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How to Make More Money Blogging, Stop Worrying About Advertising, and Get Back to Writing What You Love

This guest post is by Sophie Lizard of Beafreelanceblogger.com.

I know your secret.

You’re spending too much time on your blog, and it’s starting to feel like hard work. Not only that, but your blog still isn’t making quite as much money as you’d like. Believe me: I’ve been right there with you.

Luckily, I got out. Now, I don’t waste time fiddling around with ad code and affiliate dashboards. I only check my traffic analytics if there’s a specific question I want to answer. And I make a good full-time income on part-time hours.

Want to know my secret?

I was on the wrong track, and so are you.

Most bloggers that make money at all will always wish to make a few dollars more. But a few dollars more isn’t worth hours more of your time, is it?

How to know when you’re wasting your time

If you’re labouring over a blog with few subscribers and low traffic, trying to scrape another half a percent on your affiliate conversion rate or posting three times a day to boost page views, you’re on the wrong track.

What you’ve got there isn’t passive income. It’s a blog-supported business, and it’s failing.

It’s failing because the time you’re putting in isn’t equalled by the money coming out. Monetizing is actually costing you money, in the form of time you could have spent on more effective revenue-generating tasks.

The point of blog monetization strategies is typically to make money in a way that keeps on scaling up as your traffic and engagement grow to mythic proportions… but what do you do if your blog hasn’t hit the big time?

Stop chasing scalability

Scalable is a buzzword. It means that your income can keep on growing, not limited by the hours in the day or your inability to be in two places at once.

Scalability goes right along with “set it and forget it” in the big bucket of ideas to stop chasing if they don’t apply to you. The scalability of a system doesn’t determine its growth; it only makes it more or less capable of handling growth.

A blog with few readers won’t make vast sums of money, regardless of its business model’s scalability. But there is an important scale to consider: your time-to-money ratio.

Your time and your income aren’t on the same scale right now.

That’s the only thing you need to focus on. How do you bring your income up to scale with the time you’re putting in?

Do what works, don’t do what doesn’t

Are your blog’s visitors frustratingly immune to advertising? Have you made a less-than-stellar income from your ad spaces and affiliate links? Then stop spending too much time on this income stream, and focus on something more effective.

Has frequent posting exhausted your mine of inspiration? Are you struggling to come up with fresh content ideas and new angles on old classics? Then stop wearing yourself out chasing traffic, and refocus on boosting quality instead of quantity.

I’m not saying that advertising, affiliate marketing or frequent posting are a bad idea. I’m saying that if they’re taking up your time without raking in money, then you need to rethink your strategy. Here are some suggestions that might work for you; they worked for me.

How to make more money

Selling your own products may be a more lucrative income stream than selling other people’s stuff. But then you’ll have to plan, create and launch each product, plus maintain the ongoing marketing that will keep the income stream moving in the long term. That’s a lot of time and effort for an unpredictable possibility of reward.

There’s a very simple way to increase your blogging income that doesn’t involve putting up more ads, publishing more often, or launching your own products. Sell a service instead. Sell freelance blogging.

In the last few years, I’ve earned a solid living part-time from my freelance blogging career. In fact, I know some famous bloggers who make more money from freelance blogging than they do from advertising or affiliate marketing.

These people have thousands of subscribers to their blogs. If their advertising income can’t compete with freelance blogging, then your ad income from your few hundred readers probably can’t compete either.

How to stop worrying about advertising

All this time you spend stressing about your blog’s monetization, tweaking ad widgets and affiliate link anchor text, obsessing over your stats, and checking your balance until it crawls past the minimum payment limit for your affiliate network… are you enjoying that? Because if you are, that’s all good—rock on.

If you’re not doing all that stuff for fun, though, I’ve got the best piece of advice you’ll ever hear: just stop it. Check your affiliate stats only once per month (or once per week, if you had a daily habit and really can’t quit cold turkey).

Unless you’re running tests, there’s no need to obsess over visitor clicks on your blog. Put your ads in place and then don’t touch them for at least 30 days. If you can’t resist analysing your stats to death at the end of the month, at least you’ll have a whole 30 days to analyse without multiple tweaks messing up your conclusions.

Now use all that time you’ve saved to write jaw-droppingly brilliant posts, for yourself and for other blogs.

How to get back to writing what you love

When you started blogging, what were your intentions? Did you want to be heard, to help people, to make money, or all of the above and then some? What were your first posts like?

Think about what you really love to write. Make a list of things you always wanted to blog about. It doesn’t matter whether you published a post on the topic or not, write it down.

Now think about what you love to read. Which blogs do you make a point of keeping up with? Which do you go to when you have a problem to solve? Add those blog topics to the same list.

This list is your passion plan. I want you to write at least one post on every single topic on that list. More than one, if you’re any good at finding multiple angles. Then pitch and sell your posts to paying blogs.

