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Why Every Entrepreneur Must Become a Blogger

This is a guest contribution from blogger and graphic designer Luke Guy

You’ve heard about this blogging stuff. You’re already making money and time isn’t on your side. Is blogging really worth it? Can afford to do it (time-wise). The answer is: Yes. Here’s why.

As you know eBay, Amazon, and all these the other sites spend millions to do one thing. And that’s win people’s trust. How much are you spending to build trust with new people? And how exactly are you doing this? I understand they’re not making time anymore, but trust doesn’t come easy either. Knowledge is ever exploding and your competition probably just started their blog yesterday. But is it for you? What if you’re an ecommerce site? Do you still need a blog? I talk more about this in my article: The Epic Guide To Growing Sales With Content Marketing. Google is a business site and they make billions, simply by building trust and letting users feel the Google experience without spending a penny. How have they done this?

They built the following all for free:

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Mobile

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Specialized Search

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Home & Office

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They spent millions of dollars trying to gain users and one day beloved customers. Don’t tell me freeware and resources can’t build a business. The top websites in the world do it. According to Alexa, the top 5 sites in the world are freeware based.

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I’m not saying go make free software that cost millions. I’m just saying start building and create something useful. And you can doing that by starting with a simple blog post. Instead of having agenda, just be helpful. Why? You’re building relationship. It’s hard to turn a man down that’s always giving.

It’s not that blogging is some kind of magic, it’s what it does. Let me give you some of the other benefits here besides trust:

  1. You solve problems (with your product)
  2. It’s effective advertising
  3. Another form of marketing
  4. Great way to capture emails
  5. Growing connections
  6. Receive feedback from customers
  7. Gain Influence
  8. Attracts people
  9. Express your thoughts
  10. Gives you a talking piece

So much is happening from your blog article. You really don’t have time not to write. How much and how long is up to you. But no where in history has man had more opportunity to build an audience and make a living doing it.

 

What To Write About

I’ve seen many business owners talk about the world and everything in it when blogging. Wrong move. Why? You attract traffic who don’t care anything about your products. You want to attract buyers here. Traffic isn’t the only thing you want, but traffic that buys and trusts you.

The number one thing you should be focusing on is your customer’s problems. Let it be your title even. Within that post, talk about the problem and the pain it causes. From there, explain how your product can solve that. When you advertise that, and share that, you will attract people from all over who are now valuable leads. People who are hurting and needing a solution. You are that solution! By addressing their problem, offering a solution, and being entertaining… You will generate sales. It’s really beautiful.

Once you blog and gather traffic, you want to establish that trust even farther and get their email. So you can spam them? No, so you can hook them and pull them close. And then…  Offer even better content like webinars or free courses. You want to saturate that list with your amazing content. Once you do that good things began to happen.

 

How An Email List Is A Customer List In Disguise

The biggest thing you can do is build the email list. By sending that list content that helps, it makes them love you. You’re cultivating relationship, and better yet traffic. That traffic will buy from you more than any other traffic. Why? It has relationship with you. It’s even better than Facebook which is built much like the list. That’s fading though tremendously though. I talk more about that here: How the Email List Beats Facebook Every Time.

As that list grows your traffic will grow, your readers will grow (in number:), and your profits will grow. So having your opt-in forms handy is a must. Make sure to build an email collecting machine are your site. This is great when you have a deal you want to mention.

Imagine a list 3,000 people. 20-30% usually open from a trusted blog. That’s around 900 people who will that deal. Imagine if only 2% bought from you. That’s 18 sales from a single email. Once again though, they’re not waiting to get pitched. They’re waiting to hear from you because you help them so much.

 

The Biggest Struggle With This Method

Main problem most people face is creating the content, and making sure that content is amazing. Not easy. Someone with passion must be behind it. If money is your drive, content creation isn’t for you. If making someone’s life easier today your drive, then you will make it. It’s not easy writing for free at first, but soon it becomes who you are. You must serve a purpose and be the hero for someone.

Many feel overwhelmed with creating content and they under the load. Just know it’s worth it, that it’s not easy reaching out, but the connections you’re building is worth the struggle. If you’re wanting to gain a customer base in a noisy world, this is how you do it. You don’t want to park the business in ghost town do you? Then you must build your traffic and get more eyes on you. From there you build trust, and then you gain a client. It’s that simple, but you can’t be selfish. You must simply be a power giver.

Luke Guy is both graphic artist and blogger, publisher for LukeGuy.com, and graphic designer for hire. He’s loves to blog and helping people with dreams in starting a business.

Email Lists: Make them a Priority in 2015 with These Tips

Last year, Luke Guy ran us through why our email open rates are nosediving, and what we can do about it. He also gave us solid tips on how to write great emails to begin with. We’re re-running this post today so you can nail your email list right from the start 2015. You won’t regret it!

emailcrashThis is a guest contribution from Luke Guy, blogger and graphic designer.

It’s amazing how blogs have exploded within the last 10 years – take ProBlogger for instance. Blogs like these can provide a good living for the owner if the traffic remains strong and healthy. But how do these blogs retain the traffic and keep a steady flow? There are many ways, but I want to discuss with you a vitally important one: your email list.

Usually more email subscribers would mean more traffic. Right? Well, not anymore.

Bloggers are facing diving open rates today like never before. Small bloggers and the celebrity bloggers alike suffer.

But why?

Let me give you 8 Reasons Why Your Email Open Rate Is Nosediving.

1. You have lots of images within the email.

When it comes to email open rates, fashion is not how you make waves. Simpler is better in this case. HTML is good, but text based emails are even better. I know we’re tempted to be flashy, but if no one is seeing it, what’s the point? Your email is going to be seen more when images aren’t within them. They flag filters many times, and can annoy the reader also. It’s best to simply state your message and get to the point quickly.

2. Way too long!

In the blog world an article of 200-1000 words is considered an informative post (View Darren’s Post On Word Count). Reading one of these could take 5-7 minutes to read, and 15 minutes to fully understand.

