How To Make Money With A Blog (And No Business Plan)
When we tell people about our blog, the question that regularly pops up is related to making money. The more polite ask questions like: ‘What you are doing is great, but how do you guys afford such a life?‘ The more blunt (mostly the Dutch) cut the crap by asking: ‘How the hell do you guys make money?’ This is apparently interesting to many—so here’s how we do it.
Burning through savings
Our very first business model was to burn through our savings. While we were very successful in executing this business model, it wasn't the most sustainable one (as you might expect). The first months we didn't earn a dime. We were just spending money at a rate that was way higher than what we had calculated on the back of an envelope.
Despite trying to keep our expenses as low as possible (by even living in the same room for a few months!) we were still burning cash as we were travelling the world to meet the Bucket List pioneers. If we continued burning cash at this rate we would find ourselves pretty soon in a frustrating corporate job again. And that was the last thing we wanted. There was one problem though; we started Corporate Rebels without a business plan!
But instead of panicking, we kept believing that if we continued to share our ideas and the lessons we learned on how to make work more fun, we would find ways to make a living out of it too.
No business plan
We didn’t start the blog as part of a genius strategic business idea. Rather the opposite. We started out of frustration and curiosity. On the one hand, we were fed up with our corporate careers. On the other, we were curious about what the world’s most progressive organisations looked like, and what they could teach us about making work more fun.
Before the start of Corporate Rebels, we impulsively compiled the initial Bucket List of 30 workplace pioneers and decided to give those ‘Rebels’ a visit. However, this would require time and freedom, which we didn’t have while in our current jobs. We saw only one solution: quit our frustrating jobs. A few weeks later, we did just that.
It will work! Or not?!
We could imagine that the stories and lessons we learned along the way would be very inspiring. We therefore didn't want to keep them just to ourselves. We just wanted to share everything we learned with anyone interested in the topic. For free.
In terms of business there were two possible outcomes; it will work or it will not work. It would not work if few people were interested in what we shared. This would mean we were either lousy in the way we did it, or there was no realistic market for our ideas. Either would be a perfectly fine reason to abandon the adventure.
To be honest, we didn’t really think about the negative outcomes. In our minds it would just work. From the start we were confident (and naive). We simply believed we’d find ways to generate an income, organically. You can’t deny we are optimists.
Still no business plan
At that time, a blog seemed to be the best and easiest way to share our adventures. We taught ourselves how to code our first website from scratch. (Unfortunately, we didn’t know WordPress would be so much easier.) After a week of hard work, the Corporate Rebels blog was born. But, still no business plan.
This was partly on purpose. We simply couldn’t know how we would be able to earn a living with this. We just felt that, on a certain day, we would find out. But when this certain day would arrive was just as big a mystery to us as to everyone else.
Sharing is caring
We wrote our first posts without any proper writing experience. Sure, we had been writing postcards, love letters, school and work reports before. But that was about it. We just started writing about the most interesting things we learned along the way. After one of us wrote a post, the other would correct it, ruthlessly, before publication. And, yes, that hurt.
In the first weeks, only friends and family read our stuff. Then the reader base began to grow. What helped were major spamming activities from us to all kinds of traditional media outlets.
We were convinced we had interesting stories. And we shouted this it from the rooftops. Luckily, we were heard. National and international media channels noticed. At one point we were invited to write for several newspapers. We got great exposure and more credibility. But none of this helped our bottom line!
Nowadays, we still spend the majority of our time writing. (We are even writing a book). And we still don’t get paid for it. Our blog is free; we don’t carry advertising. For now, we want to keep it like this. One could argue this is not the smartest business strategy. But we believe anyone with an internet connection should be able to tap into this knowledge freely.
So, strictly speaking, we don’t make money from our blog. However, it led indirectly to our current business model. Here’s how:
Exposure in traditional media brought our first business opportunity. A major Dutch bank read one of our pieces and asked for a presentation on what we had learned. We didn’t have much presentation experience, but decided to give it a go.
The next problem arose immediately. What do you ask for such a gig? We didn’t have a clue. So we told the bank to pay us what they thought would feel right. This was an expensive lesson. They didn’t pay much, but we couldn’t have cared less. We now knew there was a potential market out there—not only to make money, but also to help us pursue our purpose!
Since then, requests for all kind of events have increased significantly—and from around the world. Events are an important part of what we do to pay the bills and to grow the global Corporate Rebels movement.
It started with presentations, but didn’t end there. Some clients wanted to experiment with the new ways of working we’d talked about. They were eager for more.
So, more or less organically, we ended up with our second business opportunity--workshops. Once again, we didn’t have any particular workshop experience, so we decided to design our own. After a few successful trials, we now run workshops on a regular basis for companies who are ready to change the way they work.
Some clients don’t want a presentation or a workshop. They want something in between.
Therefore, we added masterclasses, with success. Recently, we gave the best one to date on Hamilton Island in Australia. It was for a group of 80 family business owners. Such events lead to opportunities to start projects with some attendees.
After months of just writing and speaking, we were fed up with never making an impact ‘on the factory floor’. We just didn’t know if what we were talking about worked in real-life. It was time to actually do it.
So, this year we added consulting to our activities. We don’t like the word ‘consulting’ very much, but we still haven’t found a better one. To us, consulting means a long-term client engagement resulting in practical changes that make work more fun. That is, not writing reports, but making real changes.
5. Rebel Events
Last but not least, we started organizing our Rebel Events. We don’t have fixed or detailed plans for these events. We experiment and learn along the way. It works. We have now appeared in Eindhoven, Berlin, London, Utrecht, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to share our experiences. These events also connect us with like-minded Rebels around the globe.
We never made any detailed plans, we just experimented and learned along the way.
At this stage, we continue to organize such events monthly. We think it is important to continue to grow the movement. The next three are in Amsterdam.
We started this adventure with no business plan, nor any idea of how to make money. By consistently sharing inspirational stories, we uncovered several opportunities. When these arose, we experimented to see if they worked for us.
In hindsight, this has worked well. Having “no business plan” allowed us to find opportunities. We were not restricted to making money according to ‘the plan’. We were focused on our purpose and open to finding ways to make money. Call it the lean start-up, call it agile, or just call it common sense. We love it and it works.
Call it the lean start-up, call it agile, or just call it common sense. We love it and it works.
We not only managed to make a living, we also grew the team - and we are ready to add yet another Corporate Rebel soon.
For now, this is what we do, but we keep moving. Let's see what the future brings. We can't wait to discover and share it with you.
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WE WON!! Monday in London we won one of the Thinkers50 awards: the so-called Oscars of Management Thinking. It was a great honor to be awarded the Radar Award; the award for best up-and-coming new thinkers.
In a previous post on Haier's RenDanHeYi forum in Shanghai we shared which speakers we were looking forward to, hoping they would provide “Management Fireworks”. Last year we were hosting the forum, but this year we could sit back and listen. Now it’s time to share with you. So, strap in and enjoy!