When I first started blogging, somewhere around 2010, I didn’t want to spend a single dime on it. Not at all.
My objective was to get the most out of blogging I could by only signing up for anything and everything that was free. In fact, my domain name was free on blogger. Of course at the time, I did read on other blogs that people were making money but I was afraid that it wouldn’t happen for me. Where were the facts? Somehow, I had this thought that if I invested any kind of money into my blog, I was going to be that single person that would never make a cent back and I was deathly afraid of making a big mistake.
Boy was I wrong… continue reading to see how long it REALLY took me to realize how wrong I was.
100% Against Making Any Blog Investments. Ever.
In 2011, shortly after starting my first “free” blog, I became the sole income for our house of 5 while my husband became a stay at home dad for our third child. I have a great career but money still got a little tighter and spending a dime on my blog and hobby remained out of the question.
I continued to tell myself that making money from my blog wasn’t a motivator for me. I’ve always had a create creative career and I really just wanted a place to work on my hobbies and connect with other like-minded people. (Plus, having creative hobbies costs enough money – right?!). So, the thought of spending even more to turn any part of my hobby into a money making business, while I was the sole income for our home, was ludicrous! At least I thought..
That was until somewhere around early 2015 (YES – 5 years after starting my first blog). I was still just casually blogging, making a few bucks a month from ad’s on my blog, then one day I stumbled on what I would call an “epic” blog income report.
This blog income report had every detail I had been missing. The facts all started to come together and I had that ah-ha moment and I finally understood how people were making real money with their blogs.
They weren’t the chunk of their making money from advertisements.
Affiliate sales, although profitable, wasn’t where the money was at.
The money I was seeing other bloggers make was in selling their own products. Wait – what? Let’s repeat that again. Money was made by selling their own products.
Holy crap. I was blown away.
I couldn’t believe that after 5 years of passively blogging and thinking there was some magic to making real money, that all it actually took was treating it like every other business I have ever heard of or worked for. ha ha ha ha
Well – stupid me! Apparently, making money with a blog was never really all about ad’s and affiliates. I just needed to make stuff or offer services that people were interested in paying money for. Sounds easy, right? We’ll discuss how easy (or not) this is below.. keep reading.
My First Blog Investment and Falling Out of Love with “Free”
It didn’t take long after reading that income report in 2015 that I finally went for it and invested a little money in a legit domain name and hosting. (In case you still have a free blog like I used to, you can read more about how to finally buy a domain and hosting here)
That first investment was steep! A whopping $72 bucks.
After not spending a dime on my blog for so long (ahem – 5 years), $72 bucks was rich for my cheap blood, but it was necessary. It was necessary for many reasons, not to mention I couldn’t have started the Ivorymix [Shop] and some of the other things I’ve wanted to do with my blog that free domain sites just don’t allow.
Plus, in all honesty, $72 is the cost of a meal or two for my family at a sit down restaurant (which we do ever 2 weeks)…. or just one single trip to Target – which is often enough!! So, it’s really not a lot of money.
Don’t ask me how stupid I feel now that I am reflecting and looking back on this 5 year mistake!
Buying a domain and hosting was just the first step. I had to decide on so many things. What was I going to make and what service was I going to offer. I’m an Interior Designer with years of marketing, social media, and design experience, so I had many options which leads me to my next natural investment.
Coming up with a blog and business plan takes time and some serious planning. Particularly if you want to be successful and carve out your own unique little piece of the internet. So, my next natural investment was spending enough time brainstorming products and services, writing, planning, and designing things for the new website.
Writing blog posts takes time, picking a website design and color scheme takes time, and coming up with all the little bits and pieces about the brand I wanted to create was going to take time.
Time is an essential investment that must be made when planning a new blog that’s intended to make money. Making a blog a viable online business is a lot more than just showing up and hoping for the best. You have to have content that your audience is looking for and hopefully someway of getting them to come back by collecting their email address in order to send them occasional newsletters. Sending newsletters is very important for making money from a blog because that’s one of the best ways you stay in contact with your regular readers and get them to come back and enojy purchasing your more valuable content.
Since those initial time investments are so key to creating blog income, Here are some key items you should spend time doing, before you launch a blog, that will be well worth their investment in time:
- Create a brand identity that your target audience can identify with (from mood boards, selecting colors, images, to establishing a brand voice)
- Identify your target audience and start networking on social media. Make some friends!
- Write your first long and epic blog post (create a ton of value)
- Consider drafting or writing your next 5-10 blog posts to fill an editorial calendar so you can focus on some of the next things I’m going to mention
- Create your first freebie / opt-in to start collecting subscriber emails
Investing in a Logo
Part of creating a blog brand, a mood board and designing your website means you will definitely need to have a logo (no matter how complex or simple it needs to be). When it came to my blog and its logo, I new exactly what I wanted and thankfully, I have the knowledge and know-how to create my own. So, that’s what I did after sketching a few options.
However, not everyone is graphically inclined and you certainly don’t have to be because there are so many affordable and awesome options. That said, there are ways you can design your own logo, but there are a few things you should understand about that first, which you can read more about here.
