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The Blogger’s Guide to Becoming rich (Instead of Just Famous)

A Guest Post by Johnny B Truant

I saw Gary Coleman on TV last night and thought, “That guy has to be rich. Everyone knows who he is.” But then I realized that Gary’s true paid celebrity ended over 20 years ago, and whether he’s rich or not today is really a matter of luck and investment.

But that’s not how most people are wired to think. We figure that if someone is or ever was in the public eye, they probably have a big fortune. But who knows how well Gary invests? It’s distinctly possible that most of us here have more money then he does.

This whole thing occurred to me after a few people asked me if I was loaded yet, since I made Problogger’s list of 30 bloggers to watch in 2010. They were asking tongue-in-cheek, but there was a grain of truth behind it. The simple fact is that people equate popularity with riches, and that’s not accurate at all.

I’ve gotten a fair number of new readers and Twitter followers since that list came out… but I had a couple of five-figure months under my belt already. And I did that with subscriber and reader numbers which were hardly stellar.

Do you want fame? Or do you want fortune?

If you say “neither,” then scale it back. A more moderate stopping point on the “fame” spectrum would be getting more readers and more followers. That’s probably the #1 stated goal among bloggers, in my experience. But a close second is along the “fortune” spectrum, and it’s simply to make some money from what you do.

I’m going to make a guess here. It isn’t backed by any scientific research, but I’ll just bet that it’s right.

I think that of the two, people actually want “fortune” goals more. But I think I hear “How do I get more readers/traffic/subscribers?” more often because people think that increased popularity will lead to increased income.

But… nope, sorry. Not always. If you want a “fame” goal, great. But if you want “fortune,” shoot directly for fortune instead of trying to make it happen via fame.

I know several people who are very, very popular online but who don’t really make much at all from their blogging. Large numbers of readers do not equal large amounts of income.

If you’d like to shift your goal to making a living online instead of just entertaining as many people as possible, I have tips. (Or rather, because what follows came out of a discussion I had with fellow Problogger list-mates Naomi Dunford and Charlie Gilkey, it’s more accurate to say that WE have tips.)

1. Your audience has to be willing to buy

I’m not saying they have to be willing to buy from you. I’m saying that they have to be willing to buy period.

I used to write a pure humor blog, and tried to make money via AdSense and selling a hard-copy book. What I discovered is that the humor audience is largely unwilling to buy. They want to read funny stuff and then move along. I made virtually nothing while doing pure humor, despite decent popularity.

Along the same lines, blogs centering on a small-budget hobby are going to have more trouble selling at high prices than those about a more expensive hobby. Charlie G, who I mentioned above, gives the example of a blog about crafting vs. a blog about photography. If both promote a $39 e-book, the photographers are less likely to hesitate at the price because they’re used to paying higher costs for products and services in their niche.

2. You have to be willing to sell

I’m always shocked by how many people seem to think selling is dirty. If you handle selling correctly, all you’re doing is referring something that you think is fantastic. It could be your own product or an affiliate product, but what you’re doing is seeing a need and saying, “I have a fantastic product or service that would really help you out.” It’s not about getting people to spend money on something they don’t want, or out of pity. It’s not like when the local grade school kids come to your door selling fruitcakes, and you buy one just to support them.

Establish early and gradually that when a cool product comes around that your people could honestly benefit from, you’ll let them know about it… with an affiliate link if it’s not your product. Your “true people” will understand such offers in the way they are intended, which is in the spirit of mutual benefit.

3. You have to build a reputation for being trustworthy

I’m able to generate good business off of a relatively small list because those people have grown to trust me. They know I won’t promote something I don’t believe in, and they know that I won’t put out a junky, half-effort product. They also know that I’ll tell them the shortcomings of a product or service before praising it (I think I should trademark my concept of the “anti-guarantee,” discussed a bit more in this Problogger post I wrote about building trust (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/08/30/how-to-boost-your-business-by-developing-bulletproof-trust/)… what do you think?) and that when I don’t know how to do something, I won’t pretend that I do.

When you’re operating online, you’re asking people to give you money in advance for something, usually without talking to you, seeing you in person, hearing your voice, or really knowing anything about you. If they don’t trust you impeccably, they’ll never pay you.

