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How I Earned $15000 from The Problogger Job Board

This is a guest contribution from Andy Nathan, of Smart at the Start.

I have a secret formula for using the Problogger job board that will enthrall many, and bring others to tears with their boredom. That is OK! I do not want everyone to use what I am about to explain below, because that just means more business for me. 

In fact, I struggled with whether I should even share this information to anyone, because…well… human greed being what it is. Over the past year, I have automated the process on the Problogger job board to the point where I spend roughly 5-10 minutes prospecting for every new client off the board.

Pardon my laziness, but I don’t want to work to get clients business. I want to work to keep their business by focusing on awesome content. This is why the Problogger Job Board is simply the best, as we will discuss below in my step-by-step tutorial. 

My Ideal Client

Before we get into what I did to earn $15,000 from the job board here on Problogger, I want to step back and explain what I believe my ideal client should look like. This is important, because if I did not have a picture of what my ideal client would look like, then I would never know how to use the job board correctly.

First, I do not want to spend time talking to clients if possible. It is not that I don’t like people. I sometimes go to networking events as much for the socialization now as I do for the business referrals. The fact is, speaking with a client is time that I am not writing for other clients or playing Video Catnip and watching my cats go a bit crazy.

20130813_065310Time management is huge as a freelancer. This was something I did not understand when I started. I used to be a “good” salesperson who met every client face to face. Somehow seeing my beautiful mug (see selfie) would magically turn prospects into sales. 

What I realized was that for a 10-20% drop in my close rate, I could do a few less coffees and accomplish a whole lot more for my clients.

As of today, 50% of my clients are people I have never spoken to once in the entire relationship. All communication is through email and social media. What a difference it makes.

Another 25% are people that I connect with over the phone as well as email. 

The remainder are my networking clients. Clients I met through various networking events over the years. Generally, those ones want to meet me face to face and make sure that I am a “real” writer. 

Second, if I have to explain the benefits of blogging this is probably not going to work. I have spent too much time in the past explaining to general contractors, attorneys, and other professionals why blogging is important. 

If you don’t get it, I am sorry. I am not your blogging messiah. I write ridiculously awesome content for you (sometimes in your own voice) optimized for search traffic. However, you go ahead and keep cutting and pasting articles from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, (old time newspaper fill in the blank), etc. See how well that works! 

Third, I have written close to 3000 blog posts over the past five years. Not saying that to impress you. I am telling you this, because I want compensation for my experience. I personally like having money in my account. The wife is much happier (aka happy life), my bills are paid, and that creeping sense of dread fades away. 

Now for the ProBlogger Job Board info you crave…

Now that we got this little rant about ideal clients out of the way, what did I do to earn money from the Problogger job board? Automation.

First:

I would recommend opening a new tab, so you can follow along while I discuss how I use the board. It is not that you have never seen a job board, but this is my unique twist. You might just want to set this up as you read this post.

Problogger Job Board

Second:

Take in the board for a second. Notice that there are only about 3-5 listings per day. It is not an overwhelming horde of listings, but a constant stream of leads. This is important. When I used this process on Craigslist, the nonsense chatter on the site, even after using the filters, made it an extreme waste of time. Plus, no one likes worthless emails coming into your email box all day.

Third:

Notice in the bottom right corner, there is a subscribe button. This is crucial to my laziness. A RSS feed of all the job posts in one spot. 

Copy the RSS feed below: 

http://feeds.feedburner.com/ProBloggerJobs 

Problogger Job Board RSS Feed

Fourth:

Open a new tab, and type in IFTTT.com. This is an automation site. You can use this for a variety of purposes online. If you don’t have an account on IFTTT, you will need to set one up in about two minutes. Fear not, accounts on the site are free. In fact, for freelance writers this entire process is free. 

When you login, you will go to your dashboard. Below is what my dashboard looks like currently:

IFTTT Recipes

Fifth:

To automate processes you need to create a recipe. Recipes are easy to create. The site’s real name is “If This, Then That.” The entire automation system runs on one equation that you can use for a multitude of purposes.  

IFTTT-IF This Then That

You create recipes that trigger one online platform to perform a task on another online platform. 

While this might sound confusing, the truth is this is simple to use. For our purposes, all you need is the Problogger Job Board URL that you copied and an email address. If you do not have an email address then you can use Gmail. 

Step 1: Select the Feed symbol. 

IFTTT Step 1

Step 2: Decide what type of feed you want to use. Personally, I use the new feed item, because I find the keyword too limiting for my needs. However, if you are looking for targeted terms, then use the “new feed item matches” as a trigger.

IFTTT Step 2 

Step 3: paste the Problogger Job Board feed.

IFTTT Step 3

Steps 4 and 5: choose email icon for your action. You will need to have your email address connected to IFTTT for this to work, so do not give them a spam account. They do not email people a lot, so do not worry about spam.

IFTTT Step 4

Step 5: Click the “Send me an email” link.

IFTTT Step 5

Step 6: make sure you are receiving the best information for the post. Generally, they will include the information you need already. Just double check that the “EntryUrl” is in the email body. 

IFTTT Step 6

Step 7: The finished recipe will look like the one I created last September for Problogger. Confirm that you want to set up the recipe.

IFTTT Step 7

Since last September, I have received 532 emails. While most of the listings are never answered, over the course of the past nine months I probably responded to somewhere between 50 to 100 posts. Out of these posts, I received about 5-10 new jobs that brought in around $15,000 in revenue. 

Now you have the recipe for an automated lead generation process; however, we still have to convert the leads into clients. For that, let me take you behind my conversion process. 

Conversion Time

Now that we have these leads coming in, let’s look at how to convert them into clients. 

Below is the template I use for all leads. I save this as a draft with an attached resume (available on Google Drive for your convenience.) 

While each article is usually a little different, most follow a similar pattern.

I am following up on your request for a (name type of writer needed here). Based on your description I believe I should (put in relevant information you requested in your job board listing about the position here at the top, showing that I do listen to what you requested)

Here are a few articles I wrote recently to give you a feel for my writing style:

http://technorati.com/business/advertising/article/weird-email-marketing-subject-lines-can/

http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/01/20/53-ways-to-market-your-google-plus-hangout-on-air/

http://www.steamfeed.com/using-wordpress-to-turn-website-social-network/

http://basicblogtips.com/better-social-media-results.html

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-hangouts-air-affect-search-traffic/68138/

Additionally, check out my LinkedIn profile with 13 recommendations. www.linkedin.com/in/andrewmarcnathan

Finally, attached is my resume. 

Please feel free to call me at 847-710-7093 or respond via email with any questions you have for me. 

Thanks!

Andy Nathan

Right now, this email has about a 1 out of 15-success rate. Therefore, I spend two minutes on each email then I will spend 30 minutes total for a new client. Considering some of the clients I brought in have produced thousands of dollars in revenue that is worth it in my opinion. 

Final note: I do not write free sample articles that will determine if I am paid in the future. If someone asks you to write a free article for him or her, run like the dickens

What are the downsides of the ProBlogger job board?

Now, I hate when people give this story about too-good-to-be true stories about a tool, without letting you know about any pitfalls. 

