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How I Got Two Job Offers and a $200-an-Hour Consulting Gig from Blogging

This guest post was written by Joe Bunting of The Write Practice.

So you started blogging to make some money. Adsense, advertising, and affiliate sales looked like a pretty good way to make a living. You thought you could make money while you slept at night.

Sounded good at the time, right?

But where’s the money?

You set up your Adsense account but you’ve only got pennies trickling in. No one wants to buy your banner ads. And the only affiliate sales you’ve landed are a few Amazon books that earned you $1.13. You’ve slaved on your blog for months, years even, working for a pittance. You thought it was going to be easy making money online.

Now you’re wondering if you wasted your time.

This is where I was a few months ago. And then something happened that changed my blogging strategy forever. Someone offered me a job.

Your blog is your resume

Pretend you’re an employer, a marketing firm with 100 employees, and you’re looking to hire the 101st.

Who are you going to choose? All the candidates look the same: similar educationa; backgrounds, similar experience. But one of them has a blog with 500 subscribers, a Twitter account with 1,000 followers, and is already an expert with Google+. The other candidates don’t. Who are you going to hire?

Here is a strange but true thing I heard an actual employer say:

“The blog is the new resume.”

Resumes are outdated and growing irrelevant to today’s employers. Your blog gives a much fuller picture of your identity and your expertise. Nowhere else can you so quickly get a sense of a person’s skill, experience, and ability to engage others around what they know.

The other model for making money online

In only six months, I got two job offers, three requests for consulting work (one for over $200 an hour), and was asked to work on three paid projects. On top of that, I generated hundreds of leads for high-priced, hourly work.

How?

Just by blogging to a group of people who needed services, in my case, to creative writers. The best part is that you can do this, too. Anyone can. It’s very simple.

1. Who: Define your audience

Who is your audience? You need to know who your audience is because you need to figure out what services they need. Define their:

  • career
  • hobbies and interests
  • age
  • demographics
  • annual income.

If you’ve been blogging long with any success, you probably have a fairly good idea of this already. I didn’t need to do a survey to realize most of my readers were over 30, well educated, and wrote novels and creative non-fiction as a hobby.

If you don’t know this yet, make it your top priority. If you can figure out how they think, you can sell to them (and in this business model, what you are selling is yourself).

The best way to define your audience, in my opinion, is simply by meeting them. When someone begins to comment regularly, email him. Ask to chat over the phone; if you live nearby, meet for coffee. By interacting with your fans you solve two problems at once, you get to know your audience and you turn them into friends. Once they become your friends, you get the opportunity to make them into your customers.

2. What: Identify what they need

If you don’t know your audience, you won’t understand what they need.

My audience is creative writers, so I developed a site that I thought would interest them. Slowly, as I began to understand who was reading my blog, I realized there was a huge need for editing. My readers liked to write, but they didn’t like to edit. I found my opportunity.

As you get to know your audience, identify what they like to do and what they hate. What are they good at? What are they terrible at? And how can you help them be better?

As you do this, you’ll begin to spot opportunities for your services. They might need:

  • Education: You could develop a course teaching them what they don’t know.
  • Consulting: You could sell your time and expertise helping them solve their problems.
  • Complimentary services: You could sell services that your audience needs.

Let’s break down the complimentary services section a bit more because I think this is where this blogging model becomes really interesting. For example, I realized my audience—creative writers—needed editing services. So I began to pitch this to some of my friends and they loved it. Some of them even approached me!

If marketers are your audience, on the other hand, offer design or copywriting services. If homebuyers are your audience, offer listing services. If your audience needs a lawyer, then offer your legal services. If your audience blogs, you could offer ghost-blogging, design, editing, or copywriting services.

3. How: What if you don’t have any skills to offer?

Now, let’s say you’re writing to people who want to get better at internet marketing. You think your audience needs help writing copy, but you don’t have any experience in copywriting.

I had this problem. I knew my readers needed editing help. I had some expertise with editing, but I didn’t feel comfortable selling my services to the guy who comments on my blog every day. What if I do a bad job and he gets upset and leaves?

So I started reaching out to editors, asking their advice on how to be a better editor. I emailed, called, and met face to face with them. This is when the most surprising thing happened.

One of them, an editor who has worked with bestselling authors, offered me a job. So not only did I get some practical knowledge to help (and sell to) my readers, I had his name to back me up. And one of the reasons he hired me was because my blog was my resume. He saw I was already passionate and talented. It was an easy decision.

After that, selling my services became much easier. And a much better way to earn money with my blog than selling Adsense.

This is a very quick overview. Do you have any questions about how to sell your services and use your blog as a resume? Have you done this with your own business?

Joe Bunting is a professional writer, fiction editor, and platform consultant. You can follow Joe on Twitter and download a copy of his eBook, 14 Prompts, for free.

Why I Haven’t Made a Dime From My Blog—and How You Can

This guest post is by Alexander Heyne of Milk the pigeon.

When I first started my blog, I wrote a series of posts I was sure would resonate with thousands all over the world, create a movement, and bring massive traffic over to my site.

Except when I published the posts, they went to the black hole of the Internet.

No one heard them. No one saw them. Just a couple Facebook friends and maybe my mom.

Frustrated blogger

Image copyright Renee Jansoa - Fotolia.com

Suddenly my idea of writing about what I enjoy, and making a living (however small) off it was shattered. It was time to regroup and start over.

