Thursday, May 5, 2011

Making Money Blogging- Some Tips

People often talk about how "just being frugal isn't enough", because the amount of money you can save can never be more than you're actually earning. While I agree with that in theory, I think many people throw frugality out the window when they try earning more money, and end up being in a worse position financially than someone like myself, with a small income but very frugal. Ramit Sethi recently wrote an article on that subject- what do you think about it?
The approach we've taken in our family has been "increase income when possible so long as it actually is improving finances." Which is why in the nearly 5 years since I've been married, I've never once been purely a housewife. I was always doing something to try to increase our income, whether it was working as a dental assistant, working in someone else's at home daycare, running my own at home daycare, working as a telemarketer, doing transcription jobs, cleaning other people's homes, and now working as a magazine columnist and blogger.
Frugality is good, but if frugality isn't doing enough for your finances, finding a way to improve your finances while not increasing expenditure is something very beneficial and sometimes absolutely necessary.

On that note- have you ever wondered what it takes to make money from blogging? Did you ever see someone who apparently makes a living via writing and wondered how they do it? While I can't tell you how other people do it, these are some tips that might help you get started if you were thinking of potentially supplementing your income and possibly even making a full time income via blogging. This is what has been working for me, but hey- I'm not expert, so don't take my word on it.

Making Money From Blogging

So, you want to make money via blogging? I'll start out with a few words of caution.

  • There are blog purists out there who think people shouldn't get paid for writing. Why they think that is beyond me, but just know that there will be people who will criticize you for monetization of your blog.
  • You'll need a thick skin. The moment you put yourself out there, the moment you spread your thoughts and actions beyond the four walls of your home, you'll get people who disagree with you. Some vehemently. Some people will be rude and dis you. Some may make snide remarks behind your back or on another website. I don't take these personally, because no one agrees with everyone else. And there are nasty people out there everywhere. I view criticisms mainly as a way to show me that my blog has reached very far, even to people with vastly different viewpoints, and if there is anything constructive to take from their criticism, I will try to change what might need changing. But if you take everything personally and are very delicate, being a blogger most likely is not for you.
  • What you say can come back to haunt you. Some people are open with their blog about their identity from day one, in addition to sharing rather personal information. It can come back to bite you in the foot, either in your job, on dates, with your kids down the line, etc. On the other hand, some people are anonymous and think that no one will figure them out, so they share details that they don't want being connected to them. Neither are good.
     There are super internet sleuths out there who will find out your identity if you're not super careful and if there's a reason they want to figure you out. (Some people did that with me lately- and I thought it was really cool, but there are others that would freak out because of these "stalkers".) Make sure that you never say anything on your blog that you don't want people in real life finding out.
     Because there's a good chance that they will.
    Which is why I'm very careful about what I say- I may do things that people disapprove of or disagree with, but I don't share any info on my blog that I'm not comfortable with the world knowing. Internet trolls don't need any more fodder. (I'm not really so anonymous. People who read my magazine column- published under my real name- know about my website, as do all my friends, family, and acquaintances, so I know that nothing I say remains a secret, and write accordingly.)
  • It's a gamble. Not everyone will have success blogging. Some people have bad writing skills. Some people are just boring, or are interested in things that aren't interesting for others. Some people do the wrong things to make their blog a success. Some people just have bad luck. Whatever the case, investing time and energy and money into a blog is just that- an investment, and sometimes an investment doesn't work out. Its a gamble you take when you start a blog- there's no guarantee that you'll have success. (Which is why I don't suggest spending lots of money on hosting- see below- because there's no guarantee that you'll make back the money that you spent.)
  • Its no get rich quick scheme. I had my blog for nearly 5 or 6 months before I made a cent from my blog. I have my blog now for 16 months, blogging 3-6 days per week (with the average of 4 or 5 posts per week), and have made less than 1000 dollars from my blog since it started (I honestly never added it all up, so I can't give an exact number even if I wanted to). Yes, the cash that I make from my blog helps, but I sure don't count on it as a standard income- I view it as extra that I make. And I've had a lot better success monetizing my blog than a vast majority of bloggers. So counting on a blog being a full time income- maybe in the future mine will be. But its definitely no get rich quick scheme.

So those words of caution didn't deter you? Here's how to get started with making and monetizing a blog.

