Unless you are a pretty gold digger, this post is for you.
This post isn’t about creating prank videos, playing video games and making jokes, live-action comedy sketches, funny makeup tutorials or other such videos. I don’t expect you to lug a microphone around the town asking girls, “What’s your best orgasm face?”
This post is about everyday normal people who want to start a blog or a YouTube channel and make money doing what they love. You could be an illustrator, writer or a salesperson – the internet is open to all.
It doesn’t matter what you do today – the internet is available to all of us. Each of us can, with very little effort and expense, put up a framework which starts generating money.
This money you make online can be small or large depending on how you scale your framework.
What is This Online Money Generating Framework?
The framework for making money is simple.
Here are the basic steps in online money making: Create a honeypot to attract online users, persuade them to give you their email address in exchange for some gated free content, and then over a period of time, nurture them with free content, videos and webinars. Send them promotions or product offers periodically (not too often) and then make the purchase process to be easy and risk-free for them.
That’s it. In marketing lingo, this is also called a sales funnel.
The money-making framework – sales funnel – is exactly what is used by everyone. Big or small. Large corporations or individual bloggers.
What is Special About this Post?
Yes, you can get information about online marketing and selling everywhere – in management books, online courses and blogs.
However, none of them really provides a step by step path.
In this post, I have distilled the money-making framework into actionable steps suitable for use by individual bloggers.
This is a system which I have used successfully myself so I know that it works.
Introduction to Making Money Online
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” so said, Benjamin Franklin. How do we get our paws on this interest?
Blogs and videos allow you to monetize your knowledge and promote informational products. Making decent money from your blog is possible. With some work, you can even make enough money to replace your desk-job.
No One is My Boss. Blogging Sets Me Free.
For me, the best part about blog-generated income is the freedom it brings. I can be supine in a Negril beach-chair and yet my blog would work for me. I don’t have to fight through the morning rush to show up for work every day. I don’t have to curry favor with my boss to survive the next round of layoffs, wheedle a bonus, or beg some extra days off.
With my blog, no one is my boss. I am my own boss.
Blogging vs Other Businesses: Blogging is less risky than most other business ventures.
The greatest thing money can buy is financial security.
Passive income from your blog is probably the best way to get this financial security. Unlike a manufacturing company or other businesses, a blog doesn’t require a huge upfront investment or risks and uncertainties.
Hustling vs Blogging
Making money and getting financial freedom through any means requires an intelligent plan of attack. People spend years in college so they can make a living. Hustling on the internet is not the easy path to a money-filled paradise.
Type in “monetize your blog” in Google and hundreds of lists show up with sure shot ideas – affiliates, sponsored posts and paid reviews. Many such posts, even those that have screenshots of payments to prove their authenticity, are written with one purpose – to attract some traffic, or sell you something. These fluffy long posts, full of advice, rarely provide actionable steps to monetize your blog.
How to Really Make Money from your Blog?
The different ways of making money on the internet are well documented. There are no secrets here.
All the various strategies for making money from a blog can be bucketed into three categories.
3 Top Ways Bloggers Make Money
Paid advertisements include putting in advertiser links or banners in your website. For such a strategy you could sign up with Google Adsense, or other advertisers like Amazon Associates, Infolinks, Revenue Hits, Yllix Media, PopAds, Chitika, PopCash, RevContent, PropellerAds Media and Media.net.
You can also sign up for some content advertiser like Outbrain and embed their content in your blog. When your visitors click on these paid content or sponsored links you get paid some money.
Obviously, the paid ads which you show will need to be related to your niche for the visitors to be interested in those ads.
Another way of making money is through affiliate links. The process is straightforward. You sign up as an affiliate for a company (e.g. product manufacturer or service provider). That company will provide you with a unique link to embed in your blog. When your blog visitor clicks on that link to purchase a product then the company will give you some money.
The trick is to embed these affiliate links in some well-written posts in your blog.
As an example, you can review web hosting providers and embed a link (provided to you by Bluehost) in that post recommending Bluehost as a potential solution. If your visitor who reads your post clicks on that link and actually signs up for Bluehost, they will pay you some money.
Some companies like Bluehost pay decent money ($60 per sign-up), while others pay less. Visit some companies in your niche to check out the process of becoming an affiliate for them and compare their payouts.
Your Own Products & Services
Blogs are used to promote all kinds of products including manufactured goods and corporate services. If you are interested in getting your products made check out Etsy, cafepress.com or merchify.com for ideas. Etsy “production partners” can help in producing the products that you design. You can simplify the packaging and shipping of your products using those Etsy Production Partners which also offer drop shipping (i.e. they package and ship the products to your customers).
However I suggest you start with some informational products and services which are more easily feasible for an individual blogger.