A model for making money

Just as you need to have a serious game plan to ensure your success blogging, including a master plan and many smaller plans, you need to have a model to work with for monetization.

You need a simple path that gives you a general idea of where to go and what to do, and in what order.

Following the next six points will ensure you’ll be six months ahead of where I was when I started, and you’ll no longer be writing for “someone”. You’ll be writing for your future massive, engaged audience willing to buy your products.

1. Create a list and engage your audience

This is blogging 101 to most bloggers now—especially those who are planning to release a product or course to their audience. But it wasn’t to me. I mean, I figured I would just write some good stuff, and maybe some advertisers would contact me, and then I’d somehow end up making $2,00 or $3,000 a month from advertisements.

Rookie mistake.

Make an email list as soon as you start your blog, and start collecting subscribers. But unless you have an established reputation people most likely will have a hard time forking over their email address to you, so what do you do?

Give them a reason to subscribe, like a free ebook or a mini course. The sooner you start building your email list, the better. Because the sooner you have a list the sooner you can start building trust with your audience and establish yourself as having expertise in some area.

What I did: waited until month three to make an email sign up list, and offered no incentive to subscribe.

What I should’ve done: I should have signed up on day one with an email subscription service like Aweber, and offered an ebook or mini course for subscribers.

2. Fine-tune your content

Sometimes your niche is pretty clear—blogging, marketing, or running, for example. But sometimes it’s not and covers a wide range of things—lifestyle design, location-independent work, or self-help.

Assuming you fall into the latter categories, you are probably going to need to do some content fine-tuning. That means testing a variety of closely related topics and seeing which ones resonate best content-wise and message-wise with your audience. You can test those qualities based on re-tweets, views, shares, and comments, although these metrics alone should not be the be-all end-all.

Just remember that in the beginning it’s going to be harder to work out what your audience likes and doesn’t like, because you may not have an audience yet! Just have fun at the beginning and experiment a lot.

What I did: Wrote about a variety of topics, and kept no analytics on what was popular or why.

What I should have done: I should have deliberately tested various types of content with my audience and used those results (Google Analytics) to hone in on what I should’ve written more of in the future. It also gives you potential product niches.

3. Show some link love

One of the worst, most sinful mistakes I made was not reaching out and trying to connect with others in my niche, not trying to follow people who had already achieved the goals I wanted, and not establishing other relationships with people in the online world.

It goes pretty much without saying that you can’t make it alone in the blogosphere—and that nurturing genuine relationships will be the single most beneficial thing you can do to help your business take off.

The following three types of people you should make a list of and establish friendships with:

  • people in a niche somewhat similar to your own (peers)
  • people who are doing what you hope to be doing one day (mentors)
  • people who you see will be up and coming and need to be heard (pupils)

What I did: Believed I could succeed alone, and made no effort to connect with others.

What I should have done: I should have networked until my eyeballs hurt, shared as much as possible with my peers, share posts by people whose mission I believed in, and established several people as mentors who have attained the goals I am striving for.

4. Consciously build your audience and list

There are three ways you can deliberately build your list and audience more rapidly than letting them organically grow:

  1. getting better exposure via guest posting
  2. holding a webinar where people need to subscribe to participate and get more information
  3. offer exclusive content or a free additional course that requires a sign up. For example, on your products page you can have a “free marketing 101 course.” You could then have a ten-part auto-responder course (or ebook) that gives great content, for free. And in return you get someone’s email address added to your list.

What I did: Thought that the “crawlers” would just find my content and it would go mainstream.

What I should have done: I should have guest posted as much as humanly possible, combined efforts with other bloggers to hold webinars, and given away tons of free, extremely valuable content (in various forms).

5. Do some spy work (probe your audience members’ brains)

At this point you should be asking yourself, “What am I doing with all these people? I have been giving them great content, building relationships with others around me, and now have a list of quite a few people. What’s next?”

Here’s one of the next steps to take: find out what specifics your audience wants and what problem of theirs you can solve.

I’m going to work with the assumption that you don’t have three to six months of free time to make a product that flops, so here is one way to test for demand. Offer free or paid consulting. At this point, your audience hopefully respects you and sees you as somewhat of an authority. So why consult for free?

  • You will acquire some experience which you can later use to transfer into paid consulting.
  • You’ll realize patterns of problems that your audience has, and you can begin to develop a product tailored directly to their needs.

What I did: Assumed I knew what my audience wanted.

What I should have done: I should have done a number of things: given out a questionnaire, consulted (free/paid), asked directly (via a blog post), or researched what other people are selling in the same niche.

6. Make a product or promote a product

As far as products go, the historic route that people have taken is to make an ebook. Ebooks work well and lend themselves to automation, but there is one other product recommendation that tends to work better for some others.

Launch a limited-time program or online course, for example, once every four months. The reason I suggest making an online course is that it helps you jump exponentially over time (both in terms of influence as well as financially).

Every time you launch your course, you build your email list, you get feedback, and you find out what updates your audience wants. And then you can launch the course again—and, assuming you have received feedback, you can update it. And, assuming you did a good job developing your product, you now have a bigger list, more exposure, and a larger audience. The benefits grow over time.

The other option is to promote someone else’s product. I know quite a few people who made their first dollar online by promoting a product they tried and thought their audience would like.

If you know of a product (ideally that you have tried) that genuinely provides a solution to a problem your audience has, write a post reviewing it. State clearly what your audience will get from the product, let them know that you’ve tried it, and keep your promise. Afterwards, you can keep a smaller banner advertisement or list it on your products or resources page.

