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Chocolate to WordPress: 6 Lessons Learned Blogging for Dollars

This guest post is by Jules Clancy of Stonesoup.

Ever dreamed of tasting chocolate for a living?

Image is author's own

Well I’ve been lucky enough to live that dream, and while is was hard to beat as far as jobs go, it doesn’t hold a patch on blogging for dollars.

Last year, I quit my day job designing chocolate biscuit—cookies—for Australia’s most loved biscuit company because I knew it was holding me back from my dream of writing cookbooks and blogging professionally.

Twelve months on, I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am I made the leap. Waking up every day to do what I love—cook, take photographs, and write, is the biggest motivator ever. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m living this life.

My business is blossoming and I’ve learned a few things along the way. It will be a while before I start getting phone calls from my accountant asking if I’d robbed a bank, like Darren. I’m still on a huge learning curve but I wanted to share the six most important lessons I’ve learned so far.

6 lessons learned

1. People are willing to pay to learn new skills online but not for information

Think about your own online browsing and spending habits. With so much free information, there’s no need to pay. But learning new skills is a whole different situation. As Martyn Chamberlin wrote recently on ProBlogger, you need to teach, or your blog will die.

While my ecookbook sales have been okay, the response to my Virtual Cookery School, where people take cooking classes from the comfort of their own homes, has been way beyond my expectations.

2. Publishing a print book without a clear benefit statement and target market is a bad idea

The year before I left my job, I self-published a cookbook of my mum’s recipes. I knew it would appeal to some people, but it didn’t have a strong reason for being. While the thrill of becoming a published author was wonderful, having a stack of books in the garage isn’t a great outcome. Even though I have more than broken even, I’m really hesitant to jump into a print book again.

3. It’s a great idea to offer a super-premium product as an anchor

People aren’t rational when it comes to spending money. Having a premium product will make your standard offering seem much more affordable. And from my experience, you’ll still sell a few units of the premium product, which is a nice cash injection. For more on this I highly recommend reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

4. Pricing is complex and cutting price isn’t necessarily going to drive sales.

When I launched my ecookbook last year for $37, I got quite a bit of feedback that the pricing was too high. So a few months later, I repackaged it and launched a premium video version for $77, the standard book still at $37, and individual chapters for $4.50 each. Surprisingly I sold more units of the standard book after that launch than I sold of the much cheaper individual chapters.

We’re all on a learning curve when it comes to pricing. Don’t be afraid to back yourself and charge for quality.

5. It’s much easier to sell people a subscription than a large one-off fee.

Since January, I’ve moved to a subscription-based model for my online cooking school. People can still pay for individual classes if they like, but most people opt for the $20/month membership. Making the membership brilliant value, with access to all the previous classes that have been run at the school, also helps. And the regular income is certainly a bonus.

6. Being a full-time blogger is the best fun.

I feel so blessed to be making a living doing what I love. Sure, it isn’t always easy, and there are times I’ve doubted my ability to make it work. But I keep asking myself, what’s the worst that can happen?

How about you? Any lessons you’d like to share from the business of blogging?

Jules Clancy is a qualified Food Scientist, the creator of The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. She blogs about her commitment to only cooking recipes with no more than five ingredients over at Stonesoup.

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Comments

  1. Jules, congrats on the career change!

    How do you supplement your income? I’m assuming you aren’t making a living from blogging? would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    I think a mistake many aspiring pro-bloggers make is that they think they will immediately step into making enough money to live off.

    I haven’t sold anything – yet. I’ve only been blogging for a month and a half. But I know I can. I know I will!

    • jules says:

      Thanks graphic design boss.

      I actually have been making a living from blogging since October so it took me about 8 months of living off my savings to get there

  2. shrinidhi says:

    yeah totally awesome….being a full time blogger is the best part……sharing your ideas and knowledge with the whole world and getting to know new people and making new friends…totally cooool……yeah .i m lovin it!!!!!!!!!!! :D

  3. It sounds like you have got a really solid business model for your blog which is what works best in this industry. If you start off and don’t have any idea where you are going you’ll end up no where!

