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How to Build a Business By Supporting Bloggers: a Case Study

This guest post is by Jeremy Delancy of passivepanda.com.

Some people get struck by lightning, some people win the lottery, and some people make good money by blogging two hours per day in their pajamas. I’ve never met any one the above-mentioned people, but the snake oil salesmen of the Internet will try to convince you that you’ll be making millions in a few months if you buy their info products and start a blog.

The truth is, profitable blogging requires hard work. An even less accepted truth is that profitable blogging will, more and more, require a collaborative effort. In his ebook Partnering Profits, John Morrow likens the early days of making money online to the early days of computer gaming. The first computer games were so basic that one person designed and produced an entire game! Think about what is needed to create Runescape or Starcraft II. The time and effort is well beyond the capability of any one person.

A similar change is taking place in blogging. Readers now want multi-media content, social media widgets, great writing, and so on. Add in the marketing and promotion of your blog and it soon becomes more than any one individual can deliver without spending 80 hours in front of a computer. The job of managing research, affiliates, guest posts—all while learning new technologies—has already begun to overwhelm some small bloggers.

In this turmoil created by the growth and development in the blogosphere, I see opportunity. The possibility exists to create an additional income not by starting your own blog, but by helping other bloggers build a loyal readership, increase blog traffic and monetize their blogs. I’m starting to do just that and I’ll analyze the steps that I’ve taken so far.

Getting started

First, some background information: I’ve worked as a full-time speech writer for the last ten years. The job entails loads of research on all sorts of topics. Previously, I was an English Literature teacher. I began reading blogs on Personal Finance, Entrepreneurship and Lifestyle Design in 2009.

Since then I’ve come across blogs that had great, well-researched content and good design. I’ve also come across many more that were quite the opposite. It’s obvious to many blog readers that some bloggers need help. The questions I wanted answered were, “Are bloggers willing to pay for assistance?” and, “Is there a market among bloggers for my particular skill set?”

The process

In retrospect, I could have begun the process of finding out who needed assistance, and what kind of assistance was needed, quite differently. One alternative would have been to subscribe to blogs on blogging (ProBlogger) and read the comments to see what were the most common challenges faced. But, that would not have been true to my nature, which is to gain first hand information through research.

Instead, I developed a questionnaire, which I emailed to bloggers who specialized in: personal finance, christian living, entrepreneurship, woodworking, and eco-friendly lifestyles, all of which are areas of personal interest. Some of the questions were informational, i.e. “How long does it take to move from new idea to blog post?” Other questions were about the bloggers’ aspirations, i.e. “Where would you like to be in terms of blogging within the next six months to two years?”

Tip: When you’re doing this kind of research do not send more than five questions unless you have developed an excellent rapport with the other person. I found that sending seven questions in an email dropped the response rate to zero.

Tip 2: For an excellent article on what to write when emailing busy people, go here.

The answers were then collated and turned into A Report on Building A Better Blog which was uploaded to Scribd.com. By using Scribd, I was able to keep track of the number of downloads and the number of positive responses I received. To get a copy of the ten page report, which details my methodology, questions and suggestions, go here.

The service offering

The process of researching and writing the report, had several very important benefits. Primarily, it gave me an insight into the some of the biggest problems faced by bloggers.

Secondly, I had made a tangible product to showcase my research and writing skills.

Finally, and most importantly, the answers allowed me to focus on providing the following services to bloggers in personal finance and entrepreneurship:

  • Guest posts—Invitations to write guest posts are common but not every blogger finds the time to do so, even when it would increase their readership. I write and the blogger who hires me, posts to the blog he/she received the invitation from.
  • Ghost writing—Surprise! Bloggers are people too! They need time to attend to their families, take vacations, etc. Due to the nature of my full-time job, I know how to replicate the vocabulary, syntax and style of others. After a few days of practice, most readers won’t be able to tell the difference between me and their beloved blogger.
  • Research—Find entrepreneurial blogs with 50, 000 RSS Feed subscribers. I’m on it. Research the benefits of credit card X, compare to credit card Y, and write a post. Not a problem. Summarize guru A’s new book and email the finer points. With pleasure.

