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Why Your Blog Is Not Going to Make You Rich (Or Pay the Bills)

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

$100,000 a year? $500,000 a year? A million? These are figures I bet most of us think about from time to time. But I’m here to tell you a sober truth—something that you probably won’t like the sound of.

Your blog is not going to make you rich. It might not even pay the monthly bills.

But don’t lose hope yet. There is a (very shiny) silver lining to this article: I am going to show you what you need to do to get up to those wonderful figures. In this post I’m going to give you a few important facts and tricks that my multimillionaire uncle passed on to me; facts and tricks that translate to the blogging world very very well.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ed Callow [ torquespeak ]

The millionaire’s advice

Let’s start this post with the advice that my uncle gave me. When I first heard it I think I probably told him to “go away” under my breath. But as I got deeper into my own business I realized how insanely important the advice had become. Especially because I learned the hard way. Let me illustrate.

My first blog was a fitness blog that I ended up selling for $20,000 after just eight months. Before that time, however, the blog paid my bills with a consistent AdSense income. It wasn’t a lot of money but it met my needs at the time. That was until Google banned it from the search results without warning, and without reason. I woke up one day and my excellent rankings for some super-high traffic keywords were gone. And so was my money.

Right at the moment my uncle’s advice came floating back to me:

You must always have a short-term source of income that pays the bills, two medium-term projects that supplement the income, and one long-term project that’s a year away from fruition. Always.

It is powerful advice that every rich person I know pays attention to (consciously or not). I, however, had totally ignored it in my youthful arrogance. I had put all of my eggs in to one basket and as such I had nothing to fall back on, and nothing to look forward to. I was in trouble.

Applying the advice: diversifying my business

So what did I do? Well I went out and cleaned toilets. I worked at a gym as a cleaner for over a year while I built up a new empire. I worked at the gym in the mornings and then came home and, after sleeping for an hour, plugged away at blogs and my other online businesses.

It was different now. Now I was applying the advice. Instead of just building up one blog, I was working on several while building small product websites. I was also working on ideas for the long-term project so that I had something to look forward to.

And this part is important. As the medium-term projects began to fall into the short-term income category, I created new medium-term projects. The trilogy of short-, medium-, and long-term must always be in play. I am trying very hard to remember that.

Why you need to diversify to be rich and safe

Adidas Pro Model
Creative Commons License photo credit: Julien Menichini

Your blog, as it is today, is not going to be enough to make you rich and safe. Okay, you might get lucky and be the next Huffington Post or Mashable and never have to worry about money again. But the chances are good that you’ll be like me; you’ll have to be smart about your future and your income. And to be smart you need to develop projects: one short-term, two medium-term, and one long-term project.

1. The short-term income

The short-term income is the work that pays the bills while you work on your other projects. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t need to be blogging. It doesn’t even need to be glamorous. Like I said before, I worked as a cleaner at a gym in the mornings. It was one of the smartest business decisions I ever made, because it allowed me to still have a full work day to devote to the other projects, since I worked from 6am to 11am.

It also got me a free gym membership, which, trivial as it might seem, allowed me to work out daily and completely de-stress my system. That is a very important thing to do when you’re worried about money. Lift weights and run. If you just sit at home all day in your own company, you won’t realize how stressed you’re actually becoming.

2. The two medium-term projects

The medium-term projects are those that you’re working on to eventually take over your current short-term income. Remember, it’s a good idea to generate your short-term income from more than one source: the more diverse it is, the better. These medium-term projects should be no more than a year away from turning consistent revenue. They can take the shape of:

  • blogs
  • product websites
  • affiliate websites
  • content creation deals
  • partnerships
  • etc.

As they start to make money, you can put them into the short-term category and begin to create new medium-term projects. Perhaps these will come from your long-term category or perhaps you will see new opportunities that you can place directly into the medium-term area.

