Can you make money from blogging?

Five years ago I sat in the front row of a Pro-Blogger event listening to a range of speakers – all professional bloggers – describe the copious amount of money they earned from their blogs.

I was incredulous.

I had been under the distinct impression that writing, in any form, was a humbling and poverty-inducing career choice; that one chose it from a place of deep desire, like a religious calling, and not because you could actually make a buck from it.

Apparently, I was wrong, and there were many ways of making money from blogging, the type of money that involved five or six zeros. Before the decimal point!

At that stage, my sole output was a parenting blog called Relentless [find it here]. I refused to monetise it because I told myself it would be disrespectful to my children. It was lonely up there on the moral high-ground, and later I decided my scruples were irrelevant considering the personal and often embarrassing stories I shared about aforementioned children.

I sat there wracking my brain for blog ideas I was qualified to write about and which I could monetise.  Reaching into my bag for a pen and paper, my fingers closed around a flyer for an upcoming mini-fete at my daughters’ school. Parents were being asked to organise stalls or activities to raise funds for the Kindy. The prospect was terrifying. I’d never seen a room empty so fast. We were brand new school-parents. What did we know about fundraising and organising fetes?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what they refer to as a ‘lightbulb moment’. An epiphany. Usually accompanied in movies by the sound of a cash register.

Ka-ching!

I did all the right things. I got a professional to help me build the site. I designed a Media Kit. I spent three months writing content before the site even went live. I signed up for analytics. I brainstormed hundreds of ideas for articles. I jumped onto social media. I began to build a brand. Fundraising Mums was born.

I was motivated by the fact there were over 10,000 schools in Australia and 6,500 community sporting clubs. Even if only a handful of people from each were involved in fundraising, that was thousands of potential readers who would be actively searching for information and who wouldn’t mind if I had paid advertising or sponsored articles. In fact, they would LOVE the fact I was promoting fundraising businesses.

Ka-ching!

While I started my site with an eye on building a business that would be financially independent, it quickly became clear I was a writer, not a business-person. I wasn’t very good at selling myself. I didn’t always want to wait for businesses to approach me for sponsored ads, so if I thought they had a good product I wanted to share immediately, I did it for free. When start-ups approached me to share their new businesses, I often didn’t charge them. I repaid my early supporters with ongoing heavy discounts.

While my girls were at school, I spent two or three days a week researching and writing articles, designing graphics, running social media accounts, writing newsletters, responding to reader queries, making videos and approaching businesses. 15 to 20 hours a week for five years.

Ka-plonk.

I stand by my early assessment that anyone choosing a life of writing is probably going to wind up starving in a box somewhere*. At least this was my own experience of trying to build a business from what was effectively a labour of love. Fundraising Mums became a way for me to pay it forward, to help other parents in the same bewildered state I had once been. I spent years volunteering on the P&C at my daughters’ school and it was symbiotic with the work I was doing at Fundraising Mums. But now, as I have finally stepped away from the school role to focus on my books, I have found I need to step back from my blog/business as well. I want to be underpaid in a whole different genre of writing**.

So, I have made the decision to sell Fundraising Mums to the only other Australian site dedicated to fundraising. For five years she has been my competitor, from now she will be carrying the torch alone. It is a compliment that she wants my content – my writing was always better than my business sense – and I feel relieved that in a way I will continue helping parents across Australia through her.

And so, from the dilemma of selling my soul to advertising I move to the dilemma of selling what is essentially a book-baby, something I grew and nurtured over the years. Something that I now must release into the care of someone else.

Not a single person I have talked to thinks I am doing the wrong thing. It’s the right time to move on. My daughters have drawn me a sign that says ‘no regrets’. It sits on the wall just above my screen, so it’s always in the corner of my eye.

Selling Fundraising Mums will free up my time for other writing projects that need my full attention – I have four book-length projects that I’m currently working on. I only have one problem – perhaps an extra 15-20 hours a week might not be enough!

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*I want to acknowledge that my husband actively ensures we don’t end up starving or in a box. Without his support I would not be able to dedicate as much of my time to writing.

** This is a joke! I really want to be a best-selling author making loads of cash.

*** So the answer to the questions posed by the title is yes, you can make money from blogging, but no, personally I didn’t.

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