Q. Hi Jordan,
I love your blog and really appreciate the advice and opinions you post. I’ve decided to start a blog of my own and was wondering what tips you have for new bloggers.
A. Congrats! I know that starting (and keeping up) a blog can be a major challenge, but I promise you: if you approach your site honestly and professionally, very cool things can come of it. At the very least, it can serve as a sort of “living resume” that you can use to display samples of your best work (not to mention the wonders that sitting down and posting every day will do for your writing ability).
Here’s a rundown of past Blog Advice posts:
Now, a couple more things that I get questions about a lot but haven’t addressed in detail thus far.
Evergreen Content: There’s a lot of emphasis in the online community on generating “evergreen” content – basically, content that will continue to be relevant over time (as an example, “Kitchen Decorating Tips” as opposed to “What I Ate For Lunch Today”). And while that kind of content is definitely valuable (and may help to increase your traffic, both because readers will look to your site as a resource and because search engines will pick up on certain keywords to drive new readers to you), it’s important to keep in mind why your readers are there…and why they’re there is because of you.
Look: if someone wants to know how to make linguine carbonara, they’re going to hit up Epicurious. If they want to know how to make their own curtains, they’ll head over to Martha Land. What you’re contributing to the discussion should be information, yes…but it should also offer your take on that information. In short, what I’m saying is that keeping the concept of evergreen content in mind is important…but in my opinion, it’s even more important to prioritize the cultivation of a unique, individual voice that gives your site its own character. And the best way to find that voice is, very simply, by using it. Writing. Every day. (You’ll see.)
Making Money: When people ask me how they can make money as a blogger, my answer is the same as it was when people used to ask me how they could make money as an actress: when it comes to “creative” industries, there are no guarantees. Talent and a strong work ethic are enormously important…but luck is a major factor, too. That’s just the truth. I wouldn’t advise going into blogging (or acting) with the goal of getting rich; I’d advise doing it because you love it, and because you have something to say, and then making sure that you have other ways to make a living wage while you continue building your site into something that may one day generate revenue.
Also important to remember: if your passion turns into a viable career, that’s amazing, but even if it doesn’t generate a dime that doesn’t make your work – your decision to put your voice out there into the world – any less important or valuable.
Now, let’s talk practicalities. When it comes to generating revenue, the fact is that your ability to make money will be largely contingent upon your readership, so building (and respecting) that readership should be your first and foremost concern. In the meantime, though, here’s a rundown of possibilities to mull over:
1. Advertising Revenue (I’m part of AOL’s StyleList network, but click here for more information on picking the network that’s right for you): How this works is that you allocate certain spaces on your blog for ads, choose an ad network to maintain those spaces, and get paid (usually per click). Remember that you can (and, I think, should) specify categories that you’d prefer not to have advertised on your site.
2. Affiliate Links: There are tons of different affiliate programs, so pick the one that fits best with your content; you’ll make a (small) percentage commission when you link to a merchant site and that link results in a sale. (More information on affiliate programs can be found here.)
3. Sponsorships and Ambassadorships: These types of relationships between bloggers and companies can range from a single sponsored post to a more intensive, ongoing collaboration (such as my partnership with Dove, where I put up tutorials and product reviews on a monthly basis, in addition to acting as their ambassador for on-camera appearances and interviews). Deals with more established companies are usually brokered by management agencies in conjunction with PR firms, but if you’re just starting out, get creative: if, for example, you get a lot of traffic from readers in your area, there’s no reason why you can’t talk to a local store about featuring their products or services (just make sure to follow the FTC’s rules on disclosure).
4. Outside Opportunities: This is the category that I think can be most valuable for up-and-coming bloggers. Use your site to showcase your best work, and then pursue opportunities in related fields. If your focus is writing, you can pursue freelance jobs; if you love being on camera, make videos a component of your site and look for work in the hosting arena (click here for my advice on breaking into the hosting industry). I have friends who use their sites to showcase everything from their photography skills (and get hired to work weddings) to their cooking genius (and run their own cooking classes out of their homes). Be open-minded, be honest, be professional, and make it a priority to make those around you look good, and you may be surprised by the opportunities that come your way.
I hope that helps! If there are any other issues that I haven’t addressed,, please feel free to ask away.