Is the answer greater efficiency?

No, all the productivity tips in the world won’t turn a few spare hours into 20 hours. That’s just nuts. You need more time. Because one thing’s for sure – you’re not doing your blog justice right now. Now, if you could make some money from your blog, that would give you a little more freedom. If you could get paid to blog, then maybe you could build some serious momentum and make a real difference. But realistically, you just can’t see how that’ll ever happen. So, what’s a conflicted blogger to do?

The Four-Letter Word that Kills Your Hopes Dreams

The simple truth is that bloggers who make a real difference in the long term are those who’ve found a way to operate their blogs more like a business, either blogging full-time, or at least making it their main focus.  The beauty is that those who don’t, or don’t have a concrete plan to do so one day, are effectively condemning their blogs to insignificance, and leaving most of the people they could have helped to struggle alone. But if that’s the case, why don’t more people transition from fun part-time hobby to sustainable business? The answer is simple. They have a strong negative reaction to one small word: SELL

That’s right. The idea that they might ever sell anything from their blogs is deeply offensive. Strangely enough, they often don’t have a problem with the idea of making some money from their blogs, but the idea of selling anything breaks them out in a cold sweat. But that’s a little crazy, right? That’s like saying you want to travel 60 miles in under an hour, but you’re fundamentally opposed to burning fossil fuels. However, a generalized aversion to selling is completely understandable because of all of the negative stereotypes of selling we’ve been inundated with over the years.

We’ve been told:

  • Sales people are fast-talkers who don’t mind lying to make a buck.
  • Success in sales means you have to be aggressive and pushy.
  • Selling always involves a winner and a loser – and only the winner comes out ahead.

No wonder people think selling is sleazy, right?

Why Getting Paid is better than Helping People for Free

The internet is a massive, congested, and loud place. Making bold claims is one of the things you must do to rise above the fray and get noticed. Just think about it; when was the last time you saw a blog with “How to Build a Blog That Does Ok” as the tagline? Or a post with “7 Secrets to Being Somewhat Happy” as the headline? Never. Instead, as a blogger you must make a gigantic claim like “How to Triple Your Traffic in 60 Days.” Or “7 Secrets for Being Blissfully Happy – Instantly.” But here’s the ethical dilemma.

The claim must be big enough to get attention, but not so big that you can’t live up to the claim or deliver on your promises.

And when you’re blogging on the side, delivering on the kind of claims that get people’s attention is tough – doing the research, the analysis, the thinking required to create great content (content that truly helps people) takes time. And time is in short supply. So, with the best of intentions, you promise something you can’t realistically deliver. Sound a little unethical? Even a little sleazy?

On the other hand, let’s say you can deliver on your promises and people do begin to rely on your valuable advice. What happens when something else in your life blows up and requires your attention? Inevitably, your blogging takes a back seat because it’s a peripheral activity. After all, your blogging isn’t exactly paying the bills. So you neglect your blog. The quality drops and your schedule slides. The people who relied on you for help are left high and dry. When you come back to your blog (if you come back to it), half your audience has disappeared and the other half has lost trust. A non-revenue-generating hobbyist blog is far more likely to disappear and leave its followers hanging than a blog that earns an income. So, contradictory as it might sound, having something to sell is sometimes the only ethical approach to building, and sustaining, a popular blog.

The Myth about  “Giving Your Best Stuff Away for Free”?

You’re probably familiar with this blogging mantra. But if you think “give your best stuff away for free” means you’re not supposed to charge for anything ever, you’re hearing it all wrong. It means you should consistently provide value for free. It doesn’t mean everything should be free.

Have you ever called a car repair place with a problem, and they gave you a few suggestions you could try at home before they send a tow truck out and charge you? That’s giving their “best stuff” away for free. But that’s not to say that when something major goes wrong (like your transmission going out), they’ll offer to do it for free. That’s crazy talk.

