Ask the Readers: Do You Blog to Make Money or to Make Meaning (or Both)?

  • February 9, 2012 by Caleb Wojcik
  • 51 Comments

It has been a while since we’ve done an ask the readers post, so we’d love to hear from you on this one.

Does your website exist simply to make money or are you working to create something that matters?

Obviously the two options aren’t mutually exclusive. Also, the definition of “what matters” is up to you.

If you can’t think of your answer, think about it this way: When you first started out blogging or creating your website, what was the main driving force? We’d love to here your answers in the comments below this post.

Last Time on “Ask the Readers”

Our previous ask the readers discussion about what people think of pop-ups was fairly one sided. There were 119 comments and my favorite came from Tara Gentile:

I have a feeling they are useful & effective for sites with less-than-savvy readership. If you’re looking to build an audience that’s surfing a variety of sites, sticking around for a while, and doing their homework – you’re better off without a pop up.

Great point Tara. It isn’t strictly about whether or not the pop-ups work to gain subscribers, it is about what kind of people you are turning away by using an invasive tactic.

Alright, back to today’s question.

I’d love to know: do you work online to make money or to make meaning?

How are making meaning and making money related?

If you’re doing both, tell us in what proportion and tell us which is the primary driver.

As always, there is no right answer. We just want to hear from you, so don’t be shy. Let’s hear it!

Written by . Caleb Wojcik is one of the 3 C's at Think Traffic and Fizzle.co. He writes at CalebWojcik.com and hosts the Cubicle Renegade Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebWojcik.


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Erin Giles February 9, 2012 at 6:08 am

Excellent question, I am working online to create something that matters because I am immensely passionate about it. And in turn passion when spoken with truth has the power to make money. So, to answer your question, both;)

Rachel @ the minimalist mom February 9, 2012 at 6:11 am

Create something that matters.

My blog has been a complete surprise to me and has had success despite my less than savvy technical skills. I love it but don’t really make much money from it.

What it has done is opened doors and inspired me to pursue writing in other areas. The paid areas. Which is fantastic. My goal is to have a flexible full-time income comparable to my last traditional job by the time my son is in school full-time (2 years from now). I’m 20% of the way there and only work on my blog and other writing projects two short days and one afternoon a week.

Adam R February 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Rachel I have been lurking around your site for the last few days and the one thing I really do enjoy about it is the design and simplicity of it all.

Although I did read your articles on getting out of what was it $80k in debt and ended up book marking your site to come back and read more.

Congrats on the squishing the debt btw!

Vanessa February 9, 2012 at 6:42 am

Focus on the matters, and the rest will fall into place.

I have found my blog to be so much more than I imagined. It’s a community, a support system, a creative outlet, and a teaching tool.

As it continues to grow, I know that I can turn it into something more profitable, but my main focus right now is to write epic sh*t. The other stuff will fall into place later.

Raymond K. Houston February 9, 2012 at 6:49 am

I am one of a growing number of male quilters . . .

I have a static HTML website. I also have two different blogs.

I’d like to think they are blogs that matter (’cause I’m certainly not making any money with ‘em), even if they only matter to ME!!

To consolidate my presence (and efforts), I am merging the three sites into one new blog.

Andrej | TimeManagement.sk February 9, 2012 at 6:51 am

Both obviously… Why do state the question in a style that one is exclusive to other? I think I can (and should) create something that matters, something of value, and then offer this value to people in exchange for money.

You know, there is one interesting thing I noticed regarding to self help market. If someone gives you a great advice for free, well… you dont start to act on it. You do not “value” it. But if you pay 100 or 1000 EUR for it, you feel full of energized and want to start using it asap, because you dont want to “waste” it.

So… To sum it up… I think you can provide higher value to people by selling them content that matters (rather than giving it away for free).

Jeffrey February 9, 2012 at 6:53 am

Right now, my emphasis is on making money with my blog, but creating something that matters is still important to me.

My current project is one that I believe lends itself better to making money than it does creating something notable and significant. I don’t like it that way, and I’m working to change that on future projects.

Adele February 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

I have an online business that matters – it’s a unique travel website – one that connects people from around the world.

http://www.volunteerstays.com/ is about connecting travellers with hosts in different countries for volunteer work exchanges. People helping people with odd jobs such as child care, carpentry, farm work – whatever is needed. 20 hours of honest work a week in return for room and board and a friendly local experience. Members can register as a host or a stay.

Membership is free but my revenue model is donation based – if members want to contact other members it costs $5 for a one year premium membership. They can donate more if they wish.

We launched 7 months ago and our membership base is growing each day.

Rodrigo @ The Brave Man Blog February 9, 2012 at 7:30 am

I am working to create something awesome, truly awesome, but it’s not easy, sometimes because of the same lack of knowledge you commit some mistakes and use things in your blog that are exclusively for blogs to generate money, but hey, If I’m getting a lot of failures means that I’m learning a lot and trying a lot :) as I read over a pic
Fail means
F = First
A = Attempt
I = In
L = Learning

Victoria February 9, 2012 at 7:46 am

I think I’m with Raymond — I’m working on creating something that matters, if only to me! My interest is developing an audience for (and working on the craft of) my writing, so I have no intention of trying to make money from it right now. One day I hope to parlay it into paid writing gigs, like Minimalist Mom, and sell my books through it. At the moment, though, it’s very small and a bit haphazard. I’m still working on my unique selling proposition and focus, really. At the moment it seems to be connecting philosophical musings to everyday life and to a lesser extent the creative process; I think I’m going to focus more on the second half of that.

I don’t see why one can’t have both content that matters and make money for it, as something of value being valued. However, I don’t think worth comes only from price, and it’s worth it to write in public no matter how small my audience is.

Joan February 9, 2012 at 7:51 am

My main blog is basically JUST “because it matters.” It’s done through the local newspaper in my town, and it’s all about living life well here, and gathering and sharing people’s memories of stores and places that are now gone. Even IF it was to make money, it wouldn’t be my money – which can be frustrating, I admit – but I also am basically paid for my time on it, which allows me to focus on creating and gathering info that matters without costing me anything!

Megyn @MinimalistMommi February 9, 2012 at 7:59 am

My site is there to tell my story and gives me an outlet of self-expression. It is a means to help me continue my personal growth. I also hope others can find some inspiration and hope through it. I don’t make a single penny from my blog. If anything, it’s a pricey hobby (site design, hosting fees, etc.). I’m starting to have a hard time reading blog who initially seemed in it for providing meaningful content, but who are now just trying to push book sales. If I wanted to read a book and spend dough on information already out there, I wouldn’t be reading blogs. Just my 2 cents…

John Falchetto February 9, 2012 at 8:06 am

Great question Caleb, I think one is tied to the other. You can’t really make money online if you don’t create any value for someone.

You need to create something that matters to someone for them to be willing to pay you for your services/products.

Now, we never create meaning for everyone, first we start by creating meaning for ourselves, then when we do it right this creates value for others and an income.

abby February 9, 2012 at 9:09 am

I blog to create meaning, or that is my intent anyway. I have had several offers to monetize my blog, but I haven’t been interested. The point of my blog is to (hopefully) inspire people to make changes — I don’t want my main points to be clouded by advertising, personal or otherwise. Advertising and monetizing push me away simply because I begin to feel as though the emphasis is no longer on writing, but on making money. It makes me feel like the information I am reading has been pushed through a sieve in order to strain out the bits which may allow the writer to scheme a bit and take cash from me. Meaning is why I read blogs, and it’s why I hope people read mine.

Shayna February 9, 2012 at 9:40 am

Because it matters – since I’m not yet earning a cent from my website!

BUT I love developing the content so much that I think about it throughout the day and am constantly jotting down new post ideas. If in the future I can make a living from it – as I plan to do – I’ll be on cloud nine!

Vijay February 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

Both, but the order should be reversed.
“First to make meaning and then money will come”

I tried “Make money” as motivation and I got…
1. Constant worry if I can make my blog successful
2. Lack of motivation to move ahead.

I tried “Make meaning and money will come” and I am getting…
1. Satisfaction that it will make a difference in atleast one person’s life.
2. Motivated to keep writing since I know it will inspire my readers.
3. A belief that money will come If i focus most of my time on “service”.

Mike February 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

I love writing, so I was blogging even before I knew that you could make money from a website and would probably still be writing online in some form even if I wasn’t making any money from it. Making a living from blogging is just a bonus, so that I can continue writing about what I love.

