If you are serious about building an online income, you need to learn how to make money from your website and associated activities.
This can either be directly from the website, through things like affiliate marketing, or indirectly by using your site as a way to bring in visitors who will purchase things like ebooks or online courses from you. It will take time and, above all, you must focus on producing content that is interesting and helpful to your audience.
Whichever method you use to monetize your online business, there are some fundamental things that you need to have in place:
- A blog platform that is well designed and full of interesting content that is relevant to your chosen niche. If you don’t have that, please take a look at my “how to start an online business” resource page.
- An idea of how you plan to make your money. (I will discuss this in the next section.)
- Ways to get traffic to your site.
- Tools to automate things like emailing your subscribers with offers or completing transactions so you get paid.
This last point is more important than you think. If you talk to many of the most successful online marketers, like Pat Flynn or Ramit Sethi, they will tell you that they wished they had started building their email list sooner. There is little point driving traffic to your site if you don’t have a way to add visitors to your list, so you can keep engaging with them.
Please take a look at my resource page on “How to Build an Maintain Email List” if you want some help with this.
Different ways to make money off your online business.
There are several ways you can make money through your online business, but it is worth pointing out that it may not happen overnight, unless you are very lucky. It takes a lot of effort and a fair amount of time to generate a consistent income from your blog platform, but it is worth the effort.
It is also important to note that the ability to generate income is a fundamental factor when choosing your niche unless your online business is just going to be a hobby. Some niches lend themselves more to money making than others. I recommend taking a look at Pat Flynn’s book “Will it Fly” which takes you step by step through selecting your niche and testing it with your market.
Here are the main examples of how you can make money from your online business. Later I will give you some examples of how this works with different niches.
This is where you promote someone else’s product and receive a commission for it. The main advantage of affiliate marketing is that you don’t need to develop your own product to sell, so you can get started relatively quickly. The main disadvantage is that you are not in full control. An affiliate can change their commission plan or even close down their affiliate program and there is little you can do about it. This is why I recommend having multiple affiliate programs running at any one time. Even so, many of the most successful bloggers derive a large portion of their income from affiliate marketing. For example, you could become an Amazon Affiliate and recommend books and products. You could set up an Amazon affiliate account and have links to these products from your blog article. You only make a small percentage from each sale, but it you generate a lot of sales through multiple products, you could generate a healthy income.
A more effective way to generate an affiliate income is to use and review software tools that may be useful to your audience. If you place “affiliate links in these articles and our visitor purchases the product, you get paid a commission. If the product is a subscription, you often get paid for every month the subscription is in place, which can really add up. If you would like to know more about Affiliate Marketing, please read my article, “How to get into Affiliate Marketing”.
Publishing ebooks or books for sale
This requires a little more work but can be very lucrative if you have enough good content to make into a book or just like writing. It doesn’t have to be long, especially with an ebook, but it does need to contain valuable content for your audience. Some bloggers give their ebooks away for free, in exchange for someone signing up to their email list. This is a great way to build your list and prime your audience for something you are going to charge for. Others will sell their ebook or book to generate income. Typically this should happen once you have built up some trust with your audience. Start with writing blog articles to drive traffic to your site and build your list. Follow up by giving a few things away. Once you have a number of subscribers and regular traffic, then you can offer an ebook for sale.
If you are good at writing, this can expand into book publishing. Anyone will tell you that writing a book should not be taken lightly, but it is a great way to increase your credibility. If you want to know more, there are some excellent podcasts on the subject:
This is where you allow ads to be placed on your blog by the likes of Google or Amazon. This happens automatically once you sign up for the program and when one of your visitors clicks on a like and buys something, you get a commission. Like affiliate marketing, this is easy to get started with because you are using a ready-made program rather than building your own product.
I am not a great fan of this because it can get expensive and can be difficult to get right, but if you have a budget and want to build up traffic quickly, it can work.
