Want to Make Money Blogging? Avoid My Biggest Mistake

Carol Tice

Avoid this mistake to make money blogging. Makealivingwriting.comLately, I’ve been reviewing the many mistakes I made as I learned to make money blogging.

It’s humbling! I started in 2008, and it took until the end of 2011 to get any real traction, in terms of earning.

Not exactly an overnight success.

Prepping my new e-book, Small Blog, Big Income: Advanced Ninja Tricks for Profitable Blogging, required me to revisit exactly why it took years to go from earning a few hundred bucks on the occasional one-off Webinar, to earning multi-six-figures a year with my blog.

This was not a pleasant process.

I had to boil it down to the best initiatives I finally came up with that help bloggers ramp up earnings quickly…while reliving how much time I wasted fumbling around making mistakes before figuring things out.

Why my blog took years to earn

Of all the things that made my journey to serious blog income long and hard (Hello, technical incompetence? Total lack of marketing knowledge?), there was one big thing I bungled that I kept coming back to.

It was something I was scared to do, so I held back.

By the end of writing this e-book, I was seriously kicking myself. I thought, if I’d been bolder early on, I could have progressed to earning well sooooo much faster.

This is one of those ugly truths about blog income that no one wants to hear, but I’m going to lay it on you anyway. If you do this right, you can save years of wasted time.

How the big guys make money blogging

Do you know how the big guys explode their blog traffic and start earning big? Well, often they do one key thing that most of us niche bloggers avoid like the plague.

They spend money. Lots of it.

In fact, recently Neil Patel of CrazyEgg and QuickSprout fame recently divulged that he spent over $66,000 on paid online ads to help launch his first blog, NeilPatel.com.

Presto! Do that, and your blog gets huge visibility, tons of names pile onto your email list, and you’re all set to sell products and services to your instant audience.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this lately, but all the big guys advertise free giveaways in exchange for email opt-ins continuously on Facebook. For instance, I see Jon Morrow’s SmartBlogger ‘how to get published on HuffPo’ free report ad nearly every time I sign in.

Takeaway: Successful bloggers consider it routine to invest to gain big visibility for their blog. They plow money into their blog, and reap the rewards. In other words, they treat it like a business.

As you may have heard, in business, you usually have to spend money to make money. Business owners often take on investor partners to make this happen, or borrow money.

Blogging is no different. I starved my startup for cash, so its growth was painfully slow. Simple as that.

My hard lesson in blog investment

A quick story in how I finally learned the value of investing in my blog:

When I first started, I didn’t want to spend anything on my blog. It wasn’t earning anything, right?

So I hired a high school student to design my site. Then, when things started breaking, I hired a cheap local webmaster to try to keep my site up.

I paid him a big $500 a month. Since webmasters earn $75-$100 an hour or more, this obviously didn’t buy much work from him.

I had this mile-long list of urgent to-do’s for my blog…and none of them were getting checked off. I was stumped. What was with this guy? Why can’t I get my agenda done here?

I’d say I wasted at least a year this way, completely ignorant of what it would take financially to whip my blog into the shape I wanted.

Then my webmaster got a full-time job and stopped working with small clients.

The next local webmaster I found, I started out paying $2,000 a month or so, and it went up steadily from there.

Amazing! Suddenly, projects were getting done. My blog got a new look, better sales pages, and sharper e-book covers.

My webmaster brought on a database manager to fix a lot of the behind-the-scenes problems we were having keeping track of product users and making new offers to previous purchasers. She revamped the look of Freelance Writers Den to make it more appealing.

Most recently, the team relaunched the header of this blog to add a welcome video.

What was the result? Each of these changes grew my income. Every single improvement mattered, made my blog appeal to more readers, made more of them subscribe, and encouraged them to buy.

Did I ever embark on spending projects that didn’t pay off? Sure. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t.

But in all, developing the habit of investing in making the blog better was key to creating a business that could pay all my bills.

Taking the leap

For years, I was a coward about committing to my blog and spending to make it successful. There, I said it. I was scared.

Even though I knew writers badly needed the information I could share with them. It’s easy to look back now and think, “Why didn’t I go for it?” Fear. That’s all.

It’s hard to think about putting money into something that’s not yet earning for you. But that’s what every startup entrepreneur does.

If you believe in your blog’s potential to be the basis of a successful business, commit to investing in it, if you want it to grow.

Otherwise, you’re doing it the slow way, like I did. You’re growing one guest post and one viral post on your blog and one influencer relationship and one tweetchat at a time.

That’s the nut of it. If you want to go fast in building your blog, invest in it.

The less you put in, the less you’ll tend to reap. The more you invest, the faster you can ramp. I wish I’d grasped that sooner — I think I could have cut a year or more of time off my trip from newbie blogger to successful, blog-based business owner.

How will you make your blog grow? Let’s discuss smart spending in the comments.

MAKE MONEY WITH YOUR BLOG! Small Blog, Big Income: Advanced Ninja Tricks for Profitable Blogging. 90 Tips to Make Money Blogging. By Carol Tice

57 Comments

  1. Mariana B.

    Hey Carol,

    Great article!

