Nov. 19, 2010 -- At BlogWorld, the largest social media convention, more than 3,000 people gathered to focus on turning their online content to cash.
I scoped out several attendees who are doing just that, and I got their lessons on success.
Bailey Vincent Clark, a busy mom of two girls in Staunton, Va., needed to make money from home as she cared for her youngest who is deaf.
Her solution: MakeoverMomma.com, which she targets to "busy budgeted women who want to feel fit, fashionable and fabulous after having kids."
She makes money through advertising, paid blog posts, and commission on sales through ShopOpenSky.com. She'll earn $15,000 this year.
Jordan Cooper, a stand-up comedian in Louisville, Ky., turned his love of a video game into cash by creating a blog devoted exclusively to one game.
Shannon Hurst Lane, a full-time fire dispatcher in Zachary, La., started her blog, TravelingMamas.com, as an outlet from her stressful job.
She's bringing in the cash from advertising, sponsorships, books and consulting, to the tune of $25,000 this year. Plus, she has the added perk of free travel.
So how, exactly, are they doing it -- and how can you cash in too?
1. Select a topic you're passionate about. Make sure you have a lot to say.
Blog about something you love.
To make money, you're going to be in it for the long haul, so it better be a topic that you could write about without getting paid—because for a while, you won't earn a penny.
Don't underestimate the challenge of creating daily content.
Before you even set up a blog, create a calendar of content.
If you had to write new stuff every day for a month, what would fill your screen?
Delve deeply into your topic as you go through this exercise.
2. Create a promotional plan. Figure out how you'll get readers.
Just writing a blog doesn't mean anyone will find it online.
You have to go where people are to promote your stuff, and that usually means Facebook and Twitter.
Create a fan page and a Twitter profile for you or your blog, and then develop a plan for how you'll build a following of people who are interested in your topic.
This will provide you with a platform for promoting your blog. Click here for my exclusive list of 50 ideas for building your following online.
The more visitors to your blog, the more money you can ultimately make.
3. Build the blog.
If you're confident in your ability to create content and promote your site to build a following, then it's time to dive in and set up your blog.
I like WordPress, but there are many solutions for creating your blog.
(There's a valuable ebook on setting up your blog that's free to download at zacjohnson.com, another very successful blogger.)
4. Figure out how to make money.
Once you've developed a following and a routine with your content, you can begin to go after revenue.
Many bloggers make money through a variety of sources -- all at the same time.
Sign up for an ad network such as SocialSpark.com that connects advertisers and bloggers.
Contact small advertisers directly that you see promoted on competitive sites.
Let them know what you're doing, share details about your following, and allow them to get in early for a deal that's fair to them and you.
Maybe it's only $25 a month to start, but if you get 10 of those - and you grow your traffic, that $25 is soon $250 a pop.
You can't expect the big bucks overnight, but investing in relationships now will pay off.
Offer product recommendations that are relevant to your audience and earn affiliate fees or commission.
Sites like Amazon.com and thousands of others pay a nominal affiliate fee on sales that originate from links on your site.
OpenSky.com, which enables bloggers to connect with product manufacturers, pays a sizeable commission on sales to bloggers.
Create your own products to sell. If you have an expertise that your readers will pay for, ebooks may be a viable solution to generate sales on your site.
5. Take it offline -- bring it to life.
Use live events to promote your blog and to sell products and services.
Many bloggers, soloprenuers and small business owners now use mobile payment systems to accept credit cards anywhere anytime, which increases sales potential.
A small device connects to your cell phone and you're in business.
If you're at a convention or speaking engagement and you're an author with a book to promote, just swipe to make an instant sale.
Similarly, if you're a jewelry designer at a crafts show, just swipe.