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Is Blogging Income Really Passive Income?

{ 76 comments }

Is Blogging Income Really Passive Income?Hey, readers. I need your help today. Please vote on the poll at the end of this post. My question is this – should I consider blogging income as passive income? In 2017, we are very close to being able to cover 100% of our expenses with our passive income, but we’re not quite there yet. I don’t count blogging income as passive income at the moment. If I count blogging income, then we’re there. I’d like your opinion on how I should count blogging income. Blogging isn’t really passive, but the income is. It’s somewhat difficult to categorize.

See how we generate passive income in 2017.

Blogging is not passive

Truthfully, blogging is a lot of work for me. I spend 20-30 hours per week writing and maintaining ossite. It’s definitely not passive. Here is what I’m doing every week to keep this blog going.

  • Write 2 blog posts – Each blog post can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours of work. I need to research, write, edit (by Mrs. RB40), create graphics, schedule it, and make sure it publishes on schedule.
  • Interact with readers and other bloggers – I respond to comments, do social media stuff, and visit other blogs. I really enjoy this part of blogging, but it takes a lot of time.
  • Back end stuff – I make sure the site is running smoothly, upgrade plugins, deal with security issues, monitor performance, and more. This part usually doesn’t take that much time unless there is a problem or big update. I haven’t had much of a problem since we moved to SiteGround and I highly recommend them.
  • Respond to mails, interview requests, and networking – I get lots of emails every day and I’m pretty slow with the responses. Sorry!
  • Work with advertisers – I changed advertising networks last year and signed on with some new advertisers last year and that was some work. This year, I didn’t have to spend much time on this part of blogging because everything is settled.
  • Etc…

This aspect of maintaining a blog is different for every blogger. Some bloggers post just once per month and they don’t have to do much work on their sites. Other bloggers have a coaching business on the side or products such as books or courses. Some blogs hire out everything and the owner just have to manage the people. I’m not sure if that’s more passive or not. I guess it depends on how good you are at finding good help and managing people. There are many different approaches to making money online.

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, see my guide – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should.

Blogging income is somewhat passive

On the other hand, blogging income is somewhat passive. We’re in Hawaii this week and the blogging income should keep rolling in. I’ll check the site once in a while, but I’ll log just a few hours this week. One week off won’t make any difference in the income especially since I have the posts scheduled. One week is just too short to make a difference.

I generate all of my online income through advertising and that’s passive. As long as the traffic is stable, the blog should continue to generate income. The real test will come in a few years when we take a year off from retirement to travel around the world. (It’s going to be hard work to “road school” our kid.) I plan to post twice per week, one post about travel and one refresh/rework of an older article. One year is a long time and I’m not sure how traffic will be affected by this change. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Eventually, I’ll have to stop blogging altogether. Don’t worry, it won’t be anytime soon. I still enjoy blogging, but I just don’t see myself blogging when I’m 70. That’s 27 years away so we have plenty of time left. I really don’t know what will happen to our traffic if I stop blogging completely and just repost old articles. I suspect the traffic will slowly drop and stabilize at some point. If you have firsthand experience, I’d love to hear about it. My optimistic guess is that traffic will eventually drop to 50% of the current level.

That’s why I think blogging income is about 50% passive. What if I consider 50% of my blogging income passive next year? Our FI ratio* will look great then. We’ll be over 100% by a good margin. That might convince Mrs. RB40 to retire earlier than her 2020 goal.

FI ratio = passive income / expense

Vote here

What do you think?

Is blogging income passive income?

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*Update* You need to see Stockbeard’s comment below. He shared his experience on trying to make a site more passive. Traffic really dropped if you don’t add new content. Just search for Stockbeard.

Alright, it’s a short one today because we’re traveling today. We’ll probably be in Waikiki by the time you read this. I’ll take some pictures and share our trip with you next week. I love Hawaii and would love to retire there for a few years. It’s just so expensive, though.

Let me know if you have a favorite restaurant in Waikiki. We’ll probably spend most of our time on the beach so we’ll have time to check it out. Have a great week!

{ 76 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako September 18, 2017, 12:48 am

    As a blogger who blogs at about the same rate as you do Joe, I can definitely say it’s not passive income.

    If you stopped posting fresh content, your regular readers would stop visiting the site. I suppose you’d still get some traffic from search engines like Google, but I suspect your search rank would begin to drop as well.