What I did: Got half way through an ebook, realized it probably wasn’t going to sell as much as I wanted, and went back to the drawing board.

What I should have done: I should have #1 followed through, because even if your product only makes five sales, you are getting some feedback and now have experience making a product.

I should also have decided if I wanted to make this an ongoing product with support and feedback options. If you want a product that requires no updating and support, go with an ebook. If you want a product that has much more potential for growth but will require a larger time investment, go with an online course.

What next?

So why go through all these steps? Why bother with an elaborate checklist of things to go through?

The reason is because if you don’t have a model, you’ll be taking shots in the dark. Your work is going to be all guesswork, and guesswork is going to lead to disappointment. You’ll be running your blog with the same intentions I had: “Do a couple posts here, a couple posts there, maybe get some ads on there, write an ebook, and then I’ll be making $5,000 a month.”

Save yourself from the same silly assumption I made: otherwise you’ll end up like me—never making a dime from my blog.

Milk the pigeon is about killing that lost feeling, standing out in the crowd, and living a life of greatness.  Download a free copy of Milk the Pigeon’s manifesto here: Killing Your Old life and Living the Dream

What Blogging for Fun Taught Me About Blogging for Profit

This guest post is by Becky Canary-King of Direct Incorporation.

There’s really too much to say about the benefit of a good blog for your business. A well done blog can bring in new customers, establish yourself as an expert in your field, open up communication with your clients, and support your SEO and marketing.

Recently I discovered that the blog I write for fun about body image issues has a higher Google page rank than my company’s blog! Of course, we get a fraction of the web views, but without pointed effort, I managed to make my personal blog keyword rich, get lots of backlinks, and ranked high in Google’s page rankings. Now that I’m writing for my company’s blog, here are the lessons I’m taking with me:

Pick a specific topic

Be specific. Want to be a catch-all related to everything about your industry? Great. But you’re going to have a lot of competition, and major competitors with more resources and established viewers. Instead, focus on what you do best, the niche area that you have a unique perspective. What is the blog that only your company could write?

Establish your credentials. Let your readers know why they would want to hear from you about the topic. Just the fact that you are selling the product or service is not necessarily enough to gain your reader’s trust. Sharing your education or career path is a quick way to add credibility; but it’s not the only one. I never got a degree in “Body Image Sciences”, but my genuine interest in the topic makes me a credible source to readers.

Collaborate with other blogs

Know your part in the blogosphere. Read other blogs on your topic! Getting to know what’s already out there helps you establish where your niche will be. You also get a feel for what readers on the topic are interested in and can borrow some tricks on what works.

Comment and share. Guest post, link back, comment on other blogs. All these actions convey your interest in the topic and establish your unique point of view. Blogs can act as a community of learners, experts and interested parties. Join in enthusiastically!

Interact with readers

Let your readers know what they can expect. Doing a series is a great way to get readers coming back for more. Or pick a day when you write on a certain topic, or have a certain type of post. Personally, I do a body positive music post every Friday, featuring a song or two I enjoy. I have been linked back to as a place where you can consistently check out body positive music.

Encourage and ask for feedback. Trying to get commenters on your blog can be really frustrating at first—it normally doesn’t happen automatically, but keep at it! At the end of every post ask questions or encourage them to give you feedback on the topic. Respond to comments right away with a real response, rather than just a thank you. Readers are a great resource for your blog, so let them know they are valued.

Now get writing!

Becky Canary-King is an Account Manager and Press Contact at Direct Incorporation, a company focused on providing a more economical and efficient alternative to using a law firm for common legal/entrepreneurial issues. She is passionate about women’s empowerment and blogs for personally for Happy Bodies, and professionally for Direct Incorporation’s Blog, offering tips for the first 6 months of your small business.

5 Tips to Improve Your Web Sales During the Holiday Season

This guest post is by Isaac Atia of Howitoo.com

It’s that festive time of the year again: the holidays will soon be at our doorsteps. While many will be celebrating the holidays, us bloggers have to work hard to reach our sales goals.

Hopefully we can celebrate this season in a different manner: by improving our sales and boosting our profits. With competition always around the corner, it’s vital to formulate and apply solid strategies that get real results. Here are my favorite ways to boost sales over the festive season.

1. Create attractive landing pages

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a product or a service. In order to really convert plain traffic to a final transaction, you must create effective landing pages that list all the benefits of whatever it is you’re offering.

For a landing page to produce good results, it must have a purpose and a goal. What’s your target revenue? Set a time frame, aim high, and work towards your goal.

More importantly, the page must emphasize the ultimate advantage of your offer while stimulating the prospect’s mind. Get in the reader’s head—what are they thinking? To earn the visitor’s trust, link or quote authority figures and websites. Offer your product to a few individuals for free to create buzz and so you can get persuasive testimonials. Feedback is potent and cannot be underestimated. With a little bit of tweaking, landing pages are simply the best way to boost your offer’s sales numbers.

2. Offer incentives to improve sales

There are plenty of incentives to consider.

Free shipping

In the event that your website is promoting a tangible product such as a book, for the buyer, your offer of free shipping can be the deciding factor between making the purchase or ditching the product altogether.

