Close
Close

Maternity Leave … for Bloggers?!

This guest post is by Kat Griffin of Corporette.

How do full-time bloggers take maternity leave? How do you schedule posts and get help, when you’re not sure when you’re going to go into labor, and when you have no idea what to expect when the baby first comes?

This is my account of how I not only maintained my traffic but grew it, all while taking ten weeks of maternity leave.

By Summer 2011, I had two very happy things going on in my life: I was pregnant with my first child, and my fashion and career advice blog (Corporette) was doing so well that I had quit my job as a lawyer to focus on it.

But this created an unfortunate problem—how could I have the baby, be a good mother, and keep my blog at the level my readers expected? My number goals: maintain 15 posts a week, and keep as much of my hard-won traffic as possible (which at that point was about 57K uniques and almost 500K pageviews a month).

It would be nice, I thought, if my blogging income stayed where it was, but I prepared myself for a dip. I had read that a newborn’s crying peaked around weeks six to eight, so I picked ten weeks as the optimal time for myself to take off.

Why I didn’t hire anyone

For some people, the answer would have been obvious—hire an assistant or an intern to take over content. But my site has always been a bit difficult in that regard—in fact, I think I owe a lot of my success to the fact that I actually had a conservative job for many years, so my workwear and career advice comes from a very realistic place. (I started my blog while working as a litigator for a Wall Street firm.) So your typical 22-year-old hire just would not do.

My answer? Some scheduled posts from me, but a lot of highly curated guest posts. To be clear: I also did not hire a baby nurse or nanny, although looking back I suppose that was an option also. I was very concerned that the mixture of sleepless nights and postpartum hormones would make me unfit to give career and fashion advice, even if someone else was looking after the baby.

Dividing my content

I looked at my regular content and asked:

  • Where do I make the most money? For me, those are always accessory posts (shoes and bags), so I kept those posts to myself. I also decided to write and schedule one meatier post each week, to keep my voice present on the site.
  • For the posts that could be scheduled, what kind of content was missing from my blog that the guest posters could bring?
  • Which posts had to be timely, and couldn’t be scheduled far in advance? I dropped some of them (such as my news roundup); for others, I took great care in inviting guest posters. For example, my first post, every workday, recommends an item of clothing that is available for online purchase. They’re not long or hard posts, but I know from experience that clothes sell out, particularly if they’re on sale, so they do have to be timely. I gambled that a) I could ask guest posters to take a full week’s worth of posts, b) I could trust them to send them to me in one fell swoop, a week ahead of time, so I could get everything coded appropriately (including adding my own affiliate links) and c) that their choices would not sell out by the time the post went live.

Reaching out to guest posters

I estimated I needed ten people to pick outfits for each week, and I needed about 25 people to write meatier posts. I drew up a “dream list” of guest bloggers, and individually emailed each person to say that I admired them and would love for them to guest post, suggesting a few topics for each blogger.

I wrote the email the way I advise my readers to write business emails: extremely clearly, using short, to-the-point paragraphs (including one titled, “What’s in it for you: exposure to my 57,000 unique readers”). The subject: “Invitation to guest blog on Corporette, deadline 7/25.” This was around early June, and my due date was August 10. Happily, almost everyone I reached out to accepted.

Editing

Honestly, it almost took as long to edit everyone’s pieces as it would have taken to write the posts myself. But I liked the diverse voices and topics that were coming to the blog.

At the beginning of every post, I wrote a short paragraph describing the topic and introducing the guest poster to my readers. In addition to being great for SEO, it helped lend a bit of my voice to every post, as well as to immediately make clear to my readers how each post was relevant to them.

Scheduling, three months in advance

I used a monthly calendar to keep a bird’s eye view of the process—for example, I didn’t want to schedule a “should you cover your gray hair” post right next to a “when is naturally curly hair appropriate for the office.”

But once I had things scheduled (using WordPress’s default scheduling feature), I sent a screenshot of the post, as well as the full HTML, to each writer for approval, and told them what day and time the post was scheduled to go live. I also thanked them, hopefully a lot. This was all done in early August—some people weren’t scheduled to go live until October!

Schedule reminders

I used Google Calendar to keep track of which post was scheduled for when. Each Saturday, I would find time to email the guest posters slated to go live that week, reminding them what day and time the posts were scheduled to go live, and letting them know that I had scheduled a Tweet to promote the post as well. (I used Tweetdeck. Facebook, at that time, did not have post-scheduling capabilities.)

In theory, this all sounds great, but how’d it go?

I scheduled guest posts to start going live on August 15. Again, my due date was August 10—I had read that first babies are often late; I also figured that if I went into labor before that, my readers would be kind enough to deal with a few days of minimal content.

My son, as it turned out, had other plans, as August 10, then August 15, both came and went without a baby in sight. The thing they don’t tell you about the last week or two of pregnancy is that between the false alarms and the doctor’s visits, you’re pretty much at the hospital or doctor’s office every day, sometimes waiting for hours. My pregnancy discomfort and exhaustion was also at an all-time high.

I wound up being incredibly thankful that the guest posts started “early” on August 15, because there’s no way I could have kept up my regular blogging schedule by myself. Oh, and those meatier posts that I kept for myself to write? True to personality, I was often editing those right before I published them—I even wound up blogging from the post-partum ward in the hospital, hilariously, about work/life balance.

The results

Somewhere between all of the guest posters, the Tweets, and the tightly-written first paragraphs, traffic increased. (It may have helped that I guest posted for Lucky Magazine in June 2011.)

I jumped from 57K uniques in June 2011 to 75K uniques by September 2011. Corporette currently has around 111K uniques, so I’ve maintained the increase.

I like to think my readers got to know a new group of bloggers, and I got to enjoy time with my newborn son without worrying (too much) about my other baby, my blog.

Have you taken a maternity or paternity leave while blogging? How did your plan differ from mine? Share it with us in the comments.

Kat Griffin founded Corporette, a fashion and lifestyle blog for women lawyers, bankers, MBAs, consultants, and otherwise overachieving chicks, in May 2008, while working as a litigator on Wall Street.