Here are the three downsides that I have found using the Problogger job board:

First, with only five or so leads coming in every day, you will have a number of days where you get no leads. In fact, sometimes I have seen up to a month stretch where I did not feel it was worthwhile to follow up on any of the leads. 

Second, this means do not quit your job and expect this to bring you a full time income right away. I still do other work for clients. The job board just made it easier for me to make money. 

Third, this is a tool to help you find prospects. It is up to you to make sure that they are the right fit for you, as well as a source of potential income. When I started in this industry, my first assignment was for $5 articles. I will never look at laser hair removal the same way again! More importantly, I will never write an article for $5 ever again. My time is more valuable than that. Determine what you believe a fair rate is ahead of time. This is where understanding your ideal client comes in.

Additionally, if you do not have the experience, go out and get it.

Do guest posts to build traffic, and use them in your portfolio. Start networking online and offline to find new clients. Be aggressive when you need to be, and then you can take the easy way out later when you have a healthy portfolio.

This process works for me, because I put in the time and effort to master my craft. Do the same, and do not expect this to be a quick fix. 

Now go forth and be a lazy freelance writer!

That is the process. You are now an expert, so get started with this process right away, so you can discover how easy it is to make money with the Problogger job board. Or if you want to make sure that I have more money in my pocket, you can just go back to your daily activities like nothing has happened. 

Either way, let me know in the comment section below what you found to be the most useful part of this tutorial? 

Andy Nathan is the founder of Smart at the Start, an internet marketing agency. He is also the author of the upcoming book, Start Up Gap. However, since he keeps getting distracted by writing guest posts, responding to Problogger job board inquiries, playing with cats, and other shiny objects, the book is not available until August. In the meantime, you can get a free copy of his eBook, 101 Online Tools: Tools you need to succeed.

10 Ways to Exponentially Grow Your Traffic in 30 Days

This is a guest contribution from Marcus Taylor of Venture Harbour.

In Western cultures, there is a prevailing belief that you ‘work your way to the top’, ‘climb the ladder’, and make slow and steady efforts to achieve success.

This way of thinking is undoubtedly a smart approach, particularly for bloggers. However, there is an equally smart, yet opposing, belief that’s more common in certain Eastern cultures: leapfrogging straight to the top.

1-exponential-trafficAt the beginning of 2014, I decided to get smart about my blogging. By concentrating on the things that made the biggest difference, I managed to exponentially grow my traffic, quadrupling it within 90 days.

How to grow your blog exponentially

Exponential growth happens when you’re effective, which is very different to being busy. We know from Pareto’s Law that 80% of results are often driven by 20% of our actions. To grow your blog exponentially, you’ll need to Identify the 20% of the 20% of the 20%, so that you’re always focusing on the one thing that will have the biggest impact.

Below are 10 examples from personal experience that can lead to exponential increases in traffic. While not all of them will be relevant to your situation, my hope is that they’ll help to get your creative juices flowing and enable you to come up with some ideas that will enable your blog to grow at a faster rate.

1. The aggregation of marginal gains

In 2010, David Brailsford had the tough job of coaching Great Britain’s cycling team for the Tour de France.

He believed in a concept called the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’, which states that if you make a 1% improvement in everything you do, they will compound into incredible results.

He started by improving the obvious things, such as the rider’s nutrition, training program, seat ergonomics, and tire weight. But he didn’t stop there.

2-aggregation-marginal-gains

David went on to discover which pillow offered the riders the best sleep, and taught them the most effective way to wash their hands to avoid infection. He searched for 1% improvements everywhere.

To cut this fascinating story short, the British team went on to win the Tour de France after just three years of using David Brailsford’s strategy.

If you made a 1% improvement in every aspect of your blogging, from your headline writing skills, to your email signup rate, and page loading speed, you’ll soon notice a compounding effect on your desired outcomes.

2. Only 30% of the World population speak English

It’s estimated that 30% of the World’s population speak English. This implies that more than two-thirds of the planet speak (and search) in non-English languages.

There is, unsurprisingly, a disproportionate amount of blogs competing over English-language traffic. This represents a huge opportunity for bloggers wanting to target traffic in non-English speaking countries.

One of my favourite case studies on exponential blog growth is of a blog that reached 1.4m visitors in under six months by targeting Japanese search terms. The strategy was simple: there are relatively few website targeting Japanese, which makes it easier to rank for competitive keywords.

A client of mine runs the site BinaryOptions.com. After noticing that his market was growing in the Middle East and Asia, he decided to translate his website in Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and a handful of other languages using the WPML (WordPress Multi-Lingual) plugin.

Within a matter of weeks, his traffic from non-English speaking countries had almost doubled. That’s not bad for 30 minutes work installing a translation plugin.

Ideally, your content shouldn’t just be translated, it should be localised by someone with a cultural understanding of the countries and languages you’re targeting. However, in the interest of effort and reward, translation plugins can be an effective short-term solution for exponentially increasing the size of your audience.

3. Systems are the secret to scalable results

If you want to see exponential growth, you need to become ruthless with your time and build systems that run themselves. This is the only way to shift your focus away from low-value tasks towards the high-value work that you’re great at.

For virtually all of the projects that I run, I have a degree of social media automation using a combination of tools like IFTTT and Buffer, with a virtual assistant.

I’m also a huge fan of using email autoresponders and marketing automation tools to keep the communities active even when i’m not. One of my sites has had very little attention for over two years, but they still continues to grow due to ‘evergreen’ autoresponder chains that keep the community engaged.

3-email-auto-responders

 

4. Look Forward to Google’s Algorithm Updates

The majority of webmasters fear the unpredictability of algorithm updates. If your strategy is aligned with Google’s mission to deliver the best and most relevant result to users as quickly as possible (and increase their shareholder value), then they can be an event to look forward to.

One of my sites that I haven’t touched in over 18 months doubled in traffic during last month’s soft panda updates. Why? Because four of my main competitors all got wiped off of the search results for being overly short-sighted with their strategy.

4-double-traffic

While SEO is a complex area with hundreds of constantly-changing ranking factors, it can generally boiled down to a few simple principles:

  • Create the best content you can – and proactively promote it.
  • Offer the best user experience you can. Make your site beautiful, fast, and easy to use.
  • Think long term – build a brand and become the authority on your topic.

The next time Google prunes its search results, will you benefit from the short-sighted websites dropping in the ranks, or will you be one of them?

5. Could you increase your content output tenfold?

One of the most obvious ways to exponentially increase your blog’s traffic is to exponentially increase the amount of content you produce.

When growing KISSmetrics, Neil Patel found that each additional blog post he added to their blog increased weekly traffic by 18.6%. What if instead of publishing one blog post per week, you published 10, or 20?

Or, what if instead of increasing your posting frequency, you increased the length of your content?

This point ties in nicely with point three about building systems. One of the big leaps that many bloggers make is moving from it being ‘their blog’ to building a system of writers and contributors that fuel the content engine. Is it time for you to boost your content output with a team of writers?

6. Could you improve your content quality tenfold?

One counterpoint to the suggestion above is that instead of increasing your content output, you could just improve the quality of your content, multiplying its effectiveness.

While content quality is somewhat subjective, it’s fair to say that the more time we invest into a piece of content, the better it will be. Let’s say you currently spend three hours, on average, writing a blog post. What if your next piece of content took you 30 hours?

