I think that Rob has a great question that doesn’t comes with a short answer (he was obviously not satisfied with my previous answers ). I feel Rob deserves a better answer as he was right; it was too short.
I think the beginning of the answer should start by another question:
This is the heart of the question. Do you have the basic requirements to make money? For the geeky readers, you’ll understand this D&D reference. Remember when you were creating your character and you rolled the dice to know his attributes? If you wanted to become a Wizard a minimum of intelligence and wisdom was required. It was the same thing if you wanted to become a thief; you had to have a high number for dexterity. In the real world, it’s pretty much the same thing; did you roll a high score for the “making money” ability?
I don’t want to brag but I know I got a high score on my sheet for this one (and I got a shitty score at “paying down debts” ability, lol!). Making money seems simple for some people and darned complicated for others. It’s not solely related to hard work or pure talent. It’s not only a combination of these two requirements. You actually need what it takes to make money in addition to both qualities.
Let me try to explain what I mean by using the blogging world. I’m not the guy who makes the most on the internet but I know enough to give you good insight of what is required if you want to make money in this field. I could also have used my job as another example but nobody wants to hear about how to make money working in finance… we all know how they make their money anyways
Pretty much anybody could call himself a blogger. When you think about it, as long as you have a web platform and write on a regular or even semi-occasional basis; you have reached the *noble* status of being a blogger. For all I know, my 7 year old is probably about to become a blogger shortly! But is this enough to make money blogging? Ah! I’m not quite sure, how about you?
According to a Wise Bread non-scientific survey, half of the PF bloggers are earning less than $1,000 per month. I can tell you that now that the private advertiser money is drying up, that probably 75% of the Wise Bread 1000 is earning less than $1,000 per month. Since most bloggers will work at least 15 hours a week on their blog, this leaves them with less than a $16.67 in hourly wages. I guess that the difference between blogging and flipping burgers at MickeyDs is narrowing. But nobody likes flipping burgers so I guess that blogging for the same hourly wage (or even less) could become insulting.
In my opinion, you have two types of bloggers:
#1 People who are passionate about writing and want to connect with other people.
#2 People who are passionate about writing, want to connect with other people and see the business side of blogging.
When I use the word “business”, I’m not referring directly to a business model as we have. I’m referring to the money side of blogging. Most bloggers who make money are considered to be more self-employed than entrepreneurs. But they did get the business side of blogging.
People from the first category have something to say at first and find the blogging platform interesting to spread their story. At one point though, their enthusiasm fades away. Rob was right when he said that there are tons of great content on dead blogs. It is true that several blogs look promising but suddenly stop posting new content.
In small part, bloggers stop because they have written what they wanted to write and the inspiration is not there anymore. It’s obviously hard to write five days a week on a continuous basis. For the most part, former bloggers will tell you that they stopped because they burned out or because they lacked motivation/inspiration. But inspiration is not really the problem; the problem comes along with the other tasks attached to your blog. When you are tired, you will obviously have less great ideas and the motivation will start to fade away.
The posting schedule might be one of the very first reasons why a blogger would stop blogging. Personally, I think that the 5 days a week schedule is ridiculously demanding and I would not recommend it to anyone. It forces you to publish stuff that has already been published 100 times before you. The “10 tips to drop your heating bills” or “How I budget my way out of $10K in debts” has been written so many times that it doesn’t feel as appealing anymore. Plus, since you feel the urge to respect your posting schedule, you will publish shorter articles (400-500 words) with little to no added value in the content. How many times have you gotten to a blog or even a newspaper site and thought “man… I’ve read that same story so many times… boring!”. The problem is that it’s so easy to blog these days that you have to be very original and unique to make people come to your blog on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to achieve this task writing every day!
Then, unless you are a phenomenal writer, nobody will ever find your site if all you do is write on it. You need several other skills to promote your site and get found by readers and Google. These things don’t happen overnight and require a lot of sacrifices.
Some bloggers don’t like that part of blogging,
others are not good at it,
Some are working very hard, but they are heading in the wrong direction,
Some don’t even know what is required to do to have a successful blog,
Some do everything right but can’t monetize and eventually burn out.
