Every now and then the “a blog is not a business” meme will come around again. Each time someone will challenge me about it.
Look, I agree. A blog is no more a business than a book is a business if you want to be strict about it. But why does it matter?
Rather than worry about definitions, let’s understand what is really important.
- Can a blog make enough money to provide an income? Yes. Blogging is the source of my income.
- Is blogging a route to earning an income long term? Yes. I have been doing this full time since 2005 and I earned a side income before then.
- Will every blog or blogger make an income? No, many bloggers do not even try, and many fail just as many businesses fail.
But what about that blog versus business thing? It isn’t going to go away so what is it really about?
A blog used for business is a means to an end. The blog is not the business but it does fuel a business.
Just as a really good business can be built around a magazine (just ask Felix Dennis) a successful blog can be the engine behind a decent business like mine if you get a lot of things right even if you make a bunch of mistakes (and I do, constantly).
Most of you will already be aware that my approach is indirect monetization, making money because I blog rather than from it necessarily. I make money more “business to business”, sharing my knowledge and experience to grow an audience of people who know like and trust me. I call it “Authority Blogging“. Darren is pretty much the poster child for the other kind of blog income, direct monetization, but as you will see if you check out his more recent income reports, even though he still makes a significant amount of profit from things like Adsense, his approaches to making an income are becoming more and more indirect.
How my business makes money
If we look at my income from last year it comes down to this list. I don’t share amounts, that’s just something I don’t do, but it has always added up to enough so far and I hope it continues.
- Programming, site build and web development – These are the things I started out doing in the early 1990’s but I mostly stopped doing in 2o10. I still get called on to do this occasionally but I just don’t have time and there are a lot more cost competitive people out there.
- Consulting, mentoring and coaching – My face to face consulting ended last summer when I traveled down to work with Darren. I cancelled my appointments and dropped the bombshell that I was moving to Canada right after Blogworld. That could have gone better but I still do remote consulting and coaching. While most friends and productivity gurus prod me to stop “selling my hours”, I love client contact and the grounding in reality this gives me. I would hate to be working in a theoretical world, I need my ideas to be tested in real world projects. Coaching is incredibly rewarding when you see your clients make progress and grow their freedom, lifestyle and businesses.
- Speaking and training – People are often shocked to find out a shy introvert like me enjoys teaching and speaking. Speaking to large groups does scare me, but I get a kick out of passing on experience and knowledge. Hopefully I can do more workshops and speaking in 2011 now we are starting to settle into our new location. With speaking you can get paid directly or indirectly, just like blogging. Recently I got more serious about not being taken advantage of and making sure I got compensated for expenses, time and opportunity costs associated with all the preparation and travel involved. With training there are workshops where people pay for a ticket and tailored where a company pays for you to come and teach. The only workshop I was involved in for 2010 was the Melbourne Problogger workshop which was great, but wasn’t really intended to be a big money maker. Online events are a growing source of income, though.
- Digital Products – The way I do my own digital products is labor intensive to set up but provides an almost passive income after the fact. There are also affiliate sales, though I don’t really do a lot of that because I focus on only recommending products that I can stand behind. Increasingly this category is becoming a priority source of income. It was the thing that kept the business running for the latter half of 2010, and has helped a lot in the past with family health crises and other occasions where I couldn’t work for any significant time period. While I have had some lovely clients who have been very understanding, even so you don’t want to have to rely on loyalty and generosity to keep your business afloat. Having an income detached from working hours is a life saver.
- Writing – In the past writing used to be a major source of my income, but now it is vastly reduced. Partly because of the “selling hours” thing which is always difficult when you don’t have many hours to sell, but also because I pulled out of all the niches that didn’t contribute to my core communities. As well as time spent writing there is also all the time keeping current in all the many subject areas you are writing for. Something has to give. I haven’t written for a print magazine for a long time now, and apart from a chapter for a social media book, the Problogger second edition was my last book in print. I do enjoy writing, I just need to find a way to fit it back into my business workflow.
You will notice I do not list how I make money from ads. I have made money from ads in the past. I’m trying to think if I made any in 2010. It’s not really my approach to online income.
For the first time 2010 saw me not make any money from software or online services. In fact as of December 2010 I don’t currently have any continuity income. Also in 2010 I didn’t have any physical product sales. These are things I aim to fix in 2011.
The WHY behind the HOW
Why I can make money this way is more important than the how in my opinion.
This brings me to the point of this article.
My blog is the source of my income. What I build here with this blog is the trust of an engaged audience and enough authority to offer advice, products and services.
I don’t need massive traffic to earn a living, just to attract the people who want what I can offer and are serious enough to invest in my solutions. This means I don’t spend all my time writing blog posts, I work on my business and blogging is part of that. Go back a few years ago I had the tiniest of lists but I provided a good enough experience and my customers got results so that my business grew.
Blogging has helped me grow my network which has lead to terrific opportunities and joint ventures. I would blog if this was the only benefit I saw.
Rather than pitch, cold-call, write proposals and suchlike, I create content that attracts the right people, I share that content and interact, and I build community and participate in others. Some of these activities are me doing a whole bunch of work for free but I believe you get back what you give. That’s not the whole story though. If you take another look at my income streams you will see a bunch of things I do where I am getting paid to publicise my blog.
With a small amount of effort I can produce big results. My blog is a fulcrum.
The secret is to blog strategically.
Blogs are not the only answer. Before blogs people still had similar businesses, perhaps built through being an author, working the speaking circuit and newsletters. Blogs allow me to do all that but in addition call on more modern tools and online communities.
Spend some time thinking about how what you do fits into your business. Are your activities attracting customers or are they distractions from what you should be doing.
How does blogging fit into your business? Are you seeing results? Do you have plans for 2011? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments …