Since I get a lot of questions related to my future plans, I’ll go ahead and share them. For people who know me well, this certainly isn’t a secret, but others may find some of it surprising.
For the past couple years, I’ve been running this business mainly as a solopreneur (or perhaps as a duopreneur with Erin). However, this year I intend to begin building a staff, most likely starting with an executive assistant. I’m anxious to begin offering public workshops and seminars, and I also plan to put out some products of my own, including books and audio programs.
The advertising/affiliate model works has been great so far — it currently generates a net profit of tens of thousands of dollars a month. But I’ve known since I put up the first Adsense ads that this wasn’t the best way to provide value to my visitors, so in my mind an ad-supported site has always been a temporary business model. It’s become rather obvious that my readers would prefer to see high quality, reasonably priced products based on my content instead of ads from third parties. So assuming I don’t experience a major unexpected shift in my business plans, I intend to phase out most third-party advertising on this site over the next couple years as I move towards a model of direct sales of my own products.
Don’t worry — I’ll continue providing free articles via this blog, and I don’t intend to fill the blog with teaser drivel just to sell products.
The benefit of creating products is that I can take the time to deliver more comprehensive, better organized info on a single topic. Whenever I blog about one topic for more than a week or two, people who aren’t interested in that particular topic start losing interest while those that love the topic keep encouraging me to write more. This happens regardless of the nature of the topic. With an audience of almost 2 million visitors per month now, it’s impossible to write articles that please everyone. Even my seemingly innocuous article on How to Cook Brown Rice sparked a heated debate.
With books, audio programs, and live workshops, I can provide much more depth and detail for those people who really want it. I’ve also been investigating the possibility of offering teleconferences and webinars, which would be a good fit for certain topics. And there’s just no comparison between what can be conveyed in an interactive seminar vs. a plain-text article or a pre-recorded video.
The reason I haven’t put out any products yet is that I don’t have the capacity to do it without help (at least not if I want to do a good job). My plate is too full. Fortunately this web site generates enough income to support a small staff, so I expect to hire my first employee this summer. Lately I’ve been working on a number of projects to prepare for this transition, such as setting up payroll and getting a merchant account. When I’m ready to start hiring, I’ll be sure to announce any open positions here in case any of my readers are interested. I intend to build a local staff initially, so these positions will be limited to Las Vegas residents. While a webmaster might be able to work remotely, I need people who can help me organize and deliver local workshops and seminars, and that requires a physical presence.
If you’re a long-term reader, you may recall that a while back I considered forming a nonprofit company. I investigated that option and eventually decided against it. Non-religious nonprofits have many limitations in their ability to raise funds and compensate employees. I want the freedom and flexibility to recruit the best and brightest staff members and to compensate them well. So I ultimately concluded that a nonprofit wasn’t the best vehicle for the kind of contribution I wanted to make, and last year I formed a limited liability company under the name Pavlina LLC (or just Pavlina for short). Since October 2006, all of my blogging income has been funneling into this company as well as Erin’s income from her readings. We draw a salary while keeping the profits in the business to prepare for staffing up later this year.
I also considered a donation-based model. While I do receive about $1000-2000 a month in donations presently, I don’t think it would be an effective business model by itself.
I think the best model will be to continue providing free content via the blog on a variety of personal development topics while periodically releasing more in-depth products on certain topics. I want to gradually move towards a site that’s relatively free of third-party ads, and monetize the site primarily through product sales. I can use the site’s current income to bootstrap my way to hiring a staff that can help me as I develop products to go much deeper into certain topics that I know people want to learn more about, such as self-discipline, time management, subjective reality, and so on. If I can keep the costs low, I should be able to price these products very reasonably, so they’ll be accessible to most visitors. If this model is effective, I should be able to maintain a site that’s largely ad-free while still providing plenty of free content.
Some topics are difficult to break into easily digestible articles that can be posted in a blog. A couple examples are subjective reality, the Law of Attraction, and polarity. People that read only one or two articles on these topics often end up confused because they aren’t getting the whole picture, or they just get a very shallow overview. In a single article (even a lengthy one), I only have the capacity to cover a small slice. These topics would be much better served if I presented them as books, audio programs, or even webinars, so I could take more time to develop the ideas from concept to practical application.
Another problem is that people who want to learn more about a single topic have to hunt around the blog or its categories to find the relevant articles. But a dozen individual articles don’t always act as a single cohesive whole. I think such people would be better served if I could refer them to a book that gave them all the info they wanted all in one place, well-organized from start to finish.
I considered creating products to give away for free instead of selling them. But that just doesn’t seem the best way to serve people. By generating income from product sales, I can afford to do a much better job on the production quality, and I can financially support a staff to help me. I’ve read my share of poorly designed ebooks, and I’ve heard too many audio programs that sound like AM radio (in Spanish), and I don’t want to go that route. Given my practical options of releasing zero products for free vs. a collection of products for a price, the latter is the better choice. As previously mentioned, I expect to be able to keep the prices very fair and reasonable, and I’ll likely offer a money-back guarantee for every product as well.
While I’m sure I could sit back and enjoy a great living as a solo blogger for years to come, that isn’t what I’m here to do. Blogging is a great medium, but the message of committing to lifelong conscious growth is what matters. I expect to continue blogging for many years to come, but I also want to explore other ways to provide more value. And to do that I’ll definitely need to recruit some help.
This is an exciting (and very busy) time. I’m looking forward to expanding this business into something more impactful. The more people who are helped by it, the better. At the very least, those who are only interested in the free content and who’d never click an ad or buy a product should find the site much improved over the next couple years as well.