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9 Powerful Tips To Help Freelancers and Bloggers Sell Digital Products

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer and inbound marketer, Jawad Khan.

Freelancing can be a liberating career choice. The number of freelancers all over the world has increased dramatically over the last few years, with more people choosing to work on their own terms. If you’re reading this with interest, chances are that you’re a freelancer yourself or someone who’s seriously considering this career path.

But, in order to create an income safety net and truly enjoy the benefits of freelancing, you need to combine freelance client work with your own digital and information based products (eBooks, training courses, guides, tools). This can significantly reduce the pressure of finding client work all the time, which can be difficult at the beginning.

With so many great online tools and services available, creating digital products is much easier than before. But as a result of that, there are a lot of mediocre and sub-standard products floating around the web as well. To ensure that your product stands out from the crowd, you need to do things differently.

Here are 9 tips to help you create better digital products and sell them more effectively.

Note: This post assumes that you know the importance of a mailing list and already have one. If you don’t, read this awesome post on list-building.

1. Create Your Buyer Personas

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In order to create a product, you first need to identify the right target market and the people who would willingly buy your product. What are their needs and what solutions could persuade them to pay immediately? Begin with creating your buyer personas. Buyer personas are examples of the people who would, or could buy your product. It lists all the characteristics of your ideal buyer including demographic details, income bracket, interests, career level etc. Try to be specific about your buyer, it will help you create a better product. For example, for a freelance writer, the ideal buyer persona might be the owner of a small business between 30-50 years of age, with an annual marketing budget of 30 to 40 thousand dollars looking to generate new sales leads from within the USA using his website, blog and social media profiles.

2. Identify The Right Opportunity

Once you’ve developed your buyer persona, analyze the major problems and needs of your buyers. Match them with your skill set and see how you can address them. Take the same buyer persona and identify the different ways you can help this buyer achieve his goals. List down all the different possibilities and then go for the one that falls in your strongest area in terms of skill set and has comparatively less competition.

3. Create a High Quality Product

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The quality of your product will play a key role in determining its success or failure. If you want repeat customer and referral sales, your product needs to be top-notch. For this, analyze your competitors – other freelancers and agencies – offering the same solutions with their products. Find their loopholes and make sure your product doesn’t have any of them. In simple terms, a high value product is something that exceeds customer expectations with tangible solutions and gives them immediate value.

But apart from the content of your product, its packaging is equally important. It’s just like the headline of a blog post. If the headline is attractive, people read the full blog post. The same goes for packaging. For this, you can also use the services of other freelancers on websites like Elance, 99designs, Freelancer etc.

4. Price Your Product Intelligently

Pricing is another critical part of product selling. If you get it wrong, your sales numbers can be depressingly low. Pricing depends on several factors including your brand image, the size of your mailing list, the level of engagement in your online community, your social media strength, your network and, of course, the quality of your product. You would also need to see the kind of pricing strategies your competitors use.

In general, there are two options for you when it comes to pricing. You can either go for a high priced product that a few people can buy, or you can go for volume based selling and keep a relatively low price. Another option is to create multiple packages with different prices, targeting different buyer personas. In my experience, multiple packages work better than the first two models. Here’s a snapshot from the landing page of Tom Ewer’s, a freelance blogger, PaidtoBlog course.

9 powerful tips 35. Create a Memorable Buying Experience

This is where many freelancers fail to make an impact. A poor buying experience can ruin all your hard work and cause buyers to go away without making a purchase. To be more specific, buying experience refers to your sales landing page, the product selling service you’re using, the payment modes you accept, the checkout process etc. All these are critical elements of the buying process.

To create landing pages, I’d recommend using LeadPages. Before the product launch, use your landing page to create anticipation.

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After the launch, fill it with compelling content, repeated calls to action and testimonials.

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For payment processing and product selling, you can use services like E-Junkie, Shopify or Selz. I personally prefer Selz because it also helps you create high quality audio, video and image previews for your products that are as good as full-fledge landing pages. It allows you to accept payments with Master Card, Visa and PayPal, and simultaneously builds your email list by integrating auto responders like MailChimp and AWeber. It’s really a complete package for digital selling.

6. Target The Right Marketing Channels

If you develop the right buyer persona, it’ll be easy for you to identify and focus on the right marketing channels for your product. For example, if your ideal buyers are business owners, higher management professionals and corporate managers, LinkedIn publishing platform, LinkedIn groups and websites like Quora would be great places to start the promotion of your product. Similarly, with a clear identification of your target buyers, you’ll be able to identify the right blogs where your target users can be found and approach them through guest blogging. Once you’ve launched your product, marketing should continue to consume the majority of your time. Here are a few ways you should continue to promote your resource.

  • Blogging – Mention your resource regularly in all your blog posts and link back to the sales page. Before the launch, create anticipation about your product by mentioning it in your posts and on your blog. After the launch, remind people about it through relevant references within your content.
  • Guest Blogging – Identify the most relevant blogs where your potential buyers can be found. Approach these blogs with high quality guest posts and link back to your product page in the author bio.

Note: Read this to learn more about guest blogging on popular blogs

  • Networking – Use your contacts and the strength of your network to spread the word. Connect with influencers in your niche and ask them for recommendations. Triberr and LinkedIn are great places to do that.
  • Social Networks – Posting and paid promotions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest can all be very effective depending on your target market.
  • Email List – There’s nothing more effective than a healthy mailing list in helping you sell more products. Without becoming too annoying, regularly send special offers and product deals to your subscribers.

Note:Read this super post on Jon Morrow’s blog about list-building

7. Begin With a Soft Launch (with a deadline)

When it comes to the product launch, never dive into the deep waters immediately. Instead, go for a soft launch and share your product with a limited audience. You can even choose to go with a reduced version of your product initially. To further accelerate things, give your buyers a deadline after which the product you’d take the product down. The objective here is to get a feel of how your target audience responds to your product offer. The limited number of sales that you get, will tell you a lot about the weaknesses and potential improvement areas of your product.

