Post Synopsis: Nothing feels more entrepreneurial than creating and selling your own products and services, such as eCourses, workbooks, freelance writing, etc. This post explores the fundamentals of creating and making money from your own products and services.
What’s your greatest joy when it comes to being a blogger? I bet sharing your knowledge with others is one of the top answers. But you also want to make money out of it, right?
As part of the How Bloggers Make Money series, I have already discussed three ways to monetize your website:
But there’s only so much you can earn from the aforementioned methods.
Consider this: some bloggers claim to be making a full-time income from these methods, especially affiliate marketing. They promote really high-ticket targeted items and they really know how to keep their subscribers engaged. But such bloggers are few and far between.
Coming to advertisements banners, you MUST have very high traffic on your blog. And even then, there are only limited spaces on your website where you can display the banners. The returns are not even worth the effort. It’s a way to earn side income at best.
As for creating sponsored content, you are constantly pitching to brands and not always writing about things you truly love. Every post brings in a one-time payment yet you also run the risk of being considered a sellout by your readers. This affects building a loyal following.
Not great earning potential.
Enter the fourth method: creating and selling your own products or services.
In this scenario, your blog becomes a component of your website and not the website itself. In addition, you add an e-commerce + payment component to your website for showcasing your offerings and making sales.
This method casts a wide net and it’s completely up to you to make a success out of it.
Perhaps you have already recognized your calling and your blog is the medium to spread your message and showcase your products and/or services.
Perhaps you have some idea but largely undecided on what product or service you will sell to potential customers. You want to use your blog as a testing and validation platform.
Or, perhaps you have no idea at all if you even want to create and sell something on your website.
It doesn’t matter.
In this post, I will help you explore whether creating and selling your own products and services is the right fit for you.
How Bloggers Make Money: Sell Products and Services
First things first, do you know your audience?
Whether you want to go the product route or the service route, you have to know who your target audience is.
Ask yourself questions, such as:
- Who are you trying to bring to your website?
- What is their pain point?
- What do you know that they don’t?
- What can you do to solve their problem?
Answering these self-analyzing questions will help you decide the kind of content you will create for your website.
For example, let’s say, you want to offer your services as a copywriter in the long-run. Your content should reflect the type of copies you can deliver to potential clients. What value-adds can you offer with your service? You will craft your content to showcase your mastery and pitch your services.
Or, if you want to sell a physical product, create content about that product and how it’s going to satisfy the needs of your target audience. You will build your authority in your specific niche and craft your content such that your readers don’t hesitate to buy from you.
Either way, your content targeting a specific niche will weed out people who anyway won’t purchase your products and services.
Your audience decides your content.
Product or service–which is better?
Creating and selling a product–say, an eCourse–is a very attractive aspiration. It may even seem easy to do…just think of an idea, put some content together, pitch it to your audience, and sit back and enjoy the money pouring in.
But you couldn’t be farther from the truth.
As an instructional designer, I have created close to 500 hours of training modules for big corporations. I know the ins and outs of what goes into creating a solid and effective course. And the bloggers who are successful course creators more or less follow the same process as I have done in the last 15 years. Trust me, it’s a LOT of work.
Also, there is no guarantee that your course will take off unless you have built a loyal group of subscribers who will buy everything you offer. Plus you have to come up with a plan for marketing it constantly and pricing it competitively.
Now, look around…
There are very few “pure product” offerings these days. Most courses now come with an associated mastermind group or a coaching session or a boot camp or a website audit…something in which the creator gets directly involved and coaches the student.
Here’s the reason: services can be priced higher because of the personal touch.
But the bigger reason is this: because of our traditional education system and mental conditioning, humans learn better when in presence of other humans. We need to exchange ideas and express our thoughts. We need to see something happening live in action for us to soak in the learning. And we need feedback on our performance.
Think about it–classrooms in schools, group study programs, workshops and training programs in offices, etc. Even homeschooling and distance learning programs have human teachers thrown into the mix. None of these settings will be successful without a “teacher-student” interaction.
