This guest post is by Brandon Turner of RealEstateInYourTwenties.com.
Last night I made $9.
I know that isn’t a lot of money. I know I’m not taking that dream vacation to Italy or buying that new MacBook Air I lust after. So why mention it?
Because I made $9 last night.
While completely unconscious.
I woke up and discovered that I was $9 richer than when I went to bed. The feeling not only energized me beyond what words can adequately describe, it also took me one step closer to my ultimate goal—complete financial freedom.
Perhaps this goal is familiar?
Perhaps you share the same goal?
If so, I hope I can shed some light on why now is the best time for you to begin selling products on your blog. The truth is you don’t need to wait until you are a “pro blogger” to begin making money by selling products that you create. You don’t need fifty thousand RSS subscribers to earn online income. You don’t even need the classic “one thousand true fans.”
What you need is an idea and a kick in the pants.
Why start right now?
Like you, I spent the first several months of blogging simply writing.
My blog at RealEstateInYourTwenties.com is aimed at young people looking to replace their “job” and enter the world of real estate investing, so I focus most of my efforts on discussing how a young person can begin earning money through investing. I began writing without a clear picture of how I would someday monetize the blog, but aware that the end goal was to replace my investment income with my online income.
Last month, while writing a post discussing how I analyze deals using a spreadsheet I created in Excel, I thought, “I wish this spreadsheet was around when I started investing! I would have saved so much time and hassle!”
I realized at that moment I had a product that could actually help people. I spent the afternoon researching how to go about actually selling a product (more details on that below), polished the blog post and spreadsheet, and by the late afternoon my post was live.
I’d love to say I made thousands of dollars that first day and am now living on a beach in Hawaii. However, that’s simply not the case for most people, and wasn’t the case for me. I think I made around $50 during the first week. Again, it’s not enough to dance around about—but then again, maybe it is. I had actually done it. I made money online. Since the day that post went live, I have been consistently making one or two sales a day.
“Big deal,” you say.
It is a big deal though. It’s a huge deal. It’s the difference between a successful blog and being another tire kicker.
I don’t care how many readers you have. You don’t need a million readers to begin selling your products online. You can, and should, start today. Even if it’s just your mom following along to your witty posts, get something for sale now.
I’m not suggesting you write a 400-page ebook or a $99-a-month membership site. Those things may come later. I’m talking about offering something small or introductory. I’ll explain in more detail later some examples, but for now let me explain why you need to sell something on your blog ASAP.
When I woke up this morning and discovered I was $9 richer, something triggered inside of me. I got up excited to start the day and began working on making my blog even better. I was motivated to reach out and connect with more people. I even decided to write this very post for ProBlogger.net because of how motivated I was.
Don’t underestimate the “motivation” factor. Find what motivates you and capitalize on that. Chances are, you are motivated by the very thing I am: making money. (Don’t feel bad about that. It doesn’t have to be your primary motivation, but deep down every human is at least partially motivated by the need to make an income). Making a few dollars per day is not going to move you from a shack to a mansion—but it just might move you from a mediocre blog to a stellar one.
Learn what works
You may feel it’s best to wait until you have a huge following to begin marketing your goods. However, by waiting until that point you are missing out on a huge opportunity—learning what works and what doesn’t. What if I listed my spreadsheet for sale online and did not sell any? What if the feedback was largely negative? I would have learned a great deal about what didn’t work.
Instead, I found that everyone who downloaded my product seemed to love it. Think of this phase as the “research and development” phase of product creation. Additionally, by selling products early in your blog’s existence you will begin to learn what works in relation to your sales funnel. How are you getting from product creation to the beloved “payment received” email from Paypal? How is your conversion rate? What about split-testing? These are all questions that you can begin to answer before you launch a “major” product someday in the future.
Collect names and true fans
Have you purchased anything from a blog online? Probably not a whole lot. The fact is, most people do not actually buy things from bloggers online. While conversion rates differ dramatically, chances are less than 2% of your readers will probably buy whatever it is you are selling. However, those that do buy a product from you early on have probably one or both of these characteristics:
- They like to spend money frivolously online.
- They really like you.
Either way—those are the people you want as friends. Those customers who buy a small product from you will be significantly more likely to buy other products from you in the future. Make sure you separate these people into their own email list (using Aweber, Mail Chimp, or whatever email service you use) and value that list above all others.
Where do you want to be in two years?
Do you wish you had started blogging earlier? I know I do. I look at the growth my blog has shown over the past six months and realize how much larger it would be today if I had started two years ago. However, I can’t change the past—and neither can you.
Instead, change your future. Take a moment and think about where you want to be in two years. Pretty nice, eh? You will never get there if you don’t start down that path now. Don’t look back at your life in two years and say, “I wish I had started selling products earlier!” Do things today that will matter in two years, five years, and twenty years from now. This is the exact same advice I give newbie real estate investors because it’s the biggest regret most professionals have later in their life—“I wish I had started sooner.”