Long-term Goal-setting for Successful Bloggers

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

Short-term goals can be devastating.

In six months I lost over 60 pounds working out and eating smaller portions. I started off just running every day because I was sick of being overweight. Then I began eating less and obeying simple diets and workout routines. Things went well for a while, but then suddenly I started gaining weight again. Before long I had everything back—and this time around, I had to work much harder to lose the same amount of weight.

Just like someone who’s losing weight for the first time, a person who’s new to blogging is filled with energy and incredible amounts of motivation. Each post feels new and fresh, and every additional reader increases the blogger’s enthusiasm.

But this enthusiasm is often short-lived, as the excitement gives way to repetitiveness and the blog readership plateaus. This is why new bloggers don’t usually make it past the first six months. Actually, it’s not much different than any other hobby in this world.

I know it seems incredibly obvious, but short-term goals are rarely sustainable. Putting forth too much effort for a short period of time leads us to burn out and give up on the things we care about.

Without long-term goals our short-term ones are meaningless.

Sustainable long-term goals

What the person dieting and the new blogger don’t realize is that they need to change their lives permanently, not just for the next few months. So how can we set long-term goals that result in better short-term ones? Let’s start off with five tips to help you begin picking a ten-year goal.

That’s right, a ten-year goal.

One small caveat to this task is the obvious fact that the internet and our world changes at a remarkably fast pace. Your-ten year goal needs to be somewhat flexible to account for these changes. Keep this in mind as you read through these tips.

1. Choose the perfect you

For my own personal goal, I see myself as the owner of at least a dozen gaming-related websites. Unfortunately I decided upon this goal a little late, having just sold one of my cash cows for $50,000. That right there is the perfect example of the problems that arise when short-term goals (in this case, saving enough money for my first house) become your only priority. Had I kept a long-term goal of building twelve sustainable gaming sites, I wouldn’t have sold it.

When you decide on the perfect you, I want you to focus on something you truly enjoy doing. Don’t worry whether or not you’re successful at it yet, as this is a ten-year goal. You have a while to get there!

2. Make changes to your lifestyle

With the perfect you planted firmly in the center of your mind, there probably will need to be drastic changes made to your current lifestyle (that’s right, to your non-internet persona as well).

In my case, I need to put aside more time for blogging by making sure that I remove other distractions. If I don’t work out as soon as I get home, then my work-out is going to interfere with my blogging time. If I don’t prepare for a podcast, then I’m going to have a poor performance.

Make small but steady changes to your lifestyle that will slowly but surely lead to your ten-year goal. By far, the most important changes will come in the form of minor time management adjustments.

3. Surround yourself with encouragement

Before I had this ten-year goal of running a conglomerate of game-related sites, I wasted quite a bit of time with people who doubted my abilities. These were people who would get angry at me for spending another fifteen minutes polishing a blog post instead of shooting the bull with them on Skype.

If your friends don’t encourage you to fulfill your ten-year goal then they aren’t really your friends. Surround yourself with people who will encourage and help you obtain your dreams.

4. Walk, don’t run

A ten-year goal is neither an excuse for laziness nor a signal to overdo it. Take your time and avoid both extremes in terms of the steps you take to reach that goal. With a span of ten years, you have plenty of time to carefully wade your way through life making sure to always move forward one step at a time.

In saying this, don’t take months, weeks, or even days off from your goal. Even if you’re on vacation, attempt to stay mentally and physically fit so that you can go right back to work afterwards.

5. Failure is okay

I know in the previous tip I mentioned always moving forward, but there are times that you will fall flat on your face. When you fail, pick yourself up and simply mark that door as the wrong way to go, before carefully deciding on your next door.

Learning from your failures is by far the most important thing you can do to stay on track for your ten-year goal. You think that everyone who succeeds in life got to that point without tripping up multiple times? Try hundreds of times; just look at Edison and his attempts at creating the light bulb!

Has the ten-year goal helped me?

Yes, setting a ten-year goal has definitely helped me to keep my blog in perspective. I’m now making decisions that enable me to keep on track for that long-term goal instead of jumping at short-term benefits.

Take my latest Diablo 3 Gold Guide blog, which has had 1,000,000 hits in three months and earned over $30,000 in revenue. I could sell this for $100,000 easily, or I could cultivate it and grow it to double its current size in one year.

Think about my ten-year goal. Which option makes more sense? Obviously holding onto the blog, getting people to manage it for me, and expanding to new niches is the correct answer! I have my heart set on writing blogs for additional games and I’m super-excited to keep taking steps closer to my ten-year goal. (The details of how I made so much money with this brand new blog are explained in Another $10,000 Product Launch.)

Remember that the entire purpose of a ten-year goal is to change your short-term goals so that they reflect the bigger picture. Truly, a ten-year goal becomes a positive obsession in your life, and a gradual change that will greatly influence your success. Avoid fads and short-term riches that pull you away from the positive nature of this new ten-year goal of yours.

What’s your ten year-goal? Who is the ideal you? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter. Let’s use the hashtag #tenyeargoal and get the conversation started!

Chris “The Traffic Blogger” writes to help bloggers learn how to drive traffic, build relationships and earn revenue through blogging. His most recent efforts have been on teaching others What to Tweetto get more followers and make money on Twitter.

10 Fresh Tips for Finding Time to Blog

This guest post is by Brian Milne of The Corporate Mentality.

Work. School. Friends. Family … and kids.

We’ve all got a lot going on in our lives, and I haven’t even mentioned our online worlds yet.

Twitter. Facebook. Google Plus. LinkedIn … and Pinterest.

The list is always growing, and as our offline lives get busier and online worlds more cluttered, our blogs are getting more and more neglected.

And while it’s great spending time learning everything the above social sites have to offer, let’s not forget the importance of our own blogs, and the significance of providing readers with quality content. After all, without quality posts, you’ll be slow to take your blog to the next level and will have little original content to push out to your followers.

