Skellie wrote this post. For more advanced blogging tips and strategies, visit her blog, Skelliewag.
When people think about making money with a blog, they tend to think about things like AdSense and affiliate links. You write good content, people come to your blog, people click on links, and you make a bit of money. How much money you make depends on how successfully you can multiply this process.
However, for some entrepreneurs this method of monetizing a blog is just one part of a larger business model that is much more lucrative than advertising on its own.
In this post I want to highlight 10 innovative and successful blog business models that do more than sell ad space or clicks. Is there room for one of these business models on your own blog?
(Please note that this particular post does not contain affiliate links.)
1. Teaching Sells / Blog Mastermind (Educational course)
This business model involves selling an expert course on the back of a blog. Each blogger is regarded as an expert in their field and their free content demonstrates that they have plenty of useful advice to give.
These courses may only appeal to a small percentage of the host blog’s readership, so they are usually priced at the high-end to compensate. For this reason, courses must focus on sharing skills and methods that the reader values very highly.
Most commonly these are skills and methods that will–hopefully–yield more money for the reader than they spend on the course itself. If the course doesn’t have the potential to earn the reader money then it must impart a skill that has a very high non-monetary value. A Chess course might be worth $99 a month to someone who is passionate about Chess. A course in Mandarin might be worth $150 a month to someone who is relocating to China in three months and is determined to be able to hold conversations with locals as soon as they arrive.
The determining factor in success with this model is an understanding of what your readers value deeply, and providing them with that, either by providing them with great value or the means to achieve it for themselves.
2. IttyBiz (eBook)
IttyBiz sells Ninja SEO School
Naomi Dunford writes IttyBiz for online marketers and entrepreneurs who are ordinary people with a tight budget. She says her consulting clients were always curious about SEO and how to start using it for their benefit. In response to the demand she wrote the ‘Ninja SEO School‘ eBook. If you click the link you’ll notice that it’s no longer for sale, and I hope the ProBlogger mention hasn’t made Naomi regret the decision ;).
By making the choice to say the eBook would only be available for a limited time, readers who would have post-poned the decision of whether to buy the product until later (and then probably forgot about it) were forced to act quickly.
This is a very clever method to overcome one of the eBook’s weaknesses as a medium: its format makes it seem like the product will always be in unlimited supply, which can often provoke lethargy in potential buyers. Books in bookstores go out of stock, but eBooks technically never do.
If your eBook is expensive then it’s highly likely a potential buyer will think about the purchase for several days and talk themselves out of it. By creating scarcity you can motivate potential buyers to action.
Though there are many blogs funneling into an eBook, I chose IttyBiz as an example because of the clever use of artificial scarcity as a marketing tool. (Though if you emailed Naomi, I bet she’d still sell you a copy!)
3. ProBlogger / FSw / Smashing Magazine (Job board)
ProBlogger.net sells Jobs.ProBlogger.net
Vocation-based blogs like ProBlogger (bloogging), Freelance Switch (freelancing) and Smashing Magazine (design) are a perfect fit with the job board business model. These job boards that stem from blogs are usually monetized in one of two ways: advertiser pays a flat fee to post their job ad, which is the most common method and used at ProBlogger and Smashing Magazine, or job hunters pay a small subscription fee to have access to jobs, which is the least common model and is used at Freelance Switch.
Building a job board is likely to require development costs of at least several hundred dollars and possibly over a thousand, so it may be best to wait until your traffic levels are healthy before adding something like this to your blog.
4. PSDTUTS / SEOmoz (Premium content)
These two blogs both offer members-only content for paid subscribers. At PSDTUTS $9 a month gives the user access to a large library of .PSD artworks and tutorials from well-known Photoshop artists. SEOmoz offers its ‘Pro’ membership at $49 a month, for which you receive SEO tools, guides and extra blog content. Both membership models are supplemented by a larger proportion of free content that serves to bring potential members into the blog and also as an advertisement for the content offered in the membership program.
While members-only blog content can be a lucrative business model you should expect to meet with criticism from readers who are struck by the double-wants of experiencing all your content while also not wanting to pay for it. The internet provides such an abundance of value for free that some people perhaps stop thinking about the creator’s need to be rewarded for their hard work. You should remind them of this and then focus on those customers who see ‘free’ as a privilege, not a right.
