Why Blogging is a Great Alternative to Niche Sites
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This is a guest post written by Tom Ewer from LeavingWorkBehind.com. I think this is a great post for anyone looking for an alternative to niche sites. Personally, niche sites have worked very well for me and continue to earn well for me. They are a great business. However, Tom makes some very valid points that blogging may be a better choice for some people. I agree! In fact, NichePursuits.com has become the heart of my business in a lot of ways, and I can certainly attribute a lot of my success outside of niche sites directly to my blog here. Anyway, here's Tom's thoughts…
When I first decided that I wanted to quit my job back in May 2011, I dreamed of niche site success.
I invested an enormous amount of time and money in building a number of niche sites, but ultimately, it didn't work out. I failed.
I'm not here to tell you that niche sites don't work – Spencer would have my neck if I did! But I am here to say that I quit my job six months ago and already earn a healthy full time income, despite my failure with niche sites.
Although I started with niche sites, in the end, my success came from somewhere completely unexpected.
Niche Sites as a Business Model
There is something very appealing about niche sites as a business model:
- There are no customers to deal with
- The income is relatively passive
- It doesn't require a large financial investment
In this age of the Four Hour Work Week, it seems like a dream come true, does it not?
Not only that, people like Spencer have shown that great things are possible with a lot of hard work and application.
However, there is a sinister side to niche sites:
- They are highly volatile assets
- The success rate in terms of ranking are low
- There is no guarantee of success
- Poor income diversity
- You lack control
There are of course arguments against these downsides (for instance, this post by Spencer refutes the issue of success rate). But you would be missing the point in trying to pick my points apart.
The fact is, I don't think anyone in this day and age would advise that niche sites alone are a solid business model. Spencer's (wise) eagerness to diversify his income streams is testament to that.
Ultimately, when it came to quitting my job, I knew that I wouldn't be comfortable in relying upon niche sites as my primary source of income (which is a good thing, given that I failed miserably with them ;)). Even if I had built up a good level of income, it could have disappeared overnight.
The Blogging Alternative
Yep – that old nugget. I know that it's a well-worn topic, but well-worn for the wrong reasons.
When I say blogging, I am not trying to sell the a-list Pat Flynn style megabucks dream (although you've got to take your hat off to him). I'm trying to sell something realistic.
Don't get me wrong – many of us probably have the potential to reach Pat Flynn's level, but it takes many steps (not to mention a lot of dedication and perseverance) to get there. I want to focus on the first couple of steps, and what that can do for you.
Here are my two key points:
- You do not need a huge blog to make a good living.
- A blog allows you to exploit multiple income streams and build a continuously appreciating asset.
I decided to quit my job because I saw the potential of freelance writing as a fitting business model for me. However, I was able to establish a full time income because my blog brings in a steady trickle of referrals from prospective clients (without me really even trying to attract them).
Not only that, but my little blog also generates a modest affiliate income (which is on the rise), and in the future I plan to release a product, which will add yet another string to my income bow. And all of that is without me exploring other potential streams of income, such as advertising, or coaching.
I am not a remarkable person – I consider myself fairly average. And yet in just 12 months I have gone from barely ever having read a blog, to having one at the heart of my business. And I managed to do this without actually having a clear understanding of what I was trying to achieve with it up until just a few weeks ago.
What to Do?
It is not the intention of this post to teach you how to make money blogging – more to convince you that it is possible to leverage a blog to achieve awesome things (both directly and indirectly).
Having said that, you may need a nudge in the right direction. So here are a few brief case studies, picked from my LWB 100 list:
- Think Traffic: Corbett Barr has built a business around his blog – he most recently released the hugely successful How to Start a Blog that Matters course.
- Man vs. Debt: what started out as a modest personal finance accountability journal for Adam Baker has become a behemoth in the blogosphere, most recently allowing him to successfully seek financial backing for his own documentary.
- Ruth Zive Copywriting: Ruth uses her blog as a means of attracting new clients for her freelance writing business.
As the rather unsavory expression goes, there are many ways to skin a cat, and blogging is a compelling example of that analogy in action.
I decided to quit my job 13 months ago, and immediately started working on niche sites, with a view to that being my exit route from employment. I launched my blog one month later, and Leaving Work Behind prevailed as the tool that led me to successfully quitting my job.
Niche sites have been proven as a great potential source of income, but they are not the only solution, and may not be the best solution for you.