    Maybe a good move is to hire a new writer when you tire of doing it yourself. Your take-home income would be significantly less in that case, but it’s more passive.

    Curious what you think about that.

    • Harald @NonlinearThings September 18, 2017, 2:16 am

      Hi Mr. Tako,

      do you have any experience working with 3rd party writers? I sometimes wonder how other bloggers create 2+ articles each week, especially when articles are long and well researched. Are those full-time bloggers, or is blogging their first priority hobby?
      Although I think that the personality behind a blog is very important, I would not be sad about hearing that some articles might be written by someone else and not the blog owner if the quality is good.
      Kind regards
      Harald

      • Ron Cameron September 18, 2017, 4:26 am

        I’d be VERY sad and disappointed if I found out some articles were written by someone else. When I discover a book was ghost written, I don’t read it. I have a hunch there could be a minor revolt in the FIRE community if it was discovered that some bloggers had hired someone else to write under their name.

        • Harald @NonlinearThings September 18, 2017, 2:31 pm

          Ok, interesting to hear. I would probably react the same if I knew that “everything” was ghost written (but what should be the point of doing that?).
          However, I would feel different if the content is good. But I can understand if others have a different opinion! 🙂
          Kind regards
          Harald

      • Mr. Tako September 18, 2017, 8:05 am

        I have no experience with 3rd party writers. I’ve write all my blog posts.

        Some bloggers hire 3rd party writers, some hire other bloggers, and many get “guest posters” to do some of the writing for free.

        I think handing off a blog’s writing could be done, as long as the blog didn’t lose it’s “personality”.

    • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance September 18, 2017, 5:08 am

      This is a great idea to reduce the workload while keeping the blog running. I might try that one day hehe.

      But I’m also wondering if the blog will stop showing me in the writing since its written by someone else. Maybe it’s still better than having no post at all. 😉

    • Mr. Freaky Frugal September 18, 2017, 5:20 am

      I agree with Mr. Tako.

      If you hired an employee to deal with the blog so you spent close to no time on it, then it’s passive income. Otherwise, you’re self-employed.

    • retirebyforty September 18, 2017, 6:12 pm

      I tried hiring writers before, but it didn’t work out. The posts aren’t what I’d write about. The good writers move on quickly when they get higher paying clients. I think using freelance writers for all the posts would make the site much more generic. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not something I want to do yet.

      I’d rather hire VA to help with the other things if it comes to that.

  • Dan September 18, 2017, 1:21 am

    How long are you in Hawaii for? I live in Honolulu and my wife and I run a guest suite/AirBnB if you and the family are still looking for a spot. Make sure you go to Leonard’s and eat a malasada! Cheers.

    • retirebyforty September 18, 2017, 6:13 pm

      We’re here for just a week. It’s actually a business trip for Mrs. RB40. We’re just tagging along. I’ll make sure to try a malasada.

  • Stan September 18, 2017, 1:44 am

    I would say no, blogging is not passive income. I am sure the effort that you put into your blog is significant.

    However, blogging does appear to be a great “encore career” which allows you to stay out of the traditional rate race so kudos on that!

  • Pennypincher September 18, 2017, 1:47 am

    Passive income-no way.
    It has taken you years to build up your following=more ad revenue. I read from other bloggers how it is A LOT of work! Sounds like a full time job to me.
    And if you want to get a taste on how much it’ll cost to live in HI, just check out the price of a box of cereal-ha,ha!
    Keep on bloggin’ Joe, we luv your posts!

    • retirebyforty September 18, 2017, 6:14 pm

      Not quite a full time job. Full time jobs takes a lot more than 40 hours these days. I’d say blogging is a part time job, for me at least.
      Thanks for the encouragement!

  • [email protected] September 18, 2017, 2:07 am

    In my opinion, definitely not passive Joe. You put a lot of effort into it, and it shows. If the time came when you stopped maintaining the blog but still got income, then I would count that as passive.
    An alternative question would be whether you enjoy how you earn the income – reading your posts, it seems pretty clear that you do, which perhaps is just as important as passive income or not.
    Have fun on your vacation.
    David

  • Ernie Zelinski September 18, 2017, 2:11 am

    Blogging income is definitely NOT passive income.

    Neither is any intellectual property that provides a residual income. There is always some work associated with it. The work can be 50 percent or 30 percent or 80 percent or even 95 percent.