For advice on selling your posts, read more about freelance blogging here on ProBlogger and check out freelance writing and blogging sites like Make A Living Writing.

Use your blog as a portfolio

If you can’t sell one of your posts for a good fee, take on board any feedback you received from the editors you pitched to. Then publish each unsold post on your own blog and end it with a note that you’re a freelance blogger who enjoys writing on this topic and welcomes enquiries from potential clients.

Add a Hire Me page to your blog, too. Use it to explain what you blog about, what types of blogs you’d like to work with, where you can be contacted, and your rates.

Believe you can do it

You’d be amazed how many smart, eloquent bloggers I know who’ve chickened out before they got this far. Maybe you wouldn’t be amazed; maybe you’re one of them.

You could be making more money by blogging for other people, but the idea of pitching to an editor makes you so nervous you’ve never tried. Or, you pitched one idea to one blog and when it wasn’t accepted, you lost the confidence to try a second time.

Hey, it’s okay. We’re all nervous sometimes. But now you need to get off your digital behind and start making more money, right? So draw up your topic list, think of a few ideas that could make great blog posts, and email a few blogs to pitch them some of those ideas. Today.

That’s right, do it today. It doesn’t even matter if your topics are vague and your first queries aren’t perfect.

The important thing is that you’re doing it at all, and that puts you ahead of every other blogger who didn’t make the time. You can refine your pitching as you go along, but you’ll never have another chance to start right now.

You’re smart. You’re courageous. You’re exactly the kind of person a good blog needs. Now go out there and be a freelance blogger!

This guest post is by Sophie Lizard, a successful freelance blogger on a mission to help bloggers increase their income and authority by blogging for hire. To get you started making money as a freelance blogger, she’s giving away her insanely useful The Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs: 45 Blogs That Will Pay You $50 or More – download your free copy today!

5 Essential Elements of a Successful Self-published Book

This guest post is by Srinivas Rao of BlogcastFM.

Self-publishing is a hot trend.  People’s eyes are lit up by the possibility of actually making money from their content. But there’s more to it than throwing together a PDF, uploading it to Amazon, and waiting for a check to arrive in the mail. The most successful self published authors treat their books as if they’re working with a publisher.

While it’s easier than ever to publish something to Amazon, the low barrier to entry has flooded the Kindle store with less than stellar content. Much like the blogosphere, only the best rise to the top, while the rest get lost in a sea of noise.

After many conversations with several successful self-published authors, we’ve narrowed their advice down to 5 essential elements.

1. Content

It might seem obvious, but good content is the foundation for a good book, much like it is for a successful blog. You could execute the mechanics of self-publishing to perfection, but if the content falls short it doesn’t matter.

2. Editing

The fact that you’ve self-published is already a strike against you in the eyes of the average reader.  Many of the self-published books on Amazon are poorly edited—if they’re edited at all. If you’re serious about the success of your self-published book, you can’t put a price on a good editor. Good editing can make the difference between an average book and a great one.

3. Platform

You could write the greatest book in the world. But if there’s no audience for it, you’re not going to sell many copies.  Building a platform enables you to build an audience prior to the launch of the book. A platform could be any of these:

  • a blog
  • a Twitter presence
  • a Facebook Fan page
  • an email List

4. Promotion

Simply putting your book on Amazon is not enough to make it a big success, especially if you’re not a well-known author. A solid platform is an essential tool for effectively promoting your book. But the platform alone is not going to be enough to promote your book. You’ll need to come up with a killer marketing plan for the launch of your book. For more advice on effective promotion, the following interviews provide invaluable insights.

5. Design

People make snap decisions on the web all day long. In this case, the old mantra “don’t judge a book by its cover” is nonsense. Books are definitely judged by their cover on Amazon. Below I’ve included two examples of self published books (one with a bad cover and one that was professionally designed). As you can see, design makes a big difference.

Goins Writer book cover

Facebook Likes cover

The best advice

The best advice I’ve ever received on how to successfully self-publish a book is to treat it just as if you’re working with a publisher. Sit down and outline every step that would be involved if you were working with a publisher. That means design, editing, and anything else a publisher would help you with are your responsibility. The only difference is that nobody is holding you accountable, so you you’ll have to be highly motivated to create the best possible book yourself.

Have you ever self-published a book? Share your tips for success with us in the comments.

Srinivas Rao is the host and co-founder of BlogcastFM, where he has interviewed close to 300 of the world’s most successful bloggers.  He is also the author of Blog to Book Deal: How They Did It.

Got a Consulting Gig from Your Blog? Don’t Make this Big Mistake

This guest post is by Bill Zipp of Billzipponbusiness.com.

You’re so excited!

The blog you’ve been writing faithfully, the list you’ve been building consistently, the newsletter you’ve been sending out weekly just paid off. You got a call from a reader who’s asked about the Holy Grail of blogging success: consulting.

