How to Start a Blog About Your Creative Passion that Makes Money
There’s never been a better time to start blogging about your creative passion and to make a steady stream of income. Although there are millions of blogs on just about anything you can think of, the entry barriers have been significantly lowered in the past few decades, meaning that just about anyone with basic computer skills can create great-looking blogs that are effective and bring awareness to your product, service, or content.
Why Start a Blog?
Everyone will have different end goals when designing their own blog. Whether it be for your own enjoyment, interest, financial, or professional experience, you’re going to need to decide from the beginning what you hope to achieve with your blog. Driving traffic and attracting eyes to read your content is too vague, so consider using SMART goals.
Make a plan to have your goals be: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive. Just like making a plan for living a healthier lifestyle, such as going to the gym or adopting a new diet, you’re going to need to have SMART goals that can give you an idea and sense of progression as well as achievement.
Here’s an example of a SMART goal for a blog about dogs:
- Specific: I want to create a blog about trends in dog and puppy training, publish dog news articles, and provide readers with helpful tips to care for their dogs. I also plan to have reviews for dog toys, dog food, and dog leashes to help readers find good quality products.
- Measurable: I plan to release an article twice weekly, and want to gain 100 readers a week in my first six months. I will use an analytics tool to keep track of my readers’ demographics so that I can adjust my content to fit different segments.
- Attainable: Can I realistically find a way to write this content and to market my blog in such a way as to attract more readers? Will I need to use an email newsletter or purchase advertisements to do this, or can I use word-of-mouth or other advertising techniques?
- Relevant: Are people interested in reading about dogs? If so, how can I create something that gives readers information or sell a product that is valuable to them?
- Time-sensitive: I aim to attract 100 readers a week for the first six months. If all goes well, I will continue writing and advertising until I reach 1,000 readers a week on average.
Now let’s step back for a moment and evaluate this plan of action. Without SMART goals, you may just say to yourself “I’m going to start a blog on dogs and write something every so often to keep it fresh.” The problem with this approach is that we all have lapses in discipline. Blogs can take a while to grow and attract readers, so don’t expect instant results. There are no get rich quick schemes here. Plan for the longer term and maintain personal discipline so that you can achieve your goals.
Fun Niche Ideas
Most people don’t want to give away their niche ideas, and that’s fine. The proof is in the pudding, however. Visit any blog and you’ll quickly realize what they’re about. From selling specific goods to simply writing about travel destinations, everybody needs to have a niche.
In the beginning, it may be better for you to find a specific niche. Simply writing about dogs means that you’ll be competing to attract readers that are already reading other major publications about dogs. If you’re writing training guides for puppies, however, you may find that you’re able to offer something specific and valuable to readers that they just aren’t getting from other websites or blogs.
Coming up with a niche that works for you needs to be ideally something that you will enjoy writing about or selling and (preferably) have first-hand experience with. Furthermore, it should be something that people want. How do you know what people want? Keyword planning tools can go a long way to helping you see the data for how popular certain keywords are. If you’re able to find a more specific keyword that’s getting a lot of searches, it’s a sure sign that people want to know more about that specific thing.
One of the best parts about coming up with niches is that many of them can be digital creative disciplines, such as illustration, gaming, photography, and film. If you’ve got a passion for one of these, find a way that you can make it unique. Put your own twist on it that brands it and makes it yours.
For example, blogs on gaming are plenty, but perhaps you may find that many people are interested in learning how to get better at strategy games, for instance. You could write extensive strategy guides for different factions within the game, as well as providing some of the under-the-hood mathematics involved in optimizing your strategies. This can be a great opportunity provided that you’re giving your readers quality content regularly.
Long gone are the days when you absolutely needed to hire a professional adept at programming to develop websites for you. Although there’s still a lot that they can do that most people can’t, developing a simple blog or website has become so easy nowadays that nearly anyone can get in the game.
You’re going to want to start with the basics. Aside from a computer and a reliable internet connection, you will need hosting, a domain name, and a template to help you get started. The rest is just writing, which you can do yourself or with the help of a freelance writer, and designing the layout of the website.
Hosting is essentially what allows all of the content on your website to be created and stored. In layman’s terms, when users come to visit your website, they’re going to need to access all of the relevant content safely and reliably. Where does it come from? Hosting services provide end users with the content, but they’re not all created equally.
Wix is one of the most popular choices for web hosting, and it’s no surprise why. It’s one of the bigger names out there because they offer simple and effective solutions for great prices. Furthermore, they’ll allow you to quickly build a free website (yes, free!) to see how it all works. It’s very straightforward; drag and drop, adjust photos and backgrounds, try a few free templates, etc.
Although their free website builder is great for small business landing pages and other pages lighter in content, you’ll eventually want to have the freedom and flexibility of having your own website that belongs to you. In order to do this, you’re going to need to purchase a domain and have it hosted by a hosting service such as Wix.
Your website needs to have a name. The domain name is exactly that, and in a sense, it’s “reserved” for you from a registrar upon purchase for a fixed time period which can be extended afterwards provided you aren’t looking to sell your website. Domain names can become so popular that “domain flipping,” an area of arbitrage based around buying and selling hot domain names for profit, has become a viable business model.
One of the reasons that you should consider having your own website as opposed to one of the free website builder services is that you can have your very own name that showcases your business. The only way to do this is to purchase the domain from a reputable domain registrar.
Depending on the popularity, domain names can range from very cheap to very expensive. It used to be common to only purchase “.com” domains, but it’s becoming a lot more popular and accepted to use alternates such as “.io” and “.co.” Try to make sure that your domain name matches your blog’s name, brand, and identity succinctly. If you can’t spell it out easily for someone in person, chances are it’s too complicated.
