Close
Close

Stop Writing for Free and Launch Your Own Profitable Blog

You’ve spent countless hours crafting article after article. Your articles have generated thousands of page views. You feel pretty successful in terms of exposure, but large media companies are not knocking down your door to hire you. That paying gig you have been dreaming of still seems just as far away as it always has. Your writing hasn’t earned you a dime, and your exposure hasn’t done anything but bring you momentary comfort. Sound familiar?

There has been a long-raging debating about the merits of writing for free. Some have spoken out heavily in opposition of doing so, saying it devalues the writer’s work. Others have supported it on the condition that the writer is either getting somewhere or is comfortable writing as nothing more than a hobby. In reality, a writer must make the decision that best fits her circumstances. Does she have time to write for free in addition to her paying job? Does she have a clear goal in mind and a path toward a full-time, or part-time employment in the writing field? These are all tough questions, but the decision to write is often one made from passion as opposed to logic. Passion is funny like that, driving us to do things that often don’t make sense.

There’s a way to have the best of both worlds, though. While there is no shortage of sites that will give a blogger the potential for exposure, not many offer pay. Even if some do offer pay, the money is insignificant. The allure of being read is strong, but writers can get the same (or similar) exposure while generating far more income. All they have to do is launch their own site.

Simple, right? Set up an account with Blogger or WordPress, throw up some ads, and start making some money. Not quite. Launching a blog, whether it be in sports, fashion, technology, or any field is difficult. You have to have a clear understanding of the market, of the steps necessary for success, and of the resources at your disposal. In my guide to launching a profitable sports blog, the focus is clearly on sports, but the steps to go from unpaid writer to founder of a site generating a profit can be applied for just about any other topic.

To see the traffic and the success necessary to justify launching your own site, you’ll need to focus on a few key areas:

  • Content Quality
  • Costs
  • Promotion
  • Quantity

Each area, if handled properly will ultimately lead to a blog that generates enough traffic to make a good amount of money. The sites I launched using these strategies have generated thousands of dollars. So, let’s get into it.

Content Quality

The most common pitfall in blogging is poor quality. For some reason, this is overlooked by those just starting out. It may be the rush to get thoughts out in the form of a blog, or it could be a lack of education in proper grammar and style, or it could be any number of things driving the quality of the content down the drain. If that’s happening with your blog, you’ll never build up a traffic base that will sustain any sort of revenue stream. Focus on quality first.

You can do so by taking your time. Read your articles out loud. Have others read them. Read them again yourself. Only after multiple reviews should you hit the publish button. But what if you don’t feel like you have the writing background or skills to ensure top-notch quality. Don’t worry, there are plenty of resources at your disposal. Some will cost you a bit of money (like Coursera’s class on Crafting Effective Writers), but others are completely free (a Google search will yield plenty of free results). If you struggle with your writing quality but want to run an effective blog, you should seriously consider classes. The improvement in your writing will pay dividends in the long run.

When you are launching your blog, trying to attract readers, and trying to get people to share your content, the quality of your blog will set you apart. Invest in that quality, and you won’t be disappointed. Ignore quality, and you’ll be just like the vast majority of blogs out there – ignored.

Costs

Blogging can be very inexpensive, but the costs can rack up fast depending on what you’re looking for. The most likely cost you will incur is hosting. If you use Blogger, you will not have to worry about hosting. All you’ll pay is your domain registration costs. Those are generally inconsequential. However, if you decide to use a content management system (CMS) that requires you to pay for third party hosting – WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are good examples – you’ll want to make sure you monitor your costs closely.

Hosting providers will generally offer three types of hosting; Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Servers, and Dedicated Servers. Each comes with an increasing monthly cost. Let’s start with Shared Hosting.

Shared Hosting simply means you will be sharing a server with numerous other websites. If your blog is not attracting a ton of traffic this should be a perfectly acceptable option. In fact, if you are just launching, I highly recommend starting with a Shared Hosting plan. If you end up needing to upgrade, that should be easy. However, if you spend more money up front, you can never get back those wasted expenses.

A Virtual Private Server is similar to Shared Hosting in the fact that you will still be using the same server that other websites are using. However, unlike Shared Hosting, your site will be given a partitioned section of that server which helps improve performance. That improved performance means your blog can handle more traffic and will likely be more secure. This service will come with a steeper cost than Shared Hosting, so upgrade wisely.

A Dedicated Server should only be considered once your blog has reached the big time. If you are doing millions of unique visitors per month, you may need to look into a Dedicated Server. This set-up is exactly as it sounds. Your site will have its own server to itself. No sharing, no partitioning just to get a little privacy. A Dedicated Server will also offer the most security since you won’t be as vulnerable to attacks on other websites that may share a server with the other plans. The cost for a Dedicated Server is hefty, so make sure you truly need it before going this route.

Managing the costs of hosting is just one part of managing your blog’s overall costs. Running your site should be inexpensive, but you can gradually scale spending up as you’re generating more and more revenue. I would not recommend immediately going out and paying for advertising on social media or any other channel. Keep costs down to improve profits early. Reinvests those profits for future expenditures.

Promotion

Speaking of future expenditures, you may want to spend a little money on promoting your site once you’ve laid the early groundwork. While Google AdWords is the go-to method for advertising other types of websites, your site will be generating revenue from ads. Spending money on normal pay per click advertising just to generate traffic that may or may not stick doesn’t make much sense. If you decide to spend money on promotion, social media advertising may be your best option.

With the sites I launched, Twitter was my best friend. Twitter referral traffic often ranked in the top-three of all traffic sources. It can be difficult to build a following, but it’s possible to do so without spending money. First though, I’ll explain the paid route. By paying for promotion on Twitter (or Facebook for that matter), your site’s account will show up in the feeds of those who do not follow you. This can generate some quick follows, and those follows are likely to stick. However, beware of non-Twitter services. There are sites out there offering to get you thousands of followers for just a few dollars. Those followers will be robots and they will do nothing to help drive traffic to your site.

If you decide not to spend money on social media advertising, that’s perfectly fine. You can do so pretty easily with Twitter. In order to build a following without spending money, you’ll have to give up the notion of “being cool” on Twitter. If you look at most brands and plenty of individuals, they will have thousands of followers but will be following very few. Don’t worry about being cool. Connect with your potential readers. Follow back anyone who follows you. Seek out those who might be interested in your content, and follow them. Most people are willing to follow back, but be careful how often you do it. Twitter has a policy against “aggressive” following. They don’t explicitly define this, but if you are not following hundreds of people per day, you should be fine. This process takes commitment, and it takes time, but it pays off. The Twitter accounts for the sites I launched now have over 70,000 followers combined. That was the result of almost exclusively non-paid promotion.

You want real, engaged followers. You want those followers to click on links to your articles. Use a service like TwitterFeed or Dlvr.it or something similar to automatically post your content to Twitter as soon as you publish. If you build up a solid following and automate the delivery of your article links to your social media profiles, you’ll see social media suddenly become one of your top traffic referral sources.