The thing you have to do is pick a well defined topic/theme. Without a specific theme, a blog that just talks about this and that and whatever, without a specific focus, it's hard to find a readership that is interested in all the topics. A great blog I read that hasn't, unfortunately, grown very big, even though it's been around for a while and is very well written, talks about so many different subjects that its hard to find people that are interested in it all, or at least most of it.
I used to have a blog before this one and I talked about everything under the sun on it- everything from religion to recipes to frugality to parenting to politics to random musings to emotional confessions... yea. You name it, I covered it. When starting a new blog for the purpose of monetization, I decided to drop everything but the two things that interested me the most- frugality, and parenting, and specifically how the two connected. Yes, sometimes I find it frustrating when I want to write about a topic but then realize I can't on my blog, because that's not my blog's focus. Its a sacrifice that I made, and I'm totally happy with that. Because by narrowing my focus, I was able to interest more people and grow my blog quickly.

Next, take the topic you want to cover and do research on the internet. First see if people are interested in the topic (google trends will tell you how many people are searching for a certain topic, and google searches will show you if there are forums or blogs on the topic, and if there is a large amount and they're active, you're in luck). Second, you have to make sure your niche isn't over saturated. If there are already a million (or a thousand, even) blogs on the topic, if may be hard to break into the niche and get noticed.
I suggest if you want to monetize, you write about things that are interesting not just to a small subset of people, because then your readership potential is much smaller. You pick a topic that is relatively not common to write about, but that interests many. I knew frugality interested lots of people, so I picked the niche in frugality that is more extreme, and isn't over written about, but still appeals to the standard frugal reader. That way, I'm able to get more readers, because my niche sets me apart. Seeing if there's a blog in the niche you're interested in writing about that has had lots of success is definitely a boon, because you know that then there is potential for you. (My hearing about the success Emily at Under1000permonth.blogspot.com had with her blog at first made me see that there are people interested in reading about extreme frugality, even if a large chunk of people read it only to mock.)
At the same time as you're doing all the above, you have to pick a topic that interests you/that you're passionate about, so you actually enjoy what you're doing, because if you don't enjoy it, you'll give up too soon. And if you aren't actually interested in a topic, you won't easily be able to come up with idea and idea, and post after post, on the subject. So stick to something that you enjoy!

And then start a blog, and buy a domain name for about 10 dollars. Pick a domain name that defines what the blog will be about. One that when people see the title, they immediately know what topics will be covered. Ideally one that will have words that people may be googling. One that has a nice ring to it. One that is short enough (http://www.modestapparelchristianclothinglydiaofpurpledressescustomsewing.com  <--- fail!), but descriptive enough. One without a funky ending like .nz or .biz or .edu, because people remember .com websites better. One that is easy to spell and that people know the meaning of. (FrugalZeitgeist.com comes to mind as a blog that is well written and interesting, but has a domain name that I can never remember how to spell, so makes me visit there less often. And confession- I don't even know what zeitgeist means, is a word I always associate with poltergeist!) 
You may be reluctant to spend any money on a domain name if you're not guaranteed the money back, but 10 dollars a year isn't a lot to pay, and if your blog grows big, a blog.blogspot.com blog or a blog.wordpress.com blog is unprofessional sounding, and if you want to switch to another domain name, you'll lose both readers and google ranking, so better pick a domain name from the start. And if your investment fails- at least its only 10 dollars down the drain, and I bet even you have 10 dollars to spare.

Many people suggest going to Wordpress, but I've had success with Blogger, and it costs nothing, unlike Wordpress's hefty fee, and has just as many benefits and special tools, in my opinion. In addition to all that, you don't need to find servers and hosting and everything- Blogger has it all available for free in one place on their site.

Apply for Adsense. And for Amazon Associates. And Swagbucks. And link to them all on your blog.
And then start writing.
Write frequently to give people reason to come back.
Make sure to proofread and spell correctly, because people won't tkae yuo sriously if u rite like this, or even if tou just haev frequen ttypos and aren't purposely trying to be cutesy. (I made this mistake at first when I started my blog, and reading my old posts sometimes makes me cringe!)
And try to write good, decent, in depth articles that'll interest other people enough to link to it on their blog, on websites, on facebook, etc.
Include a subscribe button so people can stay updated. Ask friends and family to subscribe and comment as a favor to you, because people are more hesitant to subscribe or comment if they see very few people read.

