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 7 Things That Contributed to Allow Me to Be a Full Time Blogger

Today I’m going to talk about going full time as a blogger. I received this question from Charlotte.

“When did you make the transition from blogging being just a hobby to blogging as a profitable business?  What was the turning point for you and/or what were the major changes you made to get where you are now?”

Problogger_106

Today I’m going to share the 7 things that happened when I went full time. These aren’t a blueprint or a step-by-step, these are just what happened with me and my blog.

For a little context, I started blogging in 2002 as an experiment and a hobby. After a while, I got hooked on the idea of creating content and interacting with readers.

After about 12 months, I started dabbling with AdSense and Amazon ads. Gradually after about another 12 months, it became a part-time job. Two years in things started to escalate, and I knew this was going to be a full-time job for me.

In Today’s Episode The 7 Things That Contributed to Going Full Time

In this episode I want to share 7 things that contributed to me taking my blog from part time to full time.

Note: I also highly recommend you listen to episode #48 How to Make $30,000 a year Blogging in which I talk in very practical terms about building different income streams up to make a living from blogging.

  • Partly it was a tipping point in traffic – Once I started making money, I became more pro-active about traffic. Growing your traffic is important.
  • Thinking more about my readers than me – I started to write for my readers, instead of writing for self expression. I started paying attention to what they are searching for and tried to anticipate their needs.
  • There was also a bit of a mind shift – If you want your blog to be a business, you have to treat it as one.
    • pushing harder with finding advertisers
    • thinking more strategically about content
    • thinking about diversifying traffic streams
    • starting new blogs/projects
    • looking what others were doing
    • learning more about SEO
    • Setting a deadline and treating my blog like a business
  • Diversifying income streams – I decided not to just rely on AdSense, and added other networks like Amazon. I also started exploring direct ad sales and affiliate marketing. Later on, I even created my own products to sell. Work towards finding a second income stream.
  • Another thing that I think contributed was that I focused more on what others were doing, collaborating with other bloggers – I became more of a collaborator with other bloggers. I went to conferences, invested in my learning, and started partnering with other bloggers. I partnered with Andy Wibbels on Six Figure Blogging. There are still opportunities for other bloggers to promote each other.
  • Having a product to sell – My income streams really began to escalate when I had a product to sell. My first product with Andy didn’t last that long, but it was a great learning experience. Think about how you can create something to sell on your blog.
  • Thinking not just about search traffic, but about a longer term connected reader strategy – Nothing wrong with SEO, but it is risky. The customer is also gone forever once they leave. Building a relationship that keeps readers coming back is a great strategy. Search strategy can open the traffic door. The next step is to hook your reader in some way.

Further Resources on How to Go Full Time As a Blogger

How did you go with today’s episode?

I hope these tips were helpful in going full time. If you have made the transition, we would love to hear your story. I’d also love some feedback on the new blog design.

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view

Hi there, it’s Darren from ProBlogger here. Welcome to episode 106 of the ProBlogger podcast, where today I’m going to talk about going full-time as a blogger. I actually had this question come in from Charlotte. “When did you make the transition from blogging being just a hobby to blogging as a profitable business? What was the turning point for you? What big changes did you make around that time to get where you’re at now?” 

Thanks so much for the question, Charlotte. You can submit a question anytime. My email address, don’t tell anyone, is [email protected] They all come directly to me. If you do have a question that you want me to answer in the future, please put it in there.

Today, I want to give you seven things that happened around the time that I went full-time that I think contributed to that happening. These are not seven things you must do. This is not a blueprint to follow, seven steps you have to take in this particular order. These are just seven things that happened as I thought back to 2004 when this was happening that I wanted to share with you today. I actually shared these straight back to Charlotte via email. Let’s get into today’s show.

