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Build Your Brand to Get a Book Deal

This guest post is by Valerie Khoo from www.ValerieKhoo.com.

This article is the second of a three-part series on how to build your brand through your blog and get paid for your creative output and expertise. The first part was about How to build your brand to write for magazines.

Now that you’re addicted to blogging, you might want to explore other forms of writing. Like writing books. So how do you achieve what many consider to be the holy grail of publishing—a book deal?

The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, has done it. Nicole Avery from the blog Planning with Kids has written a book of the same name. Kerri Sackvillle (author of When My Husband Does the Dishes… and The Little Book of Anxiety) got her first book deal after her agent pointed several publishers to her blog.

And this month, Wiley is publishing my book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Business. All these books got the nod because they had the power of a blog behind them.

So how can you turn your blog into a best-seller? Here’s your five-step plan.

1. Determine what your book is about

You might fancy the idea of writing a book. But you need to be clear on what you want to write about. Is it a memoir, how-to, cookbook, fiction, or paranormal urban teenage romance?

Your book idea needs to resonate with the brand you’ve built as a blogger. If you already have an established blog, then it makes sense that your book is related to the themes you cover. After all, if you’ve been blogging about food for two years, your readers are probably going to be a bit confused if you decide to turn out a book on martial arts.

2. Can you slap some posts together and call it a book?

In some cases, yes. In most cases, no. This might be fine if you’re selling your own ebook from your website, but most mainstream publishers usually want original material.

When I was negotiating with my publisher, they particularly liked the fact that I was writing my book from scratch. In fact, only about 500 words from my blog ended up in the 60,000-word book.

Similarly Kerri Sackville says that blogging is very different to writing a book. “When you’re blogging, you’re creating a series of disparate—and often unrelated—posts. Your book, on the other hand, needs to have a common thread linking the the whole thing from beginning to end.”

3. Test possible topics

Your blog is a great testing ground to see what resonates with readers. The posts that generate the most comments, or the ones that are most shared will give you an idea of what topics your readers are most interested in.

If you’re in doubt about whether to include a certain topic in your book, write a blog post on it and see if your readers find it appealing.

4. Connect with the right people

The old saying is true: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

You could be the most amazing writer in the world but that’s a moot point if no one knows about you. It’s notoriously difficult to connect with people such as agents and editors in the book publishing industry, especially if you don’t live anywhere near the action.

However, social media has changed all that. I recommend using it to connect with people in the publishing industry such as:

  • authors
  • agents
  • publishers
  • editors

You can start by Googling lists of these people. However, you can also simply find these people with some logical deduction. Pick your favourite author (follow them), and check out the acknowledgements at the front of their latest book (they often thank their agent and editor—follow them too!). Their publisher will be listed in the acknowledgements (follow them as well).

Authors also often follow other authors/agents/editors/publishers—another good way to find relevant people to connect with.

Engage on social media with these people. Not all of them will want to know you, or even care who you are. But some will. Over time, nurture these relationships and make it known that you’re writing a book.

It’s this very strategy that blogger Kerri Sackville used which finally landed her a book deal—and couple of best-selling books along the way. Similarly, I first developed a Twitter relationship with publishers Wiley in Australia, before it progressed to email, then face-to-face meetings and then a book deal.

5. Write a book proposal

I strongly recommend that you do this even if you haven’t made contact with a publisher yet. Effectively, you are writing this book proposal to no one. It’s simply going to benefit you.

Why? Because when you write a book proposal this helps you distil the essential elements you need to consider before you even approach a publisher. Take time to do this at the start because, quite simply, it will help you write a better book.

This proposal contains key information like what your book is about, who will buy it, why it’s likely to sell, why you’re the ideal author to pen it, and so on. Here are the essential elements of a book proposal:

  • What is your book about? Write a one-page synopsis of your book.
  • Who are you? Write a few paragraphs about who you are and why you’re ideal to write this book.
  • Who will buy your book? Identify the types of readers you think will buy your book. Don’t say “everyone”! “Everyone” will not buy your book. But a group like “30 to 45 year old women who are trying to raise a family while earning part-time income” is a clear demographic that can be targeted when publishers determine their marketing campaigns.
  • List competitive titles. It’s good to know what other books are out there so that you don’t write yours only to find there’s already one in stores about exactly the same topic.
  • Consider your marketing and promotion strategy. In theory, your publisher is responsible for this. However, many authors/bloggers are taking this into their own hands. If you have a marketing strategy outlined to promote your book, you’ll be more appealing to a publisher than an unknown author who has no idea where to start promoting their book.
  • Write a chapter breakdown. If you’re writing a non-fiction book, map out every chapter in the book. Don’t worry, you can change it later if you find it’s not working for you. If you’re not entirely sure where your book is going, do this anyway. This process forces you to think through how you would structure your book and, importantly, whether you have enough material and interesting information to create a compelling one.
  • Write three chapters. If you do approach a publisher with a proposal and haven’t included any chapter samples, they’re going to ask you to provide them anyway. This process also helps you discover whether you love or hate the writing process.

Ultimately, remember that writing a book is completely different from blogging. But if you’re up for the challenge, you could end up with a book you can be proud of—and a brand new revenue stream.

Have you used your blog brand to pitch a book to a publisher? Tell us about it, and share your tips for success in the comments.

