Several years ago, I sold quite a lot of books as a self-published author. I then spent the next 3 years fielding questions from authors looking to do the same. I tried my best to answer them, to help them – I even wrote a course on the subject when asked to do so (and by “asked,” I mean “offered money”). The truth is, however, there is no “trick.” There is no magic wand. In fact, for the most part, I don’t know what worked and just know that I did a hell of a lot of stuff and that some of it – or maybe a combination of all of it – seemed to work.
One of the things that many authors were doing and still do, and one of the things I even tried myself, is blogging. But while I can’t pinpoint anything that worked, I know for a fact that blogging didn’t work. And I know that because no amount of nonsense posts sold a single book.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a useless platform for aspiring authors, struggling author and self-published authors (unless you already have a following). But as a way to earn a little cash on the side, blogging is perfect. In fact, if you are willing to invest time and money, and if you do things right, it can be more profitable than freelancing. And for someone who recently wrote a book extolling the virtues of online freelancing that’s saying a lot.
Blogging for Profit
My first introduction to blogging actually came via a freelancing platform. At the time, I was being paid to research, write and post articles. I was creating the titles of the articles, I was doing all of the SEO work, I was adding images and I was being paid well to do it. I figured that if they could afford to pay me to do that, then the site must be profitable, and if the site was profitable and I was doing all the work, why couldn’t I just create my own site?
So I did. In 2014 I created the Regulated Broker website. The purpose of this was to discuss shares and binary options. I wrote a few of the main articles myself (just 2% of the total) and then hired a freelancer to do the rest. As a result, I was able to invest a minimal amount of time and effort in the beginning and then let the site run itself with an investment of just a few hundred a month. In 6 months, the site was turning a profit. And even though I have scaled back on the content and therefore the investment, it continues to be profitable. I pay someone to write 2 articles a week, and the return I get is 10x what I spend.
In 2016, I began working with a client who had achieved even more success and had even bigger sites. I did a lot of research for a project that involved writing for SecretMenus.com, a site that gets over 1.2 million hits a month and is growing every week. This site blew my mind, as it was basically an upscaled version of what I had been doing, one that has more hits per hour than my own sites have in a week.
This led me to create more of my own projects, blogs that I was able to profit from within just a few months. Like freelancing, blogging requires you to put something in if you want to get something out. With Regulated Broker, I put in a minimal amount of effort. And because I wasn’t editing or reviewing the content created by the other writer, it just wasn’t very good. It took very little of my time and it generated very little profit as a result.
But with later sites, I was able to give them more of my time and get more out of them as a result. They haven’t quite made me a millionaire yet, but for a few hours a week, I wouldn’t expect them to.
Why Can’t Everyone Do It?
This is a question I asked myself in the beginning and one that I often get asked myself. It’s not one that can be answered easily. Or quickly.
There are a few roadblocks with starting a blog/website and making it profitable. But these are things that all freelance writers have at their disposal.
As a freelancer, I can make between $50 and $300 per article. In the past, clients have paid me thousands to fill a website with enough content to get to the top of Google. These clients then need to pay for web hosting, for a domain, for designers and for coders. For a site to be successful, the content, the coding, the SEO – everything needs to be good. And for it to be good, they can spend in excess of $5,000 for the basics.
Then there are the guest posts, which help to build a backlink profile. These require well connected writers, who can earn upwards of $10,000 to build a backlink profile strong enough to take a website to the top and to make it profitable.
So, while everyone can do it, not everyone has $20,000 to invest on a single site. But as a freelance writer, you can make it for a fraction of that. And if you’re prepared to do the work, you can make it for less than $20 a year.
That’s because as a writer you have the skills needed to research and to create the content. You have the skills needed to communicate with other bloggers, to contribute to large websites and even to talk with fellow writers, all of which can help you to build a backlink profile for free. And if you are prepared to do a little basic design and coding you don’t even need to hire freelancers.
What Do I Need to Do?
Take your time, read, research and learn. I was lucky, as I did most of my learning while researching for HowtoStartaBlog.com. This website is a guide for bloggers looking to make money. And thanks to the research I did to help write it, as well as the fact that I had a direct line to the owner (an incredibly knowledgable web master) I was able to learn quickly.
If you’re impatient like me and you decide to jump in headfirst, excited by the prospect of making a little extra cash, then just make sure you don’t invest too much early on. There’s a good chance your first project(s) will succeed, but there’s a better chance that it’ll fail miserably. This is a great way to learn though. It means you can feel your own way around.
Just make sure you keep the following in mind to avoid a complete disaster:
- Write What you Know and Love: The more you enjoy writing it, the less time it will take. It’s easier to write off a site that took you just a few hours to create than one that took you months of gruelling hard work.
- Be Niche: The more niche your site is, the better. Otherwise you’re competing in a saturated market.
- Use Keywords: Keywords in articles are not as important as you might think. Many web masters just focus on using a strong titles and nothing else. For this, you just need to do a little research on sites like Keyword Planner, SEMrush and Moz.
- Read: Sites such as HowtoStartaBlog, linked above, can help you to learn more. But there are many other helpful sites out there as well, including this Wikihow article.
If you try your hand at freelancing on sites like Upwork, you might even get paid for it. If that’s the case, you can learn as you progress, asking the client for SEO tips along the way.