The Number One Reason Bloggers Never Make Money

So, you might be a blogger, or might be thinking about creating a blog. Maybe you want to make a living online following your passion. Fantastic.

But the sad truth is, most bloggers never make the money they really want to online (even though this mistake is easy to avoid, and I’ll teach you what to do instead in a moment). Most people start out with good intentions, but they get one thing very wrong from the beginning.

They assume if that they just build a blog and get a lot of readers, that those readers will want to buy things from them.

It seems like it would make sense, right? After all, you can’t have people buy stuff from you without first having people to  market to. So, a lot of bloggers work on the people part before they work on the selling part. And this is where things go wrong.

  • When you assume people will buy, they hardly ever do.
  • When you assume that because people are showing up, it means they want to give you money, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
  • When you create products without engaging with your audience, you’re shooting in the dark.
  • When you don’t ask people what they want, you’ll likely never give it to them.

The passion-work myth, or We don’t live in a vacuum

Most people start out doing stuff they don’t like, then realize they’re not satisfied and go full on toward following their passion. They go from being totally selfless (sacrificing themselves to serve others), to being totally selfish (following their passion without considering others).

This transition is important, because we need to become more selfish and consider our own hearts and what make us come alive. But when we go too far in this direction, we neglect a simple fact about the universe we live in:

Everything is interdependent.

Everything is a give and take. So in order to really be successful, you have to align your passion with what other people want. We don’t live in a vacuum.

  • It’s as much about community as it is about your gifts.
  • It’s as much about serving others as it is about following your own heart.
  • It’s as much about collective growth as it is about personal development.
  • It’s about your greatest gifts and the world’s deepest needs.

When we align these two things — service and passion — we can start from a place where we set ourselves up for success.

And that’s where we can go back and realign our offerings from the very beginning. Instead of blindly creating a blog and trying to gain readers and comments, we can put service first. When do that, we can get direct feedback of whether or not it’s something that people want.

So rather than just creating a list or gaining subscribers and then hoping they want something when you create it, you can actually ask them for what they want and then create it.

When you make it clear from the very beginning that you have something to offer and that you want to get paid for it, you set up the right expectations with your readers. They don’t feel violated when six months after you start your blog you randomly come out with a product. When your intentions are clear from the beginning, everyone knows where things stand. That way you can feel confident with anything you create and anything you offer. I know so many bloggers that are not confident in selling products or making offers on their blogs because they started out building an audience, and then trying to figure out how to make money later.

Don’t do that. Figure out how you’re going to make money, then build a blog around it.

This is just one of the important things I teach in my course Paid to Exist. I’m passionate about helping other people build businesses online doing what they love while serving others. So, I’m setting up the expectation with you first, I have something to offer — Paid to Exist: an eight week course to creating an income from your passion.

Now I’d like to ask you, is this something that might help you?

If it will help you, I’d love to have you in the program. If it’s not for you, please don’t buy it.

Well, that was easy, wasn’t it?

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Eric September 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Connecting with people and knowing what they like want and need and then creating a relationship and giving them what they want is the start.

I’m just starting up my own business and am learning a lot about doing just this. Helping others succeed is a great way to help yourself succeed too, I believe, but only if you’re truly in it to actually be able to help others and not just in it for yourself.

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Brett @ OnlineReputationEdge.com September 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm

This is a REALLY EXCELLENT post… the first thing I’ve read all month that I felt compelled to comment on. I know a lot of people who seem like they are able to follow their passions with abandon but they are living under the wind of a parent or partner’s cashflow.

My deepest passions are some inherently non-commerical things with no real internet market, monetization or affiliate angle to it.. so I am going to focus more on the service angle… and definitely use your advice about directly asking people what they want rather than guessing.

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Mike Roberts September 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm

So good man. I’ve been one who has struggled with this money issue, this is an angle I had not thought about— Letting my readers know that I hope to make a living with my blog and asking them what it is I can provide for them.

~Mike

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Jason Dudley September 16, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I personally don’t have a product that I want to sell to people at the moment. I don’t even know whether I want to make money from my blog. I just enjoy writing about travel among various things and I have some experience with it. People seem to like my writing and they come back for more. If, at a later stage I write an information product related to traveling, would it not be reasonable to assume that my audience, who are engaged and interested in travel and my writing, might want to purchase my book about travel?

