Making a Living By Writing Blogs

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Making a Living By Writing Blogs post image

In 2011 I helped generate over $30,000 in profits for our company by writing blog posts. If you think of my blogging efforts as an independent business, I’m tracking nicely with the 1000 day rule. Our blogging income came from:

  • Subscriptions to our private forum.
  • A consulting product that included a phone call, an ebook, and follow-up emails.
  • Affiliate commissions for products that I recommended to readers.
  • The sale of one of our blogs.

I’m not mentioning our profits to gloat (or to get made fun of by the ballers), but with the hope that you can get a good idea of how my ideas may or may not apply to you. Also, I want to assure you that I’m not full of shit.

When I was growing up, I knew I wanted a job that allowed me to read and write a lot, but all the career scripts were like: “trying to be a writer is about the most risky thing you can try to be. There are like 400 people who make a living writing books in the US. The rest are poor, desolate, and estranged from their families.”

A popular alterative was to be a professor. They said: “you can be a college professor. You’ll get the freedom to read and write with a lot of your time, and you’ll get paid okay. Since it’s such an awesome job, you’ll compete with 1000’s for every available position. If you are lucky enough to be hired by Eastern Iowa University, you’d better hang around for 10-15 years and earn tenure before you do anything crazy.”

Really? Jeeze. Sounds awful.

For anyone who wants to make a living from reading and writing, I’d like to offer a new script. It’s never been easier to make a living from your writing.

Trying to do it isn’t particularly risky, either. It’s a career choice. You can make the decision to do it if you want.  Here’s how…

*  *  *

It’s okay to make money from your writing.

If you want the opportunity to write and read for the rest of your life, your first priority needs to be making a living from it. If you refuse to prioritize money making, you’ll cripple your chances of a lifetime of doing the type of work you love. Simple enough, but writers often refuse to do it.

When people say they want to be a “writer,” they often mean something like:

Wri ter    [rahy-ter]   noun.     1) a person who wakes up every morning and does whatever the hell they want. 2) a person who follows the rules of no man. 

If you can wake up every morning and do whatever the hell you want, by all means, go for it. It rarely works.

Until you’ve got some cash flowing, you ought to be addressing other people’s concerns. Be a servant.

Why most blogs are dead on arrival.

Topic selection is the single most important move a blogger will make. In my experience, it’s hard to salvage a bad blog concept. Go ahead and try to optimize your mailing list, or build up your Facebook community, but the fate of most blogs is decided from day one.

Here are some blog topics that are dead on arrival:

  • Follow my make money online journey.
  • My self-help insights.
  • My thoughts!
  • Follow me as I travel the world.
  • Watch me lose weight and tell you what I learn.
  • Anything general.
The above types of blogs are generally over-represented by online marketers and blog coaches. New bloggers, seeking freedom from the 9-5, tend to emulate the people who are teaching them. And so you’ve got yet another freedom from the 9 to 5 blog.

How to identify topics that work.

Topics that work do two things. 1) They solve a specific problem that people are willing to pay money for and 2) They solve the problem with a fresh point of view.

Here’s a list of micro-publishing businesses that I know to be making solid profits. In the parenthetical I’ve listed the specific problems they solve, and the specific point of view they have.

Examples of how dead on arrival topics can be resuscitated.

  • My make money online journey.
  • Try: How to find a great online niche? By running concrete experiments with the top software tools (why not give away free niche ideas too?!). 
  • My self-help insights.
  • Try: How can I get more work done? By experimenting with Nootropics and natural foods with similar properties. 
  • My thoughts!
  • Try: Your questions! Write me an email on a specific topic I know about and I’ll get back to you in less than 24 hours. 
  • Follow me as I travel the world.
  • Try: How can I live comfortably overseas for a long term? By investing in beach front property in South America.
  • Watch me lose weight and tell you what I learn.
  • Try: How can I improve my skin complexion? By experimenting with a plant based diet.

Don’t these types of topics compromise my potential to be creative?

The most common objection to this approach is that people can’t imagine writing about expat real estate or some other boring topic every day. In the case of blogging or micro-publishing, some fear of commitment is probably a good sign. Try it out anyway. Some structure and constraint can do wonders for your creativity.

When Chris Ducker bought OutsourcetothePhilippines.com from me, he commented: “about 75% of these posts could have been on your personal blog.” And he was right. But those general posts that could have been on my personal blog had a market value of over $200 bucks a pop because they supported a brand that solved problems people were willing to spend money on.

