So you have a blog, but it’s not making any money yet… These are the steps you need to take to turn your blog into a profitable business in 2021…
So you have a blog… perhaps it’s a very new blog… perhaps it’s a hobby blog… and you want to turn it into a profitable business in 2021, but you are not sure where to start?
Perhaps you are even wondering if it is actually POSSIBLE to turn a blog into a profitable business?
OK, first off – YES, it is absolutely possible to turn your blog into a business – a very successful and profitable one at that.
I have turned not one, but TWO blogs into profitable businesses.
But I must warn you blogging is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme and it’s certainly not a ‘get rich with no effort’ scheme.
Turning your blog into a profitable business is totally possible, but it does require hard work and dedication.
And it also requires you to do the RIGHT things. Writing a few blog posts, doing a bit of social media and then crossing your fingers and hoping will not magically turn your blog into a 6 figure business!
So what are these right things?
That’s what this post is all about!
Here’s how to turn your blog into a profitable business in 2021…
1. Get professional
You are unlikely to be able to turn your blog into a successful business if it LOOKS like hobby blog!
There are three big things to address here. Firstly, your URL, secondly going self-hosted and thirdly your blog’s design.
Your blog’s URL
If you want your blog to become your business in 2021, then you are going to need to get a professional looking URL. That means www.YOURBLOGNAME.com NOT www.YOURBLOGNAME.wordpress.com or www.YOURBLOGNAME.squarespace.com etc.
Buying a custom domain name is not expensive (for a standard domain name, you are looking at around $15 per year), but it makes ALL the difference.
Your readers will see you as more professional, you are more likely to get sponsored work, you will be able to get ads on your site and your blog will be taken more seriously by your potential customers and clients too.
I can’t stress this one enough. If you want to turn your blog into a fully-fledged business in 2021, you need to go self-hosted, if you are not already.
Going self-hosted comes with a whole range of benefits, not least that you actually OWN your blog outright and you are not beholden to one company who could potentially pull the plug at any moment (something that would be bad for a hobby blog, but DISASTEROUS if your blog is also your business!)
Going self-hosted also means your blog looks more professional, you’ll be able to grow it faster AND earn decent money sooner.
READ MORE >>> How to start a self-hosted WordPress blog
READ MORE >>> Hosted vs Self Hosted: Which is best for your blog?
Your blog’s design
Finally, you need to get serious about your blog’s design if you want your blog to be your business. A free theme is all very well for a hobby blog, but if you want your blog to become your business you really need to invest in a professional theme that not only looks good, but is also well coded and gives you all the flexibility you’ll need as your bloggy business grows.
Even if your blog does already have a professional theme, now is the time to give your blog a careful appraisal. Does your blog really look like a professional blog, or does it still look like a hobby blog and/or does it look a little tired and dated? Maybe ask some blogging friends to give you their honest opinion…
And if it does look like a hobby blog, maybe now is the time for a design refresh?
READ MORE >>> How to choose the right theme for your blog
2. Start thinking like a business owner
Hoorah – your blog is now looking professional. The next thing we need to make over is your MINDSET! If you want your blog to be your business this year, you need to get out of that ‘hobby blog’ mindset and start thinking like a business owner.
This means niching down, getting to know your audience, setting goals, investing and treating your blog as your job, not your hobby!
No serious business seeks to appeal to everyone. Successful businesses are successful because they focus on one specific group of people. And the same applies to blogging. If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one… and you’ll find it very hard to monetise your blog!
Get to know your audience
Likewise, to be successful all businesses must seek to understand their customers better.
My background is in business, and I have worked for a whole variety of businesses: everything from large national and multinational businesses through to small and micro businesses. But all of them, without fail, took time to conduct market research and understand their customers better.
Why? Because unless you understand your readers / customers, how can you hope to provide what they want?
This is a big change from the hobby blog to the business blog mindset. As a hobby blogger, your focus is on yourself – you put out the content that you want to write. After all it’s your hobby!