While social media traffic is a great source of readers for your site, it’s not the only option. Perhaps the topic you’re covering has a network you can join. For example, in the sports blogging world there are networks like Bloguin and Yardbarker. By joining, you carry some of their approved ads and split revenue with them, but you more than make up for the revenue split with increased traffic viewing your non-network ads (think Google AdSense ads). If your topic of interest does not have a network like this, fear not. You can network on your own. Reach out to similar sites. Share links, offer to share their links, build a connection. While it all seems minute initially, these types of connections build up over time.

Finally, running contests and forging partnerships is a great way to promote your site and see an increase in traffic. With the sports sites I launched, I reached out to other sites who were not direct competitors that I knew I could drive traffic to. We arranged simple link deals where I would put a call to action at the end of each article sending traffic their way, and they would either do the same or promote my site on social media. Contests worked even better, though. If you can afford the cost of a giveaway prize, you’ll be amazed at how much interaction you’ll get with a giveaway. Make those who want to participate share your site’s link, follow you on Twitter or Facebook or do something else that helps build a long-term following. Then, you can randomly select a winner. As long as it’s fair, people will love it, and you’ll see a spike in traffic.

Quantity

We already discussed the importance of quality, but another driving force for your blog’s traffic will be quantity. Quality is far more important that quantity, but the amount of content you produce can usually be directly correlated to the volume of traffic your site sees on a daily basis. The articles all still need to be of a high quality, but you should strive to produce as much content as you possibly can.

Think of it this way, if each article maxes out at 500 views and you produce one article per day. That equates to 182,500 page views in a year. If you double that production to two articles per day, you might see a leap to 365,000 page views in a year. What happens if you produce 10 articles per day or more?

10 per day = 1,825,000 page views in a year

15 per day = 2,737,500 page views in a year

20 per day = 3,650,000 page views in a year

Obviously, there is no guaranteeing you’ll hit 500 views or more for each article, but it seems like a reasonable goal, doesn’t it? When you break it down by views per article, you can focus at a granular level that should help keep you motivated. But wait, you can’t possibly write that much, can you? It depends on the topic you are covering. If each of your articles is a 2,000 word in-depth analysis of something, you’re probably not going to hit 20 articles per day no matter how much help you have. However, if your articles are more quick-hit, you can certainly recruit a staff of writers to help you and easily hit 20 articles per day.

With my sites, we routinely hit 20 to 30 articles per day. It wasn’t always like that, of course. My co-founder and I were originally the only ones writing. We didn’t want to recruit a staff until we could pay them something. We were able to pump out quite a few articles per day, but it wasn’t until we brought on additional writers that we started really producing a lot.

If you choose to bring on a staff, just keep in mind the reason you started this blog in the first place. You were tired of writing for free. Don’t make your writers writer for free. Even if you can’t pay them much, pay them. It will help you build long-lasting relationships, and you’ll be able to bring on quality writers that will help you maintain the quality you worked so hard to enforce early on.

Conclusion

Launching a blog is easy. Launching a profitable blog is hard. If you follow the guidelines above, you won’t be guaranteed success, but you’ll certainly have a leg up on most other people launching new blogs in the area in which you’ll be focusing. The key to making sure your site is profitable is making sure you dedicate yourself. This is not going to be passive income. You’ll have to write, promote, recruit, promote, write some more, and hustle all around. If you do, you’ll love the results.

 

Justin Hunter co-founded Sports Injury Alert and Sports Rumor Alert. He is also co-authoring The Guide to Launching a Profitable Sports Blog. If you enjoyed this article, the guide will provide far more information and go into far more detail.

 

What You Need to Know About Your Stats if You Want to Work With Brands on Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Louisa Claire of Brand Meets Blog, a blogger outreach agency marrying brands with the bloggers who want to work with them. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by last week’s Partnering with Brands theme week, this might give you just the inspiration you need…

When bloggers start working with brands they tend to be full of excitement about the opportunities that come with it. 

One of the biggest challenges for businesses is how to determine the ROI (return on investment) with bloggers. For every dollar they spend on marketing their business, they are looking for a corresponding return. Sometimes this comes in awareness and they will measure it based on reach only, other times they are tying it to sales. To work out the ROI they look at how many people they reached through blogging and compare that number and the cost involved with how many people they would have reached through traditional advertising or PR activity. We are also increasingly seeing agencies also compare potential blogger reach with how many people they could reach via targeted Facebook advertising. 

The whole way it works is complicated and, to be honest, a bit nonsensical because unlike with traditional media where you can know how many people bought the publication but not how many people actually read the bit about your business, you can measure exactly how many people clicked on a link about your post, how long they spent reading that post and what they did after they read it (comments, clicked away, clicked on a link to the business etc…). And of course, with bloggers brands are not just getting eyeballs on them, but a personal introduction through a trusted voice.

Unfortunately many bloggers have bought into this idea that what matters most is the number of hits your blog gets. The holy grail of blogging is more people looking at your site today, than yesterday and seeing that number going up and up and up.

What I would like to suggest is that bloggers who want to experience success working with brands and earn a solid income from it, need to focus not on having the most people visiting their site, but the most relevant and interested people reading. If you can begin to understand where your readers and visitors come from, what they do when they come to their site and what that means about their interests then you can ensure you work with brands that fit not only with your own interests, but with those of your readers. Of course, having this information isn’t just useful when working with brands, it actually gives you great insight into what is and isn’t resonating with your readership generally – golden!

10516968_10154398195340691_195744646_n

The impact of search

The amount of search traffic your blog gets from places like Google and Pinterest has the potential to significantly impact how you understand the nature of your blog readership and the influence your blog has. I think this is a big one given the recent rise of highly searchable industries like health and wellness, and of course, Pinterest. 

If you blog regularly about things such as a meal planning, recipes, birthday party ideas,  fitness, beauty etc… then you are most likely going to generate a solid amount of search traffic. Some bloggers might even find that a large percentage of their traffic is going to one specific post every day. 

Let’s look at some numbers to understand this: Let’s say your blog has 50,000 users per month but 25% of your traffic goes to the amazing recipe you wrote about pumpkin and lentil soup. A further 25% of your traffic is coming to other posts you’ve previously written meaning that though you have 50,000 users a month only 25,000 are truly likely to see the latest post that you have written – that post you wrote for a brand, for example.

Now let’s consider where those users are coming from – are they local to you or global? If you’re trying to appeal to brands and advertisers in your country then the geographic location of those users will be really important. 

Can you see how if you told a brand that you had 50,000 users that you might create a situation where the brand was disappointed by the results that came from working with you? If you had told them that you had 50,000 users overall but 20,000 that were relevant to them as a brand then they would have been able to go into the working relationship with you with appropriate expectations and likely have been delighted by the results.

There are a couple of other things you can take notice of that will give you the edge when working with brands.

Take the time to understand your Uniques vs Pageviews (or Users and Pageviews as they are now called in Google Analytics)

I think that bloggers are sometimes afraid of their stats – that they aren’t “good enough” or need to be presented in the best possible light in order to be appealing. It’s true that stats matter to brands, but it’s equally true that many brands understand that a bloggers true value is in the personal connection they have with their readers and they are open, even eager, to understand how working with bloggers can help them.

