Close
Close

Blog Business Model 2: Sell Your Print Book

This is the second post in our series on Blog Business Models.

Kevin Cullis, who runs MacStartup.com uses the blog to support his print book, How to Start a Business: Mac Version, and his upcoming release, How to Start a Business: Windows Version.

Kevin's book

Kevin's book, How to Start a Business: Mac Version

Kevin’s written about his business journey here at ProBlogger before, but here, he explains in detail how the blogging-and-print-books business model works for him.

Kevin, what was it that drew you to blogging in the first place?

Well, I was selling hardware and software computer solutions to businesses and answering the same questions over and over again. After doing this for a while I was bored and needed an outlet for my energy, talents, and skills. I decided to write down not only the computer problems businesses have encountered, but also the answer to each computer problem.

My unique approach is: not every business problem needs a computer solution and not every computer solution is a good fit for a business. Too often geeks see a computer answers for every problem. From a business perspective, you need a Return On Investment for the money you spend on computer solutions.

So, to get things moving, I started writing things down, having no clue where it would lead. As I wrote, I began noticing trends in what issues businesses were having and shaped my content to fit each trend. After helping a business person one day and mentioning my business, and computer articles and writings, they suggested that I convert them into a book.

Hmm … I hadn’t thought about that before! I thought about it after work and asked myself: What does this mean? How does it change what I’m currently doing? Is this doable? The answer: Yep, sure could. So, ok, let’s head in that direction now.

Like most budding authors I had intended to find an an agent who hopefully would find a publisher to get my book on the market. Fast-forward a few years. Listening to a teleseminar, the speaker mentioned that it was no longer just about your book, but about your content. The teleseminar guest mentioned that your content could become books, blogs, seminars, workshops, DVDs, coaching, and ultimately the potential for multiple streams of income that comes from your experiences.

As with anyone doing anything they love, it’s no longer just about your craft, trading time for dollars, but turning your craft into a business.

Bingo! The shackles on my brain came off. I was now mentally free to pursue and use all of my talents and skills for my readers’ and customers’ sakes—not just those that a publisher wanted me to use. It was about making more money based on a whole host of things I could do with my talents, skills, content, books, and blogs, not just the limited few wanted by others.

Besides, in recent years because of POD (Print On Demand) technology, the publishing game rules have changed, both for the “Big Six” and for independent publishers like myself. Most authors today who sign contracts with publishers find those publishers want want you to market your book yourself. Why sign a contract then? Do it yourself and keep more of the profits.

As my book writing progressed further other well-known authors mentioned that I had a blog so I could connect directly with my readers. Blogging not only helps in getting noticed more through Google search, but also helped in doing market research for my book’s content, and now provides additional content beyond my book.

For example, after a book editor suggested I put an initial cap (in my case, a drop cap) in the book, I spent about three hours deciphering the technical solution in iWork Pages and ended up posting the solution on my blog. I wrote the blog post about drop caps because I knew that eventually I’d probably forget how to do it myself, so I could always look up my own blogged answer. I wasn’t sure whether people would be interested in this post, but it had became my fourth-most-viewed blog post within weeks of my posting it online. Wow, the power of the 24/7 internet and search!

So for me, blogging is an extension of my writing and provides marketing insights from potential readers and clients.

Do you think writers make good entrepreneurs?

As I was planning for this interview, and having a discussion with another entrepreneur about whether or not I had planned to become an entrepreneur, I thought back about my journey as an author and a blogger.

I started out just with an idea and began writing down answers to solve some business and computer problems. With suggestions from others, that idea progressed into writing a book, and then to become a blog. This ultimately changed into the potential of starting my own business with my idea, and purpose of my talents and skills.

Just having an idea does not make one an entrepreneur, but taking action on the idea does.

So, looking back, I’ve come to a realization: I never started out thinking I’d be an entrepreneur, but I grew into one as I took numerous steps toward an ever-changing goal. Only as I learned and grew did I ultimately transform myself from a writer to a published author, and from a blogger into an entrepreneur. With other more experienced entrepreneurs mentoring me along my path I’ll get better and more profitable at it.

Your blog supports sales of your print book, but you had the book before the blog. Most people would tackle things the other way around. How has your approach worked in terms of building an audience for your self-published book?

While I started with the book and then added the blog, ultimately they both have affected each other, and it was not until later, through considering them both as part of a business, that their purposes have merged into a more cohesive whole.

As any entrepreneur learns, the most crucial part of any business is searching for the right business model based on your idea, and you’ll have to change many times before you find your right business direction and model. This means try something, test it with your customers, then change (or “pivot” in entrepreneurspeak) to the new input. Test again, change again, and repeat often as necessary until you succeed.

For example, I originally started writing about Windows, Mac, and Linux in my book. But my first pivot was to drop the Windows and Linux and focus only on Mac content—and on companies with over 500 employees—after realizing most Mac fans don’t care about Windows or Linux.

My third pivot came after I found that a vast majority of businesses in the US have under ten employees (i.e. they’re startups, mompreneurs, and dadpreneurs, not businesses with over 500 employees). That means I’ll sell more books to smaller businesses than to bigger ones.

Taking one path or another at first is an “either/or” thing, but over time it will eventually become an “and” at some point as your business grows.

As a blogger, it’s the same. You start with an idea and take the necessary steps toward your goal and you write and get feedback with Google Analytics and reader feedback.

My blog and book have both evolved over time as I have personally learned and grown. It’s the same with any endeavor you decide to take. In fact, I just signed in the middle of June 2012 another author to do a Windows version of my book due out this fall titled, “How to Start a Business: PC Version.”

Well, your book talks about startups, and this is a very startup-typical approach. Can you tell us why you took that approach, rather than the more traditional approach most bloggers would use?

Why? Because you can’t steer a parked car. I just took my first step. Take action, any action, in any direction and then various things begin to appear and “line up” that need to be done as you move forward and observe the various reactions. You’ll then need to steer over and around various customers, vendors, issues, and obstacles as they affect your blog and business as you come into contact with them.

