Can Blogging Still Make Money?

Perhaps you’ve heard of names like Darren Rowse (ProBlogger), Jeremy Schoemaker (ShoeMoney) or John Chow; popular A-List bloggers who have made fortunes online from behind their keyboards.  You’ve considered following in their footsteps, on your own path to blogging riches, but stop when you realize Problogger started in 2004, Shoemoney started in 2003 and John Chow dot com started in 2005.  Wow, that’s a considerable head start those guys had!  And when they started the landscape was far less cluttered than it is now.  Today there are 176 million identified blogs.

So is the up and coming blogger out of luck?  Has all the money already been made in this space by those who came before us?  I assure you it hasn’t.  Keep reading for examples and inspiration, showing that if you do the right things at the right time, for the right reasons, there is plenty of room at the top to make money blogging.

Before we go further I think it is important to distinguish between a “true” blog and an informational website that merely runs on blogging software.  Broadly speaking a blog is a website that is regularly updated with new content for the purpose of sharing information, educating or editorial commentary.  A blog will have an identity or personality that closely matches the individual(s) maintaining it.  Furthermore it is a tool for interactivity and engagement between the blogger and his or her audience.

The most popular blogging platform is WordPress.  Due to its flexibility, plug-ins and talented theme designers, WordPress can be, and widely is, used to power more traditional, “non-blog” websites.  While running on “blog software” these sites do not share the conventional trappings of a “true” blog.  Their primary purpose is to publish timeless information and not to engage in conversation with their visitors.  Which isn’t to say that some of these content driven websites don’t maintain a comments section of some sort, it is just that social engagement is not a high priority.  The ownership of these sites could change hands and no one would notice.

This article isn’t going to cover the long-term viability of the static content or “niche website” publishing model.  We can discuss that in a future article.  Today we are going to show that individuals with an honest passion for a subject can still make money by publishing a blog.  How about a couple of examples to get started?

Pat Flynn – Smart Passive Income

Pat Flynn

You can’t have a discussion around this topic today, without mentioning Pat Flynn.  His recent monthly income report discloses that he earned $29,497.51 in October 2011,  from affiliate commissions on products he recommends on SPI.  His total earnings, including his side projects total $38,612.90, but I only want to focus on the earnings from his blog.  At nearly $30,000 that is more than enough to illustrate the point!

What is truly inspiring about Pat, is that his blog has only been around for three years.  I am sure that in 2008 many would have told Pat that he was entering an overly crowded niche (make money online) and that he was starting too late to make any serious money at it.  Those people would have been wrong. Very wrong.  By starting his blog, writing one post after another, he has grown his RSS readership to 32,678 and almost 52,000 Twitter followers.

People love Pat.  One only needs to read his blog comments or Twitter mentions to see an outpouring of support for everything he does.  When Pat recommends a hosting company or a particular piece of software his readership takes this endorsement seriously, earning him thousands in referral fees.  But with great power comes great responsibility and Pat never abuses this trust, which only serves to further fuel it.

Corbett Barr – Think Traffic

Corbett Barr

In October of 2010, Corbett released his free manifesto called 18 Months, 2 Blogs, Six Figures.  In this guide he outlines how he built a six figure income, blogging about his passions, in just a year and a half.  He estimated that he would earn $128, 154 between July 2010 and June 2011.  I can not find a follow up on his blog detailing his actual results for this time frame, but considering the tremendous respect Corbett has gained in the industry and his continued successful product launches, I have no doubt he exceeded even his own expectations.  If it is too late to still make money blogging, someone forgot to tell Corbett.

Speaking of Corbett Barr, if you are a new blogger be sure to check out his Million Dollar Blog project.  This project of public accountability provides tremendous support to the assertion that it is NOT too late to create a profitable blog.

In addition to these stand out examples of bloggers who are making a killing online, even though they had a relatively late start, there are others who have clearly built incredible momentum in recent years, but don’t publish regular income reports.  Be sure to check out Srinivas Rao, Chris C. Ducker and Spencer Haws for further confirmation that it is not too late to blog about your passion, make money online and live a lifestyle today, that many work their entire lives to achieve.

So How Did They Do It?

