I have never made a profit off my own writing.
That's not to say I've never made money off my writing. In a past life I worked as a marketing consultant and wrote thousands of words - for pay - each week. A lifetime after that I was a technical writer and, again, producing written work was my job.
Writing for a paycheck, however, is very different than writing for myself and making money off having my words read. When I started blogging, I hosted Google AdWords on this site. It brought me a grand total of less than a dollar in over a year.
Today, though, I make approximately nothing on this site, and I'm trying to figure out ways to change that.
Building a Platform
I started blogging daily on this domain to build a platform. To build a place where my voice - professional and creative - could reach the world.
Some would argue that I'm blogging to build my personal reputation. Defending on how you define "platform," that may or may not be true.
The last time I built a platform, however, it was a collaborative effort between myself and 4 other writers. Then, like now, I had monetization issues so eventually things failed - keeping a team focused on platform building is difficult when you ask them to do it for free.
What are my goals with building out this site as a platform? Well, at the moment that's need to know.[ref]Sorry, but I'm playing this one close to the chest.[/ref] What you should know, however, is that there is an objective behind this push for content creation and enhanced traffic - and it's not just my own personal gratification when viewing an analytics dashboard.
The trick to making such a platform a lasting thing, though, is being able to pay for it.
I can donate my own time for a while. Eventually, however, there needs to be some form of pay out aside from just the good feeling I get from publishing my work.
Also, I need to pay to keep the servers running. WordPress itself might be free, but the hardware that runs it and the bandwidth that connects it to the world certainly aren't.
This begs the question: how do I monetize this platform?
I already tried the ad route once. It trickled in a few cents and, with the larger traffic flow I've gained, could prove more fruitful this time 'round.
Except for the tiny fact that I hate advertising with the passion of a thousand burning suns.
A second option that's being exercised by many in the publishing world is the presence of a paywall. Some content is always free, other articles are only available as an excerpt unless you pay to be a subscriber.
Unfortunately, this model renders paywall-protected content unsharable. My goal here is to build a platform upon which we can have an open conversation - locking part of the conversation down to a select few is in direct contradiction with the objective.
I personally subscribe to a handful of mailing lists. Getting content - even drip content - from sites I enjoy in my inbox is a great alternative to either visiting the site manually or remembering to check out my feed reader.[ref]I've used Feedly since Google Reader died and, while I love it, I often forget to load it up for weeks at a time. When I visit Feedly and have to sort through 1000+ unread blog posts, I usually take the easy way out and "mark all as read," missing some great nuggets of content in the process.[/ref]
I'm on the fence, but I'd like to experiment with premium email subscription.
All content would still be free and published on the site. You would still be able to subscribe to updates of published posts completely for free.
But if you want a bit more, you could pay for an enhanced distribution - you would have the chance to receive posts in your inbox a few days (or weeks) before they're generally available.
Some more technical posts might contain additional supplements in the premium email version that aren't available elsewhere - like real code examples when I talk tech, or applicable case studies when discussing business ideas.
In addition, such an email subscription would likely contain guest content that ties in with posts on my site, even if the guest content is hosted elsewhere (I would leave out-of-email availability up to the original author).
Since it's an email, you'd be welcome - encouraged, actually - to forward and share the email with others.
I'm trying to keep monetization completely transparent here, so rather than go out and implement such a plan I want to ask for feedback first.
Is this something you'd pay for? If it was offered as a monthly or annual subscription, how much would you pay for it?
Do you have any other suggestions for monetizing an otherwise free site that don't involve a paywall or selling ads?