If they did that, they’d be the nicest, most helpful, friendliest CLOSED auto repair shop in town. Then when you truly needed them some day when your car dies in the wrong part of town, they’re no longer there for you. Helping for free is a nice notion, but even nonprofit organizations need cash flow to stay alive. Churches, missions, charities, and non-profits all need cash flow. They can’t help anyone long term if they can’t raise the financial resources to fund their work. And no offense, but if Mother Teresa couldn’t make it work without cash flow, what chance do you and I stand?

The phrase really ought to be, “Give a lot of your best stuff away for free, but always have something for sale – because that’s what makes the free stuff possible.” That’s a far less sexy sentence, but it’s how things work in the real world. So if all of this makes perfect sense to you, but the idea of selling from your blog still makes you feel like throwing up, I’ve got some good news. It’s actually not a problem.

How to Make Money Without “Selling” a Thing

Think about the last time you bought something you truly wanted or needed. Something that honestly made your life easier or more enjoyable. Do you remember being pushed, coerced, or bullied? I would guess not. Odds are the buying experience was actually enjoyable. In fact, you probably didn’t notice any selling going on at all.

Have you ever been at a high school and noticed an honor roll student politely minding his or her own business? How about that white car you passed during rush hour that was doing the speed limit and didn’t cut you off? Why didn’t you notice those things? And it’s the same with selling. You only notice it when it’s done badly or when it involves a product or service you don’t want or need. So up until now you’ve only noticed the obnoxious teenagers of the selling world, not the good guys. The good guys are hard to spot because they’re busy quietly doing the right thing and helping people. Good guys like you.

Consider the following examples:

  • You’re violently sick, and your doctor has the ability to give you a pill that will almost immediately fix what ails you.
  • You’re stuck with a flat tire with no spare at midnight in a bad part of town and a tow truck happens to stop and help you.
  • Your television dies a horrible death right before the Super Bowl (or the Oscars, or whatever trips your trigger) and you call a repairman to fix it at the last minute.

In any of these scenarios, can you imagine yourself being angry at any of those people for presenting you with a reasonable invoice after saving your bacon? Of course not. You don’t mind because you had a real problem that stressed you out – and they chose to give a damn and help you solve that problem.

They took time out of their day to provide a service – partially to earn a buck, and partially because they recognized your predicament and their heart bled for you just a little bit. And as buyers, when someone solves a problem for us, we’re often all too happy to pay them for their help. Because it’s only right. It’s a fair trade. And helping people via your blog is no different. Even if they need a little persuading at first.

Why People Sometimes Need Persuading

If you can earn money from your blog by helping people without ever actively pushing anything, does that mean people will line up around the block to pay for your help? Not exactly.  A degree of persuasion is involved (another word that people get upset about.)

You may not realize it, but many times in your life it’s been your job as a decent human being to persuade others to do things. If you’ve ever talked a child into sitting still so a doctor could poke a needle into their arm, coaxed them out of the car even though they were terrified on the first day of school, or convinced them to finally go to sleep even though they were crying, “But I’m not tired!” over and over like a broken record, you already possess some incredible persuasive skills.

Do we do those things because we think tricking our children into doing what we want them to do is funny?  Of course not. We just love them and want them to learn how to make good, healthy decisions. And just like the child on the first day of school, sometimes your blog readers need a bit of gentle persuasion too.

Blog readers like this:

  • Max has been struggling with the same problem for months or even years and will remain stuck without help.
  • Isabel desperately wants to achieve an important goal but lacks the skills to get her there – and doesn’t know how to acquire them.
  • Sanjay needs to decide which products or resources are right for him but is paralyzed by all the options.

All of these people need help. In fact, they sorely want help. But even if you’re the perfect person to help them, that’s no use if they don’t believe it. So you need to persuade them. But what does ethical persuasion look like?

How to Master the Art of Ethical Persuasion

You must ask yourself three basic questions before extending any kind of offer (paid or otherwise) if you want to serve your audience ethically and avoid any hint of sleaziness.

#1 Do you truly understand your audience’s wants, needs and desires?

