If you’re a blogger, you’re probably interested in making money.
But search online for how to monetize your blog and you’re given the same, tired advice everywhere: place ads on your site, use lots of affiliate links, look for sponsors.
While those methods might still work, they’re usually a gigantic waste of time for beginning bloggers — requiring you to aggressively promote other brands for little payoff.
There’s a better way: creating your own product.
I started with a completely unknown blog that made no money (unless you count the pennies I made with Adsense) to making just under $500 during the prelaunch of my very first product.
If I can do it, you can too.
Here are five steps you must follow to finally start making money with your blog:
Step #1: Create value consistently (and for free).
If you can’t earn people’s trust, you certainly won’t earn their money. The essential first step to having a profitable blog is creating value content for free.
Some bloggers skimp on the quality of their free posts and save the best material for people who will pay. This is wrong.
Make every post value-packed. Go out of your way to provide content that will completely wow your readers.
Do whatever it takes to make them want to return to your blog and tell their friends about you. Don’t worry about the creative well running dry. If you cared enough about a topic to dedicate a whole blog to it, there’s plenty more where those ideas from.
Since my blog is about helping people pursue their passion in life, I took my experience as a career counselor and psychotherapist and condensed it into an 11-page illustrated PDF called Stop Dreaming and Start Doing: How to Actually Do What You Love, and gave it away on my site for free. People still write to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the guide.
Step #2: Stop talking to an empty room.
Most bloggers never gain traction with their ideas — not because they don’t have anything worth talking about — but because their message isn’t reaching enough people. In other words, they’re talking to an empty room.
I learned this the hard way. The first few blogs I started never got more than a hundred visitors a day because I was so intent on getting the word out there on my own. It wasn’t until I started leveraging bigger, well-known sites that my blog garnered more attention and took off.
The best way to leverage the popularity of other sites is to write for them. Look for well-known blogs in your niche and pitch an article that would bring tremendous value to their readers.
When you do this properly, you’ll earn new fans and followers who want to know more about you and your platform. This happened to me when I decided to pitch an article to The Huffington Post last summer. Within 48 hours, my pitch was accepted and my post was featured on the site. After successfully writing a few more articles for them, I was given contributor access. The exposure I got from writing for them brought hundreds of new subscribers to my own my blog as a result.
Step #3: Partner up with the right people.
Search sites like Bloglovin’ or Blog Search Engine to find other bloggers in your niche. What things are they doing or writing about that you admire? Find commonalities that you share with the person and then reach out to them on Twitter. Link to a specific article of theirs and list something specific you enjoyed about it, then suggest collaborating sometime in the future.
The key is to be authentic. People can sense from a mile away if you’re just looking to use them as a means to an end. Be genuine with your intentions to work together and seek to provide value for both of your audiences.
Step #4 Create a community.
Speaking to your audience through your blog is one thing, but most experts recommend having an email list so you can message them personally.
But there’s an even better way to engage with your readers: Facebook.
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you send Facebook friend requests to all of your followers. Instead, create a Facebook group of your blog/brand and invite your followers to interact with you there.
Sure, not all of your followers will have Facebook, but most will. Not only is it more personal than email, but followers can meet and engage with one another. This builds a sense of community while also taking the pressure off you to facilitate every discussion.
I grew the People Passionate Facebook community to several hundred people in just a few months simply by asking my email subscribers to join.
In the group, I kept up with everyone by asking them what things they were working on and what they most needed help with. This encouraged others to participate in discussion and also gave me a much better understanding of my followers’ biggest challenges.
#5: Create a product.
Once you’ve followed all of these steps, you’re ready to make money with your blog.
By this point, you’ve established to your community that you’re not some random internet marketer who’s just out for their money. You’ve earned their trust and they believe in what you have to offer — many of them will be more than willing to pay for you for a resource you’ve taken the time to create.
As far as what product you can offer, it can be anything — a video tutorial, an ebook, an online course, even coaching services. The beauty of having a Facebook community is it allows you to validate your idea for a product or service before you even begin creating it — all you have to do is ask if it’s something they’d be interested in buying.
I noticed that my Facebook group had a lot of aspiring bloggers who wanted to know how to grow their blogs and write for influential sites like The Huffington Post. So I asked if they’d be interested if I were to create an email course that outlined the entire process — from buying a domain to growing traffic to monetizing their platform. Thirty two people said they’d be interested in the course if I created it.
That was all the validation I needed.
I spent three weeks writing and refining the course. During my prelaunch sale, I sold eight copies, netting me a few hundred dollars profit on my very first product.
Profiting from your blog means thinking about the long-term. Aim to provide value in everything you do for your audience. Build a community that appreciates your work, survey your followers on the things they need help with the most, then use their feedback to create a resource that addresses their needs.
When you focus on finding products for your customers, and not vice versa, you give yourself the opportunity to finally make money doing what you love.
Kevin is the founder of People Passionate – a blog dedicated to helping others pursue their creative ideas. Check out his blogging course that teaches you how to grow a successful blog: The Blogging Roadmap.
Connect with him on Twitter @ppl_passionate.