Blog as a Business

in Business

How to Start a Blog as a Business

Blog as a Business

You will know what it takes to start a blog as a business because I will show you the real side of blogging. I have been at it for about a year now and have found some key points that differentiate a successful blog from a not-so-successful one.

Yes, you can make a lot of money – I will show you examples of people making money from blogging, people that I know. And no, it does not matter if they are from the first world countries or third world. You will see the example of a blogger from the US, and a blogger from Pakistan, both making significant income from their blogs.

And let’s start from my favorite question, the why.

Why Start a Blog as a Business

Blogging is still hard to explain to people who do not get it. For most people, the Internet is composed of Facebook, period. I have been blogging as a hobby since forever (!!) but I started taking it seriously about a year ago. By God’s Grace, it has worked out beautifully for me.

There were a couple of reasons for me to start taking blogging seriously.

  1. Unbelievable Potential. It was an opportunity that begged. I had to wrap a business around it. What that means is that as I realized the unprecedented potential of the Internet, I had to check it out. Call it an adventure, call it a serious try, but I call it an experiment. I felt that the Internet and blogging offered that 20% that can yield massive results.
  2. Community and Influence. I had something to say and I felt that there were others who agreed to what I had to say. This is the essence of a community, and I wanted to influence that community with my own rationale. Of course, I do not mean that I own the community or anything. It is just that I knew that I can provide a platform for likeminded, half-crazy, unconventional, creative folks. :)
  3. Focus. This blog here really helps me in streamlining my own creative adventures. I am trying hard, very hard to live a wholesome life. I know this blog helps me find that focus. Some call this a lifestyle business where the business supports your lifestyle, rather than the other way around. I deliberately picked a generic topic on creative self employment. I did not want to close myself off yet I knew that I needed focus. Now when I plan to do new projects (a new venture, a new hobby etc), I ask myself, “will this fit in my blog?”

Warning: Know this before you start blogging

A lot of people are earning money while helping people out. They are pretty transparent about it and the people buy from them because they trust them. It is that simple. Sure, I want to earn money by helping people out as well (my for-profit philanthropy bit if you recall).

But the question a lot of people ask is, “How much can one expect to earn from blogging?”

How Much Can You Earn With A Blog?

That is possibly the number-one asked question. On one end is the hobby blogger, who writes a post here and there and be done with it. On the other end are the hype-everything marketers who will make you believe that everyone can earn millions.

Then there is the middle-ground. That’s where I want to be. That’s where any ethical blogger who plans to earn income automatically is.

So let’s see some actual figures, shall we?

Well, here are just a very few, hand-picked examples of bloggers who make significant amounts through blogging:

who is corbett barrCorbett Barr

Corbett is a blogger who runs ThinkTraffic.net, CorbettBarr.com and recently started ExpertEnough.com.

In his awesome report titled “18 months, 2 blogs, six figures”, he tells us how he earned almost US $ 128,000 from online work. Click here to read the report, it is free.

Corbett held a corporate job which was, in his own words, “high-paying but mind-numbingly-boring”. He now travels and works on his business from a place where we all want to work from; any-freakin’-where. (The thing with Internet / blogging business is that it’s much easier to work from pretty much anywhere)

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Pat Flynnwho is pat flynn

Pat earns more than US $ 30,000 per month.

His blog at SmartPassiveIncome.com is not only a source of actionable information, but is a must-read for ethical inspiration.

He has numerous income streams (the kind that I like) and he talks all about them on his blog.

The cool thing about Pat is that he reports his monthly income on his blog, and is very transparent with his affiliate commissions etc. You get to learn what not to do by reading about his mistakes that he so plainly explains. An inspiring, thorough starta, definitely check him out.

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who is Chris GuillebeauChris Guillebeau

If you are considering to start blogging, and you haven’t read his free ebook 297 days to overnight success, I don’t know what you’re doing right now but Read. It. Immediately!

He earned upwards of US $ 40,000 in less than a year from his blog. And this was before his best-selling book. He writes about unconventional ways to earn money (tell me ’bout it :) ) and he writes about his mission to travel each country in the world!

A wonderful writer and storyteller (yes, there is a difference), Chris has been a big inspiration. Not only for me, but countless others (including Corbett).

