online coaching

How to Monetize Your Brand as a Coach (without putting all your eggs in one basket)

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Not long ago I was coaching business owners and doing a few remaining freelance projects for a full-time income. While I was coaching, I unintentionally (at first) then intentionally diversified my income and added teaching products into the mix. I was part coach, part infopreneur, part freelancer--which really helped me find the place I could be most effective. But as I was learning and going and making many mistakes, I did definitely see and experience the benefits of monetizing my coaching brand in multiple ways.

If you are looking to get into coaching, or if you want to expand your coaching business through workshops, courses, books, and other passive income, this post is for you. >> Also, this 5-day email course on developing an email list that actually converts to sales 👀might be for you too, but let's get into the main course of the day: how to monetize your brand as a coach without putting all your eggs in one basket.

Let's look at this in terms of services that you can monetize as well as digital and physical products you can monetize.

16 Ways to Monetize Your Coaching Brand

a.k.a. 9 Services and 7 Products that are Super Epic for Coaches and Bloggers

1. Custom 1-on-1 Coaching Calls w/ Friendly Recaps

When you are first getting started in coaching, this will likely be one of the services that is simplest to offer. Now, don't get me wrong. I think you need to plan what it entails along with what you will and won't do, and I do still think it needs a signed client agreement. But, it's a great place to begin because you can figure out what people really want and need, what really troubles people, and where you truly fit as a coach and teacher.

With your custom 1-on-1 calls (Zoom sessions, telephone calls, or even in-person meetings), you'll typically:

  • send your client a questionnaire and/or meet with them to discover their specific needs and where you fit in

  • decide on a timeframe that y'all will work together or set up a rate per meeting or per month

  • send out an agenda before each call (if you have some general talking points for the meeting--and hopefully you do) - bonus points if your agenda is attractive and visually on-brand

  • send out client notes sheets or a link to a shared doc where you client can take notes digitally (optional, but cool) and helps both of you keep track of what you discussed

  • conduct your session (usually 30 - 90 minutes depending on the type of call--this should be clear and communicated ahead of time)

  • (with permission) record your session

  • recap your session via email (and/or send the recording/replay to your client with instructions on how long they have to download the replay to their own computer)

2. 1-on-1 Coaching Program w/ Calls, Check-ins, and Homework

Once you've done custom 1-on-1 coaching for a while, or once you have an understanding of the general steps your audience needs to go through to reach the goals you help them with, you can develop your custom coaching into a program. A coaching program is a framework in which you have the same general steps + processes that you're taking multiple people through individually.

You still check in with your clients, have calls, and provide customized recaps and help to them, but it's all based off of one system.

In a coaching program, you'll usually:

  • give your potential client an overview doc/email that outlines the program, timeline, and steps, to help them decide whether or not it's a good fit

  • have a call/questionnaire that helps you determine if the client is a good fit. You can even do this before you meet by including an integrated form (via Calendly or Acuity Scheduling) when they book their Discovery Call or first session with you.

  • send a welcome kit (optional, but wonderful) with your client's first homework assignment and an invitation to schedule their first call after the homework is completed

  • conduct your first call

  • send the next pre-developed homework assignment (w/ a recap of your call)

  • repeat this process for as long as your program lasts

Note: To fully protect yourself and your client, your signed agreement with them should outline your refund policy, and the point at which the client is forfeiting the rest of their package (ex: you haven't heard from them in 45 days and you've emailed them at their provided email address at least three times).

I once had a web project that lasted over a year because my client would never get back to me but I didn't have a helpful "forfeiture clause" in my agreement--and P.S. I had spent every dime they'd paid me, so I wasn't to keen on refunding them. Side note: The project ended up being super attractive and the client loved their site.

3. Custom 1-on-1 Email Coaching w/ Guaranteed Responses

Imagine this: either one of the options above (1 or 2), but instead of doing calls, you do emails. You can tailor the process to each client (and just agree on a certain timeframe or a certain number of email "meetings"), or you can take your email coaching clients through a specific program (with homework and pre-set steps) and provide customized responses and email support. Bam. Magic. Great for introverts. Email coaching can also help you create the written content for future programs and courses.

4. Group Coaching Program w/ Calls and Homework

Remember that one time, long ago, when we were talking about 1-on-1 coaching programs (#2 above)? Okay, now imagine that, but with more than one person. The client homework would go out to a group of people to complete individually or with accountability partners, and you would also:

  • conduct group calls or video conferencing via Zoom

  • provide recordings to clients who missed (optional, but super kind)

  • choose to focus on one or two people per call (hot seat style) after the main portion of the call has been presented, or choose to address everyone's needs in each call

  • provide a community or means for people to connect outside of your group calls (optional, but epic) such as Slack or Facebook

  • provide recaps, updates, and more homework via email or in the group coaching platform/community

5. Masterminds

Imagine everything we said above, but instead imagine that each week/month has a specific focus (growth, strategy, etc.) or that you are more of a facilitator and cheerleader than you are a direct coach.

You can provide a mastermind group that allows people to benefit mainly from others' ideas and knowledge, but also from the regular accountability, and your presence. Masterminds are hugely popular for good reason. The peer support helps people grow and allows you not to have to provide all of the interaction.

