I’ve noticed an interesting development in this blog of mine. Originally its intended audience was people in the hacker community, which I have considered myself a part of pretty much forever, and I plan to continue writing in that vein. But recently my site seems to be attracting quite a few people from the online marketing community, which is a community I have started to explore only recently. I have a theory, which is that word got out there of my plans for monetizing the blog, and somehow it managed to reach the right people, and they followed me because they were interested in seeing how my plans develop. Most likely they were tipped off by the following comment:
I’m giving a big shoutout to PAUSED here. He’s another blogger that I’ve been keeping in touch with, and I’ve been following his story. According to him, it all started when he reached a breaking point in his life, realizing that he was nearing 40 and was still working a menial job, so he decided to bite the bullet and start following his dream to be a game developer, giving himself the challenge of learning the Unity framework, writing a game in Unity, and putting it on the market in one year, and using his WordPress blog as sort of an accountability tool to keep himself motivated. I was inspired by his initiative to pull himself away from the rat race and follow his dreams, and I’ve taken it as a motivation for me to follow my dreams as well.
I started off blogging on WordPress as kind of just a form of log-keeping for my own personal projects, though somewhat more public than a regular log would be. Now as my blog grows and I’m reaching more people, sharing my stories with them, and hearing their stories as well, this community has taken on a whole new meaning for me. We’re all people following our dreams, whether they’re about personal projects, or building our careers, or pushing the limits of technology. And this is our place to share our progress with other like-minded individuals, share our experiences and advice with one another, and help each other grow. We’re all learning from each other, learning how to take control of our lives as individuals, and become a part of something greater than ourselves.
There’s a saying that if you don’t build your dreams, someone will hire you to help build theirs. We are all people who are building our own dreams, and that’s what these blogs of ours are about. Which brings me back to the recent influx of content marketers to my site. I’ve checked out some of their sites and they seem to be fairly business-savvy individuals interested in learning more about various content marketing strategies that people use. It’s evident that they are following my blog not so much for its content per se, so much as to see what I do with it in the future. Well, I’m not about to disappoint these people, and in the following paragraphs, I’m going to share my own philosophy for marketing content online. This is a philosophy that I’ve learned largely through trial-and-error, and it has helped me to reach more people early on in the game and establish a following, and although it was a slow start, I’ve seen a lot of growth recently as a result of following these rules.
Rule #1: All business ventures require an initial monetary investment. Spend as much money as necessary, but never, ever borrow money.
I believe we have to take risks in business, but they have to be calculated risks. If you take out a loan for several thousand dollars, it’s completely up in the air whether that loan will actually pay off and you’ll be able to pay it back. This is a risk I’m not willing to take. I know that’s a controversial view among business people, but I don’t believe in throwing it all away for something that may not even materialize. If a business venture requires more money than I have access to, I wait until I’ve saved up enough money to invest in the business.
For example, one of my business goals is to start my own semiconductor lab so I can fabricate all the great ideas I’ve had for hardware products. However, I realize that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars initially. I’m not going to use a bank’s money for that, because if the business goes under, my life is ruined. So instead, I’m going to start with several smaller ventures, gradually establishing more income for myself until eventually I have enough of my own money to build my semiconductor lab without any help from lenders. It’s a lofty goal, but I believe I can reach it if I work hard enough.
Rule #2: It’s not all about you.
I sincerely believe that the people who go into business for entirely selfish reasons are the ones who end up failing. You can’t create content with the sole intent of making money for yourself. You have to think about how that content will benefit other people. Whenever I make a new blog post I ask myself “How are my readers going to benefit from this?” I put other people’s needs first. Yes, ultimately I am trying to make money and establish an income for myself so I can live comfortably without having to work a tedious 9-5 job, but at the same time I realize that on some level my mission has to be selfless.
I’ve found that focusing on other people and genuinely caring about them really works. I don’t just try to put myself out there and sell myself and my ideas. Instead I focus on building relationships, helping others, and being responsive to others. I’m interested in other people and what they have to say, which is why the number of people I’m following on WordPress is probably far greater than the number of people who are following me. I don’t see myself as a single person with my own goals of self-advancement. I see myself as part of a greater community of people, all working, learning, and growing together, sharing our journeys with each other in a mutual fashion.
I used to place a lot of value in my personal stats. How many followers do I have on WordPress? How many subscribers do I have on YouTube? But now I’ve realized that follower count is not that important. The loyalty of the people who consume my content, whether they’re following me or not, is far more important to me than a number below my avatar.
Rule #3: R&D is a never-ending process.
I’ve had to revise my plan for my blog several times. Every time I see my numbers starting to slip, that’s a sign that I need to go back to the drawing board. I’ve experimented with a lot of new things over the course of the three weeks this blog has been up – some of these efforts have been successful, others not so much. I wrote a PHP tutorial a couple weeks ago, which I thought would allow me to tap into the massive market of back-end web developers in the blogosphere, but the tutorial turned out to be a massive flop. But I figured out why: It was because I wasn’t really adding anything new. I was teaching people how to do something that anyone who has read a book on PHP already knows how to do. And anyone who hasn’t read a book on PHP won’t know the language, so teaching them how to process forms without first teaching them the basic syntax doesn’t really work.
