Professional Blogging: What It Really Takes
Professional blogging sounds like a dream career, and in many ways it is.
My daily routine is whatever I make it, and I’ve lived mostly alarm-clock-free for the last year. Working out of my home means that I can wear whatever I want, take off early any time the urge strikes, and nobody else gets to dictate at what time and for how long I break for lunch.
There’s no amount of money, no benefit package, and no promise of corporate perks that could ever get me back in a cubicle.
But that doesn’t mean that pro blogging is an easy, no-brainer career.
The rewards are incredible, and if you want to live off of your blogging income, you’ve got some serious work to do to earn those rewards.
Can Your Blogging Career Survive?
According to the Washington Post, about half of new businesses survive up to five years.
Why does that matter?
Because if you want to blog professionally, you’re actually starting a business, and your expectations should be appropriate.
Those statistics don’t mean that you’ve got a 50/50 chance of making it as a blogger – like any business, if you have a sound plan, a solid work ethic, and you keep learning and growing, there’s no reason you won’t make it.
The people that drop out are usually the ones who had unrealistic expectations from the start, and we’re taking care of that now, so that’s one hurdle already jumped. You already know that hanging with the pros is going to be a challenge, and you’re ready to face those facts.
Not ready to run a business?
That’s okay. You can still blog as a hobby – it just won’t pay your bills.
What Should You Expect?
Welcome to entrepreneurship.
If you’re like most people, you’ve never started and run a successful business before.
You can learn.
Being self-employed is completely different than having a job. Greater freedom always comes with responsibility, and you’re probably going to discover that it’s harder than you thought.
You might even find that your entrepreneurial journey takes you far outside of your comfort zone and into uncharted territory. Embrace that! Those are the moments that build your character and make you a more interesting person.
Be prepared to:
- Set goals. Write them down. Make a plan and follow it. This is a business, so act like it.
- Read a lot. Make some room on your shelves, because business, personal growth, and reference books are going to take over your nightstand.
- Put in more hours than you think you need to. You’re not going to build an income that replaces your job for at least a year, so you’re going to be essentially work 2 full-time gigs until things start to come together for you.
- Talk to strangers. Networking is one of those skills that gets dismissed a lot, but if you’re going to be successful, you’ll need to learn it.
- Get in shape. There’s a reason that self-help gurus always talk about fitness – if your energy levels are low, you won’t be able to keep up. Invest in your health and you’ll get an ample return.
- Invest in the future. It’s tempting to take financial shortcuts, especially at first, but learn the difference between an expense and an investment, and don’t be stingy where you’re going to get returns.
- Save for slow months. No matter what earning method you ultimately choose, you’re going to have some particularly lucrative months and some that will be disappointing. It’s a big adjustment to go from a steady paycheck to this kind of business income.
You might read that list and think that you can get by without doing everything. After all, what does physical fitness really have to do with business success? And why should you need to talk to other people when you’re starting a business online?
When I was new, I thought the same thing.
I was wrong.
So are you.
Sorry for the lack of tact, but entrepreneurship is messy. It’s scary. It’s nothing like you expect it to be. You should know what you’re getting into, without all of the over-glorified hero-worship stuff. Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy, and that is a little bit heroic…but they still have to prepare for slow months and invest in their futures.
And we haven’t even gotten to the part where you actually start your business yet. Those are just the preliminaries.
Don’t worry. It gets easier. In a few years it does, anyway.
What Does A Blogging Career Look Like?
The term “professional blogger” covers a lot of ground, so let’s talk about what it means.
Freddy Freelancer writes articles for environmental and health websites. He’s the modern version of a freelance journalist – a freelance blogger. Perhaps he works with companies that are referred to as content mills which act sort of like temp agencies for writers, or he might look for job postings on job boards and Craigslist. He’s a professional blogger.
Mary Mommyblogger has her own very successful mommy blog. She writes about her daily life as a stay-at-home mom, but she also does some affiliate marketing for companies that make formula and diapers. She’s become so popular that Hasbro has partnered with her to make a line of toys for young children, and she gets a portion of all of the sales because her face is on the box. She’s a professional blogger.
Carl Corporate worked out of a cubicle for years before he finally decided that he’d had enough. He quit, but went back to his company as an independent contractor to build their new website and develop their brand through corporate blogging. He handles much of their customer interaction, and gets paid an hourly rate. He’s a professional blogger.
Barbara Business enjoys building websites and marketing products, so she starts very specialized websites to market certain products as an affiliate, but designs them to run automatically and hires other writers to help her keep up with the need for new content. She writes her own landing pages and some of her blog posts, but her specialty is in web design. She’s a professional blogger.
Eddie Entrepreneur has invented a really smart home organization product that gets rid of cluttered kitchen cabinets. He doesn’t have the money or the connections to film an infomercial, and he’s never been good at face-to-face sales, so he takes a course on copywriting and starts a website devoted to the amazing benefits of his awesome new product. Eventually, it evolves into an online kitchen product store, and he finds new customers through blogging. He’s a professional blogger.
