By Carol Tice
Are you dreaming of making big money from your blog?
The trouble is, most bloggers never go beyond dreaming. They imagine they’ll post about whatever strikes their fancy each day, and readers will magically appear. Next, those readers will spend thousands buying your products or services. Even if you have no idea what those items might be.
And you’ll be rich!
It seldom works out this way.
Why? Most bloggers neglect to do a few important things that lay the groundwork for a high-earning blog. In essence, they’re hoping the luck fairy will wave her wand, and — presto! — they’ll be pulling in six figures from their blog.
Most have only a dim idea how the money-earning side of blogging works. I know, because many write me proudly proclaiming their plan to slap up some AdSense ads and cash in. But ads only work on sites with huge traffic, which few new bloggers have.
In sum, the big problem is that you don’t treat your blog like a business. So it doesn’t become one.
How can you set up your blog for financial success? Here are three major business mistakes new bloggers make that leave their blogs floundering instead of earning:
1. No market research
Too many bloggers are seized with a notion of what would be fun to blog about, and off they go.
The groundwork for a successful business starts with doing market research. There are two important kinds of research to do: You need to know your competition, and you need to learn what your readers might be willing to buy from you.
This information gives you a realistic look at how much time and effort might be involved to build the blog you have in mind into a money-earner.
Some questions to ask your competition, and any prospective readers you can get to talk to you:
- What fundamental problem do I hope my blog will help people with?
- How big is the market for my topic? How many people are interested in it?
- Which are the most popular blogs in my niche, and how do they earn income?
- How big is their audience?
- How long did it take them to start earning?
- What do they charge for their products or services?
- How do they sell — sidebar ads, guest posting, email marketing?
- What are their most popular topics?
- Could I guest post on their blog to help attract readers for my blog?
- What could I offer in terms of content that’s different, or provides a fresh angle?
- Could I do a reader survey to find out what my readers need?
- What introductory product could I rapidly develop and offer that my readers need?
You might think it would be hard to find out the answers to some of these, but it’s increasingly common for bloggers to post income reports or ‘how I made it’ stories that reveal revenue details or the size of their mailing list. And industry associations usually have market research about how much purchasing consumers do annually in their space.
Most importantly, you have to talk to readers and find out what they’d buy from you. If you have three readers, ask them. My whole blog changed once I started doing reader surveys, and it led directly to creating the most popular products and services I sell today.
There are niches that have obvious, lucrative, related items you can sell — say, camera equipment on a photography blog. But not every niche has an obvious monetizing strategy. The sooner you figure out if there is no real earning angle for your blog topic, the better. Then, you can move on to find a blog topic that could be the basis for a business.
I know it’s scary to expose your blogging dream to the real world, and test your assumptions of whether there’s a viable business idea there. But doing that market testing can save you years of wasted time and heartache — and point the way to the best-earning blog niche that fits your interests.
2. No SWOT
This acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Charting these four elements is an old-school startup method for frankly assessing what you’ve got on the ball, and what might stand in the way of your blog’s success. Then, you plan how you can show your strengths to best advantage, and minimize those weaknesses.
For instance…you might have freelance writing experience (strength), but find your chosen niche is very overcrowded (threat), and you’re short on cash to invest in building the blog (weakness).
Possible solutions might be to niche down your topic so it’s positioned differently from most current competitors. You might also decide to liquidate possessions on eBay, take a side job, or trade services with a designer to preserve needed cash to pay your hosting bill.
3. No business plan
You might think writing a business plan is just for tech companies that want to raise venture-capital funding. But if you’re serious about making a business out of your blog, you should consider writing at least a rudimentary business plan.
It’ll help to clarify your goals, your target audience, your marketing plans, and your income needs.
Too often when I ask a blogger, “What’s your goal for this blog?” the writer replies, “I don’t know, really.”
Then why are you writing it? And why would you expect it to make any money? How much do you need to make from it, and how are you going to earn that much?
The answers to these questions are not going to appear out of the mist — you have to figure them out, and lay a plan to make the business happen.
Imagine you were opening a retail shop. What would you do to figure out if you were selling the right merchandise, and if your store was in the right location?
Most of those same things need to be done for your blog, if you want it to pay your bills. We have the advantage of not having to lease a shop — but otherwise, the steps are the same.
Carol Tice writes the Make a Living Writing blog. Her new e-book, Freelance Business Bootcamp, delivers the step-by-step info solopreneurs need to start and grow a successful business, including templates for doing your SWOT and business plan. Buy it in the next 48 hours and get a free, 1-hour business-consulting podcast!