As bloggers, authors, and business people, we’re paid to solve problems and/or provide entertainment. You can’t do that sitting and meditating a lot about it. Get going.

So can you tell us a bit about how you use blogging to support your book?

When you sell a book, you may or may not get feedback on what you’ve written. Blogging gives me direct feedback as to what my customers are looking for, through the analytics of my blog posts. It also provides the 24/7 marketing and analysis about my content, book, blog, and for those that find the help they need from me.

So I search and find ways that it supports my overall purpose for me being in business and blogging. Like any entrepreneur, I never stop looking for more answers and solutions, to provide more and more value in my responses to questions people ask.

So what’s the biggest challenge you face in using your blog to support the business of selling your print book?

Keeping creative, relevant, and valuable in my topics, and finding problems and answers that people are looking for.

But more importantly, getting people to realize there are some issues they’ll face as entrepreneurs which are essential to a business (and blog), and to quit chasing after the SOS (Shiney Object Syndrome, the next “in” thing), since that only delays them in getting to where they want to go.

While there is the creative part, the fun part, the stuff we just love to do and can’t stop doing, there’s also the not-so-fun parts, and they’re just as important for your blog and business. For instance, there is never a quick way to riches. You’ve probably heard that it takes years to become an overnight success? It’s 100% true. Besides, making money is only part of the issue. You personally have to change to handle your new-found income and success.

When you get rich quick you don’t necessarily get the time to grow and absorb what’s necessary to handle your success. Why do you think nearly all lottery winners go broke soon after they get their money? Because they didn’t earn it and did not personally grow as they earned it, like most successful entrepreneurs do.

My purpose is about telling a story with my book and blog, but also telling the truth. But as it has been said: when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I was writing my book and it was suggested that I take it online and build a web site. At the time, I was focused on completing my book. Little did I know that years later I’ve come full circle and am will be putting more and more of my content online. I was not ready at that time, but now I am.

And it’s a really captivating blog, too. What are the key factors, or components, that have helped you get it to where it is now?

First, not getting married to my blog idea (The What: a blog about Macs), but to focus instead on a purpose for my blog (The Why: i.e. helping startups, mompreneurs, and entrepreneurs using Macs). Ideas and blogs are a dime a dozen; finding our why you are in business, or blogging, makes your potential blog and business last longer.

Second, dogged determination to keep moving, not quitting, it’s all about being focused on helping my readers and clients.

Third, making changes if things are not working out. I don’t fail, I just test and change as frequently as needed until I am successful.

Fourth, work at keeping your blog and business a no- or low-cost startup. For example, most professional book editors and designers said I needed to do my book in Adobe’s InDesign or Quark, each priced at about $700, or pay someone to do it for me. I could not afford either at the time. I researched and found that Apple’s iWork Pages could still handle the book results I wanted, and I’d pay only $20 for the application. Same with WordPress and its plugins.

Fifth, love what you do and it won’t feel like work, but also get a life. Don’t get so wrapped up in your blog and business that you can’t turn it off by taking a day off once a week and do something else with your family and friends—and I do mean relax. If you don’t know how to turn your blog and business off for one day, it’ll become just another high-paying job or time- and energy-sucking hobby.

Sixth, get outside your blog and business to get connected and noticed, and learn more. Recently, in a LinkedIn group I belong to (Society of Physician Entrepreneurs), a post asked some questions about healthcare reform. I answered with my idea, and that comment was picked up by a major medical web site.

Seventh, and the most important: get a hand up and give a hand down to others. Have a hand up: look for mentors that are willing to help you out, and be thankful and grateful for their help. Especially, tell others publicly either in a blog post or as a testimonial about their help. But also have a hand down: always find someone you can help out as you’re getting help. Justin Bieber invested his wealth early on in other startups such as gaming outfit Sojo Studios and Spot­i­fy. Sart helping others when you start your blog and business.

If you aren’t thankful for mentors and helpful to others, you’ll slow or delay your blogging and business growth, and your reputation will be negatively affected.

Okay, so what’s unique about the way you’ve developed your offering—what makes your blog business unique?

First, everything is a number of processes hobbled together within in a system. Just like building a house, you need four things: tools, materials, an idea, and then a step-by-step plan of what needs to be done and a sequence to do it in (much like a formula of 1 + 1 + 1 = 3).

Some blogs and businesses provide you with some tools, others provide you with some materials, others give you ideas, and very few provide a step-by-step complete plan to get it done (Content blog + Book + Idea – Outsourcing x multiple streams of income = Business).

If you have an idea, I focus on providing the other three elements of tools, materials, and a good sequence of instructions on how to get it done. That makes my approach unique in most of the blog and startup business world.

The most common comment you hear from people is, “I can get anything free on the internet. Why should I pay for things?” It amazes me that people do not understand that while free means you may not pay actual money for something, you are paying for it with your time and effort to find your own answers.

And more importantly, there is usually a good sequence you need to follow that will help you achieve your results quicker. Getting free information on the internet may not be part of the right sequence to get your task (or business) effectively, efficiently, and profitably done.

What makes my offer unique is I search for all of the essential elements and steps that need to be followed in a proper and good order to do things a better and quicker way. Just like building a house, you start from the design, lay the foundation, to finishing the landscaping and moving the furniture in. You learn from your mistakes. That makes things not only effective, because you can get results, but also more efficient, because it costs you less as well, which ultimately leads to better profitability.

That’s what makes my blog and book offering so compelling: I make your efforts more effective and efficient at getting to profitable results. By spending three hours figuring out how to do drop caps in iWork Pages, I saved others three hours of work. And that should mean something to them: at $10 or $100 an hour, I saved them either $30 or $300. Multiply that over how many times they do that and that’s a chuck of change that solution has save someone.

Sure. Speaking of tools like that, can you recommend any software or services that you’ve used to develop your blog business?

