Today I’m delighted to have the super-knowledgable NiaSweetz, who’s dedicated to helping people turn their passions into a business. She’s a true inspiration to the modern-day entrepreneur with too many ideas. Her hub (SipBlack.net) provides non-fluff business and marketing strategies you can start using today to build your brand! Reserve your free copy for her new, Entrepreneur’s Manifesto™.
For the creative soul, blogging is probably the single best outlet on the path to self-discovery. That’s how it usually starts, isn’t it? We have an interest, we start a blog, the blog gains a little traction, $0.00 a month becomes $50 a month which turns into hundreds of dollars a month and eventually thousands.
People are willing to pay to know what you know. (Who knew?)
Often times, this process moves slower than molasses because we think of ourselves as hobbyists and not entrepreneurs. We assume chances are slim that anyone will read about what we have to say . Who will find us in the midst of so many better blogs out there? We put off trying to transition our blogs because we think it will be a long time before anyone cares to read our content.
Honey, that’s just not true.
The moment you start thinking of your blog as a business, treating it like a business, and planning for success, the process of turning your side hustle into substantial income happens swiftly.
1. Identify What You Can’t Stop Writing About
The problem with most new blogs is that they’re all over the place. There are too many topics that have nothing to do with each other, there are a million tags to choose from and just as many categories.
This is not a good thing.
People feel overwhelmed when they have too many options. They don’t want a one-stop shop because no one visits a blog with the intention of staying there all day long. We go to different blogs to satisfy different needs. Here’s a perfect example: I’m currently renovating my house. Of course, I’m looking at a lot of my favorite DIY blogs, but I’ve come across new ones as well. Some of them also have parenting and recipe categories. I tend to leave those blogs rather quickly. I don’t want to spend too much time trying to find the one category I’m looking for. I’d rather read about how a piece of furniture was refurbished, get super inspired, and then afterwards look to the right and see that their featured post is 15 Quick Meals Made With Quinoa.
That’s why your niche or your “edge” as referred to by Kayla Hollatzis so important. Finding your niche is especially easy when you’ve been blogging for a long time. Simply look at which categories have the most posts (this is what you truly enjoy writing about) or look at which categories have the most engagement (this is what your audience truly enjoys reading from you).
Phasing out your categories doesn’t mean you can’t write about them anymore. There are many ways you can repurpose your content and still have an outlet to express that creative side:
● You can always guest blog on other sites on the topics you’ve removed from your blog. While this won’t necessarily bring targeted traffic back, it will create the London Blitz effect (being seen everywhere, all the time). London Blitz is a term I stole from Naomi Dunford‘s list building strategies. It refers to being seen not only in your topic of expertise but on complementary topics as well.
● Freelance for a bigger blog and get paid to write those articles.
Remember, your brand is now a business! Get in the habit of being paid for your efforts. You can use some of the posts you’ve already written as your portfolio and attach them to a HIRE ME page on your blog as one of the subjects you’re willing to write about.
2. Create Your Branding Package and Presentation
One reason we fall in love with blogs is for their cohesiveness. We can’t get enough of how things seem to flow so well together. Successful bloggers use 2-3 main colors and up to 3 complimentary colors. If you want to start taking your blog seriously and convert it into a business, then it’s time to give it a consistent feeling.
Create a mood board for your blog that represents a mix of your brand culture and your readers’ experience. Please don’t skimp on the time you spend cultivating your branding board. The end result is a well-balanced palette for your brand that includes colors, font, logo and a few lifestyle photos. It helps keep you focused if you print it out, frame it and keep it close to your working space. Here are some examples:
Credit to Lauren Ledbetter’s “Delight”: a college women’s community
Credit to Holly Casto Creative. fresh, modern, and cheerful
Credit to Sara at Salted Ink for “Lenore”: Interior Design
If you want the step by step on how to create something like this, Rekita Nicole did a behind-the-scenes post of her process for one of her clients. You can read all about it here.
3. Have a Real Plan
Most of us are fantastic at making passive plans – a list of things we’ll write about, people we want to connect with, goals in the form of numbers… any of this sounding familiar? These are really good ways to get from one week to the next but it won’t exactly transform an entire blog of ideas, inspiration, products, and content into a full-fledged business. A real plan shows how one goal will convert into another and makes it clear at what point it’s time to move forward.