6. In-Person Trainings or Workshops

Think of all the things you coach online 1-on-1 or in groups/masterminds---can it be applied or shared in real life as well?

You can create small workshops, pop-up events, and live trainings to help people with the goals you coach on.

7. Speaking Engagements

This ones pretty self-explanatory, eh? You can definitely decide to speak on the topics you coach on at different events, organizations, and conferences. It's a great way to start to be seen as more of a teacher or "thought leader" (as they say, but if you ever catch me calling myself a thought leader in my bio. . .), and it's a great way to meet new people---some of them might even become your coaching clients

8. Office Hours

Office Hours have quickly become one of our favorite methods of providing coaching, group interaction, and an entry-level price point for new people to work with us.

Perhaps people aren't ready to commit to a coaching program, or perhaps someone really needs some targeted help with this one particular thing that you happen to be epic at, or maybe one of your audience members really wants the opportunity to "pick your brain." Well, that's where office hours come in. You can offer your time and expertise at a rate that's comfortable to you, per hour or per day.

Office hours allow you to help people, make income, address audience pain points directly and swiftly, and keep your ear to the ground about people's current needs and frustrations---which helps you know what packages and products you should offer. The questions asked in Office Hours are a great way to gauge what your audience is interested in for future trainings and offers.

9. Custom Audits or Reports

Often times, your potential clients will be in such a state of overwhelm/confusion, or in such a new place that they feel lost as to how to begin to get out of where they are to move to where they want to be. Also, you may have clients who just feel a slight bit off or frustrated with the current state of things and in need of some direction.

Doing a custom life audit, brand audit, situation report, or other type of organized document/delivery that outlines current areas that need improvement as well as current areas that are doing well, can be a rewarding, simple, and fun type of coaching.

Custom audits and reports are also often a way for you to provide services to people who can't afford your 1-on-1 rates yet.

10. Communities

An online (or real life) community can be an add-on to any of your other products or services, but a community can also easily be its own standalone product. Providing partners, support, a venue, structure, and built-in friends for people who are all at a similar place in life/business is a seriously valuable thing that many people would be happy to pay for.

What is something you've had to struggle through on your own? Learn on your own? Do without support? Would you have enjoyed a community of people in the same position? Would you have paid for it?

Think of a community structure and virtual/physical meeting place you can provide for people. Is it something you'd be willing to add to your offerings? You can consider a Facebook group, Slack workspace, or an ongoing Zoom call as your community platform.

11. Online Workshops w/ Live Q+As

Hosting an online workshop (either with or without cohosts) with Live Q&A allows your audience to interact with you and get real time feedback on their questions. Like in Office Hours 👆🏽, you can also record these workshops for future use and use the questions asked in the sessions to develop further trainings and offers.

12. Pre-Recorded Workshops, Bootcamps, or Conferences

Packaging previously-recorded workshops or bootcamps together as paid products is genius and will help to fill out your standing course library, if you plan to build one.

13. Online Courses

Seriously. Online courses are some of our favorite things in the world. Learning that can happen from your couch, or your cubicle on your lunch break, or during your commute, etc. #Epic and #Accessible

And think about it. You'll be able to package your knowledge, coaching skills, and experience together in a packaged way that allows you to help more people at once, creating more impact.

You can also structure many of your courses in formats that will be almost entirely passive (little to no maintenance) income once you create them.

14. Email Coaching Program (w/out Custom Support)

So, instead of framing your materials as a course and delivering it on some epic, 3rd-party system such as Teachable, you could also frame them as email coaching (sans the custom replies).

"A new coaching session in your inbox each Monday for 8 weeks!" sounds pretty epic. And, it's scalable, because those same sessions can be sent out to 10 people at a time or 10,000 people. #SuperEpic.

Pssssssssst. If you want a free training on creating an email list that actually gets you paid, you can sign up for it right here. 👀

15. eBooks

A digital file that can be automatically delivered to your customers as soon as they purchase it? Yes, my friend, that's about as close to passive income as it gets in this coaching world---and it's a smart way to make additional income while helping your ideal audience who needs items at different price points than your coaching programs and courses.

16. Printed Books and Workbooks

Yessssss. You can use printed books or workbooks with your clients as you take them through your coaching program, you can sell them separately on your site, or you can sell them through Amazon.com and get them fulfilled for you, so that you don't have to ship off each order or accept + process returns. That's brilliant, my friend.

So, if I'm not being too nosy, may I inquire how you currently monetize your coaching business? And how you plan to monetize in the future? I hope this post helped, and I'd love to hear what you've got poppin' in the comments below.

14 Things You Can Do This Weekend to Streamline and Scale Your Business

Just in case at any point this year you’re sitting around wondering if there's a unique weekend adventure you can embark on to help scale your business, I recommend bookmarking and saving this article. There's lots to come back to. And if you experience a slow point with your business, you can use one of these activities to make sure you're still growing and building.

The 7 Types of Online Workshops You Can Host

Oh, hey there. Regina here. Talking about one of the most exciting (to me) forms of content ever. Ever, ever. Like, my friends, and other epic people that I belong to online communities with, all know that this is the type of content that currently makes my world go 'round. I mean, basically.