Finding domain names that are available, relevant to your business, and fairly priced doesn’t have to be a hassle. GoDaddy is one of the most affordable and straightforward services out there. Yearly plans are common, but you’ll often have the convenience of being able to purchase 2-3 year plans as well. There are many competitors in the domain selling business, but GoDaddy should be the first place you look.
Getting your blog to look just how you want it to doesn’t need to be complicated. Although many website designers are able to use lots of backend coding to produce visually stunning effects, you don’t have to become a professional to have a professional-looking website.
Templates can help you to turn your website from a bland cookie-cutter one into one that will attract and keep your readers engaged and showcase the best of what you have to offer. A perfect choice for beginners and more seasoned website builders alike is Envato Elements. Rather than just providing one type of website template, Envato is a service that provides access to an increasingly expanding library of templates for web design, graphics, illustrations, fonts, and more.
What’s great about Envato is that it’s very easy to use, and with an expanding library of templates, you’re sure to find some that are just right for the type of content you want to create. Templates are supposed to make the layout and design process easier, not harder, so don’t waste your time looking at templates. Find a great template quickly from Envato and spend more time producing quality content for your blog.
How do I Monetize My Blog?
There’s a reason this section is near the end of the article. Monetization is important for reaping the rewards of your hard work, but it should really come second to producing great quality content that people will actually have an interest in.
If your mindset is focused more towards producing value for readers than towards making money, the money will come eventually, whereas if you’re only focused on making money, there’s no guarantee you’ll see success and you may quickly lose interest. Remember, blogs should be considered more of a marathon than a race.
Attracting readers and loyal followers will have people engaged with your content and they may be more willing to purchase something from you or to listen to your advice. Authority blogs do exactly the latter; they focus on specific niches with a level of expertise and authenticity that aims to help readers trust you. If you’re writing an authority blog on dog leashes, for instance, your readers are much more likely to buy your recommended dog leashes because you’re considered an expert and a reliable reviewer of certain dog leashes.
This type of monetization is called affiliate marketing. No, you don’t need to be a marketing major or an expert to generate revenue from affiliate marketing, but you really ought to be able to promote products with your own passion and with enough of an authoritative and trustworthy voice to get your readers to purchase these products.
Affiliate marketing involves you, the blogger, who acts as a voice promoting a product. The producer awards you with a commission every time your readers follow through to click on your affiliate link, which you insert with your product review, and makes a purchase or generates a lead for the company.
There’s affiliate marketing for all sorts of products and services. Some products may be less reputable than others, but many are very trustworthy and people do actually click through and purchase these products! A great example is the Amazon Affiliate Program. It’s very easy to sign up, and they provide all the tools you need to link amazing Amazon products to your blog. Every purchase will give you a small trickle of passive income, but if you’re providing great and relevant content, you’ll surely make sales as Amazon is a very reputable online marketplace.
In summary, affiliate marketing can be an effective means of generating income. Although not completely passive, it requires typically little work on your part but can create higher income than advertising, for instance. Affiliate marketing for high-commission items can be very profitable, but you may need to invest in advertising and you’ll definitely want to ensure that your blog comes across as being passionate and authentic with regards to the product.
By allowing ads to run on your blog or website, you’re able to generate a steady stream of income whenever visitors click through the ads. Ads online can be a lot less intrusive and obnoxious than in former times, and they can also be catered to your audience without much or any interference on your part. People shopping for dog toys perhaps won’t be interested in seeing ads for discounts on cruise ships, so many advertising platforms use algorithms to tailor advertisements to more relevant products or services.
Many major advertising platforms exist which allow you to simply insert a piece of HTML code within your website that will run ads. Often, you can control the size and placement of the ads such that they aren’t overly bombarding your visitors. This is a great way to lay out your content and place small ads at regular intervals between paragraphs, for example.
One of the easiest platforms to use is Google Adsense. Creating an account is an easy and straightforward process, and you’re given a small piece of HTML code afterwards which you can insert directly into your website. The benefit of Google Adsense is that the ads use Google’s algorithms to cater advertisements to your audience. The downside is that often the revenue generated will be very small indeed.
Overall, online advertising can be generally seen as a small but steady trickle of income that requires very little work on your part. Unless you’re generating tens of thousands of monthly viewers, don’t expect to make a livable wage off of advertising alone.
If you’re producing great content and attracting lots of loyal readers, you can consider limiting some of your content behind a membership plan. Many popular websites such as Medium allow readers to freely read through a limited number of high-quality articles every month, but users with a membership gain unlimited access and can take advantage of other perks not otherwise available. This model really does work for some websites, but it isn’t for everyone.
As a general rule, try to publish as much quality content for free as you can, especially in the beginning, in order to attract readers. Nobody will want to purchase a membership if they haven’t even heard of your blog before, particularly if they can find free information elsewhere. Having a sense of authority and an opinion that’s highly valued will help you immensely in justifying a membership plan. If your readers love your content, it’s often no hassle at all to begin charging users for access to some of your best work.
There are many details and considerations that go into each step of planning your own blog. In fact, each section here could be its own in-depth article, but this is meant to be a general overview of what it takes to get your idea onto paper, so to speak.
Spend time reading and researching before taking the plunge, but don’t get too lost in the minutiae. Despite what some may say, you don’t need to be a programming expert or a professional web designer to start your own blog. Of course, it can help immensely, but simple blogs can be created nowadays with minimal cost and a much smaller time investment than in previous years.
Lastly, don’t be put off by the enormity of existing blogs. More and more people around the world have access to high-speed internet and less and less people are consuming their content from conventional sources such as television, radio, and print. This means that despite the competition, there are plenty of opportunities to share your great content with the whole world.