How to Earn from Your Blog While You Write That Novel

Today’s guest post is by award-winning blogger Carol Tice, an expert freelancer, with some great advice for aspiring (and established) novelists:

It’s hard work trying to write a novel these days, isn’t it?

Besides finding the time to write your masterpiece, you need to be “platform building,” which usually takes the form of blogging to build an audience ahead of selling your book.

Now you’re writing a book and a blog. When are you supposed to do anything that might put food on the table this week?

Luckily, if you have a blog, you can earn in a way you’d probably find fairly pleasant and easyblogging for others for pay.

It doesn’t take a lot of marketing, to scare up those clients, either. Instead, you can turn that platform-building blog you’ve created into a writing sample that can get you paid blogging gigs from businesses and publications at $100 a post and more if you know how.

Do some guest posts on more popular blogs and often, business owners and online magazine editors will trail back to your site to check you out. That’s your chance to impress them that you’re a talented blogger they could hire.

You’ve probably got the blog-post writing part down cold, since writing is your thang.

From there, all it takes is an understanding of the basics needed to make your blog into a strong writing sample that impresses paying prospects.

Here are the five most important things prospective blogging clients look for when they visit your blog:

1. Clean layout

Have you got three different sidebars stuffed full of widgets showing your Facebook comments and 90 different writers’ groups you belong to and a dozen sparkly ads? Twenty different navigation tabs with dropdown menus? Using three colors for text and two different fonts? That all makes a mess.

Visitors get a boggled and don’t know what action they should take. They don’t know what to look at. So they leave.

Take a critical look at your design. Is there too much going on? If so, prune it back. One sidebar ought to do it and one row of tabs. Make sure your header is clean and easy to read.

2. A defined niche

Speaking of reading that header, what’s it say? When new visitors read the headline and tagline, can they tell what the main topic is on your blog?

Defining a niche is important because prospects are mostly businesses with a particular thing they’d like blogged aboutproperty management, or gourmet food, or whatever they sell. They’re looking for writers who understand that need to develop many topic ideas on a single theme.

If you’ve been running your blog like a personal diary/rant where you comment on whatever bugs you or makes you happy on any given day, know that’s going to send prospects away.

To tighten this up, look through your post headlines and see if a theme emerges. If you’ve got posts about homeschooling and crystal healing and organic food, see if you can pick one are or find a common thread that unites your topics.

If you can define and stick to a topic, you’ll impress business owners you could do that for them, too.  It may be fun to put up that occasional funny poster or YouTube video you saw, but the random stuff confuses prospects.

3. Informative blog post headlines

This is a place where a lot of writer sites fall short. I’ve reviewed hundreds of writers’ sites, and too often, when I scan through the headlines, I can’t tell what the posts are about. They’ve got headlines like “Did This Really Happen?” or “Ignore the Red Flags” or “Give to Get” (all real blog-post headlines I’ve seen).

Good blog headlines don’t leave the reader scratching her head. They have key words that clue readers in to your topic (and help Google send you more readers). They also advertise a benefit, where the reader can see at a glance what they’ll learn if I click on the post.

The headline of this post is an examplenote the key words that alerted you I’d be talking about something of interest to novelists, and that you’d learn how to earn money if you read the post.

Take the time to improve your headlines, and they’ll help prospects find your blog, and demonstrate you understand niche blogging once they arrive to read the post.

4. A “Hire me” tab

Many bloggers seem to think prospects can divine telepathically that they could really use a paying gig to support their novel-writing dreams. But in reality, if you don’t spell out that you’re looking to get hired to write, prospects usually conclude you only want only to write your novel and your blog.

End the mystery and put a “hire me” tab on your blog. You can call it “Hire me to write” or “My writing services” or something like that, but don’t get too creative. Make it baldly obvious that yes, you are available to write for others.

What should be on that page? A nice photo of you, a quick explanation that you are available to blog for others and perhaps a few topics you have strong knowledge of, and contact information. If you don’t have a separate writer website you can link to, feel free to include any testimonials and portfolio links you’ve got right on this page, too.

I know more than one writer who got a nice-paying writing gig within a week of putting out the “hire me” shingle. Give it a try!

5. Engagement

Here’s the nub of it: businesses hire pro bloggers because they can’t figure out how to get anyone to read and comment on their posts. They don’t have time to learn to write a successful blogthey’re busy running a business. But they’ve figured out their blog won’t be successful unless it has really strong posts and those posts get comments and retweets.

So when they come on your blog, they’re looking to see if you’ve got that happening. It doesn’t have to be 1,000 retweets or 100 comments, but they want to see you getting and responding to comments, and see that people find your writing share-worthy.

