Figuring out how to make money with a blog is hard.
There are a few reasons for that.
The first reason is that, if you have to figure it out, then you’ve never done it before, and there’s a lot of information that you don’t have.
The second reason is that there really isn’t one right answer — even though there are a lot of wrong ones!
But the third reason is the real clincher: if you pay careful attention to everything that successful, money–making blogs are doing, you will probably get the wrong idea.
Here’s what I mean…
So many revenue opportunities
If you carefully survey the world of successful bloggers, you will find a variety of revenue generating opportunities.
Most of these opportunities can be grouped into 8 categories…
- You can run ads on your site — either by contacting advertisers and selling ad space directly to them, or by using a network to place ads like Google’s AdSense.
- You can promote affiliate products — either by offering a few targeted products from marketers whose work you trust, or by cranking out related offers that you grab from a site like ClickBank.
- You can sell information products — ranging from simple $17 ebooks, all the way up to $2000 training programs.
- You can write guest posts on sites that will pay for them — usually, in the range of $50-$200 per post (sites like FreelanceSwitch or Smashing Magazine are just two examples).
- You can offer your services — this includes web design work, being a virtual assistant, or many other freelance jobs.
- You can sell physical products — this includes everything from nutritional supplements to hot dog carts to electronics.
- You can offer consulting or coaching services — either as one–off sessions or as long–term mentorship programs.
- You can sell printed books and all that goes with it — many bloggers use their blog as a platform to get a book deal, public speaking opportunities and so on. For example, I used my blog to help create my book, Engagement from Scratch!
Most successful bloggers employ a combination of these activities.
They’ll run some ads, promote some affiliate products, and sell their own services and information products.
Many newcomers look at larger sites and try to replicate this strategy, but they are missing a very key piece of information…
Just because a popular website makes money a certain way, doesn’t mean a new website can do the same thing!
The major mistake you should avoid
Most of the revenue generating activities that I described above aren’t profitable enough (and sometimes aren’t profitable at all) for the vast majority of websites.
There are two reasons for this.
The first reason is lack of sales volume.
When you’re selling something cheap — whether it’s a $17 ebook, an introductory consulting session for $47, or an ad on your site that earns you $0.13 per click — you have to sell a lot of it in order to make a significant amount of money.
Don’t get me wrong, you can make good money selling cheap things — but only if you have hundreds of thousands of visitors to your blog.
In other words, it’s a good strategy for the Probloggers and Copybloggers of the world, but probably not for you and me.
The second reason is margins.
There are costs involved in anything that you try to sell.
It could be the cost of creating your information product or membership site, it could be the cost of printing and mailing your books, or it could be the cost of marketing your product or service.
For a lot of the revenue opportunities that I described, the costs are just too high for you to make any serious money — again, unless the volume is enormous.
Not all products are created equal
Most blogs get the majority of their revenue from one or two sources.
For example, on my Firepole Marketing blog, the only profitable things we sell are our training program and high–priced consulting services.
Most bloggers have a similar experience. There are usually one or two products that bring in the money. Everything else is just a small addition.
We also do a bunch of other things that we know aren’t profitable: promoting affiliate offers, writing guest posts, offering single consulting sessions, and writing books. We do these things because these activities help us sell the stuff that really makes us money.
But what if you don’t have time for all the extras? How do you cut through the fluff and find one or two money makers?
Here’s what you need to know…
Making money with a small audience
If you want to make money with your blog, then you need to decide which path you’re going to follow.
Are you going to do it by selling cheap products and services to a huge group of people? Or will you sell high–priced offerings to a small group?
They’re both viable options in the long run, but in the short run, selling cheap services to a huge group of people probably isn’t practical … especially if you don’t have access to a huge group of people.
Let’s look at an example.
Say that you want to make $100,000 per year. Depending on the price point of your offering, here’s how many sales you would need:
- If you’re selling a $7 product, you’d have to sell 14,286 units
- If you’re selling a $27 product, you’d have to sell 3,704 units
- If you’re selling a $97 product, you’d have to sell 1,031 units
- If you’re selling a $297 product, you’d have to sell 337 units
- If you’re selling a $997 product, you’d have to sell 101 units
If you’re just getting started, which path do you think is easier? Finding 14,000 new customers? Or finding 100 new customers?
Even though the price is much lower, you still get the idea — to make a significant amount of money selling something inexpensive, you’ll have to sell a huge quantity. Most websites struggle to get 14,000 visitors, let alone 14,000 customers.
This brings up three final questions…
Three questions to consider
First, you need to ask yourself, “How long can I afford to wait to reach my goals?”
It’s very possible to make money with inexpensive products and ads, but it will take you a lot longer to build an audience large enough to support that. If time is of the essence, then a smaller group of customers paying you more money is probably a better option.
Second, if you decide that higher–priced is the way to go, then you need to ask yourself, “What offering and what price is a good fit for my audience?”
Not every market is looking for a $997 individualized coaching program. Maybe charging $97 a month for group coaching is a better fit. You’ll have to do some research and decide which higher–priced offering is best for you.
Finally, you need to ask yourself, “Who can put my message in front of potential customers?”
If you’re brand new, then you probably don’t have much influence.
You don’t need to be an influencer, you just need to connect with them. There are already people out there who have the attention of your target audience. Get to know them and you’ll have the perfect path to paying customers.
Whatever path you choose, remember that you need to do what works for your situation and your circumstances … and that’s not always the same as what works for someone else.
Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book Engagement From Scratch!