Believe it or not, offering free shipping can actually make you more money. To qualify for delivery that’s free of charge, websites usually require a minimum order. That way, the buyer purchases at least one fairly expensive product or two products at a regular price. How many times did you visit an online store to buy one thing but then bought something else as well just to qualify for free shipping? I know I’ve done it plenty of times.

Slick promotions

Who doesn’t love the buy-one-get-one-50%-off deal? How about buy one, get one free? If you slightly raise the price of the first item and include a separate shipping and handling charge for the second, you could be earning almost the same profit you would by selling both items at the regular price!

How about promoting the older ebook that’s been sitting on your blog’s shelf for quite some time? Maybe throw it in as a free bonus to guarantee the sale. If you’re advertising a valuable service such as blog consultation, how about offering 25% off your first lesson to get things rolling?

Many thriving blogging mentors such as Jon Morrow offer package deals such as “sign up for five classes and get one free,” which can help achieve promotional goals. This is smart because it doesn’t cost you anything and creates more value for your buyers.

Other techniques

Other proven techniques to consider are cross-selling and up-selling. Have you ever bought a shirt and shoes from the same website at the same time? That’s like buying a theme framework and a skin for the design.

The point I’m trying to make is that you can convert sales to even more sales if you address the customer’s needs. The best way to do that is by dedicating a section on your website that links to related products. Placement is important so the related product(s) should be displayed in a highly visible area, preferably on the sidebar or right below your current product.

These are some powerful tips to think about. Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong incentive that can make or break your sales this holiday. Your success will be mostly measured by the effort you put in and the strategies you apply. It is, however, possible to determine the most ideal incentive for your operation through continuous testing (shifting things around).

3. Rely heavily on email marketing

Email marketing is so powerful because it’s right in your face. When I get an email from ProBlogger’s newsletter, 95% of the time I click on it and read it thoroughly. Why? It’s simple, I’ve been sold on Darren’s ideas as he gained my trust and loyalty as a reader.

I wanted to know this is true for sure so last week I emailed a few successful bloggers and asked about their experience with email marketing. Every single one of them responded with truly positive comments and one person mentioned that it’s beneficial to any web campaign.

I agree—in fact many web gurus have said that a large percentage of their sales come from email advertising. It works because it’s a direct form of sales that builds relationships based on trust. Most importantly, it’s targeted towards a crowd that’s already following your lead, which makes it easier to convert the sale.

Take into consideration that it’s not always just about making the sale. It’s imperative that your value your loyal readers and offer them substantial value in return. Sometimes it’s enough to just get more downloads, views, or subscriptions.

4. Shoot for repeat business through social media

The people who are already following your moves on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are usually the first ones to know when you release a new product, run a promotion, or publish a new post. Connect with people you’ve already convinced in the past. Make them feel at home by dressing up the design of your social network page to a holiday related theme.

Doing this will naturally encourage holiday shoppers to pick up the book you recently published on your website for their family or friends. Maybe they’ll even purchase a service you offer on their behalf. Guess what? You just sold two people without even knowing it.

5. Test your website early and frequently

If you’re expecting a serious wave of traffic for the holidays, the last thing you want is to have any errors such as broken links or pages on your website. If your planning is poor and your website is not fully functional, you could be losing substantial revenue.

Proof read as many pages as you can to check for grammar mistakes, especially the pages where an offer is based on visitor action. The images on your site should load quickly to avoid the visitor from exiting your page.

Your page shouldn’t take more than two to three seconds to load for the same reason. It may also be a good idea to go through a test transaction to make sure that your order link is working properly. This way, if there are any issues, you’ll be the first one to know.

So, how exactly do you improve sales through your website during the holiday season? By implementing the above strategies to your website and making buying easier, more comfortable, and rewarding. Share your extra tips in the comments, so we can try them too!

Isaac Atia writes about blogging tips, SEO advice, and other closely related topics. The goal of his blog is to help other bloggers improve their overall blogging knowledge. You can subscribe to his blog for more posts.

Listen to Your “Inner Crazy Voice”

Sometimes I hear voices … they suggest I do crazy things … and sometimes they end up being the best things I’ve done!

Speaking of 'Crazy Ideas'

Okay, that’s one of the strangest first lines of a post that I’ve written but it struck me today as I was looking back over the past few years that some of the most successful things that I’ve done have often started out as a “crazy idea.”

Perhaps it is just my personality type, but I’m a prolific idea generator. Barely a day goes by when I don’t have at least one idea for a new product, blog post, or even new blog. Sometimes the ideas are simply extensions on what I’ve done previously, but occasionally I get a really crazy idea—something that is either really big, or something that makes me laugh and shake my head.

For a long time I would simply push aside the crazy ideas, but I’m learning to at least give them a second thought these days, because the ones I’ve acted upon do have a history of working.

