How To Make Money In The Personal Development Niche (And Why Many Don’t)
Many people start blogs in the personal development space – with the best of intentions – yet find it incredibly hard to build traffic and monetize. This post will explain where many go wrong…
Are you in the personal development niche with your blog? Let me ask you…
You find it tough to build up the traffic and make any money with your personal development blog?
Yeah. Perhaps it is a rhetorical question. 😉
The personal development market is HUGE. But, it is also one of the toughest markets to enter without a serious game plan. It is hard to stand out. And it can be even harder to monetize.
But, all is not lost, my friend.
I’m not going to tell you to go pick another niche. But, I AM going to make clear why most people in the personal development blogging market don’t get anywhere, and what you can do differently.
It All Started With An Email…
So, I got this email from a reader of the Blog Marketing Academy. I didn’t pick it for any other reason than it just happened to be recent, but the email is pretty representative of something I’ve seen over and over again.
This person tells me they have a big passion for personal development. They say:
By personal development I mean from all perspectives, spirituality, health, hypnosis, memory enhancement, meditation, diet, health, yoga, mind power, happiness – you name it, I’m passionate about helping people to realize their full potential in every area of life. I’ve been into this stuff since I was a kid and I’m now 40 so I do have a lot to say!
They went on to tell me they wanted to make “good money” from this blog, but they felt it ran in conflict to the common advice from blogging gurus to narrow down your niche.
If I follow my heart not my head and start a blog on the wide subject of personal development in all it’s glory, am I going to end up simply blogging for fun with no possibility of making good money in the future or is it still possible to crack it if I put the work in?
As I said, this email was very representative of a much larger group of emails of a similar nature.
They’re interested in personal development and the self improvement niche overall. They want to start a blog talking about what they’re interested in. They want to make money with it. And many just jump right in and start blogging about it only to find that it is much harder and more time consuming than they thought.
I really, REALLY have compassion for you if this is you. The thing is… people who go into this niche usually have a very strong desire to HELP. I mean, their intentions are right where they need to be! It is a true desire to do something you’re really passionate about and you hope you can help others and share the passion. You’re to be commended if this is you!
But, unfortunately, all the best intentions in the world don’t make a foundation for business.
Want some help finding the right niche? My Niche Profits Finder worksheet will guide you through a testing process to evaluate potential markets. Click To Get Access.
Here’s The Big Problem In The Personal Development Niche…
First off, the niche of “personal development” is WAY WAY WAY too broad. When I say “broad”, I’m not talking in the sense of keywords. I’m talking in the sense of an actual MARKET. It would be the equivalent of saying that the Blog Marketing Academy is in the “internet niche”.
Most blogs which try to go into it in a broad sense end up being little more than…. cheerleading. They post quotes and other motivational stuff designed to lift people’s spirits or make them look at something differently. The headlines are generic. The content is trite.
But, how does that translate into a business? Answer: It doesn’t.
Think about it purely on the logical standpoint…
If you’re dealing with unmotivated people, do you think they’re going to be motivated enough to buy your product, much less visit your blog in the first place?
Are they going to search for the kind of thing you have on your blog? Probably not.
And if they DO visit your blog, it will likely be on a very non-committal basis. They’re probably looking for something and they can’t even spot what it is. They want something, but they can’t identify it. It is just a feeling.
There’s a thing called the Customer Awareness Scale (seen below). Most people are in the unaware phase and your job is to move them up to “most aware”.
So, to understand the issue here, think about the mindset of a person who is in the Unaware phase of all this:
- They don’t know you.
- Because they don’t know you, they really don’t care what you say.
- They’re not even really thinking they have a problem.
Now, add to this what most personal development blogs are attempting to do:
- The blog isn’t really oriented around any specific problem, so there’s really no chance of moving them up to “problem aware”.
- The blog is really unspecific and is basically cheerleading and motivational kind of stuff… being written to a person who doesn’t really care about you and isn’t really motivated to do anything.
There’s also this…
When you go broad like that (the “personal development” space), what are people going to search for?
They’re not going to search for how to get difference perspectives, how to be more healthy, how to be happier, etc. These things are too vague.
What people search for is outcomes. Outcomes they want.
They search for specific problems. In fact, people who go do Google searches are usually already PROBLEM AWARE. But, since your general personal development blog isn’t really offering specific solutions to specific problems, you just don’t meet them on common turf.