In email this is simply not so. Why? You’re simply updating them with short exclusive information, and persuading them to spend a minute on this unexpected message from you. Think of your email newsletter as a bite-size sample of your blog. Let every bite be extremely pleasant and leave them wanting more. Where do they get more? Your blog.

In order to do this, your email must be short, sweet, and fulfilling in bite-size. 150-450 word count would be best when writing. You’re sharing exclusive content, updating, and telling them about your new blog post kind-of-thing.

3. Links Everywhere.

When all they see is outlined sentences everywhere, landing somewhere in the unknown, the word SPAMMY is the first thoughts of most readers. They get the idea that all you’re trying to do is send them to a place they don’t want to go, to spend money they don’t want to spend. Put only one link in your article, and give them many good reasons why they should click on that link. Not one reason to click on 10 links, that’s not as effective. So choose your link wisely, and this also will prevent your email from getting vacuumed by the email filters.

4. Your agenda appears to be making money.

When they see your email appear, what should they expect? If it’s another course, eBook, or program in which they must buy, there’s a good chance you’re going to get turned off eventually. A good rule of thumb is to give your reader 10x more. Instead, offer freebies just so they will warm up to you. If you need some freebie ideas, go here: 6 Freebies That Will Spike Engagement In Your Blog

I know we’re all trying to come up with ways in which to make money, but it’s better to have our customers coming to us with their money, not the other way around with us chasing them and their wallet. When they understand that you’re for them and wanting to help more than to make a buck, they will come.

5. Your email is only a result from an RSS blast.

Your emails should be exclusive content, not an email blaster from your RSS feed. Many will disagree with me on this, because they don’t want another article to write. I understand their pain, but what’s the point of offering this option of RSS if they’re not going to read it? With Google’s Gmail Algorithm, RSS is a turn off and a good chance it will never make it to their inbox.

How will they find out about by my new blog post then? you might be asking.

Give them many reasons within that email why they should read that article and give them a link to it. The reason shouldn’t be because it’s new. It should be because it’s helpful and can be found almost no where else. You’re just pointing them back to it so they won’t miss this amazing content.

6. Not full of helpful information.

You thought that tips, helpful information, and how-tos were only for blogs? Not so, it will apply to your email rate as well. Except you have only a few seconds to persuade them to read it, a few more seconds to finish reading it, and finally to click on whatever link you may have for them (that was the point of the email right?).

The only thing is with email, shorter is better. Why? When trying to catch the eye, you have only a few seconds to persuade them to read it and consume your information. As for a blog post, most were searching for the solution you have to offer and were willing to spend the time to solve their problem. So make it short but powerful since your message was unexpected!

7. They don’t feel a personal connection with you.

If all you do is sell, command, and write like you’re talking to the wall, they’re not feeling what you write. To avoid this, write as if they’re your friend. Instead of writing to your readers, write to your reader specifically. Pretend that you’re writing to one of your readers, and let them feel that one-on-one connection. It’s about winning their trust, which is key to any business.

8. You’re boring.

If you’re doing all of the above, it’s time to face it. It’s time for a recharge. Sometimes to make our tips more helpful, and our writing voice more inspirational, we need to read more and be inspired. Like an athlete, we must eat more than we burn. If not, we don’t have much to offer.

Go out in your niche and explore again. It could be the simple fact that you are burned out and need to refill with more helpful information.

Ways to improve email letter quality:

1. Read a blog post like this one by Darren Rowse On Passion: Passion – Do You Have It?

2. Interact more in the comment section.

3. Listen to podcasts.

4. Talk to pros in your niche.

5. Take a course.

6. Think more, and spend more time with that writing piece.

7. Study your competition and how they write their emails. Read this to be inspired: Learning Your Foes Makes You a Better Hero

So basically you’re defeating two things here, the email filter and the reputation of scammers. It’s so easy to be flagged as a scammer these days and you must work extra hard to appear the very opposite. These tips will make that happen, and will also get your emails to bypass the filters.

Mission Accomplished.

You’re going to see great results from this if applied correctly. I’ve learned by not selling, you kind of are. When they know you’re in business, and all you do is help, curiosity takes over them. When they see your free tips work tremendously, what will your paid versions do?

Thanks for reading and I wish you higher email rates!

Did I miss something? Leave a comment below and let’s see what you have to offer to the Problogger community.

Don’t miss the other side of the coin: How to Write Successful Emails and Improve Open Rates

Luke Guy is both graphic artist and blogger, publisher for LukeGuy.com, and graphic designer for hire. He’s loves to blog and helping people with dreams in starting a business.

Selling eBooks and Digital Products on Your Blog? You Need to Know About EU VAT-MOSS

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Jawat Khan.

Ask any professional blogger and he’ll tell you that selling eBooks, eCourses, trainings, tutorials and other forms of digital products is one of the most profitable ways of making a sustainable income from your blog.

It’s not easy, of course.

You need to spend countless hours creating high quality content, responding to reader comments, building relationships, spending money on advertising and creating products that people would gladly pay for.

It’s real hard work. And anyone who’s been on this path knows its challenges, and the personal and professional sacrifices that it demands.

Unfortunately, it just got a whole lot harder.

The EU VAT-MOSS Legislation

The European Union has recently introduced a new value added tax (VAT) that’ll come in to effect from 01 January 2015. This new VAT will be applicable on any digital products that are sold to buyers anywhere in the EU.

And this is where it gets really tough for us.

The tax will be calculated on the basis of the buyer’s location, NOT the seller. So even if you reside outside the EU you’d be required to pay this VAT on each sale that you make to a customer based in any of the 28 EU member states.

So, for example, if you’re a blogger based in Australia and a buyer from Germany or any other EU state purchases an eBook from your blog, YOU will have to pay the VAT on top of your product price.