If you’re not graphically inclined and want to hire some one – you should go for it. I’ve seen custom logo designs for websites and blogs for as little as $50 and as high as $1000. It truly depends on your goal. In fact, there are a few designers I know in our Facebook Group (sign up is here) where other bloggers are often asking members for help in finding great designers and graphic artists. If you’re in the market for one, you should definitely consider joining blogging facebook groups.
That said, if you do dabble a little in graphic design and are interested in creating your own logo, there are many resources out there for you, like Creative Market where you can buy logo templates and bundles for super affordable prices. I’ve seen some under twenty bucks like this one Girl Boss Logo Creator that is adorable!
Investing in Graphics and a Web Design
Beyond just your logo, there are so many other graphic components to a blog and creating an online store is no easy feat! If you’re anything like me, you want your blog (or store) to be a place that your audience will feel comfortable on. In order to make them feel comfortable, your website would be clean, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use. Not to forget – mobile friendly and responsive! Did I mention – EASY TO USE 🙂
Having a great website design is hands down one of the very top, if not the #1 thing you should consider investing in and there are so many levels of investment. You could just get a free template from wordpress, or spend anywhere from twenty dollars (and up) on a premium template from Creative Market like this one:
Then, there’s always the option to hire a web designer. This option is a great one and might not be as expensive as you thought. Again, I urge you to connect with other creative bloggers in a facebook group like ours and reach out to other members. It’s truly a great way to network and make friends too.
Invest in Quality Headshots
When I started this journey of finally investing in my blog, I had some older headshots that I had taken a couple years back. I used those for a little while, but as I’ve established my branding and color scheme, those older headshots became a sore spot on my social media profiles and the website.
Nothing quite felt right and I didn’t feel I was giving off the best first impression that I could. So, I’ve taken new headshots that feel much better and “on brand”. Would you believe me if I told you that I took these photos myself?
Although I don’t recommend it for everyone who’s just starting out, you don’t necessarily have to hire a professional photographer.
You can always gather up the equipment and gear to DIY your own headshots like I’ve done, which actually becomes quite handing for other things like product photography and other image needs you’ll have for your blog.
You can read more below about investing in your own camera equipment for DIY headshots and more.
Investment in a Camera and Equipment (for DIY headshots and other blog/product photography)
I love photography. Can you tell? 🙂
So, buying photography equipment, lenses, and cameras is not that big a deal to me because I do it all the time. I think I buy something new for my gear every week!!
That said, you don’t need to be like me and buy all kinds of gear. In fact, there’s just three or four things you’re going to want in your camera gear collection and here they are and how I use them
DSLR (with Video auto focus)
One of the best purchases I have ever made is a DSLR with video auto focus. If you’re a blogger, you’ll appreciate that when you might want to also take video, that the camera will auto focus on your face while you’re recording. Since we often do things by ourselves, having this auto focus feature is simply the best!
I would recommend the Canon EOS Rebel T5i because I have one and you should read the reviews! I can’t speak highly enough about this affordable option. I mean, how awful would it be if you filmed an entire video for something to find out it’s sort of blurry!?
This picture below with the blue background is the original and un-edited picture I took for one of my headshots. Do you see how small that background is !?
First of all, the only reason this picture was possible was because I have a tripod. Well, I have a lot more than just one tripod, but having just one is all anyone really needs to begin and to get a headshot like mine.
Setting up your camera on the tripod in order to take your headshots will be the first step to getting a camera in front of you, and without making it look like a selfie. The other component will be a remote control so you can set up your camera on your tripod and go pose yourself to death without having to constantly run back to the camera to start the timer.
Here is a a link to one main tripod I use for blog photography all the time and it’s usually only $25. It has a swivel head so you can adjust the angle of your camera and take shots facing down on top of products too (which is why I like it a lot)
You can see it in the photo above and also in use in this behind the scenes photo of me in my garage below. On that note, there are a lot of other uses on your blog for a tripod. Like behind the scenes images which are great for the occasional posts on Instagram! A lot of your (and my) audience will love to read more about the behind the scene stuff and having images to go along with that will certainly up your blog game.
The reason a reflector is one of my top most essentials in my photography gear is because I love to use natural light. The problem with natural light though is that if it’s coming from a single source, like a window, there is bound to be lots of shadows on the other side of your subject.
Shadows can look great on some things and in my case with the types of photos I like to take (bright and cheery) – shadows are something I want to see less of. I typically use the silver or white side of the reflector, but this reflector that I own has 5 different reflective functions. It also filters the light too because it comes with Translucent, Silver, Gold, White, and Black , plus it’s a Collapsible and it’s usually only $10 or so on amazon.
Remote for Flash / Shutter
If you know much about DSLR’s and camera timers, it’s that they usually have a 2 second or 10 second window of time from when you press the camera button to when the camera takes the picture. That doesn’t leave you much time to set up a camera for headshots and then run back to your posed position.