By definition, we remark upon things that are remarkable. Any blog post that takes 30+ hours to create is likely to be quite remarkable.

Ask yourself whether the last 10 posts you wrote represent your very best, and if not – would it rock the boat to write a few extremely well crafted blog posts?

7. Could one person transform your blog’s success?

“Relationships help us to define who we are and what we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships” – Donald O. Clifton, and Paula Nelson.

When I first read the quote above, it hit me like a tonne of bricks. In my case, virtually all of the significant events in my career to date are owed to five or six people. I imagine this trend is true for a lot of us.

Choosing the right professional allies is incredibly important. As a blogger, you’ll unlikely achieve great success without some good allies. I recommend spending some time to identify the relationships and alliances that could skyrocket your blog’s success. Invest in those relationships.

8. Could one blog post transform your blog?

I recently discovered that Mashable wrote one article in February that generated more links and shares than 87 of their articles written in 2013 combined. Imagine if, instead of writing those 87 articles, they had written just ten of those mega-successful articles?

One of the common responses of successful bloggers when asked what they’d do differently if they started again is that they’d work smarter instead of harder.

If there was one blog post that could completely transform your blog’s success, what might it be?

9. Should you zoom-in or zoom-out?

A few years ago I met Gary Arndt during one of his trips to Melbourne. Gary is the man behind Everything Everywhere, which is generally considered to be one of the earliest travel blogs.

He told me that most travel bloggers fail because they’re too late. According to him, it’s near impossible to be a successful travel blogger starting out nowadays, as there’s just too much competition.

I agree. I think it’d be extremely difficult to be a successful ‘zoomed out’ travel blogger i.e. a travel blogger who covers every type of travel, every country, or every aspect of travelling. However, there’s probably a lot of opportunity to be a ‘zoomed-in’ niche travel blogger e.g. one who specialises in glamping, Fiji travel, or travel for yogis.

A good question for many bloggers to ask themselves is are they too zoomed-in or too zoomed-out? When your blog becomes a big fish in a little pond, it’s often healthy to expand the size of the pond – and enter additional niches.

When you’re a small fish in a big pond, it’s usually more sensible to swim in a smaller pond – and completely own that pond for a while.

10. Ten minutes planning saves one hour in execution

Brian Tracy wisely said that “every minute spent planning saves 10 minutes of execution”.

When I analysed how successful blogs such as this one, Mashable, KISSmetrics, and ConversionXL reached millions of readers, I noticed a common theme among several of them: planning.

Nick Eubank’s case study perhaps highlighted this the best: in six months he reached 1.4 million visitors by using analytical models to identify tens of thousands of keywords that were uncompetitive yet high in search volume. Through extreme planning he was able to reach an enormous audience in an incredibly short space of time.

In Summary

It’s said that there are no shortcuts to success, only direct paths. I think that, more accurately,  some direct paths are shorter than others.

Despite some of the outliers, growing a blog takes time. It will be an ongoing sequence of plateaus followed by growth spurts, followed by plateaus.

I hope that some of these ideas will translate into the next growth spurt for your blog’s traffic. If you have any thoughts on any of the ideas mentioned, or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or reach me on Twitter.

Marcus Taylor is the founder of Venture Harbour, a digital marketing agency that specialises in working with companies in the music, film, and game industries. 

 

How to Beat Your Competition Online by Trying this One Thing

This is a guest contribution.

You look around you, and there’s competition everywhere. Companies are mushrooming day and night. You wonder how many of these are there really.

145,000 businesses each year – that’s your number. 

Competition online is fierce. Only a few years ago, marketing gurus would have suggested you try social media to beat your competitors. Now, the whole world is on social media, along with your competition, so you don’t know what else you can do.

Being on every social media platform out there is no longer enough (or necessary). It’s smarter to evaluate what you do with those accounts. 

My point? Content is no longer king. Epic content is. 

So, although it’s good that you’re utilizing social media to share more content, I’d look at how you’re sharing – is it truly epic content?

Smart marketers and entrepreneurs have shifted focus from content strategy to visual content strategy. They are sharing engaging and exciting stuff online that’s far better plain text.

Why? Because visual content rocks. It simply works better than normal text. 

A whopping 40% of people will respond better to your visual content. 

Facebook, one of the biggest online-based companies, was smart enough to understand and utilize this stat by launching Timeline a few years ago. 

Timeline saw a 65% increase in engagement for Facebook.

What does it mean for you? 

If you want to beat your competition, create great and “snackable” content with visual marketing online. 

Don’t get me wrong – you still do need text. 

But when combined the right way with visual elements, your content’s shareability and engagement can go through the roof.

How to Use Visual Content Marketing on Your Social Media

On social media, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube are the four big players. But did you know there are some new cool kids on the block that you can use?

Vine is a video-sharing app launched by Twitter. Use Vine to create 6-second looping videos and promote your message. 

Lowe’s uses Vine to share quick home-improvement how-to tips – here’s one that teaches you how to keep squirrels away from your plants.

Lowes Vine Channel

Lowes on Vine

If you’re in the business of complex data and statistics, you can create cool infographics that deliver the point across in a much more entertaining and quicker manner. 

Visme is a great tool to create beautiful infographics (and a lot more like presentations, CTAs, banners) for free. Canva is another favourite design tool to create customized images for your blog or website.

There are tons of other tools that won’t cost you a fortune to create easy-to-digest or snackable visual data. 

The Shift from Social to Visual-Social in 3 Ways

#1 Create Your Own

Remarkably, 80% of the pins on Pinterest are repins. 

That means if you become one of those 20% original creators of good content, your followers will do the heavy-lifting for you happily. 

So focus on creating awesome, mind-blowing visual content. Like I shared earlier, there are a lot of tools at your disposal and they won’t cost you a thing.

It’s very easy to create original and traffic-driving content with a smartphone. 

Get creative and think outside the box by capturing pictures and running them through a few filters by using apps like Instagram or Phonto among others.

Or you can also invest a small fee in a professional photo-editing program like PicMonkey. 

#2 Mix Up Text and Images

Images with text descriptions and overlays are even more effective. Sometimes, an image alone may not convey a point you want to share. 

Text works like a charm in this case.

You can also add purposeful copy like a call-to-action to your image. And you don’t even have to use a lot of words. Like this one by Dropbox:

dropbox-cta

Or this one. BirchBox uses contrasting colors and rich imagery with call-to-action text that tells a viewer what to do next.

Discover your next everything   Birchbox

#3 Optimize Your Images for SEO

We don’t really know what goes inside the head of Google. The Google ranking recipe has about 200 different ingredients that make it so smart. 

Some of these are having strong blog titles, keyword density and optimizing image filename, captions and alt tags for keywords.

It’s not enough to have amazing visual content – you must be found by people before they share your content at all.

Google loves images and is happy to send you a ton of image-based traffic.

Make sure all your visual content is optimized for keywords you’re aiming. Otherwise, it’s a lot of effort gone down the drain!

All you have to do is change your code like this if your keyword is “Soccer Player”.

<img src=”soccer-player.jpg” alt=”Soccer Player”/>

Another cool tip is to optimize the size of your image for faster load times (without compromising on the quality of course). The faster your site loads, the more points Google gives you.

