1. Be You
If you are considering turning your blog baby into your career, or at least a decent sideline business, then you will already have found your authentic voice, built an audience, and realised your commercial value, so those are topics for other posts. In this post we are covering the nitty gritty of the business side of things, but always remember why your blog is a success in the first place. Determine what makes your voice and your corner of the Internet unique, and stick with it, however your commercial opportunities develop.
2. Put In the Hours
To make decent living from your blog you will probably need to put in full-time hours, after all you want a full-time income don't you? Much of that time will be spent researching, drafting, photographing and writing, the stuff we love. However, up to 40% of your time will be spent on admin: replying to e-mails, pitching to clients, negotiating contracts, invoicing, tax, chasing replies and invoices, and of course promoting your content. This takes an average of 2 hours a day I would say, and of course needs to be factored in when you are determining your hourly rate for the job. Turn up at the office every day, and when you are ill or on holiday put your out of office up on e-mail.
3. Be Professional
Try to reply to every e-mail you receive, even if it's a thanks but no thanks. Have a media pack ready to send to prospective clients. This should include a background to you and the blog, a brief outline of what you cover and can offer, up-to-date statistics for your blog and social media, and an indication of your terms and costs. (I don't have costs on mine as I prefer to negotiate on each project, but I do have a rates card ready if a client wants to see an outline.)
When it comes to paid work, if you set a deadline, stick to it. Create a professional post for your client, with great photos and promote it as well as you would any other content. Offer a friendly but professional approach and great value for money, then they are highly likely to come back to you with more work.
4. Keep Track of Everything
Whatever your temperament, if you want to work for yourself, you have got to be super-organised, end of.
- Create a draft post for every new job, or keep a comprehensive 'posts to write' list.
- Make a 'to do' list every evening for the next day, and keep it achievable (10-20 tasks is plenty!)
- If you aren't already sending proper invoices, start now. E-mails with a URL and your PayPal address aren't enough.
- Start a spreadsheet or even just a Word document with details of every piece of paid work on it. You need the date, type of job, client contact, URL (if relevant), price, and a paid? column.
5. Expenses Matter
You should also keep track of your expenses: train tickets or mileage to events; receipts for business card printing and other promotional activity; conference tickets; ingredients for recipes etc. You should also add in allowances for meals if you are away overnight or out all day, at Christmas in July events for example. Cameras, laptops, printers and other expenses may also be covered, if they are for business use. And don't forget that if you work from home you can claim some of your heating and lighting costs as a business expense. (I keep hoping to list a lovely new car from Parkway Contracts on my tax return, but apparently that won't wash!) Keep receipts for everything, get some advice either online or from your accountant, and keep extensive records ready for that all-important tax return.
6. Be Prepared
Sounds more like one for boy scouts than business? Maybe, but any decent small business will have contingency plans in place for things that may go wrong. For me, these include:
- Backing your blog up regularly
- Having security measures in place to fight hacking
- Only agree to deadlines you can comfortably meet
- Getting all financial agreements in writing
- Not allowing yourself to be short of product (i.e. have some any time blog posts ready to post if you should fall ill, have an emergency or simply burn out and need a fortnight off)
- And, if possible, have a month or two's cash in hand to cover quiet times (notoriously August and January when you most need the income!)
7. Remember You Are the Sole Distributor of Brand YOU
You already have an audience, or you wouldn't be making any money from your blog, but promoting your brand and your content never stops. Invest in a decent scheduling service for social media (I use Social Oomph and Hootsuite mainly), and never underestimate the value of being present every day. Interact, promote others' content, be active in responding to and interacting with your followers. I call my Facebook page a community because that's what I hope it is, and the amount of questions and private messages I get from fans underpins this. It's a great barometer of what our fans enjoy.
Give your loyal followers three things: content, rewards, and a reason to come back. Try to post at the same times each day so readers know what to expect, offer great original content including series such as our Meal Planning Masterclass that readers keep coming back for each week, and offer something back such as regular competitions and giveaways. I know a lot of bloggers are quite sniffy about compers, but I have found many of them go on to become loyal, interactive readers. And with competitions I know I am giving something the readers something back.
8. Offer Great Customer Service
Reply to everyone who tweets you or comments on Facebook or Instagram, even if it's just a 'like' as a simple acknowledgement. Reply to comments on your blog (need to take own advice here, I am hopeless at remembering to do this!). Also keep checking what works and what people are most interested in, and offer more of the same. Research your market, what do they want to read?
Offer great customer service to clients too, drop them an e-mail to say how their campaign post is performing. Measure its success on your blog and on social media and let them know
9. Practice Quality Control
As well as offering great content of the type your readers love, make sure your blog's layout works. A classic, easily readable script formatted to the left not the centre (please!), and a clean layout that is easy to navigate is the least you should be offering both readers and clients. Evaluate your layout regularly, add in new features that offer something, and ask for feedback from your peers or even just an objective friend. And of course, make sure your site is responsive on smartphones too.
If grammar and spelling don't come easily to you, please learn the rules. Or at the very least write all your draft posts in Word and follow the pointers - those red and green lines are there for a reason!
10. Plan for the Future
Invest in your blog - hire that designer, subscribe to a great scheduling service, buy brilliant business cards. It's wroth investing in this business of yours to make it work harder for you in the future.
Consider how to grow your blog or your business as a whole. What other services and opportunities can you offer? Are you a social media whizz who could offer to run other companies' feeds? Are you interested in wriitng an eBook or offering an eCourse? Is vlogging the way forward for you? How can you monetize your blog further in the future?
With a lot of people entering the world of blogging solely to get 'free' product or earn money, some say the market is becoming saturated. But if you are offering a great product, your talent and ability combined with your business savvy will set you up for the long game.
11. Consider Outsourcing
When your blog really takes off you could consider outsourcing the admin side of things to a VA or similar. Why spend 40% of your time on admin when your skill is in wriitng? Or if you want to go completely self-hosted, you could employ a web designer to design and maintain your site. The same applies to accounting, if you really hate figures pay someone to do it for you. And, dare I say it, if you'd rather spend time blogging than cleaning, employ someone! Time is limited. If you can earn £200+ for an hour's work, it makes sense to pay someone £20 an hour to clean your home.
12. Be Your Brand - Act It, Look It, Be It
I would also highly recommend paying someone to design a logo for you. Creating your brand starts with a design which can be applied across your site and social media, as well as on your business cards, stationery etc. Make it unique and recognisable, and treat it like the unique brand it is. Your voice is also a key part of your brand, maintain it.
When you decide to become a professional blogger, to actively make a living from your blog, you need to make the decision to run your blog like a business. Invest in it just like you would a business, believe in your value as a digital influencer, and sell your brand.
Do you treat your blog like a business?