Not taking a dig at your post Jonathan, I completely agree with it. If you want to make money you need to set out with a purpose. But logically I can’t see why building an audience first is necessarily going to be a bad thing. Love what you do Jonathan.

- Jason.

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Lach September 16, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I resonate with some of this. But for me personally, the whole “how am I going to make money?” question held me back. It kept me blinded by the “obvious” answers like my professional background etc. the problem was I didn’t want to do those things anymore. When I finally got sick of that and started asking “what would be so important and so life giving that I don’t care if it makes money?”, then things started to get rolling. And ironically, it presented much better solutions to the money question as well. So many people I look up to now are making a living simply out of following their bliss. Doing things I would have thought ~ “you can make a business plan out of THAT!?” Holy Cow. Making money isn’t necessarily the end game for a blog anyway. Connecting with others, making a difference, finding my passion are for me what it’s all about. If I can support myself through it it would be icing. For those looking for the sweet spot between passion and profit, I would encourage examining them in that order, not the other way around.

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Sean M Kelly September 17, 2010 at 1:40 am

Excellent article! Sometimes its not until we decide to follow our passion and develop it that we realise how it can serve others. Years ago I learnt to play bagpipes. Why? Because I love music, especially bagpipes, singing and guitar. After learning it for a number of years I offered my bagpiping services to people and since then have bagpiped for Bob Geldoff, American Ambassador, and many other well known people and of course many just as special not so well know people. I’ve played music in many countries around the world including Machu Pichu – Peru, Palestine, Israel, Bosnia, Croatia, South Korea and so on. Just this week I’ve started teaching music to kids in the local school. So like you say we often take a step to follow our passion, to do what we love and its this positive energy, this love we feel that opens many doors for us. And as I like to say – thats when the magic really happens!

Carpe Diem!
Sean M Kelly

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Jonathan Browne September 17, 2010 at 4:00 am

I think this is a great post.

I hope you make your coaching sessions available at some point in the future again after they run out from your promotion. I’m not in a position to purchase yet but I will be, and I feel like you’d be a great coach.

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rob white September 17, 2010 at 6:15 am

I love the rigorous honesty in this article, Jonathan. The whole system has been a little baffling to me from the beginning. I am one who is not ashamed to say I got into blogging because it is a way to raise awareness of what I am selling. I provide great content on the blog and those who want to know more can purchase the products. Money can be strangely taboo in the blogosphere. As long as we are offering up great content and giving value why should we not feel as though we deserve value in return? When it comes to money matters, it is important that I see myself as the farmer, planting seed-money and expecting a large harvest. Otherwise, I am the helpless victim that is simply trying to pay the bills and get by.

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GVO Conference September 17, 2010 at 7:38 am

I totally agree with you. One dont make money simply by blogging. It is required that one make the close relationship with the site visitors. One must know what they really want. Lot of analysis is needed. I appreciate your post.

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Roy September 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Great information to know, thanks

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Roy September 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Great information to know, keep it coming…thanks

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David September 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Most bloggers don’t make any money because they start for all the wrong reasons and have no idea what they are doing…but that is how all of us start out. Good luck with the launch, looking great so far.

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Do Over Guy September 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Haha… Love it! I’m a big fan of authentic and direct communication. Tell it like it is, or don’t tell it. Passion or no passion, every endeavor requires a solid plan, commitment, hard work and flexibility… and a little bit of God’s favor doesn’t hurt, either. Certainly, there are exceptions to the rule, but the excpetions only prove the rule.

A good coach/mentor can seriously collapse time-frames, however. Get one, hire one if you must.

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CathyP September 21, 2010 at 4:29 am

Hi Jonathan,

Love what you are saying here – be clear – be authentic and be confident in what you are saying and doing.

Wishing you all the best for the new programme!