What’s more, you’d need to collect evidence of your sales that indicate the buyer’s location based on his IP address and credit card information. You’d then need to submit this evidence along with your returns every quarter.

Honestly, one of the best things about making an online income, for me, is the lack of administrative costs and unnecessary legal documentation. But with this VAT, all of us, the bloggers and digital sellers, would need to collect evidence and submit returns on our sales.

To make this process slightly simpler, you can register with any “Mini One Stop Shop” (MOSS) in any EU member state (UK or Ireland being the most convenient). Your VAT will then be distributed to the relevant countries according to their tax rates.

You are also required to keep the record of your sales, as evidence, for at least 10 years to avoid any legal problems in selling to EU customers.

All this is very complex legal stuff.

The objective of this post is not to give you any legal advice. I’m no expert myself. But I just want you to know about the potential repercussions of this law on your blogging income. You should definitely seek professional advice on this matter and study this law in more detail here.

So What Can Be Done About EU VAT-MOSS?

Being a blogger myself, I know you might be confused and upset by this law. Some of the most prominent freelance writers, bloggers and digital sellers have express public outrage on Twitter in reaction to this law. They’ve also started an online petition that is gaining momentum quickly. You can vote on this petition here.

But apart from expressing disappointment at this law, you need to do the following things.

  • Consult with your ecommerce software provider and tell them about this development. You’ll need their help in collecting buyer data as purchase evidence. You need to collect buyer location data based on the IP address and credit card information.
  • You need to keep this record with you for at least 10 years so that you can present it anytime it is required.
  • You need to submit your VAT returns every quarter to MOSS.
  • Or you can take the hard decision and stop selling to EU buyers completely to avoid any of these legal issues. But you’d need the help of your ecommerce software provider here as well, because you’d need to block buyers from selected countries on the basis of their IP address and credit card information. You can’t do it manually.

Several ecommerce software providers have made announcements on what they’re doing about this law and the additional requirements that it has brought with it. PayPal recently announced that they’ll be able to store buyer location with their API. But there hasn’t been any announcement from them about data storage and country blocking.

In the last week, Selz has introduced a series of features that cover all the VAT-MOSS requirements. By enabling the EU VAT-MOSS feature in your Selz dashboard, you can receive automatically degenerated reports about the exact location of your buyers based on their IP address and credit card.

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Selz will calculate the applicable VAT rate in your buyer’s country, which you can add on top of your product’s sales price. It also stores this information for up to 10 years and lets you export it into an excel sheet for MOSS submission.

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In case you decide to completely block EU buyers (approx. 507,000,000 potential customers) Selz allows you to apply country based restrictions on downloads.

Conclusion

There’s a hot debate in the blogging community about the EU VAT-MOSS that will come into effect from 01 January 2015. There’s still some confusion about its application and how it will impact bloggers and digital sellers from different countries. You can follow Twitter updates on this subject on #VATMOSS and #VATMESS hashtags. At the same time, you should make sure that you have the right tools to record the required buyer information for VAT submission, in case the law remains unchanged.

Jawad Khan is a Content Marketing Specialist at Quality Trade, a leading marketing and trading platform for B2B companies. Follow Jawad on Twitter and Google+

The One Secret You Need to Read to Increase Conversion Rates

This is a guest contribution from Richard Akhmerov of Devore Agency.

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Image via Flickr user Jerry Nihen.

Have you ever thought to yourself: “Why are some internet marketers so successful, while most are just average?

Now, we can come up with a variety of excuses as to why they are more successful: a bigger list, better networking, more time invested… But at the end of the day, those ARE just excuses.

There is, however, one thing that successful internet marketers do that the average internet marketer probably doesn’t think twice about. And while these hall of famers constantly talk about it, for most it just goes in one ear and out the other.

What I’m talking about is split testing. Split testing is what truly differentiates an average marketer from an extraordinary one. You see, they didn’t build a huge list by just firing aimlessly. They are strategic and analytical about the way they find prospects, and sell to customers.

If you’ve ever set up an opt-in page looking to gather prospects to add to a list, did you bother split testing with another opt-in page? Let’s say you did, but where did you draw the line? Did you only split test with one other page? Or did you keep testing with a third, fourth and fifth variation?

Success stories rarely come from luck, rather it is the relentless ability to keep trying new variations when one just doesn’t seem like enough. There really is no secret to it, but few will take the actual step to make it happen. It’s similar to being fit and healthy. You KNOW you should go to the gym and eat better, but how many people actually do?

Split testing is the backbone of all successful copywriting. You need to have a control which you can test against variations. You can have the greatest product in the world, but if your copywriting is only mediocre, how well do you think your product will sell?

Sometimes you write copy which you think is a masterpiece, but how will you know without testing? As an internet marketer, you are not branding yourself through television ads or billboards which have no known way of telling us a return on investment. We are lucky enough to live in an age where everything can be checked through analytics, to tell us how well our marketing is doing.

The truth is, you already know all of this information, just like you know that proper nutrition and exercise is the key to a healthy life. The hard part, the part that takes discipline, is implementing it into your marketing efforts. Take the extra step, and see how it changes your business.

Here’s to your success!

Richard Akhmerov is from Devore Agency, you can learn more great information by paying them a visit online.

What to Do BEFORE You Launch A Product On Your Blog

Over the last 5 years there has been a shift in the way that many bloggers try to monetise their blogs.

Rather than relying upon advertising and working with brands to make money – many have started to develop their own products to sell directly to readers (whether it be by selling virtual products or physical ones).

There are many reasons why selling your own product is a good thing to do. No longer will you be sending people away from your site – but they’ll be staying with you. You can also ensure that the quality of what you’re selling is high and you end up taking 100% of the profits of sale – not just a small part of it for the traffic you send.

Of course selling products on your blog takes a lot of work – more than many bloggers realise when they dream of doing so.

If you’re thinking of creating your first product – get ready to get focused!

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For one you need to develop your product. At dPS our photography eBooks take a minimum of 3-6 months to write, edit, proof, design and launch (and we have a team working on it around the clock).

But it isn’t just a matter of creating a product. There’s a lot more that you should be working on BEFORE you launch a product that will help to ensure it is profitable.

The Sad Tale of a Blogger with a Great eBook and No Sales

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I spoke recently to an eBook author/blogger who couldn’t work out why her eBook hadn’t sold well. She’d read of the success of other eBook authors making big money with eBooks and decided to create one of her own.

She worked hard for months on producing the best eBook that she could. Her problem was that she focused so much upon creating the eBook that other things too a back seat for the months it took to produce it.

  • Rather than publishing five high-quality weekly blog posts, she slipped to being lucky to publish one mediocre one
  • Her twitter account became a ghost town
  • She stopped emailing her newsletter list
  • Her Facebook page posting dropped away
  • She stopped interacting with other bloggers in her niche

On the day she launched her eBook she did so with a fantastic product but a blog with very little engagement or reader goodwill. Her eBook barely made any sales as a result.

The Other Scenario I See - the other situation I’ve seen many times are people who create products and then when they’re ready to launch start researching how to find people to buy it which results in them starting a blog, email list, social media accounts the day they want to launch their product!

Believe it or not I’ve had quite a few confused emails from people in this boat over the years!

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They end up starting out even further behind than someone with a blog that they’ve ignored to develop a product.

Having a Great Product Is Only Half Of the Profitable Product Puzzle

I’ve heard these kinds of story from bloggers many times in the last few years – in fact it is a challenge I faced in producing my own first eBooks (when I had to do it all myself).

There’s so much work involved in producing a product like an eBook – writing, editing, designing, marketing – that it is easy to let everything else slip.

The problem is that having a great product to sell is only half of the profitable product puzzle. The other half is having people ready to buy it.

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If the sacrifice you make to create a product is looking after your readership then your efforts will be wasted.

If anything – in the lead up to launching your product you should INCREASE your efforts in serving your readership, deepening engagement and growing a positive relationship with those who could potentially buy what you’re developing.

Here’s what to Focus on BEFORE you Launch a Product on your Blog

Before I suggest some areas to work on before you launch a product let me say that this is always a juggle and it’s hard to get perfect.

Not only are we working on creating a product, keeping a blog running and engaging readers – on top of that there’s ‘life’ (family, other work etc).

It’s not easy but being prepared is so important!

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Other than creating the product itself, here are four things I’d be working on to help me be ready for a profitable product launch.

1. Growing a ‘Warm’ Email List

NewImageBy far the biggest source of sales for our eBooks have been email. Yes your blog and social media will product drive sales too – but email is likely to convert better. I’d estimate over 90% of our eBook sales come from the emails we send to our list.

There’s two parts of this task.

A. having people sign up to your list – promoting your email list is really important.

B. keeping your list warm – don’t just email when you’ve got something to sell. Keep your list ‘warm’ by sending them regular useful information. On dPS this means we send them a weekly newsletter with all our latest tutorials every Thursday night.

Regularly emailing your list with useful content grows the relationship, builds trust and gets them used to hearing from you.

It’s so important!

2. Growing Your Blog Archives

NewImageMost of the people who subscribe to your email list (and social media accounts) will have found you as a result of reading a post on your blog. Keep producing great content on your blog to keep them engaged.

This will give you content that you can email to your list but also will help you to keep growing that list (fresh content gives people more to share on social and via word of mouth).

Also use your blog to take your readers on a journey towards your product launch. For example:

  • Telling your readers that you’re working on something for them
  • Involving them in the journey of creating your product
  • Using blog posts to research and test ideas in your product and building anticipation of your launch

3. Building Your Social Presence

NewImageWhile I’ve not seen a heap of sales coming directly from social media for our eBooks I do find social media to be a great way to keep our readership engaged and to build our brand – all of which can help when it comes time to email our list and launch a product.

I also love using social media to understand our readers and research products.

In the lead up to a product launch I quite often ask questions that relate to our product to help me understand what our readers needs and problems are and what might trigger their interest. This is golden information when creating sales/marketing material (sales pages, emails etc).

I don’t tend to sell too hard on social at the time of a product launch but do include a little messaging on our social accounts to support our emails.

NewImage4. Grow Your Network and Affiliate Relationships

Your readership, list and social network is probably where most of your sales will come from but there’s also potential to go beyond that if you have relationships with other influencers.

This might simply be friendship type relationships (another blogger who simply wants to support you) or commercial relationships (where you offer commissions to those who sign up as your affiliates).

Either approach works best if those relationships are warm and engaging ones.

Think about when you would promote what another blogger is doing? If you’re like me you’re more likely to promote then if they are engaging, friendly and communicating regularly with you.

So keep interacting with other bloggers in your niche in natural ways (don’t overwhelm them). This might simply be by engaging on social media but it could also be private industry groups on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Also consider promoting what they are doing to help grow trust and relationships. Find win/win ways to benefit from supporting each other.

How to Get your Dreams Into Reality

Again – I understand the juggle it takes to create a product without letting your blog suffer. It isn’t easy but let me finish with two pieces of advice from my own personal experience.

1. Take Action

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve met bloggers with a dream to create a product that they’ve not actioned.

Get that dream out of your head! I spoke at World Domination Summit on how to do this (the video is below) but the #1 thing you need to do is ‘take action’ – even small actions.

I put off creating my first eBooks for over two years because I couldn’t see how I could keep my blogs running AND create those products. I was juggling a lot (we were also starting a family and newborns/sleep deprivation didn’t help).

So for over two years I took no action on my dream and in doing so missed out on two years of a new income stream and learning.

When I finally did take action and launched my product my first feeling was one of regret that I didn’t find a way to do it earlier.

Don’t allow yourself to be paralysed – you need to take action, even if it is very small steps. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Take Your Time: Small Steps Can Still Get You There

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Telling your to ‘take your time’ might seem at odds with my last point of ‘taking action’ but I think it can co-exist. Let me explain.