Not many, even being the geek that I am, but I’m more of a business geek. The simpler, more effective, and more efficient, the better (going cheap is not always better).

My hosting ISP is Bluehost.com and I use WordPress for my blogging software. But since I’m in business and writing is my business, I use all of my Mac’s tools (iLife, iWork, and WordPress plugins) for everything for my blog and business. I use Apple’s iWork Pages to do all of my writing, especially since I wrote my book using it. I then just cut and paste the content into a WP blog post and format it. I’m about to improve my blog experience and WP theme as I change my business and blogging emphasis very soon here.

Same goes with tools and services for blogging—as the need arises, so does the need to search out more tools! I work at keeping things simple with the tools I use. Simple means less expensive, which translates into more profits and further growth of my business.

That’s great advice! What other tips would you give to someone who was just starting out as a print-pubished author using a blog to support book sales?

  1. Know who your readers and customers are, and the numbers surrounding them (in my case, Apple sells millions of Macs per quarter, and a percentage of them are to businesses and consumers who later become businesses). You have to know your market and business numbers—this is essential for anyone starting a blog and business.
  2. Solve your readers’ and customers’ problems by providing them good value. And you don’t have to give away the farm, but you need to give a sample of your work so they can try the results that you promise.
  3. Build a name for yourself as you become the expert in that niche by providing quality solutions. Matthew Bennet’s story in my book How to Start a Business: Mac Version is about someone who found a niche solution between expectant mothers and doctors and solved both of their problems at the same time with his book the Maternal Journal.
  4. Do the work up front. Do your due diligence and prove yourself as an expert. The money will come if you’ve hit the right market for your talents.

Finally, Kevin, can you tell us what you think the future holds for your business?

Here’s how I describe any entrepreneurial business and life.

You’re in a convertible car (your life) during July, with the top down on cool, moonlit night. Alone with the stars and your family (your family is “in business” with you, right?) driving down a winding, rural, two-lane road. You’re driving with your headlights on and carrying on a conversation with your family as you head toward “our destination.”

You can only see as far down the road as your headlights will show you, much like a blogger or business person seeing into their business’s future. The road ahead twists and turns based on the lay of the land (the market place and your business model). While you can see the outline of the lay of the land (your business future) in the moonlit shadows and stars, you can really only see as far as your car’s lights will shine on the road ahead (your business goals and paths). That’s anyone’s business future.

Most entrepreneurs are not only the Christopher Columbuses and the Lewis and Clarks, they’re also the Cornelius Vanderbilts, John D. Rockefellers, Steve Jobses, and Mark Zuckerbergs and thousands of individuals taking a chance at changing their and our worlds—hopefully for the better.

As an entrepreneur, it is more important to focus on the journey rather than the destination (goal) because at some point you’ll be let down after you have arrived at your “destination.” Ensure that you have a long-term purpose, rather than just a short- or long-term goal, to ensure you keep moving ahead.

David Ogilvy said, “Pay people in peanuts and you get monkeys.” So, while you can just blog for the fun of it, look to provide value to others to earn more than a living with it, and by that I mean you earn more than just peanuts as a blogger.

Thanks to Kevin for his time and insights. Don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog at MacStartup.com and his book, How to Start a Business: Mac Version.

Blog Business Model 1: Land Public Speaking Gigs Through Your Blog

This is the first post in our series on Blog Business Models.

Marcus Sheridan runs The Sales Lion blog, where he explores the marketing approach he’s used to build a successful business. But his blog has helped Marcus springboard very successfully into the public speaking circuit.

Marcus Sheridan

Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion

Marcus has told us his story before, in the post From Small-time Blogger to Professional Paid Speaker: My Journey. Here, he talks about how the blog supports that business in a little more detail.

Marcus, what was it that drew you to blogging in the first instance?

Since 2001, I’ve owned an inground swimming pool company that installs pools throughout Virginia and Maryland. Things grew nicely until 2008 when the housing marketing collapsed, ruining many pool companies and forcing us to figure out a way to continue to survive despite so few potential clients.

During this time of struggle I stumbled upon a company called HubSpot and learned about inbound marketing, and decided to embrace blogging as a means of generating more traffic, leads, and sales through our company website.

Because of our willingness to be incredibly transparent and informative about all things swimming pools, the site’s popularity quickly exploded and it became the go-to source for the inground pool industry. It also saved our business because although it really didn’t cost us much at all to do, it sold us many, many pools.

With so much success in the swimming pool industry, I decided to teach others about what I had achieved, and these teachings became what is today TheSalesLion.com, a blog that has made its mark as one of the premier inbound and content marketing focused blogs on the web.

The blog supports your business as a public speaker. Did you develop the blog with the intention that it would support your speaking work?

I knew I’d never get the type of speaking gigs I wanted unless I had a platform to build my overall brand awareness and influence. With The Sales Lion, I accomplished just that as it allowed me to express my thoughts in all their forms. Because people saw I had a unique approach to things, I started getting more and more invitations to speak.

Forcing myself to write about all things marketing, sales, business, and personal development has allowed me to refine my message. It has also embedded these teachings into my brain in such a way that I can now speak for hours upon hours about business and marketing without notes. Such is the power of blogging if we go about it the right way.

So the strength with which the blog supports you as a speaker is no happy accident, then.

Make no mistake about it: my blog strategy is intentional. I want companies to see I can come in and speak to their organizations and assist them in their content marketing efforts. I want conferences to see that I’m wildly opinionated, thought provoking, and unafraid to say what’s on my mind—with a whole lot of passion mixed in.

you make it sound so easy! Do you face many hurdles in using your blog to build your business as a speaker?

I think the biggest challenge is continuing to plant the seeds while you’re reaping the harvest.

In other words, striking the balance between producing new content on my blog and continuing to network while I also need to be helping my actual, paying clients. One will help sales later, while the other will help my cashflow right now. I think this is a balance we all struggle with, though.