  4. Manuel says:

    “People are willing to pay to learn new skills online but not for information, teach or you blog will die.” With so much information available nowadays, you have to teach (not rehash expired info) to make considerable impact.

  5. Determining price is a big factor when it comes to sales, and your buyers will let you know whether your too high or too low..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  6. Priscilla says:

    Love your last point. If blogging isn’t fun, or at least something we enjoy, we won’t have what it takes to get over the times when those questions rise about whether we can actually make blogging work.

  7. Great tips! I am publishing my first ebook next week, but plan to do some online workshops in the near future. Thanks for the tips!
    Bernice
    Choosing the important stuff

  8. Every part-time blogger has a dream to become full-time. But only a few like you take the decision & make it. In fact, quitting a day job is a difficult decision. The article sounds like an honest experience. Also liked – “People are willing to pay to learn new skills online but not for information” :)

  9. Jules,

    This is simply brilliant. Congratulations!

  10. I agree with lesson 1 , this is good and unfortunate at the same time. Its good becuase you are deleviring an experience or skills , however the bad news is that most people look for a guidance and they become dependant rather than try to widen their context .

  11. iheartubuntu says:

    I definitely agree with #3 – an anchor product. I have a house blog (1916home.net) and i sell a $20 font there… I get lots of sales each month! Love it.

    Now Im doing an Ubuntu linux blog. Wish me luck Darren!!!!

  12. Heather says:

    I am confused about 1 thing you mention…you say people aren’t willing to pay for information, but they are willing to pay to learn a new skill. This is confusing since most skills learned require information and most skills are taught on the Internet for free. I have learned many new skills on the Internet without paying. Can you please explain?

    • Heather,
      I think that Jules is saying (and Jules correct me if I am wrong) that people will pay to learn a skill but not just for information about the skill. For example, you can learn martial arts with a good teacher but you cannot really learn martials arts by reading the information in a book. People want the skill not just the info.
      Does that make sense Heather?

      David

      • jules says:

        Thanks David

        That’s exactly what I meant.

        Heather people are looking for more than just the information – the what, they’re also looking for the how. You’re right you can learn new skills from just the information but it can take more time and effort.

        • I think there’s more to it than people looking for skills.

          People long to connect with those who can teach them. Whether we are offline or online we would rather connect with a person we admire than with a the pages of a book.

          I am part of the A-List Blogging Club and Jules Soupstones cooking school, both of which have monthly membership fees, because I admire Mary and Leo and Jules. They are people I feel I can learn from and I’m prepared to pay to have access to them on a higher level. It’s a more personal connection than I get by just visiting their blogs.

  13. doing what you love for a living is the best thing that can happen to you and by blogging. I’m happy for you!

  14. Congrats in accomplishing your dream of blogging/writing for a living—that’s definitely my goal as well! Thanks also for sharing your tips. I think the more you share with others the more the universe gives you to grow even more :).

  15. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely is an amazing book. I wholeheartedly recommend it, for the reason stated in your article, but also because it will completely change your outlook on how things are advertised and pushed. Fantastic read and an eye-opener.

  16. RichardStep says:

    You’re piece here elicited 2 “Ohhh!” reactions from me, 1 “Yup-*sigh*-that’s me”, and the rest are things I should aspire to. This is a good thing!

    You know, I’ve subconsciously noticed the “can’t sell info, but can sell teaching” bit, but never brought it to the forefront… major kudos for bringing it up for me. :)

    Oh and the pricing bit rang true with some of the direct marketing books that are out there… good to see your test data has proved the theories!

    Thank you very much for sharing and toodles!

    -RichardStep | Life Engineer

  17. I enjoy learning about how you produced a back end product your book at $37 to gain more value for yourself. That was a really good idea that you did right their by doing that then adding on a membership to your classes as well. Those were two creative ideas that would bring you a lot more business and success in the next coming month. Congrats

    For the blogging part that is always an enjoyable experience to do something that you truly love everyday and to share that with other people. I know it was a very big step for leaving your job as well. But, how do you prepare for a leap of faith like that?