Valerie Khoo is founder of www.SydneyWritersCentre.com.au which offers online courses in magazine writing. She blogs at www.ValerieKhoo.com and is author of the new book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Businesswww.PowerStoriesBook.com.

How Small Blogs Became 6-figure Income Generators (and How You Can Do the Same)

This guest post is by Patricia Rodriguez of Adsgadget.

From its early beginnings in 1993 to its inevitable rise in the last few years, blogging has become part of our daily lives. Almost everyone has a favorite blog, a blog that they read first thing in the morning while taking the coffee, or a blog they wonder off to after reading the front page of the New York Times.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the names Mashable, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, LifeHacker, and the like. These are just a few of today’s biggest blogs.

Most people have probably heard, or at least can guess that most of the big names in blogging started in 10×10 dorm rooms, small bedrooms, or a corner in the attic at the family home.

What exactly did these bloggers do to turn a hobby into six-figure income generators and, ultimately, the most visited blogs in the world? Here’s a little insight on some of the biggest blogs on the internet today—and how they got there.

Catching the wave: choosing the right topic at the right time

In 2004, when he was only 19 years old, Pete Cashmore started blogging from his parents’ home in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Pete had an interest in new technologies and how social media was increasingly changing the way people related to one another. he was particularly amazed by how certain government and police websites were combining their in-house data with Google maps to learn information on certain areas and citizens.

Nice little story, right? Pete Cashmore never went to college; instead, he founded Mashable in 2005.

How did he do it? He decided to explore a subject that was changing the world in a time when it was at its peak. Social media exploded in the early 2000s and Pete was there to ride the wave. Not only was he a great writer, he was passionate about what he wrote.

How can you do it? When you start a blog, you do it because you love what you do, because it’s a hobby you like to spend your time on. Don’t lose sight of this just because you’re looking to make a buck. Be passionate through every word you write on your blog. Write about what you like and what you know. And remember that today’s news is what will happen tomorrow.

Pete Cashmore tapped social media networking at a time when it was making its world debut. See what your era has to offer—there are new discoveries and trends springing up every day. It’s all a matter of being here now, being passionate, and writing about it.

The ad factor: Once Pete managed to create a huge community of loyal readers, he went for the big profit makers: advertisements. He subtly included Google AdSense’s banner ads throughout Mashable and reaped his revenues automatically every month.

Now, since creating a site like Mashable is not a simple thing to do, my advice to newbies and beginner bloggers would be to start small. Find self-serve ad platforms that cater to long-tail publishers’ needs. Adsgadget, AOL ads, or Twitter’s new ad platform would be good places to start.

Be cool: the blogger’s guide to creativity

Interactive designer Josh Rubin was always looking for creative inspiration and a better understanding of how people functioned. Ever heard of CoolHunting? It’s one of the biggest blogs on new designer trends, technology, art and culture. It was founded by Rubin.

Originally launched in 2003 as a designer’s reference site, CoolHunting has become an award-winning blog with a huge international audience that’s growing every day.

How did he do it?  He combined creativity, beauty, and a great idea.

For those bloggers who think content is everything, think again. Yes, interesting and fresh content is super-important, but knowing how to present it is just as important.

When visiting CoolHunting, users are greeted by a colorful, visually attractive and engaging home page, full of great photography and designer breakthroughs.

How can you do it? Be visual. No matter what the topic, don’t neglect your blog’s design and aesthetic factor. Yes, write about what you know. Yes, write about a subject that fascinates you. But present it in a way that can’t be ignored, a way that won’t make visitors move their mouse to the upper right corner of their browsers and press on that “x” to close your page.

Let’s say you decide to open a blog on recipes that you have picked up on your worldly travels. Take professional photos and post them on your homepage. Make people go “Wait… What is that? Is that food?!” Include pictures, and step by step instructions with interactive ingredients lists.

Think of new blog visitors as being like yourself the first time you went to your favorite restaurant. Regardless of how you got there, I’m sure the first thing you noticed wasn’t the ingredients written on the menu, but the way the plate looked when they put it on your table.

The ad factor: Josh Rubin got to the point where his site was bursting with organic traffic, so he decided to implement advertising and make the most of his success. When you scroll down Josh’s page you can see fashionable ads from AdRoll or AdMedia servers. These ads are targeted to his specific audience, so you can just imagine how many clicks each one gets.

Have a voice, be aggressive and be ready for criticism

Once upon a time there was a woman called Arianna Huffington. She decided to start a small website called Resignation.com. The website was a call for President Bill Clinton’s resignation and a place for conservatives to mesh together.

Needless to say, you need to be a very opinionated person and have quite a strong voice in order to even think of starting such a website. I’m sure she received her fair share of criticism but carried on nonetheless.

Ever heard of The Huffington Post? It was founded in 2005 by the same person.

How did she do it? By having a voice and not being afraid to shout it.

This is a blog with a very particular tone and a voice of its own. Though sometimes seen as being a bit too aggressive, The Huffington Post presents news in a different light. And people love it.

How can you do it? People like to hear opinionated minds, and they like well-written news with a handful of criticism on the side. They like sassy writing and bold ideas.

Find your blogger voice and shout it out. Don’t be afraid to get criticized. Learn to take in the bad, and spin it your way.