    It’s far from easy. Here is the bottom line: If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. Note that far less than 1 percent of the population is able to do it and make money at it. That’s how easy it is!

  • [email protected] September 18, 2017, 2:35 am

    The blogging is not passive. The time and effort you put into this blog is work just like any other job. That said, you could hire somebody to run it for you and turn it into totally passive income. The work you have put into this blog so far should yield you dividends for years to come.

  • [email protected] September 18, 2017, 3:00 am

    Blogging income is not passive income. You work hard for your money. But it’s much better than going to the office everyday. Enjoy Hawaii.

  • Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle September 18, 2017, 3:39 am

    I may be new to the blogging game, but I am pretty confident saying that blogging is NOT passive. We all spend way too much time doing the work we do to get blog posts out and all that, to ever consider it passive.

    I think that if you stopped new posts, it would drop to around 50% quickly, then slowly drop down to minimal views. I don’t have experience, but I know I’m unlikely to return to a site that is no longer posting new material, especially if I’ve been a long time reader.

    Hope Hawaii is fun! Can’t wait to see pics!!

  • Lazy Man and Money September 18, 2017, 4:10 am

    I’ve been writing about this since around 2006 or 2007 and I have a monthly article about “alternative income”, which is what I consider blogging. You could say it’s another term for “50% passive.” No one would confuse it with collecting dividends from a dividend ETF, but at the same time, you can take a week off and still earn a certain percentage or baseline of what you may earn if you wrote actively.

    As for Mr. Tako’s idea of hiring writers above, it’s not bad. However, in my experience it isn’t great either. Managing writers can be as much work as managing the other aspects of the blog. They come and go and I found myself spending more of my time on tasks that I didn’t enjoy (hiring and interviewing). I also felt like I didn’t have the same connection with my readers.

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:46 am

      I think alternative income is a much better way to categorize it. Good call.
      I didn’t like having writers either. The posts can be disappointing sometime and you’re right about the management. It’s not what I want to do.

  • Ron Cameron September 18, 2017, 4:31 am

    I imagine blogging is like owning a business and having managers run it. You put a ton of effort to start “pushing that boulder”, now it’s rolling on it’s own. You can keep pushing it harder and watch it roll faster, or give it the occasional nudge to keep it at speed, or just walk away and passively watch it start to slow down and eventually stop/wreck.

    Your blog posts are your employees – you hired/created them, they work for you while you’re eating ribs (isn’t America great?), but if you don’t keep hiring and maintaining them things will likely eventually extinguish.

  • Fulltimefinance September 18, 2017, 4:31 am

    Not passive. It’s a lot of work and if you stopped it I suspect income would fall off a cliff fairly quickly as google demoted your articles for being stale and your regular audience saw no more new posts. There’s nothing wrong with that, just not passive.

  • Darren @ Learn to Be Great September 18, 2017, 4:55 am

    Blogging ? passive income.

    If you’re staying in Oahu, two of my favorite cheap-but-good eats (relatively speaking since it’s Hawaii) in Honolulu are:

    (1) Marukame Udon at 2310 Kuhio Ave #124
    (2) ABC Stores #38 at 205 Lewers St, downtown Waikiki.

    I go to Marukame for some of the best udon and tempura. You’ll know you’re at the right place when you see the long line of Japanese tourists running down the street. I recommend you go there for breakfast before it opens and beat the crowd. Yes. Breakfast.

    I LOVE poke. Even though I can make some decent poke on my own I love the ABC Store’s variety. They’re cheap, too. My favorite is the tako (octopus) and spicy salmon.

    Have a great time, Joe!

    • GYM September 18, 2017, 10:25 am

      To add to this comment (Hi Darren!), I love the spam misubi at the ABC stores! If anyone is a Hormel shareholder this will help with the gross sales lol.

      I also like Marukame udon the line up goes fast.

      There’s a place with 50% off sushi on Mondays from 5:30-6:00, you have to get there early to line up, like 5:00pm but once the doors open you are seated and can order whatever your heart pleases! It’s called Sansei.

      And to answer your question, no I don’t think blogging is technically passive income, there are some passive elements to it, like affiliate links that just roll in when you’re not working on the blog and google adsense from visitors/ clicks but writing regularly and commenting etc. takes a lot of work and is definitely not passive.

      I think blogging is very labour intensive from the beginning and then later on it becomes a bit more passive and hands off.

      • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:25 am

        We’ll try Marukume udon. It’s pretty close to our hotel. It sounds a lot of people like it.

      • Darren @ Learn to Be Great September 25, 2017, 4:13 pm

        Hmmm…it looks like my first comment didn’t come out right. It was supposed to say blogging does not equal passive income but I guess the not equal sign doesn’t show up on comments. Oh well. NO. BLOGGING IS NOT PASSIVE! 🙂

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance September 18, 2017, 5:05 am

    This is one of my most favorite posts so far! I like that you lay out all the steps that you need to do for your blog every day. I can totally relate.

    Blogging income is usually considered as passive. But since I started my blog, it’s been taking me 25-30 hours every week. Some big bloggers say it will get easier in the long run. But some of them also hire out their workload, so I’m not entirely sure. >.<

  • Nicoleandmaggie September 18, 2017, 5:17 am

    … most rentals aren’t passive income either unless you have property management completely taken care of.

    I think for this question you need to go deeper about why you’re trying to make this categorization. Is it so you can separate income that takes no time vs some time? You would have to know what your income would be from the blog if you stopped making new posts entirely.

  • Robert September 18, 2017, 5:32 am

    Blogging income is no more passive income than a writer who writes books for a living. You might get money rolling in during times that you’re not working, from income generated from the work that you already did… but you have to work to make the money. Nobody pays you during the 20-30 hours per week spent writing/researching. The money comes after the work is published. It’s definitely not passive.

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:31 am

      That’s a good analogy. I think good books have longer earning trails, though. It sounds like blogging income drops off very quickly if you don’t add new content.

  • Jeff @ Maximum Cents September 18, 2017, 5:56 am

    Blogging income is definitely not passive. You need to actively work on the site for people to keep coming back. If you stopped posting you would get some traffic but it would eventually drop way off.

  • Apathy Ends September 18, 2017, 5:59 am

    90% not passive with that 10% being what you are earning from the posts already written (but as another person wrote, that would drop after you quit writing new content)

    It’s a ton of work!! Especially when you are trying to take care of kids!

    Enjoy the trip!

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher September 18, 2017, 6:02 am

    This is a VERY good point. Too often I see people touting the benefits of blogging as passive income. But um, y’all, blogging is a lot of work. If you’re in it just for the money, you probably won’t perform super-well. Some of the income is passive through ads, but you still have to write new content, interact with readers, talk to bloggers, etc. There are certainly things you can put on autopilot but it’s not like investing where you sit back and watch money ebb and flow. 😛

  • Martin September 18, 2017, 6:20 am

    With the amount of hours you spend, I don’t think blogging is passive income. To one of your points, when you have a full time job, you are also getting paid when you take a weeks vacation.

  • [email protected] September 18, 2017, 7:10 am

    Definitely not passive. I am new to the world of blogging but there is definitely a lot of efforts put into a blog. Passive income should require minimal to no effort. I would also challenge rental income as passive income . I have three rental properties and it is keeping me very busy. If I had a property manager then it would be passive income.

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:27 am

      Rentals are a lot of work for me too. Even when we had a property manager, it was work because they didn’t do a great job. Property managers are too busy.

  • Ms. Montana September 18, 2017, 7:11 am

    I would factor it in as a bridge gap. If you plan to keep doing it for 5 years, count it at 100% for those years. Then look at what the compound growth of your investments would be in 5 years, and calculate based on that number. I’m doing a beta version of a new course about mini-retirements right now with 25 people. And a lot of people are in your same boat, close to FI but not quite. So we work on different ways to organize the buckets of income to fill the gap for either a gap year, or semi-retirement. And create an array of backup options. 🙂

  • SMM September 18, 2017, 7:42 am

    I wouldn’t say it’s passive, UNLESS you write an article a year or more ago that goes super viral and continues to generate revenue. Then it’s somewhat passive. You’re right in that your real test will come when you do the refresh of prior works and see how that goes when you’re traveling across the world.

  • Dividend Growth Investor September 18, 2017, 8:27 am

    Ha, for 80% – 90% of blogs out there, they would be happy to get any blog income.

    Perhaps the owners of site aggregators like SeekingAlpha, who have people creating content can call their income “passive”. But for most people with their own sites, who get to generate money, they are definitely earning active income.

