The links below are affiliate links; click them for more information.
How to set up a popular blog
If you would like to get serious about running your own website, with plans for it to have as big a readership as possible, then I would highly recommend you follow these steps:
- Sign up for web hosting and domain name registration through a very reliable host that won’t crash. My recommendation is Dreamhost. There are cheaper options available out there, but Dreamhost have practically no down time ever, incredible customer service, and their servers can withstand immense traffic without crashing. When my site was just a few months old, one of my blog posts went viral on stumbleupon, sending me over 100,000 visitors in a very short time, but my host handled it great! (Very few hosts can say this, and my previous one was crippled in a similar situation) Test it out for a two week free trial before you decide to stick with them.
- Within the very user friendly Dreamhost interface, go to the one click WordPress installation. WordPress is by far the most superior platform to run a blog from, and it can be used entirely for free when you have your own server. Note that there is also a free wordpress.com alternative, but if you want to run a site with a lot of design options and interesting features and with your own unique domain name, it really must be self-hosted.
Next, install a good theme. There are more and more free ones out there, and some cheap ones that have pretty good pre-made layouts. I decided to go with the Thesis theme myself, but there are plenty of alternatives.
- While some people discover my site through Google searches (note that I never do Search Engine Optimization, although I probably should), quite a lot do it too through social networking. Create a Facebook page for your site, and sign up on twitter. Share other people‘s content and write interesting posts from these two accounts and link to them on your site. Others will follow you as you interact with them and write about interesting things, and these two sources can ultimately send you many new readers.
- Start an e-mail list through Aweber and add the sign-up form to your site (see mine in the top-right). You can engage with people on a completely different level with email subscriptions. There is a good reason that pretty much all successful blogs have an email list associated with them! Have it ready from the start so you can grow it better.
- After logging into your fresh WordPress page, install some useful plugins by going to Plug-ins, Add new and searching. A few that I recommend include:
- Add Post Footer [Add a message at the end of your posts automatically to show commenting policy, your e-mail sign up form etc.],
- Buy me a beer [I went into the files of this plugin and replaced the beer image with an Orange Juice; useful for if you'd like the site to run on donations],
- Dagon Design Form Mailer [A handy e-mail submission form that includes a Captcha code so you don't get automatic spam]
- Date Exclusion [When you have many posts, this plugin will hide the date for older ones so people don't judge them as outdated as they arrive from search engines etc.]
- Disqus Commenting System [Some love it, some hate it, but it's an improvement over the default WordPress commenting system in many ways]
- Exclude Pages from navigation [This adds in a tick box on the right of a page you've created so it isn't included in navigation. Handy if you want to add a thank-you page for email sign ups or add a page that can only be accessed if that person has the URL]
- Google Analyticator [Google Analytics is an excellent tool for finding out what link sent your readers to your site, how long they stayed there, how many came in a particular day etc. This plugin allows the data to be sent to your Google account]
8. The hardest part of all, is writing something unique, interesting and helpful, and doing so consistently. If you have it in you and know what you have to say is worth sharing, then having an excellent platform set up to do it from, as described in the above points, will make sure your message gets spread much easier!
Earning from a location independent living
I recommend against Google adsense or similar on your site, as the relative payments for these are terrible unless your site gets immense traffic.
1. Earning incredibly high commissions as an affiliate
One of the simplest ways many bloggers earn money is as an affiliate on products that others have created.
For example, if you write about travel or languages, then you can create a special link to my Language Hacking Guide and put it somewhere on your site (perhaps with the banner image), and each time someone clicks that link and then buys it, you get 50% commission
from the full price sale.
[Note: For obvious reasons you cannot use your own affiliate link to buy the guide yourself]
A couple of my site’s readers are earning several hundred dollars a month just for putting a simple link on their sites.
I used to have a separate page for Travel links, that I would earn affiliate commission from, but after testing it didn’t fit with my audience. It could with yours though, so see the ones I used for examples to test out yourself!
Normally I don’t actually use affiliate links anywhere on my blog because I have my own product that gives me the vast majority of my earnings, but I will attempt to earn a little bit more on these resources pages and am honest about that. I believe in the US you have to say a link is an affiliate one somewhere on the page you give it for legal reasons, so since this page has some affiliate links on it, I gave that mention at the top as you can see.
The rare times I promote something paid, it’s only because I’ve used it myself and genuinely recommend it. Do not promote things you do not know or care about just because of its generous commissions. Your readers will see through any superficial promotions you do.
If you use them yourself, look through the website for affiliate information to create your own links to share on your blog.
You can also act as an affiliate for Amazon etc., however the commissions for physical products are tiny (5% or so)! I added some Amazon links into my language learning resources, but to be honest the only real earnings (of several hundred dollars total over a few months) I’ve ever made were from two posts I wrote about the Kindle e-book reading device.
2. Selling YOUR products/work directly
Once you have set up the blog and write about something interesting and start growing your audience, if you see that your advice is appreciated and you would like to earn from it, then you can write a book, record audio/video or create other files of value and sell them via your blog. You do not need a publisher this way.
Earning this way is much less intrusive on a website than random and irrelevant advertising images, and something you can be much more proud of and possibly earn a full living from.
Doing this is surprisingly easy! Just sign-up with e-junkie:
It’s actually incredible how this works: You pay $5/month no matter how many copies of the product you sell . That $5 covers the entire automatic system that takes payment via paypal (or credit card / bank transfer via paypal) and ensures that the person is given the files to download immediately. It’s very easy to set up!
I used to use this system, but because I offer so many files in one download (over 300) and HD videos that would be very hard to get into one zip, I switched over to a membership site for the speak from day 1 product, that people pay access to and download the files one by one. The system I use is called s2member, which is a free plugin for WordPress (or paid when you require certain features).
3. Skype based consultations
If the skill you have can be presented on Skype, then you can do it professionally, earning at a distance. There are many ways you can do this. I have friends who teach languages, one who coaches people on giving up smoking, others who coach people who have basic social and confidence problems, others who give website/SEO advice and review websites etc. all by Skype.
I myself give blogging, location-independent advice (related to things talked about on this page), travel coaching and private app/language product reviews. Due to very high demand, I raised my prices and now only corporations or entrepreneurs hire me (and as such, I rarely do private language coaching now).
As you can see I’ve included references from those who I have had sessions with before. I also use the e-junkie system described above to take payments for this; after a payment the person is given a timetable of my availability and a special email form that I prioritise so that I can see precisely what they want to talk about. I use ScheduleOnce to automatically handle appointments, as it adjusts to the user’s time-zone and synchs with my Google calendar in my time zone.