1. “You need a paid theme.” Every single one of these people either sells a theme or works for someone who does. This isn’t to say they’re lying, but their thoughts aren’t clear of bias. A paid theme might help, but you can go a long way on a default theme. I use some free theme from the WordPress.com theme database.
2. “You need a paid host.” This is somewhere that we need caution. Yes, you need a good host. But you don’t need whatever VPS or shared hosting company the blogger is running an affiliate campaign for. The company behind WordPress hosts this blog. It’s $13 a year to point my domain, and I’ve never had a problem. The limited customization keeps me focused on what matters: producing new high quality stuff. You do need a domain and a competent host, but there are plenty of options other than a VPS or shared host.
3. “Post every day.” Without fail, these are people who can afford to pay someone else to blog for them. That, or they almost exclusively publish guest posts. Quality will always beat volume. If you can crack quality and volume, you can spin gold. Volume will never make up for poor quality.
There are countless things you can do to improve your margins, but you can’t increase margins on nothing. Focus on producing and promoting, and you can figure out what you need once you have traffic.
So what do you need before you have traffic? It would be awfully rude of me to tell you what not to do without giving you some better guidance.
1. Start collecting email addresses. I use MailChimp, which is local to me. I get free credit if you sign up through my link and buy one of their paid services. Personally, I only link to my mailing list in my ebooks. In general, I don’t want people to sign up unless I know they’re willing to pay for something I’ve written. It costs money to send these emails, after all. I’ll loosen up on this once I get my income up enough to support unpaying people who might buy something some day.
People often recommend against MailChimp because they take a hard line on affiliate marketing. If you plan to use affiliate links, you should email MailChimp support first and tell them what you plan to do. I have a note on my account telling anyone investigating my links that I have clearance, so the worst I’ll get if I break a rule is an email letting me know about the violation. Which brings us to #2…
2. Talk to your service providers. I talk to MailChimp. I talk to Paypal. I can send a DM straight to them on Twitter if I have an issue. Automattic–the company that runs the service that powers my blog–always gets back to my emails on time. This is something everyone does in physical business, but no one seems to bother with it once the business is online. Don’t you think your town butcher talks to the farmer? The only service provider I don’t talk to is Google, but the world knows about it when they burp, so I don’t generally need to contact them.
3. Don’t depend on ads to make money. Seriously. A sale of one of my ebooks is equal to the ad revenue from 1000 impressions. Then you realize only about half the visitors count for impressions, meaning that’s 2000 visits for one book sale. I sell about 3 books a week. That means I would need over 26,000 page views to cover a month of e-book sales! I get between 3000 and 10,000 page views in a month, depending on how much experimentation I’ve done.
So what do you do? Well, look over on the sidebar at my ebooks. Or the MailChimp referral link. Send people to things that earn. This is why it’s so important to build a mailing list. If you build a list of 2000 people and get 10% of them to give you $3 every month, you’ll make $600 a month. Now imagine you have a list of 20,000. The goal is to turn as many of those monthly visitors into mailing list subscribers as possible. Social media is good, but fewer people will click your links.