Posts Tagged ‘Mary Jaksch’

A Simple System to Turn Your Blog into a Cash Machine

Posted in Blog on March 11th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 19 Comments

By Mary Jaksch

earn money bloggingCan you make money blogging?

The answer is: Yes!

But when you first start blogging, earning from a blog seems impossible.

But the good news is that you – yes, you who are reading this article – can make money blogging!

And I’m not talking a few dollars. I’m talking about earning a substantial income from your blog.

Read on to find out how to go about it.

Some people think it’s simply about using different blog monetization methods, but if you really want to earn big from your blog, you need to change the strategy underlying your methods.

Obviously, I won’t be able to cover the whole shebang in this post, but I’ll give you some important pointers about a strategy that actually works.  I’ll say more in the upcoming free online training, The Fast Track to Turning Your Blog into a Cash Machine.

But first, let me tell you about about my journey of blogging.

Here’s what happened…

When I first began blogging, I was like a blind person trying to find my way through an unfamiliar town.

I started with GoodlifeZEN.com and then added a blog for writers, WritetoDone.com. A few months in, the whole blogging thing looked like a disaster! Goodlife ZEN only had about 50 subscribers. WritetoDone was doing a bit better because Leo Babauta had originally started it. But I wasn’t earning a dime.

If you had asked me at that time whether it was possible to create a six-figure income from blogging, I would have laughed!

But I kept going.

I struggled, and studied, and worked hard.

Now I make a fix-figure income from blogging. And I’ve taught others to do the same. Like Carol Tice right here at Make a Living Writing, or Scott Dinsmore, or Jules Clancy, or Steve Aitchison (all of whom went through my training at A-List Blogging).

Let’s take a look at what works – and what doesn’t.

Which earning strategies really work?

1. The Field of Dreams Strategy

Remember the film Field of Dreams? The key idea behind the film was, “Build it, and they will come!”

Many new bloggers start a blog with the same strategy. They create it and then wait for readers to arrive. And then… nothing much happens.

The upside of the Field of Dreams strategy is that there is total creative freedom. But this strategy won’t make you any money.

The Field of Dreams strategy doesn’t work if you want to make money because the focus is on the blogger, not on the potential customer.

2. The Funnel Strategy

The following strategy guarantees results.  I call it the Funnel Strategy. It turns the Field of Dreams strategy on its head.

With the Funnel Strategy, you focus on the end result, that is, on earning money with your blog. You may worry that this will limit your creativity. But this strategy simply means focusing your creative powers in a new way.
Sales Funnel 300x
The funnel is set up so that each new or returning visitor to your blog takes a planned pathway, finally ending in a sale.

If you already have a blog, don’t worry – you can tweak your blog so that you end up with a funnel that works for growth and income.

If you’re planning to start a blog, setting it up correctly from the get go is crucial.

When you use the Funnel Strategy, you need to start by asking five questions:

1. What is my best niche?

2. What are the markets in my niche?

3. Which product would be a good fit?

4. How can my blog setup support the funnel?

5. What content will draw readers into the funnel?

As you can imagine, there is a lot to say about the Funnel Strategy. However, if you participate in my free webinar tomorrow, The Fast Track to Turning Your Blog into a Cash Machine, you’ll learn a lot more about it.

Right now, though, let’s take a look at those first three questions.

What’s your best niche?

A niche is a group of people with common interests, needs, desires or problems. Your niche has to be wide enough to be able to create ongoing content, but it needs to be narrow enough so that readers are bound together by a common interest.

As you can see in the image below, there are three aspects you need to consider when defining your niche.

best niche

1. Your niche needs to benefit readers.

Your blog will only flourish if what you write about is also of benefit to others.

“Bloggers fail because they don’t connect with an audience. Many bloggers don’t understand that the blog should be about their reader instead of themselves. Then they’re baffled why their blog doesn’t take off.” – Carol Tice, MakeaLivingWriting.com

This doesn’t mean that you can’t write about your own experiences, but there needs to be something that benefits your readers.

