The 3 Essential Steps to Growing and Monetizing Your Blog
In case you haven’t been reminded lately, you rock!
Last month we had nearly 3,000 of you join us in our Start-a-Blog Challenge—and we honestly couldn’t be more in awe of your guys’ continued commitment to living a purposeful life filled with meaningful work. You amaze us!
Yet, while getting started is one thing, many of you—being the legends that you are—have asked:
- Well, what now?
- Yeah, so, I started this blog thing, but what’s the next step?
- How might I be able to turn a blog into a business?
Live Your Legend started as a blog with a few readers and today has become a global community and growing business supported by an international team. So what gives? How did it go from a blog that Scott started to the business that Live Your Legend is today?
It certainly did not happen without some help…
And that is why I am super excited to welcome my friend, mentor and blog expert Corbett Barr to LYL today. He and his business partner, Chase Reeves, were some of Scott’s biggest hands-on teachers and mentors in building LYL into a global community and multiple six-figure business. They designed, coded and launched the LYL website. And aside from that, they are true living legends—as their integrity and dedication to helping others is unlike anything we’ve seen.
They created an incredible online training program and community for creatives, writers and entrepreneurs called Fizzle that designed to teach you how to build a successful (and honest) online business around your idea. It’s the process Scott used to build Live Your Legend (and also the course I personally went though when building my cooking blog).
We know that what they’ve built is the most useful, high quality and well-run community and training for online entrepreneurs and are continually be in awe with how much they over-deliver on value. And since Corbett and Chase are the experts here, they were kind enough to take some time out of their schedule to help me answer the question: Well, what’s next? for all of you that now have your blogs up and running.
Corbett has some great advice below. In addition, we will be holding a free live Q&A this Thursday, December 1 at 1:30 PST with Chelsea, Chase and Corbett to dive deeper into the topic of growing and monetizing your blog—and to answer any further questions you might have about the topic.
But for now, I will let Corbett take it away…
Starting a blog can be such a valuable step for so many reasons. Blogging can help you find clarity in your thinking, ideas and beliefs. Blogging can connect you with interesting people from around the world. It can lead to opportunities, friendships, personal growth and much more.
But in addition to all this, blogging can also be a great way to earn a living.
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase before “a blog isn’t a business.” That’s true. A blog itself isn’t a business per se. A blog is just a fantastic way to reach an audience. To earn a living from your blog, you have to build a business using your blog as a central component.
The fundamentals of earning a living from a blog are really no different from any other kind of business.
To earn a living from a blog, you need to do three things:
- Identify a group of people with a specific problem or desire
- Connect with a sufficient number of these people
- Offer a product or service that fills that problem or desire at a price they’re willing to pay
In the case of blogging, you already know the channel you’ll be using for step 2 above (your blog), but figuring out the rest can still be very challenging.
Let’s dissect each step and discuss the essential things you need to do if you want to grow a business around your blog.
1. Identify a group of people with a specific problem or desire
This fundamental step is what separates blogs that become businesses from blogs that remain hobbies.
To ultimately earn a living from your blog, you have to solve a problem or address a desire for people, in a way they’re willing to pay for. Blogging is a great platform for figuring out who those people are and what they need or want because you can interact with people (via comments, email and social media), and hone your writing over time.
In the all new 2.0 version of my wildly popular “Start a Blog that Matters” course, we focus on something we call the “compelling reason why.” This is your answer to a simple question: why should someone read your blog?
Before you raise your hand with an answer, let me reframe this in a way that might help you understand the real meaning behind this question.
Why should someone read your blog… instead of the likely hundreds or thousands of other good blogs that already exist on similar topics?
You see, it’s incredibly easy to start a blog these days. That’s why there are hundreds of millions of blogs in existence. It’s easy to start a blog, but it’s hard to start a good blog. And it’s even harder to start a great blog, or a blog that truly matters.
And one of the core elements of a blog that matters is this: in order to attract an audience, you need to create a compelling reason for people to read your site.
It isn’t enough just to publish, you have to publish with purpose.
2. Connect with a sufficient number of these people
There’s no doubt about it, if you want to earn a living from a blog, it’s best to have a large, engaged audience.
Notice that I didn’t just say large, I also said engaged.
I’ve seen plenty of blogs with huge audiences that struggle mightily to earn any kind of revenue from that audience. This is especially true of clickbaitey kinds of blogs that cover news, gossip and other topics of fleeting interest.
Engagement with your audience matters almost as much as size.
A small but highly engaged audience is usually much easier to earn revenue from than a large unengaged one.