Don’t forget the good ol’ caption for your images. They are pretty widely read (due to the real-estate they acquire), only next to your blog titles.

In conclusion, don’t just have visual content but create a visual content strategy to humanize interactions.

Are you creating visual content to beat your competition? If not, what’s stopping you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Pooja has been featured on Problogger, Firepole, JeffBullas, MarketingProfs, Hongkiat and more. She teaches aspiring writers how to become self-employed, create wealth and live better lives by launching their online writing biz. Steal her free mini-course to make your first $1000 (and more) writing at home

Top Tips to Help You Nail That Blogging Job Application

Image via flazingo.com

Image via flazingo.com

This is a guest contribution from Steff Green, of WorkflowMax.

Recently I wrote a post about my experiences as a company looking to hire another blogger for our team. Today I’m putting on my blogger hat and I’m looking at what the experience taught me about how a blogger can improve his/her chances of landing a blogging job at a company.

Who am I? I’m Steff. I used to be a freelance blogger, but one of my clients, WorkflowMax – a cloud-based project management software for service businesses – offered me a full-time position as a blogger, I jumped at the chance.

The advantages of a permanent blogging job

Quite often “make money blogging” gurus focus on the advantages of being a freelance blogger – working for a variety of clients, being in control, multiple income streams, creating passive income through products, etc – while playing down the 9-5 lifestyle. I’ve done them both, and can say that the 9-5 lifestyle definitely has its advantages.

I love blogging, but I didn’t love the 100 emails a day, the client stress, the 80+ hour weeks and the managing of the business itself that came with being a freelancer. By blogging for a company, I get to do what I love – write – all day, about topics that help small businesses succeed, and come home in the evening and work on my own projects.

Part 1: Finding a Blogging Job

“And that’s all very well, Steff” I hear you say, “but where ARE these mysterious blogging jobs? I hang out on the Problogger job boards all day, and all I see are freelance positions.”

That’s probably because you’re not looking in the right place.

A recruiter is not going to advertise a salaried position on a job board for freelancers. That would be silly. She is going to advertise in the same places she usually advertises – on local and national job boards, on internal listings, on the company’s website. A salaried blogging job ad will look just like any other job ad.

One thing to do is to look at companies you would love to work for. Look at tech companies, larger retail shops, tourist attractions like museums and galleries, B2B service companies – these are the types of firms that might employ a blogger. Check out their website – do they have a blog? Is it awesome? Could it use a little TLC?

The type of marketing software a company uses can also provide a clue as to their content needs. For example, a company using Hubspot is probably going to have a huge focus on inbound marketing and content creation, which means there’ll might be an opportunity for you there.

The key thing to remember when trawling the job ads is that your dream blogging job might not actually include the word “blog” in the title. Companies aren’t looking for “just” a blogger – they are looking for a writer who can own a wide variety of communications, of which a blog may play a large role. As an employee, a blogger might be dealing with general copywriting for web and print, creating ebooks or whitepapers, managing a team of content creators, or updating social media. When looking at job titles and keywords, you’ll find roles like: content creator, copywriter, in-bound marketer, SEO-outreach writer, digital communications, digital marketer, etc.

For example, I am a “marketing copywriter”, but because our blog is a huge part of our inbound marketing strategy, blogging and creating ebooks is a significant portion of my job.

Keep a close eye on the career pages for a content creator position. You can set up alerts to email you whenever jobs are posted that meet your criteria – that way, you will always see the latest job posts as soon as they go live without having to check back every day. Contact the marketing department and ask about guest-blogging or freelancing opportunities. If they are underutilizing their blog, offer to take over its management on a contract basis. Make yourself an indispensable resource. If you’re already on the radar when an opportunity for a job comes up, they’re gonna look to you first.

 

Part 2: The resume

So you’ve found an awesome-looking blogging job at a cool company. Now you’ve got to prepare your resume and send that in.

Here are some of my resume tips, based on what worked for me, and what I noticed in the resumes I vetted in order to find the right writer for our job:

  • If you’re applying for a writing job, your spelling and grammar better be PERFECT. So check your resume a hundred times, and then have a friend or relative who’s nit-picky about grammar have a look over it. A fresh pair of eyes will catch a few things you’ve missed.
  • Create a structure for your resume. The standard structure is to begin with your education, working backwards in time, and following this with your work history. I don’t want to see it all jumbled up (and yes, we did receive resumes with literally NO structure – just a list of random qualifications and descriptions).
  • You need to demonstrate that you are versatile and able to take on a variety of jobs. Companies aren’t just looking for a blogger – the role you’re applying for may cover both print and web/social media, and may include elements of SEO, web copy, PR, internal communications, and many other elements.
  • If you’ve been freelancing, simply list it like another job: The time period, the types of the projects you’ve worked on, results you achieved, and some of your clients. On my resume, I have a section where I highlight three clients – I explain the work I did for them and the results I achieved, as well as a short testimonial. It’s powerful stuff.
  • I want to see links to samples! Please don’t make me ask for them.
  • If you list your personal blog, I am going to check it out. Don’t list it if you don’t want us to read it and then talk about it in the interview. (Erotica writers and political columnists, I’m talking to you!)
  • I really liked the resumes that include a three-sentence “mission statement” at the beginning of the document.
  • Blogging is very results-driven, so we want to see some of your results. One of the mistakes many candidates make is focusing on their responsibilities. We’re more interested in learning what you achieved. For example, saying, “I managed the blog at WorkflowMax” is weak, but “I increased the visitor to lead conversion rate from 3% to 5.5%” is very powerful and specific. Have you landed a guest post on an A-list blog? Doubled a client’s traffic? Wrote something that went viral? Increased social media likes or improved the bounce rate? We want to hear about it.
  • When choosing samples, choose around three of your best pieces demonstrating your skills. It helps if they are aimed at a similar audience or from a similar industry as my company, but it isn’t essential. Choose different types of writing, such as a blog post, a chapter from an ebook, and a website page or EDM. When I look at samples, I want to know – can this writer grab my attention? Are they technically competent? Does this piece offer something different, or is it just the same-old rehashed info? Is the writer versatile? Can he/she get results?

 

Part 3: The Cover Letter

Alongside your resume, I’ll be reading through your cover letter. While your resume proves your writing experience, your cover letter showcases your voice and your personality. So what makes a cover letter stand out?

  • Again, if I see spelling and grammar mistakes in your cover letter, I’m not going to be very forgiving, as you are applying for a role as a writer.
  • Don’t just rehash what I’m going to read in your resume. The cover letter is a classic example of a piece of writing that benefits from “show, don’t tell”. Don’t tell me you’re awesome, SHOW me. Impress me with your writing skills, your results, and your personality.
  • Tailor the cover letter to each job you apply for. Often, candidates are applying for several jobs at once, which is fine, but I only want to give this job to someone who really wants it. Highlight specifics that demonstrate you’re the right candidate for THIS job. And spell my name correctly. This really helps.
  • Depending on the company, don’t be afraid to showcase your creativity. You are being hired for a creative role, after all. One of the candidates for our job wrote her cover letter in the style of a typical blog post. There was a catchy, SEO headline, sub-headings, lists, and a call-to-action at the end. It was really clever and definitely made her stand out. She went on to the interview stage.

