|As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, citing Seth Godin’s link to it, Chris Guillebeau has written a free, downloadable manual on how to make a decent living ($50,000 per year or so) from your blog.
What’s interesting about this manual is that it tracks very closely the approach to entrepreneurship that I present in my book Finding the Sweet Spot. It even has a chart that shows, in a simplified version of my ‘sweet spot’, the intersection of “things you really like to do” (what I call your Passions) and “what your followers want” (similar to what I call your Purpose, something needed in the world that you care about). Chris misses the importance of also doing what you’re competent at, and the importance of finding good partners, but he’s on the right track.
In a nutshell, he proposes this process:
- Have a well-designed blog that tells an interesting, useful, consistent story and builds readership over several months to a few years, with free content. It should clearly and continuously answer the question “Why should I regularly visit this blog?”
- Identify which of your followers (readers, potential customers) is your real audience — the subset who appreciate your ideas and competencies enough be willing to pay a small amount of money to get something of value from you. This may be a very different group from those who comment on your posts.
- Ask this audience what they want and find a way to give it to them. Use SurveyMonkey Pro or some similar tool to ask them why they visit and what they’re most looking for help with.
- Avoid traditional advertising (AdSense etc.) and traditional ‘mass’ marketing approaches — they don’t work.
- Write something substantial (1000-3000 words) regularly — at least twice a week — on one or a few related themes that will make your blog a regular destination for your audience. Whatever your frequency, get into the habit of writing at least 1000 words per day. Pace yourself, make it good stuff, and have the ambition and intention that this become a true business, not just a hobby.
- Be prepared to put in many hours writing your blog posts and products, and an equal amount of time in one-on-one marketing to increase visibility and readership of your blog (e.g. posting good ideas on Twitter, sending out review copies of your products, writing regular guest posts for A-list bloggers, answering all e-mails, letting people subscribe to your blog by e-mail, including sending e-mail subscribers special articles that don’t appear on your blog, building relationships with journalists and other key ‘linkers’ of all kinds). Say thank you for the links you get. You have to get the word out about what you do and why it’s unique and valuable — don’t expect people to discover you by word of mouth.
- Gradually and carefully (i.e. use an effective product launch process) introduce additional value-added online products (detailed guides, webinars, projects, consulting, teaching etc.) that build on what you write about on your blog, products for which you charge a sum that increases as your audience and reputation grow. Use e-junkie with your PayPal account to make it easy for people to pay you online. Study what other commercially successful bloggers have done (Chris lists a dozen or more). Be prepared to weather the inevitable critics who don’t like anyone charging for their online work.
For me, point #6 is the biggie. Chris says your blog needs to be essentially a full-time job, a quality, commercial product that you work at. No writing whimsical stuff that’s off-topic. No skipping a week because you’re uninspired. To me my blog is recreational, and for me to work that hard at it would take much of the joy and spontaneity out of blogging. I’m not sure I’m ready for that, but it’s worth thinking about.
But I think Chris is right — if I really wanted to make money from my blog, I’d have to prioritize my topics and my time and get down to business. I’d have to learn to write what my (potentially paying) customers want me to write about, not what I want to write about.
My favourite quote from Chris’ manual is from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself, because everybody else is already taken”. That’s great advice for bloggers, whether they’re trying to make money from their blogs or not. We all need to find and speak in our own ‘voice’.
Thanks to Chris for this compact, thoughtful, well-researched and useful work.