If creating product means you need to sacrifice the relationship with your readers – don’t do it. Find a way to take action that doesn’t cost you that relationship.

After two years of taking no action on my dream of creating my first eBooks I decided I needed to do something – anything – or give up the dream.

The only way I could do it was to get up 15 minutes a day earlier every day and get it done.

15 minutes a day isn’t much (although when you’ve been up settling babies in the night it feels like a sacrifice) but it is more than 0 minutes a day. Over time it adds up – 15 minutes a day over a month is 7.5 hours (an extra work day a month) and over 3-4 months you’ll be amazed what you can achieve!

In 15 minutes a day I took small but steady steps toward my goal of launching an eBook. I initially spent it on writing, then on editing, then on design, then on researching and setting up shopping carts, then on writing sales copy etc.

It took me months to get there but in 15 minutes a day steps I launched that first product WITHOUT sacrificing the relationship I had with my readers.

In fact I grew the relationship I had with my readers even stronger – so when those first eBooks launched (here on ProBlogger with 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and on dPS with a Portrait eBook) they blew my mind with the sales that they achieved.

You don’t need to make a choice between creating a product and looking after your readers!

Making The Impossible Possible: How I Created A Full Time Blogging Income With No Qualifications

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

Image via Flickr user Susy Morris

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Stacey Corrin.

It was a dark day in November 2012 when I first began to blog. Rain lashed the windows of the home we’d just moved into. Removal boxes lay strewn across the floor and the cries of my newborn twins rang shrill in my ears.

I felt trapped, with no escape plan.

Being a new parent can do that to you. It can make you feel like the only person in the room. It can sap your energy, your personality, your identity. Yet it can also put you on a path you might never consider possible.

Today I want to share how I got from that wretched point to my life now. Three years later, I’m now a successful ghostwriter, blogger and full time freelancer.

 

It Began As A Cry For Help

My foray into blogging began like most peoples does. It was expression, even a cry for help. Most importantly it was an outlet for the turmoil and confusion of young parenthood.

I set myself up with a free WordPress blog and proceeded to spend any spare time, jotting down my thoughts. Off they would go into the ether and I’d feel a little lighter, a little more relieved for having let it all out.

Little did I know that there were people reading my musings. They introduced themselves, faceless entities going through similar situations. They provided support, insight and friendship I’d never found offline.

These people introduced me to a whole community I never knew existed. People from all walks of life were doing just what I was doing. They were baring their souls to the internet and finding comfort in the practice. What’s more, they were making a living from it too!

 

I Immersed Myself In All Things Blogging

That realisation was a revelation to me. Immediately I set about learning all that I could about blogging, SEO, and how to build an audience. It wasn’t an easy process. I learned some terrible blogging habits along the way but I also found that there was so much help out there if you knew where to look.

I discovered sites like this one. I haunted the big names on Twitter and Facebook yet also took stock of the little ones who were making waves. Sites like Blogging Wizard who at that point was still fresh and new.

What was it that made them so successful? What were their secrets? What made them stand out?

And then it dawned on me. These people stood out because they didn’t follow the crowd.

Well, I knew a thing or two about that. Always the oddball at school, I spent the majority of my teenage years sticking out like a sore thumb. So how could I do that with my own blog? How could I stand out and make a living at the same time?

By this point I’d spent two and a half years figuring this blogging thing out. My twins had grown to the point that afforded me more freedom, so one evening I sat down with a notepad and wrote out the things I was good at.

Three things stood out at me:

  • Writing
  • Blogging
  • WordPress

A thought began to blossom. What if I did something drastic? What if I started all over again and built a new blog from scratch? This time I’d do so with the aim of sharing everything I’d learned over the last few years. At the same time I’d market my skills to those who needed them – my blog a testament to them.

 

How I Turned My Passion Into Profit

I realised that through helping others with their own blogs, I could show off what I’d learned along the way. Let’s face it, not everyone has time to write blog post after blog post, on a daily basis. Unless of course like me, you love to write. Thus blogging about blogging and offering my services as a ghostwriter seemed like a smart move.

Through the power of Selz, a simple and free eCommerce platform, I was able to create product listings for my services. People could buy these from my new blog. With a few clicks of a button they could get a ghostwritten blog post and within a matter of days, have it land in their inbox. All attribution would go to them, no strings attached.

The services I offered included:

  • Ghostwriting
  • WordPress content management
  • Virtual help
  • Social media management

These were things that people needed. I knew I could provide them as I did those things every day and over time the word spread. Recommendations came in, people gave great testimonials and I built a small client base.

That was over three months ago.

In that time I’ve written over 80 blog posts of 900 words and over (excluding my own). My blog has grown from zero traffic and shares to posts with over 800 shares alone. I’m now in a place where people want to read what I’m writing. Not because they sympathise, but because they can learn something valuable from my words. Needless to say the clients have poured in too, coinciding with an income that’s sustaining five people.

How did I do it? I listened to what people wanted. Then I promoted the pants off what I created.

  • Jump into Facebook groups and Quora discussions related to your niche and listen to what people are talking about.
  • Talk to people on Social Media instead of just link dropping
  • Offer up solutions through your blog posts, which answer people’s most pressing questions
  • Forget word counts when you’re writing. A post should be as long as it needs to be, to get your message across.

When promoting your content:

  • Join places like Triberr and follow tribes with similar interests. Here you can connect with influencers who will help your posts reach a wider audience.
  • Use the power of imagery with networks like Pinterest. This can be a massive source of traffic if you create excellent visuals to go with your posts.
  • Don’t forget your email list! Provide incentives like content upgrades for subscribers only. Follow up with personal emails that provide value to your list.

The best way of exposing my blog to new readers, was to guest post for other blogs. This has been my biggest source of repeat clients and traffic. By keeping some of your best work for other people’s blogs, you’re making a bold statement. You’re telling people that you care about quality, that you’re not just about self-promotion.

