One of the requests that I’ve received a fair bit lately from readers here at ProBlogger is for me to write a little more on the team I’ve put together to help me run and grow my blogs. So today I thought I’d tell a bit of that back story.
But first, let’s go back in time… (this full story can be found in ProBlogger the book).
Blogging: from hobby to job
- November 2002: I started my first personal blog almost nine years ago, without even the faintest suspicion that it’d be anything more than a hobby. In fact, I half suspected I wouldn’t still be blogging by the end of 2002—I don’t really have a good history of sticking with most of my hobbies for more than a month or two (hence the collection of sporting equipment and gadgets in my attic).
- December 2003: By this point, I’d started to experiment with making money from my blogs (I had a couple by this point). By no means was it a “job” (not even a part-time one), but I was earning $6 a day and was starting to get an inkling that there could just be some potential if I could only keep the earnings from my AdSense ads trending up each month.
- April 2004: I was now earning $20 per day from my blogs, having put extra effort into them over the last few months, and at this rate I started to consider my blogs as a part-time job. As a result my wife (V) and I decided I would dedicate a little more time to blogging to see what impact that would have.
- June 2004: May and June continued to see the income grow and it passed $1000 in a month for the first time. The goal of being a full time blogger grew. We decided to give it a six-month deadline to get to a full-time level, or I’d have to “get a real job.” I began to slowly give up other work as the blogging income grew.
- December 2004: We made a decision that things were at a level I could go full-time as a blogger. Income went up and down over the next year or so. but I was able to give up all other work and just focus upon blogging.
- September 2005: I published a post here on ProBlogger talking about how I’d reached the “six-figure” level of income from blogging.
To this point, things had really just evolved. There were not too many months where there’d been spectacular growth or spikes in income. Rather, it was a very steady growth and I while I was working a lot of hours, the idea of hiring someone to help on an ongoing basis never really entered my mind.
I did hire blog designers once or twice in these early years, but that’s about as far as it went.
I look at this first phase of my blogging for income as blogging moving from a hobby to a part-time job, then to a full-time job.
Blogging: from job to business
The next phase involved moving to more of a “business” mindset.
I guess the transition of moving to more of a business model began with the starting of b5media—a blog network that I began with a small group of other bloggers in 2005. While I’m still a minor shareholder of the company, I am no longer actively involved. But the idea was that each of us founders realized we could probably achieve a lot more if we pooled out efforts and worked with an expanded team.
That business grew rapidly, and while we made mistakes, we also learned a lot about business, blogging, and working with teams. b5media took on a number of rounds of venture capital, which enabled us to grow, and I began to see the beauty of having a team working on the same projects rather than just doing everything myself.
While I didn’t focus all of my energies on b5media, I learned a lot in that period.
It was also at this time that I began to explore other partnerships and also began to toy with the idea of hiring staff and/or contractors to help me. I realized that in my own blogs, I was approaching a ceiling in terms of how much I could do each day. As a result, in this time I took a number of steps:
- There was a period where I outsourced the writing of one of my old blogs (no longer active) to another blogger on a contract/revenue share basis.
- I took on Lara Kulpa to help with the administrative load (Lara still contracts with me today to help with comment moderation and community management on ProBlogger.com).
- I worked with others on a revenue share basis for a while on the ProBlogger Job Boards (I now maintain this myself).
Today: the team
My blogs have grown beyond what I can really manage alone. Lara still is involved but the last year or so has seen a number of additions to the team. What follows is an attempt to give some insight into the different levels of involvement that others have on my sites—both voluntarily and in a paid capactity (I’m sure I’ll forget someone):
- Guest writers: Gradually over the last few years I’ve involved others in the writing of content on my blogs. I did this first on my photography blog, where today almost all of our posts are either from guests or a small team of regular paid contributors.
