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Interview with Jeremy Vohwinkle – ProBlogger.com Small Victories Series

Jeremy Vohwinkle - Gen X FinanceToday we have another ‘Small Victories’ interview with blogger Jeremy Vohwinkle of Gen X Finance.

These small victories interviews are with members of ProBlogger.com and are all about highlighting some of the small wins that real bloggers have – our hope is that they’ll inspire other bloggers at similar stages to not only celebrate the ‘big wins’ and those that have already gone pro – but to focus upon the smaller things that take us forward as bloggers.

This video only goes for just over 9 minutes so sit back and enjoy.

Transcription of Interview with Jeremy Vohwinkle

For those of you who prefer to read than listen – here’s a transcription of the video by The Transcription People.

Lara: Hi ProBlogger readers, this is Lara Kulpa again, the Community Manager from ProBlogger.com and I have with me today Jeremy Vohwinkle from Gen X Finance. How are you Jeremy?

Jeremy: Hi, I’m great thanks.

How Jeremy Got Started

Lara: Wonderful. So, tell us a little about your blog and your background and why you started.

Jeremy: Okay, sure. I’ve been working in finance for a number of years and, through my course of, you know, helping people with their finances, I would spend a lot of time researching different financial topics and what happened is I noticed a lot of times I would stumble on sites that weren’t necessarily big media sites or official finance sites and I kind of wondered, “Who are these people and why are they writing about finance?”

So I did a little research and I noticed that most of these people were running what I guess people called blogs at the time; this was back in 2006, and I was clueless. I had no idea what a blog was. If you asked me, I would have said it’s what some teenager writes when they get home from school or something. So, I had no idea this was the same sort of thing.

So, I researched Word Press and just kind of how the whole process goes and I figured “Okay, I’m pretty good with computers. I bet I can set this up myself.” So, I had sat around thinking about what I want to write about and obviously finance was at the top of my list because that’s what I do for a living and I pretty much am borderline Generation X myself and I worked with pretty much the same people in that demographic, so it just came to me “Let’s do Generation X Finance”. Not very inspiring, but that’s how I came about it. And, to be honest, it was just a part time thing after work. I just wanted to kind of hone my skills in, in terms of what’s going on in the world of finance because things are always changing; the laws and the stockmarket and
things like that, so it really was a way for me to just stay up on what’s going on in current events.

That being said, you know, I just, I really got kind of sucked into it and the more I read other blogs, the more I was excited to write about my own and it just kind of fed off itself.

Lara: Yep, that happens.

Jeremy: Yep. So, I mean that’s kind of where I got started and I went from being completely clueless to now this is my full time job and I make a living writing about finance. So, it’s been a pretty amazing journey.

Jeremy’s Small Victory #1

Lara: That’s fantastic. So, what was the small victory you shared with us in the ProBlogger community?

Jeremy: Well, there is a couple of them. One of them actually stemmed from ProBlogger itself. When I first got started – this was probably 2007 I think, so I was only a few months into my blogging career I guess you could say. He, you know, Darren hosted a group writing project and I didn’t know what this was but I thought ProBlogger’s a big site so if I can somehow maybe get a link or something on the site, that would do wonders for my blog.

So I sat down and I kind of, you know, I hammered out a post in maybe an hour. I just, I submitted it and, you know, that was it. I didn’t expect a whole lot from it but I wanted to take part in, you know, what other people were doing.

What happened after that was kind of amazing because it, over the coming months, I received a lot of other sites linking back to my site. So that, the fact that I was mentioned on ProBlogger really evolved into getting dozens if not hundreds of links to this one post and, as I watched my stats, I realised that now this post was my most popular post on my entire site. And it was with this a light bulb kind of went off and said “Okay, if I can write one post that gets so much interest and in turn has started making me money, I bet I can take this blog to the next level.” I was doing it just as a hobby at the time but this was a real turning point where I decided that I have to look deeper into blogging and what I can do to actually get more popular, get more links and maybe turn that into some money. So, that was probably my biggest small victory.

Jeremy’s Small Victory #2

Jeremy: But the other one, which didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, was meeting, kind of not meeting, but interacting with other bloggers in the personal finance kind of blog space. There were a number of us that kind of got started right around the same time, we all had similar subscriber bases, we had similar traffic levels and we kind of just informally reached out to each via email and, I don’t know if it was 2007, 2008, but someone came around and said “You know, maybe we should form sort of a blog alliance or maybe we should kind of unofficially form a blog group or something like that.” And we kind of said “Okay, let’s do that.” And, being as original as we are, we called ourselves ‘The Money Writers’, which again not too exciting but we write about money, so it just made sense.

We set up a site ‘themoneywriters.com’, we just kind of pooled all our feeds together into one handy location and we set up an email group so that we could just communicate easily back and forth with each other. And, essentially, early on it was just kind of a virtual water-cooler. You know, we would talk about what people are talking about on finance blogs, what, what’s going on in terms of advertising, we’d bounce ideas off each other in terms of you know “How are you making money on your site?” and “What are you writing about that’s successful?” and things like that.

But eventually it kind of evolved into a more official group where we were pitching advertising to, you know, the whole group. So someone might come to us saying “I want to place an ad on your site” and we’d say “Well, you get a discount if you place ads on all of our sites.”