 

It’s Been A Humbling Experience

Looking back to that November day, I don’t recognise the person I was. Blogging lifted me from a hopeless situation into a life that’s rich, vibrant and full of opportunity.

If I can offer any advice to anybody, it would be this:

Always believe in the impossible. No matter how hard it might seem, there is always a way if you’re willing to dream big and work for it.

Stacey is a Ghostwriter and Blogger who creates content for influencers in the digital marketing and WordPress community. When she’s not blogging elsewhere, she hangs out on her own blog, sharing visual content and blogging tips.

Six Secrets to Six-Figure Product Launches with Jeff Goins

goins11NOTE: We are running a free webinar with Jeff over at ProBlogger.com in two days (November 19), where he will talk about the Four Keys to Building a Powerful Audience Online. Normally the full webinars are only available to paid members of the site, but there will be a few big names in the next few months sharing their knowledge in our free sessions. You will need to create a free account.

Please head to the webinar page, and and click “Sign up here” to register for a free account and to register for the webinar. You will receive an email confirming your registration, and another reminder email as the webinar approaches.

Please note that our last public webinar was very popular and we can only take 1000 on the live call. We do record them though and send all who register a link to the recording.

Without further ado, here’s Jeff to explain how to totally nail any product launch with his six secrets. Thanks, Jeff

Six secrets to Six-Figure Product Launches with Jeff Goins

A few years ago, when I was just getting started with trying to monetize my blog, I met a successful online entrepreneur. When I asked her how I could start making money off my blog, she asked how big my email list was. I told her, and she said that was a six-figure business.

I laughed and explained to her that it was more like a three-figure business. I had run a couple of ads that had made me a total of about $400 in the past six months. I did not have a business.

“No,” she said. “You’ve got at least six figures there. You just need to leverage your influence and get your audience to buy from you.”

It turns out she was right. In fact, that advice didn’t just help me build a six-figure business in a year. It taught me how to start doing $100,000 product launches — not only for my own business but for other people’s businesses, as well.

I stumbled on to some secrets, thanks to the advice of that online entrepreneur and a handful of other mentors over the years, and I want to share them with you.

Secret #1: You Have to Want It

Okay, so I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room. I know this might sound out of reach to you. Pie in the sky sort of stuff. And I totally get that.

I remember reading Darren Rowse talk about his first year of blogging and how he “only made $30,000.” When I read that, I was working a job that was paying me a salary of that same amount, and making 30K online sounded like a dream.

So trust me when I tell you that nobody is more surprised to hear me talk about things like “six-figure product launches” than me.

But after doing this for a couple years now, I’ve realized an important truth about business: more income means more impact. Or as Walt Disney once said, “We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.”

If you are like I was and tend to think of business and income-generating strategies as greedy or “evil,” I want you to reconsider your stance.

First, consider the income. What would $100,000 mean to you and your loved ones? Could it be a means to more freedom or a chance to travel the world or see your kids go to college? Maybe it would be a way for you give to all the charities and nonprofits you’d love to contribute to.

Then, consider the impact. If you sell a $100 product, $100,000 in revenue means you’ve just made an impact on 1000 people’s lives. I don’t know about you, but personally impacting 1000 people sounds like a lot of work. But a scalable product, especially an information product, allows you to do that.

It might sound hypey to talk about $100,000 launches, but I promise you: what I’m about to share with you is a series of practical principles I’ve seen proven over and over again. And they’ve allowed my friends and clients to not only live their dreams but to help a lot of people in the process.

The same could be true for you, but you’ve got to reconcile your relationship with revenue and get focused on the goal. This isn’t about just making more money. It’s about making a difference.

So let’s look now at what it takes to pull off a six-figure launch.

Secret #2: Having a Great Product Is Not Enough (But It’s a Start)

We can’t overlook this step as it is so important to creating a brand with integrity and building a loyal customer base. You’ve got to create what Michael Hyatt calls “wow” products and experiences.

Why? Because frankly, your customers deserve the best work you can possibly do. And because this is the kind of work that people talk about.

Apple is one of the the biggest brands and most successful companies in the world not because of their marketing (they spend a fraction of what their competitors do on advertising), but because of the experiences users have with their products. If ask a Mac fanatic why they love all their iGear, they will tell you, “It just works.”

That’s what wow looks like.

But having a great product is not enough. In fact, it is the basic requirement to even enter the market. Once you have something you are proud of, something the world needs, you have only just begun.

Secret #3: It’s Not About Having a Big List

A lot of people mistakenly believe having a big email list is necessary to monetizing your audience. They think they need something like 20,000 subscribers just to make a living.

Try telling that to Carol Tice, who launched her quarter of a million dollar business with only 1000 subscribers. Or Tim Grahl who has already started replacing his income running a successful book marketing company with digital products that he launches to his list of less than 10,000 people.

It doesn’t take a big list. It takes a willingness to sell.

My friend Stu McLaren, cofounder of Wishlist Member and Rhino Support, once told me that if you want to make more money, do one of the following:

  1. Increase your market size. If you have a smaller email list (less than 10,000 people), then you will want to either: a) rapidly grow the list, or b) partner with affiliates who can help you reach more people now (as opposed to spending the months or years it would take to organically grow your own audience. Firepole Marketing founder Danny Iny told me, “The key to the big launches is the groundwork that goes into building the relationships that make it happen.”
  2. Increase your price. This is often the easiest tweak to make and frankly the most common error I see bloggers and online entrepreneurs make. We are notoriously bad at valuing our own services and offerings and therefore tend to price ourselves lower than we should. The market will always sustain more than you think it can. Remember that, and when in doubt, raise the price. You’re worth more than you realize.
  3. Increase your sales frequency. Another problem people face is being unwilling to sell too hard. They don’t want to appear pushy or salesy, and end up unintentionally sabotaging their business. Look. You don’t have to be pushy or slimy or do anything unethical to sell. Selling is serving; it’s helping your audience connect with an offering that will truly help them (remember: you’re starting with a great product). So when it’s time to sell, sell hard. Make a case for why this is the very best thing out there, and let people know. And when you aren’t sure what to do, send another email.