These are all the just reasons why people fail at keeping their blog which has great content alive for more than 18 months. I’ve noticed that the year and half milestone is determinant in the life a blogger. I don’t know why but it seems that 12 months is not enough to burn out and two years is just too much work if you are about to quit.
Money is definitely a huge motivator. The purist will tell me that nobody is motivated by money forever, that’s true. However, there is nothing like making $300 out of nowhere because you are running a blog. We all wish that $300 could be deposited every single day of our lifes. This is a great reason to keep going. I agree that money is not enough to keep a blog alive for 4, 7, 10 years. But with money comes benefits.
Benefits such as a VA doing stuff you don’t want to,
Benefits such as having regular expenses paid by your blog (such as an internet connection or a brand new laptop!)
Benefits such as going to Denver for a weekend
These benefits are usually what keeps the motivation very high. If you can cross the path of mediocrity and become a successful blogger, your whole life will change for the best… Mind you, it’s the case for any business. It’s not blogging that makes your life easy… it’s being your own boss and generating money from your own means! So, what exactly do you need to make money blogging? Here’s a list of things that work for us. It may not be complete or perfect, it may not fit for everybody, but this is how we have succeeded so far. I guess I’m not too far from the truth but it’s up to you to tell me!
This is obviously not my cup of tea. As you know, my partner does all the techy stuff behind our blogs. But this is a huge part of our business. Your technical skills don’t have to be incredible but you need to be able to formulate your demands and find the right people to do it for you. Technical skills will help you to arrange your design and make it more appealing. But it’s not only good for getting readers, it’s also good to monetize your site! Here are a few things you need to know how to do:
#1 Manage your ads (use the Who See Ads Plugin). You need to be able to control who sees what on your site in order to maximize your profits on your blog. We also use Pretty Link to simplify links and keep track of all links on our sites. This is how you can track what works aa well as what doesn’t. Your site has limited space, you need to optimize it and find the balance between a good looking site (to keep your readers) and an optimized site (to make money with it).
#2 Ensure the fastest and most reliable sites (we use Liquid Web as our main server and Blue Host as our second server). This has a tremendous impact on your SEO (Google considers your site speed and up time) and on your readers’ experience. Given that most people don’t exceed 30 seconds on a page to decide if they like it or not, don’t waste 10 seconds to load your site! We run our sites on three different servers to maximize the security and traffic.
#3 Manage mailing lists (We use Aweber for all our mailing lists). You can create a mailing list form to help fit your theme and attract more readers. Mailing lists is one of the only way to generate continuous traffic to your site without Google. This is a huge advantage and definitely makes your site more sustainable. We chose Aweber because it comes with several features that improve your knowledge of your readers. You can do split tests (same email with different titles), study your opening, clicking and conversion rates and can create follow-up messages. This is a gold mine!
#4 Transfer websites (We use Escrow for security of both parties). You might not need this skill right upfront but acquiring websites is often one of the fastest ways to make money blogging. This is why it’s important to understand the mechanics behind transferring a website while transferring the money at the same time.
#5 Install / Manage a theme. This is pretty basic if you want a blog: don’t start with Blogger and use a WordPress theme instead. My partner is not a fan of Thesis because he says that it’s more limited. However, it seems easier to manage if you have limited technical skills (I’m blessed, I have a genius for a partner!). If you can’t manage your own theme, you will have problems eventually. At first, we all think that our design is perfect for our readers. Then, we notice that it’s not exactly what we need and want to change a few things here and there. This is when it becomes complicated!
#6 Understand the security of your site. I can’t write much about this topic as this is definitely something my partner takes care of from A to Z. However, I just know that when your site is hacked, it’s bad for business ;-). Google blocks your site, traffic goes down to bust and so does your income. Protecting your site and understanding how to repair damage caused by hackers is very important if you grow into a big blog. We have been attacked a few times over the past 6 years and it’s never fun!
The marketing skills are what we usually call “Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”, branding and connecting with other bloggers. Basically, each time that you are working to improve your traffic, you are using your marketing skills. If technical skills are the base of your blog, marketing will be used to make your blog a real one; a place where you write and where your get read!
