10 Ways to Monetize a Design Blog

I know many of the readers of DesignM.ag have their own design blogs, and others are looking to start their own in the near future. If this is the case, you’ll probably be interested in making some money through the blog to justify the time that you spend on it. In this post we’ll take a look at 10 opportunities that design bloggers have for monetization. Of course, you won’t be able to put them all into practice, so choose a few that appeal to you.


Probably the most common way to monetize a design blog right now is through ad revenue. Ads is highly dependent on traffic levels, the details of the audience, and the community that has been built around the site. Design blogs typically have a very focused target audience that is great for advertisers who are looking to reach this market, and there are plenty of products that are appropriate for advertising on design blogs.

The downside of advertisements is that they can be distracting to readers, depending on how they are used and where they are located. Most visitors now are perfectly comfortable with seeing ads on the site as long as they are kept out of locations that will make it more difficult to read the content.

The positive side of selling ad space is that it can produce significant revenue that essentially pays you to write posts for the blog. With some other types of monetization there is other work or time involved, but selling ads can require very little time, especially if you’re using a service like BuySellAds, although you will make slightly less money in exchange for that convenience.

For examples of design blogs that are monetized through ads, just take a look at about any design blog with decent traffic. Some examples are DesignM.ag, CSS-Tricks, Noupe, and Six Revisions.

Design Services

Many designers use their blog as a means to attract clients for their design services. A good design blog will get plenty of traffic, so you’ll have an easier time getting potential clients to the site through your blog posts than you would with just a portfolio site. This can be an extremely productive method for generating new leads, and you will have a better opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and build rapport with potential clients before they even contact you.

For examples of designers using blogs in this way, see David Airey and Chris Spooner.

Theme Sales

Premium themes are becoming increasing popular, and there are now more opportunities to earn income through theme sales. Some designers are selling themes through their blogs or using marketplaces like ThemeForest to handle the sales and simply sending visitors to their work at those marketplaces.

For an example of a design blog that is monetized in this manner, see the Loon Design blog. Kai Loon sells themes through ThemeForest and uses the top right area of the screen on the blog for linking to themes at ThemeForest.

Customization of Themes

If you’re selling premium themes through your blog, chances are some customers will be in need of services to customize the theme to fit their specific needs. While premium themes are usable out of the box, they may want some branding to be done to the site, such as a logo, or they may just want to get a more unique look built on the foundation of the theme. Providing these additional services can produce more income for you as the designer.

Premium Content Through Memberships

Some design blogs are able to provide a very high level of quality content that will justify charging readers. The membership model is being used in some cases to provide those readers who want more with extended content, while still providing free content for everyone.

In order to monetize a blog this way the content must be of the highest quality possible in order to draw interest and keep memberships on an ongoing basis. Additionally, free content should continue so that new visitors are led to the blog, which will help to increase the number that are converted into paying members.

For examples of design blogs that are currently using the membership model, see PSDTUTS and VECTORTUTS. Each charges $9 per month for additional high-level tutorials and exclusive resources.

Premium Content not Through Memberships

If you’re interested in selling premium content, the membership model isn’t your only option. You can also sell content, such as tutorials, individually. Rather than having memberships that are on-going, people could buy one tutorial if that’s all they want, or they could buy many.

For an example, see Vectordiary. There are a few premium tutorials for sale for $5 each.

Affiliate Programs

Many blogs that do not have enough traffic to sell ads directly will use affiliate programs instead. However, affiliate programs can also be used by larger blogs and they’ll provide an unlimited income potential that selling ads directly cannot. Good affiliate programs will provide you with banners or creatives, as well as stats on your sales and income.

Many hosting companies provide affiliate programs that are popular with design blogs. Another popular affiliate program designers currently is Go Media’s Arsenal.

Job Boards

Niche job boards can be an excellent resource for visitors and a great way to monetize your site as well. While there are plenty of major job boards and bidding sites for freelancers, a smaller niche design job board can be useful for readers. To run a profitable job board you don’t need to have hundreds of listings.

For examples of design blogs that are being monetized (at least partially) through a job board, see Smashing Magazine and Web Designer Wall.

Image/Vector Sales

Stock photography sites and stock vector sites provide marketplaces for designers to passively sell their own work. Most of these sites will only sell high-quality work that must be approved by their moderators, but you may be able to generate a passive residual income. Collis Ta’eed of recently wrote a post on Freelance Switch about how he continues to earn money through work he did in the past for iStockphoto.

If you’re interested in selling your design work through these marketplaces, you can promote them on your own blog to increase the number sold and to convert your blog traffic into some income.

Freelance Writing

While doing freelance writing for other design blogs will not directly monetize your own blog, it is a good way to capitalize on the work that you do for your own blog and on the reputation that you’re building. In this case you’ll use your own blog more as a platform or a springboard to freelance writing opportunities.

There are plenty of design-focused websites and blogs that are looking for articles and tutorials from freelance writers. If you’re interested in these opportunities, see Gain Some Exposure and Make Some Money by Writing for These Design Blogs, and also check out the comments as a few others have been mentioned.

What’s Your Experience?

How do you monetize your blog?

Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design. Connect with Stephen on google+