The major benefit, that I provide bloggers? Time. By spending less time researching and writing, they have more time to work on other projects and find new ways to monetize their blogs

Finding potential clients

When the time came to begin pitching bloggers with the above-mentioned service offering, I had a good idea of their major challenges, and was able to offer solutions because of my research. To find potential clients I searched Technorati.com for personal finance blogs with high to medium authority and then focused on those that announced a soon to be released information product (indicating a very busy blogger), or those whose Compete.com numbers had tumbled sharply (indicating that the blogger had missed several posts) and e-mailed them.

Some of you reading this will think that the process is far too tedious to emulate, but there is a major benefit. By putting 80% of the work up front, your chance of rejection goes down considerably. This is because you are in your customer’s head. You will have taken the time and effort to know their goals, their pain points, their likes and dislikes, and crafted your service to meet their needs. In return they will show their appreciation by giving you their business.

How you can get started today

Finally, for those of you interested in helping bloggers, I’d suggest skipping the research and focus on the following instead:

  1. Niche down and know what topics you will specialize in.
  2. Be clear on what problems you can solve … and those you can’t.
  3. Perfect your service offering via email as it will give you a foot in the door.
  4. Constantly strive to improve your skills.

Become the support network

Helping bloggers is essentially freelance work, and the first rule of freelancing is find your niche. The blogosphere is a big place and as it grows there are more and more opportunities for you to fill in the gaps. Spend some time thinking about how you could help a blogger and you may find yourself earning more freelance income as a blog supporter than many people do as a blog owner.

Could you support a blogger? Have you considered this as an income option? I’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments.

Jeremy Delancy writes for Passive Panda. To get more tips and other proven strategies for earning more money, time, and freedom join Passive Panda’s Free Newsletter on Earning More.

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Comments

  1. I actually need someone to support me :p I can’t give something that I’m already in need of!

  2. Jeremy,

    This is a very good idea that I have not heard much about. I was considering going into freelancing until I saw the ridiculous requirements of most jobs. I’d have to research topics I have absolutely no interest in. I’d have to maintain a 3% keyword density and mention a particular company twice. It’s ridiculous and almost like real work. :-)

    While I like your idea, I am going to focus on producing my own content to make money. I can write exactly what I want and how I want. That’s tough to beat as long as I can make decent money from it.

    • J. Delancy says:

      Hello Stephen:

      I’ve visited your blog and those of everyone else who has commented on my article. Here is something to think about. If you divide the population of the U.S by the estimated number of blogs owned by Americans, it works out to one blog for every eight to ten citizens. If a blog is just an online diary, then there is no problem. If on the other hand, your blog was created to make money then you realize that the competition is fierce.
      Any assistance you get should:
      Increase readership
      Speed up the monetization process
      then, increase profitability.
      Many small bloggers are concerned about ownership and the cost of additional help, which is entirely understandable. First, there are other ways to compensate an assistant besides cash for labour. Secondly, as is stated by John Morrow in Partnering Profits, full ownership of a venture that is not profitable, doesn’t feel as good as partial ownership in a business that has money coming in (Not a direct quote).
      This is another area where those who think outside the (blogging) box will have an advantage over those who don’t. I’m sure that anyone smart enough to own a blog, can, with some effort, think of a way to get assistance, if only for the short term.

      J.K.D

  3. Cinti says:

    All great in theory. Now realistically how many bloggers out there are willing to pay for content?

    • I second your opinion Cinti. Yes, most bloggers prefer to write their own content even if they are not so good at the art of writing attractive copy. This is the reason why most of the new blogs that crop up every day have content that is either inspired by some other existing blog or are just rewritten to give it a new flavor.

      And of course the established bloggers who make decent earnings from blogging and use blogging as the means of their livelihood may sometimes pay for quality content or hire some one to write for them as ghost writers. But the newbies prefer to go solo.

      Anyways, thanks Jeremy for the great post.

      • J. Delancy says:

        I can’t give an actual figure on how many might be willing to pay for content but with 156 million blogs, there is room for lots of market research and monetization.

        J. Delancy

  4. Megan says:

    As a freelance writer I was very interested in your post, but i worry about the changing nature of blogging in general.

    Obviously i do lots of ghost writing for other people’s websites. they can rely on me to replicate the tone of their website and as business people they cannot always write content themselves. this is a widely understood fact.