But as a business, your blog needs to focus on your readers and customers and what THEY want not on you (more about this in the next section).
How do you get to know your customers and find out what they want? Well, you can start by checking your Google Analytics, which tells you all about who your current readers are and which of your blog posts are most popular.
You can also ask your readers via email and social media. And there’s an awful lot that can be gleaned from the emails, social media comments and blog comments that your existing readers send you too!
READ MORE >>> How to set up Google Analytics on a WordPress blog
READ MORE >>> How to use Google Analytics – a beginners guide
Just as all serious businesses do market research, so all serious businesses set goals. It’s no good writing a blog post every week, doing a bit of social media and then hoping you’ll magically start earning money somehow – you need to make a plan!
I’d love to tell you that you can make good money from blogging without spending a penny yourself, but sadly that’s just not true. That old adage ‘you’ve got to speculate to accumulate’ applies to blogging too. The good news, though, is that there’s very little you really NEED to spend to turn your blog into a business in 2021.
At a bare minimum I would say you need to spend money on:
- A domain name (approx. $15 per year)
- A web host (approx. $5 per month)
- A DSLR camera, if you need to take photos for your blog (an entry level DSLR costs under $500, and even less if you buy second hand)
- A good email service provider (I recommend ConvertKit* which costs $29 per month)
This might sound a lot, but it’s tiny compared to what you’d need to spend if you were starting a brick and mortar business… and remember, the more you invest up front, the quicker you’ll be able to earn it all back… and more!
Treat your blog as your job
Whether you are able to work on your blog full time or you are only able to squeeze a few hours in in the evenings and at weekends, if you want your blog to be successful, you need to treat it like your job… that means setting your ‘work hours’ and sticking to them (even when you don’t feel like it!) and working hard – consistently focusing on your goals and next action steps and not getting distracted and spending hours on social media instead!
READ MORE >>> How to treat your blog like a business
3. Write for your readers not yourself
We touched on this a little earlier, but one of the key differences between blogging as a hobby and blogging as a business is that, if your blog is your business, you need to write for your readers NOT for yourself.
This means finding out what THEY want to read – what are their pain points, and how can you help? And then writing that.
Not sure what your audience want? Well start by looking at your Google Analytics… find out what your audience already loves, and then write more of the same!
You can also ask your readers, via social media, your blog or your email list. Ask them to tell you what they are struggling with, what they wish they were better at, what they wished they understood better and what kinds of blog posts they’d like to see on your blog.
Then deliver what your audience want in a way that’s reader friendly – for example, using headings, bullet points and images to break up your text and make it more enjoyable to read.
READ MORE >>> How to write the perfect blog post
4. Promote your content to grow your following
But it’s not enough to simply write blog post after blog post… you need to PROMOTE your content to grow your blog’s pageviews and your social media following.
You could be writing the best blog posts in the world, but if you never share your blog posts on social media, via email etc. no one will ever know!
Not only will sharing your blog posts on social media help to grow your blog’s readership, it will also help to grow your social media following – which in turn will increase your credibility, not just with your readers, but also brands, PRs and future clients.
5. Engage with your audience
But don’t just post and run! A really important part of growing your bloggy business is taking the time to engage with your readers. At the very least you should be replying to every comment on social media, every comment on your blog and every email you receive.
Yes, it’s true that one day you may get to the stage where that is simply not possible (and if you do, congratulations because that will almost certainly mean you now have a fully-fledged and profitable business!), but right now when you are trying to get your business off the ground, this kind of one to one interaction with your readers and followers is vital!
If at all possible, go one better and be proactive with your social media. Like, share and comment on other relevant content, ask questions and engage in discussions with your readers and build a community through a dedicated Facebook group for your blog.