The ad factor: You guessed it—Arianna also opted for ad platforms when she started getting big on the internet. Nowadays she works with Google’s AdSense and DoubleClick platforms.

Advertising: a fast way to turn your hobby blog into a profession

Without a doubt, what pointed these internet enthusiasts in the right direction was their passion for what they were writing. Once they found their voice and attracted a good amount of loyal readers and steady site traffic, they turned to advertising.

Blogging isn’t easy, even when it’s done as a hobby. Turning that hobby into a full-time profession is even harder. It takes time, effort, patience, and most importantly, it takes passion. None of these bloggers started earning overnight. It took them a while before they found their voice and decided to go big and take risks.

All you need is to remember who you are, what you love, and go public with it. You’ll figure out the rest along the way.

Patricia is the PR manager at Adsgadget, a new self-serve ad platform for publishers worldwide. She has years of experience in the online marketing industry and has worked as a content writer for several media outlets.

Build your Brand to Write for Magazines

This guest post is by Valerie Khoo from www.ValerieKhoo.com

This article is the first of a three-part series on how to build your brand through your blog and get paid for your creative output and expertise.

You love being a blogger. But you’re not that interested in spending time driving traffic to your site so you can charge big dollars for advertising or sponsorship. You just love writing—and would like to find a way to get paid for your words.

While early blogging models focused on monetization of the actual blog, this series of posts focuses on how to use your blog to monetize you. After all, your blog can be the best form of advertising—a place to showcase your writing skills and expertise so that you can make money from them.

If you’ve discovered that you love writing, it’s worthwhile exploring the world of freelance writing. And I’m not talking about writing for content mills, where the rate of pay is very low. I mean freelance writing for mainstream publications (like Wired, Fast Company or marie claire).

When you write for magazines or newspapers (online or in print), as opposed to blog networks that might pay per view, it’s typically not your responsibility to also build your audience. For people who simply love the craft of writing, this takes the pressure off having to create headlines with tantalising teases, or pack your posts with lots of SEO-friendly keywords.

So how do you add “paid freelance writer” to your bio?

Hang out your shingle

Have you actually made it clear on your blog that you’re available for freelance writing gigs? Is it on your bio or business card?

If not, how are people going to know?

Let’s take the bio on your blog. While it might feature witticisms like “Husband, father and photography enthusiast; loves pepperoni pizzas and single malt whiskey”, this doesn’t give any clues that you actually want to write.

I spoke about this at a blogging conference last year and it was a lightbulb moment for one blogger who had been trying to get into freelance writing. Already an excellent writer, her blog showcased her writing skills but her bio didn’t mentioned anything about the fact she was available for freelance work.

She added this to her bio, started telling people about it and, within a month, she was offered a freelance writing project. In addition to blogging, she’s been earning income for freelance writing work regular ever since.

Define your expertise and showcase your writing

If you want to write articles on gadgets/craft/food/whatever, make sure that your blog reflects those topics. You want an editor to land on your blog and immediately get a sense of your area of expertise.

However, if you don’t want to be confined to posts about gadgets/craft/food/whatever (because you also can’t resist blogging about how cute your cat is), then at least make it easy for potential editors to find your “professional” posts.

Use category tabs and feature them in your bio or in a prominent place on your blog. You might even consider a tab called “My best writing.”

Editors often don’t have time to trawl through the last three years of your blog to find the posts which really showcase your talents. They’re busy, so help them out and maximise your chance of getting hired by handing your best writing to them on a silver platter.

Create specific ideas for specific markets

Now that you’ve tweaked your blog to best position yourself as a freelance writer (and let’s face it, this isn’t hard … you just need to feature your best stuff so that an editor doesn’t have to dig around for it), it’s time to get some paid work.

When you approach editor about contributing articles as a freelancer, here’s what works and what doesn’t.

Bad: “Hi, I’m a freelance writer. I was wondering what kind of topics you cover? Feel free to give me a call if you have an article ideas you’d like me to write. You can check out my writing on my blog.”

Good: “Hi, I’m a freelance writer. I was wondering if you might be interested in this idea for an article.

“I know that your publication really appeals to women over 30 who are coming to terms with their first few years of motherhood. So would you be interested in an article about how women can maintain links with the corporate world while they’re on maternity leave so that they can re-enter the workforce without falling behind? I’ve include four links to posts on my blog where you can see samples of my writing.”

In other words:

1. Know the market

Show that you’ve read and analysed the publication and know what topics the readers may be interested in. If you make it clear to an editor that you’ve never read their publication before approaching them, don’t expect a response; the editor has already hit Delete.

2. Don’t wait for the editor to give you ideas for article

Editors often rely on good freelancers to provide ideas for articles. If you don’t provide a specific idea then you are, by default, expecting the editor to do the work for you. So you’ll go in the “too hard” basket in favour of someone who provides an article idea that they know the readers will lap up.

3. Make it easy for editors to see you’re a great writer

We talked about this in the second point above. Editors are bombarded with pitches from freelance writers every day. Cut through the clutter by leading editors directly to your best work.

Your brand, your writing

If your blog has ignited a love for writing—but you don’t want to turn it into a monetization machine—freelance writing is a great way to get paid for your words.

Have you landed any freelance writing gigs through your blog? How did you build your brand to make that happen? Share your story in the comments.