So if you are like I was a few months ago (obsessed with the dream of passive income and blinkered to all other possibilities), perhaps now could be the time to reconsider your options.
Tom Ewer is the owner of Leaving Work Behind, a blog for anyone interested in quitting their job and building a better life for themselves. Join Tom on Facebook here!
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I’ve seen your blog many months ago and was quite interested in what you are doing, but then I remember seeing your niche income report and just to be honest, but no offense intended, I looked down on your blog because I thought it doesn’t really give any true value, judging from the earnings you’ve made.
Recently I was quite shocked to hear that you’ve shot up in traffic to a level many can only dream. And so you just proved that with perseverance one can succeed. It also pays to be honest; some will lie about their earnings but you didn’t.
Hats up to you, and congratulations on your recent success!
That was an interesting way to judge the blog…I’m glad all visitors didn’t think in such a way!
But you’re absolutely right – perseverance and honesty (in my humble opinion) are two keys to building a successful blog (or business, for that matter).
Congrats Tom on your success with your blog.
I just found your email about your 100 list and left a comment.
It’s ironic that on my blog I’m always talking about other strategies but blogging really is the base of business at this point.
Thanks for commenting here, and on my blog!
I do like your work on manageWP although some of it is light and inaccurate and somebdy needs to actually read and respond to somments.
Youve cretaed a great niche for yourself as a writter (blooger? not really) you write for othe rpeople a lot which i understand is the major income stream.
Im impressed with what youve achieved. BUT it requires a hell of a lot of WORK which has not been left behind.
And as most of use cant write that well and there are few contract its not a viable buiness model. and lacks scalability! you are required to work each day to make the business money.
I also dislike the tendency amongst those that have fiaed at niche sites to slag (a good british word much misused) off the nice site business which is triving. Trent at OIL as the same problem.
So whilst I admire your personel work and achievement i dont see working as a writer as in anyway a move towards the 4 hour work week. And the lack of scalability (unless you start to outsource mangewp articles etc) is a major problem.
I sincerly wish you well and hope to read your writing for years to come.
I’m confused – are you saying I’m not a blogger?
For the record (and I think most people understand this), the phrase “Leaving Work Behind” is not meant to be taken in a literal fashion (in exactly the same way that the “4 Hour Workweek” is not intended to be taken literally).
I think to state that most people can’t write that well is unfair on most people! I communicate with a lot of people on a daily basis (especially aspiring freelance writers, or people that are considering it), and think that a great number of them have the necessary tools to generate a good income from freelance writing.
I also disagree with your assertion that there is little work available. With all due respect, I’m guessing you’ve probably not chanced your arm with freelance writing a great deal, so how would you know?
You’re absolutely right that freelance writing does not allow for infinite scalability. But that fact does not make it a bad business model.
Furthermore, blogging *does* allow for scalability, and given that blogging is the focus of my article, I’m not sure where you’re going with that part of your comment.
I’d be interested to know in what sense you think I have “slagged off” niche sites. On the contrary, I think I provided a pretty objective list of pros and cons in the article.
Finally (and just to reiterate), you are absolutely right in that working as a freelance writer is not a move towards the 4 hour workweek. But if you appreciated that the 4 hour workweek is a myth, it would no longer be relevant.
Thanks for commenting 🙂
Given that the 4 hour qork week was derived from a growd sourcing exercise using adwors to find what people click on.
And that the 4 hour work week is not what the book is about (it is really its just it doesnot work)
Your saying your blog name has nothing to do with what its about?
Thats a wierd branding idea. I think it is named after what you wanted to achieve (niche site producing a passive income so you could live the 4 hour work week beach idea)
And as with so many that jumped on the bandwagon without testingt the process it failed for you.
As to slagging off niche site you own blog says that your sites faied and that process didnot work. It was not worth the efort and so you’ve taken up writing for other people and getting paid for it.
You DONOT blog on managewp. You write and get paid for article writing thats not blogging.
Why am i bothering to commment. Well its that i dont like this appraoch.
Niche sites targetting exact match keywords work in july 2012. period. yours failed. maybe your eyword reasearch was ppor.
I was interested in comments by adsenseflipper and agreee.
Am i a hater no way. but your argung instead of reading.
The new busines you runr is work everyday to make money youhave to write.
Thats great I admire your drive. maybe im just needing your blog to change its name. to “how to write for profit” or something.
Jamie (is it Hanson or Townsend, by the way?),
I *am* saying that my blog’s name has nothing to do with The 4 Hour Workweek. In fact, I’m pretty sure I hadn’t even heard of that book when I came up with the name back in May 2011.
