What defines a highly successful blog or blogger over the millions of others? We know that content is key, and that increasingly with the emergence of Blogging 2.0 that participation is also vital, but neither account for success exclusively.
In business, those who take risks are often the most successful. The small business owner who borrows money to start a business takes a life altering risk. Some 90% of small businesses fail in their first 5 years, and a significant number of them in their first year, and yet year after year people start new businesses, knowing that the odds are always going to be stacked against them. The common thread is always the same: the dream of building something big and of being successful.
If you’re blogging for anything other than a hobby, blogs are no different to small business. Many will say that you can strike it rich blogging, that it’s the ultimate part time or casual job that can deliver you salvation from the drudgery of working for someone else. It’s a great dream, and some do manage it, but for most its complete and utter bollocks. You might be able to create a reasonable second income, some spending money from your endeavors, but the concept that you can, risk free, create riches, is a false one for all but a lucky few.
To succeed in blogging, you have to take risks, just like the small business owner does when they start a business. Who dares wins in blogging.
The higher the risk, the more can be gained
Blue chip stocks are often called a safe bet, but the big money on stock exchanges is often made on penny stocks, high risk stocks with lower chances of success. The higher the risk, the bigger the potential gain. The same holds true in blogging. Starting a new blog is always a risk, but working full time on that blog with no assurance of success is a bigger risk again. But consider the odds: a part-time or casual blogger may manage a couple of posts a day, and if covering a high news space, may miss the big stories, or breaking those stories themselves. A full time blogger is focused only on their blog, writing posts and looking out for the next big story. There are always other factors in the mix, such as quality and engagement, but who do you think has the better odds of success?
Some of the biggest blogs today targeted unproven niche areas, or combined various topics to create something unique. Michael Arrington started TechCrunch because he didn’t believe that there was a blog covering the startup space well enough. The Huffington Post gave a voice to Hollywood Celebrities while delivering a mix of politics, tech, business and lifestyle news. I started The Blog Herald, a well known blog even today, because I wanted to offer blogging news and write about blogs at a time there was nobody covering the space.
It’s easy to copy an established model, but the risk is always trying something new. The chances of failure increase with the risk, but if the risk works out, the payoff is exponentially higher.
Waking up one morning and deciding to be a full time blogger isn’t something the vast majority of people will ever do, nor perhaps would they ever be in the situation where they can afford to do so. Who doesn’t want to eat and pay bills.
In my case, I dreamed for years of turning my passion for the internet into a full time job. I tried consulting on the side for a while, and although it gave me some nice pocket money, it was never enough. It’s easy and safe to remain working for somebody else, and there is always a long list of valid reasons against giving that security up. I was fortunate that in December 2005 that I was restructured out of my job, and instead of returning to corporate drudgery I decided to give blogging a go full time. I haven’t worked in a formal work environment since.
There’s a reason there are so few full time bloggers: it’s just way too risky for most. If I hadn’t faced that restructure I may well still be working in the corporate space today. However I know that if I hadn’t taken that leap, that many of the opportunities that have arisen since simply would not have happened for me. I may not be rich from blogging, but it has long paid the bills.
The lower risk way
I love it when people yell that you can’t get rich from blogging for somebody else. Very few people get rich from blogging anyway, but is being rich the end goal for everybody?
Blogging jobs, be it for standalone blogs or blogging networks offer a lower risk way of establishing yourself as a blogger and to earn money. Blogging jobs are a great way to earn money doing something you love doing, and those who are particularly good at it can turn blogging jobs into full time gigs, and in some cases make a lot of money. I know of some bloggers who write for many blogs, and combined their income delivers a great full time equivalent rate of pay.
Blogging jobs aren’t without risk though. If you’re on a revenue sharing deal, a downturn in traffic and/ or advertising can hurt your bottom line. Bloggers tend to be hired as contractors, so job security is usually only a termination email away. They offer higher risks than a traditional job, but not so high as blogging full time for yourself, and as such offer potentially higher returns (both financial and in time) than a traditional job, but lower potential returns than doing it yourself.
Blogging jobs can also act as a stepping stone to full time blogging. What better way to build an income outside of a tradition job than writing for an existing blog where you are usually guaranteed payment. With the right blog you’ll also gain experience as a blogger that can help you take that next step, and if you’re lucky (or good enough) that job can also expose you to others, creating an audience that is interested in you as a blogger.
Anyone who thinks they can sit back, create a blog, and turn it into a million dollar business without hard work and taking risks is in most cases delusional. If it was that easy, we’d all be doing it, and we’d all be rich. If you are interested in turning a love or interest in blogging into a serious part time or full time income, be prepared to take risks, and be prepared to fail. Know that who dares wins in blogging, and that although it will never be easy, with enough passion, drive, an awful lot of elbow grease, talent and time, you can succeed.
Post note: much of this post can be applied easily to startups of any kind as well.