And check back tomorrow for part 2 in the series, building your brand to get a book deal.

Valerie Khoo is founder of www.SydneyWritersCentre.com.au which offers online courses in magazine writing. She blogs at www.ValerieKhoo.com and is author of the new book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Business. www.PowerStoriesBook.com.

How to Hire Writers for Your Blog

We’ve talked a lot about scoring a job as a freelance writer through your blogging—and Valeri Khoo will delve into the topic a little more this week. But today I wanted to look at the question from the other side of the equation: hiring paid bloggers to write for your blog.

Why hire writers?

For bloggers who love the writing task, hiring writers can seem like a crazy idea—something that’s only right for people who don’t like writing, or don’t have time for it. And for bloggers on a tight budget, it can seem like a waste of cash that could be spent attracting readers to your blog through advertising and guest posts—especially if your site attracts and accepts free guest posts from other bloggers.

But for any blog, paid writers can add value:

  • Fresh voices, without the editing: If you choose your paid writers carefully, you can amass a team of quality content producers who know their stuff, and how to express it so that readers understand it. This is most certainly not always the case with guest posters.
  • Reliably delivered content of reliable quality: This is a huge bonus to those who are strapped for time to write, but want to keep their blog filled with meaningful content that resonates with their readers.
  • Continuity: While guest posts are great, you may want a stronger core voice for your blog. In that case, paid writers can be great value, as over time, they’ll develop an understanding of your blog, a relationship with your audience, and a sense that they’re growing something through your site and your brand.

How to do it

Lately, I’ve been going through the process of hiring writers for Digital Photography School. Here are the stages in that process.

1. Place the ad

I advertised the position on the ProBlogger Job boards. Here’s my ad.

That ad was partly based upon one I placed a few years ago for a similar position. I tried to outline the process and what I was looking for, as well as some of the benefits of taking on the opportunity.

I also put an end date on when I’d accept applications.

The ad pointed people to a page on dPS, on which I’d set up a contact form specifically to collect the information I needed (it included fields for each piece of information I wanted, with instructions on what I wanted). I used the Gravity Forms plugin to create it.

I set up the form to send submissions direct to my Gmail account, and set up a filter in Gmail to direct all the application emails into a folder. This way, I wouldn’t have to look at them until I was ready to.

2. Promote the ad

This was a bit of a balancing act. I wanted people to find out about the job, but I didn’t want to be completely inundated with applications. So I tweeted it a couple of times from both ProBlogger and dPS Twitter accounts, and placed links to it from dPS and ProBlogger Facebook accounts, the G+ accounts, and on LinkedIn.

I considered promoting it in our weekly newsletter but once I saw I was getting a lot of good applications, and that people were retweeting it and recommending it to friends, I decided to hold off on further promotion.

All in all I had 100 or so applications come in. Having set up the contact form to collect the information I needed up-front was the best thing I did. The applications were almost all what I’d asked for, and presented the candidate details in a way that was easy to read and compare with other applications.

As the applications came in, I responded to each email with a quick templated reply. I said I’d received the application and gave the candidate a heads-up about what the process would look like, and when they could expect to hear from me.

3. Shortlist candidates

Once the period for applications ended, I closed the ad and began to shortlist candidates. This took quite a bit of time.

I’d asked applicants to give details of experience, previous writing examples, and so on, so it took a while to look over everything they’d submitted. The quality of applicants was amazingly high.

I was really only looking for one or two writers, but of the 100 applications I received, I’d have easily considered over half the applicants. It was so tough to narrow it down.

I used Gmail’s “stars” icons to categorize applicants, putting them into No, Maybe, and Yes categories.

“No” applicants immediately got an email letting them know that while we appreciated them applying, we’d not been able to accept everyone and that their application had not gotten through to the shortlist stage (this, again, was a template email that was the same for everyone).

After sorting through the “Maybe” and “Yes” applicants, I was left with around 25 applicants which were of such a high quality that I couldn’t bring myself to say no to any of them at this point.

Originally, I wanted to shortlist down to ten, but some of those in the 25 had up to 20 years’ experience! Others had really high profiles and experience in writing for the web, others were just amazing photographers, and some just had something about the way that they wrote that told me I needed to give them a chance.

All of these applicants got an email that:

  1. said that they’d been shortlisted
  2. outlined what the job was in terms of renumeration (we pay per post and give writers links in their byline to promote their own work, businesses etc.). I also outlined how many and what types of posts the job would entail
  3. told them that there was no pressure to proceed if what we were offering was not a fit for them
  4. gave them information on the types of posts we like (word length, pictures, our blog platform, our workflow for editing and publishing, topics, and voice)
  5. outlined the next step in the process, and inviting them to submit a trial post that would be published on dPS. This post will be paid at the normal rate, and would be an opportunity for them to see what writing with us was like. It would also give me and our audience a taste of what these writers could do, to help us work out if each one was a fit for the blog.

I asked each applicant to let me know:

  • firstly, if they wanted to proceed, knowing how we reimburse and what we expect
  • secondly, if they did want to proceed, to nominate a trial post topic and tell us how quickly they’d be able to get it in.

4. Process trial posts

Within minutes of sending out these emails to the shortlist, I began getting replies. In fact, 100% of them indicated that they wished to proceed and were happy with my explanation of how we work.

