The dream is to make your living doing something you love. Right? In an ideal world, yes. But there are pitfalls of monetization, which I’d like to call the dark side of monetization as this is, after all, EPISODE 66 of the podcast. 🙂
Listen to Episode 66 – The Pitfalls of Moneteization
But there are pitfalls of monetization. A dark side, if you will.
I want to outline the downside to monetization in terms of some of the most common revenue streams and then also talk about why monetization can be bed for your audience and can also be bad for you.
The Pitfalls of Monetization by Revenue Stream
Ads – Banner ads and sidebar ads used to be all the rage and actually lucrative. These days, they are typically not the primary revenue stream because they became less effective and thus less lucrative. You CAN make money with these and the upside is you don’t do anything: they sit on your site and you make money when people visit. The end. Easy.
But the downside is that to make money with ads, you need to chase traffic. I see a lot of bloggers really living her and struggling here, where a change in algorithm means a drop in pageviews means a panic attack because you just lost several hundred or thousand dollars in revenue. If you are primarily relying on these (or sponsored posts), you may grow VERY weary of chasing down the pageviews. You cannot rest. Especially with constantly changing algorithms.
Sponsored Posts – Sponsored posts kind of took over when ads dropped the ball for bloggers, allowing bloggers to post content that would promote (hopefully naturally) the brand through a specific set of guidelines. These can be very lucrative. VERY lucrative. And they give you blog content, so that’s another win.
But the downside is that you may be tempted to take sponsored posts that are not a good fit, just for the money. Which is FINE if your why is that you need to pay the mortgage this month. (If you don’t know your why, go watch the first module of the Foundation series. For FREE.) If you don’t want to do just anything for the money, you might find it brings out a side of you that you don’t like. This was true for me. You also may turn off your readers if you don’t do these well and if they aren’t a good fit for your blog.
The other big downside is that to get a sponsored posts or to get paid more, you need to chase pageviews. Again. Still. It’s the treadmill of blogging. I got off last year and have felt much better about my life ever since.
Coaching/One on One Work – This work can also be super lucrative. (As an example, two of the coaches I recently looked at hiring ranged from $1000/hour + follow up to $6000/hour + follow up. Note: I did not buy either package.) It can be really rewarding work as well.
The downside is that you have to work one on one, which can be seriously draining and also hard work. We’ve all worked with people. We know. It can be great or hard. The other big thing is that you either need to have a ton of time (because one-on-one work is time consuming) or you need to charge a crap-ton (that’s a technical measurement). It may drain you and/or be hard to find the number of clients willing to pay what you need them to for it to make sense.
Digital Products/Books/Courses – I love love LOVE this revenue stream. I’ve written books and created courses and found that it’s an amazingly low startup cost. You just get on your computer and create things. (Note to self: write a post on how to create a stellar course on a shoestring.) I love teaching and people love learning, with online courses now being a BILLION dollar industry.
The downside is that, like with blog posts and traffic, you have to PROMOTE. Heavily. These things (unless you harness them to the traffic you have) will not sell themselves. I’m talking launches and webinars and emails and sales copy. It’s exhausting work, people. It can be lucrative, but you have to have launch strategies and plans and really work to sell these well. I find this about as exhausting as chasing traffic.
I also don’t like feeling like I keep dipping into the same pool of customers. Namely: my audience. I mean, in many ways
they YOU are my best customers. You’re reading. You’re subscribed to the weekly Quick Fix. You’re hanging in my Facebook group. Not all of you, but many of you would WANT to (and do) buy my products. Yay! But I also don’t want to have something new every month. Like: And here’s ANOTHER BOOK FOR YOU TO BUY! Kind of like Oprah giving people cars, but me asking you to buy things. So that’s a downside for me personally.
Affiliate Marketing – I have been doing more affiliate marketing this year, moving out of Amazon (which is an easy, but low-paying entry point) and into being an affiliate from some of my favorite products and courses. There are some great programs that you have to get into, like the List-Building School, the Copywriting Summit, and Digital Freedom. All have free options, but if people buy or if you get a certain number of signups, you will get paid or win prizes. (Read more about behind-the-scenes of affiliate programs here.)
