Want to make money blogging? Here's advice from someone who's been there, done that - and turned the effort into an enviable full-time living, while never veering from her mission of helping people live more simply.
Meet Tsh (pronounced "Tish") Oxenreider, whose online introduction includes the line "no, my name is not a typo, " and whose self-description reads, "Writer. Editor. Entrepreneur. Drinker of fine beverages." In fact, beverages prompted her first revenue goal. "I started blogging as a platform to write, a hobby I was good at, " she says, referring to the launch of her first blog, "Simple Mom, " in 2008. "I'd read up on the relatively new concept of pro blogging and thought it'd be nice to earn some latte money. Income was an idea but not a major goal."
Fast-forward to 2012.
Oxenreider's revenues have doubled every single year. Her vision has expanded into a six-blog network, Simple Living Media. She works out of "various coffee shops" wherever she's living (currently Bend, Oregon) or traveling (most recently the Middle East). Her husband, Kyle, now handles accounting, payables, records and trouble-shooting. An ad manager coordinates private ad sales. A freelance team of "wives, moms, sisters and friends" includes an editor for each blog except the flagship blog, "Simple Mom, " which Tsh still edits herself, though she "spends most of her time chasing three little kids around the yard."
Among bloggers, she's pretty much living the dream. Here's how she got there and her advice for others.
Barbara Findlay Schenck: Out of 180 million bloggers, only a small fraction make money. What do you say to those who think it can't be done?
Tsh Oxenreider: The main mistake I hear is that bloggers think they're too small. Most don't make it more than three months, in part because they compare themselves to well-established blogs and feel overwhelmed. I tell them not to compare your Chapter 1 to someone else's Chapter 20.
How long did it take before your blog made money?
After about six months, I sold the first ads for about $30 each. I had maybe 500 subscribers at the time. I studied established blogs with audiences similar to mine, made a spreadsheet of who advertised on their pages, wrote up a form email and sent each contact a personalized message saying I'd be accepting ads the next month. Four wrote back and bought into the purpose of the blog, the good price, and a professional and friendly relationship. That lit a fire and drove my next small goal for revenue and traffic growth.
Have you used pay-per-click ads such as Google AdWords?
I know a number of bloggers who do it well, but I write about simple living and advocate simplicity, so I maintain control of all ads. I waited several years before joining the invitation-only ad network Federated Media, and I personally approve every ad we accept.
I hear from bloggers who are concerned that ads will make their sites look too commercial. How did you accommodate ads while avoiding that trap?
If you think you might sell ads someday, make space for them from the get-go. Then when you post ads, readers won't wonder what happened or question your motives. My blog always included a block in the upper right-hand side for six 125-by-125-pixel standard blog buttons. I filled the space with information or affiliated sales ads that drove revenue until businesses bought the space.
You've watched revenues grow from four $30 ads to a full-time income. Where does the money come from?
There's no single geyser of income. A lot of little streams flow into a bigger river, as is true for every single revenue-producing blogger. And it's seasonal.
On the whole, ads - including privately purchased ads, network ads and affiliate ads that generate revenue through Amazon and from sales of other bloggers' e-books - account for probably half the revenue. Another third comes from sales of my traditional and e-books. Freelancing, which pays well because of the platform the blog provides, accounts for the rest.
I started while living overseas, struggling to find motivation and wanting to make some money. I'd never tried entrepreneurship, but I knew I liked to read mom and productivity blogs. The mom blogs were by women and the productivity blogs were by guys. I couldn't find one that merged the two, so I decided to start my own with a goal of helping people live simply. I followed the advice I now give to others. Do it for the love of it and not for the money. The money will follow, but be willing to do it for free.