  18. Quality is what matters even here. If your product doesn’t help others, then why would they buy it. Your experiment with std. ebook & Premium Video Product was a success. That proves that people want quality info. & they’ll pay anything for that.

  19. Funny, but I just realized a few minutes ago that I started my for-profit blog exactly one year ago today. Wow, yes, I’ve learned a lot in the process!

    I think one of the greatest things I’ve learned is how satisfying it is to help people. I loved what Sonia Simone said in one of the Third Tribe podcasts: “You’re a ninja to someone.”

    I’ve certainly found that to be true. I had all this knowledge stored in my brain for so long, not really giving much thought to the fact that there were others who would really appreciate knowing it themselves. I started putting it out there and it has been awesome to know people have been truly helped by it. Makes me think bigger for the future…

  20. Clarabela says:

    Congratulations on your blogging success, although I am not sure I could leave a chocolate tasting job. It sounds like bliss.

  21. I agree with you, people rarely pay for information online, but to learn something new and for services, they pay. I hope to write an e-book about search engine optimization and with the e-book i hope to give some resources for free, what do you think of that ? Hope me too can be a full time blogger sooner or later, I really love this job, I mean blogging !!

  22. Nathan Pope says:

    Congratulations on the big change. There are a lot of people out there who could could benefit a lot by reading your account. The real ‘secret’ to making money online is shown here, work hard at it try new things.

  23. Hi Jules,
    You are so right that teaching a skill is more important than just sharing information. This is why people will listen to a great teacher who really shows you how to do something but sometimes never go into a library full of the same information.

    I have been told that the success of my healthy living program is not about the information I present but about the way I present it in my seminars. I believe this the same thing you are talking about, is that right?

    You are onto something great with your cooking.

    Continued Success,
    David

  24. Greg says:

    Hey Jules,

    This is fantastic post. I especially appreciate points 4 and 5. I was recently thinking about lowers prices on some of my photography services, because of low sales, but instead I restructured what I made available to clients and things took off.

    I’ve been looking to start selling some sort of monthly eBook series or educational content — not quite sure how I’ll package it yet — but I was thinking about 1 fixed price. This monthly subscription idea sounds like a MUCH smarter idea to encourage subscribers. Thanks again for sharing!

  25. se7en says:

    What a great post!!! I like a bit of reality… most post on making money from blogging are so “pie in the sky” thanks for sharing your experience with us!!!

  26. Angela says:

    Teach or your blog will die. Yes I agree that Video Tutorials are a must these days. For people to be able to learn something from the comfort of their home is what people want. The Virtual Cooking School sounds exciting. Thanks for the tips, you have inspired me to believe in myself and my goals.

  27. Chakie says:

    Blogging is like a virus. Once you start, it becomes part of your life. But my problem is that I still think that I wont risk a lot for blogging , like leaving my job (maybe this is my problem). Anyway thank you for all of these lessons and sharing your experience.

  28. I totally agree on this article. Especially #1 and #6. Great Post! Thanks for sharing. :D

  29. Kanwal Sarai says:

    Excellent post! Lots of good information that I can use. Thanks!

  30. Tilen says:

    really nice post! I agree with your points, especially about being a full time blogger is the best fun. Why? Because I like it and my readers see that. If you like something that you’re doing, you’re already doing it better and you’re going to win! And you can teach something good if you don’t like it. It’s just like school when we were kids. I always prefered the professors who showed the passion for teaching. And readers of your blog are your students. They want to learn and follow your instructions and skills. With doing what you love you can gain a lot! In life and in blogging :)

  31. Tinh says:

    I love the last point the most as I find blogging very fun and It helps me learning a lot from reading other blogs and making some extra bucks too :-)

  32. Tech Crates says:

    wow..congrats on your new career and hope you get success with it

  33. Ed says:

    It’s awesome that you are making it work. Nice advice. This is the year i start putting more work time towards blogging and trying to increase my income streams. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

  34. Lea Sadler says:

    It’s awesome – and heartening – to hear of your success. But I would love to hear more about the process by which you were able to attain that blogging success. I love to learn from others’ experiences, so would love to know more about your “rise to fame.” How long did it take to realize your success, for example? What methods did you try before it all clicked? What kind of time frame were you working with?

