Though I didn't realize it at the time, when I started my first affiliate blog in 2010, I took a certain amount of risk. The concept of risk was completely foreign to me as an idea, but I still engaged in it, and because of the risks I've taken over the years I was able to make a lot of money.
Typically, most people will think of “risk” as something which could potentially harm you: climbing a mountain, driving fast, or gambling. Risk has a negative connotation to it.
However, there's another side to risk which has some potentially awesome benefits to you as an entrepreneur, and if you can understand and evaluate risk, you will increase your potential of creating a successful online business.
Though risk has the potential to harm you in some way, you should also consider that it could bring you some benefit. Accurately measuring risk will help you make good decisions in life and business. Another way of thinking about risk is simply looking at the tradeoffs of doing something, vs not doing something. The seen and the unseen.
A super simple example is just answering the phone. Let's say your phone rings, and it's an unknown number. You need to make a decision whether or not to answer it.
If you answer it, you run the risk of it being a scammer. In a worst case scenario, you risk that scammer being convincing, getting your private information, and stealing your money. At the very least, it will be an inconvenience, but that inconvenience still could have some negative consequences of putting you in a bad mood, or just waste 30 seconds of your day.
If you don't answer it, you may think, “Well, there's no risk involved! I won't waste my time, and I won't get scammed!”.
Consider that it may be your mortgage company telling you that there was an issue with your recent payment. If they can't get a hold of you, they then have to send you a manual snail-mail request, and then you have to send in some paperwork which takes 20 minutes to fill out.
That means rather than spend 5 minutes on the phone to give them the correct information, you now have to spend 20 minutes filling out paperwork.
We cannot know the future, so every decision we make is some kind of risk, even if the upside and downside are relatively inconsequential.
Making Money Involves Taking On Risk
To make money in the world of entrepreneurship you absolutely have to take on risk. In my opinion, that risk is easily divided into the risk of time and money. There may be other types of risks out there like the risk of reputation, but I like to focus on time and money because it cuts out a lot of the confusion.
Starting a successful, profitable affiliate blog is an entrepreneurial endeavor. Let's not pretend we're inventing the new Facebook here, but it's still a business, and the basic principles of risk apply.
As you start and grow your blog, you'll have to make some decisions about risk, namely if you want to risk time or money to grow your blog. Here are my thoughts on how I've broken down risk in my own blogging timeline from 2010, and perhaps this framework can help you better assess risk in your own online business.
Beginners: Risking Time
One of the best things about starting an affiliate blog is that you can bootstrap it with very little money. With a $15 domain and $50 hosting, you can launch a new website and have it earning six figures within a year. Ask any other entrepreneur in any other industry if they could launch their business for $65 and run the first year of operations for $600 and they'd laugh.
This is the reality of affilaite blogging.
It's not easy to do it though. One of the core components to starting a successful blog is content creation, and creating content takes time.
Beginner Content Creation
As a beginner, creating content takes time because you are learning how to do it for the first time. It used to take me several days to publish a single article. Between research, writing, getting it formatted in WordPress, and then double checking everything with hesitation, at most I was able to publish twice a week.
Though I was somewhat familiar with my niche choice at the time, I certainly wasn't an expert either, and that made the research/writing process particularly hard to accomplish. I was also learning work ethic and how to run a business at the same time, so had other priorities to worry about as well.
These days, on topics I'm familiar with I can knock out the same amount of content in 2 hours or less, and the quality will be superior to anything that I was publishing in 2010.
Most other responsibilities of the business and running a WordPress site have become second nature, so when I'm writing, I'm focused on writing. I'm a decade-long expert in the topics I write about, with thousands of hours in the (knowledge) bank that I can use as a resource, rather than spending tons of time researching.
As a beginner, this time spent on researching and publishing is the risk you take.
If you've already started your blog, then you are probably asking yourself things like:
- is this worth my time
- can i really be successful
- would i rather be doing something else
- what if this is all a waste
You need to be able to accept the risk of the possibility that yes, this all might be a waste of time for you. Nobody can guarantee your success. However, only people who are willing to risk the possibility of wasted time will ever be able to actually create the blog in the first place.
Advanced Content Creation
Despite the fact that I could “knock out” an article in 2 hours or less, it typically takes longer than that. In the past, when I published, it was basically write and publish and then that was it. I didn't really do anything else because I didn't know what else to do.
