If Rodney Dangerfield (R.I.P.) had been a blogger before passing on to the great comedy channel in the sky, he might have said “Blogging don’t get no respect.” That’s probably because it’s a stupid sounding word that most people don’t understand. But let’s face it, if you are a good writer for the online medium and want to earn a living this way, there are a number of marketing strategies you can succssfully employ. Not everyone will succeed, but the opportunities exist.
1. Blog for fun.
Okay, that’s what a lot of writers are doing, with passion, and they’re quite satisfied. However, it’s obviously not going to earn you anything, so it’s not much of a blogging strategy, without some form of monetization. What it does for you is build up your writing skills, style and personal brand. Treat it as a starting point.
2. Blog for donations.
If your passionate writing brings you lots of loyal readers, play a game of numbers in terms of monetizing your popularity. Putting up a donation button does take a certain type of personality and generous readers to boot, but it has been done. A few writers have managed to generate surprising amounts of funds, though usually for very short periods of time before the donations evaporated.
3. Paid reviews.
Some writers declare they’ll never do paid reviews on their blog. Others do it happily and find that they can earn a decent amount of extra income monthly, provided they have the web traffic to justify it. Where you live decides whether it’s enough to live on.
John Chow recently noted that he earned about $4,000 in Oct 2008 just for his review writing. Of course, he’s got a large readership and a reputation for discussing how much money he makes online, but he had to build up to that point.
One drawback is that your site needs to meet some criteria before you’re allowed into the “pay for review” service. Another drawback is that a few of these services allow review buyers to ask for a positive review. Try to pick one that lets you decide, as long as you’re honest and provide constructive criticism.
4. Freelance blogging.
If for whatever reason you don’t feel you can monetize blogging for yourself, you might consider freelancing. If you have writing skills, you’ll be in demand. However, there are drawbacks:
- The online market rarely pays anywhere close to what you’d get as a freelancer in print. For this reason, you might find yourself with high client turnover. (I.e., clients who don’t understand how social media and link building work, and don’t want to pay very much for your services.)
- Even if you can keep a stream of clients, because your effective hourly rate is probably fairly low, you might find it difficult to come up with fresh content all the time. However, this is also true if you’re trying to build up your own site to blog for ad revenue. This way, you’re getting paid sooner.
- Little time left over to work on your own projects at the end of the day.
- Extra client requirements, beyond writing: commenting/ moderating comments, participating in forums, social media promotion or more. Sometimes the income earned is not worth the overall time spent.
If there are bloggers out there surviving solely and prosperously on this monetization method, they have not revealed themselves. It’s recommend that you combine this approach with some other revenue streams.
5. Blog for ad revenue.
There’s an alphabet soup of terms for the types of advertising you can use: CPC, CPA, CPM, flat rate and more. That’s if you are using ad networks. If you have enough popularity, you can sell private ads. If you’re really popular, advertisers will beg to pay you to run their ads.
Examples of successful ad revenue bloggers are Darren Rowse (Problogger), Steve Pavlina, and John Chow. (Note that they also earn revenue in other ways.) This model can be extended into a blog network where you become the publisher and can leverage the collective synergy into greater private ad sales or even your own ad network.
6. Blog to sell other people’s products.
Affiliate marketing is becoming hugely popular, but it takes a different kind of approach to writing. The idea is simple: join up with various companies or “comission” networks to get an affiliate code. Then write about their products and link to the product’s landing page using your affiliate link. If you really like the product and think it has high conversion potential, you can sacrifice screen space on your web page(s) and run affliiate graphic ads. If you really want to succeed as an affiliate marketing blogger, your writing style has to be convincing. You become more like a copywriter than a blogger.
7. Blog to sell info products.
People have been selling their own books, audio and video training and other information products for years before the Internet. If you want to do this online, use a blog to draw readers over. As with offline sales, not everyone who reads what you write will buy your product. At least not right away. So in addition to free article content, you need to also offer something like a free ebook and/or free newsletter – both of which will promote your proudcts. The latter, because it requires a subscription for delivery, gives you more chances to “convince” readers. So the more frequently you publish a newsletter, the more benefiical it’ll become to you.