8. Gather Data and Identify Loopholes

To take real benefit from your soft launch, make sure you have sufficient data gathering tools in place. Use live chat services like Olark on your landing page to directly get in touch with your buyers. When someone makes a purchase, send them an email or give them a call to ask about the reasons why they chose your product. Similarly, ask those who bounce back from the landing without making a purchase, about the reasons for their decision and what would they want to see in your product to change their decision. Use survey tools like Survey Monkey to run quick surveys to gather all this data. This can provide you valuable insights for your full scale launch.

9. Launch on Full Scale (with a deadline, again)

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Once you’ve made the required adjustments to your product, launch it aggressively on full scale. Announce it to all your subscribers, social media and marketing channels. However, just like the soft launch, define a deadline after which the product will be taken down again. This is a great way to accelerate your sales (Neil Patel is a big advocate of this approach). When the deadline arrives, take the product down, gather more data, identify improvement areas, make more adjustments and then launch the product again after a few months with more value.

Conclusion

Successful product selling requires adequate preparation, a quality product, aggressive marketing and timely product enhancements.  When you get this combination right, there’s no better way of boosting your income and enjoying the real essence of online money making. As a freelancer your own product would not only give you breathing space in terms of monthly income, but also build your brand image and help you attract more high paying clients.

Jawad Khan is an experienced inbound marketer and a freelance blogger. He helps small businesses, tech startups and entrepreneurs strengthen their brand image with high quality blog content. Follow him on his blog, Writing My Destiny, Google+ and Twitter.

 

Say Bye-bye to Blogger Body, and Hello to Better Health

This guest post is by Tania Dakka of TaniaDakka.com.

Awesome! You just finished that killer project you’ve been working so hard on all day! Congratulations!

But then you get up.

Ouch.

Your back’s killing you. Your body’s stiff. And you feel the pangs of a headache kicking in. That puffed chest is starting to deflate a little, isn’t it?

That’s Blogger Body.

Not managing the Achievement Addict disease that causes Blogger Body will eventually affect your production levels and quality. You’re wired to push yourself, so you push hard. Harder than you would push anyone else, because you think that’s the only way you can achieve your best.

That thinking isn’t flawed—it just needs a little tweaking.

You’re not alone

As bloggers, we love to get things done. We’re experts at hyper-focusing. And it feels good—really good—when we write master content we know rocks our readers’ worlds—even if it means hours on hours in the chair bent over our keyboards, drinking pots of coffee, and eating whatever we can get our hands on.

But, you’re bound to hit the wall sooner or later. The aching in your back that’s screaming louder than your three-year-old will become a relentless signal that can’t be ignored.

You have to take care of yourself—or your content will suffer.

You can do it

You can take breaks, and take care of yourself, and still produce great content—as a matter of fact, you’ll actually produce more of it! (Hey, look at that! A way to make more and greater stuff! Didn’t you just get goosebumps?)

Don’t think, “I can’t stop until I’ve finished.” Think, “These breaks are going to make this piece rock!”

A healthy body is your foundation for a clear and powerful mind that produces and creates. Here’s the deal. If you want them to give you more, you’ve got to give them more.

And with the right foods and an easy workout plan, you’ll be the unstoppable blogger you’ve always strived to be, writing posts that everyone wants to read.

5 Steps to your a better body and blog

1. Get back to nature

The optimal diet for a blogger’s brain/body boost is one rich in natural foods. What’s on the blogger’s “Yes” Foods List? Anything from the ground, or that has a mama—or any combo thereof.

Action: Start by adding in whole foods to each meal. The more you add, the less room you’ll have for “No” Foods.

2. Hydrate often

Waiting until you’re thirsty means your brain is already suffering. And, bloggers, what can a dry brain do for you? The rule used to be eight 8oz glasses of water a day, but it’s not enough. Guys: You need 13 cups a day. And girls: You need at least nine.

Action: Put a rubber band around your glass every time you finish a glass of water, to keep track of how much you’ve had to drink (um, this only works if you use the same glass all day). Strive to collect between nine and 13 rubber bands before bed.

3. Limit focus time to an hour and a half

Sitting for hours with no break leaves your eye glassy and thoughts befuddled. The maximum chunk of time you should lend to a project is an hour and a half. Then, take a five- to 15-minute break. You’ll refresh your mind and reinvigorate your drive.

Action: Set your timer and force yourself up when it goes off. If you’re worried about losing focus, write down your thoughts at the time of the bell and come back after step 4 to pick up exactly where you left off. This downloadable worksheet should help.

4. Work out

Yes, I said it. Don’t roll your eyes at me. It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to be done.

Action: When the timer rings, stand up and do ten to 15 Burpees. They’re a great whole-body move that, when done right, will pick up that heart rate. But if you find them too difficult, do the easier versions of the pushups for a while. When you can do the 15 of them (with correct form) in under two minutes, switch the challenge up and do three minutes of them at the end of each focus session.

Proper Burpee execution: From a standing position, drop into a push up position (don’t let your midsection droop when you go down—keep your back straight). Then, do your pushup and spring back to a standing position. End it with a jump with your hands raised overhead. Then, drop back into your next Burpee. Here’s a great video by Zuzana Light to show you visual learners how to Burpee the right way:

5. Sleep

This is so hard when you’re gears are turning 24/7 about your next big post, but without rest, you won’t power up so you can push through your blogging and your blog training. Spend five minutes doing a proper wind down before trying to sleep. Meditation or focused breathing are great relaxers for a blogger’s ever-running mind.