What are some products you can sell on your blog as an individual blogger? Some of the most profitable products which bloggers sell successfully today are video courses they have created or books they have self-published.
What if you don’t have a product to sell on your blog? If you haven’t gotten around to creating a video course or book, then you can sell your services such as freelance writing and paid reviews. You can find customers who need paid reviews on Fiverr, payperpost.com or sponsoredreviews.com. You can also use your blog to sell or promote your other services such as copywriting and proof-reading.
Miscellaneous other Monetization Schemes:
Selling Private Label Products on Amazon.
In the case of private label the manufacturer allows you to take their product (or service) and sell it under your name. This is also called white-labeling. You pay the manufacturer a fixed cost (or percentage) and keep the rest of the profit.
The most famous private label products are Amazon Private in which Amazon sells products like Amazon GoodThreads and Amazon CoastBlue under its own brand. You too can contact suppliers and check out if they offer private-labeling. One good place to connect with such suppliers is alibaba.com.
Private-Label is somewhat similar to affiliate marketing. You are selling someone else’s products. It is not a new concept. It exists in different forms. Many stars like collaborate with manufacturers to sell products in their names, as an example Britney Spears perfumes. Unless you are a very large and strong company which can negotiate a good cut in profit from the manufacturer you won’t make much money. The other alternative is to find exotic niche products whose manufacturers give you sweet deals – but then again the market size for exotic products would always be small and customers hard to find.
Paid Membership Clubs
Some bloggers have paid online membership clubs. You pay a certain fee every month and you will receive a username/password which lets you access gated content.
I would put paid membership clubs in the category of having your own products. Typically creators like artists and writers create some products which they make available to their followers who pay a monthly fee.
Patreon runs on this concept of paid membership. Patrons who pay monthly fees to a creator get exclusive access to exclusive works of the creator like advanced copies of books and discounts on artworks.
You could also use your blogging software like WordPress to create an online community. An example of a self hosted community is ejinsider.com in which you pay $99/month to listen to interviews of some famous people. It does require a lot of technical work to set up – and maintain – such a community yourself. It might be better to use Patreon or other similar services like Drip (d.rip) or Podia.
Become a Brand Ambassador or Sponsorship by a Company
A brand ambassador is usually a famous blogger whom large brands pay to advertise or review their products.
Obviously the payout from large brands would be large. You do need to have a fairly large following on the internet to be able to attract large brands.
Once your blog starts growing you could consider start reaching out to some well-known brands in your niche offering to advertise their products in your blog posts. Even if the brands do not offer you a large deal, they might offer some free products you can review or giveaway in your contests.
This is certainly not going to be the chief way you make money on the internet, but it can be a great boost to your blog monetization.
What Works in Blog Monetization: Pros and Cons of Blog Monetization Strategies
I have tested out practically every blog monetization strategy over the years. Here are some suggestions.
The #1 idea we discussed – embedding paid ad banners or links – works only if you have massive targeted traffic in a high-income niche. If you have around 1000 visitors per day you can expect to make around $2 per day from the various links these visitors click. With a traffic of about 10,000 visitors per day you could hope to make about $100 per day. All this is assuming that your traffic is from people (eg. a particular demography or geography) who actually like to spend money on products related to your blog niche.
The challenge with paid ads is that the return on your investment is very low. 1000 visitors per day is a lot. To get 1000 visitors per day you need to stand on your head. If you are making $1 or $2 from all this humongous effort, then is it worth it?
Even more so, these paid ads work only when you put up large conspicuous banners on your site so your visitor clicks on it. These banners take away the authenticity of your site, regardless of how well tailored those ads are. Tell me, do you like sites full of paid ad banners?
Blogs which have massive traffic (e.g. Time.com) put in sponsored links to catch some extra cash. As an individual blogger, paid ads would get you some coffee money, but it is certainly not the right strategy for an individual blogger looking to stand up a real money making blog.
Affiliates are a slightly better option than paid ads for individual bloggers. Affiliate payouts are relatively decent compared to sponsored ads.
As with paid ads, affiliate links will not make you rich.
The real way how bloggers make money is by selling their own products or services.
Visit any top blogger on the internet. You will see them selling eBooks, print books, and learning courses. You won’t find successful big-time bloggers touting other people’s products, except as a side note. The chief strategy of a money making blog doesn’t focus on other people’s products.
Yes, you do find top bloggers advising you how to make money from various schemes like private-labeling, and I am sure it does work. You always have to be on the lookout for new products which give you good commission, find suppliers, find a new audience interested in those new products and adapt your blog to market those products. This constant hustling is certainly not for me and I don’t recommend it as a primary strategy.