An example of how to do this is on veteran filmmaker Peter D. Marshall’s Film Directing Tips blog. At the bottom of nearly every article he posts is either a reminder to sign up for his free subscriber newsletter or a short copywritten blurb about his info product and how it’ll benefit new film and TV directors.
8. Blog to sell subscriptions.
Selling an info product one time to lots of people is fine. However, what if you could get regular monthly subscribers? If you have a service (consulting, live support), forum, or regular fresh content (articles, ebooks, audio podcasts, vodcasts, screencasts) that offers something to a target market who will pay for ongoing access, then using a subscription-based model can produce truly amazing income. Just do the math and see.
Keep in mind that not every regular reader of your blog will be won over by your charm or great writing. Some experts suggest that a 10% conversion rate or less is normal. So if you’ve won over 10,000 regular readers (regardless of source), then you might be able to get a 1,000 subscribers.
Now it’s not that simple, of course, as you still have to create buzz and offer something that’s actually of value to those thousand potential subscribers. You also have to keep them satisfied after they subscribed, possibly by setting up a community support forum and definitely by adding fresh content to justify that they keep paying a subscriber fee.
However, “volume” works its magic here, and even if you charge only $25/month, those thousand subscribers produce $25K/mth in revenue for you. That’s $300K/year. If you build up this subscription service to become self-sustaining by hiring other people, appointing forum moderators, etc., it can all become passive or semi-passive revenue.
One example of this approach is the Teaching Sells program, which uses the popularity of Brian Clark’s Copyblogger blog as its potential market. The Teaching Sells program teaches you how to build a subscription-based publishing model. (Brian also sells his copywriting and consulting services, using Copyblogger as a vehicle.)
9. Blog to sell online or offline services.
It seems that the most prominent members of the blogosphere who leverage this model are typically web designers. (Though this also applies to writing, copywriting, personal coaching, consulting and many other niches where you offer consulting and other services.) Their website is their showcase, and in addition to demonstrating their skill, they often share their knowledge in quality articles about design and web development. Then they leverage that into selling website themes, plugins, and design/ consulting services, either on an hourly or per project rate.
If you build enough of a reputation with your blog, you can leverage into enough work to keep you really busy. An example of this approach is Chris Pearson and his Pearsonified blog.
10. The mega approach.
If you’re really bold, you can wrap together several of the above approaches and leverage your readers’ own influence as bloggers using an affiliate program. Quite possibly one of the most successful companies using this approach is Envato (formerly Eden.cc), founded by Collis Ta’eed and other family members.
Collectively, they’ve leveraged the popularity of several quality blogs – as well as an ebook – targeted to a few niches of readers, into subscribers for several content marketplaces including FlashDen, AudioJungle and ThemeForest, as well as a freelance jobs board, a digital publishing house and premium content access via subscription model.
What makes things work for Envato is their loyal following of readers on every one of their sites. They share great content and link love, pay top dollar for the articles and tutorials they buy, and allow their readers to make money in their marketplaces and job board. If you want a lesson in how to make website publishing work and only have time for researching one success story, study the Envato model first.
All of these strategies, regardless of monetization methods, require a constant flow of web traffic. If you’re not at the point where you are earning income from any of methods #4-7, try to maximize your streams of income – whether through different ad networks or different monetization methods. The key ingredients are good content that has value for a particular readership, promotion of that content, and sharing the income opportunities with readers.
Incentives for readers to stay readers and to promote you include:
- Opportunity to write for pay.
- A marketplace to sell their content.
- A forum to meet new colleagues.
- A job board for paying opportunities.
- An affiliate program so that if they evangelize your content, products, and services, they get to share in the wealth.
How you market and monetize your online publishing model depends on the niche you are focusing on and the products you are selling. Some types and formats of content lend themselves better to a certain type of model. If you’re just getting started, first study the sites, bloggers and companies mentioned here. You can always experiment and move upwards towards more powerful marketing models. In fact, many of the bloggers listed here did just that, starting with blogging for ad revenue and moving towards selling info products, services, or subscription content.