Action: Lying on your back in bed, close your eyes and take long, deep breaths. Inhale for a count of four and hold for four counts. Exhale for four counts. Do this until you feel the last of the stress of the day exhale with your breath. Then, let your mind drift off to dream.

Use these five steps to prime your body and mind to create the content your readers beg for and will want to share.

If you can’t do Burpees, what other exercise would you replace them with to get your heart pumping on your break?

Tania Dakka, Fit Freelancer, is dedicated to providing clients with copy that converts and writers the tools they need to survive (and even thrive) where life, fitness, and productivity collide. Sign up and get the help you need at TaniaDakka.com.

Behold the Expertise of the ProBlogger Community – 95 Reader Tips

Building-A-Better-Blog-2It’s day 13 in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Project and this morning I woke up to four emails from readers reporting enjoying different aspects of the month’s activities.

  • The first had recruited 12 friends to do the project with them
  • The second told me about how they’d seen their new blog’s readership triple this month already by following the daily tips
  • The third told me how he’d had his biggest traffic day through the traffic from the last batch of reader submitted tips
  • The fourth told me that he’d added 20 new blogs to his feed reader after finding them from the reader tips in the first couple of batches of submissions.

I’m glad to hear people are enjoying the project so far.

Today’s batch of reader submitted tips total 95 in number which takes the total number of submissions to 246. Once again there is some quality reading in this lot. I’m still only about halfway through them but have really enjoyed the breadth of topics covered and the expertise in the wider community.

To Participate – to submit a link to be included in the next batch follow the instructions in the introductory post to the 31 Day Project

See the Full List - to see the 13 daily challenges written so far and the full 246 reader submissions see our 31 Day Project Main Page

Here’s the latest batch of reader tips! (warning – you might want to grab a coffee and make yourself comfortable before attempting to read it all!):

Beginner Week – Katie180′s success story

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The name “Katie 180” was gaining traction in Australian blogging circles before Katie Rainbird’s site was even launched. Two short months after she first pressed “publish”, Eden Riley, one of Australia’s best bloggers, pointed her out in the crowd of a Digital Parents conference. “If you want to know how to start a blog,” she said, “just go and read Katie180”. This caught the attention of one Darren Rowse in the audience, who quickly secured her to speak at his own conference later that year.

So how did someone who had only a handful of posts to her name get the attention of the Aussie big guns – something we all would have loved in our early days?

Well, let’s find out.

The Beginning

With a long-held dream of writing, Katie believed she could seamlessly marry her newfound nutrition knowledge with her love of prose. Eschewing the more traditional route of diet advice private practice, Katie took to the internet with her smarts and a burning ambition: Write. Be seen.

“Whilst studying nutrition I started planning to take my knowledge and put it to paper, so to speak,” she says. “Originally I thought about freelancing, but once I discovered blogging it was a real ‘ah-ha’ moment for me and I just KNEW that was the way for me to go!”

Without wanting to rush into things, Katie ensured her site was properly designed and she was finished her studies before launching. A far cry from some of us who blog first and ask questions later!

“Well I didn’t really wait long when you consider that I only decided upon blogging in my final year of college (two years ago),” she says. “I wanted to be qualified before I started blogging about nutrition, and I wanted it to be perfect – ha! But I set my mind to a New Year launch, and even though my blog design wasn’t up to my perfect standards, I hit publish on my first post on January 10th, 2013.

With all that time to tinker before birthing her blog baby, she did a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation. A list that looks a little something like this:

  • Firstly I applied to a call out for guest bloggers on an American based raw food blog, which was accepted and I posted for them with strict deadlines, word counts and of course, content – although I was a nutritionist I wasn’t a raw foodie so it tested my skills.
  • I attended writing and blogging courses held at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
  • I “collected” other nutrition or healthy/foodie types of blogs (even those I didn’t really like or align with) to get a feel for what was going on in this genre and I would take note of which posts received the most commentary or interaction.
  • I tested the waters with a Facebook group on my personal Facebook page, which was also called Katie180 and I would post there a couple of times a week: recipes, photos of food, summaries of nutrient actions and fast facts kind of stuff. It was quite well received and gave me a lot of confidence that so too would my real blog once I started it. It also provided me with an audience ready to follow me over.
  • I also did this with Instagram, I built up a following and a fair few people asked after my blog before it was even launched so I knew that I’d have readers there too.
  • I outsourced my blog design to a professional team and spent many months working with them on my logo, header, colour scheme, format etc.
  • Once I was blogging I quickly joined Twitter and set up a professional Facebook page and I’d plug every post across these two platforms plus my original Katie180 Facebook group and Instagram (even though that’s a bit cheeky but I wanted to catch readers any way I could!)

But with all that preparation and forward-thinking, Katie was still plagued with the concerns that any new blogger has: that no-one would read her blog. “That I’d put all this effort in and it would just be sitting there, sad and alone!” she says.

As usually happens, the excitement of starting a blog soon overshadowed those early-days concerns. Katie says it was a relief to have her voice heard, as was “breaking with convention insofar as my study path was concerned, not going into practice, not waiting around for people to come and find me, rather putting myself out there loud and proud!”

Before the Blog: What did she learn?

“The most important things I learned were from other bloggers (just from reading their blogs): to write in my own voice – be authentic, brave and passionate. To connect – respond, reply, interact across social media because that makes readers feel important and promotes loyal readership (and word of mouth.) To blog regularly – keep in their faces, keep relevant, be out there!”

Early Days: what did she learn?

“The number-one thing I learned was that it takes SO much more time than you think,” she says. “Imagine being asked at 5pm to submit an essay by 9am the next day – one that would entertain and inspire people and if possible include artistically styled photographs and full references to all sources of information. That’s kind of what writing my blog feels like considering I have young children and most of my writing is done after hours.

