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5 Lessons from an Internet Millionaire

This guest post is by M.Farouk Radwan of http://www.2knowmyself.com.

As of August 11 last year, I celebrated making my first million selling books and products online. I’m not saying that I’m an Internet guru, but I do believe that my experiences in making money online might help you get to your first million.

1. People are sick of marketers—especially online marketers

How many times did you close that long sales copy page a few seconds after it popped up unexpectedly while you were searching for something? People are already sick of such pages, and they would never want to come across one unless they were intentionally searching for it.

This means that in order to sell something, you should never let people land on these pages without warning. Instead, consider providing some kind of free content first that can assist in building trust. Once trust is built, you can sell anything to your customers.

2. Provide something different

How can trust be built online while the Internet is full of copycats, amateurs, and inferior websites? The only way to establish trust is to provide some kind of different content. You don’t have to be Einstein—you just have to do things differently.

  • You can provide more in-depth information.
  • You can organize your information in a better way.
  • You can back your information with research, numbers, and charts.

It won’t make any difference how you decide to be different; what really matters is being different.

3. AdSense can help you buy a small car, but not a Lamborghini

I make less than $1,000 a month using AdSense, even though my site gets 500,000 page views per month. Okay, maybe my website is under-optimized, but even so, I don’t believe there’s enormous potential in AdSense. How much could I have earned if I’d optimized my site? $2000? $2500?

Four months after introducing on my site three ebooks that I wrote, my earnings increased almost ten-fold. Unfortunately, this is not some kind of magic tip that will help you become a billionaire over night—before I launched these books, I was busy building trust for two years, by applying the points above. But ultimately, you’ll need more than AdSense to make good money from your blog.

4. There’s no such thing as getting rich quickly

When I started my blog three people were working on it and we were all partners. After to years of very low earnings (a few dollars per day), the people who used to work with me decided to quit.

Fair enough. But today, one of the popular search key phrases on Google is “how to become a millionaire overnight” or “how to become rich fast”.

Blogging is not like the lottery, nor is it close to gambling. It’s the art of building with small bricks, and being patient to wait until the building is finally completed.

It might take a year or more before you start making a decent income from your blog, but as long as you’re following a plan and seeing good signs along the way, you’ll know that you’re on the right track.

5. Don’t listen to negative comment

In 2006, I was mad enough to tell people about my intentions. I was inspired by bloggers who made a lot of money at that time, so I told people what I was about to do. Here are some of the responses I got:

  • A close friend: People don’t like to read. Starting a website is a bad idea
  • Relatives: Focus on your career, son, and stop wasting time on your site.
  • A friend behind my back: Farouk is wasting his time on projects that bring him nothing.

There were others. I received condemning email. My website was banned from Wikipedia because an editor their didn’t trust the information, and told me so in a horribly sarcastic email. We all have examples of discouragements like these.

Today, my site attracts 500,000 impression per month, makes me a five-digit income, made me a dot com millionaire, and silenced all of those who said bad things about it. Believe in yourself, forget about what others say, and you will succeed.

What other lessons can you add for the beginning blogger?

M.Farouk Radwan is a full time blogger who makes a living selling his Ebooks online. He is the founder of http://www.2knowmyself.com a website that has more than 1200 self help, psychology and personal development articles and that gets more than 500,000 monthly hits.

Chocolate to WordPress: 6 Lessons Learned Blogging for Dollars

This guest post is by Jules Clancy of Stonesoup.

Ever dreamed of tasting chocolate for a living?

Image is author's own

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

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

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

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

6 lessons learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch Your Product Without Losing Your Mind

This guest post is by Krizia of the Blog Income for Women Blueprint.

At the end of August 2010, my business partner and I made the decision to document the steps I had taken to turn a blog that was earning $20 per month in AdSense money into a $500-$5000-per-month blog (all from natural traffic). Our goal was to show other female bloggers that there was a way of earning income with a review blog.

The journey from idea to actually launching our product was a long road and I’ll admit that some days, I thought I was going to lose my mind in all the details required to execute a proper product launch.

Now that the product has officially launched, I’ve had a chance to sit down and take note of the lessons I learned during the process, so I could share them with other bloggers, and also learn from other bloggers who might use a better process.

It’s no secret that most bloggers who earn six-figure incomes do so by launching their own digital products or services. This means that learning the ins and outs of product launches is a natural progression in any blogger’s career.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve received a string of emails from different gurus claiming that I can launch a product in 48 hours and start living the Internet marketer’s dream life by end of the month. Trust me: the last few months of hard work have proven that’s just not happening unless you have an army of virtual assistants helping you.

The process of launching your own product is very hard work and it can be both challenging and stressful at times, but the end result is simply magical. I don’t think that up to now in my blogging career, I’ve been this proud. So let me explain the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Lessons in ecourse content creation

  • In general, people will tend to be more willing to buy a video course than a 400-page document that they have to download, print, and read. If you’ve ever bought a multi-media course online, then you’ll know that it’s a lot more engaging than a simple ebook.
  • Creating a multi-media course is no more complicated than creating a solid presentation on PowerPoint. Then, use a screen capture tool like Camtasia (for PC) or Screenflow (for Mac) to record each module and convert those files into flash files (for PC) or Quicktime files (for Mac). It’s not so hard after all!
  • Once you’ve recorded all of your modules, you’ll just need to host your videos on Amazon s3. If you have not yet discovered Amazon s3, you’ll be happy to know that you can store video and audio files at a very affordable price, and the whole process is very easy.
  • The end results of a multimedia course is quite impressive. After all, you’re allowing buyers to learn in three ways (audio, video, and text—if you offer a PowerPoint presentation, buyers can download and print that too).

Lessons in building a brand

Building a brand that stands out from the crowd is really and Internet marketing basic. That said, when you first launch a product, funds can be tight and it’s not always obvious how you can find talented graphic designers you can actually afford.

I really cannot say enough about Fiverr.com. We’ve successfully used Fiverr.com to create the following graphical elements to brand our products:

  • logo:
  • ebook covers and DVD covers: the designer also created the group shot (showing all the elements of the product in one shot) for us for $5! We would have paid at least $25 per ebook or DVD cover had we hired someone from Elance or Odesk. Here’s an example:
  • banners for our affiliates to use to promote our product: although banners don’t convert nearly as well as text or video, we still had banners created in four different sizes for our affiliates
  • Facebook fan page: We actually had a Fiverr.com vendor create a video welcome page that looks amazing.