I’ve had to revise my idea of what sort of content people want to read quite a bit since I started this blog. In the beginning I thought I had to remove myself entirely from the picture and just do tutorial content that would be relevant to other people’s lives. I reasoned that since I’m basically nobody, no one is really going to care enough to read about stuff that I’m doing in my life. But this reasoning turned out to be flawed. Turns out people actually do like hearing my stories and reading about projects that I’m working on or have worked on. Even though I’m not a person that anyone particularly gives a shit about, there’s still a wealth of content to be gained from my own personal life and projects. I think people like reading about my projects because it gives them inspiration for things they might want to do in their own projects. In any case, the blog entries I write where I tell anecdotes with technical geekery sprinkled in tend to be the ones that get the most views and likes.
My point is, what you think you know in the beginning is most likely wrong. You’re going to have to alter your course many times with any content creation venture before finding something that actually works. Three weeks in, I’m still learning. In fact I will continue learning as long as I am a content creator. This blog seems to have matured now, and it’s to the point where I no longer have to go around advertising myself. If I simply post a blog entry and do nothing else, I can easily expect it to be read by a reasonable number of people in the first day or so. It’s at the point now where I can sort of take my hands off the wheel and the ship will drive itself. But I only got to that point through many thankless hours of analyzing traffic patterns, doing SEO analysis, and meticulously considering all dimensions of my content strategy, tailoring my content to exactly fit the wants and needs of my audience.
Rule #4: Be original.
I can’t tell you how many online tutorials I’ve seen that are just regurgitating knowledge from W3Schools or some other beginner’s site. If I want to learn W3Schools-tier knowledge I’ll just go to W3Schools, okay? I saw one tutorial that was about “How to install VirtualBox on Ubuntu”. I was like, Are you serious? The installer literally tells you what to do as you’re installing it. Getting that information from an external source is just redundant. This is some people’s strategy, and to me, it’s cringy as fuck, because they’re trying to build a following without actually contributing anything.
Let me tell you, this strategy may be easy, but it doesn’t pay off. Every time I actually go to the profiles of the people who post this duplicate content, their follower count is typically in the single digits, despite them having been on WordPress for months or even years and posting regularly the whole time. I know I said before that follower count isn’t that important, but still, it should indicate something about what people actually want to see. People don’t want to see content that’s just same old, same old. They want originality. They want creativity. They want something that you’ve put your heart and soul into and made into your own creation that is uniquely yours. So I focus on originality above all else. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? What can I contribute that isn’t already out there? How can I actually make a difference, as opposed to just gaining a cheap following by imitating others?
As I said in that comment towards the beginning, this blog is only one of many content creation ventures that I have in the works. This is my first business venture in fact. I have managed to gain a sizable following on DeviantArt with my photography and political memes (138 watchers currently), so I know a little bit about how to sell myself, but this is the first time I’ve gone into content creation with the intent of actually monetizing it.
I’ve done a lot of reading on passive income and how to establish it. Some of the advice I’ve seen is pretty good, others not so good. What I really can’t stand is when I read an article on passive income and it just gives you a bunch of tips for investing in the stock market. I don’t want to make money that way. Where’s the fun in investing? You put down some cash, and maybe it goes up, maybe it goes down, and if it goes up, you sell it and make a profit. You’re not actually creating anything. You’re just piggybacking on someone else’s creation. I want to be actively building my own vision. I’m not just in it for the money. Yeah, money is nice, financial security is nice, and financial independence is nice. But I’d like to have fun while I’m getting there. To me the journey is more important than the destination.
I’ve got a music album in the works. That’s the venture I was working on before I put it on hold to work on my blog. It’s sort of an avant-garde electronic dance music album that I plan to market through YouTube and BitChute. I plan to release half of the album for free and make the rest of the album available as premium content through SubscribeStar (originally I was going to go through Patreon, but then Patreon started screwing over its users, and now that everyone who used that platform is jumping ship, I see no reason to even get started in the first place).
My point is, I’ll be making money doing something creative, doing what I love. I love to make music. It’s something that I’ve always been good at; I just have a natural gift for musical composition. That’s how I want to make a living, by sharing my greatest gifts. That’s why I got into content creation in the first place. I wanted to make my living doing what I love and building my own dreams and visions, not taking orders from some guy in a business suit. I’ll have to spend countless hours at the beginning working very hard for free, but that’s the reality I’ve accepted.
There’s a saying I’ve heard. I think it’s from Patrick Bet David of the Valuetainment channel on YouTube. “Entrepreneurs work for free.” I truly believe this is something you’ll have to accept if you ever want to get into the passive income game. I believe many people give up on content creation as a career because they get tired of working the long hours with no pay, never seeing their work pay off. But you have to live for the long term. There’s no such thing as easy money. There’s no such thing as “Get rich quick”.
I’ve basically told myself that this is it. It’s do or die at this point. If I give up, then I’ll be setting a precedent for myself to give up on future ventures, and I’ll end up back in a traditional job very quickly. I don’t want that. It’s what my parents want for me, because parents generally want stability for their kids. But it’s not what I want for myself. I realize that the world is changing, the economy is changing, and a lot of people from the older generations aren’t ready to embrace these changes. They don’t understand that the future of the economy IS people marketing content over the Internet. As more and more traditional jobs get replaced by robots and AI, we’ll be moving towards an economy consisting 100% of entrepreneurs. And those who are able to adapt to the changing times will be the most successful in the future.