I have a buddy who is a great electrician. He likes the work. Always has enough work without having to do marketing.
He has a flexible work schedule. Works when he wants. Picks and chooses jobs.
Makes a nice living.
I asked him if he ever thought about hiring a couple of electricians and putting another truck on the road.
He immediately dismissed the idea telling me he had employees in the past and it was a pain in the ass.
He also said he never made any more money managing a crew vs. working on his own. He spent more time managing, getting work and fixing their screw-ups.
So now he’s a one-man gang with a van.
Each day he focuses on doing electrician work. His customers like him. He likes the work. He’s happy.
I have another buddy who is a plumber.
He currently has something like 3 or 4 vans on the road and a small crew.
He’s working on growing his company to 20+ vans and crew.
His goal is to “get off the tools” and focus on managing his plumbing business.
Two guys in very similar lines of work but going about it very differently.
Neither approach is better. Just different.
The same dichotomy applies to blogging and niche sites.
I call it the publisher vs. writer dichotomy.
I guess it could be framed as publisher vs. influencer as well.
I talk to a lot of successful and aspiring bloggers and publishers.
The gist I get is most aspire to be publishers, not writers or influencers.
I aspire to be a publisher, although for now, I enjoy writing for Fat Stacks. But Fat Stacks is an anomaly site among my portfolio of niche sites.
Should your approach differ whether you’re going the publisher route or writer route?
Yes and no.
In some ways, writers who plan to be the only writer on their site(s) have it easier because they don’t have to invest revenue into content. They can pocket it all.
Aspiring publishers need to reinvest funds as soon as possible into content to enter the publisher role.
And when it comes to investing in content, take it from me, there is no limit.
It’s easy to get carried away. $2,000 here. $2,000 there. Before you know it you’ve crossed the $10K spend line in a month.
Writers enjoy an off-the-chart ROI because they don’t have such costs.
One thing I love about online work is that even those who choose the writing path for their own sites have no earnings ceiling.
It’s not like trades where you bill hourly or by job. You can only earn so much.
Not with online publishing in all its forms.
A great writer can clean up in SEO with fewer articles. In some ways it’s easier because if the content is truly epic, it can scale like crazy.
Writers also have an easier time networking in a niche because they’re the face of the site.
It’s harder for a publisher to network because there is no “face” of the site (usually not, anyway). That said, if a corporate style site becomes the #1 site in a niche, they can usually get some great exposure.
Writers craft, publishers create systems
IMO, publishers who hire great writers and have excellent systems in place cannot produce the same level of content an excellent writer penning for their own blog can.
Personality and voice.
Corporate sites (i.e. publisher owned sites) are corporate. They may be consistent. They may have some superstar writers who elevate the site, but it’s not the voice and personality of a singular person.
That doesn’t mean the corporate sites are bad. They can be very good. The biggest and most lucrative sites on the Web are corporate.
But let’s face it, if you dig around in a niche you’re interested in, you’ll probably find better articles on topics by individuals on their own blogs.
I think it’s unfortunate Google gives brands an edge because a lot of really great content goes unnoticed.
What kind of site do you want?
Do you want to publish something perfect and epic where you grow an audience and that you control every facet of? Where you get to “just write”?
Or do you want to create and manage systems?
Both can be fulfilling.
Both can be ridiculously lucrative.
I think a blogger writing everything can do just as well as a publisher who employs a team of writers.
While the publisher may hit higher revenue numbers in the long run, the expenses are far higher. ROI is lower.
Bloggers have no expenses other than hosting and maybe some software and yet can scale page views just like a publisher.
Why do I bring this up?
Because I think some of you are amazing writers who want to write but might mislead down the publishing path.
I’m partly to blame.
I talk a lot about outsourcing, hiring writers, etc. It’s what I do so I’m bound to talk about it.
And so it sounds great. Big revenue numbers. Regular working hours. VAs and writers to handle things for me.
I like it but I happen to like the business side. I wouldn’t want to write 8 hours a day. Been there, done that.
I like writing. Some days I write several hours. Some days none. Fat Stacks is my main writing outlet.
As an INTJ (Myers Briggs), I’m most ideally suited for creating systems, so that’s what I do.
Can you do both?
Perhaps write for one site and reinvest in writers for another site.
You can also do a hybrid on one site. That may water down your voice, but it can work. I write for my various niche sites.
I just want to make the point that I believe remaining a solo blogger for your site can scale traffic-wise and result in a 7 or 8-figure business just as a publishing business can.
Do what you like to do.
If you love writing, do it.
Publishing will suck away your writing time. You’ll get embroiled in managing, editing, fixing mistakes, scaling up KW research and many other tasks that before you know it, you don’t have time to write.
You’ll get to the end of your day and realize “I didn’t write anything”. For non-writers, this is great. For writers, this could be sad.
Decide now what direction you want to go.
Don’t worry, you can always make changes down the road, but it helps to know how you want to proceed and that you create an online business you enjoy.
My electrician friend doesn’t make a fortune and probably never will, but he likes his work.
What’s the point of building up a business you don’t like running?
If you have the luxury of choice, do what you like doing.
If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. So cliche, but so true.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.