Last week, a good friend of mine asked me out to lunch. He said he was dying to discuss a potential online business idea and wanted my honest opinion. Naturally, I accepted.
I was excited, not only because we were having sushi, but because I love helping people, especially those who I can tell have the drive and passion to succeed. Many people ask me about what I do online, but only a handful actually ask me how to setup an LLC or use Google Optimizer to increase conversion rates.
At lunch, after some catching up and small chit-chat, I finally asked him, “So what's this business idea of yours?”
Here's the rest of our conversation:
Friend: I want to start a blog about X.
(X is “code” for his niche of interest)
Me: Sweet. Go on. . .
Friend: I want to start a blog about X because I'm already considered an expert at it. People come to me for advice all of the time, it's something I'm totally passionate about, and I can see myself doing this full-time for years down the road.
Me: Nice. Those are all important things to consider when choosing to decide what niche you want to get into.
Friend: Right? So what do you think? Do you think it can work?
Me: So you want to start a blog?
Friend: Yeah. Why, what's wrong with that?
Me: Nothing is wrong with starting a blog, but what's the business? How will you make money?
Friend: Well, I thought the blog was the business. Don't you have blogs that you make money from? I could advertise on it. Then maybe I could start other websites and make money from those too from advertising. How about that?
Me: You can make money from advertising, yes, but think about it. When you advertise, you're the middle man. Would you rather be the middle man, or would you rather be the man?
Friend: [head nod]
Me: Okay then. So, my question to you is this: after you start this blog, how will you make money? How will this blog turn into a business?
Friend: Um. . .
Me: What comes next? What comes after the blog?
We actually ended up talking for a couple more hours, mostly about how one can use a blog as a launching pad for a business. I'm happy to share what we talked about with you.
Turning a Blog into a Business
If you're familiar with how I got to this point in life, you know that when I started my exam prep blog, I had no intention of making money from it whatsoever. It was only after I got laid off that I eventually started to monetize it and mold it into a real online business.
And even then, I started monetizing it by utilizing Google Adsense, which eventually led to selling advertising space on my blog. At this point, could you call my blog a business?
I was directly dealing with third-party companies to fill those advertising spots. I was, in fact, “conducting business,” but I wasn't seeing the kind of income I really wanted (and needed) at the time. Not even close.
It was only after following the example of some of my favorite bloggers (like Darren and Yaro), and some excellent advice from the Internet Business Mastery Academy that I knew I had to do something more than just blog to make some real profit. Soon after, I formed my LLC and leveraged the authority and trust I had earned on my blog to launch a profitable online business. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
It's my belief that anyone with a blog, passion, and a good work ethic can do the same thing.
So, as my friend and I sat there eating our spicy tuna rolls, we discussed how we could possibly take his idea of “just a blog,” and turn it into some kind of profitable business. Here's what we came up with:
Write an Ebook
This is the most logical step for many of us “just bloggers” out there. We already write on a blog, so it's not all that difficult for us to write an ebook too.
In many cases, we can simply reformat what we've already written on the blog and turn that into an ebook. Even though our readers could get most of the same information for free, if you've established yourself as an authority, people will gladly pay you for a neatly organized and formatted ebook.
Here are some other examples of bloggers utilizing an ebook in their business repertoire:
- Darren Rowse's 31 Days to Build a Better Blog
- David DeAngelo's Double Your Dating Ebook
- Leo Babauta's Zen to Done
If you're interested in writing an ebook, please check out my comprehensive free ebook guide.
Oh, and don't forget about the audio guides and videos you could add to your product line.
Write a Book Book
Maybe you're not an ebook kind of person, and that's okay. Many bloggers use their blog as a stepping stone to get an actual printed book published.
This is something I would love to do someday. I would love to take my son into Barnes & Nobles, point to a book on the shelf and say, “Look son! I wrote this book.”
Anyways, it takes a lot longer to build your reputation as a blogger to have the ability to write and publish an actual printed book (not including those who self-publish via sites like LuLu.com), but doing so can definitely skyrocket your authority and income potential.
Here are some examples of bloggers who have gone to the next level and have published an actual printed book:
- Ramit Sethi's book I Will Teach You to Be Rich, from IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com.