  • [email protected] September 18, 2017, 8:54 am

    Definitely not passive income. It is work to write and blog about it, interact on other blogs, answer questions, etc. It maybe only 1-2 hours a day for folks, but that is still time taken away that could have gone to other monetary pursuits.

    Still, once you hit your financial independence goal, and are just doing it for fun (i.e. you don’t really “need” the money) I would still classify you as retired. Yes, you are still working and making money, but you are doing it because you enjoy it – not because you need the bucks.

  • Mr. FWP September 18, 2017, 8:59 am

    I’m also going with not passive. Low-maintenance and fun, maybe, but not purely passive. In fact, per hour, you’re not making all that much (from what you’ve posted). If you leave it alone for a year or two, it’ll eventually disappear. So maybe it’s more like fun/easy income.

  • WealthyDoc September 18, 2017, 9:45 am

    I find blogging to be a ton of work. And I’m not as active as many of my peers.

  • Dave in Sunny FL September 18, 2017, 10:47 am

    Not passive. I suppose blogs have a “long tail” like any copyrighted work of art (book or song or whatever), but I don’t think it’s as easy to keep it monetized. That would be an argument for condensing and reformatting your blog posts to an updated, organized print or e-book. I think your traffic estimate is too generous, if you stopped producing current content.

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:23 am

      I think you’re right about the drop off. Traffic will probably drop off way more than 50%. We’ll see how it goes when we take a year off.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire September 18, 2017, 11:54 am

    Sounds like I’m in the majority by saying that blogging isn’t passive income. In fact, it’s a lot harder work than I first anticipated. I love doing it so it doesn’t feel like “real” work, but for the amount of time that needs to be put in, there isn’t too much passivity in it.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:22 am

      It is a lot of time. I need to figure out a good balance at some point. It’s good now, but I don’t see myself spending this much time when I’m older.

  • Brad - MaximizeYourMoney.com September 18, 2017, 11:59 am

    “50% passive”? Something is passive or it isn’t. 🙂

    No, blogging isn’t passive income. Perhaps it can be in the future if someone totally stops writing and marketing, but then they’ll also start to lose traffic and income.

  • Adam and Jane September 18, 2017, 12:32 pm

    RB40,
    We envy you being in Hawaii now! Been there twice in 2009 and 2014.

    Blogging- is not passive income just like what Mr. Tako and other readers said.

    It doesn’t pass the Ronco “set it and forget it” test to generate income w/o lifting a finger like incomes/interest from dividents, pensions and municipal bonds.

    In Waikiki, you should try:

    Snack: Ono Seafood for Poke
    Snack: Leonard’s for malasada
    Dinner: Pho 2 Bristro for tasty pho noodle soups
    Snack: Health Bar on Monsarat for Acai Mona bowl
    Excerise: Diamond Head hike.
    Dinner: Helena’s
    Dessert/snacks: Ala Mona mall ..lots of Japanese snacks in one area.
    Breakfast: Goofys

    Adam and Jane

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:21 am

      I don’t think we will make it to Ono Seafood. It’s a bit far to walk with a little kid. We’ll try some other places. Helena’s sounds really good too. We may have to take a bus just for that.

      • Adam and Jane September 19, 2017, 9:37 am

        There are car rentals in Waikiki. Rent a car for the day and hit as many far places as you can. Drive to and loop around the north shore but dont take the highways during rush hour! The highway is just off the ocean and it is just so scenic. There are also so many beautiful beaches along the way.

        Oh, we so wish we are in Hawaii now!!!!!!

      • Financial Samurai September 19, 2017, 12:37 pm

        Oh yeah, try the Crab Ramen at Sansei restaurant in The Marriott Waikiki. Da best!

  • ThinkingAhead September 18, 2017, 1:32 pm

    We ate at the restaurant below several times on our last Oahu vacation and highly recommend it.

    Arancino di Mare
    2552 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:20 am

      We walked by there. I’ll see if Mrs. RB40 wants Italian food. Thanks!

  • ChrisCD September 18, 2017, 1:45 pm

    Blogging is not passive. For various reasons, we have not kept up with our site. Traffic has dropped way more than 50%. It can be very lucrative as you know, but it does need a certain minimum level of effort to remain so, probably in the 20-hour/wk range. Now, all things considered, that probably isn’t that bad of a trade-off, but a trade-off nonetheless.

    cd :O)

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:19 am

      Thanks for your comment. I guess the drop off occurs very quickly. That’s surprising to me, but I guess Google wants new content.