Let me give you some examples of “crazy ideas” that I’ve had that have worked out well, or which I’m currently working on building up:

  • Bestselling ebook: One “crazy idea” that I’ve written about recently was 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. The original idea came on 30 July 2005, when I decided that I’d write a 31 day series of blog posts here on ProBlogger, each day containing homework for readers. It was crazy because I’d never done a series that long before, I’d not really given readers “homework” to do before, and because I decided to start it the following day with no promotion or planning. The idea paid off—it eventually evolved into my bestselling ebook.
  • Successful conference: Another “crazy idea” was to hold my first ProBlogger training day. I started pondering what would happen if I held a training day for bloggers in Melbourne. Again it was something I decided to do on the spur of the moment. The period from my having the idea to running the training day itself was a matter of weeks. I’d had no experience in planning conferences, had no venue, and didn’t know how much to charge or even what we’d do on the day. Again, the idea paid off—we’ve now held two training days and there’s significant demand for more (we’re planning some exciting events for 2012).
  • ProBlogger “Tour down under”: One more “crazy idea” that looks like becoming a reality dawned on me on the way home from a conference in one of Australia’s northern states (Queensland). The state has some of the most beautiful beaches and natural wonders that you’ll ever see and, on the spur of the moment, I tweeted out that I wanted to run a competition to get bloggers form overseas to come do a tour with me of some of our country’s most beautiful regions. Among the tweet replies that came in from hundreds of bloggers wanting to come on the tour were a couple of replies from Aussie Tourism boards. Those conversations continue today—watch this space to see if this was another crazy idea that might pay off!
  • ProBlogger clothing range: Lastly, a fourth “crazy idea” that I’ve had for a couple of years now, and which looks like it might come to be, is the long-awaited “Blogger Work Ware” range of clothes. Again, this started as a crazy tweet saying I wanted to develop a range of “work clothes” for bloggers: PJs, bathrobes, and so on—after all, we’re known for blogging in our PJs are we not? The number of people who responded that they’d buy a bathrobe or PJs was overwhelming. I’m now looking at it more seriously (watch this space).

Of course I’ve had my fair share of crazy ideas that I’ve not done anything with, or which have failed. But in each of the cases I’ve mentioned here, the ideas came out of the blue and, for some reason, just wouldn’t go away.

In each case, the reaction I had straight after having the idea was to either laugh or gasp. In most cases, the reaction was the same when I told those around me. I’m learning that the laugh and gasp reactions are good. They tell you that you’ve thought of something a little out of the box—something that will, at the very least, get noticed.

The other thing I did each time was to share my crazy idea with others. In some cases, it was with another couple of people who I trusted, and some cases the “test” was to share it more widely (on Twitter in the last two cases) to see if the idea had any resonance beyond my imagination.

What has been your most crazy idea that has paid off?

5 Tips for Maximising Your Earnings from Amazon’s Affiliate Program During the Holidays

With the holidays almost upon us, now is a time for bloggers who are Amazon Affiliates to act to capitalize on what is usually one of the most profitable times of the year.

While Amazon is not my biggest source of income (it makes up around 5% of total income for me) it does spike at this time of year. Here’s how Amazon performed in 2010 and into the early months of 2011 for me.

amazon-earnings.png

As you can see, December is always the biggest spike in commissions for me, but November and January are the second and third highest earning months of the year.

Obviously the holidays are times when people are in a buying mood, and with all the holiday sales already under way, now is the time to act to maximize your commissions with Amazon if its an income stream you want to get the most out of.

Tips for maximizing Amazon commissions

So how do we get our commissions up in the coming weeks? Here are a few quick tips to start with:

1. Get people in the door

Okay, this isn’t rocket science, but the best thing about promoting products on Amazon is that it’s one of the best-optimized online retail stores. Amazon are known for testing their design and sales techniques and, as a result, if you get people in the door of Amazon.com, you’re well on the way to getting some commissions.

The cool thing about Amazon is that anything people buy once they’re in the door from your referral link will earn you a commission. So while you might suggest a book or a camera, if they end up buying a ride-on lawn tractor you’ll take a commission for that (don’t laugh—I sold one of those once)!

So drive people to Amazon and let the site do its work. Much of what I’ll outline below are some techniques to get people in the door.

2. Promote the sales

Amazon currently have a lot of sales going on. Black Friday sales are already underway and Cyber Monday sales will follow—in fact, in the leadup to Christmas there will be regular sales and promotions going on in most departments.

The key is to watch for what is currently on special and to be promoting the best of it. For example, in their photography department they have some great cameras on special including one that we use at our place—the Canon Powershot S95. I promoted it a couple of times on social media earlier in the week and saw several sales.

So keep a watch on what’s on sale in terms of products that relate to your niche. Choose the ones that will fit with your audience the best and promote them!

3. Bestseller lists

People love to see what other people are buying to help them determine what they should buy. There are many ways to utilize this in your own promotions on Amazon.

  • Use one of Amazon’s bestseller lists: Almost every type of product on Amazon can be sorted based upon what is selling best. For example here’s their Best Selling Digital Cameras and Gear list. You can refine these further to hone in on specific types of products, like DSLRs, Lenses, Point-and-Shoot Cameras.
  • Affiliate stats: Another way to create a bestseller list is to look at the stats that Amazon gives you as an affiliate to see what people have bought previously via your affiliate links. This will only work if you’ve referred a decent amount of sales, but it’s particularly useful if you do, because you can present the list as being the bestselling products in your community. That’s how I created the Popular Digital Cameras and Gear page, which is my top-earning Amazon affiliate page on dPS. I similarly do smaller focused bestselling lists like this one for lenses.
  • Surveys: Surveys are another way to create these lists. Survey your readers to find out what their favorite products are, and report back to them the results (example).

4. Buying guides

Another type of list post that readers love, and that converts well, is the “buying guide,” where you walk your readers through a variety of products of a certain type or price point. It’s like a list of mini-reviews of products that your readers might find useful.

An example of this that worked well for us last year was 15 Must-Have Photography Accessories under $25.