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Is that a decent enough income? For many, it probably is. This is the kind of money I would want to earn doing something I love i.e. write, create, help people etc etc.

Special note for third-worlders: you do know what will happen if you give examples like the above don’t you? “But blogging works for them because they are in first world countries and their examples don’t apply to you because you are from [insert third world country name]”

First world Vs Third world

I have been following these three bloggers for some time now. It is very clear that their business models, their blogging has nothing to do with the fact that they are in first world countries.

That’s the beauty of blogging and social media. The typical rules of geography do not apply. You do not have to wait for technology transfer. This delay is present in many other businesses (we are still using decades-old printing presses for example, we are still stuck on 80’s and 90’s model agriculture equipment etc – and I know this from personal experience).

With blogging, all strategies and all tactics are as easily accessible to someone in the States as they are to someone in Pakistan (or anywhere else where there is decent Internet).

Do you know what that means? You can easily use the currency arbitrage to your advantage. Earning a thousand dollars is not that difficult, but the value of a thousand dollars in a country like Pakistan is pretty significant.

Maybe an example would help? Meet Aamir Atta, the remarkable blogger behind ProPakistani.

who is aamir attaa

Aamir Attaa

Aamir runs the ProPakistani.pk blog. I talked to him over the phone for a quick interview.

He takes blogging seriously. It is the only thing he does. He works 8 to 10 hours per day on his blog. He has a small team of employees for comment moderation etc, and has a string of contributing writers.

His revenue is averaging at US $ 5,000 per month, and only recently the ProPakistani.pk blog crossed the magical 1 Million pageviews/month mark.

Aamir’s approach is to focus solely on the Pakistani market (the argument for blogging works only in first world countries goes out the window, doesn’t it?). His blog covers Pakistani telecom and IT news only.

Do you see the potential here? I don’t know how else to show you, the budding entrepreneur, that the Pakistani market is ready for blogging as a business.

Blogging Takes Money & Time

Of course, all businesses take money and time. But people starting an online business deserve a special reminder.

Here’s the kind of money you would need to ease into blogging as a business:

  1. About US$ 100 / year on hosting
  2. About US$ 15 / year on domain name (you need your own domain if you are taking this seriously – it’s cheap by any standards so no excuses please)
  3. About US$ 45 one time on a professional theme (this can be skipped if you find a free theme that is really good or you are a designer yourself!)

That’s a total of US$ 160 that you would need. And after that, you will be spending about US$ 115 per year on your infrastructure cost. By any standard, that is not a big investment.

You may want to consider adding in the costs of learning though. I have bought courses from Yaro, from Shoemoney, from Adam Short, from Chris Gullebeau just to name a few. So you keep learning new tactics from the people you trust.

You will also need to invest time.

But if you are smart about it (or lazy :) ), then you can pull it off without the 80 hour work week. I loved how Chris breaks it down in his ebook 297 days (you have read it by now, right?).

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I know from experience that many entrepreneurs do not consider blogging as a serious business because they think that something that requires so little upfront capital can not generate the kind of income that one hears about.

But that’s their excuse for not paying attention, and that’s OK. Are you willing to pay attention?

If you do want to take blogging seriously, then do subscribe to my blog for updates on creative self employment. I will be interviewing professional bloggers and posting the insights here, God willing.

If you found the post useful, please consider to retweet it, share it on Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Google+. Thank you so much.

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Photo credit: jakeandlindsay

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18 Comments

  1. Hi!
    I like your blog. I will come back to watch and learn. I have a review site about Online marketing. It’s mostly testing different marketing guides, but maybe you’ll find something interesting.
    Thanks

  2. Also Momekh and Saqib you guys seem to be healthy contenders. Why don’t you give us a glimpse of what you earn per month :) if its not too much to ask

    • I don’t know about Saqib, but I earn enough to keep me going :)

      And then again, the idea behind blogging can roughly be divided into two main reasons:

      • You can be blogging to spread an idea, to share your thoughts, in essence to build a community
      • You can be blogging to sell some product and/or services

      It is very much possible to have both in a blog, but one can exist without the other.

      I sell physical products through blogging in general as well. The thing to remember is that blog itself is a medium. One must have something to sell (it can be a digital or a physical product/service).