Online workshops.

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 Tors Grantham quote - Thanks, Tors. You rock.

Tors Grantham quote - Thanks, Tors. You rock.

The lovely Tors even said this:

And here's the deal. There are a few super valid reasons to start with workshops if you want to get into info products, or build your email list, or create content that you can re-package as an opt-in or bonus, or show yourself as a coach or expert on a topic you're passionate about. Tons of epic reasons.

Like, 8, to be specific.

Hosting workshops . . .

1. Helps people start to see you as a teacher and an expert in your niche. A compelling workshop topic, attractive graphics to support your event, a simple signup process, and a helpful agenda + worksheet to go along with it and you will seem professional, experienced, and amazing.

This impression goes a long way whether you’re providing services, trying to line up speaking opportunities, or creating information products, membership programs, or coaching/mastermind groups.

2. Encourages you to create actionable worksheets, tips, and content so that you can see if you even have enough material, information, etc. to create a full course/program out of your topic, or if it might be better as a book, or if it should be a one-on-one service, or be left alone as a workshop, or abandoned completely, or done as a collaboration, or made into a group program, etc.

3. Gives you tons of bundling and packaging options. You can use your workshop as a free opt-in event conducted live, a free opt-in conducted live and then packaged as an evergreen opt-in or product bonus, a free opt-in conducted live and then sold afterward, or a paid product . . . among other options.

4. Allows you to test out EVERYTHING. It would be horrible to waste time (or money) developing something as intense as a course or book that turns out to not actually work for you or your audience. Developing worksheets, slides, and a script or bullet points of info for your workshop will help you figure out if the content works for you, of course, but actually presenting the information to your audience will allow you to get a real understanding of how it works for them. Was it too long? Too short? Too hard? Too confusing? Just right? Etc.

5. Helps you create a larger product or series as you go. Instead of planning one major resource (think course, online school, etc.) and leaving it looming over you, you’re able to plan it and create small sections/modules of it as workshops. #Brilliant

6. Gives you an additional price point to serve your audience with, as well as a different level of intensity/urgency of information---many times, a workshop will be more actionable and comprehensive than a blog post, eBook, or other type of resource.

Serving your audience at varying levels of need (amount of information, price, learning style, etc.) is a way to show you care and to impress your ideal people.

7. Allows you to have a more personal, more in-depth Q+A session with your audience (than sending a survey via email or some such method). It’s more valuable for them and more valuable for you. They get their questions answered live and you get way more feedback or input that you can apply to a paid product or service. If you listen to the questions and chat happening during a workshop, you may literally get ideas for the exact words to use and the exact way to frame your paid products to build a better item and get better sales results.

8. Gets you used to creating videos. Whether you decide to screencast, share presentation slides, or turn the camera on yourself to present, you will get used to creating videos, editing, getting good sound, being more and more comfortable on screen/audio, hosting videos, and more. Speaking of videos and more, check out our article on 23 Types of Audio, Video, and Other Media You Can Add to Your Course (or Blog) to Make It Even More Epic

If you decide to create full courses, or make videos a significant part of your content strategy, then completing workshop after workshop will only make you more awesome at creating videos and courses in general.

 

The 7 Types of Online Workshops

Now. Let's borrow some material from our epic 5-day email course on building an engaged email list of people who actually buy from you. Let's talk about the seven types of workshops you can use to help drive awareness and sales of your product, build an audience, or slow-build a larger course or product.

 The 7 Types of Online Workshops You Can Host

The 7 Types of Online Workshops You Can Host

1. Bootcamps

A multi-day, multi-session bootcamp is a great way to both build a community around a specific topic or goal and teach something that requires more time than a single workshop might allow. Bootcamps are also a clever way to promote a product that is on the expensive side for your audience. Why? Because having multiple events, a community, and extra chances to see how helpful you are gives people additional time to make an investment decision and more reasons to feel good about that decision.

In the following example from an older course, I wasn't promoting any specific paid product with this course but I certainly could have used it in that way.

2. Online Workshops

These are so much more than your typical webinar. Think of classes that last 2+ hours and come with worksheets, videos, or some type of additional resources. As an example, I'll throw out The Infopreneur Workshop--a 2.5-hour training and 15-page workbook.

You can use online workshops to increase signups to your email list, to make a profit, or to promote a paid product/service. I generally structure most of my workshops as "information only," but if you spend hours training people for free, and several hours preparing for that training and creating epic materials, it's certainly acceptable that you'd want to pitch a product during that time.

To handle selling in online workshops, I'd recommend:

  • letting people know ahead of time that you'll be telling them about a specific product during the workshop--but that you won't take up too much time on it

  • starting off the workshop strong, without selling

  • gradually bringing in materials and giving your audience access to things that are exclusive to your product

  • explaining your product and any special deal on it toward the end of your workshop

  • opening up a Q+A at the very end where people can ask questions about the workshop material or your course

3. Q+As or Office Hours

You can host live Q+A sessions (or even IG Lives or Periscopes) covering topics that are a part of your expertise to help people, show a more personal side, or lightly hint and direct people towards one of your services or products.

