One of the best things about making a living online is the incredible diversity. The Dough Roller is of course about personal finance, investing, and money in general. But there are thousands of profitable topics just waiting for a creative, enthusiastic blogger to come along. So in this article we are going to look at five ideas that I believe, if done right, could generate a full time income.
Before we get to the blog topics, it’s important to consider a few things:
- 5 Topics is Just the Start: While I’ve listed five ideas below, use the list as a starting point. With enough time, I could have easily listed 500 topics. The takeaway from this article shouldn’t be to pick one of the five ideas (although it’s perfectly fine if you do), but rather to see the potential in profitable blogging so that you can come up with the best idea for you.
- Think Scope: Beyond the topic you pick, the scope of your website or blog is critical. I generally tend to pick broad topics, like personal finance. But sometimes a narrower topic can be just as profitable and easier to market. For example, rather than personal finance, I could have built a site focused just on investing (like the Oblivious Investor), or even narrower and focused on dividend investing (like the Dividend Guy), or even narrower and focused just on Roth IRA investing (like Roth IRA). The key is give some real thought to what your site will cover within the topic area you choose.
- Stand Out: One question to always ask yourself is how will your site be different than other sites in the same niche. You want a point of difference. Exactly what that difference is depends on your niche, your personality, your background, your time commitment, etc. But spend some time researching sites in a niche you are considering, and find a point of difference. If you can’t find a way to distinguish your blog, think long and hard about whether it’s the right topic for you. For a few examples, consider Deposit Accounts (a site about bank rates that distinguishes itself by covering more banks than just about any other banking site on the net), Credit Card Offers IQ (ditto, but with credit cards), and Budgets Are Sexy (J. Money brings a freshness to the personal finance community, and he also introduced Love Drop, which is a great way to give to those in need).
- Be an Expert or Enthusiast: You’ll often hear about people being passionate about their blogs. I’ll let you in on a little secret–I’m not really “passionate” about bank accounts, credit cards or budgeting tools. But I am interested in these topics, expert in some, and an enthusiast in others. The point is that the more you know about the topic you choose, the more you’ll enjoy the work. Your knowledge of the topic will also show through in the quality of your content.
So on to the five blog ideas.
5 Profitable Blog Topics
1. Photography Blog
Photography is a hobby enjoyed by many, and it presents a wealth of blogging opportunities. Amateur photographers want to learn how to take better shots, how to get the best equipment at the lowest price, and to have a place to show off their best photos. For this reason, photography presents a blogging topic that is ideal for building a passionate community.
Perhaps the biggest question here is scope. Do you focus on all issues related to any type of photography? Or do you more narrowly focus the site? However broad or narrow the focus, there are many ways to monetize a photography blog:
- Equipment: Reviews of cameras, lenses, books and accessories present a great opportunity to generate income. The Amazon affiliate program is an ideal choice, as you can find just about everything related to cameras.
- Software: With digital photography comes editing software like
Photoshop CS5. The key here is not simply to review a program like Photoshop, but rather to teach your readers how to use Photoshop to improve their photos. This is a perfect example of why having advance knowledge of your topic is so important. Adobe, the maker of Photoshop, has an affiliate program through Commission Junction. You can get more information on the Adobe program here.
- eBooks: Many photography bloggers have created and sell their own eBooks. These downloadable pdf books typically focus on one aspect of photography and can not only generate a stream of income, but also give you credibility.
Here are two examples of photography blogs:
- Digital Photograph School: Started by Darren Rowse of ProBlogger fame, the Digital Photography School is an excellent example of a first rate blog. Note that the site doesn’t try to be an eCommerce site, although it undoubtedly sells a lot of equipment. Instead, its primary goal is to teach. Selling comes second. The site has an excellent newsletter and markets some very popular eBooks.
- Improve Photography: This week I was reading an article on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income blog about writing epic content. In the article Pat showcases a relatively new photo blog called Improve Photography. I liked the look of the site and the content is well written. I don’t know Jim Harmer, the guy behind the blog, but you would do well to study his site, even if photography is not your thing. By the way, as a good example of a post that should generate money for Jim, check out The Best Memory Card for the Nikon D7000. What I like is that he’s not just trying to sell something. Instead, he is offering his experience to showcase the best option for a particular camera. That’s what sets a blog apart from an eCommerce site.
2. Chess Blog: If I had an unlimited amount of time, a chess blog is one site I’d start for sure. And what I like about this example is that it shows the diversity in topics when it comes to making money online. As a tournament player, I’d focus the site on several things:
- Instruction: I can’t say it enough–if you can teach something that folks want to learn, even in a smaller niche like chess, you can create a fun site that generates a solid income.
- Problem of the Day: Chess players love solving chess problems.
- Chess News: Yes, chess is in the news if you know where to look. Did you know that Ponomariov Beat Nakamura In Dortmund? And to see Nakamura in action playing speed chess, check out Speed Chess and the Art of Patient Investing.
