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One Essential Characteristic of a Pro Blogger [Not Your Everyday Blog Writing Advice]

Each week, my Content manager Georgina turns away around 20 or so posts for publication at ProBlogger. She tells me that maybe 5-10% of those are of a publishable standard, but they just don’t fit our audience or purpose. The rest aren’t pro-level pieces.

Learning

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Valsilvae

Forget for a moment that these are guest posts—which are supposed to be bloggers’ best content.

Instead, I want to think about what that means for the average blogger, toiling away on their blog day in, day out, trying to reach and captivate their audience.

What is “pro blogging”?

Pro blogging isn’t just about making money through a blog. You don’t need to write a word to do that. But I think most of us would expect pro bloggers to be able to write reasonably well.

Why?

Because Pro bloggers need to be consummate communicators. Whether they hire others to write for their blogs, or use video, audio, or images rather than text, clear expression is a hallmark of any pro blogger.

Clarity doesn’t just mean error-free writing. It means:

  • content that touches readers, showing you empathize with them
  • relevant, helpful content
  • consistent information, in terms of frequency, tone, etc.
  • content that delivers what it promises, and has integrity.

A blogger might use writing for a range of purposes, too:

  • to attract readers, and keep them coming back
  • to promote their blog or sell something
  • to approach potential collaboraters
  • to build relationships and networks
  • to make money directly (e.g. through an information product).

There’s plenty of great quality advice about writing and content marketing online. Writing tips abound.

This week, we want to present a few different takes on writing for your blog. Over the next four days we’ll publish some posts that focus on some nitty-gritty aspects of writing—ideas that go a bit deeper than usual.

Writing to make money

Our first post will look at writing product reviews that deliver real value. Among other things, the post explores the challenges bloggers face in exposing the negative aspects of a product they’re reviewing and may want to encourage readers to buy (if they’re an affiliate for it).

Handling that tension is exactly the kind of thing that pro bloggers work to master. This post will show how showing the full picture supports authority, and can actually encourage more sales than a purely glowing review.

Writing to improve

One great thing about blogging is that everything we do is practice—each post we publish should be an improvement on the last one.

Looking to leaders for advice on writing is an excellent way to develop your skills. Our second post will reveal the thoughts of some of the world’s greatest writers, and provide starting points to help you apply that advice in your own posts.

Writing to build your profile

When bloggers think about content marketing, we often ponder the question of content reuse. If you do it right, it can be an efficient way to get the most out of the time you spend writing—it can boost your visibility, your publishing schedule, and your available time.

Our third post this week explains how freelance writers can best reuse their freelance content on their own blogs. This isn’t a straightforward topic, and this post highlights the potential advantages and pitfalls so that if you’re a freelancer, you know where to start looking into content reuse.

Writing to experiment

For many bloggers, after high-school or college essays, and workplace emails, blogging is the first focused writing they’ve done.

We’ve all heard the advice that if you want to be a great writer, you need to be a big reader. But the final post in our series shows that to be a better blog writer, you need to be a better writer, period. It prompts us to look beyond blog posts for opportunities to write, and topics to write on. It shows that through experimentation, we can learn skills out of context that we can bring back and apply to our blogs.

Are you up to the challenge?

The advice we’ll cover this week goes beyond the everyday. It assumes you’re already serious about being good writer, and are facing the challenges of becoming a great writer. There’s no hype in these posts, and no write-your-way-to-a-million-dollar-income-in-five-minutes advice. They’re posts that aim to provide a different perspective on post writing.

Where are you at as a writer? Are you ready to challenge yourself to become better? Or do you think you’ve reached your limits, either in terms of potential, or interest in writing? Share your perspective with us in the comments.

Work With Private Advertisers to Keep them Coming Back

This guest post is by John Burnside of moneyin15minutes.co.uk.

If you have a blog or website then I’m sure that you will have looked at various ways to earn a bit of money for all your blood, sweat and tears. There are so many ways to do it.

You’ve got pay per click, affiliate programs, or advertising to emailing lists, plus dozens of other methods. But if you take a look at some developed blogs within your niche, you are likely to see an Advertise With Us page in their top menus.

