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Alex Hyett
Alex Hyett

Posted on • Originally published at alexhyett.com

Should you be blogging as a software developer?

You may have thought about starting a blog before but never got around to doing it, or you have a blog but you haven't written a single post in the last 6 months.

You know who you are!

Given that we now have things like ChatGPT that can write whole blog posts about any topic you can think about, is it even worth pursuing blogging?

At the end of this article I am going to share how much traffic I get to my blog and how much it generates in revenue, so make sure you stay around for that.

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Your own slice of the internet

So the main reason that I have my own website and blog is to have my own slice of the internet that is 100% mine.

It is my own space where I can write about whatever I want and no one can take that away from me.

I don't have to cater to algorithms or worry about people unsubscribing if I write about something slightly off-topic.

There is obviously a lot of content about software development on there but I also write about philosophy, entrepreneurship, productivity and mental health as well. Anything goes.

It is my home on the internet. Everything that I write whether it be my newsletter or the scripts for my YouTube videos all go on my website so they are in one place.

I also like to write notes on the books that I read as it is a great way to actually remember what I have read.

Even though it is mostly for my benefit, other people can read them as well so they can understand what a book is about before choosing to read it themselves.

Share your knowledge

As a developer, blogging is a great way to share your knowledge.

There is so much to learn as a software developer that it is impossible to know everything. I can guarantee that even as a beginner you will know something that even the top software developers in the world don't know.

Some people like to hoard their knowledge and keep it all to themselves but in my experience, it is always better to share what you know. You will find if you are open to sharing and helping other people then it will come back to you in a number of benefits.

Whether you call it karma or attracting luck, helping other people by sharing what you know is always a winning strategy.

I have also found that my thinking is a lot clearer when I write things down. I am not a great public speaker, talking into the camera doesn't come naturally to me. So I write down most of what I am going to say in my videos if not word for word.

If I tried to just wing it and record a video without preparation, I would forget things and there would be a lot of "ums" and "ers" as well.

I often find the process of explaining what you have learned to someone else is a great way to clarify your understanding of a topic. It is easier to see the gaps in your knowledge and it will make you a better programmer as a result.

Build a Personal Brand

Blogging and writing on the internet is a great way to build a personal brand.

Now, I don't really like the term, "Personal Brand". It sounds like I am commercialising myself.

In some cases, that is what people are doing, however, for me it is more about showing people what I am about.

Whether you are applying for a job or going on a date, people are going to Google you.

If I search for my name the top 5 results are:

Believe it or not, I am not the only Alex Hyett in the world and some of the other results on the first page are for other people.

But by dominating the first half of the Google results for my own name, there is a high chance someone searching for me will find my stuff.

If I am applying for a job they will see that I write and do videos about software development for example.

Now imagine I didn't have a website or a YouTube channel. If a prospective employer searched for my name they may find another Alex Hyett and think it was me.

I believe one of the Alex Hyett's is a DJ, that's great but it doesn't help with getting a job as a software developer.

Do you need a blog?

Unlike some developers, I am not going to tell you that you must have a blog as a software developer.

I know plenty of highly successful well-paid software developers that don't have a blog, a basic website or even a GitHub account.

I have a blog, a newsletter and a YouTube channel because I enjoy writing and sharing my knowledge with others. I want to help you and other people. Everything else is just an added benefit.

If I apply for a development job then yes, there is a chance that all my writing will go in my favour but realistically it will go to the candidate with more experience rather than one that writes a lot.

I have been blogging for 8 years now but it is really only in the last 6 months of writing consistently that I have seen any traction on my blog.

Blogging is a huge time commitment. It can take several hours to write a detailed blog post, even longer if you need to include code examples as well.

If you have a full-time job, it can be difficult to find the time to blog. Especially if you have a family or other commitments outside of work.

In fact, when I started a new job in 2019, I didn't blog at all for the whole year. I have actually written more blog posts this year than all of the other years put together.

My traffic and earnings

The moment you have been waiting for, how much traffic and money do I earn from my blog?

Today my blog gets around 16,000 page views a month. That is not a huge amount, I know some people who get hundreds of thousands of views a month. However, traffic is increasing each month now that I am posting on a regular basis.

16k pageviews in April 2023

In fact, for the last 3 months, my page views have increased by 3,000 views each month which I think is quite good. If it continues at this rate then I may well be nearer 30,000 page views a month by the end of the year.