To really make money from your blog, you have to think about creating your own products. There is an abundance of product ideas you can try such as books, planners, stickers, artworks, illustrations, photo-zines, online courses.
Creating your Own Product: A Few Lessons Learned
The possibilities are endless since a huge ecosystem to support creative entrepreneurs has sprung up in recent years.
What seemed technically and financially infeasible a few years back is a piece of cake today. You can sell print products using Etsy production partners, self-publish your book on CreateSpace.com or manufacture exotic goods using 3D home printers.
You are limited only by your imagination in today’s market.
However, I have found that a sustainable online business needs to be hands-free and timeless. Any physical item requires handling, shipping and packaging. So I would suggest you get your feet wet with some digital products.
Informational products like books and online courses are great. Think of topics which are timeless like art or creative writing. The principles of good painting composition are not going to change tomorrow regardless of the invention of new painting supplies. If you make an online course about oil painting, that course will still be good 20 years from now.
You could invest your time in digital products upfront, and then just sell them again and again. These digital informational products will be on sale 365 days a year. This way passive income becomes a sustainable way of earning money online.
The Million Dollar Question: Why would anyone buy your product?
People will buy your products because you will sell it to them. Period.
There may already exist products like yours out there at a cheaper price. But you don’t have to worry about them. People buy from someone whom they trust and like. They will buy your product (instead of others) if you actively sell your product to your customers.
Your blog posts and videos will establish your credibility in the heart of your visitors. By regularly posting on your blog and YouTube you will attract followers, subscribers and return visitors who enjoy your posts, find them meaningful and grow to like you.
People buy from those whom they like.
Here is a success story to inspire you.
A Blogger and YouTuber Success Story: Making Money Selling Planners
Here is a success story of an illustrator whom I follow on YouTube. This illustrator over a period of 4 years built a subscriber base of about 250 YouTuber viewers.
She posts her art in Instagram and other places. On YouTube, she posts short simple videos talking about her everyday life and the work she is doing. In her videos, she invites her audience to comment on what they would like to see and suggestions for illustrations they want her to draw.
She created the design for a planner and got a company to print it. She then created a video showing her planner on YouTube. Her planner sold like hot cakes. She sold nearly 50,000 copies of her planner in 1 month, each planner costing $35.
Why did people buy her planner?
The stationary shops and bookstores are full of beautiful planners of all kinds. You can find stunning planners for half the price that this illustrator charged. yet people rushed to purchase this illustrators planner.
People buy what they are sold. People buy from those whom they like. So you don’t have to worry about the market being saturated with an idea. Think about how you can take an idea and infuse your own personality into it. In the case of this illustrator, she used her own illustrations to decorate the planner.
Build a community and sell to your community. This illustrator nurtured her YouTube audience over a period of 4 years. This is her community. She can now use this community to sell products.
She also started her own Patreon page and as you can imagine it has grown tremendously. Last I checked, Patreon brings her $4320 every month.
It is certainly possible to make money from your blog as this success story shows.
Intertwined Platforms and Multi-Medium Strategy: Blogging, vLogging, Instagram all go together
In today’s world, blogging has taken on a bigger meaning beyond the written words. Producing videos on YouTube is blogging. Posting pictures on Instagram is blogging. Writing blog posts is blogging.
Most successful bloggers use multiple mediums. Yes, you should not burn yourself out with spreading yourself too thin, but you do need to have a multi-medium focus.
You can designate one medium as your primary medium for audience building while other channels could be supporting channels.
As an example, for some people – especially those related to visual arts – YouTube is the primary channel to show their work and talk to people. These YouTubers use their blog primarily as a place to host their portfolios.
On the other hand, many people – especially writers – focus on their blog as the primary outlet for their creativity. These people use YouTube and Instagram as a supporting medium, run contests, and host giveaways.
Your primary medium is the one in which you post most frequently and very regularly.
Share Real World Experiences not Text-Book Fluff
The surest way to fail on the internet is by sharing text-book knowledge. There was a time, ten years back, in which copied content, scam artists and hustlers thrived on the internet. Now that path has been beaten to death.
The only sure way to thrive via blogging is by being honest. If you want to run a SEO business then you need to first make your own blog successful. If you want to do art courses on the internet, then people would want to know what you yourself are capable of creating. If you want to be an author, then people would like to know what credentials you have to teach them anything.
The internet, as it has grown, has paradoxically become a small place. Everyone is aware of everything. You can no longer fool people.
Marketing vs Blogging
How do you make money from blogs? We are back to the same question.
Aside from all the product ideas and social media strategies that we discussed, one thing is clear – you have to think like a marketer, not a blogger.
Having a regular cadence for your posts will fine-tune your output, build domain authority on search engines and establish your credibility.