And, in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? Generating exposure, traffic, leads and potential customers or partners?

That said, here are ten ways I’ve been able to carve out more blogging time of late—despite running dozens of sites and having our third child in five years this past April. (And if these ten tips aren’t enough, ProBlogger’s timely Blog Wise ebook will certainly do the trick!)

1. Get up early

There’s nothing better than starting off the day with something you really enjoy, whether it’s a nice jog around the park, a bike ride through town, or a trip to the gym. And if you’re someone who truly enjoys writing, you’ll appreciate making blogging part of your morning routine.

Just be sure to do so before you get online and open your inbox. Your writing is more impactful when ideas are fresh in your head—and you aren’t bogged down by your list of tasks for the day.

2. Write at lunch

If you can’t get up early enough to write before work, get away from it all at lunch. Take the iPad or laptop with you to the park, fire it up on a shady bench next to your brown bag and write to your heart’s content.

3. Go offline

No wireless connection at your local lunch getaway? No worries. Disconnecting makes for a distraction-free hour of writing. In fact, while you’re at it, turn off your phone, Twitter alerts, Facebook messages, IM and email inbox—anything that’s going to keep you from getting your thoughts down.

If you get the inspiration to Tweet, take that clever 140-characters and expand on it in a blog post. Remember, it’s better to own your content than get owned by Twitter or Facebook. Make those platforms work for you, not the other way around.

4. Stay up late

All the hustlers do it. And don’t just stay up late and use the “free time” to soak up more David Letterman. Kill your TV and breathe new life into your blog.

As Gary Vaynerchuk writes in Crush It, “If you already have a full-time job, you can get a lot done between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. (9 p.m. to 3 a.m. if you’ve got kids), so learn to love working during those predawn hours. I promise it won’t be hard if you’re doing what you love more than anything else.”

5. Use an app for that

Don’t have time to post, but have a second to snap a photo? Start photo blogging from your mobile device. Mobile content is becoming a lot more acceptable in today’s blogosphere, whether it’s an inspirational image or an event photo that’s related to your site, snap it, and post it in less than a minute.

You can use the WordPress app, which allows you to post images, text and even HTML straight from your mobile device. Or set up your blog to allow for email publishing, whether it’s straight from your mobile email client or through a third-party platform such as Flickr—which can auto post images to the site and your blog via email.

6. Use shortcuts

Take advantage of additional WordPress features that streamline posting. For example, did you know you can embed a YouTube video in the body of your WordPress blog by simply pasting in the URL of the video? In the latest version of WordPress, 3.4, you can do the same thing with Tweets, embedding an individual Tweet just by pasting the link to the Tweet in the body of your blog post.

Knowing shortcuts and quick tips like this can cut down your “time to publish” considerably.

7. Accept guest posts

I know, it’s your blog, and it’s tough to allow others to post on the site you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into. But there comes a time—when either you get too busy or your blog gets too popular—when you have to take a step back and ask for help.

It’s a good problem to have if you think about it, because your site has likely scaled to the point where it’s bigger than you ever would have imagined. To keep feeding the content machine, reach out to some folks you trust for regular contributions. Adding different perspectives to your site often brings in new readers, and also encourages those you trust to help build and promote your brand when they post.

8. Hire some help

If you’re not sure where to turn in terms of guest contributors, post an ad on a related freelance board for part-time writers. Be sure to ask candidates to include a résumé and links to from three to five related blog posts. That way you can see exactly what types of posts you could expect when outsourcing. You never know, you might just find someone who writes as well or—gulp—better than you do!

9. Post different types of content

Have you ever created a video for your audience? How about a podcast? Sometimes turning on a microphone or camera can be easier than sitting down to craft a solid 600-word blog post.

As noted earlier, photo blogging or producing short, informative videos or podcasts can be a quick way to whip up new content and complement your writing. And in some cases, audiences respond better to non-traditional content types. New mediums also allow your audience to digest your content on the go, which is becoming increasingly important in this mobile world we live in.

10. Put it down on paper

Maybe it’s the former journalist in me, but I still use an old-fashioned reporter’s notepad to jot down quick notes and sketch out illustrations when I’m not in front of a computer (during my commute, for example).

It helps me organize and prioritize my thoughts, and keeps me from cursing iPhone autocorrect fails—which, when funny enough, lead me to waste another 15 minutes ridiculing those blunders with all of you on Twitter.

And that, my fellow bloggers, would be a waste of everyone’s time.

Brian Milne is founder of the BlogHyped Network of sites, where bloggers vote up posts and receive valuable links and exposure for their blog. Follow @BMilneSLO on Twitter to share your blog productivity tips and to be featured in his upcoming “Book on Blogging.”

Limitations: Your Key to Blogging Success?

This guest post is by Timo Kiander of Productivesuperdad.com.

I know a blogger who tries to do everything he can to make his writing career successful. He posts multiple times a week on his own blog, writes guest posts for others and spends a lot of time researching affiliate marketing. On top of all this, he is creating his first info product.

Of course, there’s social media too: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn… he feels obligated to be everywhere, on every platform.

As if this wasn’t enough, his email inbox is full of compelling info product offers and they all claim they will change his life if he acts on them now.

My blogger friend works so hard, but when he looks at his blog stats, he collapses completely. Hard work has yielded barely any new visitors and only a couple of measly subscribers to his list.

Is it any wonder he’s ready to quit blogging?

Filling the glass with too much water

Do you see what’s going on here? I bet that, as an observer of this scenario, it’s very easy for you to see the problem: the blogger I just described is trying to do too much at once.

But let me ask you: is this blogger anything like you? Because we are often so blind to our own situation that we fail to recognize the entire picture.

Just like a glass will overflow as you try to fill it up with too much water, the same will happen to you, my blogger friend. The difference is that in your case the overflow means burning out—and as a result your productivity will decrease dramatically.

With too much to handle at once, there’s another negative side effect: you lose your focus completely.

Even if you think you’re getting the right results and you think you’re moving in the right direction, you’re going to be shocked. Most of the hours you’ve spent on your blog have been a waste of time.

