Many—perhaps most—blogs start life as hobby blogs. We have a special interest, and we want to share our passion with others, so we start a blog. But then somewhere along the line, a large proportion of bloggers decide they’d really like to make some money from their blogs.
This is my story—I started blogging for fun, and liked it so much I set myself the goal of doing it for profit. Examples like this convince many to try their hand at turning hobby blogs into businesses, but the process really isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface.
There are a few tasks I believe we really must spend time on before we consider turning a hobby blog into a business.
1. Assess the niche
If you have a hobby blog, you’ve probably already chosen a niche. But to make the decision to turn it into a business, you need to know if the niche is large enough, and profitable enough, to generate an income for you. I’ve written about choosing a blog niche before, but basically there are a few things you’ll need to assess:
- the size and popularity of the niche
- the size and strength of competition
- the scope within the niche for ongoing, growing monetization (some niches and markets are, obviously, easier to monetize than others).
2. See if your monetization plan suits
It’s one thing to blog in a niche with a strong profit potential; it’s another to actually make money from your blogging within that space. Different niches are suited to different kinds of monetization. While you might love blogging in your hobby niche, and it might have strong potential to generate advertising revenue, for example, you may not want to put ads on your site or in your newsletters. If you want to make money in this niche, you’ll have to find another way to do it—and that way might be different from what everyone else is doing.
On the other hand, you might have big plans for monetization, but find that your niche can’t sustain them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your ideas are “bad”—it may just be that the niche isn’t sufficiently mature for there to be enough people to take up your offer, or that, for instance, the niche is a low-value one and audience members aren’t used to paying higher prices for more value-rich offerings.
If your hobby blog’s going to become a business, you need to pitch your profit-making tactics at a level that’s matched to a sufficiently large audience segment.
3. Make a plan
I have to admit that I’m a bit better at preaching this point than practising it, but if I were looking to turn a hobby blog into a business today, I’d make a plan. That plan would have the current status of my hobby blog as a starting point, and a revenue (and profit) figure as an end point. In between, I’d plot out the key steps I’d need to take to move from hobby to business.
Those steps might include things like:
- building on my existing content inventory
- market testing product ideas
- a clear plan for ongoing reader attraction, engagement, and loyalty-building, perhaps with numerical targets attached
- working out a stepped approach to turn my blog’s loyal readers into paying customers
- plans for developing my own ability to generate income (which might include things like using ad management systems, establishing contact with potential advertisers or sponsors, taking a writing course or SEO training, etc.)
- …and so on.
I’d definitely encourage you to put a time limit on your plans. I did this when I decided to try blogging professionally—I had six months to make it work. If it wasn’t generating an income in that time, I’d have to look for some other want to make a living. Having this time limit on things gave me motivation to really get stuck into what I was doing. It also gave me a light at the end of the tunnel, because if I hadn’t enjoyed it, or it hadn’t worked, I’d have had an “out”—permission to cut my losses, rather than keep trying to make a go of a failing effort.
That thing called passion
The one thing that anyone who’s ever pursued a passion for profit has wondered is whether making a hobby into “work” will kill their enthusiasm. There’s really no answer to this question—I think it’s something you probably need to test for yourself.
One thing’s certain, though: if you want to make money from a hobby blog, and you succeed in doing that, your passion is much less likely to flag than if you struggle with the challenge from the start. I think the best way to avoid risking losing your passion for your hobby is to research and plan well, perhaps along the lines I’ve outlined here—though of course your preparatory work will depend on your niche, your area of focus, your experience, and your audience.
Have you ever turned a hobby blog into a business? Share your story with us in the comments.
I enjoyed your post.
I have to say that I think passion is the most important ingredient, you MUST love what you are doing. That’s not to say that planning and especially a keen understanding of your chosen niche isn’t vital, it is critical to long term success and simple longevity. Still, if you love what you do, you will find creative energy to over come any challenge.
For myself, I love the concept of social media, the relationships, the community, and the vitality of people in a common venue and cause. That’s where I am at today.
Thanks for the forum to speak, Darren!
The trick to retain your passion when you are turning your hobby into a business is: early on, do things that lead to positive feedback. Positive feedback fuels passion. It gives you meaning. It keeps you going.