What does engagement mean to a blog? Your readers are engaged when they:
- Return to your blog frequently to read new articles
- Read deeply instead of skimming
- Comment on your articles
- Subscribe for updates
- Email you about your blog or something you wrote
- Write you on social media
- Share your articles
- Link to your writing from their own sites
When you have a large, engaged audience, it’s easier to sell things to your audience because they know you and trust what you have to say. When you make an offer, they’ll consider it.
If your audience is too small or unengaged, it’s hard to sell a significant amount of anything.
How do you grow a large, engaged audience? It starts with your answer to #1 above. Knowing who your blog is targeting and what problems or desires they have (your blog’s foundation) is an important part of growing your blog.
Beyond that, it’s important to write compelling articles on a frequent and consistent basis. Just look at what Scott and Chelsea have achieved here at Live Your Legend. Look through the archives to see how frequently and consistently they have published here, and notice how many of the headlines you find compelling.
Writing consistently compelling articles doesn’t happen easily. It takes lots of practice, dedication, learning and trial-and-error. In other words, it takes work. Don’t expect it to happen overnight.
3. Offer a product or service that fills that problem or desire at a price they’re willing to pay
Once you know what your audience wants and have been delivering compelling content consistently and long enough to grow a sizeable, engaged audience, it’s time to offer a product or service and see if they’ll buy.
At this stage, it will often be fairly obvious what you could offer to your audience, because people may be asking you for things. They might want more depth on a topic you’ve covered, or step-by-step instructions about how to do something. Or maybe you’ve explained how to do something on your blog many times, but people want someone to do it for them.
If people aren’t asking for things, you’ll at least have an idea of what your audience is most interested in, by looking through your analytics to find the most popular (and most engaging) articles on your site. That’s usually a good place to start.
Notice that above I said “offer a product or service” instead of “create” one. You don’t necessarily have to create a product or service from scratch to earn some revenue. Sometimes you can earn a commission for recommending other people’s stuff. This is often called affiliate marketing. A good example of affiliate marketing can be seen at the popular personal finance blog Mr. Money Mustache. When MMM recommends a product like Betterment for investing, they earn a commission if you sign up (see the disclaimer here). It’s as simple as that.
For some of you, affiliate marketing won’t be your preference. For others, it might not be an option if there aren’t products offering commissions that make sense to tell your audience about.
In those cases, you can make your own product or service. Digital products (ebooks, courses, digital downloads, subscriptions, etc.) can be a great place to start because there’s little cost involved and because as a blogger you’re already used to creating digital content of the written variety.
My biggest word of advice in creating your first digital product or service: start small. The biggest risk you face with this product is that you’ll spend many months or years working on something only to find out your readers don’t want to buy it.
Reduce this risk by starting as small as possible (we call this a minimum viable product), and by shipping it as quickly as possible. If it turns out your audience doesn’t buy, no big deal. You will likely have to try selling several things before you find what really works.
A note on advertising: I don’t know many one-person blogs that are supported entirely by advertising. It’s possible, but not likely unless you have a huge audience in a niche that advertisers will pay a decent amount for. More often than not, advertising is either not viable, or it’s just one small revenue source in a bigger picture that includes your own products and services and affiliate marketing. One form of advertising that pays better is sponsored content, where you write a full article (or product review) on behalf of an advertiser, so keep that in mind if it seems appropriate for your situation.
If you’ve been on the fence about trying to earn revenue from your blog, or if you’ve just been unclear about how to do it, I hope I’ve given you a solid understanding of the fundamental steps involved. Of course, there is much more to learn (and more importantly, much more to do), but this is the high-level approach all successful blog-based-businesses take.
It can seem scary to think about trying to sell something to your audience. You could be rejected, your audience could call you a sell-out, or you could get your hopes up and end up failing. Building a business isn’t easy, there’s no doubt about that.
But instead of focusing on the fears—and instead of aiming to hit a home run right away—I recommend taking the pressure off with two mental approaches:
1. Aim to earn you first $1. That’s it. You’ll learn an incredible amount just from trying to make a single buck.
2. Consider this all an experiment. Imagine yourself as a scientist with a hypothesis. You believe there’s a group of people with a problem or desire, and that you can solve that problem in a way they’re willing to pay for. Your job is to prove whether your hypothesis is right. If it isn’t, you’ll test another one, and another, until you find one that is correct.
Well if that isn’t blog building wisdom, I don’t know what is?! A big thanks to Corbett!
If you want to dive even deeper and pick Corbett and Chase’s brains further on anything and everything blog related, please join us this Thursday, December 1 at 1:30 PST for our free Live Q&A on all things blogging and business building.
See you Thursday,
P.S. Please let us know any questions you have in the comments below so we can be sure to cover them on the Q&A! And don’t worry, we will be publish the recorded version once it is live.