Being afraid of the unfair advantage

There is something that has been sold to most of us and the marketers have done a good job at making us believe it: the unfair advantage (and fear as a bonus).

How many times has a marketer or another blogger told you that you have to do a specific thing or buy a certain product to succeed? And if you don’t do as you’re told, then those who do buy the product or implement “blogging tactic X” will have an unfair advantage.

It’s quite natural to want to avoid being the outsider. Have you ever thought to yourself, “No way am I going to give others this advantage and struggle myself—I’d better join the tribe or I’ll be doomed with the rest of the average Joes.”

I know that I recognize it myself when I look at the statement above. That’s the main reason why I have spent thousands on info products and blogging tactics that I didn’t use and which were actually steering me off course.

There is actually a term for these kinds of thoughts. It’s The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). You are afraid to be an outsider because you think you might be missing out on something very important.

When you take the concept of FOMO and apply it to blogging, the scenario described near the beginning of this article starts to make sense; you want to do everything because:

  • someone told you to (“I have to be part of this group, otherwise…”)
  • you are afraid to let go of something (“If I let go now, I will never become successful.”)
  • you’re afraid to be an outsider (“I don’t want to be an ‘average person’ while others are successful.”).

It’s no wonder you’re stressed out and overwhelmed: you’re trying to move forward on too many fronts, yet your blog is not getting any more popular.

Pressing the reset button

To move from chaos to clarity, you should start limiting both your mind and your actions.

“Limiting?” you ask.

Yes, limiting. The problem with your current overwhelming and stressful situation (and lack of results) is that you’re trying to do too many things at the same time because you are afraid that you will miss out.

But if you limit your mind and your actions, you will exclude the unnecessary stuff, thus seeing your destination again. In the process, looking at those stats is not very scary anymore, because the figures have improved. In fact, you will begin to look forward to checking the stats!

When you decide to let go of the unnecessary, you are kicking your FOMO’s butt. The feeling of liberation as you sit back and let others rush to buy that $1000 course is unbelievable.

Reclaim your enthusiasm and clarity

If you’re overwhelmed and confused, it’s time to put yourself back on track. Try these steps to get rid of FOMO:

1. Unsubscribe

To decrease the amount of “shiny object syndrome” exposure you get through email (and to clean your inbox at the same time), use online application called UnRoll.me (please check out their FAQ page before you join).

UnRoll.me lets you unsubscribe from multiple email lists at once—it’s a great way to prevent your inbox from filling with clutter. Unsubscribing from multiple lists is very easy and you can feel the relief as soon as you do it. Just stay with those subscriptions that you truly like to follow.

2. Take a critical look at your goals

Cut down the number of big goals to a minimum. For example, trying to be a social media maven and PPC wizard at the same time may not be the best strategy.

Instead, choose the one thing you would like to be spectacular at, roll up your sleeves and start working. That old pearl of wisdom is still true: the more you do something, the better you become at it.

3. Take a critical look at your current projects

Look your project list. How does it look? Do your current projects truly support your big goals?

For example, I mentioned already that I dropped my plans to build niche websites. Instead, I’m focusing on guest posting to grow the audience of my blog.

While I’m concentrating on building my audience, I’m not going to be creating products or developing services. Although they have their place, they are not important right now—I want to have the right audience first.

This is exactly what you should do too: if you have even a bit of hesitation about whether a project should be on your task list, then consider freezing that project until a later date.

4. Apply the 80/20 rule

Everyone seems to be talking about the 80/20 rule at the moment. They’re asking what it is and why it’s a great way to increase your productivity.

The main principle behind 80/20 is that focusing on 20% of something brings 80% of your results. A classic example of this is that 20% of your clients bring you 80% of your sales.

So how do you apply 80/20 to blogging? Well, since you’ve now got your big goal in mind and decided which important projects contribute to that goal, it’s easier to see the tasks that will help you complete those important projects.

In my situation, I’m focusing on guest posting, building my email list and interviewing people in my niche. That’s my 20%. I feel super-focused since I can concentrate on a few choice activities and I don’t have to hustle around doing too many things at once.

5. Neglect the fear

Make a bold decision to let go of everything that becomes a burden. Once you have defined your goals, projects and your 20% actions, you are on a road to becoming a happy and successful blogger.

Whatever you do, ask these questions: “Should I be doing this?” or, “Is this action contributing  to my goals?”

Whether it is spending time on Pinterest, buying yet another ebook on Google domination or trying to create a logo for your blog, keep asking yourself these questions. If you answered “no” in your mind, then listen to your inner voice and let go of them.

Finally, dare to be different and stop following the herd. For example, I decided to stop doing  SEO on my blog almost completely. I’m also spending much less time on social media in order to focus on my 20% activities.

Getting over the fear is not easy, since you will feel that you are going against the flow. But doing certain blogging-related activities differently is also very liberating. It also cuts down stress and leaves you with more time to spend on the important things.

6. Outsource the small but important

Outsourcing may sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

First of all, you don’t necessarily have to hire a full-time virtual assistant, but you can still get certain time-consuming tasks done very easily.

I regularly use Fiverr, whether to hire proofreaders, designers, or voice-over artists for my videos. Although I haven’t been happy with the results all of the time, I still think it’s a great resource for getting small tasks done.

Another way to outsource is to ask your family members to help you. For instance, my wife does some of my proofreading work and this has the benefit of not having a fee. You also have the advantage of knowing the person you work with very well. These two methods can help you reduce your workload quite a bit.

Do you limit your blog for success?

Over to you: what limitations do you use to improve your blogging productivity? How are you handling this overwhelmin situation? Do you feel your limitations have brought you blogging success?

Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. If you want to get more productive in your own life, grab 222 of his best Tips for Becoming a Productivity Superstar.

How I Run a Successful Blog Without Writing a Word

This guest post is by Ashkan of iPhoneAppCafe.com.

