Could I make my blog my livelihood?

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Bit navel-gazey this post, but bear with me, and I would love your feedback.

So, as mentioned previously, I am looking for a job. The main reason for this is that I want to be able to focus on one thing, and not have the freelancer’s dilemma of always looking for the next thing while doing the current thing.

Trouble is, I have rather a niche set of skills that are pretty hard to fit into any job description that hasn’t been put together with me in mind – and not even I am so arrogant to think that anyone would want to do that.

(Of course, if you do want to do that, please get in touch.)

So, what are the options? One might be to try and build a business, based around a particular product or service. I’ve plenty of ideas for such things, lots of folk I could collaborate with, and am not writing this off at all.

If I am honest though, I think my real dream would be to be able to make a living through this site. Y’know, just like Gruber or Thompson or Kottke.

How might that be possible? Well, I’m in a good place tech-wise as this site is now hosted on the Rainmaker platform, a customised hosted version of WordPress which has a load of functionality built in, including a membership scheme that can be charged for, have members-only content, the ability to host podcasts, and to have a members forum.

I’m not currently using much of this but am in the process of moving all the various bits of content I do into the platform.

Currently, my content-creation schedule is haphazard, with me writing posts, recording podcasts and doing other bits and pieces when I can fit it around contract work and other consulting gigs. It all acts basically as a marketing thing, to try and convince people I know what I am talking about so they hire me for more contract and consulting work.

So, what might a business model for this blog look like?

The free stuff

Well, some stuff would still need to be free. Probably the type of blog posts I usually publish at the moment would remain free and accessible to anyone – but if the blog was my main focus, there would be more of them. I find it so hard to blog daily when I am also doing a full time job.

My podcast would also remain free and public for its current form, doing interviews with interesting folk in the digital world. Again though, with the site being my main focus, I could do them much more regularly, whether every month or even weekly.

I’d also like to do more with my bookmarks. Currently they are pinged to Twitter, and I include the best of them in my newsletter (when I remember to send it out). I would like to have a daily link roundup post though on the blog.

Finally, a free weekly email newsletter, done properly and regularly. Having the time to focus on this would make it much easier. I need to find a way to make it easy for people to get the blog content by email, and then also the added value of a newsletter. Maybe I could combine one weekly newsletter which featured some new content, plus links and summaries of all the blog posts that week, plus my bookmarks from that week.

Maybe people could also opt-in to a daily blog posts by email thing as well, if they are super keen.

So, for free: blog posts, podcasts, link roundups, general email newsletter – all doable because the site and the content around it is my primary focus.

I could make this more sustainable by looking for sponsorship for the free, public content, of course. I’d need to find a non-annoying way for that to work, but some people do very well out of it.

Paid for stuff

The sustainable way to make all this happen is to have regular subscription model, with members paying a small monthly fee to both support the free, public content, and to get access to other stuff.

For instance, Ben Thompson charges $10 per month to members, and they get an exclusive email most days with in depth analysis, as well as access to a forum to discuss issues related to Thompson’s writing, which Ben takes part in himself.

So what could I offer to members of this site?

One thing I would probably do would be a weekly longer, in depth piece of writing just for members. Picking a topic of real interest to my readers, and doing a proper piece of research and writing that goes beyond my usual well intentioned but half baked blogging.

I’d probably do an occasional solo podcast as well, discussing a recent news topic that’s worthy of a quick bit of audio. Likewise I would like to do more videos, such as the quick training ones I trialled towards the end of last year, which got some great feedback – those could be members-only.

Adding a discussion forum would be simple – it’s baked into Rainmaker as discussed earlier – and also I already have a community with a good membership and activity on it. Access to that forum is currently free, so I would need to figure out a way for that to continue for those people, otherwise it wouldn’t really be fair.

So, members who pay roughly a tenner a month get a longer, in depth article a week, access to extra podcasts and video training content and the ability to take part in a discussion forum, with other members and me. They also get the warm glow that they are supporting me to produce the freely available, public content too.

Does that sound reasonable? I have no idea, personally.

The other question is how to make it work. How many subscribers would I need?

A hundred subscribers – which, if I am honest, sounds like a lot – would give me an income of £1,000 per month, which is sadly nowhere near enough to keep the Briggs family in the manner to which they have become accustomed. Not least when you think that there are costs to be taken out of that figure.

If I did sponsorship of the free content, that might be able to pull in £250 a month at the most to begin with – again, not enough.

Of course, what I would need to do then is to make up the deficit by doing contracting and consulting – but perhaps a bit less of it, to enable me to meet my content creation schedule.

Hopefully over time I could build up the membership side of things, enabling me to spend more time writing and sharing great stuff with people, which is what I really love to do.

Any thoughts?

So, what do you think? Would you pay for a membership to my site in exchange for those rewards?

Or should I just accept that I can’t make a living by blogging, and get back to the job hunt?