    It’s a common issue for newer bloggers – those still trying to attain success j- to wonder if they are on the right path, in terms of what they are doing, specifically. And it’s a tough thing to know without having a lot of data to look back on.

    Thanks so much!

  35. This is very encouraging to me, as I’m a writer and blogger too. I’m still learning the ropes and trying to make things work. Articles like this make me think I can still do it.

  36. Mark Harai says:

    Thanks for sharing these lessons Jules. They have clarified some questions that have been lingering in my mind : )

    I love #6 – I’m finding blogging to be a tremendous way to learn and build business.

    Have a great week : )

  37. Andrew says:

    Congratulations on living the dream! I found point number four very interesting. I read recently that you should offer three price points when offering a product or service, with the middle price point being the one you want people to subscribe to. Most people perceive this as being the best value as it’s not the cheapest and it’s not the most expensive. .

    Best of luck to you for the future!

  38. These are great tips. And being an economist I especially like the lessons on pricing – not always easy to get right and yes people are irrational!

  39. Himanshu says:

    really nice post. blogger as dream job is for many of us. really liked pricing point.

  40. Allen Walker says:

    Congratulations on your recent success. :) I’ve done a similar job in the past, and it can often be bad for your weight. Starting blogging has given me more time to exercise and live a more balanced lifestyle.

  41. Hey Jules, I’m proud to see yet another member of the A-List Blogger Club go pro. One of the main things I’ve noticed about you – right from when you first came to us – is your willingness to learn, and to put what you learn into action. That’s a recipe of success.

    So lovely to see you shine :-D

    - Mary

  42. People may not be willing to pay for information, but they do want a connection with a real person who is passionately committed to what they do. After being ‘marketed at’ for the last 50 years, we’re getting back to storytelling and connection… I’ve been blogging for 14 years and have made a living at it for the last 10, and am STILL having a blast.

  43. This is a really helpful post–especially the bit about lower prices not necessarily selling better. It’s nice to read about a successful online business that isn’t about doing online business. :)

  44. Gordon says:

    So Julies, how exactly are you earning a living for yourself? Maybe if you wrote a post about what exactly you’re doing each day, how much you’re charging, it would be more helpful than this bit of self-congratulatory blathering that I’ve come across in so many other blog posts!

  45. Deeba says:

    Thanks for sharing your success so whole heartedly. I agree with every word you say & have learnt lots. Hopefully one day I shall be able to earn from my blog… you inspire me!

  46. Makeda says:

    This was a great posts with great tips. I am new to blogging and I was wanting to get an idea of the potential success a blogger can truly have. I am thinking that the sky is the limit as long as I am willing to commit to it and try new things. Thanks and congratulations!

    http://blog.infaithtoday.com/?ci=23323

  47. Awesome. I’m glad you made the change. Following your dreams. Living your dream. Teaching your dream. Thanks for making me smile.

    Mr. MakingUsmile

  48. Koen says:

    “People are willing to pay to learn new skills online but not for information”
    Thank you for reminding me.
    By reading your blog, I just modified one of my future plans!

    Koen

  49. Jerrick Yeoh says:

    i think you able solve your pricing problem because they do lot of ebook about recipe sold in online as well. Recipe maybe lot kind of categories as foods – chinese foods, western foods, tea time, breakfast, dessert and so on. Try to get copyright for your recipe if you can because mostly they able to screenshot it and share with other for free. I’m sure you enjoy of posting your blog about foods even me would like to look for nice foods on other people blog. The most fun part of foods blog would be the taking the nice picture of the foods that you have cook and design it nicely.