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How to Monetize a Craft Blog
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This post originally appeared in a slightly different form a while back as a guest post on Whipup, but I'm re-posting it over here because it's such a perfect way to explain what's on offer in my last online class of the year.
In Monetize Your Craft Blog, we'll dig into your specific blog, your specific skills, and come up with your best options for creating some blogging-based income. I hope you find this post useful, and I hope you'll join me for class. We start on Monday, so sign on up!
When I started blogging (as I've said many times), it was purely a hobby. But within a couple years blogging became the center of my livelihood – and I quit my day job. I think this is a little bit because I was lucky, and largely because I've worked very, very hard to develop income streams from blogging.
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Where does blog-money come from?
It's tempting to think that monetizing a blog works like this: you write great posts, people like them, and the money comes in. Maybe advertisers approach you, maybe you create a tutorial and everybody buys it, or maybe you get "discovered" – but one way or another, all you have to do is be worthy and the money finds you.
There's a tiny handful of popular bloggers for whom that strategy might work, but let me tell you: for the vast majority of us, making money blogging means treating it more like a business. There really aren't any truly passive income sources for bloggers – that is, if you want to make a reliable part-time or full-time income.
Image by Richard Elzey, via Flickr
Small Income Sources vs. Large Ones
You don't have to be shooting for a part-time or full-time income from blogging, of course. There are plenty of methods you can use to earn smaller amounts of income through blogging. You can sign up with ready-made ad programs like BlogHerAds, Google AdSense, and Project Wonderful. You can join a craft blogger marketing program like The Blueprint Social and find opportunities to do sponsored posts. You can place Amazon affiliate links in your blog posts.
These are easy-to-implement options that don't require much upkeep, and will earn most bloggers at least a few lattes' worth per month, and perhaps more. And that may be plenty for your needs, and that's great!
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Traffic-based income vs. Skills-based income
…But let's say that you want to turn your blog into that part-time or full-time income. Well, your first decision is a big, broad one: will you make money based on the size of your audience, or will you make money based on selling your skills?
If you have a large audience for your blog, then you have the option to turn that audience into a kind of "product," and sell exposure to them to companies. You might start up an ad program for your blog and sell space. You might place affiliate ads or links on your blog. Or you might sell sponsored posts. With all of these options, the larger your audience is, the more income you stand to make.
Or maybe you want to get hooked in with a craft company - to be hired as a designer, or write a book, or host a TV show. In that case, you need craft company decision-makers to see your blog. But you also need to cultivate a large audience of crafter-readers. Your readers provide evidence that you're worth hiring, because you come with a built-in audience.
So how large is a "large audience?" It's hard to put a firm number on these things, but I think your monthly site visits should number at least in the tens of thousands.
What if you don't have that kind of traffic? Don't worry! You can always start out monetizing your blog based on selling your skills instead. There are practically endless opportunities there. All you need to do is figure out three important things:
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Important Thing #1: What are your sellable skills?
What forms of craft do you love to think about, and make, and share most? Usually, knowing your best crafty skills is a good first step to creating money-making options for yourself. What crafts or techniques are you good enough at to teach other people? What kinds of things are you great at designing? What crafts do you do differently than anyone else?
There are tons of ways to spin these skills so they can be sold. You might produce PDF tutorials or ebooks to sell. You might teach online classes. You might teach live classes. You might sell your skills as a designer to small business owners. You might make handmade things to sell. (All of these options require a receptive audience, but we'll get to that in a moment.)
More than likely, you also have several non-crafty talents – skills you've picked up at your day jobs, or through your education, or via the School of Life. These skills could be useful in monetizing your blog as well – how can you combine your crafty skills with your non-crafty ones to create interesting products and services for your readers? If you're great at project management, for example, could you teach classes in project planning to crafty business owners? If you're an accountant by day and a beader by night, could you write a simple ebook on accounting that creative minds can embrace?
Really, the question of what you sell comes down to our next important factor….
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Important Thing #2: What is your ACTUAL market for those skills?
This is a somewhat trickier idea. And I'm writing the word ACTUAL in all caps to make a big point: you may love to write about crafts, but that doesn't always mean other crafters will pay you for it.
For many of us craft bloggers, our blog readership is made up of friends and kindred spirits. And while this is lovely for conversation, it just doesn't automatically lead to income. In tight economic times, your readers have to make careful decisions about what to spend money on – and more often that not, this means your readers will be interested in buying things that solve some kind of problem for them, or for which they have an actual need.
…So if you want to make a decent skills-based blogging income, you have two options. The first one is to formulate some kind of product or service that your existing readers actually need. (Not "kind of want," need.)
Image by Christophe Sion, via Flickr
Or, your second option is to cultivate a new audience of people who actually need the stuff you want to make most. So, let's say you make quilted pot holders and embroidered dish towels. Are crafters the best buying audience for those items? Probably not - they can pretty easily make their own kitchen items. But people who love to cook? They're a great market for your product! So, what kind of blog would appeal to them?
These are great big ideas, but they really just boil down to the same things that drive any successful business: what you sell has to have an ideal customer, it has to solve some kind of problem for that customer, and the customer needs to know it exists. …And that brings us to our third important factor.
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Important Thing #3: How much time and energy do you have available for monetizing your blog?
To generate regular part-time or full-time income through blogging, you'll need to invest basically part-time or full-time and effort not only in blogging itself, but in developing, marketing, and supporting your business. Do you have that kind of time? If not, that's okay – what DO you have time for? You can always start small (with some of the simpler options I listed above) and make adjustments as your income grows.
It's important to be realistic in your expectations, and to understand that no matter how you choose to earn money blogging, in order to earn a sustainable income, you'll be putting in plenty of effort. It takes time to write an ebook, teach a class, make inventory, produce a video, or write a pattern. It takes time to write the kind of blog content that keeps your traffic high (and attractive to advertisers) week after week.
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Stay nimble, my friends
All of this may sound like monetizing a blog is really hard to do. Well, speaking from experience, it's not always the easiest thing in the world! But it's well worth the effort.
If you don't mind, I'll add one last slightly-challenging idea. Once you start making income from your blog, know that it's a never-ending project. The blogosphere moves very fast, and it's very likely that what's earning income for you now won't be the same thing that's earning you income next year. To earn your income online, you have to be ready to keep a flow of new products or services, and change directions when your market changes – and that will happen regularly.
All that said, I wouldn't trade my little blog-based business for anything in the world. It's a lot of work, but it's also a very satisfying expression of who I am, and what I love doing. It's worth the amount of effort it took to build up, and the amount it takes to keep it going.
So - if you want to spend some time digging deeper into these ideas with me, and get plenty of individual help with them, sign up for class! (Remember, we start Monday.)