The key point to understand when looking at your stats is that if you look at your pageviews in isolation you will get a skewed (but probably attractive) picture of your blog traffic and if you look at the uniques you will get an equally skewed (and what might feel like a less exciting) picture. The truth is that these two numbers hold a lot of information in them when you look at them together.

I’ve previously written a more comprehensive overview on the issue of Unique Visitors vs Total Pageviews which will help anyone struggling to understand the significance of these two numbers being view together.

10514787_10154398121225691_751049739_n

Bounce Rates and Pages per Session

Bounces rates relate to how many people leave your site from the same page they landed on (ie they only look at the one post) and Pages per Session shows you the average number of pages that your readers look at when they visit your blog.

My experience tells me that bloggers with strong communities and influence have a high ratio of pageviews to users and sessions. That is people who visit their blog tend to look at a lot of posts while they are there – giving them a lower bounce rate and a higher page per sessions figure. If you’re not getting at least 2-3 pages per session on your blog right now then my suggestion would be to stop focussing on increasing your pageviews and start putting some energy into increasing this number – not just because you want to work with brands but because you want to form deeper relationships with your readers.

If you’ve spent the time getting a good understanding of how your uniques and total views per month work and what your bounce rate is then you’ll be able to give helpful information to brands that demonstrates your influence and value to them and I can tell you this, it will give you a great advantage when you start talking to potential brand partners. 

Partnering With Brands Theme Week: Putting it All Together and Getting Started

Untitled design (4)

 

You have decided to work with brands on your blog to create a little income. Congratulations! You’re joining hundreds of thousands of others doing that very thing, and more than likely having a great time doing so. You’ve read all the advice, and you’re keen to get started. Let’s put it all together and get the wheels in motion.

Step One:

Just like we discussed in the post about media kits, get your ducks in a row. So that means knowing what you and your blog stand for, what you’re comfortable monetising, and you’re in the right headspace to do so. It wouldn’t hurt to have a pretty slick About Me page, a page for potential sponsors and advertisers to find information (a “Work With Me” or “Advertise” or “Sponsor” page) and consistent branding across your social media channels. You can get a logo cheap as chips these days, and makes you look just that little bit more professional and ready for action.

Step Two:

Make a list of the brands you love and/or would wholeheartedly recommend to your readers. There will be times when you will be contacted by brands, but until that day comes, be proactive. Reach out to your favourites (remembering to make contact with people in charge of marketing, rather than generic email addresses or social media accounts, if you can) with your pitch and your media kit. You can specify what kinds of collaboration you’re interested in (Nikki discussed those here), or see what they have in mind. It’s always a good idea to go in with a few ideas of your own.

Step Three:

Reach out to brands, small businesses, or other bloggers and let them know you have advertising spaces available. Sweeten the deal with a 10% off if they sign up that month. Offer discounts for advertising packages (say, 15% off if they buy in three-month blocks), and let your newsletter subscribers (if you have them) and your social media followers know that you’re open for business. Maybe think about doing a swap deal with other bloggers so you both have some advertising spaces filled, which is always a good look. Re-read this post about what size ads work well, and where to put them. Have a look too and see if any of those ad networks would be useful to you (I know plenty of Australian bloggers who also use and recommend Passionfruit Ads), or go about installing Google AdSense to get your advertising off the ground.

Step Four:

Keep doing your thing. Write great posts from the heart. Participate in the blogger community. Be kind. Share your posts on your social media outlets. Share others’ posts. Chat to brands, and let them know when you’ve featured them. Get yourself on lists that are open to brands and PR reps looking for bloggers to work with. Enter competitions. Buy ads on other blogs. Stay true to yourself. Be passionate. Learn your craft. Value your reader. Blog like you don’t care about the money. Try not to get too caught up in the monetisation rat race. Remember why you started.

Step Five:

Once you have made the first forays into monetisation, by all means branch out. You might like to have a look at this post Darren wrote recently about how he makes his income (spoiler: it’s many different streams that roll into one river). The possibilities are pretty much endless.

Go! Do!

Partnering With Brands Theme Week: Marketing Yourself

 

marketing-yourself-theme-week.jpgAre you a blogger who has thought of maybe doing some sponsored work on your blog, but are wondering where all the opportunities are? Do you see other bloggers collaborating with brands and think there must be some magic list you need to be on to have these opportunities land in your inbox?

Well there might be lists you can get on. But one of the best ways of getting yourself on a brand’s radar is to make the first move and to speak to them yourself. Be the person who starts that conversation about collaboration, and you’re well on your way to creating and cultivating long-standing blog-brand relationships.

But where to begin? Ah, let me help.

First Things First:

What do you represent?

Who are you? What is your blog about? In order to sell yourself to potential sponsors and advertisers, you need to know what you have to offer. What is your niche? What are your blog’s topics? Who are your readers? What is your essence? If you were to describe your blog to someone, what would you say? What kinds of things do you like to write about, and what kinds of things do you like to feature? Narrow down who and what you are.

What do you want?

Think about the types of brands you would like to partner with. Think about the ways in which you’d like to do that (We covered options in the earlier Ways to Collaborate and Earn an Income on Your Blog post). Think about the products and services you use and love every day, and would have no trouble recommending. Think about what your audience would benefit from.

Get all your ducks in a row:

Ensure you look consistent (and reasonably professional) across all the social media outlets you use. Maybe think about repeating your branding across all sites for continuity. Update them regularly, and ensure the information about you is current. Check your LinkedIn and make sure it’s up-to-date and informative.

Make A Move

The next step once you’ve done a little housekeeping, is to start the conversations. Reach out to brand representatives on Twitter. Find out if they have hired a PR agency, and who to speak to there. Find a contact in the brand’s marketing department, and target them. It’s best to find an actual person in charge of marketing decisions (and budgets!) rather than just throwing all your info at their social media and hoping something will stick. Pick up the phone and say you’ve got a great idea about collaborating with them, state your case simply, and offer to back it up with your media kit.

Things to keep in mind to make the best impact:

  • Make it all about the brand. Too often I see posts that centre on what the blogger needs rather than what they can offer a potential sponsor. If that makes me tune out, imagine how it looks to someone who is considering finding legitimate and professional-looking bloggers to partner with. Detail what’s in it for them – they want a return on investment, as anyone would, and are looking for an attractive package that helps them get the word out about their product.
  • Make it easy for them. Nobody wants to fish around for extra information you should have included in the initial stages. It’s likely they’ll pass on you in favour of someone who has provided everything they need to know in order to make their decisions. They might like you and intend to follow up, but get caught up elsewhere and forget… make it easy for them to choose you by giving them a well-thought-out plan, several options for campaigns, the obvious benefits to them, and perhaps an example where you’ve done something similar before and how well it went. Pretty much the only thing you want them to have to do after reading your pitch is say “yes”.
  • Be positive. Your language and how you frame your pitch is incredibly important. Negative language is never going to be as convincing as a positively-worded pitch. Never run down competitors – theirs or yours.
  • Be personal. Let the person know you’ve been interested in their brand for some time. Maybe mention in your opening email that you’ve held a membership at that gym for years, or you took that soap with you to the hospital when you had your baby.
  • Be observant. If you follow your contact on Twitter or elsewhere, mention in your email their photos of their recent trip to Croatia were beautiful. Or you hear they’re coming to Melbourne next week and you recommend that little place on Lygon street for excellent coffee. A little friendly conversation about something you’ve noticed will be a welcome change to the standard pitches they receive a hundred times a day.
  • Be organic. If you have blog buddies who have done work with the company, don’t be shy to ask for a contact, or an introduction. Do the same for other bloggers who might like to work with companies you have affiliated with. There’s much to be said for good blog karma – it gets you much further than being competitive, secretive, and sneaky.
  • Be human. Remember there’s an actual person on the end of these conversations. Especially when they say no. Don’t get snarky, or petulant. Say thanks and maybe another time. Don’t burn your bridges!

Get Your Pitch in Their Hands:

Get together a brief media kit, type up a succinct, positive pitch, and email it to your brand. If you have a mega-huge campaign in mind, maybe take it one step further and send them a press release. There are plenty of examples online you can look at (I wouldn’t fill in the blanks of a template here), and customise to suit yourself. Find the person you to whom you need to send your pitch directly  (by calling the brand’s information line, or asking whoever is manning their Twitter or Facebook accounts), and send it off. Or call them, explain your idea, and follow up with emailed information.

If you don’t hear from them, send them a follow-up email about a week later and ask if they received your initial email. Do not be a pain here, and keep your language friendly. Don’t ask them to make a decision on the spot, rather just serve as a discreet reminder you have contacted them. Maybe make an effort to chat on Twitter if they’ve been posting there.

Be Social

One of the easiest ways to get on brand radars is to interact with them on social media (with the added bonus of a higher chance of them having heard of you when it’s time to pitch!). If you’ve written about them on your blog, tag them in your tweets or Facebook status about the post. Tag them in your Instagram pictures showing you using the product, or how much you enjoy it. Comment on their status updates about the things they’re posting. What marketers are looking for is conversations around their product or service – facilitate that conversation. Be part of it.

Be Natural

It’s good to be keen, but don’t be desperate. Your readers only want your legitimate recommendations, and brands want people who recommend their product to be believable. Weave product mentions into your regular writing and build your readers’ trust. Don’t be one long advertorial – when you’re trying to market yourself as an expert in your area, or as a major influence in the brand’s target audience, it has to be infused with your personality and your humanity. That’s what gives blogging the edge over traditional forms of advertising. Do it well.

If you have any questions, I’m all ears – what would you like to know about approaching brands and marketing yourself to them?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

 

Partnering With Brands Theme Week: Ways to Collaborate and Earn an Income on Your Blog

IMG_4689

Today we welcome Nikki Parkinson, from Styling You, to chat about brand work on blogs. Nikki switched a 20-year journalism career for forging a path online with her fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog. One of Australia’s best, she’s won numerous awards, travelled the world, and created a business she loves, right from her kitchen table. She’s actively worked with brands right from the start, and has enormous knowledge to share.

So you’ve been blogging for a while and have built up a solid readership and community because you consistently deliver useful/inspirational/entertaining content?

There is a fair chance if you have included a contact email address on your blog that before long an email from a brand, a PR or digital marketing agency, will land in your inbox.

You will either be surprised and delighted, or offended, that your little blog has been noticed by said brand.

It’s the surprised and delighted among you that I’m keen to talk to, because that first email could be the start of a potential commercial relationship.

That first email signifies that as a blogger you need to get very clear on your publishing guidelines.

Maybe you already mention brands as a matter of fact in your content. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, that all changes when someone is potentially asking you to mention their brand.

Only you can decide how you respond, but having a brand-publishing checklist in place will help you to make the decision that is right for you.

Brand publishing checklist

1. Is this a brand you already know, love, and use?

2. Is this a brand that you are confident that your readers either already know, love, and use or would like to know, love, and use?

3. Is this a brand that you could work in to your regular blog content in a way that is seamless? Not in a non-disclosed kind of way, more in a way that would not be out of place to what your readers expect from your style of content.

4. Does aligning yourself with this brand conflict with brands you’ve previously aligned yourself with?

5. Do you feel excited at the prospect of potentially working with this brand or does it give you an icky feeling? I know icky is not a technical term and can’t really be defined, but intuition or gut feeling is a great thing to draw on in this situation.

Working with brands

The PR pitch

Most – but not all – approaches from a brand or its agency will be for “earned” mentions on your blog. This is the traditional way that brands and their PR agencies have worked with mainstream media.

The idea here is that the PR is pitching you an idea that has some kind of newsworthy content or relevance to your blog’s audience. They are simply pitching and you do not at all have to publish anything just because they have emailed you. You may, however, find that what they are pitching could work as a part of particular blog post you’re working on, or have planned for now or in the future.

This is not something the brand would pay you to do. It is your choice when and if you choose to include the pitch on your blog. The same applies if the brand has sent you a product – unsolicited – to consider using or mentioning on your blog or social media networks. You are in no way obligated to feature the product.

Relationships

Many of my now paid commercial brand alignments have come from building relationships with brands directly or through their PR agencies. I’ve incorporated their products into my posts and have built up a relationship with that brand. The brand trusts what I do on the blog and they can already see how my readers respond to their brand.

I didn’t go into those early earned PR relationships thinking that one day I would be able to get a sponsorship from that brand, but I did start my alignment with those brands based on the five things I listed above on the brand publishing checklist. This ensured that the relationship was one I felt comfortable with from the beginning.

More and more PR companies are also including budgets for paid blogger campaigns as part of their contract with the brands they represent, so how you respond from those early approaches is becoming more and more important.

Also know that a PR pitch cannot specify to you when and how you publish content about the brand. They can’t tell you to use a certain hashtag, they can’t tell you that you need to publish a certain number of social media posts, and they can’t tell you what day you need to publish. They would NEVER ask a journalist to do the same because the only content in mainstream media that can be guaranteed is paid for – and it’s called advertising.

I see this approach happening more and more. And as a former journalist it really disappoints me. It gives the good PRs a bad name and assumes that the blogger will happily do as they are instructed without any remuneration for exposure to that blogger’s audience.

IMG_3875

Events

One of the trends for ways in which brands engage with bloggers is through events. These events are either hosted by the brand and the brand’s PR invites selected bloggers to attend or the events are hosted by third party brand-blogger consultants who are contracted by brands to get bloggers along to the event in the hope of potential exposure.

Either way, a blogger’s decision to even accept an invite to an event can be seen as a brand alignment. Even if that blogger doesn’t publish any social media or blog posts, the blogger could be photographed by the brands or event organiser and therefore associated with the event and seen to be endorsing it.

Once again it comes back to the brand publishing checklist above. Consider if you are happy to be associated with the host brands or brands in any way before saying yes to attend.

And, like a PR pitch, a blogger should not be coerced or expected to post anything in return for attendance at the event. The should be free to do so if they want to, not because they’ve been invited. Just as a journalist would do.

