Dollar-earning in Colombia: Start a Blog or Online Community

in Finding work/How-to guides/Investing

Continuing the series on how to earn dollars in Colombia, here’s what I wrote in bullet point 3 in the original post:

“Start a blog or make an online community about anything you’re passionate about. Once you have content, you can start selling ads or use affiliate marketing to generate income. In his book, Click Millionaires, author Scott Fox explains how to get started. If this guy can do it with his forum about backyard chickens, then so can you.”

Starting a blog

Beginning with the blog, the astute reader might notice that this is what I have done myself with this website, The Cali Adventurer. I wanted to create a place full of quality information about Cali and about investing in Colombia. No such place existed in English.

Some of the main reasons for creating a blog are:

  • To establish yourself as an authority on a subject
  • To create something that is unique/different/original
  • To create content that is useful/helpful to your audience
  • To answer common questions about your niche
  • To publish original research
  • To publish how-to guides and tutorials
  • To create lists of helpful resources

I started this blog in May 2015. In a little over three months, through writing about 60 articles, I have established myself as an authority on living and investing in Cali (and Colombia). Being recognized as one of the best expat blogs about Colombia by Internations confirms that. I did so by creating useful and helpful content to my audience, answering questions and publishing how-to guides, as well as sharing my list of useful resources.

Are you beginning to notice the pattern here?

The content on your blog may be either your writing, audio or video recording. Remember that just because you are in Colombia, that does not mean that your audience has to be here as well. For all I know, you could create a Hungarian cooking blog without ever having to leave Colombia.

The idea is to find a subject that interests you to such a degree that you enjoy creating quality content around it. Your imagination is your only limitation. Look at these 6 blogs just to get an idea about how very random subjects actually have a real audience:

And those are literally just drops in an ocean of opportunities. Whether your passion is investing, politics, reading, traveling, sex, cooking, self-help, mechanics, architecture, art, hairstyling, engineering, gardening, farming, pets, rock climbing, motocross, cars, model trains, poetry, programming, parenting, gadgets, running, kayaking, sailing, parachuting or anywhere in between, I promise you that there will be an audience if you deliver quality content.

Then think about all the different countries around the world. All the different languages. Is there a French blog for sailors? A South African blog for motorcyclists? If there are, are they any good? Can you create a niche for yourself? What about a blog for chopper motorcyclist in South Africa?

I knew that there was at least 7 other blogs about living as an expat in Colombia. But none of them focused much on life in Cali, investing and entrepreneurship here. That was my sweet spot. Little by little, this blog is gaining more traction. It has also started to generate a little income. But the best part has been the interaction with the readers. I’ve been contacted by interesting people from all over the world, several who may end up becoming my friends or business partners. That’s an amazing feeling. You can do this too…

3 Steps to get started

I started this business for less than $50. Here’s how I did it in 3 easy steps:

  1. Domain name and hosting plan.
    I bought a domain and ordered my hosting plan from DreamhostBluehost is another provider that offer similar services and prices. Both of them allow you to install WordPress with just 1-click, offer unlimited hosting space, unlimited email accounts, great speed along with good and responsive customer service. Prices start at $3.95 a month for shared hosting, which is all you need until you have at least 15.000 daily visitors. Use the coupon “CALIADV” with Dreamhost to get your domain for free.
  2. Install WordPress with just 1 click!
    20% of the the entire Internet run on WordPress. Why? Because it is the best and easiest way to start your blog.
    Once you have ordered your domain, log into the cPanel with the credentials that you have been given. From the cPanel you can activate WordPress with just 1-click. The cPanel is also where you can setup email addresses.
  3. Buy a theme and install it.
    Unless you are a programmer, I suggest that you buy a theme to make your website look great. I bought the Fox Magazine theme at Themeforest for $44. In your WordPress dashboard, choose Appearance –> Themes to activate your newly bought theme and you’ll be ready to write your first post.

Don’t be intimidated about the technical part. Yes, it may be a challenge, but platforms such as WordPress along with YouTube tutorials have made creating a blog very accessible, even for non-techies. Go at it with an open mind. Like I mentioned in my last blog post, few things are more rewarding than learning a new skill.

How to turn your blog into an income generating business

Money comes when traffic – the audience – are enjoying your content. Once your website is up and running, it’s time to focus on the content. You won’t make money from day one, but the idea is to write about something you are passionate about, so this part shouldn’t bother you. Like I said above, it has taken me about 3 months to start generating some serious traffic.

Take a look here to see how much income some of the world’s top blog are generating. You might never generate $2 million dollars a month in pay-per-clicks like the Huffington Post, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up the idea. If you could make $5.000 a month, which by the way is very realistic, that would allow you to live a great life in Colombia. Kevin Kelly makes a very compelling argument, that all you really need to create a great business is 1000 true fans.

To help people find your website, I suggest that you install the free Yoast SEO plugin. It’s a magic little thing that helps optimizing your website’s rankings and make it visible to search engines like Google.