I started iPhoneAppCafe.com back in 2010 with the aim of making it a profitable blog—a goal that I eventually achieved. However, after my first blogging venture, one thing became clear to me: writing is not actually my greatest strength.

I have always had lots of ideas and I recognize a good article when I see it. But when it comes to actually writing one, it often takes me far too long, and time is something that I can’t really spare because of my day job and other commitments.

So, here was my challenge: how could I approach the blog with a more businesslike attitude and employ the right team to help with the content?

That’s when it occurred to me that I could start a multi-writer blog.

If I focused on what I was good at, which is the design, development, and optimization of the blog (I manage ecommerce projects for a day job), then all I had to do was find writers who would write about what they are passionate about. They wouldn’t have to worry about the other boring jobs that go along with creating a successful site, such as how to setup a blog, publish content and promote it, and so on.

In 2010, the iPhone was still fairly new and everybody was talking about apps, with hundreds of new ones filling up the App Store every month. There wasn’t too much competition from the likes of Android to worry about either! iPhoneAppCafe’s promise was to share each app’s experience and help iPhone users discover great new apps.

How did I get writers for my blog?

This bit was pretty simple: I placed a number of ads on a local classified website and also on the ProBlogger job board. To my delight, what I found was that there are many iPhone enthusiasts who would happily rate and review their favourite apps for next to nothing. I even managed to get a number of people to write for free!

In addition to the standard app reviews, I also came up with ideas for a number of good top-10 lists and delegated the writing to the most suitable contributors.  Some of the lists got shared on social media and did really well in terms of traffic; even today, some of the best ones still get top ranking in Google and generate lots of traffic.

5 keys to a successful multi-writer blog

Hiring authors is the first step, but there are five key elements you’ll need to work on if your multi-author blog is to be a success.

1. A popular subject

Blogging about a topically popular subject will enable you to find passionate writers. In my case iPhone and apps were very popular at the time I launched the blog and still continue to be topical and talked about.

2. An appealing job ad

Create an appealing ad and communicate your vision in a way that involves and includes your contributors. Here are two of the ads I used.

Get Free iPhone Apps By Writing For iPhoneAppCafe

If you love your iPhone and enjoy reviewing apps, then why not apply to join our team of contributors?  You will receive promotional codes for free apps and get the opportunity for your reviews to be featured on one of the foremost iPhone app websites on the Internet!

To apply, simply send us a short (200-300 word) review of any iPhone app, along with a star ranking, the name of the developer, the latest release date, the price and an image caption, (all of which are available from the iTunes store) and a picture or screen shot of the app.  Those who get through will join the iPhoneAppCafe team and will receive free apps, a showcase for their writing and the opportunity to advance to paid article writing!

Get Paid For Writing About Apps You Love

Do you have a certain passion in life?  Can you write enthusiastically about that passion?  Could you use some extra pocket money?  Most importantly, do you have an iPhone?!

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then we want to hear from you!  There are a few openings in the team at iPhoneAppCafe.com for talented writers who can write reviews of apps that are relevant to what they love.  For example, if you are a teacher then you could write about apps that help educate children; if you are a whiz in the kitchen, then you may want to write about cooking apps.

We are looking for contributors from different walks of life, in particular:

  • Sports people
  • Health and fitness enthusiasts
  • Food critics
  • Photographers
  • Entrepreneurs

If you are interested in earning money to write about what you love, then simply send us a short (200-300 word) review of one of your favourite iPhone app, along with a star ranking and a picture or screen shot of the app.  Those who get through will join the iPhoneAppCafe team and will receive free apps to review, a showcase for your writing skills and, best of all, you’ll get paid £10-£15 to write top 5 and top 10 lists!

3. Create author profiles

Allow each contributor to have a profile containing their contact details. This will encourage graduates and those just starting out to write for free for you in the interest of building up their profiles and CVs. We have had writers who wrote for free and used their profile on our blog to get writing jobs in the tech industry.

4. Select a topic that benefits from multiple viewpoints

As an example, I had a musician writing about his favorite music apps, and a keen globetrotter writing about good travel apps. This goes hand in hand with our blog’s community aspect and the sharing of mutual and individual experiences.

5. Share behind-the-scenes info

Keep your writers engaged by sharing website statistics and traffic figures with them. You can also create traffic-related incentives—something that I experimented with, which gave mixed results.

There were certainly times when I felt the traffic-related bonuses motivated the writers to spend more time in sharing and bookmarking the articles.

What’s your story?

These are the basic strategies I’ve used to build a successful blog without writing a word. What’s your story? Do you run a multi-author blog—or write for one? Share your experiences and tips with us.

Ashkan is the founder of iPhoneAppCafe.com, a community blog dedicated to reviewing and sharing the best iPhone apps. He started the blog in 2010 and got it to 5000 visitors a day within 9 months. He shares his experience on Twitter: @AshkanTalk.

Separate Your Blog Needs from Your Blog Wants

This guest post is by Nicola Ibberson of Little House In Town.

We’re always told in life that we should distinguish between those things we “want” and those things we “need.” The general idea of this is that we need to prioritise the things we do and things we buy according to their necessity.

Generally speaking, this is a pretty sound piece of advice—it ensures we don’t end up sitting on a mountain of chocolate when we have no toilet paper, for example. It ensures we have a roof over our heads before we go out and buy a two-seater soft-top. It ensures we don’t head off on our holidays before we’ve turned off all the lights, switched off the fridge, and put the cats in the cattery.

But I think I’ve found a flaw in this sound advice. I think that sometimes you have to put the “wants” up front. Sometimes, doing something because you need to do it, or buying something because you need to buy it, kind of takes the sparkle out of whatever that thing is. It makes the doing or the purchasing of that thing into a chore. And nobody likes chores.

I’m an extra-curricular blogger. I work full-time hours (sometimes more) and have several out-of-work commitments aside from my blog, as do many of you. At some point in time, I set myself a mental target to write two blog posts a week, minimum. It’s an amount that kept my blog looking up-to-date when people stumbled across it, it ensured my readers didn’t think I’d fallen off the face of the planet, and it made me feel that I was not wasting all the efforts I’d put into building up the small web presence I have.