  • Jing September 18, 2017, 1:59 pm

    I would consider it 50% passive because the portion that generates money from ads occurs at any time. I guess you could also view it as an upfront time investment, but now that you have a following, I’d imagine a lot of the passive portion of the earnings would still come through viewers even if you decided to take some time off blogging! Reading some of the comments here though (traffic dropoff), I guess it is less passive than 50%.

  • susan September 18, 2017, 4:27 pm

    Sorry I don’t think blogging is passive income. Truly passive income comes in rain or shine – pensions, annuities, dividends, SS. In some cases, even when you are 6 feet under (for your beneficiaries). I would even venture to call it “permanent income” (as long as someone is around to collect). As someone else stated, even rental income is not truly passive since there is a fair amount of work going into keeping renters, maintenance, administrative/financial accounting, etc.

    Blogging is work – just not the work you did as an engineer. Keep on blogging, and consider yourself fortunate that your alternative career has paid well. Just don’t count the revenue in future calculations for you and Mrs. RB 40 (and junior) as you consider early retirement for her as well. Have a nice vacay in HI.

  • Dads Dollars Debts September 18, 2017, 6:33 pm

    In my mind it is like writing a book. It takes a lot of up front work but can pay dividends down the road….though the IRS will tax you as regular income. The money I have made through the blog per hour versus my day job as a doctor is laughable. Yet here I am still plugging away.

  • Adam @ Minafi September 18, 2017, 7:10 pm

    I wonder what the avg number of hours/week (over a year) would be for something to be considered “passive income”. To me, it’d be under an hour a week. If I was able to earn money from something with that time investment, the hour a week would be mostly a time investment in checking on things that it’s still working and setting the course back on track.

    I could see an ebook as passive income if it has a good shelf life (after it’s written), or real estate as passive for periods of time (but not overall unless you’re lucky or good at delegation).

    If it doesn’t feel like work though, that’s pretty much the ideal situation! It sounds like you’ve got such a good thing going that you love it enough that you’d be doing it anyways without the income (and have been).

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:16 am

      Under an hour per week is very little time. I spend more time on my dividend stocks than that.
      Rental real estate isn’t very passive. Even if you have a property manager, you still need to make some decision.

  • Done by Forty September 18, 2017, 7:47 pm

    The writing itself isn’t passive, but I suppose a lot of the income itself is: that is, advertisements, affiliate income, etc.

    That is to say, your real work allows passive income to happen. Somewhat like a rental property.

  • Stockbeard September 18, 2017, 8:23 pm

    I voted “NO”.
    I’ve been owning and operating a somewhat successful blog (think MMM level of traffic, except in a niche that does not make me crazy rich) for about 10 years now, and it’s some work. There are things you can automate, others you cannot.

    As soon as you build a significant community of followers, you need to keep interacting with them on a regular basis, through comments, social media, or your site’s forum if you own one. Ultimately if that part is not interesting for you anymore, you need to hire people to do it, or find moderators, etc… to do it for free. If they do it for free, expect them to leave regularly, so you have a constant job of “hiring” ongoing.

    At some point, you have problems with scale: you need to dive into advanced sysadmin skills to maintain your server up and running, or pay to have it done. Wordpress updates, OS updates, all of this is work, sometimes heavy works when your plugins start to misbehave. Let alone the occasional drill when your site is under a DDoS attack, or just stops responding for no effing reason.

    On the blog aspect, you need to keep posting regularly, otherwise ultimately your traffic will tank (and so will your revenue). That can also be outsourced to some extent: you can pay people to write for you. But your audience are not morons: if you’re open about it they might be ok with it once in a while. If you’re not open about it: they’ll notice.

    In my case, I tried leaving the site in “automatic” mode a few times, when I did not have the motivation to post anything new. I found that my traffic, then my revenue, quickly tanked to half of what it should be. So far this has been motivation enough for me to keep writing, when nothing else would keep me motivated. But I have no reason to believe the “passive” part of the revenue would last more than one year. I can imagine revenue progressively going down, until it does not even pay for the server costs anymore.

    Again, all of the above can be outsourced to some extent, but then you feel way more like a project manager or an CEO rather than a blogger, and it can lose lots of its appeal. And it’s not automation: you’re still working, and it’s not a “blogger” role anymore.