Paid brand alignments

At some point in your blog’s growth you need to take stock and put a value on the time you put into your blog and the readership you have built. Once you’ve established a set value for your blog, I suggest you review this every six months or every quarter depending on the scale in growth of your readership.

Your readership is your currency when it comes to being appealing to brands. Brands mostly want to see the numbers. The number of unique visitors to your blog is the main number they’re looking at. Why? Because it’s the number that most equates to the numbers game of mainstream media. It’s the equivalent to circulation figures in print media and ratings numbers on TV and radio.

Clever brands and agencies will also look beyond the numbers to engagement and influence. They will also look at the demographics behind your numbers – particularly if they’re wanting to connect with readers in certain locations or of a particular age or sex.

When I talk to bloggers about valuing their time and their blog’s audience, it seems quite an arbitrary thing to suggest – and in many ways it is – but increasingly, bloggers are sharing what they are getting paid for brand alignments and this helps us all to establish that value.

I suggest that $150 should be the minimum payment for a sponsored post – and then bloggers should scale up according to their readership and influence.

Why $150? If you are working as a consultant then the minimum hourly rate is usually about $100 an hour. Most sponsored posts take longer than an hour and a half this to create and compile. For 5000-10,000 unique visits to your blog a month, you could charge $1550. For a blogger with 30,000-50,000 unique visits a month, $3000.

IMG_3227

Ways to earn money from brand alignments

Sponsored posts: This is the most common form of commercial alignment between bloggers and brands. It works most successfully when the blogger is given creative control to write the post in the same way they would write a non-paid post to their readers. Keeping the authenticity of your voice is key – as is being upfront to your readers and labelling it as a sponsored post at the top. This is not a legal requirement, but it is practice that is very much worth embracing. You want to keep your readers, not dupe them. Being upfront has seen me grow my blog readership since I started writing sponsored posts – not have it disappear.

Social media posts: Being paid by a brand to promote their product or message via social media can be part of a sponsored post campaign or separate to it. One blogger talent agency has been reported as charging out up to $750 per brand mention on an Instagram image. With the growth of Instagram, particularly for fashion bloggers, this has become an attractive alignment for brands looking to harness its power.

Ambassadorships: Ambassadorships are the strongest way in which a blogger can align with a brand. They usually represent a long-term commitment between the blogger and the brand – six, 12 months or longer. This is a win for the blogger in regards to steady income, but it’s an alignment that needs to be fully considered before making because of the longevity of the association. A word of warning: many brands will try and “buy” bloggers as ambassadors with product only. Be careful with this because once you’ve received the ambassador title, you’ve more than cemented your alliance with that brand and don’t leave the door open for a commercial arrangement.

Television commercials: Bloggers are being included as the “talent” in television commercials and infomercials, usually as part of a wider sponsored post and social media campaign. This has come because audiences are proving more responsive to “real” people as opposed to celebrities or actors.

Blogging for a brand on their site: All bloggers know that good, solid content builds a blog’s readership. Brands have also realised that they too need good solid, relatable content on their sites to increase readership, brand awareness and sales through their sites. Who do they turn to? Bloggers who can not only create that content but bring an audience with them to the brand’s site.

Reader events: a win-win for bloggers and brands is when a blogger can offer something of value to their reader either through valuable/useful content or a giveaway. When that giveaway includes a chance to meet the blogger and attend an event that will add value or entertainment to the winning blog readers, then it’s proving to be a successful way for a blogger to align with a brand.

Event appearances: As I mentioned above, a blogger’s attendance at an event is a sign that the blogger is endorsing the brand. So it’s little wonder that bloggers can now obtain an appearance fee to attend an event. Often a certain number of social posts using a specific hashtag may be attached to this commercial arrangement.

The bottom line

Your blog hasn’t just appeared from out of thin air with a solid, influenced, and engaged audience. It’s taken long hours at the keyboard, dedication to your blog’s topic, and an extreme passion to communicate and connect with your readership.

You need to remember that whenever there is an opportunity presented to you to work or align yourself with a brand. Make good choices, disclose those good choices, and create brand content that still represents who you are and what your blog is about.

Do all this and your blog will continue to grow, as will your blog-business income.

Theme Week: Make Money on Your Blog by Partnering with Brands

Untitled design

For all of you who have considered (or are already) partnering with brands on your blog, this week is for you. We give you the lowdown on:

  • advertising on your blog – whom to approach, what kind of advertising works best, where to put ads for best visibility, etc
  • working with brands – staying professional, your unique voice, sponsorship, ambassadorships, affiliates, etc
  • creating a media kit – what you need to include, how to create it, samples of excellent media kits
  • marketing yourself – creating pitches that get noticed, using the right language, whom to approach
  • where to find advertisers and creating an online profile

As always, we hope you find it useful. We’ll also get together at the end of the week and chat about what we’ve learned and what we will try going forward.

Each day will have a new post, so keep checking back. We’ll also add the links here, so you can bookmark this page and refer to it whenever you need.

Partnering with Brands Theme Week:

Advertising 101

Ways to Collaborate With Brands and Earn an Income on Your Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Media Kit

Marketing Yourself

Putting it all Together and Getting Started

See previous theme weeks here:

Content Week: How to Consistently Come Up with Great Post Ideas for Your Blog

Beginner Blogger Week: Everything You Need to Know When You’re a Newbie

Finding Readers, Building Community, Creating Engagement

Creating Products: How To Create and Sell Products on Your Blog

Five Things to do with Your Blog Posts After You’ve Hit “Publish”

 

Blogging Like a Shark: 10 Secrets to Bootstrapping Your Blog into a Business

This is a guest contribution from Matthew Capala of SearchDecoder.com.

Shark bloggers are experts in their field of choice. However, they rarely call themselves experts or gurus. Skilled blogging pros, such as James Altucher, establish their authority on social networks and search engines by creating immensely authentic and valuable content, establishing strong connections with their readers.

1 - James Altucher 2

James hardly resembles a shark, but make no mistake. Think more in terms of a “pool shark” versus a voracious eating machine. Shark marketers are at the top of the promotional food chain but not because they use force or deception.

2 - shark definition

In today’s competitive times, bloggers need to bootstrap intelligently to stand out from the scores of new blogs and brands with million dollars content-marketing budgets. Your objective as a bootstrap blogger should not be praying all day for one kill. Your aim should be the top of the food chain.

3 - predotorty shark

Predatory Marketing Tactics Dont Work Anymore

Shark marketers rarely if ever address themselves as “experts.” This crowd is too busy helping and connecting to pat themselves on the back. Think of yourself as a center of distribution. As you disseminate more helpful content to a growing number of people an inflow of leads, opportunities and money flows in to you.

Contrary to popular belief, the idea of bootstrapping is not based on using free marketing to spread the word about your brilliant idea. According to dictionary.com, bootstrapping means “relying entirely on one’s own effort and resources”.

Play to your strengths by leveraging your time and talent. Growing your blog usually requires a minimum injection of capital to build momentum, combined with persistent, intelligent labor. For example, hiring a designer may be a good idea – online readers tend to judge the book by its over before they commit any attention to what you are saying.