Persuasion feels sleazy when your offer is off-base and doesn’t seem relevant to the person’s own situation. But offers that are aligned with the person’s needs and values are welcomed with open minds and open arms. So are you making an offer you know is right for your audience because you understand them as well as you understand yourself? Or are you offering the kind of help that suits or interests you without a deep understanding of what your audience truly wants and needs?

#2 Does your offer focus on benefits rather than features?

If you fill your offer with features, people will feel they’re being sold to. Features answer the question, “What is it?” (Tall, green, square, etc.) Benefits answer the question, “What will it do for me?” Benefits are things like: It helps you write faster, it allows you to spend more time with your family, or it will help you be healthier. If your offer is framed in terms of the benefits it provides – and you’re confident that you can deliver those benefits to the person you’re making the offer to – you’re persuading ethically.

#3 Is it good enough for your Mom?

That may sound funny, but this is the most important question of all. Don’t say, do, or promise anything that you wouldn’t want said, done, or promised to your mother. If you wouldn’t feel ashamed, embarrassed, or sleazy making your offer to your own Mom, then you’re golden.  Sleep well and make that offer with confidence.

3 Easy Ways to Help People with Your Blog (and Earn Money Doing It)

By now I hope you can see how offering products or services can free you to dedicate more time to your blog and extend its lifespan, allowing you to help more people over longer periods of time. Now the big question is… what to offer your readers? The following are the three fastest, easiest, and most ethical ways to help people with your blog and earn some money doing it.

#1 Sell other people’s products (and earn yourself a commission)

Otherwise known as affiliate sales, this is where you introduce your readers to a product you use and love, on the basis that they might love it too. If they buy (via your custom affiliate link) you’ll get a commission – sometimes as much as 33 percent or even 50 percent. That could be several hundred dollars simply for recommending something they needed anyway. It’s easy and totally ethical. In fact, some of my favorite products were bought from affiliate links right here on Boost Blog Traffic. I got some great products that made my blogging life way easier, and Jon got a commission. Win-win.

#2 Get on the phone (or on Skype)

Call it consulting, coaching, or mentoring; most niches present a great opportunity for you to offer help to people one-on-one. One-on-one sessions allow you to have a greater impact by tailoring your advice to someone’s specific situation, something that’s impossible to do in a blog post. When I first offered one-on-one sessions, I thought, “Who’s going to pay to talk to me?” but I soon received several inquiries and booked a couple sessions quickly. One client said, “I’ve been wanting to work with you for months, but didn’t think you offered anything like this.” Who’d have thought, right?

#3 Create a short guide or report

A short digital guide or report can be tremendously useful in solving technical or “how-to” problems your audience might have. It’s a great venue for sharing screen shots, providing step-by-step instructions, or even including printable worksheets. Giving someone everything they need to solve a particular problem in one convenient place could save them hours of research and easily be worth several times the cost of the product. For many bloggers, an easy, low-cost first product is a collection of their best blog posts in a friendly e-book format. So ask yourself: where do your expertise and your audience’s pain points intersect? When you find that intersection, ask what is the best way to solve this problem? Is it a product recommendation, a one-on-one session or a guide? Or something else? Think how you can best meet your audience’s needs and you’re well on your way to creating a valuable, ethical (and successful) offering.

Are You Ready to Get Serious with Your Blog?

You owe it to the world to teach others how to achieve their dreams if you have the ability to do so. To do anything else is almost stealing. And if you have knowledge that can help others, you positively owe it to those people to stick around long enough to keep helping them – and to help the people who come afterwards. So you may need to reassess your attitude toward selling and persuading others. Because when these happen naturally and ethically, you’re simply helping someone and getting a fair reward in return. And a great product or service for a reasonable price helps you, helps your audience, and keeps the internet spinning nicely. So what could you offer of value to your audience? What problems are they having right at this moment that your experience can help fix?

There’s always something. It’s eating at them as we speak. And they’re thinking to themselves, “If only someone could show me how to…”  Fill in the blank. Step up and offer a solution. They deserve it… and so do you.