Recently, a reader commented on a post I wrote called “How I Built and Sold a Blog Valued at Over $200 a Post.”
I read this post when it came out 5 months ago, but reading it now I realize that I’m in a different place mentally and feel as though I had never read it to begin with.
For example, I was totally floored by your plan of write out 10-20 headlines, record a shit-ton of audio, schedule it out for 3 months. HOLY CRAP! I’m doing this.
I couldn’t help but think of NerdFitness.com when reading the tips on this. Main question: how to get fit. Steve’s approach: every nerdy thing he can write about to drive that point home.
I know the stuff I’m passionate about but trying to figure out what the commercial problem is seems to be my weakness.
What tips do you have (or where can you point me) regarding how to clearly identify the topic that you apply the “should I start a blog” questions to?
How does one get a good sense for what is commercial? It’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot this week. Recently, I put out an open call to review blog concepts in the following format:
What problem do you solve? / From what fresh angle do you solve it from?
I would write back “win” or “lose” depending on what I thought were their chances of basic commercial success. By “basic commercial success” I’d say a blog concept capable of generating 40K+ of personal income for the owner within the first 2-3 years.
I’ve received well over 50 email inquires, probably close to 100. There were a few winners, but the vast majority of the concepts I received were dead on arrival. People who are passionate about writing, blogging, creativity, and personal freedom aren’t necessarily interested in being business hustlers. The good news: this business stuff doesn’t need to be that tough.
I’m incredibly bullish on the opportunity for online publishers. There has never been a better time to start a blog or a micro-publishing business. Don’t take my word for it, Rob Walling said it himself.
From the 50+ emails that I reviewed, there were a few common problems.
Problem: not sure who is making money and how.
It was common that the prospective blogger would suggest a concept similar to a mildly popular blog. If for modesty or lack of confidence, they’d suggest that they’d take a similar approach with less ambitious content, at least to start. People thought they couldn’t produce certain types of expert content without having an audience. Unless you are going to write about building audiences (please don’t), or making money online (please don’t), this shouldn’t be a problem.
I would suggest to all aspiring bloggers to take precedent case analysis seriously. Ask online publishers: how much money do you make? I’m serious. Before I get in to any market, my first step is to figure out how much the players are pulling down. If they won’t tell you, do your best to reverse engineer it. If some blogger is pulling in 15K off a huge audience built up over 3 years of relentless publishing, I would focus on learning from their example rather than copying it.
Problem: relying heavily on “cult of personality” business models.
For years social web marketers have been preaching this idea of “you need to become the trusted expert” and that seems to have been translated into “get tons of attention by any means possible.” Bloggers are better off writing as if they would never be recognized. Let your content speak for itself. Focus on building products, services, and posts that are truly useful to people. Any fame status you get on top of that will be gravy. Fame built on the delivery of successful products that people love is more sustainable than endless ‘look at me’ hype-cycles.
If you already have a ton of credibility because of previous accomplishments, this sort of thinking might not apply to you.
Having a commercial conversation isn’t any harder than having the “audience/authority” conversation– it’s just a different type. Here’s an example of how to have a more commercial type of conversation:
4 basics elements of a “buy now” blog.
The way to get good at identifying commercial opportunities is to start framing them up on a regular basis. It’s been well established that blogs aren’t products in and of themselves, but excellent marketing channels to products. Forget about ads and affiliate links, that stuff isn’t going get you there. You’ll want to start doing the product math on day one. Anytime a potential blog topic comes across your desk, immediately start breaking down the potential products you could sell on such a blog.
1. Have a clear value proposition.
This is the part we’ve already discussed– focus in on exactly what problem do you solve and from what fresh perspective you solve it. For these points I’ll use my old Outsourcing to the Philippines blog as an example, as well as our new site Tropical Work Force, which I believe could easily make a dedicated individual a full time living if they wanted to.
What problem do you solve? / What fresh angle do you solve it from?
- OutsourcetothePhilippines.com – How do I find low cost virtual employees for my business? / By moving your business to the Philippines or hiring VAs from there.