2. You need to have expertise.

Each one of us has expertise. Each of us has much more knowledge and experience than we give ourselves credit for. In fact, the kind of knowledge and experience that we think ‘everyone knows about’ is often our hidden treasure, the special expertise people want to know about.

3. You need to be passionate about your niche.

It’s very hard to continue a blog if you’re not deeply interested in the topic. After all, you have to come up with topics to blog about, week after week!

Passion is contagious. If you are passionate, your readers will be inspired.

What are the markets in your niche?

Monetizing your blog means selling something on your blog. And to sell anything, you need a market.

A market is a group of people with certain interests, needs, desires or problems, that can be offered information or solutions, have the ability to pay, and are willing to give money in exchange for solutions.

A useful way to think about possible markets is to consider urgency.

Why urgency is critical

People are more willing to buy a product or a service if urgency is high, that is, if they need an immediate solution to a problem.

Imagine for a moment that your blog is about parenting. Here are some needs and wants of parents, divided into three categories: urgent need, strong desire, and interest.

Urgent need new pixHow to communicate with difficult teenagers

How to get babies to sleep through the night

 

Strong desire pixHow to wean your baby

How to deal with truancy

 

interest square pixHow to massage your baby

How to teach your kid to read

 

Each of the topics above, from How to Communicate with Difficult Teenagers to How to Massage Your Baby, is a market within the niche of parenting.

What this means for blog monetizing

If you can identify markets within your niche that fall into one or more of the categories of urgency – urgent need,  strong desire, or interest – you’ll have no difficulty monetizing your blog.

What products could you sell?

Every niche and sub-niche includes markets with urgent need or strong desire.

Let me give you an example.

Tracy, a young blogger, recently decided to start a health blog. Nothing much happened; her blog didn’t flourish.

Her blog niche — health — was simply too wide. After all, readers look for specific information that touches on whatever health problem they are seeking to overcome.

Finally, Tracy realized she had some knowledge and experience that could benefit others. She had struggled for years with acne, and found a way to rid herself of it.

At last she had found a niche with a market of people with urgent needs!

Her blog took off. She produced a series of e-books on topics related to acne, like using nutrition to clear skin, or how to become more confident. Tracy now earns a good living from her blog.

But how to create a product?

Actually, you don’t need to create a product to monetize your blog! Creating a product, launching it, and marketing it is a lot of work.

It’s much easier to work with affiliate products, especially when you’re starting to monetize your blog. Many affiliate products give you 50% commission.

A good product will already have all the tools you need to sell it, like a sales page that converts, and banners.

Your job is to find a product that fits your blog niche and, if possible, fills an urgent need, a strong desire, or at least satisfies an interest.

It’s easy to find affiliate products. You can find them on ClickBank and other affiliate networks.

Finally…

I’m sure you’re getting a sense of how and why the Funnel Strategy works for monetizing a blog.

There is a lot more to say. You can learn more about it in my free training, The Fast Track to Turning Your Blog into a Cash Machine.

Do you have questions or thoughts about monetizing a blog? Please share in the comments below.

Mary Jaksch is the driving force behind A-List Blogging. Mary is also the Editor-in-Chief of Write to Done  and Goodlife ZEN.

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3 Easy Tips For Un-Sucky Email Interviews

Posted in Blog on October 7th, 2013 by Carol Tice – 46 Comments

Email questionsLet me say this up front: Emails are not really interviews, from a journalistic point of view. I’ve shared my view on that repeatedly.

But writers are increasingly relying on this method of extracting quick quotes from experts. Often, they’re either scrambling for blog-post fodder — or they’re simply scared to call people and conduct real interviews.

Now that I’m a book author trolling Help a Reporter Out for requests for experts on my shoestring-startup topic, I see posts nearly every day for sources to “send your best tip on email for inclusion” in roundup posts for blogs large and small. Sigh.

In a typical week, I also see a request a day or more land in my email inbox, asking me to participate in an email ‘interview’ of 6-10 questions. They’re usually idiotic, like this one (my reactions in italics):

This is [NAME] from [a startup blog you've never heard of], a blog that intends to interview top successful bloggers that have made it big in the world of blogging and share their incredible and inspiring success stories with my readers.

