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I truly believe it’s not too late to get into the blogging game!
I recently got into an argument online with someone on Quora. This person was convinced that it’s impossible to make money online through blogging nowadays. His argument was centered around the belief that the early adopters have too much of a first mover advantage, and blogging isn’t profitable anymore because they’ve already taken too much of the market. (I call BS.)
It’s a typical poverty mindset – defeatist and useless in the real world. It’s something easy to say that keeps you from putting in the legwork necessary to just get started.
I should know. I suck at starting.
I’m ashamed to say I had the idea of Mr. Smart Money for over a year before I ever did anything. I just sat my butt on the couch. Funny thing is – once I finally started, it only took minutes to get this site launched!
In that timeframe – I can’t even count how many successful new bloggers ‘made it’. People were making money online, while I sat back and binged watched another season of House of Cards…
I know I’m not alone in this. You might be guilty of it too, but don’t be down, it’s not too late. Making money online through blogging is still possible and a great way to generate passive income.
Here are a few reasons why I am so bullish on blogging:
We’ve all had the dream – sipping Mai Tai’s on some deserted beach, while you open up your laptop to start your ‘day in the office’. If blogging is your source of full-time income, this could actually be you. Blogging (and online businesses in general) are one of the last few frontiers when it comes to flexible, location independent businesses. As long as you have Wi-Fi and a laptop, your office can be wherever you choose. For someone who loves to travel like I do, this was one of the main reasons for me starting.
2.) Low Start-Up Cost
This doesn’t need too much explanation. Most traditional businesses are expensive to start, expensive to maintain. Even $20,000 is a “cheap” start-up cost for a traditional small business. Compare that to blogging: hosting can be as cheap as a few dollars a month, and startup, just a couple hundred.
Blogging is a scaling BEAST. Let’s say you started a small 50 seat restaurant that makes killer ramen (I love a good bowl of ramen!); if you put out an amazing product and become popular – scaling quickly becomes your biggest issue. Lines would form out the door, and if you wanted to serve more people per day, it could take months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to open up another location. In contrast, with blogging, if you write good content and put out a good product, your blogging traffic could quickly go from 100 readers per month to 1,000, to 100,000. And with exponential growth in site traffic, so should follow site revenue.
4.) Passive Income
Okay, let’s be clear. I am not saying blogging is easy. To gain trust and readers, you need to push out amazing content on a regular basis – that is hard work. But the income you can make from blogging is passive in the sense that you don’t need to physically be on the clock to make money. While you eat, your blog is making money. While you sleep, your blog is making money. Even as you take your vacation, your blog is still making money. You essentially create and own a system that helps generate you passive income, and trust me, owning systems is a good thing.
5.) Gain Exposure
If you already own a business, blogging could be your catalyst to huge gains. Let’s say you are a realtor or own a house flipping business – the absolute #1 priority to your success will be LEADS or deal flow. The more leads you get, the better chance of landing a deal. Blogging gives you the opportunity to increase your exposure on the cheap – and if you can rank on Google for important relevant keywords, you just hit the jackpot.
6.) Do What You Love
This is an important one. Some people just love to write, and I definitely fall into that bucket. Nothing gets me into the flow like writing does; and after growing up poor and reaching some measure of ‘financial success’, I’ve become passionate about personal finance and building wealth to help others on that same journey. Whether it’s blogging about video games, or real estate, or personal finance – if you can find something to write about where you are passionate, and where you can help people, you are off to a great start!
Although I believe blogging is awesome, it’s not always roses and sunshine. It can be tough at times too. I recommend you check out this post I wrote on 3 reasons you shouldn’t start a blog. If after reading it, you still feel like this is for you: keep reading down below!
7 essential steps for you to launch:
- Begin with the end in mind
- Pick your niche
- Choose your platform
- Choose your host/domain
- Install WordPress
- Pick your design
- Grow grow grow!
Let’s dive right in.
1.) Begin With The End in Mind
This is habit #2 in the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – and it’s one of the better pieces of advice I’ve ever read.
Do you want to become the next Pat Flynn and make millions from blogging, or are you just looking for a creative outlet? Do you want to make a little bit of side income and work a few hours a week, or are you looking to completely replace your full-time income? Decide that early on, and then create a plan fi how to get there.