You can answer questions that were previously submitted and/or answer questions asked during the broadcast. You can prepare worksheets or note sheets ahead of time or leave the event entirely open to whatever direction it may go in.

Hint: If you are using Q+As to help promote a product, they are super effective when a product is about to launch or when the price of the product is going up soon. This can cause the right kind of excitement and urgency with your audience.

Example: You have a product called Get Growing (How to Grow Your Own Produce, Even With a Small Backyard), and you have an office hours session called The Grow Your Own Produce Q+A in which you let people know that the price of Get Growing is going up in 7 days, but you also answer tons of questions on growing your own produce.

4. Live Trainings

When you want to show software, tips + tricks, or a specific method/process, a targeted live training may be your best bet. These will likely be shorter than your 2+ hour workshops, and they can be some of your most popular events.

I've done live trainings on things such as:

  • designing your email funnels

  • creating a Visual Toolkit for your brand

  • making an email style guide (hosted with Kory Woodard)

  • creating a book layout in Apple Pages

  • and more

What types of things can you show your audience how to do, or how to do better, in 30 to 90 minutes?

Here are two things to keep in mind about your live trainings:

  • Often your live trainings can be smaller portions of a larger course or series. You can do them to help you build your content over time.

  • Even if you have a small audience, or absolutely no live audience, making your trainings happen anyways means you'll have epic stuff to fill your YouTube channel with or use for opt-ins to your email list. One of my most watched videos (the tutorial shown above), has gotten 99% of its views after the original air date. You can create content that does wonders for your brand even if no one shows up to the original thing. Actually, there's less pressure that way.

5. Workshop Series

Think of a workshop series as a collection of online workshops or live trainings all focused around the same topic (getting started in home gardening, growing your email list, etc.) or as a specific category/event that happens on a schedule, but topics vary.

This is how Jamie of Spruce Road does her Lunch & Learn series. The topics vary, the co-hosts vary, but they generally all have something to do with design---which is likely what Jamie wants to be known for and is definitely what she is an expert in.

Would a recurring series help you build your list, get consistent with creating content, help you meet cool collaborators, and be a quality way you could regularly promote your paid materials?

Which style of workshop seems to fit your personality best so far? Which one do you think would be best for your audience?

6. Webinars

Short, informative live workshops (typically set up to promote specific products) are called webinars. Often webinar hosts present the audience with a limited-time offer on a course, service, book, or bundle of items.

Webinars can be educational and fun, and often include presentation slides and a Q+A portion. Webinars may or may not come with worksheets and additional resources, but for the most part they are set up to be effective sales venues for a product, so I feel they are often planned with the business owner's goals in minds more so than audience goals.

If you choose to opt for a webinar (which is not a bad thing if it's the solution that makes the most sense for you), try to think about what your audience is gaining from the experience and build in things they can appreciate.

7. Live Mobile Broadcasts (such as Instagram Live, Facebook live, or Periscope)

If you're looking for a more informal broadcast than the ones above, why not break into video using Instagram or another live video app? You can use these for:

  • Q+As

  • Short tutorials

  • Daily/weekly tips

  • Sharing new products and giving demos

  • Creating something live

  • Testing out new content/product ideas

  • Getting feedback

  • Sharing inspiration or meaningful thoughts

  • and more

You could also structure any of the workshop types above as a Periscope broadcast. Instead of screensharing and showing slides, you could "double tap" your phone and use the back camera to show your computer screen.

It would certainly be less formal than a workshop hosted on Google+ Hangouts On Air, Livestream, or another similar tool, but maybe less formal is what you want to go for.

You could use Instagram Lives to:

  • get practice presenting

  • get real-time feedback and interaction

  • help people start to see you as a teacher/coach

  • create videos you could repackage or use elsewhere

So, which type of workshop do you want to start with?

And pssssst, if you liked this mini-lesson, you might just love our email course on building your email list with people who will actually buy from you. Just saying.

How to Create a Brand Statement in Only 10 Minutes

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If there’s one thing you and I know, with our extensive legal training (from watching The Good Wife, Scandal, and other legal dramas), it’s that when you cross-examine a witness, you need to lead them carefully with pointed questions that require specific, short answers. We want yes/no, or we want very brief sentences that confirm what we already know. It’s almost like we train witnesses to fall into our evil ploy. They can’t help but answer us exactly how we want them to, which is amazing, because when witnesses drop those courtroom shock bombs on you, it’s no bueno . . . at least, not for your side of the case.

And that, my friends, is (obviously) all related to brand statements. So much so that I bothered my brother (a lawyer) for several minutes trying to figure out if what I was saying was at least a smidgen factual. Actually he was very courteous with my questions; I’ll introduce him to you soon. And just wait, because if you think I’m a crazy person . . . but, moving on.

Brand statements and courtroom strategy.

We’d love to hear the connection Regina. Oh good. Because I really want to tell you. . . here it is:

If you answer the question, “So, what do you do?” with a trained, short, unengaging response, it might be time for a (new) brand statement---or even a new brand (but that’s a story for another post . . . In fact, answering this question like you're being cross-examined is the main, undeniable sign you need a new brand statement.

