Blogging is a unique profession. Many of us started as hobby bloggers, documenting our lives and craft projects for fun. Our readers responded, and our traffic began to climb, and slowly, we realized we had something pretty special going on here.
Taking your blog from hobby to business is not for everyone, and I don’t recommend that EVERYONE make the leap. But that’s not what this article is about. The target audience of this article has decided that professional blogging IS for them, and wants to figure out how to do lots of it.
Get over yourself.
Step 1: You are Not a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake
Okay, that’s not exactly true. You ARE a beautiful and unique snowflake, but, you are not the ONLY beautiful and unique snowflake. You are one flake in a storm.
The point is, you are awesome, but you’re not THAT awesome. Work hard and be humble.
Yes, you are “important” to marketers and public relations people, but you are just a cog in the machine. It’s really not all about you. Do you think the endgame of a marketing plan is “Get mentioned on XYZ craft blog.”? No, it’s not. You are PART of the overall plan, but you are just a component that makes the whole thing work.
Recognize that you are just a blogger. Respect yourself and your blog, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are the center of the universe.
Step 2: Be Faithful in the Little Things
This is a principle from the Bible, but it applies whether you are religious or not. If you do well when you have a small job to do, you gradually get entrusted with bigger jobs.
For those of you who are a few years out of college: remember when you graduated and you thought it would be REALLY EASY to land a great job in your desired field? You were a big college graduate, and you “had arrived!” You had a degree, so what were all these companies waiting for? They should hire you as a manager or a vice president right away.
And, after many job applications, interviews, and so on, you finally landed a big job. As a barista at Starbucks.
What most college students don’t realize is that the DEGREE is just a piece of paper. It doesn’t tell your prospective employer anything but that you studied a subject. It doesn’t prove you can handle clients, or even show up to work on time. You have to put time in at the bottom of the ladder to prove you are ready to work your way up.
And like that degree, a BLOG is just a virtual piece of paper. Kind of. Just because you have a blog, doesn’t mean you are worth paying for sponsored posts, freelance writing gigs, or brand ambassadorships.
Everyone and their great aunt Edna has a blog. If you can fill out a two-part internet form, you can start a blog.
Having a blog is meaningless. You have to start at the bottom rung and work your way up.
By doing a good job on the bottom rung.
Step 3: Learn How to Do a Good Job
When I was in my 20s, I worked on a movie set. I was a PA (Production Assistant, which is a fancy title for “person who does all the worst work”) among several other PAs. The job was challenging — we had long hours, had to do various levels of crap work, got yelled at, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had never been on an official movie set, so I had a lot to learn.
It was at this job that I learned to shut up, get over myself, listen and learn, and separate my personal feelings from the job.
What makes a good PA? This person is dependable. They show up when they are supposed to and do the work asked of them. They don’t screw around and then make excuses about it. They listen to assignments and deliver what they are asked to do. They do more than they are asked to do. They are polite and respectful. They get along with others and don’t stir up trouble or make demands on others.
Know what happens to a PA who isn’t where she’s supposed to be or makes life difficult for ANYONE else on a movie crew?
She gets kicked to the curb.
How about a PA who figures out how to do a good job? By the end of the movie shoot, I got promoted to props assistant, and finally to set decorator. By being reliable and easy to work with, I put myself ahead of most of the other PAs.
Apply this to blogging. What makes a good blogger: This person is dependable. They show up when they are supposed to and do the work asked of them. They don’t screw around and then make excuses about it. They listen to assignments and deliver what they are asked to do. They do more than they are asked to do. They are polite and respectful. They get along with others and don’t stir up trouble or make demands on others.
Sticking with the movie-making theme, Here’s a little anecdote I just read, from actor Matt Damon:
“I remember Tom Hanks saying to me on Saving Private Ryan, we were all sitting in a foxhole and he was saying to all of us young actors, ‘I don’t care if it’s your milkman, your mailman, anybody is one movie away from being the biggest movie star in the world, anybody,’ and he’s totally right,” Damon says.
“I just remember that always stuck with me, because he was somebody who stuck around and I asked him about that and he said ‘Look, they weren’t great movies – I was the guy who wasn’t on the A-list but I was dependable and if they couldn’t get any of the others, they’d go, well, what about that Tom Hanks guy, he’s a pro, he always comes in, he always does a good job’.
–Source: Herald Sun
What I want you to take away from that little quote is the part that starts with “that Tom Hanks guy, he’s a pro…”
Step 4. Realize The World Doesn’t Owe You a Living
One hard lesson I had to learn in the process of going from hobby to business is that no matter how “big” your blog gets, nobody hands you anything. I thought when I hit 500k pageviews a month, I would start making money without even trying. Didn’t happen.
I made some money, but it was less than I would make in a part-time job at McDonalds. To build up an income, I had to hustle to put together multiple streams of income (for which I have to work very, very hard.)
The world also doesn’t owe you free swag.
You might have a platform to promote craft supplies, or fertilizer, or that new blockbuster movie or whatever, but nobody OWES you that stuff. Acting like a primadonna just makes us all look bad.
If someone offers you free stuff, either decline politely or accept graciously.
Declining politely looks like this: “Thanks for thinking of me, but it’s not a good fit for my site/I don’t have time to cover it properly right now/I only review craft supplies.”
Accepting graciously looks like this: “Thanks for thinking of me, I’d be glad to review/use your product. I plan on posting about it in October.”
Guess what, free swag comes with a lot of hard work, too. If you don’t want to do the work, don’t accept the swag. That just makes us all look bad.
Oh, and grubbing for more swag after you have agreed to accept some already, or complaining about swag once you get it, or bragging about it on your blog — those things are NOT a good way to get more paid blogging gigs. All of those things make you look like a jerk.
Okay, end tangent. Back to the steps:
Step 5. Provide Solutions Instead of Placing Demands
I used to be a bookstore manager. I had lots of college student employees working for me, and the good ones quickly distinguished themselves. Unfortunately, so did the bad ones.
Some of the worst employees made my job as a manager harder than it would have been without them.
A REAL LIFE SITUATION
EMPLOYEE: Hey, Heather. I can’t find a pen. Where are they?
ME: UM, no, you didn’t just interrupt me to help you find a pen. Take the initiative to find one yourself. When you have exhausted ALL other avenues, ask yourself if this is something that requires my help. If it’s not, deal with it yourself.
Just kidding. I used different words.
The point is, before you call or email someone you are working for, ask yourself if you can figure it out yourself. Things to do before you make yourself a nuisance:
–Look through your email correspondence or on the company’s website to see if there is an answer.
–Ask a friend who is also working for the company.
–Ask yourself if it is urgent or not. If not, is it really worth taking someone else’s attention away from their own long to do list?
When you DO contact the person you are working for, make sure you have done your due diligence BEFORE contacting them. Those people, like you, are busy. Don’t place extra demands on them.
Speaking of demands, avoid demanding stuff from strangers (or friends, or colleagues). If you want to get something from someone (payment, free stuff, a shoutout, etc.), make it easy for them to say yes.
Asking gracefully looks like this: “Here are my credentials and what I have to offer.”
Asking like an amateur looks like this: “I know you don’t know me, but what are you going to give me?”
Once you’ve decided to go pro, you need to start acting like one. Follow these five simple suggestions, and I promise you will start getting more paid blogging gigs, referrals from happy clients, and a great reputation.