“Then there’s recipe sourcing, tweaking or inventing plus All the cooking, photographing etc.

And now?

“I work on my blog every day, even the days I don’t post – I’m replying to comments, emails and connecting via Facebook and Instagram,” she says.

“Another important point is that my target audience changed from who I imagined them to be to who they actually are and I began to write for them rather than bang my head on my desk wondering why my posts weren’t being received the way I wanted them to (the heavier reading/educational posts.) I don’t see this as a bad move because I have more readers now and, as such a bigger audience for when I do choose to publish longer articles.”

The basics: Design, Hosting, Content, oh my!

With an overwhelming amount of advice out there on how to get started, Katie cherry-picked the pieces that would work for her pie.

“I had read a number of blogs with posts focused on ‘What I learned this year’, or ‘How to start a blog’, and so on, and I knew that WordPress was preferred,” she said. “I wanted to give my money to an Australian company so I typed “blog design Australia” into Google and found The Blog Designers (clever name guys!) who were very friendly at my first phone call and had a set price of $500 for the entire job so that was that!” (theblogdesigners.com)

“I bought a domain name, I couldn’t get a .com so I went with .au. The team at The Blog Designers recommended a host so all of that techie/design stuff wasn’t in my hands, which took a major load off because that ‘aint my bag!

“My husband and I set up a company, Rainbird Media because he works for himself and via my blog I hope to also, so all these kind of costs can be factored in as expenses.

The next step: being seen

Blogging is never ‘build it and they will come’, more ‘get out there and be a part of the blogosphere’. How did Katie manage that in her early days? “Follow, ‘like’, comment, share, recommend, email directly, stalk – ha ha! It’s no different than how you connect offline,” she says. “You start hanging around and then you make small talk and if you hit it off then you have new friends.”

Looking back – what worked, what didn’t?

Hindsight is super-useful, and it’s no different with blogging. Looking back, Katie says the things she learned that she would do differently this time was to: “Write three months worth of posts and keep them in my drafts folder for rainy days. Do much more planning, recipe testing and photographing in advance. Learn about how to use WordPress, my camera and all the other gadgety bits that make blogs sexier for readers.”

Katie’s Top Takeaways for newbie bloggers

1. Know your specialty, you won’t be able to write with oomph unless you personally dig it.

2. Pay attention to formatting and punctuation. Take a writing course if you can afford to.

3. Hang out at other blogs, get a feel for how you’d like your blog to function and look like. Whilst you’re at it, make friends with the bloggers and regular readers/commentors because these are your people now!

4. Outsource design and tech support if you can afford it.

5. Allow time for it, because it’s going to take time, even if it’s “just” a hobby blog. But if your plans are to use it as a platform to earn money then treat it with the same respect you would an internship at the best job you could ever imagine!

You can read Katie at her blog Katie180 (including her post on how she started blogging), join her (very supportive and informative!) Facebook page here, tweet her here, or follow in Instagram here.

*We are also offering 50% off the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging for this week only! Enter the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout.

Mastering the Art of Slow Blogging

This guest post is by Kelly Kingman of Kelly Kingman Media.

Several years ago, I hired a personal trainer and we’d work out in the park near my apartment. One day she had me run the loop around the park and noticed that I had difficulty keeping a consistent pace, I would stop and start a lot. She suggested that I run slowly (which she claimed was smoother than jogging—running experts, feel free to debate). The result was that instead of being either in a short-lived sprint or an exhausted, limping jog, I could sustain a smooth, slow running pace by dialing down my intensity.

How many people start a blog and then quit after two months?

When you take off blogging at a sprint, posting daily or even three times per week, your idea generating and writing muscles can cramp up pretty quickly. Over the past three years, I found that not only do I prefer to post irregularly—I average about every two weeks—it keeps me from burning out. I’ve even taken a month off from time to time. For example, I took November off to complete a content-creation challenge. I haven’t posted in weeks because my new website isn’t ready yet. (Stop gasping in horror.)

Fast blogging can lead to “content inflation”

Economic inflation causes our currency to be worth less. Content inflation is what happens when your content decreases in value—you have more of it, but it’s not that powerful or interesting. When we’re so obsessed with posting frequently, we risk churning out less than exciting stuff, and this can water down our brand.

My blog exists primarily to support my claim that I write well, know what I’m talking about and have interesting ideas to add to the conversation. I don’t want to fill my blog so full of content-for-content’s-sake that it’s hard to find the good stuff. Plus, most of us are better writers when we are expressing something we feel strongly about or just had a flash of insight, and that doesn’t happen every day.

Spend your energy wisely

Less-than-great posts aren’t the only possible side effect of forcing yourself to blog all the time, you could be sabotaging your other efforts. Are you spending all of your energy blogging to the point you have nothing left over for other creative content? Are you lagging on client work because you’re blog must be fed? If you spend some time thinking about your business goals, it may make sense for you to slow down or take some time off and write that ebook or give your newsletter a little more love. The world will still be here, so will your subscribers.

I spent most of December creating pre-launch content for a new course that I am launching this month (about, surprisingly, how to build your online business without killing yourself). I am taking my sweet time to create a great opt-in offer for my new site, and in the meantime I want to keep my email list engaged by sending a newsletter two times per month. This all takes work in addition to working with clients, and I’m only human. While I actually do love blogging, I try to keep it as a piece of the bigger picture.

Create a web, not a stream

Much is made of creating a steady stream of traffic to your blog, but in order to practice slow blogging you’ll want to create a web of presence. If your blog is the only place you’re consistently showing up online, then as soon as you take some time off you’re essentially invisible. I’m not just talking about social media, but about an email list, a network of affiliates, maybe a Facebook page and guest posting opportunities. Diversifying the places where you connect with your target audience online will reduce the pressure to constantly be updating your blog.

Is blogging your business model or your marketing?