This is where private advertisers will come to find out prices—and where you can start earning a more stable living online.

Let’s look at a few key things you can do to target these advertisers, and start building relationships with them.

Set up your Advertise With Us page

If you don’t have one of these on your blog, you need to build one. If no one knows you’re selling advertising space, you’re not going to get any customers.

This page should include pictures of where the adverts will be placed, explain what type of ads you’re selling (e.g. text links, banner ads etc.), and provide a contact box so that would-be advertisers can contact you straight away.

I believe that you should also include the pricing for each advert slot on this page because this can smooth the communication that follows. But if you have confidence in your blog, you could simply say, “Please contact me for details on pricing.”

If you’re happy with your site’s traffic, include those details on the page too. If an advertiser knows how many views they are going to get for the price, that will give them more confidence in purchasing.

Another tip: label the ad spaces that have already been taken up by other businesses. This will show potential advertisers that your site is in demand.

Excellent Advertise With Us pages

What does a great Advertise With Us page look like? Here are a few choice examples: clear and concise pages that will attract a lot of business.

  • Mashable: If you take a look at this page you can see where your advert is going to be placed, what sizes of banner ads are on offer, and how many visitors the site attracts. The only thing not listed is the price of the adverts. For such a large site, that information is unnecessary at this point, since all advertisers know they’d reach a massive audience by advertising with this site.
  • John Chow: The first thing that’s mentioned on this advertising page is the amount of visitors the site gets. Straight away, this gives a potential customer an idea of how much value they can expect to get for their ad placement. Then, the page clearly explains how your advert will be shown—on which articles, and so on. This is a great idea to increase revenue when you are getting a lot of business on your site. It adds advertising spots when your site has physically run out of space.
  • Shoemoney: This is much the same as the other pages, including nice guides on traffic and where your ad will be placed. But this page has a nice twist: it lists all of the popular publications that the author and the blog have been mentioned on. This shows a lot of credibility and proves that the blog is popular.

Price your ad space competitively

It can seem like the biggest decision you are going to make, to decide on your pricing. But don’t spend to long wondering where the threshold is between what advertisers will pay and what is too much.

The best way to decide is to see what other people in your niche are charging and then judge your offering against theirs.

I would recommend going to at least five blogs within your niche, and checking out their ad pricing. Then use tools like Alexa.com and the social proof (amount of comments, Facebook likes, retweets, etc.) those sites are getting to judge how much traffic they are receiving.

Then you can compare those results against yours and make a decision about how much you should be charging for your ad space.

Be prepared to negotiate on price

When advertisers contact you, they usually are happy to pay the price that you have stated on your advertising page. If you haven’t stated a price, or the customer is after a bargain, then they might try and negotiate with you.

Keep in mind from the start the price that you would like to get, and your minimum price.

If you have these figures in mind, you won’t fall into the trap of going lower than you should, and devaluing your advertising space. If this happens, the next time you deal with this person they are going to expect to get the space for the discounted price again.

As you’re negotiating, keep in mind how much work this person is either likely to send you, or has sent you in the past. This is particularly important for deals where the advertiser have already tested out your website, and want to come back to you with a longer term deal.

For example, if they have tested you previously with one or two tweets and paid the full price, and now they want a series of 15-20 tweets, you may decide this is a legitimate reason for them to expect a discount.

Attracting advertisers yourself

Sometimes you think you’ve done everything right. You’ve got plenty of traffic, set up an advertising page … and yet you’re just not getting contacted by anyone.

Well, there are things you can do to attract those elusive advertisers to your blog.

The first one is a passive way to get more advertising customers, but it can be very effective in the long term: do a bit of search engine optimization on your advertising page. If you target the proper keywords, you could get organic traffic from Google specifically comprising advertisers. Perhaps go for the keyword “advertising on a (your niche) blog.” It’s a long-tail keyword, so there probably won’t be too much competition for it, but any traffic you get from it should be advertising gold.

A more immediate approach is to directly email the types of people that you feel would be interested in buying advertising on your blog. First of all, you want to contact any advertisers that have used your blog before. They represent your best chance of immediate business: you know they’re interested in your service, and hopefully they were satisfied with it. You never know—they may be looking for a site to advertise on, but have simply forgotten about you.

