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How to Make Money Blogging
A Definitive Guide from Mirasee
Chapter 4: Planning Your Blogging Business
Okay, we’ve covered the different ways you can monetize your site. Now it’s time to start planning your blogging business.
We begin by selecting the blogging income model that moves you toward your goals most effectively. (If you need to review the 6 different ways to make money blogging, read Chapter 3.)
It’s surprising how often new bloggers overlook this step in their business, but it’s the single best way to make sure your blogging income matches your dreams.[clickToTweet tweet=”#amreading the Make Money Blogging report on planning your #blogging business.” quote=”#amreading the Make Money Blogging report on building a #blogging business.”]
How to Build Your Blogging Business
Download the entire How to Make Money Blogging book now.
A couple of chapters ago we talked about how to work backwards to see what your business needs to look like. Now it’s time for you to take that information, along with what you’ve learned about monetization models, and do some mental experiments to find out which model will work best for you.
It’s time to get down and dirty planning your blogging business.
The process is fairly simple. With your end goal in mind, go through each of the business models we discussed in the last chapter and eliminate any that will not help you reach your goal.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of possible business models down to one or two, it’s time to look forward from where you are now to where you want to be. Where are you now, and what do you need to move towards where you want to be?
What You Need
Assuming you’re starting from scratch, the first thing you need is an audience of 1,000 subscribers on your email list. That may sound like a lot, especially if your current email list consists of you and your other email address. Luckily, it’s not that hard to create a list of 1,000 people.[clickToTweet tweet=”To make money blogging, you need at least 1000 subscribers. #bloggingtip” quote=”To make money blogging, you need at least 1000 subscribers. #bloggingtip”]
To create an audience of at least a thousand subscribers, you need four things. You need:
- an email autoresponder to deliver your emails
- a way for people to subscribe to your email list
- a reason for them to subscribe
- a way to reach people and let them know why they should subscribe to your email list
The first element in creating your list is to set up an autoresponder account, which is basically an email service that allows you to set up a subscribe form (also called an opt-in form) where your new subscribers can enter their name and email. Then, the email service will automatically send an email—or a series of emails—to people who fill out your form and sign up for your list.
Next, you need a web page where you can put the form so that people can sign up for your list. At first all you need is one page, with a domain name like yourname.com.
This page should be hosted on a web hosting account, which is a place to store your website so it’s visible to the world. You can register your domain name when you set up your hosting, and we recommend Hostgator for hosting and domain name registration, and LeadPages to set up your opt-in page.
Once you have a list that people can sign up for, they can receive your newsletter or blog updates or regular emails with great content. 15 years ago, a lot of people would sign up to a newsletter just to receive the newsletter.
These days, though, you’re going to have to give them something in exchange for their email address. Some people call this an ethical bribe, but we don’t like that terminology. We call it a first impression incentive. This can be a short report, a video, a checklist or anything small and easily consumable that people would like to have and will gladly sign up for access to in exchange for their email address.
Now you just need to find a thousand or so people who want your first impression incentive and will give you their email address and become part of your audience!
The fastest and easiest way to do this is by guest posting on other blogs in your field. Start by identifying blogs which have a similar audience to the one you want to build.
Get to know the bloggers, and become known to them, by commenting on their posts for a while. Then reach out to each one with an idea for a guest post for their blog. Write an epic post that their readers will love, and include a link back to your first impression incentive at the end of the article.
Rinse, repeat and rinse and repeat again until you’ve reached your first thousand visitors.
If you have questions about guest blogging, how to get started and how to do it successfully, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Guest Posting” from KISSMetrics.
Now that we’ve got your audience sorted out, it’s time to start building your business.
Your Blogging Foundation
The Starting Point
Whether your blog is already up and running or not, the first step to create blogging income is to decide how to monetize your blog.
You now have a good understanding of the different ways to make money blogging and a clear picture of what your goals are.
Based on this information, you need to turn to your audience to figure out where to go next.