Whilst I appreciate you think differently, I’m afraid that thinking it doesn’t make it true.
I think you must not fully understand British slang – “slagging something off” is to talk negatively about something in an abusive manner. I have done neither of those things regarding niche sites. I said that *my* process didn’t work – I certainly didn’t say that “the” process doesn’t work (whatever “the” process is).
I hate to break it to you Jamie, but writing and publishing blog posts *is* blogging – professional blogging. Go and look it up son. I’m not sure how you can argue against that. Even if you want to until you’re blue in face, I own my own blog, so I struggle to see how you can claim I am not a blogger. Most perplexing.
You claim that niche sites targeting exact match keywords work in July 2012. I never claimed they didn’t, so you’re having an argument with yourself – an impressive feat.
I’m afraid you “needing” my blog’s name to change is not actually going to make it happen.
Anyway, at this point I have decided that you must be around 14 years of age, in which case, I feel no animosity towards you for your terribly worded, immature and ill-considered approach to this little debate we’re having here. Actually, I would feel no animosity towards you anyway – I’d just feel sorry for you if you are any older than that.
I’m all for diversifying. I have a couple blogs, multiple niche sites, do a little content curation and am working on a few physical products to sell.
The one problem with blogs is they are a beast that constantly needs feeding. Eventually you burn out or run out of stuff to write about.
It is all about what your strengths are. If you are a good writer than blog away, if not stick to the other stuff.
You make a good point (in part). Blogs certainly *do* need ongoing maintenance, but in my opinion, they do not have to either end with burnout or a lack of anything to write about. I’m not sure why you think that.
because the niche is to narrow to require continuous articles.
Still dont burn out start multiple blogs that way you dont have this issue.
Even Darren Rowse has two blogs in seperate fields he’s into.
Problogger and a digital camera site
he probably has more.
I appreciate that you didn’t oversell the dream here. Reading about people making huge salaries blogging gets old after a while, even though it is certainly possible.
I think people underestimate the potential of a blog to bring in freelancing, consulting, or sales for some type of service.
Great article – with some really good points. 🙂 Spencer was wise to give you the mic. 🙂
I’ve worked hard to make sure that the last thing I could be accused of is overselling 😉
And your point about people underestimating blogging is spot on, and really forms the basis of the article.
Good podcast. I think I’m still going to stay away from this method for a while though myself. Pretty crazy how many sites he has haha
Congrats on your another outstanding guest post, Tom!
I was very into “niche sites” last couple months, and totally forget that Blogging is a business model.
SPI definitely is an ultimate goal.. I started my blog 2 years ago when learning about Make Money Online in 2010.
Time goes by, I have made $1K Affiliate Income from my blog last couple months. It’s not much comparing to my Amazon and Adsense income, but still it’s a stream of online income.
I wish I had another interest and niche that I could do full-time blogging and building it up as authority site. I may stumble upon something later this year.
Good to hear from you!
Congratulations on your achievements. I’m sure you have interests in your life that could form the basis for a blog!
Great article Tom. Love the premise.
I would like to throw out in the blogging vs. niche sites debate that each vehicle requires a slightly different skill set. To be a little too brief, blogging is creative, niche sites are analytical.
I think we gravitate naturally to the format that we are comfortable working with and succeed in that which we have the skillsor are willjng to develop the skills).
Really liked your line; “A blog allows you to exploit multiple income streams and build a continuously appreciating asset”.
A valid point well made (and in a brief manner ;-)).
Having said that, I do believe that “analytical” types can learn to be good bloggers.
Hi Tom – thanks for this post! Made me feel great that I was choosing to blog as a way of income. I am passionate about my subject. And while it has languished a bit as I transitioned to a new day job, I have renewed vigor to get it going in the direction I want it to go. This post came at a good time. Thanks!
My pleasure 🙂
Blogging takes a whole load of work, no doubt. But with the right planning, content production, promotion, and perseverance, it really can pay off.
Best of luck!
Nice post Tom.
I’ve observed your frustration with Google over time as it impacted your portfolio of niche sites.
I feel the direction is clearly evolving toward more meaty, authority sites. With that said, each of us will have a fewer number, but higher quality websites.
In a way it makes things easier to manage doesn’t it?
Blogging is a great platform, mainly as a conduit to a business, but in some cases (like Pat at SPI for example) a business of its own.
