Back in the early days of the Internet, users who chronicled their lives and experiences were relegated to the then-new buzzword “blog.” Blog is short for “web log,” but now this noun has taken on a life and approach all its own. In fact, it’s hard to define what is or isn’t a blog anymore—moving beyond just a teenager’s inner musings or serving as a repository for a hobbyist’s opinions, blogs are now an integral part of a marketing strategy.
Blogs are big business. Freelance writers are a crucial part of the picture, as most businesses are more frequently seeking talented individuals to boost their brand, advertising, and a myriad of other reasons that go beyond just a “Day #15: My Thoughts on Whole Wheat Spaghetti.”
This will be a two-part article. In the first part, we’ll take a look at how blogging can benefit you in terms of making money. In part two, we’ll look at blogging for other businesses and how this can mean serious money for freelancers that choose to specialize in this ever-widening field.
Blogging for Yourself
At its most basic level, blogging for yourself has its benefits. It helps you flex your writing muscle in the most pain-free way possible; you’re free to rant about anything if you choose to do so. Anything is permissible, whether it’s knowledge about an industry, hobbyist musing, or whatever. You literally are free to blog about nothing and yet, someone’s gonna read it somehow…
More goal-oriented approaches, however, are what we’re talking about in this article. For maximum benefit, you should “blog with a purpose.”
Blogging with a Purpose
Your purpose all depends on how you monetize your business. If you’re expecting to just compose your innermost thoughts, you may have difficulty finding an audience or finding an audience that is willing to translate your writing into dollars. The solution is to determine what unique benefits, information, and value you bring to the public domain.
If anything, a blog is a “loss leader” to direct your audience (potential and pre-existing), where the subtext of your blog is that:
- a) you’re an authority on a subject (your platform),
- b) you publish quality content regularly to sustain a consistently engaged audience (your value), and
- c) you deserve to earn professional rates (your performance).
So, how are you planning to make money through blogging? That’s not an easy question because there’s a myriad of ways to approach it. The good news is that making money by blogging for yourself is only limited to your creativity and ingenuity.
First, let’s look at what a platform actually is.
A writer’s platform is:
Who you are. This includes professional qualifications, a highly-trafficked website, celebrity, business leadership, knowledge, and so forth. Who are you in relation to other people? The more exclusive this is, the more “niche” your platform is.
Your connections. Which other people, publications, and media with platforms of their own are directly connected to you? The higher the quality and quantity of your connections, the more that you can be considered valuable.
Anyone can form a platform, but it comes down to what value you actually add. Inbound marketing via blogs creates a desire and reciprocity in the reader; you provide information/entertainment, they either a) want to learn more and/or b) feel indebted to the blog for providing useful information.
Tied in with your platform and value is your performance. With our ADHD world, you have to consistently bring work to the public. Blogs are perfect for keeping your audience informed with relatively little effort. If you don’t blog often, you might even bother blogging at all.
You may write-off the Kardashians for providing innocuous media fodder for puerile minds, but they provide it consistently and with enough panache that everyone’s got an opinion on them. Now, I’m not suggesting you get Botox and starting spreading your sex tape around the internet, but you have to bring some sort of value to the table.
Monetizing Your Blog
Do you have a book that people can buy? An online course? One-on-one lessons? Or, if someone hires you for an assignment, can your name-recognition and quality of work put, as airlines and movie theaters call it, “asses in the seats”?
Here’s just a sampling of ways that you can monetize your blog:
- Association: Some publications and public personalities understand that having you featured as a guest on their website brings them needed traffic in exchange for cash. Others offer reciprocation so that you can link your audiences. Either way, you can potentially expand your business and keep writing. As Stephen Covey would say, it’s win-win.
- Ad space: This is a fairly broad subject, but sticking ads on your popular website can bring money to your coffers. If you’ve got traffic from your blog, you can put up ads on your website from a number of online vendors. However, it helps to choose related ads and not esoteric ads. For instance, a local tattoo parlor ad for an interior designer is a poor fit; your punk rock music-review blog is better.
- Sponsors: Love certain products and you’re not afraid to let the world know? Advertisers love to have people evangelize their product. They can offer free and/or deeply-discounted products in addition to cash simply for a mention. Just try not to be too obvious about this unless you want to alienate an audience that can see how you’ve “sold out.”
- Affiliate Marketing: Others, especially those that focus on product-based niches, can use “affiliate marketing” to make money. Every time a person successfully purchases a product via your website’s ad links, you can get a portion of the profits for directing an audience to the point-of-sale.
- Ebooks: If your blogs are informative and entertaining, why not give them something to take home with them? Ebooks on whatever subject you happen to specialize in (fiction included) can lead to your audience to purchasing a copy. By taking excerpts from the ebook with links to purchase them, you offer tasters that will leave your audience wanting more.
- Online courses: Similar to ebooks, you can serialize your methods by creating an online course. This works particularly well with non-fiction topics that require someone to explain the topics in-depth, or resemble a teaching environment. Your blogs showcase your expertise, but your “real secrets to [niche topic]” are gonna cost ‘ya.It’s also not unheard of to find prolific writers of fiction (especially science fiction and fantasy) to create serialized version of their work so that hungry audiences get first dibs on unreleased material. Once the story is over, it’s converted to an ebook and the process is started again.
- Donate button: It seems like this could be far-fetched, but you’d be surprised how happy some people are to part with their cash so that you continue to provide content for them. In my personal experience, my previous band’s website [www.youllhavetowalk.com] provided a day-to-day, play-by-play account of our travels. People would send us cash just for being so awesome (or so blatantly broke), as we blogged constantly in our niche. PayPal offers an easy way to insert this no-nonsense button on your website with just a little HTML magic.
- Selling yourself: The product may even be yourself. If you offer a service, you can offer your time and expertise to an appropriate buyer. For instance, because I’m a writer and you’re reading this article about writing, you’d assume that I can craft an written project for you. Similarly, consultants can use their blog to display their expertise as part of their profile. Because you have an online presence, clients inherently know that you can deliver the goods or are at least familiar with a particular industry.
More tooting my own horn: I have a webpage at www.theguidetobusking.com. It is a website designed to inform my audience about busking (street performance), while providing blogs that range from opinion pieces, how-to articles, and so forth. However, they all tie into the commercial endgame of buying a copy of “The Guide to Busking” ($2.99 on Amazon!). Every time I publish content, I notice a spike in sales from my ebook. I’ve recorded podcasts (see Association above), booked gigs, and used this website to garner steady work.
(As you can see, this very article is demonstrative of steering potential customers towards my work; come for the “advice,” leave with a book).
Okay, one final topic before we conclude this article:
Every play Scrabble? If you have, you’ve probably landed on a triple-word-score and counted your lucky stars you had a Q or a Z in your arsenal. When writing blogs for yourself, social media is a way of getting the word out while maximizing your impact. With Twitter, Facebook, and the like, your posts can reach a wider network than just being indexed on a search engine. They might even become viral (see “Make Money Blogging, part 2” for more info on this).
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Hopefully you’ve gained some insight into how you can convert your blog into a money-making endeavor. In the next part, we’ll be talking about more in-depth concepts about blogging for others. While we didn’t cover EVERY topic related to your own blogging efforts, you’ll have to read part 2 for further tips, tricks, and methodologies. That being said, happy blogging!