3. The long-term project

Your long-term project should be ambitious but achievable. It should be one of those ideas where you sit down and think about how much money it would make if only you could get it off the ground. Well, partner, the money coming from your short- and medium-term gigs is what you’ll use to get this idea running.

What I’ve come to discover is that it’s all about these long-term projects. The toilet cleaning, the short-term, the medium-term—all this is a method that gives me the finances and experience to get my big ideas happening.

Blog Tyrant is actually a long term project of mine; it earns me no income at the moment, but I have something absolutely massive planning, which will be launched in a few months’ time. At that point, the blog will fall into my short-term group.

How to make it all happen

Picture 020
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian K YYZ

Sure, this approach sounds good, but how do you get it to work? How do you divide your time, and how do you manage all of the different problems that arise during the process?

Here are a few of my own suggestions but I would love to hear any advice that you might have — please leave a comment and let us hear your thoughts.

1. Focus on helping others, always.

The very first thing I want to mention is that you have to focus on helping others. This is both a marketing and an ethical concern.

Why is this important? Firstly, the products and websites that do the best are the ones that solve a need in a person’s life. I talked about this a lot in my article on how to make your blog addictive. Today a lot of products are created that don’t solve a need — instead, they create a new one. Forget it. Help people.

The second reason why this is important is because if it all fails you will have no regrets. And if it succeeds, you will spend your life helping people.

2. Take risks.

When you go to invest money in the stock market, the broker will say something like “the biggest returns come from the biggest risks”. At some point you have to decide whether or not you are a risk-taker. If you want to be making $100,000+ a year from the Internet, you’ll need to take some risks. You need to risk your time, maybe some of your savings, and definitely some of your sleep. But these risks should be managed and controlled — and well thought through. This isn’t like buying a lotto ticket: it’s like making an investment in the near future.

3. Stick to a routine.

Make a routine and stick to it. Don’t deviate from it at all — if you do, sooner or later the whole thing will fall in to a heap. Divide up your day or your week into the different categories. For example, I spend the weekends working on long-term projects, the mornings on medium-term projects, and the afternoons working on my short-term stuff. It works well. It works best when I stick to it.

4. Don’t give up early.

One of the biggest mistakes I’m guilty of is giving up before I’ve seen an idea through. For example, a few years ago I bought a whole bunch of domain names with the intention of creating a little group of product sites to dominate one particular niche. It didn’t pay off right away so I put less and less time in to it. Now, when I look back, I realize that these websites would be making a huge amount of consistent money without much work at all. The problem was that I didn’t keep my long-term motivation in check.

5. Use verticals.

A vertical is a product that you launch to compliment another product that you already have. A good example of this is the iPod, which makes Apple more money from iTunes, product cases, headphones, etc. If you can use your existing projects to help launch new products, you can cut out a lot of the hard work.

Conclusion

Your blog is not going to make you rich unless you diversify. Darren does it, Shoemoney does it, and my multimillionaire uncle does it. If you want to have longevity in any business, you need to make sure you’re diversifying your assets so that you’re not left high and dry if one of those income streams suddenly dries up.

If you have any stories about this approach, or advice on starting new businesses, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

The Blog Tyrant has sold several blogs for large sums of money and earns a living by relying solely on the internet. His blog is all about helping you dominate your blog and your blog’s niche and only includes strategies that he has tried on his own websites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to his feed for all the juice.

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Comments

  1. Great article and useful information !

    Thanks

  2. Well said Georgina!,

    My short term cash should be sorted in January with a new job starting for me at my friends company. My medium goal is to have a cheap product on my website (Say $5) to see if people buy and to save money for my long term project which is to launch a Facebook Game next summer with a developer from the UK.

    Should be good, this post has cleared alot up though!…

    Thanks

    David Edwards

  3. GolfGurl says:

    Some very good advice here. Diversify, focus and discipline… help others and don’t give up early. When the traffic is light and the affiliates don’t attract it can get discouraging. But continuing to build great content is my current focus. I know my blog is worth something… it’s just a matter of time before it finally kicks in.