    I’ve been doing the very same mistakes for a while… Investing is definitely the key to achieve concrete results. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  2. opus T.J.K

    I’ll confess, I’ve been a silent reader. This is not because I don’t find your posts helpful but because I really don’t know where my own niche fits in.
    I appreciate this article. I also appreciate your write-up on picking harder topics to write to strengthen your freelance writing muscles.
    Like I said before, my issue is with my niche.
    Each time I read your posts, I try to relate that to my own writing.
    Well, lets just say its been difficult.
    Here’s the thing.
    I’m a fiction writer.
    I created my blog because I love to tell stories.
    Right now, my writing stretches across genres.
    I love it. Its fun.
    In total, my blog has over 300 short stories.
    At one time (before my writing slowed down) the site had over 50,000 visitors a month.
    I haven’t invested alot of money into my sight. Please bare with me.
    The truth is, I really don’t know alot of sites like my own. I’ve tried monetization in many forms.
    Most of my stories have a lot of adult content and language.
    I’m really stumped as to what direction to go.
    People love the stories on my site and yet I haven’t made any money.
    I still love writing though.
    But I’ve started experimenting with other forms of writing to get paying gigs.
    As of spending money to make money, I totally agree.
    Just wish I knew where to go with my writing
    Should I stay with fiction? And if yes,what strategies should I use to monetize? Should I switch to other forms of writing? Or what?
    Thanks again Carol.
    Sorry my comment’s so long.
    But are there any tips you could give me?

    • Carol Tice

      Opus, I’m afraid promoting fiction is a little out of my wheelhouse — but have you considered micropayments? You know, where people get to read one story but then have to pay $.99 to read the next one, or where they can read the top of a story but then have to pay to finish it? Might be something to experiment with.

      I can recommend Larry Brook’s StoryFix, Writer UnBoxed, Joanna Penn and others as good places to learn about building a fiction writer platform that you can earn from.

  3. Annie Olson

    Your advice in this post is so accurate, Carol! I started my business after 16 years as a university writing professor with a specialization in writing for digital media. I taught students the basics of building websites and the rhetoric of online writing. That knowledge and experience has been very useful. I’m in a fairly rural area, and many of my clients need more than just content for a website; they need the whole site, but agency prices are too high. I can make good money, produce top quality results, and charge an affordable rate. I’ve taken courses and studied on my own, and I’m really enjoying both writing and website design. All that is just to say that it does pay to take the courses and develop your skills. Don’t be afraid to learn new things! Thanks for the great information you share.

  4. CaSandra Mathis

    I’m happy for anyone who is financially able to fund their blog venture. I’m equally excited for those who have the time to take on an additional job to put towards their blog venture. And, I’m even more excited for those who’re making good money via their blogs. HOWEVER, not everyone is in that or those positions. I’m blessed to know how to do many of the things it takes to put together a visually appealing blog and most of what I may not know (I’ll find out as I go along), I the type of person who can learn relatively quickly.

    I guess my greatest concern is that I’ve paid for the September training and membership and I believe it will be one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Buuut, I have to wonder, if I don’t have the money to promote or otherwise fatten up my blog, where does that leave me? Well trained and still broke?

    $2,000/month on maintaining a blog? If I had $2,000/month towards my bills I’d feel like heaven opened up and shone it’s light on only me. I operate on about half that. I’m the classic case of the gold mine (concepts, abilities, drive) that has no pick ax (or whatever you chip away at gold at. My favorite line is, “if I had a rich uncle, I’d be rich and he’d be even richer.” Sadly, that ain’t the case. No rich uncle and I’m not the rich aunt. LOL

    Seriously, tho, Carol. If you see this post, please give me some insight. “A Day Late and a Dollar Short,” isn’t just the name of a Terry McMillian book. It’s the story of my life. I even signed up for your course when I got the email well after the first class on Sept. 13th was over. Goodness! :-((

    • Carol Tice

      CaSandra, if you mean Business Blogging Mastery…that course isn’t about building your OWN blog. Business blogging for others doesn’t cost you a dime! You learn to identify, pitch and earn writing for businesses’ blogs.

      I’ll be looking for your homework! Glad you’re here. And many writers signed up after that kickoff training — it’s all good! I’m going to review homework through 10/13.

    • CaSandra Mathis

      Goodness, you’re fast. Thanks so much, Carol. That’s the clarification I was looking for. Not a problem starting late for the Sept series of classes. No complaints there. I’m happy I was able to. Lots of courses cut off after the initial start date. I felt lucky when I got the email and found that I could jump in. So thanks for that!

      CaSandra

  5. Mustafa Gaziani

    Hi Carol,

    Completely agree with you. All those gurus are spending huge amount on their link building and social media campaigns. If someone is serious about blogging he/she should spend money else there is no way to earn free money without doing nothing.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ll never forget the ‘book trailer’ style announcement Jon Morrow created when he launched Boost Blog Traffic, that was done in Adobe After Effects — it was amazing! And probably cost $10,000 to have created.

      It is a challenge for those of us starting from zero to invest this big right off…but we CAN take initial income we get and plow it back in.

      Every blog doesn’t start with a big bang. Mine certainly didn’t! But we can build them up, if we invest in them.

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