I’m now in the process of responding to them all to lock in trial post topics and deadlines. Some have already written their posts in anticipation and excitement, and are very keen.

I’m putting each of the 25 writers into a spreadsheet so I can track the progress of their topics, and when posts will come in, so that I can begin to work on our editorial calendar—it’s going to take a few weeks to publish them all).

5. Final selection

This last phase will entail analysing the submitted posts, looking at how the applicants worked and, reviewing how their posts were received by readers.

I’m a little fearful of this last selection, as the quality of the content is really high already. I may need to look at hiring more people than what I was expecting!

Interestingly, a number of applicants have already indicated that if they don’t get the paid role that they’d like to guest post regularly (and a some of those who didn’t make the shortlist have also asked about guest posting). So it may turn out that this process unearths some good candidates for that, too.

Find the writer who’s right for you

These are the key take-away messages I’ve learned through this experience (and other efforts to hire writers):

  1. Know what you want in a writer and communicate it clearly.
  2. Be clear on the selection process that you want to lead people through before you begin. Ours is quite involved and takes time, and we try to communicate this early on.
  3. Compensate people. We are not the highest paying writing job in the world, but we pay a lot more than some do. We also try to make the work worthwhile, by giving our writers profile-building opportunities.
  4. Give people an opportunity to prove their worth. Giving applicants a chance to write a trial post was something I tried last time, and it was a great step. Some found in the process of writing a trial post identified that it wasn’t something they wanted to do regularly. That meant they withdrew, which I had no problem with. Others thrived, and wrote posts that highlighted them as people I definitely wanted to hire. Paying for these trial posts shows applicants that you’re serious about finding quality.
  5. Clearly communicate each step of the journey. The emails I’ve sent to people at each step are all about communicating the process, outlining what we need from people and when we need it, and answering FAQs (which saves everyone time in the long run).

Have you ever hired writers for your site? What tips and advice can you add to this list? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Couples that Blog Together…

This guest post is by Jefferson and Michelle of See Debt Run.

Blogging with your significant other can be a very rewarding experience, as long as you communicate openly.

My wife and I started personal finance site See Debt Run in January of this year to document our journey out of debt, and to share the experiences that we had along the way.

When we decided to start See Debt Run, we agreed that our site should feature both of our voices equally, and we both pledged to work together to improve our financial situation and to work towards making the site a success. We never expected that this adventure would bring us even closer together.

Divide and conquer

Most people aren’t aware of how much work bloggers really have to do behind the scenes. Networking with peers, managing inquiries, researching keywords, and learning and implementing SEO best practices can all be just as time consuming as creating content. Having two people to tackle these tasks gives you the ability to divide and conquer, which can go a long way towards preventing blogger burnout (which happens to everyone).

Since I work full time, I am often unavailable during the day to respond to comments or handle any other blog issues that come up.  Because my wife stays at home with our one-year-old daughter, she can respond to comments or inquiries during the baby’s naptime, which is a major advantage. 

In the evenings, after the kids are in bed, we buckle down and take care of writing for the site, editing, and other blogging tasks.

During this time, we actually enjoy working side by side. While many married couple are probably spending their evenings watching television, my wife and I are instead collaborating together to build something, which is a reward in and of itself.

Lend a hand

The very best part about blogging with your spouse is the fact you have an editor who is available 100% of the time.

We agreed from the start that we would provide honest feedback to each other, and as such, we always read each other’s posts before they go up on the site. It isn’t unusual for my wife to suggest that I remake a section of one of my articles, or for me to suggest that she add a better transition between paragraphs in one of hers.

To keep the site running smoothly, we use a variety of tools to keep things straight. We maintain a shared text file that we call the “idea well.”  Whenever we think of something that might make a good post, it gets added to the file, where either one of us are welcome to run with it.  As these ideas turn into real posts, we maintain a shared calendar to keep track of which articles will be running and when.

The hour or two that we have before bed is not always enough time to get our articles completed and ready for publishing.  If one of us needs some time to write, the other is always willing to take the kids out to the playground, to clear the house of the normal distractions.  

There have also been a few occasions since starting the blog that each of us has suffered a bit of writers’ block, and when that has happened, the other was more than willing to step up and write up a few extra posts.

Use your voices, since you have more than one

From a writing perspective, I like to think that having two voices instead of one helps us appeal to a broader audience.

Logic might tell you that your readers want to connect with a single author, finding their perspective appealing, but with both of us posting regularly, we have the ability to make even more connections. My wife and I have very different writing styles, and as such, we appeal to different groups of people.

My wife is a dynamic storyteller who has a talent for using conversations in her writing. When she tells a story, she uses small details and raw emotions to help readers feel like they were right there with our family when the situation was going down.

I tend to write in a more traditional style, often backing up my articles with detailed examples and statistics. I have found the most success in writing articles that give career advice or offer specific tips about methods that we are using to improve our financial situation.

No two people have the exact same writing style.  If you and your partner can each find your own unique voice, together you can find harmony.

Communication is key

To other couples out there that may be considering starting a blog together, I would wholeheartedly recommend it! Sustaining a successful a blog involves many long hours working on your computer, and having someone there with you goes a long way towards alleviating the monotony.