4. You have to generate goodwill

The best way to get great mileage out of even a small list is to have that list work for you. I swear, sometimes I think my readers and past clients are out there beating through the brush to find new people to send my way. And the reason this happens is that I try to provide great service to all of them. I’ve done small add-on jobs for free, answered questions and investigated issues for non-clients, and helped people out of tough jams. This creates happy folks.

At the end of last year, I did a free blog setup promotion. If a customer would simply purchase their hosting (which they’d need no matter who set up their blog) through my affiliate link, I’d set them up gratis. I did this largely because it’s a great win-win — a way for me to profit without the money coming directly from my clients. But what I didn’t see right away was that all of those people who were so grateful that I didn’t charge them anything would start sending their friends to me.

5. You have to have faith in yourself, as a real person

I’m a huge evangelist for what I think of as “personality marketing” over the more common ways to do business online. Personality marketing means using your own voice and own self and own talents to generate value rather than embarking on an anonymous system like niche websites or AdSense.

Now, I don’t want the niche sites or AdSense people getting all up in arms here. I’m not saying those things can’t work, but I am saying that they didn’t work for me and probably won’t work for anyone who’s at all like me. Or at least, they may not be your best use of time if you’re like me. I’ve been using AdSense for over a year now, and just recently got my first check. It was for $111, which I can now make in around a half hour by just “being Johnny.”

(Now, if you can’t make $111 in a half hour or an hour or a day or even a week by employing some personality marketing, could you make it in a month after a bit of practice? If you can, you’re still beating my AdSense earnings by a factor of twelve.)

Remember, it’s not always about numbers. If you want a huge list just so that you can have a huge list, great. If you want a hundred thousand RSS subscribers, great. If you want to be an internet celebrity, great.

But those things don’t automatically translate to income. If you want to pursue the cliche of “becoming rich and famous online,” you’ll need to pay attention to both sides of the equation.

—————
Johnny B. Truant is your source for business and technology coaching, building blogs and websites, and eating nachos. You can find him at his website, and you can find the full discussion between Johnny, Naomi Dunford, and Charlie Gilkey at The Charlie and Johnny Jam Sessions.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for clarifying the differences and the pep talk. :D

  2. Lain Ehmann says:

    Fabulous. Simply fab. I always wondered how all these “famous” bloggers were raking in the cash. Now I know they’re probably not. Fame doesn’t equal cash. It CAN, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

    Now I will stop feeling jealous of the bloggers who have 10x the audience I do, and go out and serve the readers I DO have!

    Thanks, Johnny-

  3. Jaszy says:

    Wwwooooowwww!!! This is exactly what I needed to read this morning! YES!! I’ve been blogging “seriously” for about 6 months and though I have several affiliate links on the site, never really felt good about it. How can I expect my readers to feel good about purchasing from my affiliates if the energy I have about them is not good? It’s because deep down I guess I had attached the whole “car salesman” feel to it. But it’s really no different than if I was recommending a product or service to a friend.

    Thanks for giving me a different perspective about “selling” to my readers. And yes, building trust is very important, paramount to me actually.

    I recently wrote about it in a post inspired by some of my favs, Kelly Diels, Adam Baker, and of course Darren. Check it out…http://www.modernhippiemag.com/2010/01/20/rants-raves-revelations-resolutions-some-commentary-and-confessions/

  4. akhlis says:

    I once read news about some pretty darn famous celebrities who have less fortune than not-so-renowned people like most of us. I could hardly believe it but that’s real. So what Johnny was saying is not quite eye-opening for me. Fame is a thing, and financial success is another.

    The tips are really useful though. It seems to me there’re lots of things to consider before harvesting bucks online that newbies may overlook. You’re right about Adsense. It just doesn’t work for everyone’s blog. It’s bitter but true. Now I take pity on some fellow newbies who proudly declare their blogs are already approved by Google Adsense admin. They act as if it could lead them automatically to making wads of money.

    Thanks Johnny!

