www.viglink.com/In 1998, I put up a blog post with all the information and photography available on the then-new Volkswagen New Beetle. The return of the iconic Beetle was a hot thing back then and resulting traffic nearly took down our local host’s server.
Back then, blogging didn’t exist, but the concept was the same: I wrote about my passion and published on the Internet. I competed with relatively few people for rapidly growing web traffic.
Today, the would-be blogger must be up for a challenge -- particularly if he or she wants blogging to pay the bills.
Initially in early 2000, "VWvortex" was styled as a magazine which was new concept at the time, and advertisers wanted in. Internet ads were quickly becoming mainstream and "VWvortex" logged double-digit growth. I left my full-time job at a dotcom to pursue blogging full-time.
Today, content monetization is more sophisticated and competitive. We run ads, but we also bolster revenue with affiliate programs like VigLink, direct sales advocating, Google ad network and various ecommerce agreements. We bring in over 2.2 million absolute unique visits per month according to Google Analytics, so monetization and growth strategies are crucial.
"VWvortex" is still a labor of love. However, when your hobby becomes business, you can risk hating both. Passions are rarely about money, but obsessing over pay per click (PPC) revenue and other metrics can ruin them.
So, here are three tips for monetizing your hobby and still loving it:
1. Create your audience first
Think you can blog? First, identify an audience. Evaluate the competition in your segment and ask yourself, why would I stand out? What makes me different? Why would people read my content versus other sources? Then write compelling content.
Don’t let your editorial policy hinder relationships. I don’t hide my enthusiasm for VW products, but I am transparent about it and I still criticize sub-par products. Readers will see right through you if you aren’t careful. If you cheerlead when your team loses a point, your credibility plunges.
2. Don’t be afraid to get advice
Business owners try to do everything themselves. I can’t stress this enough: Don’t try or think you can do it all -- you can’t. Surround yourself with the best people to do the things you don’t have the skills or time for. Book-keeping probably wasn’t your passion. Get professional advice and help.
3. Keep perspective on why you started
If you lose passion for your hobby, your motivation will plunge. If you feel like you would rather be doing something else, return to your roots. Cut the fluff and even shed some revenue if that’s what it takes to love your hobby again.
Single-brand blogging is risky. Enthusiasm rises and falls with the quality of the product. However, specialists are highly valued. Whatever your hobby is -- whatever you choose to build a business around -- put in your 10,000 hours. Love it, live it and try not to freak out about the small stuff.
Jamie Vondruska is the owner of Vortex Media Group, Inc., a publishing group of automotive-related enthusiast websites.