True. So what’s the secret sauce that’s helped you get your blog business to where it is today?

  1. I make people feel good when they stop by and leave a comment, because I care and I’m grateful.
  2. I’m opinionated and not just regurgitating what everyone else is saying.
  3. I’m dang good at storytelling.
  4. I teach/write in such a way that anyone can understand what I’m saying. In other words, my goal isn’t to try to impress myself or sound intelligent.
  5. I haven’t let off the gas in three years.

That’s quite the list! But how do you define your unique selling proposition?

I don’t try to be all things to all people. And I’m certainly not afraid to have some guts when necessary and put myself in the line of fire if I feel something needs to be said.

Also, I know my shtick. I’m one of the best in the world at content marketing—not Facebook, or Twitter, or Linkedin—etc.

Well, speaking of online tools, which ones do you rely on most in your blog business?

As I mentioned, I love HubSpot for their lead tracking and behavior software. Like everyone else, I use WordPress and my theme is Thesis. I also have a virtual assistant who helps edit my stuff and offers needed support.

So what words of advice would you tell a blogger who wanted to get into public speaking, using their blog as the platform?

  1. Answer every single question in your field. Be the wiki of whatever it is you do.
  2. Be bold and gutsy.
  3. Make your readers feel good about themselves.
  4. Stand up to the “big boys” when necessary.
  5. Be great at networking.

Great advice! Finally, Marcus, what does the future hold for you, your blog, and your business?

That’s a tough question, because stuff is changing at an incredible rate. But I see my brand growing, along with my speaking schedule. I plan on being one of the best keynote and business speakers in the world and feel I’m well on my way to reaching that goal.

I’ll always have a blog, no matter what, because I simply have to express myself and put my thoughts to pen. That’s just who I am. And I plan on smiling for the entire journey.

Thanks to Marcus for sharing his thoughts with us. To find out more about Marcus’s business model, visit his site at The Sales Lion and read his story in From Small-time Blogger to Professional Paid Speaker: My Journey.

Five Blog Business Models That’ll Make You Money

One of the great things about the blogosphere is innovation, and the fact that there is an almost unlimited number of ways you can make money blogging.

One glance around the web shows such variety in terms of the way bloggers approach their audiences and provide them with value.

Building blocks

Image courtesy of stock.xchng user danzo08

The thing is, all that choice can be overwhelming. Those looking to being monetizing their blogs can be put off by the profusion of choices. Those who are thinking of extending their current monetization strategies can often fall back on tried and tested—but not necessarily optimal—methods simply because it’s so difficult to navigate the information around new ones.

So this week, we’re going to look at some of the more common blogging business models in depth.

The five six blog business models

Starting today, six pro bloggers will explain the ins and outs of the business model they’re successfully using to monetize their blogs.

Their insights will give you valuable ideas about how different business models might work with your own blog, niche, and audience.

Here are the business models we’ll cover—and the individuals who’ll share their experiences with us. Each day I’ll be updating this list with the link to the current days’ post, so you can bookmark this post to access them all:

  1. Landing public speaking gigs through your blog, with Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion
  2. Selling your print book through your blog, with Kevin Cullis of MacStartup
  3. Selling electronic products, with me, focusing on dPS
  4. Affiliate marketing, with Anshul Dayal of Nichesense
  5. Selling training and courses, with Jules Clancy of The Stone Soup.

Update: we’ve just received a bonus post for the series:

I’ll also be supplementing these articles and interviews with resource lists for further research for those interested in finding out more about that business model.

I hope you’ll find this advice useful, and that it inspires you to look at your blog’s money-making potential in a fresh light.

Before we begin, let us know if you’re already monetizing your blog, and how. Share your strategies with us in the comments.

So You’re Making Money Blogging … Now What?

You’ve started a blog, written great content, engaged with readers … and now you’re making a little money at it. Congratulations!

I started blogging seriously with the aim to make a living from it, but I know plenty of bloggers—probably the majority of those making money blogging—have less clear-cut ambitions to profit.

Many money-making bloggers started simply by trying out some monetization method (an affiliate product, perhaps, or advertising) and were pleasantly surprised by the fact that it worked.

If this description fits you, although you might not be quitting your day job any time soon, you’ve at least proven that you can make money from your blog.

That’s an exciting realisation.

So exciting, in fact, that the world of pro blogging focuses heavily on the questions of how to get to that point, rather than what you might do once you reach it.

Today I want to ask that question.

You’re making money … now what?

Let’s say you’ve made your first $20. Or $200, or $2000. What will you do with that money?

Treat yourself to a movie? Celebrate with a dinner in a nice restaurant? Put it into your holiday savings account?

Or will you look at how you could invest it back into your blog, with the aim to earn more next month?

While it mightn’t sound as exciting as any of the options above, I’d encourage you to consider investing at least some of the money you make back into your blog.

How much? That’s up to you. But it might be a good idea to put a set percentage of the money you make through your blog each month aside to reinvest this way.

That percentage may change over the life of your blog, and depending on your blogging goals at a given time. But the important thing is to commit yourself to a percentage that you’ll reinvest into your blog every time you make some money from it.

How will you invest it?

When you make your first few dollars (and it might literally be a few dollars!) blogging, you’ll probably feel the excitement that, wow, blogging really does work! Your efforts have paid off and that idea you decided to try succeeded in making some money. Great!

That elation can be a great springboard for your plans to use the money you’re reinvesting into your blog.

If you made the money through careful selection of an ad network and appropriate advertisers, for example, you may decide to leverage what you’ve learned in that process—this time with some financial backing. You could:

  • have a designer change your blog interface to create ad space in different places
  • try different ad networks, or change your blog’s listing so that the ads shown on your site are more targeted to specific topics or keywords
  • buy advertising space yourself and pay a designer to create some eye-catching ads for you
  • set yourself up to sell your own advertising space, if you have a large and targeted enough audience.

Of course you’ll want to spend the money you’re investing in your blog wisely. Rather than throwing it all at a one-shot tactic, try to build on the successes you’ve already had.

You might divide up your investment between two or three different trials or test tactics, to get a sense as to what might be the best way to direct your money-making efforts in the coming weeks and months.

Or, you might decide to spend a portion of the investment on something new, dedicating the rest to building momentum with what’s already working to generate income.

This way, you reduce the risk that you’ll get zero return on the investment you’re making in your blog, and maximize your chances of developing skills in the methods that are proven to work with your blog, niche, and audience. You also have the freedom to experiment with new ideas, to see if they might work for you too.

Hopefully, you’ll maintain the same baseline income you had this month next month, and be able to grow that income with some of these new ideas you’re trying out. So next month, you might even have a little more money to invest in growing your blog—and that monthly income—even further.

How are you spending the money you make?

Investing money into your blog can be a big shift for those who have been running their blogs on blood, sweat, and tears alone—but it’s an important one.

It can help you to understand that your blog has the potential to build your income, and to think practically about the implications that could have for you. It can also drive your day-to-day blogging and open you up to new opportunities to learn and engage with blogging as a rewarding challenge.

Do you reinvest some of the money you make from blogging into your blog itself? If not, how do you spend the money you make? Share your approach in the comments.

How to Land a Job as a “Resident Blogger”

This guest post is by Jane of Runaway Jane.

I recently secured the position of Resident Blogger at PLUS Hostels, a large hostel and camp site chain based in Europe.

I’d spent more than two years blogging on my independent travel blog RunawayJane.com, and that experience undoubtedly led to me securing this position.

But it wasn’t the only factor.

I thought it would be useful to illustrate exactly what led me to land this job so that if you’re looking to secure a freelance position like this, you’ll have a head-start on your competition.

Initiative is key

I approached PLUS about becoming their Resident Blogger. This was an idea that I pitched to them.

I had looked at their social media output and saw that they were very active. They also had a very cool, well-designed site targeted at a young audience.

So I was surprised that they didn’t already have an active blog, and I took it upon myself to email them and ask if it was something they’d be interested in doing.

My first email was short, to the point, and didn’t waste anybody’s time. I simply asked if it was something they’d be interested in. I decided to wait for their response before I’d go into more detail about how we could potentially partner.

Timing and a bit of luck

As it happened, my timing was spot-on: PLUS was already looking at implementing a blog sometime over the coming months when they received my email.

However, before I approached them, I was not on their radar as someone who could help—in fact, they were considering approaching other people. I was told in my interview with them that one of the reasons I was chosen above other candidates was because I approached them. They knew I was keen.

I guess you can guarantee that someone who’s approaching you is more likely to work hard for you, because they obviously have an interest in working with you that goes beyond just monetary value (although of course money is important!).

Follow up

I initially approached PLUS around January or February 2012. I remembered they’d said they would be considering bloggers in April, and would get back to me then.

So I sent them a follow-up email in mid-April to ask whether they had considered my proposal, as I hadn’t head anything from them.

This was another key factor in me securing the position, as it meant I was not forgotten, and, again, that I appeared keen and interested.

Previous blogging matters

There is no doubt that if I hadn’t been blogging as Runaway Jane for some time, I would not have been considered for this position.

As soon as I got in touch with PLUS they were able to go onto my blog, and access hundreds of blog posts I’d written. They could see the quality and style of work that I was producing, and assess whether or not it would fit their blog.

They could also see I was active on social media channels, and already had a following. This proved that I understood the demands of blogging (as opposed to straight-up travel writing), and had demonstrated the self motivation over two years to create my own standing within the blogging world.

They could see that I updated my blog regularly, was interactive with my readers, and could write the types of content that engaged an audience. That audience also happened to fit their target market.

Get paid!

I was asked by quite a few other bloggers whether or not I was getting paid by PLUS for this position.

These questions surprised me. To me, the matter of getting paid was obvious—of course I was getting paid! It was a freelance blogging position that I was going to be putting a lot of time and effort into, so payment was only fair.

That said, PLUS are also putting a lot of effort into promoting me, my brand, my Twitter handle, and my site. I took this into consideration when I was quoting them a price for my services—after all, not everything is about immediate monetary gain.

For me, long-term value is more important, and securing this position was more important than an extra hundred dollars a month or so.

If you’re trying to build a brand and a long-term future in blogging, it’s important to be able to seek opportunities that allow you to promote yourself, further your experience, and create case studies that help to prove your abilities for future opportunities.

It’s also something which I hope will grow to become a long-term partnership, rather than something short lived.

With all that said, I’d be lying if I said I was an expert on quoting a price for such services. Blogging is such a new industry, and a new way to earn a living. Even now, people still look puzzled when I explain to them I make a living from blogging.

Prices and expectations change all the time, and you have to weigh up factors such as earning a living now against the long-term gains and opportunities for building a career. Then there is the fact the the value of bloggers is now starting to be realised by big companies in almost every industry. I predict more positions will open up like this in the future…

Create your own job

I hope that if you try to create a Resident Blogger position like I have, you’ll find some success using these tips.

Overall, the key is to go out and create your own opportunities (although what I did involved luck in terms of timing). All this would never have happened had I not approached PLUS myself.

To be a successful blogger you really need to seek out and create as many opportunities for yourself as you can. Offers that land on your doorstep are great, but I wouldn’t plan on that happening!

Jane has been blogging from her travel blog www.RunawayJane.com since early 2010. She has been making a full-time income from blogging since 2011, and travels the world full-time as she goes, living a location independent blogging lifestyle.

What Blog Products Are You Working On?

At the start of this month, I began releasing details of this year’s ProBlogger Training Day.

This is a big event for me and my team, and there’s a lot to organize. The Training Day won’t take place until October, but already we’ve spent months organizing speakers, booking venues, releasing earlybird tickets, and so on.