    However a blog should have a different feel to it. It is mean to be the less corporate face of a company or the personal thought of an individual. To have someone ghostwrite a blog feels almost clandestine to me. A blog should be full of personality.

    Being open about having guest writers is great but having someone write what are essentially my thought feels wrong. I don’t think I could hand over my baby…

    Corporate blogs are of course, all written by freelancers or in-house staff, but personal blogs are something different altogether. And as someone else mentioned – few blog owners would be willing to pay.

    perhaps one way around this would be to offer help with research or topics or blog design, but to let the voice of the blog come from one person – the owner.

  5. Ehh, freelancing takes away the entrepreneurial spirit away from blogging for me.. When you freelance, you have to listen to someone else and their demands and it becomes more and more like a “real world job”

    • patrick says:

      Yeah i’m not the best at being an order taker either. I believe that working with other blogs and providing them with help is extremely benificial for relationship building and getting yourself out there, but you need to have your own platform for success and there is nothing like having your own blog that your are passionate about.

      I guess it depends on what brings you the most joy.

      I enjoy working with others and helping out, but it should be something that both people benifit from.

  6. I’m actually doing something similar for personal finance bloggers. I haven’t reached out in bulk yet but I’m hoping word of mouth gets my name around more. I’m also working on coming up with a menu of services that they can choose from.

  7. Guest blogging has really added a feather to my blogging success. I wish I started off early with this adventure, but it’s worth it now. Your guest post is priceless and I admire you writing ecstasy.

  8. Cristian says:

    Nice case study. I can say I am surprised with the results. By the way, I really enjoyed your article on how to email busy people. I am going to try that sometime.

  9. I think managing other people’s blog is tougher. It destroys the whole idea of blogging…

  10. Holly says:

    I’ve thought about ghost writing at one point but found that many people don’t want to pay more then $5 a post for my niche, so I’ve been looking more into guest posting and improving my writing skills. I think there is a great need for the service you describe in some niches so it could be a great source of income for some people.

    I’m also a believer that a blog should be as personal as possible depending on the subject and blog. Some can get away with a ghost writer, others it would just seem like they don’t have time for their readers.

  11. I’m currently trying to find the balance between creating my own content and freelancing. And I’m a member of a community where some bloggers are finding as much success by helping other bloggers with tasks they don’t want to/have time to do as they are with building their own blogs.

    For me, staff writing on other blogs is a great compromise. I get paid up front to blog for others, while building my own traffic and brand with links back to my own blog. And the bloggers I know are great to work for!

    • J. Delancy says:

      EXACTLY! Julie. There are many other ways to get paid from blogging. I truly believe that in the long run, there will be more profitability in co-operation. Reading through some of the comments, I see how many people are deeply and emotionally connected to their blogs, which is fine. The positive feelings that come with artistic expression and ownership, I get from my hobby, woodturning.
      As a blog assistant, I’m simply trying to fill in the gaps that happen when one person is responsible for the myriad components that make up a blog.

  12. Jeremy, this is such an interesting post. I’m a blogger, yes. But I am also very interested in media and generational trends, and I am fascinated by the evolving business opportunities and work lifestyles that are coming about because of the internet.

    My husband’s getting a business off the ground right now in a field similar to what you are describing, and there are SO many opportunities. What I especially love is that it’s a big “win” for all involved.

  13. Vago Damitio says:

    Great stuff. This is how you make money on the net, you find something that needs to be done that no one else is doing and you do it. Bravo! ~Vago

    • patrick says:

      Very true Vago, that is a great way to expand a niche in your own unique way and gain your own loyal following.

  14. patrick says:

    I really enjoyed the part about niching down and knowing what you can and can’t do. I believe it is critical to any businesses success.

    I agree with you on the fact that blogging has become more multi featured. People are depending on content, products and services that are presented in a format that works best for them and their audiences.

    Being able to provide those benifits to other bloggers and businesses that need your help and expertise not only makes their work easier but also helps you in terms of building strong lasting relationships.

    Choosing what we do best and focusing on that will help strenghen or authority and knowledge and allow us to grow as bloggers and business owners. Consistant improvement my friend!