  4. Tyrant,

    I just wanted to say: excellent post, and I grabbed a subscription to your blog as well. I appreciate your “give back once you succeed” mentality.

    Focus and consistency have always been my biggest downfalls in my online endeavors. My current blog is my most successful effort thus far, and I believe that’s strictly because it’s been my most consistent. Of course, just last month I had a wave of personal tragedies hit like the perfect storm and the blog suffered as a result.

    I’m back on my feet again and over a week into my revamped editorial schedule, so your post comes at just the right time to keep me focused. Thanks again.

  5. This is some of the best advice that I have seen on blogging or any business. Well written and practical. I appreciate your candor and direct style. Gives me hope yet helps me set my priorities. Thank you.
    Debbie

  6. Paul says:

    This post has made my day. Thanks for the discipline reminder and the shot of encouragement with the cleaning comment. I am basically going through it right now.

    Paul

  7. Great advice, which I’ve never heard before.

    But it makes perfect sense!

  8. Pete says:

    Good post, I never thought of it that way before.

    If you put that into the context of what I am doing, I have a steady income now

    I have built several niche sites and blogs which I hope will soon start making reasonable money.

    i intend to create groups on sites with different hosting accounts and different streams (i.e If Google slap me I still have other offers)

    I intend to add value to these sites with email subscribers lists.

    My future intention is to use all these SEO, blogging and email marketing skills as a packaged product for local offline businesses who could do with trading on the Internet.

    So I guess those all fall into the short, medium and long term categories.

  9. Mark says:

    Excellent advice! Love that you were humble enough to do whatever it took to make your long term goals.

    I read an article by Jimmy Brown that ties into this post perfectly. He said to do 3 things:

    SYSTEMIZE
    STREAMLINE
    STICK TO IT

    Keep the great posts coming!

    Mark

  10. Britty says:

    Thanks for the good advice! I’m not exactly where you fit family into your layout there but they are definitely part of the balancing act.

    I really enjoyed that you mentioned diversity, as well. I think that it’s important that the short, medium and long-term projects have some sense of diversification among them, instead of tying all hopes to one kite.

  11. Great, detailed post. I’m always surprised at how many people really think blogging is a get-rich-quick thing.

  12. Sue Swift says:

    Lovely. I started reading with a sceptical “yeah, yeah” attitude. But you had me almost immediately. You’ve given me something to think about for my business which goes far beyond blogging. Thank you.

  13. oh4foksake says:

    GREAT article Jenn. Thanks for sharing the wisdom.

  14. Lisa says:

    Excellent post, the part I always struggle with is the sticking to it. Right now I am slowing building my sites with more quality content and backlinking. It’s important to offer quality to your readers and not get greedy building more just for the sake of having more. Not good. Because I have a full time job I get lazy, which is so bad too. Must stay disciplined. Excellent advice.

  15. Some great info… The advice about having three pipelines going – brilliant!

  16. Stuart says:

    An interesting and thought-provoking article here, my kind of reading! It’s good to know that you’re playing it smart in life and not hoping for some get-rich-quick method that will magically set you up for life. Anything that’s worth having in this life isn’t gonna come easy.

  17. Vicki Childs says:

    I LOVE this post! It’s a kick-up-the-butt AND a strategy for action – the best kind of post in my opinion!
    I totally agree that the more you give to people the more it comes back to you, it’s weird how that happens but maybe it’s karma?
    Thanks so much for this – it’s inspired me to re-look at my long-term strategy AND my day-to-day priorities!

  18. Jan Husdal says:

    You raise some very good points.

    Have I helped people? While I enjoy my monthly AdSense checks as much as you do/did, my blog’s first and foremost purpose is to be a resource for others in my field. The comments, e-mails and partnership invitations I receive show that my long-term effort is paying off, slowly, but with increasing momentum.

    Have I taken risks? Not sure, but I’ve certainly stuck my head out (to be chopped off) on occasion. I guess I like to play it safe. Success comes to those who wait as well, it just comes a bit later.

    Have I developed a routine? Well, I find it hard to stick to it, but you’re absolutely right; they only way to stay afloat and be ahead of schedule is to keep a daily/weekly/monthly routine.

    Have I given up early? It has been close at times, but after three years I’m finally beginning to reap my blogging rewards more often and more regular than before, i.e. traffic, revenue, contacts, networking etc. And I have done it with one blog and one niche only. I tried others, but I always came back to the one I was most passionate about. I realized that if I cannot put my heart and soul into it, it’s not worth the effort.

    Have I used verticals? Duh…not sure what that would be in my niche anyway, but you’ve given me something to ponder, as in which direction my blog – and business – should develop.

    Great post, thanks!

  19. Blog Tyrant says:

    @Carolee – Nice to see you enjoying my posts over here too!

    @Paul – Keep at it Paul. It will happen if you work at it.

    Tyrant

  20. Great advice. I think it is extremely important to have a good plan. It is very easy to get side tracked. I am not sure about working on many projects at any one time, doesn’t work to well for me anyway.
    Anik Singal gave some good advice a little while ago. Lets say for example you have 3 projects that will take 6 weeks each. Start and finish the first project, this project will then bring you income while you start the 2nd project, again start and finish the 2nd project, this in turn will create income again, so now you have income from 2 sources. Then the 3rd project and so on.
    As we know building a good solid business takes time, despite what the crazy “magic button” gang will tell you.
    Thanks Blog Tyrant.
    Pete

  21. You make a lot of good points. I want to add two additional reasons supporting diversification:

    1: you could get bored with your niche. This is not the best way to continue producing great contents.

    2: your niche could become obsolete. This is particularly true if the niche you’re blogging in is highly specific. Some events could modify it dramatically and make your blog much less interesting without any way for you to control that.

    What was this lesson about baskets and eggs, again?

  22. What is a “content creation deal”?

  23. Blog Tyrant says:

    @Mary E Ulrich – I used to make some of my money by getting contracts to write content for big companies who were building thousands of websites. I outsourced some of the writing and took a cut.

    Tyrant

  24. This is great advice! If you look at the successful bloggers, including Problogger, when they divulge their income results, it always comes from multiple sources at all different stages. I myself have several things in the pipeline, planning that they will start panning out within 6 months. The goal is to eventually be able to retire on it. Not at an extravagent amount, but at a minimal amount.
    Thanks for the info!
    Bernice
    http://livingthebalancedlife.com/2010/quest-for-a-balanced-life/

  25. Asiya says:

    This is a very serendipitous post, as I am on the verge of registering my first few domain names and was contemplating focusing on only one idea. But after reading this, it totally makes sense to work on a couple at a time. It might present a bit of a task in time management, but it makes absolute sense. Thanks.

  26. Dave says:

    I love the way you used your uncle’s advice and applied it to the blogging world. Great piece of advice and I’ll be keeping that in mind when I consider how to monetise my online efforts.

  27. Yes I agree. Diversify, but not too much. If you only have one site you are putting all your eggs in one basket. The danger is not just google reducing your ranking. A site could be hacked, you could have hosting problems, the blog topic could go out of fashion and a million other reasons. I’d say 3 – 5 projects at once is probably the most people can work on effectively. This is all good advice.

  28. Pak Scout says:

    That’s the information I needed. And I think I got it at the right time. I am really motivated about what your uncle said.

    I have a few things going on. I am going to classify them as short term, long term and medium term.

  29. Buzz says:

    I think this advice is more important than ever as it seems too many people rely heavily on Google on all of their websites for their income. A few wrong moves, changes in algorithm, or simply a flood of new competition can wipe your entire income out overnight. This is great advice as you never see extremely wealthy people who rely on just one income stream even when they were building their empires.