If you are just getting to the stage where you think your site is ready for private advertisers, you could consider doing a bit of cold emailing to people who might be interested. Not sure who’d be interested in your ad space? Let me use my blog as an example to explain.

I am in the make money online niche, and to attract new advertisers, I would contact people who have sales pages offering make money systems for sale. Look for pages that are selling products, but products that you think your readers would be interested in.

Once you have found a few sites, and the email addresses of their webmasters, it’s time to send them some tempting emails. Remember while you’re writing the email that you are selling yourself and your site. Sometimes it’s hard to do this—it seems like you’re boasting—but keep in mind that you have a really good blog that can offer quality, targeted traffic for their product. Once you get going talking about how great your blog could be for them, you won’t be able to stop!

The final way of attracting advertisers if you don’t have the time to search out products and send out emails, is to go to a site specifically designed to sell private advertising space, like Buysellads. This website advertises to a wide audience. All you have to do is place your traffic, your advertising options, your site, and your prices into your listing.

They will take a commission on your advertising space, however, so be aware of that. Once you have attracted an advertiser from this site I would heavily recommend contacting them personally so that you can cut out the middleman, and make sure you get all of the money for your advertising space.

Offer a good service

Always keep in mind throughout the whole correspondence what it is you are doing: offering a service. So, to keep your customer satisfied, you must be quick to respond and polite at all times.

I usually start off my first response to a potential advertiser with a sentence like, “Thank you for your interest in my blog.” This shows that you are humble about your accomplishments, and appreciate the advertiser. Someone who feels appreciated will feel much more comfortable contacting you again.

If they ask a question, answer it as clearly and fully as you can, and avoid being sarcastic or patronizing. This is an instant turn-off for anyone, let alone someone who you’re hoping to convince to part with their hard-earned cash.

When they have asked about advertising, send them a list of all of the services you offer on your site, along with the prices so that if they would like to take you up on one of them, they already know what you offer. If you don’t, you’ll create the impression that you aren’t sure what to charge, or that you’re trying to hide something.

Finally, if you do get work from someone, be sure that you can complete it on time and to the standard that they expect. If you under-deliver on any of your projects for them, they will never come back to you.

Make a business partner for the long term

The final goal of any blogger who offers private advertising should be to get advertisers coming back month after month to use your advertising space. The main issue in achieving this will be how much traffic you have sent to their site, but there are some other things you can do to help keep them coming back.

If they have used your site once, email them just before their time is up and ask them if they would like to renew their contract with you. You never know when you might make a recurring customer.

You might also consider offering them a discount if they sign up for a longer term contract. Everyone likes to find a bargain, and if they know you already, and feel confident that you can deliver a good service, they could well be tempted.

The most important thing to remember is that you want to build a relationship with these people. They are the ones who are going to pay for your blogging exploits, and they may well know others who are interested in advertising on your site. If you make a friend in advertising it could open up a world of possibilities for your blog that you don’t want to miss out on.

Do you allow private advertisers on your blog? Share your tips with us in the comments.

This guest post was written by John Burnside a blogger in the make money online niche. If you want to read about earning an income online then please follow his feed.

How to Name Your Next Blog Product

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

Here are some sample products, most of them ebooks, that I recently saw available for sale and/or free download on some popular blogs:

  • “Ten Steps To A Better Golf Game”
  • “Creating Your Personal Life Plan”
  • “How To Make Money Online”
  • “23 Gluten-Free Recipes For You And Your Family”

Alright, I lied. I made up some of the titles, but I defy you to tell me which.

What do each of these titles have in common? Not much. Just dreariness of the first order, that’s all.

I’m repeatedly amazed at how so many bloggers can have scintillating information to share with their readers, and then, when it comes time to ask those readers to commit additional time and or money, opt for the uninspiring.

The act of buying your blog product involves minimal expenditure of your readers-cum-customers’ energy—just a few clicks are required. It takes almost no effort for them to buy. But it takes even less energy for them to ignore what you’re selling and move onto the next, flashier thing. So be that flashier thing.

Your product might have amazing and helpful content, but I’ll never know that if I can’t make it past a dull title that doesn’t compel me to buy.