Mike Reeves-McMillan February 9, 2012 at 10:06 am

I’m with Vijay. If I obsess about the money, which so far is small, I produce work that isn’t genuine and both meaning and money suffer. My site is a personal development site, and if I remember that I started in that field to help people and focus on that, I get a better result.

I hope that as it grows I’ll make enough that I can spend more time doing it, though.

Renee February 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

I am creating something that matters! As many of the others said, I don’t make any money from it. I created my website http://www.kidnplayja.com, to really help parents get good solid information to increase their engagement with their children and have fun doing so. Do think though that if the content I create has value, if it resonates with people, that soon I will be able to monetize the site,as it will a highly trafficked site, with an engaged audience. It is an area I truly enjoy and am passionate about and care about what my readers get from reading me. Getting into closer view now is that I have to replace my full time income, if this is the vehicle then great!

Sergio Felix February 9, 2012 at 10:39 am

Hey Caleb,

Well first of all, this feels like a trick question and even though I want to say I started my main blog for earning money online, I have been learning that if we focus on creating something that matters, the money comes along with it.

I’m currently enrolled on Corbett’s training course and I’m already planning to start a new site based on what I’m really passionate about.

Only time will tell if this theory is right.

Sergio

Leah February 9, 2012 at 11:00 am

This seems like a weak question since there’s no debate in the comments at all…everyone thinks both are essential.

The intersection of passion + profit is your raison d’etre, and your whole community feels the same.

Vedran February 9, 2012 at 11:11 am

Site/blog that matters to the end!!

But we must not be hypercritical, it is much easier (it doesn’t mean more probable) to create anything that matters when we are ‘well fed’ and ‘comfortable’.
Mr. Robert Kiyosaki said in one of his books that people act as they believe what priority in life they have.
He separated our success beliefs on security, comfort and wealth. If this is our order of priority, we will never make money with our blog/site or whatever we do.
In other hand if we are hungry and outside of our comfort zone and we want to make something that matters, that is a whole new game. In that case we cannot fail because “failure” is not in our dictionary. Security, comfort and all little distractions like social conditioning, taboo and fear cannot get the grip on us.
But we know deep in ourselves security and comfort will come; as rewards…

/cheers

Doug Campbell February 9, 2012 at 11:22 am

It’s about 50/50 for me.

I found that its important to be motivated and passionate about my subject to get started and keep the momentum going.

Then I needed to see the financial reward or potential financial reward to continue with the project and tough it out until it builds up momentum.

I’m not making any money yet on my first BLOG, Remote Worker Daily, but i enjoy the process. I am ramping up to start a new BLOG using material from this site and Corbetts course. Lessons I learned from my first BLOG will help with this effort as well.

BTW…really enjoying the “Start a BLOG That Matters”. Anyone who has not already signed up should, the material is excellent!!!!

Amy February 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I started my blog in hopes of developing a supportive community that helps people overcome obstacles keeping them from happiness. I still hold true to this motivation, and am actually just starting to develop ways to make money from it.

I think, in order to have a massively successful product, your intentions must come from a passionate place. At least, it will make the journey much more fulfilling.

Marcus February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I originally started my travel blog as a way to stay in touch with my friends and write stories about my adventures. Yes, I did have dreams of getting “discovered” and getting a book deal, etc. Naturally, that didn’t happen. It was meant for a narrow set of people, not a blog that an average person would stumble onto and become a fan.

But I wouldn’t trade away my blog for everything. I honed my writing and photography skills, learned the basics of marketing and managing an e-mail list, and other things.

Those skills will come in handy when I launch future websites. There’s a great interview on Blogcast.fm titled, “What It Takes to Build a Sustainable Business with Tim Conley.”

Basically, Conley recommends trying to find that balance between pursuing your own passion and creating value for others. You really need both to succeed. The passion will help power you to overcome the obstacles. Creating value for others is the key to making money. I like to phrase it as, “Find a problem you’re passionate and proficient at solving.”

kraig February 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm

If you focus on what matters, opportunities and money will come. That doesn’t mean you should forgo making money at all, it means you should be open to it when the opportunity presents itself.