The result: stalled traffic and you’ll end up needing your own blog posts as a “pick me up”. 😉
Which brings me to my next point…
Don’t Just Narrow Down. You Need To Get Concrete On The Outcome.
I’ll show you where things begin…
People will find their way to your blog because you’re promising to give them a solution to a problem that is real to them. It is a concrete problem. Something that is top of mind for them at that moment. And, they are seeking to solve it.
Since most personal development blogs focus on very non-concrete things and end up being vague, unspecific and more “touchy-feely”, most of these blogs just don’t ever connect the dots.
In order to run a personal development blog that can actually turn into something, it needs to:
- Deal with concrete problems in specific ways.
- Answer specific questions that they actually ask.
- Offer up blog content which contains solutions which are real and give something they can walk away with. As opposed to blog posts which stay on the surface and don’t offer much of anything real.
- Use post headlines that actually contain the inherent promise of such.
Now, don’t get me wrong…
You can talk about emotional and mental things. However, it needs to be wrapped in the context of a concrete issue that people would go search for. And your solutions need to be something tangible and real, not trying to convince them through your blog post to feel different about it.
Giving them “pump me up’s” and “go tackle the day, tiger!” motivational stuff isn’t gonna do it. They won’t pay for it. They don’t search for it. That kind of thing might get some social shares if they see it in their Facebook newsfeed, but it isn’t going to fuel a business oriented around nothing.
The way to succeed in the personal development niche is to stop calling it the personal development niche… and instead focus on solving specific problems and things people actually buy.
When you solve specific problems, then you’re no longer competing in the general “personal development” space. Instead, you are in a much more specific business. If people want to caste it as part of the larger niche, that’s their thing. Let ’em.
2 Examples Of Generic Personal Development Blogs Finding A Focus
For example, a member of the Academy once posted about potential giveaway offers to get people on his list. He was in the personal development space.
I don’t recall the specific idea he had, but the title of this ebook he was going to make was very vague and basically… motivational.
His blog was also all over the place. A lot of quotes. A lot of dancing across all kinds of topics. He wasn’t really getting anywhere.
I talked to him on one of our mastermind calls, and through our discussion narrowed down to one of his own areas of interest which was overcoming a fear of public speaking (I think that’s what it was, anyway).
I didn’t follow through with him on the details, but that’s an idea of how this works. If he were to focus much more tightly on becoming a better public speaker, he would be able to grow that blog.
It is concrete. The outcome or transformation is clear. When he does his marketing, he can really delve into all those emotions that typically come with a fear of speaking in public. The butterflies. The extreme nervousness. The fear that you’re going to make a fool of yourself on that stage. These emotional experiences are REAL to the people who are looking to transform that portion of their skillset – being able to speak comfortably in public.
Plus, the way to provide value in this niche is to provide real, tangible solutions they can use. Real techniques, exercises they can do. Real stuff! Give them downloads (as lead magnets) on things they can do to get ready for their next public speaking gig.
Get the idea?
Another example I know of second hand…
A good friend of mine was doing some business coaching with a lady who was, yet again, going after the general personal development space. Or at least, she thought she was.
Through a lot of conversation with my friend, my understanding is that this lady realized that who she was truly serving was women in their mid 40’s or so who were going through a mid-life crisis.
Now, perhaps this is something she knew beforehand, but I’m betting her blog was all over the place in terms of communicating that message. So, by working with my friend, she completely repositioned her business from a general women’s personal development site into a much more specific solution geared toward women in their 40’s going through a mid-life crisis.
Get Clear On Who You Serve – And What You’re Delivering
That’s the key in any niche, really. But, it is SUPER important in these big overarching niches like “personal development”.
You can’t help people with everything simultaneously. You might want to, but it doesn’t work.
You might really want to “help people reach their full potential”, but you cannot be out there SAYING it that way if you want people to buy anything from you or even come to your blog.
You have to get clear on who you serve – and what you’re delivering. What SPECIFIC solution are you delivering and how are you going to deliver it?
Get concrete. Get specific. Be clear.
I’ll tell you one thing…. many of the people looking for quotes and motivational stuff are insanely distracted out of their ever-loving minds. They feel a general sense of emptiness but they can’t place their finger on it exactly. So, you coming in there with vague language and unclear “pump me up” stuff just isn’t going to strike a chord.
