I’ve been very fortunate over the past three years or so to be able to make a living off of my blog. Though it has never been directly from the site itself, always from consulting and other services related to it, it is clear that my site has always played a critical role in my income.
However, the site didn’t start out that way. When I started Plagiarism Today I was just a guy passionate about a topic who wanted to write on it. When I first set up the site, it was meant as an experiment, not as a means of making my living. In fact, income was never part of the plan at all, just something that happened.
But while I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to earn a living from my site and am glad to have had the chances I have had, it is clear that things do change as one’s site goes from being a hobby to being a part of their income. Since this is an active goal for many bloggers, its important to make sure that one is ready for that before they begin to take their checks.
After all, many find that blogging may seem to be a great way to make a living, that is, until they do so and blogging becomes much more serious in nature.
1. Harder to Say What You Want
When a blog is for fun, it is a pretty freeing thing in that you can say whatever you want without much repercussion. Sure, flame wars might break out but you can always close up shop and try again later if things get too heated. Very few flame wars get so heated that they have real-world implications for hobbyist bloggers.
Once your blog and your income are connected, that changes. If you’re not known for controversial opinions or wild statements, you find them difficult to write. They could, quite literally, take food off your table. If you are known for such opinions, it becomes more difficult to stray from them, whether they are from a certain political viewpoint or for just being outrageous.
In short, once you make a living from your site, it’s harder to stray from your readers expectations and it becomes much easier to pigeonhole yourself in to a certain line of thinking.
2. More Time to Write
On the positive side, when your blogging is related to your income, you find more time to write. Even if the income is just part time or a small slice of your revenue, when its a part of your revenue, its easier to justify and make time to get things done.
Bloggers often complain, justifiably, that it’s hard to find time to write good posts. But once you earn revenue from your site, it’s easier to make the time as you aren’t sacrificing other money-making activities to do it. So where previously you might struggle to find an hour for a longer post, when a blog is a money-maker you don’t have to feel guilty or be worried about the time you spend working on it.
3. Less Time Away
The counter to that though is that it is harder to pull yourself away from a blog that makes money. Blogging isn’t a job with paid vacation days so time away from your site can, and often does, directly impact your bottom line.
A personal or hobby blog is something you can pick up and put down as you please with no penalty. However, once your income is attached to your site, you have to dedicate yourself to your posting schedule, site maintenance, etc. There is just no way out of it.
This has the effect of making a blog more like a traditional job and that can take the fun out of it for many.
4. More Respect
Being a professional blogger changes the way people look at your site. More than your traffic, PageRank or other metrics, being a professional blogger is the quickest way to boost your reputation. Whether you’re a lawyer who blogs as part of his practice, a blogger who makes their money through ads or something else, once your blog is tied to your business, people tend to put more stock into what it says than another blogger who just writes for fun.
This respect isn’t always deserved and there is a lot of pressure to maintain it (see item 1) but it can be very useful for you as a blogger as you work to grow your site and your presence.
5. It Becomes a Job
When blogging is something that is part of your income, blogging becomes a job. This has important connotations in terms of how you approach it. Even if it is the same activity that it was when it started, you can’t help but feel a bit trapped by it. As mentioned above, you can’t leave and its harder to say/do what you want, this can take a lot of the fun out of blogging and can really dampen one’s enthusiasm for it.
It’s easy to be excited about something you do for fun, but when you have to do it, waking up every morning with the passion is just a little bit harder and you have to push yourself many mornings to do anything at all.
6. It’s a Good Job
But while blogging may be a job, which means you have to wake up every morning and work at it, its a good job. Whether it is part time, a few hours per week or full time, it’s a job with no commute, freedom of hours and where your only boss is your readers.
So yes, blogging is a job and that can put a damper on something you love, but it still a good one and one that most bloggers I know of are happy to have and, like me, are grateful for.
Is professional blogging for everyone? Probably not.
Not only is a job that requires one be independent and able to work without supervision, turning a beloved hobby into a business always comes with the risk of ruining the hobby and taking away a cherished pastime, rather than adding a great job.
There is no “right” or “wrong” here, but one has to be honest with themselves about how making money from their blog might change it and plan accordingly. If you’re the type of person where you might struggle with the idea of blogging as a job, it may be best to keep it a hobby and let it benefit your life that way.
Then again, as I found out, one often doesn’t get to choose where their blog goes. It’s generally best to put it out there, do the best you can and see where it takes you. Sometimes, as the author, you’re just along for the ride.