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I know many personal finance writers with blogs that track the financial mess they got themselves into. They don't have financial degrees, but they are doing very well for themselves and help many people with their experiences. Many times, readers just want to hear from you, follow a real person's journey, read about how a real person made it through a problem, and so on. This is a great example of why degrees are not always needed.
Make sure it's easy to share your content – I love sharing posts on social media. However, it gets frustrating when some blogs make it more difficult than it needs to be. You should always make sure it's easy for readers to share your content, which means your social media icons should be easy to find, all of the info input and ready for sharing (title, link, and your username), and so on. Also, you should make sure that when someone clicks on one of your sharing icons the title isn't in CAPS (I've seen this too many times!). No one wants to share a blog post that sounds like you're screaming at them.
One example is this: since our blog is a sub-domain for my wife and I’s boutique beach resort, nobody seems to want to touch me as a guest blogger. I get the same response every time “you’re commercial and so you’ve got to pay for a sponsored post”…and while yes, we are commercial and not a private blog per se, we’re a tiny family run business and 95% of private blogs are striving to be commercial, whether they’re associated with a company name or not.
If you want to really make money with your blog, you need to create a mailing list using one of the billions of email service providers out there. I use and love ConvertKit, but if you are just getting started and don’t understand sales funnels, sequences, or tagging you might want to start off with something simpler and free. If that is the case go with MailChimp where you get the first 2,000 subscribers free or Mailer Lite.
Thanks for the update, Jon. I’ve been blogging for over 11 years. In that time I’ve seen a LOT of changes. In fact, the number one change is change itself. What used to work (Google Adwords, keyword optimization) is actually a way to lose traffic now. I’ve seen eBooks come and go, as well as video marketing, podcasting, and social media marketing. The secret is they all work, for the right message, and the right person. The hard part is, to find the right message for your brand/personality takes a lot of hard work, a lot of experimentation, and months/years of time. Thanks for laying it on the line. Blogging can be a viable occupation, just don’t quit your day job until you’ve found what works for you.
Affiliate sales comprise a large chunk of revenue for most big-name bloggers. For instance, Pat Flynn made $53K last month from affiliate sales, compared to "just" $9,500 from book sales. In general, look for affiliate products with higher price points; web hosting companies are a great choice if it makes sense in your niche, with payouts of anywhere from $60-$130+ per signup.
Creating a job board on your site is a great way to make your blog "sticky" - meaning you get visitors returning again and again. It's also a great way to earn some extra cash while also providing a valuable service. Darren Rowse from ProBlogger runs a hugely popular job board where he charges $70 for a 30-day listing. With around 70 listings per month, he's bringing in some solid earnings with relatively little investment of time or money.
As always, a fantastic post Jon. Have just shared on G+ with the comment that you are simply the best at what you do. I love your style, and the practical advice is invaluable. I was particularly interested in your downplay of using twitter, FB etc to hope to grow your blog, but what you said makes total sense. As someone who is building an author’s platform prior to publication, I’d been hesitant to sell products, but no more. Thanks so much for your inspiration.
Thanks Donna for taking the time to write this excellent comment. I agree with you 100%. A blog can give you an income from offline sources and is a great way of diversifying into different areas, but again it also depends on the niche you find yourself in. I always say to people to not be too reliant on one source of traffic or one source of income, because they can vanish pretty quickly.
Lets say, for example, that you refurbish and resell used smartphones out of your home. You could use a blog to attract visitors to your website where you list your current phones for sale. Your blog might cover topics about DIY refurbishing. On one level, it seems counterintuitive because you want people to buy your phones, but it also helps you build a brand and gain recognition. Social media guru Jay Baer explains the concept on Copyblogger: