Many people these days are looking for a home-based business on the side to supplement their income or want to make extra money from home. (Mommy bloggers, I’m looking at you.) You may want a side business because you aren’t making end meets due to costs of everyday necessities like food, shelter or the Hulu package without ads. Or you may be saving up for something big like traveling or buying the Star Wars replica lightsaber. Perhaps you preparing for retirement in the future (avoiding moving in with your kids). Of course, it could just be that you enjoy writing or are passionate about a specific topic and making money from it would be considered a bonus.
Whatever the reason may be you have found this help guide on blogging and decided to make your words come to life, your dreams come true and your bank filled with cash. I mean, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this page now. So to help you get on your feet we are going to outline for you how to start a blog as a side business that will actually make you money in the long run…and maybe a little in the short term.
Planning Your Blog as a Home-Based Business
Like any business, blogging as a source of income requires sufficient planning to be successful. You need to determine the amount of time you can work to make your blog a booming enterprise (or at least a source of pride and pennies) and, if necessary, set aside funds that you may need for the startup. This may not be necessary, but it will depend on whether you are going to start out with a free blogging platform or if you are willing to pay for one.
Ingredients of a Blog with Earning Potential
Let’s be realistic about this. You aren’t the first who has decided to follow this route or who may have been inspired by a success story you recently read on your Facebook feed about a blogger like Carl Tice who is living the blogging life on her blog Make A Living Writing.
So the harsh reality is there are thousands upon thousands of blogs on the internet about every single type of subject available right now. Even if the topic is more specified there are still at least hundreds of others about that as well. Kind of depressing at first thought, right?
There are several factors you need to make your blog jump off of the Internet to make your blog the go-to site and first choice over your competitors. You also want to keep readers interested so they consistently come back to your site. Here are the ingredients for the successful blog recipe:
Specifically, Get Specific! Or Broaden Your Horizons
First of all, you need to decide what it is you are going to write about. For example, will it be fashion, fitness, owning a pet, movies or sports?
You need to ask yourself is this a topic that you are truly passionate about and will be willing to research to provide a steady stream of posts into the future? If your answer is yes, you are more likely to succeed as a home business entrepreneur because you simply love your idea. You may get bored with a subject that you are not really that into or which may be a fleeting phase and that will directly affect the potential earnings of your blog
Once you have decided that you need to consider two things about your chosen subject matter. Will it be broad or niche?
Broad Topic: Will your blog be covering a broad spectrum of your chosen subject? If you choose to write about music will it include all genres of music over the years?
- Pro: You have much more to write about
- Con: You have many more competitors
Niche Topic: Will your topic be more specific? If you are writing about fashion will you only be covering haute couture, current runway trends or perhaps just a particular designer?
- Pro: You will have fewer blogs about the same subject to contend against
- Con: Your relevant subject matter and competition will be more limited
Who Are You Blogging For? Figuring Our Your Fan Base
If you really feel like you may be the only 30-something man in North America who wants to catch bass, and if you aren’t sure whether anyone else would be interested in your quirky idea, ask the all-knowing Google. Simply type in some keywords and your search results will indicate other groups, blogs, and articles about your chosen topic. Try to keep search words or phrases as specific as possible to help narrow down your search – especially of you are going for a more specialized area.
Me, Myself and I. Go Team.
A key factor to any blog is about the individual (or team in some cases) writing the blog. You want to make your individuality work for you and make your voice heard above the crowd. This could be the aspect that draws and keeps your readers.
Your Personal Style
You need to decide on the overall style of writing on your blog. Will you be adding humor or adopting a more serious even somber tone to your work? Do you want to be perceived as playful and fun or as an authoritarian on your topic?
For example, if you’re a fitness instructor you would want your blog posts to be informative about specific exercise that work the abs (and please send me that post when you done). Or if you are a guitarist you may want to focus on the technical side of certain guitar solos in your favorite songs. Or if you are opting for a more casual approach, you could joke about the wayward trends on the catwalk which would never make it into your wardrobe, and suggest examples of what you think might and how to get those staple items more affordably. Who doesn’t love a good deal or weird clothes?
Personality and Background
This would also be where you introduce yourself and explain your interest or involvement of the topic. Remember your readers are people too and will be more likely to return to your blog if they feel they can associate and relate to you on a personal level.
You could mention your location and that you are a dog owner in New York. Or a fashion design student studying at The Art Institute of California who can’t spend much on clothes (Everyone loves helping poor college kids, right?). This stamp of who you are and what you are will help you and your blog to be less generic and less bland.
The Golden Rule(s) of Blogging
Don’t go overboard
No one, besides the occasional weirdo stalker type, will be interested in reading a blog solely about you and your interests. Keep the description of yourself minimal and try to sum yourself in a few short and relevant words. You must remain in context as you are writing a blog about fitness and not your personal memoirs about every workout you have ever done and every time you said no to a cupcake. Your goal is to attract a larger audience other than that girl at the gym who always happens to be at your coffee shop and that may be very likely obsessed with you.
Personal experience is a winner as you are then discussing results as someone who has been there but keep it context. You can discuss which training techniques you found worked or didn’t for upper arm strength but don’t inform everyone about what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and supper unless you are blogging about weight loss and your daily carb vs. protein intake.
Keep the Faith
An important aspect of turning blogging into a profitable sideline business is that you need to understand this won’t happen overnight. It won’t even happen in the first month or two or several. You need to build a dedicated fan base and direct enough new traffic to the site before you will see the impact on your bank account. Be patient and diligent if you really aim to make this a source of income.
Starting Your Home Blogging Business
Once you have decided upon the subject of your blog you can move on to actually launching your blog as a home-based business.
You Name It (Your Blog, I Mean)
You need to name your baby, your blog, your blog baby, you know what I mean. This is also where startup funding will be necessary, but it is cheap if you find a name that isn’t already owned) if you decide you want to own that domain. We use and love Godaddy, but Namecheap also has a good reputation.
Another sad reality is that your name, even if you came about it off the bat, may most likely be taken already. You will need t o check the availability first to ensure that someone else isn’t using that name already. Don’t be surprised if someone else has chosen your name in a different field. For example, you may be writing about horror movies specifically those dealing with exorcisms and you cleverly thought out the name Possession Obsession which describes your passion to a “T.” When searching for other groups you discover another group with the exact name covering fashion and accessories. Give as much thought as possible to what will become the brand of your blog. It will mostly likely be something you DON’T want to change, especially once you have found some success and readers.
Here are some pointers when picking the name of your blog:
- Make it something that is appealing so that it is easy to remember and captivating (Need help?)
- Try not using hyphens or numbers particularly if it has no relevancy to your topic
Building Your Blog Content (Post by Post)
This is something you really want to put more time into. Don’t start posting your first thought. Rather tweak them so that are just right before publishing. Here is a post about creating ideas for your blog.
Your content must be interesting to the reader. Keep them entertained so that they become hooked like the bass in your fishing blog and return. Be sure to take the hook out gently and place them back in the water. (We help with content strategy at Big Oak)
- For instance, if you are reviewing classic guitar solos and are approaching this from technical aspect you may want to discuss the techniques used and finger positions for hitting the chords to Stairway to Heaven. Readers who have being struggling to play this song which is considered rather difficult will check back in to see what advice you may have another song in the future
- Don’t forget the “Newbies”. Even though your main target audience may be bodybuilders that already know, the best exercises for building muscles in the calf region you still want to draw the attention of someone who is only just starting out so as to increase your fan base. This also makes for great anchor pieces
- You need to keep readers interested and excited by giving them what they want. Consider what aspects of your blogs will appeal to readers and how it will fuel their shared passion. If your blog is about fashion, keep followers happy about how the latest couture designs can be obtained on a shoestring budget and list stores that are offering the same or similar garment for a fraction of the price
You need to keep the format of your blogs simple. No one is going to read a full article that consists of a wall of words. People generally scan a long piece and continue reading when they see a heading or bullet points that catch their attention. Keep paragraphs sweet and short and to the point. Heck, we have 34 subheads in this article and dozens of bullet points. And quite a few images to keep this long article (over 4,500 words) visually exciting.
You need to ensure that your format is both appealing and easy to read so that the reader will not decide to skip and move onto the next link in their results. Once you lose a reader they are usually gone forever.
Besides optimizing your SEO through inbound links, anchor content should generally deal with the basics or cover regular FAQs asked within your topic. This needs to be a blog that can be built upon into the future, perhaps in 2 or 3 parts. (Hmmm…perhaps this post should have followed this advice, eh?)
Anchor content can also be on other blog posts you have written that are relevant to the new blog you are writing. (See, I’m linking to a post about choosing best blogging platform.) Great anchor links can be reused again and again and even be referred back to in groups or discussions about your topic. People will refer back to that link which will get you more views and make them look through your site for an extended period of time. This will automatically increase both your earning potential and SEO ranking.
- When writing a new blog post these are great to refer back to. Let’s use the music example here to illustrate our point. You may mention a technique to play a guitar solo to ace a specific chord finger alignment. You can then use a piece you wrote earlier about the basic chords as an anchor piece.
- Or you can write about a song that didn’t make your Top 10 list about the most difficult guitar solos to play but which is still tricky. This would be a great opportunity to then add a hyperlink which will direct people to the original list
Besides the issues which we have already covered, there are some basics to your content which you should keep in mind:
- Try write your content as close to a real life conversation as possible. Don’t forget that you are trying to entice and engage real people who care about that the same things as you to reading your blog
- Content must be fluid and progress naturally
- A great way to find out what your supporters want is simply to ask them. Create a poll or an open chat forum where they can pose questions or tell you what they are interested in hearing
Writing is considered an art. And as any artist knows sometimes the muse is MIA and the creative juices dry up. Those that write know this as writer’s block. Other times you may find yourself able to write several good pieces in a relevantly short time.It isn’t a bad idea to keep some posts in reserve, waiting for a time when you the desire or the time just isn’t here. It is wise not to post everything at once, no matter how brilliant they may be. We will detail this under the scheduling section of your blog.
The Wonders of WordPress
There are many different platforms available for your disposal as a host to your blog. Some are free and others, which have more perks, you need to pay for. Before you even consider the rest (which we deal with further within this article) you need to know that WordPress is an essential tool for the aspiring blogger. It is not only a platform for publishing your blog for free but is also an essential blogging tool that can help you optimize your blog in so many ways.
If you are familiar with blogging, we are sure that you already know all the great things that WordPress has to offer. You are also then aware of the fact that WordPress controls over a quarter of online content. But keeping the “Newbies” in mind, let’s review what wonders WordPress presents:
The Writer’s Assistant
Similar to a word processing program like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, WordPress provides you with an in-house insightful editor to help with grammar, spelling and sentence construction when penning your masterpiece
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Don’t be daunted by SEO as WordPress provides you with a plug-in that makes this very simple. (We can help with your SEO as well.) This will make it easier for search engines to find you and rate you higher when someone is searching your topic in Google. Yoast, a plugin, or add on for WordPress, really makes it that easy. Even if you are clueless in regards to Search Engine Optimization this is so easy to use you will find your feet in no time.
- Yoast will tell you where your focus keyword or key phrase percentage, meta description, tags, ease of reading, outbound links, visual aids and more. This features provides you with live updates so you can see immediately how changes affect your SEO rating. Once you have glowing green lights, you know you have great SEO
- It is no problem if not all your lights are green. You may find that your target audience is not rated at a Grade 8 level of reading due to your content. Just aim for 80% and you are still well on your way to being SEO friendly
- When configuring the settings of Yoast, it is advisable to look into the XML sitemap. This is where you can list all the URLs for your website. Yoast helps you out in this regard; once you have clicked on the option to enable this feature, it will automatically update it for you in the future.
Themes for Your Blog
When joining WordPress you are automatically given different default themes for free as part of the membership package. These are basic. Developers are allowed to put their latest creations on offer for free on WordPress. This grants you more options and can be overwhelming. It is important that you don’t worry too much about the theme you initially pick. You can always change it whenever you like and have the time to check out the look and options of each one through an instant preview before you decide to download.
WordPress themes are categorized by 3 main features namely layout, subject, and features. You can specify your search according to these factors and then pick something that will be the most suitable for your blog.
Customizing Your Blog Theme
Beyond being able to select a specific theme for free, each theme allows you the opportunity to customize it. This could be in terms of widgets and add-ons like image sliders or contact forms or simply the look of your page. You can choose font type, size or color for headings or content or the photo used for a background to your blog. Some even allow a video format as a background.
When you have the time, play around to find which theme really suits both your personality and theme best.
Finding the Perfect Host for Your Blog
WordPress is an option you should consider as a host as it is 100% free and let’s you try this whole “blogging thing” as a side business before investing any money. Can you post regularly, do you enjoy it? These questions can be answered easily and for free on WordPress hosting. This is also the #1 recommendation for you if you are a “Newbie”. The only flaw of WordPress is that some types of ads, which will be one of the ways how you earn money from your blog, are not allowed. But to start out and before you get to paying ads, this is the best preliminary point in how to start a blog as a profitable sideline business. Also note this, you will probably have a harder time finding a large audience hosting on free blog on WordPress. If you think you are serious, I would highly recommend biting the bullet and buying a domain name and hosting with a third-party host. See my full recommendations about your free vs. paid hosting platform options here and then read my post about getting your blog hosted for a few buck a month.