There are 3 main ways to make money blogging:
1.) Through Affiliates
Ideally, these are other relevant products or services that you LOVE, that you can wholeheartedly recommend to your readers. When your audience reads your content and clicks through your affiliate link, you’ll earn some cash if they decide to sign up. It doesn’t cost any extra to your users (sometimes they even benefit w/ discounts or cash!) and you’ll be surprised how many of your favorite products or services already have affiliate programs in place. Beginning with the end in mind here means finding out which affiliates you could possibly partner with before you even START your blog.
2.) Through Advertising
This is pretty self-explanatory, but can you believe advertising is how even tech giants like Google and Facebook generate the majority of their billions of dollars in revenue? The advertising market is huge, and taking even a small piece of the pie means big bucks. While everyone and their mom hates irrelevant pop-up ads; the trick here is for your blog to offer relevant and unobtrusive ads to your readership i.e. If your blog is geared toward helping millennials get out of student loan debt, a huge pop-up ad for Candy Crush might not be the best move. But if you inserted a small display ad for something like LendEdu, a free service geared toward helping students find the best refi rates for their loans – well now we’re cooking.
3.) Through Products or Services
Build the audience first, and then build the product. This can’t be overstated. There’s no point in creating a minimum viable product if you have no one who cares or trusts you enough to buy it. Selling a product or service is more of a late game strategy but it’s important nonetheless. Could your readers benefit from a service that you could offer down the line? If you’re creating a fitness blog could you see yourself writing an ebook your readers could benefit from? How about offering online coaching services? You don’t want to start with the product, you want to start by gaining trust and gaining readers – but as long as you can envision what the future here looks like, you’re ahead of the curve.
2.) Pick your niche
Preferably you want to pick a niche where:
1.) You Can Offer Value
You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to start a cooking blog, but I sure hope you at least know your way around a kitchen! When picking your niche, think hard about areas where you can offer a story, offer value, or even where you can present the same old info – but in a new fresh way.
2.) You Are Passionate
I truly believe if you are not passionate about your blog’s content, you will eventually burn out. Pick a niche where you can see yourself producing a ton of content without wanting to strangle yourself. If you are passionate about something, it’ll show in your copy, and your readers will trust you more.
3.) You Have A Plan For Monetization
Let’s say you love both working out and knitting socks equally, and you’re torn on which you’d rather start a blog on – the smart money is to pick the niche you can monetize more easily. Pick a niche where you can already envision relevant value-add affiliates to partner with and promising ad-partners.
3.) Choose your platform
You have a ton of options here (Blogger, Tumblr, Wix, Squarespace etc.) but I’ll make this short and sweet.
You want to go with a self-hosted WordPress blog, hands down. WordPress is an open source blogging platform that works with almost any host you can think of (Bluehost, Studiopress, etc.)
There’s a reason why more than 26% of the internet; the internet, not just blogs – is powered by WordPress.
The interface is easy to learn, and the product is almost infinitely customizable and scalable through plugins, one-click install themes, etc. And while you might be able to get by early on with a different platform, you’ll probably want to migrate to WordPress at some point down the line.
4.) Choose your host/domain
The choices here can make your head spin, but after all my research, I’ve narrowed down all the hosts to my one favorite. I love Bluehost.
I’ve used them for many years and their strongest selling point is the extreme value they offer for newbie bloggers looking to get serious. If this is your first time and you’re not looking to break the bank, you can’t go wrong with them.
For just a few dollars a month you get hosting, a free domain name, and dedicated email service. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Best of all, they offer one-click installs of WordPress and have good customer support.
Here’s a quick step by step of what it looks like to start:
It’ll take you on to the next page, which lists out the 3 different plans that Bluehost offers.
All the plans come with a free domain name (which is a huge plus) – but if you’re just starting out, I recommend going with the basic plan, and here’s why: You’re probably not going to take advantage of the ‘unlimited websites’ feature to begin with, (please don’t try to launch 10 blogs at once) and the marketing offers will probably not be used as well. (the free Adwords dollars they give you)
But the biggest reason I suggest just starting with basic is that at any time in the year, you can always upgrade to the next plan if needed. Pretty no-brainer right?
Next up, pick your domain name.
A few quick tips for choosing a domain name:
- Always go with a “.com” if possible.
- Keep it short and sweet. The shorter the better.