That’s why I use a wireless remote shutter release so that I can set my camera up and take my time before pressing the button.
There are different types of remotes you can buy for your camera, and I’ve used a few. Some work well and others don’t, but the one I highly recommend is one that’s a radio transmitter. It works really well over other types for me because just like your car radio, you can change the station and certain stations have stronger signals than the other.
I’ve bought cheap remotes before just to find out that the signal between it and my camera was worthless!!
Invest in Stock Photos
There are a ton of free stock photo sites out there where you can get photos for your blog. In fact, did you know you’re on a free stock photo site right now? I specialize in creating brand photos and creating well thought out themes for the stock photos, you can use and that’s because when I started blogging, I really wanted photos that looked great alone and together. But, it doesn’t take long after starting a business online to recognize that everyone is using many of the same free stock photo solutions. So, investing in scarce supplies of stock photos is one of the best investments you can make to create a recognizable brand that doesn’t look like everyone else.
Some options for investing in stock photos include Creative Market, which has an entire section dedicated to stock photos you can purchase.
Plus, now I’ve even expanded the free stock photos into a much larger area of brand building collections on the Ivorymix [shop] so that bloggers and business owners can easily find fresh, cute, affordable and cohesive images to use in their branding.
If you might still choose to use free stock photos for your website, I did write a little tutorial sharing 14 free stock photo sites and how to use them for your blog.
Invest in Custom Brand Photography
Your brand’s image is the one memory point that can either make it or break it. on a first impression. If you’re attempting to make money from your blog by selling products, making sure your brand of product is recognizable should be something you are investing in and giving some great thought.
I’m sure you can think of a few brands that you immediately recognize instantly. Can you say Apple??
Finding a way to get yourself custom photography for your website would be a great investment because it’s the gift that keeps on giving. You can decide to invest in photography equipment and DIY it or hire someone like myself who offers custom brand and product photography. Doing this can have a large impact on your sales.
Invest in Automation for Social Media
After having the new website up and trying to fit it all in, I’ve found quickly that it’s near to impossible! Driving traffic to the blog and website is part of this journey to making an income from a blog, and social media plays a huge role in that.
But, I don’t have time to spend all day on social media – so that’s why I do spend a little money on social media automation. In fact, by just spending $5 a month, I was able to drive over 30,000 new unique visitors to my blog, which you can read more about here and how I used Board Booster (a pinterest automation tool) to do that!
This graphic below demonstrates exactly what automating your social media can do. I started paying for some automation in May and as you can see, after I made that small investment in my business and website, I began to see a huge change in traffic.
Other automation tools you can use for social media that have free options and paid options include Hootsuite and Buffer. I wrote a much longer blog post about automating your life and your business that you can read here.
Invest in an Email Service for Automated drip marketing
Remember at the beginning of this, I had mentioned that bloggers were making money selling products? Well, the one thing I want you to take away from this article about making money from selling products is that the people who are buying products and services from bloggers are NOT new visitors.
The number one way bloggers are making the most money on their blogs is by utilizing and growing a large email list.
Having an email list is not the only important part though. Bloggers who want to make money need to consistently be in their subscribers inboxes. It might be once a month or a few times a week, but being relevant and having your subscribers know who you are will be key to making any profit from your blog.
A newsletter or an email services can be free, but having it automated will surely simplify any income strategy, and here’s how:
Often times , a newsletter from a blogger is a carefully curated sequence. Each email you get in the beginning of signing up might begin with an introduction. Then a week or so after that, you get a few stories and tips, leading you to one final email that is the product or service push where the blogger is now asking that you finally sign up for what their offering. If you don’t make a purchase, you’ll likely get a last minute email as a reminder.
Many bloggers and online business owners are making the majority of their income by staying consistently in your inbox and this is an investment you should consider making because it works. I’ve managed to grow my email subscriber list from zero to 1500 in a short 7 months and every month it grows at a faster rate. Having a large number of subscribers doesn’t mean anything if you’re not making use of the tools available to you.
Not every email you send to subscribers has to be automated messages, but it is important to figure out your sales funnel and how you’ll turn leads (subscribers) into potential customers, and then finally, customers.
It is used so often that investing in an automated email service is like gold, because once you’ve set it up, tweaked it after watching what has worked and what hasn’t, the system ends up paying for itself.
I use mailchimp and you can read more about their automation and worklows here.
Why is it that bloggers (like myself) have a problem investing in things in their blogs and online businesses? It’s embarrassing that I waited so long because I’ve made my money all back and then some within just a few short months of making any kind of purchase for my blog.
I’m not advocating for reckless spending. Be smart about your purchases. Do your research and compare costs. but – don’t hold back.
Having a clear plan for your business and how you plan to make an income is very important. You should have a good understanding that short term costs can lead to much greater profits, but only when it makes complete sense for your niche.
The ideas and investments I have suggested above are things that have worked for me and my niche.
So, what kinds of investments have you made in your blog and what returns have you seen? Share your comments below so we can help all the other bloggers realize their dreams and start making an income from their blog