Just very quickly, to give you a little bit of context to the time that I’m talking about. For those of you who are new to ProBlogger, I started blogging in 2002. It was November. I remember the exact moment. At that moment, I had no intention of it ever being anything more than an experiment, and a hobby. In the back of my mind, I’m pretty sure I thought I would give up on it pretty quickly. I had a bit of a track record of doing that. I had 20 jobs in the last 10 years. I had a garage full of sporting equipment that I don’t ever use once. I’m that kind of guy. I never really stuck at anything. 

I really had no intention of this ever being a life-changing decision or a job, but I got very hooked on it. Within a week or so, I had a few readers and I was hooked on this idea of creating content, putting it out there, seeing what people thought, and interacting with a few readers that I had. Very quickly, it became a bit of an obsession for me. It took about 12 months when I was just blogging on a personal blog about anything and everything.

Around 12 months in, I realized this blog was starting to cost me a little bit of money and I have to find a way to break even on it because I was newly married, my wife was working as a brand new lawyer, I didn’t have a whole big income, and I was working part-time jobs at that time. I had to find a way to pay its way for the server cost, the domain and all that type of thing. 

About 12 months after starting blogging, I started to dabble with some ads on the blog using Google AdSense and recommending a few products on Amazon through their affiliate program. The first few days, both of these experiments didn’t really lead to a whole heap of a few dollars here and there in the first weeks. Gradually, over the next 12 months, it grew to a point where I started to see it as a part-time job—a day a week of income, then two days a week, then three days a week. 

In about two years after I started blogging, about a year after I started dabbling with making money from it, I was about two or three days a week. I had the dream of being a full-time blogger one day. I knew it was probably on the cards that that was the way it was heading, but it certainly wasn’t heading there fast. It’s taken two years to get it from a hobby to a part-time job. It was around that time (two years in) that things started to escalate for me. There are a number of contributing factors and I want to run through them now for you.

Some of these I’ve shared before, some of them I haven’t really gone into. The first one and probably the most obvious one was around that time my traffic got to a point where I was able to make enough money. Traffic gradually grew over those two years. It continued to grow after those two years as well. As soon as I made the decision that I was going to make money out of this, I became a little bit more proactive about building the traffic on the blog.

This is one of the things I would say to you. If you do have that dream of becoming full-time, traffic is probably the biggest contributing factor (or one of them). No matter how you monetize your blog, whether it’s through advertising, affiliate, or having your own product, you’re going to need traffic and you’re going to need more traffic than what you started with. You do need to put some thinking and some proactive energy into growing your traffic. I’ll include in today’s show notes some links to some previous podcast on the topic of growing traffic to your blog.

Traffic was definitely a factor. It was something that I made a priority. I think that’s really important. You don’t just want to prioritize creating great content. That’s certainly something you should be thinking about, but you want to prioritize getting off your blog and promoting it. I’m going to talk about that in a couple of moments. That was one thing.

The second thing I’ll say is that around a year to two years into my blogging, I started to think about my readers in a slightly different way. I started to write more for my readers than for me. Probably in the first year of my blogging—my first personal blog—I was just writing for self-expression, and I was interested to see how people responded to what I wanted to say. Around a year, two years in, I started to pay more attention to what my readers wanted to read about, what they were searching for, what questions are they asking, and I started to anticipate their needs. It was a bit of a transition there, I guess.

Now, I still write a bit for self-expression. I write to share what I’m thinking, feeling, and experimenting with, but I’m doing that because I also know my readers want that. I guess that shaped some of the content on my blog a little bit more. One of the things that I did around the two-year time was beginning to write for what I felt people would be searching for in a few weeks, a few months time. 

To give you a really simple example of this, American Idol was on television at the time. I think that show is still on. In Australia, there was Australian Idol as well. This talent show was on television. I started to write about Australian Idol on my personal blog. I realized people started landing on my blog because I had written a post title, “Australian Idol Winner.” I’ve written that post predicting who would win. I actually got it right. In the lead up to the grand final, people started to arrive at my blog searching for the winner, and searching for information on that.