If you already have a mailing list who responds to your emails and engages with you on your blog post—that’s awesome! You’re in a great position to start asking them about their problems and coming up with ideas that will meet their needs.
If you don’t have a mailing list yet—you need to do some research.
Consider your ideal customer and find other blogs they spend time on. Look at the comments—what questions get asked? How do they identify their issues?
Whether you’re asking your audience, or doing some research, the goal is to create a list of solutions for the problems that you can solve with a product, service, affiliate link or otherwise.
Come up with as many ideas as possible, and then slowly narrow them down based on the following criteria:
- Do I know how to do this?
- Is this the highest value solution to the problem?
- Does it address my audience’s problem in a way THEY understand?
Narrow your ideas down to one single solution you’re going to start with. But keep your list handy—your first attempt isn’t always the perfect one![clickToTweet tweet=”Generating blogging income starts with one single solution. Here’s how it works.” quote=”Generating blogging income starts with one single solution. “]
Validating Your Idea
Whatever your proposed first monetization solution is, once you have your starting point you need to do some research to validate that it has a decent chance of being successful.
For example, suppose that you are trained as a coach and you’re a health and fitness fanatic. You’d like to offer your services as a health coach. Before you get too far with your plan, you should do a little research to find out if other people are offering the service you’re offering, and whether or not people are buying it.
Some people worry about competition, but that’s not something you really need to be concerned with. In fact, you should probably be more concerned if no one is doing anything remotely like what you want to do. That probably means no one wants to buy that product or service. Competition means interest, and you can almost always find a way to position yourself in a unique way.
If you’re considering being a health coach, you can easily see that others are offering health coaching services. At this point we’re not going to worry about how successful those coaches are; we only want to know that someone is doing it.
What if your service or product is a little less common? Suppose you love reptiles and have been breeding your geckos occasionally and giving away or selling the babies. Now you’re thinking of starting a blog called Herp Heaven, for lovers of geckos and all things reptile. You’re thinking of an eCommerce model selling baby and adult geckos online. You know it can be done because you bought your last gecko, Gordon Jr., online.
You also know that lots of people search online for gecko information and suppliers because you’ve spent a lot of time on online blogs and forums about them. All this research points to the fact that your idea isn’t totally crazy. The research doesn’t guarantee success, of course, but it does go a long way towards validating that you’re on the right track.
Want some help validating your idea? Check out “5 Steps to Validate Your Business Idea in the Real World” from Fizzle.
Making Sure Your Idea Is a Good One
Now that you’ve started thinking about who else is offering what you want to offer—what exactly are your competitors doing? Does your monetization model have analogs and antilogs in the market?
You’ve probably heard the word analog, but maybe not antilog. The idea was developed by Randy Komisar and John Mullins in their excellent book Getting to Plan B. (Seriously, if you really want to learn about how to develop a business idea successfully, read this book!) Let’s look for a moment at those two words, and how they’ll help you evaluate your competitors.
Continuing with the example of breeding and selling geckos online, the first thing you want to look for are analogs, or comparable businesses online. Your analogs will be any type of blog or business that has done something similar to what you intend to try. Remember what we said before about competition: You can find a way to stand out if you find competition. But if you find a niche with no competition, there may not be a market there for you.
In our example, you’ve already done a little research and found sites that sell geckos, as well as other reptiles and amphibians, online. You know they ship overnight using FedEx and that they pass on the exact cost of shipping, which is $50, in addition to the cost of the animal.
All of this is good information because it tells you that people do sell geckos online. And, it gives you good information on how they handle the shipping, which is probably the most technically difficult part of the transaction.
These sites are your analogs. Their main function is to support you in your assumption that this is a good idea.
Analogs are important because they show you that other people are doing what you want to do, and that they’re succeeding with it.
However, you should also look for antilogs. Antilogs are any situation in which someone has tried something related to what you want to do—and it didn’t work.