- Make it memorable and EASY to spell!
- If all else fails, use a domain name generator for inspiration! (My favorite is Lean Domain Search)
Once you got that figured out all you need to do is finish signing up.
Put in all your personal/payment info, and choose which plan you want. (1, 2, or 3 years). You get different bonuses and incentives for whichever you choose.
My recommendation is de-selecting all the extra frills other than Domain Name Privacy. I think it’s well worth the extra dollar a month to protect your private information. If you don’t purchase it, any random person can look up your domain and find your full name, address, contact info, etc.
Once you complete your billing info, you’re all set and ready to go and won’t have to pay to maintain your site until it’s due for renewal!
5.) Install WordPress
After you’ve purchased your site and domain, you’ll get a confirmation email. Click the link and go back to Bluehost’s main page to login to your new control panel.
Once you’re logged in, look under the ‘website’ tab, and find the icon that says “Install WordPress”.
Click on that to take you to the next page.
Select the domain you just registered, and DON’T put anything in for the directory. (Unless you have a webmaster who’s telling you otherwise, there’s no reason to install WordPress into a different folder)
Choose your WordPress login info, and log into your WordPress control panel and mess around!
If you’ve never played around with WordPress before, there’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve, but don’t stress – you will get the hang of it pretty quick. Luckily there’s tons of great content on how to get started with WordPress.
My favorite is from the actual creators of WordPress themselves.
6.) Pick your design
WordPress will come out of the box with a couple free themes to choose from, but if you’re even a little bit serious about blogging, you’re going to need a paid theme. It’s a small one-time cost to pay (themes start as cheap as $30 bucks) to make you look infinitely more professional. This site actually runs on a StudioPress theme!
I just followed the example of many of the world’s biggest bloggers who also use and trust StudioPress for their themes and hosting.
(Spend some time browsing their site for a theme that catches your eye! Click ‘Shop for Themes’)
StudioPress has been around forever, their themes are beautiful and constantly updated, and best of all their code is mobile responsive and SEO friendly right out of the box.
When choosing a theme for your blog, you want to pick something that focuses on readability.
Since you’re not a brick and mortar storefront and the main thing you’ll be ‘selling’ is content via blog posts, you don’t want too many videos or images distracting your readers from the meat of your site.
7.) Grow Grow Grow!
Hopefully, I haven’t lost you by now!
If you followed all the steps in this guide, you should have been able to start a blog – and your all in costs might have been as low as ~$150!
This last step, however, is the most important part, and it’s what separates the ones who make it from the ones who don’t. Creating and sticking to a plan on how to GROW your blog! Without readers, without traffic, your site will go nowhere.
So here are a few tips on how to start growing your blog:
1.) Write Consistent, High-Quality Posts
This can’t be overstated. Furiously writing 10 blog posts in a night, only to disappear for months at a time before writing again is a recipe for disaster. Writing consistently will not only improve your skills, it’ll also help you build an audience that will keep coming back. Too much or too little is bad – I believe two to three high-quality posts a week is the sweet spot. It lets you focus on content, research your topics well and also gives your readers time to digest and share the posts.
2.) Guest Post
This strategy has been around for years. Create a list of sites that are in the same niche as you. Make sure their traffic and authority are higher than yours. Find the contact info for the site, and ask the owner of those sites if you can write a relevant guest post for them. If they agree, at the end of your guest post you should be able to insert a backlink to your site, hopefully snagging some new fans. It’s a win-win for both you and the site you guest post for.
3.) Comment On Other Sites
Hop on Quora, Reddit, or any other active forum/blog. Add value to the conversation with good comments or questions. Watch your traffic increase as people start trickling in through your profile link! The key here is once again relevancy. (Comment on fitness forums if you run a fitness blog, etc.)
4.) Don’t Give Up!
For some reason, Lady Luck always seems to favor the prepared. It could take you months, or maybe even years before you make any significant money online through blogging. But I am convinced that any person who sticks with it and hones their craft, can eventually make enough money blogging to replace a ‘regular’ income. Remember, you are always going to be one viral post away from huge success. Don’t give up before your breakthrough.
All that being said, this is not some get rich quick scheme. It can be tough work. But blogging gives you the opportunity to make real money online, on your own time and terms. If after reading all this, you decide that blogging is for you: