Welcome to my third article from the series about my first year of blogging as business. In today’s post I’ll talk about money. How I made money, a little bit about how I intend to make money from now on and why. If you came here directly you may want to read the first 2 articles here:
How Much Money I Made In The First Year Of Blogging
The exact answer is: 3378.34 USD. That comes down to around 280 USD month. Technically, I only started to work on this from January, so that will make even more for the monthly income, but let’s split by 12 months. One thing I would like to tell you upfront is that I host on a dedicated server. Not because of the needed resources, during the first year the blog really didn’t eat more than 5-10% of the whole server, but because I was used to. Having an online business for more than 10 years can leave some marks. So, if you make a little bit of a calculus you’ll realize that the income I had from the blog was just enough to afford a more than decent hosting.
I am totally happy with these numbers, although one may object that being happy with such low numbers is totally against “make money online fast by blogging” trend. And he would be totally right. I am against that trend. I find it shallow and frustrating. Shallow because any money made fast is a little bit tasteless, and frustrating because there really isn’t such a thing like making money fast.
I am happy first of all because I identified a working model. A model that went really well in terms of stability and predictability. Finding some working patterns is a really valuable thing when you enter a new business.. I remember than back when I started my online business it took me several years until I found some stable revenue sources. This time it took only one year. The income is not big, but what’s precious is the model. I can apply this model from now on, pressing or releasing some buttons and I know what to expect. Finding a working model is even more precious when I take into account that during this time I had to experiment several writing and promoting styles until I finally found, in the last few months, a strategy for a stable, ascending traffic.
Lesson: finding a working model for your blog monetization is more important than shooting chaotically to every new opportunity, hoping that sometime, with a little bit of luck, you’ll shoot big. I found it much better to follow the results of my monetizing activities over a period of at least six months and then draw some conclusions.
Benefits: having a constant flow of money is a key point in starting a new business. Even if it’s small, it adds up. In the first year, I actually didn’t pay for my hosting and I also had the opportunity to spend some cash in order to test some new promoting techniques.
Blog Income Distribution
The main income sources were affiliate deals and selling my own content. The last one accounts only for the last week of the whole year, when I launched my first paid ebook, so it’s actually pretty new. But from my initial results I think I know what to expect.
There were only 2 affiliate deals on the website, and I chose them to be pretty vague, not very niched. One is a software selling deal with Mariner, a well known and respected Mac software producer, and the other one is with the very much hyped Thesis theme for WordPress. No personal development product, no other complicated stuff. The Mariner deal is going on with an exclusive promo code each month and as for Thesis I just have a vanilla, not customized, affiliate deal.
Picking those deals was not an easy task. Took me a little while because I was on a pretty tight criteria set. The products had to be good, appealing for my niche, respected and easy to manage. I ended up with a software producer and with a premium blogging theme. In the process, I had to discard several other products, because they were either too expensive for my audience (yet), either too narrow (like very specific software tools).
Having only 2 affiliate deals was pretty good for the content, I didn’t have to jam the post flow with unnecessary advertisement material, although, allegedly, this material could have been beneficial to my readers. I preferred to have a clean flow of personal development posts and only one monthly post about the Mariner exclusive promo code.
Lesson: it’s very important to correctly identify the right products for your niche and to have a well balanced portfolio of deals.
Benefits: learning how people react to different types of messages and products was no doubt the main benefit. Some deals where better than others at certain time intervals, so keeping the eggs in different baskets helped me not to run on thin ice.
What I Did To Earn This Money
First of all, I had to identify the products. But I already talked about it in the blog distribution part, so I’ll skip it to the next step.
Which is negotiating your own terms. Couldn’t do that with Thesis, but did it Mariner products. After a few emails I offered to do a 45 days long promotion on my blog, with their products, just to test the audience. They agreed and the promotion went really well. After that, I shoot for a year long promotion with a slightly better commission on my part. They agreed also pretty fast, so that was it.
The next part was to actually create the supporting content. I wrote a post for each month of the year, announcing each promo code for that month. In the first several months I experimented a little with several writing styles and approaches, but I was able to find a clear and understandable message pretty fast. The next months I actually used the same copy, knowing that almost my entire audience was already aware of the year long promotion.
After setting up the core foundation with those announcing monthly posts, I thought to share some of my experiences with the software I was promoting, especially MacJournal. One of these posts was about my blogging setup, a custom implementation of a GTD flow for blogging. The post, which was a complete description of what I actually use for my daily blogging activities was one of the most popular posts in my blog at that time. There were also other two posts related to MacJournal, one about habit creation and the other one about how to write an ebook. Both were pretty trafficked and this created a constant flow of new visitors to the Mariner promotion.
The next thing was to test some traffic generation with, of course, Twitter. I tweeted some incentives for these promo codes and had pretty good results. I also used a display advertising area on top of the two columns of my theme, with various banner ideas. Almost all banners had a click-through rate more than 2.5%. This is pretty much everything I did for the Mariner promotion.
For Thesis, I did a little bit different. First of all, I did a simple thesis hook tutorial, complete with freely downloadable source code and instructions. The post got featured on several sites and on some high-profile Twitter users timeline, which bring in a little bit of traffic and also generated some conversions. After that, I created a separate page in which I described why I paid for my theme and why any decent blogger who aims to create valuable content instead of spending time tweaking themes should pay too. Every once in a while I see this page featured on some Thesis related community. Which, of course, was good for traffic and conversions.
And one final touch was to integrate this deals with my publishing framework. Thesis hooks to the rescue, again. I created a small zone after each post, just before the similar posts block, in which I announced that the blog post was written on a MacJurnal setup and broadcast with Thesis.. So every time somebody finished to read on of my articles, he was also exposed to my affiliate deals. The insertion point was not intrusive and the message was not aggressive. Blending in as much as possible with the overall blog content seemed to be the best affiliate deals strategy.
Lesson: creating an affiliate strategy is a matter of blending your general blog goals with your income generation strategy. As for the ebook, I still learn how to promote it, but one thing is clear: selling your own products is much better than affiliate deals.
Benefits: I created solid partnerships without scaring away my audience and without sacrificing the main blog theme. Also, I learned tremendously about how you could create useful content that pays. Money, that is.
Blogging Money Goals
During the last few months my traffic doubled. So, a decent goal would be to double my income too for the next year. But, for some reason, I think this goal would be hugely underrated. I know I can aim for much more. I don’t want to put any pressure on that by setting a fixed goal, but I will certainly aim for something in between 2000 and 4000 dollars per month.
From now on I intend to expand my affiliate deals, up to 5-6 in the next year. So, if you’re in the personal development niche, have some high quality products and you are interesting in using a new distribution channel, by all means, send me the products for reviewing. I’m not making any guarantee statement, so don’t expect to sign in for just everything you send. Some stuff will be more close to me, while some stuff will just be out of my vibe, without being necessarily low quality. But you can be sure that once I’m committed to work together you can expect full support from my part.
Another thing would be display advertising. I chose to have a limited amount of banners and a somehow strict control over what passes on, so expect me to be fussy about it. But there will be some display advertising on this site for sure.
Another thing I’ll be doing is to put on the market another ebook. I don’t think this will happen in the next 3-4 months, as I will be quite busy promoting the first one. I’m still in the process of learning here so I’m trying to give myself plenty of time.
So, that was pretty much all about my money experience during the first year of blogging as a business. Not what you expected? Sorry to disappoint you. No huge numbers here, nu “fast cash”, no get rich quick schemes. I do like to live in a real world, where I can make real money, not in a fool’s digital paradise which promises you millions of dollars in the first year of blogging.
I’ll rather shoot for that in the second or third. 😉