Each job you promote on Fiverr.com will cost you $5 (hence the name). I’ll admit that originally, my expectations were fairly low, but I’ve been proven wrong time and time again. It’s possible to find great talent on Fiverr.com. Our experience with Fiverr.com has been very positive, and the vendors have turned the work around very quickly.

That said, I would advise that you need to be crystal clear on what you are looking for when submitting a job, and it’s worth spending the time time to surf the ‘net to find examples of what you like so you can show them to the person you hire. You should also expect that you might have to spend $10-15 in jobs that don’t suit your requirements before landing on a few really great vendors. I’ve found Fiverr.com to be a good way to get a brand for my product at an incredible price.

Lessons in teamwork

Unless you are super-talented and possess all the different skills needed to put out a product, you’ll have to create a solid team that can help you successfully launch.

To give you an idea of what’s involved, here’s a list of the team members who helped us create our product and launch it:

  • a virtual assistant: she uploaded all the videos on Amazon s3 and checked a lot of the work and links that had already been checked. She’s also been instrumental in helping us get traffic to the blog as we were building out the product.
  • webmaster: he designed each page of the site and each sales video page.
  • graphic designer: we outsourced all this work to different Fiverr.com vendors.
  • Facebook fan page designer: again, we outsourced this to a Fiverr.com vendor.
  • copywriter: I wrote most of the copy.
  • editor/proofreader: we had the copy revised by a few editors.
  • PowerPoint creator: one of those editors also set the entire project out in PowerPoint.
  • customer service: this task is a collective effort between my business partner, our virtual assistant and myself.
  • affiliate marketer: because of my background as an affiliate manager, I took on this role and managed all activities surrounding affiliates.
  • video marketer: I’m the one creating videos, but our virtual assistant is the one publishing them to video sharing sites for maximum exposure.

When you are first starting out, you might not have a budget to outsource all the functions needed to launch a product, but I’d highly recommend you outsource any kind of technical work that’s not your strength—otherwise, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time.

Furthermore, having a site that works perfectly is essential for a product launch and you’ll surely want to hire qualified people to do the job.

Lessons in copywriting

There is far more copy to write for a launch than you expect. Throughout the launch, you’ll also be writing quite a lot of copy. Here’s a list of all the copy we needed to support our product launch:

  • copy for the PowerPoint presentation (aka the course)
  • copy for the video sales page (some stats show that video converts 12% better than a text-only sales page—there are some experts who say it’s up to 25%)
  • copy for the text-base sales page
  • copy for the affiliate toolkit (this is the copy affiliates will use to promote your product)
  • copy for the affiliate auto-responder (to keep affiliates abreast of what’s happening)
  • copy for the buyers (weekly emails to walk the buyers through the course)
  • copy for the leads (people who opt-in to our list, but don’t buy … you’ll need to keep building a relationship with them)
  • value-added messages (after reading a number of sites, I decided to add a string of value-added messages in my auto-responder for both buyers and leads)
  • copy for guests posts (to get the word out on this product, I’ve written a lot of guests posts!)

As you can see, if you don’t like to write, or you’re not comfortable writing, you’ll have to hire a copywriter because there is quite a lot of copy needed to properly launch a product—and that’s not taking into account the work you’ll do writing the product itself.

Lessons in marketing

To help market our product to the largest possible audience, we’re using the following strategies:

  • affiliate marketing: we’ve formed alliances with a number of marketers who will help us promote our product to their lists
  • video marketing: we’re using video marketing to reach a wider audience with less effort
  • article marketing: our virtual assistant is posting articles to article directories to get us back links and additional traffic
  • forum marketing: because our product targets women, our virtual assistant has been commenting on a number of forums and because our URL is in her signature, we’re able to attract new leads.

Do you still want to launch your own product?

I know this list must seem endless—when you are in the middle of it all, it really does seem endless! But it is doable. If you are able to chunk things down and keep working towards your goals, you’ll succeed.

I’ve found two aspects to be key in moving your concept from an idea to a final product: persistence and seeking advice and guidance.

Without persistence, you won’t make it because there are so many challenges along the way and the work often seems like it will never end. You’ll have to have a strong vision of the finished product that you keep in mind at all times in order to help you keep moving forward. Otherwise, you may abandon your dreams of launching your own product online.

I’m lucky to have had a large pool of experts who were willing to offer me help and advice. My years as an affiliate manager have paid off really well. If you don’t have access to those kinds of contacts, I’d suggest you ask friends and other bloggers for help. If you’re part of Darren’s ProBlogger.com Community, that’s another great place to get support, feedback, and ideas.

Launching your own product online is hard work. You are probably going to have to sacrifice a lot of things in order to make this happen, but the end result is spectacular! After all, you’ll have accomplished something that most people will never do.

If you’ve launched your own product and have more tips to share, I’d love to heard about them—share them in the comments so we can all learn from them.

Krizia is the co-creator of The Blog Income for Women Blueprint which teaches women how to turn their blogging efforts into blog income. You can watch a free video tutorial and download a free report here.

Two Six-figure Strategies to Help You with Your Next Product Launch

Earlier in the week I wrote a post about two factors that played a significant part in the growing of my own blogging business over the last two years.

  1. making a mind shift away from just relying upon advertising and affiliate revenue to starting to build my own products
  2. investing in training and starting to learn from others who had experience in marketing and launching products online.

I mentioned Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (PLF) in that previous post and recommended you check out some videos that he’s recently released (as well as a free report that gives a great blueprint overview of how to release products).

Today I want to share a couple of strategies that I learned from Jeff’s PLF, and which have been a part of my own recent success. I’d estimate that together they’ve been well over six-figure lessons.

1. Using events to launch products

One of the key elements of Jeff’s teaching is that he gets you to think about the launches of your products as events. This concepts has become increasingly important to me in my own product launches, as well as in some of the affiliate marketing that I’ve done.

One of the best examples of this from my own last 12 months as the 12 Days of Christmas promotion we ran on my photography blog. Simply thinking about it as a 12-day event helped a lot, both in terms of my own planning and execution of the event, but also in terms of how it was received by readers.

I was very nervous at the start of the promotion that readers would become sick of it, but framing it as a 12-day event connected with people. We even had readers emailing us asking where our daily promotional emails were if we ran a little behind schedule.

Effectively what we try to do now with our ebook launches is take people on a journey, rather than send them a series of “buy my ebook” type emails.

