you build up a bit of an audience, you can enjoy more extensive travel benefits.
One blog that I recently sold provided me with several free hotel stays and activities.
For example, when traveling Central America I contacted the Costa Rica tourism association. They connected us with multiple hotels and my wife and I enjoy several free nights of lodging and access to a hot springs! All in exchange for writing a blog post about the experience and sharing it across my social media accounts.
2. Free products
Personally, I have too much junk already — and don't find free products overly appealing. However, I have received a few free products in exchange for reviews and giveaways.
If you blog about fashion, parenting, sports, or another topic that is product-heavy, it doesn't take long to start receiving free stuff by the truckload.
Work up to about 1,000 followers on social media and a few hundred monthly visitors to your blog, and you can expect to start receiving products worth $10-50 for free (in exchange for a picture, video, and/or review). As your audience grows, the value of these products can increase as well.
3. Free meals and events
Despite being a very average blogger, I've been asked to participate in panels, give talks at conferences, and provide individuals and small businesses with marketing advice.
Each of these activities (thanks to my blog), have resulted in free access to events that may cost a few hundred dollars, along with free food! And who doesn't love free food?
With a decent following and the ability to pitch yourself as an expert, it's very possible to gain access to special events, attractions, and activities for free or at a discounted rate.
4. Free utilities (and other oddities)
There are many websites, products, and services that will reward you in exchange for referring other people.
I mentioned Airbnb above, but that's just the beginning. I've actually been able to save money on my electric bill and get a free Nest thermostat, through the Arcadia Power referral program. In short, Arcadia Power helps users track their power usage and lower their bill when possible — all for free! Arcadia Power will give you $25 off your next utility bill when you join their service, and they'll give you $5-25 for every person you refer.
I've received thousands of dollars worth of benefits from referral programs — and it's a very easy way to start benefiting from a blog.
5. Free books and courses (in exchange for reviews)
Personally, I love learning how to make, save, and invest money — and I've gained access to several thousand dollars worth of free books, ebooks, and courses in exchange for trying, reviewing, and promoting these products.
Not only has this allowed me to expand my own knowledge for free, but it's also helped me earn money! Most courses and books can be sold through an affiliate program, where I receive a percentage of each sale made.
For example, when i link to a book (or any other product) on Amazon, if someone clicks on my Amazon link, I'll earn about 4% of any purchase they make for the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, many courses will pay 20-40% commissions — which quickly add up when you're promoting a $200-500 course.
6. Free publicity for my content marketing and consulting services
Although I no longer actively seek clients, my blogs helped me bring in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue as an online marketing and branding consultant.
Between people contacting me directly, and being able to leverage my websites as proof of my capabilities, I've been able to charge as much as $250 for one-hour consulting calls (although these were never frequent enough to give me a full-time income). This is in addition to helping me land content marketing gigs with over 100 clients.
If you're a graphic designer, writer, consultant, therapist, accountant, etc., blogging is a great way to gain exposure and build up your client base.
7. Free publicity and negotiating power for my career
Being able to say no to a job is incredibly rewarding.
Blogging and the income it's helped me earn has allowed me to walk away from two jobs that turned out to be a terrible fit. When I realized the work wasn't right for me, I gave my two weeks notice and moved on, anxiety free!
My blog has even resulted in job offers and interviews I would not have received otherwise! Although none of these turned out to be a good fit for me, it's given me the flexibility to choose my employers, rather than waiting for them to choose me.
Ultimately, the financial freedom of having a side income provides you with a tremendous amount of autonomy and control over how your life ends up.
8. Tax write-offs with business expenses
Owning a business provides an amazing tax benefit — money you spend on the business is tax-free!
From the laptop and desk you use for your business, to the in-home office space, conferences, courses, and camera for your website pictures, there are many items you can count as business expenses — ultimately lowering your tax bill.
Now, don't push it. You still need to make sure you follow the law. One “blogger” attempted to write-off a 6 month Europe vacation as a business expense. Considering he hadn't made a single penny from his website, and his website was no longer online by the time the IRS audited him, he was unsuccessful at claiming the trip was all business.
So be careful, but recognize that there are many ways you can reduce your tax bill by deducting purchases made for your business.
9. Credit card reward points from business use
If you pay off your credit cards in full every month, credit cards are an incredible way to earn free travel. And you can use your blog to apply for business credit cards to earn additional points toward free travel.
My wife and I have been able to enjoy about $15,000 in free travel over our first 5 years of marriage, thanks to credit card points. Business credit cards, thanks to my blogging, have earned me about $5,000 of that free travel.
10. Free blog content (or sometimes even paid content)
As your blog grows in popularity, other bloggers and business will start reaching out with the request to guest post on your site.
Most of these requests are spammy and not worth paying attention to. However, you will occasionally receive requests from credible brands looking to gain exposure to your audience.
These guest posts are a great way to save yourself time by having someone else write content for you in exchange for a mention or link back to their website.
But here's where it gets even better — you can actually start charging for these guest posts! Although you want to carefully guard what you promote on your site, you can easily earn $50-200+ per guest post.
Bonus: You make money!
In addition to all of the free stuff you can get (as mentioned above), blogging can actually be very profitable.
Personally, I've made up to $2,000/month from a single website, while I've met bloggers who earn $100k+/month from their sites.
How do you make money from your site? At a high level (which is all we have time to get into in this article), you can earn money from:
- Affiliate advertising: Promoting brands in exchange for a commission for each sale you send their way.
- Sponsored content: Where brands pay you to mention their products and services on your blog, social media accounts, or other outlets.
- Selling a course: It takes a lot of work to build a course (and many of them flop). However, if you do it right, you can actually make significant money by selling a course to the right audience.
- Selling a product or service: From your freelancing services, to your Etsy products, selling items online is a great way to earn money from your audience.
Conclusion: You should start a blog
If you have some free time, a topic that interests you, and a desire to earn some extra money (or get freebies), then it's time to start a blog!
You only need to commit a few hours a week to get started. Then, if you discover you love it, you can invest more time and maybe even turn it into a full-time living.
If you're ready to get started, check out this page on how to start a blog.
It never hurts to try!