The most important advice that I can offer would be to make sure that you communicate openly. If you are considering making a change with the blog or discussing a new promotional opportunity, be sure to discuss it before moving forward.

Remember that you are full partners in this game, and you both have an equal stake in the site’s success. As long as you respect your partner and communicate openly, couple blogging can be a very rewarding experience.

Do you blog with your life partner—or another type of blogging partner? Tell your story in the comments.

Jefferson and his wife Michelle write at the personal finance blog See Debt Run, where they document their family’s journey to financial sanity. They write about frugal parenting, money making opportunities, career advice, and more.

Find—and Use—Your Blogging Freedom

This guest post is by Jon Rhodes of Affiliate Marketing Tips.

Isn’t the idea of being a full-time blogger great?! You control your own time, and answer to nobody. You don’t have to ask someone for permission if you want to take some time off, or go and pursue a new idea you’ve had.

There are many perks to being a full-time blogger. However you must make sure that you are actually enjoying these perks.

The problems

What I see some new full-time bloggers doing is being equally as hard on themselves as their former bosses were.

Sure, you need to work hard to be successful, but you must also enjoy some of the benefits that attracted you to this type of work in the first place—at least occasionally. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Many people seem to stay cooped up at work in their own homes for much of the day. This is similar to being stuck in the office all day, accept with an office at least you can leave and go home to a different environment at the end of your working day.

Others seem to squander their at-home time on low-quality perks, such as surfing the Web, watching TV, or eating too much. These things are okay for a while, but shouldn’t you be going beyond this if you wish to maximise the position you worked so hard to get yourself into?

The solutions

Think to yourself for a few moments about the reasons why you decided to become a blogger.

Now question yourself: are you really fulfilling those reasons, or have you simply got yourself into a loop of bad habits?

If you’re in the second category, right now is the time to change this! Not only will it let you enjoy your blogging lifestyle, getting creative with your time will also improve your creativity and productivity. It’s good for you and your blog.

Take a break

Plan something for about a week’s time—a trip for the day, or even a few days if your circumstances allow it. Something that you have wanted to do but never got round to because you’ve had no time. This activity doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated—unless you want it to be.

I have always wanted to go up Mount Snowdon (in North Wales) on the train, but never got round to it. So recently I did the 250-mile round trip during a weekday while everyone else was at work.

I did something that gave me full reward for the position I’ve worked so hard to get myself into.

So make your plan. Once you’ve thought of an activity that will utilise your freedom, schedule it into your diary, and stick to your plan.

Take this appointment seriously. Your health and wellbeing is the most important thing in the world. You cannot look after your blog, your business, or your loved ones if you are not healthy and vibrant yourself.

The benefits aren’t just in the activity itself—they’re also in the build-up, knowing you have some liberating activity planned in the near future. It can put a spring in your step and help you feel good about the world. It can also help boost your productivity in the meantime, and afterward, as you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Once you have executed this, you should plan another soon after. This will help you actually experience the feelings of freedom that your lifestyle now permits, and ensure that you get a chance to recharge the batteries as often as you need to.

A break on a smaller scale

Can’t take a full day off in the near future? Need to refresh yourself in between breaks?

You can also utilise your liberty by finding different places to work. Many businesses now offer free wireless internet. So if you have a laptop you can get a change of scenery and find nice cafés, parks, libraries and other places to work from.

Most employers won’t let you do this, but now you’re a full-time blogger, you can! This is likely to help your creativity when writing and making business decisions, as well as getting you out of the house.

Joining a gym is another great idea. I go early in the morning, at about 9am, three times a week. Rather than going in the evening after work when I’m tired and have had enough, I can go early, to wake myself up and get the blood flowing.

I come home, shower and eat, and feel refreshed, happy, positive, and ready to work. I must admit that I find it much easier to stick with going to the gym now that I work my own hours from home—I’ve been going consistently for more than two years now. Back when I was employed, I would last about six months and usually stop when things got a bit stressful with work and commitments. But blogging full-time lets you manage your life as you like.

Making the most of it

Even if you are currently working full-time, or part-time, as well as blogging, you can still make time for yourself and utilize what freedom you do have. Maybe plan something for the evening after work, or the weekend, or book a day or two off. We all have limits on our freedoms, but most people fall well short of utilising what it is they have got.

Many people get stuck in the rut of living to work. We want stability for ourselves and our families, and we can easily become obsessed with this. However we must sometimes take time out to smell the roses.

You will probably work better and more efficiently—on your blog, and in your job if you have one—if you look after yourself more in this way.

Final thoughts

So go, get your thinking cap on and plan something for the near future. If money is an issue, it could even be a picnic or a walk somewhere nice.

The important thing is how you spend your time. Life is for living, and we only get one shot at it.

Jon Rhodes is a successful blogger and affiliate marketer from the UK. He strongly advocates ethical affiliate marketing, which he firmly believes is the best strategy for long term success. Learn his secrets to making money online at his blog Affiliate Marketing Tips.

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Bloggers

This guest post is by Karol K of YoungPrePro blog.

The advice on how to be “the effective guy” is just so common online that it starts to get boring … You know, reading yet another article on how to be a great blogger and all…

So why not take a different approach and consider the seven habits of highly ineffective bloggers instead?

If you think that it’s a joke, it isn’t. If you look around in the blogosphere I’m sure you’ll find tons of bloggers who fit this description perfectly. In fact, I bet that you’re guilty of one or two of these habits as well (I know I am).

