In the early days of blogging, the most obvious way to generate extra income was through banner advertising. And while there is still money to be made in this format (especially for the big-time bloggers with huge traffic), there are a lot more blogs now and therefore, the slices of the pie to go around are much smaller.
Today, I’m talking about a few alternatives to the more traditional forms of advertising. While I occasionally do some advertising and sponsorships on my blog (and have a media kit on hand for when I’m contacted about those opportunities), as a creative offering services since I launched my site in 2007, I’ve always viewed income generation slightly differently.
Since the day I started my blog (I just celebrated my seventh anniversary!) it’s been more of an indirect portfolio. While I was blogging, I was also in school full-time for design and the week after graduating, that transitioned into a full-time agency job. While I was very consistent with sharing fresh content five days a week, it wasn’t my full-time gig. During those very early days of blogging, I was also doing freelance work on the side for clients including Virgin Records and Forever 21 and my blog gave me a direct outlet to share these projects with my audience. Though project-focused posts were perhaps 10% of my overall content (variety is important — you don’t want to bore your audience!), it was enough to help me gain even more freelance clients. Building this client base through my blog eventually made it possible to quit all outside agency work.
If you’re looking for fantastic examples of folks who indirectly generate livings from their blogs by offering products and services, Joy Cho, Jess Lively, Alexandra Franzen, Garance Doré (I love her online shop!) and Breanna Rose do a great job of making it feel seamless.
On that note, these are three key ways you can generate income from your blog without traditional advertising:
1. Offer A Service
My blog was built on offering design services though I never pushed them very hard — I just naturally shared projects as they wrapped up and had a permanent link to my portfolio in my main navigation (note — if you do this, be very direct. Mine says,”Hire me” so people know that I’m available.) Even when I wasn’t posting about client work, I still used my blog as a vehicle to share my interests, aesthetics and personality. When I launched my design studio Branch last year and was no longer just supporting myself, all of our rates doubled overnight from my previous freelance ones. At that point, advertising felt a lot less lucrative since an average client at Branch books in at a few thousand dollars minimum and blog ads generate much, much less here on average. About half of Branch’s potential clients find us on Nubby Twiglet and click through from a project link, graphic in the sidebar or a pinned project image on Pinterest. I’ve also watched dozens of other bloggers launch services and cultivate a dedicated following of clients directly through their personal sites.
2. Create Digital Products
Digital products are the holy grail of blogging these days. After all, your dedicated readers tend to want more of what you have to offer and if you can provide them with useful content in a nicely packaged format, they will love it. We have a whole section dedicated digital products at The Blogcademy because it’s such a far-reaching subject but in a nutshell, digital products can range from PDF / Kindle / iPad friendly books, Photoshop actions, podcasts, online courses, blog templates or anything else that can be packaged and delivered in a digital format. In the last six months, we’ve done really well through offering digital products at The Blogcademy with our Home School modules. Our digital products are centered around 14 different blogging topics and each one features a video with PDF worksheet downloads. You pay $20.00 for access and can watch the video as many times as you like. The key to digital products is to create an offering once and then sell it repeatedly to generate income with very little extra effort. If you’re looking for a shop example with a variety of digital product formats, Gala’s is a great place to start.
3. Support a shop or outside business
Over time, it’s natural to evolve and gain new interests. When I first started blogging, I had no outside businesses and now, the two that I do have make up my full time job. Chances are that you’ll also start businesses beyond your blog and your personal platform is a great place to share these ventures. Perhaps you’ve started a vintage clothing shop, a baking company, a juice stand or even a line of art prints like Anna has. If you feel that this content ties in with your audience’s interests, create useful posts and how-to guides that promote these offerings while helping them in some way. That’s the key. A Beautiful Mess does this extremely well since they now have books, Photoshop actions, e-courses, apps and more. They are able to promote this wide range of content on their blog while always keeping their core audience in mind.
Advertising is just one way to generate income from your blogging. I hope this post helps you think outside of the box and use your blog as a vehicle to make a living doing what you’re passionate about.
Your turn: What are the unique ways that you’ve used your blog as a platform to generate interest in your offerings?
Photo: Shell de Mar with special thanks to Go With Oh.