When you actually talk with this person, you get even more excited.

What this company needs is exactly what you provide, and, unknown to you, many of the employees at this firm regularly read every post you write. They’re ready to work with you and ask this question, “What’s your hourly rate?” (or words to that effect).

Stop!

Any answer—and I mean any answer—you give to that question, no matter how ridiculous $500 an hour sounds to you right now, sets you up for ultimate failure.

Here’s why.

Charging by the hour is unfair to your client

What could be more fair than a simple exchange of time for money, right?

Wrong.

When a consultant charges by the hour, that consultant is best served by a project that extends for many hours. The client, however, is best served by exactly the opposite. The client is best served by the quickest possible solution to the problem.

Do you see the conflict of interest here?

Yes, I know, as bloggers we are an honest, ethical bunch, but the moment a system of charging by the hour is implemented, all of us become blinded by our own self-interest to simple solutions that may serve the client best.

Charging by the hour is unfair to you

Not only is charging by the hour unfair to your client, it’s also unfair to you.

Case in point. I was speaking with a solo consulting client of mine who’s a leading coder for WordPress plugins, and I asked him this question, “Over the years as you’ve done this work, have you become faster or slower as a coder?”

“Faster,” he said (really fast).

“So,” I replied, “when you charge by the hour, you actually get paid less for doing more. Am I right?”

“Yes,” he said (really slow).

But, you say, you can charge a higher hourly rate when your get faster, right? Wrong again.

People will only pay so much money per hour, and there you are getting faster and better at what you do and receiving less for it. Or doing it fast and lying about the actual hours you spend on the project to get paid what you’re worth.

Charging by the hour is unfair to your business

Finally, charging by the hour is unfair to your business.

When solo consulting, there’s only one you with only so many hours in the day and only so many days in the week. You must do the work of your business, write your blog, market, sell, attend to bookkeeping, administration, professional development, and a whole host of others things that come up.

When you charge by the hour, you instantly limit your business’s growth to the time you can trade for money. Your business will be capped by your personal capacity to work.

So you do.

You work and work and work and work, pay your taxes, buy health insurance, invest in technology, and go to the occasional conference or two. Then you come to the end of the year with very little to show for it. Not to mention the fact that you failed to put anything away for retirement.

Remember? You’re a solo consultant and no one’s going to do that for you.

There is a better way!

Yes, there is a better way. It involves not going down the path of charging by the hour in the first place, and learning the secrets to value-based pricing instead. Alan Weiss is the premier thought leader on the subject and presents this approach in his book Value-Based Fees.

Here are four lessons I’ve learned from Alan’s book:

1. Build a trusting relationship with the economic buyer

Many times in the initial conversations of arranging consulting work I’m not talking with the economic buyer, that is, the actual person who will make the final decision and write a check.

This is tricky, because the person I first talk to usually influences the buying decision in some way, so I don’t want to alienate him or her. But that person isn’t the one who can approve the project.

Graciously, but firmly, I work to arrange a conversation with the actual decision maker and begin building a trusting relationship with that person.

2. Identify objectives and outcomes

The next step in this process is reaching conceptual agreement with the economic buyer around the work that needs to be done. Conceptual agreement is found in outlining what objectives will be reached and the measurable outcomes for those objectives.

One of the biggest consulting mistakes I’ve made is rushing this step in my excitement to get started. Lack of goal clarity, however, has ruined more that one consulting project for me. Projects where I ended up doing stuff the client didn’t even want, and not doing stuff that, from their perspective, was absolutely essential.

Invest time up front clearly defining objectives and outcomes. It will pay off in big dividends later.

3. Agree on value

Here now is the very heart of value-based pricing and how I begin to determine what to charge for a project.

If the objectives agreed on are fulfilled and the outcomes for these objectives are achieved, what difference will it make? What monetary value will be gained by the organization?

I’ve found that I don’t need an exact number for this, a range will do, but I do need a number. I even use this discussion as a way to differentiate myself from other consultants by helping my clients understand exactly how they will benefit from working with me.

I bet you’re asking this question right now (because I’ve been asked this question scores of times by the solo consultants I coach), “How in the world do I get people to talk about money like this?”

Remember, you’re a blogger, and they’ve been reading your blog. These people know, like, and trust you. That’s why bloggers have such an amazing advantage in arranging consulting work. Also, you built a trusting relationship with the economic buyer, so they’ll tell you this stuff. They really will!

4. Present multiple options

Armed with value-based information, I present a proposal with three graduated options—Tall, Grande, and Venti.

These options are created from achieving some, or all, of the client’s stated objectives and outcomes. Each option is priced, not on an hourly rate, but on a 10:1 return from the first year’s revenue in completing the project.

I used to present proposals with one solitary option and had terrible acceptance rates. One solitary option has a binary, take-or-leave-it effect (so they leave it). Multiple options create what Alan Weiss calls, “a series of yeses” that lead a buyer into the consulting alternative that makes the best sense for their business.