2. Perpetual product launches

Launching a product (whether it’s an ebook, a course, a piece of software, or something else) is a big effort. Typically now when we release an ebook at dPS, we do so over a two- to three-week period (one week of prelaunch stuff, then two weeks for the launch event).

However, once the initial launch is over, many bloggers then move onto developing their next product and preparing for that launch. Business tends to revolve around a series of events, spiking revenue along the way.

This is how things were for me for a while, but in the Product Launch Formula teaching I came across the idea of the Perpetual Product Launch. This is where you effectively launch a product to a segment of your readers every single day.

An example of this is my first photography ebook, The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography, which I initially launched almost two years ago with a big launch.

After that initial launch, sales dried up to a trickle. So I decided to experiment with a perpetual launch and added to the auto responder sequence that I’d already developed for the site a new email. It would mail to new subscribers about seven days after they subscribed, and offer them the same discount that we offered during the initial launch of the ebook.

The email is not very salsey—it simply thanks the person for subscribing, introduces the ebook and tells the story of its initial launch at 25% discount. It then passes that same discount on to readers with a limited-time offer.

Every day this email goes out to a segment of new readers automatically, and every day it generates sales. While the daily sales are nothing like our initial product launch, over time they’ll exceed that product launch’s total sales many times over.

So without the concept of perpetual product launches, I’d have been leaving significant money on the table.

Grab the Product Launch Formula Blueprint today

These are just two of many strategies that Jeff teaches. There are many more (so many that I’ve not even implementing them all yet).

To get an overview of his launch strategy Jeff’s put together the Product Launch Blueprint—a PDF report accompanied by a 45-minute video that walks you through the material. It walks you through many of the strategies that Jeff teaches in the full PLF course and, whether you go on to do the course or not, it’s going to give you ideas that will translate into increased success for your own product launches.

The cost of this report is simply your email address, which will put you onto Jeff’s list to receive further teaching videos (and which you can unsubscribe from an any time). Grab the report today.

Why My Accountant Thinks I Robbed a Bank

My accountant just called and asked me if I’d robbed a bank.

She just saw the figures from the last few months of blogging and, as I mentioned back in my December earnings update, we’ve had some very good months lately.

December was my biggest month ever, but January and February are shaping up to be great, too.

There are two main reasons for the improvement in revenue:

  1. Christmas Promotion: In December, I ran a 12 Days of Christmas promotion on my photography blog. This rolling series of promotions saw a massive spike in affiliate sales, but also a big increase in ebook sales over that two week period.
  2. Ebook Launches: Towards the end of January and into February I launched a new ebook on my photography blog. It was our biggest launch yet and the new ebook sold faster on launch than I’ve seen before. In fact, ebook sales for the last three months have totaled just under 13,000 units.

Today, when my accountant rang to check whether the reports I’d sent were real, I tried to explain what had happened. She understood the above two reasons, but dug a little deeper and wanted to know why.

Her reflection was that about 18-24 months ago something changed in my business that seemed to tip earnings up a notch. Understandably, she wanted to explore the cause of that change.

I struggled to answer her at first, but in the end I put it down to two things:

1. I made a mind shift

A couple of years back, I switched my business focus away from relying purely upon advertising and affiliate revenue and decided to get serious about creating some products of my own.

2. Invested in Learning

Two years ago was also the point at which I decided to get serious about learning how to market and launch these products that I’d begun to develop. I knew that simply deciding to have my own products wasn’t enough—I needed to invest in my knowledge of marketing them.

It was at this time that I started to do two things:

  1. I began to seek out others who had experience in online marketing. I began to be more intentional in developing relationships with, and collaborating with, smart marketers. These people have taught me a lot!
  2. I purchased a variety of online training programs to learn some good principles for marketing products online. I enrolled in the programs, the most helpful of which I’ll tell you about below.

Overnight success?

I wish I could say that this switch in thinking and gaining of knowledge flicked a switch and helped me gain overnight success—but of course it didn’t.

The increase in revenue didn’t happen straight away after making the mind shift or getting the training, although there have been some great spikes in revenue over the last two years. But that marked the beginning of something that seems to be snowballing for me now, some two years later.

Make the mind shift and get the training for yourself

Over the next couple of weeks, you’re going to hear a lot about Jeff Walker and his Product Launch Formula.

Can I suggest you take some notice of what Jeff’s got to say?

I know some will be put off by some of the hype surrounding this launch—sometimes the affiliates promoting these launches build them up into a frenzy. But Jeff’s one of the guys who has helped me make the mind shift I mention above. His course was the main one that worked for me, and is something I’ve come back to numerous times.

Some of the principles he teaches in PLF have really connected for me, and have been instrumental in skyrocketing my own product launches. I’ve also applied some of them in promoting other people’s products—the Christmas launch I mentioned above used the classic launch strategy that Jeff teaches, and led to my biggest month so far.

Jeff is currently releasing a series of videos in the lead up to re-opening the doors of PLF. While some people’s pre-launch strategy is simply to build buzz before a launch, the great thing about Jeff’s strategy is to provide value in the launch process. Whether you buy PLF in the end or not, his videos will help you make the transition I talk about above.

They’re both inspiring and educational. If you do buy PLF, you’ll get some great teaching, but do yourself a favor and at the least watch the videos over the coming days by getting on the list. You can register for the first video here; the second is here. Update: you can also download his full blueprint for launches here (it’s got amazing teaching).

5 Sales Email Myths that are Costing You Money

Recently, I worked with Darren on some sales content—including launch emails—for the release of a new product at DPS. That launch email was tested against another version written by a professional marketer in a split test before the launch. In (what was to me) a shock result, the email I’d written achieved:

  • 7.3% more opens (39.5% to 32.2%)
  • 4.8% more click-throughs (7% to 2.2%).

As we’ll see, this experiment busted five key sales email myths:

  1. Use call-to-action sales links in sales emails.
  2. We need to “sell” the customer on the product before they’ll click a link.
  3. A sales email should focus on a discount or offer.
  4. A sales email should overtly drive readers to action.
  5. Scannability is about bold font, bullet lists, and subheadings.

First up, let’s look at the email.

—-

Subject: Wish you could take Gorgeous Photos, Every Single Time? Now You Can

Body:

Wish you could take gorgeous photos, every single time? Now you can.

Photo Nuts and Shots is your comprehensive guide to creative photography. And for a limited time, you can get 25% off the cover price!

