Potpiegirl wrote recently that she feels all that talk about ‘following your passion’ won’t make you a living online. At least that’s how I understood this post about niches. She should know. I don’t agree with all her advice (her advice on tags is different from mine – though it’s a nuance thing), but on this one she is obviously one of the people we can trust.
The Giant Squid Community Showcase took the opposite position some time later: Finding your niche within a niche. Like we’d all love to think: writing about your passion will get your traffic and sales. Perhaps the idea is so popular precisely because writing about something you love is so much easier. It is also easier to write WELL about a topic you are passionate about. But will it make you sales? Will you get traffic?
The post that started me on this one is by Chefkeem, a great squidoo community worker. But I have to disagree with his post: Money, Money, Money…forget it!. I get that it changes how you look at your lenses when you are looking at them from a monetary perspective. Sure. But if you can’t afford to treat this as a hobby (like say Janusz) complaining that you are learning to think like a business person and treating that as a problem is no use.
Lets get back to those first two posts. What they agree on is that finding a niche that works for you should be followed by mining that niche for MORE lens ideas and even more specialized topics. I concur.
Let’s imagine for a moment that my lens about earplugs (has to be the most boring topic EVER right?) had turned out to be in a great niche that needed to be mined. I would then have proceeded to make lenses about specific types of earplugs. There are earplugs for use during swimming. There are earplugs that can be reused. There are earplugs combined with masks for maximum chance at sleeping. There are foam earplugs (I prefer those) and there are gummy earplugs as well.
My success in that business would not depend in any way on my passion for the subject. I’m smart enough and have enough empathy to be able to relate to the issues swimmers have which make them need to use earplugs. I’ve also been on planes while having a cold and needed to use earplugs to make sure my eardrums didn’t pop out. So I could make those 7 odd lenses I just enumerated. And I think I could do so well enough. I love to write, so I could make myself interested – but passion? For earplugs?
My success would be instead based on two things:
- Getting traffic to those lenses
- The ability to convert that traffic into sales
Point one is dependent largely on the competition online (not just squidoo), though of course SEO can make a huge difference.
Point two is dependent on how well my lens works psychologically. Passion helps here: if I can write a lens that convinces people that the product I have on offer really IS the best product EVER, I am more likely to convert people into buyers.
But there are other factors like the colors used on the page, the amount of distraction on the page, the reminders to buy (those lovely orange ‘buy now’ buttons the amazon modules have), how clear the message is (offering only one product and selling IT well is more likely to turn into a sale than offering a dozen and hoping the customer picks one of them).
Let’s be honest about this: if making money online is your business, you can’t expect every aspect of it to be interesting. You can’t expect to just turn out hundreds of lenses and hope to hit the jackpot merely from ‘following your passion’.
If you are a business, you need to be business like. You need to watch your ROI (return on investment). You need to figure out how it is that some lenses SELL, while others don’t. You need to learn about what makes people buy. You need to learn SEO to get traffic to your lenses. You need to investigate keywords to increase the likelihood of finding a niche that DOES generate sales and where you stand a chance of being the biggest fish in the pond.
Of course, I’m perhaps not the person to talk. I’ve made a business (sort of) out of a longtime hobby: religion and spirituality. I’m stubborn enough to stick to that, because it IS my passion. And that in itself has a return of investment – my website has steadily grown and over the years its visitor numbers have grown as well. The adsense income alone is enough to cover my rent (if the dollar doesn’t sink too low). But that’s very long term. I started my website in 1998 or 1999 (there’s no way to be sure anymore). From a business perspective this isn’t very impressive. I spent 10 years on it and it still only covers the rent?
If you want to have success like that in 10 years time: sure, stick to your passion. But if you want to make money this year, perhaps you should be a bit less picky (or find a job). [I also design websites for a living: those customers pay my other expenses].