There are generally 4 ways of generating income through your blog:

  1. Ads and banners.
    Most of the blogs I mentioned above have ads and banners on their sites. Every blogger agrees that it’s better to have ads on your site from the beginning so your audience gets used to them.
    The easy way to get started, especially in the early phases of your blogging, is by signing up for Google Adsense. They will find the advertisers for you and pay you for the clicks that the ads receive. That’s what I have in the right side of my website. The bad thing is that you can’t control directly who will be advertising on your website. I recently saw a local politician and Colombian dating site popping up. Not exactly what I had in mind, but you can click on the ad and request that no such advertising gets shown.
    Once you start generating traffic, you might get contacted by companies that wants to advertise directly with you. That’s a good sign that your website is starting to gain momentum.
  2. Affiliate links is the promotion of other people’s products. You earn a commission, often between 5-30%, by recommending products to your readers, at no additional cost for the customer. A good example is the Amazon affiliate program. I use their program every time I recommend a book to my audience. A special affiliate link that Amazon gives you, assures that you get paid every time a reader buys something that you have recommended.
    If you had a blog about photography you could recommend cameras, lenses, camera bags, memory cards, photo software, tripods and much more.
    The key as a blogger is to be genuine and only recommend quality items that you yourself have had great experiences with. Amazon is just the beginning. There are tons of companies offering affiliate commissions. A quick search on google will show you.
  3. An email list is an important component of any successful blog. The easiest way to build your email list is by using one of the free apps from the SumoMe plugin. I use their list builder which is the pop-up that asks for you to subscribe to my newsletter. Once you have gotten some subscribers, you will need a client to help you send your newsletters to assure that they don’t end up in people’s spam filter. Aweber.com is the industry leader and their platform integrates smoothly with the SumoMe plugin. All collected emails will be transferred to your mailing list automatically once you have it set up.
    From your newsletters you have an even better chance of getting your content out to your audience. Your emails can also be used to promote different stuff using affiliate marketing. Again, the key is to be genuine and only share quality information that will be beneficial for your readers. Some advertisers might even pay you to put a small banner in the bottom of your newsletters.
    If your newsletters are good enough, people might even pay to receive them. SovereignMan is a blog and community with a free newsletter called Notes From The Field and a premium newsletter called SovereignMan Confidential. Owner, Simon Black, collects email addresses by offering a ton of valuable information in his free letter. With readers hooked, it’s easier for him to pitch his premium service with even better content.
  4. Digital products can be in the form of how-to guides in either video, recordings or writings that you can sell to your readers from your website. Going back to the example of the photography blog, you might be able to sell a 30-page ebook about how to take awesome panoramic photos with s DSLR camera for $5.

This should be plenty to get you started. Don’t forget to backup your site. I use a free account with CodeGuard.

Creating an online community

An online community can also be a very powerful income generating machine. Facebook isn’t relevant for everybody. Again, the key is to create the community around something that you are already passionate about. Communities differ from blogs by requiring memberships to access the content. Once the site is up and running the members will be contributing most of the content through discussion forums instead of you. This is a major benefit for you and gives you more time to focus on the monetization of your page.

Here’s a few examples to give you an idea:

The idea list is just as extensive as the one for the blogs. Although not always the rule, many communities focus on a specific subject within a certain geographic area. That gives you plenty of opportunities.

How to get started

Like with the blog, you will need to buy yourself a domain and hosting.

Here they are – just so you don’t have to scroll up 🙂

Most internet entrepreneurs agree that Dreamhost and Bluehost are your best options for hosting. Prices start at $3.95 a month for shared hosting, which is all you need until you have at least 15.000 daily visitors. Use the coupon “CALIADV” with Dreamhost to get your domain for free.

Although WordPress can be used for communities using the BBpress extension, there are some providers that specialize in creating online communities, including vBulletin, MyBB, SociousHoopla, phpBBXenForoSocialGo and Ning. I’ve never started a forum, so you will have to do a bit of research for yourself in order to find out which platform suits your needs the best.

There’s a great article here about how to get started.

The monetization strategies are the same as with a blog, with great emphasis on ads and banners placed on the website. A “resource” page listing all of your favorite gear for your niche could also create additional income.

You can also combine a blog with a community like BabyCenter does. It’s more work, but also offers more earning potential.

Some additional tools

The information above should be enough to get you started out with either a blog or online community. As most internet ads and affiliate marketing get settled in dollars, either of the two options offer a great opportunity to live the life as digital nomad in Colombia or anywhere else in the world.

I’m no accountant, but one of the many benefits of being location independent and earning your money online, is that it allows you declare your earnings in a low-tax jurisdiction.

Share your content every day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Snapchat or whatever works for your niche.

Besides Click Millionaires by Scott Fox, I’d also recommend that you check out ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging your way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse if you’re serious about making an living for yourself as a blogger.

Pat Flynn has an excellent blog called Smart Passive Income that also includes a podcast. Both are packed with tips about how to create a profitable internet business and his monthly earnings reports show you just how powerful his strategies are.

Finally, I use Leekspin after a long day at the screen to clear my head.

Passed through Cali for the first time in 2011, on his way from the US to Brazil on a motorcycle. Ended up kissing a caleña on his last night and the rest is history. Has been a resident of Cali, Colombia since 2013 and currently living in Barrio Bellavista with his girlfriend and 2 daughters.

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