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What does treating your blog “Like a Business” really mean?

Posted By Lara Kulpa 5th of February 2010 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Guest post by Mike CJ.

“Treat your blog like a business” is something we’re told all the time. It’s solid advice, assuming you want or plan to make an income from your blog, and adopting it as a mindset often leads to the successful transition from a blog into a business.

But what does it actually mean?

Have a proper accounts system

Record income and expenses as they happen. Monitor cashflow – every day if things are tight. There are so many tools out there to help you do this, and many of them are free to use. Outright is one of the easiest.

Set objectives

The blogosphere is full of objective-setting posts at this time of year. Most of them revolve around traffic and subscribers. And that’s fine, but if you do want to blog professionally, you need to have financials behind those. You need to know what you’re going to earn over the next year.

Set budgets

Once you know what’s coming in, set yourself some spending budgets. How much of your income are you going to re invest in the business? For training? Software? Marketing? By setting budgets, it makes buying decisions so much easier. Do you want to advertise your new book here on Problogger? Don’t waste hours wringing your hands trying to decide. If it’s in budget do it, if it isn’t, don’t.

Seek opinions and advice

Most “real” businesses, even small ones, don’t run in a vacuum with the proprietor making every decision. And yet many blogs do just that! Get as much advice as you can, from your partner, your bank, your accountant and from other bloggers.

Produce reports

Monthly or quarterly, produce a report showing how the business is performing against the various targets. Examine what went well, and what didn’t. Use the findings to inform your planning for the next period. The act of producing the report itself is effective, but it’s even better if you have to present it to someone else – even if it’s your partner.

Enter into collaborations

Working with other bloggers can really accelerate your success, as well as theirs. Seek out opportunities with like minded people you see around the web.

Use professional tools

It’s too easy to let yourself down with poor design, a tatty invoice or by not having a business card. None of the accoutrements of being in business cost a fortune – they’re a small expense compared to the loss of image when they aren’t right.

Invest in training

Every business should have a training budget – choose the right books, courses and memberships and you’ll get a far greater return than the initial cost.

Treat your readers like customers

Typically only a very small percentage of blog readers will ever become customers by buying something from you – most will simply enjoy the mass of free content you put out there. And that’s fine. But treat every one of them as a potential paying client, and that percentage will slowly increase over time.

Those are my thoughts about treating your blog like a business. What would you add?

Mike CJ is a full time professional blogger and author. He lives in the idyllic Canary Islands, just off the coast of Africa. You can find out more about Mike on his blog Mike’s Life and catch up with him on Twitter @mikecj

What does treating your blog "Like a Business" really mean?
Comments
  1. Hey Dareen thanks for posting this article from Mike. I came to know about him recently and really found his blog a lot helpful.

    Yes my blog is my kind a my business website.. I a would love to follow all the suggestion left her. Thanks Mike.

  2. I would say to treat your readers as potential friends, and they will turn into customers eventually.

    Nice post

  3. Hello Lara, I don’t think I have ever read one of your posts, but nice work! I am lucky enough to run my own business aswell as blogging so like you said alot of the principles can be applied to blogging aswell. At the moment the accounts would be very bare with no real income coming from in from it, but alot of the other points can be applied to it such as objectives. I did this after one of Darrens recent posts and it really helps and motivates me to complete them,thankyou!
    http://www.studentspayless.com

  4. Hi Mike. I’ve preached this in my own blog to create awareness to my peers and also to remind myself about our blog being our business venture.

    Cheers

  5. Hard to think of blogging in terms of asset and liability. I dont even think of it in terms of hourly rate! That’s why blogging remains more of a hobby than a business

  6. As someone with a background in accounting, I definitely keept track of business expenses separately. If/when my site becomes profitable and my staff’s profit-sharing agreement is triggered, I may even open a separate checking account doing business under my “parent organization”‘s name (Hyrax Publications). 2009 operated at a small loss, but hopefully 2010 will break into the black.

    I guess that’s one other way that I treat my blog like a business. I created a site that serves as an umbrella over my creative endeavors (blogs and my eventual novel).

    If you shop around, you can get business cards for a very reasonable price.

    I echo the sentiment of treating your readers like potential friends. If they feel appreciated, they’ll be more likely to come back.

