This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.
There are millions of blogs on the internet. Some are nothing more than creative outlets for people who are interested in hobby blogging. Others are successful brands that produce millions of dollars in revenue each year. If you want your blog to be successful, you have to stop treating it like a hobby. In other words, you need to treat your blog like an actual business if you want to get real results.
Five Signs Your Blog is a Hobby
Having someone tell you that your blog is more of a hobby than a business can be infuriating. After all, what do they know about your blog? But if you fear that your blog isn’t on the right track, then it’s possible that you’re treating it as more of a hobby. Here are a few signs that would reinforce this possibility.
- Generic email address. Does your blog have a @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, @yahoo.com address? Generic email addresses like this may be free, but they don’t look very professional. This harms your brand’s reputation and is one sign that you probably aren’t as business-oriented as you’d like to believe.
- No accounting records. Do you have any accounting records to track revenue and expenses? Even something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet will work. A lack of accounting records shows you aren’t treating your blog’s finances like business revenue.
- Very little consistency. Do you spend time with your blog every single day? If you spend an hour on the blog one day, two hours the next day, take off four days, and then spend 30 minutes on the blog the following week, your inconsistency is a sign that you don’t take the demands of blogging seriously. You’re fitting it into your schedule, as opposed to setting your schedule around it (which is what should happen if it’s a business).
- No investments in growth. When was the last time you paid for something that you believed would elevate your blog? It could be marketing, advertising, or a blogging course that’s aimed at bettering your results. If you struggle to remember an investment in growth, then you aren’t doing what’s needed to make your blog a business.
- Little attention paid to analytics. Blogs thrive on analytics. In order to attract advertising dollars, sell products and services, or bring in revenue via any other means, you need visitors on your website. A failure to pay attention to analytics means you aren’t interested in making money.
If one or more of these signs ring true in your situation, then it’s time to consider that your blog may very well be a hobby. This doesn’t mean it’s destined to remain a hobby, but should indicate that something needs to change.
Here’s How You Can Turn it Into a Business
If you want to keep your blog a hobby, that’s fine. Just know that it won’t ever become a consistent source of monthly income for you. If, on the other hand, you hope to turn it into a business and produce real results, you need a plan. Here’s where to start:
1. Create a Concrete Work Schedule
Have you ever held a job where you simply decided when you wanted to go into work, how long you wanted to stay, and whether or not you wanted to get anything done on a given day? If you treated a job with this sort of attitude, you’d be fired quicker than you could spell “lazy.”
The only way to really treat your blog like a business is to create a concrete work schedule that doesn’t bend or falter because of outside factors. You may be working another job and only be able to dedicate three hours a day to your blog, but make sure you’re setting aside this time and only using it for blogging. Actually write it into your daily schedule to hold yourself accountable.
2. Set Objectives and Deadlines
“Don’t just blog aimlessly without a plan in place. In order to truly treat your blog like a business, you’ve got to serious about it,” says one blogger. “Set a goal of the things you want to achieve in blogging. Is there a certain amount of pageviews you want to hit or a number of posts you want to write? Whatever it may be, having a goal gives you something to work toward. Just make sure to set a deadline so you can achieve it in a timely manner instead of procrastinating.”
Goals give you something to reach for and allow you to measure your success. The more specific you can get, the more likely that you’ll be able to meet your goals. But even if you fail to meet your goal, at least you know you’re doing everything possible to make progress.
3. Seek Outside Help
You may be able to run your blog like a one-man shop most days, but a red flag begins to emerge if you never seek outside help.
“In order to offer amazing value and content to your target market, you should always be growing both personally and professionally,” career coach Elizabeth Smith says. “This means you have to continue to learn new ideas, products, and strategies!”
While smith suggests getting a mentor, you have to let mentorship happen naturally (and it typically takes months or years to come to fruition). What you really need to do is hire a consultant to help you with areas where you struggle. You’d be surprised how many qualified consultants can be found online at decent prices.
Why not just hire an employee to handle the issues you’re faced with? Well, you have to pay an employee on a consistent basis – regardless of whether or not you need them. With a consultant, you get specialised advice for a period of time and can then part ways with no strings attached. Consultants are especially good for things like big-picture business strategy, marketing, legal issues, and other complicated challenges.
4. Make Marketing a Priority
Speaking of marketing, it needs to be a big priority if you’re focused on growing your blog and building a brand. While writing may be the bones of a blog, marketing is what ensures people are reading what you’re publishing.
Feel free to have a consultant walk you through some marketing strategies, but this isn’t something you should outsource. Successful bloggers need firsthand knowledge of things like SEO, content marketing, PPC advertising, and search marketing in order to create a sustainable business.
5. Carefully Track Expenses
“When you start making any kind of income for your blog, it’s important to start tracking the income that’s coming in, and the expenses you’re incurring to keep the site operational,” blogger and finance expert Peter Anderson says. “The reason? You’re going to need to pay taxes on your income when tax time comes around. In fact, if you’re making enough money on the side, you’ll need to be making regular estimated tax payments during the year as well.”
A failure to properly track income and expenses could prove to be a fatal mistake. The IRS doesn’t care if you’re making $5,000 or $500,000 per year, they expect you to pay your taxes and provide documentation if asked.
6. Give Yourself a Paycheck
There’s always the debate over whether or not you should give yourself a paycheck or just pour all of the profits back into the blog. For the first few months that your blog experiences positive cash flow, it may be smart to put the money to work. However, after a while, feel free to start paying yourself a modest sum of money.
The reason you should give yourself a paycheck is that it solidifies in your mind the idea that your blog is indeed a business. If you don’t achieve the results you need each month, your paycheck is in jeopardy. If you exceed expectations for an extended period of time, a raise may be on the table.
7. Be Religious About Analytics
Any thriving company develops monthly, quarterly, and annual reviews to understand the health of the business and see where things are. For bloggers, one of the best ways to conduct performance reviews is by accessing analytical data from your blog. Throw these figures into a spreadsheet so you can quickly see a snapshot of what’s happening over time. This is just another way you can treat your blog like a fully functional business.
It’s Time to Take Blogging Seriously
If you talk with other people who made the decision to take blogging more seriously, you’ll see that the results are nothing but positive. Just ask blogger Rachel Green.
“Earlier this year, I took a step back and looked at what I was doing with my blog and how I could make it work better for me,” she says. “I started writing posts with more value and found my niche audience. I also started listening to what my audience wanted by analysing which posts got the most traffic and interaction and listening to what people where saying in the comments about each post.”
In other words, Green started to take her blog seriously for the first time – and the results left her pleasantly surprised. “Since making these changes, I have noticed triple the blog traffic I was getting before and an increase in new clients and shop sales as well,” she happily reports. And while a lot of other factors played into her growth, the fact that she sat down and made the conscious decision to take her blog seriously certainly played a part.
If you want to see your blog finally take off, then it’s time that you do the same. Start treating your blog more like a business and less like a blog. You’ll love the success and hobby blogging will no longer be something you’re even remotely interested in.