5 - time money talent ven

Unlike the monstrous, ferocious predators which roam the infinite online seas, whale sharks don’t need to use predatory tactics to promote their businesses. They use great content marketing to attract the visitors to their blogs like a magnet.

Today’s intelligent buyer will be repulsed by hard-charging, competitive marketing tactics.  Operate on a creative plane of thought to attract people like a magnet. Shift from a competitive to a creative mindset and you will win big on the Internet.

Stop stalking. Start connecting. Turn your marketing into a conversation.

6 - magnet

Market with a Magnet

Web users are tuning out marketing noise. Click-through rates are dropping like a brick. Visualize marketing with a magnet instead of the old, worn out sledgehammer advertising approach. 

7 - sledgehammer vs magnet

Use pull marketing to employ the principle of attraction versus the old school push marketing tactics that turn off today’s sophisticated consumer. Create value to become valuable.

8 - Own your ZMOt

Own Your Zero Moment of Truth

80% of consumers search for a product or service before purchasing it. Ranking your blog on Google for quality keywords can turn your blogger status to a rockstar overnight. 

Place a heavy emphasis on nailing down one of the top positions on Google for your desired keywords or key phrases. Keep in mind that only 15% of search results are the old-school ’blue links.’ Estimated 85% of Google search results are social media, videos, images, maps, and the knowledge graph. Fish where the fish are.

Increase your click-through rates by designing attention-grabbing page titles and headlines. Include thought-provoking or funny images in your blog posts to stand out and boost engagement. 

Owning your zero moment of truth inspires you to increase organic search engine click throughs by improving your ad creative writing skills. It’s a win-win.

9 - personal branding

Personal Branding Is Branding

Beginner bloggers often ask me: How do you draw a line between your business name and your personal brand?

You don’t. It’s one and the same.

Steve Jobs built Apple, not the other way around. You have built your own company, You Inc. However, being a blogger is much different from being a CEO. The first is a hobby, the latter is a job.

Consider using SlideShare to tell your brand’s story, including the problems you are solving and why people should care about your brand. Readers like eye candy. Creating a visually appealing tale forms an emotional bond with your target audience.

 

10-media company

Every Business is a Media Company

Blogs serve as one-stop shopping for any website visitors. Post articles, reviews, podcasts and videos on your blog to brand your business. Companies that blog get 55% more website visitors and B2C companies that blog get 88% more leads per month, according to Hubspot. 

Yet many businesses fail to achieve desired results blogging. They fail and give up on content marketing because they don’t operate like a media company.

11 - optimize blog content

Frequency is key to success. Blogging regularly encourages your audience to know, like and trust you. Build your blog on WordPress for increased functionality. Use plugins to capture subscribers and improve your presentation. Position sharing button beside each blog post to leverage your presence. Sharing buttons like the Floating ShareBar can increase sharing by up to 30%. Details matter.

Open your blog to guest posting and build strong business relationships. Join blogging communities, such as Triberr, to build solid relationships with fellow niche bloggers.

12 - startegy

Win Your Battles Before the First Shots Are Fired

Understand the difference between content marketing and content strategy. Content marketing is the creation and promoting of content to attract a targeted audience. Content strategy is the creation of scalable and repeatable content for a built-in audience. Content marketing is like baking a cake while content strategy is similar to owning a bakery. 

13 - cake bakery

Developing a content strategy requires intensive planning. Create content based on researched user needs, deliver this content through various mediums such as video and podcasts and promote along channels which resonate with your target audience.

14 - healthy heartbeat

You Need a Healthy Heartbeat

A healthy, vibrant blog looks similar to a healthy heartbeat. Imagine the steady, predictable ticks on an EKG meter measuring your heartbeat. Engaging through social media channels like twitter and Facebook creates tiny ticks. Sharing Infographics, videos and blog posts creates a larger spike which creates a big impact with a small hit. PR and branded content creates massive spikes. The large hits which make big impacts target news outlets and other large audiences through macro content campaigns.

15 - Heartbeat

Build your inbound marketing campaign on being disciplined. Work your system on a daily basis. Set up a content calendar. Starting at a calendar can inspire you to create content even if you don’t feel like working. Use this motivational strategy to hold yourself accountable.

16 - lead genertion

Invest in Lead Generation at the Outset

Create in-depth, thorough content you could sell for a handsome profit and give it away for free. This approach might seem counterintuitive to bloggers looking to monetize every click, but karma ensures that the value you offer will return to you in some way, shape or form. Use your free giveaway as link bait. 

Build your email list through this exchange of value. In return for your helpful, free giveaway subscribers will gladly offer their name and email address. Use tools like “Pay with a Tweet” to increase social sharing. Users can access your free giveaway by tweeting your giveaway link. This expands your presence and gives visitors a quick and easy way to access your free product.

17 - be interesting

To Be Interesting, Be Interested

Successful shark bloggers follow the teachings of famous behaviorists, such as Dale Carnegie. They generate interest by expressing interest. 

Expressing genuine, heartfelt interest in other bloggers will result in similar reaction towards you. Focus on helping others who need help. Engage in genuine conversations, add value wherever you show up and answer questions to gain the trust of your target audience.

Use social media tools like Topsy to find your audience. Run searches to connect with interested parties through twitter, blog commenting, and everything in between.

18 - marathon

It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

Take a big picture approach to blogging. Each seemingly tiny step taken leads to solid if not spectacular results in the long term. If only you don’t give up to see it.

Work your way through temporary frustrations by visualizing yourself achieving great things. Professional athletes employ this technique. Clearing your inner world can motivate you to succeed. 

Shark bloggers are a driven, dynamic, and focused bunch. However, they combine high-octane enthusiasm with a significant dose of planning, tools and preparation to stay focused and play a long-term game. 

It might not be easy to be positive every day when you grow a blog from its infancy but doing so can provide you with immense returns in the long run.

Good luck!

Matthew Capala is an inbound marketing strategist, personal branding coach, Internet entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and author. He is an Adj. Professor at NYU and Head of Search at Lowe Profero. His free personal branding e-book, Away with the Average, has been widely praised. A leading voice in the start-up community, Matthew founded SearchDecoder.com, a venue for SEO ideas for entrepreneurs. You can find him on Tiwtter at @SearchDecoder.

9 Powerful Tips To Help Freelancers and Bloggers Sell Digital Products

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer and inbound marketer, Jawad Khan.

Freelancing can be a liberating career choice. The number of freelancers all over the world has increased dramatically over the last few years, with more people choosing to work on their own terms. If you’re reading this with interest, chances are that you’re a freelancer yourself or someone who’s seriously considering this career path.

But, in order to create an income safety net and truly enjoy the benefits of freelancing, you need to combine freelance client work with your own digital and information based products (eBooks, training courses, guides, tools). This can significantly reduce the pressure of finding client work all the time, which can be difficult at the beginning.

With so many great online tools and services available, creating digital products is much easier than before. But as a result of that, there are a lot of mediocre and sub-standard products floating around the web as well. To ensure that your product stands out from the crowd, you need to do things differently.

