For many, professional blogging is a dream job where you sit at home, work your own hours, and earn boatloads of money with little effort. You can live freely and make your living writing about your passions, all without changing out of your PJs. These starry-eyed dreamers look up to the greats and say, “Me too!”
Wake up. You’re drooling.
Here’s the truth of the matter. For most, professional blogging is just that, a dream. It takes a distinct combination of writing ability, charisma, blogging savvy, and luck to make a living through blogging. Most of us are fortunate to have a functional blog that remains active for more than a few months. A few of us eventually manage to extract some monetary value from our blogs. It is a rare, rare few, however, that have the panache to go pro and make a decent living at it. Much like becoming a rock star, some succeed at pro blogging, but the vast majority fail.
This post isn’t about them. Professional bloggers are already vocal about how they got to where they are. In fact, it’s an integral part of their appeal. My question is, how do the rest of us earn money through blogging? If you don’t have the savvy to go pro, where does that leave you?
I thought about this question for a long time. I even managed to build my personal blog up to the point where it earned a nice residual income. However, the time and effort required to get there proved to me just how difficult professional blogging is.
Let me illustrate my point. Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger takes regular polls of his visitors’ earnings. Darren’s audience includes bloggers of every niche with an interest in getting the most out of their blogs. Of the 3,000+ who responded to last October’s poll, only 16% earned $2,500 or more (the equivalent of a $30k annual salary) from blogging. These are bloggers who put forth the time and effort to succeed, and most of them don’t earn anywhere near a decent wage from it. I myself fell into the “$100 – $499” range at the time, and even that meager amount put me ahead of half of the other respondents. I believe Darren puts it best himself when he says:
For me the most striking â€˜lesson’ from these surveys is that while there is significant hype around the idea of bloggers making money – that the vast majority earn very little (or nothing). A quarter of those who earn something make less than 0.33 cents per day. If that’s not a reality check then I don’t know what is.
So what’s an ordinary blogger to do? To answer that question, first answer this one: What do ordinary people do to earn money?
Hopefully, you answered work. Most people work at ordinary, non-blogging jobs to earn their income. Since we’ve already established that most people cannot make enough money directly from blogging to earn a decent living, the question becomes, how can blogging help an ordinary person earn money?
You’re looking at my answer to that question. I started Ward on the Web in order to enhance and expand my real-world career potential. I tried to generate income through advertising on my blog. I tried to generate it by getting paid to blog for others. In the end, neither of those income streams came anywhere close to the salary from my everyday job.
So I thought, “Why fight an uphill battle?” If I earn the most by working at an ordinary job, why not repurpose my blogging activities to aid that income stream rather than compete with it? By accepting that blogging is not my profession, I could begin to blog about my profession instead.
It’s a shift in perspective. Instead of focusing on the immediate gratification of a blogging payday, you focus on the long-term advantages of blogging to aid your career. Consider my case. In the three years I’ve been blogging for money, I’ve made around $4,000, which is hardly worth the time, energy, and expense it involved. If I had spent that time blogging about my work as a web professional, however, how likely would it be that I’d be earning a substantially higher salary as a result? I don’t know about you, but I think three years spent honing my professional profile could easily net a lot more than $4,000.
Therein lies the secret to blogging for money: Don’t. Blog to improve your career instead. Done correctly, you can expand your networking opportunities, enhance your resume, establish your expertise, and broaden your exposure to the professional marketplace. In the end, you’ll earn more by improving your career potential than the pittance you’re likely to earn from blogging alone.