I read your blog regularly and very well know that you’re a successful blogger and freelance writer and it’s my belief that  you have a blogging success story to tell.

I would be very grateful if you share your success story with us by responding to the following interview questions;

1. Welcome to the blogging success stories interview series. [Um...that's not a question.]

2. Many people know that you’re one of the most successful bloggers on the web (actually, not by a long, long shot). When and how did you stumble upon blogging and how has it changed your life so far? (I don’t recall stumbling.) What doors of opportunity has blogging opened for you? (Read my About page and find out.)

3. I know you were in employment before you started being a full time blogger, how do blogging and having a 9 to 5 job compare? (Actually, I was freelancing for three years before I started blogging.) What opportunities and challenges are there in blogging than having a full time job and vice versa?

4. What has been (and still is) your biggest secret to successful blogging? (Oh sure — I’ve got one big secret nobody else uses and that I have yet to share with anyone, and once I tell it to you, you’ll make millions.) In other words, what strategies and measures have you put in place to make your blogging venture an absolute success? (Does floundering around until I figure it out count?)

5. Lets talk traffic. What percentage of your blog traffic comes from what source and how do those visitors convert in terms of buying? (Seriously? Why would I share that with you, total stranger?)

6. How many hours a week do you spend on your blog (you don’t want to know that…) and does working more on your blog equate to getting bigger rewards? (I sure hope so…otherwise I’m going back to watching lotsa TV.)

7. I know you’re a very established successful blogger (um-hm…) but what has been your biggest failure in your blogging journey and what have you done about it? (If I have to think about them all and then try to decide which was my stupidest move, I’m gonna cry.)

8. I believe there are certain blogging tools and resources that have helped you do things on your blog in one way or another. Can you please share some of your favorites with us? (I’m not really a tool expert…but if I wanted to list them all I’d do it in a post on my own blog.)

9. Bloggers starting out would always be interested in learning from more established and successful ones like you. Can you recommend products that you have created that may be helpful to anyone starting a blog and where they can be found? (Not comfortable making one of my answers a flog for my classes or mentoring…doesn’t seem like useful information for readers.)

10. And finally, how much money do you make from your blog? Give us an estimate if you’re not comfortable sharing the exact amount you make. (See #5.)

Most email interviews, in my experience, are just like this one. They ask uninformed, stock questions in a vacuum.

They suck. And now you can see why.

Usually, the questions either don’t apply to me, or they’re requesting answers that would run thousands of words — I think one of those questions above is the focus of my old 200+ page Make a Living Writing ebook — or they’re asking stuff I wouldn’t want appearing on some strange startup blog I’ve never heard of.

The big problem with email interviews

The down side of email “interviewing” goes deeper than not getting an interview, or at best getting canned answers.

This blogger not only didn’t get an interview from me, he blew a chance to start a relationship with me. I think he’s a jerk now and I’m never going to help him with anything.

BUT…all that said, I have to admit there are ways to make email interviews work. I’ve recently had a chance to see these methods in action, and they resulted in interesting, unique responses.

How can you use email for interviews and still get some tasty info for your article or blog post?

Here are three tips:

1. Only ask connections

Don’t ever make your first reach-out to an established blogger something along the lines of, “Hey, would you give me some of your valuable time for free?” That’s just not a good icebreaker.

Build a relationship first. It’s more important than this one interview or that one blog post.

2. Be like Mary Jaksch

Write to Done editor Mary Jaksch came up with a wonderful approach to the email interview, in part because she lives in New Zealand and it’s hard for her to interview many top bloggers live due to the time-zone problem.

She used the approach years back to interview top blogger and business consultant Liz Strauss, and it worked great. What’s her technique?

She asks one question, then waits for the reply.

Then based on that response, she emails out another question. And so on.

This makes the email interview much more like an interactive conversation. Her followup questions are guided by the subject’s answers. Which means the questions are more informed and the answers end up way more interesting than the usual canned email replies.