So the best thing to do is create an informal network of early fans. 3-5 is good enough. And ask them for constant feedback. Send them post drafts before they are published. Ask them for problems they are facing, and then ask them if the post you wrote on that topic is helpful to them.
Aim for quick feedback.
Ankesh, I totally agree. Passion is key! And many people throw in the towel early on when things are slow and there is no positive feedback. That’s why its important to choose a niche that one really is passionate about so that even if there is no feedback to fan the flames, his intrinsic passion will be enough to pull through the lonely path of the early days of a blog until the blog gains traction.
Great post Darren. I agree that it is not easy at all to convert a blog from hobby to business. It is perhaps more difficult if you start as a business from day 1 and want to depend on it for income.
great post darren
I have tried turning my hobby into work, infact i’m still trying but not getting much success. May be its because of the first point that you mentioned above.
I am into performance testing, and i dont see the size neither the popularity for the blog to work..I am now looking across my other interests….
Since I started my blog I never really had any plans on monetizing the site but the more I begin to realize that it is a business the more I rethink that strategy. Still not sure if I will but it is definitely on my radar.
Anglotopia started off as a hobby for me. At first I wanted it to make a little money and pay for our trips to Britain. It did that within 2 years. After that, it started earning more and more until it got to the point where I was earning more from my website that I was from my day job. When I was laid off last year, I transitioned to working on it full time and haven’t looked back.
The hardest part is maintaining the passion every single day – I do what I love every day but sometimes it’s just hard work. But at the end of the day it’s always worth it. And I have the flexibility to step away for a few days and recharge. That’s the best part – having an empire that continues to run (and earn) whether I’m working on it every day or not.
I think I fall in this category, what started as a hobby is now not exactly a business but a kind of it.
I think I fall into a inbetween category… or at least I wish I did! I’ve been blogging on and off for a couple years now, but its only been recently that I’ve seen measureable growth.
I still feel as I am trying to find my feet in the blogging world like I am still a newbie blogger. G’ah, if only it was easy!
Great post thanks for sharing this, however I think 6 months to make or break is a little bit too short as it a can a bit longer to gain a good following and enough traffic to produce a good return.
I think passion is definitely really important. If you already have a hobby blog, then in theory you should already have the passion, but that isn’t always the case.
I definitely need to start planning better, though, especially when it comes to products & scheduling blog posts.
Thanks for the tips!
I started a tax website when I was still an accountant to help some of my friends. That moment really was the turning point for me in that I wanted to become an internet entrepreneur. I know have built a my main blog Make The Money Online Dot Com and am really enjoying it.
we briefly met about a year ago at your local cafe’.
At the time I was about to leave my corporate job to turn my blog (about three years old) into my full time occupation. I am glad to report that I am still happily blogging and growing the business side of it.
It is a challenge but one that I enjoy.
You are spot on with regards to the passion you need for the subject. Without it all the difficulties of life as a blogger would make it very hard to continue.
Thank you for all your help through Problogger.
Cheers from Mordialloc
Thanks for a helpful post Darren. I think having a strategy from the outset is a much better way of doing things. Although maybe there are instances when a blog develops from hobby to business blog organically? Zigazag started out as a hobby blog because I’d just moved to SWA from South Africa and was finding it hard to get writing gigs. Not many people were writing about the South West, and I was doing a lot of exploring so I began writing travel stories on Zigazag about things I enjoyed and found out about. Having the blog gave me a platform, and led on to writing for The West’s Travel magazine and Fodor’s Travel Guide. Then I found that Zigazag’s readership was changing, so I added some general travel stories. As I found out more about blogging, I added a Blogging Workshop to the Writing for Publication workshops that I was facilitating, and now Zigazag includes some tips about writing and blogging. It’s not yet a ‘business blog’, but it still supports my business – which is to make money from writing. I didn’t have a strategy at the beginning, except to give myself a writing platform – soon it may be time to take it to the next level in a more strategic way, split topics, get serious?
I’m in a low-value niche (writing flash fiction); but I still want to make a little money. The platform that my blog is on does not allow ads. So, I’m trying to increase my readership to a point where people will download my eBook. Right now my blog gets over 300 hits every day. I have no idea at what number the eBook will start to move, if it ever does move. Will it start to move at 400 hits every day? 500 hits every day? 600 hits every day? Will I even be able to get up to 400 hits every day? I just don’t know. It’s a good thing I’m retired and don’t have to worry about making money from my blog; but $10.00 to $25.00 a month would be a real thrill.
