Almost one year ago, I made the transition into writing full-time. As I confessed at the time, it was a difficult decision. Not because I didn’t love writing, but because I loved my previous work so much. One year later, I am happy to report I have found just as much joy and fulfillment in my current work as I did in my previous. It capitalizes well on my strengths as a person.
Recently, I have been increasingly asked how I make money. The question comes from bloggers, both established and new. And the question comes from friends, “So wait, you make money blogging? How is that even possible?”
I assume then, that many of you may be asking the same questions. And for my faithful readers who have been so supportive, I almost feel obligated to tell you how this whole thing works. So here you go: The Becoming Minimalist Business Model.
Let me start by saying my model is not conventional. In fact, I have rejected some of the most tried-and-true practices of full-time blogging simply because they do not fit our culture or goals. Here is a short list of some things I do not do:
Things I Don’t Do
1. I do not post advertising. Becoming Minimalist is completely advertisement-free. There are no images, banners, links, scroll-over videos, Google Adwords, or sponsored posts. Leo Babauta says it like this, “Advertisements on your website is the equivalent of selling your reader’s attention to someone else.” I agree. On the new site design, I even removed the photo ads for my own books opting for text links in my bio instead. The result is a clean site that focuses reader attention exclusively on the words and the message.
2. I do not push email marketing/list-building. In the blogger world, email list building is considered the fundamental first step in full-time blogging. If you read blogs, you’ll quickly notice how often you are asked to submit your email. Most bloggers even offer incentives (free ebooks, downloads, or webinars) in exchange for your email. This is called list-building. And it is the most golden statistic in a blogger’s world. Here at Becoming Minimalist, we push it very little. I do have a newsletter, but it serves a much different purpose than most email lists. And as I’ll mention later, the statistics speak for themselves.
3. I do not advertise this blog. From the very beginning, this blog has grown by word-of-mouth advertising only. I have never bought an ad or hired a Marketing Rep/Public Relations expert. We continue to grow every month (July 2014 was our busiest month ever, overtaking June 2014, which beat out May 2014…). Our growth comes exclusively from the generous support and sharing of our readers. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You make all of this possible.
4. I do not make as much money as I probably could. Years ago, I was at a meeting with the Marketing Director for a large publishing house. He was asking me about Becoming Minimalist and some of the blog numbers. At the time, we were averaging roughly 100,000 page views/month. I’ll never forget his response when I mentioned the number, “Joshua, you are just leaving money on the table. You could easily be making $100K/year.” His words have stuck with me ever since. I mean who would ever choose to leave money on the table? But over the years, I have come to realize that I am completely okay with leaving money on the table. Because of minimalism, we have reduced our financial needs to a smaller number than ever before. And if all of our financial needs are being met, I figure there are more important things to pursue than larger paychecks.
How then do I make money as a blogger? Here is a comprehensive list of our different income sources.
1. Book Sales. Most of our financial income comes from book sales. Our two best-selling books, Simplify and Clutterfree with Kids, account for most of it and most of those sales come through Amazon. On average, we sell around 2,000 copies total (some more, some less) of our books each month—accounting for $5,000-$7,000 in income. Those numbers are very impressive and rank quite high among industry standards. Thank you to everyone who has purchased a book in the past or intends to do so in the future. Again, they make all of this possible.
2. Amazon Affiliate Selling. In addition to sales of our own books, we receive a small commission for purchases on the Amazon website when the visitor arrives through a Becoming Minimalist link. Different links can be found throughout this website—mostly used when I refer to a book I have been reading. Our Amazon affiliate links earn just short of $1,000 each month.
3. Speaking. I continue to do a good amount of public speaking (1-3X/month) on the topic of minimalism and the benefits of owning less. As I state clearly on my Speaking Page, I do not charge anything above travel and accommodations for my speaking engagements. I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the sake of reaching more people with the life-giving benefits of owning less. I count it a blessing when event organizers choose to pay me anyway. The monthly totals vary significantly from $200-$2,500 but are always appreciated. By the way, you can always find my upcoming speaking schedule towards the bottom of this page.
4. Bluehost Sign-Ups. I use Bluehost for my web hosting and am happy with them 99.8% of the time. They called me one day and offered to send an affiliate link if I wanted to recommend their product. I said, “Sure, I am happy with your service.” Subsequently, I put the link in the middle of a post I already had published: How to Start a Blog. Surprisingly, this one hidden link accounts for $300-$500 each month.
5. Wife’s Income. With my new job providing more flexibility at home, my wife took a part-time job as a substitute teacher in our local school district. She is great with kids, well-connected with the local schools, and considers it an opportunity to be more involved in our community. She makes approximately $400-$600 each month depending on the season.
6. Programs/Bundle Sales. I am thankful for Courtney Carver and all the hard work she has put into developing the Simple Year. It is a valuable, year-long program that has helped hundreds of people find the information and accountability necessary to embrace a simpler lifestyle. As a contributor, I was financially compensated for my modules on money and possessions. The last ebook bundle sale I participated in took place in January. I enjoy participating in these short sales. They bring a quick return on finances and help to introduce my work to new people. All told, these programs and bundle sales account for approximately $10,000/year.
I consider myself very fortunate to do this for a living. Of course, every month brings about a new responsibility to meet our financial needs. But thus far, we have been provided for in excess each month.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do you find new readers? As I wrote earlier, Becoming Minimalist continues to grow beyond my wildest imagination. Most of our new readers come through our incredibly engaged Facebook group. I also contribute a monthly column to Storyline. And I accept most interview/media/podcast requests within reason. But most of the growth is a result of readers like you who have discovered a more profitable way to live than chasing possessions. Thank you for continuing to share the inspiration with others.
How is your newsletter different? The Becoming Minimalist Newsletter is committed to the spread and advancement of minimalism. It unites over 10,000 simple living advocates around common themes of influence and opportunity for impact. For the last three years, it has maintained a 50+% “open rate” which is extraordinarily high. In other words, the newsletter serves the entire simple living family, not Becoming Minimalist exclusively. And people genuinely appreciate that.
What does your typical day look like? Great question. It varies often and took 6-7 months to find a good rhythm that works for me. I still find writing in the early morning to be my most effective. Most mornings, I start between 5:00-5:30. I help get my kids off to school from 7:00-8:00 before returning to work from 8:30-11:00. I enjoy taking off a few hours in the middle of the day to exercise and eat and nap before tying up any loose ends in the early afternoon. My kids get home from school at 3:00 where I may or may not stop working depending on the day. The very end of each day is typically spent preparing for writing in the morning.
What else are you involved in? I enjoy being highly present in the lives of my kids and my wife. I have become more physically active since the job transition. And I continue to remain involved in some of the local churches here in Phoenix: teaching, leading, and serving. I enjoy that very much and am always thankful for the opportunity to help.
What is coming up in the future? We have been quite busy behind the scenes laying the groundwork for some very significant projects in the near future—I have many people to thank. At this point, I am not at liberty to share any details quite yet, but I will let you know as soon as I can. Both are going to require your help. And both dream big with a desire to inspire others, make history, and change the future for the better.
The business model above is unique in many aspects. It focuses on the pursuit of mission. It does not focus on the pursuit of money, but it does not deny its importance in our lives or potential for impact (as you will soon see).
My goal is to live a calm, focused, passionate, and fulfilled life. The Becoming Minimalist business model accomplishes that for me.