If you want to connect with other bloggers, there are tons of ways you can achieve it:
– Comment on their blog
– Mention their blog on yours
– Write controversial articles/comments to get noticed (be careful with this!)
– Start group projects
– Participate in forums
You know all this stuff, right? You have read this over and over, so I won’t continue. However, one thing I can tell you is that the most effective marketing strategy I’ve seen with other bloggers was to truly and selflessly help other bloggers with their own projects. I spend a good amount of time with other bloggers behind the scenes. This is where I’ve made my biggest connections, but most importantly, this is where I’ve made true friends. Over the past 6 years I have done the following:
– Fund projects that I believe in
– Use our technical skills (not mine! Ah!) to build excel spread sheets and other stuff for bloggers
– Help bloggers to improve their monetization strategy (shoot me an email, it’s free!)
– Help bloggers to sell or put their blogs upfor sale (when I don’t buy them! Lol!)
– Help bloggers by accepting guest posts or mention their site or specific projects
– Hire bloggers for several tasks I have
These are all the free things I’ve done but that have helped me connect with other bloggers. When you do it honestly and don’t have anything in the back of your mind (it’s not like I was doing this as a “planned” marketing strategy), this is when you get the most benefits.
The other thing you must ask yourself when working on the marketing aspect of your blog is what you want your readers do when they get to your site. Here are a few examples of what you can have them do:
– Click on Adsense so you can make money (but you lose a potential loyal reader)
– Subscribe to your newsletter (and acquire a reader for a good time)
– Comment on your article (call out people on something, ask for their opinion)
– Buy your product (another great way to tie in your reader + make money!)
– Buy an affiliate product
– Visit more than 1 page of your site (with a START HERE section or ABOUT page)
– Subscribe to your RSS, follow you on twitter, etc.
– Read your best articles ever
You can’t obviously expect your readers to do all of this the very first time they come to your site. This is why you need to prioritize what you want. The first thing I want on TFB is to gain readership. This is why my RSS, twitter and newsletter box are all above the fold. I don’t want to distract my readers with anything else. They have the choice to either read the post on their left or take an action to follow me on their right. No ads, no products, nothing else.
On some other sites, such as my Paramedic Classes niche site. My goal is to make money from Adsense and affiliate products. This is why I have a built-in Adsense block and affiliate product on the right. The goal is completely different.
Determining what you want is very hard. This is also part of your branding process. Over time, I’ve changed branding of several sites. I guess it evolves with time. But if you can stick with the same branding for a long time, you will get huge benefits out of it. I truly believe that branding is bigger than SEO but you need to be outstanding. And this is not easy to do!
I’ve mentioned it before; you can’t just slave yourself to write the same stuff that has been written already. You have to be creative, you have to evolve and come up with new ideas. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel but you need to find your own direction.
What I have learned over time is to never shut down a crazy idea. At least, not in the first five minutes. Let it grow in your mind and try to define it so it can be achieved in the real world. TFB was born from one of these crazy ideas. 6 years ago, nobody was talking about making money with a PF blog. At first, my partner really wondered what the point of calling my blog “The Financial Blogger” was. He used to make money out of sport sites with CPM (ads paid per impression, not click or conversion). Back in the day, the most effective way to make money out of a website was to generate a high volume of pages viewed and post as many CPM ads you can. TFB was very far from his previous business model!
But I was convinced that I could make money with a finance blog because there is always money when you talk about finance. Eventually, there would be a market for this. We are right in the middle of it today and I have a whole network benefiting from this trend. You can’t just have a blog about personal finance today. It’s too common. Unless you are the most amazing writer on earth, you won’t have your blog fly. You need to find an angle, to find a twist to make it appealing, interesting, fresh. Here are a few examples of creative people:
ViperChill is writing humongous posts with thousands and thousands of words
Mr. Money Mustache has some kind of very unique voice with radical points of view (such as not owning a car)
Money Crashers has built an online pf blog empire similar to ours.
This is what I call creativity!
