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Make Money Locally—and Globally—Through Your Blog

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Our blog is less than a year old.

We started Firepole Marketing less than a year ago, and we’ve done pretty well with it over that time. A lot of people know who we are, and what we do.

I’ve even been dubbed the Freddy Krueger of Blogging.

And while we’re not at the scale of a major site like Copyblogger, we still do pretty well, to the point that we make a decent amount of money online, and occasionally even help others to do the same.

Connections

Image copyright Lvnel - Fotolia.com

We aren’t the only ones to have done that, and I remember that a year ago, when I saw others make the same sort of claim, I always wanted more information. I wanted to know how much money they were really making, and where that money was coming from.

All right then, I’ll tell you…

Where did we start? Where did the money come from?

Let me start with a bit of the back-story—who we are, and where we came from.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for longer than my adult life. I quit school when I was 15 to start my first business, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

For the last several years, in parallel with my various entrepreneurial ventures (some of which were successful, and some of which were less so), my regular income was earned by consulting for small businesses, usually in the zero-to-ten employee range. Sometimes I would get involved in an advisory capacity, and sometimes they would bring me in for something very specific (i.e. they need a new website)—either way, I would end up helping them make more money by tuning up their marketing and business strategy.

My partner Peter is a marketing and business coach, with similar expertise. We connected on the networking circuit, and while comparing notes over coffee, we agreed that while there were lots of businesses in our target market that were doing well enough to afford our services, there were also a lot of businesses that really needed help, but hardly had any money. We both gave away a lot of free coaching and advice, but that could only go so far.

So we decided to create our training program—that was the birth of Firepole Marketing.

That was more than two years ago. Fast-forward to last year, and the program was done—now we needed to get the word out about it, and that’s when we turned to blogging.

Obviously, my income started out completely offline. I had grown my consultancy to a six-figure business before we ever launched Firepole Marketing.

I think that’s pretty normal—very few people start their careers online, so it makes sense that you would start your transition into the online world still making money from offline opportunities.

Then we launched our product and blog, and half-expected the sales to start rolling in…

Disappointments and False Starts

Almost immediately after launching the blog, we announced it to our (small) lists, and did a small product launch. This was in the very beginning of 2010.

It flopped miserably.

We didn’t make any money at all from that launch, and in hindsight, it wasn’t hard to see why.

Nobody knew who we were, and our audience was very small (less than a hundred people on our list).

So who were we launching our product to?

Nobody—that’s right!

It was after that false start that we realized we need to focus on building an engaged audience first, and then worrying about product sales later.

So that’s what we did. I wrote lots of guest posts, landed interviews with major figures like Guy Kawasaki, participated in online conversations, and did everything that I could think of to:

  1. get my name out in front of as many targeted people as I could
  2. consistently offer as much value as I could, so that if people remembered me, they would remember me in a positive light.

And it started working. I built real relationships with lots of other bloggers, our traffic numbers grew, and we started seeing some really interesting discussion and debate on some of our posts. In less than a year, our Alexa ranking dropped from over a million to just about 85,000, where it hovers today.

And we figured that as the traffic numbers increased, we’d start seeing more people buy our training program. But we were wrong…

Next: Online Feeding Offline

We did start seeing product sales, but not as many as had hoped, and not as soon as we would have liked.

That was fine, though, because it turned out that there were a much more lucrative income opportunities that literally found us.

Those opportunities were offline opportunities … sort of.

It turned out that a whole bunch of people in our networks—some of whom we hadn’t spoken to in years—were reading our blog, and following our growth online. They were impressed, and started contacting us out of the blue, to engage our coaching and consulting services.

Once we noticed the trend, we put out a few feelers to our list (which had a couple hundred people on it by this point), asking if anyone was interested in working with us on a one-on-one basis.

More than a few people said yes, and working with us on a one-on-one basis isn’t cheap!

In other words, before we even started making product sales, we had generated something like $10,000 in extra revenues from new clients that found us through the blog.

But it didn’t stop there.

Product Sales and More Clients…

Eventually, people started buying our training program.

It was just a trickle at first—after all, this is a $900 training program, not a $17 e-book!

But people were buying, culminating in a big chunk of publicity that we got at the end of August, when we took the program off the market.

All in all, we’ve probably made another $10,000 or so from product sales, and we expect that number to grow dramatically each time we open the program to new students, which will probably happen once or twice per year (that way, we can focus on building our audience in between).

And in between launches, we get new coaching and consulting clients, which will realistically continue to make up the majority of the income that we earn online—at least for the next year or so.