It probably depends on who those 300 to 400 (or more) hits are. If they’re random search visitors looking for fiction, than a few hundred visitors a day might get you a few downloads / purchases. If you’re only converting a few percent of your visitors, that’s still some sales.
But, if those are the same 300 people reading every day, then you’re not going to make all that many sales. You might want to try some method to capture e-mail addresses (like offering a free eBook with a collection of your stories), and then market further purchases to that e-mail list.
I started my blogging ventuer at around mid-2011 and have since owned 3 active blogs now. When I started my journey, I already have some prior knowledge on monetization through blog and thus earning through blogging is always at the back of my mind.
So far, my earning is negligible (as I am doing it part time), most of my source of earning for from affiliate marketing, paid article/review and PPC ads (in that order)
I must say that my blogs are still at the “child” stage but constantly looking for ways and means to grow it bigger and wider.
The day you started to monetize your blog your bobby got one big brother and that is money.
So keep that passion alive
Thanks Darren! To be honest, I started my blog thinking that I could work it into an income stream but quickly realized that it was tougher than I expected. I had no idea what I was getting into and actually had no clue what my product would be. I’ve since taken a step back and focused solely on creating content that my readers (Dads/Parents) will find entertaining.
It has been a great experience so far and I’ve been getting great feedback with my blog and guest posts. My new focus is to write a series of children’s books that I can release once my readership is at a decent level. It didn’t take long to realize that my kids and writing are my passion, so it made sense to try to tie them together.
I appreciate all the insights, Thanks again!!
Once you started thinking about monetizing your passion then your blog will become your business need instead of passion. That is why I did not put ad or adsense unit in my blog; though I have very few affiliate “text” link.
Having a blog is a useful tool, it is the top of seo, great article, thanks for share
Thank you for this infomative post. Its hard sticking to a plan when blogging about wedding photography. Honestly I get bored trying to come up with a new way of saying the same old thing. How to keep the blog fresh and innovative is a challenge for me also. I know that blogging is important but its very daunting for someone whose not a good writer.
Can anyone tell me what sort of traffic levels they had to achieve before making money became a realistic option. I’ve only been blogging two months so I’m still learning. I’m using Unique weekly visitors as my measure of progress, along with subscribers.
Thanks for the Post Darren, I realise that without a plan it is difficult to make any meaningful income from blogging. I totally agree with you that different niches require different ways of monetizing. I also believe consistency is important if one is to make blogging a business.
My third blog, Keep the Tail Wagging (http://www.keepthetailwagging) was created to make money and I approached it from a completely different direction than my other blogs. For the first time I did keyword research, researched domain names, thought about the angle I would take, found a direct marketing business to connect with the blog, and created 30 days of content to schedule before launching.
It was amazing what a difference planning made. I learned a lot from my first two blogs, blog reading, and various books/ebooks and it all came together into a great blog.
Thanks for the guidance. Passion is definitely key for me.
I love your website. I come here now whenever I’m looking for blog help. I also <3 that you're vegan! :)
Although I had a plan, I'm learning that it takes much more than I thought to run a blog. I just love cooking and creating recipes… but it turns out I also need to know photography and all the technical aspects associated with running a successful blog. :/
I think this would make an awesome/interesting series of articles: take a small blog and give that person specific tips to increase their traffic. Like, specific to their blog. Then post once a week for a month or something, giving an update on the tips you gave them and their website traffic. Like, a real-life example that we can follow along with on your blog and see how much your tips helped their blog. That'd be really neat :) P.S. I'd volunteer my blog in a heartbeat. LOL.
Thanks for making some sense of the blog world for me through your articles. I started my blog 2 months ago and have been reading your tips to help me understand everything that I had no idea about going into this. You're the best!
Isn’t it good when your hobby becomes your business? At least you would enjoy it more. I can remember jobs I had where I hated them. Blogging for money is fun for me. I started out as a hobby and somewhere along the way it became a business. I don’t know where, I was having too much fun with it! The good thing about your hobby becoming your business is that if your business fails, you still have the hobby!
I am in the process of doing that right now.