Poetry. Writerly Advice. Memoir. Literary Analysis. Book Reviews. Serious Journalism.
Someone told me that there are over 180 million blogs on the internet; that is ridiculous. How is a writer to stand out among so many voices? Well, you know what? It isn't about standing out -- it's about being better at the same thing. It's about operating a blog that offers user-focused information and services that position you as a professional in the field.
As a writer, you are probably busy writing query letters, completing assignments, and asking yourself how you can make more money as a writer. And while many writing professionals will tell you that blogging is dead, I would argue that those folks just don't want the competition. You can manage a blog about writing and make money from it.
It's All About Being Service-Oriented
But isn't so simple as writing a post every other day. You need to create a blog that is a service-offering blog first, and writing posts second. That means that you need to offer a service. For example, if you are a copywriter, then you had better be offering copywriting services. If you are teaching poetry as an adjunct, you could offer editing or coaching services to other writers/companies. Whatever you plan to offer, be sure that you can deliver on your work.
For example, I offer several services because of my different positions in the writing, editing, and publishing fields. I am comfortable offering coaching, editing, and copywriting. I make around $1,500 per week from these services because I am good at what I do.
Honest Affiliate Marketing and the Good Karma Cycle
I don't make more than $250 a week from my actual posts, but hey, that's more than most bloggers writing on writing. I make money from posts by recommending products that are beneficial in my own life. When a reader like you chooses to use that product or services as well, the company shares the profits from the sale (without costing readers anything extra!).
This is called affiliate marketing, and I have got to say that many bloggers do it wrong. They post banners and throw random links into their posts because all they care about is money. You can't get into blogging for money by being an asshole.
You have to promise and prove to your readers that the products and services you recommend are really important to you. Through that trust, your reader gets in on the product. And in the blogging world, we all get paid back in some way or another--I started my blog by using another blogger's affiliate link, and I am hopeful that you will use my affiliate links to start your blog. It's a good karma cycle that you definitely want to get in on. I am rambling--the point is that you can make money through affiliate ads if you are honest, forthright, and genuine.
Starting the Blog
So you've committed yourself to starting a blog. Good for you! The first thing you need to do is decide what you are going to write about. And since this post is about writing blogs, I'll presume you are a writer. But what type of writer are you? Are you a ghostwriter? Do you write essays? Or news reports? Or maybe you're a tech writer churning our user manuals.
Whatever your cup of writing is, you should pick a few writing topics to write about and stick with them. You could write about freelance writing. You could write book reviews (I do this and really love it). You could combine your expertise in [insert subject] along with your expertise in [insert type of writing]. For example, if you spend a lot of time writing about finance for publications, it would be very smart to write about finance and about writing. On the other hand, if you are a copywriter, it might not make sense to write about dogs and poetry (but hey...if you can pull it off all the better to you!).
Once you decide on your topic, come up with a solid blog name. It can be related to your topics or it can be the name you go by as a writer. Either way, once you decide on it, stick with it. Make sure that you love it. I've switched a few times because I found I just hated the domain names, and ultimately my brand name. It took me a long while to find something that I really gravitated toward.
Head over to GoDaddy.com and snag the domain that you want. When you go to GoDaddy using that affiliate link, you can buy your domain for as low as 99 cents, instead of the usual $17.99. Pretty killer deal. GoDaddy also offers amazing email services and other domain protection services. I've always used them...for every single domain and email service that I've ever needed.
Choosing the Host
Plenty of hosts exist out there and the only one that I would ever recommend is Weebly. Weebly is by far the best, most inclusive website host that you can ask for. Many people recommend BlueHost in combination with WordPress, but I gave that a try and I was really disappointed with the service. Ever since my company Unsolicited Press switched over to Weebly, I have used them for my own businesses because they make it easy to build an e-commerce website and blog. Weebly allows you to select free or paid services. If you are broke, you could use the free hosting for awhile until you can pay for a monthly or annual subscription to their AMAZING hosting services.
Signing Up with an Affiliate Ad Man
Some bloggers shy away from signing up with an affiliate marketing group right away, but I say run full force and sign up with one or two markets. By signing up for a few markets, you will be able to find the products and services that you absolutely love. I use three: CJ.com, ShareaSale, and Linkshare.