There’s an important distinction to make here, and that is one of business model. The reason I can blog at a casual pace is because I don’t base my business on volume of traffic. Income that is generated directly from my blogging, in the form of product sales or affiliate commissions, is far less than the income I receive from working for clients or from my own products (for which others are affiliates).

I couldn’t even tell you how many people visit my blog on a regular basis, I never check. I focus my energy on making connections with people on social media platforms and converting visitors to email subscribers. Content is key, of course, but I make sure it gets to people on my email list first, and then the blog. When you’re small (and even after you get big) having a healthy email list—one that’s fed a steady diet of good content—is critical. There are always exceptions to any rule, but for the majority of Internet-based businesses, this is true.

Blogging is a marathon

If the tortoise and the hare taught us anything, it’s that good things come from a sustained, if slower, effort. In the end, blogging once every two weeks but keeping it up for three years will give you about the same total number of posts as posting daily for two months, but the cumulative impact is likely to be much greater.

The good news is that there’s no such thing as a perfect frequency for blogging. The bad news is that sometimes without a schedule, you might not find the time to post at all. The key with blogging, as with just about everything, is finding the balance that works for you. If you find that having a set schedule can actually help you stretch your imagination and come up with good ideas, by all means go for it. But if you find you dread blogging because you “have to,” it might be time to try your hand at the art of slow blogging. Your blog, and your readers, will thank you.

Kelly Kingman is a content strategist and visionary who will blog sometime soon at her new site, but don’t hold your breath. In the meantime, she’s just explained and mapped, online business models that work despite a lack of traffic, for a new course she’s co-teaching called the Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur.

My 3-Step System for Finding Guest Post Opportunities

This guest post is by Jocelyn Ann.

Tired of haphazardly, randomly struggling to find guest blogging opportunities? Or finding yourself stressed to the max because you’re unable to locate your next guest-post goal for the month?

You’re not alone. Most bloggers don’t know where or how to search properly, and if they’re trying to search at all, generally end up with dead-end leads.

Developing a systematic method that you can implement to ensure a never-ending supply of opportunities is your best option. The three techniques I’ve listed below will help eliminate your random searches, cut down on wasted time, and leave you with a renewable contact list for finding the right guest blogging opportunity every time.

1. Know your Google search strings

People

Image used with permission

Google can provide you with the best of results … or the worst of results. It’s only as good as the search terms you feed it. What you get, and what that means, is all tied up in your combination of search terms. Knowing what words with what words provide the results you want is a unique formula you’ll have to figure out for yourself.

Let’s say your blog is about baking, and that’s your keyword to target for a link. Here are some search queries you could start off with:

  • baking AND guest post (will provide you with sites where other people were able to get a guest post who were also promoting baking; you know the site allows guest writers)
  • baker AND guest post (will provide you with posts attributed to authors who are most likely bakers themselves)
  • baking AND guest author (same)
  • baking | bake | dessert | pastry | pie | etc. AND guest author (try every form of dessert and every variation of bake)
  • baking AND write for us (will provide you with cooking sites actively seeking out guest writers; it should be very easy to get these)
  • baking AND submit (should return more baking sites who want guest writers; again, should be easy to land these spots).

2. Start a blogger shadow list

Every time a blogger turns up who’s doing the same thing you are, enter them into a spreadsheet. Enter in their name (Lucille Ball), the keyword anchor text they used (comedy tv) and who they listed as their employer, if any (TBN).

As your list grows, you can start to group the bloggers into various categories that might help you later, depending on what you want to write:

  • related-content writers
  • unrelated-content writers
  • writers on high-PR sites
  • writers on low-PR sites but lots of them
  • writers who are representing a product for sale (these are harder to get; fewer
    sites want to link out to commercial products or sites)
  • writers who are representing their own blog (you can likely find these by the dozen)
  • writers writing about everything (a sure sign they’re marketing for a company; it’s good to follow them, as they’ll lead you to a variety of blogs guaranteed to post pitch bylines)

When you have a list, all you have to do is run a search query for any one of the following keyword combination types:

  • Lucille Ball AND guest post
  • Lucille Ball AND guest author
  • Lucille Ball AND comedy TV
  • Lucille Ball AND TBN (in case she has other anchor text, like “romantic TV” or “red
    hair dye” that you don’t already know about)
  • Lucille Ball AND comedy TV AND TBN.

3. Generic, anything-goes post outlets

When you’re just starting out, it may not matter all that much whether you can get guest spots on baking-specific sites. It will probably just matter that you can start writing for someone, anyone, in order to build up a portfolio.

If that’s you, you can get by with generic writings and searches.

Run a Google search on “write for us” and “submit content” and “contribute.” You’ll get a list of generic sites willing to accept your writing. Who knows what the content will be? You’ll just have to do a little research and make it work for you.

Check out myblogguest.com. Once you create a profile, you can browse the forum boards to find all kinds of people who want content. From here, you just have to email them and submit your posts.

Use Twitter hashtags like #contentavailable, #guestauthor, and so on. Let people know you’re willing to write anything and, chances are, they’ll take you up on it.

Making it work for you

As you go along, you’ll likely discover new searches and new ways of finding guest blogging opportunities. Pick and choose those that work best for you to really make this idea work for your blog.

You may detest writing content about topics you know nothing about, or you may love getting to learn and write about that which you previously knew nothing about. Have some fun with it, and enjoy watching that portfolio grow!

How do you find guest post opportunities? Share your ideas and tips in the comments.

Freelancer Jocelyn is dedicated to helping families live healthier, happier lives. At the moment you’ll find her writing alongside Air & Water, a company that loves to help families find the best heater for the elderly in their lives.

How to Build a Thriving Blog by Being Yourself

This guest post is by Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur.

