From Hobby Blog to Business Blog: a Plan of Attack

Many—perhaps most—blogs start life as hobby blogs. We have a special interest, and we want to share our passion with others, so we start a blog. But then somewhere along the line, a large proportion of bloggers decide they’d really like to make some money from their blogs.

This is my story—I started blogging for fun, and liked it so much I set myself the goal of doing it for profit. Examples like this convince many to try their hand at turning hobby blogs into businesses, but the process really isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface.

There are a few tasks I believe we really must spend time on before we consider turning a hobby blog into a business.

1. Assess the niche

If you have a hobby blog, you’ve probably already chosen a niche. But to make the decision to turn it into a business, you need to know if the niche is large enough, and profitable enough, to generate an income for you. I’ve written about choosing a blog niche before, but basically there are a few things you’ll need to assess:

  1. the size and popularity of the niche
  2. the size and strength of competition
  3. the scope within the niche for ongoing, growing monetization (some niches and markets are, obviously, easier to monetize than others).

2. See if your monetization plan suits

It’s one thing to blog in a niche with a strong profit potential; it’s another to actually make money from your blogging within that space. Different niches are suited to different kinds of monetization. While you might love blogging in your hobby niche, and it might have strong potential to generate advertising revenue, for example, you may not want to put ads on your site or in your newsletters. If you want to make money in this niche, you’ll have to find another way to do it—and that way might be different from what everyone else is doing.

On the other hand, you might have big plans for monetization, but find that your niche can’t sustain them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your ideas are “bad”—it may just be that the niche isn’t sufficiently mature for there to be enough people to take up your offer, or that, for instance, the niche is a low-value one and audience members aren’t used to paying higher prices for more value-rich offerings.

If your hobby blog’s going to become a business, you need to pitch your profit-making tactics at a level that’s matched to a sufficiently large audience segment.

3. Make a plan

I have to admit that I’m a bit better at preaching this point than practising it, but if I were looking to turn a hobby blog into a business today, I’d make a plan. That plan would have the current status of my hobby blog as a starting point, and a revenue (and profit) figure as an end point. In between, I’d plot out the key steps I’d need to take to move from hobby to business.

Those steps might include things like:

    • building on my existing content inventory
    • market testing product ideas
    • a clear plan for ongoing reader attraction, engagement, and loyalty-building, perhaps with numerical targets attached
    • working out a stepped approach to turn my blog’s loyal readers into paying customers
    • plans for developing my own ability to generate income (which might include things like using ad management systems, establishing contact with potential advertisers or sponsors, taking a writing course or SEO training, etc.)
    • …and so on.

I’d definitely encourage you to put a time limit on your plans. I did this when I decided to try blogging professionally—I had six months to make it work. If it wasn’t generating an income in that time, I’d have to look for some other want to make a living. Having this time limit on things gave me motivation to really get stuck into what I was doing. It also gave me a light at the end of the tunnel, because if I hadn’t enjoyed it, or it hadn’t worked, I’d have had an “out”—permission to cut my losses, rather than keep trying to make a go of a failing effort.

That thing called passion

The one thing that anyone who’s ever pursued a passion for profit has wondered is whether making a hobby into “work” will kill their enthusiasm. There’s really no answer to this question—I think it’s something you probably need to test for yourself.

One thing’s certain, though: if you want to make money from a hobby blog, and you succeed in doing that, your passion is much less likely to flag than if you struggle with the challenge from the start. I think the best way to avoid risking losing your passion for your hobby is to research and plan well, perhaps along the lines I’ve outlined here—though of course your preparatory work will depend on your niche, your area of focus, your experience, and your audience.

Have you ever turned a hobby blog into a business? Share your story with us in the comments.

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