A lot of people are thinking about blogging today, and more specifically, blogging as a business. It’s not surprising that this is a topic gaining grassroots traction, given the fact that the standby job for most prolific writer’s, that is working for an Old Media print organization, is a job that’s very quickly going the way of the dodo.
There have been a lot of posts this morning that have put this topic on the fore of my mind this morning, but on a personal level, a friend of mine and I had three hour conversation last night centered around what it would take for him to someone who made a living off his writing. He’s a gifted writer, always engaging and interesting, and very focused. The problem is that he’s seen the community around his writing erode lately because his niche is national politics, something that very quickly went out of vogue after the elections.
His problem, if you can call it that, is that he’s only at his best when he’s writing what he’s passionate about: national politics. Get him outside of that, and he doesn’t enjoy it, and thus his writing suffers.
He’s not alone, though. On a fairly regular basis, I get people that approach me and want a job writing either for my personal website or at some respected blog that I’ve either worked for in the past or have connections with. As Penelope Trunk pointed out on Brazen Careerist today, though, chances are, “you’re not going to make money from your blog.”
In her post, she outlines ten reasons why you’ll never see dime one from your blog. Some of them hold water, like “supporting yourself from your blog is crazy hard,” and “you have to be controversial.” Others indicate a myopic view of what’s going on in the blogosphere, like “big bloggers come from big media,” and “you can make more money flipping burgers.”
The truth is that it takes a certain type of person to make a career out of creating New Media, be it blogging, videoing, and podcasting, and getting there is easier now than it ever was, despite the economic difficulties that exist currently.
There are a number of ways to get paid for your words, but chances are your dream includes being self-directed and working in your pajamas. This means you’re going to need to posess a lot of skills not always commonly found in those with the gift of good writing ability.
You’re going to need to be a marketer.
More to the point, you’ll need to be able to market yourself, both to your readers as well as to those that would pay you sponsorship.
You’re going to need to be a salesman. You will have to ask people for money, whether you’re asking your readers for donations or asking corporations or ad networks to pay you for the attention of your readers.
You’re going to need to be flexible. Gone is the era where you can concentrate on one media type and be successful. You’re going to need to understand how to podcast, produce video, and write beautifully. You’re going to need to understand how to best distribute that content so you can monetize it and have it gain eyeballs.
You’re going to need to be customer service manager. It won’t take long for you to start receiving pitches for stories from those with a vested interest in serving a client or their company.CSRM is about balancing the needs of the company with the needs of the customer. It will be your job to balance the value of continuing to receive those story ideas from PR people with the best interests of your audience, or else risk losing both.
You’re going to need to be an aggressive businessman and researcher. If you’re really trying to make your fulltime living off writing, you’re going to need to understand your niche and understand who has a vested interest in marketing to your niche. This means trying out ad networks, bargaining and negotiating for the best deal you can get, and even cold calling companies that can help you achieve those ends.
Most people don’t understand all that’s involved with going it alone and making it work – which is why it’s easy for folks like Penelope Trunk to say “you’re not going to make it.” Chances are, she’s right, since it’s essentially starting a new business, and the majority of all new businesses fail.
Similarly, it’s understandable why Jeff Jarvis might be skeptical. In response to the WSJ figures quoted above, he said:
As much as I would like to believe that blogging is a lucrative profession, I’m not sure I buy it — not quite yet. He says that bloggers with 100,000 readers a month are making $75k. Name a few. Still, the trend is heading this way and I’m certainly happy to hear talk of blogging as a business model.
Granted, 100,000 readers a month won’t grant you an automatic $75k. It’s possible, but not likely, and that number certainly doesn’t scale upwards at a 1:1 ratio.
To say that blogging is a fruitless endeavor is completely wrong, and that is the sentiment that the uninitiated and the frustrated have been putting forward lately. It’s a very complex business, and it isn’t easy. For the dedicated and qualified, though, it is possible.