  5. turisuna says:

    I prefer the fortune, I don’t like the fame that much. Fame doesn’t always bring money and famous people usually have hard life :P
    I want to try affiliate program now, I never try it before because I always think that selling something is difficult job to do and I doubt if I can do it. But there’s no wrong to try it, who knows if my fortune comes from affiliate program, at least I won’t regret because I have tried it first. This tips are very useful for me, because you give me clue how to start selling something. Thanks :)

  6. Anne says:

    Great post, Johnny! I am definitely going for the “fortune” model which is why, even though some people say you shouldn’t worry about monetizing until you’ve been blogging for 6 months, I say “screw that.” I know that I will get followers as soon as I launch because I am already known locally for my “home-schooling prowess.” I also have friends and family all over the country that will send people my way. And I have been making friends on Twitter for several months now that I feel confident will provide some support. So why wait to be set up to make money? If I can make money from day #1, even if it’s only a buck, why not?

    I look forward in time to speaking engagements and the like and hope to make some money there as well, but I also look forward to connecting with people. Even though I am a huge introvert, I like people…generally :)

  7. This was right on time for me. Today someone asked me what my ultimate blogging goal was. Duh! Money!

    Thanks for this.

  8. is that possible? i used to be told that i have to stay away from blogging if i ever want to get rich. the money is in the real world.

  9. ed hardy uk says:

    Thanks for giving me a different perspective about “selling” to my readers. And yes, building trust is very important, paramount to me actually. will work on it later.

  10. Chris says:

    Your comments about Gary Coleman sparked a little curiosity and I did a little Goggling. I found…

    When he was working on Different Strokes Gary Coleman was America’s best-paid child actor, earning $70,000 per episode. At one point his net worth was $18million

    Gary would later sue his management and parents over mismanagement of more than 8 million dollars. He ended up with a little over 1 million and subsequently spent it. He filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and was working as a security guard at the time.

  11. Olusegun says:

    Very insightful.

    Adsense income is not what anyone should depend on except if you are Google or ezine articles.

    I believe that true earnings online is best generated by adding value to a huge crowd, having a product the market wants and going ahead to market it with the aim of selling

  12. Lots of great points. I’ve read a comprehensive book on a topic I’ve been looking for. The author is very well-known too. Everybody adores her in the industry she’s working at. I wanted to become her affiliate to sell her stuff from my site. So, I went to her site and before signing up for her affiliate program, I emailed her to say how useful her book has been for me and thank her.

    To my great surprise, she never replied. Then, I tried to find her Twitter account and follow her to be able to contact her before affiliate program’s registration. She didn’t reply there either!

    I hope she’s fine and come back to her fans and readers online, but just imagine what a wasteful step it would be to sign up without checking out if someone is there, a real person who responds!

  13. scheng1 says:

    I love the second point about selling. After all, when we go for job interview, we are selling our talents and the employers are thinking of buying our time and talents for peanuts.

  14. rachel says:

    great post! money&fame are not necessarily the same thing – pick which you want most (i don’t think they are necessarily mutually *exclusive* i.e. one can help the other – but they don’t guaruntee it…)
    fab ideas, nicely put. i especially like your deal about “being yourself”, that’s the point of blogging, surely – to put your own stamp on things. it’s why i love it so much (reading…)

  15. That’s actually an excellent point about job-hunting. I yell at my wife all the time about this when negotiating for jobs.

    When you’re pitching a job, you’re saying, “How can I help you, and what’s a fair price to pay for that?”

    Too many people approach any kind of job (freelance, service model, or even normal jobs) as going to a person or company and seeing if they’d be so kind as to stoop to your level and condescend to give you a job… like, out of pity or something.

  16. Jenny says:

    “It’s not always about numbers” reminds me of a great little book I read recently, “Tribes” – anyone heard of it? Seriously, this is something that so many people overlook. So many people seem to strive for more readers, more followers without ever asking… why? Why do I want 100 RSS subscribers versus 10?

  17. spacewolf says:

    Got any examples of a blog that sells something well?

    I’m struggling with a couple of banner ads despite high traffic for an expensive hobby niche and discount affiliate retailers to link to.

  18. ITrush says:

    Of course I want both, hoping that really someday everything goes well in fortune and in becoming famous.

