Starting a business in a field you’re passionate about is easier than ever. Traditionally, starting a business required a large investment of capital, quitting your day job and going without taking a salary for months, if not years. However, these days one can start a business without investing a large amount of time or money. While these businesses will not immediately enable you to lead a life of financial leisure, they can provide you with three big benefits:
- A small income
- A deeper understanding of the business aspects of a field
- A running jump start for moving Into a business full time
What’s the first step?
Starting a blog about a subject about which you’re passionate!
Wait, I thought this article was about starting a side business - not about becoming a blogger?
If you’re thinking about a blog as a public diary where you share your random thoughts with the world, that probably will not lead to a profitable side business. Rather, one should think about a blog as a magazine which is published online. Before you write the first post, you should consider the following:
- What is the topic of the blog? Be as narrow as possible.
- Who is the target audience of this blog? Again, be as specific as possible.
- Who else is trying to serve this audience? Are they doing a good job?
- Who is interested in reaching or marketing to this audience?
Essentially, you’re going to be writing a business plan for the blog.
Once you pick the topic, it’s time to do some keyword research.
Keyword research is about finding out what information people are searching for related to your topic. This research is critical for two reasons:
- It’s very easy to think that everyone interested in a topic is similar to oneself. By seeing what keywords people are searching, one can get a better understanding of how other people view a topic.
- A large portion of the traffic for most blogs comes from search engines like Google. To get traffic from them, one needs to write around the words that people are searching. (Need help getting started on keyword research? Start Here)
Define your audience. Who do you want to have reading your blog? Let’s say you’re doing a blog about comic books from the 1950s and 1960s. Are you writing the blog for people that are general fans of comic books from this era, those that buy those comic books as investments or shop owners that sell these comic books? Your keyword research should help you gauge the level of traffic from each of these groups.
Analyze the competition. Are there already blogs and publications which cover this topic for this audience? The ideal situation is to find that there are publications which have a good size audience, however, the quality of content is not high. In other words, you want to know there is audience for content, but that you can create better quality articles. One of the easier ways to research audience size is to get a site’s media kit - the information packet which they provide advertisers.
Here comes the key question: Can you make money if you create a successful blog for this audience?
There are two ways you can get a quick answer to this question. One is to put Google AdSense on your blog. The ads which appear on your site should be similar to those that appear when a person does a search on Google related to your topic. After you put up AdSense, you will have information about how much advertisers are willing to pay to have your audience click on ads on your site, and how willing your audience is to click on ads.
There is another way to analyze how easy it is to monetize your site. See if there are companies that offer performance marketing deals in your space. For example, are there online comic book stores which will pay you for linking to their sites and referring them business? You can search for these deals through affiliate networks like CJ or ShareASale, or you can search the sites of the companies with which you want to do business for words like affiliate, referral or partner relationships. While performance marketing deals come in all shapes and sizes, earning 5-15% of the sales you generate is not unusual.
Putting together a blog on a topic you’re passionate about can turn into a nice side business. However, creating a side business from a blog is much more than writing blog posts.