    However as Tim Ferris says, “You can’t make yourself accesible to everyone and you have to eliminate those that demand all of your time and give you little or nothing in return.” (not an exact quote)

    You have to know who your target audience is and work with those who are win win oriented and provide the best opportunities for growth.

    We all have a sweet spot in terms of our abilities and a breaking point and we need to balance our success with our happiness.

  15. Brad says:

    Interesting idears you got there Jeremy…I was under the impression us bloggers are already helping each other out for free. What your proposing sounds like a Virtual Assistant. I could be way off since I’m not even close to needing help and have no idea what a VA actually does.

    Depending on the industry or niche, I bet you can make good money from doing research.

    I do appreciate the idea behind, find a problem that you can solve and try to create an income around it.

  16. Wow – I am so impressed. This is someone who has really done a lot of research!

    Yes, there are bloggers(successful ones who are already making money) who would pay for this kind of work. And I can guess that the writer charges a premium. Not all posts cost $5… you can earn more than that if you do your marketing right. I think I’ll stop talking now, but I just wanna say – English Literature professor?! That would be my dream job :)

    • J. Delancy says:

      Thanks Aisha. I think that small bloggers should consider not just the cost but the value of getting help with their blogs. I understand that a their concern would be, “How can I pay someone when I’m not profitable?” However, there are different ways to compensate someone for their efforts. Small bloggers that realize this will have an advantage over those who do not.

  17. Jeremy,

    Nice Article and well said that “Good blogging need lot of hard work”. True. However,I believe we need to do research to keep our content niche and informative. Keep going

    Greetings,
    Manickam

  18. Nikoya says:

    Freelancing seems great in the beginning, but after awhile can become extremely dreadful and tedious. I guess it depends on the blogger and their own personal drive for writing and creating content. For me it would take the creativity away from having an innovative blog.

  19. J. Delancy says:

    Thanks Patrick. A part of the purpose of the research report was to make sure that my skills met the needs of my target market. I’m also a fan of Tim Ferris and Ramit Sethi, both of whom emphasize the need to highly focus on your niche.

  20. Interesting post; interesting idea.

    If what you’re talking about is providing content services only — i.e., writing and research — I doubt if I’d pay another writer for that, because that’s what I do best.

    I might pay, though, for posts I find tedious to generate: weekly roundups, for example, and blog carnivals. Probably I wouldn’t pay much, unless I could get a clearer vision of how much (or if) those linkfests are worth to FaM.

    What I would hire out is back-end services. I’m a writer, not an IT tech, and for me coding is about as comprehensible as medieval Arabic. I’ve never been able to figure out how to make Google Analytics work. No amount of following instructions or other people’s advice has made it “see” my site. That’s the sort of blogging help I’m willing to pay for.

    • J. Delancy says:

      As a fellow writer I understand. Perhaps finding an IT tech on Guru or O-desk is something you should seriously consider.

  21. Drew says:

    I particularly appreciated the reference to rapport building. This of course is key, when it involves contact with others for the purpose of any form of research work.

    Congratulations on your boldness, with regard to the # of questions sent to your target audience via email. It was interesting to note the fine dividing line in terms of “response rates” given the # of questions asked.

    Great article!

  22. Darcy De Leon says:

    Great post. Thank you for writing it. I began supporting a friend of mine with her blog this year as her blog editor and now I’m beginning to build a freelance business doing that. A lot of bloggers need a little extra help here and there and sometimes a lot of help.

    My background is as an online editor of a publication and an old school writer/editor before that. My friend asked if I could help with her blog, and now she emails me her posts, then I edit them and publish them in WordPress. I find a free stock photo for most of her posts, edit it for the Web in Photoshop then add it to her post. I optimize the posts too – fill in the tags, categories, excerpts. In the beginning of working together I also helped her set goals, create a publishing schedule (3 posts/week on M,W,F), and now we meet every couple of weeks to check in.

    She’s a great writer and is an expert in her field, but she didn’t/doesn’t have time to publish her posts. She works full-time in her field of expertise for a company, but, at the same time,wants to build her private business through her blog. So I’m supporting her in doing that.

  23. Aviva says:

    Thank you for writing this post. You are brilliant!
    I would be thrilled to help other bloggers because I feel like there are many people who have helped me improve my blog too.