A big email list is great, but having a lot of subscribers in and of itself won’t guarantee you a ton of sales. You need to understand the finer points of business: how to identify what a market wants, what they’re willing to pay, and how to get them to buy.

Which is what we’re going to cover in the next section.

Secret #4: Sell Like You Mean It

When you’re doing all of the above and people still aren’t buying, then you don’t have a strategy problem. You have a selling problem.

If you’re doing all the right things, and people still aren’t buying, it’s probably how you’re selling. You’re probably missing three important triggers, which author and entrepreneur Carrie Wilkerson talks about:

  • Scarcity.
  • Urgency.
  • Awareness.

If people aren’t buying, it’s often because they feel like they can buy at any time, or that there will always be enough, or they simply aren’t aware something is for sale.

So when you feel stuck, try the following:

  1. Only sell a certain number of units per launch. This feels scary, because you could be limiting your potential revenue, but really what you’re doing is creating a sense of exclusivity (which equals value in the customer’s mind). Warning: if you use this strategy, don’t create false scarcity. If you say you are only going to sell 200 seats to your online workshop, then close registration when you meet your quota. Otherwise, people will find you out for the snake oil sales person you are.
  2. Offer a time-sensitive deal. (i.e. “Save $100 when you buy this week!” of “Don’t miss these three bonuses — buy today!”).
  3. Talk about your launch — a lot. Send more than one email (best practice is to do one on launch day and two on the final day).

Secret #5: Give People Options

When Chris Guillebeau gave Nathan Barry (who incidentally doesn’t have a huge list and is killing it with online product launches) a simple piece of advice, it literally made him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What was this simple piece of advice?

“Selling in multiple packages has worked really well for me.”

He said it in typical Guillebeau, off-handed humility. But in that statement was a ton of value that made Nathan more money than any other piece of advice he’s ever received.

Nathan estimates that having multiple price points for each product has allowed him to make two to three times as much money as he would have made, launching at just one price point.

Putting It All Together

The other day I was chatting with a friend who recently started an online business. He was telling me all about his next project, which was another online course he hoped to create, launch, and sell by the end of the year.

“Dude,” I said. “What are you doing?! How much money have you made off your course so far?” He admitted it wasn’t much. He thought, as many do, that the solution was to create the next thing. But he was wrong.

I then proceeded to walk my friend through the process I’ve shared with you, encouraging him to keep selling what he had already built. He planned his next launch and it ended up being bigger than any other launch he’s ever had.

He was made a believer. And I hope you are, too. The secret to a successful product launch isn’t just about the product. That’s a given. But good products, as Guy Kawasaki once told me, don’t sell themselves. You’ve got to launch them well.

When I was struggling to monetize my blog and figure out how to make a living off my email list, I decided to start listening to what all these smart people were telling me:

  • I reached out to people who could help my reach more people. Some became affiliates while others just helped spread the word.
  • I raised my prices, basically every time I did a new launch.
  • I leaned in and boldly promoted a product I was proud of.

And it all worked like a charm. Each launch, more people bought than the last time, and I made more money. But it wasn’t just the income (sure, it was nice to be making 10 times what I was making at my day job), but the satisfaction of knowing I was helping thousands of people was amazing.

It’s about the impact.

Taking the Next Step

So what does this look like for you? Here’s a recap of all of the above:

  1. Decide you want this.
  2. Commit to a plan and set a launch date.
  3. Build something awesome that you are proud to promote.
  4. Connect with people who will help extend your reach.
  5. Launch with scarcity, urgency, and awareness in mind, all the while building trust and delivering value along the way.

And watch the magic happen.

For more secrets to successful product launches, check out this page I put together just for Problogger readers.

Jeff Goins is an author, blogger, and entrepreneur who lives in Nashville. He loves helping writers and bloggers get the attention their messages deserve. Tweet at him @JeffGoins and get a free product launch resource here.

Never Too Soon: Using Your Blog to Generate Sales During the Holiday Season

Another holiday season is fast approaching, and that means websites are scrambling to ready killer campaigns (or have already launched them) that will generate North Pole-sized sales. For those fortunate enough to have a wealth of resources at their disposal, this will mean lavish advertising campaigns that will feature them prominently on the most highly-trafficked sites on the net.

Those with more moths in their digital wallet than Benjamins will need to rely on other assets, one of their most prized ones being their blog. While blogging and SEO have always been valuable tools in the online marketing arsenal, the paradigm is shifting, and quality content is now more important than ever.

There’s two reasons for that. On the one hand, Google’s search engine has evolved to put less emphasis on keywords and more of it on other aspects of a post’s content and quality. These changes will continue to happen as Google’s crusade for an unadulterated Internet only increases. And on the other hand, search engines and SEO are no longer the primary method to attract eyeballs in the first place. Instead, social media and social sharing have become a prominent means through which content is found and consumed.

That, more than anything else, is why quality is king. While search engines can still be tricked, real people can’t; or at least not quite so easily. Your blog post has to strike a chord with readers, a powerful chord; a “this post was so cool I just have to share it with my friends” chord.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.59.00 am

At the same time, your post has to be a little self-promotional. It’s not entirely enough just to get people there, to read your post and depart. You need them to read your post, love it and share it themselves, but to also draw something from it and become interested in what you’re selling. That is a very difficult balancing act.

The Art of Sharing

 Firstly, you need to understand what content is being shared. Contrary to popular opinion about the attention spans of the internet hordes, long-form content is shared far more often than short-form. In fact, the longer and longer it gets, the more likely it becomes that it will be shared. Sharers clearly respect the effort put into longer pieces, and that effort is finally being rewarded by the internet.

