44% of Bloggers Sell a Product or Service Of Their Own From Their Blog

The last poll here on ProBlogger examined a growing trend among bloggers trying to monetize their sites – to sell their own products from their blogs rather than just relying upon advertising and affiliate revenue.

Whether it be by selling an E-Book, training program or some other kind of learning program or whether it is selling one self as a consultant or promoting a product from a business that the blogger owns – more and more bloggers do seem to be exploring this as a way to make money.

The poll results were as follows:


I’ve not run this poll previously so have nothing to compare it to – however my gut feeling on this one is that if conducted even just a year ago the percentages would have been further apart. I suspect in the year ahead we’ll see them grow even closer.

Out of interest I thought I’d compile a list of the types of products and services that people said that they sell in the comments of the poll post. You can see that there’s a lot of variation (it’s actually a really inspiring list to me that illustrates a little of what can be done with a blog!

  • Design work
  • Web/Plugin Development
  • Membership Site
  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • E-Books
  • Reports
  • Legal Services
  • Book (hard cover)
  • Software
  • Speaking/Training Services
  • Music Lessons
  • Copy Writing Services
  • SEO services
  • Tutoring
  • Screencast/Video Content
  • Scrapbook Supplies
  • Sewing Patterns
  • Photographic Prints
  • Excel Templates
  • Music/CD
  • Craft
  • Flowers/Florist
  • Bag Patterns
  • Marketing Services
  • Skincare products
  • Handmade Soap
  • Makeup Artist Services
  • Craft Kits
  • Calendars
  • Vintage Clothing
  • Gourmet Food Items
  • Toys
  • Website Templates
  • Paintings/Art
  • Diet Products
  • Real Estate Brokerage
  • Fitness Program
  • Scuba Diving Education Business
  • Personalised Spoof Newspaper Front Pages
  • T-Shirts
  • Jewellery

There are sure to be many many other examples of what can be sold off the back of a blog – feel free to add more of your experience in this in comments below.

20 Ways to Up Your Blogging Fun Quota

A Guest Post by Christie Burnett. Image Source.


Feeling sluggish about blogging in the new year? Being innovative on your blog can be a great way to re-energise yourself. The process of being creative and trying something different can definitely up your blogging fun quota when you are feeling stale and uninspired. Trying something new also has the advantage of showing readers a new side to your blogging persona and this could have the added benefit of engaging a whole new set of followers. And you never know, you might just start a new blogging craze. Let me give you an example.

In November 2009, I published my first “From My Notebook” post. I basically replicated what I had written that day in my own personal journal, presenting it on a graphic notepaper page, and the response from my readers to the format was extremely positive. I had lots of Twitter questions about how I had created it and positive comments left in response to the post. And I enjoyed the process of doing something different. It was fun, challenged my creative processes a little and was a much quicker post to put together than many of my others – no photos to edit, no laboring over what I was writing, no research to include. It was simple, yet effective.

Every now and then throwing in a new style of post keeps every one on their toes. So, here are 20 words to get you thinking about fun ways to step away from your usual style and give readers something fresh.

1. Draw

Put pencil to paper or pen to tablet and say something with illustrations, instead of words.  

Check out Miao & Wafupafu for inspiration.

2. Photograph

Set yourself the challenge of telling a story without words, just photographs.  

Telling Your Story with Words and Images offers great tips for choosing the right photographs.

3. Share

If your blog is usually full of product reviews or technical information, turn things upside down by sharing a personal story instead. Or tell readers something about you that they never would have guessed.

In Why Stories are an Effective Communication Tool for Your Blog, Darren shares his reasons for why stories engage readers on an emotional level.

4. Measure

Insert a graph, pie chart, table or diagram to make your point.

5. Debate

Invite another blogger, preferably one who usually takes an alternative stance to you, to enter into a debate with you via online chat or Skype and then publish it on your blog.

6. Laugh

Make your readers chuckle – self deprecation, jokes, comic strips – whatever works with your target audience.

7. Watch

Give vlogging a twirl or insert a relevant video from YouTube to get readers talking.

8. Give

Give something back to readers by hosting a giveaway. Or donate $$ to your favourite charity for every comment left on a post.

9. Teach

Make something from scratch, and then create a tutorial to teach others how to do it too.