When you first start blogging it can be difficult to find your real voice. It can also be unnerving to put yourself out there and say what you really think. Like many blogger,s you probably try to be appropriate, politically correct, and inoffensive in your blog posts.

Well, let me tell you that if you want to be just like everyone else, that’s a guaranteed approach to get you there.

personal blogging needs you

Image is author's own

Of course though, you don’t. You don’t want to be like everyone else because you are unique. You have important things to say and you need to say them in a way that’s true to who you are.

If you want a thriving blog, one where your adoring fans come back time and time again, and hang off your every word, you need to be you.

Unabashedly, shamelessly, wonderfully, completely transparently, totally, authentically you.

Why?

People relate to people. They’ll relate to a real human being, telling their story, living their life, and sharing it in a creative, amusing, entertaining, and truthful way. That way, they get to come along on the journey.

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” —Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was a smart man, and he knew what he was talking about when he said this. The biggest failure I see among bloggers is trying to fit in. I’ve been guilty of it myself. You get caught up in reading other people’s blogs and trying to emulate what they’re doing, and as a result you end up with a mix of nothing spectacular at all.

In order to be yourself you have to take risks, to accept that you are not perfect, and to be courageous enough to say what you really think. People will love you for it. It takes a huge amount of bravery to be original instead of a pointless replication of someone else.

“Be who you are, and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”—Dr. Seuss

I personally have seen the most success when I’ve written from my heart. My community resonates most with me when I tell them how I screwed up, that I was scared, that I didn’t achieve something I set out to do.

It makes me more human. It shows my vulnerability and people get that. They want that. They buy into your mission and your vision, and want to follow your steps and see you succeed.

I’m not talking about writing a revealing post about your recent trip to the hospital or penning a long relationship saga. I’m talking about revealing just enough to build loyalty, respect, and admiration among your followers for baring yourself, admitting your hard-fought battles and costly mistakes.

Follow that up with the lessons you learned, pass on your new-found wisdom to your readers, and you’re on a sure path to blogging success.

Authenticity + creativity + massive value + key takeaways = a thriving blog

My winning equation above has taken me a long time to solve. I don’t always get it right (see vulnerability and truthfulness in action right here), however, I do look to solve a problem every time I write and this equation helps immensely in keeping me focused. I also aim to be engaging, genuine, and grateful.

Here are some examples of bloggers who I believe have a truly unique voice and use it extremely well to create a community of raving fans unique to their personality and writing style. Warning: Some of these people may offend with their use of swear words or abstract opinions. But for me, tt’s all part of their charm and what sets them apart.

With a blog named The Middle Finger Project you already know that Ashley Ambirge is going to deliver up some serious attitude and in-your-face content. That’s what’s so refreshing about her candid, quick-witted posts about leaving corporate America behind to do your own thang!

“Become known for something–rather than trying to become known for everything. Because frankly, that’s impossible.”—Ashely Ambirge

John Falchetto appears to have a wonderful life, living in the French countryside and coaching expats on how to become immensely successful in business even if they feel isolated living a world away from home. The thing is he genuinely understands their problems and challenges and writes compelling content on his blog Expat Life Coach that speaks to the heart of those who read it and need it.

“When I first started out in business in 2003, I was foolish. Although I had quit my corporate job in PR and I am all for quitting when things really don’t go your way, looking back I would have done it differently.”—John Falchetto

Kent Healy is a creative thinker who is always questioning why things are as they are in the world and challenging you to do the same. He blogs about unconventional ways of thinking, acting and living and makes you focus on what matters on The Uncommon Life.

“There is immense value in being able to think and act independently in a world of conformity and convention – in fact, all innovation and novelty depend on it. It can be challenging to free ourselves from the explicit and implicit forces that keep our brain in the box, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”—Kent Healy

Emergent by Design is the brain child of futurist Venessa Miemis who has an entirely unique take on the intersection of technology, communication, and culture, and attracts intellectuals, academics, and big-picture thinkers to her blog and with them a wide array of opposing comments.

“Then I started poking around in Twitter and wondering if it’s a complex adaptive system and if it might actually grow to become a global human consciousness, of sorts. Lately I’ve been looking at how design thinking can be used to better understand human behavior and facilitate innovation.”—Venessa Miemis

I could not leave out my idol, Seth Godin, who really needs no introduction. On his self-titled blog Seth has the uncanny ability to write the shortest blog posts with the most substance I’ve ever witnessed. His straight-up, insightful, brilliantly worded daily posts draw thousands of views and shares because he creates art and then ships it, and inspires you to do the same.

“What I am writing about is the ability of each of us, without authority or permission, to do work that matters, to have an impact and to create a place for ourselves in a society that’s brainwashed us into doing something that’s an easily replaced commodity. A big part of that is acting like an artist. Being personal, making change, communicating a vision.”—Seth Godin

What makes you unique?

While it’s not for me to tell you what your “special sauce” is, you do need to find it and then cook up a fantastic recipe that allows you to create mouth watering content for your blog that readers devour.

If you’re nervous to hit Publish on a post that you’ve really put a lot of thought into and that reveals a little bit more of you than normal, then congratulations. That’s a great sign. It shows you’re developing your USP—Unique Special Proposition.

When you get clear on what that is, you’ll see how imperative it is to making you stand out. You’ll also witness your blog community react strongly by sharing your content across the social media sphere and commenting like crazy. Then you really know you’re doing the right thing—you are in fact being yourself.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and others who know you to develop your USP:

  1. What are you better at than anyone else?
  2. What do you enjoy doing the most?
  3. What do (or could) you provide that no one else is providing?
  4. What annoys people the most about your industry or blog area?
  5. What is remarkable about you?
  6. Do you have an unusual combination of elements?
  7. Do you have a big personality?