Around the same time I put out a call for alpha testers on the new ProBlogger Marketplace we’ve been working on.

Something that occurred to me as I was busily preparing these announcements was just how much work goes into the products and services we bloggers offer. While these kinds of tasks don’t need to be overwhelming, they do take time, and energy, and planning.

Not that simple…

For those who are merely testing the waters with their audience, or want to get something out the door and into the market quickly, getting a new product up and running might be a relatively straightforward task.

But once you’ve been blogging for a while, and you get to know your niche and audience well, you’ll know that your products need to meet certain standards if they’re going to have any chance of success.

At that point—and beyond—every new product requires more work from you. You need to consolidate the constant research you’re doing as you engage with readers, make sure your product ideas fit with your overall blog strategy, plan or conceptualize the product itself, and maybe do a “proof of concept”—some kind of test-run that gives you some idea of the audience’s interest.

And that’s before you’ve even got into the process of building the product (or service offering) itself!

So there is a lot to do, and I think bloggers can put themselves at a disadvantage by believing that making blog products is simple. That can lead them to become overwhelmed, disillusioned, and disappointed before they’ve really given products a go.

…Nor that difficult

That said, once you’ve got your head around what’s required of a project, completing it really is about grunt work: sitting down and getting it done. Not just putting in hours, but putting in effort. Working hard, but also working smart—and knowing when the time you’re dedicating to completing something won’t pay off.

I think one of the more overlooked aspects of being efficient as you create products (or in any aspect of efficient blogging) is keeping an eye on your strengths, and playing to them as much as possible.

Don’t outsource something just because you can get it done cheaply, for example. Outsource the things you don’t do well. Don’t choose to build a product just to keep up with the others in your niche, if some other approach to monetization would suit your unique talents better (there’s a reason why I don’t build blog software products!).

While we may overstretch sometimes, and that may lead to a failure or extra hurdles that need to be overcome, they’re problems that can be worked through. The important thing, really, is to make the effort.

What products or services are you working on?

We’re all making the effort—I know we are! And you know a lot of what I’m working on—the QLD blogging adventure, the ProBlogger Training Day, and the marketplace, among other things.

But what product or service ideas are you working on? And what challenges are you facing?

You don’t have to give the game away, but we’d love to hear of your efforts in the comments, so we can build up a picture of the hard work we bloggers are doing behind the scenes on our blogs.

Use Monroe’s Motivated Sequence to Call Your Readers to Action

This guest post is by Sean Davis of SDavisMedia.com.

Blogs do not produce income. Simply writing and publishing content does not increase your bank account balance.

The idea that money is a direct result of blogging is a myth that the best bloggers have dismissed, but most choose to treat it as a law of the blogosphere.

What a shame.

Many new bloggers will jump out of their online careers just as quickly as they jumped into them when they realize that it’s not enough to simply create content.

There is, however, another goal for creating content. It’s not until you understand this goal that you will know how to make money from your blog.

The goal of blogging is not to earn money. It’s to earn attention—the attention of those who will, in turn, provide the revenue you’re looking for.

Why you need to focus on attention

“If you build it, they will come.” We can argue all day about whether this is true or not. No matter what, though, we should all agree that just because people come to your blog doesn’t mean that they will buy your product, sign up for your email list, click your advertisement links, or whatever it is you need them to do in order to produce income.

As a personal testimony, I created an infographic about four months ago that seemed to be pretty popular on the internet for a day or two. The blog I published it on was only about three months old, and the infographic brought me over 1,000 visitors in one day. For some, that’s nothing. For me, it was the attention I had been dreaming about.

Take a wild guess at how many email subscribers I earned from that infographic.

If you guessed zero, you’re wrong!

The answer is actually one. One lonely person out of over a thousand visitors signed up to my free newsletter, which, by the way, offered a free gift for those who signed up.

This is when I learned that blogs have the power to bring attention, however, it’s what you do with that attention that matters most.

Introducing Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

If you’ve ever taken a college-level language course or a speech or communications class, chances are you’ve been introduced to the art of persuasion.

Simply put, in the business world, whether it be brick and mortar or internet marketing, you have to know how to persuade people to take action—especially when they are visiting your blog.

Almost a century ago, Alan Monroe of Purdue University introduced a persuasion method that takes the human mind through a natural cycle of establishing a need, developing a solution to satisfy that need, and then becoming enthusiastic about implementing that solution.

There are actually five steps to this sequence:

  1. Attention: The first step is to gain the attention of the target audience. You can do this with a story, a thought provoking question, or anything that makes the audience stop what they’re doing with curiosity and focus.
  2. Need: This is where you explain to the target audience what their need is. This can be an obvious, well-known need, or a need that you create on the spot. Often, a need is established by giving an extreme example of some unfortunate event that should never happen again.
  3. Satisfaction: Now that your target audience understands the need, it’s time for you to fly in like Superman and save the day. Provide a solution to erase that need and prevent the aforementioned unfortunate event from ever happening again.
  4. Visualization: Tell your target audience exactly how your solution can be implemented and how it will solve the problem. Also, tell them how things will progress (that is, get worse) if your solution is ignored. This is where you would provide proof—preferably a previous instance in which your solution was implemented—that convinces your audience that your solution will work. Politicians do this a lot when referencing what other nations have (or have not) done, and why it is important that we make the same (or different) decisions.
  5. Action: Get the target audience involved. You’ve already explained to them what the need is, how to satisfy that need, and what things will be like for them once the need is satisfied. Now, you have to convince them that they play an important role in making that change happen. In other words, you introduce an action that they can take to implement your solution.

If you take a step back and thoroughly observe TV commercials, political campaigns, sales pages, etc., you will notice that the most persuasive ones follow this sequence. Why? Because it was developed to follow your own natural thought patterns.

It was developed on the basis of human nature.

How to use this persuasion technique on your blog

What if you could use Monroe’s Motivated Sequence in every area of your blog?