This taught me that if you can anticipate what people are going to be researching for in Google in two, three, four weeks time, then you can put yourself in a position for that type of traffic. I know it’s a massive spike in traffic the night the winner was announced as well. I began to write some content in anticipation of what people will be searching for. I’m anticipating my readers’ needs or potential readers’ needs as well. 

Around that time, we also did a blog on the Olympic Games. We’re one of the first people to have an Olympic Games blog. I’m sure the Rio Games coming up, there’ll be lots of blogs on that topic. We wrote lots of posts in advance that, had details of every single event that would be running, and had keywords on those pages for winners, gold medal, those sorts of terms, that we knew people would be searching for.

I did this with a friend, Reagan, from New Zealand. Together we ran this blog for two weeks. It might’ve been the Athens Games. I think we made $10,000 or something in those two weeks. That was around the time I went full-time on my blogging.

I guess what I’m trying to say here, I started to not just write for self-expression. I started to write in anticipation of my readers’ needs, sometimes what they would be searching for. I don’t do that a whole heap anymore, I have to say. It’s probably a bit more competition today than there was. Really paying attention to what posts are ranking well, what type of post my readers were appreciating, what type of questions I was getting asked, so really pay attention a lot to my readers and their needs. That would be something I would encourage you to think really carefully about—who’s reading your blog, what do they need, how you’re going to change their lives in some way.

The third thing I would say is it wasn’t something I did. It was just a different way of thinking. I had a mind shift. I regularly say (and regular readers would have heard me say this), “If you want your blog to be a business, you need to treat it as a business.” For me, this happened around this time in the two-year mark. I’ve been telling my wife for a while, “I’m going to be a full-time blogger one day.” I was showing her graphs. In three or four years time, I will be full-time if things keep going the way they were. 

I had this idea that I would one day be a full-time blogger but it was a dream. I wasn’t really acting in a way that was speeding that process up a whole heap. My wife and I sat down. We set ourselves a deadline. The deadline was I needed to be a full-time blogger in six months or give up blogging and go find a real job. That really put a rocket under me. I think partly about having a deadline, but I think it was also that shift in my thinking that, “I’m not going to treat my blog as a business one day. I’m going to treat it as a business today. Even though it’s not a full-time thing now, I’m going to treat it as if it is.” I still had other jobs and I still had other responsibilities, but I started to push harder strategically. 

A couple of podcasts ago, we talked about blogging smart. I suggested nine different areas you should be being strategic about with your blogging. They were the kinds of things I started to do around this time. I started to push harder with trying to find advertisers. Up until that point, I relied upon AdSense ads on my blog and I never approached an advertiser. It was around that time I started to ring advertisers and say, “Would you advertise on my blog?” I hated doing that, but I knew that if I was going to be full-time, I needed to do that type of thing, and I push myself out of my comfort zone to do it.

I started to think more strategically about content. I started thinking more strategically about traffic. I started thinking about starting new blogs and diversifying my business. It was around that time that I began to start other blogs on other niches. I’ve had 30 blogs over the years. I only have two today. The two that have worked came out of that experimenting with lots of different types of content. I did that by starting a lot of blogs.

I started to pay more attention to what other people were doing and learning from them. I started to learn more about Search Engine Optimization. I guess for me, it was that mind shift of starting to treat my blog as a business today, having that deadline looming over me that pushed me into treating my blog today as the business that I want it to become in the future. I find this is the case for a lot of bloggers. They had these dreams, but they’re not acting in a way that will make those dreams come true. Maybe that is part of it for some of you who are listening today.

The fourth thing I wanted to talk about you is diversifying my income streams. As I’ve mentioned twice or three times now, AdSense was a big part of my early experimenting with my monetizing blogs. Amazon was the other one. I started out with those two income streams almost within a week or two of each other. I started to experiment with them.

I realized very quickly that my traffic was drawing. There was another way to grow my income even faster. That was to add new income streams into my business. I began to experiment with other advertising networks. I began to experiment with promoting other products as an affiliate. Later on, I began to experiment with creating my own products to sell. That came out a little bit later. 