Now write your USP statement. Take action. You can look to this as the reminder of what makes you distinctive and unique by following this format:

I am unique and different because I provide [USP] which no one else in my field provides. No one else can or will provide this because [insert reason].

Put yourself into the equation

I talked about my winning formula above. Now it’s time for you to write your own. So how do you go about sharing your new-found USP on your blog straight away?

Get personal

There’s nothing like sharing a personal experience you’ve had and relating it to the topic of your blog. If you write on health and fitness, for example, then talking about your own journey of going vegan or training for a marathon will be much more inspiring then simple how-to tips. Break this out into a series on how you achieved the results you did and you have a reason for people to come back to your blog.

Listen to your instincts

If you believe strongly about a topic related to your blog, but you’ve been nervous about sharing it with the world, then there’s a good chance other people will find your personal stance interesting. Strong opinions always illicit a response—good or bad. The point is you want to get people talking, and you want them to engage, to think critically, and to respond because they care.

Get trendy

One of the best ways to show your USP is to take a current popular topic and put your spin on it. Justin Bieber may not be of interest to you, but is there something that particularly irritates or fascinates you about his meteoric rise into music stardom? Is there a post you can write that takes a lesson from his story that other people just aren’t seeing?

“If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just.”—Anita Roddick

Natalie Sisson is a Suitcase Entrepreneur and Adventurer who shares creative ways to run your business from anywhere in the world. She is passionate about using online tools, social media and outsourcing to create more freedom in business and adventure in life.

Why You Should Charge Money to Review Guest Post Submissions

This guest post is by Darya Pino, Ph.D of Summer Tomato.

Three months ago I started charging $10 to consider guest blog post submissions, and it changed my life. Not only did it clear out many of the most annoying emails in my inbox, it elevated the quality of posts I receive and reduced the time I spend editing them to levels I would never have dreamed possible.

When your blog reaches a certain size and level of popularity, you can expect to receive regular pitches from other bloggers, product people, book writers, and all sorts of random folks looking to contribute to your site in exchange for links back to theirs. Guest posts are a wonderful way for up-and-coming writers (or products) to get exposure, and for experienced bloggers to publish more diverse content.

The problem

But the problem is that everyone is playing the same game, and there are many more small blogs than there are successful ones. Another problem is that successful blogs get popular because they put out consistent, high-quality content, so anything contributed by a guest writer needs to meet those standards—otherwise, you’ll lose you audience. That puts pressure on the blog owner to be a fierce editor, which often results in more negative conversations than positive ones.

Tired of spending hours every week explaining to mediocre writers why my site isn’t a platform for selling lame calorie counting apps, or that “7 Vegetables You Should Know About” isn’t an interesting headline, I knew I needed to change my workflow.

I considered hiring an editor/assistant, but not being a big media blog, I couldn’t fit it in my budget. I also considered paying for higher quality writing—I write for several blogs that pay me for my work—but I didn’t want to encourage people to send even more pitches. I just wanted the pitches I do get to be better. So I nixed these options.

The solution

Finally I settled on requiring a $10 minimum donation to my Charity Water campaign to even consider a guest post. The donation does not guarantee the post will be published—it only guarantees I will read and consider it. I chose a charitable donation rather than a for-profit charge because I didn’t want to make it seem like I was charging for links or taking advantage of writers. The only purpose of the donation is to save me time and make sure that anyone who sends a pitch is a serious writer willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Charity Water has a fantastic online system that makes donations easy to track. I added my donation requirement to the top of my Guest Posting Guidelines (the most likely landing page for someone wanting to submit a guest post). I also created a canned response in Gmail explaining my policy, which I can easily send to anyone inquiring about guest posts.

The results

The results were staggering. Email pitches instantly dropped in number dramatically. The amount of pitches I receive from self-promotional link seekers (the ones I always reject) fell from about 90% of pitches to about 20%, and none have opted to donate and have their post considered. Most importantly, the few who have taken me up on my offer have written fantastic posts that I was happy to edit for clarity and publish at Summer Tomato.

Even more amazing has been the responses to my new system. The self-promoters almost never respond to my canned response (win). The less experienced writers apologize for their inability to donate and leave me to my business (double win: these guys require the most back and forth emails and editing). And most remarkable of all, the ones who have stepped up and contributed have been overwhelmingly positive about my guidelines, saying things like “it looks like a great charity, I would have happily donated anyway” or “all sites should require this” (Charlie Sheen-style #winning).

The reality is good writers know when they have something valuable to contribute and have no problem stepping up to the plate. Weaker writers (the ones who send you drafts with ten exclamation points peppered throughout) know when they’re reaching out of their league, and risk-aversion prevents them from moving ahead with the submission.

Be careful, though: required donations are not for every blog. If you aren’t currently spending a lot of time responding to pitches or editing guest posts, charging isn’t necessary. Also, new bloggers can benefit from accepting guest posts and going through the experience of editing them. Know your audience before making any big changes to your blog policies.

All that being said, I don’t charge everyone who contributes to my site. If I invite someone to submit a post because I think they have something interesting to share, then the donation isn’t necessary. Likewise, I do not charge people for sharing their success stories or their farmers’ market updates (this is a weekly segment on my blog), because I don’t have the same problems with quality and insincerity that I get from raw pitches.

Required donations are an excellent deterrent to self-promoters seeking links from high-profile sites. They also save you tons of time by raising the quality and reducing the number of the pitches you have to read. Best of all, it feels great knowing all that time you saved helped build a well and give hundreds of people access to clean water.

Would you consider charging a fee for guest posts on your blog? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Darya is a scientist turned food blogger who shares healthy eating tips for food lovers at Summer Tomato. She is also a contributing writer at The Huffington Post, KQED Science, Edible SF and SF Weekly. Follow here on Twitter @summertomato.