All this is to say: don’t shy away from offering services. Whether services will be your primary revenue stream or secondary or tertiary–that’s up to you to decide.
As an introvert, I know how difficult it can be to be in the presence of other people for the majority of the day. If such is the case, consider selling a product as your primary offering and build in a once-a-month (or weekly) group coaching sessions as a secondary service. The group coaching aspect will allow you to price your course higher and you don’t have to spend a ton of time talking to your students. Win-win.
On the other hand, if you want to offer only services, pitch retainer packages instead of one-off sessions. This way, you won’t have to constantly look for clients and maintain a steady flow of income.
But, selling services means trading time for dollars…
Good project management and setting the right expectations from the beginning will ensure you don’t have to work until midnight forever.
Come to think of it, product creation and launch periods are equally busy plus you don’t even get paid for that time.
Remember to account for all this time in your product price 😉 Don’t offer a $37 course just because you think more people will buy it. In the long-run, you might be undercutting your time.
The same holds true for selling services.
Don’t charge $0.01 per word because you want to win every copywriting bid you come across. You will work yourself to death and won’t even earn enough to buy a coffin. Morbid much?!
Know your worth. Do market research. Be shameless and ask competitors. Find every income report you can find on Google for your niche. Do whatever but don’t undersell yourself.
Screw services! I want to make money selling online courses!
Most successful bloggers offer at least one course to their followers. You can too.
Start at the beginning–know your audience and their needs (scroll up if you have already forgotten we discussed this just minutes ago).
Now, let’s assume you have a good grasp of your audience and their pain points.
And you have a fantastic course idea that will address their problems. But is it guaranteed to earn you big bucks? Probably not.
I have heard from some bloggers how they surveyed their audience on email and FB to ascertain if they would be willing to purchase a unique online course that would solve their XYZ problem (well done!).
The audience replied with a resounding “YES.”
The bloggers spent several hours getting the course ready.
And then nothing!
The prospective students disappeared. And so did their YES!
Now, there could be a flaw in the bloggers’ marketing strategies and I will leave it to a marketing expert on how to improve on it.
But for now, no matter how excited you are by this unique idea, don’t reinvent the wheel. Build on what’s already out there. Identify the gaps in the existing programs and fill those gaps instead of trying to disrupt the market with your first course.
Okay, I have a course idea. What next?
Good! You are willing to step off the reinvention wheel before it throws you off and makes you land on your head.
But just having a course idea isn’t enough. Here’s what you also need to do.
Step 1: Identify your top 10 blog posts.
Step 2: Identify the specific questions or pain points that your Top 10 blog posts address.
Step 3: Shortlist 1-3 problem areas and come up with a course idea.
Step 4: Research the market for similar courses. Validate your course idea.
Step 4a: Know your competition. Research if they are offering a similar product.
Step 4b: Expand the research net and look for similar courses in marketplaces such as Skillshare, Udemy, etc.
Step 4c: Find out how well the course is doing. Are people buying it? Look for social proof of the course’s success. Go with the bestsellers.
Step 5: Create a simple sales funnel.
Step 5a: Step up your SEO and social media game to bring in traffic to your website.
Step 5b: Create an amazing opt-in offer (lead magnet) to bring potential buyers into the fold. Make sure the lead magnet gets them inside the threshold, i.e. it’s related to the pain point you will help address.
Step 5c: Create 3-4 blog posts and emails that agitate the identified problems. Help your audience identify and acknowledge that they have a problem that you can solve.
Step 6: Start creating your course material. This step runs parallel to Step 5 and onward.
Step 7: Market your course via Facebook Ads, Webinars, etc.
Step 8: Create a super-effective sales page that focuses on the target audience, their problems, and the benefits of your course. (I will write a post on how to create a sales page in a few weeks).
Step 9: Launch your course for a limited period.
Step 10: Nudge your subscribers towards making a purchase.
So yeah, all of that. And a marketing expert would probably tell you there are more steps. But these are the basic minimum.
In the near future, I will go into the details of these steps.
For now, what’s your plan? Are you more inclined to sell your own products or services? Share with me in the comments below.
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