Unfortunately, some blogs just won’t make money. Sometimes they’re in a crowded niche. Other times their niches aren’t profitable. Whatever the reason, the great majority of blogs will never make money.
You can do two things with that bit of knowledge. You can whine and complain about how it’s not fair. Wah wah wah.
Or you can take action.
If you’re ready, then follow along as we transform you from a blogger into a content marketer, ready to earn a real income. There are companies out there looking for people just like you.
Lesson 1: How blogging and content marketing relate
Before we jump into how to become a content marketer, let’s define the term first. That will give us a better idea of how content marketing and blogging relate.
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
That sounds quite a bit like blogging, especially the first part. All bloggers create and distribute content. Good bloggers create and distribute content consistently. They also try to attract a clearly defined audience, which is the people interested in their niches. A Paleo diet blogger will try to attract an audience interested in following the Paleo diet. Simple as that.
Many bloggers aren’t familiar with the last part, “with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Typically bloggers do not drive customer action. Instead they place low-value AdSense ads on their site and collect a fraction of a penny for every visitor.
A consumer action might be something like:
- Signing up for an email list
- Clicking on an affiliate link and buying
- Downloading a white paper or special report
- Participating in a survey
- Viewing a product demo
- Providing feedback in the form of a rating or comment
- Buying something
If you run an unprofitable blog, chances are you need to learn the skills that drive these consumer actions. That’s actually the good news. You already possess many of the skills necessary to be an effective content marketer.
Lesson 2: Becoming a copywriter
The most important skill any blogger can acquire, in order to become a content marketer, is copywriting. As with content marketing, let’s define the term copywriting so we’re all clear. From Copyblogger:
The art and science of direct-response copywriting involves strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action.
As you can see, copywriting is indeed the missing skill most bloggers need to start making money.
The question still remains: How do you learn copywriting skills? You can start with the Copyblogger link above, which provides a free (with registration) e-book about copywriting. For bloggers not familiar with copywriting, it’s a fantastic primer.
I also recommend reading everything Demian Farnworth writes. Throughout his posts he drops many resources that newbie copywriters can use. Looking for some of the best books on copywriting? Want to learn from some of history’s greatest copywriters? The information is strewn throughout his posts. Read them, digest them, and read a lot more.
Finally, start to look at your junk mail. Find collections of great sales letters. Click around on the web to find landing pages for successful companies. (One great way to do this is to click ads on Google’s search engine.) The more material you read, the more you will start to understand.
That’s the formula: one part learning about copywriting, one part reading great copywriters. Put in the time and effort and you will start to hone your craft.
Lesson 3: Selling your services
Learning copywriting skills does you no good if you can’t sell your services. While you can apply your skills to your current blog, rarely will someone hire you just because she read your blog. You have to get active and find clients who need your work. It is easier said than done, which is why so many bloggers-turned-freelancers stumble at this phase.
The No. 1 rule of finding clients: be professional. Following this rule might not get you Fortune 500 clients right off the bat, but it will help your standing with potential clients. Nothing will sink your chances faster than looking or sounding like an amateur. (Even if you are, indeed, an amateur at the moment, you need to play the part of the professional.)
Since you’re working virtually you won’t need to put on a business suit. But there are still many ways to look the part of a copywriter.
Use your own domain’s email address. Using an email address from @gmail.com might seem perfectly fine. Most people will never think twice about it. At least it’s not an account from @aol.com or worse, @hotmail.com. Yet an email from you @ yourdomain.com looks much more professional. You know your stuff. You have your own email. A decision maker will respect that.
Keep your pitches short. Nothing screams amateur quite like a longwinded pitch. Decision makers are busy people. They don’t have time to read your 500-word pitch. They want the meat of the idea so they can figure out if they’re interested. If your pitch is long, look it over and figure out exactly what you want to say. Then say it in 100 words or less.
Present evidence. This might be the greatest stumbling point for budding copywriters. Companies want to see experience. If you don’t have experience, how can you get hired so you can gain experience? Be sure to note any wins you’ve achieved on your blog. If you’ve seen a traffic increase since implementing your copywriting skills, make sure to make note of that. It’s not the strongest evidence of your skills, but it’s better than nothing.