As you can see, professional blogging is a pretty broad spectrum.
Once you figure out all of the different ways that you can make money online, you have the freedom to essentially design your own job.
Isn’t that cool?
Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to make a plan and then stick with it. You’re not going to be any good at first – in fact, you’ll completely suck for at least the first 6 months.
You’re allowed to suck. Just don’t quit.
Expect that it will be 6 months to a year before you see any profits at all, and then a year longer to reach a point where your income is steady enough to support you. That means that it’s going to be 1 to 2 years before this is a viable career.
Instant success only happens in the movies.
If that scares you, consider this:
Imagine that you decided not to embark on a blogging career, since you’re not willing to put in so much time and effort when it’s going to be years before you see appreciable results. That two years goes by anyway…and where are you? Still at your job?
Don’t let the time scare you. Two years is going to pass anyway. You might as well be doing something worthwhile with it.
Now let’s assume that you’re going for it. You’ve got a plan, and you’re working towards blogging success.
Stick with the plan!
It’s tempting to change course when you’ve been floundering along for 8 months with barely any results, but if you change course too early, you’re just going to have to start over. Then, you’ll go another 8 months without seeing any results because you undermined your earlier progress, and you’ll be tempted to change the plan again, and then…
You get the picture.
While some course correction may be necessary, don’t flip-flop too easily. Just because there are a lot of ways to turn blogging into a career doesn’t mean that you need to try all of them.
And Then There’s The Money…
Professional blogging is not a one-size-fits-all career. There is no job description, no one definitive how-to guide that lays out the single best 10 step program to blogging success.
That’s great, because it means you’ve got the freedom to decide your own priorities.
Most bloggers cultivate multiple income streams in order to make their profits worth their time. Here’s a link to an article that lists most of them in more detail than we’ll go into here.
Depending on your business model, you’ll use some combination of:
- Affiliate marketing – Essentially, this means that you provide links to other websites, and when people click through your links and purchase products on those websites, you’re paid a percentage.
- Ad space – When your website has lots of highly targeted traffic, you make more money with ads, but don’t expect to get right selling ad space.
- Product sales – You can, of course, sell your own physical or informational products or services and use your blog as part of your marketing strategy.
- Freelance blogging – If writing is your strength and you need to make money more quickly, selling your writing services can fill that gap – but it will never create passive income unless you do something like direct mail copywriting.
- Membership services – Build your site with plenty of value, and you can offer access to exclusive content for a regular fee.
Additionally, professional blogging is often one small part of a larger business plan. A blog is a brilliant way to solidify a brand and reach a very targeted audience, then turn that audience into a following.
Creating a full-time income with just the strategies listed above is a pretty challenging goal, and most people aren’t up to the task. It’s okay if you’re only aiming to make a few hundred dollars extra every month, too. Nobody is forcing you to devote yourself to this pursuit full-time.
But for now, let’s assume that you’re planning to turn your blog into a career.
In its simplest form, professional blogging is a specialized type of marketing. You might be selling a product, an idea, or an image, but if you’re going to make money, you’re going to have to sell something.
That also means that you’re going to have to do something that most people find terrifying:
You’re going to market yourself.
If you’re not willing to participate in sales and marketing, and you’re not willing to learn how to “sell” yourself to people you’ve never met before, then perhaps this is not the career for you.
You can continue at the hobby level, and you might make $100 or $200 per month on average.
If you’re ready to admit that you don’t know everything and you’re coachable and open to learning…
If you’re willing to be a little bit uncomfortable for a while as you try new things and meet new people…
If you know that it’s worth the extra time and effort now so that you can work out of your house, spend time with your family, and make decisions based on your own priorities instead of your boss’s demands…
Then you’re almost ready to launch a new career.
Bring It On
Congratulations on reading this far! Most people went back to their Facebook page five minutes ago, so you’re already making better choices than the general population.
Now, here are a few more good choices you should expect to make if you’re ready to go pro:
Don’t quit your day job until you’ve been making steady income from your blog for at least a year. When you can put your paycheck in the bank every month and live off of your blogging income exclusively, you know something is going right. After a year of that, you’ll have the confidence that you can make it on your own, plus a year of income as a safety net should anything go horribly wrong.
Start learning about business ownership, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Brush up on your people skills with books like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, which is basically the gold standard in self-improvement. Attend a seminar or conference for entrepreneurs. Get involved in the community by attending a WordCamp event near you. Education really is key to success.
Write down your goals for the next year, the next 5 years, and the next 20 years. It might not seem like it matters, but it’s a step towards being self-sufficient – if you’ve been working a job for most of your life, it can be challenging to change your mindset. Having clear goals about your business and about your life as a whole will help.
Of course, you can’t learn everything you need to know to be successful in just one blog post.
But hopefully, you have an idea of whether or not you’re on the right path.
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Welcome to the world of professional blogging!