From the content you produce, to your blog’s unique design, you can follow the steps in the sequence to lead your readers down a path that causes them to take action.

Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers.com enlightened me a few weeks ago on why he doesn’t write the typical “17 Things You Can Do To Blah Blah Blah” articles on his blog.

He said that he encourages the reader to focus on one action to take with each of his articles. As a result, his readers leave his blog with something they can actually implement instead of a list of options—something that’s been shown to be less effective at prompting action, by the way.

Considering Derek builds email lists like crazy, it’s safe to say that he understands human psychology and what makes people tick online.

Does he use Monroe’s Motivated Sequence? I don’t know. But imagine the results you could produce, article by article, if you focused each one of them on one specific action to take, as Derek does, and you used Monroe’s Motivated Sequence to do so.

Are the ideas flowing yet? I hope so.

Remember: blogs don’t earn money. Blogs earn attention. Once you have attention, which is nothing more than a visit to your blog, you have to know how to guide the visitor down a path that leads them to an action you’d like them to take.

Whatever your goals for your blog, you can start using Monroe’s Motivated Sequence right now. Simply break something you want your visitors to do down to one single action, and then follow the steps of the sequence.

Take a few moments to think about communications you encounter every day and how they follow this sequence. And imagine the possibilities for your blog if you can master this technique.

Sean Davis is an internet entrepreneur dedicated to constant growth and helping others. Check Sean out at SDavisMedia.com and follow him on Twitter @SDavisMedia.

Build Blog Products That Sell 6: Tell the World

This guest series is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Wallet

Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

Welcome to the final installment in our hexalogy, concerning how to sell blog products in an era when people are reaching into their pockets and finding mostly lint. So far, we’ve discussed how to plan out products drawn from your expertise, create them, distinguish yourself from your competitors, test-market, figure out how much to charge, and find a clientele. If you’re late to the party, check out the previous parts of this series, right from the start, before going any further.

Say you’ve done all of the above. Now, the only remaining step is to get the sale. Sounds obvious, but all the preliminary work means nothing if you don’t close. You need to tell people to buy, rather than just crossing your fingers and hoping that they might.

It’s not just writing…

There’s a certain finesse required with this. You don’t sell in the same voice in which you entice, cajole, or inform. Lots of bloggers have trouble making the transition. If you’re going to put yourself out there as a seller of “you-branded” content, you don’t have the luxury of stumbling through and hoping that your sales pitch falls on receptive ears.

At this point, considering how much you’ve put in, selling yourself is mandatory, not optional. You have to use language forcefully, more forcefully than you do in your blog posts. Burrow into your prospect’s head, and by extension, your prospect’s wallet.

Focusing on the benefits

There’s a timeless axiom in the advertising business: People don’t want a bar of soap, they want clean hands.

The benefit of the product is far more important than the product itself. When you instead start focusing on the product—which, granted, you expended considerable effort to create—you’re not exactly empathizing with your clientele. It’s supposed to be about them, not you. No one cares how many hours you spent interviewing people for the DVD series you’re selling. Nor could anyone be less interested in how many pages your ebook is. (Beyond a certain point, of course. If you’re going to charge $329 for a three-page ebook, it had better contain the GPS coordinates for the Ark of the Covenant.)

No, cost-conscious buyers—any discerning buyers, really—want to know the answer to the universal question:

What’s in it for me?

How are you going to make your readers’ lives easier/simpler/richer? State how you’re going to do it. Yes, it’s great that you poured your heart and soul into your work, but that doesn’t necessarily make it sellable.

The human tendency is to concentrate on oneself, rather than other people. Which makes perfect sense—of course you’ll brush your own teeth and wash your own windows before doing the same for your neighbor. But if you want other people’s money, you have to force yourself to think about them first, as unnatural as that might sound.

Here’s an example of what not to write to get people to buy your products. The example is technically fictional, but it’s a composite of other bloggers’ calls-to-action:

“Starting today, I’m running a discount on my latest project. You can get my 36-page, 8,459-word ebook for just $11.99. This ebook, Car Noises And How To Diagnose Them, is the result of many months of research, and is now being made available to you for a special introductory price.”

Wow. Thanks for doing me the favor of offering to take my money. This is like the employee who walks into the boss’s office requesting a raise, and the first point he cites is how many hours of uncompensated overtime he puts in. Or that he has a baby on the way. You need to give your employer, or anyone else in the position of enriching you, a reason for doing so. Again, concentrate on the end users here. Without them, you and your product are nothing.

Here’s an alternative sales script, one that focuses on the buyer. It’s longer, but it also (hopefully) appeals to the buyer’s senses:

“Your car makes an unfamiliar noise. So naturally, your first reaction is to drive to the nearest mechanic, and waste maybe half an hour in the waiting room, putting yourself at the mercy of a professional whose livelihood rests on finding as many things wrong with people’s cars as possible.

For the love of God, don’t. Stop throwing your money away. That knock you hear doesn’t mean you need a new $1400 transmission assembly. It means you need to spend a couple more dollars on higher-octane fuel. That ear-splitting undercarriage rattle can be quieted in seconds, with the appropriate ratchet and a quarter-turn of your wrist.

My new ebook, Car Noises And How To Diagnose Them, breaks down the most common, least pleasant sounds that can emanate from your car. It tells you where they originate, what they mean, and how to prevent them. Some will require a look from a technician, but you’ll be amazed how many won’t. Fix them yourself instead, and you’ll save untold time, money and aggravation.

Car Noises And How To Diagnose Them includes sound files of dozens of the most common noises, along with complete directions on how to locate and assess them. Download it here for just $12, and I’ll include a mobile link for iOS and Android (because very few car noises occur when you’re sitting in front of your computer at home).”

Obviously that sales treatment isn’t going to be suitable for your blog and its products, but you get the idea. People are more budget-conscious these days than they’ve been in some time. They will part with their money, but you need to give them a compelling reason to.