To really make money from blogging, you have to be cognizant of lead generation and audience acquisition strategies. Provide some gated content to harvest emails of your visitors. Run contests, ads and joint online-events with other bloggers and YouTubers to increase traffic and subscriber base.
Marketers are proactive in seeking customers. They abide by what Jonathan Winters said, “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it!”
Start thinking like a marketer!
How Do You Market Your Product?
In this site, zavesti.com, we provide in-depth guides for marketing your blogs and books as in this post: Book Marketing Strategies : Quick Start Guide for Self Published Authors. We also have many advanced guides such as Book Marketing Beyond the Basics for Indie Authors.
The Complete Blog Marketing Strategy in a Nutshell
The complete blog marketing strategy can be summarized in the following 5 steps:
Paid and sponsored campaigns: Paid ads on Facebook and other places, guest posts and get reviewed.
Do regular podcasts or YouTube videos and post Pinterest and Instagram. Link your blog URL in these YouTube videos or Pinterest posts. Host contests and giveaway small prizes. Do some interviews of other bloggers and invite them for an expert roundup on your YouTube channel.
Mention updates about your blog on Facebook Pages, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn Pulse. Answer questions on Quora, comment on other people’s social profiles. Add your published article’s link to a page, as a suggestion in Scoop.It. Create free Infographics or slides and upload to Slideshare. Create a few Squidoo lenses linking to your blog.
Create and/or join collaborative sharing groups on Facebook or Twitter. These groups are dedicated to sharing each member’s new article on their own specific day. Promote your articles on Triberr.com. Check out Pligg.com, blogengage.com, blokube.com, bizsugar.com and other similar blog sharing platforms.
Submit your blog to directories such as RSS Directories: toprankblog.com/rss-blog-directories/. Submit a press release.
eMails: Harvest emails and nurture email subscribers by sending them free content.
In-person events: In addition to online activities, you should also carve out some time to attend in-person events. In such events make and effort to find some people who are willing to collaborate with you. Find relevant events happening in your city and/or plan on attending some meetup groups.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Focus on keywords and Link Building. This is the 1000 pound gorilla in blog marketing since it gets you solid, organic traffic free of cost.
Check out the step by step guides for SEO: The Ultimate Guide: YouTube SEO Tutorial for VLoggers and Demystifying SEO for Self-Published Authors.
The key thing is to set up your system such that it doesn’t ask for care and feeding every day. Automate most of your tasks and focus on digital informational products to start with. Set things to be hands-free as much as possible.
Selling Products on Your Own Blog vs Selling Elsewhere (e.g. Amazon, Etsy, Teachable): Where to sell your product?
Putting in ads or affiliate links in your blog would get you only so far. To make real money from your blog, you got to create and sell your own products.
Where do you sell your products? Should you create product page on your blog and embed PayPal buttons? Should you use your blog for building community and promoting products while using online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, Teachable and Etsy to sell?
When you are a beginner in selling, it is better to use an online marketplace like Etsy or Amazon or others like Teachable. These online marketplaces take a hefty cut in profit but lend legitimacy to your project.
The online marketplaces have established their credibility as transactional mediums. Customers who purchase via these mainsdo tomarketplaces are assured of returns, guaranteed delivery, and secure payment.
The most important thing you can do to get prospects to buy is to eliminate buyer risk.
By assuring your buyers that they don’t have to worry about logistical issues such as security of payment, return policies and guaranteed delivery – you increase your chances of selling.
Online marketplaces also take away the hassle of maintaining an eCommerce site on your blog. Unless you are a tech geek, converting your blog into an eCommerce site takes a lot of work. You are better off focusing on audience cultivation while you let the established marketplaces act as fulfillment agencies.
Note the word fulfillment. The online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy are only capable of functioning as a fulfillment agency for you. Don’t start thinking that just by posting your product on Etsy, your book on Amazon or your course on Teachable, you will magically start having sales. You got to drive your own customers to your product page on the online marketplace.
The big brands who sell on Amazon did not reduce their own marketing and advertising efforts just because they got listed on Amazon. You need to write your own blogs, create videos and build your community.
Conclusion: Think small. Start the journey.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. –Lao Tzu
Think small. Don’t get frightened by all the hoopla. Start your blog and try a few things in bite-size chunks.
Pick some activities which are sustainable. Give them time to succeed.
Most likely you are going to fail. Try again something else.
When I was learning to ride my bike as a kid, I was told that everybody who learns to ride must be prepared for least one nasty fall. One day while practicing, I too fell down and got a wicked cut on my leg which got trapped in the bike chain.
Be prepared to fall.
Here’s a saying from Oprah to inspire you: Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.
There is always another way after your failure. Remember what Chris Guillebeau said, “If plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters.”