If you know your way around your camera, and you’re ready to harness practical techniques to take stunning, evocative images, this 100+ page ebook is for you.

Over 9 down-to-earth chapters, professional photographer Neil Creek will show you how to:

  • harness light to convey emotion
  • know the rules of composition … and when to break them
  • take the sharpest possible photo every time
  • adapt the camera’s exposure to produce the shot you want
  • master the concepts of shot perception, planning, and execution — in any setting
  • tap into your unique creativity to take evocative photographs that reach out to viewers
  • be the best photographer you can be.

For full details, visit our Photo Nuts and Shots page.

This lush, inspiring, practical guide normally retails for $19.99 but for a limited time, you can secure a copy for just $14.99.

That’s 25% off!

Of course, you’re protected by a 60-day money-back guarantee, so if you don’t feel this detailed ebook has helped you become a better photographer, you can get a full refund.

For more information, and to order your copy today, visit Photo Nuts and Shots info page.

Darren Rowse

PS: Order Photo Nuts and Shots in the next week and you’ll also go into the draw to win a brand new Canon EOS T2i SLR camera and lens.  But hurry, time is limited.

One thing you’ll notice is the aspirational nature of the selling point here. This was an aspirational product, being sold to people who had an ambition. Also, the DPS audience members aren’t new to the Web—they’re comfortable with technology and this medium.

The other email we tested used an offer-based subject line that promoted the launch discount. While discounts certainly appeal to customers, this example shows that a discount doesn’t always have the pulling power we think it will. What works best always depends on your audience.

This email contains a number of audience-specific techniques that I’m happy to discuss in the comments if you like, but in this post, I really wanted to focus on the broader techniques that I think helped give this email—and could give any sales email—a solid head-start in the response rate stakes.

1. Tie the opening to the subject line

The first sentence of this email is identical to the subject line. I don’t think that’s necessarily ideal, but I do think your email has an immediate hook if your subject line identifies your key selling point, and your opening answers that point.

As I’ll explain in a moment, this email does achieve that “answer” in its opening. But what do I mean by “answer”?

In this context, an answer isn’t necessarily an answer—to a question, for example—although it can be. An answer is a secondary piece of information that actively and substantially supports the proposition contained in your subject line. Look at a book’s chapters and you’ll see that their opening paragraphs directly relate to, explain, and/or support their titles. You’re aiming to achieve the same thing, but in a sentence.

So, for example, it would be much stronger to follow this email’s subject line with an aspirational opening sentence than an offer-focused opening sentence. Why? Because the selling point in this version of the email is aspiration. The opening sentence needs to reinforce that positioning whole-heartedly.

2. Make the first word count

The first word in this email is “wish”. It’s a present-tense verb, it directly reflects the selling point (aspiration), and it’s sweet and non-spammy. Wish? Who doesn’t have a wish?

I could have started with “Do you wish” or “Have you ever wished”, but those sentences just push that crucial word—wish—further and further away. We have micro-seconds to catch potential customers’ attention. We need to cut to the heart of the matter.

That first word is valuable in itself from a positioning point of view, but as we’re about to see, it has much greater value than this alone.

3. Link to the sales page

The first link to the sales page appears on the second line of the email. It’s an informational link containing the name of the product.

The other email we tested included its first link to the sales page in the fifth paragraph, and the link text was a call to action: “Order your copy here.” In fact, that email had two links, and used the same call to action in both. As you can see, the email above does not use call-to-action link text.

I think this points to a couple of common misconceptions about writing sales copy:

  1. The first is that a call to action is the appropriate form of link text in sales copy.
  2. The second is that a reader needs to be told things—that you need to “sell” them on your concept—before they’ll be sufficiently convinced to click on a link. I think most web users are more sophisticated than this. They trust their own opinions far more than yours or mine, and they know that clicking on a link is not a commitment to buy.

If you look glance at the opening of this email, you see two things: “Wish you…” and a link to Photo Nuts and Shots. I may be alone in my take on this, but to me, that says “Problem? Solution.”

4. Make it scannable

You knew this was coming, right? And yes, we included a list (every point starting with a carefully chosen verb, to communicate a benefit), a bolded discount offer, and an eye-catching post-script with a competition to generate immediate action.

But the other email we tested had all these “scannable” elements too. So what’s the difference?

I think scannability has evolved from the early days of subheads-and-bullet-list advice. As we just saw, at first glance, the opening contains a problem and a solution—even if the reader isn’t reading. This may sound extreme, but I’ll say it: the reader doesn’t really have to move their eyes to get that information.

If, as we know from research, readers’ eyes stray down the left of the display, then we should provide them with as much information as we can on the far left of the page. I am an extremely lazy online reader, so I know from personal experience that this makes a big difference to comprehension.

I think scannability comes right down to language choice and sentence structure. On the left-hand side of this email we see—even if we don’t consciously read them—the following words:

  • Wish you could
  • Photo Nuts and Shots
  • Over 9 down-to-earth
  • For full details
  • This lush, inspiring
  • That’s 25% off
  • Of course, you’re protected
  • For more information
  • Darren Rowse

This information combines to deliver:

  • acknowledgement of a problem
  • the name of the solution
  • a link
  • value: the book length (9 chapters; I used the number because it stands out more clearly in body copy than would the word “nine”) coupled with the size of the discount (also a number)
  • reassurance

The one thing to remember with this left-hand-side technique is that words in subsequent lines of the same paragraph may not display against the left-hand margin in the user’s email client. You really need to focus on first words of paragraphs with this technique.

5. Beginnings and endings

There’s another little scanning-related technique that I wanted to mention. Let’s look again at the list of benefits, which is probably one of the parts of any sales email that gets the most attention.

  • harness light to convey emotion
  • know the rules of composition … and when to break them
  • take the sharpest possible photo every time
  • adapt the camera’s exposure to produce the shot you want
  • master the concepts of shot perception, planning, and execution — in any setting
  • tap into your unique creativity to take evocative photographs that reach out to viewers
  • be the best photographer you can be.

I have this idea that we pay attention to the beginnings and ends of pieces of text. Take the middle sections out of these bullet points, and here’s the message you end up getting:

  • harness light …  emotion
  • know the rules … break them
  • take the sharpest … every time
  • adapt the camera’s … shot you want
  • master the … in any setting
  • tap into your …. reach out to viewers
  • be the best … you can be.

This applies to other pieces of text, too. Like the first two paragraphs:

Photo Nuts and Shots … 25% off the cover price!

