As newspapers and magazines dwindle, more and more people are starting blogs and online magazines. Niche and hyperlocal media seem to be the wave of the future and larger, broad-based publications are slowly disappearing.
By 2020, 40% of Americans will be working as freelancers, paving the way for the stigma that being “self-employed” meant you couldn’t find a job to disappear, according to Jeremy Neuner, CEO and founder of NextSpace, a company that builds co-working communities.
An easy way to break into becoming an entrepreneur if you’re a writer is to start a blog. It’s not easy to start generating income by blogging, but all the tools are readily available at no or low cost to the creator.
I’ll go into more detail in the weeks to come—this post will focus on the basics of getting a blog and its content created–setting the foundations so that money can be made.
Examples of Niche and Hyperlocal Publications
In Philadelphia, there are several niche and hyperlocal publications that are thriving. Philebrity.com, HiddenCityPhiladelphia.com, NEastPhilly.com, Geekadelphia.com, and more. While some operate full-time, others act more as hobbies that bring in some money for those with other jobs. Depending on your focus, your blog or online newspaper/magazine may or may not have the potential for becoming a fulltime startup company.
Sources of Revenue in Blogging
Most people think that advertisements are the primary source of blogging revenue, but advertising, especially when starting out, won’t make you a lot of money. However, there are some programs that are easy to set up to make a little bit of advertising money—like Google Adsense (which works over multiple platforms including Blogger, WordPress.org—but it won’t work on WordPress.com hosted blogs) and WordAds for WordPress.com. You should also have an easy accessible page on your blog for advertisers to check out with rates, sizes of possible advertisements, and statistics about your blog.
But that’s not all. Other sources of revenue include affiliate programs like Amazon Associates and eBay Affiliates where you get a portion of the sales when people who view your blog buy items from their websites after being directed there by your blog. You can also offer a subscription service for your blog (people pay to get access to some of the content), re-publish your content in e-books and books, write reviews (and other posts for companies) on your blog for money, write guest posts for publications on your niche topic and host events related to your blog.
But, before you can focus on making money you first need to create a blog and get content published.
Picking a Niche
Successful blogs focus on a highly specific, or niche topic. Many feature hyperlocal news or feature a specific sport, hobby, career, or more. Spend time exploring other blogs that are already published and try and find a topic that is fairly unique or lacking coverage. Sometimes, blogs are successful at providing a source of information better than one that currently exists. For example, my online magazine focuses on providing information to adult beginners at ballet. While many websites and blogs exist either providing information for professional and pre-professional dancers, no one was providing information to adult recreational dancers like I intended to.
The most important thing about picking a niche is that should be something you are dedicated to, as you’ll be spending countless hours developing the project, many of them which you probably won’t get paid for at the start. Pick something you love.
Choose a Platform, Buy a Domain
There are several different free blogging platforms available: WordPress.com, Blogger, and Tumblr. WordPress.com is perhaps the most versatile of the three as it allows for the most customizable themes and appearances as well as options to upgrade to paid themes and customizable CSS. WordPress.com also allows you to easily transfer to self-hosting using WordPress.org and will even transfer your blog to a server (like BlueHost) once you decide to move for a fee. Blogger is simpler and less versatile. Tumblr may be a good option for those who plan on doing photo-heavy blogs and magazines; Tumblr isn’t a very popular platform for text heavy posts. Setting up directly using WordPress.org is an option as well, but it’ll run you about $80 upfront for a year, which might not be the best direction to take before you know if your idea will take off or not.
While buying a domain isn’t a necessity to start, it’s a cheap way to make your website, blog, or online magazine seem more legitimate. All three platforms will allow you to buy a domain through their services for around $17 a year, making the setup painless.
Get Started Writing
Once your blog is set up, start creating content to attract readers to your posts. Create simple headlines that are straightforward about the post topic and categories for different topics you will write about on your blog. Tagging your posts is also an important step: create short tags that are relevant to the information you are providing. Spend some time figuring out what topics draw more readers and plan to focus on those.
Share, Share, Share!
Share your new website on Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. You can create a specific fan page for your website at this point and encourage friends, colleagues, and family to like it and post the widget on your page. Like other Facebook pages similar to yours and follow similar Twitter accounts (either from a Twitter account dedicated to your website or your personal one). Also spend some time finding blogs with similar content and comment on them, and perhaps offer to write guest posts for their blogs to help get your site out there. This networking is essential for the growth of your blog.
Next week I’ll cover more about how to specifically use social media and other resources to help to promote your blog and get readers.
What are your thoughts on becoming an entrepreneurial writer?