Here are 9 tips to help you create better digital products and sell them more effectively.

Note: This post assumes that you know the importance of a mailing list and already have one. If you don’t, read this awesome post on list-building.

1. Create Your Buyer Personas

9 powerful tips

In order to create a product, you first need to identify the right target market and the people who would willingly buy your product. What are their needs and what solutions could persuade them to pay immediately? Begin with creating your buyer personas. Buyer personas are examples of the people who would, or could buy your product. It lists all the characteristics of your ideal buyer including demographic details, income bracket, interests, career level etc. Try to be specific about your buyer, it will help you create a better product. For example, for a freelance writer, the ideal buyer persona might be the owner of a small business between 30-50 years of age, with an annual marketing budget of 30 to 40 thousand dollars looking to generate new sales leads from within the USA using his website, blog and social media profiles.

2. Identify The Right Opportunity

Once you’ve developed your buyer persona, analyze the major problems and needs of your buyers. Match them with your skill set and see how you can address them. Take the same buyer persona and identify the different ways you can help this buyer achieve his goals. List down all the different possibilities and then go for the one that falls in your strongest area in terms of skill set and has comparatively less competition.

3. Create a High Quality Product

9 powerful tips 2

The quality of your product will play a key role in determining its success or failure. If you want repeat customer and referral sales, your product needs to be top-notch. For this, analyze your competitors – other freelancers and agencies – offering the same solutions with their products. Find their loopholes and make sure your product doesn’t have any of them. In simple terms, a high value product is something that exceeds customer expectations with tangible solutions and gives them immediate value.

But apart from the content of your product, its packaging is equally important. It’s just like the headline of a blog post. If the headline is attractive, people read the full blog post. The same goes for packaging. For this, you can also use the services of other freelancers on websites like Elance, 99designs, Freelancer etc.

4. Price Your Product Intelligently

Pricing is another critical part of product selling. If you get it wrong, your sales numbers can be depressingly low. Pricing depends on several factors including your brand image, the size of your mailing list, the level of engagement in your online community, your social media strength, your network and, of course, the quality of your product. You would also need to see the kind of pricing strategies your competitors use.

In general, there are two options for you when it comes to pricing. You can either go for a high priced product that a few people can buy, or you can go for volume based selling and keep a relatively low price. Another option is to create multiple packages with different prices, targeting different buyer personas. In my experience, multiple packages work better than the first two models. Here’s a snapshot from the landing page of Tom Ewer’s, a freelance blogger, PaidtoBlog course.

9 powerful tips 35. Create a Memorable Buying Experience

This is where many freelancers fail to make an impact. A poor buying experience can ruin all your hard work and cause buyers to go away without making a purchase. To be more specific, buying experience refers to your sales landing page, the product selling service you’re using, the payment modes you accept, the checkout process etc. All these are critical elements of the buying process.

To create landing pages, I’d recommend using LeadPages. Before the product launch, use your landing page to create anticipation.

9 powerful tips 4

After the launch, fill it with compelling content, repeated calls to action and testimonials.

9 powerful tips 5

For payment processing and product selling, you can use services like E-Junkie, Shopify or Selz. I personally prefer Selz because it also helps you create high quality audio, video and image previews for your products that are as good as full-fledge landing pages. It allows you to accept payments with Master Card, Visa and PayPal, and simultaneously builds your email list by integrating auto responders like MailChimp and AWeber. It’s really a complete package for digital selling.

6. Target The Right Marketing Channels

If you develop the right buyer persona, it’ll be easy for you to identify and focus on the right marketing channels for your product. For example, if your ideal buyers are business owners, higher management professionals and corporate managers, LinkedIn publishing platform, LinkedIn groups and websites like Quora would be great places to start the promotion of your product. Similarly, with a clear identification of your target buyers, you’ll be able to identify the right blogs where your target users can be found and approach them through guest blogging. Once you’ve launched your product, marketing should continue to consume the majority of your time. Here are a few ways you should continue to promote your resource.

  • Blogging – Mention your resource regularly in all your blog posts and link back to the sales page. Before the launch, create anticipation about your product by mentioning it in your posts and on your blog. After the launch, remind people about it through relevant references within your content.
  • Guest Blogging – Identify the most relevant blogs where your potential buyers can be found. Approach these blogs with high quality guest posts and link back to your product page in the author bio.

Note: Read this to learn more about guest blogging on popular blogs

  • Networking – Use your contacts and the strength of your network to spread the word. Connect with influencers in your niche and ask them for recommendations. Triberr and LinkedIn are great places to do that.
  • Social Networks – Posting and paid promotions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest can all be very effective depending on your target market.
  • Email List – There’s nothing more effective than a healthy mailing list in helping you sell more products. Without becoming too annoying, regularly send special offers and product deals to your subscribers.

Note:Read this super post on Jon Morrow’s blog about list-building

7. Begin With a Soft Launch (with a deadline)

When it comes to the product launch, never dive into the deep waters immediately. Instead, go for a soft launch and share your product with a limited audience. You can even choose to go with a reduced version of your product initially. To further accelerate things, give your buyers a deadline after which the product you’d take the product down. The objective here is to get a feel of how your target audience responds to your product offer. The limited number of sales that you get, will tell you a lot about the weaknesses and potential improvement areas of your product.

8. Gather Data and Identify Loopholes

To take real benefit from your soft launch, make sure you have sufficient data gathering tools in place. Use live chat services like Olark on your landing page to directly get in touch with your buyers. When someone makes a purchase, send them an email or give them a call to ask about the reasons why they chose your product. Similarly, ask those who bounce back from the landing without making a purchase, about the reasons for their decision and what would they want to see in your product to change their decision. Use survey tools like Survey Monkey to run quick surveys to gather all this data. This can provide you valuable insights for your full scale launch.

9. Launch on Full Scale (with a deadline, again)

9 powerful tips 6

 

Once you’ve made the required adjustments to your product, launch it aggressively on full scale. Announce it to all your subscribers, social media and marketing channels. However, just like the soft launch, define a deadline after which the product will be taken down again. This is a great way to accelerate your sales (Neil Patel is a big advocate of this approach). When the deadline arrives, take the product down, gather more data, identify improvement areas, make more adjustments and then launch the product again after a few months with more value.

Conclusion

Successful product selling requires adequate preparation, a quality product, aggressive marketing and timely product enhancements.  When you get this combination right, there’s no better way of boosting your income and enjoying the real essence of online money making. As a freelancer your own product would not only give you breathing space in terms of monthly income, but also build your brand image and help you attract more high paying clients.

Jawad Khan is an experienced inbound marketer and a freelance blogger. He helps small businesses, tech startups and entrepreneurs strengthen their brand image with high quality blog content. Follow him on his blog, Writing My Destiny, Google+ and Twitter.

 

2014 Reboot: Make Money From Your Blog This Year

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we focus on that old chestnut – is it REALLY possible to earn some cash doing what we love? Well the answer is “yes, but”. So if 2014 is the year you finally knuckle down and make it happen – Darren’s got just the post for you.

This post “Is it Really Possible to Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I know about Making Money Blogging] first appeared in November 2012. 