If you know …  100+ page ebook is for you.

And the refund paragraph:

Of course … get a full refund.

So don’t just pay attention to the left-hand side of your content. Also pay close attention to the endings of each piece of text in your email.

Warning: oversell

This email did achieve a good response rate. However, the complaint rate on this email was higher than the other version we tested by 0.04%.

That’s a small percentage, and you’d probably say it was worth it, given the higher open and click-through rates.

Interestingly, Darren told me that the ebook’s author, Neil Creek, also voiced concern at the strength of the message in this email. When the email was mailed to the whole of the DPS userbase, the words “every single time” were removed from the subject line.

I have to admit that I was extremely impressed by the product itself, and that obviously came across loud and clear in my writing. But it makes an important point about word choice and expression. The bottom line seems to be, don’t go overboard, however enthusiastic you may feel about the product.

Rewriting the myths

After this experiment, here’s my take on the sales email myths I outlined at the start:

  1. Use call-to-action sales links in sales emails.
    Write your copy for the audience, and use what feels like natural link text. If it’s a call to action, fine. But it needn’t be.
  2. We need to “sell” the customer on the product before they’ll click a link.
    Some readers may need convincing, but many just want to look at what you’re selling for themselves. Don’t make them hunt for the link.
  3. A sales email should focus on a discount or offer.
    The focus of your email should be dictated by the audience’s needs.
  4. A sales email should overtly drive readers to action.
    You don’t need to use in-your-face techniques like call-to-action link text, repetition, and screamy sales lines (“Don’t miss out! Order now! Limited stock available!”) to get results.
  5. Scannability is about bold font, bullet lists and subheadings.
    Scannability is about paragraphs, sentences, and words as much as it is these presentation mechanisms.

How do you feel about these ideas? Do you think they’d work with your readers? What other suggestions can you add? Also, if you try some of these techniques and can share your results with us in the comments, we’d love to hear them.

How to Harness Your Email List to Help Pay Your Rent

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

Wouldn’t it be nice to send out an email or two and pull in $10,000+ to pay your rent or mortgage payments for the year? It is actually possible using your own products or those of selected affiliates. And while some of you will be thinking that word “affiliates” sounds dirty and underhanded, I’m here to tell you that affiliate marketing is actually one of the most honest ways to make money on the Web.

In this post I am going to show you how you can make $10,000+ a year using your email list and a product or affiliate program. I’ll even do a bit of math to prove it.

eMail
Creative Commons License photo credit: Esparta

How it works

Let me start by giving you a little overview of how this all works, in case you’re totally new to the idea. I’ll go in to more detail later on.

  1. Use your blog to grow an email list
    If you’ve read any of my other guest posts on Problogger you will notice that I have a pretty (un)healthy obsession with email lists. I’m constantly telling my readers to focus on growing a list of active, engaged, and interested email subscribers. It should be the main focus of almost every blog.
  2. Provide value
    The most important thing to remember with this process is that you need to provide value. You need to enrich the lives of your subscribers. You need to solve their problems. Without this step you will find that your list grows largely unresponsive.
  3. Create a product or find affiliate programs
    The next steps is to create a product of your own (ebook, ecourse, etc.) or find a product of someone else’s that you can promote and sell to your email list. It needs to be highly relevant, valuable, and helpful.
  4. Promote it to your email list
    This stage is actually rather complex and can involve a pre-launch and launch, as well as automated messages and so on. The net result is that you make a lump sum of money during a launch period, or an ongoing stream of income from automated sales that happen over time.

The whole thing can be a very exciting process and, if it’s done correctly, it is an extremely ethical way to make good money while enriching the lives of your subscriber list.

Doing the math

Now, let’s do a little math to see if $10,000 per year is really possible. In fact, if you really catch a hold of this concept you’ll find that $10,000 is actually rather conservative. The possibilities with this type of marketing are endless.

Let’s take a look:

  1. Capture four email subscribers per day
    Let’s assume you are able to capture four email subscribers per day. It is a very small amount that any one can do with ideas like this and this.4 x 365 = 1460 subscribers per year.
  2. Sell a $37 ebook to 20% of your list
    If your followers are loyal and engaged you should be able to sell to around 15% to 20% of them.1460 subscribers x 0.2 = 292 sales @ $37 = $10,804

Now, for those whose lists are significantly larger than this, the estimates are conservative. For those who have smaller lists, this can serve as inspiration to keep going with your blogging work. Remember, an ebook is just one example of the multitude of things you can promote to your list.

How to make $10k+ per year with email subscribers

George is Keeping an Eye On You!
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

The wonderful thing about this process is that it can be expanded upon to incredible levels. For some bloggers, $10,000 is a tiny sum of money. My hope is that this post serves as a catalyst for you to learn more about the field and really take your blog to its full potential.

1. Grow the email list

The email list is the backbone of all good blogging income sources. If you can capture a large number of email addresses of readers who love what you write, trust your advice, and look to you for help and new information, then you are setting yourself up to be in a very profitable situation.

I know what you’re thinking: “But isn’t it rude/annoying/spammy to sell stuff to my followers?” This is a very common question. I encounter so many people who don’t want to sell anything to their subscribers but, to be honest, the logic doesn’t make sense to me. Why? Because, like everyone else, you also have bills to pay, you aren’t trying to rip anyone off, and with the right products, you can help your subscribers to better their situations.

Don’t get me wrong: some people abuse their lists. I don’t condone this at all. But guys like Darren, who only sell high-quality ebooks or training courses that can help you grow a bigger and better blog, are helping their subscribers. Why shouldn’t Darren make some money selling a product that has taken him years and years to acquire the knowledge to create—and helps you in a big way?

How can you grow your list quickly?