- Darren Rowse's book Problogger: Secrets For Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, from ProBlogger.net
- Leo Babauta's book The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limited Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life, from ZenHabits.net
- J.D. Roth's book Your Money: The Missing Manual, from GetRichSlowly.com
All of these guys were at one point “just bloggers,” and now they're authors.
Why can't we do the same?
Start a Membership Website
A membership website is probably the most attractive business model for most bloggers who don't want to be “just bloggers” anymore. Usually, these membership websites have either premium content or exclusive content that cannot be found on the blog and require a recurring payment to access. Here's what really makes membership websites attractive:
Let's say we set up our own membership website and charge a $20 monthly fee (which is relatively low, but a nice round number I can use to prove my point).
In the first month, we sell 50 memberships. That's $1,000.
In the second month, we sell another 50 memberships. That's $1,000, plus another $1,000 from the 50 members from the first month. That's $2,000 total in the second month.
In the third month, we sell 100 new memberships. Now we have 200 total members, which is $4,000. And so on and so forth.
Obviously, people drop out and don't stay members forever, but still, profits can add up quickly. Setup your membership site once, and just reap the benefits month after month.
Here are some examples of membership websites with premium content:
- Will Hamilton's Tennis Membership Site (post from Entrepreneurs-Journey.com)
- Cici and Shaun from LearningIndonesian.com
- Darren's Problogger Community
- Lynn Terry's Self-Starters Weekly Tips
Create and Sell Courses
Somewhat related to membership websites, you can create a full line of courses to help teach whatever it is you want to teach. The difference between a membership site and selling courses, is that the courses don't necessarily have to be something that is only accessible online. Think DVD packages and audio CDs.
Here's a great example from a site that helps people learn how to play the guitar:
- John's Online Guitar Lessons at LearningGuitarNow.com
Become a Consultant / Start a Service
Many bloggers use their leverage in the blogosphere to actually launch their own consulting or service businesses that are related to their niche. Think about the type of businesses that a successful graphic artist and blogger could create. Or how about a social media expert, or an interior designer?
Yes, these kinds of businesses aren't as “passive” because they require your direct services (at first), but it's definitely a viable way to start earning a profit as a result of who you become on your blog.
Here is an example:
- Sergio from SOSFactory.com (Mascot, Logo and Web Designer)
Sell Something You Actually Make
This wasn't an option for my buddy, but it might be for a lot of other bloggers. Maybe you knit really awesome sweaters, or build record breaking remote control cars. There's no reason why you wouldn't be able to develop a following and begin to sell your creations online.
What about food? (Although I'm sure there are some strict regulations for selling any kind of food online. Better check on that before you sell your grandma's cookies online.)
For you software developers and coders out there, maybe you've created some type of awesome software or program that does something we all wish we had the ability to do.
How about a WordPress theme?
Something Innovative That's Never Been Done Before
When it comes to innovation and blogs, the first thing that comes to mind are Jason and Evan from iwearyourshirt.com. If you haven't heard of them, they basically get paid to wear company t-shirts. That's it.
Maybe you'd call it a flash in the pan, or a gimmick, but these guys are making bank. They are pretty much sold out for the year 2010 already. (Today's date, by the way, is January 20, 2010, for all of you future readers out there.)
Here's their “buy your spot” page, where you can see the few spots that are left, which are going between $516 to $538 a day.
Props to Jason and Evan for their success, seriously.
After Our Lunch
At the end of our lunch, my buddy thanked me and said:
Friend: I have a lot of options.
Me: Yep! But keep that enthusiasm you have with your blog, because it can take you places.
Friend: I will. But what should I do after the blog. I mean, what's my next step? An ebook, like you?
Me: Maybe, but I wouldn't worry about that right now. If you go into building your blog knowing that you're going to launch an ebook on such and such date, or start a membership website right away, you're going to fail. Work on your blog, build it naturally with the primary purpose of helping people. If you do that, you'll gain authority and by then you'll know what you should do next. Keep everything we talked about in mind so you're ready when that happens.
Friend: Cool, thanks Pat.