I talked in episode 48, I think, of this particular podcast where I talked about all of the different income streams that you might have as a blogger. Actually, I just published a post in the last couple of weeks on ProBlogger titled, How To Make Money Blogging. It’s an update of an old post. I’ll link to that in today’s show notes as well. 

There’s so many different ways to make money from blogging, but almost every full-time blogger I’ve ever met has more than one income stream. Don’t just become obsessed with the one. Think about, “Could I experiment with something else?” You may not implement the second income stream now but be working towards it. Be working towards releasing that product, researching affiliate products, getting advertisers on your blog, or experimenting with different ad networks. I think it’s really important to do that. 

I remember the day when I added a second ad network onto my blog. Up until that point, I’ve been having just AdSense. I started to experiment with another one called Chitika. It’s still around today. I haven’t used it for a long time, so I can’t really talk to whether it’s worth doing any more, but I added Chitika ads on my blog. It didn’t remove the AdSense ones, just had these two ads running side by side. They’re quite different in nature, so they didn’t really compete. It doubled the income overnight. Diversifying your income can really speed things up if you do it smart. That’s number four.

Number five is I began to become more of a collaborator with other bloggers and I started to look to what other people were doing, to learn from them, but to also partner with them. I started to go to conferences in America about three years into my blogging, to learn and invest in my learning but began to work with other bloggers.

I did start to work with other bloggers quite early, collaborate, barter my services, and their services. I had other bloggers help me with my design and that type of thing, but it was around the time that I went full-time that I began to partner with other bloggers to develop my first product. I developed the course of the back of ProBlogger. I think that was in 2004 with a guy called Andy Wibbels. It’s called Six Figure Blogging. It was about how to make money from blogging. Now I began to partner with other bloggers to start a blog network and start to collaborate with other bloggers.

We had this attitude back then (that is still around with some bloggers today) that if I promote you and you promote me, then we all grow. That’s good for everyone. I suspect competitiveness has crept in a little bit today. I still see this opportunity for us as bloggers (even at the same niche) to support one another.

I’ve reached out. Even in the last two weeks, I’ve reached out to another blogger in the photography space. I have offered to promote some of his stuff on my Facebook page if he’ll promote some of our stuff on his Facebook page. I don’t see him as a competitor. I see him as an opportunity for us to both grow as a result of collaborating. I guess that was an attitude change that happened in me around this time as well.

I encourage you to think about how you could do some networking with other bloggers in your niche. Is there a conference that you could be attending to meet other bloggers in your niche? Could you be reaching out and offering to work together with other people to collaborate and partner in different ways? It need not be a formal partnership. It could just be any informal collaboration. That’s number five.

Number six is something that I’ve touched on already. I do want to stress it because I think it’s important for many bloggers. One of the times in my own growth as a blogger where things really did escalate in terms of my income streams was having a product to sell. I mentioned the first product that I created with Andy was back in 2004, Six Figure Blogging. It didn’t really last that long but that was a great learning experience. We did make some money off of it. Not a whole heap, but it was a great learning experience and it informed a lot of what I did in the years since then in creating other products.

I told the story many times before on this podcast about creating my first ebooks on both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I’m not going to retell them now, but they certainly led to brand new income streams that helped me diversify. I really would encourage you to think about how you could create something to sell on your blog rather than just relying upon advertising, which is where you’re effectively sending people away from your blog. You’re making money from that.

Even affiliate marketing. Again, you’re sending people to someone else. They potentially become their reader and their customer. While that can make you some money and that’s a good thing, I want to encourage you to consider making something that you serve your readers with. A product that you can be proud of. Something that is going to change your readers lives in some way that keeps them on your site and has the opportunity to deepen that relationship that you have with them.

I do know it’s hard to create that first product. It took me months to get my first product together. It’s something you’re going to learn a lot through. It’s going to bring a new income stream in and it might just open up a whole new opportunity for you as well. I’ve talked in much more depth about creating your first product in episode 67. I would encourage you to go and listen to that episode after this one if creating a product is something that you are interested in. I outlined eight steps to follow to create that first product. It’s probably the best thing I ever did in terms of monetizing my blog.