Are you a serious blogger or an amateur?
Finally, by selling a product on your website you are telling the world that you are a professional. You aren’t just posting photos of your grandma’s recent birthday party. You are offering a professional service to the world because you are an expert in whatever field you are in.
In the same way that I wouldn’t trust a consultant who charged $15 bucks an hour, I would also have a harder time trusting a “hobby blogger.” Selling a small product on your site will allow your readers to adjust to the idea that you are operating, at least in a small part, a business.
If you run a blog for two years and suddenly spring a $297 product on them, many will go running for the hills or pass you off as just another self proclaimed guru trying to take advantage of the small folk. Instead, by offering a small product for sale early in your blog development you will help your community adjust slowly to the idea of you making money and view you as an expert they could pay to get information from.
What do I sell?
“But Brandon,” you say “I don’t have anything to sell.”
False! Everyone has something to sell. I believed the same thing. Sure, I could make a video real estate training series, write a big ebook, or create a membership site. Those things, however, take lots of time to develop and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a whole lot of free time these days.
The solution came when I found something I already had that could help others. For me, it was an Excel spreadsheet that calculated the profitability of a house flip. I realized that one of my most popular posts on my blog had to do with how to analyze whether or not a house flip would be profitable. Additionally, I received emails every day from people asking me “is this a good deal?” in regards to an investment property they found. By putting together both a common question and a popular post, I realized what people wanted.
Take a look at your blog. What do people want? What questions are they asking you? What are your most popular posts?
For example, let’s say you run a newer blog on fashion design. You take a look at your popular posts and realize that your blog post about t-shirt design is a popular subject. You may also have been asked questions about how you come up with ideas for t-shirts. You could spend an hour writing a document titled, One Hundred Killer T-Shirt Design Ideas, turn it into a PDF, and offer it as an emagazine for $7.00.
Or perhaps you run a blog about web design. How difficult would it be to sell a pack of twenty Photoshop images of buttons or icons for $9.00?
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. While obviously I can’t go into detail of every product type there is, there are a few standards:
- An ebook, ereport, or emagazine: Perhaps the most popular type of product, these informational products are nothing more than a word processing document converted to a PDF. I use OpenOffice (a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Word) because it’s both free and has the ability to convert your document to PDF in seconds.
- : Perhaps you are going to sell a twenty-minute lecture on how to do something. You can record your lesson using software such as Garageband (Mac) or Audacity (PC) to turn your words into an MP3 quickly and easily.
- Consulting or coaching: If you are involved in a niche where you could profit by sharing your knowledge on a one-on-one level with others, consulting might be an excellent option for you. I use “Ether.com” to manage my consulting, which allows the client to call in, enter my Ether extension number, pay for the session, and connect us together while monitoring the time spent on the phone and charging accordingly.
If you have a really young blog (the “my mom is my only reader” type), a good strategy is to find a more popular blog in the same (or very similar) niche and read the comments. Look for questions that are being asked, or common concerns that are being raised.
If you can answer those questions on your own blog and turn them into a sellable low-cost product, you can often even respond to those comments on the other blog with a link back to your own. Just don’t be spammy.
How do I sell?
Selling products online is significantly easier than you’d think. There are many good articles across the web (like this one) that will teach you, step by step, how to do this. I want to just give you a big-pictur” look at how the process looks and show you how easy it really is.
The easiest way to upload a product for resale is using a website known as e-Junkie.com. Yes, the name is a bit off-putting and the web designers for the site haven’t yet caught on to the clean, smooth, minimalistic trends blanketing the Internet. However, what they lack in being pretty they more than make up for in being … awesome.
Once you register for an account, you will simply add your product to their servers, connect your PayPal account to e-Junkie, and place a link on your own website. E-Junkie will handle the entire process for you and provide the product to the customer after they have purchased it. The best part: e-Junkie starts at just $5 per month.
A warning and a kick in the pants
I am not suggesting that you spam all your readers with sales products. You are trying to build a blog into a business, and nothing is going to turn off potential readers faster than gimmicky sales and greed. If you are following the advice you find on Problogger.net and other great sites, you already know that providing value and great content is the best way to grow your blog.
However, it is important to have the option available for readers who earnestly want more and are willing to pay for it. By offering low-cost but premium content for sale on your site, you establish yourself immediately as an expert in your field as well as a professional business aimed at helping others. You also begin building a solid foundation upon which great success can be built for your blog, your financial future, and the lives of your readers.
You don’t need a million readers to start making money through your blog. You have everything you need to begin selling a product by tonight on your blog. The tools are there, the motivation is there, and the idea is probably already formed in your head. So what are you waiting for?
Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, and blogger at RealEstateInYourTwenties.com where he teaches others how to “hack” the real estate game. He is also the author of “7 Years to 7 Figure Wealth,” a free e-book.