 

Part 4: The Interview

You’ve impressed the recruiter with your resume and cover letter – and you’ve been invited for an in-person interview.

Some companies, like ours, might preface the in-person interview with a quick phone interview with the recruiter. The recruiter will assess whether the candidate demonstrate passion for the role and the company, and whether the candidate will be an asset to the company based on the brand values. Think of this as another opportunity to show how excited you are about the job, and you’ll be invited in for the interview.

How do you make the best impression as a blogger? Here are some tips and things to remember for the interview:

  • We know you can write. We know you’ve got the right experience. The interview is all about seeing if you’re a good fit for our team.
  • Take the time to get to know the company before the interview. We are going to assume you know something about the product or industry you’re going to be writing about. If you don’t, we’re going to think you don’t want the job. Come prepared to answer the question, “So, what do we do?”
  • It should go without saying, but it helps to show up on time and be nicely dressed.
  • Remember that the interview is your opportunity to interview us, as well. If we offer you the job, you are going to need to decide if you want to work with us. So don’t forget to ask questions – come prepared with a few. We were asked about our company culture, what the team was like, what kind of work a candidate would do in a given week, what opportunities were there for professional development.
  • Bring a copy of your resume and some writing samples to show us.

 

Part 5: The Writing Sample

We asked our candidates to complete a short writing test (it’s common in our company to have developers, etc, complete a test, so it made sense to get our candidates to do the same thing). Here are some tips on writing a company-specific sample:

  • It should go without saying, but read some of the company’s content. If you’ve been asked to write a blog post, then read some of their posts. Look carefully at the style, the tone, the layout.
  • Read the instructions carefully; make sure you understand what you need to do.
  • The sample doesn’t have to be ready-to-publish perfect, but it should be close.
  • Go the extra mile on a blog writing sample by including links to other resources or other articles on our blog, an image suggestion.
  • Have a grammar-hungry friend or family member read over your sample before you send it in, to catch any mistakes. Spelling and grammar mistakes count heavily against you when applying for a writing job.

 

Part 7: References

You’ve impressed at the interview and I’m thinking you’re the perfect candidate for our job. Now there’s only one thing standing between you and an awesome full-time writing gig – your references.

  • You’ll need to supply at least two solid references. If you were previously in paid employment, these need to be your direct managers. Human Resources want to talk to people who you’ve worked closely with and who can speak to your performance.
  • If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ll need to approach two clients about operating as references. It helps if you can choose two clients with more of a corporate structure – many freelancers work with small business owners, who aren’t as appealing to HR. Look for clients where you had more of a direct reporting role – perhaps working closely with a brand manager, marketing exec, etc. These make great references as they speak the lingo the HR department is looking for.
  • We want to talk to references from recent positions. Don’t include details for employers / clients that are several years old. Their data on you is no longer relevant.
  • Talk to your references before including them. It’s awkward when the HR rep gets your reference on the phone and they have no idea why they’re being asked for a reference.

With more companies using blogging as a way to generate buzz and target customers, bloggers now have the option of seeking permanent employment doing what they love. With a bit of preparation and some common sense, you could ace that interview and be on your way to becoming a company blogger!

Steff Green is the content manager for WorkflowMax, cloud-based job andproject management software that tackles everything from leads, quotes, time sheeting, invoicing, reporting, and more. You can find her writing business advice for creative agencies, architects, IT companies and other business that bill by time on theWorkflowMax blog.

Script Video Marketing Success with the Right Content

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 2.39.53 pmThis is a guest contribution from Amy Brown of Wordprax.com.

Videos don’t have a magic wand, as believed by certain marketeers (both amateurs and seasoned ones). 

Threading video marketing success is hard work, and requires a fair bit of creativity. While it’s true that video content can enhance engagement at a much greater rate than its more static counterparts, if quality  is being compromised, your video marketing endeavor isn’t going to get as far as it could. And the reason is simple enough – as opposed to the other forms of advertising, video marketing is expensive, and thus, not hitting the goals is a much nastier burn.

The right video should be a mix of things – all of which have to be in the right amount. Now, we don’t want to make it sound like an overwhelming undertaking, but if you want your video marketing campaign to bring in huge numbers for you, the are quite a few must-follow practices to be kept into account:

Get the First Impressions Bang on

You know what they say about judging a book by its cover, right? Likewise, the featured image that is displayed until the play button isn’t hit is what entices users to hit the button in the first place. Intrigue them with the featured poster and you are assured a greater number of clicks.

Make Originality Your Strong Suit

Like any content marketing strategy, there are a truckload of done-to-death things attempted for video promotion. You need to inject a degree of uniqueness to your concept, make it entirely original, for people to find it novel.

Animations Draw People

Instead of live motion or overtly-flashy 3d renditions, if you are using hand-drawn characters, your video hs a better chance of being liked more. 

Avoid the auto-play

We understand you want to make sure the lazy users do indeed watch the video, but nobody likes it when they are surfing the Internet and all of a sudden a song plays from some tab on your browser and you have no idea which one it is. You either turn your desktop sound off, or you simply hit the close button the tabs playing the sound. That’s what’s gonna happen with the auto-play button on your video. So, instead of this, go back to the first point.

Get the idea across in 30-60 seconds

If there is one strong suit of our Internet audience, it is their lack of patience. Now even if they find a piece of video interesting, you can trust them to fast forward the seek bar and make it skip a few seconds if the video extends beyond a few minutes. Engaging the viewer so as to boost your conversion rate can be done even in 30 seconds. So make it short and sweet.

Keep it Pixel Rich

HD videos are the order of the day. When your audience doesn’t find ’720p’ option on the resolution button, they are most likely going to switch to a video that has it – and that won’t be yours.

Have you taken into account the costs you will have to incur while developing the video content? If that’s a worry for you, you can get quality videos developed at pretty cost efficient rates. But if you wish to take along all the licensing costs, then be ready to invest big. 

Storytelling is what will glide you past the fluff on the Internet. If your video is a combination of a dozen things banged up together, without any sense of story, you are doing a great deal of disservice to your efforts and aspirations. The script should tell a story that symbolizes your brand in one way or other. 

Don’t be too mainstream. Everyone has seen those thronging crowds surrounding the product that rises from the ground up or for that matter, the glowing logo that dwarfs everything else. Be more creative, even if that means being grounded. Today, subtlety works in mysterious ways. Stay true to the underlying message the brand is trying to across and keep everything fuss free so that the video makes an instant personal connection with the audience.

The image files used in the video should be bale to make a connect as well, and it should look authentic. Don’t put a vintage picture for a video promoting an iPhone (unless the ‘story’ asks for it). 

Self-Hosting Instead of YouTube? 

When all is said and done, have you given a thought to self hosting the video instead of posting it on YouTube? I mean, when the video is indexed on the search engines, why should you send your audience to YouTube, instead of to your your site. And there are much better conversion rates on videos hosted on business sites, since unlike YouTube, users won’t be tempted to click on the other recommended videos on some totally new channel. 