10. Introduce

Invite a guest blogger to be featured on your blog and introduce readers to someone new.

Try You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask for more information about inviting others to guest post on your blog.

11. List

When was the last time you write a list post? If it has been a while, compile a list which will be useful to readers today.

Check out Ali Hale’s guest post at Problogger, 10 Steps to the Perfect List Post.

12. Resource

Develop a free downloadable resource for your readers.

13. Colour

In colour psychology, blue equates to serenity and calmness whilst red is strong and gutsy, dramatic even. Think about creatively using colour to add intensity to your post or to set the mood for readers.

14. Solve

Do readers email you with questions, problems or dilemmas? Take the opportunity to channel ‘Dear Abbey’ and help them out with some useful advice. I did this recently with, “The Case For Not Packing Away.”

15. Inspire

Source relevant inspirational quotes to share with readers. Or include statistics or new research findings.

16. Ask

Find out more about your readership by asking them to participate in a survey or poll.

Read more about surveys – Survey Your Readers and Discover Who They Are and How You Can Be More Useful to Them.

17. Headline

Use the powers of the internet to source news stories relevant to your niche and readership. Include your personal reaction and thoughts.

18. Re-package

Re-package your post differently – standard content wrapped up in a new look. Present it as a postcard, a journal page, a post-it note, a shopping list, a recipe, or a collage.

Try Super Stickies for a bit of fun.

19. Link

Create a list of great posts, linking to other blogs in your niche. Keep them relevant and your links will be popular with readers. You might even find that you get linked back to in return.

20. Challenge

Develop a challenge for your readers and offer to publish the best submissions you receive. It could be a group writing challenge, an online photography exhibition or any challenge that best suits your niche and target audience.

Keep this list handy and come back to it for inspiration whenever you are feeling stale or depressed about blogging.  You are limited only by your imagination and willingness to try something new.

Christie Burnett is a trained early childhood teacher, presenter, writer and, most importantly, Mum. She blogs at Childhood 101 about all the things that contribute to growing a memorable, healthy childhood, with lots of ideas, tips and information for families.

Interview with Six Figure Blogger Pat Flynn Available for ProBlogger Newsletter Subscribers

pat-flynnA couple of weeks ago I hooked up on Skype with a great blogger by the name of Pat Flynn who has a fantastic story to share.

Pat was working as an architect and was about to get married – life was good – but unexpectedly he was laid off from his job and was left wondering what to do.

It turns out that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to Pat – he took a small blog about an architectural exam (the LEED exam) that he’d been using to help himself study for the exam and turned it into a six figure income generation machine.

He launched an E-Book off the back of his blog and in its first month he made $8000. That was just the beginning though – in his first year of business the site generated over $200,000!

You can check out Pat’s blog at Green Exam Academy and his newer site at Smart Passive Income.

My chat with Pat was both inspiring and informative and today I’m sharing it with those who have subscribed to the ProBlogger Newsletter and will be adding it as a free bonus to anyone who subscribes in future.

Sign up below to get access to our weekly newsletter and this free Podcast with Pat Flynn.

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Leverage What You Have and Take Your Blog to the Next Level

This post continues my series exploring Principles of Successful Blogs.

snowball.jpgHave you ever seen a snowball rolling down a hill, gathering speed and momentum and growing in size as it rolls until it gets to a size that will destroy anything and anyone in its path???  

Me neither…. not outside of cartoons anyway….

While the image may not be one too many of us have seen in reality – it is a great metaphor for what seems to happen to many successful blogs.

They start small (like any other blog) but gradually (at first) grow (a reader at a time) into blogs with more and more loyal readers. Along the way events (some lucky and some strategic) happen that make the blog grow and roll faster down the slope.

In time momentum grows and it seems that the blog can’t help but grow as it rolls on and gathers new readers, builds its brand, expands with new features…. in time people start referring to it as an A-List blog and what was once a simple blog with no readers has ‘made it’.

How do successful blogs grow?

There are many reasons that successful blogs grow bigger and bigger over time but one principle that I observe in many such blogs is that they use the power of leverage to grow what they have to the next level.

The principle is simple yet it can be applied in many different ways and levels to blogging. It revolves around this question:

“what do you have now that you can use to help you get a step closer to where you want to be?”