Cathy

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Graeme September 22, 2010 at 7:02 am

Great post Jonathan, you outlined some key points. There are just so many bloggers out there right now starting new blogs and just clinging to the hope that they’ll be able to grow a big audience, and I think that clinging is what makes people not want to sit down and think about their income strategies beforehand. They don’t want to get their hopes up too much, so they just focus on getting the eyeballs. It works for some, especially when you’re just trying to build a reputation, but most of the time, I agree it’s a sure way to failure (from experience, I created a very popular web programming blog, and I could never monetize it later, even with ads, just because there was no audience engagement, just a couple of neat posts that had code everyone wanted to copy. It sucked. :( )

Graeme

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Maia September 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm

This article has inspired me and opened up the possibility of creating an amazing blog for myself and others. I recently celebrated my “One-Month Blog Anniversary” and, looking back, I realize I have been writing mainly for myself. However this past week I decided to do a “shout-out” to some of my first readers and I created links to their current endeavors. I thanked them for giving me feedback, and taking time out of their day to read what I had to say. After reading that article – I am totally open to considering my audience even further – and thinking what do they really want to know about or need? Thanks much. http://worldtravelingartist.blogspot.com/

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Fredrik Westrin September 22, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Great blogpost! I think one needs practice, as well. Not just in bloging & net relations, but also in target the audience in any type of project. Practice, practice and even more practice. Learning by doing is the best way ’round, I think. :)

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Yakezie September 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm

One of the greatest things the Yakezie Network has done is create a tremendous amount of extra wealth for Members. We are leveraging our bigger Member’s relationships with others, and we are all winning.

Our goal is to create an EXTRA $1,000/month for all Yakezie Members, and there are around 100 of us. I believe we will get there!

Best

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Usama September 24, 2010 at 7:30 am

“They go from being totally selfless (sacrificing themselves to serve others), to being totally selfish (following their passion without considering others.”
Its the best summarized version of a person with dreams. But balance is the cure.

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Lis October 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I keep it simple – I make sure I have keywords which people search for, I rank my blog for those keywords – then I get people searching for information – who are far more likely to buy something than those who are just following you for the sake of it. Some of those searchers do become regular readers but my stats tell me that though my regulars are fun to write for and interact on the site – they are not the ones that make me money.

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Jeff December 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

Definitely hit it right on with this post. On top of giving people exactly what they want, I think that when you create your blog around it and offer them everything they need absolutely free, they are going to be more willing to buy from you, regardless of how much awesome free info you give them.

Great post!

Jeff

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GVO Conference Pro May 18, 2011 at 12:39 am

Great point about letting people know upfront that your going to sell products to your readers. I know from experience I never purchased any products from bloggers doing the opposite.

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latinglamorous July 23, 2011 at 8:25 am

I never purchase anything from any blog i like to get ideas from pictures usually!!

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linchpinbloggers October 15, 2011 at 11:17 am

This is advice I remember telling myself when I first started blogging, but then didn’t apply. Well, it’s never to late to start, but sure wish I did things a little differently. Great post!

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the dreamers manifesto October 18, 2011 at 5:57 am

Jonathon,

I love reading your posts because it reads like either a: what I’ve already done or what I see myself starting to do. I feel I’ve done just emotional the pendulum swing you’ve described in the article. But thanks to reading this and other articles, I’m finding that I’m keeping a better sense of balance on how I approach the new blog I’m building – and also that I’m keeping myself in a sense of check and perspective about what I’m working to achieve.

Thanks for helping me to do this.

Matt

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Myrko Thum July 20, 2012 at 10:53 am

I think there are 3 MUST-HAVE keys to really succeed: 1. passion, 2. skill, 3. People.

All mentioned, but maybe we could differentiate between your passion and your skills, sometimes you can do things very well (think for instance: computer programming), but it’s not your passion.

So to align all 3 things sets you up to live fulfilled and successful.

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Lori Stalter August 30, 2012 at 7:34 am

Phew! Thanks for the validation, Jonathan. A few of us are discussing this very topic in the trailblazer forum right now. I’m just getting started with my blog and put a call to action in my welcome email. I’m asking people what their challenges are to help guide what I cover in my articles and to determine what products/resources I could develop that might be helpful to them.

It definitely sets the tone from day one that I’m a business in development and not just a blog to passively consume. It lets my new members know I want to actively engage with them, get to know their goals and struggles so I can help them with them.

I plan to use one or two calls to action in all my newsletters if possible – ask a question and ask for feedback, or provide a link to more great content on what my newsletter started to cover with a question for engagement at the end of that article, etc. I definetely want to know what my readers find most helpful and what they need. Playing hit and miss by shooting in the dark is no fun!

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