Lara: Wonderful.

Jeremy: So, this kind of collaboration allowed us to, all of us take part in advertising that we may not have had an opportunity to in the past. So that was a big stepping stone in terms of starting to propel our blogs into the pro-blog status.

Lara: Right.

Jeremy: But I think more important than that was simply having a group of trusted bloggers that you can, you know, talk about things with because, when you blog on your own, it’s kind of a solo job for the most part. You’re writing, you’re just trying to get links, you’re trying to do some social media stuff but you don’t really have a close connection with a lot of people, so having this kind of network where you can confide in people and you can kind of vent or, if you’re, got writer’s block, you can kind of get ideas from people. That was a huge, a huge benefit and to this day, if I didn’t you know kind of become part of this group, I don’t know if I would’ve had the energy to keep up with this for the past four years. I don’t know if my site would be making as much money as it is now. So the simple act of, you know, joining a small group of other bloggers has done wonders for the long run.

Lara: That’s wonderful. I know Darren has talked about blogger alliances before in the past.

Jeremy: Yep.

Lara: And it’s always been a really great idea to find people that are in the same niche as you and working together is clearly, it definitely gives you some level of victory together.

Jeremy: Oh yeah, for sure.

Lara: That’s great. So, last but not least, do you have any words about the ProBlogger community that you’d like to share with the readers of Problogger.net?

Jeremy: Yeah, certainly. Probably to kind of feed off of what I just talked about, which was forming that kind of blogger alliance. If you don’t have that personal alliance, I think the ProBlogger community is the, probably the next best thing because you have a group of people that all basically are sharing the same sort of goals. These bloggers wouldn’t have signed up if they’re not serious about taking their blog to the next level and if they’re not serious about making more money or propelling their blog to a new status. So, if that’s kind of what you’re looking to accomplish, you might as well sign up because you’re going to have people that you can bounce ideas off of, you can get people to, you know, share links, you can expand your reach by joining other social networks. It’s just, it’s a great way to kind of meet other people and really get the support that you need as an individual because, you know, it is hard work, there’s a lot of competition and every little bit of help you can get is going to make all the difference in the world.

Lara: Awesome. So I will cut this off here and thank you so much, Jeremy, for doing the interview with us. We’ll see you in the forums.

Interview with Carleen Coulter – ProBlogger.com Small Victories Series

_wp-content_uploads_2008_09_n728640378_1497.jpgToday we have another ‘Small Victories’ interviwe with blogger Carleen Coulter, of Beauty and Fashion Tech.

These small victories interviews are with members of ProBlogger.com and are all about highlighting some of the small wins that real bloggers have – our hope is that they’ll inspire other bloggers at similar stages to not only celebrate the ‘big wins’ and those that have already gone pro – but to focus upon the smaller things that take us forward as bloggers.

Transcription of Interview with Carleen Coulter

For those of you who prefer to read than listen – here’s a transcription of the video by The Transcription People.

Lara: Hi everybody, this is Lara Kulpa from ProBlogger.com and as part of our new series on small victories I have with me today Carleen Coulter. Hi Carleen.

Carleen: Hi. How are you?

Lara: I’m wonderful. How are you?

Carleen: I am doing very well.

Lara: Good. So how about you give our listeners a little bit of a background?

Carleen: Okay. My name is Carleen Coulter. I’m the author of multiple blogs but my primary one is beautyandfashiontech, the words beauty and fashion followed by T-E-C-H .com.

Lara: Okay.

Carleen: I also have a blog, girl gloss and run some affiliate sites and I also run a little non profit blog for my dog.

Lara: Oh.

Carleen: Yeah, he doesn’t try to make any money.

Lara: So …

Carleen: Oh, go ahead.

Lara: No, no, no, you go, go ahead.

Carleen: I basically started blogging, I’d say it was about three and a half, four years ago now. Kind of did it on a whim. I just one day started reading some other blogs and said, hey, I’d kind of like to try that and started doing it. I’m actually an attorney by profession.

Lara: Oh, wow, nice. Very nice.

Carleen: So it’s … yeah, you know, it makes for a nice combination. I kind of like writing about things that aren’t legal topics from time to time.

Lara: I can’t blame you there.

Carleen: Yeah. The legal stuff gets kind of dry.

Lara: Yeah. So when you put your … put in your application to be featured in the series, what was the small victory that you were talking about?

Carleen: Well actually I had kind of a small victory and then more of a medium victory. The small victory was when I first started doing this, my, my now husband, he was then my boyfriend, was really kind of teasing me about it. He, you know, he would go, “So you’re writing about makeup, you think you’re going to make some money from this.” Because I told him, well, you know, I’d kind of like to make a little money, extra money on the side.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: And, you know, he said, “You’re never going to make money on that. You’re falling for some make money online thing.” And I said, “Well, you know, I’ll try and see what happens.” So after maybe, I don’t know, a month or two, you know, I start showing him, “Oh, here, look. I’m at least making, you know, a buck a day on AdSense.” He’s like, “That’s not money. That doesn’t count.” And so I think I was about three months in and two things happened. First, I got my first AdSense cheque. So I actually, you know, made enough to get to that hundred dollar mark.

Lara: Absolutely.