  30. Jovie says:

    In considering the points you have made, i’m almost tempted to look at them like an academic argument. But i have to admit, no matter how simple it looks in writing, it’s really true.

    I’ve come to realise that a lot of novice business people “place all their eggs in one basket”, so to say. They tie their bellies and plunge all their money and effort into their next big thing only to get to a tough road and screeeeech!!!! (forgive my crazy use of imagery).

    The blog i’m doing is actually the web site for a companion youth magazine i’m planning to put into printing next year. And with your explanations, i think i’ve gotten the necessary tips to deciding how to categorize the magazine: medium term or long term. And using your advice, i’m probably gonna need to work harder to develop other sources of income that will support the magazine.

    Great advice really, and you put it in a way that is simple to understand.

  31. What a fantastic article. I actually read it twice. I’m glad you placed the #1 rule at #1. It is in fact most important and something you always here when you’re younger. Help Others Always. I make a living, just that, from helping others always and profit is not a bad word. If what you do helps others first and foremost, making money at it just happens, it always does. You see so many people fail because they put the revenue before the solution. Focus on the solution, once you figure it out see if there is any money to be made. If not look for other solutions. Eventually you’ll come across a winner.

  32. Alex S. says:

    I must say that your uncle gave you one hell of an advice. I am happy that you started to live by it and to share the thoughts. This one really helped me. Thank you.

    P.S: Hope my uncle gives me a really good one next time I’ll speak to him.

  33. Krystle IVM says:

    I think the moral of the story is, at any point of your adult life… you should always have a plan B or something to look back on in case things don’t work out for you and also have a goal in mind so you don’t get stuck on where you’re currently at. :)

  34. WOW, this is an inspiring article. I’m actually at a cross-roads and figuring my next move will be crucial to the success of my blogging & designing career. I need to sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and re-align my projects/sites/goals. Thanks for a v. good read!

  35. Mark Cool says:

    Thanks for a great article.

    I am still in the building stages of my 1st site, so it’s helpful.

    I have not looked at monetizing much, still building content, but the question that came up for me when i finished the article was: why did google all of a sudden exculde your site from search results?

    That’s a little scary.

  36. Martin says:

    Yep some really good advice here. I have learned the hard way that ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ can be a very frustrating and very dangerous path to choose.

    Spreading the risk and exploring other markets/opportunities in a controlled manner is definitely the way to go.

    Like the time management tip as well, allocating time to different projects and then sticking to it. I call it time blocking and it works for me too.

    Thanks for the post, it’s been a timely reminder to re-focus.

  37. Blog Towkay says:

    The tip on taking risks is a particularly powerful reminder for new bloggers. Often we forget that like any businesses, blogging can generate a stream of income from your work at home businesses but it also involves expenses. While the expenses are generally low, there will be risks of losing that investment we put in. The question is, do we have the entrepreneurial instincts to take the right risks and stomach the cost. But do set a target on the amount or cost of the risks you are willing to take, and use that as a cap on what we can afford to lose.

  38. vanessa says:

    I guess my short term goal is working the job I hate, but it makes me money. My medium term goal is my blog, which I would love to make money off of it. I will create an e-book, and maybe a hard copy as well. I will try some affiliate programs and sponsors. My long term goal is to go back to college next semester, and get a degree in what I would like to do.

  39. Ryan says:

    I think a lot of new bloggers and writers need to heed this advice. Even having a basic part time job to get out of the house and be social helps. Working from home gets lonely and if there isn’t income there to back it it’s going to get depressing. I think you’re uncle is a smart man.

  40. Natan says:

    That was some very good advice. I’ve read many things trying to express this concept but you found a way to bring it home. Well done and good luck in your ventures.

  41. The old saying comes to mind ‘if you see a bandwagon, it’s too late’.