Many bloggers, if not most, start out blogging not as a business but as a hobby. They simply want to write or make videos on a subject they are passionate about.
Hobby bloggers, typically, don’t think about making money from their site. After all, they are usually spending only a few dollars per month on hosting (if anything) and no more than a few hours per week writing content.
However, ignoring monetization is usually not a good long-term strategy for a website, especially one that will be growing as time goes on. This was something that was emphasized when I interviewed Patrick O’Keefe about his recent ebook, Monetizing Online Forums.
As Patrick put it, money is not an inherently evil force for a website, regardless of the type, and it can be an important tool in ensuring that the site and its audience is around for a long time to come.
But while the monetization strategy you should choose is a subject up for great debate, the fact is, if you want to grow your site, you can’t ignore the issue completely. Failure to think about money will, at some point, risk killing the very thing you’ve worked so hard on.
Here are three simple reasons why.
1. Your Costs Go Up
For most sites, the cost of operating a popular domain goes up over time.
This can include extra expenses such as upgraded hosting, more domains, professional themes/plugins and additional blogging-related services. You may also want to bring in outside authors to help you write content, which can come at an expense as well.
Where you can get by with free hosting and without a domain name, the more time you put into your site and the more your audience grows, the more control you are going to need. That control comes at a financial cost and it is a cost that is only going to rise with time.
2. Your Time Demands Go Up
When you first start blogging, once you get past the initial push of setting up a site, the time demands are not very high. A few hours per week writing and some dabbling with social media is really all that’s necessary, that is, unless you are promoting heavily and trying to grow quickly.
However, if your site does grow, it can quickly expand past what would be a reasonable amount of time for a hobby. Not only will you likely want to increase your posting schedule, an active and engaged audience can have that effect, but you’re going to have more email, more comments and more social media work to do.
Running your site as a hobby is fine when it’s only a few hours per week, but beyond a point it begins to interfere with other parts of your life and becomes harder to justify if you aren’t getting a benefit beyond your enjoyment.
This is especially true when it begins to interfere with personal relationships and work, as blogging can quickly become a negative force in your life if you let it.
3. Life Happens
However, even if you don’t let blogging take over your life, sometimes life can take over your blogging. A new job, a new relationship, an unexpected move, etc. can all impact the time that you have available to do all of the activities that you enjoy, including your site.
When life shifts happen, you have to prioritize the things that matter most to you and spend time on them. If blogging isn’t providing some real benefit, it can easily be pushed far down on that list.
When your blog is at least paying for itself, it’s much easier to justify doing it and putting it ahead of other leisure activities that don’t provide any benefits or are an actual drain of your resources.
But if blogging is on par with watching television in terms of practical benefit, it becomes one of the first things to be chopped off when money gets tight and time becomes limited.
What This Means
What this means is simple: You can’t ignore monetization.
It doesn’t mean you have to put ads on your site or start affiliate marketing. You don’t even have to start monetizing today at all, it just means that you have to think about it and answer one question, “How will you make money from your site if you need to?”
The simple reality is that there might come a point where, if your site doesn’t contribute to your life in at least some way, that you have to drop it and abandon the work that you’ve done up to that point. If you want to avoid that, then you need to at least have a monetization strategy in the wings.
But as Patrick points out in his book, this doesn’t necessarily mean slathering ads on your site or trying to squeeze every penny you can from it. Proper monetization is about balance and striking that delicate chord that will let your site thrive while still delivering a great experience for your audience.
This means that you should explore as many options as you can, including advertising, consulting, affiliate marketing and even paid subscriptions.
Focus on finding the balance and the strategy that works for your site, even if it isn’t a strategy you are going to use today.
Monetization is not a dirty word. Making money from something you spend time and money on is not unreasonable. Doing that does not “taint” your site or somehow make it “less pure”, it’s something that many sites do not because they want to, but because they have to.
While it would be great if everyone who wanted to run a site solely as a hobby could do so and be certain that life and finances would not interfere, that’s simply not reality.
Just like anything else with life, time is money and if what you’re spending on blogging can’t be justified, it eventually has to go. In that regard, if you want to keep blogging, you have to be able to keep the lights on.
In that regard, blogging is like any other business, even if it isn’t a business yet.