I wrote this post and developed a brand statement formula out of necessity really. I was so tired of answering, "I'm a blogger" with my head down, like it was something to be ashamed of or that it wasn’t a real job. Like it would take up SO much of a person's time to answer in a bit more detail. When we become embarrassed or complacent with what we do, or when we find it hard to proudly present our brand to the world, conversations go something like this: 

Random person at a “networking” event: “So, what do you do?” You: “Oh, I’m a graphic designer.” Rando McGruff: “Wow. Cool.” The end. 

Mr. McGruff will barely remember this graphic designer in five minutes, and tomorrow, no chance.

Why didn’t you give more detail? 

“I design clickworthy websites + blogs for wellness entrepreneurs. I’m Fiona Reddington, FionasFitBrands.com. Slight cheese factor, I know, but that’s totally me.”

 

“I work as a wedding designer with women who want seriously non-traditional yet hip weddings on a budget. It’s the most fun ever. I'm actually finishing up work on The Ultimate Indie Wedding Planner, which is a 200-page planning binder. So excited.”

 

“I speak to college students about branding themselves and building a solid platform way before graduation. The market is not what it once was, and it seems more and more like people need something beyond, or something other than, a degree to find meaningful work.”

Sure, you have to judge the situation. Not everyone asking should get your full life story, but if someone answered you with one of the answers above when you asked the “What do you do?” question, would you be more likely to remember them? Or check out their website later? Or remember to mention them to a friend/colleague in need of services such as theirs?

Brand statements, yo. 

Which are, statements that define a brand. Kinda like mission statements. Bite-sized collections of information that help people decide how serious you are about your brand, what your brand even stands for, why what you do matters, and how what you do is different from the 107 people they met (yesterday) who claim to do the same thing. 

And. It’s not that the crafting of a brand statement is difficult (I’m gonna show you a formula below), it’s that we forget to do it. It’s that we don’t realize how necessary it is sometimes. It’s that we are all flailing about in business to a certain degree, figuring things out as we go, and sometimes we forget to go back and define what we’ve built.

Today is your day. The day you build a brand statement.

The day you stand up and stand out with your words---in a sea of people walking around with “I’m a graphic designer” responses.

Forgive me. I was so bored with that, I fell asleep just typing it.

What I’m about to share is neither rocket science nor business genius. It’s a simple exercise we can all do to make sure we have a solid brand statement on deck. To make sure we’re answering people as completely as possible when they ask us about our work. To make sure we give our brand a chance to form a strong, memorable impression. Just going through this process will give you more clarity on who you plan on serving, ideas about ways you can serve them (both free and paid product or services) and focus on what your priorities should be. >> In fact, this is a mini version of our free 5-day email course which you might want to check out right here.

And now, here's how to write a brand statement:

Get out four note cards. Or sticky notes. Or any moveable paper product. Write down the following things, one on each card.

1. Who do you serve?

Hint: Be more specific than whatever you just wrote down.

2. Why do you care?

3. What do you actually provide?

4. What do you offer that’s different from everyone else?

Once you have these items on notecards, all we have to do is move them around to the correct order, abridge some stuff, and make it work. I’ll show you what I mean. Let's use our crazy wedding planner as an example.

Who do you serve? Brides who want non-tradish weddings on a budget.

Why do you care? Because I was a 20-something with no money who met the love of my life and wanted to get married, without all the traditions that made zero sense to me. It was hard to plan my wedding. I want to help make it simpler for others.

What do you actually provide? Supportive semi-monthly check-ins + co-planning of a wedding.

What do you offer that’s different? Step-by-step guidance via DIY materials. Having pre-packaged materials helps me keep costs low while giving the bride control over the process. I’m still able to help tailor plans to a bride’s desires through check-ins.

Now, let’s try a brand statement in a few different orders:

I help brides who want non-traditional weddings, like the one I had when I had no money but needed to put something together in five weeks. I want other brides to have a simpler, guided process, so I offer DIY planning materials and tailored check-ins to help people through their indie wedding planning. [who you help >> why you care >> what's different + what you provide]

I’m a non-traditional wedding planner. As in, I help brides plan non-traditional/indie weddings on a budget, but I also do it non-traditionally through DIY materials to keep costs low. It’s the service I needed but didn’t have when I got married. [what you provide/do >> who you help >> what's different >> why you care]

I use DIY wedding planning materials and tailored check-in meetings to co-plan weddings with non-traditional brides on a budget.  It's the guidance I wish I’d had when planning my own indie wedding in five weeks. It was crazypants, and I don’t want other brides to have to go through it. [why it's different + what you do >> who you help >> why you care]

In 2 - 3 sentences you can stand out, be firm about why you do what you do, show some personality, and clearly define your brand and who you serve. 

I’m listening. Leave me your brand statement in the comments of this post, or come talk to me on social media. I want to hear. And hey, if you want to get really clear about you who serve (or want to serve), we highly suggest you sign up for our free 5-day email course on building your email list with the right people. . . AKA people who will actually buy from you.

How to Launch a Blog on a Budget

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Here’s the truth. You can launch (and start to grow) a blog on a budget. Like an epic, baller blog. As with many of our posts, we dive deep, so you may want to grab a tasty beverage and get comfy because what you’re about to learn can be the foundation for starting (or relaunching) a beautiful blog with a small (or non-existent) budget.