Carleen: And then I also sold a $1500 ad contract for a six month ad contract.

Lara: Wow.

Carleen: And so he comes home and, you know, I proudly show him this $1500 and that pretty much shut him up after that. And he simply said, “Yeah, you can do more of this.”

Lara: Yeah, sure, absolutely. That’s awesome.

Carleen: Yeah. So that was … that was the small victory. The medium victory was really from there it kept growing and … when I first … I was … I’m originally from Nebraska and I moved out to Illinois to be with my husband and I took a cut in pay. I lost a part-time teaching job that was extra income from that and the cost of living out here is kind of ridiculous.

Lara: Yeah.

Carleen: So, yeah, I moved out here, I really kind of needed extra money and was looking to replace my teaching income and what happened was by about the one year mark I had done that. So that’s kind of my medium victory is that, you know, things grew. I replaced all that lost income, actually increased it quite a bit and in the end last year my husband was laid off of his job and that actually probably saved us. I mean …

Lara: Wow.

Carleen: My income at that point covered the mortgage and we got by okay. And, fortunately, he’s re-employed now.

Lara: Right. That’s fantastic. You know, a lot of people talk about how they think that everybody is trying to get into the blogging thing and the making money online thing because of the way the economy is of course in the United States and things are getting rough around here and we’ve been battling this whole thing for a couple of years now and it’s really nice to hear that within such a relatively short period of time, if you look at the grand scheme of things, I mean, a year, but that’s not asking a lot, to be able to put in the effort for a year’s time. And …

Carleen: Yeah, you know, yeah, I think it … the key is putting in the effort.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: I mean, it’s definitely work.

Lara: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It’s … there’s nothing … Darren recently had a post about how unsexy it is and …

Carleen: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.

Lara: Yeah. You know, there’s nothing … there’s nothing out there saying that this is one of those like set it and forget it kind of Ronco rotisserie things, you have to really put in the effort, and that’s fantastic. So let me ask you this, being a member of ProBlogger.com and coming to the site and everything, what are some things that you think have helped you along the way?

Carleen: Well, first off, I have to say that ProBlogger, ProBlogger.net, the actual blog, was instrumental from the get go for me. When I first started blogging and started realising, oh, I could actually make some money from this, I think I read every single thing on there. I mean, yeah, I mean, Darren was like … he was a God to me. I was like, “Wow, this is just amazing. It’s a great site.”

Lara: Yep.

Carleen: So when ProBlogger.com the forum and everything started, I immediately wanted to be part of that. And I think it’s a very useful place, especially … I think it’s particularly probably good for new bloggers and then there’s some established bloggers in there who are quite active.

Lara: Yep.

Carleen: So it’s a nice mix of people. You get new people in there with fresh ideas and questions. I mean, I’ve learnt from people’s questions.

Lara: Yeah.

Carleen: You know, people ask questions that I never thought of and I thought, okay, that’s interesting. And then I also learnt from the answers.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: And then, like I said, there’s experienced people in there too who bring their own wealth of knowledge.

Lara: Right, right. One of the things that I hear a lot from people, now that we’ve been sending out the weekly newsletters and kind of pointing people in certain directions each week, one of the responses I keep getting is that people are feeling almost like wallflower-ish. You know, they go in there and they’re kind of like, you know, “There’s so many people with such great information I feel like I have nothing to add,” you know. To which my answer is always, “Well, you know, your learning process can be somebody else’s learning process as well,” which kind of goes along with what you just said.

Carleen: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I mean, I can’t, I can’t say how many times I’ve seen somebody either in, in the ProBlogger forum or another forum ask a question where I just … it might be a very basic question and it’s something I’ve never thought of before.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: And I get something out of that and I say, hey, I really learned something from that. Also you can’t … you can’t discount the, just the social interactions and getting to know people.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: I’m always one that’s always loved forums because I’m just pretty social and, you know, if you’re kind of a wallflower you really can, you know, get to know people just by going in forums, asking a few questions, throwing in your thoughts and, you know, don’t worry about being new or maybe not having been blogging that long or anything. You know, I think everybody has something valid to add.

Lara: Fantastic. Well, Carleen, thank you so much for talking to us today. And go ahead and tell everybody what your URL is again.

Carleen: The primary site is beautyandfashiontech.com. The first part is easy, beauty and fashion T-E-C-H .com.

Lara: Okay, great. Well thanks so much and we’ll see you in the forums.

Carleen: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Lara: Absolutely. Bye bye.

Carleen: Bye.

Interview with Blogger Chris Monty: ProBlogger.com Small Victories Series

201006041127.jpgThere’s a really great thread going on over at the ProBlogger Community right now where we’re asking members to share their “small victories” in blogging. The reason is so that we can find candidates for podcast interviews and feature them over here at the blog.

With currently dozens of stories there, all of which are really great, we’ve got so many interviews to do! The idea behind this was to not only feature our Community members on the blog, but also to serve as inspiration to others who may think that even these “small victories” can’t or wouldn’t happen to them.

First, we’ll start with Chris Monty (pictured above), owner of Blippitt.

Transcription of Interview with Chris

For those of you who prefer to read than listen – here’s a transcription of the video by The Transcription People.

