I was just reading an interesting post over at Bob’s place. He starts by asking the question “How many bloggers are making money for somebody else?” and then offers some interesting thoughts on blogging, advertising and earning some bucks through your blog. He pointed to my blog here as a reference for commercial blogging so I figure I might as well explain how I see it.
First of all, this blog took over from where I left my original site. I started that one in 1999 and ended up abandoning it for years. That came about for a bunch of reasons:
- I’m no l33t webmaztor and the technology of the time was too complex for me to do much more than working with WYSIWYG HTML editors. Anybody remember AOL Press? I do. It sucked.
- I was going through my divorce and didn’t feel like spending time on the site. Too much other stuff going on.
- What I really wanted to do with my site would have cost me an arm and a leg, so I didn’t bother.
A few years later, I discovered blogging and it just struck a chord with me. It’s a the perfect system for me to get some regular writing done, put ideas I have floating around in my head down on paper (or these pages), think out loud and meet kindred spirits from around the world. The technological side took a steep learning curve at first but the possibilities are light years beyond static HTML files. Today, things work relatively well.
So far, this blog has been one hell of a ride and, aside of a couple disasters, it’s been pretty damn good. Which in and of itself is a crucial factor in why I’m this active with my blog: I enjoy it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother. In that regard, I totally agree with what Stephen King wrote in his autobiography about people asking if he writes for money:
Do you do it for the money, honey? The answer is no. Don’t now and never did. Yes, I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it… I have written because it fulfilled me. Maybe it paid off the mortgage on the house and got the kids through college, but those things were on the side–I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.
So what about the money?
I see this blog as a commercial venture but not in the traditional sense. I’m not looking to make huge amounts of money, nor do I plan on selling it in the future. However, when I started my old site, I promised my ex-wife I would not invest money in the site but only my time. Today, I try to do the same thing with this blog: I’m willing to put in time and effort but not tons of money. To a degree, I’ve sinned against this promise:
- I started with Blogger because it was free but switched to a self-hosted Word Press solution because it was much more practical and offered more features.
- I paid for a WP theme for this blog because the free themes didn’t do it for me.
- That said, I switched my main site over to WP as well and re-used the same theme. That saves costs by getting rid of the DNN host I was using for it so I actually come out on top with these investments.
On the other hand, all the time I spend on my blog, I could be either working with clients or developing products. As I’m self-employed (meaning I don’t earn a dime when I’m not working) I have to use my time wisely if I want to put food on the table. Which is why I started advertising some third-party products in the beginning; I never made a dime with any of it though. So I switched to AdSense ads and they have provided a trickle of an income so far, almost to the point where it can pay for the hosting and domain names. It’s not much, but it’s slowly growing.
But that’s not all. People have contacted me to teach seminars, for private lessons or bought some of my stuff, each time after checking out this place. In that sense, the blog has been a huge success and my time well spent here. It’s hard to measure these things as not everybody mentions the blog when they buy one of my books or videos so I can’t give exact figures. But my gut feeling is that the blog helps a lot, along with my Youtube channel.
All in all, I feel confident I’m not wasting my time blogging. I see it as just one of the different aspects of my job. One I thoroughly enjoy.
You filthy, money-hungry slut!
I receive some colorful mail every now and then when certain visitors object to the ads on this blog or when I promote my products here a bit. I covered the reasons for Adsense above and as for self-promoting, well “Duh!” Nobody is going to do it for me and I don’t have the ten-thousands of $ to spare to hire an add agency. So either I promote my products and services or nobody else does. That’s what the “self” in self-employed means! Shees…
But for those who are bothered by the partly commercial nature of this blog, you can:
- Get lost. Nobody forces you to read it.
- Pay me a monthly income and I’ll gladly remove all ads and never mention any of my products ever again. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
- If you don’t want to do that, stop whining and go away.
When I look at the ratio of posts where I self-promote, compared to all the other posts, I’m a pretty lousy marketeer. That’s because I used to think self-promoting was bad and against some sort of martial arts ethical code. Which is a load of crap, but for years I thought it was true. These days, I’m more comfortable with charging money for my services and for products. There’s no martial code that says you have to live in poverty…
That said, I took not one but two oaths not to prostitute the arts I learned and am officially allowed to teach. I don’t think I have ever done so, nor do I plan on going down the hyper-commercial road. My teachers are also fully aware of my job, my site, this blog and new products coming out. So far, I haven’t been crucified for breaking these oaths, so I guess I’m still doing OK. As my teachers are the only people who’s opinion matters in this debate, I couldn’t care less about how rude, anonymous people on the Internet feel.
I still think you’re a commercial bastard!
That’s perfectly fine, to each his own and more power to you. But if that’s what you think, look closely; I’m pretty lousy at being commercial; everything on this blog is free. No charge, none, nada. You get:
- Articles and How-to guides. Providing this information to clients is part of my job and I normally get paid for it. You get it for free.
- I give away free copies of books and videos in contests. Anybody can win, and several people already have. I have literally thousands of $ worth of products to give away. Again, no charge to you, the loyal reader. On the contrary, normally, you‘d be the one paying to get those products…
- I do book and video reviews. I try to be a fair reviewer, stating what I like, what not but most importantly, why and who will benefit from the product anyway. After a while, you’ll see if my reviews conform with your own preferences. These reviews can then save you money by avoiding a purchase you’ll regret later on and help you buy things you’ll like for a long time.
- I give away video lessons, a free e-book and write a newsletter. Once again, all free, even though it takes a lot of time and effort on my part to make all this. Time I could have spent working with clients, actually making money.
- I promote other people’s stuff and try to get discounts for you. And I don’t mean the bullshit affiliate marketing stuff but products of people I either know personally or support. I make zero bucks from it.
If after all this you still have a problem with some of the commercial aspects of this blog, I think you need to visit a therapist because you’re delusional: there is no universal law that says I have to do all this for free and am not entitled to some sort of financial reward for my work. The world just doesn’t work that way.
I think there’s a lot of value in approaching my blog like this. It turns into a win-win situation for both you and me:
- You get loads of free stuff: the articles, how-to’s, information, promotional updates, free videos, etc.
- I get some (mostly indirect) income from it, justifying the time and effort that goes into this blog.
I don’t see anybody losing here; we all come out on top.
The really cool part about it is the synergy between the both of us:
If you like this blog, you’ll stay around and recommend it to other people. The more people visit, the more (in)direct income I potentially get from this blog. That in turn gives me both the motivation and financial freedom to spend more time on writing and producing content for this blog. Which in turn results in more free stuff for you. And then the cycle starts over.