Swap generic for specific

Take the first example above. If you’re a golfer, there isn’t a magazine, instructor, nor smug low-handicap playing partner on the planet who hasn’t offered to improve your game via one method or another. Of course your readers want to improve their game. That’s what golfers do! In fact, it’s all they do. Even Rory McIlroy would like to find a way to shave off a fraction of a stroke.

So here’s a blogger with a legitimate offer, presumably, yet he gave it as generic and unexciting a name as possible.

To create a worthwhile title, one that gets readers’ attention and compels them to act, you have to tailor it. Quantify. Be specific, not general. Swagger a little bit. Regarding our example, here are some ideas:

“Never 3-Putt Again”

The bane of the weekend player. Nothing’s more frustrating than sweetly swinging one’s way onto the green in regulation, only to end up bogeying. A title like this resonates with its audience, who can immediately empathize. Granted, it doesn’t say a word about wood and iron play, but being specific (obviously) requires you to omit certain stuff.

Or if that title doesn’t strike your fancy, how about:

“Don’t Toss Your Bag In The Ocean Just Yet”

Again, every golfing reader has been there and done (or certainly contemplated) that. “I was this close to selling my clubs on Craigslist and taking up pottery instead. But you’re saying I might not have to?”

Speak to your readers

This goes back to knowing your audience: what they want, what they’re visiting your blog for, why it matters to them. Gently persuading your blog’s visitors to maybe, if they’re not doing anything else, perhaps give serious consideration to possibly buying your products doesn’t work. It can’t. The volume of similar messages is just too overwhelming.

Like it or not, blog products are impulse items. Someone with an itch and a few shekels to spare sees what you’re selling and decides to buy. This isn’t as involved as shopping for a car or a house is.

My blog’s topic, personal finance, is more universal than golf. All of us, from the destitute university student to Gina Rinehart, would prefer more money to less. But if I wrote an ebook titled “Your Money-Making Action Plan”, my site’s online store would be covered with cobwebs.

Instead, I tried to err on the side of snappiness and provocation when naming the products I sell on my blog. They include:

Not to ruin the surprise endings for you—not that there are any, anyway—but “Your Boss Is Smart. You’re The Idiot” is about how to start your own business and, by extension, stop having your employer be the primary beneficiary of your toil.

Meanwhile, “The Unglamorous Secret to Riches” is about how to find underpriced stocks with the potential to appreciate. Which is done by the decidedly prosaic means of perusing financial statements: looking at balance sheets and their ilk with a critical and discerning eye. The activity itself is somewhat mundane, but on a per-hour basis it can pay handsome rewards.

Titles that touch a nerve

With the first title, I again empathize with readers, and touch a particularly sensitive nerve. Most of us have, or have had, bosses whose judgment we’ve questioned. We think, “I could do that easily. Why aren’t I in the corner office?” Well, here’s why. And maybe you don’t want to be in the corner office anyway. It just means that there’ll be one fewer level of management on top of you.

But if you start your own business—taking the necessary precautions beforehand, having the requisite capital available, and knowing which forms to fill out—you can enjoy the self-determination that you’re missing out on in your current and unfulfilling employee/employer relationship.

Titles that buck the trend

With the second title, I turn the idea of a “get rich quick” scheme on its head. Most of my personal finance blogging contemporaries also write for-profit products that ostensibly teach readers how to build wealth. But those bloggers seldom do more than tell those readers to clip coupons, hold yard sales, downsize their living quarters, etc.

Few bloggers in my realm tell their readers, “Here’s what to do with your savings. Forget about building an emergency fund. Instead, buy stocks. But not just any stocks, and not just well-publicized ones. And here’s the truth—there’s nothing exciting about the groundwork involved in doing this. It involves dry columns of numbers that you’ll have to decode the meaning of. But as boring as that sounds, if you want to make additional money, it beats the heck out of taking additional shifts at work. The excitement comes in the future, when the investments you bought (and that everyone else ignored) finally start to increase in value.”

