Running a small business as a solopreneur means having to choose your revenue streams. Sometimes that relies on direct customers, such as for freelance writing services or selling books. At other times, specifically with professional blogging, people might focus on directly monetizing readers. But my blogging business philosophy is different: don’t treat readers like my personal piggy bank.
There’s long been a trend in the professional blogging community of pushing bloggers to monetize their readers or their list. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this as long as the blogger is qualified to sell what they’re selling (an e-book, a course, membership for exclusive content).
But for readers, this can get exhausting.
When “Buy, Buy, Buy” Leads to Goodbyes
A few years back, I came across a great example of this. I was working with a newer freelance writer on sorting out some struggles with their own business.
They mentioned they had to unsubscribe from another freelancer’s blog and newsletter.
That blogger was so focused on milking their readers for every last cent they could that they were overwhelming them. They were pushing new products every month, and nearly everything they released was another sales pitch.
I’m not going to pretend these high-pressure, constant-sales strategies can’t work. But when you’re targeting those newer than you, those early in their careers, those with limited budgets… it kind of makes you an asshole.
It also leads to burnout. Maybe not the blogger’s burnout, but their readers’ patience will eventually wear thin.
This isn’t a good long-term blogging business strategy unless you’re happy to constantly lose readers and sucker in newer buyers who don’t know know any better. But again, that’s a pretty sleazy way to run a business.
My Blogging Business Philosophy
As a long-time professional blogger, my interest in is balancing my professional needs with those of my readers. I don’t believe in treating readers like my personal piggy bank, trying to shove one new product after the next down their throats.
The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with selling those e-books, courses, or even paywalled content. The issue is more about quantity, frequency, and — most important — how you market those things to readers.
There’s a big difference, for example, between having a collection of e-books available that are promoted alongside appropriate content and you sending multiple emails each week and having intrusive messaging constantly nagging readers to buy something else from you. The latter is pretty damn gross.
If you’re providing great content that readers love, they’ll buy occasional products that serve as an extension of that. If you have to constantly push the hard-sell, there’s something wrong with your underlying model.
But, while this isn’t possible on all my blogs, I also like to take a different approach — monetizing non-readers and non-regulars.
What This Means
The best example of this is my main freelance writing blog, All Freelance Writing.
I do sell e-books there, and will be releasing more this year. But I’ve prioritized the job board as a revenue stream for good reason — I let those looking to hire writers pay to support the site that helps them rather than constantly asking new freelancers for money. It’s why I can release as many free resources as I have there.
This comes both from direct advertisers posting jobs and from curated jobs I list from third-party sites (which monetize quite well using network ads).
The income doesn’t rely directly on readers.
This isn’t the only option though.
For example, you might promote your own services to clients, using the blog’s content to demonstrate your niche expertise.
Also, any kind of ad revenue technically achieves the same goal. But I sometimes take this a step further.
Most of my sites are on WordPress right now, so I use the Ad Inserter plugin to manage most ads (and it can do much more than that). What this lets me do is choose which readers to show ads to.
For example, ads can appear in posts when someone visits from a search engine link (often one-time visitors), but you can disable those ads for people visiting a post from another page on your site (more likely to be a repeat visitor).
You can do that for any referral source, so you might turn them on for search and social media traffic but disable ads coming from your site or direct referral links (or any combination thereof).
My basic blogging business philosophy is simple: Rather than only seeking ways I can get money directly from readers, I think about who might want to reach my readers, then I look to monetize them as my priority.
How you do this will depend on your blog’s niche, audience size, and who wants their attention. But take some time and think about it. Brainstorm new monetization ideas. And see if there’s a way you can build a more stable, profitable blog without becoming a burden on your readers.