Blogging For Dollars

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is, “Can I make a full time living online as a blogger?”

I find this question strangely difficult to answer for a couple reasons.

First of all, there are people who do it.  Some people do exceptionally well at it – I’m talking high six figures, low seven figures.  For most people, that’s way more than having a job and they’d be very happy with that.

Unfortunately, the people who do this are unicorns that are farting gold glitter – they are so far from the exception that to even considering them as a case study is stupid.  You don’t see many financial planners talking about winning the lottery as the pathway to success.

Secondly, it kind of depends on what you consider to be a “full time living” with respect to income.  I know some full-time bloggers who make $25k/yr and they are chuffed because they are living in a village in Thailand with no kids or anyone to support.

However, if you live in a place like Sydney or any other big city around the world, then that kind of money just isn’t going to cut it.

I was reading an article in a major newspaper this week that was talking about people here in Sydney that were “crushing it” as bloggers.  Needless to say that I was intrigued because 95% of the time, these kind of articles in a media outlet are puff pieces.  They highlight some attractive people who blog about being a “mompreneur” or some kind of paleo/whole food diet stuff.

This newspaper didn’t disappoint, that is exactly what the two featured bloggers were writing about – recipes for whole foods and being a mommy blogger.

I’m not deriding their topic or their success, I just find it all very cliche.

Let’s talk about their success for a second.  The mommy blogger was doing pretty well by any measure.  She had about 12 hours per week to work on her sites and she was pulling in about a quarter of a million per year in revenue.  That’s a pretty good hourly rate – so full marks to her, that’s a nice little Casual Marketer style business.

The other whole foods blog was run by a couple guys who’d previously had real careers and had decided to “go all in” on their blog.  They played a game of internet marketing math when it came to their numbers – they said they were generating revenue of more than $200,000 on an annualised run-rate.  That’s code for BS.  Whenever anyone says run rate, they are citing pretend numbers built on a strong foundation of wishful thinking.

With all of that said, you could well be sitting there thinking, “So, can I make a go of this blogging thing or not?”

I think it is all about setting expectations and understanding the actual path that you’re going to have to walk down to have success.

We’ll start with expectations first because it’s the most important thing with any side hustle or kitchen table business – you need to set realistic goals for yourself from the very beginning.  If it were me, I probably wouldn’t set a financial goal of any kind for the first year at all or if I did, it would be VERY modest.  If you have no pre-existing audience, then it’s going to be hard to monetize.

Which nicely leads me into the second point about the path you need to take to start having some success.  Blogging is a channel and your channel needs to have an audience.  If you don’t have an audience now, then this is your first priority – without people coming to your site and getting on your email list, then you really have very little to work with.

The next element of your path is to have a proper monetization strategy for your blog.  By “proper” I mean, it’s based on selling actual products and/or services related to your topic, not selling ad space to Google – that kind of AdSense Arbitrage is the stupidest monetization strategy you can have, don’t do it.  That means you’re going to need to have some products and services to sell, so think about that upfront – the dumbest move you see bloggers make is starting a site with a view to monetizing it, but not having any clue how or what with when they start as though some divine intervention will bless them with a money tree.

So where does this leave us with the original question as to whether or not I think that blogging is a worthwhile business?

I think it’s about how you phrase it.  I think “blogging for dollars” is an absolutely stupid business.  It works for some people, but I would never recommend anyone try and do this themselves.

On the other hand, if you have a business idea with products and services that you want to sell and your primary audience channel will be a blog, then I think that can work.

See what I mean about it being a subtle difference?  Blogging isn’t really a business, but building your business via a blog is something that can work.  It is important that you understand that distinction before you start and you build everything out to suit that strategy.

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