  19. Jenny – the best example of that are these Twitter schemes where people find a way to add 1000 followers a day.

    I don’t want 1000 “junk” followers who don’t care to know me! Give me 10 whom I can interact with.

  20. What an article? I like the read of it. Great concept difference between fame and fortune.

    I think if you want to be a successful blogger you need to get your facts either fame or fortune and then draw plans on it.

    Thanks for making it so clear that now I can work on my plans better than before.

    Jay

  21. Funny thing is I just wrote an article about how correlation does not imply causation, but I never thought that very popular bloggers are not all making money from it.

    An eye opener,really. I am writing my blog with the hopes of making money from it sooner or later. My blog is like a portal to me. A great way to market and advertise myself.

    So, essentially, fame does not really matter to me. I want my blog to work for me and help me help others. That is all. If I am able to supplement my living from the blog on top of that, then it’s great!

    But I am not putting all of my eggs in one basket. I am pursuing other goals offline, because it seems that many people just forget the value of person to person communication. More importantly, many bloggers think of blogging as this new found gold and that by merely being a blogger one will be rich. Phew, I am glad I am past that!

    Anyway, this definitely has helped me narrow my focus to creating value and not just being merely popular.

    Best,
    Tomas

  22. Nice post, Johnny. “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money,” said English writer and critic Samuel Johnson nearly 300 years ago. This a bit harsh. You have to build a reputation before you can expect the money to roll in.

    Johnson has a point though. One measure of achievement is what another person is prepared to pay for your work – including advertisers.

  23. Mokibobolink says:

    I like that you tackled this subject as it’s something I’ve thought about a lot myself. Do I want to be popular or do I want to make a living at what I do? After reading the article I think it’s a little of both, mostly because if no one knows who I am, they won’t trust me or the advice/products I offer.

    Thanks for the info!

  24. I absolutely agree with all these points, but especially point 5 – be yourself.

    I rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not…

    And “Personality Marketing” is my whole schtick anyway…

  25. Ebony Jones says:

    Those are good points, but you do need a fairly large audience (read fame) before you can make any money.

    The question I would like to see discussed is whether it is better to be famous or infamous on the web, which one gets the most dollars?

    I’ve been at this for about 2 years…my site is not famous, but has been infamous in spurts (election time). Those spurts did my income good.

    http://www.urbanswirl.com

  26. Interesting post. Those are great tips to keep in mind. thanks for the share. looking forward for more.

  27. Thanks for this post. I enjoy reading posts on how to make money on your blog, and this was informative.

    I have one question though, you mention that those blogs that don’t have an audience willing to buy, will have trouble making money. This is a very valid point, and one that is relevant to me as I write a blog for aspiring writers and, as far as I can tell, they don’t want to buy, they want to read.

    So, my question is this: Is there a different type of model to make money for those blogs with a readership that doesn’t buy?

  28. @Ebony – I don’t think that has to be true, about needing to be well-known or well-read in order to make money. Looking back, I think I could have done fair business without many folks knowing me. It would have been slower and I wouldn’t have made as much, but it could definitely be done. Even now, I’m kind of overexposed, so people might think I have a huge readership or list. I don’t. (Of course, this is all kind of tied together. For a given person, more readers/followers probably do mean more money relative to that same person with fewer readers/followers.)

    @Pamela – I used to work in the humor sphere, and those are people who do NOT want to buy. It’s so hard to make money in humor.

    Writers don’t necessarily “not want to buy,” though… they just don’t want to buy certain types of things. What if you had an e-book on how to get your writing published, and it was backed by some social proof? Or how to make money from your writing, or something like that? I think you just need to consider not whether they will spend money… but WHAT they will spend money ON.

  29. Its great post and very impressive one too. I like the way as you have desribed these things for becoming not only famous but also rich as a blogger.

    I like the 5th one tip as it describes itself that faith as a real person can be really a big thing which needs in each and every field as a blogger.

  30. James says:

    Gary Coleman was recently arrested-you can do a search if you want to know why. If he wasn’t famous, who would know.
    I’ll take fortune over fame any day (I’ll only take fame if it leads to fortune). I’ll make sure to make it my goal too.

