How Do I Move From Hobby Blogger to Business Owner?
I've been blogging for around four years now but only seriously since ending paid employment in the middle of 2016, after 23 years with the same company.
Since then I've been running a small business that uses blogging to generate an income. In the last 18 months doing nothing but working on one website I've learned loads about the difference between blogging for fun and blogging for profit - which is ultimately what business tries to achieve.
Now, when I say 'I don't blog for fun', I should just clarify: I love blogging!
I will happily spend the rest of my life coming to my desk every day researching, writing and publishing blog posts.
However, what I've learned as a full-time blogger, is that I also love everything else that comes with running a digital marketing business (if you use a blog to generate an income then you are in the world of digital marketing, even if you don't think of it that way).
How to Turn Your Blog Into a Business
Recently I reviewed what had changed about the way I approach blogging.
Before I left well-paid employment I was getting up at 5 a.m. to work on my website for 90 minutes before work. And I thought I was very professional and committed.
After I left work, I realized I was nowhere near as serious about running my site as a business as I believed. Most months I notice that my perspective had moved on once more and now I expect that next month I'll feel more like I own/run a blogging business that I do this month.
My review brought up 17 areas that showed me I was more professional now that when I was a hobby blogger. If you are thinking about making the leap into full-time blogging, or you did it already and would just appreciate the experience of someone who's already done it, I'd like to share them with you in the hope that they'll help you out just a little bit.
I've tried to write the following 17 definitions that your blog is a business in a logical order. Hopefully, that means reading them from start to finish should be coherent! However, each point stands on its own, so feel free to click in the 'Quick Navigation' box for the most relevant sections to you.
Is My Blog a Business? 17 Ways to Tell If You Have a Business or Just a Hobby Blog
In each of the following points, I've compared what the business blogger does with what a hobby blogger might think about the same thing.
1. You Know Who Your Blog Is Trying to Serve
As someone who is blogging for income, you know what benefit you want to bring your reader and what type of person they are.
Ideally, you have in mind an avatar: a single person who is an idealized representation of the audience you are trying to help. Each blog post you write is aimed at that person, and you know what it is they would like to be better at or happier with by the end of your post.
This blog, for example, serves people who are committed to blogging and either:
- Want to monetize their blog for the first time, or
- Grow their blog's profitability.
With this particular article, I want you to finish reading it with a much clearer picture of how to turn blogging for fun into blogging for income.
A hobby blogger writes about anything they fancy, with only a vague notion (if any) about who they want to help and how.
2. You Write Within a Niche
If you know who you are trying to serve, you should also know how you are trying to serve them.
If I visit a website and see well-grouped categories and articles that are focused on a particular topic, question or activity, then I'm pretty sure I've stumbled across a business blogger.
You're probably still a hobby blogger if you write about different things with loose or no connection between them. If I came to your website and saw an article about the new paint in your bathroom, your child's schooling, what you did on holiday last summer, and a new coffee shop is open in town, I'd know this was a hobby blog
Likewise, if all of the blog posts are loosely linked e.g. they're about your children, but there is no obvious organisation to them I'd still guess you were blogging for fun, not for the freedom an income brings.
Which are you? Are you writing in the same niche with all your articles related in a clear way to the needs of your avatar? Or are you writing something different every time you sit down, hobby blogger?
3. You Want to Make Money With Your Website
As I mentioned in the introduction, businesses exist to make money.
Are you actively seeking to turn a profit, or are you blogging and hoping that the money will come to you somehow? If you are actively seeking an income, then you are more of a business blogger than a hobby blogger.
However, if you live in a Field of Dreams i.e. you believe that 'if you build it, they will come', then I'm afraid you are a hobby blogger.
The reality of online marketing in a very crowded world is that building it alone is not enough. You need to build something that people want, build it great, and then tell people you built it. Only then might you be ready to begin making an online income of more than a few hundred dollars per month.
4. You Have a Plan for Making an Income from Blogging
On its own, blogging is not a business!
Writing and publishing blog posts does not create a business. It's selling something that creates the business, and blogging is the way we get the 'right' people to see and believe in what we're selling.
Look at this RVing website as an example. It is offering an online course, RV Success School, which I would likely buy from Mark and Julie if I was into RVing. Their blog is fulfilling two vital elements of their business:
- It is helping people who might want to buy their product to find them through Google, social channels, etc, and
- It is building trust. Their articles are high quality and helpful. This makes them trustworthy in the eyes of their market, so their market is more inclined to buy from them
If you just blog for fun right now, take heart: moving from casual blogger to business owner is a really effective way of achieving success.
You'll already have a committed audience of some size who trust you. It's a lot easier to sell them a relevant product or service that they'll love than to start with a product and build an audience for it.
