The usual strategy people have in mind when they plan to make money from blogging goes like this:
1. Start a blog
2. Write lots of content
3. Wait for the money to roll in from advertising.
Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.
That’s because advertising – especially pay-per-click advertising like Google AdSense – doesn’t perform well for all audiences. Visitors might not click ads frequently, or there may not be many high-paying ads for the topic you write about.
Don’t get me wrong, you can make a good income with AdSense alone but it’s not a foolproof method.
Luckily, advertising isn’t the only way to build a profitable web business.
Proof blogs can make money
Let me introduce you to a little blog called Psdtuts+.
If you’re into web design you may well have heard of it. It’s a blog that publishes tutorials to help people learn Adobe Photoshop. If you’re not a designer type, the only thing you need to know about Photoshop is that it’s the industry standard for creating web graphics and doing photo manipulations.
That may not be your cup of tea but that doesn’t matter because, for us, that isn’t the most interesting thing about the site.
The interesting part is that it reportedly makes more than $500,000 a year.
Let’s look at how they do that and find the ideas you can use for your own business.
The site does three smart things:
1. It focuses on a single subject
They don’t cover general web design tips or even other Adobe products – it’s strictly Photoshop.
Because of that, they stand out from other tutorial sites which cover lots of themes and it makes them look like an authority on Photoshop.
2. It provides a ton of free, valuable content
That’s a crucial prerequisite for building an audience – no matter how you’re going to make money from them – but it’s exceptionally important if your revenue model, like Psdtuts+, involves selling premium content.
You need potential buyers to think that if your free content is this good, your premium stuff must be awesome.
3. It offers time-saving shortcuts as a premium product
I think this is their masterstroke.
Instead of working their way through a 28-step free tutorial to make a complex illustration or photo montage, users can just click a link and buy a Photoshop file of the completed tutorial.
A lot of people are happy to follow the step-by-step guide, but judging by the site’s earnings, many are also happy to pay a modest amount for a shortcut file.
And a modest amount from many people builds into a nice business.
How to use this model to create a business for yourself
It’s easy to see how you could use the same tutorial and download model for other software – like Illustrator, Lightroom, GIMP or whatever other software you’re great with.
But you can make this idea work for non-software related sites too.
The trick is to find a shortcut file to sell as a download – something that lets users skip to the end of the process. That shortcut file could be a source file (as with Psdtuts+), a design template, writing samples, or some kind of printable, instant starter kit.
For example, if your audience are readers who want to sell Kindle books, you could offer pre-formatted ebook templates because formatting for Kindle is a pain, complicated, and easily screwed up.
Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.
How to accept payments for downloads
There lots of choices around but I’ve found a quick, easy to use option is E-junkie. Strange name but a good service. For $5 a month they handle all the technical stuff for you and send you regular sales deposits via Paypal.
It’s important to have something that can be instantly downloaded – rather than something you have to order and then wait to be delivered – because instant gratification is a strong motivator for buying.