There’s lots more to mastering value-based pricing, but these are the fundamentals.

It starts with a different mindset

For most of the solo consulting clients I coach, however, the biggest shift they need to make in mastering value-based pricing is the way they think about their business. That’s probably true for you as well.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the true value I bring to the marketplace?
  • What are the measurable results I deliver my clients?
  • How are people’s lives different when they work with me?

When you have real answers to these questions, you’ll have a value-based mindset and become convinced that you’re worth much more than a mere exchange of time for money.

In other words, if you don’t take your work seriously, don’t expect anyone else to. Ever.

It’s this mindset that’s the key to building a successful consulting practice and the starting point to enjoying the life you’ve always wanted, as a blogger and a consultant.

Speaker, coach, and consultant, Bill Zipp helps busy leaders do what matters most in business and in life. He also helps other solo consultants build a thriving, successful practice. To learn more about Bill’s work visit: http://billzipponbusiness.com/consultants.

Build Your Brand to Get Paid Speaking Gigs

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

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

Jon Bon Jovi feels it all the time. The cheers, the applause. That feeling that you have an audience right in the palm of your hand while you’re on stage. The confidence that you’re taking them on the highs and lows of a journey with you.

Jon Bon Jovi does it through music. But when you’re speaking to a crowd of captivated listeners, you’re doing it through storytelling. And you’re getting paid for it.

If your blog has given you the opportunity to develop expertise in an area—whether that’s parenting, travel, wine or simply the art of blogging—it might be time to explore the world of paid speaking engagements.

Okay, chances are that you won’t be able to draw a crowd quite as big as Jon can. But even if you only do one or two speaking engagements each month, you might be able to generate more revenue from this than all the effort you put into trying to secure some banner advertising or sponsored posts.

So how do you go from being a humble blogger to rock star speaker?

1. Tell people you’re “open for business”

It sounds so simple, but this one thing can make a big difference. People aren’t going to know that you offer your services as a paid speaker unless you actually tell them. Mention it on your blog and customise your bio so it’s clear that you do this.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to get paid as speaker. I knew I had a wealth of information I wanted to share but no idea how to approach event organisers to offer my services—particularly as I had no track record as a speaker at the time.

Then I had a chat with Catriona Pollard from Public Relations Sydney, who successfully secures speaking engagements for many of her clients. She simply said to me: “You need a ‘speaker’s bio’ on your blog.”

A speaker’s bio is much like your regular bio except that it also features testimonials from people who have heard you speak, outlines your topics, and showcases your expertise in those subjects. You can check mine out here.

At the same time, I had to order some new business cards. Author and business coach William de Ora from Quantum Publications told me: “Put the words ‘keynote speaker’ on your card.” I felt this was a bold move at the time but I gave it a go.

Within a month of following the advice from both Catriona, I had secured my first paid speaking gig. And I’ve been doing them ever since.

2. Ensure your blog showcases your expertise

If you want to speak about the political unrest in the Middle East, then that’s what you should blog about. If you want to speak about how to raise children, make sure your posts cover these issues. If you want to talk about why Klingon is linguistically superior to Elvish, then your posts should debate the relative merits of both.

This is because you need to position yourself as an expert in your chosen field if you want to get paid to speak. Don’t worry, it’s not vital to have a Masters in Political Science or a PhD in Tolkien to get a speaking gig (although, sometimes, this can’t hurt). But you do need to show that you’re smarter than the average bear on your chosen topic. Your blog is the perfect showcase for this.

3. Identify your speaking topics

Identity two or three specific topics that you can confidently and passionately talk about.

Bad: I can talk about issues surrounding raising children.

Good: My core keynote presentations include:
“How to raise a teenager with depression”
“Successful co-parenting after divorce”

Basically, if someone is looking for a speaker, you want to plant a seed in their minds with a clear topic. Otherwise you end up spending a lot of time discussing a wide range of topics, then have to research and prepare presentations which may be just outside your core area of expertise.

Make sure you feature these keynote topics in your speaker’s bio and ensure that you also create blog posts that point to them.

4. Move from freemium to premium

I suggest cutting your teeth with smaller crowds first such as your local chambers or commerce, service clubs, or community organisations, so that you can hone your presentation and get over any nerves.

These groups may not have the budget to pay you. However, it may be worth doing a few free speaking engagements if you’re just getting started. Think of the “free” gigs as your beta test: you’ll see which jokes they laugh at and which fall flat, you’ll know the bits where the audience is on the edge of their seats, and the sections where they’re bored out of their brains.

While you might want to get cash coming in straight away, trust me, you want to know that you’re delivering a stellar presentation before you insist on being paid. Once you’re confident, then start targeting events and conferences that pay speakers.

If you can get someone to video you in action, put together a “showreel” and embed this video on your blog so you can showcase your talents.

