- April 9, 2013
- Posted by: Vishal Shah
- Category: Blogging
Earning money from your blog is a constant struggle. Many bloggers use ad networks to earn income, but that’s a losing strategy. Display ad rates are dropping rapidly, meaning you’re earning less and less for those 300×250 ads. There are other ways to make money, but for many bloggers they present practical issues.
Affiliate marketing has caught on strongly in the last few years, but not every blogger can make money with affiliate marketing. If your customers aren’t used to visiting your blog for product information, chances are they won’t click on your affiliate links and buy.
Native advertising is the latest trend, wherein brands work with publishers to create brand-focused content that blends in with editorial. The problem is that most bloggers aren’t big enough to attract the attention of advertisers. Native advertising might be an option in the future, but for now it is out of most bloggers’ reaches.
So what can a motivated blogger do in order to boost income and perhaps earn a livable income? The answer is to provide even deeper value to readers — value so great that they’re willing to pay for it.
No one will pay to read your blog. They might like your work. They might even love it. But there are dozens if not hundreds of blogs just like yours. If you try to charge people to read your blog, they will just move onto the next option.
From the very start, blogging was established as a free medium. A few bloggers have been able to break that mold and charge for access, but those are the truly big names in the game. The average blogger has zero chance of success if charging. That means thinking of a different way to earn money.
The answer is creating content that readers can’t find on your blog, or any blog. Beyond that, it’s about putting that content in a different format. People might not be willing to pay to read your blog, but they might pay to read other works by you.
Creating information products
The most effective solution for most bloggers is to create information products that they can sell to readers. No matter your blogging niche, you can create products that people will find useful. It takes quite a deal more work than blogging, but the payoff can be far greater.
An information product can be any form of media that provides premium information to a user. Bloggers most commonly use e-books as information products, but that’s not the only option. You could create audio programs, video tutorials, or even personal consulting.
There are a few rules that any blogger creating information products should follow:
1) Details matter. If you’re writing an ebook, typos will make you seem unprofessional.
2) Production comes first. You can have the greatest content, but if it’s poorly produced no one will buy it. That means using quality video equipment and settings, high-quality audio, and professional ebook designing.
3) Presentation differentiates. The internet is full of free information. The only way you can charge for information is by presenting it in a novel manner — make it easier for people to understand.
4) Marketing leads to sales. Information products don’t sell themselves. You need to market them, just as you would any other product.
5) Show your credibility. This relates to marketing. If you don’t have credibility, people won’t buy from you. So make sure you can explain what you’ve accomplished in a non-pretentious manner.
Don’t give away the farm
When I browse blogs, all too often I see bloggers giving away ebooks and other products. This is, in most cases, a mistake. There really is only one instance where giving away ebooks and other information products makes sense: if you’re using them to sell consulting services. Beyond that, you should always charge for information products.
The problem with giving away information products is that it doesn’t help spread your brand. The people who are most likely to download those products already read your blog. They might spread your message to others, but those chances are slim. And if they do, how will that help you? You still won’t have a means of making money.
The hard and fast rule of information products is to never give them away. You’ll spend plenty of time and effort creating and producing them. You should demand compensation for your hard work. Even if it’s just a few dollars, you’ll see actual income for your efforts.
Chose an unexplored medium
One key to creating successful and profitable information products is to pick a medium that isn’t common to your niche. A change of medium will make your product stand out, even if it is similar to others. That is to say, novelty plays a big role in marketability.
If everyone in your niche has created an ebook, you should do an end-around and create instructional and informational videos. Even if you’re providing similar information, you’ll find many customers who prefer a video product, or would rather learn the information from video. Audio is another option, though charging for podcasts can prove difficult. But if you can market it, you can profit from it.
This idea goes back to No. 3 in the list above: presentation matters. People don’t necessarily buy products because they present new information. They buy products because of howthey present information. If you present your information in a novel format, you open yourself to the greatest number of buyers.
If there is one surefire way to make money, it’s by selling products or services on a subscription basis. Instead of charging users a larger lump sum, you charge them a smaller amount per month. So instead of a one-time $15 transaction, you can charge $3 per month. You’ll make your $15 in five months, and will likely continue making money thereafter.
The beauty of subscriptions, especially cheap ones, is that people often don’t bother to cancel. Even if they don’t use the service any more, they don’t take the effort to find that cancel button. Even if they do cancel, you’ll oftentimes earn more money from that single customer than you would from selling a one-time product.
There are downsides to subscription products. First and foremost, you have to put out new information every month, or however often you charge. This means coming up with information you can send to people on a regular basis. That takes much more time and effort than creating a single product. You also have to create higher quality information; that’s what people expect from a subscription service.
Fulfill these requirements, though, and you can profit greatly from selling subscription services.
The tools you’ll need
No matter what kind of information product you intend to create, you can do it without professional tools. Here are some you might find handy.
Professional audio and video equipment. To produce quality, you need quality recording equipment. You’ll need a good quality camera for video instructions — not your webcam or a smartphone camera — so prepare for that kind of investment.
Payment collection. One new aspect of commerce you’ll need to discover is accepting payments. You can do this through services like PayPal, but there are many issues with that. It’s better to go with a dedicated payment platform. Merchant services by Intuit has been in business for years, and have proven to help bloggers sell their information products.
List building. If you’re going to sell products to people, you had better add them to a mailing list. That’s for a simple reason: people who like your products are more likely to buy more from you. If you email them once a month with new offers, you can find a treasure trove of sales. Services like MailChimp email lists are great, because they’re free for smaller lists. You pay when your list is bigger — and you’re making enough money to justify the costs.
There are plenty of marketing tools you’ll need as well, but your blog will serve well for that. Guest posting can also serve you well. That will help expand your message to outside audiences.
As display ad rates decline, bloggers must find new and novel ways to earn money. Many of the best methods, though, are out of reach. Creating and selling information products remains one of the best ways for bloggers to earn income from their blogs. It takes plenty of time and effort, but the payoff is there in the end.
Joe Pawlikowski writes, edits, and consults for several tech blogs across the web. He writes about mobile gadgets and technology at his site, MobileMoo.