Though there's a certain amount of time-risk involved as an advanced blogger, the risk is much less in my opinion. I've already see how things play out. I trust the system. I know that when I write a good article, it can rank. If it doesn't, I don't get butthurt because I only write articles I think are worth writing.
I have much better SEO skills and business sense, so I can assess value better. Although an article may not rank in Google, I can still use it on my website in some capacity.
There still is some time-risk involved though. These days, publishing an article comes with a lot more tasks associated with it.
For example, an article I write may come with a companion video which takes 3 hours to film, edit, upload, and publish. I might create custom graphics in Cavna as well. As I'm writing, I'm also evaluating the content on a new level, not just looking for a finished product, but for something that's truly unique and worth of publishing. I'm thinking, “What makes this article unique among all others on the same topic?”.
This next level of publishing takes a certain amount of effort, and though, for example, One More Cup of Coffee is already a decade old, I expect the quality of content to continue to improve over time. What was acceptable just a year ago is rarely what I'd accept in the current year, and this process has continued with every additional year I run the site.
Intermediate: Risking Money
As an intermediate blogger with money, you'll probably start to outsource a lot more now that you have a budget. Another advantage of affiliate blogging and many online businesses is the ability to scale. Affiliate blogging is particularly easy to scale because the core component of a successful blog, content creation, is readily available from a variety of platforms and price points, and is simple to comprehend how to do it.
Buy articles. Publish. Monetize traffic.
However, the catch is that not all your articles will rank. Even if your keywords are good, you still have to publish the article in such a way that it actually gets ranked for those keywords. Not all writers are SEOs, so a portion of the success of these articles is going to be dependent on how good of a content manager you are.
Some things that have lead to the success of my writers publishing articles that rank are:
- clean instructions
- templates using easy-to-rank formats
- writing in “series” (related articles)
- hiring experts
- working with writers long term
- assigning low competition keywords
Even with those elements, it's a possibility that the articles you pay for will not produce income.
Aside from outsourcing content, you may also invest money into premium themes and plugins that may improve the performance of your site, or training and consulting to help you level up your skills as a webmaster and entrepreneur.
None of those costs are guaranteed to make you more money than you're already making.
When I transitioned from a beginner to an intermediate blogger, I started to run into many more time constraints. I couldn't do everything myself, and the solution much of the time was to pay someone else to do it. From 2010 to 2012, I was spending less than $1000 yearly to run my blog and it was earning $10k/month+ by the end of those two years.
These days I spend over $5000 per month to run my blogs. They are still just blogs. WordPress is still free. What the hell is costing so much? Well, I'm just running a more advanced business at this point and it takes money to run it while I use my brain power to think about big picture stuff rather than do the day-to-day tasks which I used to do myself.
Not all money I spend directly leads to earning money money, but sometimes it does. I'm willing to take that risk, waste a few $10,000 per year to experiment, and see what happens. I believe that if you are never willing to risk money to grow your business, you will be limited to how much money you can make from your blog.
You might be OK with that. Not everyone wants to run a complicated blogging business, and a six-figure blog as a one-man show is still very impressive. However, I'm not satisfied with that. I love what I do and see a massive potential to earn lots of money, so put a portion of my business earnings to work every year with the intent of growing my business to the next level.
Advanced: Risking Time
As I break into more advanced business building tactics though, I find myself wondering if it's worth it. Money was never the end goal of starting a blog. The goal was freedom. The goal was time for the little things that mattered.
Does it really make a difference if I earn $200k or $800k if I spend all my time working on my business while life passes by? Somehow, we've ended back up at the risk of wasting time.
I don't have an answer for this question yet, and I'm not sure which direction I will take my business. I see a path to earning $100k/month or more from my blogs within the next decade. What insanity that would be. I'm not there yet, but I think if I started risking a little more money to hire more people, and a little more time to learn how to manage my business better, I could get there. It's a possiblity.
I do have to continue to risk my time though.
Maybe I should be satisfied with what I have and chill out. Spend more time with the family. Ask anyone on the street if they'd be happy with a six-figure business they could run for just 2-3 hours per day from home and they'd say yes. So why risk the time?
Maybe I'm just getting more risk averse. It was easier to risk my time when I was a bachelor and the only thing I'd lose was a night out drinking or an afternoon watching TV, and the tradeoff was earning full time income online. Now, the risk is losing time with my family so that I can make more money which I don't actually need.