There are, however, other options, both without the cost and paid for, that offer different features which can help you host your blogs as a sideline business. If you don’t have the capital to immediately start with a paying site, you can begin with WordPress and other free platforms and upgrade later once you have the ideal dedicated market. Bear in mind that you can start with a free theme on all of them at first and then pay for a better one later or even get one custom made should you exceed your money making goals.
Other platforms you can check out are Square Space, Weebly, Wix.com and more. Some even allow you to register your domain name, but they all are worth checking out depending on what features you value the most.
Managing Your Blog
Once you have your blog up and running you need to take steps to ensure that it sails smoothly and continues to build momentum to maximize earning potential.
Getting in the Habit (Write, write, right?)
People are habitual. We like knowing that our favorite program is on FOX at 8:30pm on a Tuesday. We like knowing that the first Saturday of every month is our local beer night with the guys, our regular brunch with the girls or payday, Guess what? your blog needs to be the same. Readers will begin to expect posts as regularly as you provide them. So decide whether this will be daily, a few times a week or monthly. Once you have decided you must be consistent. Repeat, you must be consistent.
Always set your posting goals realistically. A rule of thumb is to look at how many articles you can produce daily/weekly/monthly on a consistent basis and divide that by 2/ For example, you are able to produce 6 great articles during the week so limit your postings to a bi-weekly schedule of 3 a week. This way you will have 3 backup articles for “banking”
Life happens. You never know when there may be a crisis such as getting sick. Or you may decide after some time of continuous toil that you need a break. Whatever the reason, whether planned or by chance, everyone needs a break some time. This is where your “banked” blog posts really begin to matter. WordPress allows you to post an article but select the time when it will be published. By doing this you are guaranteed to keep up expected blog postings to appease your followers, but also allow yourself a safety net should you need time away.
Promoting Your Blog
Besides a dedicated group of loyal readers, you also want to draw more people into reading insights who don’t know about you. This is called marketing. There are several ways in which you can advertise and promote your blog to encourage reader engagement besides results produced by Google search.
- Social Media: Social media like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is fantastic in creating open communications and promoting your blog. You can engage with real people in real time to address issues that pertain directly to your subject matter. Again, the overboard rule applies here. It is okay to add links referring to your blog occasionally but if you are in a group or commenting on a page they may react adversely to blatant self-promotion.
- Message Boards: Make sure you are actively involved in discussions on sites that host a lot of forums like Reddit. You will not only be able to participate with people interested in your subject matter but will be able to draw new ideas for future posts about what people may ask or require more information about. This is also a good arena to post links to your page especially if that specific blog does answer a particular question asked within the forum.
Earning Money with Your Blog
Now to start making a profit with your established your blog. There are many venues that you take:
Once you have an established fan base and regular traffic passing through your site you can be paid by other companies to host their ads. This would be those pop-up ads or the banner or box commercials you see every time you browsing the internet. Your earnings then are calculated in regards to the CPM (see below). These types of money makers are, however, within a closed network. This means that unless you are invited you can’t be cashing in on that cow. You an submit your site to these Ad Broker networks once you achieve higher monthly visitors. Most seem to need at least 5,000 visitors each month, if not more. Here is a review of some of these brokers.
This is free for all advertising network but it does pay less other online advertisements. It still remains a great join for “Newbies”. But remember when we said WordPress has its limits earlier? This is it. WordPress restricts the publication of certain ads on their free platform. In the beginning, this may not be so important but when your blog becomes more popular with more visitors on a daily basis you will have to move to another platform to increase the profit of your blog site. You can sign up here.
Merchandising of Products (Affiliate Sales)
Although you may not be directly selling something related to your subject, there are other companies that will pay you for this advertising opportunity for selling products.
Affiliate companies or a major seller like Amazon will pay you to host links that direct shoppers to their site. Amazon, in particular, give you a percentage of a relevant item purchased using the link from your site. But that is not all. Say you have a music site and your blog discusses techniques using a guitar pick. A reader who clicks on that link and purchases a guitar pick gets you% of that sale. But if that reader decides to but something else, whether it is headphones or a bath of baby diapers from Amazon from that same purchase, you get 4% of the total items purchased irrelevant of whether it has to do with your blog topic or not.
In closing, no one said life was a bed of roses or blogging about beds or roses would be easy. Starting up a blog as a home business to earn an extra income is certainly no different. You need to be determined and consistent to make your passion a real revenue stream. So long as you are consistent in your posting, promote yourself enough to draw regular traffic, and really, really believe you can do this, you might actually do it. I personally wish you the best of luck. Happy Blogging!
And, remember, humor never hurts.