I suppose I should start off by saying that eventually it is okay to monetize your blog. Maybe.
I should also note that I can guarantee with 93% certainty that the thing you think is going to be the thing that you write about and make money is probably not really the thing at all.
Everything will change once you start writing. Including you.
I heard a teenager at some point this year say she wanted to be an Instagram Influencer when she grew up. My colleague, who is just a bit older than me, had to stop and ask what that was.
If something cool happens, and we don’t take out our phones to document, it’s a real missed opportunity. One that has consequences of emotional pain and deep regret.
I feel a sadness associated with the direction of our culture. Like, we are completely missing it. Heading down a road that will be the end of us. We know it. But it’s just so damn hard to put down the phone. Those notifications are like nicotine to our addicted fingers.
But let’s just assume this direction is inevitable (which it is). And that an Instagram Influencer is a real thing (which it is). And that building a following on social media is the ultimate source of freedom and income (which it can be, kinda). Let’s assume all of these things are true and the world will continue on and it’s just another left turn in the evolution of culture – how do we get a piece of the action?
Nothing happens without a following. 10k or more on each social media platform. Which doesn’t seem too daunting, especially considering you can just buy followers and fake the whole Instafamous thing. But that catches up to you. And you’ve seen it on your feed – someone with 30k followers but only 89 likes on their most recent post. They bought their followers. They have no engagement. They aren’t making any money. So building an audience of true followers is essential. If you can get 10k real ones then you can make money.
Beyond followers is engagement – your personal connection with your audience. And that comes through the most important tool of all professional bloggers, brands, and influencers – content. Yes, sad to say, but becoming famous requires just a little bit more than boomerangs in front of your favorite wall mural. You actually have to offer people something that they want and teach them about things they didn’t know.
Further down the road you can get into affiliate marketing and ads for your website. And a million other things to build an income. These are all real possibilities that I have seen with many of my blogging friends. One of my best friends in the world, Jenny Sansouci from Healthy Crush, wrote a whole eBook on monetizing your life and it’s brilliant. It’s also exactly what she did to create a six-figure income.
It is possible.
Most of today’s influencers have had a blog at some point. It remains one of the most effective ways to get your voice/brand/website/handle out there. If you can write good content and get it shared on the proper channels then you can skip about ten steps on the road to internet fame.
When I finally launched Kale & Cigarettes I had been writing for other sites for a couple of years. All the publishers told me I needed my own site to drive traffic from my guest posts. I didn’t really care, I just wanted to write. My posts continued to be among the most popular on the sites that were publishing me. I eventually decided it would be something I could benefit from. I never had the goal of making money from my writing (I still don’t). I just wanted to write about things in an honest way to get them off my chest and connect myself more to who I was. My relationship with writing is sacred and the second it becomes about money it will be ruined like all other jobs.
Most people who reach out to me wanting to start a blog ask me all the things they need to do upfront to be able to monetize it. I mostly laugh. Because you will not monetize a blog within the first year. Most people won’t even keep writing for the first three months. They will spend infinite time and resources on a website, logo, and brand name before they will sit down to create a single piece of content.
*[Note]* – this is a waste of time.
I understand the idea of wanting to start organized as to not miss an opportunity down the road. But it doesn’t work like this. You don’t know what the thing is that you’re going to be good at until you get started. The original concept for your blog will not be the thing that starts paying you 18 months down the line. The thing you thought you loved will be something you despise. And all of this needs to happen before you will be ready to earn a living. Monetizing a blog is a job just like being a barista or a pilot. It might sound more appealing because of all the potential upside, but it requires hours of work every day, a plan, focus, and the determination to keep churning out content even when your wordpress site stats tell you that you’ve only had 18 unique visitors today. And that will only happen if you absolutely fucking love what you are creating.
I like thinking about geniuses as normal people like you and me. It makes anything seem obtainable if the work is put in. The alternative is thinking that geniuses are born ‘gifted’ and everything they touch is a success. There is no case in human history of a genius creating their signature piece on the first try. They all produced shit in the beginning. And so will you. What you create today will embarrass you and make you sick a year from now. But you cannot skip it. There is no other way.
Stop talking about your website design.
Quit rationalizing your self-doubt into strategic business pivots.
Don’t worry about how you’re going to get people to read your stuff.
And don’t spend a single dollar on “developing your brand”.
Just create content. Make a goal to create one new piece of content a week for the next 52 weeks and see where you’re at at the end of the year. I promise you it will be the most worthwhile personal endeavor you have ever taken on. You will be a different person in every single area of your life.
And unlike money, no one can take that away from you.