Setting myself that target was, in many ways, a big error. It made every blog post I did into a “need.”

“I need to write a blog post tonight; I haven’t posted anything since last Friday” was a phrase my partner heard with alarming regularity.

Sometimes, I wrote a post and made a promise to my readers that I would be featuring a certain something the week after. Most of the time, when I made that promise, the “certain something” wasn’t even written yet. So then I needed to write it, because I said I would.

Mass panic ensued when, five days later, that post still hadn’t been written. So I would write it one night after work, when I was tired, fed-up, hungry, distracted, and my brain had all but turned to mush. I can’t imagine that writing in this state showcased the best of my abilities.

Sound familiar? Perhaps it’s time to make a change.

Changing the “needs” into “wants”

It’s difficult to try and juggle life with blogging, especially with other commitments taking up our time, such as full-time jobs or children. It can be easy to lose track of the reason we started writing in the first place and we can begin to view updating our blogs as a chore.

This is how I felt. For a while, I wallowed in pity and despair, complaining of lack of time and inspiration. Then I got a grip, and decided to actually do something constructive towards reclaiming my blogging pizzazz.

I mined the internet and other blogs looking for inspiration and advice, and have collated my tried and tested favourites here for you:

  • Write a blog manifesto: Sometimes we need a reminder of what our blog is all about, and why we started it in the first place. It can help to focus us when we deviate from the intended path, and provide inspiration when our brains are flagging. Write a business plan for your blog. Done properly, it will help you recapture all it is that you love about your blog, and fill you with enthusiasm on every read.
  • Give yourself designated blogging time: Most extra-curricular activities take place at designated times. Your pilates class may run from 7-8pm on a Wednesday, for example. You would be frowned upon if you took the kids and dog along with you, and you wouldn’t break away to sort out the washing half way through. Why should your blog be any different? Give your blog some respect, and set aside some designated “blog time.” Even if just for an hour a week, it could be the boost your writing needs.
  • Keep a notebook: If you don’t do this already, this is the one thing you really must try. If, like me, you can’t just leap onto a computer and type away whenever inspiration strikes, then please, please, please carry a notebook. Superglue it to your torso if you have to. And for goodness sake, don’t forget a pen. Whenever you have a light-bulb idea, you can scribble it down, and whenever you find yourself with a spare ten minutes, you can do a bit of blog scheduling. Then, when you’re staring gormlessly at your screen without a scrap of inspiration, you can delve into your notebook and pull out a gem of a post.
  • Stop worrying: Yes, social media is important. Yes, regular content on your blog is important. No, it isn’t so important that you should panic about it. Posting ill-thought-out content on your blog or your social media sites just so there’s something there could be just as damaging as not saying anything at all. So don’t sweat it.
  • Re-evaluate the depth and length of your posts: If you find that you are never able to finish writing a post in the time you have set aside, perhaps you really need to consider altering the length of your posts. I personally have this problem. I waffle. A lot. By capping the length of my posts I feel much more gratified by my writing, as now I can actually write whole posts in one sitting!
  • Lose the day job: An extreme solution? Perhaps, but if your blog is generating interest that you just can’t keep up with, and you can see potential for making revenue if only you had time to set up that affliate marketing scheme/write that sponsored post/put some ad spaces on your homepage, then maybe you should seriously look at whether you can make your blog more than just a hobby. Talk to your boss: they may be able to reduce your hours or offer more flexible working patterns. If you’re unsure of how things will turn out, look into career break options or extended holiday to trial the pro blogger life.

What are your blogging needs—and what are your wants? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Nicola Ibberson is about to give up the day-job, move to the seaside and embark on a freelance career as a writer, proofreader and whatever-else-comes-her-way-er. Her personal blog, Little House In Town, is a place for all things ethical, sustainable, handmade and seaside-y. 

This Post Will Change the Way You Read Blogs. Guaranteed.

This guest post is by Timo Kiander of Productivesuperdad.com.

Let me ask you this: how many RSS subscriptions do you have?

20? 50? 100? 250?

I figured that the number you follow would be quite high. I used to follow almost 90 blogs through RSS.

However, there is one big pain that I experienced: although these blogs were very interesting and I read the blog posts, I was pretty much wasting my time.

Ultimately, I couldn’t find any justification for reading these particular blog posts, because the activity took away from my already limited time for building my blog (I have a day job, a family, and I’m an athlete). Because of this realization, I had to start really making the most of a blog post if I decided to read it.

You see, just reading a blog post is very inefficient. When you read a post, you are pretty much taking that time away from something else of value—like writing a guest post or engaging with your email subscribers.

What also tends to happen is that you keep doing this inefficient activity day in, day out: you spot an interesting blog post title through RSS, you read it, you leave a comment or share it, you pick another post on your RSS feed, and you follow the same pattern again.

Wouldn’t you be better off if those posts actually did something good for you, like improve your business or yourself, on a very concrete level?

Admit it: you are sleeping!

Now, I don’t know you personally, but if you follow the pattern I just described, then you are not awake—at least when it comes to reading blog posts. This happened to me too, before I decided to change my habits.

You see, you have become addicted to interesting content—and there’s nothing wrong with that when you first start.

However, this “sleeping” leads to bigger problems, like wasting time, overwhelming yourself unnecessarily, or procrastinating on important tasks.

When you subscribe to dozens or even hundreds or RSS feeds and start numbly consuming the content, you soon start to wonder where your time went, why you didn’t manage to work on that important project, or why the blog post you are reading seems to be more interesting than actually writing that killer blog post of your own.

Yet another bad habit to break

Most of us are doing the blog post reading ritual on auto-pilot; we just keep reading and consuming information out of habit. But do you see the piece that’s missing from this picture?

Action!

How many times did you just read something, think to yourself: “That was nice” and then move on to the next post? I don’t know about you, but this happened to me countless times. Eventually I became aware that this way of consuming information was just plain silly.