Leverage: “the mechanical advantage gained by being in a position to use a lever” (source).

Another way to ask the question – what ‘lever’ do you have at your disposal that might help you to lift your blog to its next level.


Illustrating Leverage – an Example

Most readers of ProBlogger will pretty familiar with my photography site. I call it a site and not a blog because today it has a forum, 3 blog areas, strong Twitter and Facebook presence, 2 E-Books (portraits and Photo Nuts and Bolts) and continues to expand. It is read by 3 million or so visitors a month and generates some decent income.

However it wasn’t always what you see today. In fact when I started it in April 2006 it was a simple blog with a free template design that had 3-4 new posts a week and that made less than a few cents a day.

The last 4 years of building dPS have seen many many points of leverage. Let me highlight a few:

  1. My previous photography blog – before dPS I had a small photography blog (now inactive) that aggregated camera reviews from around the web. The traffic wasn’t massive but it was enough that I had a nice little community of readers (mainly Australians as it was on a .au domain). When I launched dPS I was able to kick start it by letting my current readers of my original photography blog know about it. It didn’t generate a rush of traffic, but it meant that in week 1 it had some readers. Similarly i promoted dPS here on ProBlogger in that first week. I don’t think it drove too many new readers directly but know quite a few ProBlogger readers recommended dPS to family and friends. Point of Leverage: traffic/brand from a previous blog to launch a new one.
  2. Profile/Network – because I had been blogging in the niche for a while I knew a number of other photography bloggers. I was able to pull in a few favours and get some promotion from these blogs to help drive a little more traffic (the links would have helped with SEO also).  Point of Leverage: relationships from credible people in the industry to help launch the blog.
  3. Flickr – I had a very basic presence on Flickr when I started dPS. I used it purely to share photos with my family and friends and to host the occasional image for my blog. As a result I had a network of 40-50 people on Flickr that I was able to promote dPS to. I also started a Flickr ‘group’ on at that time and promoted it to my network of 40-50 people.  Point of Leverage: using a presence on a social media site to drive traffic to a new blog.
  4. Flickr Group – the Flickr group grew quite organically. I did promote it to a few people but they invited their friends who invited theirs… it had a life of its own (today it has over 10,000 members). After 6 months I took the energy of that Flickr group and started a forum on the dPS domain. I exclusively invited members of the Flickr group to join the forum.  Point of Leverage: using a presence on a social media site to launch a new feature on a site.
  5. Social Media – traffic to the blog and forum continued to grow. I had never really done anything on Twitter or Facebook with dPS until about 18 months ago but decided to test what would happen if we started to promote our Twitter and Facebook pages from the dPS site. Doing so helped us to grow solid followings on those networks. Point of Leverage: using established traffic on a site to recruit followers on social media.
  6. Expansion of Topics – when I first started dPS I dreamed of a site that not only did tips on how to use cameras but one that was wider in terms of topics and covered cameras and post production (and more). However I decided not to launch with this wide focus but rather just to focus upon beginner tips. Last year we rolled out two new areas (cameras/gear and post production). I’m glad I waited – having an established audience on related topics enabled us to kick start these new areas. Point of Leverage: using established traffic to launch new areas of the site.
  7. E-Books – having built an audience, brand and community I was able to launch E-Books that were guaranteed of at least some level of success. We had traffic (and more importantly credibility, goodwill and trust with our readers), community, multiple ways of connecting with our audience and relationships with other sites – all of this was leveraged to help launch our E-Books. After we had launched the first we also had a database of buyers which helped launch the 2nd E-Book.

Of course there are many other small points of leverage along the way but hopefully you get the point. Each time I’ve launched or grown the site I’ve looked at the arsenal of what I already have and pooled those resources to help build what comes next.

Points of leverage can come in all shapes and sizes. Some might not seem that big but they can lead to things that are. For example my initial Flickr network of 40-50 people led to a Flickr group of over 10,000 which led to a forum of over 80,000!


What do You Have that You Can Leverage?

I’ve raised this topic in a number of presentations over the years and the reaction of many is ‘I don’t have anything to leverage’.