So, how can you do the same?

Are you wondering whether you can do exactly what we did, and get the exact same results?

The answer is that no, you probably can’t.

I could tell you what’s worked for us—but that probably won’t be very helpful, because we’re different people with different strengths, we’ve had different experiences, and we’re in different circumstances.

What you really need is some hard data about what seems to be working, across the board.

Everybody talks about making some money locally and some money online, but there’s no hard data about what results large numbers of people are seeing, and how long it’s taking them to get there.

We wanted to change all that, so we created the Semi-Local Business Survey.

The survey will ask you how much of your income is generated locally, how much is generated remotely, and how you came to be where you are today.

Your answers are completely anonymous, and will be added to the answers of many others, so that we can see what the real trends in the industry are.

There’s no offer here, and nothing for sale—we just want to gather the data and share it with the community.

So please, take a few minutes and complete the survey!

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the program that turns non-marketers into expert marketers. He wants to know where entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses are really making their money – help out by completing the Semi-Local Business Survey today!

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Imtiaj says:

    After launching a blog, it seems like things are not working. No one re-tweeting, readers are not subscribing, search engines are not sending a single visitor. I think it takes at least 6 months just to get noticed. Anyway, nice to know about your success :))

    • After I lunching a blog – I try to post answers to the hot questions that people ask in relevant mailing lists.
      I achieve two goals at the same time: 1. You write in your blog about a hot topic that people are looking for 2. You can always reference a link to a post in your blog when you reply to some ones question in the mailing list.
      What do you think about it?

    • Gregory C. says:

      And during those months, you really need to be hustling, guests posts everywhere and promoting your blog (in positive, non-spammy ways) at every turn.

    • It isn’t a function of just time, it’s a function of promotion, too. If you don’t get the word out about what you’re doing, then it doesn’t matter how long you do it, because it might take forever for anybody to notice. Have you thought about what you might do to reach prospective readers and let them know that you’re around?

    • JD says:

      It takes some time to get your blog noticed and working with an SEO company can really help if you’re not aware of the different search engine optimization strategies. Depending on what your blog is about and what keywords you want to be known for, it will take a bit of work to get you ranking on the 1st page of google. What strategies are you using?

  2. Guy Hogan says:

    You have given me some very useful insights. I’m just at the building an engaged audience stage. My blog produces no income; but now I have some knowledge that I can use.

  3. Sean Davis says:

    So, this is coming mainly from the perspective of bloggers who have another offline business and only blog as an additive to their business footprint. This post seems to be for a very targeted audience.

  4. Wasim Ismail says:

    You can definitely make money via your blog, but it’s not an overnight success, requires a lot of consistency, determination, and patience. Just like running a normally business.

  5. Hi,

    I’ve always wondered how to drive sales through a blog as I am currently starting several up. They are niche so it will be imperative to drive traffic. Fishing for traffic is all well and good but it is finding the magic that works for your audience. Once I secure mine, I’ll post about it!

  6. Fred Tracy says:

    Interesting. I thought often about, for example, making some business cards for my website. I think that might work well to drive some off-line traffic.

    But I think your niche may be more susceptible to that kind of approach. Nevertheless, great post.

  7. MaAnna says:

    Danny, thank you for sharing this story. Sounds a lot like the way I got started with my current site too. And, it should be encouraging to many folks to see how two people with business experience failed right out of the gate, and then what they did thereafter to become successful. Super advice whether you have a mix of offline/online sales, or just online only.

  8. Lella says:

    I admire people who admit their mistakes. Learning from other people who made mistakes early on and are very successful is a no-brainer. Many thanks for sharing your experiences.

    I would welcome any advice if you wanted to take a look at my blog. There is no harm in asking :)

    Lella xx

    • Nope, doesn’t hurt to ask. Helps to ask more specific questions, though. ;)

      Feel free to shoot me an email (firepolemarketing.com/blog/contact-us/), and tell me what you’re struggling with, and I’ll do my best to help out.

  9. Hi Danny,

    Take your 2 steps each day, again and again, to become successful.

    The formula works, if you work it. But you can not give up. You can’t take weeks or months off from the formula, or else you won’t be “out there” enough, and leveraging your presence is about being “out there” on a consistent basis, so your target market sees you, becomes familiar with you, and trusts you. After the trust, comes the sales and business growing.

    Success seems to be a matter of dogged persistence more than anything else. Those who keep at it, get it. You acquire all you need to know, meet the people you need to meet, and develop the mental and physical tools to become successful, if you stick with it day after day, with a few days off in between.