Those topics are great for people with businesses, but what about writers with no business experience?

The days of writing until your are blue in the face and waiting for a publisher to come along are over. That means your blog will need to turn in to a business at some point. If your goal is to replace your primary income, you’d be better off starting a business, but writers are a stubborn group! Even if you start with just the writing, you’ll eventually need to build a product, offer phone calls, start a membership site, publish an ebook, or put ads against your posts. That’s cool. It’ll be a nice break from all the reading, writing, and research. If you chose your niche wisely, you don’t necessarily need to have an end game in mind.

As an example, I’m starting a new blog this month about offshore incorporations for entrepreneurs. Somebody asked me today “what’s your first product going to be?” My answer was that I have no idea. I’m not worried about that at all. The topic is a winner and monetization will be a no-brainer. A product will emerge pretty quickly when I start interacting with the first batch of dedicated readers.

Spice up your nuts and bolts approach with a mission.

The guys from AdsenseFlippers.com are always super modest most about what they do. “We aren’t really passionate about building niche sites” they often say. I feel ya guys– you’ll hear the same thing from tax guys and cat furniture guys. But Joe and Justin are selling their mission short. The sites they build give people a chance to buy into the internet lifestyle by getting control of legitimate, profit-generating websites. That’s amazing! For all the shitbag shiesters and bullshit six-figure training courses, the guys at AdsenseFlippers.com offer people the opportunity to purchase 100% legit, passive income generating websites. The customers can leverage all of Joe and Justin’s hard work and expertise, and get started with their own internet business today. How many online coaches can compete with that?

By focusing on specific solutions to people’s problems, look what is coming down the pike for them. 3000 + subscribers since March? Heck yeah. Offering life-changing opportunities to young entrepreneurs? You bet. World travel and the drop of a hat? Sure. I’m sure they can barely handle the opportunities coming their way.

A solution based approach like “how can we maximize adsense site generation next year?” evolves in to a mission: “how can we empower more people to begin their own internet businesses by taking over quality, vetted online assets?” 

The same approach can apply to all of the “boring” examples above.

Rules of thumb.

  • Commit to writing 1000 words a day.
  • Research, interview, and hustle up the best content. Refuse to post stuff that isn’t unique. If it’s been said before, link to it.
  • Consider investing money in your experiences. Writers, after all, need something to write about. If that means traveling to a country to cover events or individuals, consider it start-up cash.
  • Don’t read how to blog blogs. Connect with the people who care about your content and ask them what they need (try to intuit what they need as well). Get it to them via your writing or contacts.

Cheers,

Dan

PS, I recently read a few books about writing that I enjoyed. Here’s the links: King, Hemmingway, Strunk & White. Also see: Advanced Tips for Writers, and “Seeking Density”

Published on 01.16.12
  • http://www.mikefrommaine.com/ Mike From Maine

    You’re right, too many people think that all they need to do is write about what they are interested in and they will make money. That’s wrong. You can write about something that you’re interested in, fine, but you damn well better be sure that others are interested too. Also, if you want to make money in it there better be a hungry audience that will pull out their credit cards eventually.

  • http://www.virtualbusinesslifestyle.com/ Chris C. Ducker

    Excellent post, Dan. Love the focus, and the passion you have had for your blogging over the last 6-12 months.

    Your style of writing is enjoyable to read, and I for one love hearing what you have to say… When I’m not blogging myself that is!!!Keep it up…

    C

  • http://mgboyd.com Mark Boyd

    Great inspiration Dan. This year i am planning to start focusing on making some money from my own sites in niche areas i am passionate about. But in the meantime, i have had a great and viable first 8 months in the freelance writing biz simply by writing for other people’s blogs and websites online. I started by just crafting some articles on subjects i was interested in (that i had researched via social media channels to know others were interested in as well) and then tried to sell the pieces to established sites that seemed to be looking for online content. I got regular clients from this cold calling and those clients have offered me extra content projects along the way to the extent that my business is viable and earning about the same as you report, all with just 3-5 regular clients.

    It’s a writer’s world out there i like to think and its a real buzz when people ask me what i do and i get to say “I’m a writer.” (I probably pronounce it more like ri-tar tho with my australian accent).

    Hey by the way, tropical mba has been with me all the way – i sent a pic in when i was just starting up showing me listening to the podcast from Barcelona and now i’m sharing this comment on my success to date only 8 months later!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003115250799 George Frye

    I LOVE THIS SH….