  • Focus on value and quality information
    Your blog needs to publish high-quality content that adds value to the lives of your readers. Every time someone sees a post on your blog, they should leave feeling like a problem is solved. This is important.
  • Have an angle
    There are hundreds of millions of blogs out there. You need an angle. Why should people read your stuff over someone else’s? Without an attached story or angle, you give a person no reason to subscribe to your blog.
  • Use Aweber to add subscription boxes and send a free ebook
    I recently wrote a post about why I switched to Aweber and the reasons are simple: you can add a subscription box to your blog in about five minutes, you can send out a series of automatic follow-up emails and, best of all, you can send out a free ebook automatically. This is a tried and tested method for capturing a lot of email subscribers: write a highly valuable ebook that appeals to your niche, and give it away in exchange for their subscription.
  • Write guest posts related to your niche
    Once your free ebook offering is up and running, get out there and start guest posting on as many of the top blogs as possible. Darren has a thorough post on how to do this, so the only thing that I’ll add is that you should make your posts as good as possible, and in some way relate them to your free ebook. This ensures that all the visitors that trickle through to your site are interested in your stuff.
  • Engage people in email, Twitter, comment threads, etc.
    If you want your email subscribers to be loyal and engaged, you want to make sure you engage them in as many places as possible. As a general rule, I reply to every comment on my blog, and Twitter and Facebook accounts. I work from home so it’s easy for me to do this, but even if you work in an office, you should make an effort to reply to contacts and commenters each evening when you get home.

As a general rule of thumb, the number of email signups you attract is a good indicator of how successful your blog is. You might be getting all the traffic in the world, but unless you can convert it somehow, you probably aren’t making much progress. Capturing as many email subscribers as possible is the first and most important step in affiliate marketing.

2. Create a product and/or find an affiliate product to promote

This section is broken up in to two parts—your two different options. The first option is to create your own product and sell that to your list. I prefer this option because you can tailor it to suit your readers’ needs and wants. The second option is find someone else’s product to promote to your list for a commission (i.e. an affiliate program). Let’s take a look at both.

Creating your own product

The wonderful thing about the Internet is that it allows you to create your own product without much in the way of difficulty or start-up costs. In a recent article on how stay-at-home moms can make money, I said that a product launched off the back of an expert blog is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to make an honest living online. This is true.

Your product could take one of many forms:

  • an ebook
    Creating an ebook is one of the simplest ways to make money from your blog. All you do is brainstorm a concept, write it out in Word or Open Office, tizzy it up with graphics and pictures, and then convert it into a PDF. Instant product. The problem? There are a lot of them out there. People have become a bit blind to them. If you are going to sell an ebook, you have to make sure it is of an outstanding level of quality and addresses a problem that’s massively relevant to your blogging audience. Ideally, it will cover a topic that hasn’t already been heavily written about.
  • an ecourse
    Another popular option is to develop an ecourse that teaches your readers how to do something. It could take the form of a series of emails sent out every week, or it could be an ebook mixed with video and delivered in module form. This is sometimes a better option because, the course content can be created or amended on the go, to respond to the feedback you get from users.
  • a membership site
    This is new black: it seems like everyone is creating membership sites nowadays. A membership site is basically a password-protected area of your blog that people can only access by paying. It could contain tools or courses or a forum of experts, for example. Some of the more successful membership sites are SEOBook and SEOmoz.
  • a physical product
    If you are one of these talented people who have an actual real-world skill like painting or designing clothes, you might want to make your product a physical one. This can work extremely well if you have a big list of people who admire your work.

Whatever you decide to create, you have to make sure it appeals to your readers and continues to add value as you’ve done on your blog. People simply will not pay for something unless they know that it will add to their lives in a meaningful way.

Promoting someone else’s product

If you don’t have the time, energy, or ideas to create your own product, you can start out by promoting other people’s—by becoming an affiliate. For example, if I created an amazing Blog Tyrant ecourse, I would offer people the opportunity to sell that ecourse on my behalf and earn a commission (usually 40% to 80%) on every sale. If you believed in that product (trust me, it’d be awesome!) then you could sell it to your list. Money for jam.

There are a few prerequisites to generating an income through affiliate sales:

  • The product must be relevant.
    If you run a dog-training blog there is almost no chance that my amazing Blog Tyrant product would sell to your list. You need to find affiliate products that are highly relevant to your blog.
  • You must believe in it/use it yourself.
    Personally, I never promote an affiliate product unless I use it myself. My site is all about helping people dominate their niche and grow an online business that allows them to work from home. Why would I risk my reputation (and in some cases friendships) promoting a product that I’ve never used?
  • It must be reputable and safe.
    Some affiliate programs out there really do not offer good protection for their customers. It’s getting rarer and rarer, but every now and then you come across a program that gets people involved with spam, or makes it difficult to get a refund. If you are going to promote something to your list, you want to make sure it comes from a reputable source that you know and trust. Shoemoney says that he never promotes an affiliate unless he has met the owner in person. This is a good rule.

Please do not think that affiliate programs are all dirty. They aren’t. There are some really solid brand names out there who are promoting very valuable tools and information. Darren’s one of them. With a little bit of research and planning, you will be able to find something great for your crew.

Finding affiliate products to promote
There are so many different places to find affiliates out there—some good, some bad. What you often find is that it is best to locate the product you want to promote first, then figure out what company that product creator is using to sign up affiliates. Some of the main ones you might want to look at include:

A lot of the larger companies run their own affiliate programs. In this case you want to visit the sites of the sellers themselves, scroll down to the very bottom and look for the Affiliates link that will direct you to the signup page.

3. Sell the product to your email list

The final part of this post is all about selling your product, or your chosen affiliate product, to your email list. This topic could be studied for a lifetime, but here, let’s look at a rough game-plan.

Pre-launch

The first step is to generate some interest among your subscribers around the product launch. You want to prepare your readers for the big sale day. There are lots of different ways to do this, and many different schools of thought as to what works and what doesn’t. Some ideas include:

  • a free give away
    Having a free give away that is related to your product launch can be a good idea because people circulate the free part to their friends and on their blogs. It can also help you capture more email addresses to use for the actual promotion.
  • a time-sensitive signup area
    Something else that can work is to have a time-sensitive signup area. For example, if you are releasing a membership site you might only want to release it to 100 members. Having an earlybird signup area on the blog a week in advance can get people motivated to join, rather than risk missing out.
  • create an affiliate program
    Around this time, if you’re selling a product you’ve created yourself, you also want to set yourself up as affiliate seller so that other bloggers can sell your products. Email your list of high-profile blogging contacts, letting them know about the product launch and the affiliate program, and ask them to help you out.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it really does generate some buzz. The idea is to get as many people talking about the product, and sharing news about it, as possible.

Launch

The launch stage is where you actually send out the email to your list promoting your new product. You should also do a post on your blog to ensure your RSS readers hear about what’s going on. Make sure your launch email:

  • has a strong call to action
  • details all the specs of the product
  • uses social proof
  • focuses on benefits, not features.

As I said, this is only supposed to be a rough game-plan. There are some amazing articles out there that give you specific details on this process. I’d recommend starting with Copyblogger’s landing pages tutorials, Darren’s video on product launches, and Yaro’s article on creating an ebook.

