Could blogging be your next big start-up idea?
Writing your own blog at home could make you enough money to quit your job.
Don’t believe it? There’s a growing list of Australians out there generating a serious income from their blog. And with a little know-how, it’s entirely possible for you, too.
While there are plenty of businesses that blog to build up their professional profile to build their business, a growing number of bloggers are earning enough from their blog to not have to work.
Nikki Parkinson left journalism to launch advice-driven fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog Styling You, which was named winner of Best Australian Blog in 2011 by the Sydney Writer’s Centre.
She told StartupSmart that her blog income is derived from a number of revenue streams, including sponsorships, ambassadorships, paid public speaking gigs, private banner advertising, Google Adsense ads, Disqus ads, affiliate sales and, now, a book deal.
Parkinson says that Australia’s financially successful bloggers have been blogging for some time, and have built up a readership that is not only large in numbers, but is engaged. Without a community, it’s difficult to sell advertising or sponsorship, or to sell your own product or service, she says.
“It doesn’t mean you have to have been blogging for 10 years to be successful, but to turn your blog into a business, there has to be a sizeable, engaged community around your blog,” Parkinson says.
Melbourne man Trevor Young also makes income from his blog launched in 2007, PRwarrior.com, about leadership in communications.
“My blog got me into a professional speaking career and helped me get a book deal. It’s also led to countless business, consulting and advisory roles,” he says.
In the case of well-known entrepreneur Fred Schebesta, his blog launched an entire business empire.
He started blogging about student credit cards in 2006, which received so much interest, he launched finder.com.au, which now processes one in 10 of all Aussie credit cards and is the second biggest comparison website in Australia, behind iSelect.
“It all started with a blog about student credit cards. After about a year, we had to take on a new staff member to keep up with demand, and we began to take on more and more credit card providers as clients,” Schebesta says.
“It’s slowly built out, and now we have nearly 6000 pages of content and over 30 staff members, with plans to double this number soon.”
Blogging has supported mother of two Kylie Ofiu. She launched a blog that diarised her progress toward becoming a millionaire by 30, which changed her life and set her on a completely new career path.
Within 12 months, the ex-hairdresser had a publishing contract and began public speaking at blogging conferences and seminars. Her blog, kylieofiu.com, won Best International Personal Finance Blog in 2012 and 2013.
Ofiu now owns five financially successful blog sites, with staff writers now on board.
“I’ve worked with big brands like Choosi, Commonwealth Bank and GIO through my blog. I’ve attended events, reviewed product and now have a lifestyle that enables me to work from home around my children in hours that suit us,” Ofiu says.
Blogging about her parenting adventures has also generated a great income for Kellie O’Brien, who has been blogging at threelilprincesses.com since 2009.
“Traffic-wise my blog isn’t big, but I’ve always had incredibly engaged readers, and generated a great income.”
For her, blog advertising wasn’t very effective, but sponsored posts and brand ambassadorships generated a great income for her.
“All I did was let companies and PRs who were aligned with my brand know I was interested in sponsorship opportunities. It was as simple as that.
“The key, though, was getting off my blog and building relationships with people on their blogs, in forums and on social media. I spent about 20 per cent of my time creating content, and 80 per cent sharing it, and still do this today.
“It’s always been important for me to entice readers to sign up to my newsletter to continue nurturing a relationship with them via email.”
O’Brien turned her weekly parenting columns she wrote for a newspaper into an e-book, which she sold via the blog, generating automated revenue.
“My blog then attracted the attention of a corporate and I became a freelance writer for its blog. I’m seeing more bloggers taking on freelance writing roles for larger blogs now.”
However you do it, everyone agrees that engagement is vital for a blog to be successful.
Parkinson says successful bloggers connect with readers, who trust what they’re writing about.
“Building a community takes time, commitment, hard work and a sense of caring for your readers,” she says.
Parkinson’s top tips for blogging:
- Start as you mean to continue. If you want your blog to become a business, be businesslike about it, and professional in all your dealings. Network offline and online.
- Write about topics that matter to you. This way you’ll always have something to write about, and you’ll more easily connect with others who are also interested in the same topic.
- Be consistent with your posting. My readers know to expect a new post every morning during the week, and many tell me they log on to read my post over their morning cuppa. This doesn’t mean you have to post every day, but create a consistency of posting that your readers come to rely on.
- Quality is key. Don’t forget that quality content is what will help grow your readership and community.
- Make your community a part of your blog. I do this by responding to most comments on my blog and social media networks. I see this as part of the job.
- Give back to the blogging community. This can be as simple as commenting on other people’s blogs, sharing content by other bloggers, or offering to mentor start-up bloggers.
- Choose alignments wisely. If you work with brands as part of your blog’s income streams, be true to yourself and your readers when choosing which brands to work for. I’ve knocked back just as many commercial opportunities that have come my way because they weren’t a great fit.
- Know when to seek out help. Like most small businesses, I’ve had to learn that I can’t do it all. I now outsource all my bookkeeping and accounting, and I have a part-time contractor who helps me with some of the generic content, email newsletter production and competition coordination. If I’m going away for paid work, I’ll also pay freelancers (other bloggers) to write commissioned posts to help ease my workload while I’m away.