You’ve decided it’s time to turn your blog into a business and are wondering “what’s next?” To have it taken seriously as a business, you’ll need to change more than just your mindset. Here’s how to turn your blog into a business:
6 Things You MUST Do to Turn Your Blog Into a Business
1. Define Your Brand
Businesses need to establish a unique brand that can attract customers. If you are already a blogger with some traction or followers, you may have a reputation established – good or bad. It’s time to create a professional persona. Continue with your unique style and voice, but clean up your interactions to create a positive or attractive perception of your brand for your ideal audience. This will mean stepping back and even enlisting help to establish what your reputation looks like now and how you should change it.
This summer, at a brand-building workshop hosted by Rebecca Parsons of Cre8tive Compass at 2015 iRetreat Conference, I worked through in-depth, hands on exercises to refine my brand. A critical step that’s often missed was prioritizing my most important personal values. They included honesty, family, and hopefulness – a good fit for a blog that helps moms raising kids with special needs. These values needed to be apparent from my blog and social media.
Instead of positioning my blog as one that would solve all the challenges of raising a child with special needs, Embracing Imperfect offers moms a place of their own as well, something my audience craves. I speak to my audience as if they were any woman raising kids with lots of interests and my tagline neatly folded into that:
“A lifestyle blog for moms raising kids with special needs.”
That sentence is an easy, short explanation of my values, my audience and my blog. I’ve already been told that this is a “new” niche – which is news to me! A little brand brainstorming on your values and your audience will help you create an authentic tagline. Learn 6 more ways to brand your blog.
2. Risk Failure
Also at iRetreat this year, guest speaker Holly Homer, who owns Kids Activities Blog and is the founder of Business 2 Blogger, shared that, “failure is the fastest path to knowledge.”
Now a successful blogger and entrepreneur, Holly shared her 50% business failure rate with us, but revealed that the good thing about running a blog business is that it takes almost no investment. You can try on many different projects with very little capital – all you need is good web hosting account and a few dollars a year to secure URLs.
She advised starting with baby steps – “just call it and start somewhere.”
This has been my way of doing business for years. I am still experimenting with new modes of income. For example, I wanted to expand my use of Instagram into sponsored campaigns, so I accepted one that was a good fit for my audience. Unfortunately, I did not realize until after I committed that I needed to use their ad image. That ad diluted my brand and I learned to avoid those kinds of campaigns.
It’s okay to fail as long as you learn from it!
3. Know The Rules and Laws That Affect You
One thing I did do properly with that Instagram campaign was proper disclosure, something even big brands struggle with. This spring, fashion retailer Lord & Taylor ran an Instagram campaign without disclosure, and ran the risk of a crackdown by the FTC.
Then, in the summer, Kim Kardashian came under fire by the FDA for a different reason. While she did properly disclose, she left out that her product endorsement was not medically proven to achieve the results she got.
You need to know these rules if you are going to run a professional blog to avoid legal action:
- Always disclose any compensation – even products or discounts – received on all campaign posts and shares – this includes your affiliate links. Read the FTC’s Q&A to make sure you are compliant (updated May, 2015).
- Know the rules for giveaways on your blog and social media, particular to your state. You may also need to make good on prizes, even if your vendor does not.
- Understand what photos you can use for free, what you need to purchase, and what constitutes fair use for images.
- Ask before referring to someone’s content or check a publication’s guidelines to make sure you are not stealing. Always credit the author and copy in no more than 2-3 sentences in your post.
- Know when and how to use the “nofollow” tag for compensated links and other best practices for Google.
- If you’re promoting non-FDA approved health products like essential oils, make sure you properly disclose that this is your opinion and results are not proven or FDA-approved.
4. Create a Business Entity
Currently, I run a sole proprietorship, but as I rebrand and reposition my business, I’m considering changing that.
At a local workshop featuring lawyer and PR professional Danielle Liss of the FitFluential blogger network, he taught about law for bloggers. The reality is that bloggers can easily get sued even if they do not think they have broken any laws.
I am now budgeting a few hundred dollars to create an LLC, a limited liability corporation, which can protect my major assets (such as my house or car) should I be sued. The frequency of frivolous lawsuits makes this a wise choice. Make the best decision for your business.
5. Get Your Accounts in Order
I recommend a simple spreadsheet to keep your accounts in order: products received for review and dates, sponsored posts or freelance posts, billing dates, payment dates, business expenses.
Billing through PayPal is good because you can download file with your transactions for accounting purposes. You might also want to consider an online billing service for clients you need to invoice. Many start at $10-20 per month.
At tax time, you should hire a reliable accountant. Don’t just go to one of those popular accounting companies or to an accountant who has no idea what a “blog” is.
The last time I tried that, the woman gave me a lot of grief over $29 worth of income that I got from an affiliate sale. That particular company called it a “royalty” and the accountant asked me on several different occasions what book I had written and where were my other sales. Because she did not understand the business, she could not make sense of it. Contact other professional bloggers in your area for a recommendation.
6. Cultivate Professionalism
Sometimes in our quest to help our blog stand out from the crowd, we work too hard to generate controversy. Your readers don’t want that – and guess what? Other bloggers will call you out on it.
Recently, an article went around Facebook written by a mother protesting peanut allergies in school. It was highly inflammatory and while it generated a LOT of page views, it also went around blogger groups. The general opinion of her “click bait” post was very negative. We encouraged our audiences not to read it. Consider what brands, advertisers and retailers will also think of that blogger. Would you want to work with her?
What can you do to maintain professionalism? You might want to think of your blog as your office.
- If you had a job in the corporate world, what would be inappropriate behavior?
- How would you translate that into writing?
- Don’t blog or share while intoxicated.
- Don’t share risque photos on social media.
- Keep it clean around the kids.
You can also be professional by treating your blogging like a real job. If you had an HR manager, would you get a promotion or a warning?
- Treat other bloggers, all brands and PR people with respect and courtesy.
- Meet review and campaign deadlines.
- Take the best photos you possibly can and learn to improve.
- Pay attention to grammar and spelling when you write.
- Attend blogger events to establish your brand, learn from experienced bloggers and grow your business.
If you’ve been blogging as a hobby and you want to turn your blog into a business, it’s time to get serious and take these steps to get it off the ground.