I use Commission Junction for their relationship with GoDaddy and Hootsuite and AbeBooks, three companies that I use every day.
I use ShareaSale to connect with Weebly.
I use Linkshare for my connections with a variety of bookstores, and services.
It's important to select a few that have what you are looking for -- and avoid others that don't because it can become a real time suck looking for the products that you love. The best way to find out what affiliate group holds your product is to Google: [name of product/company} + affiliate marketing].
Remember! Do not throw up random banners or ads. In fact, I would avoid adding any banners until you've blogged for six months, but definitely add in links to the products that you are talking about. For example, if you use a Moleskin Notebook to write down all of your ideas, it is definitely okay to recommend the notebook and insert the link. If you choose to add affiliate links to your blog, you must tell your readers that you use affiliate links and that you may receive compensation from the company you promote. If you don't, you are violating FCC laws. Make it clear and apparent on every page (use the footer!).
Building an Email List
Oh the email list. Google "how to start a blog" and every blogger tells you that you must have an email list to make money. And many of them are right, but you know what? I have 2 subscribers and I am pulling in a solid income...I don't do email blasts. But I am living by my name in the industry, so I might be a little different.
HOWEVER, I would recommend building an email list for a few reasons: connecting with readers who haven't stopped by in a while, telling readers about new products/services, and working on forging a stronger relationship with your subscribers.
And I should also point out that on another site that I manage, we maintain a subscriber list,and that list is the bread and butter of our operations. So maybe there is something to that newsletter. You can build, maintain your email list, while managing your email campaigns using one of two services: Weebly Promote or Benchmark. I use a Weebly's email newsletter service because I love having everything in one place. But it does cost money. If you are looking for a free service, then Benchmark is way better than Mailchimp. I would recommend trying them both out and seeing which on you like better...I'm pretty sure that Weebly will offer you a free trial is you ask for it.
Writing Great Content
It goes without saying that even if your blog is service-oriented, you need to write brilliant posts filled with user-targeted information. Your posts shouldn't be about your dog unless you can weave it into a post that benefits the reader. You could totally talk about your dog and how animals are great sources of muse-worthy ideas...which would then serve as a lead-in for a post about generating ideas. But it most certainly isn't a post about your dog.
Clients and readers-who-could-be-clients want information that they can use to make their writing goals better. Every month, you should schedule some time to generate a list of 20-30 blog post ideas. Once you have the ideas, schedule a day where you can write ALL of the posts, put them on your site, and schedule them for posting. Seriously, don't blog every day...make it look as though you are blogging every day.
Writing 20 or so blog posts in a day is easy, given that blog posts should be succinct and top-loaded with information. You can always write a longer post, but maybe you only write one of those a month...and maybe that post is something that your readers can look forward to because they know that you are going to provide invaluable, must-read information to them. Otherwise, keep you posts between 100-500 words.
Don't forget to stay on a schedule, either. That is the number one downfall of bloggers; they fail to stay consistent. Readers need to rely on you. So, don't leave them hanging, wondering if you'll ever return with a new post.
Connecting Social Media
Social media is important to spreading your writing blog and the services that you offer. The smartest way to do this is to create social media accounts with your writer name or the name of your blog. Sign up for Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and maybe Facebook. Once you have all of the social media connected to your blog, you should really simplify your life by signing up for Hootsuite. Hootsuite is an all-in-one social media sharing platform that allows you to schedule shared posts to many many social media accounts. You can use a free version or the PRO version. I use the PRO version because I can schedule to share posts to Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, FB, and more. By using a service like this, you don't have to individually share to every single on of your social media accounts, leaving you with more time to write, and less time feeling like a lunatic.
Now that we have gone through the basics of starting a writing blog, I would like to offer my support. If you choose to start a writing blog, please contact me once you've built it and we can connect with each other. That is an important factor in blogging -- building a network of bloggers that will support you and your blogging goals. I will happily guest post on your blog and you can guest post on my blog, and together we can create a writing network that writers and readers can rely on to give them important information on writing.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.