Lara: Hi ProBlogger readers. This is Lara Kulpa the community manager for ProBlogger.com and I have with me Chris Monty from Blippitt and we’re going to use Chris as our guinea pig for our new feature at ProBlogger.com where we feature our members over at ProBlogger.net with a story about their little small victories. So, Chris, hi.

Chris: Lara, how are you?

Lara: Good. How are you?

Chris: I’m good thanks. I’m excited.

Lara: Good. Good, good. So tell us a little bit about you, like what your background is and how you got started blogging and making money online?

Chris: Sure. Well I was in the mortgage industry which was a wonderful career choice up until around 2007 and the market started to fall and I had kids, a couple of little kids, and was on 100% commission and, you know, I just started thinking to myself, why am I putting myself through all this when, you know, I know … I’d just started to read ProBlogger and I’d gotten to know a few friends online who were blogging and making a little bit of money and I just kind of … when I first started I really didn’t even do it to start making money, I just, you know, I heard about blogging, I’d never tried it, so I setup a free blog over on Blogspot by Google just to have a little fun. And I, you know, I started one about being a dad and I started another one about, you know, one of my guilty pleasures is watching pro wrestling on the weekend. So I started another one where I was …

Lara: Nice.

Chris: … just kind of talking about pro wrestling stories and that kind of thing. And it was really just for fun until one day I guess I hit on a hot story and, you know, I saw that I was getting several hundred hits on my blogger blog and I thought, uhuh, so this must be how this happens. So I decided to actually do some research into and, you know, figure out how to properly setup a blog and spent a long time researching search engine optimisation and social media and …

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: … just sort of took it from there.

Lara: Cool. So what is the blog that you’re … that’s getting the most of your attention right now?

Chris: That’s definitely blippitt.com and, you know, I’m not so sure now that it was such a great domain name choice because every time someone emails me about it, they misspell it, you know.

Lara: I was going to say, can you spell that for everybody?

Chris: Yep, it’s B-L-I-P-P-I-T-T .com. So two Ps and two Ts in blippitt.com.

Lara: Gotcha. Gotcha. We’ll put that in the post too just to make sure.

Chris: Great.

Lara: Now how old is that, two years?

Chris: Well there’s a little bit of a story behind it. I’d been, you know, participating in some make money online forums and that kind of thing and, you know, it started out really as … it started out as one of the many make money online blogs out there. It started out as Montysmegamarketing.com and, you know, I had a pretty good following but I realised that the make money niche is not really where I wanted to be. So I launched Montysmegamarketing.com in July of 2008 and then, you know, after I lost my job in mortgage in February of 09 I rebranded it, I changed the domain name, you know, I moved everything over on the server to Blippitt …

Lara: Yep.

Chris: … .com and turned it into more of a mainstream pop culture, entertainment news, sort of a blog. So it’s, you know, I think of it as kind of like a buzz feed meets the inquisitor meets boing boing, you know.

Lara: Right.

Chris: You know, it kind of goes, what’s hot on the Internet and have a few laughs and we do viral videos and you’re fail of the day and things … mix in a few daily deals and that sort of thing.

Lara: Nice. Very cool.

Chris: So it’s, it’s been really going well. I mean, it cracked the Alexa top 100,000 within six months and then hit the Alexa top 50,000 just three months after that. So it’s fortunately just been doing nothing but … the traffic has been doing nothing but going up.

Lara: That’s fantastic. Fantastic.

Chris: Yeah.

Lara: So what was your small victory? When we put the call out inside ProBlogger.com for our members and said that we were going to do this, you were very excited to put your post in there and you said that it was your new favourite thread and I had to agree with you because I think it’s so cool to hear all these stories. So …

Chris: I think so too. I mean, there’s a lot of people that read ProBlogger that are doing a lot of good things and it’s, you know, it’s nice to hear what everybody’s success story is and …

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: You know, certainly my … one of mine was hitting the … hitting the Alexa top 50,000.

Lara: Absolutely.

Chris: Another was finally making it to the first page of Digg which actually just happened about two months ago. It was a …

Lara: Nice.

Chris: … post we did on, you know … of course it was a list put on which was something like 24, you know, contextual advertising fails. And it was actually … it was a pretty funny post.

Lara: Cool.

Chris: You know, I can see why it sort of took off and went viral.

Lara: Definitely.

Chris: But, you know, I’ve never seen traffic like that. In fact that was the main catalyst to make me go out and, you know, instead of being on a reseller server now I went out and just purchased a dedicated server through … through HostGator and …

Lara: Yep.

Chris: … we’re cooking along.

Lara: Cool. Now, I have to ask you this question because I know the answer and I want you to share it with everybody else. How has the ProBlogger community helped you with this whole thing?

Chris: The ProBlogger forums have been invaluable just from everything from how to market my blog better to the technical aspects of it. And just the other day … I use a plug in called WEBO Site SpeedUp to … I run the blog on WordPress which is just a fantastic system as far as …

Lara: Yep.

Chris: … search engine optimisation goes. But as far as hogging your CPU resources on your server it’s …

Lara: Yep.

Chris: … it’s a nightmare.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: So, you know, this plug in got updated and my site basically crashed and I kind of posted this urgent, you know, thread in the ProBlogger forums, “Help. My (6:23) is down. I can’t get it back on,” you know. I know some WordPress but I don’t know PHP anymore than I know rocket science. So …

Lara: Right.