5. Find a speakers’ agency and presentation coach

If you want to get serious about this speaking caper, I suggest two things.

Register with a speakers’ agency

A professional agency (which obviously takes a commission from your speaking fee) may already have established relationships with conference and event organisers, which is great if you don’t have any. But it depends on what industry you’re in and what you are speaking about. I’ve actually secured more paid gigs through my blog than through my agency.

Invest in a presentations coach

I thought I was a decent speaker—and then I invested in a presentations coach. She transformed the experience for me. Learning tips and tricks from a professional speaking coach helped me eliminate nerves, cut down my preparation time and gave me the tools I needed to really engage my audiences. I can’t recommend this enough.

Start talking!

Speaking on stage is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you want to get paid to talk about what you love—or just want to channel Jon Bon Jovi—your blog might help you do just that.

Have you landed any speaking gigs through your blog? Tell us how—and how it went—in the comments.

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

Build Your Brand to Get a Book Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Determine what your book is about

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Test possible topics

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

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

4. Connect with the right people

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

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

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

  • authors
  • agents
  • publishers
  • editors

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

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

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

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

5. Write a book proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Build your Brand to Write for Magazines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hang out your shingle

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

If not, how are people going to know?

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

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

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

Define your expertise and showcase your writing

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

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

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

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

Create specific ideas for specific markets

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

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

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

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

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

In other words:

1. Know the market

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

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

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

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

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

Your brand, your writing

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

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

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

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

The SnapnDeals Story

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a post exploring the blog growth conundrum. If you read that post, you might remember that I concluded that when your growth slows, you might need to look inside your own wallet for the answer.

Now that can be quite confronting, so I wanted to share with you the story of one of the initiatives we’ve started over at dPS to help ensure that the growth curve of that blog keeps pointing in the right direction.

It will hopefully show that while investment is needed to grow your blog, it doesn’t need to be as daunting as perhaps I portrayed in the first article.

The big idea

For the last few years, Darren has run a Christmas countdown on dPS, and it’s a model we’re all getting familiar with. He offers 12 deals for 12 days in the lead-up to Christmas. 

The first year Darren ran it all on his own, but in the second he asked for some help, and the results are well documented here.

Given the commercial success of the campaign, we spent many an evening exploring ways we could deliver even a fraction of those results across the year.

The challenges we had around the idea were pretty common.

  • Time: We are both pretty busy people.
  • List burn: The 1 million+ dPS subscriber list is an asset you don’t want to burn out with a deal overload.
  • Enough deals: We wondered if there would be enough photography deals to offer throughout the year.

For six months we talked on and off about the idea of offering ongoing deals for dPS.  We decided that we’d run longer deals starting at one a month, then build to a deal every two weeks, and go from there. 

This solved the time problem as well as the deals concern, as we would only need 12 to cover the whole year.

We then decided that we’d feature the deals in the dPS newsletter, ensuring they got exposure to the wider audience without creating too much noise, and at the same time we’d build a specific deals list what wouldn’t suffer the same effects of list fatigue.

While these decisions were great, getting to this point did involve a lot of talking, not a lot of doing!

…that was, until we had a name

Darren send me an instant message, a suggestion for what we could call that “deals site”
we’d been talking about. I don’t even remember what it was, but I do remember that I said it was terrible!

Thankfully, the name didn’t go ahead, but it did kick off a three- or four-hour naming session. Then, out of the blue, Darren came out with SnapnDeals—and we were both immediately sold.

“Snapn” had both a photographic undertone as well as a “grab it while you can” sentiment.  And deals? Well that just means deals!

Domains were registered and excitement built

It was strange how almost immediately, once we had a name, the project became much more real.  We stopped talking about the theoretical “deals site,” and started talking about the SnapnDeals launch.  With a target launch date locked in, it was time to build the thing.

We wanted to start small, test it, and build from that momentum, so we agreed on a shippable minimum viable product from day 1. Having settled on a premium WordPress deals theme that we modified slightly to suit our needs, the site was all set up in a weekend, and cost less than the registration of the domains.

As it was built with WordPress, we were intimately familiar with the CMS, and we were able to leverage the wonderful hosting on thesis.

Knowing that web best practice is hard to achieve when you’re building a minimum viable product, we accepted that on day 1:

  • The design wouldn’t be great. unfortunately, it doesn’t appeal to a photographer’s sense of creativity.
  • There wasn’t a mobile version of the site.
  • The list opt-in form was far from optimal.

There was also much more we’d love the site to do. However, we could have spent 12 months and risked thousands of dollars getting all that right. Or, we decided, we could go from deciding a name on Friday, to being ready to launch on Monday.

So we copped those weaknesses on the chin and decide to launch the site as it was.

There was only one problem: we didn’t have any deals.

Reaching out for deals

We had established a good network of product providers thought our 12 days campaigns, as well as affiliate programs we’d run on dPS over the years. So we set up a target list of 20 contacts, and send them all an email.