It can work if you have a major marketing machine behind you positioning you constantly to the marketplace. Tony Robbins could probably offer some vague product like “Personal Power” and make it work… because he’s Tony Robbins. 🙂 He’s built a large brand around himself and branding goes a long way.
But, people just starting out don’t have the “street cred” for that. So, get specific, solve a problem in concrete terms.
Help them reach their full potential, but do it using a vehicle of something which is specific, with a laid out pathway, and a clear outcome.
Want some help finding the right niche? My Niche Profits Finder worksheet will guide you through a testing process to evaluate potential markets. Click To Get Access.
The Need For Branding And Personality To Survive In This Niche
One last thing I’ve noticed from a fair amount of smaller personal development blogs is a general lack of personality. I see no videos of the blogger. No real backstory. Not even a photograph. Just generic stock photography of warm fuzzy crap like people with their arms spread out on a cliff. You know the ones. 😉
You can’t survive in this niche by hiding. Especially if you want to tackle a wide variety of potential problems under this “personal development” niche, you’re going to need to build a strong sense of community around you and your brand. You need them to know, like and trust YOU.
Tony Robbins can do whatever he wants because of his strong branding.
So, you really need to get your face out there and be interacting with people in a very real way. Some ways to do this include:
- Have some nice looking photos of you on your site. Have a nice hero shot right there on your homepage.
- Have a clear backstory and TELL them your story. Have a real about page.
- Make videos! There’s no better way to be real and approachable to your growing audience than video.
You can check out how to brand yourself, your business and your blog.
You can’t be shy in this business – and especially in personal development. People are looking for somebody to reach out to them with confidence and show them the way. They want a leader. You’ve got to adopt that role for them. If you’re blogging while trying to hide and talking about your own lack of confidence, this might not be for you.
Here’s How To Get Started On The Right Footing With Your Personal Development Blog
Moving from a general “personal development” blog to something which is geared toward concrete solutions can be a challenge for some.
First, I’d like to offer you the Niche Profits Finder. This free download is aimed to help you brainstorm real niche markets that are oriented around actual solutions and things you can deliver on. Plus, it contains a series of tests you can run your ideas through to see if there are signs of life. 🙂 It is one of the many free resources you can grab from our Vault with your free membership here in the Blog Marketing Academy.
Next, here are a few other posts from right here at the Academy that I think can shed some light on areas that I see most often need work on personal development blogs that are brought to my attention:
- 58+ Headline Formulas: The Ultimate Non-Copywriter’s Guide To Writing Headlines That Get The Clicks (UPDATED). Rockin’ headlines are really important for all blogs, but especially in busy markets like personal development.
- Perfect About Page Formula: Create A Conversion-Focused About Page With This Template (UPDATED)
- How To Brand Yourself, Your Business or Your Blog. Branding is really important in busy markets with a lot of other big players. You best understand what a brand really is.
- Blog Monetization Model: The Most Effective Blog Revenue Strategy That Exists. An important foundational guide on where you need to be heading in terms of monetization. Because, throwing ads and affiliate links all over the place is a fool’s errand, especially on a generic personal development blog. If you know where you’re heading, you can adjust course. And this post will show you were you need to be heading.
And, when you’re ready for some direct help and support in making this work for you – and really impacting people’s lives the way you want – activate your PRO membership.
As a PRO member, you’ll unlock our entire training library and all support resources. Plus, you’ll also have an automatic 30% discount on services with me. Which means, you and I can hop on a Zoom call together and discuss your specific ideas and come up with a plan that’ll work.
I know this is a very old post, but it’s ranking high on Google so I assume people are still reading it. So I’ll chime in. I’ve been in the personal development niche since the late 90s (in a non-english market). I don’t agree with everything you said.
You are correct when you point out that motivational stuff is a dead end and that IS the mistake of many newbies in the niche. However, I disagree that we must narrow our niche to a super well defined audience.
The personal development audience in general has very broad interests, so by narrowing your focus too much, you’re leaving money on the table. You can adopt a focused approach in terms of article titles and keywords, so each one attracts people who are looking for very specific outcomes (productivity hacks, time management, goal setting, how to be assertive, how to improve self-esteem, etc.). Once this reader (or watcher in case of videos) gets into your funnel you can show them what else you got. They are usually interested in everything. My readers that came into contact with my work searching for goal setting will also buy my books and courses on emotional intelligence.
