I was off reading or something but happened to walk back into the living room as my wife was watching the tail end of a news segment about people making money in this economy. This one was about some woman who started a website dealing with "mommies" and apparently is making good money reviewing cribs, toys, car seats and all that. I had missed most of it and honestly wasn't that interested anyway, but then my wife asked The Question:
"Why aren't you doing that?"
Of course she didn't mean "why aren't you writing about pacifiers?". No, she meant "why aren't you making oodles of money from the Internet?"
I don't mean that she was being nasty or accusatory. You shouldn't be picturing some poor hen-pecked husband cowering as his wife demands to know why he is still a lowly clerk while their neighbor has been promoted to vice president. No, this was just a "curiosity" question, as in "Hey, look, this women is making money and it looks like you could do the same thing?"
You should also understand that my wife doesn't know much about this website. Oh, she knows it is here. She knows it is the source of a lot of the consulting work I get and she knows that Google and other places magically put money into our checking account every month. She's even looked at the site a few times, but it's all nerd gobbledy-gook to her. She really doesn't know that I actually do review things. Or, more accurately, she does know, but she doesn't fully connect that activity with the money that appears in our bank statements. If it were "oodles", maybe she would, but since it isn't, it's reasonable for her to wonder why this "Mommy Blogger" is piling up mountains of cash while we are only getting little mounds.
That's a hard question to answer. I pointed out that there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, other "Mommy bloggers" who aren't making enough money to pay for coffee and a donut. There are equal numbers of people with sites very similar to this site who are making very little money. I do far, far better than most, so we really have nothing to complain about.
But.. there are people like the woman featured in that segment who apparently have done very well. There are also tech bloggers who make a lot of money doing something very much like what I do here. So my wife's question does deserve an answer.
Not that I have one.
Well, I don't have a good answer. I can state the obvious: some people are just more talented: better writers, better at marketing. Maybe they work harder, maybe they work smarter. Maybe they have more personality, more raw talent, more friends to spread the word. Or maybe they just got lucky. Maybe they had all the talent, worked hard AND got lucky.
I could remind her of American Idol, one of her favorite shows. How many times has there been a guest singer, some wildly successful person who sells millions upon millions of records but our first thought is "He never would have even got by an audition on this show"? There are a lot of talented singers in this world, but only a few of them "make it big" and often you can't really put your finger on why. Why them and not that other kid who never went anywhere? Who knows - it happens.
I could also say that many of the very big sites aren't individuals - they are team efforts. There are exceptions, of course, but having more than one person certainly lets you do more.
I could also note that some of the very successful are very focused on just that: being successful. I know that sounds funny, but that never has been my intent here. I write to share knowledge, not to make money. Oh, I'm happy to take the money, of course, but that's not my focus. My focus is sharing.
But none of that is an answer, is it? None of it tells you why
someone just like me makes a couple of dollars a month and I make a few hundred and someone else makes many thousands.
Maybe somebody does know. Maybe somebody really can isolate all the
elements that make for wild success on the web and put it out in a cookie-cutter recipe for you to follow. I seriously doubt it. We can suggest
things that you should and shouldn't do, but nothing guarantees success. That's just the way it is.
So why aren't I doing that? I AM doing that. I'm just not making as
much money at it, and honestly, that's OK with me. Not that I wouldn't
like a little more, but it's OK. I'm having fun, doing what I like doing.
We have enough. We're happy. Life is good. And that's enough.
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