Over the last three years, I’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to get someone to teach me how to earn money with a blog. And it’s never. quite. worked. Close, but no cigar.
The problem is that I’m paying people to teach me how to do what worked for them — in 2009. It’s not 2009 anymore.
So, I’ve figured it out on my own. And what I’ve figured out has caused me to nearly abandoned my blog.
Not quite, but close.
I like writing here, on Medium, so much better.
It’s easy. Just click ‘new story’ and write. No formatting. No SEO worries. No posts with literally zero reads. Just write, tag, and publish.
It’s far less lonely than a standard 2009-style blog, right out of the gate. I have 12.6 thousand followers on Medium right now today as I write this. As far as I can tell, that’s nearly entirely a vanity metric. But that’s okay. My ego needs a little stroking as much as the next guy’s.
Every day I get notification of people clapping and responding and even mentioning me. It’s big, big fun.
Much more importantly to me: I get somewhere between twenty and forty new subscribers to my email list that come directly from my Medium posts. I added 2500 new subscribers last month — a bunch of those were Medium readers.
How I added 2500 people to my email list in the last 30 days.
And how you can grow your list, too.
I love my email list. For two years, everything I’ve done for Ninja Writers (the business, not the writers!) has had to answer one question in the positive: will this thing bring me new subscribers?
If it will, I do it. If I think it will and it doesn’t, I stop it.
I’m pretty single minded about building my email list.
But also? I wake up every morning with one thought on my mind. What can I do today to make sure that I A) do not decline back into abstract poverty and B) don’t have to get another day job I hate.
When my obsessions with my email list and my desire to earn a living as a writer (and not be food scarcity poor) collide? Bliss.
Blogging has changed.
Standard 2009-style blogging says to build the website first. Make it pretty. Brand the hell out of it. Create lovely little forms. Add an opt-in freebie. Write some killer content. Do some guest posting, run some Facebook ads. Learn SEO, for god’s sake.
When really? That doesn’t work very well.
Instead, flip it on it’s head. Put your time and money into your email list. Write on a platform that has a built in audience, that’s designed for sharing and interaction, and is FREE to use. And? Will pay you.
It’s a little surprising to me that I waited six full months before jumping in to try Medium’s Partner Program. I blame it on my last MFA semester. It kicked my ass.
But I did give it a try in April. My first post behind the paywall was somewhere around April 20. I’m beyond thrilled that this happened:
A hundred of that was a surprise bonus from Medium for this post. That was pretty exciting. But I made nearly $700 then, without any posts going viral. Without doing anything at all about SEO except tagging my posts properly before I published.
You might be thinking — well, Shaunta has those 12,600 Medium followers, and maybe she’s wrong about them counting. Also, an already established email list and a Facebook group and page that are mature and active.
Give me a second and I’m going to tell you what happened when my assistant, who started from ground zero, did in April and how is May is shaping up.
On Wednesday last week, I got notification that my posts in May, through the 13th, so a little less than half the month, have earned me nearly $500. Which puts me on track to earn my rent payment from Medium in May.
Even more exciting to me is that my assistant, Zach, earned $109 in April. He got a $100 bonus from Medium, too. So $9 in ten days. BUT — right now, he’s up to nearly $60 and is on track to earn more than $100 in May, even without a bonus.
And he’s built his list in the last month from 9 to more than 60. Those sixty folks? They’re Zach’s people. Where ever he writes, they’re his fans and he can reach them.
Blogging isn’t dead. It’s changing. It’s changed. Change with it.
If you’re going to spend any money at all on blogging — spend it on a premium email server, please. Wait on developing your own website until you have a list of people to send to it. If you ever feel like you need your own site at all.
I’m hosting a free webinar on Wednesday, May 23, at 12:30 PST (the email server I use and adore — that changed my life) where we’ll teach some advanced tips for using an email list. Get your seat here. We’ll send you a replay if you can’t make the live event.
Blogging for creatives is different from blogging for marketers.
I’m especially excited about the prospect of a fiction writer being able to earn some writing income. It can take so long to get to the part, when you’re writing novels or short stories, where anyone’s willing to pay you anything. Even just to get to the point where you’re ready to try getting paid.
I mean. I wrote this blog post inside an hour. Even if I put my head down and just wrote like a mad woman, it would take me three months to write a first draft of a 50,000 word middle grade novel. It takes me more like six months.
It takes some people years. I spent two years writing my first novel.
So, getting a deposit in your bank account of $1000, or even $100? It matters. It’s huge news.
I’m building a course called Anti-Blogging for Creatives. (And crossing my fingers that things don’t change all over again before I can get it out!) You can get a free mini-version here.
If you’re interested in it, you can sign up for the Ninja Write-a-Long. Otherwise, it’ll be available separately in January. But really? You could absolutely earn the amount you spend on the course, plus some, by January.
Plus, since I’m writing the course as we go along, and it’s part of NWAL, I’ll be there to hold your hand through it. I’m really looking forward to this.
Check out NWAL below. The doors close Monday at midnight. And take the leap. This is going to be so fun.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nationand the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.
Do you have a writing question you’d like me to answer? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with DEAR SHAUNTA in the subject line.