Every now and again I am pulled aside at a conference or am emailed and/or tweeted by someone wanting to get the “real” scoop on whether it is possible to make money blogging.

  • Is it really possible to make a living from blogging?
  • Is it just a small number of people making money from blogging?
  • Is it only really possible to make money blogging if you write about the topic of making money blogging?

I completely understand the questions and would probably want to add one more:

  • If it is really possible to make money blogging, how likely is it that you’ll succeed?

I’ve written many times here on ProBlogger about this in the hope of giving a realistic picture of the topic, but I think it is worth touching on again because there is a lot of misinformation out there right now.

On one hand, we see hype on the topic. Periodically someone will claim to be able to make millions from blogging quickly. These claims are usually accompanied with the release of a product or service (i.e. they are marketing spin).

On the other hand, I periodically see people writing about how it is impossible to make money blogging (or that anyone claiming to be full time is either a scammer, a liar, or is selling something on the topic of making money online).

The reality is somewhere between these two extremes.

7 Things I know about making money from blogging

1. It is possible

I’ve been blogging for just under ten years and for nine of those I’ve been making money blogging. It started out as just a few dollars a day but in time it gradually grew to becoming the equivalent of a part-time job, then a full-time job, and more recently into a business that employs others.

I used to talk about the specific levels of my earnings when I started ProBlogger but felt increasingly uncomfortable about doing so (it felt a little voyeuristic and a little like a big-headed boasting exercise and I didn’t really see the point in continuing to do it)— but my income has continued to grow each year since I began.

On some levels I was at the right place at the right time—I got into blogging early (in 2002 … although I felt I was late to it at the time) and have been fortunate enough to have started blogs at opportune times on the topics I write about.

However I know of quite a few other bloggers who make a living from blogging, many of whom have not been blogging anywhere near as long as I have.

For some it is a hobby that keeps them in coffee; for others it is the equivalent of a part time job/supplementing other income from “real jobs” or helping their family out as they attend to other commitments (raising a family). For others it is a full-time thing.

I’ll give you some examples below.

2. There is no single way to monetize blogs

Recently at our Melbourne ProBlogger event I featured numerous Australian bloggers in our speaker lineup who fit somewhere in the part-time to full-time spectrum. They included:

The year before, we had others, including:

Most of these bloggers are full-time (or well on the way to being full-time bloggers). They come from a wide array of niches and all monetize quite differently—doing everything from selling advertising, to having membership areas, to selling ebooks, to running affiliate promotions, to promoting their offline businesses, to selling themselves as speakers, to having book deals, and so on. Many have a combination of different income streams.

They are all also Australian, and are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is happening here in Australia—the same thing is being replicated around the globe.

There are many ways to monetize a blog. To give you a quick sense of the many methods check out this “money map” I created a year or so back, which outlines just some that I brainstormed (click to enlarge).

Ways to Make Money Blogging.png

I also recorded this free hour-and-twenty-minute webinar giving an introduction to the topic.

3. There are no formulas

From time to time, people have released products that claim to be formulas for success when it comes to making money online. They outline steps to follow to “guarantee” you’ll make money.

In my experience there is no formula.

Each full-time blogger I’ve met in the last ten years has forged their own path and has a unique story to tell. They have often acted on hunches and made surprising discoveries along the way.

There are certainly similarities in many of the stories but each blogger has their own personality and style, each one is reaching a different audience, and each niche tends to monetize differently.

The key lesson is to be aware of what others are doing and to learn what you can from each other, but to also be willing to forge your own path as well!

4. Many niches monetize

One common critique of the topic of monetizing of blogs is that the only people making money from blogging are the ones writing about how to make money blogging.

This is simply not true.

In the above list of speakers from our Melbourne event you’ll notice I included topic/niche of each blogger. None sell products teaching others to make money blogging—all are on blogging on “normal,” every-day topics.

My own experience of having a blog about blogging (ProBlogger) and a blog about Photography is that it is my photography blog that is by far the most profitable blog (I’d estimate it’s ten times more profitable).

I’ve interviewed numerous full-time bloggers of late in a webinar series including:

Interestingly, none of them make money by teaching others to make money online. Sarah largely blogs about health and wellbeing, Tsh blogs about simple living, and Ana blogs about woodwork.

5. Most bloggers don’t make a full-time living from blogging

Every time I’ve surveyed readers of ProBlogger about their earnings, we’ve seen that those making money from blogging are in the minority.

In a recent survey of 1500 ProBlogger readers we asked about their monthly earnings. What you’re seeing below is the spread of earnings from readers who are attempting to make money blogging (note: not all ProBlogger readers attempt to make money, so not all are included in these results).

Keep in mind that ProBlogger readers are generally newish bloggers—about half of those who took this survey had been blogging for less than two years.

So of those trying to make money blogging, 10% don’t make anything and 28% are making less than 30 cents per day. A total of 63% make less than $3.50 per day.

Let’s be clear—most bloggers who are attempting to make money are not making a living from blogging.

Having said that, of the 1508 bloggers surveyed 65 (4%) are making over $10,000 per month (over six figures per year) and a further 9% were doing over $1000 per month (which is at least a part-time level of income).

My feeling, having been attending blogging conferences for six or so years now, is that the number of full-time bloggers is on the rise, and there are actually quite a few more people now at least making the equivalent of a couple of days’ work a week in income from their blogs.

However, most bloggers don’t make much.

6. It takes time to build

When I dig down into the stats from the survey on income levels above, and do some analysis of those who are in the top income bracket, it is fascinating to look at how long they’ve been blogging.

85% of those in that top income bracket have been blogging for four years or more. Almost all of the others had been blogging for three or four years.

This certainly was my own experience. I blogged for a year without making money and once I started monetizing it was around two years of gradual increases before I approached a full-time income level. It would have been four years before I joined that top bracket of income (over $10,000 per month).

Blogging for money is not a get-rich-quick thing. It takes time to build an audience, to build a brand, and to build trust and a good reputation.

And of course even with four or five years of blogging behind you, there’s no guarantee of a decent income.

7. It takes a lot of work

Longevity is not the only key to a profitable blog. The other common factor that I’ve noticed in most full-time bloggers is that they are people of action.

Passivity and blogging don’t tend to go hand in hand.

 

Blogging as “passive income stream” is another theme that we hear in many make-money-blogging products, however it is far from my own experience.

I’ve worked harder on my business over the last ten years than I’ve worked on anything in my life before this. It is often fun and gives me energy, but it takes considerable work to create content on a daily basis, to keep abreast of what’s going on in the community, to monitor the business side of things, to create products to sell, to build an audience, and so on.

The key is to build blogs that matter to people, that are original, interesting, and helpful. But this doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of work.

Conclusions

Yes, it is possible to make money blogging. There is an ever-increasing number of people making money from blogging at a part-time to full-time level —however they are still in the minority.

Those who do make a living from blogging come from a wide range of niches, however one of the most common factors between them is that they’ve been at it for a long while.

How long have you been blogging? Are you looking to make money from it—and have you already? Share your experiences with us in the comments.