You're probably aware of the most widely advertised path to building a blog business, which is: blog > audience > product > money. In that order.
There are tons of posts on the web that teach us how to follow this exact path effectively, and hopefully build a sustainable and profitable blog at the end of it.
Just to be clear, there's nothing at all wrong with this model.
It is still very possible to emulate their success if you have the stomach for it.
But there's just one issue here...
Not everyone is like them.
Not everyone has the same marketing chops and the same drive to become a top blog marketer.
There has to be another solution, right?
Well, I don't want to sound like a preacher, but there really are other equally effective ways to make money as a blogger, and even without having a popular site.
In fact, the size of your blog may have nothing to do with how successful you can become as a money making blogger.
How? Because the strategy I'm about to present here is based on providing expert blogging services to other businesses, and not on offering products to your audience directly.
Why offering expert services is the new era of making money blogging?
Blogging is now among the main methods of marketing and brand building for countless businesses with any sort of online presence.
The people in charge have realized that the era of shallow AdWords advertising or, even worse, banner advertising is long gone, and that in order to stay relevant in this day and age, they need to provide something more.
Namely, they need to provide content that their customer base likes to consume and can benefit from.
And now the best part ... hey don't have a clue how to do it.
They know some vague terms like, infographics, viral content, BuzzFeed, WordPress, blogging, but they don't know how to connect all of this together.
At the same time, they don't have the funds to hire a large media company, plus they're afraid that the company would only end up wasting their money anyway.
So this is where you step into the picture.
These days, bloggers - you and me - are growing to be experts or at least sufficiently knowledgeable in many areas related to running an online endeavor.
Based on your experience, you know online marketing, SEO, copywriting, content writing, social media, or have some expertise in all of these areas at the same time.
Like I said, those are all the skills that other online businesses or small businesses struggle with, and need help with.
The market for those kinds of services is potentially huge. Just looking in my inbox, I'm getting at least a handful of messages a week where someone contacts me (people I don't know) and asks me about providing content marketing services.
The best part? I've never even advertised myself as a content marketer.
So naturally, I respond, and I get the business.
At the same time, I'm not a hugely popular blogger by any means. This is probably the first time (or the second time) you ever see my name. Yet, this isn't stopping me from building a blogging business. How am I doing this? I think you know by now, I'm providing my services to other businesses.
How to begin
Okay, so just to recap. In order to make this work for you, you don't need a popular blog. You don't need to be an A-list player.
However, what you do need is confidence and being skilled at some specific thing - the thing that you will be offering as your service.
So how to find that specific thing - how to pick your services?
This is the most important element here. Some types of services will allow you to earn more money than others. First, let's set a few guidelines in place:
- Try offering services that are repetitive - ones that your clients will likely keep coming back for.
- Try offering services that can be systematized.
- Your services can't be too simple (you don't want the client to hire you one time and then be able to do everything themselves).
- Try offering services that are scalable (for instance, if your client wants to spend more with you and get more results, they have the opportunity to do so).
Having those in mind, let's look through individual possibilities and try pick the things that present the best chance of working for you.
First of all, it's important to focus on your strengths here. So just look through your blogging journey up until this point, and try identifying the areas where you have been the most effective and able to generate the best results.
For example, maybe you're an expert social media guy/gal? Getting followers and keeping them engaged hasn't been a problem for you at all? Well, there you go, build a service around that. Maybe you know Pinterest ... like really know it, and what works on it. Same thing here, develop a service around Pinterest and using it for business.
Let's look through some other examples (no particular order):
- Consulting. Managing an online presence effectively is a lot of work and it's easy to lose grasp on the general picture. Through your consulting services, you're bringing this big picture back to your client and guide their attention to the stuff that really matters when building an online brand. Granted, to pull that one off, you need to have a lot of general experience in the online.
- 360 blog/WordPress management. This is about the technical stuff related to WordPress and everything that's connected to it. In other words, it's where you're handling your client's blog from a technical point of view.
- 360 social media management. This is about taking care of the client's social media platforms. Much like the example I mentioned above.
- Blogging / Writing. Taking the role of the main writer on the client's blog.
- Guest blogging.
- SEO. Much more difficult to earn credibility in this space. Basically, you need to have a top ranking blog yourself before you can claim to be any good at SEO.
- Interview / blogger gathering posts. Those things are really popular these days. The idea is to contact 10-20 bloggers, ask them specific questions and then combine their answers into one post. If you're good at this kind of stuff (networking, managing people) consider offering it as a service. You can also get some help from a site like MyBlogU, which is a place built specifically to connect experts working and collaborating on content.
- Overall content marketing. Handling everything related to creating, publishing and then promoting content on the web.
You don't have to go far for an example. Check out Pauline's services page. It lists a handful of possibilities, each with short descriptions and good presentation.
Speaking of presentation...
How to present your services
There are a couple of ways in which you can present your services and invite potential clients to reach out to you.