3. An even simpler interview approach

I recently got an email outreach from both pro marketer/personal friend Danny Iny, and someone I didn’t know — MALW reader and brand-new blogger Michael Agene, who’s launched a blog called Think Fulfillment.

They both got my buy-in to participate in a roundup post with data collected via email interviews.

Their secret? They each asked just ONE question.

Danny asked for a 1-3 minute audio recording of my answer, and Michael just wanted an email response. Their questions were fresh, intriguing and didn’t require me to fax them my tax forms or reveal other highly personal information.

Quick, simple, bang, I did them both and I’m done.

Bloggers are always interested in spreading their information and links to new audiences. But the process has to be easy, comfortable, and quick.

Realize that even modestly popular bloggers like me get a lot of requests — more than I can fulfill if I’m going to keep my own writing commitments. Why should I answer yours? Think of a way to make your question more interesting than most others.

And the best way of all…

One even better solution to the email interview request — ask if you can chat for 10 minutes on Skype.

I know! That means it’s a live interview. But take the plunge.

I recently hopped on Skype with one blogger who wanted an email interview, and made a fast friend. Now, we’re in touch regularly, and this blogger could probably ask me for anything and I’d agree to help.

Another writer I know had a short deadline and asked me for a quick email — but I was able to talk her into a Skype call. I know my answers were way more lively in that live conversation than they would have been in an email. And we had fun getting a chance to see each other live, even briefly.

Before you fall back on email interviewing, consider how much more valuable it would be to your career to really get to know that person.

It’s the right thing to do, instead of just grabbing a short, emailed answer to your question and going on your way, still strangers.

Have you interviewed via email? Tell us how you handled it in the comments.

The 10 Best Articles for Writers (and Bloggers!) – November 2011

Posted in Blog on November 30th, 2011 by Carol Tice – 12 Comments

I’m apparently in a practical mood this month — large number of “how-to” posts here for freelance writers and bloggers looking to learn more about their craft. Our winners this month are a tasty mix of well-known masters and fresh faces.

Enjoy!

  1. The 3-Step Cure for No-Sales Syndrome by Sonia Simone on Copyblogger. Some of the advice in this great post, I find myself saying to people all the time. I recently had a prospect with a 12,000-person email list ask me what they should be blogging about. “Have you asked your audience what they want from you?” I said. They hadn’t. Shoulda read this post. Read it now, and think about how it applies to pitching your freelance writing services.
  2. A New Way to Use Guest Blogging to Grow Your Blog by Onibalusi Bamidele of YoungPrePro, on Bloggingtips. If you don’t know Oni yet, he’s a very sharp teenage African blogger — just check out his Top 10 Blogs for Writers nominations over on Write to Done (see below for more info on that). Here, Oni documents the results of a guest post-a-thon he did recently.
  3. First, ten by Seth Godin on Seth’s blog. I’m not sure I’ve had Seth on my top 10 lists yet — what an oversight! I love the conciseness of Seth’s posts…still working on getting my own wordcount down. This post sums up pretty much all you need to know about product development in nine paragraphs.
  4. How to Change from a Social Media User Into a Social Media Leader by Dave Larson, @TweetSmarter, on KISSMetrics. Now that I’ve just finished up a social-media basics Webinar to conclude my How to Make Good Money Writing Online bootcamp, this post looks even more helpful than when I first read it. A great, quick advanced course on how to make your social media time truly productive.
  5. How to Create an Immersive Blog Experience by Marko Saric on How to Make My Blog. Here’s a new site (to me, anyway) that I discovered recently. I loved this post — there’s even demo videos that show you his blogging practices in action.
  6. How to Show (Not Tell) – a Writing Lesson from John LeCarré by Mary Jaksch on Write to Done. I was browsing all the wonderful nominations for Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2012 this blog got (thanks all — and feel free to add yours, if you haven’t nominated yet!), when this post arrived on top of it. I think I don’t talk enough about writing skill and writing style around here, and reading this post will go a long way to make up that deficit. This post is also a great example of how we can draw ideas from whatever we’re doing in our personal lives to create a great post.
  7. How to Work From Home Without Going Insane by David Tate on Lifehacker. We can’t laugh enough in our precious, short time here on Earth, so I always love great, funny posts. This one outlines all the rewards and problems of being a home-based solopreneur in a sharp comedic style. I don’t write funny all that well or often, so I’m particular to posts that really pull it off.
  8. Most Freelance Writers Suck – 52 Ways to Make Sure That You Don’t! by Ruth Zive on The Freelance Writing Blog. Ruth’s been hanging around this blog, and in Freelance Writers Den, and learning tons about what makes a rippingly useful blog post and a sharp blog headline — read the results here.
  9. Need to Create? Get a Constraint by Jonah Lehrer on Wired.com. This fascinating post delves into the science behind a syndrome I discovered myself, both as a staff writer and a freelancer: Nothing concentrates the mind like a limit say, like, a deadline. Without that, your 500-word article could take two months to get done, hmm? Sort of explains how it is that some of us freelancers with three kids and a range of other responsibilities can still end up more productive than the rest of our writer friends.
  10. One Big Reason Why Commercial Writing Pays Better and Resists “Off-Shoring” (and Why this Other Kind of Writing Doesn’t…) by Peter Bowerman on The Well-Fed Writer. Fascinating dissection of what writing types will continue to earn American writers big money, and exactly why. A roadmap for anyone wondering how to keep earning well as the downturn drags on…and on…and on.

Read any good articles for writers lately? Feel free to add more links in the comments.

Tune in next month, when I unveil my first-ever Best Articles for Writers of the Year post, where I’ll pick the best articles from all my monthly compendiums — plus maybe a pick or two from December — to create one best-of-the-best list. If you don’t already, subscribe and you won’t miss it.




How One Writer’s Blog Hit the Top 10

Posted in Blog on December 23rd, 2010 by Carol Tice – 31 Comments

Some of you may have heard that this blog was chosen as one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers yesterday. Here is the crazy, unlikely story of all the people who helped me get there.

The short version: I think it all happened because I love to learn. I was a mad sponge for blogging knowledge. I soaked it all up and kept trying harder. Eventually, key people noticed, and that made all the difference.

I’ll never understand why so many amazing people were so willing to help me, but I’m wildly grateful.

It all began in 2008, when the economy tanked, and I got mad.

I was going along, marketing the daylights out of my freelance writing business, earning more each year, working hard. Life was basically good for me. Living happily-ever-after in freelance-land.

But I was heartsick from hearing writers talk about how they were earning $10 an article, or just plain not earning at all.

I thought maybe I could help.

I started to blog about how to make it in today’s freelance-writing world. On my writer site, initially. But soon I wanted the blog to have its own personality, and in February, the Make a Living Writing blog grew up and moved here. At first, I posted maybe once a week. Then regularly once a week. Then twice. I learned about social media and started promoting my posts.

Along the way, I fell in love with blogging, and with helping people earn more from their writing. Man, it’s way more fun than any other type of writing I do! I started to write my blog posts like they were $1-a-word assignments. I wanted each to be a little masterpiece of usefulness. I was hooked. I tried to give people real-world, practical tips on how to earn more. I told readers exactly how I earn a good living as a freelance writer. They told me they took my tips and found clients. I was ecstatic.

Meanwhile, I used my blog as an audition piece to get a paying blogging gig with Entrepreneur back in summer ’09. That led to more blogging gigs. I don’t even think there was a way to subscribe to this blog yet, but now I saw blogging could generate some income. I also started a regular guest-posting gig on WM Freelance Writers Connection, and got a lot of extra blogging practice in, offering tips for earning more.

All this learning and blogging laid the groundwork so that when influential people checked me out, I was ready for prime time.

Phase I: The Copyblogger connection

One day last May, all that Twitter time paid off when Jon Morrow from Copyblogger noticed my blog. Then he invited me to guest on Copyblogger. Just like that.

I call it my social-media Cinderella story.

For every experienced writer who bristles at being edited by someone younger than them, let me say: Some of those twenty-something editors are freakin’ geniuses. Be open to what they tell you.

