I’ll say it upfront: blogging isn’t exactly the best way to make money. There are some bloggers who did make it big but those are an exception. Most bloggers find it extremely hard to pull in revenue through their blogs. John Bardos makes an honest confession on JetSetCitizen, and we can feel it.
John said it out aloud that blogging is a lousy way to make money; most bloggers won’t tell you. There’s a sense of shame, self-aggrandizement, and fear of ridicule associated with failure. As long as we are human, coming out in the open about failure isn’t exactly natural.
Yet, blogging is not a lost cause. The cause is not lost as long as you realign your intent, passion, determination, and entrepreneurial ambitions. Here’s how you can still make it big with blogging:
Forget “Blogging,” Think “Publishing”
Blogging is self-publishing. It’s the “self” that hurts the publishing part though. Individual bloggers have seen notable success. Take a look at what Gary Vaynerchuk (wine magnate cum social media evangelist), Ann Smarty (prolific blogger and founder of MyBlogGuest), or our very own super-marketer Ros Gardner have done, and that’s proof enough. Most people forget the years of sacrifice put in by these amazing bloggers, not to mention the fact that they started early, and then make the mistake of doing exactly what they’ve already done in more or less same niches.
When you start retailing online, you don’t compete with Amazon and eBay. In the same way, don’t bother trying to beat already established blogs. Take the publishing route and take on niches that haven’t been covered as much. Avoid personal finance, travel, health, making money online, and “blogging” as your niches to begin with.
Don’t Go It Alone
Blogging is a way for individuals to start publishing for themselves. It is also a great way for companies to publish. Companies either hire in-house personnel or freelance copywriters to blog; most individual bloggers don’t have this luxury.
If don’t involve others in contributing to your blog, the fun that blogging is ends right there. Blogging alone is like getting a fancy job that doesn’t even pay. Being passionate about a topic and writing about it for a lifetime is something else. If you have to make money from blogging, you absolutely have to get in the professionals. Find experts, interested and opinionated readers, freelance writers, influencers and others to write for you.
That’s the only way you can scale.
Let Users Generate Content, So You Don’t Have To
Typically, you write blog posts that others read. If your blog becomes popular, you see healthy discussions around your posts that are pleasantly (and sometimes profitably) interactive.
That’s not enough, though. You’d need a strong input from users to create user generated content that has value in itself, both for those who contribute and those that read and consume.
The rise of social media can be attributed to the power of user-generated content. Quora, Urbanspoon, Glassdoor, and many more sites are all examples of reviews, comments and visitor-blogging ideas that propelled themselves on the power of user-generated content.
Everyone likes to be where the action is. We all want to know what others think. Combining the power of collective inputs on little-known areas is insanely powerful. The most popular publications tap into and depend on it. Why shouldn’t you too?
Find Parallel Paths for Publishing
Once you start blogging like it’s a business, you expand your scope for publishing. What used to be text and images on your blog now finds a way to extend into videos, podcasts, webinars, seminars, physical events, training courses, guest blog posts, interviews, and books.
If you have to make it big with blogging, you’ve got to think big first. Seek opportunities to publish a book, offer free training (on whatever it is that you blog about) for your readers, create on-location events, create slide decks, present them and put them up on SlideShare for people to view them for all eternity, share your videos on YouTube/Vimeo, or start a forum.
Your blog, given today’s state of blogging, is too small to make an impact. You have no choice but to grow big.
Run It Like a Business
When you start a business, you think of hiring staff, creating systems, creating value, and selling value in exchange for money. For bloggers, value lies in “information.” Instead of operating a never-ending avalanche of information conveyor belt all by yourself, run your blog like a business.
Think of monetizing your blog, selling information in exchange for dollars, paid subscription for access to your blog, and producing pay for access content.
GigaOm did that. Can you?
Plan for Revenue, Long-term
Read posts on “blogging” and you’ll hear some people lament: “avoid advertising initially,” “don’t look to monetize,” and “give and then take” – all of that is true. You don’t have to display advertising but you can “plan” to monetize. Create long-term goals on how you intend to make money out of your blog.
Brent Weaver, a web designer who runs his own agency at Hotpressweb.com, first started BCGurus.com as a blog where he’d publish all things connected to Adobe Business Catalyst. Later, the blog turned into a veritable source of information (including videos, cheat sheets, and downloadable information) exclusively for other business catalyst members.
Today, BCGurus is a thriving community complete with the original blog, directory, and even a marketplace for BC templates.
Brent didn’t plan everything from the start, but he did have a vision. He wanted the fruit of his labor, and he now uses BCGurus as a business model by itself while creating tons of precious social proof for his own business.
The common thread is that all popular blogs are monetized. They are built to bring in revenue. None of that happened in a day, though.