There are 10 main sections to read through, each with resources (free, inexpensive, mid-range, and high-end --> if you want to ball out in certain areas) and tools you can start using today.

If I may say, before we get into the blog launch guide: Launching a successful blog, whether on a slim budget or super duper budget, takes a lot of work. When launching on a budget, you're going to have to get a smidge more crafty, research-y, and DIY-y than the next person, but the process of learning and doing will be valuable because you'll then understand the ins and outs of your site and strategy. Every popular + useful blog takes a huge investment, whether it's almost all time, almost all money, or a healthy mix of both.

Also, this guide is more like a class on how to start your blog (with a small budget) than it is a blog post. I just want to warn you that this is probably best for people who are really serious about starting/re-starting a blog, because it's intense. 

Here’s your table of contents:

1. Planning // 2. CMS or Platform // 3. Brand Identity // 4. Domain + Hosting // 5. Blog or Theme Design // 6. Images // 7. Style Guide // 8. Making Money While Your Blog is Still New // 9. Plugins + Extras // 10. Promotion


1. Planning Your Blog on a Budget

Planning is your new BFF. Saving money/stress/headache/time on your blog launch will require good planning. There are a lot of decisions to make when you get into the details of launching or relaunching a blog that you hope to truly start #winning with. We'll address many of these important topics in this post, but . . .

There are a few crucial things to plan out first: your topics or niche, your blog's ideal audience, your blog categories, the types of posts + content you will create, and your blogging frequency. I recommend waiting to finalize the name of your blog until you've done the "ideal blog reader survey" activity and formed your "ideal reader brief" linked in the DIY Tools and Tips of this section because this often influences what name would appeal to your reader.

If you want to get started on planning the items above now, feel free to download, print, and fill out the simple "getting started" Blog Planning Cheat Sheet directly below. Also check out the questions below the worksheet to get you thinking.

Some questions you may want to answer:

  • What are your goals and desired outcomes of this blog for your life and lifestyle?

  • What are your goals and desired outcomes of this blog for your readers?

  • If you were breaking down what you will blog about into 3 - 5 categories, what would they be?

  • What are five example posts you might create? (Just the title or gist of the post will do.)

  • Do you want to set your blog up so that you can make money from it? If so, how much would you ideally make per month from it in the future?

  • Is the idea "worth it" to you if it doesn't make any "real" money for the first nine months to a year?

  • How often do you see yourself posting to your blog?

  • What is the amount of time you can reasonably expect to commit to writing for, promoting, tweaking, and improving your blog each week?

  • What is your ideal timeframe to launch your blog?

  • What does success look like to you with your blog? "I'll feel my blog is successful when __________"

If you plan well, and can give an honest answer you feel good about to the questions above, then when it comes time to make all the other decisions you have coming up, you'll have a lot more clarity. Can you try to trust me on this one? Me who has done it the very disorganized and unclear way in the past? Thanks.

Resources/Investment

Free:

How to Decide What to Blog About via Amy Lynn Andrews +

Inexpensive:

Fizzle.co's Start a Blog That Matters

Mid-range:

A Beautiful Mess Blog Life eCourse

High-end:

Personalized coaching + blog planning from a blog coach (Sarah Von Bargen, or

XOSarah.com, or moi)

DIY Tools + Tips

>> Create a Blog Business Plan

>> Check out some books on blogging: Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community + Blogging for Creatives: How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success

 

2. Picking a Blog CMS on a Budget

Since you're planning to blog regularly, a CMS will make your life happy. A CMS is simply a content management system (in other words: a way to easily manage your blog content without knowing code). Your blog's CMS is also often referred to as its platform.

Each blog platform has its own advantages for different types of bloggers and blogs. There isn't one platform that is always the best solution for everyone. I used to actually believe WordPress could solve every problem and fill every need. Don't judge me. I was in love. Actually, I'm still in love and it's what I use (screenshot of the WordPress CMS below), but there are other great platforms out there. View the posts in the "Tools + Tips" section below for some well-explained overviews of the benefits of each of the main CMS platforms available.

WordPress-CMS.jpg

Resources

Free: Blogger, WordPress.com, Tumblr

Inexpensive: WordPress.org, self-hosted, which is free software that will need to be used with an inexpensive hosting account (explained in Section 4)
Mid-range: Squarespace,  
High-end: Shopify (if you'll be selling a whole lot of items, this is a highly useful platform)

Tools + Tips How to Choose the Best Platform for Your Blog Best Blogging Platforms (which does not include an overview of WordPress.org, so please view the article above for that) WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

3. Creating Your Blog + Brand Identity on a Budget

So, not only does your brand identity need to match your style, match your audience, and match the type of content you'll be sharing (as in, you don't want your fun lifestyle blog to have a corporate/bank feel), but your blog identity should also be something that you won't have to change twice a year. It should be long term, beautiful, and functional for the foreseeable future.

Want more help with branding? Check out The Epic Brand Identity Workbook.