Leave enough time before a follow up. Want to ruin your chances of landing a gig in just a day? Then follow up the day after your pitch. Again, decision makers are busy people. Many of them check email only a few times per day. Many times they won’t see the urgency in your pitch. Give them at least three days before you send a follow up email. And make sure that follow up email is short and has the original email attached (so either reply to the original email or forward it — taking the re: or fwd: out of the address).
These pointers guarantee you nothing. But they help ensure that you don’t make amateur mistakes that will certainly cost you gigs. With little experience, you need every advantage you can get. Don’t blow what little chances you have by appearing unprofessional.
Lesson 4: Working your new gig
Congratulations! A company hired you for a copywriting campaign. You might be excited to dive into the work, but hold on for just a moment. There are still plenty of ways to blow this gig, and future gigs. Let’s talk about how to ensure that you do such a great job that this company will not only want to retain you for future gigs, but also recommend you to others.
When a company hires you, it expects results. Your copy does not automatically equal results. If a company is paying you to do something, it wants to see a return on that investment. Paying you to do something, and seeing no resulting boost in the bottom line, means the company is wasting its time and money.
Before you write a single word, understand what the company expects from your work. This means asking the following questions.
- What kind of actions does the company want prospects to take?
- Are you working with a channel new to the company, or are you trying to increase conversions in a current channel?
- What kind of increase is the company seeking above its current conversion rate?
- What are your deadlines and what work is expected by then?
- How often does the company want progress updates?
The more clearly you understand what the company expects of you and your work, the easier it will be to accomplish your goals. Those expectations will also help inform the work you do for the company.
Deliver a little something extra
Understanding expectations gives you another advantage. You can then over-deliver for the client. This isn’t to say you should rewrite the company’s website if they’ve hired you to write a landing page. Doing that clearly oversteps your bounds. Why would the client want your unsolicited input on the home page? You were hired to write a landing page. Focus on that!
You can still over-deliver on the project itself. If the company hires you to write a landing page, you can include a script for a video that might help conversions. Videos on landing pages are proven to work well on landing pages. You can’t go shoot the video yourself, so include a script. You could also include an informational sidebar, such as an FAQ. Additional materials like this gives the client more to work with. In essence you are making their jobs easier, and perhaps making their ads more effective. They will appreciate that.
Why include something that you weren’t paid to do? Because you want more gigs from the company, and you want them to recommend you to others.
Invoice with pride
At some point you’ll have to send out an invoice so you can get paid. Many copywriting gigs are paid upon delivery, but as you gain more experience you can typically negotiate an up-front payment. Whatever the case, you want to make the payment process as easy as possible. That means taking care of a few low-level, yet still important, housekeeping tasks.
Know who to invoice. If you send an invoice to the wrong person, you might never know it. It might get lost in a stack of papers.
Use pro software. Since you’re just starting out you might not be able to afford professional invoicing and accounting software. I always recommend FreshBooks, since you can use it free for a single account. At the very least use their free invoice templte. You can add your logo to it and appear very professional. Whatever option you choose, do not invoice via Microsoft Word. It will make the process harder for everyone.
Follow up gracefully. Chances are your client doesn’t process invoices upon receiving. Many companies process freelancer invoices on a single day per week, or even every other week. If your invoice isn’t paid within a week, follow up. But don’t bug them before that. Yes, they owe you the money, but you still need them to deliver the money. Annoy them, and you’ll have to wait longer to get paid.
The overall point: make it as easy as possible for them to pay you. Send a professional invoice to the right person and follow up if you don’t get paid within a week, and you’ll be set up to get paid for your first gig.
Making money on your blog can be greatly difficult. Finding companies to pay you for copywriting is much more profitable. As a blogger, you have skills that can make you a good copywriter. Once you learn how copywriting and blogging relate, you can start acquiring skills. With those skills, and a professional appearance, you can start pitching companies for gigs. ONce you land one, you know to gauge expectations and deliver more than the company pays you for.
Ready to take the next step in your blogging career?