READ MORE >>> How to grow your blog by building a tribe
READ MORE >>> How to start and grow a successful Facebook group for your blog
6. Get serious about SEO
This one is a really important one. If you want to get serious about your blog, you need to get serious about SEO. While you will get some traffic and build up your visibility and authority on social media, you are likely to find that the vast majority of your blog traffic comes from search engines – especially Google.
To give you an idea, I probably work equally hard on social media, Pinterest and SEO, yet 85% of my traffic comes from search engines (5% comes from Pinterest and even less from social media).
SEO covers a lot of different areas, everything from keyword research to backlinks, SEO copywriting to site structure, cornerstone content and more. But if you are just getting started with SEO, the I recommend you check out these posts first:
- A beginner’s guide to SEO
- How to set up the Yoast SEO plugin PROPERLY
- How to optimise a blog post for search engines
Or better still, enrol on my SEO course! Here’s what a few of my students had to say…
“SEO Jumpstart is the most effective course I’ve ever done and I haven’t even finished it yet! This is not a course for the faint-hearted. You need to do the work on your site, however, the instructions are very clear and it is totally worth it. Through implementing the SEO advice in the course my organic search page views have increased by 85% in the past year and I was accepted by Mediavine which means I have a regular income through advertising.”– Janice Pattie, Farmersgirl Kitchen
“I wish I’d bought SEO Jumpstart 6 months ago. A lot of what’s in there I picked up myself by trial and error (blood, sweat and tears), but there’s lots in there that’s so useful. It’s great in that it confirms a lot of what I have done is on the right track – but I’ve missed loads The sections on categories, tags and cornerstone content is solid gold. And it’s so clearly written and easy-to-follow. If you are considering it then don’t hesitate – JUST GET IT.?”– Veronica Jerling, Foodle Club
“I’ve been blogging for years but it’s only since implementing Eb’s advice, particularly around SEO, that I’ve seen my page views begin to grow. Consistently following Eb’s advice has let me grow my blog to the page views needed to join an ad agency. I’m finally making an income from my blog and I have Eb to thank for it!”– Mandy Mazliah, Sneaky Veg
7. Build an email list of dedicated subscribers
It’s often said that ‘the money is in the list’. If you want to turn your blog into a business in 2021, you MUST get serious about email marketing. Email marketing is not a ‘nice to have’ in 2021, it’s a business ESSENTIAL.
Yes, it is true that you can get free email marketing services, but to be 100% honest, I believe that’s a false economy, which is why I use (and highly recommend!) ConvertKit*.
ConvertKit makes it easy to grow your email list FAST and ensure the people joining your list are the RIGHT people, thanks to easy-to-set-up forms, bespoke welcome emails, easy opt-in offer delivery (of multiple opt-in offers), dual purpose double opt-in buttons and fantastic visual automations!
Once your email list is built, ConvertKit makes it simple to tag and segment your list, deliver targeted email campaigns to the right people and create rules and automations to ensure the right subscribers get the right information at the right time.
If you want to get serious about email marketing in 2021, I recommend reading the following posts:
- A beginner’s guide to ConvertKit
- How to create an opt-in offer: step-by-step
- How to use Pinterest to grow your email list
8. Figure out your Monetisation strategy
If you want your blog to become your business in 2021, you need to start thinking about how it’s going to make money. There are broadly 5 ways a blog can make money: ads, affiliate links, sponsored posts, products and services.
My big recommendations to you are a) focus on more than one of these monetisation strategies (you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket) and b) focus on the most passive forms of monetisation, namely affiliate links, products and ads
Monetise with Ads
You can make BIG money from ads on your blog. However, the catch is you need large amounts of blog traffic to achieve that. For example, if you want to join one of the high paying ad agencies, such as Mediavine, you will need to be getting at least 50,000 sessions per month. And because the money you earn is directly linked to the amount of traffic on your blog, the more blog traffic you get, the more money you will earn!
If you want to earn money from ads, you need to focus the majority of your efforts on SEO. SEO is by far the fastest and easiest way to grow your blog and therefore your ad income!