- <TropicalWorkForce.com (no defunct) – How do I learn how to be a location independent entrepreneur? and How do I get passionate, dedicated team members and interns affordably? / By connecting with other entrepreneurial types who believe in the mentorship/apprentice model of learning.
2. Identify an expensive product you can sell from day one.
I’ve noticed this is the hardest part, and I’m not sure why (I’d love your perspective so I can help more). This is also the most fun part of the process for me. Your goal here is to conceptualize a hypothetical product. You’ll want to be super specific, down to the price. “Do you think people would be willing to pay $300 bucks for x?” If it sounds good, start asking yourself the cost of delivering such a product. If it sounds feasible, start emailing the idea to smart people you know. Would you buy this?
In the case of my Outsourcing to the Philippines blog, that product was a 40,000 word ebook written about basic information in the Philippines plus a 1-hour phone call with me. If you have a niche expertise like that, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that you could launch that service in a few weeks. Pump out the ebook, maybe even contracting some of the research or writing, put up the sales letter, add as much extra value as you can– maybe you’ll provide a personal rolodex, some helpful worksheets or spreadsheets (Virtual Assistant review sheet!), some and some follow-up emails after your phone call.
People roll their eyes and say it’s not a huge value proposition, or it’s not scalable, but you know what? You’re 5 phone calls away from 1,000 in profit.
In the case of Tropical Work Force– go ahead and brainstorm some potential products. I can think of a bunch. Out of the gate you could charge $47 bucks for a successful internship placement (money back guarantee!). Your $200 product could be an in-house like bulk article writing. You could do the service yourself, or work closely with a provider and take a big cut.
3. Don’t start until you’ve published a sales letter for the product (and start small).
There is no such thing as a blog that doesn’t have some kind of product that could be sold from day one. Start selling it now.Forget about building audience, getting authority, and all that junk. If you can’t frame up something that’s worth a few bills, you’re probably wasting everyone’s time (caveat: I’m not talking about the wonderfulness of personal sharing and blogging on the webs, I’m talking about making a living through useful websites).
A big money product on your blog will keep you focused on providing real value to your readers.
Let’s say you make $150 bucks every time somebody buys your product. Let’s say .5% of your blog visitors buy your product. By the time you are receiving 1000 monthly uniques, you’d be making $750 bucks a month. That’s achievable in a just a few short weeks. What about having that explosive $200 product funnel people in to a much more affordable community? $37 bucks a month sound okay? If every month you add 5 community members you’ll add $185 to your recurring monthly cash flow (You’ll want to adjust that for your projected retention rate).
Take for example Ava’s $300 videos. When people in my demographic see that value proposition they are all like “hell yeah that’s worth it!” Then you work backwards– is it worth it to you to deliver that based on your costs of production? Don’t bother with products that couldn’t conceivably get you ramen profitable fast.
(I meet Ava last summer during the Puerto Galera meet-upa DCer who makes these amazing video introductions. Just wanted to point you her way if you ever needed to develop something like this for your business. Also note that every service on our Tropical Work Force site is personally reviewed by our team, so these aren’t just random service providers who found the site, but people in our network.)
If Ava wanted, she could start a whole blog around the concept of her intro videos. She could connect with other people making videos, teach people how to make them, affilate for video software (and review it), but of course the whole time she’s building trust for that big ass buy now button!
4. When you do start writing posts, forget about traffic and attention. Focus on making connections and conversions in your marketplace.
Attention, at the scale 99% of blogs can expect, isn’t enough to capitalize on with affiliate links and the occasional “launch.” This doesn’t prevent legions of bloggers to continue to promote, promote, promote, often causing me to wonder what is it that you are trying to do again? Please don’t let the answer be “make some money from my blog someday.”
If you decide to focus on truly useful content, you probably won’t have the most definitive expert content at the beginning. That’s fine. Link to those who do. Offer your commentary. Clarify their offerings. Hell, call the people who wrote the expert stuff. Find a way to get yourself into the center of the conversation.
My offer for blog proposals remains, but will be slightly updated. I want to continue to help people grow successful micro-publishing businesses. If you want to email me with your value proposition, I’m cool with that. This go around please include the basic outline of your $200 product or service. dan at tropical mba dot com baby!
PS, see also Making a Living Writing Blogs
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