Now, not all blog posts request you to take action, nor do they inspire you to act. However, there are lots of posts which demand your execution.

The question is: are you willing to take action?

Move from passive observer to action-taker

Before putting you on the information diet, let’s clean your RSS reader first.

Unsubscribe from RSS feeds ruthlessly. You don’t read that many blogs after all, so don’t clutter your RSS reader with subscriptions that do not add any value to you.

Also, the next time you read a post, start taking notes; jot down some interesting ideas that the post sparked in you. In addition, take a note of all the action points that a post includes (or the additional ones you came up with as you were reading).

From now on, take action on posts; don’t just read them! You can also take action by creating a case study out of what the post is teaching you.

Passive reading is still okay, but only if you do it less than active reading.

Stop just reading those posts!

  1. Take a very critical look at your subscribed RSS feeds: Do you honestly think that you need to follow hundreds of blogs? Apply the80/20 rule: Out of those 100 subscriptions, leave only 20 that you currently check on a regular basis. If you have more than 100 blogs in your RSS reader, increase the ratio even more—to 75/15, 90/10, or to 95/5 if needed.
  2. Read the post and take some notes: Jot down interesting ideas that you get from the post (for example, topics for your own blog posts).
  3. Implement what has been taught: Now, there is one thing to be aware of: if you are reading a list post which says “101 ways to raise a chicken”, don’t be overwhelmed—there is no need to take action on those 101 items at once. You can try one or two methods at first and then decide if the rest of the tips are worth following. The most important thing is that you take action and implement the lessons—no matter if it is only on one or two items on that 101 item list.
  4. To get even more value from a post, create a case study out of it: This is actually part of the previous step (#3), but I wanted to list it separately. This is something that I originally learned from internet marketer Terry Dean. For instance, if a blogger is saying that using a particular method you can achieve certain results, actually prove it by creating a case study. Create a report on how that method actually helped you to achieve something. Even better, you can offer this case study as a guest post for the blogger on his or her blog.
  5. Change your passive/active ratio: Create a habit of taking action on most posts you read and spend less time on reading passively. For example, you could decide that for 70% of the posts you read on a weekly basis, you will take action on what’s being taught. The idea is to keep the amount of active days higher than the passive days. This ensures that you truly develop your skills and gain more experiences on the topic you have chosen.

Change the way you read

So there you have it—an actionable way to consume blog posts. It is very easy to fall into the passive mode and just consume posts without taking any action on them. Once you actually start to implement what has been taught, you will learn new ways of getting things done, and sometimes your business—or your life—could improve dramatically!

Over to you: do you take action on the posts you read? What type of action do you take? Please share your ideas and experiences on the comments.

Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. If you want to get more productive in your own life, grab 222 of his best Tips for Becoming a Productivity Superstar.

The Only Blog Post Idea List You’ll Ever Need

This guest post is by Stephen Pepper of Youth Workin’ It.

There are so many articles out there on how you can come up with new blog post ideas, but do any of the suggestions actually work?

We started our youth work blog in September 2011 and have posted six days a week ever since, so we’ve had to come up with over 200 posts related to youth work so far. Needless to say, it’s been tricky coming up with this many ideas.

I’ve read all kinds of different suggestions on how to overcome blogger’s block, but each person’s experience is different. Here are 20 techniques we’ve used to help counter blogger’s block.

  1. Embarrassing stories: Think back to moments of your life when you were really embarrassed. Use that situation to craft a post relating to your niche—there’s a good chance it’ll entertain readers (as did our post on how being asked to rate the first time with your wife out of 10 on a BBC gameshow watched by millions can relate to youth work).
  2. Choose subjects for each day of the week: This has probably been my single most helpful way of deciding what to write. Each day from Monday to Saturday has its own category—Mondays are for posts on youth work activities, Tuesdays are youth work Q&A, Wednesdays are program administration, and so on. This means our focus can be more defined each day, rather than having to come up with a random topic every time we write. You can do this even if you only blog once a week—the first week of the month could always be based on one subject, the second week on another, and so on.
  3. Use special days as inspiration: Use special days and public holidays as post idea prompts. For example, we have a Spotlight on Youth series where we focus on a certain young person based on certain public holidays. For example, we wrote about the former child soldier Ishmael Beah on Veteran’s Day. On National Pirate Day, write your post in Pirate language. National Pancake Day? Work your post around that.
  4. Cell posts: Can you divide your posts into two, like a cell divides? You might start writing a post and realize that you’re starting to talk about two different things. For example, we recently started wrote a series about parents’ involvement in your youth work. When working on a post about unsupportive parents, we realized there were actually two types of unsupportive parents—one who’s unsupportive of their child, and one who’s unsupportive of the work you’re doing with their child. These are completely different issues, so we were able to get two days’ worth of posts out of one original idea.
  5. Change of scenery: Changing your location can have a big impact on your creativity. We’d started getting stale with our idea creation recently, so we went and sat on Virginia Beach for an hour to come up with future topics. After an hour, we had over 100 new blog posts ideas.
  6. Write for sub-niches: Youth work has a number of specialized areas—urban, rural, faith-based, LGBT, gangs, foster care, mental health, sexual health, young offenders, etc. There’s a good chance that whatever niche you’re in has many similar sub-niches. Make a list and use it to inspire further ideas.
  7. Use Google Analytics: Take a look at the keyword searches that are bringing people to your site, as this will give you a great idea of what information people are looking for. You may think that the fact that they’ve arrived at your site means you’ve already written about what they’re searching for, but that’s not always the case. We did a series on preparing young people for job interviews (including what they should wear), but we’ve had many people arrive at that post having searched for what youth workers should wear to job interviews. It’s a completely different topic, but we can now create a number of posts about youth worker interviews.
  8. Likes: What do you love in your niche? Why are you blogging about it? What was your favorite moment relating to your niche? These questions can all be turned into posts for your blog.
  9. Dislikes: Similarly, what do you hate about your niche? What practices wind you up? Let these frustrations become passionate posts.
  10. Consider opposites: By looking at an issue from opposite directions, you can get two new blog post ideas. For example, we recently gave advice on how to come up with good youth group names, but also wrote a subsequent post on how to avoid a lame youth group name.
  11. Be inspired by social media: On Twitter, are there any hashtags specific to your niche? Keep an eye on these as they’ll give you a good idea of questions people may want answered. On Facebook, are people leaving comments on your page that you could address in a blog post?
  12. Solicit guest posts: Try to build up a bank of guest post submissions from other bloggers. These can then be used when you’re feeling dry of ideas.
  13. Search research: Use Google’s keyword tool to discover what people are looking for, as opposed to what you think they’re looking for. This is also where your sub-niches can also come into play. For us, instead of searching for “youth work,” researching a sub-niche like “youth retreat” uncovered a number of keyword searches like “youth retreat themes,” “youth retreat ideas,” “youth retreat games,” etc.
  14. Compilations of your own posts: Introduce your readers to some of your most popular posts by making a compilation list. If you’ve covered a number of sub-niches, you could even have a series of compilations based on each of those sub-niches.
  15. Compilations of other bloggers’ posts: If you want to become an authority in your niche, you’ll need to read other blogs relating to the same niche. Show them some love by creating a compilation of the best posts you’ve read recently and linking to them.
  16. Take training … and share it: Have you had specific training relating to your niche? My wife (the better half of Youth Workin’ It) has an MA in youth work and community development. She’s therefore able to share her learning from her Master’s to youth workers who don’t have that qualification.
  17. Consider current affairs: Are there any popular news stories not directly related to your niche that you could write about by giving your niche’s take? For example, after watching the Stop Kony video, we provided a youth work session plan idea based on the Stop Kony campaign, as well as an opinion piece on whether youth groups should support the campaign.
  18. Use other people’s ideas: Don’t plagiarize other people’s blog posts. Yet there’s nothing wrong with taking their idea and improving on it, or offering a different opinion.
  19. Explain jargon: Are there phrases in your niche that wouldn’t make sense to an outsider—or even an insider? Write a series of posts explaining words or phrases that would be jargon for most of the population.
  20. Run competitions: Are you selling ebooks or any other resources? Hold a competition where readers get the opportunity to win a copy of one of your books. This is not only an easy post idea, but also provides another opportunity to promote your resources.