Be true to your self and your brand, and your followers and they will reward you many times over.

Michael February 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I have tried creating blogs solely for profit, and they fizzled because I wasn’t passionate enough about the subject to keep up with conziztent posting.

I can only keep up the energy to maintain sites I truly care about, and hopefully I can make some money along the way.

Kari Scare February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm

My main goal is to write a blog that matters. I tell myself that if it matters to me, that should be enough, but I want it to matter to others too. I would love to make money blogging too, but that is not what drives me. Unfortinately, I do not see either happening yet. Time will tell.

Anshul February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm

It is kind of a double edged sword. You need to blog initially (& lots of it) to get lots of traffic, because if no one cares about your blog, you are not going to make money by just taking up the virtual real estate. So my theme is to focus on content first and then money second.

Kerry Murray February 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I’ve gone down this road as a way to earn a living on my own terms. But I knew that to do that I would have to meet a real need in the market and over-deliver on value. Even with those goals in mind, this effort is turning in to so much more.

My blog is not even launched yet, but my partner and I are knee deep in the content creation for the launch and we just had a huge break through on our manifesto.

It was then that it really hit me. We really HAD to get this information out there because it was just too valuable to not share. I tell all my friends about what we are up to and everyone wants access to what we’re creating. It’s been a great way to test our content and design, as well as get necessary feedback for when we get stuck (our tagline is causing us a few headaches, but still working on it…).

Evan February 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm

For me discovering blogging was so exciting because it offered the possibility of making money doing what I love.

So my answer is ‘both’.

Freddy Rodriguez February 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I am very passionate about helping small businesses succeed online. So, I would like to think that I’m creating something with meaning.

I used to find that I would always try my best to give my clients a bunch of information and suggestions that they could apply to their businesses to gain more exposure for themselves.

It wasn’t until recently that I have decided to make that information available to them through my blog. However, at the same time that I’m helping them…I do hope they help me with referrals. But I want to provide the information regardless.

Eric Johnson February 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm

You could boil this question down to: if you couldn’t make any money with your blog, would you still do it? That would winnow out those people who purely desire to make something that “matters” from those who either are in it for money or want to accomplish both. Why did you phrase the question with an “or”?

I’m sure Henry Ford created cars because he wanted to make money — but he also liked the creativity of doing business and working with cool machines.

Did Chuck Yeager become a test pilot because he needed a job? Of course not; he loved to fly and made it his profession.

On the other hand, Samuel Johnson said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

Your question implies that only an orientation of service to others or “making a difference” will lead to a beneficial, successful website. It may be true that that’s one approach that will work — but a desire to make money has also led to some impressive accomplishments. Personally, I’m in it because I like to write, enjoy being self-employed, like to work with tech, value communication, and want to be adored by all.

Ryan J. Ferrier February 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I recently launched my site to see if I can make money pursuing my passion (to help others launch lives that matter). Thus far blogging has been an absolute delight. That said, I haven’t made any money yet and don’t plan to for at least a few months. It will be interesting to see if I will get as much joy out of my day to day work when I begin to monetize my site.

Kevin Wood February 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Creating meaning is definitely first. Success follows making other people successful. I want to develop the resource of my dreams with the intention of turning it into a sustainable business or a launching point for other ventures.

Shout out to Start A Blog That Matters! It truly is awesome!

Chris C. Ducker February 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Great question.

It used to be about ‘something that matters’, entirely, and that is still a massive focus.

However, I am changing things up in the near future, and I will be focusing on not just providing amazing value and insights, but also the type of content that will allow me to really seriously start making money from my blog.

I’m excited about it.

C

Andrea Hypno February 9, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I would say that I’d like to make money making meaning and being useful to others. :)

Craig Gonzales February 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Both, really. But I think that is going to be the obvious answer.

I very much work online to make money. If I didn’t make money working online, I would have to do something else to make money, because I am 100% independent.

But a lot of what I do translate to offline clients and services.

The reason I am trying to push my business 100% online is NOT to have some free-wheeling lifestyle on the beach, but because the internet allows me to spread my service and my message to people worldwide for a fraction of the cost (to me and to them).

More online, more helpy. More helpy, more money.

CG

jr cline February 10, 2012 at 1:39 am

I blog to make meaning, to share my photos, and communicate. It is more of a recreational activity for me.