Get a good blog layout. You don't want the standard boring blogspot template with those dots, because you want it to look like you actually put some effort into your blog, and you want your website to have a signature look and not look just like everyone else's blog that couldn't be bothered to pick something other than the standard template. Google "free blogspot templates" for different options, and pick one that matches your blog theme, if possible. Once you have enough money coming in from your blog, you may want to pay a website designer to help you, but to start off, anything other than those standard blogspot templates is important.

Start commenting on other blogs in your niche.
Join blog parties, blog hops, parades, etc... to find more blogs in your niche, subscribe to them, and have them subscribe back.
Post actively on websites and forums and have your link in your signature (if allowed).
Post on facebook and spam your own facebook wall whenever a new post goes up.
Join blogger internet groups and chats like mombloggersclub.com.
Join stumbleupon and digg and reddit and put buttons for those on your site so people can recommend those sites to others easily.

And post.
And post.
And post.
And add something that shows how many visits you get on each post, like Statcounter, or Google analytics and Feedburner. See which posts get the most links in, get the most comments, and land the most google searches; note the common denominator in these posts and write more posts that fit that model. And the posts that get the least, try not to write as many of those posts.

Trade buttons with other bloggers, where you link to their blog and they link to your blog.

Consider if you want to write controversial posts, because they often get more hits/comments, but also get you more negative criticism.
Grow a thicker skin.

And watch your blog grow.
And if it doesn't grow, you might not have what it takes to be a successful blogger. Or you might just have it, but need to tweak what you're doing.
But don't give up too soon. Blogs take time to grow. As long as you're seeing an upward trend, that's good. It's when you reach a really low plateau that you should start reflecting on why your blog isn't being successful.

And once your blog grows big enough, write down what your stats are (how many subscribers, how many visits per day, per month, etc...) and contact companies within your niche/relevant to your blog, and offer them a good rate for advertising. (I first found companies like this by looking at other websites in my niche, see who advertised there, and contacted them, asking if they wanted to advertise on my site as well.)
When I started out, I was charging 5 dollars a month for an ad. Then when I got bigger, I switched to 15 dollars a month. I felt that when I was charging 5 dollars, people viewed me as a joke, that I didn't take myself seriously, so neither did they. Once I started charging 15, people took me more seriously. Now that I'm bigger I charge even more, but still at a decent price for the amount of hits I get.
Put a link on your blog saying you're "PR friendly" and open to advertisers, and leave your email address in a visible place so companies that are interested in advertising can contact you.

Learn to say no. Learn to stand up for yourself with ads. Don't sell yourself short and do things that advertisers want you to accept if you don't think it's fair/ethical/in line with your beliefs. When you appear desperate in any way, if you accept any terms they want, people will walk all over you. When people ask me to advertise a link for them for free, or for a very negligible amount, I respond firmly but politely with a message saying "I charge for advertising. It costs x per month. I take payments via paypal upfront before anything goes up. And I reserve the right to not put up anything that I feel is contradictory to what my site stands for. If you're still interested, let me know."
Yes, I lose some potential advertisers that way, but it gives me less of a headache and makes me be taken more seriously. The advertisers I work with treat me respectfully, pay me, and promptly, and I don't have any headaches to deal with. It's worth not being a pushover.

Not everyone can end up being successful with monetizing a blog. My blog is rather big and I still don't make so much an hour, but fortunately I make more than a few hundred dollars a year from my blog which is a nice supplement to our income, even if not a full salary.

Good luck!

P.S. Websites like JohnChow.com and ProBlogger.com gave me lots of good advice when I was first starting out.

Do you have a blog? Do you make any money from it? What tips/advice can you give others about starting a blog and monetizing? What mistakes do you think you made at first when you started your blog that you'd warn others to avoid? What has worked best for you?
If you have a blog, have you done any of the stuff on my list? Which has worked best for you? Which hasn't worked for you, and which do you disagree with?
Even if you're not a blogger, have you ever seen certain things that make you sure are a reason why certain blogs aren't successful?
Have you considered starting a blog to make money? Do you think you'd follow any of these tips?

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