Resources

Free: DIY (obvs), but CreativeLive's classes are free while they're live, so check out their great lineup to learn how to DIY. Thanks Jon King for making me aware of this resource.

Inexpensive: These Skillshare classes >> Beyond the Logo: Crafting a Brand Identity

Mid-range: 99Designs.com or a graphic designer who is still establishing themselves.

High-end (but amazing): A professional, established graphic designer.

Tools + Tips Design a brand identity in 10 easy steps. 99 graphic design resources.

4. Getting a Domain Name and Hosting Account for Your Blog on a Budget

As one of my BFFs always says, "Your domain name is like the street address of your house (so people know where to find you), and your hosting account is the plot of land that allows you to build your house (and hold all your digital files)." Makes sense, right? You need both a domain name (ex: byRegina.com) and a hosting account (through a company like the ones I share below) to hold all the code, files, or friendly CMS goodies necessary to make your site work.

Domain Name:

Choose something memorable, brandable, and that allows some wiggle room (room for growth). Then make sure your name passes the following tests:

  • The name sounds good to my ideal readers. Ask trusted friends, clients, business people, and anyone you know in your target market.

  • The name is not already a registered trademark. Use the United States Patent and Trademark Office electronic search system to check this: www.uspto.gov/trademarks

  • There is not already a similar brand/company with a similar name. Use Google or Bing to search this.

  • There is not any other brand/company with a similar name that has a bad reputation, a pending lawsuit, or products I don’t want to be associated with. Use Google to search this.

  • There is not already a related or unrelated brand/blog with a similar name that dominates the first two pages or more of search results. Use Google to search this.

  • My brand name passes the "radio test." It’s preferable to have a name that is easy to spell upon hearing it.

  • My brand name is globally and socially appropriate. Make sure your brand name doesn’t mean anything negative in slang or in another language.

  • My brand name is available as a domain name, or there’s a good alternative if not. Use a service like smallbusiness.yahoo.com/domains to search for available domain names.

  • My brand name (or a good variation) is available in the social media accounts I want. Use a service like namechk.com to check multiple social media accounts at once.

  • If my brand will be an official business, the name is available for registration in my state. Check your secretary of state website or state’s commerce division for current business entity registrations.

Hosting Account:

The quality of your hosting account has an effect on user experience, SEO, readership, and even sales (if your blog is down for several hours, you're not making any money from it). This is one area I recommend you invest in. Choose a host that has good reviews, minimal downtime, and happens to be super secure. My current favorite option is "managed hosting," which is a type of hosting where the host checks for malware (hackers and whatnot), makes daily backups of your site, keeps your site loading at a fast speed (good for SEO and users), and keeps your software updated (if you use WordPress, for example).

P.S. An exceptional and/or managed hosting account will be your best friend if your website goes viral or mini-viral. With regular host servers, spikes in traffic can cause your site to crash or go verrrrrrry sloooooooowwwwwly. Check out the high-end hosts below ($20+ per month) for managed hosting.

Resources

Free: any of the free blogging software such as Blogger, WordPress.com, or
Inexpensive: SiteGround
Mid-range: Pressable
High-end (but lovely): WPEngine (I host four sites here--for WordPress only) and Media Temple

Tools + Tips It's okay to start with one host that's more affordable for now and move to a premium host when you see that your blog is growing, but either way you go, always, always have a system in place to get regular backups of your blog. You'd never want to lose all your content, and yes, it has happened to real people before. Lastly, make sure you are the one who owns your blog's domain name and hosting account (don't leave that to your blog designer or developer). You always need access to your files.

5. Getting a Blog or Theme Design on a Budget

With blog design, you have the option to completely DIY, or hire someone else for everything, or do a mix (ex: you buy a pre-made theme and modify it yourself or you have a designer create a blog header for you and you plug it in to a free theme within your CMS). Below are some basic layouts to have in mind as you plan your blog, but don't forget to poke around the web and view samples of what you like. What features will you want to incorporate? Do you like how others lay out their sites? Take notes as you research. Take screenshots as well or pin some items in Pinterest.

There are four main options (with many variations) you can choose from for your website and blog's home page layout:

Traditional (London Lane, below): Best for blogs/brands that want to highlight their services or core message + visuals before anything else.

Blog integrated with home page (WifeMomSuperwoman): Best for sites that want to show visuals and snippets of helpful/informative blog posts (and optionally highlight a service or two) immediately.

Blog as home page (the old byRegina.com): Best for blogs/brands that want to provide information and resources as their “selling point,” hoping clients will explore the other pages after viewing the brand’s utility. Also good for blogs that are "strictly blogs" with no services for sale.

Full screen home page (Bottom left theme): Best for blogs that have strong visuals or video, which will entice potential readers and clients to explore the rest of the site. These images should be compelling, stunning, engaging, or should cause great curiosity.

 Sample web layouts

Sample web layouts

 Site-Layout-Blog-as-Home

Site-Layout-Blog-as-Home

 Traditional Website Layout

Traditional Website Layout

Resources

Free: One of the built-in themes in Blogger, WordPress, or Tumblr >> Also, if you choose the self-hosted WordPress.org option, there are thousands of free themes available

Inexpensive: For DIY, try these Skillshare classes >> Build Your Own Website Using WordPress for Creative Professionals // Intro to Web Design: Friendly Design for Startups and Small Business

For professional, pre-made themes try CreativeMarket.com.

