Are you wondering how to make a little extra cash with your hobby blog? If so, you are in good company. As the economy sputters toward recovery, many hobby bloggers are trying to find ways to turn their passion into profit.
This week, I reviewed a number of blogs from people working to make the transition and a few questions kept popping up:
- How do I prepare for the hobby to professional blog transition?
- How do I keep my current readers happy?
- I’m feeling guilty for wanting to make money with my blog. Does this make me a bad person?
- How can I protect my passion so that my hobby doesn’t become a chore?
I’ve offered custom answers to these questions, but I wanted to give you my general thoughts, just in case you’re thinking through the process yourself.
Does Blogging for Profit Make You A Bad Person?
The easy answer is no.
But, there is a strong anti-money undercurrent in social media circles. The fear is that professional bloggers could swamp blogs, twitter, Facebook, and Google+ under a flash flood of ads and promotional appeals. That’s a valid fear – just check your spam folder.
However, social media has an authenticity requirement that acts like a sophisticated bullsh*t radar. If you lack passion, you’ll trip the radar, insuring that your efforts will get ignored.
As a hobby blogger you start from a position of deep interest and love for your hobby. Your posts, products, and updates ooze passion. You will automatically pass the sniff test.
You shouldn’t feel bad for making money while doing what you love.
On the other hand, there is also a strong “money is the root of all evil” notion in our culture. Misguided interpretations of this often misquoted proverb cons good people in to squandering amazing opportunities. I could write an entire post on this topic alone but for now – simply review your motives. Blogging to improve your family finances or fund your hobby isn’t immoral – just smart.
Getting Your Ducks In A Row
It’s important to plan carefully for your transition to professional blogging. Prematurely jumping into it will confuse your readers, cripple your results, and burn you out. Before you start, set aside time to do the following:
Research Your Audience:
This is an easy step for hobby bloggers. Since you are writing for hobbyists like yourself, you have a great handle on their needs. The important question you need to answer is “What frustrates my fellow hobbyists?”
For example, I am a big BEAM Robot enthusiast. My biggest frustration is finding simple, tested, circuit schematics. A blog that solves this frustration will earn my repeat visits and cash.
During this stage, brainstorm three frustrations your audience struggles with.
Next, make a visit to the online watercolor for your hobby niche. Most likely it’s a forum. Search through forum threads and confirm that the frustrations you identified are widely shared. Keep digging until you’ve settled on three confirmed frustrations.
Decide from the start how you will make money. This plan is your Money Blueprint The common routes are advertising, recommending products, and promoting your own products. Although your Money Blueprint could include all three, select one for now.
A word of caution, earning money through advertising takes time. You’ll need a huge monthly audience to make this work. Starting off with recommending products or promoting your own products will give you some early wins while you build your audience
Use an Editorial Calendar to Plan Your Posts
Professional blogging requires an increased blogging tempo. Instead of blogging 2-3 times a month, you’ll need to blog at least 1x a week (preferably more). Creating an editorial calendar will be critical for keeping you on track. An editorial calendar will help you visualize your posting schedule and topics. This 30,000 foot view will insure that you are writing posts that sell your expertise and offer relevant opportunities to promote products.
Use the frustration you identified during your audience research to write targeted posts that delights your readers. Also repurpose your research to create your first “Expert Product”.
Develop Your Expert Product
An Expert Product packages your expertise and makes it easy for fans to share and promote you. eBooks and special reports make great Expert Products and are relatively easy to develop. You’ll use your Expert Product to build your email list of fans and evangelists.
Create your Expert Product before you make the transition so you can immediately begin building your email community from the start.
Create Publishing Rituals
Rituals are the secret weapon of spectacular bloggers. They’ve woven their content creation regimen directly into their daily routine. Take a reasonable look at your daily schedule and decide how you will fit in increased writing, marketing, and maintenance tasks.
If you haven’t already, make sure that you install Google Analytics on your blog. You should be able to check your visitor, referring traffic, and conversion metrics at a glance. These numbers matter now and you should feel comfortable with them.
This is a great resource to get you up to speed:
50 Google Analytics Resources – The 2011 Edition
Making the Transition
Ok, you are all set and you’ve laid the foundation for successfully blogging for passion and profit. Time to make the transition. Set a date and do this:
Alert Your Readers
Share why you are changing your writing style and post frequency. Let people know that you’ll periodically recommend third-party products and products of your own. Be straightforward. Use your own words. Offer people the chance to comment on your transition. Then move on. Some will be violently opposed to your move. They will think you’ve “sold out”. This is normal. Move on.
Increase Post Frequency
Immediately start posting at least 1-2x a week. Hobbyists are a passionate and voracious bunch. They like to consume gargantuan amounts of information about their hobby. If you satisfy their hunger you’ll quickly increase your readership.
Here’s an amazing example of an Alaskan Mom who used prolific blogging to grow from 0 to 1 million page views in 3 months
How An Alaskan Mom Brings Millions to Her Carpentry Blog
Stick to your Editorial Calendar
Discipline yourself to simply write the next post on your calendar. When new post ideas pop up , add them to your calendar, then write the next post. Don’t write some planned posts and not others. Write each one in turn. Schedule them and move on to the next. Rethinking and evaluating every post will wear you out and waste time.
The most persistent wins. Keep pounding away and adding smart, helpful, and targeted posts to your blog. Market each post, keep focused on winning, and don’t listen to whiners who’ll sap your energy with their own excuses.
Most of all remember that your first love is your hobby. Let your passion sustain you as your blog builds up momentum.
Be an Email List Building Fanatic
Old-time marketing pros insist that “the money is in the list” they are absolutely right. From the beginning, look for ways to exchange valuable information for your reader’s email address.
Nothing has hurt professional bloggers more than the chuckleheads who shout “numbers don’t matter”. They do. What if a 100 meter track sprinter training for the Olympics decided that they wouldn’t time their training sprints? How far do you think they’ll get? That’s right, they wouldn’t get anywhere. Please track your numbers. Use your traffic, subscriber, top post, and referral traffic metrics to set goals, plan content and keep you moving in the right direction.
Stoking Your Passion
Pushing Social started as a hobby blog. I love talking about technology and marketing. I was fascinated by social media and used this blog to journal my thoughts. Within a few months I decided to make the switch to professional blogging. It was the right decision.
I’m confident that you’ll enjoy your blog’s transition too.
Along the way protect your original love for your hobby like a junk yard dog. Don’t ever let your blog turn your passion into work. Instead use your passion to write great content. Your content will attract loyal readers willing to pay for your guidance, encouragement, and tools.
Tell me, can you do this? Are you excited about making money from your hobby? What’s holding you back? Talk to me in the comments below.
PS: My Spectacular Blog Review service has helped many hobby bloggers make the transition to blogging for profit (and fun!). You can see if the review would help you here