Blogging as a business means understanding that your blog is, effectively, a huge marketing campaign for your products and services. Hobby bloggers do not get this (which is why they don't make money).
5. You Sell Something Your Audience Wants
This is a step on from the last point. In that you understood that your blog was a 'front end' for how your website generates an income. This point is about the 'back end' i.e. the thing you sell.
Websites can be used to sell all sorts of things: physical products, digital products, coaching, membership, affiliate products, lead generation, etc. (I've left advertising off this list as that's about selling your audience to another business rather than selling to your audience.)
You are closer to being a business blogger then you might feel if you are actively trying to sell something on your blog.
Hobby bloggers, you have nothing to sell!
6. Your Blog is Part of Your Sales Funnel
To the uninitiated talk of sales funnels can sound like scary language, but it really isn't.
The term sales funnel simply describes the route you expect a person to take from first encountering your business to buying something from it.
The most simple example I can think of goes something like this:
- You post a picture on Pinterest from a blog post
- Somebody in your niche visits the article
- They join your email list to get your 'free download'
- You send them a series of welcome emails that highlight what you offer
- They buy your product or service
If you are moving from blogging for fun to blogging for an income, what does your most simple sales funnel look like? How will you get your audience from first experiencing your brand to buying your product?
I can help you answer that question in a free 20 minute consultation. Click here to arrange yours.
7. You Are Building Your Own Audience
The first time I realised that I didn't own my audience was a scary moment.
My other websites get a lot of traffic coming from Google which is great. But, a few years ago, I read an article that pointed out a terrifying truth: Google could decide, right now and with no reason or warning, that it will no longer show your website in its search engine results.
Similarly, anyone visiting your blog from Facebook, Pinterest, or any other social channel is coming because their algorithm is highlighting your website. If they change how they operate tomorrow (and they have in the past with no warning or compensation) your audience could vanish.
No audience = no business.
The way to mitigate that risk is to grow your own audience. That means an email list of people who like what you do and stand for and that you have direct access to.
Even if all the other channels dried up tomorrow, you can still direct your audience to your latest blog post or product.
A blogger who is not serious about making even a side income is happy to rely on someone else for their audience.
8. Blog Posts You Write Have a Purpose
As an entrepreneurial business blogger, you are blogging with purpose. Each of your blog posts has a reason for existing, and it's almost certainly related to your business sales funnel (see point 6, above).
Thankfully for us, blog posts have very few reasons to exist. They are designed to either:
- Get your brand out in front of your audience through social sharing
- Rank well in search engine results to bring you traffic to your website
- Collect email addresses, or
- Sell your services or products
Or some combination of these.
For example, right now, at the beginning of my journey with More Blog Income, I need traffic coming to the website. To do that, I am focussing on writing articles that help the audience I would like to help through my consulting i.e. bloggers who want to run a business.
Having done my keyword research using Longtail Pro, I know that this blog post stands a good chance of ranking well in Google. And, the higher it ranks, the more people will see it and the better chance I have of faster growth.
If you paid attention to the previous point about building your own audience, you'll also see that there's a free download on offer (in exchange for an email address), also dedicated to the person I want to help.
If you're a hobby blogger, chances are you just write about whatever you want with no motive other than just publishing this week's post.
Do you see how much more your blog could be achieving?
Click here to use my expertise in a FREE 20-minute consultation. Together, we'll discover how to get it earning you more income.
9. You Set Targets and Review Your Performance
Like so many things on this list, this doesn't have to be complicated.
Your target could be as simple as this month I expect to publish eight blog posts, increasing visits to my website by 5% and making sales of $2000.
The important thing is that the target is realistic and measurable (see SMART goals).
At the end of the month, review your actual results against the target. Whether you beat or missed target, try to understand why and what you could do different / better next time.
Finally, set a new target for the coming month based on previous results and lessons learned. Ron, from the OneHourProfessor, does a great job of this in his monthly income reports.
If you've planned what you'd like your blog to achieve in the coming week, month or year, then you are still in hobby blogger territory.
10. You Use Processes to Grow Your Blog Effectively
Processes make blogging life so much easier.
There is any number of processes you could put in place to make your blogging more business-like, for example:
- Standard blog post formats
- Guides for anyone you outsource to (see point 15)
- A publishing schedule
- Email templates for outreach
Ultimately, you should aim to systematise as much of your business as possible.
Removing decision points, choices, and ambiguity means you and anybody working for you become much more effective.
Perhaps more importantly, systems free you as the business owner to put your effort into important things like marketing and product development instead of wasting it on trivial things like formatting a blog post.
Are you doing things a little differently every time? Do you have a checklist 'in your head' instead of in an easily accessible file? Then you are likely to stay blogging for fun and not profit.