Remember the original Napster? Napster stands as an antilog to iTunes. The idea was great: Napster allowed people to find and listen to music online. The problem was that Napster used peer-to-peer sharing, which was a violation of copyright law. Napster was shut down for legal reasons, so it’s not an analog. Instead, it’s an antilog—an example for iTunes of something that didn’t work.
Apple would have looked at Napster and learned that the desire of the audience was there—but the framework they used to meet that need wasn’t right. So they created iTunes, which answered a similar need—but legally!
iTunes, on the other hand, is an analog for Spotify. The folks who started Spotify wanted to offer streaming, on-demand music. Their model is not quite the same as iTunes’ purchasing model, but it’s close enough that iTunes is a good analog. Spotify does quite well with what they’re offering.
What’s Working? What’s Not?
When you’re looking at your competitors, the key thing you’re looking for is: what’s working in this industry, and what isn’t?
One way to know if herp (herptile refers to both reptiles and amphibians—we’ll use herp going forward!) dealers are actually selling herps is to watch their ads and see if they mark animals “sold” or take their pictures down and put up new ones. That’s a good indication that they’re selling animals.
Another tactic to find out whether geckos and other reptiles are moving online is to contact a few dealers and simply ask. Write them a nice note, tell them you’ve been thinking about the business, and ask them if they’d recommend getting into it now, knowing what they know.
Some will see you as competition and won’t answer. Others will remember that they were new once and someone helped them, and they’ll gladly give you a bit of advice.
Marketing Online Is Different from Selling Online
Just knowing that people are marketing geckos online does not tell you whether people are selling geckos online. You’ll need more information to determine that. Sean D’Souza’s Copybloger post on “How to Know if You’re Entering a Viable Niche” will help you figure it all out.
Once you determine that some people are doing what you want to do online, and making money at it, you’ll need to think about what new element you’re bringing to the table. What makes you different, and does anyone actually want this?
Sticking with our eCommerce gecko business, perhaps you’re planning to sell each gecko with a handmade habitat designed especially for the new owner based on the space they have available, the type of gecko they buy and the design and décor of their home.
We’ll talk in the next chapter about how to find out if your audience wants what you intend to sell. For now, just know that you will need to determine what your audience wants—and isn’t getting from the current businesses in your field—in order to build a successful business.
Knowing When Your Idea Isn’t Working
When you’re looking at how to start a blog business, you need to also look at measures of success.
As you plan your blogging business—and as you execute those plans—you need to decide in advance how you’ll know an idea didn’t work, and when to quit so you can try something else.
You see, failure is part of the process. It happens to the best of us.
Set your criteria based on how much time, money and effort you can afford to put into your plan before you need to cut that idea loose and try something different.
Expend that much time, money and effort. Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle. But when you reach your limits for when to move on, do move on.
Download the entire How to Make Money Blogging book now.
- The monetization models we’ve presented are the building blocks you need to create a powerful plan to reach your goals.
- If you’re starting from scratch, the first thing you need is an audience of 1,000 subscribers.
- Build your initial 1,000 member audience through guest posting and offering an incentive for people to sign up for your list.
- Once they sign up, you stay in contact with them and engage with them to create a relationship, not just a list.
- Guest posting is the fastest way to grow your list to 1,000 members.
- Doing research into what other people are doing will help you decide whether what you’re considering will work.
- Don’t just assume that your idea is brilliant. It may be brilliant—but if no one else is doing something similar to what you’re doing, that’s probably a sign that no one wants to pay for your brilliant idea.
- Decide ahead of time how much time, money, and effort you’re going to use to test out your plan before you need to try something different.
- Be willing to admit when something isn’t working and move on with your next idea.
Take your initial starting point for and look for analogs and antilogs in the market. Look carefully at what has worked in your space and what hasn’t. Based on your research, decide whether or not your starting point is a good bet. If so—awesome! If not—go back to your list of ideas and try again.