A lot of people use Facebook ads and, more recently Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat as a way to drive traffic to their site. I am definitely not an expert on this so I recommend you check out these podcasts:
Or if you are in the business to business space: Marketing School: How to Use Linkedin for Marketing
Developing and selling online courses or coaching
Like writing ebooks, this can take a little longer to build and also does require you to establish a degree of credibility before you will be able to get people to buy a course from you. Like an ebook, you can build a course from content you already have and can promote it via your blog or email list. If you have a large list, courses can be very lucrative, because you only have to write it once, but you can deliver it to a large number of paying customers.
I recommend you test your course with a select audience before you release it to your entire list, maybe for a reduced fee. That has two advantages. 1) you can get feedback from your target market which will allow you to fine tune the content. 2) This select group will really appreciate the opportunity to interact with you and contribute to the course material.
You could also sell your time and expertise through coaching. On your site or in an email you send out you could offer the opportunity for “one on one coaching” have a link where people could book you for virtual coaching sessions. This is more time consuming because its one-to-one, but you may be able to charge more per session, because of the personal attention. The bonus in that is you will really engage with your audience and start to see the same struggles, topics & questions come up that you can build into your courses and articles.
One of the best in the business in Ramit Sethi. He has built up a loyal following, some of whom will happily pay thousands of dollars for one of his high-end courses: www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com. Don’t be fooled by the name. Most of his content is free and I have found it very helpful in building my business.
This is one of the indirect methods available to bloggers and is usually through getting someone to sponsor a podcast episode or online video. Again, you will need to have a large audience to lure in paying sponsors, but it certainly helps to fund these activities.
I am sure you know of other ways to make money from your blog, but these are the main ones.
How do you Build an Income in Your Niche?
I want to show you how you could make money from your blog in a particular niche. This may not be your niche, but you can go through the same steps with your chosen niche. The formula is pretty much the same, although, as I said earlier, some niches will be more profitable than others.
Let’s take the example of personal finance:
Many people are interested in personal finance. They struggle with things like budgeting and getting through the month without spending more than they earn. Do some research on what others are saying, maybe listen to podcasts on the topic. Is there something you have done that has really made a difference to how you manage your finances?
You could start by writing a blog article telling your story about how you got into personal finance. Maybe you were finding you had a student debt to pay off or you were living in a high rent area for work but didn’t earn much — how did you deal with it? You may have found inspiration from books on the subject. You could set up an Amazon affiliate account and have links to these books from your blog article. Note: If you send someone to Amazon to buy your book and, while they are there, they buy other stuff – you make a commission on the entire sale!
You may have found certain tools that help you plan your finances. Check if they have an affiliate program that you could sign up for and earn commission from people who take your advice.
At the end of the article, you offer your readers a Monthly Budget Spreadsheet how to manage your finances in exchange for their e-mail address, so you can start building your email list.
Before you do that, you could do a weekly or monthly newsletter with tips and recommendations, maybe include links to some of your other content as you produce it. You could also include links to books, tools, subscriptions that you have used and recommend. Again these could be affiliate links that earn you money.
Keep writing more articles on different subjects around personal finance. Include links to other material if you think it is useful, even if it is from another site. This may seem strange, but it provides extra value to your audience which they will thank you for. You may also find that the person who owns that material could link back to you which will increase your search engine rankings “SEO”.
You could also self-publish an e-book. This could be a combination of several of your articles that cover a specific topic. An example would be: “20 steps to fix your personal finances.” I am sure you can think of a better title. Take a look through the articles you have published and see what articles fit into a topic. You can then put them together into sections or chapters and add extra content to fill in the gaps or connect things together. Don’t try to charge too much for your first book. You are still building credibility. Also, put a few free copies to select people on your list in exchange for feedback. You will be surprised how much they will tell you that will allow you to improve the ebook, prior to sale.
You could also sell your time and expertise through coaching. In the personal finance space, you can offer a 1 hour per week ‘personal finance analysis’. At the end of the coaching program, people can expect to have a defined plan for getting their finances in order with steps and timelines. Running a series of coaching sessions will likely tell you what the main challenges are that your audience is facing. This will give you some material to build an online course on “Fix your finances in 30 days ” that you can sell to your list. The advantage here is that once you produce your material, you can run a series of courses and make money each time for very little extra work. I encourage you to test the course first with a select audience. I also find courses where the course writer (you) is actively involved throughout, get much better results and feedback.
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