Blogging for Business The Buzz


Maybe you've tried blogging. Maybe you've seen your readership grow a bit. And maybe you've started to wonder if you can make money doing this -- real money.

The answer is yes. It is possible to make a living blogging. There are professional bloggers doing just that.

Ali Luke is a great example. This UK-based writer is a regular, paid blogger for a number of sites. She also writes freelance articles and e-books.

Luke has been blogging for her own websites and for other websites for more than three years. Luke says in some ways it's easier than ever to be a professional blogger, but in other ways it's harder.

"I think in some respects it's harder because there are more people kind of cottoning on to blogging as a career path, and the recession has maybe shaken things a little bit," says Luke. "On the other hand, there are more and more markets kind of emerging, more businesses getting into blogging, more blogs being started and so on.

"So I personally have found that the work has been pretty steady, apart from one or two small blogs which just went under with the recession," Luke adds. "Things seem to have stayed quite steady and if anything it's getting easier -- there are more jobs out there."

If you hope to be a professional blogger, you need to be a good writer. Simply stringing words together isn't enough.

"I think certainly for the well-paying jobs, you do need to be a good writer, and there is an expectation that you will be producing something of quality, just as you would if you were writing for a magazine or any other publication," says Luke.

"I think standards are moderately high. You don't have to be Shakespeare, you don't have to be a brilliant kind of prize-winning writer, but you do have to be competent at least."

Different Ways to Make Money Blogging

One way to make money blogging is to write for sites that pay for guest blogs. For example, Luke is a regular, paid blogger for sites such as Pick the Brain, The Change Blog, Diet Blog and You on a Diet.

If you've got your own blog there are multiple ways you can "monetize" it. One way is by including advertisements on your page. You can either find advertisers yourself or enroll in a program such as Google AdSense. With Google AdSense, you add a little code to your site that allows Google to put ads there. You get a little revenue every time someone clicks on the ad.

"That's something that I don't do very much on my main blog, which is more a showcase for my work and a place for me to get coaching clients and writing clients," says Luke. "But on some of the older... blogs I've got, I sell advertising links, and it doesn't make me a fortune but it's steady revenue.

"If you've got a blog with a good page rank in Google, people will be willing to pay to have their advert on there, so that's one method," says Luke. "It's probably not the easiest way when you're just starting out, though."

Something else that has worked for Luke is affiliate links. You might not have your own product to sell, such as an e-book, but you can promote somebody else's e-book (or other product) and get 50 percent of the sale price as your commission.

"That's not my main income stream but it has brought in some consistent money," says Luke. "I'll write reviews of products that I've loved and I'll link to them with an affiliate link... and sometimes people will go through and they'll buy the product, and then I get commission for it."

Want to know what has made Luke the most money?

"Selling your own e-books or products -- that for me has probably been the one that brings in the most money, because then you've got full control and you get all of the revenue, and you can really pitch something to your own audience, so you can very much tailor your product to the people who are reading your blog."

However, Luke doesn't suggest doing an e-book until you've really built up a good audience to launch it to. Building up that audience can take at least a year or two.

If you don't have a big audience of your own yet, there is another option. You can launch an e-book through guest posting. This is what Luke did with her first e-book.

"I had a [web] page that sold the e-book and I wrote some guest posts for some quite big blogs," says Luke. "I didn't get paid for those posts but I did get a link back to my sales page. Because I targeted blogs that had readers who'd be interested in my e-book, I got a reasonable rate of conversion from the readers who clicked through."

Know Your Visitors

"You write, you write, you hope you get tons of traffic, you hope you get tens of thousands of visitors, and then you put Adsense on the site and then away you go," says blogger D.J. Dunkerley.

"[But] I would almost say that's really the hard way to do it. That's not bothering to learn about what your visitors want to buy. If you can really understand what your visitors want to buy when they come to the website, or what attracts them, that's three-quarters of the battle in terms of actually trying to generate real revenue from the website."

Dunkerley started his first blogging website in 2007. He has since moved more into web development and Internet marketing.