  3. And all of these comments now brings me to the million dollar question, What to write about? I might be mistaken but I read your blog because you have a certain brand equity. Any other blogs I may read from time to time also have the same and it comes from either their writers’ experiences and credentials, or that of their own. So how does one decide what to write about ?

    Lets hear some practical advise , you know , you know what I do tell me where should I look to find the right topic or mix of topics.

  4. Ok, you wanted me to jump on the bandwagon, so here I am.
    Referring to our earlier chat, I totally agree with you that there’s enormous potential in making money through blogging alone.

    The point where we two differ is the inspiration and awareness part. Your line of thinking is that Pakistanis are oblivious to the earning potential of blogs, hence your desire to educate them and inspire them.

    My contention is that there are enough of the inspired Pakistani folks which could do with a bit of knowledge of how you actually get your hands on that money.

    Of course, there will always be people who are online and not aware of this potential, but for the time being at least focus on those that are. The rest will follow suit.

    Which leads to another bone of contention – the geography part. You said it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are, the earning potential is limitless and without discrimination.

    While I agree to the earning potential part, I don’t agree with you that being in Pakistan has no bearing on actually getting your hands on the money you earn online. Our rustic banking system coupled with rigid State Bank policies make it next to impossible to easily access money earned online.

    Paypal is the international money transfer system that is the basis of how bloggers or other internet marketers earning online get paid in a matter of minutes. It is available in 190 countries, countries like Angola, Peru and others you haven’t even heard of. And yet, Pakistan is not on that list.

    So what people even in other third world countries can receive in a matter of minutes, Pakistanis have to wait for months to get. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle, but one that can deter quite a few aspiring bloggers.

    I’ve been subscribed to your mailing list for quite some time and I’ve yet to come across a single post that addresses this issue. In fact no one does. Whether this has to do with the fact that we’re not really inclined to help our brethren or want to keep this a trade secret I’m not sure.

    The only help I’ve got till now was from Salma Jafri when she wrote a great article on online modes of payment feasible for Pakistanis.

    You remember the comments I gave you on your Affiliate commission ebook? While the book was great, it was a very generic ebook that didn’t address the problems of the Pakistani audience, the biggest being how do you cash the check once you receive it?

    You got the $1,000 check from Clickbank, right?
    What did you do with it? Did you deposit it in your rupee account?
    Or did you put in your dollar account?
    How much time did it take to get it cleared?
    What was the total time taken, from earning the money to getting it in your hands? Finally, what are the pitfalls to avoid?

    You may think these are petty questions. Let me tell you they are not. And you realize that once you get the check in your hands or the money in your virtual account online.

    If the people you’re trying to inspire are unable to use the money they earn, all the inspiration and awareness in the world wouldn’t make an iota of difference.

    I know a bit about this stuff. So let me break the taboo and reveal what little I know in a separate post on my blog. Soon, God willing.

    Now, coming to your list. As Umar rightly pointed out, it only has a single desi. If your aim is to inspire the locals, then your examples will have to be overwhelmingly indigenous.

    Like you, I’ve been following quite a few successful bloggers. You didn’t mention Darren Rowse one of the earliest bloggers who made it to six figure income with ProBlogger, then there’s Pete Cashmore earning a cool half million dollars from Mashable, Michael Arringtion of Techcrunch earning $400,000, Nick Dention of lifehacker, John Chow, Michael Dunlop and the list just goes on.

    However, there’s a very interesting pattern to all these high-earning bloggers which I’m sure you must have recognized yourself. All of them, barring a few exceptions are earning loads of money online by blogging about earning loads of money online and selling courses about how to make money online. Even the few bloggers you mentioned are doing that. It’s sort of a vicious circle, isn’t it?

    Aamir is the exception in your list, but then he doesn’t have the best income to show. Yes the currency differential makes $5,000 a lucrative prospect, but when you consider that he’s spending 8-10 hours himself on top of using hired hands, that’s not a good conversion ratio.

    Haris Nadeem and Saad Hamid are two techno junkies that blog about mobile technology and stuff and were earning $5,000-$7,000 monthly on their own sometime back without any help.

    The point is, you’re not going to earn a great deal if you don’t blog about making money from blogging, IT, or the latest mobiles and their apps.

    Even you’re blogging about earning a living online, isn’t it? 