After visiting each of these blogs you come away with an overwhelming feeling that the bloggers are speaking and listening to YOU.  That is one characteristic that is consistent among each of them and can also be said about the old geezers Rowse, Schoemaker and Chow.  All of these successful bloggers, whether they started a decade ago or just in the past couple of years, effectively use their blog to build a two way relationship with their readers.  They respond to comments, actively participate in discussion, and shape future posts based on the needs and wants of their audience.

These bloggers are generous with the amount of knowledge and personal experience they share every day.  Even those that do offer premium products for sale do not do so at the expense of denying those readers who are not yet ready to make a financial investment.  Reading through, and acting on, all the free information within these blogs would keep a new blogger busy for months, without the need to spend a penny.

These bloggers won’t hesitate to accept an affiliate commission on a product they use and believe in, or accept money for something they have created that provides genuine value, but they never take advantage of their audience. In each of these cases, the value the blogger gives far exceeds the money they earn.

These bloggers are sincerely passionate about entrepreneurship and making a living online.  I honestly believe that each of them would still maintain their blogs even if they didn’t directly make any money from them.  They would engage in projects on the side and continue to blog just as an outlet for their enthusiasm for the subject.

Which brings me to the reason why these bloggers have been successful.  Intentionally or not, they have effectively used their blogs to build incredible trust and authority.  With a large enough audience you will make money by default. With a targeted audience that trusts you, you can make money with far less traffic. They have really put themselves out there for both scrutiny and criticism.  They have been transparent with both their successes and failures and engaged in case studies without knowing if the outcomes would blow up in their faces.  They are students as much as teachers, and are still excited about testing and learning the best practices in “new media business”.

So is it too late for you to take that first step on your journey to financial freedom through blogging? Hell no! Three years from now we will be marveling at new shining stars who only began their blogs in late 2011.  These future success stories will have followed a tried and true path of generously giving away epic content for free and establishing trust with their audience.  The only question remaining is: Will you be one of those people who took action today and are reaping the rewards in the future, or will you still be wondering “Is it OK to start”?

Comments

  1. Great blog post. I’ve been blogging now for about 6 years. I started back in 2005 after being inspired by ShoeMoney’s blog. However, it wasn’t until I started my latest blog at BusinessAndBlogs.com that I actually started to see true success with blogging. It’s definitely still possible but it will probably take a lot of persistance and a lot of pushing through during the times where you think no one is listening and no one cares. The people that can make it through the stale periods and believe in providing content that will help people change their lives are the ones that will reap the rewards in the future.

    Matt

  2. Hard Boiled Greg says:

    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment Matt; I truly appreciate it. I definitely understand what you mean with respect to blogging when no one, or very few, are listening. It is additionally challenging during that period as you can’t let the quality slide. You need those posts too be top notch if you hope to gain traction and build an audience going forward. Fortunately those who have come before have proven, as you stated, that if you provide content that genuinely helps people, the rewards will follow.

  3. Great Post, I think you hit the nail on the head with our deduction. The internet used to be a a place where you could put yourself out there while veiling your full identity behind a keyboard. Now people follow those that remove that veil and show who they really are. I haven’t been at this long but what I do know for sure now is that to be massively successful and stand out as Pat and Corbett have been, you will have to show who you truly are. Thanks for the insight Greg.

  4. Hard Boiled Greg says:

    Thank you for your comment Shawn. I’ve made money under-pen names over the years and even with completely anonymous sites. As consumers become more aware and more cautious of whom they trust online, that business model is going to be tougher to pull off in the future. They will be less likely to make a purchase from some random site with no reputation, when their social circle is right there on Facebook giving them personal recommendations for a solution to their problem. Going forward, websites will need to match that level of trust to win over customers. For big brands it will be easy; for smaller sites it will take more deliberate work, but it can be done. And all this says nothing about Google incorporating an increasingly greater number of trust indicators into its ranking algorithm. Yes, if you want to be massively successful you will need real people to believe in, and care about, your site.

  5. Hey Greg,

    Enjoyed your article and you are actually right. I think the “secret” sauce is that each found an audience for their world view. In fact, I think that when it comes to generating an audience, your world view is probably the only thing that separates you from the hundreds of other blogs writing the same stuff.

    • Hard Boiled Greg says:

      Thank you for your comment, Leo. This is especially true when the concepts being taught are not complicated as you pointed out in your post on The Power of Simplicity. These guys aren’t doing or teaching anything technologically original, but they are doing it in their own way that resonates with their readers.

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