- Product Reviews: With chess comes books, sets, clocks, and software. I’d review these products over time, and publish detailed articles on how to use software to improve your game.
I have one word of caution that applies to a chess blog and may apply to a niche you’re interested in–expertise. While I enjoy chess and know more about the game than many, I’m not a grandmaster (or even close). And there are grandmasters who have started blogs. The point is that I’d be up against some stiff competition. Fortunately, the grandmaster bloggers don’t know much about SEO or making money online! Still, it’s always important to know your competition.
In searching for chess blogs to show you as examples, what I found was fascinating. Actually, it was what I didn’t find that was so interesting–chess blogs that rank well for competitive, profitable search terms (think chess sets, chess pieces, chess clocks, chess software, chess books, etc.). There are basically three types of chess sites: (1) eCommerce stores; (2) playing sites (like chess.com–my Username is Doughroller (of course) if you ever want to play a game online), and (3) chess blogs that have not done a good job monetizing their sites.
And that means there is room for a really good, profitable chess blog. How much could such a site make? I don’t know, but there’s one way to find out! If you have a great chess blog, please leave a comment below so we can check it out.
Before leaving the chess blog topic, I will leave you with one site: ChessLecture.com. This site has created/accumulated more than 1,500 videos of chess instruction, and charges a monthly membership fee. It goes beyond what you would think of as a blog, but it takes a creative approach to the topic that is worth studying.
3. Home Theater Blog
Who doesn’t love a great home theater? Whether you are talking about an actual in-home movie theater or just a tricked out family room, there is great potential for a blog here. Topics could include building your own theater, choosing audio and video equipment, lighting, furniture, configuring equipment, reviews, and photo sharing (who doesn’t like pictures of great home theaters?). The possibilities are endless.
Monetizing a home theater blog is, for the most part, pretty simple. Just about everything you can put in a theater or family room can be purchased online. Again, Amazon’s affiliate program is a good place to start. But there are other options that you can find on Commission Junction and Linkshare. Apart from equipment, there is also cable and satellite providers that have affiliate programs, such as Direct TV, Verzion FIOS, Cox, and DISH Network.
As for examples, it’s worth checking out Home Theater, a blog by ZDNet. True, it’s a professional blog, but it gives you an idea of the topics and style of writing. Another good blog to check out is Home Theater.
4. Fishing Blog
My step father was a bass fisherman. We’re talking about a tournament attending, power boat buying, depth finder using, plastic worm jigging, fisherman. He had multiple tackle boxes that when expanded must have had a wing-span of 10 feet. At $2 to $3 a pop, his collection of lures was easily worth thousands of dollars. And his graphite rods and reels numbered in the dozens, which he managed to use all at the same time when we were out on the boat (who has time to change a lure?).
And from this experience I learned two very important things: (1) I HATE fishing, and (2) those that love fishing are absolutely nuts about the whole affair.
And that brings us to blogging. Fishing provides all kinds of possibilities for blogs. Rather than describe the possibilities, let me show you–Fishing Fury. As soon as I saw this blog and its tagline–A Fishing Blog With Attitude!–I knew I had a keeper.
And the About page of the site tells you all you need to know:
Fishing Fury is a group of friends with an overwhelming passion for the sport of fishing, the great outdoors, crazy adventures, exploration of the world around us and doing what makes us happy. Our eventual goal is to one day have a TV show where we take you the viewer along to experience fishing and the great outdoors as we do, introducing you to interesting and unexpected topics, people, and circumstances.
That’s exactly what blogging should be about. They are obviously knowledgeable about the subject, enjoy writing about it, and have built a great blog.
And there are many ways to monetize a fishing blog. If you check out Fishing Fury, you’ll see how they do it. I’ll just add one idea–you can link to boats for sale on eBay and make a nice profit!
5. Travel Blog
As the final example, the travel industry provides many possibilities when it comes to blogging. You can review travel destinations, help folks find great vacation deals, provide travel tips, or a little of everything.
To give you and idea of the possibilities, here are three popular travel blogs that each approach the topic from very different perspectives:
- FlyerTalk: Imagine a site dedicated to frequent flyers. Talk about a niche. Yet FlyerTalk is a huge success. If you want to compare frequent flyer programs, it’s the place to go. And how does it make money? One way is through credit cards, which makes sense given the lucrative airlines credit card market.
- The Art of Non-Conformity: Chris Guillebeau of Art of Non-Conformity fame takes a totally different approach to travel. He writes about his world travels, and he sells a series of eBooks to fund his unconventional lifestyle.
- Adventurous Kate: The last example I found really inspiring. According to her blog, Kate quit her job to travel the world. And now she is developing online businesses so she can remain self-employed and continue traveling. Her site includes video, and I found this one rather funny:
So the question is, what are you waiting for?