4. Consider how you will help people
Map out your audience’s experience. Why did they come to your blog, how did they get there, what problems do they want to solve, what are they curious to know more about, what questions do they have? Something else that’s important to consider is whether they came with the intent to consume content or to spend money? If I were to search: “Goal Planners for 2016,” I’ll end up on a blog, but I am arriving with the intent to buy a planner. However, if I used Google to search, “How to create long-term goals,” I end up on a blog with the intention of reading content. When creating headlines for your posts, keep in mind of what your reader expects to achieve. If they’re looking to purchase something, make it easy and hassle free – don’t bury the purchase link at the bottom of the post.
5. Develop a system
Don’t get bogged down with social media, promoting, marketing, and learning. Create a system that makes the best use of your time and stick to it. For example, I schedule my social media content two days a week for only an hour a piece. I always tag the author, I never share articles I haven’t read and I usually create headlines different from the post titles which is why this takes me so long. That works for me because throughout the week, I can actually enjoy social media, have conversations and retweet things I like without feeling like I don’t have “enough content” on my timeline.
6. Stop working for free in the name of “portfolio.”
Do you need a portfolio? Absolutely. Are you likely to build a nice portfolio by working for free? Sure. Do you need to keep doing this until you feel “professional enough?”
There is actually an exact number of free projects you should do to build your portfolio – three. Why? Because if you can do it twice, you’re lucky… if you can do it three times, you’ve got skill. Whatever services you offer, commit to doing only three free projects. With this in mind, you’ll be more selective with the projects you pick up and you’ll know the right time to start charging.
7. Think of your blog like a magazine
What I love about magazines is how they’ve mastered the concept of guiding their readers. Magazines plan their content months ahead. They match their content with the seasons, holidays and huge events. Magazines also rely heavily on quality photos that evoke emotion and inspiration.
Browse your favorite magazines and pay attention to how they use features to enhance their main content – sidebar questions, pullout quotes, captions, and supplementary tips. Those little elements encourage the passive reader to read the entire article and stay on the page longer.
Their “About the Editor” section is engaging, interesting, and short! They’re strategic with the kinds of ads they place in between content – making sure they are a good match for their readers. They also place their own ads in between their content with NO call to action which most bloggers don’t do.
8. Cultivate the Right Environment
If you don’t treat the space around you to feel like somewhere that business is handled, you’ll always find a reason to slack off. You should have a designated work space that’s off limits for anyone (or anything) else. This is your area of inspiration – where something is born from nothing. The place where your magic is created. It’s where you get to display motivational art, like a vision poster. The most frequent complaint I hear from entrepreneurs is that they don’t have space in their house for an “off-limits” space.
Well.. Pinterest says otherwise.
9. Keep track of finances
Keeping track of money was the hardest thing for me when I started my first business. I thought if I didn’t plan on buying it again, it didn’t really need to be written down. Think of keeping track of your finances in two ways:
1) If you were to be audited tomorrow, would you be prepared?
2) If an investor wanted to give you $1 million dollars tomorrow, would you have all the information they need to know about their investment?
You should also set up a bank account that’s strictly for your business. Honestly, I have found that online bank accounts are great for this. You’re less likely to dip into that account unless you need to and you can set them up/manage them without ever leaving the house.
10. Keep contracts on hand
Keep a nice stack of contracts and invoices in your work space that you can easily pull out, sign, and scan over to your clients. Without having a standard contract written up or trying to repurpose a contract you made for your first client, you’re more likely to move forward in an agreement without requiring the papers be signed.
11. Set office Hours
The moment you start treating your blog as a business, people will do the same. You shouldn’t be reachable 24/7 for anyone other than current and active clients. Set office hours, post them and stick to them. On the rare occasion that you do respond to urgent emails after “office hours,” people tend to be much more grateful and appreciative of your time.
12. Get some business cards
Business cards will never go out of style, and they’re even more important for a blogger. Your business is literally a website! How many websites of random people do you keep in memory? None? Yeah, same here. On the off chance someone does remember, they may spell it wrong, get sent to a different site and say, “Oh well. I tried.” Your business card should reflect the overall mood of your brand. When designing your card, use the same primary colors you chose for your blog.
13. Create a morning ritual
Your morning ritual is your most motivating, inspiring, and energetic part of your day. It’s been proven time and time again that the most successful CEOs perform some sort of daily ritual and have attributed that one lifestyle change to be a vital part of their success.
Just as in the case with CEOs, as an entrepreneur your day can get pretty unpredictable – even more so when you’re a blogger. No two days end up exactly alike. Think about that. We have careers where consistency can mean the difference between failure and success!
A morning ritual balances that out. It reminds us to get in the habit of doing the same thing over and over again. Morning rituals give our lives a bit of stability, something familiar to look forward to, and solid ground to plant our feet on each day.
Which of these tips have already made a difference in your blogging journey?