- Paid writers: Toda,y this is solely limited to the photography site (I did have a couple of paid contributors here on ProBlogger, but that never really panned out). These paid writers on dPS write between one and eight posts per month and are paid on a per-post basis. At times there were up to 10 paid writers on the team, but this has decreased a little as we’ve developed more of a guest writer team—as dPS has a considerable audience writers are mainly involved to help grow their profiles.
- Editors: I’m currently working with a number of editors on different levels. The main editor that regulars of ProBlogger will know is Georgina Laidlaw, who edits ProBlogger and FeelGooder. Georgina works with guest writers on both blogs as well as creating content of her own. She is also involved in the creation of ebooks, writing sales copy, and other editorial tasks. We also have a couple of other editors who have helped with editing and proofreading ebooks.
- Ebook authors: Over the last few years, I’ve expanded my focus to create more products to sell. These have largely been ebooks to this point. At this stage we’ve created six ebooks on Digital Photography School, three here on ProBlogger, and one on FeelGooder. I’ve written some of these myself, but have also partnered with other authors on some. Authors work with us on a revenue share arrangement where my company acts as a publisher and brings audience, marketing, customer service, and so on, and the author brings expertise. At this point, we have published ebooks with four other authors, but will release another four or five collaborative projects by the end of the year.
- Product production: To help with this increased production I recently contracted with Jasmin Tragas, who heads up the production of new products. Jasmin works with authors, editors, designers, and marketing to get products to publication. It’s enabled us to increase product creation incredibly, and has allowed me to focus my attention on other activities.
- Community management: As I mentioned above, Lara helps with community management at ProBlogger.com, but I’ve also got the involvement of Simon Pollock (my brother-in-law) to manage the community at dPS (among other roles).
- Customer service: Simon is also involved in giving customer support on dPS. We’ve recently installed ZenDesk to funnel all incoming emails on that site into the one place, and Simon handles all of that.
- Designers: Designers were perhaps the first people that I hired in the early days of my blogging, and I continue to work with a number of them (all on a contract basis). These come in on short-term basis to design/redesign our blogs but we also work with two designers on our ebook designs.
- Social media: I do the bulk of my own social media marketing, but in the last month or so Simon has also become more involved in this for dPS.
- Technology: Last year, I contracted someone to manage the servers and back end of my blogs. This had previously been handled by b5media for numerous years, but last year, we moved everything over to Amazon (and a variety of other technology partners).
- Ad Sales: Gabrielle Green heads up ad sales on both ProBlogger and dPS. While we do use some more automated ad solutions (like AdSense) on dPS, we’re also growing the number of ads we are selling directly to advertisers—both banner ads and newsletter ads. It’s been great to have someone dedicated to this task.
- Marketing: Lastly I’m fortunate to have the involvement of the Web Marketing Ninja (who has been a regular guest poster here on ProBlogger). The Ninja has helped sharpen sales pages and emails, and formulate strategy for product launches and promotions.
None of the above people work full-time just on my blogs, and none are “staff”—they all work on a contract basis. Interestingly, in the last 12 months the main additions to the team have all been local to me here in Melbourne, which has enabled more face-to-face interactions among my team (including the recent team lunch, where we took the above photo).
So … what do I do?
Having brought others in to take on different roles, one might wonder what it is that I do these days. Having an expanding team has certainly taken pressure off on some levels, but there is still plenty to do.
My main focus these days is on:
- editing dPS (coordinating guest and paid writers, scheduling posts, writing email newsletters, etc.)
- social media (mainly on ProBlogger)
- team management—with more team members come more management tasks
- writing and developing content, both for the blogs as well as products that we’re developing
- strategy and partnership development—at present there are at least four other products/projects that I’m working on
- administration—I’m amazed just how much admin there is, and while some of my email is now flowing through ZenDesk to Simon there’s still a tonne that needs to be done each day
- speaking—this tends to come in fits and starts but it’s been nice to be able to allocate a bit more time to local speaking opportunities lately.
I realize that this post has been quite long, but I hope it answers some of those questions that I’ve been getting more and more of lately.