Habit 1. Not proofreading

This is the first sin bloggers make. I know that crafting a nice blog post takes time. You need to do your research, prepare the resources, and finally write the thing using a number of relevant links and keep all the SEO optimizations in mind … there’s really a lot to do.

In all this commotion, it’s easy to overlook one simple thing: proofreading. The fact is that proofreading is one of the most important phases of crafting a blog post. Without it, you’re not using the potential of your post effectively—some readers will simply be discouraged with all the grammatical errors you’ve made.

My advice is this: proofread your posts at least once. In addition, use a plugin like After the Deadline for some extra help (it provides automatic proofreading).

Bonus tip: There’s one more trick I want to share with you. I’ve found that I get much better results when it comes to the quality of my writing if I write a post one day, and then edit and proofread it the next day.

Habit 2. Not networking

Did you know that 80% of your blog’s success depends on the people you know, not on the content you write? You didn’t? That’s because I made that statistic up!

Whatever the stats, I’m sure the benefits of reaching out to your fellow bloggers are pretty clear to you. Building a successful site is always easier if you have someone you can contact for help, or for a joint venture proposition.

Treat your blog like business. The more quality business partners you have the better. Networking in the blogosphere isn’t even difficult. It all starts with a simple email that says hi.

Habit 3. Not using offline blogging tools

These days, I’m all about offline blogging tools. One particular tool, actually. It’s called Windows Live Writer. What’s great about it is that it allows you to create an optimized blog post offline, and then send it to any WordPress blog you want.

Let’s face it: you won’t have internet access at all times. Maybe you’re staying in a cheap hotel, or visiting your family over the weekend, or some other scenario. If you want to be effective, you have to have a way of creating a post even if you’re offline.

I know that the standard way of doing this is through Microsoft Word or some other text processor, but they are not very good at providing WordPress-ready formatting. Windows Live Writer is great in this regard—give it a go.

Habit 4. Not staying on topic

Going off topic makes you highly ineffective. And the reason is that your readers have come to your site to read a very specific piece of information. They’ve seen a headline, or a search engine listing, and clicked on it. Now, if you decide that you want to change the direction mid-post, they’ll simply leave.

Over time, such practice will make you really ineffective at writing about the things you wanted to write about. You’ll always get distracted at some point and talk about other things. This is something you really need to be wary of.

The simple advice is this: if you fail to stay on topic, your readers will get confused and leave.

Habit 5. Not promoting your stuff

Writing and publishing the post is usually only half the job. If you want to make it really popular, good content won’t be enough, you also need to spend a fair amount of time on promotion.

And by promotion I don’t necessarily mean spending money on ads and reaching out to investors. Just a couple of clicks on some social media share buttons might be enough, or sending an email update to your subscribers, or notifying your StumbleUpon friends and contacts, and so on.

Also, this is where your network of contacts comes into play again (mentioned earlier). If you have some friends in the blogosphere, you can let them know whenever you publish something really valuable (your pillar content).

Habit 6. Not writing guest posts

Every website you know of—every single one of them—became popular because of some other website. There’s not one website online that became popular on its own (no, not even Google or Facebook).

The key to success, then, is to get featured on other websites. There are two possibilities here:

  1. The difficult one is to do something remarkable and get mentioned naturally.
  2. The easier one is to write a guest post and offer it for free in exchange for a link.

I really can’t emphasize this enough, but guest blogging is the cheapest and the best way of building your brand online. If you think that you don’t need to do any guest blogging, then you are not utilizing your full potential as a blogger.

Habit 7. Not doing SEO

I know some people say that SEO is dying. Mostly, this attitude is the result of the recent updates like Penguin, which killed a number of legitimate websites and online businesses just because they were building quality (yes, you read this right, quality) backlinks.

This whole situation makes the SEO game a lot harder, but it doesn’t mean that you should leave it completely. The fact is that one thing surely won’t change anytime soon: Google will still remain the main provider of traffic online, and if you want to get a piece of this traffic, you’re going to have to learn how to be up-to-date with the best SEO practices and implement them in your blog.

Make sure to pay attention to the popular SEO blogs and also the official Google webmaster central blog.

Are you guilty?

This concludes my list of 7 habits of highly not effective bloggers. Feel free to tell me what you think, and admit how many of these habitds you’re guilty of. Be honest—I know I’m doing at least two myself!

Karol K. is a freelance writer, and a blogger. If you want to check out what he’s up to, feel free to hit him up on Twitter (@carlosinho).

What’s Good for the Blogger Is Good for the Blog

As we were preparing this weekend’s posts—which all deal with topic of productivity and the blogger’s lifestyle—I was reminded of a blogging truism that many of us seem to forget.

happy_time

Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

For the blogger who’s taking their blog and their readership seriously, what’s good for us is generally good for our blog.

Conversely, what’s good for our blog is generally good for us.

This truth isn’t just helpful when it comes to feeling motivated, inspired, and creative—it can also help us stay on track. Keeping this in mind helps me align my blog with my life—and vice versa, making my blogging a sustainable part of my life as a whole.

What’s bad?

