Back when I started my own DIY + design blog in 2010 (yikes that makes me feel ancient in this blog world!), most fellow bloggers were also just starting theirs as a hobby – an interest in sharing their creative pursuits and developing a community online. I feel like today there are a lot more folks who start out with more of a business hat on, with an intention of monetizing their new venture. Either way, whether you start as a hobby and then eventually monetize, or monetize your blog right from the beginning, there are mistakes that I notice over and over again.
If you’re wanting to launch your own DIY + design blog, listen up. Here are the 5 biggest mistakes to avoid.
Oh… and how do I know? Because I made every single one of them myself. #truthtime
1 / Under-valuing their work
One of the biggest questions that I had when I started working with brands is what the heck to charge. I’m pretty sure I did a blog post in exchange for one measly can of paint. Really Gemma? A whole post reviewing a product, with photography, links, and social media outreach for a $30 product? Not good. As much as I want to support and work with brands that I trust and love, to quote Jillian Harris when she spoke at BlogPodium last year, “you can’t pay your mortgage with cupcakes”. Freebies are wonderful, but they don’t pay the bills, ya feel me?
As a blogger, you are running your brand and your business. You need to treat it as such. Your time, costs, and skills all have to be taken into account when setting a rate for working with brands. You have taken time and effort to cultivate an engaged audience who trust what you are saying, and that is hugely valuable from a marketing point of you. You are offering some great PR for a brand when you highlight a product to your readership, and so that needs to be compensated accordingly. Make sure your rates are fair for all parties involved.
2 / Bombarding readers with display ads
Have you ever landed on a blog and can barely read the article or get a feel for the blogger because there are ads comin’ at ya from every direction? Yeah, me too. And I hate to say it, but I have totally been guilty of this myself on my own blog. There is nothing worse as a reader than getting totally bombarded with ads. You can’t really blame them for quickly exiting from your site when there are a zillion things flashing, popping up, and possibly even making noises at them. And how are you going to build a loyal and large readership like that?
It can be exciting to think that you can make money by placing ads on your website, but you need to weigh that against the experience for your reader. Ultimately the more you are able to grow your readership, the more you’ll be able to make from your blog in all revenue streams, so you don’t want to turn people off. If you do decide to place display ads on your site, you need to do it sparingly and in strategic spots that are high revenue-generators without being totally off-putting to your readers.
3 / Not having a strategic business plan
Often when people start a blog they think of it as an online diary. Usually there isn’t any forethought into what the blog might grow into, or what the ultimate business goals are. And that’s totally cool if you want to just be a hobby blogger. But if you are serious about making an income from your blog, then you need to get your business hat on and realize that you are building a brand. You need to have goals and a direction, and as I mentioned in this post, you need to be thinking about what products or services you are going to start selling. This is how you are going to diversity your revenue streams and have the opportunity to build a business for yourself that is going to pay well.
What is your ultimate monetization goal for your blog and how do you plan to get there? You need to have a concrete vision of where you want to go with your blogging biz and map out the steps you need to take to achieve it.
4 / Forgetting to focus on creating amazing content
When you decide to monetize your blog, you can get totally swept up in trying to understand how to do it, optimizing ad placements, reaching out to brands, sharing a zillion affiliate links, brainstorming product and service ideas, and figuring out how to approach marketing them. But here’s the thing: You need to also focus on creating really amazing content for your blog to build that readership. None of those avenues of monetization are going to pay you a dollar if you don’t have anyone to sell it to. Display ads rely on traffic, affiliate marketing relies on having an audience that are going to trust your opinion and buy products, brands are only going to want to work with you if you have a reasonable following of engaged readers, and you aren’t going to be able to sell any products and services if you don’t have an audience to market them to. So while I don’t want you to ignore monetization, you need to also make sure you spend enough time creating super stellar content that gives tons of value. Listen to this OK? It’s key. You need to give, give, give to your readers. This is going to be what cultivates that amazing readership who trust what you say, who actually want to hear from you, and eventually will feel comfortable buying from you.
5 / Not building an email list
You can have a huge instagram following, big numbers on facebook, or large audiences on any other social media platform, but here’s the catch: you don’t OWN any of that. Any of those platforms can make a change in their algorithm or disappear tomorrow, and you wouldn’t have anything to show for it. The most important thing you need to be focusing on? Building your email list. These are folks who are going to let you into their inbox every week – that’s frigging HUGE. It isn’t just some passing pic in a feed that they may or may not see, this is major access right to them. This is going to help you monetize in so many ways. Want to work with a brand? Tell them how many email subscribers you have and how you could offer a mention of their product in a newsletter. Want to sell a product or service? You aren’t going to get better conversion numbers than from the people on your list. Want to do some affiliate marketing? An email list means direct access to people who trust your voice.
Work on providing insane value to your readers so that they not only want to join your list, but look forward to opening that email from you week after week. Create opt-in incentives and make sure you have obvious places on your blog for readers to sign up.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I made every single one of these mistakes. It’s no big deal if you have too, but it’s time to course-correct. Maybe you are just starting out with monetizing your blog, or have been haphazardly trying out monetization strategies without any success. Either way, let’s figure it out and get you on the right track. Make sure you sign up for my FREE 7-day email course that takes you through how to monetize the smart way, right from the start.
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