    Thanks!

    Ryan

    • You’re absolutely right, Ryan, every overnight success is ten years in the making, and the longer you work at it, the closer you’ll get to the success that you deserve. That goes for everyone, of course – that was certainly my story! :)

  10. Hi, my blog is started 2months ago and I am getting quite good amount of traffic using search engine optimization techniques and other manual techniques such as comments and pinging. I am sharing my methods on my blog and my methods get my blog listed from the first day it is being created. :)

  11. In addition, I am blogging for more than 5 years. All the experience I got during these 5 years are very useful for me because I can setup a blog fast and make money from it. We can’t make a lot of money overnight but the income will come in slow bu it will continue to come in the future. You can search my blog in google using keyword “earn money from blog”, you will see my blog listed number 1 in the first page. :) good luck and make more money online.

  12. Mahsa says:

    I used to think it was a myth when I heard that people make money through their blogs. When I finally saw proof that it’s true I started wondering how. This is an amazingly eye opening thing for me to read, as a business major in university. Thank you.

    • I’m glad that you found this post helpful, Mahsa. Yes, people definitely do make money through their blogs, but it isn’t easy, and it requires a careful strategy to make it happen. :)

  13. Sriram Reddy says:

    Its an interesting survey you have come up with, I would definitely look forward for its results.

    A lesson to learn from the narrative is, as there is no fixed way out, keep trying till you find the right way out. AND, blogs play such a critical role in marketting and business development.

  14. Joan says:

    I’m new to blogging too and I keep writing posts and commenting on other top bloggers sites. I am seeing traffic coming in from those comments. So my plan is to comment more on top blogs, keep writing a post or two a day and make it interesting. It is fun and I’m hoping in a year it is a good money maker!

  15. naijadotcom says:

    Thank you for sharing your story,it is an encouragement,i have gotten some useful information from it, it just shows that you have to keep at it,someday soon the traffic will come.

  16. Thanks for sharing this. It’s surprising when I see people amazed that one can make money off their blogs. Any way this seems to be more about people extending from offline to online business promotion. How about bloggers starting online then expanding offline? I for one.

    • It works both ways, Ikenna – the point is that it is important to diversify your income, so that some is online, and some is offline. It’s just harder for a large portion of income to start online, because you usually have more to work with offline – especially at first.

  17. Mark Aylward says:

    I keep hearing about the power of guest posting and think I’ll kick that up a notch as it seems a good way to “borrow” different audiences as you gain your own
    Thanks
    Mark

  18. Eugene says:

    Great story, very informative.

    It makes perfect sense to begin offline as the competition is virtually none.

    After gaining valuable insight on running a business you scale up and put your efforts before the online audience.

    • I wouldn’t say that the competition offline is virtually none – it’s just that it’s easier for you to get some exposure (at least a bit), because we usually have some kind of offline network to lean on.

  19. Michael says:

    This is refreshingly honest. Thanks. There seems so much to learn, and there is no guarantees. But, it is definitely inspiring to read other people’s journey, and to know it is possible. Even when failure is the first port of call! Personally, I really feel that offline is where the big money is, for online marketers with as much skill as guys like this. If you can grab attention online, where there is so much noise, you can surely do it offline. Or perhaps online for offline businesses.

    • I’m glad you thought so, Michael. You’re right, there’s definitely no guarantee, but the more you can learn about what has worked for others, the easier it will be to cobble it all together into a path that will work for you.

      You’re right, there is a lot of money offline, but the difference is that with online, your reach is almost limitless, if you’re equipped to scale properly. Does that make sense?

  20. James Greg says:

    Instant success is not available which means that we have to work hard to gain it. This means there would be time time needed to sacrifice and it could take months or years depending on the competition in the niche.

  21. ziare says:

    Local markets are the future. Why? because the competition is really low, and it’s really easy to out-rank most websites with basic on-page SEO and a few tools to scan your competition.
    I’ve found that getting links on the pages that link to my competition + better on-page seo than my competition can get my websites at the top of the SERPs in a matter of weeks.

  22. 6 month into my blogging and still yet to realize any revenue from it, reading such motivational stories does boost up my confidence and keeps me going for a couple of weeks forward.

  23. Herbie says:

    Awesome insight and advise here! I was lucky when i started my blog and made a few dollars nothing spectacular, but i was able to see the potential. It most definitely takes consistency and time to polish up your skills. And it helps when you can learn from others experience !!