There’s a whole world that opens up when you have a blog. It’s a world of possibility. Of being able to reach people, share, help. But it’s also partly something else. It’s the ability to create and share your own projects and visions with others. It’s creating a business of your own. It’s a shop full of products and books and services. Selling other people’s products on your blog with ad space or direct promotion has proven to be a lucrative strategy, but there’s nothing quite like the drive to see your own shop page filled with courses, boot camps, and books—all badges of pride and honor.
AA: Ad Sense and Affiliates
I see a lot of bloggers struggling with Ad Sense or using their influence and amassed following to sell product reviews for companies. And while there’s nothing wrong with monetizing your blog this way (it’s great for certain niches) there are other opportunities to earn from your blog that many seem to overlook.
I Know You Know
I’m sure by now you’ve heard how you can write an ebook, coach or take up public speaking…and that’s true, and these are good ways to expand your career while showcasing your expertise. But many times speaking is used to promote a book or coaches sell self-guided courses. There’s a lot of intermingling of products and services…which is amazing news for all of us!
But Wait, There’s More…
These products and services aren’t a one time deal, either. After watching so many successful blogpreneuers, I realized that the top earners have years’ worth the courses, content, and workbooks in back stock and these are re-tooled, bundled and re-scheduled for new groups of participants. Some even curate years of content into printed books. The idea is to always be creating something new and useful.
You don’t have to spend years creating one product for your blog, though some products (especially those with a higher price tag and full books) may take that long. It’s also important for you to offer products priced at both ends of the spectrum. This can be a single product.
A Matter of Course
A self-guided workbook, course or ebook may sell for a relatively low price…but you could also offer a limited number of readers the option of coaching through group calls, Skype, or a private social media group for a higher price. This is also an opportunity to connect with your readers in a way you’d never get from book reviews.
30-day boot camps and courses can be delivered as a series of emails by your auto-responder through your email service. Don’t discount the opportunity to create a private page within your website (or on social media) to bring group members together…or offer membership services, but that’s a whole other post. If your course will last for a month or longer consider utilizing some sort of service for participants to ask questions in between calls. This could be a dedicated email address or a Facebook Group.
Group calls, webinars and one-on-one feedback are all possible tools for enriching your reader’s experience and progress within your course. Obviously, the more hands-on the course, the higher the cost to compensate for personal access and your time. Batching courses into groups can help, though some bloggers still offer some one-on-one attention in the form of a phone call or email, along with access through the group. Popular courses may employ many coaches that are trained in following the course and giving participants feedback and support that helps them meet their goal.
Gaining popularity is the beta course. It’s a way for bloggers to actively develop a course with a practice group, usually at a reduced rate or in exchange for feedback and testimonials. Participants should be aware if yours is a beta course. Doing so will gain you feedback you wouldn’t receive otherwise.
The Almighty Workbook
I love workbooks…like even from a reader’s perspective. I love getting a new workbook and feeling like it’s back to school. I’m going to learn something new! I love setting the goals that keep me on pace and the activities, writing prompts and homework there are to complete, which means I get a new notebook. (Yes, I’m a dork but I’ve embraced it.)
I also love that workbooks can stand alone as a product or serve as a guide to other add-on products like printables. Workbooks often accompany a course and can be delivered piece-meal or in whole at the beginning of the course. They can include printable discussion and note pages for group calls and webinars as well.
Workbooks are also part design. A twelve page text document won’t cut it. Add graphics, negative space, headings and sidebars. The publishing tools available to you leave no excuse for not delivering a well designed workbook.
How Long Is An Ebook?
Ebook has become a broad title. While ebooks tend to be shorter and more ‘broken up’ with formatting than their traditional print counterparts, there is no true defined length. If your product is a hundred pages and more of an ‘Ultimate Guide to something…’ you should market it that way. Include the number of pages within your product description no matter the length.
While you can easily sell your ebook on your own website using an ecommerce service, I also suggest taking the time to format your ebook for Kindle and Amazon. You will reach customers directly through these platforms that may have never heard of your blog and some readers will want the file format and you’ll lose sales by not accommodating their needs.
You’ll also want to promote the release of your book. This will likely be a combination of promotional efforts through multiple channels. A contest through your Facebook page or group, a giveaway to your blog subscribers (along with a sneak peak and pre-order price), guest posting and affiliate marketing by other bloggers, Twitter campaigns…there are lots of ways to promote your new book. The more effort you put into your launch the more return you can expect from that first wave of excitement.
Curating Your Own Content
Some ebooks are simply organized and curated content that is otherwise scattered across the blog. Bringing this content together and structuring it as an ebook is a great way to repurpose content…and research. Consider doing a collection or look for themes you can possibly piece together into something bigger.
Guides are shorter and often packaged together with other documents to explain a collection or printable. For instance, Paid Write’s Blogger Toolkit includes four printables and a guide that explains how to use the documents, cover sheets and bookkeeping forms. Guides can be a useful addition that pulls together your product or bundle.
Speaking of Printables
If you’re familiar with formatting and have the publishing software to create drool-worthy documents and spreadsheets, consider designing printables as a salable product. Printables are a great addition to product bundles and also convert well as subscription freebies. Creating them doesn’t take much time and give you additional value and stock to offer your readers.
Podcasts and Videos
While you may not initially sell either of these as products, curating a collection of multimedia content is never a bad idea. When considering the future of your blogging business, a limited-seat podcast or a small video collection can be added as a bonus for early ordering or as a mid-level priced bundle. A large library of content may also someday give you something to offer as a membership site, where readers can get full access to resources not available on the blog.
If you’re already creating videos and podcasts, make sure that you are saving copies somewhere secure, like an external hard drive. If not, consider a hands-free headset and put together a couple slideshows and record yourself talking your way through them. It’s great practice and in no time you’ll be hosting webinars to further share information with readers.
Members Only Beyond This Point
I think many bloggers discount this recurring income source. Yes, you will have to provide something consumable that readers will want to return again and again for, like job listings, resume posting or a monthly product or product collection box. Keep in mind that charging for access to job listings (or another similar service) means that you’ll either have to curate those listings through networking with job posters or hire out and delegate the duties of upkeep. This in itself can become a full time job without the ability to outsource some of the work.
Depending on your niche, you may be able to curate physical products into a monthly service. The idea is to offer something that changes each month yet still holds value. I’d love to hear in the comments about any membership or monthly services you’ve offered, ordered or dreamed of creating.
There’s a good chance you’re niche has opportunities for products built into it. A collection of recipes curated and formatted into a cooking with kids ebook or those DIY blueprints you drew up for that table you built can both be great ways to use your niche to your advantage. Maybe your fashion blog could partner with a few affiliate cosmetic brands to create a monthly product box subscription. If you have a large following and a strong brand you could even consider selling t-shirts and coffee mugs.
What I hope you take away from this is an excitement to get started planning, designing and polishing products and content that you can use to create income while advancing the goals of your blog. If you’re only writing blogs posts, you’re selling yourself short. Keep a list of product and book ideas. Start small to get something up in your shop and don’t forget to promote your product. Then test the needs of your readership through some sort of feedback and get started on the next project. You’ll always have something new to be excited about.