The downside is that you might be tempted to promote too much. Or things you don’t believe in. I have been turned off by people who promote TOO MUCH through affiliate marketing. Like, daily emails. I have also had complaints about my promotions for affiliate products, even when I feel like for ME, I’m not being smarmy and sharing still quality stuff I would share even if I weren’t an affiliate. Some people just see this arena is icky. And they WILL tell you about it. Get excited!
Which brings me to the umbrella under which these specific pitfalls of monetization by revenue stream fall: The bigger pitfalls of monetization from your audience’s point of vie and from YOURS.
The Pitfalls of Monetization According to Your Audience
I’ve touched on this a bit already, but some people JUST DON’T LIKE monetization. They don’t want ads on your blog. They don’t want to hear about your course or someone else’s course. They want free content and they want it now, just like Veruca Salt and the geese laying the golden eggs in Willy Wonka.
You don’t want to lose your audience over making money. You NEED an audience to make money, no matter the revenue stream. But you have to realize that the people who are against it will always be against it. Period. You cannot make them happy. And you shouldn’t try.
You should, however, consider the user experience. I really hate blogs with a ton of in-post ads, especially on mobile. (And realized yesterday the settings for my other blog got switched around on my other blog, which now displays a ton of in-post ads. Ugh.) For me, I just want to read a post without a bunch of things flashing at me to buy a certain brand of pasta.
If you want loyal fans, consider their user experience. Consider also the amount of free content vs paid content that you offer. If someone emails you with feedback, wait a few hours and really listen to it (and try not to be emotional about it) before you write it off or respond. Is there truth to it? How much? Ask an honest friend to evaluate it for you and give their opinion. You should take your readers into account.
But you shouldn’t NOT advertise because you think they won’t like it. If you are running a business, RUN IT. If you are providing valuable free content, YOU SHOULD GET PAID SOMEHOW. The end. If people don’t understand that, then they aren’t your people.
Do NOT apologize for selling. Instead, provide great free content and then sell confidently, knowing that people who love you and want your stuff will want it. Not everyone will buy and that’s OKAY. Make great quality products and present it as such to your audience. The ones ready and hungry will buy. But don’t ever feel like you have to say you are sorry for trying to make a living or even a side income. NO.
The Pitfalls of Monetization on Your SOUL
I want to return to the idea of that dream job where you get paid to do what you love. That dream, like most, isn’t always reality. It can be taxing on your creativity or dry up your passion to have to make a living doing it. Knowing that you MUST make a certain amount per month may kill the joy you have from just writing or just blogging.
You also might see the dark side of your soul when money stirs up this greed you didn’t know you had. I consider myself pretty low maintenance and not very materialistic. But when I started getting a few hundred dollars per sponsored posts, I became like this weird addict and took on all these sponsored posts that I would NEVER have written about without the money. (Again, this may not be bad if your blog is all about putting food on the table.) I felt fake and gross and greedy.
Even if it’s not greed, when you start monetizing things you love, you may find that the unintended effects are not always good on your creativity or your soul. You may not like it. You may not like YOU. You may not like your work so much anymore.
OR it could be an amazing fit. You just don’t know!
People would say that it’s all about balance. I’m beginning to think that this balance idea is a myth. Are you ever really balanced? I mean for more than five minutes.
I think that we are, instead, constantly in a tension. We are in flux. Our lives are lived while sitting on an exercise ball, feet up off the ground, trying to keep from crashing onto our face or flipping back off the dang thing. The period of time wherein you are actually still, comfortable, not working hard to stay on the ball– those moments are fractions of a second.
Which is to say that I think we will always be struggling to find that sweet spot. Every day. It may change for the seasons of life we are in or according to our needs or our audience or how growth or according to circumstances or even Mercury’s retrograde. So rather than telling you to find the balance, I would say embrace the tension. And keep doing that every day until it’s the good kind of tension.
Go with your gut. Trust what feels smarmy to YOU and realize that it won’t always feel smarmy to other people. Too bad there isn’t a Smarm Scale…should I invent one??
Let me know your experience with monetization, either on the audience site or the creator side! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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