Most importantly, if you don't say directly that you're available for hire, no one will deduce this on their own. You really need to be upfront and direct about this.
For that reason, a great way is to include a new custom block right on your homepage.
This is what Jacob Cass of JUSTCreative.com does:
Right on the homepage, he links to his main service - logo and brand identity design. I highly encourage you to experiment with something similar yourself. Just place a custom link on your homepage pointing to a landing page where the visitor can learn about your service.
If you want to display some cool visual elements and your site runs on WordPress (that's WordPress.org not .com), check out the Shortcodes Ultimate plugin. It's easy to use and produces really great results.
Another solution is to include a widget in the sidebar of your blog, so your visitors can see your offer whenever they're reading any of your posts. Additionally, to make that widget visible at all times (so it scrolls together with the post) check out the Q2W3 Fixed Widget plugin.
How to write your copy
This is where the actual selling takes place.
In short, standard copywriting rules apply. What you want to do is sell a product - which in this case is your time. List the benefits, explain what you can do for the client, and tell them why they should hire you.
How to structure your landing page
Once you're done with the copy, you need to provide a clear way for the client to reach out to you.
Saying something like, "Visit my contact page" really won't cut it.
You should give them a direct call to action and a contact form right there and then.
So here's a method I'm experimenting with lately.
Instead of using a standard form - like with a Contact Form 7 plugin or something - I actually use an email list opt-in form.
The form looks just like a standard contact form - it has a field for a name, email address and message, but instead of getting sent to me, it goes directly to a custom email list.
Doing something like this gives you an incredibly effective way to manage your leads and see how they're engaging with whatever you're sending them. In my opinion, it's a much better solution than handling things in Gmail.
I'm doing this with SendinBlue (a new player on the email newsletter service market) - they provide autoresponder functionality for free. With it, I can set automated messages that ask my new contacts a set of standard questions - ones that I would ask anyway. Doing it through an autoresponder seems to make much more sense.
And that's it for the landing page structure.
So just to recap, you need to use good copy, and combine it with an effective contact form (preferably an email opt-in form).
Sealing the deal
One problem that I've started noticing over time is that some clients might try to back out of the deal later down the road.
I mean, the scenario is that you're talking with them, negotiating, everything seems fine, but right before they're supposed to send you your first transfer, they say that the company has changed direction or something similar.
We need to avoid that as much as possible.
The first way of preventing this from happening is to make the relationship professional and serious as soon as possible. You can achieve this by sending a good project proposal.
A proposal is a really valuable vehicle, so to speak, to make the deal look real. A good proposal needs to present goals and objectives of the project, describe the solution, talk about the fees, provide a timeline, list the next steps, and explain the terms and conditions.
If you don't want to write this on your own, which would take a lot of time (I know), I advise checking out Bidsketch. It's a cool proposal software that will help you compose your client proposal, send it out and then track how the client interacts with it. Cool stuff.
The other important element that comes after the proposal is a contract. Some people are not fans of contracts (they rely on trust alone), but I generally advise using them as they do provide at least some safety against being tricked out of your money.
You can find nice contract templates here.
How to find potential clients
I use two main methods for finding clients.
The first one is guest blogging on the right blogs (so clients can later on come to me), and the other is reaching out to individual business people (cold emailing - me coming to them).
The key to effective guest blogging is to pick the sites where your prospective clients hang out, and not where your peers hang out (important!).
For example, if you want to find blogging clients, you're not going to do so by posting on ProBlogger, even though it's a huge and respected site.
Always follow the client trail. Create your average client persona and try figuring out where you can find them.
What sites do they read? What challenges are they trying to solve? Then submit your guest posts to those sites.
In your posts, present your expertise on whatever the topic of the site is and use a good call to action to bring them back to the landing page on your site - the one listing your services.
With time, as you build your guest blogging portfolio, the number of people contacting you regularly will build up. It may happen sooner or later, but eventually it will.
About cold mailing. The toughest thing here is finding good prospects - people who can potentially make your ideal clients. Of course, you can use Google for that, but there are better ways.
My favorite one is CrunchBase. They publish a record of what's been going on in the startup market - including newest funding rounds, acquisitions and so on. By going through their list, you can easily find businesses that are very likely to be in need of your services. This site is a true goldmine.
So create a good pitch and start sending it out, optimizing it relentlessly as you go along.
Finally, forget about sites like oDesk and others similar. Most of the time, you won't find any quality gigs there. This is mostly due to the fact that you're competing with tens or even hundreds of people, all bidding on the same gig.
Next step? Start earning
Okay, so that's it for the strategy and the whole method I've been using to land blogging work.
I've built my operations mostly around offering writing services - it just works for me, but you can focus on whatever else seems sensible, as long as you can deliver real results to your clients.
I hope you'll give this a chance. It is one of the few ways to make money blogging without having a popular site.
So what do you think? Does this unusual "make money from a blog" strategy sound like something for you?