Why blog for free when you can do it for money? What could be better than spending your time doing what you love on a public forum — and getting paid for it? While you have some stiff competition (who doesn’t have a blog these days?), the Internet always has room for the next big thing. We’ll start with finding the right platform and then dive into creating your unique product and raking in the Benjamins. Your future can and will be satisfyingly cubicle-free.
Search for a reliable website. You want to find a platform which seems reliable, safe, and professional. Which website can cater to your blog? Which template seems the most eye-catching? How will you make sure that your blog is unique?
Most prolific bloggers can tell you that money should not be your key goal. It’d be like purposefully picking up a bad gambling habit in the hopes you one day hit it big. So find a site that can let you do what you love, check out the competition, and get to know your new environment.
Plan your blog. You’ve passed the point of no return. You’ll soon find yourself in a middle-of-the-night sugar-induced stupor, going through your work making sure your commas are rightfully placed and your photo captions are as quippy as can be. But, wait. What is your content actually about? You have an idea for that, right?
Ideally, there will be some void you can fill. The Internet is so huge now that people don’t go on it to pay for things they can get for free or even to be marginally entertained. They want to learn things, to get inspired, to laugh their butts off. The only way traffic will come to your blog is if you offer something other people can’t. So what’s unique to you? What do you know better than anyone else out there in the blogosphere? And then blog about it.
Before you can go any further, just figure out your blog’s name, what your content is going to focus on, and who you’re appealing to. Then you can go to the next step! Which is…
Hire a designer. It takes money to make money, you know? And they’re really not that expensive in the scheme of things — maybe $100 or so. You could also blackmail a friend of yours into it if you know of someone who’s good at web design and would be easy to blackmail. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but the attention span of Internet surfers is becoming infinitely more microscopic by the day; if your blog doesn’t look good, the content doesn’t matter.
Check out your competition. What do others do that works? What kind of setup is the most user-friendly? What is the most aesthetically pleasing? What color scheme matches the feel of your content?
Be patient and realistic. In 2013, Tumblr had 101 million blogs. WordPress and Livejournal? 63 million each. That’s not even including Blogger, Weebly, and all the other independent sites out there. So, needless to say, you’re not in a small pond. And the number of these blogs that make money? The profitable one is the needle in the haystack. So don’t quit your passions, but do keep a logical head about it.
If you do end up making money, it won’t be tomorrow. It won’t be this week, it won’t be this month, and it probably won’t even be this year. You’ve got to build up yourself, your name, and your blog before the money will start rolling in. Would you pay anyone money on a smile and a promise? Didn’t think so. So keep blogging.
Create good, useful, readable content. Let’s like get to some real talk kay? If you blog like wit terrible style you won’t like develop a loyal following ya know???!! …Just those two sentences are painful. So even if you have a good idea, put it to the written word and put it to the written word well. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Your writing skills need to be on the money. If you’d get last place in the spelling bee or if constructing a legible email is difficult, have a friend go over your work for you.
Think about the length of your blogs. You want sufficient content, but you don’t want to drone on and on for so long that it’s off-putting. How can you break it up to make it appealing to the masses?
Pictures. Pictures are great. Everyone loves pictures. Correction: everyone loves good pictures. In addition to writing skills, make sure your photography skills are on the money, too.
Have something to say. Talking about your ex-boyfriend Matt’s curiously small left nipple doesn’t count. Have something people want to read about for minutes at a time. And keep it chatty — talking like a commercial won’t get ’em lining up anytime soon.
Keep your day job. Here’s the thing about blogging: to do it well, it’s a full time job. But you gotta have a source of income somehow, right? So keep your day job for now and put in time with your blog at night. You’ll be busy, but this schedule is only temporary. You can tell your boss where to stick it when the money starts rolling in.
Cultivating Your Craft
Blog about a thing. Maybe two things. In order to develop a following, your blog can’t be Seinfeld, as great as that may be. It needs to be about something in particular. It needs to be searchable. It needs to appeal to certain demographics. If you have a great life story, it can be a memoir, but it has to be a great life story. You just have to actually have something to say.
