Two surprising lessons about turning your blog into a successful business
Today I have a question from Tom. He asks:
“When is the right time to turn your blog into a business?”
I couldn’t wait to answer this question because I struggled with this for many, many years.
When I started I Will Teach You To Be Rich back in 2004, it wasn’t a business. It was just a simple blog I built out of my dorm-room at Stanford.
And I had no idea what I was doing. Look how ugly my old site was:
One of my only goals early on was to write great content that people would share with their friends.
But to tell you the truth, I wanted to turn my dinky blog into a real business.
There were two huge problems, though:
- I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no idea how to get traffic, how to build an email list, or how to design a webpage.
- I was terrified to sell anything. I thought that people would think I was scammy or sleazy.
So I shelved that idea for years. Instead, rather than turning my blog into a business, I just wrote free content on my site.
After awhile — once I built up a pretty big following of a few thousand readers — the idea of starting a business crept back into my mind.
I thought, “You know what? Why don’t I just create a small product and see what happens?”
So I decided to launch a $4.95 ebook. It was called, “Ramit’s 2007 Guide to Kicking Ass.”
My first product: a terribly priced, terribly positioned ebook
I was terrified that nobody would buy it. I didn’t think anyone would pay for anything online.
And you should have seen the kind of comments I got when I launched. “WHAT A SELLOUT!” and “This site has jumped the shark!” and “I see this is about I will teach RAMIT to be rich, you scammer.”
Try to imagine how horrible that felt. I’d been writing for free for 2+ years, and the first time I tried to sell something — for less than five dollars — I got accused of being a sellout.
I had to make a decision: Listen to those nagging critics — or keep going and turn my blog into a real business.
Luckily, I had some signals pointing me in the right direction.
In this case, while those antagonistic comments trickled in, other people were quietly buying and telling me they loved the ebook.
My first sale — a measly $4.95, but it was a start
So I made the decision to build my business, and I doubled down.
Let’s fast forward a few years. I’ve created 18+ products that have generated millions of dollars in sales.
IWT’s revenue growth
It’s easy to look at the chart above and say, “must be nice.” But in reality, it all started with the simple decision to not give up when I heard the voice in my head telling me to quit.
Today, I want to share two surprising lessons I learned about turning a blog into a business.
Is bigger really always better?
The first thing to think about when turning your blog into a business is, “How big do you really need to be?” In other words, what kind of traffic and email subscribers do you need to make money with your site?
One of the biggest myths is that “bigger is better.” That’s why you see marketers peddling cheap tips about “growing your Instagram followers” or “boosting your Facebook likes.”
MYTH: You need a huge email list to turn your blog into a successful business.
TRUTH: You just need a small list of the right people. In many cases, a much smaller list of the RIGHT people will outperform a huge list of the wrong people.
Look at this sales experiment I ran behind the scenes:
More sales from a small list of hyper-engaged users than from a much, much larger group
This chart shows how a small group of engaged users absolutely crushed a massively larger group of less-engaged people. I made more sales from a group of 10,000 than from a group of 178,000.
And consider this: One of our students, Matteo, launched a product to his small list of 600 people.
In 6 days, he generated $1,000, a decent amount of revenue for his tiny side business.
On the other end of the sales spectrum, we have another Zero to Launch graduate, Selena.
Selena’s website, S2-groupe.com, has 15,000+ subscribers
She generated more than $300,000 when she launched a high-end product to her list of more than 15,000 people.
There are people with 10x more subscribers who would kill for that kind of revenue.
So a bigger list doesn’t necessarily lead to bigger sales. But you’ve got to target the right people.
If you focus on just a small group of people who care, you can save time (by not worrying about people who will just complain) AND you can lovingly spend MORE time with the people who matter.
You can turn your blog into a business with a relatively small list IF — and that’s a big “if” by the way — you can answer “yes” to the next question.
Are you creating an irresistible offer?
The second key factor for turning your blog into a business is doing your research. You need to make sure you know exactly what your audience wants before you waste your time and money creating a product.
For example, years ago I created a product on health insurance.
My team and I spent years and tens of thousand of dollars researching it. Then, when we tried to sell it, we realized nobody really cared about it.
We had to eat the costs and kill that product. All because we didn’t test to find out, “Do people actually care about this?”
On the other hand, once we starting listening to our audience and asking them what they wanted us to create, our business exploded.
IWT has more than 30,000+ paying customers
We created products around starting a business, around negotiating your salary, and around freelancing. These were problems that people were delighted to pay us to solve.
That’s the key: You have to make sure your blog idea is something people actually want to pay you for. Don’t even consider turning it into a business before you do that.