How To Get Past The Blank Page By Creating Urgency

In this post Roman from How this Website Makes Money shares some suggestions on how to create urgency to get past bloggers block.

Sunday morning.  You have everything ready.  Hot coffee on your right side, a crisp bagel on your left, computer on and ready.
 
You have the whole day to write.  All week the post has been forming in your head and now all you have to do is write it down.  Word processor opens, fingers posed over keyboard.  Go.
 
A few minutes pass and nothing happens.  The page remains blank.  The post that was so clear in your head becomes fuzzy.  What is the point of it again?  How was it going to start?
 
Ten minutes have passed and the word processor is gone – you are now doing your online banking.  Then you check the news, read an email from grandmother, and finally you scan your favourite blog for tips on how to write good posts.
 
Half the day gone and you have not started to write. 
 
The blank page is a major stumbling block for most writers.  Including me.    And the worst part is I know that if I just start writing and fill the page with words then my writing will begin roll.  It is just a matter of getting past the blank page and writing the first few paragraphs.
 
Over the last couple years I have come up with some techniques to get past the blank page.  The techniques work on the principle of creating urgency.  Not an illusionary sense of urgency – real urgency.  I create a situation in which I need to get words on the page or else something bad happens.
 
Here are a few suggests that you can use to create urgency and force yourself past the blank page.  
 

Hold It In Just A Little Bit Longer

The worst thing that can happen when you are writing and on a roll is to be interrupted by bodily needs.  Your rhythm and train of thought can be lost by the ritual – walk, do, flush, wash, sit.  To avoid this you usually go to the bathroom before you start writing.  But if you want to conquer the blank page  this is a mistake.
 
To create urgency drink two large glasses of water.  Wait a half hour or until you feel a slight tinge in the bladder.  Sit down at your computer and promise yourself that you will not go to the bathroom until you have written at least one page. 
 
At first you will stare at the blank page, but as soon as the tinge turns into a pinch you will start writing.  And as more time passes you will write faster and faster.  This method creates a direct relationship between time and urgency – the more time that passes the greater the urgency. 
 
With this method you won’t be doing your best writing, but that is not the point.  The point is to get past the blank page.  A bloated bladder will force you to write.  After you return relieved you can peacefully recheck your work and continue writing.
 

The Evil Eye At The Mom and Pops Coffee Shop

It has been said that J.K Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter at Starbucks.  Not hard to believe – at Starbucks you see lots of people with their laptops.  Starbucks provides a nice cozy place to write away from the distractions of home.  The atmosphere is pleasant and the employees think nothing if you spend half a day there sipping a Short no sugar, no cream, coffee of the day.
 
But that is also the problem with Starbucks – no urgency. Nobody cares if you sit there all afternoon staring at a blank screen.
 
You need to go to a small mom and pops coffee shop, preferably while the owner is working behind the counter.  Order a coffee and sit down at one of the three tables in the shop.  Open your laptop and promise yourself to write one page before you leave.
 
Bringing out your laptop you will receive your first sour look from the owner.  The owner does not like you.  For her the faster a customer drinks their coffee and leaves the better – people who occupy a table for hours sipping a single coffee are bad for business. 
 
After half an hour you will begin to feel the evil eye – this is good.  Hopefully all the other tables are occupied and people are forced to hover around with no place to site.  At this point the owner will detest you.  At any time she might come to your table and ask you to leave – a confrontation you desperately want to avoid.
 
In this situation is it impossible to obliviously sit motionless in front of your laptop.  This is urgency creation at its finest.  You will be writing like mad to get the hell out of there.
 

First Thing In The Morning

When somebody says they will do something ‘the first thing in morning’ they are lying.  Morning begins when you open your eyes.  The first thing you do is get out of bed, go to the bathroom, have a shower, coffee and get dressed.  It is after all these things are done that you begin to do the ‘first thing in the morning’ tasks.
 
If you want to get past the blank page then do not lie about ‘first thing in the morning’.  Do your writing  first thing in the morning.  Open your eyes and go directly to the computer.  Regardless if you are in the nude or sporting a nightcap, go directly to the computer.
 
You are not in your best form – your brain is still sleeping.  But with little crust chunks in your eyes and the taste of plaque on your teeth you will be typing away so that you can do all the second thing in the morning stuff.
 

Smoking Can Cause Writing

If you have an addiction you are in luck.  Addictions make it easy to create urgency.  Smoking is a great example.
 
Lets say you are sitting at home watching TV.  The urge comes – you want a cigarette.  You could simply light one up and fill your blood with nicotine, but why throw away this great writing opportunity.  Instead of lighting the cigarette, sit down at the computer and place the cigarette in front of you.  Promise yourself that you will not light it until you have written a page.
 
People who are otherwise rational and respectable will stand in the freezing cold behind a dumpster for a cigarette.  Addictions are powerful, you need to harness that power to get past the blank page.  Your body will be begging you to light that cigarette.  Tell your body – yes you can have it as soon as I finish writing a page.  Every cell in your body will be helping you write that page.  Like an old teletype machine,  words will start to appear on the screen.
 
Don’t smoke?  No problem, I am sure you have some other addiction.  Use its power to create the urgency you need to fight the blank page.
 

Create Your Own Urgency

These are just some techniques you can use to create urgency.  Besides situations you can create yourself there are also those that come unexpectedly.  You need to learn to spot them and take advantage.
 
A good example is the method I used to start writing this post.  A few weeks ago I woke up with the flu, sore throat, fever, and runny nose – I felt like crap.  All I wanted was to have hot tea and lay wrapped up in my bed covers  mumbling incoherently.
 
Although I was far from being mentally healthy, I did not miss this rare opportunity to create urgency and triumph over a blank page.  I wrapped a blanket around myself and sat down at the computer.  “I promise to write at least one page before I lay down, put a bag of ice on my head, and drink my tea.”