Advertisers won’t know what to do with your blog if you don’t have something definable about it. What kind of people do you reach? What’s the appeal? So whether you’re blogging about being a mom, starting your own business, or being a paparazzo in LA, make it your thing if for no other reason than the inevitable piles of money you’ll be raking in.
Establish credibility and a niche. We’ve kinda drilled home the “have a niche” part, haven’t we? Well, it deserves repeating. On the proverbial wheel that is the blog, have a spoke to yourself. Have something you do so well and so uniquely that the competition isn’t really there. And as for credibility, there are a few ways to establish that:
Time. It sucks, but with longevity comes wisdom and reputation.
Never steal anybody else’s content. Even if you’re inspired by someone else, give them credit. They may respond in kind!
Do your research. Think of it like writing for a newspaper: you want to fact check as much as possible. You want to make sure you have all sides of the story. So before you go spouting off about how Kim Kardashian used to be a man, have a quick chat with Google. It’ll pay off.
Give out your URL like candy. If you’ve gone through this list and ticked ’em all off, you are now a valuable member of some blogging community. Now within that community, start linking to your blog like you’d throw a handful of glittery confetti. Get it everywhere. Make friends. Get involved. And when you link on theirs, they’ll link on yours, and the symbiotic relationships will bloom.
So when Marge has a recipe up for Salted Caramel Bonbons and you have a recipe for Caramel Salted Bonbons, hit Marge up! Comment on her blog and say, “Marge! I love your stuff as usual. I made these last week and wanted to mix it up, so I made my own Caramel Salted Bonbons. You should check it out [here] and let me know what you think!” How could Marge resist?
Put some blood and sweat into it. The blogs that make money are by people who work on them 30, 40 hours a week. It’s easy to think being a blogger means sitting at home in your PJ’s waiting for creativity to strike. Oh no, no, no, young padawan. It’s taking pictures, processing them, writing notes, writing posts, editing posts, dealing with emails, processing mail, all in addition to finding inspiration. It’s really just office work under the thin veil of homemade lattes and 2 PM yoga classes.
And that’s just the half of it. Eventually there will be dealing with ads, sponsors, lawyers, agents, stalker-y fans (hopefully), book signings, giving talks, and the inevitable technical issues and PayPal snafus. Remember when we said you could quit your day job eventually? Well, that time is coming up shortly.
Take a class. Blogging isn’t exactly the rarest of hobbies. You can actually take classes on it at community colleges and the like. You may feel like it’s something you can just feel out — but if you want to make money, it’s good to know all there is out there to know. So take a class! You’ll get into design, maybe even some HTML or CSS, and understand just how the marketing side works. You’re investing in yourself, really.
This is a hot topic in non-traditional, adult classes. You don’t have to enroll in school again! Check out your local community center or some of the smaller educational institutions in your area. Or even private seminars or workshops. Who knows? Maybe one day the person giving the seminar will be you!
Create a media kit. We’re finally getting the meat of the issue: making money. Since it won’t just magically appear in your lap overnight, you gotta create a media kit to let advertisers know just who and what they’re dealing with. It’s basically putting you into a nutshell and telling them succinctly why they should be paying you money. Your business card, if you will. Here’s what you need to include:
Blog name, address, and tagline
Brief description of your purpose/niche and the author(s)
Your target audience and follower counts (everything from Twitter to LinkedIn to email subscribers)
Significant rankings, press mentions, awards
Advertising options (more about this — and what to charge — next) Keep it short and sweet, but don’t be afraid to brag a little. You are selling yourself, after all. Routinely update it and use others’ kits to emulate, if need be.
Promote your blog. It’s the step right before making money: do a good job promoting and the followers will start growing like weeds. And, of course, with more followers, it’s way easier to sell ads. Here are a few ideas: Tweet and Facebook your blog posts. Attack social media with a vengeance.
Use StumbleUpon. It has millions of users that are just looking for topical, interesting content. Submit your site and you could be the next gem they find.
Create an RSS feed. Then each time you post something new, your followers will be automatically alerted.
Pinterest, Google+, Digg, and Reddit are all great sites to think about using to promote your goods, too.