Automate follow-ups for affiliate products

One thing to remember is that if you’re promoting someone else’s product you don’t have to do all this launch stuff. You can actually just set it to be entirely automatic. How? Well remember we talked about Aweber’s automatic messages earlier? What you can do is create a series of follow-up emails that go to every subscriber that you get on a sequence of set days.

For example, let’s say you subscribe to my Dog Training blog. On day one I might send you an automatic email thanking you for subscribing. Then on day three, you get an email with a highly useful dog training tip or tutorial. A week later, you get another training tip and then, maybe a day after that, I send you an email with an affiliate product that relates to the tips and tutorials, and really helps you solve the problem. It’s all automatic, and it works extremely well.

Remember, don’t flood your subscribers with emails, and don’t send anything out unless it’s highly valuable and useful to your subscribers. Don’t risk compromising your relationship.

Have you done it? Will you try it?

I’d really like to open up the comments now and ask you guys for any advice from your own email campaigns. Have you tried these kinds of approaches before? Did they work well? I’d also really like to know whether you will give this a try on your own blogs. Do leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant is a 25 year old guy who makes a full time living from blogs and online businesses. He has sold several blogs for $20,000 plus and answers every comment he gets on his blog. Subscribe by email or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or RSS.

Should You Use Affiliates to Promote Your Products?

Last week I shared my answer to a common question that many people getting into online product marketing ask: “Should I offer a money-back guarantee?” Today I want to tackle two others:

“Should I start an affiliate program to promote my product?” If so, “how much should I pay affiliates as a commission?”

I had this conversation only yesterday with one blogger who was launching his first ebook. He had decided to set up an affiliate program but was unsure about what percentage to pay. He were leaning towards 10% commissions, mainly because he didn’t want to eat into his profit margins too much. I’ll share the response I gave that blogger here.

But first, let’s take a step back to look at some pros and cons of affiliate programs.

Why an affiliate program could be worthwhile for your product

The main reason that you should consider an affiliate program for your product is simply that it will increase the potential reach that you will have as you promote your product.

Whether your blog is big or small, there’s always room to increase your reach and have your offer seen by more people. Pretty much every topic has other blogs, sites, forums, and individuals interacting on social media. To set up an affiliate program increases the incentive that these sites and individuals have to promote your product.

Of course, not everyone will be motivated by an affiliate commission (some bloggers don’t use them at all), but you will find that some are definitely moved by them and those people could open up a considerably larger audience for you.

Another benefit of affiliate programs is that they help to grow your own list of customers. This benefits you in the here and now with the product you’re promoting at present, but also offers potential for future products.

A new customer that comes in from an affiliate promotion today can turn into a life-long customer if you develop a relationship with them. A $10 sale from an ebook could end up leading to five more $10 sales in the coming year—or it could end up generating a $200 sale if you launch larger products down the track.

Why you might not want to start an affiliate program

I think it’s important to note that having an affiliate program isn’t always the best option for everyone. There are some costs to consider along with the opportunities they open up.

  • Decreased profit: Let’s start with the most obvious cost—affiliate programs eat into your profit margin. When someone recommends your product they do bring in new business, but you share the benefit of that business with them. A $20 ebook sale effectively becomes a $10 sale if you share a 50% commission. For some bloggers this is a stumbling block, and not something that they want to do (I’ll speak more about it below).
  • Time: One of the big hidden costs of an affiliate program is the time that it can take to manage. I’ve not found it to be a huge time commitment, but there are some extra logistical tasks that you might find yourself doing when you introduce affiliates into your strategy. These include paying them (depending upon the system you use), providing them with sales material, motivating them, helping those who have limited technical knowledge to set up links, and so on. You will find that some affiliates need a bit more hand-holding than others—and some can be quite high maintenance!
  • Loss of control: Another hidden cost of affiliate programs is that you lose a little control over the way your product is promoted. Not everyone will promote it in the same way you do. I can think of a number of times when this has been a problem—particularly when affiliates have used hype and built products up to be better than they actually are in order to get sales. In doing so they created false expectations in buyers that the owner of the product had to then manage.

How much should you to pay affiliates?

This is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked on this topic, but of course there are no real wrong or right answers. You’ll want to consider a number of factors:

  1. Price of product: As someone who promotes a variety of products through affiliate programs, I know that it’s not just the percentage commission that I look at, but also the price of the product. For example, 50% of a $5 product is certainly not as attractive as 50% of a $100 product. There may not be a lot you can do about this, but it’ll be a factor for those considering promoting your product.
  2. Size of the untapped market: If you’re just starting out and don’t yet have much of an audience of your own, you might want to consider a higher commission in order to give an incentive to affiliates to work for you to get things going. However, if you have a large audience of people who trust you already, you might not be as reliant upon affiliates to help you make your product successful.
  3. Future product releases: Some people use affiliate programs more as lead generators than anything else. I know of a number of people who actually offer affiliates 100% of sales to give them a big incentive to promote the product. The hope is that, while the affiliate is the only person to make money from the initial promotion, the sales will generate a list of buyers to which the product owner can promote future products.
  4. Tiered commissions: One strategy that some product producers use is to offer bigger affiliates a higher percentage than smaller affiliates. In this way, they increase the incentive for those who have larger audiences.
  5. Physical vs virtual products (and other overheads): Many information products offer affiliates 40-50% commissions. This is in part because there are limited overheads on virtual products. To sell a $20 ebook only really costs me a few cents for hosting and bandwidth, and a small amount in PayPal and shopping cart fees (after the cost of design and so on). On the other hand, a physical product will have a much smaller profit margin. I have one friend who has an online camera store, and he’s only able to offer his affiliates 4% commissions, because his own profit margin isn’t high.
  6. Consider your expenses carefully: Even if you’re selling virtual products, keep all of your expenses in mind. I had an interaction with an ebook seller recently who didn’t realize what the PayPal fees would be on his $5 ebooks. He offered affiliates 60% commissions on the sale price and, once he took out PayPal fees and his design and proofreading costs, he realized he wasn’t really making more than a few cents per ebook.

Why I pay 40% commissions instead of 10%

Let me finish with my answer to the blogger who was going to offer 10% commissions on his ebooks. He was concerned that commissions would eat into his profits, and was struggling to justify why he should really pay more to someone for simply promoting his ebook when he’d done all the work to make it.