I can relate to that feeling – in 2002 when I started my very first blog I didn’t really have much either. I’d not done much online beyond using hotmail, IRC chat and an occasional search on Netscape. I didn’t have an online network, knew virtually nobody who did and had no idea where to start. I’d not had any experience in building a website or writing copy for the web – I’d only seen my first blog hours before I started my own.

So I started with what I did have – my friends and family. They were my first readers.

Interestingly one of my friends had another friend who was a blogger on a similar topic to me. That generated my first link which generated my first comment from someone I wasn’t related to (a momentous moment in the life of any blogger)!

Homework – Make an Inventory of What You Have

Here’s an exercise that could be helpful. Grab something to write/type with and start making a list of what you have at your disposal. Thing broadly – it could include almost anything:

  • Current blogs/sites that you own or are involved in
  • Newsletter lists
  • Social Media Accounts/Presence
  • Real life Relationships and Networks
  • Skills
  • Experiences
  • Memberships in clubs/communities
  • Profile
  • Customer databases
  • Financial resources

This list only scratches the surface – what you have will be unique to you.

Another thing you might like to add to your list is things that you don’t have but that you have the ability to have. Next step goals if you like.

  • For example many bloggers have the ability to write content and could potentially guest post on other blogs. Guest posting on another blog might not be your ultimate goal as a blogger – but it could take you a step closer.
  • Another example might be that you might want to get to know someone that you don’t yet know. I know one blogger who told me that they felt that they didn’t know anyone in the blogosphere so they made a list of 10 bloggers that they wanted to get to know and meet in person over 2009. They achieved their goal and now have a decent relationship with 10 pretty influential people when they need it down the track.

One Last Tip – Build It Before You Need It

As I wrote my 7 point list of points of leverage that I’ve had at dPS above it struck me that what I was writing sounded pretty strategic and as though I knew what I was doing.

The reality is that I’d say that about 20% of that was strategic and 80% of it was not. When I started out I knew I wanted to build a site that helped people grow in their photography and that would hopefully make me a decent income – but I didn’t have much idea of where it was headed. I didn’t see a forum, I had no idea about E-Books and certainly had not considered Twitter or Facebook (I’m not even sure if they existed back then).

My approach instead was to grow the site organically – to try new things and see where there was energy and to keep building upon what worked. I wanted to build a presence in any way that I could and that was relevant to my potential audience and then to see what opportunities opened up to grow things further both in terms of size and financially.

I didn’t really need to have a way to email readers in the early days because I wasn’t selling anything – but I built a newsletter list from day 1. I didn’t really have much to say on Twitter or Facebook when I started with that but decided to build that network early because I knew one day I would.

In a sense a lot of what I did in the early days was to build a network/community knowing that one day I’d need it to do more than make a few dollars from ad revenue. This of course came to be true when I launched our E-books in the last 6 months. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I needed the network to build it but instead built it well in advance.

Further Reading:

Do You Outsource Any Part of Your Blogging?

I’d like to run a quick poll in this post that examine the idea of outsourcing.

You see more and more I’m talking to bloggers (big and small) and am hearing that they outsource at least some of their blogging activities.

Perhaps the most common of these is hiring designers or writers – but there are many other activities that I see blogger outsource.

Here are some of those that I’ve seen bloggers do as well as a few suggestions from my followers on Twitter:

Please note – I’m talking about ‘paid outsourcing’ – not guest posts or getting a friend to help you with some aspect of your blog or even buying a blog template – but paying others to do some aspect of your blogging.

  • Blog Design
  • SEO
  • Paid Blog Writing
  • Comment Moderation
  • Selling Advertising
  • Administrative Tasks (like managing email)
  • Post Editing
  • Tech – Looking after the Back End
  • Creation of Products (E-Books)

I’m sure there are many other things that could be added to this list (and I invite you to do so below).

So now you know the type of things I’m talking about – do you outsource any aspect of your blogging?

Do You Outsource Any Part of Your Blogging?
View Results

PS: again, I’m talking about outsourcing to freelancers or paid staff in some way and not buying a blog template or getting someone to do some of these things for free.

Two Limited Time Offers for Bloggers Wanting to Learn How to Make Money

In the last 24 hours two teaching resources have launched that will help you to learn some great lessons on making money online:

1. Blog Masters Club – presented by David Risley, this resource is in it’s second class and will be available until next Tuesday. David presents a comprehensive 16 module course for bloggers including 92 videos, loads of transcrips, MP3s, forum, action guides and some nice bonuses. He’s offering a discount for those who act to join in the first 24 hours so to get in at the discount you need to act today.