11. You Don't Obsess Over Vanity Metrics
Businesses survive when they make money.
Your blogging business, in particular, survives when it makes enough money to pay you to run it.
That means the metrics you should be obsessed over are the ones that relate to how effective your sales funnel is performing. Everything else is known as a vanity metric - they make us feel good but have no implicit value.
Vanity metrics include likes, retweets and your Alexa ranking... and they do not matter; they have no impact on your sales funnel and so no impact on your business (other than the negative impact of distracting you from what's important).
The metrics that matter are the ones related to your sales funnel.
I will write a whole post about this in the future but, for now, the things you need to worry about should include:
- How many visits your website gets
- What proportion visitors sign up for your email list
- How effective your email series is at generating sales
- How much profit is your business making
Hobby bloggers: you just carry on checking those Facebook likes.
12. You Test Parts of Your Business to Improve Them
The only way to improve the metrics that matter is to test different things and see what impact those tests have on the numbers.
As an example, one of the metrics that matter is the proportion of people signing up for your email list.
You could test is offering a different lead magnet (click here to find out about lead magnets) and seeing whether that increases the proportion of visitors signing up for your email.
There is any number of ways testing improvements in your sales funnel and that's another whole blog post. For now, check out this post about A/B testing from the Digital Marketing Institute.
Hobby blogger: you just keep doing what you've always done (and you'll always get what you always got, as my mum is fond of saying).
13. You Diversify Your Income Streams
A more secure business does not have all its eggs in one basket.
You win extra 'my blog is a business' points if you diversify away from single income source type.
For example, I'm not talking about being an Amazon Affiliate and a CJ.com affiliate. Yes, that is a kind of diversification, but it's still the same type of income source.
Instead of just being an affiliate, sell your own product too.
Having diverse income streams means that, should one of them dry up, e.g. Amazon decides to pull out of the affiliate market, you still have a viable business.
As a hobby blogger, you're all-in on one source of income (and it's probably Google AdSense).
14. You Invest in Growing and Improving Your Blogging
Businesses need investment, even a one-person blogging business.
Investment can take many forms and does not have to be expensive.
You can invest in:
- Yourself with courses or conferences
- Equipment to make your life easier or more productive
- People, employees or freelancers, to carry the work of some of your business
Just recently, for example, I bought Dragon Dictation software.
I do a lot of writing and I'm a not-particularly-good two-finger typist.
I figured that for the time I spend writing it makes sense to spend some money on this dictation software. So, I did, and right now I'm talking into a headset to write this blog post. This post is over 3,000 words long but has taken me less than two hours to draft. It would have taken at least twice as long had I had to type it all.
To move from blogger to business owner, think about what you should be investing in to improve the returns from your blog.
Do you see how much more your blog could be achieving?
Click here to use my expertise in a FREE 20-minute consultation. Together, we'll discover how to get it earning you more income.
15. You Pay Someone to Work on Your Blog
Another great sign that you have an entrepreneurial approach to your blog is that you are hiring people to do work.
The two main reasons for outsourcing are:
- Your time is worth more than you can get the work done for, e.g. social posting
- There are people who will do a much better and/or quicker job than you, e.g. web design
As a professional blogger, you recognize that your time is better spent on things that drive your business forward, not on the minutiae of running it.
If you do everything yourself from formatting your blog to article research and editing a podcast to designing imagery, etc, then you are still a hobby blogger.
16. You Have Accounts
Let me be the first to say, blurgh!
I do not like compiling my accounts.
I have an accountant (i.e. I pay someone to work on my business) and she's awesome, but she still requires me to pull my weight in compiling the accounts for my business. My government wants to know how much money I made so it can decide how much of it to take off me and they get really funny about this being done a certain way and at a certain time...
But, in reality, I want to know how much money my business is making, where it is coming from and what I'm spending it on because that way I can make my business run more efficiently meaning better profits.
If you are a business blogger you too will be running proper accounts.
17. You Know that Blogging is NOT a Business
Is my blog a business?
If you're asking yourself that question, it means you have an awareness that your average hobby blogger doesn't.
You appreciate but there's more to a blogging business the writing blog posts.
That ‘more’ is digital marketing and when you read a post like this showing you how to go from Blogger to business owner that should tell you something.
What it tells me is that you're serious about this, it tells me that you are intentional about generating an income from the blogging work that you enjoy.
That tells me, especially as you read these last sentences having made it all the way through this list, that you not a hobby blogger.
Are You Ready to Convert from Hobby Blog to Business Owner?
If you've been itching to turn your hobby blog into a business, and feel inspired to make today the day you finally take action, then I'd love to help you out.
I'm happy to offer you a free 20-minute consultation to see where we can improve and grow the income from your blog. Click here to take the first step.