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“How do I earn money?” is the number-one question I get about blogging. There are many bloggers and online marketers who make $1-2K per month, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I always wanted for the sky to be the limit.
Let’s kick my answer off with a disclaimer: I’m well-aware that there is more to life than money. I’m well-aware that talking about money and earnings can be seen as taboo and frowned upon in certain circles. But you know what? I’ve worked hard for ten years on FutureDerm.com. And while I’ve always been one who wasn’t afraid to talk a big game, I’ve secretly worked through a lot of shame, judgment, hardship, sacrifice, and struggles to make it to this point. In ten years, I feel like I’ve earned the right to talk about how I’ve gotten here, and how to teach others who are interested how to do it, too.
Now that that is settled, let’s talk about how to kill it with your blog. I’m not going to talk about how to make beautiful graphics or write for your target audience or design catchy brand phrases — those are posts for another day. No, today I’m going to talk about the most taboo of four-letter words — CASH! — and how take your blog from a nice-to-have hobby to a must-have business. Without further adieu:
1.) Sell direct.
Whatever your traffic numbers, a great way to maximize earnings is to cut out the middle man as much as possible.
I know a lot of bloggers who were making $100-500 checks a month from advertising networks like the now-defunct Glam network, but it’s much better to go direct to the brand.
Sell what you have. It’s never to early to start. I was making $1,000 a month extra cash on the side when I was still an MD/PhD student. My traffic numbers were pretty good for a part-time gig — 10,000 views/month or so at the time — and I managed to leverage that into much-needed cold hard cash by speaking directly to brands. Again, I was an MD/PhD student, so I was sleep-deprived and stressed out and over-scheduled, but I dedicated at least 20 minutes a day to writing cold-call emails, using “Contact Us” forms on websites, and even direct dialing CMOs and CEOs of skincare companies who might be interested in working with me. My point? If I could do it, you could do it. 20 minutes is all it takes. (At least to start.)
2.) Only work with brands you actually like.
The key to digital advertising on a blog is authenticity.
If you’re not authentically in love with a brand, a product, and the company behind it, don’t contact them and for heaven’s sake, do not sell them an ad.
I’ve made this mistake more than once in the past, mostly back when I was worried about making ends meet while I was in grad school.
But the key is, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” And advertisers are people. If you don’t care about your advertisers, if you don’t care about their success, and most of all, if you don’t like or believe in their product, leave them alone. I still leave money on the table each month because there are some skin care brands and technologies I just don’t plain believe in or want to put my name behind — and that’s that. But the companies with the exciting products I love? I reach out to them, every time.
3.) Know what you’re worth at baseline.
The best equation I’ve ever seen is this:
For every 10,000 unique pageviews on your site per month, you should be able to get at least $1,000 per month.
Think about it:
- TV advertising is about $9-23 per ad per thousand viewers (source), or $0.016 per viewer.
- Radio advertising is about $12-16 per ad per thousand listeners (source), or $0.014 per listener.
Let’s not even consider the fact that online visitors are more engaged and in a position to buy than most TV viewers or radio listeners. Assuming a nice, even $0.015 per viewer, if you get 10,000 unique views/month, you should be able to charge at least $150 per ad.
Consider you can sell the following types of posts. Sell them all, and you’re at $1,500 per month. Sell 8 ads per month, and you’re at $1,050/month:
- Banner ad (top of site)
- Banner ad (bottom of site)
- Contextual/in-blog post ads (no more than 2 total) or the blog posts themselves (no more than 1 out of every 5 posts)
- Sidebar ad (no more than 6 total)
And, in tune with the subject of this article, get to 400,000 unique views/month, sell 8 ads per month for $0.015 per viewer, and boom — you’re at nearly $50,000/month.*
4.) Know what you’re worth with bonuses.
There are exceptions, however, where brands can charge a lot more than this.
- If the products you’re typically marketing are over $50 per month. Rachel Purcell, of one of my favorite blogs, Pink Peonies, makes over $1 million per year on less than 10 million uniques per month (source). The secret? The fashion items she models and showcases beautifully on her site aren’t your typical products. She’s marketing $300 dresses and $1,000+ handbags. The potential ROI for her advertisers are tremendous.
- If you have an MD, PhD, MS — leverage it. Darya Rose of Summer Tomato is a great example of this. She is a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and broadcasts it loudly — right at the upper right-hand corner of her site, where English-speaking persons, who read left-to-right and stop on the right, will see it first. Hey, you paid for the degree in terms of time and money — broadcast it as a credential, and charge advertisers a premium for your master’s or doctorate level expertise.
- If you have an interest in being a full-fledged entrepreneur and selling a product, now is the time. Anyone ever see that old 1991 movie Far and Away? I liken the 2010’s to the modern-day Land Rush of 1893 from that movie, except the land to be claimed is digital. You can create a site, attract like-minded visitors, create amazing products (anything from books to products to podcasts) and partner with advertisers. The sky is the limit online, but like with the Land Rush of yore, you have to be willing to take the risk and make the ultimate sacrifice: your time and effort, without any guarantee on return.* But if you invest the next three, five, or ten years to it, you can have a really nice income.
5.) Consider hiring an agency with experience and expertise.
I lucked out because I’m a writer at heart. But I’m not a videographer or a photographer, and for those things, I needed to hire help. Over the years, we’ve gotten good at it, and we were asked to create blogs, websites, and run social media for other brands. And then we did — so much that we had to hire and train many others to replicate what we do — so that it’s an entire business model of its own!
If you’re looking to build your own blog online that has serious growth potential, reach out to me about my marketing company, FutureDerm Media. We hand-select our clients and work to help you reach your goals. We help everyone from celebrity-owned brands to neighborhood startups reach their growth potential through content, SEO, social media, and a committed growth strategy. For more info, email me at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com!
Some of my favorite articles on the internet this week!
- What’s the Difference Between Skin Rejuvenation and Skin Resurfacing? (Leslie Baumann MD Blog)
- Skincare Packaging Matters, but Not in the Way You May Think (Auratek Textiles)
- Dr. Vonda Wright shares her 5 best anti-aging secrets (Women’s Health Conversations)
- What you need to know on day 1 of the gym (Performance Inspired Nutrition)