I wasn’t quite ready for the response. All 20 responded and all 20 were eager to jump on board!

Suffice it to say, deals were not going to be a problem. We very quickly changed our one-a-month plan to oneevery-two-weeks, with deals queued up until the end of the year.

Launching the site

Both Darren and myself are pretty well drilled in launching new products, so it wasn’t hard to come up with the plan. The only specific SnapnDeals aspect to the plan was that we started with a dPS product to ensure that the community were familiar with the deal being offered to them on the new site.

We spent the evening launching the new site, and creating an avalanche of interest … only to be outdone by an earthquake in Melbourne that very night. Yet within minutes we saw sales coming through, which is always cause for relief, and the site has continued to grow every week since.

The results to date

The results have been quite solid and building as every month passes. In only a few months, the site was already pushing six digits in sales, and the profit is looking quite healthy too. With the 12 days of Christmas just around the corner, it’s likely to get a nice jolt as that crazy campaign kicks in.

Importantly, the revenue is incremental to dPS—we aren’t simply taking sales away from dPS and putting them into SnapnDeals; we’re building on top of an existing base.

Finally, we’re now able to offer great deals to the dPS audience on they stuff they love, in a way they wish to receive them. The site has a bright future.

The lessons learnt

While there are always many lessons you’ll learn with each and every product launch, there are five that stood out in my mind about this launch. I’m hoping that they’ll help you in your product creation endeavors.

  1. Talk and planning is great, but it will never deliver you a dime unless to do something about it.
  2. That which has a name, becomes immediately more real.
  3. The challenges you face in creating a product should be tackled, not run from.
  4. Focus on your minimum viable product, or you’ll never go live.
  5. Give yourself a target to aim at—set a launch date and deliver.

So that’s the story of how SnapnDeals came to be. I’d love to hear about your own stories about creating your products and growing your blog to the next level. Please do share some of the challenges and lessons you learnt in building a product all of your own.

Stay tuned for more posts by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand. Follow the Web Marketing Ninja on Twitter.

How Free Ice Water Turned into a $10M/Year Business (And What it Means for You)

This guest post is by Greg Miliates of www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com.

In 1931, during the depths of the Great Depression, Ted Hustead opened a store in a tiny South Dakota town, population: 326, virtually all of whom were penniless. Over the following decades, Hustead grew his store into a $10 million empire, now famous throughout the world, still with one location in that nowhere South Dakota town which has, at last count, 766 people.

His secret?

Free ice water.

What does this have to do with running a blog and earning money online? Just about everything. But more on that in a minute.

A bad beginning and a big breakthrough

From the beginning, Ted barely made enough to scrape by. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had wiped out most of the families in town, and there was no relief in sight–certainly nothing that might help Ted’s business.

Nearly five years after opening his store, Ted, his wife, and son–and now they had new baby daughter–were no better off than when they’d first opened their store. To earn a little extra cash, Ted even resorted to studying veterinary medicine so he could help farmers with sick livestock.

But Ted’s luck changed on a hot day in July 1936.

Ted’s wife kept hearing cars roar through town on nearby Route 16 en route to Mount Rushmore some 60 miles away. On scorching, dusty summer days, she thought those travelers might want a cool drink, and told Ted that they should offer free ice water to travelers. Ted put up a few signs along the road, and by the time he got back to the store, his wife was scrambling to keep up with all the new customers, serving up ice water, ice cream, and whatever else people wanted.

Fast-forward to today, and during the peak summer season, Ted’s store can get 20,000 customers a day.

From ice water to a world-famous, million-dollar enterprise

Ted and his wife built up from those first days of free ice water, learning what else their customers wanted, and adding onto their store to accommodate their customers. Their store—the world-famous Wall Drug, still with just one location in the tiny town of Wall, South Dakota—now sprawls over 75,000 square feet. Over the years, Ted added a restaurant, gift shop, clothing store, theatre, an Old West frontier town, chapel, and even an 80-foot dinosaur.

But how did he do it?

Now, unless you have a boatload of cash–which Ted didn’t–how did he scrape up enough money to build that kind of enterprise? And how did do you get 20,000 people a day to go out of their way—literally in the middle of nowhere—to come spend money at your store?

Remember those signs along Route 16 on that hot, dusty day back in 1936? That was the key. After the Husteads saw the signs bring in customers, it was a matter of “rinse and repeat.”

But Ted didn’t stop with just a few road signs. He decided to go big—on a massive scale. If you’ve ever driven through South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, or within several hundred miles of Wall Drug, you’ve seen signs for Ted’s store. Chances are, you’ve also seen lots of cars with Wall Drug bumper stickers too.

Strung out along thousands of miles of interstate highways, state routes, and other roads, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of billboards for Wall Drug, offering everything from free ice water, to a hot meal, cowboy boots, gemstones, a frontier town—even a roaring T. rex and the opportunity to pan for gold.

