There are only a few blogs in any industry that reach the 7 or 8-figure revenue mark. While that might seem like a pie in the sky dream for the blogger working a day job while simultaneously writing, balancing the color in photos, sending PR requests and working social media (whew!), there are a few lessons to learn from million dollar blogs.
It Takes a Village
There are a lot of sites in the million dollar blog club started by one person, but there are none that are run entirely by one person. Whether it's a boyfriend taking pictures, an assistant handling email, or a full fledged editorial team of writers and photographers, the vast majority of blogs making significant amounts of money are a team effort.
Bloggers wear a lot of (stylish) hats, but if you want to push your earning power to the next level, consider handing a few of those hats over to other people. If photography is where you really shine, try finding another blogger who's really great at social media. You taking over their photographing + lighting + retouching + cropping in exchange for them taking over your tweeting + pinning + instagramming + tumblring +++ is a way to focus on the things you're best at. A million dollar check doesn't show up on your doorstep after that, but it does free you up to focus on traffic or revenue and other things that will probably lead to a larger audience and a larger amount of income.
The first step to realistically making a living (even if not a million dollars) from your blog is not to go it alone. Not quite at the point where you can reliably pay salaries? The next time you introduce yourself to other bloggers asking them to check out your blog, include your skills and let them know that you're open to an exchange in other areas.
When it comes to fashion blogs, Refinery29 is the one to beat as far as revenue. After previous lives as a New York City shopping focused site, then local fashion and lifestyle blog for 5 other cities, Refinery29 is now heading in the content + commerce direction. On track to make $24 million this year (that would make the site worth $60 to $100 million, based on purchase prices for blogs like the Huffington Post and TechCrunch), the site isn't afraid to try new things to grow their audience.
It's not always easy to acknowledge, but there comes a point where any site's core audience levels off. Instead of trying to squeeze water from stones, look at general media trends and see where you might be able to add readers. In my most recent ranking of fashion blogs Advanced Style, the street style blog focused exclusively on 60+ ladies (and the occasional gentleman), grew by leaps and bounds. A while ago lots of people fell in love with What Ali Wore, a blog photographed by a young woman, starring the dapper 80-something gentleman she saw on her way to work. If your personal style posts have hit their peak, why not include photos of your grandparents' style? There's no definitive style gene, but if you see that people are showing interest in other types of personal style, change things up and grab some of that attention for your blog.
Get People Offline
TechCrunch, Mashable, GigaOm and VentureBeat are all tech blogs, but worth noting they're all also worth at least a few million dollars. The secret? While they undoubtedly pull in a healthy amount of ad revenue, they all host events that are responsible for a significant amount of their revenue. Just yesterday, there was a post about using events to build your blog. It's also one of the best ways to build revenue.
What do you do when you want to organize an event, but aren't sure if anyone will show up? Team up. TechCrunch partners with GigaOm and VentureBeat on the Crunchies, an awards show for tech companies. They could probably fill the auditorium on their own, but pairing up with other blogs gives it a better chance of success.
This goes back to the first lesson of not always going it alone. Events are potentially lucrative, but a bear of a task to organize. From finding a venue sponsor, to managing ticket sales and event sponsor requests. If even the biggest blogs, that count on events as a good chunk of their revenue are building teams to organize them, you should probably follow their lead.
Still, the fact that it is more of a challenge means you have fewer people doing it and it's still a relatively untapped opportunity. It may seem like everyone and their grandmother has a fashion blog, but how many people have fashion events?
Make Friends with Traditional Media
The Sartorialist was an early contributor to Style.com and GQ (Conde Nast properties). Garance Dore is now doing a page in Vogue Paris every month. Susie Bubble still contributes show reviews to Dazed & Confused. Ari Seth Cohen's Advanced Style got a significant social media boost after releasing a book of the same name.
On the non-fashion side, Mashable regularly shares content with CNN, posts from Business Insider appear in different regional publications and websites.
When it comes to building an audience online, bloggers are pretty darn good at it. For many of the most successful blogs, those audiences were ironically helped along by the same large media companies that like to write about blogs vs. journalists.
Many people begin to blog because they don't find the type of coverage they're interested in in traditional publications, so this may sound counter-intuitive. It's not. Most traditional publications don't have the budgets to put a journalist on every worthwhile story, which is why you don't see the type of deep coverage that blogs often do better. What they do have are readers who you probably reach on your own.
Local media is often one of the best places to start, and more likely to lead to a story or content partnership than national magazines. Vogue doesn't have any shortage of people looking to contribute to their website or magazine, but the niche magazine that you only see at a few bookstores or newsstands will probably be more receptive. NBC probably isn't going to return your email unless your name is Nicole Richie, but your local affiliate might be open to including your coverage of the local fashion scene on their site.
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