Some of us might be tempted to take that as an excuse to avoid the tasks we don’t like doing. Of course there are always blogging tasks we don’t enjoy—for me, it’s the accounting. But what’s good for my blog—staying on top of the accounting—is also good for me (since my blog pays my bills!).

This philosophy isn’t an excuse for forgetting about things we don’t like doing. Instead, it’s a call to action to tackle them and make sure they’re as successful as they need to be. I hired an accountant, which has been good for me, and helped sustain my blog!

And what’s good?

But what about the tasks we do want to do? If I’m considering a new business idea or strategy, and find that I’m feeling weighed down or burnt out by it, that can tend to impact my life beyond blogging as well as my blogging itself.

When that happens, I’ll go back to the new idea I’m working on and try to find the real problem—is there some aspect of the plan that needs to change? Should I consider another idea instead? For me, there’s no reason in pursuing an idea that I’m not enjoying, or that’s taking more out of my life than it’s putting in.

It’s not just me who feels this way, though—this weekend we’ll hear from three bloggers who have made blogging a part of their lives, and have let their lives enrich their blogging too.

  • Karol K will reveal the 7 habits of highly inefficient bloggers … which is based on his own experience, as well as the lessons he’s learned from those around him. As he shows, these seven inefficiencies can make your life as a blogger a lot harder than it needs to be. Fortunately, they’re all pretty simply fixed.
  • Jon Rhodes will show us how he’s making the most of his full-time blogging lifestyle—and what that has meant for his blog. If you need a breath of fresh air—and fresh inspiration for your blogging—don’t miss this piece.
  • Jefferson and Michelle, a husband-and-wife blogging team, will let us in on some of the advantages of blogging in partnership—with your significant other! Again, their story proves that if you’re serious about your blog, what’s good for it will usually prove to be good for you, too.

Every day, we see the work we put into our blogs, but we may not be so quick to look at what our blogs contribute to our lives. The fact is that if we don’t see the relationship as symbiotic and mutually beneficial, we probably won’t continue with our blogs.

What aspects of your life are good for you and your blog? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

The Top 6 SEO Resources for Bloggers

This guest post is by Matt Beswick.

For anyone involved in SEO, staying on top of the game is a difficult task thanks to the unpredictable nature of the business.

As a blogger, however, it’s almost impossible—all you want to be doing is writing great content and generating traffic, right? Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, things change in the blink of an eye, so keeping tabs on the latest SEO witchcraft inevitably demands a lot of research off the clock.

The following websites are the best references on the web for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening, and make sure that their site isn’t doing anything that risks putting them out of favour with the big G!

SEOmoz

Since 2004, SEOmoz has been one of the most highly respected sites online when it comes to providing top-notch SEO analysis, advice and knowledge.

Their accumulated SEO wisdom is practical and credible, thanks to their renowned staff of expert authors. With plenty of general articles and loads of quick, helpful tidbits, SEOmoz istheultimate SEO destination for many in the industry.

Search Engine Roundtable

Maintaining one’s relevance in an industry that changes as quickly as SEO is a challenge. That’s where Search Engine Roundtable comes in.

Like the Slashdot of SEO forums, it reports on the best writing in the field and compiles it into a running commentary on the state of the industry. Featuring some of the most insightful analysis of the Search Engine Marketing world available, Search Engine Roundtable is a must-read.

Search Engine Land

Covering literally every aspect of SEO and online marketing under the sun, Search Engine Land is a favourite among SEOs in every niche.

Boasting regular full-length articles by some of the most recognised names in the business, it’s practically a necessity for those who wish to stay ahead of the curve on SEO matters.

Whether you’re after how-to tutorials, buyers’ guides, or white papers from the web’s biggest tech companies, Search Engine Land has it all.

State of Search

A relative newcomer to the scene, State of Search is nevertheless one of the most reliable sources for SEO news and views that you can find.

In addition to their in-depth coverage and superb articles, they also boast a newsletter, weekly podcasts on Webmaster Radio, and a whole lot more.

Bolstered by a loyal and growing fan base of SEO professionals, amateurs and freelancers, State of Search is one site that shouldn’t be ignored.

Search Engine Journal

Taking the traditional SEO journal format and spicing it up with some extra goodness, Search Engine Journal delivers the goods on a consistent basis.

The forums are a veritable Algonquin Round Table of SEO discourse and are a terrific resource in and of themselves. On top of stellar articles and opinion pieces, this site also claims some of the best SEO link-building tools out there.

Google Webmaster Central

Google dominates so much of our online lives that it’s no wonder we spend so much time and effort optimising pages for their algorithms. When in doubt, going straight to the source for the best information on optimising for those algorithms is a pretty smart move.

Google Webmaster Central is the official SEO blog for the world’s biggest search engine company. To get the sanctioned party line from Google’s top brass and read helpful, informative posts by the likes of Matt Cutts, head here first.

Over and Out

The moral of the story is that the laws of entropy apply to SEO just as they do to the rest of the universe: without a constant input of effort, it’s easy to fall out of the loop and lose your handle on what’s hot in the ever-exciting world of SEO.

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to stay on top of current developments by checking these sites regularly—they’re quite simply the best of the best when it comes to doing your industry homework. If you can recommend others, though, let us know about them in the comments.

Matt Beswick is a digital consultant based in the UK, specialising in SEO, and also runs Pet365. Find him on Twitter @mattbeswick.