Bringing in the Bucks
Improve your page rank. If you have the best content this side of the Milky Way galaxy, it doesn’t matter if no one’s seeing it. You’ve gotta make it so your blog is seen. How do you do this? Basically, make it so Google likes you. The higher your page is ranked, the more accessible it is. A lot of this has to do with search engine optimization, or SEO. When someone searches “Caramel Salted Bonbons,” you don’t want yours to be on the 5th search results page.
Keywords are huge, too. If you know what your audience is searching, you can cater your content to it. The more your content matches, the more relevant your blog will seem. Just don’t cater it so much you seem like a keyword-mongering sellout.
Get involved in a community. If you plant your URL on others’ pages and leave it at that, that’s a little rude. You want to develop friendships, a reputation, and to be a mainstay in whatever community you’re a part of. So reach out! Talk to other bloggers. Answer your emails. Stay active with your readers. Be a real person. When you get more involved, you dig yourself a deeper, sturdier role in the blogging world.
People can start deferring to you. It’ll be great! When you’ve already done something, others will link to it, possibly modify it, and get the word out about you for you. It’s all about networking, whether it’s real life or not.
Know what to charge. Really, “cost” is an idea somebody made up. It’s about what you’re willing to pay — in this case, it’s about what you’re willing to charge. If you’re at a complete loss as to what you think your blog’s value is, look at similar blogs. Shoot the author an email if they don’t have it up on their “sponsor me” page. And speaking of which — you should have one of those pages, too!
Another way to go about it is to go to BlogAds.com. They have a seemingly infinite list of blogs sorted by category and traffic — you can find one similar to yours and look at the prices by the week or month. You’ll want to start thinking about renewal rates and bulk packaging, too. If you get ads for six months, do they get a deal? What about if they advertise over several of your sites? You’ll have to keep in touch with them when the ads are up, too!
And when you get paid, is it through PayPal? If so, they may take a cut — so figure that into your pricing!
Advertise. This is where it starts to get real. It’s your bread and butter. You have a number of options, so let’s break them down. Here are your two main options:
Placing ads. The best places to get these? Google Adsense (the biggest), Kontera, AdBrite, Adgenta, Text Link Ads, and Tribal Fusion.
Affiliate programs (you have a product, link to their site to buy it). That means Amazon Associates, LinkShare, eBay Associates, Commission Junction, and AllPosters.
And then you’ll have to think about what kind of ads you want to run. Banner? Text? Paid links? Box, badge, or skyscraper?
Look into private sponsorships. These are ads that you have to go and find yourself — think about when you were on yearbook staff at high school and needed to fill those last pages. But if your blog is well-established enough, this can be a very viable of source of income. You just have to know who to ask.
Your media kit will come in super handy right about now. When you find a company that you think would fit your blog, you’ll need to convince them that they’ll be reaching new customers through you. Got your salesman cap on?
Review products. There are a ton of businesses out there that will pay you to talk about and review their products. PayPerPost, PayU2Blog, SocialSpark, ReviewMe, and Sverve, just to name a few. Ideally they fit into your content, otherwise your blog will lose the unique flavor you give it. If you do this, just make sure it’s relevant, accurate, and entertaining.
Each site is a bit different and so is each product. One review could get you $200, while another, similar one, warrants $20. It’s not consistent money, but it can pad that budget.
Get exclusive. Another way to get money, without ads, to is have part of your blog be exclusive. Meaning some of the content is open, but some isn’t and requires a fee — under the guise of a membership, of course. Members have access to things normal readers don’t (those plebeians), they get that gold star feel, and you get the cash. Just make sure you have something to offer them!
Have a product. Loads of people are turning to creating their own products: namely ebooks. If you’re into cooking, you could release a cookbook in the form of an ebook full of brand new recipes you don’t have publicly available on your site. If you’re telling people how to start a business, you could have the complete guide readily available. Or you could always invent the next iPhone, but that might be a bit ambitious and by that point you might be too big for your blog.
Plenty of bloggers turn into legit writers. We’re talking book deals here. So if you’re wondering what the next step is beyond being a successful blogger, it’s getting published. So if this workload isn’t enough, start working on your next masterpiece! It’s about time to add “New York Times Bestseller” to that media kit of yours, isn’t it?
Experiment. Always experiment. You never know what will work!
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