Some of that traffic is coming from YouTube but most of it is from Google search. Over the years I have tried to learn more and more about SEO and keyword research and it looks like that is finally paying off.

However, if Google does change its search engine in favour of an AI chatbot in the near future then that traffic could drop drastically. I will still continue writing as I enjoy doing it even if not many people see my posts.

So how much do I earn from my blog?

The income from my blog comes from 3 places:

1. Ad Revenue

I used to have Google Adsense on my blog but I only made around $0.03 a day. I could have made more if I filled my blog with adverts, which I did try once but I didn't like how it looked.

Given it is mostly developers who go on my website, we are pretty good at ignoring adverts or blocking them completely.

I now use EthicalAds which is specifically for developers. The main reason for choosing EthicalAds was because they are privacy-focused. They don't spy on the visitors like the other ad networks do.

I only have to show one advert and at least it is relevant to those visiting my website. Some of the adverts are for non-profit projects as well which I don't get any money for but at least it is for a good cause.

So last month, with 16k page views I earned $14.46. In fact, because I have only used this ad network since February it hasn't reached the payout threshold of $50 yet.

This would be higher but because most developers use ad-blocking only 10k page views are counted. I also have a lot of traffic from India, which doesn't pay as much as traffic from the US.

If you want to try EthicalAds you will need to have at least 10,000 page views a month to be eligible.

For those using the Brave Browser, I also signed up for their Brave Rewards program and they send me around 60p each month which is about $0.75.

2. Affiliate Sales

On top of the ad revenue, I occasionally add affiliate links to my posts whether it be books that I have read or products I have used.

I mostly use the Amazon affiliate program which anyone can sign up for. You will see in my YouTube videos that I also have a few links in the description to books that have been helpful for me as well.

Generally, I make around $10 a month from Amazon affiliates but some of this will be from YouTube and not just my blog.

It is not a great amount but every little helps.

3. Donations

At the end of my blog posts, I also include a link to my Buy Me a Coffee page where people can donate money if they found my posts helpful.

In the last 3 years that I have had the page set up, I have had 3 people buy me a coffee which I am really grateful for so thank you if you are watching. That amounts to £12 ($15).

Total Monthly Earnings

In total, my blog is earning me around $25 a month. Which is obviously not enough to pay the bills but considering I would write my blog anyway it is a nice addition.

I could increase my earnings by promoting more products and adding affiliate links everywhere but that doesn't sit right with me. If I haven't used the product myself I don't feel right promoting it to my audience either.

Other Benefits

Even though the website obviously doesn't bring in much money it does help people find my YouTube channel and my newsletter which will hopefully bring in money in the future.

I would like to make some courses as well as write a book and my website will be a great help in promoting that as well.

Starting your own blog

If you still aren't deterred about the lack of income and would like to start your own blog then there are a number of ways you can do that.

There are blogging platforms that are specifically for developers like Hashnode and dev.to. These are a great way to get started with online writing and increase the chances of your posts actually being read.

I would recommend blogging on your own domain though otherwise, you are just driving traffic to someone else's business.

Hashnode offers this as an option as does Medium but you have to be a Medium member to have your own domain.

Ghost is another option, you can host Ghost yourself or pay for their cloud hosting platform. If you sign up for their hosting platform it doubles up as a newsletter as well but it can get quite costly if you have a lot of subscribers.

Another option is Substack which is a newsletter and blogging platform. It is completely free, supports custom domains (although this does cost $50) and they have a built-in discovery network. I use Substack for my weekly newsletter and it has been really good so far.

The other option is to have your own custom website either by hosting your own blogging platform such as WordPress, Ghost or by setting up a static website with Hugo, Gatsby or Jekyll.

This is the route that I have taken. I have a slightly complicated setup with a custom-made Gatsby.js website hosted in an AWS S3 bucket with a Strapi CMS to store all my posts.

Personally, I wouldn't go down this route to start with. One of the reasons I didn't blog much in the early years was that I was spending too much time customising my website to get it to look exactly how I wanted it.

On top of that, you have to worry about performance and SEO which can take a long time to get right.

The main benefit of going down the static website route though is that it is the cheapest option if you want to self-host. You can host your website for free on GitHub Pages or do what I do and set it up on AWS. My AWS bill is $0.50 a month which is just the cost of the Route 53 hosted zone.

With a static website, you don't need to worry about traffic spikes either as there is no database involved. When one of my posts got on the front page of Hacker News I had 10,000 people visit my website in a short period and it held up fine and didn't cost me any extra.