Dunkerley's clients make money by providing financial news. "They don't like calling them blogs, they like calling them financial newsletters, since [blogging can have] an amateurish connotation, but it's essentially the same platform," says Dunkerley.

"They use a blogging platform, they generate financial investment news for their subscribers, and they generate revenue via the paid subscription model, which seems to be a revenue model that is taking off on the Internet right now," Dunkerley explains. "I assist them in doing that, and that's a living income, for sure."

Blogging for Supplemental Income and Leads

Dave Taylor is a successful technology blogger. He maintains a total of four blogs, including AskDaveTaylor.com.

"I think there are more people making a full-time living as bloggers, but I think it's a very small percentage, and it's a difficult task," says Taylor. "I think that you're more likely to be successful if you're just looking for some sort of supplemental revenue, or lead generation.

"The way that I always separate it out is that there are both direct and indirect revenue," Taylor adds. "Direct revenue is advertising, it's selling an e-book on your site. Indirect is exemplified by my having a blog, getting a lot of readers and having some of those readers contact me asking if I can consult with them directly."

Many people use blogging as a way to support their main income source, as Taylor suggests. Many such people are consultants, artists, public speakers, journalists and authors.

Author Tess Gerritsen is a good example. This internationally bestselling author of medical thrillers has been blogging since 2005.

"I started it because there were things about the publishing biz that fascinated me, bugged me, or just plain flummoxed me, and I didn't know where else to express my thoughts," says Gerritsen. "So some of it was just to share my feelings."

Watch What You Write

Gerritsen says her blogging has evolved over the years.

"I didn't think of it as a marketing tool at first," says Gerritsen. "It was more of a way to ventilate. It turned out to be a way to connect with other writers who were experiencing some of the same heartaches I was. Since my posts were mostly about the business of writing, I'm not sure many readers really tuned in.

"Did it help people discover my work? Perhaps," Gerritsen adds. "But it also infuriated some people and it led to my feeling rather exposed because I was way too honest online.

"Since then, I've stopped blogging so much and am much more cautious with my thoughts. You just can't be that forthright in public. I no longer discuss money, harsh reviews, disappointments, etc. The stuff that's really interesting to me, and probably to other writers, is what will get you into trouble."

Gerritsen's experience shows that blogging has its dangers. If you're too open, some people might not appreciate what you have to say. Bloggers always attract critics -- it just goes with the territory.

Put in the Time and Effort

Bloggers who find the right balance, offering material that readers find entertaining and/or useful, can build a big audience over time.

To what does Taylor attribute his large blog readership?

"I would attribute it primarily to patience," he says. "It's a long haul. No one builds a readership overnight, but... a really critical piece of it is to always have your customer, your reader, your visitor, front and foremost."

As a blogger you can choose to write about technology, like Taylor does, or any other topic that interest you. The more you learn and the more you share, the more your reputation will grow.

"Any given person has the opportunity to be an expert, but that comes from time and effort, that comes from working at it," says Taylor.

"...Any kid that's in high school right now and has personal drive can certainly climb that mountain and become a well-respected expert on hang gliding, or on stamp collecting, or on snowboarding, or on how to make Windows run faster on your old laptop -- whatever it is -- but I think that the key for that is not to focus on the revenue, but to focus on the reader.

"Because if you're not delivering good quality content, if you're not really helping out your audience, then you're just not going to build that readership," Taylor says.

As you can see, it is possible to make a living as a blogger. It's not easy, but it's possible. And the field is evolving quickly, so new opportunities are taking shape all the time.

"I know a lot of people who get at least part of their income through blogging, and it's something that... didn't exist, really, when I was in school," says Luke. "And I'm only 26, so it's a really fast moving area."

Links

The Real Secret to Becoming a Popular Blogger
Learn how to write blogs that keep them coming back

Problogger
Lots of great info here

Ask Dave Taylor
This popular blogger answers technology questions on his blog

WordPress
One of many blog software programs that are out there