Jamie Northrup February 10, 2012 at 4:57 am

When I first started I created blogs for different hobbies I had, and then added even more to build me web portfolio since I’m a web consultant, but in the past year I’ve decided to change that and make them all profitable. I’ve achieved profitability on all of them, but still have a long ways to go to get where I want to be. The great thing is that they are all based on interests of mine so it’s more fun than work and it pays :)

Kellie Brooks February 10, 2012 at 9:25 am

I started out blogging to get over my paralysis of perfection with my writing. What good was I as a writer, if no one ever read my work?

As I wrote online, blogging then became a way to create order out of the chaos of my mind. It organized my thoughts, beliefs, and view of the world.

Then as I gained clarity, I started to align with my deeper values and with my readership. The more truthful and heartfelt my writing, the more my readers engaged with me and thanked me for either inspiring them or helping them to see a different perspective.

Now that I’ve got my writing feet under me, along with a great network of supporters, I’m building a new site that will intentionally introduce new perspectives on wealth, health, and happiness as well as being a forum to commercially engage. Because I believe that when we are speaking our truth, the world meets us with its need for our unique and powerful voice. And that is called a living ~ both monetarily AND experientially.

Great Q, Corbett! I always enjoy swinging by here :)

Micah The MLM Blogger February 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

If making money is your primary goal you are doomed to failure. Long term blogging success depends on an actually passion for content that you are creating. The focus needs to be on creating high quality content, or writing epic shit. The then money will come all on its own.

Haley Estes February 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

Both! I have been blogging for a while because I enjoyed it and wanted to help other people. I have recently realized that there are people out there (like yourself) who have turned that into a way to make a living. That is now what I am trying to do. I want to provide meaningful, helpful information to my readers, and make an income as a result. I have two blogs that I am working on, and I enjoy every second spent working on them. :)

Rosemary Jayne February 12, 2012 at 6:21 am

I currently write mostly to create something that matters. I’m still a student at University but I hope to become a “full-time blogger” after I graduate. I think that if you want to make serious long term money then you need to blog for meaning, as well as money.

Enstine Muki February 13, 2012 at 3:07 am

I’m actually out to create something that matters. That’s the only way to make money online

Mitja February 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I not in it just for the money. At the beginning there is no way you’re blogging just for the money. You have to give something of a value if you want someone on your site.

But what I noticed is that (or is it just me), that those blogs who actually make lots of money are mainly those who teach how to blog, how to market the blog and how to make money or traffic.

Sometimes I get this weird felling that this is what we should write about, because these are the topics that are actually attracting the visitors.

Corbett Barr February 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Hey Mitja, have you seen all the examples we’ve provide recently about bloggers and online businesses that AREN’T about blogging or making money online? Check out our interview category for a bunch of awesome examples:

http://thinktraffic.net/category/interview

Mark Wardell February 15, 2012 at 8:06 am

Building an audience is my primary focus so I can connect them to worthwhile products and services which will hopefully make money for me so I guess I blog to make money but in a more roundabout way than relying on adverts.

admin@technofreaky.com February 20, 2012 at 6:47 am

Really good question, I think if you go for making money first then you will lose the quality. I think create quality first and money will automatically follow you.

Jeremiah Say December 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

For the current website (in my name), It’s for both. I want to help people and at the same time I want to generate some cash-flow from it.

In future, I’ll create a blog that is totally meant for others. I will “re-invest” some money (which I earned through this business) to hire professional self-help writers to write quality content for the readers.

This way I’m able to help 2 parties:

1) The readers (duh!).. Because they learned something from that blog post
2) The writers.. I’ll add their own personal author bio below each of the blog post. This will enable them to gain more credibility and build themselves a brand name. Furthermore, I’ll hire them full-time, giving them more sense of security and offer them a chance to work from home and do things that they love (in this case, writing).

Well, this is my dream blog. Making money from it is secondary. Primary goal is to help others.

Rachel @ the minimalist mom February 15, 2012 at 8:51 am

Thanks, Adam. I have to add that is a HUGE bonus. Blogging helped me pay off $82,000 CDN in debt in under two years. So if we want to count that as income, I’m made a pretty sweet living the last to years. :)

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