How to make money from a blog using e-commerce
Have a blog but don't yet monetise it? There are some simple ways for you to go from blogger to online entrepreneur; as Patrick Foster explains...
How do you go from blogging for fun to being a fully-blown online entrepreneur? Running a blog ‘for fun’ can be pretty full-on, so you might as well earn from it too.
There are so many great ways to monetise your blog, but e-commerce is probably one of the most sustainable ways to earn money online. Let’s go through some of the key things you need to know about monetising your blog and becoming an e-commerce entrepreneur…
First things first: Have the right attitude
When you’ve spent years crafting a blog that means the world to you, changing things can be daunting but change is good and becoming an entrepreneur is all about growth (both business and personal). Let go of any fears about disrupting your blogger brand:
- There are plenty of “classy” ways of monetising your blog so you don’t have to sacrifice any of your original blogging goals or relationships to do so.
- If you want to make money, you are going to have to get used to the idea of seeing people both as readers and potential customers. It’s not about turning into a salesman, but more about not being afraid to put your product forward when the time is right.
- Learn how to sell in a way that matches your niche and your tone. Are you fun and fearless, or the voice of reason? Use these insights about your blogger brand to guide your e-commerce strategy.
See also: Starting a blogging business.
Source the right products to sell
Finding products to sell has never been easier. There are dozens of retailers out there looking for new places to sell their products – and you could be their perfect match.
- Think about brand consistency and value. If you’re a travel blogger known for covering luxury destinations, you won’t want to start peddling budget wares.
- Ask people what they struggle to find online. Does your audience struggle to find ethical handbags? Would they be interested in personalised gift hampers? What needs aren’t being met by the current marketplace?
- There are loads of artisans and smaller craft makers who need exposure so don’t just opt for the big and obvious sellers. Try to be more inventive and collect interesting products together.
- There are lots of ways to manage the supplier/seller relationship. Consider whether you want to be hands-on and manage logistics, or whether you would prefer to handle online sales and pass the order onto a fulfilment service.
- Remember, you don’t have to always sell ‘physical’ products either. You could sell eBooks, downloads, podcasts or worksheets. You could even monetise your expertise and sell webinars.
Set up an online store on your blog
There are many ways to set up an e-commerce store on your blog (or on any other domain you like). One of the easiest ways is to use a blogger-friendly online store builder like Shopify, but you could also commission some custom coding using an open-source platform:
- Weigh up the pros and cons of investing in a custom back-end. It’s possible to get quite far with out-of-the-box e-commerce solutions, especially in the early days of your store.
- Think about the design of your new online store. Do you want it to be consistent with your blog, or is this going to be a new visual direction? Try to clarify where the shop fits in with your larger brand.
- Do you need an entirely new domain, or subdomain like .shop? There may be some SEO implications for moving off onto a new domain but, if you plan to grow in the future, it may allow for more rapid growth (read this great guide on choosing a domain name).
Sell to your existing contacts
As a blogger, you’ve probably collected a large number of fans and subscribers over the years through reading and commenting on other people’s blogs. When you launch your new online store, don’t forget to let all your existing contacts know, but just make sure you don’t cross the line with your emails.
- Be aware of the rules of opt-in for newsletters and don’t abuse people’s trust by suddenly sending them loads of promotional emails out of the blue. If someone has signed up for blog updates, they might not appreciate product offers in their email inboxes. Unsubscribes can be bad for your email spam score.
- It’s important that you are honest with your audience about what you are doing and why. Saying something like “I am a hard-working single mum who wants to be a make-up entrepreneur to support my young family” will go down way better with an existing audience than a generic “Buy amazing make-up on my blog now”.
- Treat your loyal followers and fans with respect and give them exciting offers and deals exclusive to them.
Promote your store
All the valuable lessons you’ve learned about promoting as a blogger will help you here. Be real and offer people a consistent experience. Remember that in e-commerce, the customer is king.
- Create a buzz around the launch of your new store. Use the blogger community around you and ask for feedback during development stages so that by the time you launch other people have become invested in the project too.
- Offer out your products for reviews to other bloggers and relevant websites. Focus on quality rather than quantity.
- Blogger favourites, competitions and giveaways are great promotional tools for e-commerce entrepreneurs too.
- Get familiar with e-commerce analytics to help you refine your customer experience.
Define your content strategy
The key to great e-commerce content is planning. You can still be ‘real’ but try to move away from an ad-hoc content strategy to a more targeted one, based on tentpole sales activities.
- Seasonality is really big for e-commerce. Days like Black Friday, Valentine’s and Christmas will all have to be mapped out in your content planning.
- Your primary social channels whether that’s your Twittre, Instagram, Pinterest etc. are some of your most valuable online assets. Use the as part of your content strategy, but use them judiciously. No one likes a social media hard sell (and positive comments are best when they come from your audience, not you).
- Social proof is a great way to sell your products, so get your customers to shout about you online if they’re happy with their purchase. Don’t just blandly incentivise, build social media sharing into your core customer journey.
Other ways to monetise your blog
If you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial itch, here are some other options to help you monetise your blog:
- Work with brands and businesses on sponsored content and product reviews on your blog. Be guided here by your ethics and your readers, not pound signs. Always disclose if you’ve been given something for free.
- Create a media pack to promote advertising opportunities that you could offer brands and businesses. This could be banner ads on your website, a sponsored campaign on social media, or content in your newsletter.
- Affiliate income: Earning money through links clicked on your site that lead to sales. Affiliate marketing is a massive niche but you can start small by including Amazon affiliate links. You must always disclose affiliate links, and don’t recommend something you can’t stand behind.
Going from blogger to e-commerce entrepreneur is scary, exciting and exhilarating. Just remember to strive with the same passion, and stay cool in the face of new challenges. If you haven’t monetised your blog yet, what’s holding you back?
Patrick Foster is an e-commerce entrepreneur, coach and writer. He currently writes on EcommerceTips.org where he shares engaging content for entrepreneurs, bloggers and business owners.