5. Hypotheticals

This one is a little from left field, but has worked well for me on two occasions (and I’ll be running it again in the coming days). On each previous occasion I gave my readers a hypothetical sum of money to go and spend on Amazon on cameras.

The challenge was to go and research what cameras they would buy from the Amazon Camera section and then to come back and report on the products they’d buy. The links to the section I suggested they go to were affiliate links (I also made some suggestions on cameras that they might like to look at) and in the days after the post went live commissions spiked.

Readers also loved the challenge—we had hundreds of people come back and share what they’d buy with their hypothetical money! Update: I’ve just posted this year’s hypothetical post here.

Other great techniques for making money during the holidays with Amazon

There’s a lot more tips and techniques to read on making money with Amazons Affiliate program. I’ll link to some more extensive articles below but wanted to highlight these five techniques because I think they particularly relate to this time of year.

Here’s some further reading from a series of posts on the topic. The tips are not specifically holiday-related, but will give you a great overview of how to make money with Amazon. They also contain a lot of tips that would be relevant to other affiliate marketing efforts.

When No One Knows Where You Are. Or Needs To.

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

As you’re reading this, it’s 80º Fahrenheit and sunny with a light breeze. Not necessarily where you are, but somewhere.

That somewhere is where I’ve chosen to blog for a living. Most of the time, that means Las Vegas. Right now, this being November, it’s Maui. In other years it’s been Mexico or South Africa. I’m untethered from any particular location, and able to give value to my clients while neither shivering nor wearing layers. It’s a lifestyle that I’ve merely adopted, but that Jon Morrow seems to have perfected. Also, it’s a lot less expensive than you might think.

What motivates you? Yes, money, health, family, friendship, I get it. Those are all the universal answers. But what motivates you in particular? Spend a few seconds thinking of an answer, then keep reading.

For me, money and self-determination are motivating factors 1 and 1A. Following right on their heels is the avoidance of cold weather in all its dreary, cloudy, soul-crushing forms. I would gladly starve my children if doing so meant I’d get to live somewhere warm, and if I had children. I might hate winter more than I hate terrorism.

If the idea of blogging on your own terms (and closer to the Equator) resonates with you, understand that the demands on your time will increase. (That’s not a typo. I did mean “increase”, not “decrease.”)

What you need

In this post-industrial society, blogging has few physical demands. In addition to blogging, I run an advertising business. I write radio and TV commercials. You and I happen to be living in 2011, which means that all we need to be productive in certain fields of endeavor are a laptop, a power source, a word processor, and an Internet connection. Oh, and discipline.

If you can’t motivate yourself harder than any employer can motivate you, do yourself a favor and return to your 9-to-5 world before thinking about the remote blogging lifestyle any further. The distractions abound when you determine not only your own schedule, but your own workplace.

The problem with many people who aspire to blogging remotely but who can’t actually make it happen is that they forget one crucial component—“setting your own hours” really does mean setting your own hours. Not, “I’ll blog today, maybe Monday, depending on whether the mood strikes me and whether the fish are biting.” Rather, it’s “From 6:00 to 11:00 tonight, I’m going to apply myself as diligently as a new hire on his first day. I’m going to pretend a boss is watching me on camera. This is my probationary period.”

Remote blogging is a tradeoff, like anything else in life. There’s freedom, but with the concomitant temptation to slack off. With respect to the latter, you’re at a disadvantage to people who work in conventional office settings. Discipline is easy for them, because it’s forced upon them. They can’t take a five-hour lunch break when there are coworkers in the adjacent cubicles. They probably can’t put their feet up and watch TV when the mood strikes them. It’s doubtful they can work pantslessly, either.

Taking the plunge

As a practical matter, researching before you pack up and go remote is critical. One of my favorite working spots is the village of Playa Naranjo (Orange Beach) on the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica.

It’s bucolic, and it’s relaxing, but it’s miles removed from the metropolitan first-world bandwidth that many of us take for granted. Customer support is provided during inconsistent hours, and in a language I understand only the fundamentals of. That means that I have to allot slightly more time to my projects, and upload them in batches. It also means that if I want to travel any deeper into the jungle to look at toucans, I’d better do so on non-working days. But it can be done. It can all be done.

Don’t assume that ease of communication is correlated with human development, either. The fastest Internet connection I’ve ever enjoyed was on a free Wi-Fi network in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (The Mongolians never had obsolete legacy equipment to dig up and work around, so they started with state-of-the-art.) Months later, my failed attempts to log on to a trusted Canadian network from a hotel a mere five miles over the U.S. border were met with lamentations and the gnashing of (my) teeth. And they charged $15 a day for the privilege.

The remote blogging lifestyle—and it is a lifestyle, more than it is an occupation—isn’t something you want to dabble in and then maybe reconsider. Yes, it requires you to make sure you’ll have the right tools at your disposal and readily accessible, but there’s more. Like finding and pricing a place to stay. And pricing your existing place on the rental market to see if the numbers can pencil out in your favor. They probably can, but it’s better to determine so before you make the commitment.

If you can somehow engineer the remote problogger lifestyle for yourself—and it took me plenty of trial-and-error before getting it right—most of your clients, coworkers and vendors will be disdainful. Fortunately, you won’t be able to hear them over the surf and the ukulele music.

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].

Why Bloggers Should Self-Publish

By James Altucher of jamesaltucher.com.

I’ve published seven books in the past seven years, five with traditional publishers (Wiley, Penguin, HarperCollins), and the last two I’ve self-published.