In either case, the keyword used along with the video will play a huge role in determining how well it is indexed on search engines and the volume of organic visits you are receiving. Promote video across different channels and implement the alternative ways of content marketing like promoting through Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus in order to get eyeballs for the video. The more ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ you get on the video, the more chances you stand of getting greater number of eyeballs for the same. If you are uploading a video on YouTube, a transcript would work excellently. In the transcript, you can give a detailed description of what the video is all about, and you can make this description optimized for SEO. Get all the keywords right there in their right measure. And apart from self-hosting and YouTube, you can also try other popular networks like Vimeo, Dailymotion, Metacafe, and Break.

Scripting success through video marketing, as iterated before, has to be a mix of certain to-be-followed rules and set of methods that are somewhat of a rarity in this genre. Get things in order before you get them to work. 

Amy Brown is a web developer by profession and a writer by hobby. She works for WordPrax a WP development company and as a blogger, she loves sharing information regarding WordPress customization tips & tricks.

5 Key Elements for a Successful Women’s Blog

Image via Flickr user Liquine

Image via Flickr user Liquine

This is a guest contribution by Renee from Beautifille.com

This year marks 10 years of my blogging career, and after starting several women’s blogs (some successful, some not), and being an avid reader of them myself, I’ve learn the key elements in what makes a blog “make it” or not. Here they are.

Key #1: Make Sure Your Blog is Visually Great

I usually try not to generalize, but let’s face it: women like pretty things. We notice, pay attention and are attracted by how something looks. Having a good blog design is vital because at the end of the day, your blog design and layout is the first impression for a reader (who is very happy to click that X button right away). 

So what makes a good-looking women’s blog? In my opinion, it’s simplicity with a feminine touch. A minimalist layout with pinch of feminine color palettes work very well (lilac, reds, pinks and pastels), as shown in these top blogs for women:

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Cupcakes and Cashmere has a very clean white, gray and pale pink color scheme.

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Refinery29 has a bold yet feminine look with a color scheme of black, white, mint green and salmon pink. 

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Brit.co also has a clean site with subtle primary colors, keeping her site light and airy. 

The second thing that makes a blog look great are the photos. Great photos will go a long way on blogs, but even more if your audience is women. Always start your blog post with a nice, attractive photo, and make sure your photos are big; small photos do not capture attention enough in my opinion. Your photo don’t have to look super-professional or “glossy” like in fashion magazines (mine never are) but make sure they are visually attractive; i.e. no blurriness, basic composition and bright, good colors (this can be edited on your computer). Picmonkey.com is a great free service that many of the top women bloggers use to make your pictures visually better. It allows for cropping, color correction, and sleek layouts.

Key #2: Find your “niche women demographic”

Sure, “women aged 16-24” is a demographic, but rather than age, I found it best to have a “niche women demographic” – find your group of women (or your “tribe”, as they say these days) within that fashion community. For example, you could be a denim fashion blogger. Or a punk-rock fashion blogger that writes about edgier stuff, or an “indie” fashion blogger. Likewise, instead of just another beauty blog, make it a cruelty-free beauty blog or an “over 40 women’s beauty blog.” Finding an even tighter niche than just “all women”; will allow you to properly find an even tighter community and thrive in that area. Not to mention, this is also great for branding your blog. 

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Free People’s blog does this well: their blog covers a range of topics, but for a certain type of girl: one who lives a “care-free”, natural, Earthy lifestyle. 

Key #3: Offer value to your readers

This is a continuation from the point above, but in your niche demographic, you should still strive to not be like everyone else. It’s important in this day and age in the blogging world – because there is literally millions of competition – to offer value to your readers. Personal style posts are great, but they’re a dime a dozen these days, and after awhile, people get bored. Same with beauty blogs that just review a product in every post. Make sure to not only show your outfit posts or beauty posts but also offer something of value. Share your personal style tips with your posts, offer honest thoughts on the product, or give personal shopping recommendations on where to get the best bargain. You need to stand out, offer value and make your site different than the others. 

Key #4: Present information clearly

Shopping posts make up a fair bit amount of blogs for women no matter what the niche (what women doesn’t love to shop?), so make sure your “shoppable” posts are done right. Keep them clean and easy to see. Personally, for my shoppable posts, I number the items in the collage clearly (make sure there are no fancy artist work, fonts, or cluttered images pasted together) and number the links immediately underneath. Also, I link to shops that offer international shipping so it’s even easier for my readers. 

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A blogger who does shopping posts well is J’s Everyday Fashion. As shown above, there is nothing else to distract from clearly showing the reader what she is clicking through, and from where. 

Key #5: Stay away from the drama

It happens with every niche, but I have witnessed some not-so-favorable behavior behind some women bloggers. After all these years I’ve managed to keep myself out of it, which would be my tip on taking your blog to the next level: just stay out of it. There is nothing that will make your blog (and “brand”) look unprofessional and gain a bad reputation than getting involved in drama, gossip or cliques. Stay out of it, and watch your words too: no “bitching” or complaining (even passive aggressively) on blog posts or social media. This is especially vital with negative comments you may receive – do not lash back or be rude. Always be graceful with all your dealings on your blog, whether it’s on the front page or behind the scenes. 

Renee is the creator of Beautifille.com, a beauty & self-improvement lifestyle site for women. Subscribe for free emails to learn how to improve your confidence, build your true, inner beauty and get the best “naturally you” beauty and style tips.

How I Got 180,000 Page Views in the First Month of Being Online

This is a guest post from M. Farouk Radwan of optimistnet.com.

In April 2014, I launched my social network www.optimistnet.com, and by the beginning of May we already had 180,000 page views and a few thousands registered users.

Our Alexa Rank jumped from 4 million in the beginning of May to 680K in a very short period of time, and we had more than 5,000 posts made on the network in the first month by our visitors.

It seems like a successful launch right?

Well in this article, I will tell you exactly what we did in order to reach those numbers in that extremely short period of time.

It was the third attempt

People always see successful projects then believe they were an overnight success, but in fact behind each success story are some failures you never knew about.

Even though our launch was successful in the first month, the reason we made it is that we failed twice before with two different social networks.

I launched my first social network in 2012, and only got 60 members in two months. I launched the second in early 2013, only to stop working on it due to serious troubles with the developing company. 

So the success that happened with optimistnet.com was due to the incremental learning process that we went through.

People want to feel special 

A few days before the launch, I said that a few people would be selected to be among the beta testers of optimistnet, and the response was impressive. 200 volunteers gave me their names and within 24 hours we had 250 registered users.

Remember when Google plus was an invitation-only site? Everyone was dying to join it because people want to feel special. 

People are extremely curious  

When you don’t make your marketing message clear (during the first few days of course), people become extremely curious to know more about your business. What is that yellow logo with a smiling face? What does your social network do? What can we find inside it?

In the first few days, the marketing team and me changed our profile pictures on Facebook to optimistnet’s logo (a yellow smiling face) and shortly everyone we knew was asking “what is that?”

Target an already existing need

No matter how great your marketing is, you will never get recurring visitors unless people really need your product. The reason we launched optimistnet is that we noticed that Facebook newsfeed had become extremely negative in a way that ruins the mood of so many people.

In other words, we discovered that people need to spend sometime on a positive social network in order to counter the negativity they come across in their lives.  As a result we had recurring visitors from day one. Almost 57% of the people who visited the site returned back again.

Always search for unmet needs people have, and you will be able to create amazing products.  

