Back in 2008, Abraham Piper set up the blog 22 Words to share pictures of his children, write about books, and try to be “convincingly contrary to anyone who would listen.”
The idea was originally a gimmick, with every post being exactly 22 words long.
“In my defense, or perhaps to my shame, I hadn’t heard of Twitter yet,” Piper told Business Insider in an email. “This schtick obviously required concision — a constant value online no matter what year it is. So the content was always extremely easy to consume. If it was good, readers got what they wanted quick. And if it was bad, no harm done. I mean, how much time can be wasted by a sentence or two?”
Piper knew he was onto something when 22 Words started getting a million pageviews a month. Today, it has 4.8 million fans and a post reach of 50 million.
Piper gave Business Insider some tips for people who are working on their own blogs on how to turn them into profitable businesses. Here they are:
1. Don’t be precious about your work.
Some people are lucky enough to build a business out of their work, with people being interested in their identity from the beginning. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Piper says this approach requires too much luck.
“You’re a blogger, not Picasso,” he said. “Most of us need to adapt, tweak, and even compromise how we create if we want to turn our efforts into money.”
He says that at 22 Words they try things out and obey the results — even if that means using Comic Sans on the homepage.
2. Spend a ton of money on Facebook.
For a blog to go anywhere, it needs traffic. Sometimes blogs take off of their own accord, but that happens rarely. If a post does happen to go viral, you can’t guarantee it will happen for all others. That’s not a great way to start a business, so don’t be precious about spending some money.
“Always strive for organic traffic, but to fill in the gaps, buy traffic,” Piper said. “That sounds bad, though. That’s why you’ll usually hear it called ‘marketing.'”
Most importantly, make sure you’re spending less per click than you make from each person who visits your site.
3. Don’t be an early adopter.
It might be thrilling to be the first to adopt a new trend, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the credit for it. It can also be expensive to hop on new things before they are proven, which makes it a risky business move.
“Let other people adopt early; let other people test new, risky strategies; let the big players with all kinds of funding spend money hand over fist on R&D,” Piper said. “Then do what they do.”
It’s almost as good to follow fast as it is to be the first on the bandwagon.
4. Capitalize on your good fortune.
Piper says there’s a lot of value in admitting you’re lucky, because good fortune is part of every success story.
“You have to take luck when you can get it and wring success out of it for all you’re worth,” he said. “In my story, meeting my business partner Josh Sowin was good fortune; Stumbleupon ‘discovering’ 22 Words in 2010 was good fortune; Facebook deciding they were going to take over the world completely revolutionized 22 Words.”
5. Remember you can’t do this by yourself.
Finding a partner is important, especially if you know someone who can offset your weaknesses. If you have a blog, you are probably a creative type. This could mean you don’t necessarily have the best business mind, so it’s a good idea to find someone who does to help you out, Piper says.
“This will take a healthy dose of humility,” he said. “And a mega-dose of trust, because business partnership is almost as risky as marriage.”
6. Treat your site like it already is a business.
Don’t treat something as your hobby if you want it to be more. Blogging may have started as something to fill your time, but if you’re passionate about turning it into a money-maker then you should treat it as such.
Dedicate the same amount of time to it you would a job, and put the same effort in as if you were looking to be promoted. You only have yourself to answer to, so motivation is key.