Lately, I’ve been reviewing the many mistakes I made as I learned to make money blogging.
It’s humbling! I started in 2008, and it took until the end of 2011 to get any real traction, in terms of earning.
Not exactly an overnight success.
Prepping my new e-book, Small Blog, Big Income: Advanced Ninja Tricks for Profitable Blogging, required me to revisit exactly why it took years to go from earning a few hundred bucks on the occasional one-off Webinar, to earning multi-six-figures a year with my blog.
This was not a pleasant process.
I had to boil it down to the best initiatives I finally came up with that help bloggers ramp up earnings quickly…while reliving how much time I wasted fumbling around making mistakes before figuring things out.
Why my blog took years to earn
Of all the things that made my journey to serious blog income long and hard (Hello, technical incompetence? Total lack of marketing knowledge?), there was one big thing I bungled that I kept coming back to.
It was something I was scared to do, so I held back.
By the end of writing this e-book, I was seriously kicking myself. I thought, if I’d been bolder early on, I could have progressed to earning well sooooo much faster.
This is one of those ugly truths about blog income that no one wants to hear, but I’m going to lay it on you anyway. If you do this right, you can save years of wasted time.
How the big guys make money blogging
Do you know how the big guys explode their blog traffic and start earning big? Well, often they do one key thing that most of us niche bloggers avoid like the plague.
They spend money. Lots of it.
Presto! Do that, and your blog gets huge visibility, tons of names pile onto your email list, and you’re all set to sell products and services to your instant audience.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this lately, but all the big guys advertise free giveaways in exchange for email opt-ins continuously on Facebook. For instance, I see Jon Morrow’s SmartBlogger ‘how to get published on HuffPo’ free report ad nearly every time I sign in.
Takeaway: Successful bloggers consider it routine to invest to gain big visibility for their blog. They plow money into their blog, and reap the rewards. In other words, they treat it like a business.
As you may have heard, in business, you usually have to spend money to make money. Business owners often take on investor partners to make this happen, or borrow money.
Blogging is no different. I starved my startup for cash, so its growth was painfully slow. Simple as that.
My hard lesson in blog investment
A quick story in how I finally learned the value of investing in my blog:
When I first started, I didn’t want to spend anything on my blog. It wasn’t earning anything, right?
So I hired a high school student to design my site. Then, when things started breaking, I hired a cheap local webmaster to try to keep my site up.
I paid him a big $500 a month. Since webmasters earn $75-$100 an hour or more, this obviously didn’t buy much work from him.
I had this mile-long list of urgent to-do’s for my blog…and none of them were getting checked off. I was stumped. What was with this guy? Why can’t I get my agenda done here?
I’d say I wasted at least a year this way, completely ignorant of what it would take financially to whip my blog into the shape I wanted.
Then my webmaster got a full-time job and stopped working with small clients.
The next local webmaster I found, I started out paying $2,000 a month or so, and it went up steadily from there.
Amazing! Suddenly, projects were getting done. My blog got a new look, better sales pages, and sharper e-book covers.
My webmaster brought on a database manager to fix a lot of the behind-the-scenes problems we were having keeping track of product users and making new offers to previous purchasers. She revamped the look of Freelance Writers Den to make it more appealing.
Most recently, the team relaunched the header of this blog to add a welcome video.
What was the result? Each of these changes grew my income. Every single improvement mattered, made my blog appeal to more readers, made more of them subscribe, and encouraged them to buy.
Did I ever embark on spending projects that didn’t pay off? Sure. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t.
But in all, developing the habit of investing in making the blog better was key to creating a business that could pay all my bills.
Taking the leap
For years, I was a coward about committing to my blog and spending to make it successful. There, I said it. I was scared.
Even though I knew writers badly needed the information I could share with them. It’s easy to look back now and think, “Why didn’t I go for it?” Fear. That’s all.
It’s hard to think about putting money into something that’s not yet earning for you. But that’s what every startup entrepreneur does.
If you believe in your blog’s potential to be the basis of a successful business, commit to investing in it, if you want it to grow.
Otherwise, you’re doing it the slow way, like I did. You’re growing one guest post and one viral post on your blog and one influencer relationship and one tweetchat at a time.
That’s the nut of it. If you want to go fast in building your blog, invest in it.
The less you put in, the less you’ll tend to reap. The more you invest, the faster you can ramp. I wish I’d grasped that sooner — I think I could have cut a year or more of time off my trip from newbie blogger to successful, blog-based business owner.
How will you make your blog grow? Let’s discuss smart spending in the comments.