There are 20 items in this list. What tips can you add to build on these? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Stephen Pepper is insurance administrator by day, youth worker & blogger by night. He and his wife run Youth Workin’ It, which includes a youth work blog and have started producing their own youth work resources to help youth workers worldwide.

3 Quick Tips to Get Your Next Post Out On Time

This guest post is by Tor Constantino of Thedailyretort.com.

The old cliché, “time is money” is particularly true for any professional writer—especially when you’re on deadline. The consequences of missing deadlines are lost money, work, and credibility.

As a former journalist (a.k.a hourly deadline writer) for more than a decade, I know that deadline writing is a skill that can be enhanced. Here are three unconventional tips I learned from the newsroom, which might just help you meet your next post deadline.

1. Treat every writing assignment as a project

Most of my journalism career was as a radio news anchor and TV reporter in Rochester, NY—the home city of five different Fortune 500 companies.

Most of the news in that market had a business focus, and I enrolled in business courses to help sharpen those skills. The course that most improved my ability to write to deadline was not a writing course at all—it was a Project Management class.

Every writing assignment should be viewed as a project with actionable tasks, milestones, resource needs, time management requirements, and a final deadline.

While each writing project plan will vary based on its specific needs, they all have some common steps to help organize your writing.

Steps such as developing timelines, identifying content experts, listing story dependencies, and task prioritization dramatically helped me become a more disciplined and deadline-driven writer.

2. Create an interview log

Eventually, every writer talks to another person or expert to gain information regarding a writing project. A digital recorder is a very useful time-saving tool in this regard.

The time-saving trick occurs when you jot down the time code, listed on the device’s display, each time your expert gives a great answer. That written interview log will save tons of time as you select quotes for the writing project.

Another tip is that, since every state has different wiretapping and recording laws, it’s useful to have your expert acknowledge the fact they’re being recorded on the actual recording itself before you start asking questions.

Also, when you’re up against a deadline, it’s useful to capture your own thoughts on the recorder since the average person can talk nearly three times as fast as they can type. Dictation while driving or standing in line helps transform “dead time” into “deadline-driven” time. You can then transcribe your recorded thoughts later, and create that post much more quickly.

3. Enhance your ability to focus

Your ability to focus is the single most important aspect of writing to deadline.

Every newsroom I’ve every worked in has a large bank of Bearcat-type scanners monitoring hundreds of specialized frequencies for police, fire, ambulance and rescue activity to track breaking-news emergencies. On top of that is the auditory barrage from the block of elevated TV screens to keep an eye on competing news outlets. Plus, there’s the obligatory newsroom noise from 20-30 reporters, editors and producers clattering on keyboards or chattering on phones working toward their respective deadlines.

The ability to focus and write meaningful content in that cacophony was a necessary skill for deadline writing that extends beyond the newsroom.

Even if you never set foot in a newsroom, you can practice your ability to focus.

Start by turning up the volume on your television to a distracting decibel, as well as a nearby radio, while someone is simultaneously vacuuming the living room. Do it, really.

Then give yourself 30 minutes or so—in the midst of that noise—to write a blog post that you fully intend to use, or some other writing project you’re working on.

If you do this focus-challenging exercise once a week your ability to focus, think, and write under extreme circumstances will improve—as will your ability to write to deadline.

Bottom-line: deadline

These deadline-driven tactics can result in real time-saving benefits for virtually any writing project or writing ability.

If you practice them, they could be the difference between making or missing your next deadline‚ and when it comes to blogging deadlines, the time and money you save is most often your own.

Tor Constantino is a former journalist, bestselling author and current PR guy from Washington, DC with 23+ years experience as a professional writer. He writes regularly at his blog, http://www.thedailyretort.com. You can connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook