Monthly Archives: June 2008

Updates to Xfep

I have worked on updating a few things over the past few days so that eXtra For Every Publisher could put its best foot forward for its 500th post.

The first thing that I hope you will all notice is that I have added a proper theme demo system to the ThemeTest install, making sure that you can now see any of the three themes I have released on this blog in an easy and intuitive manner. Don’t expect miracles from it, but it works well and I hope you will all give my WordPress themes another look.

Advertising rates have been updated to better reflect the rankings and size of the site. I have also signed up to use the Performancing Ads system which I will talk more about in the future. I highly recommend it, and I hope to control all of my advertising inventory through it as soon as possible.

Over on my blog consulting page, you can expect to find lowered rates which should make my consulting time more appealing to the early blogger. It is now only $50 for an hour of consulting.

Even the contact page has been changed as new contact information has been added to make it even easier to contact me when you really need to get a hold of me, but my contact form does e-mail the e-mail account I use most often, so I suggest trying that first.

These are just a few of the changes I have made on this blog over the past week, and I hope to continue to add, edit and streamline this blog so that it works as efficiently as possible for all of you looking to get into blogging.

Start Planning for 2009

Now that we have gone beyond the half way point in the year, it is time for bloggers to start thinking about next year, especially if you are dependent on cost per action revenue.

As we get closer to the fall, more and more bloggers will start to work on positioning themselves for the winter holiday rush, but I think that going ahead and preparing for the next year is a wiser move.

For fitness bloggers, getting some posts ready for New Years resolutions, losing weight during the spring and finding the best spring gym memberships, could lead to huge revenue, especially if you work from now until the spring on building these articles and resources a wide variety of in bound links.

Other bloggers can also take advantage of getting a head start on the next year. If you write about movies, you can start a guide to blockbusters due out in 2009. If you write about cars, which cars are coming out next year that people should be excited about? These articles can all be great starting points that you can continue to build, promote, and get links to for the next six months.

Don’t wait until the winter to start thinking about next year, as your competition will already have pages of content ranked well in Google, and you will lose out on having a fighting chance.

Take some time and bet on what could be popular, and you could create a huge monetary windfall for yourself.

My Blogging Retrospective Part 3: Going Beyond Blogging

Once you have been blogging for a while, things might change and there could be a time when other offers might come your way that have very little to do with blogging. This recently happened to me, with my new position as Community Manager for PicApp.

Some of the things that you will most likely learn if you take even the smallest interest in them include: software, hardware, advertising, monetization, networking, branding, promotion, and social media. Some of those can be merged together, but in the end, they are all skills that can be used for other jobs.

Software/Hardware

When I first started blogging, I was just manually editing HTML on Geocities. After that, I moved onto a simple PHP script that I found on Hotscripts, and then finally I moved onto WordPress after hearing about it on a blog I enjoyed by Michael Heilemann, aka Binary Bonsai.

WordPress was this complex piece of software, and at first I felt like I would never understand any of the code that made it run, but after tweaking a few themes to suit me, I began to understand the theme architecture and that stood me in good stead when I was working for Bloggy Network as they had a great designer, and needed those designs quickly converted into WordPress themes. This made me more useful to them, and gave me the occasional break from writing articles.

Beyond WordPress, I was a bit of a geek, and was able to spend some time refreshing myself on Linux command line commands, and became useful in that way as well in setting up all of the Bloggy Network blogs to use Subversion to manage updating the blogs, which shaved hours off of the upgrade time for the blogs.

Advertising and Promotion

If you aren’t a technical person, but you want to run a successful blog, you have to either really have some personality in your writing or you need to be amazing at advertising and promotion. Social media promotion is a skill I am still learning and each time I figure out something new, the power of my articles increases.

Advertising on the right blogs can be really difficult. You need to think about the amount of money you want to spend, and the position of the blog. I am hesitant to buy any advertising except where the owner of the site has priced the spot so low that I would be stupid not to.

The issue with advertising on most blogs is that the readers have no doubt become ad blind to most of the traditional advertising locations, and so unless your campaign is unique in some way, you will not get the results you are hoping for. I learned this the hard way, and spent a fair bit of money trying to capture an audience off of competing sites.

Always try to increase your skills outside of blogging, but don’t stray too far from your craft. At one point I was spending more time on advertising, marketing, WordPress support and theme development than I was blogging, and that can be draining and sometimes depressing if it is writing that you are really passionate about.

Do You Have a Goal?

One of the things that I had when I started blogging was a goal in my mind, and I try to create goals for each and every site I launch. Some are unrealistic and nearly impossible to attain in the time line I have created, but I have always been one to reach for the stars and find fulfillment in making it to the moon.

If you don’t have goals for your blog, and your blogging efforts, then how will you know how far you have really come and how much more you have to work on?

My current goal with this blog is to build it to a four figure revenue mark per month or sell to a good company or blogger for low five figures. My initial time line on this was to have it happen within the first year of posting, and in a little over two weeks we will be at that one year point, and I am only bringing in half as much revenue per month than I was hoping and I haven’t yet sold the blog.

So while I haven’t met my goals, it does feel really nice to have built a site with five hundred posts, nearly five hundred RSS subscribers and some new friends that I wouldn’t have made without creating this blog. I couldn’t have set a goal towards the intangible things I would gain for this blog, and so I see them as a bonus.

You need to have blogging goals, and to try to stick with them. Every time I changed full time blogging jobs, I received a small but substantial bump in pay, bringing me finally to a level where I can lead a comfortable life from my online work.

Never forget the people that helped build your career, but continue to focus on the things that will excite you and help you attain your goals.

This post is part three of three parts. This is the 500th post on this blog. Some things that have changed on this blog and some more changes are coming. I am continuing to try to improve this blog and I want to thank all of you that take the time to read my thoughts and comment.

If you are a blogger just starting out and looking for advice, please contact me. I love to give advice, even if it isn’t something I am particularly knowledgeable about, I am always looking to learn new things and help people succeed.

Check out Part One: Don’t Take Every Job
Check out Part Two: Build Your Personal Brand

My Blogging Retrospective Part 2: Build Your Personal Brand

Over the last three years, I have realized that the most important thing when it comes to building up a business online is your personal brand.

Even if you are working as a blogger in a blog network, you need to be focused on building your personal brand over anything else, or you could be left without a job if the winds of change happen to hit your current employer.

If you are a blogging building up your own sites, it also is in your best interest to build your own personal brand. Building your own brand online takes a lot of work, and forces you to think in a different way about your content, your work, and how you build your site. Building a brand online requires you to network, socialize, try new things and really put yourself out there in a way that goes beyond just posting something and forgetting about it.

Each piece of content you put up should have a piece of your personality within it, so that your readers can really connect with you and become passionate about your writing.

The first piece of advice I always give to a budding blogger is to spend time networking. When I first got into blogging, I wasn’t very good at networking, and I feel like it really limited my career options, not that I am complaining about the last few years, but if I had worked harder on networking, who knows how far I could have gone in the same amount of time.

Some of the small attempts that I did make at networking helped secure me jobs, and get my name known by a few people. In fact, without contacting Jacob Gower for an interview, I doubt I ever would have got the full time job with him that lasted two years. Without taking the time to submit an application to Darren Rowse to guest blog and following up on it, I doubt I would have been chosen to write on his laptop blog.

These small movements in the networking space are what catapulted my career and it really isn’t about getting to know the biggest internet celebrities, or the bloggers in positions you want to be in, but keeping your eyes open for opportunities, and being passionate. The more you can share your passions with others, the more chances you create for yourself to build powerful and lasting connections.

Get Out and Socialize

This brings me to another key aspect of building your personal brand: socializing. If you always just stay in your house, in your protective bubble so to speak, then you will never get to that higher level when it comes to building your personal brand. Finding events you can attend like conferences and blogger meetups can really help you connect with your peers and open up new opportunities.

While living in Ottawa, I was one of the founders of the Ottawa Blogger Meetup with James Cogan, and as the group grew the local news paper picked up on it and sent someone to cover the event. This ended up with me and others getting our picture in the paper as well as a long article that heavily featured myself as well as other bloggers in the Ottawa area.

This was thanks to attending the event, and is becoming more and more common as blogging related news hits the mainstream more and more. I am always hearing about some of my colleagues getting themselves and their sites mentioned in major newspapers or even on television. This helps build your personal brand in leaps and bounds.

Don’t get me wrong though. You don’t have to be covered by traditional media to make meetups and conferences worthwhile. Just meeting peers with different talents can quickly help you. I have done many jobs in trade for help with my weaknesses. I write posts for them, they do design work for me, and both of us do better in our careers over the long term.

I have also been to conferences and events where it was just nice to unwind and take everything in, something which can really quickly recharge the creativity battery that can run down from time to time.

Build Something of Your Own

Another thing I recommend for every blogger is to start their own projects, and especially ones where money isn’t a concern, and where you feel safe to test the waters in various ways. It could be a personal blog, or about a specific topic, but the idea is to have something of your own where you can learn, play and expand your talents in ways that any blogging work might not let you do.

This is also a place where you can continue to build your personal brand, allowing you to create a single message.

When I was blogging on a dozen different sites, I didn’t feel like anyone had a central place to understand who I was, what I do, or what I enjoyed, and so I started finding ways to pull things together. First I started doing roundups on my personal blog about what I was posting about on other blogs, and then moved all of my thoughts and ideas over to this blog, and built my super feed, which is a Yahoo Pipes to Feedburner implementation that allowed people to subscribe to one feed and be able to read all of the posting I was doing on dozens of blogs.

I loved building these little projects as they helped me tie my brand and work together.

Add Variety to Your Life

One of my favourite things was to try various mediums when putting my message and brand out there. I was the co-host of the WordPress Podcast, and still am the co-host of the TechCanuck Podcast. I enjoy the audio medium, though not editing. It also woke me up to the fact that there are so many different ways to put what I had to say out into the world, and by trying to do things with audio and video, I was expanding my audience and building new ways for them to connect to my ideas.

One of the things I enjoyed the most, but didn’t always turn out the best was live streaming on Ustream. It allowed me to interact with people in a whole new way. I was answering their questions live on video. While they didn’t really need to see me, as I was just a talking head, it was still quite an experience for me.

Sometimes writing all of the time can get boring and adding in special things like audio, video or other multimedia can help freshen up a blog and even bring it to the next level. I am always considering bringing the XFEP podcast back because I enjoyed recording it, but the production time is definitely a lot higher than posting some text.

Give Freely of Your Time

The last thing I wanted to talk about in this part of my retrospective is the idea of giving freely of your time. So many of the things that have gotten me to this point have been thanks to finding time to give a friend or network connection some of my time and help them towards their goals. Usually, if they are a good person, this pays huge dividends for you in the end, and if it doesn’t, sometimes just being attached to certain brands online can help boost your career. I think being able to name drop, while a little snob-like, can help remind people how relevant you are, at least until you become a name people recognize.

If Darren hadn’t let me work on his laptop blog, would Jacob have felt compelled to hire me on? If I hadn’t worked on FineFools, would I have ever made some of the friends I have today that have taught me things that have helped me in various ways?

Sometimes working on guest posts for other blogs can lead to full time jobs. Sometimes co-hosting or guest hosting a podcast can open all sorts of doors, and sometimes teaching someone something new on your blog can lead to book deals. You need to be patient and willing to give freely of your time. If you are always chasing money, then you will miss out on all of the secondary benefits and opportunities that will come your way.

Conclusion

Building a business around blogging is hard, but building a brand online that you can leverage in a variety of ways is easy and definitely worthwhile. I can’t even count the number of times that my career has been boosted in some way thanks to the continual work I do on networking, socializing, building my own projects, trying new things, and giving my time freely to those around me.

If you feel like you are stuck in your blogging career and aren’t reaching the heights you want, then you are probably missing one of these important factors that go into building your personal brand, so go back and brainstorm on what you can do to get to that next level.

This post is part two of three parts. The third part will be the 500th post on this blog and as part of my work towards this milestone I will be working on improving this site greatly, so please keep checking back.

Check out Part One: Don’t Take Every Job
Check out Part Three: Going Beyond Blogging

My Blogging Retrospective Part 1: Don’t Take Every Job

As part of my three year retrospective and the count down to five hundred posts on this blog, I wanted to make sure I covered how I started blogging full time, and how things have changed today. I wanted to cover how stressful it is to be a full time blogger and how it can be hard to say “no” to jobs that come up. I think too many people still think that it is either too easy or too difficult to become a full time blogger, and I think that this post among others will help people understand the career choice a bit better.

Becoming a Problogger

My history with blogging has been as much about passion as luck. I have always enjoyed writing fiction, but never assumed I would take a career in writing as computers and technology were my primary passions. When Darren Rowse decided to go on vacation, I applied as one of the people that would guest post on one of his many blogs while he was gone, and despite not blogging on his most important blog, Problogger, I was still noticed by Jacob Gower, who has purchased a variety of high profile blogs.

At first it looked like I was going to have two part time blogging jobs, but Jacob stepped up and hired me full time. My pay was fairly low, especially after taxes were set aside, but thanks to the support of my wife, we were able to make ends meet. My first tip for someone looking to go full time in blogging is to find ways to cut your expenses. The lower your expenses, the easier it is to find a blogging job that can pay for them. Especially today with competition getting higher and higher for the positions available online, you will want to find ways to make yourself very valuable to companies while still being able to afford to eat reasonably.

I started out doing over a dozen posts a day on a variety of different sites. I was writing for a large group of brand new blogs as well as a small group of heavily established sites. I found it very stressful but also very exhilarating. I was working from home for a living. I didn’t care about the long hours or low pay because the job was interesting and fun. I spent hours researching my favourite technologies and writing about them. I was on top of the daily advancements in computers, cell phones, and blogging. It was a hard job, but also felt very fulfilling.

As time progressed, I slowly made more, and was able to do less posting. I was grateful for this change as it allowed me to switch from being a low end content producer into a writer. I was able to give thought and emotion to my articles, as well as really start to show my creativity and passion. And again, I felt fulfilled by my job.

The biggest issue that I started to notice though was that I had made everything I was interested in, into a job. I no longer had any hobbies outside of work, and even playing video games became a work oriented expenditure of time and energy. Instead of diving into a game and enjoying it, I was thinking about the storyline, graphics, controls, and plotting out my thoughts for review later on when I was back in WordPress composing a post.

This realization changed blogging for me, and made me wonder about my ability to do it for a longer period of time. If all of the things I was interested in were connected to my job, how would I unwind and just enjoy myself? I still recommend that anyone who wants to really get into blogging start writing about your passions first, as it will help set you apart from the masses of new blogs being created every day where the sole purpose is to generate profit.

Taking on Too Much

Money was still tight at the time, and so I didn’t have long to really reflect on that realization, and then did what most bloggers end up doing: I took on more projects.

I started a few blogs of my own in hopes of one day working entirely for myself, as well as working on some blogs for another network, dailypixel. I went from working ten or more hours a day to spending all day on the computer. I tried to set some time aside for my wife, but otherwise I was glued to my RSS reader, or the WordPress administration panel. Sometimes, I would pull an all nighter in hopes of catching up in work, as I always felt like I was falling behind.

When taking on the job with James at dailypixel, I really didn’t think about my worth and ended up requesting a rate of around ten dollars for every three posts. How did I come to this rate? I assumed that I could write around three posts per hour, and so I would be making a rate of ten dollars an hour. The issue is that I didn’t think about research time, nor the fatigue I would have from both my full time blogging job and my own personal projects.

Soon the blogging burnout hit all of my work and Jacob, my boss at Bloggy Network noticed it and asked me to adjust the deal so that I would only be working for him. Other part time blogging opportunities came my way, and I turned them down. Either because of the deal with Bloggy Network or because they weren’t going to offer me a rate that could really make it worth my time to ask Jacob to break the deal.

I eventually closed down the blogs I had started for myself as they weren’t growing very fast, and looking at the statistics of the newer blogs that I was working on for Bloggy Network, it would take upwards of a year before the sites started showing any real signs of making a profit from the time I was putting into creating content for them.

Changing Blog Networks

Pick the right network. One thing I learned early on was that different bloggers do exceptionally well in different blog networks. It takes a variety of different pieces that need to fit together perfectly before you create an amazing blogger to blog network relationship. For the most part I experienced that connection with Bloggy Network. I was pretty much in charge of a variety of projects, and was depended on for a variety of things. This made me feel important and successful. Being in control of the content I produced, and feeling like I was part of the executive team helped me remain inspired and committed to my job.

Switching over to Splashpress Media, I felt a little like a small fish in a big pond, and despite Mark Saunders, the owner, working hard to integrate me well into the team, I still always felt like an outsider. Add to that the lack of response to some business related ideas I had, and it just wasn’t a good fit for me at that time. I definitely learned a lot by being in the wrong blog network for me, and so I am definitely glad I had that experience. Also, I want to mention that Splashpress Media is a great company to work for, but it just didn’t suit me at that time in my career.

Bigger blog networks definitely feel more secure in nature, but if you aren’t part of the executive team, you end up feeling like little more than a content producer, and after doing that for a few years, I wanted more control, and responsibility. Smaller blog networks feel more unstable, but also more agile and responsive to business related ideas. Also, at Bloggy Network, everyone needed to be a swiss army knife with a wide range of usable skills over and above writing and so there were very few instances where I was bored.

Conclusion

My main tip in this post would be that anyone looking to become a full time blogger in a blog network take the time to research the blog network and talk to both people within the company and outside of it to really get a good understanding of the culture and needs of the network before you join and don’t take every job that comes your way.

This post is part one of three parts. The third part will be the 500th post on this blog and as part of my work towards this milestone I will be working on improving this site greatly, so please keep checking back.

Check out Part Two: Build Your Personal Brand
Check out Part Three: Going Beyond Blogging