I got 900 retweets. My head was spinning. Next post, he handed me off to Sonia Simone. It was like I was a mortal and suddenly, I was hanging out with superheroes of social media. I felt like I came up to their knees.

I did a one-hour consult with Jon and learned a lot about how to make my blog better. I started changing things on my blog to make it more inviting for subscribers.

I just put my head down, kept changing my site, and tried to make less of an ass of myself as a blogger. (Me: “So you should ask people to subscribe? You should have a free report for subscribers? Oh…kay.”) I started working an 8-midnight shift on my blog — it was more fun than any TV show. I put in umpty-million hours. It was crazy…and yet exciting, because I was starting to see my blog had real potential.

Phase II: A-List Blogger Club whips me into shape

Around the time my first Copyblogger post was getting scheduled, I realized I needed to learn so much more about blogging. And I needed to learn it quick.

I mean, I’ve been writing professionally for a long time, but the blogging-and-social-media thing? Kind of a newbie. The dim thought was starting to roll around in my brain that if I really worked on my blog, maybe it could start to earn. And then I could spend more and more time helping other writers, and less time on client work. I loved that idea.

To find out how, I turned to two experts I’d been reading ever since about my first blog post: Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen and Write to Done (which hosted the Top 10 Blogs contest this year). Their A-List Blogger Club is only $20 a month and you can quit anytime, which is the kind of pricetag that fits my budget.

I thought I’d go in, zoom through all the courses in a month, and leave. Ha! Now my goal is to never leave. The course material is deep and wide in there, they keep adding more, and I’ll be swimming like mad trying to catch up with blogging best practices probably forever.

Before A-List, I really couldn’t figure out what the secret sauce was of monetizing a blog. I knew I wasn’t going to slap up ads everywhere, that seemed awful…so how could it work? If you look at my Tools & Products I Love tab, you can see what I learned about that. I’d never sold anything to anyone before, but A-List taught me a way to sell with integrity. I also learned a ton about design and usability and started improving my blog.

The really unexpected part of A-List Blogger Club was the forums. Rather than hanging out on any old writer forum where many of the writers aren’t that serious, now I was hanging with more than 2,000 other bloggers who really cared about making their blogs work.

Lots of members turned out to be great resources, and Leo and Mary are active as well, so it was a chance to ask them questions directly. I found great new friendships, and learned even more. A-List started retweeting some of my blog posts. I also gained subscribers, as people got to know me on the forums and then came over to visit my blog.

Phase III: Mary Jaksch, Write to Done, Darren Rowse, DIYThemes, and more…

Between my Copyblogger exposure and being in A-List, more and more influential people started to contact me. Mary Jaksch started commenting on my blog, emailing me personally now and then, and then she subscribed (!). I started attracting more students for my mentoring program, and I learned a ton from them, too, about what freelance writers need to know to succeed.

Derek Halpern from DIYThemes (home of the Thesis theme) got in touch and asked me to guest there. Derek is seriously young enough to be my kid…but he taught me a ton about conversion strategy. He said he just wanted to call me and talk to me for an hour about my site…I was sure there would be a secret agenda to sell me a timeshare or something…but there wasn’t. He just loved my content and wanted to help me succeed.

Using what I’d learned from my many mentors, I started targeting thought leaders on Twitter and sending them my posts. Darren Rowse of Problogger retweeted one. My site crashed…and I got a private server. And more subscribers. My baby blog was growing up.

I kept sort of pinching myself…but I apparently wasn’t dreaming.

One day, Mary sent me an email about the Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest. She thought I should enter. She thought I should guest on Write to Done. The rest of the story I think you know — I asked for nominations, you nominated, it was a finalist, and then it won.

I say “it” won because this blog isn’t me — it’s me plus all of you, and your comments and suggestions. Here’s hoping the spotlight that’s shining over here now will help us go more great places and help more writers go out and earn a good income. That’s what it’s all about.

What I learned along the way:

  • Strive for constant improvement.
  • Be supremely helpful to readers.
  • Give away a lot of free stuff.
  • Learn from many teachers.
  • Believe you have something unique and valuable to offer the world.
  • Persist.