What Wall Drug means to you

That’s all great for Wall Drug, but what about your blog? Well, the free ice was a bribe. Everything else is an upsell. But there’s more to it.

Those first road signs back in the summer of 1936? Essentially, Wall Drug was able to bring in customers by tapping into marketing channels. Ted’s wife realized there was a steady stream of prospective customers hurtling past on Route 16; Ted just needed to give people a reason to stop by their store. And on a long, hot, dusty drive across the prairie, free ice water was it.

Tapping into your marketing channels—for example, by putting up billboards on virtually any road in the region—lets people know you exist.

The next crucial piece is giving people what they want—which can be different from what they need. People don’t need to see an 80-foot dinosaur replica. But what parent is going to turn down that request after being cooped up in a car and enduring hours of pleading for it? Damn right. The kids can see the darn dinosaur, and everybody can get a hot meal and stretch their legs.

How to magnetically pull people in

Educating prospective customers that you have something they want is necessary, but sometimes isn’t enough. Certainly not enough to create an empire in the middle of nowhere.

You need a little something to push people over the edge—to compel them not just to come to you, but to buy from you.

How? Emotional marketing.

For Wall Drug, curiosity and social proof—along with the desire to be part of a tribe—are powerful emotional triggers. There are other emotional triggers—like fear, jealousy, prestige—but curiosity and the need to belong are strong positive emotional triggers.

Back to all those Wall Drug billboards. Something strange happens as you drive along for those hundreds of miles, heading toward the national parks and other sights in the region like Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, or Devil’s Tower. As you keep seeing all those Wall Drug billboards—even if you don’t need anything they’re offering—you get curious. You think, “What the heck’s the big deal about Wall Drug? Why so many billboards?”

And when you finally get to Wall Drug—and you surely do—you see tons of people crowded into the store, some sporting hats, T-shirts, and other paraphernalia promoting Wall Drug. If you’re a savvy marketer, you realize that Wall Drug has created massive social proof—and its own tribe of fans. It’s the brick-and-mortar equivalent of Justin Beiber’s Facebook page.

How you can copy Wall Drug’s strategies in your own business

Now that you understand how Wall Drug got so successful, let’s apply those ideas to your blog.

  • Tap into your marketing channels: Ted put signs on Route 16, then expanded to other roads and the interstate highways. Find channels where your prospects are, and be there to educate and entice them. What’s your Route 16?
  • Understand your prospective customers: Know what they want, and let them know you have it. Road-weary travelers and families want a cool drink, a meal, and something memorable. Offer your bribe—free ice water, an ebook, a video—to get people in the door. Being part of a tribe (“I’ve been to Wall Drug”) is icing on the cake, and gets others to do your marketing for you.
  • Build buzz, engineer social proof, and create intrigue that magnetically draws prospects to you: Being everywhere and having other customers promote you creates social proof. Your prospects will also be curious what they’re missing out on enough to seek you out and join your tribe.
  • Adapt and offer additional products and services to meet customers’ needs and wants: Ted added a restaurant, entertainment for kids and adults, an art gallery, and souvenirs so people could show they’re part of the tribe. How can you give visitors what they want and generate revenue at the same time? Though lots of bloggers make money through advertising, some savvy bloggers realize that consulting can be very lucrative, and offer consulting services as another way to monetize their blog. If you aren’t offering consulting, you’re losing out on a potentially significant revenue stream. Look for other ways to meet customers’ needs and wants that also create revenue.

Next, answer the following questions, then experiment with implementing your answers to see what works best in your niche.

  • What are your marketing channels?
  • What are your prospects’ wants and needs?
  • How can you make people curious, create buzz, and build social proof for your site?
  • What other ways can you fulfill your prospects’ wants and needs? What other products or services could you offer?

Ted Hustead built Wall Drug into a large and successful business—in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere—by using strategies that you can apply to your site. Understanding how he did it gives you a blueprint to follow.

Greg Miliates started a consulting business in 2007, quadrupled his former day-job salary, and ditched his day job along the way. His blog (www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com) shows you how consulting can change your life, and gives specific tactics, strategies, and tools for starting and running a successful consulting business on the cheap.

How to Score a Job on the ProBlogger Job Board

This guest post is by Jason Bacchetta of Life’d.

After posting quite a few jobs on the ProBlogger Job Board, I’ve come to realize that a number of pet peeves affect my decision as to whether or not an applicant gets hired. Although some jobs receive upwards of 500 applicants, few of those people will follow these twelve easy steps to scoring the job.

Implement the tips given here, and watch the positive responses to your applications skyrocket!

1. Follow the instructions

The very first thing you should do before applying for a job is read the entire job post.

If the company or individual asks for something specific, be sure to follow the instructions. After you’ve completed the application, go back through both your application and the job posting, making sure you’ve covered all your bases.

