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Welcome to the next article in my series on blogging as a sustainable business model. In part one of this series you learned about the staple monetization strategy that most probloggers use – creating content to bring in traffic and increase income.
Using the example of Darren Rowse in article two, I concluded that despite the fact that a few top bloggers earn a full time income blogging, and even more money in the case of Darren and bloggers like him, it is still not a sustainable business model when so much responsibility for output rests on one person. In the previous article before this one I listed some of the advantages that many top bloggers enjoy, which the average person does not.
If you have not read the first three parts in this series please do so before continuing with this article.
The problem with the current model for professional blogging is the lack of a strategy that actually leverages the content = traffic = money equation in a non-linear way. Most professional bloggers apply the time = money formula directly to the content = traffic = money formula, placing a big limitation on the total output possible. This as I mentioned is self employment applied to blogging. Blogging is not a bad job, but it is still a job – and you may not want a job forever if you share my belief that happiness comes from freedom.
What we need to do is create a model that doesn’t restrict content = traffic = money, but instead exponentially multiplies it, and to do this we need to finds way to leverage our resources.
Leverage is all about creating systems that multiply a monetization strategy. We have a proven way to make money via blogs by publishing content that people love, which is rewarded with traffic that we can monetize by showing advertisements or affiliate programs or AdSense clicks etc. This is a monetization strategy that works, now we need to multiply it.
The most crucial leveragable resource for all organizations is people. It is no different for blogging.
If there is a way to create new and original content that doesn’t involve people who write the content, I have yet to find it. When it comes to something creative – like writing – only human beings suffice.
I was once offered $2000 USD per month to take over a new blog and help it grow.
My immediate gut response was no thanks because I didn’t need to write for another blog – I was struggling with the two blogs I had at the time. I thought about it some more and came up with a good idea, which was inline with my philosophy of creating sustainable business systems.
I could take 50% of the income and use the other 50% to hire 2-4 bloggers who would do the writing for the blog, leaving me $1000 a month to make sure the employed bloggers do a good job and oversee the management of everything. Using this model more content is produced than just what I could do myself and I walk away with a nice slice of the pay for less work. Plenty of bloggers are looking for paid writing gigs and with time invested hiring good writers, it should work.
I work less, yet the blog grows quicker with four writers contributing instead of one. That’s leveraging money and people resources for greater growth.
Even after coming up with this model I thought I was stretching my responsibilities too far – I just had too much on my plate to take on anything extra. The idea of having to recruit top bloggers and make sure they did a good job was too much of a time commitment.
Then I had another idea – why not hire a blog manager as well!
I could pay the manager to write to the blog and also screen, hire and train the other blog writers. In this case I only have to hire one person – the blog manager – and leave him or her to manage the blog and oversee the other bloggers. I would still need to check in and ensure everything is running smoothly, but this model reduces my responsibility and involvement even further.
To fund this new position the pay would have to be higher than just a standard blog writer wage, because of the greater responsibility – perhaps $500-$750 per month. Add $500 for two more blog writers still leaving me with $750 per month minimum. I’m pretty sure given the current rates bloggers work for that it would be possible to structure a better deal than this, but it shows what is possible even if you pay top dollar.
In the end the deal never eventuated, but you can see the thought process I went through to create an income stream and not a job, and build points of leverage.
Early on as a business owner you may feel uncomfortable employing people and wonder why they wouldn’t want to run their own business and become independent as well. Why would a person be willing to work for me at X dollars an hour or month knowing that I may earn significantly more as a result of their labor? Doesn’t this article series argue against working hard by yourself for a fixed income – why subject anyone else to it?
Take the example scenario above. Why would a person agree to manage and write for my blog knowing that their salary is fixed and yet I may earn as much or many times more than they do off the back of their labor?
One of the lessons I have had to accept is that everyone is in a different place in their lives and has a different personality. Some people will never be able to take the ambiguity or responsibility of being in charge and prefer the “stability” of a job with a regular paycheck. I could argue that the “stability” aspect of employment is a mental illusion, but let’s leave that discussion alone and assume some people will always look at employment as more secure, stable, safer and desirable.
Some bloggers are like this too and look at a paid writing gig as an ideal way to earn money from blogging. At this point in their life they just want to write and if they can get paid a steady income for it, without worrying about anything else, that’s awesome.
Others may have the awareness and corresponding desire to realize that a paid salary or even volunteer blogging for someone else may not be an ideal situation – they want to be in charge of their own destiny eventually – but the current circumstance dictates that they accept the situation as a stepping stone to get where they want to go.
If a person has a knowledge or experience gap then the possibility of filling that gap working under someone else performing a job, is payback enough – for the time being. Other benefits include building contacts with experienced people in the industry and enhanced exposure for your personal brand and expertise.
Whatever the reason, there are many people willing to work for money or for experience or for exposure, so always assume the talent is out there and happy to work with you, providing you can locate and attract it with a motivating proposition. Never feel you are cheating someone if they feel they are adequately rewarded for their work.
There is one other very common reason why a person looking to work their way up to a sustainable blogging model may consider employment early in their career – a lack of cashflow.
Just as a young entrepreneur needs to work a day job to produce cashflow to fund their start-up business, a new blogger may need to work as an employed blogger, either independently as a professional blogger or by writing for someone else’s blog in exchange for money. This is one of the advantages that top bloggers have that you don’t – they have cashflow from another source, leaving ample time to blog.
I suspect nearly every person interested in this article who considers themself a professional blogger in progress has a cashflow problem. You may have already inferred that one of my recommendations coming up in order to build a sustainable business model using blogs is to hire people to write for you – many of the current blog networks use this model – but you can’t yet afford to pay anyone to write for you, so you have to do it all by yourself.
If you have a cashflow problem it’s perfectly fine for you to blog for money by yourself. There are ways to start with zero funding and still bring on people to blog for you – take on partners with equity in the business, offer your services in other areas in exchange for blogging, inspire people with your cause (might be better for non-profit blogging), hire interns and offer them training in exchange for blogging – but the easiest and quickest way is almost always with money.
You could shoot for funding from other people, but if you are just starting and you have no blogs or no audience it will be very hard to convince anyone of your future potential and inspire them enough to hand over some cash. The most likely scenario from day one, if you don’t have your own money, is to work with what you do have – your time and energy.
What is important, if you have no cashflow right now, is that you realize long term self employment is not what you want and you structure your blogs as a business from day one. This may mean using a generic/brand as the name for your blog and not your own name so in the future you can bring in new writers without disrupting audience expectations or changing the current blog design. You have to accept that every dollar you earn early on goes to building your business, hiring bloggers and other talented people – you can’t go shopping for fun with your first AdSense check if you want to create a sustainable business eventually.
Coming up in the final (I think!) article in this series is what you have all been waiting for – suggestions and examples of sustainable business models that use blogs.
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