The seventh thing is the last thing that I just want to touch on briefly. That happened around this time of going full-time was that I began to shift in my thinking about sources of traffic. The first two years of my blog, search engine traffic was number one for me. Probably 95% of my traffic was coming from search engines. There’s nothing wrong with search engine traffic. It’s actually really good. It’s fantastic, I loved it, but it’s risky when that much traffic is coming from search engines. It wasn’t very satisfying as well because what was going on is that people were coming into my blog, they’re reading my content, then they’re bouncing off again and never coming back again. 

While I could turn that traffic into money through advertising and a little bit of affiliate marketing, that customer was gone forever. There was no ongoing relationship there with that reader. I began to think about, how can I blog in a way that is more relational, that hooks people in, and keeps them coming back to my blog over time? I began to think a little bit differently about search engine traffic. 

To me, search engine traffic is a great way to open the relationship. What you do next is really the most important thing. If you got a lot of search traffic coming into your blog, that’s fantastic. Congratulations. A lot of us would like more of it, but it’s not the end game. That’s the first step. Having them on your site gives you an opportunity to hook them in some way. I really would encourage you to try and think about how you can get them in your email list, how you can get them to follow you on social media, and to put a whole heap of time and energy into building a sticky site. Again, I’ve got some further reading and listening on that in today’s show notes.

This whole rethinking of search engine traffic led to a whole heap of other stuff. I haven’t got time to go into great detail on it, but it ended up changing my whole blogging strategy. Up until two years in, my main blog at that time that I was making money from was a camera review blog. It was getting all the search engine traffic, but I realized that no one’s ever going to subscribe to that blog because if you are reading a camera review blog, you’re more than likely just buying a camera. Once you’ve got that camera, you’re never coming back again because you’ve got the camera. 

That’s the time when I started to think about a new blog, Digital Photography School, which I ended up starting because I wanted to have a blog where people will come back to again and again over time.

There are seven things that I think contributed to me going full-time. Number one, it’s partly about traffic. Number two, it’s about thinking more about your readers, and creating content more for your readers than just for yourself, anticipating their needs, solving their problems, answering their questions. Number three is a mind shift; if you want your blog to become a business one day, treat it as one today. Number four was diversifying my income streams. Number five was collaborating more with other bloggers, learning from other bloggers, partnering with other bloggers. Number six was having a product to sell, something of your own that you can create to sell to your readers. And number seven was thinking about search engine traffic in a different way. It’s the opening of a relationship. Thinking about creating a blog where you hook readers in and serve them over the long haul. 

I hope that has been helpful. I’m sure there’s a whole heap of other things I could talk about in terms of going full-time. I’m sure that many of you who have made that transition or in the process of it could also add to this discussion. You can head to today’s show notes where there is a heap more reading and some more listening. Every link I’ve mentioned today will be there. It’s at problogger.com/podcast/106. 

While you’re there, you might also want to check out the new design of ProBlogger which I’m hoping will be launched by the time you hear this. We actually just launched it. I’m hoping it will be launched over the blog section of the site. It will roll out into the podcast show notes in the coming months as well. 

If you go to problogger.net, you’ll see this newly-designed ProBlogger blog. I’m a bit nervous, I’m a bit excited, but I’d love to get your feedback on that as well. If you do have any feedback, feel free to leave a comment on the post that I’ll have up there explaining the new features of the design. Or on today’s show notes as well; I’m more than happy for you to leave that comment there. Or as I’ve said before, my email address is [email protected] You can email me anytime with a question or feedback that you might have.

Thanks for listening today. I hope it helps you in your own journey to increasing your own blogging income, whether that be to a full-time level or a part-time thing. Everyone’s different, there’s no one way to do this, and I hope it does serve you in that process as well. I look forward to chatting with you in episode 107 of the ProBlogger podcast.

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