MONETISE WITH Affiliate Links
Affiliate links are another great way to earn money from your blog, but only if you do it right! You are unlikely to make much money from affiliate links with a half-hearted, ad hoc approach. If you are serious about making money from affiliate links, you need to start by creating content that is designed to SELL your affiliate links – not in a sleezy way, but by creating content that helps your audience out with a problem and shows how the affiliate product you are trying to sell is a really great solution to that problem. For an example of this, check out my CoSchedule Review post, where I show my target audience (busy bloggers who want to more productive) how using CoSchedule will help you get more done in less time!
READ MORE >>> How to make money on your blog with affiliate links
READ MORE >>> 19 easy ways to increase your affiliate income from your blog
MONETISE WITH Products
Creating and selling your own digital product is a brilliant way of earning money from your blog.
Unlike ads, you don’t need vast numbers of pageviews to earn decent money from products AND unlike affiliate products, you get to keep all the money you make from each sale. Plus, once you’ve done the initial work to create your digital product in the first place, your income is essentially passive.
Digital products take many forms, but the one I recommend is online courses. You can sell an online course for much more than an ebook, but the tech is simpler and you don’t need to worry about things like design and delivery. Especially if you use a platform like Teachable*, where all the complicated backend stuff is taken care for you!
If you want to start earning money from digital products, you will first need to work hard on growing your email list. This is because you will almost certainly find that the vast majority of your customers will come from your existing subscribers, who are much more likely to buy from you than casual readers. You then need to take time to find out what your audience most wants and, crucially, would be willing to part with cold hard cash for. And finally, you will need to create and sell your product!
READ MORE >>> How to make money on your blog with products
READ MORE >>> 20 reasons why you should create an online course
READ MORE >>> How to create your first online course – 10 step plan!
9. Get your accounts in order
Technically from the day you earn your first penny, your blog is a business in the eyes of the tax man and needs to be correctly registered as such and for tax purposes. You will need to keep track of your monthly income and expenses and file a tax return at the end of every year.
READ MORE >>> How to keep track of your blogging income and expenses
10. Don’t quit your day job… yet!
As I said at the start of this article, while it is absolutely possible to earn good money from blogging, it is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme! It will take time and effort to turn your blog into a profitable business. So, unless you can afford to live without an income for some time, don’t do anything rash like quitting your day job!
Instead, carve out as much time as you can in the rest of your week to work on your blog as a ‘side hustle’ and work towards an eventual aim of being able to quit your day job!
11. Believe in yourself (and your blog!)
The biggest stumbling block that will prevent you from turning your blog into a profitable business in 2021 is the mental one! If you believe that your blog is already a business and work hard this year to turn it into a profitable one, you are much more likely to succeed, than if you start with the mindset that your blog is ‘just a hobby’.
Believe in yourself, believe you CAN do this and start talking about your blog as a business! Remember, a business does not have to have earned a single penny yet to be called a business. If you started a café or a shop you would talk about ‘my business’ even if you were yet to make a profit and still owed the bank thousands! So, it’s perfectly legitimate to call your blog your business even before you’ve made a single penny. If your intention is to make money from your blog, it absolutely is ALREADY a business!
OK, so you now believe your blog is a business? Now it’s time to put in the hard work and dedication, using the strategies in this article to help you turn your blog into a PROFITABLE business in 2021!
How to turn your blog into a profitable business in 2021
So, are you ready to turn your blog into a profitable business this year? I’d love to hear from you and cheer you on! Drop me a line in the comments below (or over on the Productive Blogging Community).
And if you follow these steps and actually turn your blog into a profitable business in 2021, let me know!
- How do blogs make money?
- How to treat your blog like a business (and start actually making money!)
- 14 reasons why your blog is not making any money (and what to do about it!)
- Goal setting for bloggers in 2021
- How to earn passive income from a blog: a step-by-step guide
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*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!