Chris: … you know, a couple of guys jumped in there and got me back up and running in no time …

Lara: Nice.

Chris: And it’s also been nice to just, you know, ask people, “Hey, take a look. What do you think of these monetisation methods?” You know, “I’ve got these ads running on the right, I’ve got these ads on the top and I’m using these advertising networks, you know, are there any others I should know of?” You know, “How can I go about negotiating a higher per CPM rate from some of these folks?” And, you know, the feedback that you get in there is great. Now, that being said, you can’t just come in and ask questions all the time and wait for people to answer them, you have to give as well as get.

Lara: Right.

Chris: So I sort of jump in and share my expertise whenever I can with …

Lara: And you do.

Chris: I use the term expertise loosely. I’ve been doing this for two or three years now but, you know, I feel like I’ve gotten to know things about WordPress and things about SEO that a lot of people would benefit from, so.

Lara: Absolutely. Absolutely. You’ve been a big help in there. And the thing to remember is that, you know, just as much as there are people who are in there that have been at this for six or seven or eight years, there are people in there who have been in it for six or seven or eight weeks and you’re kind of like in that, that middle ground now where …

Chris: Right, right.

Lara: … you know, there’s an equal balance and it’s really nice.

Chris: I’ve made some good friends in there too. It’s nice to, you know, we’ve got a few people that, you know, we private message each other, “Hey, I just put up a new post about this and I could use some traffic to it. Would you mind blogging about it?” You know, they’ll do the same to me, like, “Hey, we just put up this post about XYZ, you know. Can we … can you send us a few visitors or maybe mention it on your blog?” And, you know, networking online is not a whole lot different than networking online[sic]. It’s really …

Lara: Right.

Chris: It’s who you know.

Lara: Right. Very cool. So anything else you want to tell us about Blippitt?

Chris: You know, we’re just … we’re growing. It’s going really well. We just launched an iPhone app that’s … it’s available for free in the iPhone store.

Lara: Cool.

Chris: We’ve got our Facebook page up now and we’re on Twitter. We not too long ago were mentioned in a blog post by MTV.com so that was kind of a rush.

Lara: Oh, wow.

Chris: It’s nice. I looked in the stats one day and I started seeing all these hits coming from MTV.com and they picked up on a post we wrote, a Lady Gaga post that we had written and, you know, it’s great. I do plan on eventually … in fact I’ve already started it. I’m just kind of writing an eBook about exactly what steps I took to, you know, build links to Blippitt the way I did and how I’ve gotten the traffic and how I’ve … you know, I’m basically … I told myself if I can get it to the point where we’re making a good three to four thousand dollars a month then I would consider that a full-time income and …

Lara: Absolutely.

Chris: … we’re finally now … we’re finally now there. I mean I still, you know, I still have a day job but it’s for the benefits and it’s because I want to …

Lara: Right.

Chris: … and not because I need to. So it’s really cool just to be able to show my wife, you know, hey, all that picking on me you did because I was spending so many hours online is now paying off.

Lara: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Chris: Once the cheques started rolling in, her attitude changed a little bit.

Lara: Yes, they do. They do. It’s all about the green.

Chris: Yep, that’s right, yes.

Lara: Show me the facts, honey.

Chris: They’re really supportive of the whole process and it helps to have that support system behind you, definitely.

Lara: Yeah, that’s great. Fantastic. Well thank you so much, Chris.

Chris: Sure.

Lara: And we will be happy to watch Blippitt continue to grow and be really cool.

Chris: Yeah, that would be great. I mean, the one thing I can tell folks listening is to, you know, just never give up and never get discouraged. There were definitely times, you know, six or seven months into it and then a year into and a year and a half into it when I thought, you know, I’m really … I’m missing out on this family time and I’m just wasting time and it’s never going to happen, it’s never going to take off. But I’ve got this sign on my bed … on my bathroom mirror that is a quote from Winston Churchill and it just says, “Never give up. Never.”

Lara: That’s awesome.

Chris: And just when you finally commit yourself to doing it and not giving up, you know, that’s when things finally seem to take off. So you’ve just got to stick it out and be dedicated to it.

Lara: I love it. I love it. Thanks so much, Chris.

Chris: All right. Thanks, Lara.

Lara: All right. Great talking to you.

Chris: See you in the forums.

Lara: Okay. See you there.

Chris: All right.

Lara: Bye bye.

Chris: Bye.

So there we have it, our first ProBlogger Community Small Victory Interview! Many more to come, and if you’re interested in having your “small victory” story posted like these, join the ProBlogger Community and share your story!

Stick Out Your Finger (Not That One!) and Create a Meaningful Blogging Experience

Guest post by Jenny McCoy

Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you’re going; you just kinda enjoy the ride.

This is true of my blogging experience.

After sharing my vision of church services optimized for screaming babies and their snoring grandparents, my drinking companion responded with glazed eyes and an outdoor voice, “You should write books or something. I’d read them.”

So I tiptoed onto the blogging scene ten months ago with a WordPress.com account, a readership of six faithful friends and like most of you, a head full of ideas.

My blog was an escape, the final axe to my quarter-life crisis.