To get a taste for whether this is the type of teaching for you David has released some free stuff worth checking out:

  • Six Figure Blogger Blueprint
  • How to Psychologically Evaluate Any Niche [Video]
  • The Blut Simple Truth About Making Money Blogging [Video]

2. Shoemoney System – presented by Jeremy Schoemaker, the Shoemoney System launched today and Jeremy tells me that he’s already 75% sold out (he’s taking a maximum of 500 students). It looks like they’ll close their doors inside 24 hours if signups continue at the same rate that they have been.


The Shoemoney system is a little broader in it’s approach than David’s course above (which focuses more upon blogging). Jeremy’s system again focuses heavily upon video presentations (over 100 hours) and is a 12 month training course. He also throws in some good bonuses including $2500 in free advertising from a variety of companies that will help you get yourself going.

Jeremy is a well connected buy and he pulls in some big names and knowledgeable people in his teaching with lots of interviews and tools.

To get a taste of what it’s all about here’s some stuff to check out:

If you’re wanting to focus your energy just on blogging – I’d go with David’s Blog Masters Club. If you’re wanting a broader introduction to online marketing that goes beyond blogging, go with the Shoemoney System.

47 Lists of Bloggers to Watch in 2010 – Check them Out!

Earlier this month we published a list of 30 bloggers to watch in 2010 that caused a lot of conversation and debate in the comments section of that post. Of course the list of bloggers were simply one persons opinion and fairly much focused around that persons interests – so a week later I invited readers to create their own ‘bloggers to watch’ lists and submit links to them in the comments of that post.

47 bloggers have created such lists so far. The great thing about the submissions is that while there are some themes there is also a lot of diversity in the lists submitted. There is everything from food bloggers to watch, to Mom bloggers to watch, to greeen bloggers to watch, to personal finance blogges to watch to diabetic bloggers to watch. While not every niche is represented it is a great celebration of the blogosphere.

As it’s been a couple of weeks since I called for posts I thought it might be time to combine all the lists of bloggers to watch into a list of posts.

I encourage you to surf through the list – find the posts you resonate with – link up to them, tweet them and add to them with your own comments and posts.

You are welcome to keep submitting your posts of bloggers to watch in your niche but I probably won’t compile the list again unless there are a lot submitted.

  1. Saving Money Bloggers to Watch
  2. Dance Blogs to Watch in 2010
  3. Top Business and Finance Magazines, Blogs and Journals
  4. Bloggers to Watch in 2010- Translation and Localization Industry
  5. My Women of the Web
  6. Faith Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  7. Sewers and Quilting Bloggers to Watch
  8. 11 Famous Food Photo Bloggers to Watch This Year
  9. Owen Greaves Bloggers to Watch
  10. 15 Simplicity/Minimalist Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  11. Six Win Bloggers to Watch for 2010
  12. 5 More Blogs to Follow in 2010
  13. Personal Finance Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  14. 5 Laser Sailing Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  15. 10 Food Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  16. Music Therapy Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  17. 10 Top Bloggers to Follow in the WordPress Community
  18. Blogs I’ll be Following in 2010
  19. Green Crafty Reading List
  20. Coupon and Deal Finding Bloggers to Watch
  21. My Fave Blogs
  22. Decluttering and Getting Organized Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  23. Moms Plus Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  24. Bloggers to Watch Out For
  25. A List of the Best Gardening Blogs
  26. 25 Blogger Active Roster
  27. Israel Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  28. A Few of My Favorite “Mom Blogs”
  29. My 2010 Blogs Watch
  30. 10 Blogs to Watch in 2010
  31. Top 50 Diabetic Bloggers of 2010
  32. Fun and Frugal Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  33. Green Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  34. People to Watch and Learn from in 2010
  35. 50 Personal Finance Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  36. 62 More Personal Development Blogs – Watch List 2010
  37. Blogs to Follow in 2010
  38. Social Media Bloggers to Watch
  39. Vegan Blogger Reading List
  40. The Merch Girl’s Blogs to Watch in 2010
  41. 5 Frugal Blogs With the Best Strategies to Save Money
  42. Watch List of Bloggers
  43. 11 Kingdom Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  44. Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  45. List of Green Women Bloggers
  46. 45 Cross-Cultural and International Bloggers to watch in 2010
  47. Four Personal Development Bloggers I’m Watching in 2010

Thanks to everyone who submitted lists!