5. SpoonGraphics (Freelance services)
Chris Spooner’s blog is a good example of a supported freelance business model. Freelance services are offered on a portfolio which is attached to his blog. The blog content deals with design and presents daily opportunities for Chris to demonstrate his own expertise as a designer to potential clients who might be reading his blog.
While it might seem counter-intuitive to write for other people in the same field instead of ordinary people who might be looking for a designer, many freelancers find good work covering gaps for other freelancers. For example, a freelancer who only knows how to code might hire another freelancer to create designs for him or her. As the web makes it easier to connect with freelancers across the globe this kind of collaboration is becoming increasingly common.
6. Remarkablogger / Muhammad Saleem (Consulting)
Remarkablogger.com sells Michael Martine
MuhammadSaleem.com sells Muhammad Saleem
Michael Martine writes a blog about blogging and offers consulting services as an off-shoot to the blog, targeted towards businesses who want a strong blogging presence. Muhammad Saleem is a social media power-user who also advertises social media consulting services from his blog. The premise of this business model is to build a profile as an expert in a specific area, give readers a taste of the kind of insights you can provide and then offer consultations to those who want to benefit from your knowledge on a deeper level.
The rates you can charge and the amount of uptake you get will depend on your topic as much as it does on your personal brand. People with entrepreneurial aspirations are more likely to need and be willing to invest in a consultant because they fundamentally expect to earn back more than they spend as a result of the knowledge they’ve gained. A life consultant or sports consultant or any other kind of consultant who might not be focused on helping the client earn money needs to provide immense non-monetary value instead.
7. Pearsonified / GoMedia (Digital products)
The ‘Thesis’ theme has been everywhere of late. Probably because its creator’s blog has over 5,000 subscribers and he also seems to have made the right kind of friends. If you’re going to sell a product you’ve built then nothing will help your cause more than having a popular blog to back you up.
The GoMedia design firm does more. It uses a popular design blog (almost 10,000 subscribers) to sell both design services and products: the GoMedia Arsenal vector and Photoshop brush packs. Visitors are drawn into the site via the blog content and can then be funneled into either the branded services or products on offer.
8. LifeDev, Zen Habits and Web Warrior Tools
A blog can also be an excellent way to support your entrepreneurial projects and give them a kick-start. Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) and Glen Stansberry (LifeDev) partnered to create Web Warrior Tools to provide a platform for writers to sell their eBooks and have someone else market them. Both blogs link back to Web Warrior Tools and were able to promote it at launch. Instead of having to claw out an audience from nothing, the Web Warrior Tools website was able to launch with pre-existing hype and an immediate user-base.
9. NETTUTS (Magazine model)
Based on the success of the Gawker Media network of blogs it’s becoming increasingly common to see blogs run like print magazines, with a team of paid writers and an editor, and with an entrepreneur or company behind them, using advertising and other methods to break even and, hopefully, making a profit once staff and running costs are subtracted.
This business model can be one of the most ‘hands-off’ as you don’t need to be involved directly in the running of the blog. That being said, paying writers and an editor can be costly, so most successful magazine-style blogs are quite highly-trafficked in addition to having the starting capital to run at a loss for some time, at least initially. NETTUTS is a web development tutorials site that runs under a magazine model, paying tutorial writers and an editor out of advertising proceeds.
10. Sitepoint (Branded products)
Sitepoint is an exceptionally popular website for web developers and designers. Part of that website is a network of blogs featuring web development news, tips and theory. Former and current Sitepoint bloggers have gone on to publish books under the Sitepoint brand, which are then sold from the Sitepoint website or through other channels (such as Amazon). The books are prominently branded with the website and blog logo.
Your branded products don’t have to be books. Some blogs sell merchandiseprint magazines, audio books and courses, and other products.
I hope this post will show you some of the creative ways people are making money through their blogs. It can be easy to approach the challenge of making money online from a very narrow angle and blinker yourself to rarer possibilities that may be a better fit with your blog.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to trail-blaze and invent a business model that is perfect for your blog, even if it doesn’t exist yet!