I can see where he was coming from, but my philosophy for paying higher commissions on my own products (I pay 40%) is that any new customer that an affiliate brings in is a customer I’d probably never have had otherwise. So earning 60% (or $12 on a $20 ebook) is $12 more than I’d have had in my pocket than if I hadn’t had an affiliate promoting my product.

I also take into account the fact that that person buying my ebook might also buy future products from me (both my own and affiliate promotions that I promote). They may also recommend my products to their friends and may become a regular reader of my blog (and help to increase advertising revenue). So the inital $12 profit could end up being considerably more in time.

Do you have an affiliate program for your products?

I’d love to hear from others who sell products from their blogs. Do you offer an affiliate program? Why, or why not? If you do, what commission level do you pay, and how did you come to that figure?

Personal Blog Monetization Perils and Pitfalls

This guest post is by Brooke Schoenman of Brooke vs. the World.

I write for two blogs that are both travel-themed, yet very different from one another. Brooke vs. the World has been my personal travel blog for the past four years, while WhyGo Australia is more of a travel guide blog which is part of a larger travel network, and focuses on making money. Because of their different natures, I approach the way I write and promote each of these blogs in a different manner.

Brooke vs. the World has been around for a while now, and since I have a bit of clout in the online travel community, it does draw the attention of advertisers and has various avenues of making money. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to come to terms with whether or not I want to take it a step further to a point of it becoming a real money-maker. In considering my options, I’ve realized that this process would involve overcoming several challenges.

Prioritizing commercial topics over personal topics

Most personal bloggers choose to write about topics that only pertain to them, and do it in a way that requires them to talk about themselves. This approach can help build a following of people that truly can relate to you and what you’re doing, but it’s likely that focusing more heavily on broader topics that a more general audience can relate to from time to time will mean you can monetize your blog more successfully. There’s also the need to choose topics that fare better for SEO and purposely cause discussion. In other words, if you monetize your personal blog, you might have to blog about topics that aren’t as near and dear to your heart all the time.

For example, on my personal blog, I’d find it a bit bland to write an article on the “5 Best Budget Hostels in Antigua, Guatemala.” I’d much prefer to talk about my experiences with meeting new people there, perhaps in an article called, “The Amazing Friends I Met in Hostels in Guatemala.” Obviously, the first topic is going to appeal to a larger audience, maybe perform better with the search engines, and produce a better way of introducing affiliate programs with direct calls to action (think: “book your stay now”).

Censoring personal feelings

If you’re like me, you might use a personal blog as a way to vent and share your personal feelings. There’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, it can be a good way to connect with readers. However, if you monetize your blog, times may arise when it is best to not show your deep-down honest feelings—perhaps when you really dislike something. That’s a factor that can change in a blog when it starts to become a business: being openly judgmental can drive some potential advertisers away.

I let my personal feelings about traveling in New Zealand slip out on my blog last year. Sure, there were plenty of reasons why my feelings on the subject were negative, but by not censoring myself, I may have killed any chances of landing a media-related trip to New Zealand, or of working with New Zealand-themed advertisers in the future.

Broadening the horizons

Along with prioritizing commercial topics, the personal blogger looking to monetize their blog may need to broaden their scope. Talking about travel experiences and telling travel tales is one thing, but to gain a larger audience, you may try to provide experiences and tales for more than the countries that you’ve visited yourself. In addition, tackling list-style posts and easy-reading type articles can be a great way to draw in different types of readers. But are they your thing?

I think Darren touches on this point by talking about how his video posts do better when he has both the video and the transcription together. There are simply different kinds of audiences: some are visual (preferring photos or videos); others like to read about it. Some visitors are looking for a personal tale from a travel blog, while others want to know how exactly they can do the same things you did in a step-by-step guide. Each of these visitor types means that you may gain by branching out from your normal style. But personally, I find list posts and how-to guides feel less personal and unique (the majority of the time), and video blogs time-consuming.

Opening it up to others

Although it’s not necessarily essential, opening up a blog to focus more on others (another step in broadening the horizons) is beneficial when it comes to gaining more interest from your audience. You can achieve this by writing interviews, accepting guest posts, and linking more frequently to outside resources. Any way it happens, it will draw more attention to your blog. Yet it is a task that can be difficult to do smoothly if, so far, you’ve been focusing solely on your own story.

Brooke vs. the World, for example, has been a blog about my personal journey; the title pretty much says so. The objective has always been to share my travels, so the thought of adding another voice to the mix through guest posts would seem to break the continuity of what has now been years in the making.

Getting over the fear of selling

If a blog doesn’t start out to make money, it can feel as though the blogger is selling out by changing their focus to monetization later on. I think this is my number one issue with taking my personal blog to the next level—the fear that what I do and say will be only taken at face value, instead of genuinely. So, while I may feel strongly about the benefits of a certain product I’m writing about, I often fear making the initial call to action to achieve the response I’m looking for.

The fact that I struggle with this aspect could be all in my head, or it could be because the selling tone just doesn’t fit in with my personal blog’s voice. I’ve tried several times to write articles that are focused on the sale, but it just sounds out of place and inauthentic. I often worry that people will think that I’m only saying that I like a specific tour or travel product because I’m hoping to make some quick money from the sales.

Getting over the fear of selling yourself

Self-promotion is essential for making yourself stand out in a crowded niche such as travel, yet for many people, it’s not easy to do. You have to be able to tell people why you are interesting to follow and, most importantly, how they can gain from it themselves. Otherwise, you’ll be just another fish in the big Internet sea, swimming around waiting to be discovered.

Part of the process of drawing attention to yourself, however, can feel like bragging. Since most personal blogs have just a person behind them, there’s no business name to hide behind. So selling yourself seems very much like talking yourself up to others, which is what we were raised to think is impolite and annoying. I’m sure there is a fine line here, but I often find myself questioning whether it’s worth the risk of crossing that line.

I generally have no issues doing any of these activities with WhyGo Australia, since it’s a part of my job and I’m backed by a really awesome independent travel company. Overcoming these challenges with my personal blog is another story—and one that I continue to struggle with.

Have any of you felt the same when it comes to trying to make the change from personal blog to money-maker?

Brooke Schoenman is a long-time traveler and full-time travel blogger, originally from America but now in the process of becoming an Australia expat. For travel inspiration, subscribe to her feed at Brooke vs. the World, and for Australia travel tips be sure to bookmark WhyGo Australia.