PS: an interesting piece of feedback that I had from quite a few of the bloggers behind these links was that the posts were among the most popular posts they’ve ever written. These kinds of lists do have a habit of generating traffic and conversation!

How to Be a More Relational Blogger [Tips for New and Established Bloggers]

In this post (a continuation of my Principles of Successful Blogs) series I explore the topic of being relational with readers.

relational.png Back in 2002 when I stumbled upon my first ever blog I was immediately inspired to start my own blog based on two things that I witnessed in that first blog.

  1. It gave the blogger a voice and amplified that voice around the world
  2. It gave the blogger the ability to build a community around what he was exploring and enabled him to have personal (yet public) interactions with many people to further explore his topics.

The community and relational aspect of that first blog was a big part of why I decided to start my own first blog. I’d not seen anything on the web that allowed a person to grow a community around their ideas before and wanted to experience it for myself.

So I started my first blog – a personal blog about life, spirituality and culture – and began to experiment with my voice but also with engaging with those who read what I was writing each day.

I quickly discovered the power of building a blog that not only had interesting content but which drew readers into a conversation.

In those early days I spent at least as much time building relationships with readers as I did writing posts (I’ll share some of what I did early in my blog below).

As I look back on the early days of my own blogging I’d attribute a significant part of the early growth of my blogs to this type of relational activity. Content might be King but community was its Queen for me.

Things have Changed…. But….

Of course the blogosphere and wider web has changed somewhat since those days in 2002.

  • Twitter and Facebook have emerged to take over some of the community interactions that blogs once had
  • Social media is also a space where much of the sharing of links we once did on blogs happens
  • Blogging has become quite competitive and bloggers in niches don’t always work together

Things have changed – however…. a relational approach and community are still one central aspect of many successful blogs.

Note: I’m not just talking about building your blog into a community (we discussed community earlier in our series) – instead what I’m talking about in this post is being relational with your readers – the blogger/reader relationship and not necessarily relationships between your readers.

So how does a blogger grow relationships with their readers? I’d actually like to tackle this question by making some suggestions for newer/smaller blogs and then for more established blogs where the challenge of scaling a relational approach is a challenge.

How to Be a Relational Blogger – For New Blogs

When starting out with a new blog there are many tasks that will confront you. Creating great content is of course your primary concern, getting your blog looking attractive and inviting is also important, thinking about branding, networking with other blogs in your niche, setting up with some good SEO…. the list of things you could fill your time with goes on.

However putting some concerted effort into building relationship with those who do come to your blog is something well worth putting time into. If you can build a loyal group of regular readers in your early days you’re well on the way to growing a blog that is read by many. Each loyal reader you have has their own network that they can spread word of you to.

Following are some of the things I spent a lot of time doing in the early days of my own first blogs:

  • Reading and responding to every comment left – particularly any with questions
  • Visiting the blogs of those who were leaving comments and interacting with those bloggers on their own blogs
  • Engaging on other blogs that were linking to mine
  • Emailing new readers to thank them for commenting
  • Linking to other blogs in my niche – promoting those who were reading my blog
  • Responding to email queries

These types of activities are very basic yet they have an impact and will draw those who read your blog in the early days to take a second look and come back again.

Tips for Established Blogs Trying to Scale Rationality

The above basics for newer blogs do work – but when your blog starts to grow the challenge for bloggers is to how to stay relational in their approach without burning themselves out. You see responding to every comment left on your blog becomes incredibly challenging when you have hundreds of comments left each day. Personal and in depth responses to every email from a reader takes over your whole day when you have tens of thousands of readers…. Scaling relationally is definitely a challenge.

So what’s a blogger to do?

I actually grapple with this one on a daily basis and would love to hear how other bloggers approach the challenge however thought I’d jot down some starting points (it should also be noted that much of this can be put into practice by new blogs too):

1. Write in a Relational Voice

One of the things that can help is to simply write in a relational or conversational style. Tell your own story, share your experiences, write about your failures, be personal. While you might not be able to respond to every reader personally all of these things make you more relatable.