    Now that is a challenge for you to find bloggers who are not blogging about these topics but still earning substantial income.

    Finally, your intention of interviewing bloggers. Count me in. We could start a joint venture series spanning our two blogs whose sole aim would be to identify specifically what each local blogger is earning, what are his sources of income (Adsense, Amazon, Buysellads, OpenX or local advertisers) and most importantly how is he getting access to that money in Pakistan.

    Kashif will have to help in providing the list of bloggers earning substantially.

    I’ve no doubt that Pakistani bloggers have the flair and the creativity to surpass anyone in earning money online. All they need is someone to guide them all the way through instead of just getting them started.

    All the best.

    • Anyone doing business anywhere in the world faces all sorts of questions and problems. The questions you ask are absolutely valid and must be answered by anyone who wants to start making a living.

      But as I normally suggest; these are non-issues. Why do I say that? Well, the US$ 1,700 check I got is very much real and very much spent! :) It takes around 45 days for the USD checks to get processed here in Pakistan. That’s a problem, yes. But is it the kind of problem that stops me, you or anyone else from not blogging as a business, taking it seriously etc?

      I have consulted enough entrepreneurs – on matter of offline business like dairy farming and magazine publishing to online matter such as the one under discussion – to know this for a fact: there are reasons and then there are excuses. If someone is not taking a blog seriously ONLY because the payment takes 45 days to come through, then in all honesty and with all due respect, that’s an excuse.

      Thank you Saqib for bringing these valid questions to light, because these concerns must be addressed for anyone who wants to start taking blogging seriously. I think your last two lines sums it up best, as far as Pakistanis are concerned.

      Having said all of the above, I know that there will be people who just won’t agree with this. And consider this all too difficult, or all too tricky or all too different for their liking. That’s completely OK too.

      I wish us all the best! :)

  5. It might be stupid question, how propakistani is making money? through ads? like ufone or through ad sense or other source, please comment.

    • It is good question in fact Muzaffar.

      To the best of my knowledge, ProPakistani’s main source of income is through ad revenues. It is how the publishing business works; you put content that people are interested in reading, and then you charge advertisers to put ads in front of your readership.

      And that’s just one way of earning through a blog. As Kashif pointed out in a comment below, there are other ways of earning money, depending largely on your topic and niche.

      Hope this helps :)

  6. Amazing inspiring post and analysis between First and Third World. There are however many more Pakistani examples who are making their living from the internet. You’ll have to dive a little deeper to know more about them.

    • Yes, there are other examples – but I didn’t want to write a ‘list post’ … when I do write that, I might as well dig deeper. Thanks for the suggestion Danish.

    • Hi Danish

      Yes, there are several Pakistanis who earn more then US $ 20,000 per month through their blogs. I know them personally because we are running hosting company. The name ProPakistani.pk is quite popular in Pakistan but the US $ 5,000 earnings per month is very low.

    • That’s some great figures Kashif! Maybe you can get a hold of them and maybe I can put out a list of top 5 or top 10 Pakistani blogs earning online?

      ProPakistani’s supposedly low earnings is what people earn after 30 years of service in corporates! The potential of the Internet and the lifestyle it affords people, that is the real inspiration I think. A lot of people will be very happy with US $ 1,500 per month, especially in a country where the dollar is 90 times the local currency.

  7. I never thought that this was true, I would always trash any mail that suggested making money through net. I would love to start off now but only have to make a good choice of topic.

    • That is what most people think! But at the same time, it must be repeated here that a lot of people do spam people selling them junk!

      There is always someone out there doing things the wrong way, but that automatically means there are people out there who are doing things the right way! :)

      I wish you all the best in your blog topic selection! In fact, stay tuned for some insightful interviews regarding blogging, God willing.

  8. ok i am still half way through your post but i wanted to make a comment even before i finish the blog :P , you have only given one example from the desi scene and propakistani not only delivers telecom news it also delivers telecom GOSSIP :). Working in the industry you are amazed that sometimes propakistani delivers the gossip that hasnt even reached the organization’s smoking corners yet so one of the reasons ppl follow propakistani is because it delivers gossip, the shock and awe factor :)

    • Thank you for the comment Umar.

      A reader can get hooked onto a source for a number of reasons… interesting, hard-to-find information being one of them :)