 Make the process of signing up extremely simple

With each text field you add to the registration process, you lose more potential visitors. Make the signup process as simple as possible so that you convert the largest number of users. What’s even better is to add the option to sign up through Facebook.

Earlier, people used to be scared to use that option, but these days more and more people are getting comfortable with it. More than half of those who registered at my network did it using Facebook sign up.

Design the site for the impatient person 

There are some patient people out there but most internet users are not patient and are not as computer savvy as you are. The extreme simplicity of the design we used made it so easy for people to write posts. 

Most of the people who signed up at optimistnet found it very easy to understand what the site does and to make their first post. In one of my previous social networks that didn’t make it, and assuming that users were extremely computer-literate was the main reason we failed. 

Don’t expect quick success

While we had a great launch, you should understand that each case might be different. Some sites start slow then take off fast, others take years before they become popular. So becoming popular fast is not the rule, but it’s the exception.

In short know that its possible to rise fast but don’t get disappointed if it doensn’t happen to you.

M.Farouk Radwan Is the founder of www.optimistnet.com, The Social Network For Positivity and Motivation.  

What You Need to Know About Your Stats if You Want to Work With Brands on Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Louisa Claire of Brand Meets Blog, a blogger outreach agency marrying brands with the bloggers who want to work with them. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by last week’s Partnering with Brands theme week, this might give you just the inspiration you need…

When bloggers start working with brands they tend to be full of excitement about the opportunities that come with it. 

One of the biggest challenges for businesses is how to determine the ROI (return on investment) with bloggers. For every dollar they spend on marketing their business, they are looking for a corresponding return. Sometimes this comes in awareness and they will measure it based on reach only, other times they are tying it to sales. To work out the ROI they look at how many people they reached through blogging and compare that number and the cost involved with how many people they would have reached through traditional advertising or PR activity. We are also increasingly seeing agencies also compare potential blogger reach with how many people they could reach via targeted Facebook advertising. 

The whole way it works is complicated and, to be honest, a bit nonsensical because unlike with traditional media where you can know how many people bought the publication but not how many people actually read the bit about your business, you can measure exactly how many people clicked on a link about your post, how long they spent reading that post and what they did after they read it (comments, clicked away, clicked on a link to the business etc…). And of course, with bloggers brands are not just getting eyeballs on them, but a personal introduction through a trusted voice.

Unfortunately many bloggers have bought into this idea that what matters most is the number of hits your blog gets. The holy grail of blogging is more people looking at your site today, than yesterday and seeing that number going up and up and up.

What I would like to suggest is that bloggers who want to experience success working with brands and earn a solid income from it, need to focus not on having the most people visiting their site, but the most relevant and interested people reading. If you can begin to understand where your readers and visitors come from, what they do when they come to their site and what that means about their interests then you can ensure you work with brands that fit not only with your own interests, but with those of your readers. Of course, having this information isn’t just useful when working with brands, it actually gives you great insight into what is and isn’t resonating with your readership generally – golden!

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The impact of search

The amount of search traffic your blog gets from places like Google and Pinterest has the potential to significantly impact how you understand the nature of your blog readership and the influence your blog has. I think this is a big one given the recent rise of highly searchable industries like health and wellness, and of course, Pinterest. 

If you blog regularly about things such as a meal planning, recipes, birthday party ideas,  fitness, beauty etc… then you are most likely going to generate a solid amount of search traffic. Some bloggers might even find that a large percentage of their traffic is going to one specific post every day. 

Let’s look at some numbers to understand this: Let’s say your blog has 50,000 users per month but 25% of your traffic goes to the amazing recipe you wrote about pumpkin and lentil soup. A further 25% of your traffic is coming to other posts you’ve previously written meaning that though you have 50,000 users a month only 25,000 are truly likely to see the latest post that you have written – that post you wrote for a brand, for example.

Now let’s consider where those users are coming from – are they local to you or global? If you’re trying to appeal to brands and advertisers in your country then the geographic location of those users will be really important. 

Can you see how if you told a brand that you had 50,000 users that you might create a situation where the brand was disappointed by the results that came from working with you? If you had told them that you had 50,000 users overall but 20,000 that were relevant to them as a brand then they would have been able to go into the working relationship with you with appropriate expectations and likely have been delighted by the results.

There are a couple of other things you can take notice of that will give you the edge when working with brands.

Take the time to understand your Uniques vs Pageviews (or Users and Pageviews as they are now called in Google Analytics)

I think that bloggers are sometimes afraid of their stats – that they aren’t “good enough” or need to be presented in the best possible light in order to be appealing. It’s true that stats matter to brands, but it’s equally true that many brands understand that a bloggers true value is in the personal connection they have with their readers and they are open, even eager, to understand how working with bloggers can help them.

The key point to understand when looking at your stats is that if you look at your pageviews in isolation you will get a skewed (but probably attractive) picture of your blog traffic and if you look at the uniques you will get an equally skewed (and what might feel like a less exciting) picture. The truth is that these two numbers hold a lot of information in them when you look at them together.

I’ve previously written a more comprehensive overview on the issue of Unique Visitors vs Total Pageviews which will help anyone struggling to understand the significance of these two numbers being view together.

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Bounce Rates and Pages per Session

Bounces rates relate to how many people leave your site from the same page they landed on (ie they only look at the one post) and Pages per Session shows you the average number of pages that your readers look at when they visit your blog.

My experience tells me that bloggers with strong communities and influence have a high ratio of pageviews to users and sessions. That is people who visit their blog tend to look at a lot of posts while they are there – giving them a lower bounce rate and a higher page per sessions figure. If you’re not getting at least 2-3 pages per session on your blog right now then my suggestion would be to stop focussing on increasing your pageviews and start putting some energy into increasing this number – not just because you want to work with brands but because you want to form deeper relationships with your readers.

If you’ve spent the time getting a good understanding of how your uniques and total views per month work and what your bounce rate is then you’ll be able to give helpful information to brands that demonstrates your influence and value to them and I can tell you this, it will give you a great advantage when you start talking to potential brand partners. 

Partnering With Brands Theme Week: Ways to Collaborate and Earn an Income on Your Blog

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Today we welcome Nikki Parkinson, from Styling You, to chat about brand work on blogs. Nikki switched a 20-year journalism career for forging a path online with her fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog. One of Australia’s best, she’s won numerous awards, travelled the world, and created a business she loves, right from her kitchen table. She’s actively worked with brands right from the start, and has enormous knowledge to share.

So you’ve been blogging for a while and have built up a solid readership and community because you consistently deliver useful/inspirational/entertaining content?

There is a fair chance if you have included a contact email address on your blog that before long an email from a brand, a PR or digital marketing agency, will land in your inbox.

You will either be surprised and delighted, or offended, that your little blog has been noticed by said brand.

It’s the surprised and delighted among you that I’m keen to talk to, because that first email could be the start of a potential commercial relationship.

That first email signifies that as a blogger you need to get very clear on your publishing guidelines.

Maybe you already mention brands as a matter of fact in your content. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, that all changes when someone is potentially asking you to mention their brand.

Only you can decide how you respond, but having a brand-publishing checklist in place will help you to make the decision that is right for you.

Brand publishing checklist

1. Is this a brand you already know, love, and use?

2. Is this a brand that you are confident that your readers either already know, love, and use or would like to know, love, and use?