    So no, I don’t see blogging as passive income. My experience says it’s much more flexible than a “real” job, and can be ultimately less work for more money, but it’s not passive. If you stop for one year, you’re gone, replaced by the next best equivalent.

    • retirebyforty September 19, 2017, 8:05 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience. That’s what I suspect after a little research. I wonder how traffic would do if you refresh one or two old posts every week. Old posts can be made more relevant with a good update. Very valuable comment. Thanks again.

    • FIRECracker September 19, 2017, 9:50 am

      Wow. Very eye-opening. Thanks for sharing, Stockbeard.

      I’ve only been blogging for about 1.3 years, so it’s still very new and exciting. I suspect if I were to ramp down my blogging stats would drop dramatically. Thankfully, I haven’t felt any urge to do that. But it’s good to know what to expect from learning about your experience.

    • Financial Samurai September 19, 2017, 12:36 pm

      Pray tell what niche is this? And what percentage of your traffic is from search engine?

      I’ve calculated that I can go or about three months without having to do any work before traffic in revenue starts taking a dive. But I think if I just posted once a week or once every two weeks everything would still be pretty good.

      It’s easy to outsource all the technical stuff.

      • Stockbeard September 27, 2017, 12:42 am

        Niche is a sub-niche of videogames with high technical skills required for the bloggers.
        Search represents 15 to 30% of the traffic

  • Ben September 19, 2017, 6:20 am

    Hi Joe,

    My take is that blogging is not passive because one still needs to make effort to write articles. This will require large amount of brainpower to make the articles interesting and enticing to the viewers. This is not an easy feat. Hence the generated revenue is not considered as “passive”.

    Ben

  • FIRECracker September 19, 2017, 9:57 am

    Great article, Joe! I’ve thought about this a lot…whether blogging is passive or not. By definition, it probably isn’t (since the income goes away if you stop), but it FEELS passive. “feels”. Ew. Feelings. Blegh. Anyhoo…even if it isn’t passive, I can’t stop doing it because I love it so much. So if you like writing and interaction with readers, it seems passive, but to anyone else, they’ll have to put in a lot of work for very little gain, so it seems VERY active.

  • Steve @ familyonfire.org September 19, 2017, 10:02 am

    Income what is that? As someone who has recently started, I’m still trying to find the balance between work and doing it for fun. Do I want to spend 20 hours per week on it? Or is it more like a hobby. And if it’s a hobby should I even expect eventually to gain any income? Still working it through.

  • Financial Samurai September 19, 2017, 12:33 pm

    Definitely not! Which is why I don’t include any of my blogging income in my passive income report whoo hoo!

    I am impressed with bloggers who make money blogging about blogging make money though. I just never was my cup of tea.

    Sam

  • Jeremy September 19, 2017, 2:49 pm

    Of course blog income is ACTIVE income. Passive income is something generated without your active engagement like blog writing is so that’s pretty clear to me and most according to the poll

  • Jim P. September 19, 2017, 4:16 pm

    Great post and comments. All your points in the article are spot on. My vote is Definitely NOT passive income. Launched my blog about 1 year ago without a lot of clear direction. After working with a productivity coach, we narrowed the focus (somewhat) and got rolling with more regular posts in March/April 2017. Small budget outsourcing on Graphics and SEO moved the needle a bit further. Google Adwords campaign a bit further. I just spent about 5 hours re-working a guest blog post for a food site, after already putting in at least 5 hours on the original version. Especially in the early years, there is NOTHING passive about sweat equity. Reducing the learning curve really does add real skills though, so you can hit the ground running and efficiently manage your time. Was interesting to see the vote tallies, thanks for the post.

  • Edwin | Cash The Checks September 19, 2017, 4:32 pm

    I work a lot on my blog, but it is considered passive because it does generate revenue in my sleep. To me, non-passive is earning money by the hour for hours worked.

  • Grand Dad Helper September 21, 2017, 10:58 am

    Hula Grill early bird specials. Great location overlooking the beach with friendly and helpful staff.
    I considered retiring on the Big Island but it was just too far to travel to see my grandchildren.

  • Taylor October 5, 2017, 6:32 pm

    I sure wish it was passive, but I’ve learned that is not the case at all. You have to work at it a while if you want to make money, and working for money sounds pretty active to me! I can see how someone would think it’s more passive later on in the life of the blog though.

  • Constance October 10, 2017, 4:38 pm

    Everyone would make us believe that it is but in truth it a lot of work

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