In order to get my writing more exposure I then cross-post them to Hashnode, Dev.to and Medium. If you do this it is important to set the canonical link so that Google doesn't rank their version over yours in the search results or mark it as duplicate content.

Dev.to has been especially good and I have had thousands of views and gained followers by cross-posting on their platform.

Whichever platform you choose I would recommend trying to build an email list. Having a large audience on social media or these other platforms is great but you don't control the algorithm. Even if people love your content there is no guarantee that they will see all of your posts and there is always a chance the platform could kick you off as well and you would lose the audience you spent ages building up.

My newsletter stats show me that around 40 - 45% of the people subscribed to my newsletter read it each week. That is a lot more than the number of people who watch my videos or read my other posts. You don't need a massive following if you have a decent email list.

You definitely don't need a blog as a software developer but it can be a fun hobby with few added benefits on top.


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Top comments (13)

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (agent double) • Edited

Thanks for being realistic in the Do you need a blog? section.

One reason programming feels so overwhelming is that too many people confuse "I like doing X and it was useful to me" with "Top 42 things everyone MUST do to be a Real Developer(tm)". Which if you add up everything feels terrible on the receiver side.

I think blogging can be super valuable.
I think giving it a try is very worthwhile.
Then let it to the experience to determine if you want to do it long term or not.
Replace the SHOULD and the MUST by the WANT.

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freddyhm profile image
Freddy Hidalgo-Monchez

Completely agree with the benefits that come from writing: clearer thinking, helping others, solidifying learning, etc. I use to post more often and felt it was super rewarding. It's on my list to start writing again, thanks for the post!

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wraith profile image
Jake Lundberg

Thank you for this. It actually feels genuine and not just someone throwing content together to get a blog post out just to get a blog post out.

Over the years, I never took the time to blog about my learning experiences, but definitely wish I had...especially in instances where I learned something really valuable, and now when I need to share that learning, I have to do it myself and I also have to go back and remember how I did it. Would have been much better to have jotted it down and been able to point someone to that post when they run into the same issues.

Nice article, thanks again!

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alexhyettdev profile image
Alex Hyett

You’re welcome! Unfortunately thanks to AI a lot of dev.to is now flooded with just boring content written by robots. It is definitely worth writing something down while you still remember it!

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ahanash46390872 profile image
Ahana Sharma • Edited

Thanks for sharing this amazing article, Blogging as a software developer can be a valuable tool for sharing knowledge, building a personal brand, and connecting with the tech community, but it requires dedication and consistency to reap the benefits. you explain it very clearly and this article so valuable for me. Thank you again!

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alexhyettdev profile image
Alex Hyett

You’re welcome Ahana. Thanks for leaving a comment!

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jwilliams profile image
Jessica williams

Blogging can be a useful and satisfying pastime for software developers. You can reach a larger audience by blogging about your knowledge, thoughts, and experiences. You may use it to develop your personal brand, position yourself as an authority in your industry, and draw in new employers or customers. Writing blog articles can also improve your ability to learn and solve problems because it requires you to express ideas accurately. Further development and improvement may result from the developer community's encouragement of cooperation and feedback. Overall, blogging can be a useful strategy to support the IT industry and boost your software developer career.

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nite_dev profile image
Sheriff S

Thanks alot for the great content you share with us. I will be sending you a couple of emails.

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wilmela profile image
Wilmela

Amazing. I love your sincerity here. Thanks for sharing.

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alexhyettdev profile image
Alex Hyett

You’re welcome Wilmela. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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okerosi_davis profile image
Okerosi Davis

Been blogging for client for over 4 years....it pays off for both of us

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jarrodhroberson profile image
Jarrod Roberson • Edited

If you are competent about what you are blogging about and can tolerate any consequences for writing about unpopular facts => yes otherwise => probably not.

What is the point of blogging generic beige tapioca articles that really do not add anything new to a topic. Personally, if I go to read a blog article and the page is covered with ads unrelated to the industry the article is about and a quick look shows someone just copy pasted the docs or spends 500 words saying nothing new; I just click "back" button and they go into the uBlackList to never waste my time again.

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owentechke profile image
Abraham Gumba

Blogging can also showcase writing capabilities, which could lead to opportunities as well.

$15 can renew a domain name for a year(depending on the (TLD) so indeed, every little bit helps. :-)