What’s interesting about this niche is that people that are into self-development have many different problems or have a desire to improve even if they don’t have a problem, so whatever you throw at them, they will consume. It does take strategy though to build a large enough audience. Steve Pavlina is perhaps the best example of someone who started blogging about everything personal development and then even published a book named Personal Development for Smart People or something like that. He never narrowed in on anything and his readers consume everything he puts out.
Another point that I do agree with you is that in this day and age you can’t hide. You have to be everywhere (YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and you have to show your face and create a sense of community with your audience. Long gone are the days when people could publish an ebook with a pen name and would sell for $97 like hot cakes.
Wow, thanks Carol. And if you don’t mind, I took the liberty of breaking your comment into a few paragraphs since it was hard to read previous. That said, you might just get the award for best comment on this post. 🙂
First, the original article is a few years old, but I update it. So, there’s that.
As for what you said, you’re right on the money. And it isn’t really too much different from my own point, but you do a better job of saying it doesn’t necessarily have to be at the broader niche level and could be on the individual content/funnel level. While true, though, I think that would work better for larger brands and personalities. Still, very much true. One brand can indeed (and should have) multiple incoming funnels and each one needs to be focused.
This is exactly what I was looking for and has helped me understand that I need to niche down a lot more.
This was exactly what i was looking for. You were even mocking–and deservedly so–many of the thing I am currently doing! Thanks for getting me on the right track!
This blog post is money ;). For the last 25 years I’ve had the pleasure of coaching, mentoring and developing athletes in ability and mental performance. I’m established in my area but was looking at how to take steps to marketing myself and material to broaden my audience. That’s when the universe brought me to you David. Thanks for sharing buddy.
WOW!! Thank you so much for this… THIS pretty much clears up a lot of stagnation of where my “personal development business” is going…Thanks again for clearing this up for me… I NEED to get CLEAR!!!!!!!
Oh my gosh!!! Thank you so much for writing this! I’m a motivational, inspirational, encouragement writer. And I feel like I have no real direction. And now I know why. Because I have NO REAL direction. Thank you thank you thank you!!!
I am in the development stages of what was going to be a general personal development blog, but haven’t launched it yet. Holy moly am I glad I came here! You have captured my interest and I am now a member of your lab.
So needed this “wake-up call” David!
With a business in Hypnosis programs, I cover everything from weight loss to confidence to phobias.
Are you suggesting a separate blog per separate solution?
Amazing!I’ve been trying to come-up with an “ideal” page title for my blog. I feel that there is something in me that calls to offer millennials with advice on how to maintain self-discipline and be proactive when dealing with life after school. I just Googled searched “personal development” and this blog came first in the searches. Happy that part of my problem was solved here. I think what I wanted to “do” in personal development was to improve the self-confidence of millennials (who have just completed their basic education) who have dreams in starting their business. I also love the way you have detailed the concepts here!
I am all struggling in that space “personal development” which brought me here.
I am eager to see people take away their fears and create a Business out of their passion. I don’t know if that’s good enough for an outcome. It looks as if I’m way way way too broad and need your help in narrowing down to a specific outcome.
Yeah, you’d need to narrow that down. That is pretty much the same thing about a million other people would say they want to do with their blog. 🙂
I guess it would be a good idea to ask people around you about their problems and try to solve them. This way, you will understand what you like more and continue the path.
Well, you don’t go into a specific niche to make money, you go to provide the best services, because it’s your calling. Money will come if you’re good at it and you put all of your efforts into it, because money are nothing but a result.
True, but one of the main points of this post was that, to provide a service means to deliver a concrete outcome. Many bloggers who start of personal development blogs don’t do this. But certainly, money is a result of how well you deliver that service. 🙂
This is amazing! I’m in the personal development niche. Im currently not monetising but its a good idea if I can help people (concentrate on the outcome like you said in the article)
David this was freaking amazing. Thank you for this. I finally know why I have been failing to convert my visitors into leads/sales. I was being WAYYYYY too broad. I ain’t no Tony Robbins…LOL. Great blog post brother.
I’m wondering how to find out who actually makes money. A lot of the most popular blogs (Steve Pavlina, Zen Habits etc) are pretty general in what they cover. And are pretty general in the outcomes they offer too. Perhaps they are more guru blogs – people read them because of Steve and Leo.