2. Invite Participation

One part of writing in a relational style is to invite interaction with readers. Asking questions of readers and giving spaces in posts for discussion and interaction may not be fully relational if you yourself don’t participate – but it at least opens up opportunities for readers to interact with one another and get a feeling of being heard and valued as a reader.

3. Set Up Opportunities for Intentional Interaction

Another strategy that I find a win/win for bloggers and their readers is to set up specific times and places for interaction between blogger and reader. Put aside time for this intentional community time, publicise them with readers and then make yourself available to interact.

For me one of the ways that I try to do this every now and again is by doing a live Ustreaming video session where I simply do Q&A with readers. I’m amazed at the response from readers who join these chats – while I do feel a little ‘odd’ sitting there talking to my laptop answering basic questions about blogging readers really do seem to value the times and feel much more involved.

Note: Another way that I try to give readers another avenue for interaction is by promoting Twitter as a place for conversation. The key is to name where and when you’re going to interact and then make sure you do.

4. Answer Reader Questions with Posts

A further technique I try to do is to try to answer questions from readers with posts rather than just in comments or via email. When I get a reader asking a question I could respond with an email or comment and help that particular reader – but to maximise the benefits across the full community I try to take some questions and turn my responses into a more public answer in a post – thereby answering the person but also hopefully sharing some solutions with others who might have the same question. I find that the added bonus of this is that you highlight a reader interaction publicly which shows that while I might not respond to everyone that you are attempting to be interactive.

5. Manage Expectations

Without going over the top and becoming boastful or arrogant – try to communicate with your readership what they can expect from you as a blogger. Readers all come with their own expectations of what they should and shouldn’t be able to expect from you as a blogger. The emails I get from readers at times illustrate that some readers come with pretty good expectations while others come with unrealistic ones.

Side Note: interestingly these unrealistic expectations can swing both ways. For example today I had one email from a reader demanding I answer a list of 20 questions for them while another reader emailed saying that they didn’t really expect I’d even read their email and didn’t expect any kind of acknowledgment of their problem. The reality is somewhere between the two emails – I can’t give readers hours of my attention each – but I do read emails and try to respond to as many as I can.

One way to manage expectations is to have a system in place around your contact form. Communicating what you’re able to help with, whether you are able to respond personally etc on a contact form helps readers to gauge what sort of response (if any) they’ll get. Some bloggers also put systems in place to send auto response emails back when contact is made to help with this.

6. Build Community

Another way to help readers get help from your blog is to set up systems and areas on your blog where people can help one another. This is one of the reasons that both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School have community areas. The hope is that while I can’t possibly respond to every reader that there is always someone in the wider community that does have the expertise and resources to help. I also find that in time as a blog grows that this reader interaction between readers extends naturally into a comments section – a larger blog tends to have readers who love to help one another.

7. Get Help – Outsource

One of the hardest things I’ve done in the last couple of years is to get help to manage this aspect of my blogging. Outsourcing community is not something I ever wanted to do but getting help from someone to assist in the moderation of comments was actually something that helped me to be more responsive to readers. If you do end up hiring someone to help with moderation try to get them to alert you to threads of conversations that need your attention rather than just hiring someone to delete spam.

How do You Do It?

As I say above – I’m no expert in being a relational blogger. It’s one aspect of what I do that I do grapple with and have good days and bad days with. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you approach being a relational blogger and what impact it’s had on your blogging.

PS: One last bonus tip – Stay True to Yourself and Your Personality

I say this because as people we all have different styles and personalities that will leave us able to interact with readers differently. I’ve been critiqued a few times over the years about not being interactive enough with readers but in the last 12 months or so have also come to realise that my approach in this area is not just about being too busy to interact but that it is partly about who I am as a person.

As a pretty extreme introvert I do enjoy personal interaction but also find that I’m not able to sustain as much of it as some others who are more extroverted and get energy from such interactions.

Those of you who’ve met me will know that I’m actually someone who tends to sit at the edge of groups watching and listening more than those who might enjoy being the life of the party. While I do enjoy conversation I’m someone who is a little slower paced and more laid back and who enjoys chiming in from time to time with my insights and thoughts – but who also enjoys listening.