In this post I give the specific details of all of my sales numbers and advances with the traditional publishers.

Although the jury is still out on my self-published books, How to be the Luckiest Man Alive and I Was Blind But Now I See (the latter was just published last month and is #2 for Motivation on Amazon’s Kindle store as I write this), I can tell you these two have already sold more than my five books published with traditional publishers, combined.

Self-publishing

Image copyright photogl - Fotolia.com

The rest of this article is really three discussions:

  1. Why self-publish, rather than use a traditional publisher?
  2. Why bloggers should self-publish.
  3. How to go about self-publishing.

Why self-publish?

  • Advances are going to zero: Book publishers are getting more and more squeezed by declining booksellers so they, in turn, have to squeeze the writers. Because there’s so much free content on the Internet, the value per unit of content is going to zero unless you are already an established name-brand author.
  • Lag time: When you self-publish, you can have your book up and running on Amazon, paperback, and Kindle within days. When you publish with a traditional publisher, it’s a grueling process—book proposal, agents, lawyers, meetings, edits, packaging, catalogs—that ensures that your book doesn’t actually get published until a year later. Literally, as I write this, a friend of mine IMed me the details of his book deal he just got with a mainstream publisher. Publication date: 2014.
  • Marketing: Publishers claim they do a lot of marketing for you. That’s laughable. I’ll give you a very specific example. After I published with Penguin, they met with a friend of mine whose book they wanted to publish. They didn’t realize she was my friend. She asked them, “what marketing did you do for James Altucher’s book?” They said, “Well, we got him a review in The Financial Times and we got a segment about his book on CNBC and an excerpt in thestreet.com.” Here’s what’s so funny. I had a weekly column in The Financial Times. I wrote my own review. As a joke. I also had a weekly segment on CNBC. So naturally I spoke about my book during my regular segment. And I had just sold my last company to thestreet.com. So instead of doing my usual article for them, I did an excerpt from the book. In other words, I felt the publisher did nothing, but took credit for eveything. Ultimately, authors (unless you are, for example, Stephen King) have to do their own marketing for books. The first question publishers ask, even before they look at your proposal, is, “How big is your platform?” They want to know how you can market the book and if they can make money on just your own marketing efforts.
  • Better royalties: When I self-publish I make about a 70% royalty instead of the 15% royalty I made with a traditional publisher. I also own 100% of the foreign rights, instead of 50%. I hired someone to sell the foreign rights to my work, and they get 20% (and no upfront fee).
  • More control over content and design: Look at this cover, designed by a traditional publisher for me (this was my third book). It’s hideous. Now look at the cover for my last book. You may or may not like it, but it’s exactly what I wanted. Publishers even include in the contract that they have final say over the cover, and this is one detail they will not negotiate. Also, when you self-publish, you don’t have any teenage interns sending back editorial comments that you completely disagree with. You control your own content.

Why should bloggers self-publish?

  • You have content: I have enough material in my blog right now (including my “Drafts” folder, which has 47 unpublished posts in it) to publish five more books over the next year. And I’m sure that number will increase over the next year as I write more posts.
  • You have more to say. If you just take the posts (mentioned in the point above) and publish them, people will say, “he’s just publishing a collection of posts”. A couple of comments on that.
    1. So what? It’s okay if you are curating what you feel your best posts are. And for a small price, people can get that curation and read it in a different format. There’s value there.
    2. Don’t just take a collection of your posts. A blog post is typically 500-2000 words, but usually closer to 500. Do a bit more research for each post. Do intros and outros for each post. Make the chapters 3000-4000 words long. Make a bigger arc to the book by using original material to explain why this book, with these chapters, presented in this manner is a different read than the blog. Have a chapter specifically explaining how the book is different from the blog. With my last book, I had original material in each chapter, and several chapters that were completely original. Instead of it being a collection of posts, the overall book was about how we have been brainwashed in society, and how uncovering the brainwashing and using the techniques I describe can bring happiness. This was covered in a much more detailed fashion than the blog ever could, even though the material was inspired by several of my posts.
  • Amazon is an extra platform for you to market your blog: Or vice versa. You won’t make a million dollars on your book (well, maybe you will—never say never) but just being able to say, “I’m a published author” extends your credibility as a writer when you go out there now to syndicate your blog elsewhere, or to get speaking engagements. And when you do a speaking engagement, you can now hand something out—your book! So Amazon and publishing become a powerful marketing platform for your overall writing/speaking/consulting career.
  • Nobody cares: Some people want the credibility of saying “Penguin published me”. I can tell you from experience—nobody ever asked me who was my publisher.
  • How will I get in bookstores? I don’t know. How will you? Traditional publishers can’t get you there either. Often bookstores will look at what’s hot on Amazon and then order the books wholesale from the publishers. In many cases, traditional publishers will take their most-known writers (so if you are in that category, congrats!) and pay to have them featured at a bookstore. As for my experience, my traditional publishers would get a few copies of my books in the bookstores of major cities (i.e. NYC and that’s it), but nothing more.

Okay, I’m convinced. How do I self-publish?

There’s lots of ways to do it, but I’ll tell you my experience.

First, write the book

For my last two self-published books, as I mentioned above, I took some blog posts, rewrote parts of them, added original material, added new chapters, and provided an overall arc as to what the book was about, as opposed to it just being a random collection of posts.

But, that said, you probably already have the basic material already.