By following this first step, chances are you’ll already be in the top 20% of applicants.

2. Start with the application itself

Believe it or not, I’ve had applicants ask me not to take their initial application into consideration when judging how qualified they are for the job.

Your application is your first impression, when you should be trying your hardest. If you’re unable to demonstrate your qualifications now, why should you be trusted to perform in the future?

Use complete sentences in your application, and make sure you’re not making any obvious spelling and/or grammatical mistakes (read 3 Simple Grammar Tips to Improve Your Writing).

3. Act fast

If you find an exciting job opportunity, you need to act fast. As mentioned, some postings will receive hundreds of applications. Don’t wait a week before applying; get started immediately.

By being one of the first to apply, you’ll get noticed before the hiring manager becomes overwhelmed and, even more importantly, before the job has been filled.

Keep in mind, though, that “acting fast” doesn’t mean you should submit a sloppy application with a dozen errors; this will cancel out any advantages you might gain from applying early. Rather than getting eyeballs on your application, your email will end up getting trashed.

4. Don’t be demanding

Occasionally, I’ll get an email that sounds more like a decree than an application.

Telling the hiring manager how it’s going to be (e.g., “I get paid weekly via PayPal,” “I will submit X amount of articles on these days,” etc.) is not likely to go over well.

Don’t be so aggressive. Focus on getting hired first, and then get into the details and the negotiating once you know the hiring manager is interested in you.

5. Be direct

Start off your application with exactly what was asked for, and format your email so that it can be scanned.

If you choose to send one big block of text covering every minute detail about your awards and past experience, you will come across as a poor communicator … and boring. At the very least, this will earn your application a “come back to later” tag.

Additionally, don’t send the hiring manager all over the web with 30 different links. The person reading your application wants to find what they’re looking for quickly and without feeling like they’re spending more time doing research than actually evaluating you.

6. Submit relevant examples

If you’re applying to become a writer on a personal finance blog, link to articles that you’ve written in that particular niche. Submitting a portfolio that consists of random ramblings or medical research won’t get you far. Remember, your voice and writing style are going to be taken into consideration as well.

In other words, take that same cookie-cutter application that’s getting sent to everyone, and customize it to be better suited to this particular job.

7. Be honest

If you’re submitting an application that has been written by someone else, you’re going to be exposed in a flash. I’ve had applicants submit impressive applications, but when it comes time to write an article, their work barely qualifies as English.

Likewise, if you’re submitting sample articles that have been heavily edited by someone else, be upfront about it. Otherwise, you are going to be expected to deliver work of that quality each and every time.

Most companies won’t have any problem with letting you go the moment you fail to live up to their standards.

8. Don’t hesitate

Don’t send over an email asking whether or not you should apply, even if you’re just checking to see if the job has already been filled. You may come across as lazy or unsure of your own qualifications. If you’re not confident in yourself, why should I be?

9. Be realistic about pay

The web has completely changed the way publications are run. Rather than a few magazines that charge for each edition and stuff ads into every other page, we now have tens of thousands of websites that everyone expects to read for free.

Think about it. How often do you pay to read an article on the Internet? Sure, maybe you click on a few banner ads here and there (or maybe you have a program like Adblock installed, in which case the publication is actually paying you to read their articles), but the fact is, revenue isn’t what it used to be when traditional media ruled.

Be realistic about how much you expect to get paid for writing on the web. Of course, there are still publications out there that pay upwards of $2 per word, but those jobs are few and far between.

There are U.S.-based writers with some college education who are willing to write for as little as $0.03 per word. On the high end, I personally pay upwards of $0.10 per word to my best writers. These are people who not only have excellent written English skills, but who are also capable of generating intriguing article ideas and producing viral content with little to no help from me.

10. Be patient

Obviously, knowing that someone truly wants the job for which they are applying is a plus for the person doing the hiring. But don’t get too far ahead of yourself. At the very least, give it a few days before following up on your application. Ambition is great, but you don’t want to look too desperate or pestering.

Also keep in mind that popular jobs—ones that offer good pay and tend to be more exciting—are going to receive a lot more applications than the others. Therefore, in some circumstances, you may want to hold off for a couple weeks before sending over a second email.

11. Don’t burn your bridges

You’ve heard this phrase before, but you may not have known that it applies to freelance web positions as well. You never know how many web properties someone owns. And many website owners will ask each other for referrals when looking to fill a position.

I’ve had people burn me in the past, who then went on to apply for other job postings of mine. Needless to say, they didn’t get a response.

12. Treat it like a real interview

All of these guidelines point to one simple rule: treat your online freelance applications as if they were a real job interview. If you wouldn’t say something or act a certain way in a face-to-face interview, why would you do it via email?

This is a guest post by Jason Bacchetta, founder of Life’d, where you’ll find life hacks, health, finance and productivity tips.