“What am I here for? What am I meant to do? Can I defer my 10-year reunion and escape the “Most Likely to Succeed” superlative expectations?”

Blogging gave me an answer, a direction.

I am here to write.

At first, this was enough. I wrote for my table of six devoted friends and I subscribed to sites like this one to adapt my craft.

“Comment! Network!” – Demanded the experts.

But I didn’t.

Sure, I knew the benefits that awaited commenters.

Traffic. Link building. An inbox overflowing with follow-up comment notifications.

But commenting for those reasons alone seemed so futile. So boring. So fake.

And then an a-ha! post from Blogussion about building community invaded my RSS feed and things clicked.*

Within minutes, I made my first real comment and within hours the twitchy giant responded and commented on my most recent post. Josh was the first person outside of my inner circle of obligation to comment on my blog; and while his thoughts on the Cupid Shuffle were not life-changing, his quick, genuine response did force a beautiful paradigm shift in my head.

I liked it and I wanted more.

Later that week, I connected with two GenY bloggers, landing my first guest post and two new Facebook friends – one an HR specialist in Philadelphia and the other a blogger and student in Amsterdam.

Suddenly it wasn’t just me and my laptop against the world. And I’m glad, because we weren’t holding up too well anyway.

Soon, I was mesmerized by a ProBlogger guest post and I continued to comment on this insanely smart woman’s site until she broke down and asked me to start a (dwindling) t-shirt company with her and to compose my second guest post.

And so it continued. Through comments, emails and Twitter @mentions I was able to:

All of this spawned from my prompted decision to become more than a writer and a reader –to become an integral part of the blogging community.

My advice: Find relationships that matter.

Many of us dream of hosting A-List blogs. We dream of earning a respectable income by writing about the topics we know and love.** And these dreams are often derived from a larger goal: to break away from the bureaucracy our college degrees earned us and to make an existence on our own terms.

With that said, why would you make any part of this experience inauthentic?

Connect with people you like. Offer your thoughts with no expectation in return. Meet people in your niche or use web transparency to connect with people who live drastically differently lives than you. Whatever your choice, create an online existence that means something.

Take the cryptic, final words of Christopher McCandless, “Happiness is only real when shared” and apply them to your blog.

Do you have your own blogging community? Share. I’d love to hear your thoughts and I may even want to catch a ride.

*This click shared an eerie resemblance to the click that allowed the clutch-to-gas ration to finally align in my brain after nine months of sputtering failure, but it was much less expensive.

** With Mimosas and incomes large enough to pay for the breeding of a miniature elephant that can be walked on a leash and eat party peanuts. Just me?

Jenny McCoy prefers writing to climbing ladders, but does a little of both. She once brought sexy back in a High School Musical bathing suit and her addiction to Venn diagrams is rivaled only by her love for Microsoft Paint masterpieces. Take a break from your work day and check out her (admittedly) wacky blog at WorkinOnARamp.com.

How a $50 packet of Tim Tams could get you a Blogger Job

Guest post by Ainslie Hunter from Study Skills Mentor and EduWebMedia.

timtams.jpgI found my dream job…. and I mean dream job. A blogger / editor job for an experienced teacher. It was there in black and white on the Problogger Job Boards. Sure it was December 21, but I had finished my Christmas Shopping so I sat down and got started.

A Regular Job Interview Process

In my teaching career I have applied for 5 jobs. Face to face interviews are easy. You send in the resume, they check your references and then you hopefully get an interview. My interviews have never lasted more than 30 minutes and I have found out the outcome in a couple of days.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Well applying for an online job is a whole different game.

Problogger Job Interview Process

To gain an online job as a Blogger / Editor I have completed six general steps, and one that is a little crazy.

The application

If you are a regular reader of the Problogger Job board you will notice a trend in Job descriptions. A writing job is pretty straightforward. But many of the Blogger / Editor positions are long and vague. This job wanted a blogger who could do it all, but didn’t give out specifics of the time, pay, or responsibilities.

So I applied with two documents. The first was a standard cover letter and resume that listed my education and experience in teaching and blogging. The second was a two page proposal outlining my strategy for the company. I didn’t know what they wanted, but knew that my resume wouldn’t have given them enough information.

First email contact

About a week later I received an email from the company. They loved my proposal but were worried about location issues; they were in the US and I was here in Australia. I answered with strategies on how to deal with time difference and how we could overcome my lack of understanding of US education issues. For each point, I could see many positives from being outside of the US.

Skype Interview

Another week went by and I had a Skype Interview planned for 5:30 in the morning. It would have been so much easier to go to someone’s office then to have an interview online. Since it was a video conference I had to make sure I didn’t look like I just crawled out of bed, my office had to be clean and my 2 year old had to be bribed with a Macca’s breakfast.

The interview lasted nearly an hour and was a standard interview, once I got over the fact that I was on a massive projector screen.

Second Proposal

I decided to write a second proposal. It was a synthesis of ideas that came from the interview. An impression from the interview was a concern that I was an unknown person from destination elsewhere. So in the proposal I also gave examples of accountability practices that we could use to keep track of me.

Writing Assignment

On the 15th of January I was asked to submit a blog article on behaviour management. We had three days to write the post. Simple enough but I took a few risks with my approach.