Aahhh… but how can you do everything a blog requires to be successful, having a life (possibly including a family!) and a job? It doesn’t seem realistic, does it? This is where time management comes into play. If you want to succeed blogging you have two options:
#1 work over 60 hours per week total (day job + blogging)
#2 Make the Pareto Principle your rule #1 in life
This is basically what my book, The Rat Race: One Year From Now; Will You Still be a Rat? is about. In this book, I’m talking about how I manage my time and control my life to get out of the rat race.
In other words; how you can have a kick ass career, kick ass family and a kick ass online empire!
It’s all related to time management and prioritizing. I never let my family down, I’m always up and early to work and manage a dozen websites with my partner (did I mention that I work out 4 times a week + 1h30 of soccer? Hehehe!). I’m not better than you, I just have a 6th sense for time management and optimization. I share my secrets in that book ;-).
If you want to become successful at blogging, you have no other choice but to become highly productive in your life in general. If not, doing all these tasks will kill you within a year. Then, you will push a little more for another 6 months and will hit the 18 month blogging wall ;-). This is about the time where you will be looking to sell but realize that you haven’t built a site big enough to get a high multiple for your revenues.
People have an awkward relationship with money. For most people, making money is bad. Some others don’t really know what to do with their wallet. If you want to build a real sideline out of your blog, you need to look at your web property with an investor’s pair of eyes. You need to know how you can make money and how you can even make more.
Negotiation skills are optional but always a good addition if you want to buy & sell properties. I’m not the best negotiator in town but I’m very good at calculating. This is how I manage to generated profits from our blogs. By calculating all the time!
And if you don’t, well… you just hit the wall ‘cause making money blogging is no different than making money in *real* life!
Here’s the most important point of this *long* article: each sub-section of this post can be applied to any kind of business or job. This was just a very detailed answer to tell you what is required to make money, period. If you don’t have what it takes, then you would rather get paid by a blog owner than writing your own blog. You would rather get paid by your employer than starting your own business. You would rather exchange a part of these requirements for a lower paycheck and maybe a lot less headaches too!
Technical Skills: if you want to succeed, you have to be good technically in something. If you are not a good technician, it will be hard to set the base of your project. Regardless if it’s online, a manufacturing process or a service; you need a solid base to start with. This comes along with strong technical skills required to your field.
Marketing Skills: Here again, if you fail at promoting your blog, your product, your service, you won’t get very far. You see an awesome invention sleeping in a garage and awesome consultant working for a firm to pay the bill because these guys are not good at selling/promoting their ideas. If you can’t get the word out, forget about what you are offering, it’s worth nothing…
Creativity: Competition is everywhere. It’s truer these days with the internet and all the big players in each field. It’s hard everywhere and you will find big competitors everywhere too. Your only option is to be smarter/cooler/more creative than the other players on the field. If you make it, you will be successful.
Time Management: If you can’t manage your time properly, you will be a deadbeat dad, a poor employee and a very bad entrepreneur. Time is fair with everybody; we all have 24 hours in our day. It’s up to you to do what matters. People keep wasting their time and wonder why others are successful. Just write down what you do in a day and you will figure out what is wrong with your schedule.
Financial Skills: You can’t make the wheel of capitalism turn if you don’t have money. It’s important to understand where the money comes and where the money goes. But most importantly, it’s important to do as much as you can with each dollar you spend.
I want to come back to Rob’s question regarding why someone would rather get paid per post instead of building a passive income machine. I think that after reading this article, the answer is quite simple: because these writers are good at writing but not good at making money. Most of the time, they lack of a few general requirements to make money and they will have to work for someone else until they acquire those skills. Some do, some don’t. This is why we have employees and employers. There is nothing bad with being an employee. It’s just a different reality, but you save yourself a lot of trouble too!
I’ve seen several individuals only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes down to the work and skills required but they see the whole iceberg of money to be made. As you can see, it’s much harder than it seems to make money by your own means. But the rules apply to all fields. If you don’t have all the requirements, getting a partner is probably the clever thing to do. I didn’t have all the requirements and this is the reason why I’ve partnered-up.
Now tell me, do you have what it takes to make money? What’s missing? How can you get it?
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