Meanwhile, on the emotion front, readers tend to share awe-inspiring or humorous posts more than anything else. 46% of all shared posts were deemed to be either humorous, joyous, or amusing, and 25% awe-inspiring, according to a study conducted by OkDork. People want to share pleasing content, not something that will bring their friends down.

The easiest of those emotions to hit is probably humor. While it’s hard to inspire awe or joy in some subject matter, you can always sneak humor in (like I could put something funny in this bracket right here if I wasn’t so lazy; don’t be lazy!).

Tying it All Together With a Pretty Bow

In the end though, it all needs to tie-in with your product(s), encouraging your now-joyous readers to either look into other information on your website, return later for more information, or head straight to your checkout so your online payment processor (and hopefully you have a good one that won’t butcher that final, crucial step and will also be cost-effective for you) can rack up another sale for you. All of these are crucial to succeeding in an online sale. Your blog content can drive them there, but your inefficient and non- user-friendly shopping cart can drive them away just as quickly.

The content needs to be engaging, but also self-promotional. In this sense, your blog post should almost borderline on a sales letter masquerading as shareable content with a catchy title, a very personable (and personal) feel, and laden with humor. It should skillfully extol the virtues of your product or service in a way that feels fun and non-aggressive. Finding something shareable to talk about in your industry should be quite simple to not only come across, but to write about in an educated manner. After all, you are an expert in your industry, and your customers will surely think of you as such should you deliver consistently as both a content provider and retailer.

One possible way to pull this off is to compare your product to another comparable one, but not a direct competitor. Say you’re selling a motorized skateboard, instead of trying to attack other products in that niche, take a shot at regular skateboards instead with your blog post “5 Reasons Why Pushing a Skateboard with Your Foot is soooo 1990’s”.

You’ve just created an article concept with the potential to be a fun, viral success, while innocuously touting your own product and generating interest and potential sales for it. Congratulations. Now get to it; these blog posts (and the jokes in their brackets) don’t write themselves. Good luck!

Owen Andrew is a tech journalist and Apple enthusiast. When he’s not writing or drooling over the latest Apple announcement, he’s usually hanging with his kids and doing family activities. Feel free to give him a shout on G+ or Facebook

How Much to Charge for Sponsored Content – is This a Question You’ve Ever Asked Yourself?

For new (and even established bloggers) there’s a cloud of mystery in the Australian blogging industry around setting advertising rates. As the community manager for Blogger Connect, one question I get asked a lot is: “how many unique views do I need before I start advertising?”. Secondly, it’s: “how much do I charge?”. With no real industry standard, it is also a question asked around the world. On the flip side,  in this industry with no established guidelines, are brands just as much in the dark?

It’s not as cut and dry as looking at website and social media traffic to determine how much to charge. A blog that has 20,000 unique views per month doesn’t necessarily trump a blog that has 10,000 unique views. The blog with 10,000 UV may have a more engaged audience than the blog with 20,000 UV, which makes it a much better value proposition for the advertiser.

But are brands on the same page? Do they consider engagement rates in conjunction with unique views, or are they all about the numbers? Are bloggers respecting their worth, and are brands prepared to pay?

It’s these types of questions that led us to launch a poll on Blogger Connect to give bloggers more confidence in setting their rates, and brands insight into what bloggers are worth.

We polled both bloggers and PRs/brands about unique views, advertising rates and engagement levels, and the results to date are surprising.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 4.37.26 PM

 

We asked bloggers how many unique views they had before they started advertising, and brands what the minimum unique views a blog needs before they will advertise with them. We also included an option for brands to indicate they don’t consider unique views at all when choosing which bloggers to advertise with.

In another question, we asked brands whether they consider engagement levels in conjunction with unique views when reviewing a blog, and 79% have responded with yes.

These results are heartening. At Blogger Connect we educate brands to not exclude the ‘little guys’ because smaller blogs with highly engaged audiences are of high value to their advertising mix.

Not only are brands indicating they are reviewing engagement levels of blogs (not just vanity metrics), 60% are willing to work with blogs who have unique views from 1000 to 3000. Brands are valuing smaller bloggers who have engaged audiences.

However, 45% bloggers believe they need from 3000 to 5000+ to start advertising.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 3.24.59 PM

Now to the nitty gritty. As a benchmark, we asked bloggers if they had 5000 unique views, how much they would charge for a sponsored post. Equally we asked brands what the most they would be prepared to pay for a sponsored post with 5000 unique views.

Only 17% of bloggers would charge $300+, whilst 57% of brands are prepared to pay this. 32% of bloggers charge between $200 and $300, with only 9% of brands indicating they would pay that as a maximum. 51% of bloggers are charging less than $200, whilst 33% of brands are only willing to pay this much.

Key Takeaways for Bloggers

The poll results to date indicate brands have engagement levels on their radar, and it’s not just all about unique views. They are willing to work with smaller bloggers, and if you have an engaged audience, you may not need as many unique views as you think you do before you consider advertising.

Highlight your engagement levels in your media kit, and take them into consideration when setting your rates. Comments on blog posts used to be the holy grail of measuring a blogs engagement, but many communities are gathering around their social media platforms.

Whilst comments are still definitely worthwhile including, some additional ways to showcase your engagement levels are to include interaction levels on your social media platforms (i.e. ‘talking about this’ from your Facebook page), and page views (in conjunction with your unique views) and time on site from Google Analytics.

If you’d like to help to continue to bring clarity to the blogging industry, click here to have your say in the Blogger Connect Industry Poll.

Gaynor was a blogger for 5 years, and is now the community manager for Blogger Connect. She is dedicated to supporting bloggers to reach their full potential, educating brands on the growing power bloggers have with consumers, and setting industry standards for commercial blogger outreach.

Gaynor is also a social media and blogger outreach consultant, and social media course presenter for NET:101. She advocates social media as a means for organisations to establish strong communities around their brand, enabling direct engagement and long-term loyalty.