Everyone wants to know how much money they can make online and people have become obsessed with how much money I make. This is weird to me, as I don’t sell any Internet marketing courses, nor do I consult with people on their websites, nor do I even talk about making money online that much.
But the question comes up often enough that it’s time for some real talk.
This is not a “positive” post, so if you want to hear from a cheerleader, this is not right for you.
In fact, I might take this post down after 24 hours. I’m not a dream killer, but feel it’d be dishonest to not manage expectations.
Plus, maybe you’ll be the Next Big Thing? Who am I to kill your dreams?
You can call it “information marketing” all you want, but if you sell your words, you are a professional writer.
Professional writers do not make much money directly, although they often make a lot of money indirectly.
You’ll be paid for your written words or for your expertise demonstrated from writing or for products you are able to sell due to your reputation.
On Being Paid Directly From Your Writing.
There are people whose traffic doesn’t even come close to Fit Juice’s (a niche site I rarely update) asking me about monetizing their writing.
Fit Juice gets around 2,000 page views a day. That pays the bills but won’t make you rich.
If you’re in college, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Plus, it’s passive income. I spend maybe an hour a month on it.
But should you quit your job to try making your money as a blogger?
If no one is reading your writing for free, why are they going to pay for it?
You need to see if you can build an audience before getting dollar signs in your eyes. If you can’t get people to read your writing for free, why do you think they will buy your books?
- Stop phoning it in.
- Be original rather than derivative.
- Create compelling content that people want to read and share.
Let’s say you get one million readers. That may seem like a lot, because it is.
How will that readership convert into books sales?
The math on selling 100,000 books.
Imagine you want to sell 100,000 books. This number gets thrown around a lot. How many people would need to see your ad or webpage before you sold 100,000 books? (Tens of millions.)
A “conversion rate” refers to how many sales you get relative to the number of people who saw your page. If 10,000 people saw your ad and you sold 300 books, you have a 3% conversion rate.
But before you can even talk about a conversion rate, you need to look at the click rate. Your click rate is the number of clicks your ads receive relative to the number of people who see them. If 10,000 people saw your ad and 500 clicked on it (that’s a great click rate), then you have a click rate of 5%.
Here’s the back of the envelope math for selling 100,000 books:
- 3% conversion of
- 3,333,333 million clicks
- 5% click rate means
- 66 million ad views.
Sixty-six million! Where are those 66 million people going to come from? Do you even have 66 million people in your market?
How much is that traffic going to cost to acquire?
By the way, those are massively successful click and conversion rates. Anyone who says otherwise is showing you ONE ad or online marketing campaign. Some campaigns will convert well and others poorly. Aggregate them all out.
Here is what more realistic numbers look like on 100,000 book sales.
- 2% conversion rate
- 5,000,000 clicks
- 2% click rate
- 250,000,000 ad views.
Again, when people talk click and conversion rates, ask to see their entire track record. Looking at one successful campaign is like declaring someone a genius stock trader after making one trade. What if they lost money on all of their other trades, and in total, failed to beat the market?
All of the logical fallacies applicable to trading stocks apply to online marketing.
The math on selling 10,000 books.
To sell 10,000 copies, which is a wild success for a first-time author, you need millions of readers.
- 3% of 330,000 from of 5% of 6.6 million.
Again, those are optimistic numbers.
The good news is with a built-in audience, your conversion rates will be higher.
But if you don’t have a large audience, how can you sell 10,000 yet alone 1,000 books?
Based on newsletter subscriptions and other traffic data, I expect to sell 10,000 copies. Maybe the book will go viral and hit it big, too. Who knows?
The $ on 10,000 book sales.
10,000 book sales is a blockbuster for a first-time author. Let’s say I do 10,000 copies of Gorilla Mindset. After Amazon’s cut, that’s $70,000.
How many years of writing at Danger & Play did it take me to earn $70,000?
Think about that. How many books will I need to write to make “real money” from writing?
Rather than devote everything to a website, treat it as a side gig. Go open up a Happy Hippo Shop and work on it at night after your real job. Or go start a site like Fit Juice but in another subject.
Bone broth is huge right now and is only going to get bigger. I could make a popular site based on bone broth.
— Mike Cernovich (@PlayDangerously) April 6, 2015
Maybe it takes off. Maybe it doesn’t.
Fit Juice makes money from ebook sales and affiliate commissions.
On being paid for your expertise and reputation demonstrated through your writing.
Why do you think James Altucher sells his books for $2.99? He doesn’t care about book revenue.
He wants investors, VCs, and others to find his book (because it appears on front page of Amazon due to the amount of copies it sells) and then think, “Let’s put him on our Board of Directors!”
What if a VC reads D&P, reaches out to me, wants me to give him mindset training, and in turn has me invest in a company. You think that hasn’t happened already?
What if I meet a reader who has a great idea and needs angel funding? I’m an accredited investor, so I could turn a little money into a lot.
Would people attend a Gorilla Mindset seminar? Yep.
Gorilla Nootropic would have been a massive seller, but the FDA banned a key ingredient.
I can sell a nootropic because of the trust and reputation I’ve built up.
When I get the nootropic right, it will be a huge product.
Don’t believe the hype or the haters.
You’re not going to make millions being “just a blogger.”
But you might make more than you think is possible, if you re-conceptualize what it means to make money as a writer.
You’d better be prepared to work your ass off, though.
And you had better ask why you are about to start writing online.
I don’t write to make money. I make money so that I may write.
Although I’ve been learning more about the business of writing, I don’t write to make money. I make money to write.
I wrote letters to the editor in college. I wrote book reviews for myself to help me improve my understanding of books.
I wrote Danger & Play as a lawyer.
Even if I never made any money from writing, I would always write.
I have ideas that must be written out or else I’d go insane. I can’t not write.
Hence I don’t stress out over the economics of writing. I’m not in it to get rich.
Yes, I am getting smarter about the business of writing, but money is not my primary motivation.
If you don’t have a message in your heart crying to get out, I wouldn’t start writing online.
I’d go into software sales, real estate, computer programming, finance, or any other number of professions.
If you have a fire in your soul, try out the online writing stuff.
Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t.
Maybe you’ll sign up new clients for your fitness business, or you’ll change lives with your written and spoken words, or you’ll hold worldwide seminars.
Maybe a venture capitalist will read your site, believe you know what you’re talking about, and introduce you to some angel investments.
Maybe you’ll meet some hot chicks.
Or maybe you’ll suck at it and get tired of not having any readers.
But you won’t have any regrets.
Bonus: I’ve been reading a book I heard about from Jeff Walker, author of Launch. I watch all of Jeff Walker’s videos.
The video is below and the book is Write. Publish. Repeat. (Amazon)