  31. Why do people always thing that being famous is being rich, there are a lot of famous people who are dead broke.

  32. Lucy says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Lucy

    http://dataentryjob-s.com

  33. Travis says:

    Wow, this is a sweet post, Darren!

    It totally addresses misconceptions within the blogosphere along with practical, applicable advice on changing those mindsets.

    Thanks bro, I appreciate your content.

  34. Lorrie says:

    Johnny, good to see you here. True it’s almost impossible to separate fortune and fame since those whom are already famous are simply open to more offers by more people who have now heard of them. However the quality of those offers is what makes the difference. Thats why we have words like under-appreciated,over-paid and over-rated. Worth is such a personal concept and every industry has their own yard stick. I glad you’re talking about the difference between being famous and being trustworthy. It’s an important conversation to keep going.

    P.S. why in the world were you watching Gary Coleman?

  35. I think I saw him on the news. Or in the mall. Or in the Olympic. Or something.

  36. I want fame and fortune! I really think the point is our blog can provide useful products/service which can really enjoy our visitors…Agreed?

  37. Thank you for bringing up the word TRUST. I believe that unless one establishes trust (large or small), you will not see or keep that individual on yours or his mailing list. Sadly, one cannot trust people, businesses, government as they had in the past. Greed weighs heavier than truth and unless you stop right now and understand your motives, you can do and others a lot of damage if you are leaning towards a sole intent of money. Check out http://the7figurenetworker.com/dianegarhart to learn how to market online.

  38. hmmm……

    hv a lot to learn form this article… hope i do and do it soon…

  39. mal says:

    It’s better to be rich and not famous than be famous and poor.

    They way to get rich is to help other people get what they want.

    Or win the lottery!

  40. Wannabe says:

    Hello Johnny,

    Very interesting article. I started my own blog just a few days ago, the aim of my endeavor is to blog about what hurdles i have to take and overcome to become a successful blogger. There are so many things one should consider while blogging; lay-out of your blog, attracting traffic and content should be in order. Its not an easy task but i will try to do my best :)

    http://www.wannabemillionaire.com

  41. I agree with your comment that some people think selling is dirty or some how bad.

    This view has come into view because of the high pressure tactics practiced by a few.

    A good sale is when the customer recognises their problem and sees that you are offering a solution at a fair price.

    Thet feel good about buying.

  42. Lucy says:

    What an excellent post. I have been following probloggers directions for 8 months now. With the biggest change happening this month. This site has helped me so much. Thanks guys.

  43. Roma Tinney says:

    This is great for sharing together with all of us. Your writing are really helping me for getting the facts about it online. I better keep to this website. Thanks and well done again.

  44. Some of us would rather not have a “day job” but rather blog for a living (what I love!) Do what you love and the money will come, right?

    Thanks for the valuable insight!

    Hoping I can earn more than $111 in one year, but hey, you gotta start somewhere…

    katiewalters.blogspot.com

  45. Hi – It’s good to find such topical writing on the Internet as I have been able to fiind here. I agree with most of what is written here and I’ll be coming back to this site again. Thanks again for posting such great reading material!!

  46. I’ve gotten a fair number of new readers and Twitter followers since that list came out but I had a couple of five-figure months under my belt already. And I did that with subscriber and reader numbers which were hardly stellar.

  47. Bret Vacek says:

    97% of people attempting to break into the Internet Marketing world end up buying product after product and then eventually give up due to “failure”. The other half join companies that never really allow them to generate the results that they can get from self-branding. Running a business online can be really daunting at times and even I felt at some stage that it wasn’t worth the wait.

  48. There is a saying ” Money is not Everything but for Everything we need Money”.Thats right.All we need in money for our living and enjoyments.Many people are just unaware that internet is the place to make some real money.People go to work and earn for their living,some people run their own buisnesses and some are jobless looking for legitimate suitable jobs.However there are many opportunities in the real world but i say you there are twice as opportunity of that in the online world.

  49. I was wondering what is up with that weird gravatar??? I know 5am is early and I’m not looking my best at that hour, but I hope I don’t look like this! I might however make that face if I’m asked to do 100 pushups. lol