What to Do Before You Quit Your Day Job
Before quitting your day job to work full time as a blogger:
- Already have a clear business model, monetization plan, understanding of the competitive landscape, and in-depth knowledge of your target audience
- Build up a fully-functional blog with a sizable archive
- Develop a significant following and robust reputation
- Earn enough through your blog, vlog, or podcast-related revenue streams to cover your basic expenses (food, housing, and bills)
Ideally, you will also be debt free and backed by an emergency fund sufficiently large enough to support you for at least six months (should income suddenly dry up).
If your position as a blogger does not yet meet the above criteria, review the best practices described in this course, adopt as many as possible, rinse, and repeat. Build more connections. Contribute to more external, respected, and highly-visible digital publications. Keep working during after hours until you have built a sufficiently-sound foundation.
If your blogging-related income is still unpredictable and spotty, consider easing into your full-time blogging career with freelance work on the side that can provide supplementary income while you bolster your new business's income streams. Don't leave a steady income behind without first developing a solid backup plan. Though it is important to fully commit to your work as a blogger, you should not risk the wellbeing of your family in the name of a risky venture.
Potential Career Paths for Bloggers
As was mentioned in the first lesson of this course, most bloggers adopt one of three career paths:
- Owner of a full-blown, formal publication
- Nonprofit owner
Entrepreneurial bloggers monetize their blogging activity through ads and affiliate sales- and more importantly the sale of sponsorships, products, and services. Those who run large-scale digital media publications typically earn an income for themselves (and their staff members) through advertising revenue as well as sponsorships and events. Bloggers who run their digital publications as nonprofits support themselves through donations from audience members and organizations and occasional sponsorships, as well as government grants.
Income Levels to Expect as a Blogger
Before even considering income levels enjoyed by bloggers, you must understand that there will be no income at all in the early days of your digital publication, and your period of unprofitability can last for months- if not years.
Were you to refer to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics for an estimate of what bloggers might earn, you would have to group blogger earnings with those of writers and authors, who in 2010 had a median annual income of $55,420 and median hourly pay of $26.64 per hour. Bear in mind that these estimates are very general, as they apply to all sorts of writers (authors, movie and television script writers, advertisement copyrighters, etc.).
While writers and authors may earn a median annual income of around $55K, there are most certainly online content creators who make less- as well as those who make more. There are, for example, bloggers who have raised $500,000 for charity alone via print book sales in a period of six months. Cliff Ravenscraft, creator of several successful podcasts, shared that in 2010, he had a total income of $177,288.57. While these individuals are outliers, they certainly offer proof that one can make a decent living from revenue related to one's blog, vlog, or podcast.
Primary Sources of Income for Bloggers
Most bloggers monetize their work through the following channels:
- Affiliate sales
- Consulting services
- Coaching services
- Product sales
- Book sales
- Special access / subscription content sales
- Seminars / Training
- Speaking engagements
It is not uncommon for a single blogger to utilize all of the above revenue streams. When you're making money from a blog, you've got to leverage every opportunity you get.
Establishing Financial Security as a Blogger
As small business owners, bloggers have to contend with a certain amount of instability, however they do have the benefit of controlling their own businesses, choosing what they do with company profits, and ultimately deciding how much to pay themselves and whether or not they should be fired.
Leverage your control and minimize instability by securing as many predictable and stable sources of income as possible. The stability of your life will increase in direct proportion with the diversification of your income streams (this is another reason why bloggers leverage as many of the aforementioned revenue streams as possible). Whatever you do, do not become primarily dependent on a single source of income- especially one that is largely out of your control, such as advertising.
Keep your personal and business-related expenses to a minimum. When your income levels rise, avoid letting your expenses rise along with them. No matter how successful you become, maintain an emergency fund and backup plan- plus additional savings for big purchases and your eventual retirement.
Administrative Tips for Bloggers
As a self-employed small business owner, you will need to carefully:
- Collect all deductible business expenses (which must be "both ordinary and necessary")
- Keep a record of all of your invoices sent and income received
- Maintain physical records in addition to digital records (to make it easier
- Hold on to records for at least three years
Also make a point of becoming fast friends with Schedule C and Schedule SE (plus any additional forms you will need to file depending on your business structure) well before tax season rolls around. By knowing the information you will need to present ahead of time, you can collect all the facts and figures you will need ahead of time and avoid scrambling for records and receipts at the last minute.
For more help with your taxes, stop by the IRS' Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center and the Small Business Association's guide to filing and paying taxes.
Full time bloggers, for the most part, enjoy very low overhead. Insurance frequently makes up the biggest slice of an internet-based entrepreneur's overhead. Does this mean you should consider avoiding insurance entirely? Absolutely not- especially when it comes to health insurance. In addition to exposing yourself to high healthcare costs should something bad happen to you, you will be penalized with fees should you be an American who shirks away from health insurance (on account of the Affordable Care Act).
Should you not know where to find health insurance plans for small business owners, check out the following starting points:
- The United States' Health Department of Health and Human Services' Insurance Finder Tool
- The Small Business Administration's guide to the Affordable Care Act
- Optional benefits provided by the National Association for the Self Employed (basic membership ranges from $25 to $120 per year)
While most bloggers have health insurance, many do not maintain liability insurance (something any "responsible" business owner would be expected to have). Whether you choose to pay for liability insurance as a blogger is up to you, though you must know that failing to get coverage exposes you to more risk. While the typical blogger can get by just fine by including proper disclosures within his or her work and not publishing reckless or potentially-damaging content, certain types of online content creators (such as doctors and lawyers) may want to go the extra mile and take on the added insurance expense. To get an idea of whether liability insurance is a must for you, ask around to find whether other top bloggers in your field have opted to pay for it. If most of your colleagues maintain liability insurance, you probably should, too.
Though audience relations are not often considered alongside subjects like taxes and insurance, they should be regarded as equally important. If your audience comes to feel neglected or ignored, you may find yourself having no reason to file taxes or get insurance in the first place!
To maintain an active and healthy relationship with your fans and followers:
- Provide clear contact channels that would enable followers to send you a private email
- Respond to inquiries within two business days
- Check your active social media pages at least once every other day to check for comments or queries that might require response
- Create, prominently post, and adhere to a clear comment policy
- Monitor and thank those who share and promote your work
- Regularly audit your audience's experience to make sure that every point of contact an audience member may have with you (as well as your social media feeds and your site) is pleasant
To brush up on comment policy, visit our comment moderation 101 guide. If you have trouble auditing the experience you provide, ask friends to reach out to you under pseudonyms at random times, then provide feedback, or share the occasional customer feedback survey at the end of a post or via one of your social media channels. If you want to track a single, simple number over time to monitor the efficacy of your efforts, consider measuring and monitoring your Net Promoter Score over time.
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Finally, make sure you have reviewed this lesson’s required reading (displayed at the top right of the page) before taking the quiz- you will be tested on information covered in those guides!