3. Is this a brand that you could work in to your regular blog content in a way that is seamless? Not in a non-disclosed kind of way, more in a way that would not be out of place to what your readers expect from your style of content.

4. Does aligning yourself with this brand conflict with brands you’ve previously aligned yourself with?

5. Do you feel excited at the prospect of potentially working with this brand or does it give you an icky feeling? I know icky is not a technical term and can’t really be defined, but intuition or gut feeling is a great thing to draw on in this situation.

Working with brands

The PR pitch

Most – but not all – approaches from a brand or its agency will be for “earned” mentions on your blog. This is the traditional way that brands and their PR agencies have worked with mainstream media.

The idea here is that the PR is pitching you an idea that has some kind of newsworthy content or relevance to your blog’s audience. They are simply pitching and you do not at all have to publish anything just because they have emailed you. You may, however, find that what they are pitching could work as a part of particular blog post you’re working on, or have planned for now or in the future.

This is not something the brand would pay you to do. It is your choice when and if you choose to include the pitch on your blog. The same applies if the brand has sent you a product – unsolicited – to consider using or mentioning on your blog or social media networks. You are in no way obligated to feature the product.

Relationships

Many of my now paid commercial brand alignments have come from building relationships with brands directly or through their PR agencies. I’ve incorporated their products into my posts and have built up a relationship with that brand. The brand trusts what I do on the blog and they can already see how my readers respond to their brand.

I didn’t go into those early earned PR relationships thinking that one day I would be able to get a sponsorship from that brand, but I did start my alignment with those brands based on the five things I listed above on the brand publishing checklist. This ensured that the relationship was one I felt comfortable with from the beginning.

More and more PR companies are also including budgets for paid blogger campaigns as part of their contract with the brands they represent, so how you respond from those early approaches is becoming more and more important.

Also know that a PR pitch cannot specify to you when and how you publish content about the brand. They can’t tell you to use a certain hashtag, they can’t tell you that you need to publish a certain number of social media posts, and they can’t tell you what day you need to publish. They would NEVER ask a journalist to do the same because the only content in mainstream media that can be guaranteed is paid for – and it’s called advertising.

I see this approach happening more and more. And as a former journalist it really disappoints me. It gives the good PRs a bad name and assumes that the blogger will happily do as they are instructed without any remuneration for exposure to that blogger’s audience.

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Events

One of the trends for ways in which brands engage with bloggers is through events. These events are either hosted by the brand and the brand’s PR invites selected bloggers to attend or the events are hosted by third party brand-blogger consultants who are contracted by brands to get bloggers along to the event in the hope of potential exposure.

Either way, a blogger’s decision to even accept an invite to an event can be seen as a brand alignment. Even if that blogger doesn’t publish any social media or blog posts, the blogger could be photographed by the brands or event organiser and therefore associated with the event and seen to be endorsing it.

Once again it comes back to the brand publishing checklist above. Consider if you are happy to be associated with the host brands or brands in any way before saying yes to attend.

And, like a PR pitch, a blogger should not be coerced or expected to post anything in return for attendance at the event. The should be free to do so if they want to, not because they’ve been invited. Just as a journalist would do.

Paid brand alignments

At some point in your blog’s growth you need to take stock and put a value on the time you put into your blog and the readership you have built. Once you’ve established a set value for your blog, I suggest you review this every six months or every quarter depending on the scale in growth of your readership.

Your readership is your currency when it comes to being appealing to brands. Brands mostly want to see the numbers. The number of unique visitors to your blog is the main number they’re looking at. Why? Because it’s the number that most equates to the numbers game of mainstream media. It’s the equivalent to circulation figures in print media and ratings numbers on TV and radio.

Clever brands and agencies will also look beyond the numbers to engagement and influence. They will also look at the demographics behind your numbers – particularly if they’re wanting to connect with readers in certain locations or of a particular age or sex.

When I talk to bloggers about valuing their time and their blog’s audience, it seems quite an arbitrary thing to suggest – and in many ways it is – but increasingly, bloggers are sharing what they are getting paid for brand alignments and this helps us all to establish that value.

I suggest that $150 should be the minimum payment for a sponsored post – and then bloggers should scale up according to their readership and influence.

Why $150? If you are working as a consultant then the minimum hourly rate is usually about $100 an hour. Most sponsored posts take longer than an hour and a half this to create and compile. For 5000-10,000 unique visits to your blog a month, you could charge $1550. For a blogger with 30,000-50,000 unique visits a month, $3000.

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Ways to earn money from brand alignments

Sponsored posts: This is the most common form of commercial alignment between bloggers and brands. It works most successfully when the blogger is given creative control to write the post in the same way they would write a non-paid post to their readers. Keeping the authenticity of your voice is key – as is being upfront to your readers and labelling it as a sponsored post at the top. This is not a legal requirement, but it is practice that is very much worth embracing. You want to keep your readers, not dupe them. Being upfront has seen me grow my blog readership since I started writing sponsored posts – not have it disappear.

Social media posts: Being paid by a brand to promote their product or message via social media can be part of a sponsored post campaign or separate to it. One blogger talent agency has been reported as charging out up to $750 per brand mention on an Instagram image. With the growth of Instagram, particularly for fashion bloggers, this has become an attractive alignment for brands looking to harness its power.

Ambassadorships: Ambassadorships are the strongest way in which a blogger can align with a brand. They usually represent a long-term commitment between the blogger and the brand – six, 12 months or longer. This is a win for the blogger in regards to steady income, but it’s an alignment that needs to be fully considered before making because of the longevity of the association. A word of warning: many brands will try and “buy” bloggers as ambassadors with product only. Be careful with this because once you’ve received the ambassador title, you’ve more than cemented your alliance with that brand and don’t leave the door open for a commercial arrangement.

Television commercials: Bloggers are being included as the “talent” in television commercials and infomercials, usually as part of a wider sponsored post and social media campaign. This has come because audiences are proving more responsive to “real” people as opposed to celebrities or actors.

Blogging for a brand on their site: All bloggers know that good, solid content builds a blog’s readership. Brands have also realised that they too need good solid, relatable content on their sites to increase readership, brand awareness and sales through their sites. Who do they turn to? Bloggers who can not only create that content but bring an audience with them to the brand’s site.

Reader events: a win-win for bloggers and brands is when a blogger can offer something of value to their reader either through valuable/useful content or a giveaway. When that giveaway includes a chance to meet the blogger and attend an event that will add value or entertainment to the winning blog readers, then it’s proving to be a successful way for a blogger to align with a brand.

Event appearances: As I mentioned above, a blogger’s attendance at an event is a sign that the blogger is endorsing the brand. So it’s little wonder that bloggers can now obtain an appearance fee to attend an event. Often a certain number of social posts using a specific hashtag may be attached to this commercial arrangement.

The bottom line

Your blog hasn’t just appeared from out of thin air with a solid, influenced, and engaged audience. It’s taken long hours at the keyboard, dedication to your blog’s topic, and an extreme passion to communicate and connect with your readership.

You need to remember that whenever there is an opportunity presented to you to work or align yourself with a brand. Make good choices, disclose those good choices, and create brand content that still represents who you are and what your blog is about.

Do all this and your blog will continue to grow, as will your blog-business income.