Use Createspace.com

I used Createspace because it’s owned by Amazon and has excellent customer service. The team at Creatspace let you pick the size of your book and then have Microsoft Word templates that you download to format your book within.

For my first book I did this by myself. For my second book, for a small fee, I hired Alexanderbecker.net to format the book, create the book design, and create the final PDF that I uploaded. He also checked grammar, made proactive suggestions on fonts (sans serif instead of serif), and was extremely helpful.

Upload the PDF

Createspace approves it, picks an ISBN number, sends you a proof, and then you approve the proof.

Within days your book is available on Amazon

All of the above (from Createspace) was free. If I didn’t hire Alex to make the cover I could’ve used one of Createspace’s possible covers (I did that for my first book) and the entire publishing in paperback would be free.

Go to Kindle

With Kindle, Createspace charges $70—and they take care of everything until it’s uploaded to the Kindle store. Now your book is available in paperback and Kindle versions!

Marketing

  • Readers of my blog who asked for it got the first 20 copies or so for free from me. Many of them then posted good reviews on Amazon to get the ball rolling.
  • I’ve been handing out the books at speaking engagements. Altogether, I’ll do around ten speaking engagements, handing my latest book out.
  • I write a blog post about how the bo0k is different from the blog and why I chose to go this route.
  • Writing guests posts for blogs like ProBlogger helps, too, and I’m very grateful.
  • Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+ are also very helpful.
  • Promotions

    You’re in charge of your own promotions (as opposed to having a book publisher handling them for you). For instance, n a recent blog post I discussed the differences between my latest book and my blog, and I also offered a promotion that lets readers get my next self-published book (Bad Behavior, expected in Q1 2012) free.

    Over the next year, I have five different books planned, all on different topics. I’m super-excited about them because I’m allowed to push the barrier in every area I’m interested in, and there’s nobody to stop me.

    You can do this also. And you should do it. There are no more excuses in this environment. Do you have questions about self-publishing? Let us know in the comments!

    James Altucher has written 7 books, has started and sold 3 businesses, and has blogged successfully this past year at jamesaltucher.com. He also writes for the WSJ and other media outlets. He exposes himself way too much on his blog.

Create A Media Kit To Attract Advertisers To Your Blog

In this post Marko from How to Make My Blog takes a look at how to develop a Media Kit to attract advertisers to your blog.

Having direct advertisers is a very lucrative way of monetizing your blog. Ads are one of the few ways in which a blogger can capitalize on existing blog traffic without any additional work, such as developing products like e-books or providing services like search engine optimization. First step for a blogger to attract sponsors to his blog is to create an online blog media kit.

What is a blog media kit?

Your blog advertising media kit should give potential sponsors the chance to learn behind-the-scenes facts and stories to supplement the content on your blog. Think of the blog media kit as a resume for your blog. It is a package of information that introduces your blog to interested advertisers and answers their questions about it.

Why should I develop an online blog media kit?

A blog advertising media kit is a sales tool for selling advertising on your blog and it is a must-have for any blogger who wants to monetize his blog content via direct advertising contracts. Your blog media kit should be used to get potential advertisers excited about advertising on your blog.

I recommend developing an online blog media kit as a professional looking document that potential advertisers can download from your blog, that you can send out to companies that contact you, and that you can send out to companies that you contact directly.

How to write your own blog media kit?

Remember the key practices of writing blog content online. Employ scannable text by using these suggestions:

  • low word count
  • one idea per paragraph
  • sub-headings
  • highlight keywords and paragraphs
  • bulleted lists

What should I include in the blog media kit?

The blog media kit should provide your potential advertisers with immediate access to advertising rates, key demographics, blog traffic information and your contact details. It should include everything a potential advertiser might need to know to help him decide to buy advertising space on your blog.

Make sure your blog media kit information is accurate, consistent and up to date. Update your media kit regularly as your blog grows and expands.

Blog profile

Start simple by tailoring your blog media kit to describe your blog, define your blog values, describe your blog content and you personally.

Blog target audience/traffic

It is important to show the potential sponsor what they are buying. Your blog traffic and your blog target audience are two primary motivators for the advertiser. Keep working to build your blog traffic and be ready to share your blog traffic stats, number of RSS subscribers, and number of email newsletter subscribers.

Add credibility

Add credibility to your blog by including external, third-party references. Include links from popular blogs to your content and also include links of your guest articles on other popular blogs. Also include third party rankings of your blog like Google PageRank and Alexa Ranking.

Be prepared to back up your blog traffic stats with graphics from your Google Analytics account. You may also need to grant the potential advertiser the access to your Analytics report. Google Analytics features a very safe option to do that without giving away your username and password.

Search engine rankings

When people search the Internet for keywords relevant to your potential advertiser and they end up on your blog, you have a key selling point. One of the most powerful strategies of selling advertisements is to show the potential sponsor how you rank in search engines for their product / service related keywords. Compile a list of keywords that you rank for that you can include in your blog media kit.

Advertising options / rates

Let the potential advertiser know what kind of advertising options you offer on your blog. Include the position of ads, the size of ads, show it by including a screenshot which has the potential ad position marked. Do not forget to include pricing for each of these ads.

Contact details

Finally make sure to include all the contact details needed to get in touch with you.

What to do when I have collected all the information?

Compile all the information into a nice looking PDF or DOC file and provide access to it from your Advertise here page. When potential advertisers look for advertising options on your blog, they will be able to request you to send the media kit to them and find out anything that they might need to know.