When I first set out on this road back in May 2011, I had aspirations to be a “big” blogger.
I gobbled up stories of bloggers who had amassed thousands (or tens of thousands) of subscribers in days, or even hours. I dreamt of publishing that one piece that went ‘viral’.
Why? Partly because of ego, but mainly because I assumed that the above achievements were prerequisites to success in the blogosphere. Based on what most ‘make money online’ bloggers say, I believed that you need to attract huge numbers of visitors and build an email list in the mid five figures (or more) to make big bucks.
How wrong I was.
The Reality of Successful Blogging
Now don’t get me wrong – bloggers like Pat Flynn and Darren Rowse make outrageous amounts of money. Far more than I do. But I know full well that many Leaving Work Behind readers don’t necessarily have aspirations to make a multi-six figure income, nor do they consider income the be all and end all.
Many of you would be happy to make say $50,000-$100,000 per year if that meant you could spend your days as you please. I know that many of you, right now, will be thinking “a business that generates $50,000? That would be a dream come true!”
That’s why I like you guys. You’re dreamers, but you’re not greedy. You don’t want to swallow the hype, no matter how much it is rammed down your throat, but you do want to succeed – desperately.
So what if I told you that you don’t need a huge blog to succeed?
Leaving Work Behind: Dead in the Water?
I just checked my analytics and discovered that traffic to Leaving Work Behind has been stagnant for nearly two years.
Well no actually; not at all.
Don’t get me wrong – I used to worry about traffic to the site – but these days I couldn’t give a damn.
Why the hell would I? It’s only a number, and it’s not even an important number – you know, like the amount of people you’re actually helping, or the amount of money in your bank account.
And what I’ve discovered is that stagnant visitor numbers does not mean a stagnant site, nor does it have to mean a stagnant income. In the grand scheme of things, the number of visitors you get to your site just doesn’t matter as much as most people say it does.
My Current Income
I don’t do income reports these days, nor do I regularly share how much I’m earning.
However, today is an exception.
I don’t actually know exactly how much I earn on a month-to-month basis. I keep a weekly running estimation of income based upon key metrics, and I record my net worth (i.e. the capital I have across my bank accounts) every month. That’s all I need to make sure that things are on the right track.
So here’s what my weekly income estimates have looked like since the start of December 2014:
Note that the Bluehost commissions dollar values relate to projected monthly earnings; not weekly earnings!
That’s gross income from Paid to Blog Jobs and Paid to Blog, Bluehost commissions, and net writing income (i.e. what’s left after I’ve paid my writers). This spreadsheet keeps me in touch with my earnings and lets me know where I stand.
It’s simple, but it offers me everything I need.
My target income is $6,000 per month. That’s calculated as follows:
$4,000 in living expenses (including tax) + $2,000 expenses (estimated)
If my projected income gets near or drops below $6,000, I know that I need to do something to make up the deficit. But as long as my income is above $6,000, I know that I don’t need to make more money than I already am. I can choose to make the effort to earn more if I want to, but similarly, I could choose to play a round of golf or play piano or bake or learn French instead. (It’s usually the latter ;-))
The percentage column simply shows how far above (or below) my target income I am.
This is all rather besides the point, but I figured it would make sense to share with you in order to drive home my main point: I am able to generate a $6,000+ income working around 3 hours per day on a blog that attracts less than 20,000 unique visitors a month.
These days I don’t try to increase my traffic or subscriber base at all. All I try to do is offer more value to you: the person who is already here.
To illustrate that point, here’s what I’m working on now (and will probably be working on for the rest of 2015):
- An updated version of Paid to Blog
- Huge investment in Paid to Blog Jobs
- My Blogging Mentorship Program
- My writing business
All of the above can lead to an increase in my income, but none of them require an increase in traffic or subscribers.
How? Simple – if I create more value for existing readers, they will invest more into LWB (by buying a product, joining the BMP or becoming a client). I will be able to generate a greater income, per person, than I was before.
Far more than attracting more visitors, I’d like to help more of the people who already visit. Let’s not forget that of those 20,000 or so people who come through the LWB gates every month, over 70% are visiting for the first time (and many of those for the last time, without me having helped them).
That’s a hell of a lot of untapped potential, without thinking a jot about increasing traffic.
A Controversial Suggestion
Now you can take from this article what you wish, but I will leave you with a challenging suggestion: forget about metrics.
I’m talking visitors, subscribers, bounce rate, time on site, pages per visit, and so on. Forget ’em all.
Instead, approach your blog with a fresh set of eyes and ask yourself one simple question: How can I help my readers?
It’s not about ignoring sales copy or redesigns or social media status updates; it’s about approaching them from a different angle.
Let me give you some examples:
I need to edit my sales copy to boost sales.I need to edit my sales copy to better communicate the benefits of my product, so that people are more aware of them. I need to redesign my site to increase email signup conversion rates.I need to redesign my site so that people can find my most valuable content more easily and sign up via email if they want to. I need to schedule tweets to old posts out so I can drive more traffic back to my blog.I want to schedule tweets to old posts out because I think my followers will really like the posts and might not otherwise find them.
I recommend that you keep track of your earnings to make sure that they are going in the right direction, but resist the urge to check any other metrics. You might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome; if not in the short term, then more likely in the long term.
There’s no reason why helping others and helping yourself cannot be coexistent, or even codependent. Because remember: you don’t need a huge number of visitors to succeed as a blogger. You just need to be truly valued by those visitors you already have.
Succeeding as a Blogger is Easier Than You Think
20,000 unique visitors and $6,000 may seem like a lot to you, but it’s pathetic in comparison to the vast majority of ‘big’ bloggers out there. I’m small fry.
More importantly, what I’ve done is eminently achievable, as are lesser versions of the same achievement (say, earning $3,000 per month with a blog that attracts less than 10,000 visitors a month).
I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not easy. There have been plenty of days in the past where I have worked far more than three hours. But it is achievable, and you do not need a crazy amount of visitors or subscribers.
I suppose what I ultimately mean is this: succeeding as a blogger may be easier than you think. Not necessarily in the quantity and quality of the work that you put in, but in terms of the number of loyal fans you need.
Moreover, I think it’s a damn sight easier to get to my level than it is to elevate yourself to the next. You can do a somewhat slipshod job (I wouldn’t consider myself a talented marketer – far from it) and still earn a good amount of money.
And more importantly (in my opinion), you can be yourself and earn a good amount of money. You don’t have to resort to the soulless marketing techniques that so many bloggers advocate. You don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.
Just be yourself, build up a small but loyal crowd, offer as much value as you possibly can, and see how far it can take you. Because (for the final time) it’s not the numbers that matter – it’s how you treat those that you already have.