Create a difference that sticks

With tens of thousands of blogs in existence, the tendency is toward homogeneity. Right now, without exaggeration, I could find you a thousand “mommy” blogs that all say essentially the same thing: here are some foods you should never feed your kids, here are some Halloween costume ideas, here are some unsubstantiated threats to children’s safety that I’d nevertheless like to blow out of proportion and share with you.

It’s hard enough to find a unique, singular voice in a crowded marketplace as it is. But by giving your products names that stick in your readers’ minds, you’re giving yourself a crucial point of differentiation.

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].

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

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

You’re so excited!

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

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

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

Stop!

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

Here’s why.

Charging by the hour is unfair to your client

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

Wrong.

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

Do you see the conflict of interest here?

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

Charging by the hour is unfair to you

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

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

“Faster,” he said (really fast).

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

“Yes,” he said (really slow).

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

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

Charging by the hour is unfair to your business

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

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

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

So you do.

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

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

There is a better way!

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

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

1. Build a trusting relationship with the economic buyer

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

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

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

2. Identify objectives and outcomes

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

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

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

3. Agree on value

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

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

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

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

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

4. Present multiple options

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

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

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

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

It starts with a different mindset

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

Ask yourself these questions:

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

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

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

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

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

Build Your Brand to Get Paid Speaking Gigs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Ensure your blog showcases your expertise

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

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

3. Identify your speaking topics

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

Bad: I can talk about issues surrounding raising children.

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

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

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

4. Move from freemium to premium

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

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

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

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

5. Find a speakers’ agency and presentation coach

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

Register with a speakers’ agency

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

Invest in a presentations coach

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

Start talking!

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

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

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

Build Your Brand to Get a Book Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Determine what your book is about

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Test possible topics

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

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

4. Connect with the right people

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

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

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

  • authors
  • agents
  • publishers
  • editors

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

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

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

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

5. Write a book proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Small Blogs Became 6-figure Income Generators (and How You Can Do the Same)

This guest post is by Patricia Rodriguez of Adsgadget.

From its early beginnings in 1993 to its inevitable rise in the last few years, blogging has become part of our daily lives. Almost everyone has a favorite blog, a blog that they read first thing in the morning while taking the coffee, or a blog they wonder off to after reading the front page of the New York Times.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the names Mashable, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, LifeHacker, and the like. These are just a few of today’s biggest blogs.

Most people have probably heard, or at least can guess that most of the big names in blogging started in 10×10 dorm rooms, small bedrooms, or a corner in the attic at the family home.

What exactly did these bloggers do to turn a hobby into six-figure income generators and, ultimately, the most visited blogs in the world? Here’s a little insight on some of the biggest blogs on the internet today—and how they got there.

Catching the wave: choosing the right topic at the right time

In 2004, when he was only 19 years old, Pete Cashmore started blogging from his parents’ home in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Pete had an interest in new technologies and how social media was increasingly changing the way people related to one another. he was particularly amazed by how certain government and police websites were combining their in-house data with Google maps to learn information on certain areas and citizens.

Nice little story, right? Pete Cashmore never went to college; instead, he founded Mashable in 2005.

How did he do it? He decided to explore a subject that was changing the world in a time when it was at its peak. Social media exploded in the early 2000s and Pete was there to ride the wave. Not only was he a great writer, he was passionate about what he wrote.

How can you do it? When you start a blog, you do it because you love what you do, because it’s a hobby you like to spend your time on. Don’t lose sight of this just because you’re looking to make a buck. Be passionate through every word you write on your blog. Write about what you like and what you know. And remember that today’s news is what will happen tomorrow.

Pete Cashmore tapped social media networking at a time when it was making its world debut. See what your era has to offer—there are new discoveries and trends springing up every day. It’s all a matter of being here now, being passionate, and writing about it.

The ad factor: Once Pete managed to create a huge community of loyal readers, he went for the big profit makers: advertisements. He subtly included Google AdSense’s banner ads throughout Mashable and reaped his revenues automatically every month.

Now, since creating a site like Mashable is not a simple thing to do, my advice to newbies and beginner bloggers would be to start small. Find self-serve ad platforms that cater to long-tail publishers’ needs. Adsgadget, AOL ads, or Twitter’s new ad platform would be good places to start.