Keeping up with Appearances

During the month I also made sure I looked after my blog and readers. I spent more time crafting blogs, wrote a Guest Post and became more involved on Twitter. I also put out a call for guest posts (as it was something that concerned the interviewers) Google Analytics is a wonderful tool and I was able to tell that the company was monitoring my blog on a regular basis.

Little Bit Crazy

Well now a month has gone by and the company still hasn’t made a decision yet. I wanted to make them know that I was still excited about the job and that I have strong convictions about my ability as a blogger. I wanted to stand out of the crowd. So I got a little adventurous…

I sent a Thank You Card and a box of Tim Tams. Express. To America. With a note that said “Let’s have another chat over Skype. I have supplies the Tim Tams.

I had just read a quote from Teresa Taylor, “I never hire someone without having a meal with them. I am absolutely convinced that that’s how you see what people are really like…you can pick up all these lifestyle things that you can’t get out of questioned them sitting in your office.” I wanted to show them that I was happy to have a chat over coffee so they could get to know me better.

I reached out to an online friend. Josh from World’s Strongest Librarian put my post on his site. I wanted to see how others would respond to my story.

I sent this post to Darren.

So Did the Tim Tam’s work? Not sure. I just checked Australia Post and they are still in transit. Somewhere between LA and New York.

I still hope I get the job. I really do want it. But this experience has taught me so much about applying for online positions. Whilst blogging experience is important, what our future employers are looking for is someone they can trust. Especially if that person will be blogging from destination unknown.

We all know that trust takes time to develop with our own blog readers. But time is not a commodity you have when applying and interviewing for an online job. So you also need to find a way to show entrepreneurial spirit.

Have you got any great strategies on how to ace a blogger job and? Let us know.

Read more from Ainslie Hunter at Study Skills Mentor and EduWebMedia.

What does treating your blog “Like a Business” really mean?

Guest post by Mike CJ.

“Treat your blog like a business” is something we’re told all the time. It’s solid advice, assuming you want or plan to make an income from your blog, and adopting it as a mindset often leads to the successful transition from a blog into a business.

But what does it actually mean?

Have a proper accounts system

Record income and expenses as they happen. Monitor cashflow – every day if things are tight. There are so many tools out there to help you do this, and many of them are free to use. Outright is one of the easiest.

Set objectives

The blogosphere is full of objective-setting posts at this time of year. Most of them revolve around traffic and subscribers. And that’s fine, but if you do want to blog professionally, you need to have financials behind those. You need to know what you’re going to earn over the next year.

Set budgets

Once you know what’s coming in, set yourself some spending budgets. How much of your income are you going to re invest in the business? For training? Software? Marketing? By setting budgets, it makes buying decisions so much easier. Do you want to advertise your new book here on Problogger? Don’t waste hours wringing your hands trying to decide. If it’s in budget do it, if it isn’t, don’t.

Seek opinions and advice

Most “real” businesses, even small ones, don’t run in a vacuum with the proprietor making every decision. And yet many blogs do just that! Get as much advice as you can, from your partner, your bank, your accountant and from other bloggers.

Produce reports

Monthly or quarterly, produce a report showing how the business is performing against the various targets. Examine what went well, and what didn’t. Use the findings to inform your planning for the next period. The act of producing the report itself is effective, but it’s even better if you have to present it to someone else – even if it’s your partner.

Enter into collaborations

Working with other bloggers can really accelerate your success, as well as theirs. Seek out opportunities with like minded people you see around the web.

Use professional tools

It’s too easy to let yourself down with poor design, a tatty invoice or by not having a business card. None of the accoutrements of being in business cost a fortune – they’re a small expense compared to the loss of image when they aren’t right.

Invest in training

Every business should have a training budget – choose the right books, courses and memberships and you’ll get a far greater return than the initial cost.

Treat your readers like customers

Typically only a very small percentage of blog readers will ever become customers by buying something from you – most will simply enjoy the mass of free content you put out there. And that’s fine. But treat every one of them as a potential paying client, and that percentage will slowly increase over time.

Those are my thoughts about treating your blog like a business. What would you add?

Mike CJ is a full time professional blogger and author. He lives in the idyllic Canary Islands, just off the coast of Africa. You can find out more about Mike on his blog Mike’s Life and catch up with him on Twitter @mikecj

8 Tips for Rocking a Crowded Blog Niche

Deb Ng is a freelance writer, professional blogger, social media consultant and founder of the Freelance Writing Jobs network of blogs. Follow Deb on Twitter @debng.

When I began my freelance writing blog almost five years ago, there weren’t many others in my niche. As web writing and blogging became more popular and more writers began using blogs as a marketing tool, the field became more crowded. That’s not a bad thing, there are many wonderful freelance writing bloggers in the space. However, five years ago, it didn’t take a full time effort to stay at the top of this niche. In 2010, I’m working hard every day to continue to bring in readers and provide stimulating discussions for my community.

Make no mistake. There are darn good bloggers in my genre. I’m not worried that the folks in my community will read them, because I feel they should. My worry is that my readers won’t want to return to me afterwards. Therefore it’s a daily challenge for me to keep things interesting and keep them coming back for more.

How do I do it?