Cover Carol Tice bookNext thing you know, you’ll be getting emails and calls from prospects who’ll mention a popular post you didand that they’d like to hire you to do that for them.

Most writers’ blogs are already doing some of these points right, but few hit them all on the head. It can be worth taking the time to tweak your blog to make it a great sample that stands out from the blog masses. After all, writing a few paid blog posts for clients beats having to stock shelves or drive a cab to support your novel-writing habit, right?

Carol Tice headshotCarol Tice writes the Make a Living Writing blog and is coauthor of the new e-book, How to be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger.

Featured Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7 via Compfight cc

16 Responses to “How to Earn from Your Blog While You Write That Novel”

  1. Greg Strandberg March 17, 2014 at 2:37 am #

    Lots of good advice here, thanks!

  2. Matthew Eaton March 17, 2014 at 3:19 am #

    Interesting timing for me here as I have been wrestling with this for a while. I know what I do now isn’t amazing in my other reality, and I have to do something to make this writing thing work for me.

    Thank you for giving me the gentle reminder to keep digging into this so I can make this happen.

    I’ll have to check out the book and see what other nice little tidbits are there.

    • Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing March 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

      Hope you get a chance to check it out, Matthew!

      I think paid blogging is such a natural segue for many fiction writers, and it allows you to keep wordsmithing instead of having to bag groceries or something. 😉

  3. Destination Infinity March 17, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    It’s good to be optimistic – no doubt. But at $100 a post, I am (somewhat) intimidated by your optimism. What you should also inform readers is – perhaps – it takes years of hard work to get to that level. I don’t want to generalize this but that’s what I learned. The hard way.

    • Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing March 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      I’m sorry that was your experience — that’s actually the rate I got for my first paid blogging gig years back, when my blog had only about a dozen posts!

      Businesses are increasingly seeing the value of hiring a pro blogger — and for them, $100 a post is pin money in the great scheme of their overall marketing budget.

  4. Larry B. March 17, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Nice to see one of your posts on a different site, Carol. As usual, your piece is clear and to the point. While I have read this in one form or another from you before, a reminder never hurts.

  5. Susan Spence March 17, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    I think the key to paying gigs is finding a niche. I could no more write about marketing or finance than I can speak Chinese. There are subjects I could write about however. Now to find those blogs and get noticed.

    • Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing March 17, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

      Totally agree, Susan!

      For instance, I’ve done a lot of paid blogging in insurance topics, because my dad sold insurance and I have a good grounding on those products just from my childhood. Writers need to think about their backgrounds and what they know about!

      I know writers who’ve learned all about cancer treatment options, for instance, from helping a relative. Healthcare can be another strong niche for paid blogging.

  6. Katherine James March 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    All great points Carol…! I think the most important point listed is to try and carve out a defined niche for yourself.

    Find out what your unique selling point is (USP), create a mission statement around it and then write your blog around that statement.

    • Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing March 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

      It’s true, Katherine — too many blogs don’t have a theme or focus and are just a ramble about whatever the author wants to talk about that day. And those don’t make good samples for getting paid blogging gigs.

  7. Sherry Marshall March 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    Hi Carol,
    Thank you for your blog. You rolemodel what you are suggesting to us. Clear, concise, informative, great suggestions and a clear title. I am just starting guest blogging and have 2 ‘niches’. Psychotherapy and writing. Mmm. I also sometimes like to be more poetic as well as very practical. Maybe I need to be more focused in one area but I just love writing about both.
    I am just happy to write at present without payment as I explore how to ‘get my Kindle book out there!’ as well as write my next 2 books and see my clients.
    Any ideas on ‘marketing’ an E book would be most appreciated.(apart from FB/twitter/guest blogging/radio and newspaper interviews etc.) Maybe it just takes time?

    • cslakin March 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Sherry, there are lots and lots of websites and blogs that discuss ways to promote an ebook. If you Google that, you’ll be amazed. So just look online for resources and online courses and posts that share ideas on how to promote. There are so many options and ways to do that, and I’ve found doing a combination of paid and free sites for special 99-cent promos sells the most books. And over time you do build a fan base and readership, but it does take time.

  8. Joey March 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    I’m going to put up that “hire me” tab asap. Great idea!

  9. Gemma Hawdon March 17, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    Thank you for the positive tips, Carol. For me, the writing side of blogging is a pleasure – it’s the technical roadblocks that are sometimes difficult to master. It’s important to have a basic grasp of the platform you’re using to keep your site clean and functional!

  10. Michael M Dickson March 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    No doubt that’s a good start, but it takes time to develop blog traffic and even longer to get the right blog traffic.

    In the meantime, when I need to purchase software or whatever, I actively pursue Elance.com and can usually pick up something that pays well.

    In the end its all about those 5 steps and time.

    Thanks for the guide!

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