Drawing the line

This doesn’t mean you should be penning advertising copy with dubious assertions. (“Scientifically proven to regrow hair!”) Quite the contrary. If there’s ever a time to be honest, it’s when you’re explaining to your readers what your products can do for them. Your readers will respect you for it, and if you give them value, they’ll spread the word.

For an established blogger, creating products that extend that blog can be a rewarding way to engage your readers and foster an ever-growing audience. For an up-and-coming blogger, selling a worthwhile product can cement your reputation as an authority in your field all the more quickly. Creating blog products takes plenty of time and effort, and while selling them in a rough economy can be a challenge, it’s such challenges that separate the average bloggers from the remarkable ones.

Say what your product’s benefit is (not what your product is, what its benefit is.), and sell.

Key points

  • Understand that writing sales copy is different than blogging.
  • Don’t write about yourself.
  • Don’t write about your product.
  • Write about your product’s benefits.
  • Practise makes perfect: keep trying to improve your sales writing skills.

That’s it for our tour of the tricky business of building blog products that sell. How are your products selling at the moment? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

How to REALLY Follow Your Passion to the Bank: The $100 Startup Model

This guest post is by Chris Guillebeau of ChrisGuillebeau.com.

More than a decade ago, I began a lifelong journey of self-employment “by any means necessary.”

I never planned to be an entrepreneur—I just didn’t want to work for someone else. From a cheap apartment, I watched what other people had done and tried to reverse-engineer their success. I started by importing coffee from Jamaica and sold it online because I saw other people making money from it; I didn’t have any special skills in importing, roasting, or selling.

Since then, I’ve never looked back, always working for myself and making a good living entirely through online ventures. And I’m no longer alone: in different ways, thousands of people from all over the world have also taken matters into their own hands. They are rewriting the rules of work, becoming their own boss, and creating a new future.

It all sounds so simple: pick something you love and build a business around it. Start an online storefront, become a problogger, and strike it rich. Cha-ching! But is it really that easy? As you might expect—or as you might have experienced in your own efforts—the real answer is more complex.

That’s why I dived into the real story.

Over the past three years I’ve been working with a group of 1,500 “unexpected entrepreneurs.” Most of these people had never gone to business school, didn’t have a lot of money, and in some cases, never intended to work for themselves. They simply found a way to make something interesting and share it with the world—and along the way, they ended up creating a serious income of at least $50,000 a year.

I learned a few surprising lessons from this group.

First, not all hobbies or passions are created equal

You can’t just pursue any passion—there are plenty of things you may be passionate about, but no one will pay you for them. I like to eat pizza, but not matter how passionate I am, its doubtful I could craft a career around my love for mushrooms and black olives. Instead, I had to find something more interesting to the rest of the world.

Whatever your situation is, you must continually focus on how your project can help other people, and why they’ll care about what you’re offering in the first place.

Next, most people don’t make money directly from their hobby or passion, but from something related

Nev Lapwood was a snowboarding instructor in British Columbia, Canada. He got by and paid the bills on the slopes, but competition was tough—and besides, the work was seasonal. Then Nev created a series of snowboarding DVDs and found his real calling. The business now earns a multi-six figure annual income.

In my case, I began a writing career several years ago by sharing stories about a quest to visit every country in the world, but I don’t get paid for that. I have to create value in my business like anyone else does. Without real value, I wouldn’t get paid, and the travel would be just a hobby (albeit a passionate one).

To be successful, find the magic formula between passion and usefulness

To understand how passion can sometimes translate into a profitable business, you must develop a skill that provides a solution to a problem. Only when passion merges with a skill that other people value can you truly “follow your passion to the bank.”

Another way to think about it is:

(Passion + Skill) → (Problem + Marketplace) = Opportunity

In Reno, Nevada, Mignon Fogarty created the QD Network, best known for her signature show Grammar Girl. The show was a huge hit almost from the beginning, spawning a line of books, related programs, and non-stop media attention. But before she was Grammar Girl, Mignon pursued a similar idea in an unsuccessful attempt to build popularity through podcasting. Here’s how she tells the story:

“Before I launched the successful Grammar Girl podcast, I was the host of a science podcast called Absolute Science. I loved doing that show and I was passionate about it. I actually put more effort into promoting that show than I did for the Grammar Girl podcast, and although Absolute Science was well-received, after doing it for nearly a year it was clear that the show was never going to make enough money to make it worth the time required to produce it.”

Mignon changed course, trading science for grammar. The answer wasn’t to abandon her passion altogether, but rather to make sure she connected the right passion with the right audience.

  • “Absolute Science”: Passion… but not enough audience.
  • “Grammar Girl”: Passion… and a substantial audience.

What goes up, goes up further

It’s easy and fun to grow your business or blog once it’s up and running.

That’s why the first sale, the first client, or the first source of income is so important. Many business owners I talked with earned hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and several earned more than one million dollars a year. In every case, they got to that point by starting small and making continuous improvements along the way.

Once you’ve found a winning formula, that’s when you spend your time on tweaks, the small-and-regular changes that will continue to increase income and influence.

When I asked our group of unexpected entrepreneurs about the follow-your-passion model, I frequently heard a nuanced answer. Almost no one said, “Yes! You should always follow your passion wherever it leads.” Similarly, almost no one dismissed the idea offhand. The nuance comes from the idea that passion plus good business sense creates an actual business.

Can you transition to a meaningful life oriented around something you love to do? Yes. Can you make money doing it? Yes, and you have plenty of examples to learn from—I talked with 1,500 people for the study that led to The $100 Startup, and all of them provided detailed financial information on how much money they made and how much it cost to start their business.

Is there a path you can follow for your own plan to follow your passion to the bank? Indeed, yes. Just make sure you create something that changes people’s lives. That’s where you’ll ultimately find your freedom.

Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The $100 Startup, provides a blueprint for creating freedom by building a business with no special skills and a small amount of money. Chris also writes for a small army of remarkable people at ChrisGuillebeau.com.