The First Steps in Turning Your Hobby Blog into a Business

Inevitably, most hobby or amateur bloggers wake up one day and realize that they could turn their hobby blog into a business.  Yeah, you might not be able to quit your day job, but you might be able to earn yourself enough money to take a vacation or by yourself a new iPad. Mr. Hobby blogger does some quick Google research and realizes all they have to do is throw some Adsense code on their blog template, and the checks will start rolling in!

Fail.

Do not pass go.  Do not collect new iPad.

What the heck happened?  Mr. Hobby blogger actually has a pretty sizable following for his site all about Legos.  Sure, it is a hyper specific niche, but there's an audience for this stuff.  He has even received invitations to attend major toy conventions.

Mr. Hobby blogger has actually talked to marketing folks from the Lego Group Inc. about his site, yet they do not seem interested in sponsoring his website. What's the problem here?

No one is taking you seriously because your site does not look like a serious business.

Yes, we're talking about kids toys here so of course it does not have to look like the Dow Jones homepage.  But here is what's making you look amateur:

  • Your website URL is:  http://legofreak.blogspot.com.
  • Your email address is:  blockhead433@yahoo.com.
  • Your "About" page talks about where you grew up and has a picture of your dog on it.
  • Your blog template is the same template used by 2.4 million other bloggers.
  • You are secretly obsessed with funny animated gif files.
  • You steal photos from other websites.  You loooove Google image search.
  • Privacy policy?  What's a privacy policy?
  • You don't have or use a web analytics program.

There are probably a few more issues, but these are the most common.

You're content is probably some of the best Lego related content on the Internet.  Unfortunately, it is hard for legitimate advertisers to take your site seriously.

You get an A+ for content, and a D+ for execution.

Here is your homework assignment:

Run out and register a Lego related domain name.  Maybe don't use the word Lego in the domain since it is a registered trademark, but pick something in the "building block" arena.

Once you've got that domain name locked down, set up a real email address.  John@buildingblocks.com would be lovely.

Write out a better About page.  Talk about the site and the type of content you hope to deliver to your audience.  If you happen to know some data about your readers, here's your chance to highlight it.  Think of this as a soft sell for why an advertiser might be interested in doing business with you.

Move your blog to a self hosted system such as Wordpress.org.  There's plenty of cheap (like $6 per month) hosting out there.  Sign yourself up, and get Wordpress installed.  It is not hard and you can get it all done in under an hour.

Pick a better template that fits your blog's theme.  If you are really committed to this, hire someone to build a custom template for you.  You should be able to get this done for a less than a couple hundred bucks for something basic, but classy.

Stop stealing photos.  Yes, it is easy to do a Google image search and rip pics from someone else.  Unfortunately, that's kind of illegal.  However, hope is not lost!  Solicit photos from your readers.  I'm sure there are Lego fans out there that would love to share their creations with you.

If you find pictures on another site, ask the owner if you can use them.  Often times, they'd be happy to let you use a photo in exchange for a link back to their site from the post.

Google what a "Privacy Policy" is.  There are stock templates out there.  Get your hands on one and get it up on your site.  Many ad networks and direct advertisers require that you have a privacy policy on your site.  Plus, it make it look like you know what you are doing with this whole "business" thing.

If you haven't already, sign up for Google Analytics.  Run, don't walk.  Sign up right away and start measuring your traffic.  Your advertisers are going to want to know how much traffic your site gets.  This is how you will know.

Get out there and make us proud.