On the flip side of this I know that one impact of being this type of person is that I can come across as being a little uninterested in those around me – it’s something I do have to work on (I could quite easily retreat to my introverts cave and never come out for weeks at a time). So for me it’s about being true to myself and not forcing myself to be the extrovert but also knowing that my introversion can also be an excuse and something that limits me.

5 Things I Learned About Blogging from Being an Author and Journalist

A Guest Post by Alexandra Levit from

I’ve been an author since my early twenties, and a journalist since last year. All forms of writing were not created equal, and I’ve found that writing my blog, Water Cooler Wisdom has had its own set of challenges. However, there are a lot of takeaways for bloggers who have spent some time in the trenches of traditional media. Here are some that I’ve observed:

1. Endurance is King

When I’m getting ready to start a new book, the very prospect of it is overwhelming – after all, 65,000 words is a lot of writing. These days, I’m also writing one career advice column a week, and everyone is watching to make sure I don’t repeat myself. In order to sustain my momentum, I have to plan what I’m going to cover far in advance and conquer the work involved a little bit at a time. Blogging requires the same sort of vigilance. 90% of blogs start out strong but fizzle in the first few months because the writers can’t keep up with the posting frequency necessary to engage the community. Blogging’s history is routed in stream of conscious journaling, but to say the medium has evolved would be an understatement. To blog well today, you must continually re-think your approach and topics, and always be striving to learn more about your niche and the blogging craft.

2. Loyalty is Queen

To be a successful author or columnist, you have to build up a following over time. In the beginning, no one reads you and it feels like you’re talking to yourself. But you just keep trying to put out useful information and advice, and you add readers one by one as particular pieces resonate with them. Those people start reading you regularly and recommend you to their friends. They trust what you have to say, and they defend you when online trolls make mean comments. I’ve learned that having a loyal subscriber base is critical to blogging success as well, and that it’s actually better to have a smaller group of highly engaged readers than a larger group of fickle individuals. I rely on my blog readers to provide me with early feedback on new writing projects and to tell me when I’ve mentally gone off the grid. I know that they are always looking out for my best interests and they are the best source of constructive feedback I have at my disposal right now.

3. Straight Writing is no Longer Enough

Authors used to write books – only. And columnists used to write columns – only. No longer. Now authors handle 90% of book promotion themselves, and columnists are expected to adapt to the online format and respond to readers in real time. Similarly, a blog these days that only consists of your writing will probably die a swift death. The best bloggers are product development and marketing whizzes in addition to great writers. They spend almost as much time responding to comments as they do writing posts. Also, I first really grasped the power of video when I decided to make a free career change webinar to supplement my new book, New Job, New You. The format was so compelling that I started regularly using video in my blog too, and I’ve seen my readership shoot up.

4. Source Carefully or Forever Hold your Peace

As an author and journalist, I’m held to strict ethical standards regarding the sourcing of material. I’ve learned to take precise notes when doing interviews, and to ask for permission to cite written passages whenever they exceed a certain word count. I’m grateful that these processes have been drilled into me, because many in the blogosphere play fast and loose with sourcing and get into hot water as a result. A blogger who copies someone else’s post word for word and claims it as their own is bound to be found out and will risk losing their credibility and reputation. On the other hand, bloggers who generously credit others with thoughts and ideas are usually rewarded by the community.

5. The Insider’s Club is Alive and Well

The world of the published author and the related world of the working journalist used to be rarefied territory. Each club was viewed as exclusive, with its own set of rules and behaviors, and members stuck together closely. While authors and journalists may not be as revered as before, they are to some extent still part of a tight-knit group. Members can relate to each other’s experiences and gravitate toward one another socially and professionally. Anyone who has been to Blog World Expo or a BlogHer conference knows this to be true of the various strata of bloggers as well. Even though I’ve never met many of my blogging cohorts in person, I am closer to many of them than I am to members of my family.

All of you ProBloggers had other careers before you started blogging, and many of you still maintain those careers. What skills and lessons have you learned from your other jobs that have made you a better blogger?

Alexandra Levit is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the author of the new book “New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career.” If you’re struggling with what to do with your career in the New Year, visit for free tools and guidance.