Mid-range: Blog/web designers who are still establishing themselves may charge moderate prices but still provide good quality to you. Once you decide on what platform you might like to use for your blog, do a search for "[insert CMS type here] blog designers" >> Take a good look at their portfolios, terms of service, and response time to make sure they'll be pleasant to work with.

High-end (but amazing): A professional blog/web designer with super nunchuck skills, such as ELEMBEE

Tools + Tips >> 10 BLOG DESIGN DOS AND DONT'S via Amy Lynn Andrews

6. Finding Blog Images on a Budget

Your blog's images can make or break your blog's popularity and "shareability" on the web. Your images include post photos, photos of you, sidebar graphics, product images, and more. You have the option to take your own photos, hire a photographer, illustrate your own work, hire an illustrator, get stock photography and/or add elements and graphics to your photos.

Resources

Free Photos:

  • Unsplash: Beautiful, high-resolution images for you to use. This is our favorite resource for high quality free and safe to use images.

  • Pixabay: Free public domain images including some icons

  • Flickr Creative Commons: Free images under the Creative Commons License

Inexpensive Stock Photos:

High-end Stock Photos:

  • iStock: Mid-range to higher-priced editorial quality images

  • Stocksy: Beautiful, professional photos

"Embeddable" Photos: Allows you to embed many Getty images into your blog/site or social media for free

Free Photo/Graphic Editing Software:

  • Canva: My favorite graphics creation tool outside of Photoshop

  • Fotor: Love it. So easy to use.

  • Pixlr: Advanced, online photo + graphic editing software

  • PicMonkey: Photo and social media image editing software

  • Keynote: This is our favorite way to design without using Photoshop! It’s a surprisingly easy way to create a Visual Theme Kit for your brand (which btw, we teach in Visual Arsenal 3.0)

Inexpensive Graphics and Designs:

Tools + Tips Study the most effective images you see in use on Pinterest, blogs, and other social media platforms, then head to the next section and create a style guide for your blog.

7. Creating a Style Guide for Your Blog on a Budget

In order to create and maintain a cohesive blog that engages readers, you may want to consider a style guide for your blog. A style guide is a document (PDF/binder/digital file) you create to keep you consistent on important blog elements like fonts, colors, and image styles.

Resources

Free: Here's my current post on creating a style guide; I plan on revamping that soon. Here's a post from XOSarah.com on creating a style guide.

Inexpensive: Here's a Skillshare class on Creating a Style Guide.

8. Making Money When You're Just Starting to Get a Readership

When your blog's readership is still growing, you have to be very purposeful and creative about earning money from your blog. I plan to make this topic into a full post of its own soon, but for now I'll recommend that you choose monetization methods that don't rely solely on high traffic, such as:

  • Selling your own services; and

  • Selling your own high-end information products;

  • Partnering with an affiliate program that allows you to earn a significant amount per sale

With affiliate programs, you'll want to make sure you create useful resources around them, instead of just linking aimlessly or posting random pictures/ads in your sidebar. Let's take a beauty blogger for example, and let's also say that you make a small commission every time you link to products on Site X.

Here are some ideas of posts that you can create around Product Y that is sold on Site X:

  • A video tutorial on how to use Product Y, with your link included of course.

  • A challenge for readers and friends to participate in that includes the use of Product Y.

  • A text + photo post on "10 Ways to Use Product Y."

  • An epic DIY project using Product Y with tons of pretty pictures.

  • A giveaway of Product Z, that pairs well with Product Y (again, include your link).

Resources

Free: How to Make Money Blogging (overview resource with multiple links) // How to Make Money Blogging (great overview)

9. Adding Plugins + Extras to Your Blog

As you search around for inspiration for your blog, you may run across cool features and extras you want to include in your blog. Depending on your CMS, these extras might range from free to expensive widgets, plugins, or hand-coded functionality.

Some of the things you may be looking for are:

  • social media integration in your sidebar

  • a rollover "pin it" button to encourage people to share your images on Pinterest (example below)

  • a way to sell products or services on your site

  • a way to integrate ads in your sidebar

  • a way to make sections of your site a "membership" site so you can teach private classes

  • etc.

Plugins-PinItButton2.jpg

Resources

Free (if you're using self-hosted WordPress): Check out their library of plugins here

Inexpensive (for multiple CMS platforms): CodeCanyon plugins and scripts

Mid-range to high-end: Search for "Premium [insert name of function you desire] plugins or widgets for [insert your CMS name here]"

10. Promoting Your Blog on a Budget

When you first launch, you probably don't want to spend half your life savings to promote your blog and start to grow your readership. I get that. So let's get creative.

For ideas on promoting your blog and getting your products in front of clients, check out our guide with 35 Ways to Find Your First Clients.

Tools + Tips

So, if that post wasn't log enough for you, feel free to read it one more time. That's a joke my friends. Which of the topics above should I turn into its own post first? Any questions? Any resources you'd add?

Click to share this tweet with others, please: . . . and that's the complete guide on how to launch a blog on a budget!