Be cool: the blogger’s guide to creativity

Interactive designer Josh Rubin was always looking for creative inspiration and a better understanding of how people functioned. Ever heard of CoolHunting? It’s one of the biggest blogs on new designer trends, technology, art and culture. It was founded by Rubin.

Originally launched in 2003 as a designer’s reference site, CoolHunting has become an award-winning blog with a huge international audience that’s growing every day.

How did he do it?  He combined creativity, beauty, and a great idea.

For those bloggers who think content is everything, think again. Yes, interesting and fresh content is super-important, but knowing how to present it is just as important.

When visiting CoolHunting, users are greeted by a colorful, visually attractive and engaging home page, full of great photography and designer breakthroughs.

How can you do it? Be visual. No matter what the topic, don’t neglect your blog’s design and aesthetic factor. Yes, write about what you know. Yes, write about a subject that fascinates you. But present it in a way that can’t be ignored, a way that won’t make visitors move their mouse to the upper right corner of their browsers and press on that “x” to close your page.

Let’s say you decide to open a blog on recipes that you have picked up on your worldly travels. Take professional photos and post them on your homepage. Make people go “Wait… What is that? Is that food?!” Include pictures, and step by step instructions with interactive ingredients lists.

Think of new blog visitors as being like yourself the first time you went to your favorite restaurant. Regardless of how you got there, I’m sure the first thing you noticed wasn’t the ingredients written on the menu, but the way the plate looked when they put it on your table.

The ad factor: Josh Rubin got to the point where his site was bursting with organic traffic, so he decided to implement advertising and make the most of his success. When you scroll down Josh’s page you can see fashionable ads from AdRoll or AdMedia servers. These ads are targeted to his specific audience, so you can just imagine how many clicks each one gets.

Have a voice, be aggressive and be ready for criticism

Once upon a time there was a woman called Arianna Huffington. She decided to start a small website called Resignation.com. The website was a call for President Bill Clinton’s resignation and a place for conservatives to mesh together.

Needless to say, you need to be a very opinionated person and have quite a strong voice in order to even think of starting such a website. I’m sure she received her fair share of criticism but carried on nonetheless.

Ever heard of The Huffington Post? It was founded in 2005 by the same person.

How did she do it? By having a voice and not being afraid to shout it.

This is a blog with a very particular tone and a voice of its own. Though sometimes seen as being a bit too aggressive, The Huffington Post presents news in a different light. And people love it.

How can you do it? People like to hear opinionated minds, and they like well-written news with a handful of criticism on the side. They like sassy writing and bold ideas.

Find your blogger voice and shout it out. Don’t be afraid to get criticized. Learn to take in the bad, and spin it your way.

The ad factor: You guessed it—Arianna also opted for ad platforms when she started getting big on the internet. Nowadays she works with Google’s AdSense and DoubleClick platforms.

Advertising: a fast way to turn your hobby blog into a profession

Without a doubt, what pointed these internet enthusiasts in the right direction was their passion for what they were writing. Once they found their voice and attracted a good amount of loyal readers and steady site traffic, they turned to advertising.

Blogging isn’t easy, even when it’s done as a hobby. Turning that hobby into a full-time profession is even harder. It takes time, effort, patience, and most importantly, it takes passion. None of these bloggers started earning overnight. It took them a while before they found their voice and decided to go big and take risks.

All you need is to remember who you are, what you love, and go public with it. You’ll figure out the rest along the way.

Patricia is the PR manager at Adsgadget, a new self-serve ad platform for publishers worldwide. She has years of experience in the online marketing industry and has worked as a content writer for several media outlets.

Build your Brand to Write for Magazines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hang out your shingle

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

If not, how are people going to know?

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

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

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

Define your expertise and showcase your writing

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

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

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

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

Create specific ideas for specific markets

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

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

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

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

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

In other words:

1. Know the market

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

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

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

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

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

Your brand, your writing

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

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

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

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

The SnapnDeals Story

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

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

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

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

The big idea

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

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

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

The challenges we had around the idea were pretty common.

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

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

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

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

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

…that was, until we had a name

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

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

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

Domains were registered and excitement built

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reaching out for deals

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

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

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

Launching the site

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

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

The results to date

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

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

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

The lessons learnt

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

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

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

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