I agree with your assertions to an extent, although wouldn’t pretend to be experienced enough with niche sites to be sure. On a related note, you could refer to authority sites as “blogs” 😉
And you are right regarding blogs working well as a conduit for a business. It’s not all about advertising, affiliate marketing, or even creating a product. Blogs with very modest traffic numbers can help generate a considerable amount of income through freelancing, coaching, and other alternative streams of income.
That’s great stuff there Tom. I agree that blogging can be a great business in itself. It’s also just really fun! There are times when I just can’t wait to write on my blog. It’s probably one of my favorite things to do and it doesn’t even feel like work sometimes.
You’re absolutely right, and I think it is something certain people don’t appreciate!
Once you build up a bit of an audience, getting feedback and engaging with your readers genuinely is fun. For instance, it’s great to meet new people here, such as yourself, via the comments on this article!
I may be a little confused after reading this post a couple times. I am still left wondering where you were taking me, the reader. I understand you saying niche sites did not work for you and that blogging has. I follow your leaving work behind site and enjoy it very much. I am just left confused after this post. I do not mean to be negative as I have never left a negative comment. I have read the other comments to try to help me see what they took from the article. If your thought was to point put that blogging works as a means to make money, I see that and you put that point out well, I am just still left with a feeling of hanging or wanting more.
Thanks and please don’t take this harshly, I do appreciate your transparency and work.
Don’t worry about it. If you consider that a negative comment, it is the most polite negative comment I have ever read 😉
I’ve noticed a trend in the “make money online” niche. A lot of people expect, seemingly at all times, “actionable” posts – i.e. articles that show people the exact steps required to do something.
Such articles can be extremely helpful, but I place far greater value in content that helps you adopt the right mindset to achieve far greater things than any one “actionable” post could. I’m basically arguing in favor of the old “don’t give a man a fish, team him how to fish” story.
There were two main points in the post:
1. You do not need a huge blog to make a good living.
2. A blog allows you to exploit multiple income streams and build a continuously appreciating asset.
If you already understood the above, I was preaching to the converted. There probably wasn’t much you could take from the post.
Does that make sense?
Wow, is this post timely for me! I’m giving a few more shots at niche sites (to be honest, my first few attempts were prior to my knowing enough about proper keyword research and a whole host of other things) before I reconsider my online options. The funny thing is that I find myself wanting to blog on my main site more than create niche sites. I’m not sure I have the patience after watching my one niche jump around the SERPs and getting canned by AdSense for reasons that I can only speculate about. Heading back over to your site now!
I hope you like the site!
Here’s the thing – I now work full time, so I have to keep a roof over my head. With that in mind, there are long term sources of income that (in my opinion) are far more viable than niche sites (namely freelance writing, and blogging).
If I were still working on MMO as a part-time venture, I might have another crack at niche sites. But quite frankly, it would be too great a risk to do so. I see a far better future in my writing and blogging.
The biggest advantage to blogging over niche sites is that I feel that I am actually helping people with my blog vs just getting people to click on ads with niche sites.
A few more factors that makes blogging somewhat better than niche sites (in my opinion) is the control factor (which you mention), having an email list that NOBODY can take from you regardless of updates, account bans, etc., and also the fact that you can make the internet a better place rather than just trying to “game the system.” Niche site worked for me for a very short period of time, but I happy in a way that now I am moving in the direction of blogging as well as other forms of online income 🙂
It’s a good point. Blogging brings a whole new “human” element to our online ventures.
You’ve also highlighted one of the greatest weaknesses of traditional niche sites – you aren’t building anything of substance. You rely solely on Google – if they switch you off or bump you down the rankings, you’re done for. Scary thought!
“There is no guarantee of success”
Please tell me in what business/self-employment you have any guarantee of success??
Business is about taking risk and there is no such thing as guarantee of success.
Overall good post, blogging is for sure good method of making money but it takes a lot of time to create income (no, 50$ or 500$ per month is not good, I’m talking about >1000$/month).
It just depends on what you like more. Do you like to blog? Then go and create blog. Do you like to create mini sites? Than go for niche sites. Or if you have time and will to work your ass off go for both 🙂
Good point – that wasn’t phrased well.
What I meant by the statement was this: if I spend x hours writing an article for a client, I will be compensated with $y. Any service-based business is the same.
But when it comes to niche sites, you simply don’t know whether it will pan out or not, or whether Google will turn the lights off on you tomorrow.
Hows it going. Dull and grey here in southern england today.
I too felt some confusion along with Bryan above. However the later comment replies clarified the idea.
I too like service based business inso far as there is an x->y relationship between work/effort and reward. Consultancy is also an area where very good money can be made on a fixed duration project.
You can ofcourse still do “a four hour work week”, location independent lifestyle” etc when bloggin or writing etc. Not that im sure your aiming for either of those. Although I to feel the “leaving work behind” branding name may have run its course (many other blogger have or are chaning domains to be better clarify their mission (chris ducker at VBL for example).
For me personnelly writing (sadly) is my greatest weakness. Which i can compensate for by hiring writers we cant all be good at writing. Sometimes our skill sets lie elsewhere. I take you points and if you can write its a real gift. I very much value the writer I follow and blogs they use.
For me Nichesites are of greater interest than blogs in so far as they can be systemitised. You do require scale to deal with the failure rate and that some sites even when they start to produce can still fail. It is a volume game (50+ min). With a plan (starting with say the adsenseflippers guide) adn time its fairly straighforward to produce an secondary income even if done part time.
However if you have a passion for a subject blogging/creating a site around it may well be a better way to go.
regards and the best of luck going forward, although i suspect your work ethic and dedication will play a bit part
Good to hear from you! Also dull and grey here, as it has been for most of the summer.
You’re the first person who has criticized the Leaving Work Behind branding directly to me (which by the way, I welcome). However, I think it is as relevant to my message as it ever was, as a symbol of what I am working towards, and what I hope I am helping other people to work towards.
The phrase is not intended to be taken literally, but the more we can enjoy a balanced life in which there is only a small element of that soul-sucking kind of work that a lot of people endure, the better.
Interesting post, Tom!
I thought the comments were pretty interesting. Even Jamie (who was beating you up a bit) brought out a point from you about how content/article writing can’t really be scaled but blogging CAN be. That’s an important point, I think.
Someone else mentioned that blogging is a bit more creating and niche sites are more analytical…an interesting point. There’s a ton of data and precision that goes into our niche sites, but blogging is not even close to the same thing.
I think your blog is becoming quite popular because you write really well…extremely well. You’re connecting with the right people, being helpful, providing value on your blog and elsewhere…those are the things that are continuing to grow your blog and audience. (And those here at Niche Pursuits, on our site, etc.)
Yep – some good stuff in the comments thing. I can take a beating up, but whoever’s doing it must generally be prepared for a well-considered riposte 😉
Is Jamie Townsend for real – is he really that illiterate? Or is he just a thick troll? Perhaps this typical non-achiever should learn to use a dictionary before he hits out at someone who generously gives sensible advice and encouragement.
Just for the record I have been a freelance writer in the UK for over thirty years and to become a good ‘writter’ as Jamie puts it doesn’t just happen . It requires the application of constant hard work and above all self discipline to make it through. Some people however would much rather moan and knock others back rather than achieve something useful themselves. Great post Tom – I shall certainly be taking a look a your own blog with interest.
Thanks Ruby! Don’t worry about James – he’s the kind of person you can’t help.
I do agree with you about freelance writing, but I wouldn’t want it to seem as if it is totally inaccessible to “average” writers. You can earn a decent wage even when English is your second language (you only have to check out Bamidele Onibalusi’s blog to understand that).
Obviously if you want to take it up to the next level and earn good money, you need to be highly competent. But that is of course the case with anything.
I hope you like my blog! 🙂
Great post Tom!
For me I have found that blogging is a great way to connect with people in your niche. It’s also a great motivator to do better work, specially if you are writing about what you are doing.
So the benefits are endless for starting your own blog.
I totally agree with you – there are more benefits to blogging than you could ever possibly imagine.
Take Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income for example – because of his blog, he landed a social media job with an independent film studio and got to star as an extra in a Hollywood film! How out of left field is that!
That’s the magic of blogging.
Blogging is the great source of online passive income but i am also doing niche websites because it is easy to do and if you are earning one or two dollars a day from your niche websites then you may sell them ten to fifteen times of monthly earnings on flippa. It works and hence i want that any of you who thinks that niche websites are competitive and may not be good source of revenue then you are completely wrong.
I couldn’t agree more! Blogging is a great way to make sure you have a stable income if you look at your content as assets you build up over time!
Nice Article. I just created a blog and i’m really enjoying it.
Going to twitter to go follow you!
Today, while I was at work, my sister stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a 30 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation.
My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views.
I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it