    Dan I use your blog post as inspiration. I am trying to start a business blog and have at least 6 post. Yet I am no where near the level of you and my other favorite blog, Seth Godin. Please continue your post for people like myself who are striving to achieve location Independence. Love the post. 

  • http://www.AroundtheWorldin80Jobs.com/ Turner

    Great post. Hit a lot of the notes I learned over the past few months (bs, charlatans and liars) slanging 100k income courses blah blah. Nothing new. But as you mentioned with your friends who build microsites and make money. I would have a hard time doing that unless I enjoyed at least some of it, or saw the financial return fairly quickly. As such, for someone starting out not making money from their first attempts, I can see doing something that you dont really like as d-o-a from the start. My side business of academic writing isnt the most exciting, but I see the immediate financial reward and ability to sustain my other traveling ventures (biz, women chasing etc).

    I never have understood straight travel blogs either. Both from a standpoint of content (what is so unique about their info vs lonely planet?). Most of them are terrible writers anyways. Being a boring person with a with pen doing things that have been already done before is not a winning formula. (unless you are an seo or marketing god:))

    ps skunks is what I would recommend as well.

    Cheers,
    Turner

  • http://www.JoeConnector.com/ KennedyIAm

    Nice Dan – glad that you told people about how to use rss readers – now I have to get into the habit of using mine more often!

  • http://www.scottfox.com/ Scott Fox, Click Millionaires

    Good advice, Dan.  (And not just for bloggers)  Differentiation is key and I like how you went beyond just theory to share interesting and relevant examples. 

  • http://www.livinginthailand.net/ Neale

    thanks google reader is the bomb.. 
    Writing has always been the toughest nut to crack for me, thanks for the reference to 1,000 words a day, I’m barely capable of creating two pages a day 2 x 400+ words and was beginning to think I was retarded or something. maybe I’m not LOL

  • http://moneycactus.com Shaun @ Money Cactus

    Thanks Dan, I love reading no BS articles.  I think you have created a fantastic resource, in particular by linking out and increasing the awareness of others doing great things as well.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Cheers Shaun thanks for the that! 

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    hey Mark thanks for saying hi!! Heck yeah I remember the pic and email from a while back, good to hear things are going well from you. Love the hustle story here (cold call!!!) and that you get a buzz out of being a writer. Ain’t it cool! Here’s to keepin’ the dream alive :)

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    haha. I think writing is supposed to make you feel like an idiot. It’s a tinge masochistic

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    thanks Scott.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    haha been sending that video around for years. maybe time for a re-polish?? seems to work.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    thanks for the shout Turner! in general, i think people underestimate their ability to stick to topics that have real potential to affect change in people’s lives. i love writing my outsourcing blog and would have done so full time if i didn’t have a biznass that took a lot of my time on the side. 

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    George, thanks you for putting me in the same sentence as Seth Godin. I’ll take it!! :P

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Really appreciate that Chris! :D

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Cheers! Ah yes, getting folks to pull out the plastic. Talk about a challenge…

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Thank to the 20 readers who emailed me with awesome projects today! this was a really fun post!!!! 

  • http://almostbohemian.com/ David William

    Dan, congrats. You are certainly on to something here. And I must say, you do make it look easy.

    I’m writing just to write, not yet to make money or a living doing it. That could change, but until the day I can find how I want to continually give back to people, I guess I’m just another doomed blogger.

    Oh, and I will hit you lads up when I’m out traveling your way!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    haha. looking forward to catching up to you when you show up in our neck of the woods! I hope i don’t make this shit look easy!! :)

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    haha. looking forward to catching up to you when you show up in our neck of the woods! I hope i don’t make this shit look easy!! :)

  • http://www.byjanet.net/purple Purple Panda

    very good info. but i wonder where people like colin wright fit in. he basically does the “follow me as i travel the world!” and does it extremely well. 

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    credibility and being an extreme exception… colin was the first to do the voting thing which was a huge deal and a huge hook as well.. he had an established business that people wanted to hear about, and also the quality of his work is extremely high… so you can be an exception is you have truly world class content… that can often be recognized, angles withstanding.

  • http://letsreachsuccess.com/ Lidiya K

    “It’s never been easier to make a living from your writing.”

    True. And to all of us, that want to be writing and reading for the rest of our lives, want to help people, and have the means to do it easily and directly, it’s just a matter of time, commitment and daily writing and efforts until we get there. But I, like many others, need a ‘push’ every now and then when it comes down to monetizing your blog. So thanks for that.

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