1. I ask Questions

I reach out to my community by asking questions. I want to know why they visit my blogs. I want to know what I’m doing right, and what I’m doing wrong. I want to know which areas of our niche are the most confusing and which topics we need to lay to rest. My blog is my business and any business owner must ask questions to be a success.

2. I monitor Community Discussions

What are writers talking about in the forums or on Twitter? I take some time every day to do some research around the social networks and writing forums. Having discussions with my fellow freelancers offers inspiration. It also allows me to see trends, learn about new concerns, see who is hiring, and, in general, keep my finger on the pulse of the community. I never run out of things I like to talk about. The challenge is making sure it’s stuff everyone else is interested in as well.

3. I don’t look at other Bloggers as Competition

There are so many freelance writing bloggers but I don’t consider them competition. Instead, I treat them as colleagues and people to with whom to bounce ideas around. I visit their communities and participate in the discussions and invite them to do the same. I direct my community to interesting topics and debates and encourage them to get involved. The way I see it, there’s room for anyone. No one has to be married to one particular blogger. We should all visit as many as we like and work together to provide the best information possible. There’s nothing wrong with cross pollination.

4. I monitor the response to my blog posts – and other bloggers’ posts

What makes one blog post receive one hundred comments and lots of link love, while others will slip by with nary a mention? To find out I monitor the response to my discussion topics, and also, the topics up for discussion on other blogs. If I see a blog post with hundreds of comments, I’ll explore why. Perhaps this is something I can expand upon or discuss further? How would my community respond to a counter discussion?

5. I Commiserate

I don’t only share tips and Ideas, I also commiserate. I know what it’s like to work at home all by my lonesome. I know what it’s like to receive rejection as a writer or to have to pull an all-nighter to meet a deadline. I let my community know I’ve been there too, preferably with humor. They respond well after learning I’m a regular person and not a guru.

6. I don’t claim to be an expert

When describing myself, I don’t use words like “expert,” “guru,” “rockstar,” or “extraordinaire,” because I’m not. I’m a freelance writer who likes to talk about my methods for success. Instead of pontificating, I share. I learn from my community and they learn from me. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

7.I keep close Eye on Stats

I analyze my stats every single day and take advantage of traffic boosters. If a certain piece does well, I’ll turn it into a series. If a certain day or time gets the most traffic, I’ll post my best work then. If I’m noticing trends with keywords, I’ll write around these topics. I’ll also note which content receives a poor response and what went viral. It’s important for any blogger to monitor trends, especially if that blogger wants to stay at the top.

8. I Consider all Feedback

I always consider feedback to be an opportunity, whether it’s positive or negative. Every single email, Tweet or comment directed my way is read and considered. Feedback is the most important gift I can receive from my community, even if they don’t like something I said. Without my community, my blog network wouldn,t be a success. Listening to them—and acting on their concerns — is the least I can do.

Certain blog niches are saturated. Every day a new and terrific blog launches and new blog stars are made. How does an old schooler like me stay on top of the game? By listening, observing, sharing and showing appreciation to my community.

What’s your niche – and what sets you apart from the rest?

Win Dinner with ProBlogger and Special Guests at Blog World Expo 2009

OK – this is a competition that is only for those attending Blog World Expo (please don’t comment below if you’re not attending). I know that excludes most readers but I hope we can include everyone a little by posting some pictures of the event.

The prize is a free dinner with me and some of my blogging buddies at BWE at the lovely Fiamma Trattoria and Bar** in Vegas.

I’m still confirming which other guests are coming but we have 3 spots open to ProBlogger readers – hence this competition.

Contest Rules

1. You must be attending Blog World Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, NV.
2. You must be available for dinner on Wednesday night, October 14th at 6pm. We cannot change the scheduled time or modify to suit anyone’s schedules.
3. You must provide your own transportation to and from the event.
4. Since we will need to place your name on a guest list, you will need to provide identification at the door upon arrival.
5. To enter, simply leave a comment below – make sure to use your REAL name and your most often checked email address in the name and email fields. Lara will do the draw using random.org on Tuesday at 4pm Eastern Time (NY, USA) and will contact the (3) winners privately via email. Please then confirm receipt of the email before 8pm ET.

*Please don’t leave a comment if you’re NOT available to attend the dinner. Because we’re running on very short notice, we need to keep this process as streamlined as possible, and weeding through comments wouldn’t help! Thanks for understanding!

** Dinner graciously provided by Fiamma Trattoria and Bar at MGM Grand @TasteMGMGrand.

Amazon Ends Affiliates Program for North Carolina

[Breaking news from Lara - Pardon the interruption!]

Just read over at FOX Business that Amazon has decided to close out their affiliates program to residents of North Carolina (USA) due to a proposed change in sales tax for affiliate sales.

“In an email, Amazon reportedly told marketing affiliates in the state that the move was a direct result of North Carolina’s push to levy a tax on purchases made through Amazon affiliates.” FOX Business

I remember there was a similar situation with New York, I wonder which US state is going to be next? There’s more details on Amazon’s calling NC lawmaker’s bluff here.

Interesting what politics and legalities can do to a blogger or affiliate marketer, in just a blink. How do you feel about these laws that are changing the way bloggers effectively handle their income options?

Update: Appears that they also closed off Hawaii, and may be considering California as well. [Thanks, 5starAffiliatePrograms for the tip off in the comments!]

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