  7. Nice post Mike!! My biggest goal is to turn my blog into a business, but its not possible until I have solid money to invest, that is why I’m concentrating on increasing affiliate sales first.

    http://www.dumblittleblogger.com/

  8. If you are making money blogging (or are attempting to) there’s no “like a business” about it. It IS a business, so you should also do things like making sure you’re in compliance with local laws and tax requirements, etc.

  9. I also make sure I have a two months editorial calendar, just like a big magazine publisher

  10. Hey Mike,

    Whenever I’ve heard someone say “Treat your blog like a business,” I’ve always just looked at it like identifying the differences between business and pleasure. Your post expands on that 10-fold – very insightful.

    Thanks.

  11. I think Only 5%-6% blogger would be doing this for there Blog, Most of them are operating as a Hobby…IMO

  12. @ Tom Smith – who’s Lara? But yes, you can apply small business practices. My point is to do it from the beginning, so it becomes a habit. Even if you’re only recording the 87 cents you earned last month!

    @scheng1 And that’s fine. If it’s a hobby, all of the above can safely be ignored! :)

    @Jackie. Very true. And there’s a whole other post there! By a quirk of publishing, one of my blogging businesses is US based, although I’m in Europe. That’s meant a very steep learning curve on their taxation system for me.

    @Constantine. Wish I could be that organized!

  13. My fiance and I recently started a blog, and we have spent a lot of time discussing this very thing. One of the things that always confused us was that blogging itself is not the business…blogging is the platform for your business.

    Blogging is a tool to build a loyal customer base, your credibility, and trust in order to be successful in selling/marketing your products or other people’s products.

    Once we latched onto this idea, it seems a little more realistic to have your foot in both camps (marketing and social networking).

    Thanks so much for posting about this- I think the business side of blogging is still a source of confusion in the blogging world :) ~Meg

  14. Mike… Exactly… There’s been a lot of blogs who have fizzled out when they “tried” to make it a business… People in general don’t know how to run a business. I’m not sure what the statistic is with eBusineses that fail… But a statistic I commonly hear is over 95% of small businesses (brick and mortar) fail within the first 5 years.

    Your lessons here not only blogs, but they apply to brick and mortar businesses too…

  15. Great article about a great human being. It isn’t often you find someone to help you just because you ask.Not for money and immediate return but as a friend and fellow blogger.
    Mikecj and his team are the best.
    Thanks Darren for this article.

  16. Great post Lara! lol

    Yep, this is a good topic, and something I plan on touching on here shortly in a collaborative venture of my own.

    Good work mate.

  17. Great post. I like all of your advice – following these guidelines will help keep us accountable to our blogs as businesses. One point you hit on that I haven’t been very good at is the financial planning. I’ve kind of had a go with the flow type of attitude about finances, but it might be a good idea to put some numbers down.

    One point I could add is to plan out content ahead of time to keep you on track to meet your objectives.

    And I like @Stefan’s point about treating your readers like potential friends. I do this and I think it has helped me build better connections with my readers.

  18. Nice post there Mike my friend. I would venture that many find it difficult to do this. Mainly because blogging is not seen as a legitimate profession by many.

    By this does not mean you don’t have to be professional about it.

    I particularly support your point about treating readers like customers. This has been a concern of mine about blogging for a while.

    I also like seeking out collaborations. I think this is a must to boost ones blog to the next level.

  19. Fine post, Mike and a big thanks do Darren for having you as a guest.

    This is so true, and while we hear it very often, the message still seems to have escaped many. Bloggers from all levels should read this and enjoy it for the great message it contains.

  20. Very sound advice. Another important thing to note is if you don’t sell products you are definitely not a business. This the main reason I don’t see my blog as a business yet. At best – it is a potential business. Once I release my ebook in March, then I will be treating my blog as a business.

  21. Hey Mike,

    If you want your blog to be a business, treat it like one.

    Simple advice, but like you said, what does it actually mean?

    I really like the list you provided because it reads like a to-do for ANY business, not just a blog-based one.

    Which shows that good business practice is universal.

    So even if something isn’t on this list, when someone is in doubt on how to proceed with their blog-as-a-business, they can ask themselves: what would I do if it was some other small business, disregarding that it’s a blog?

    I particularly like the last point and am going to be constantly pushing myself to treat every reader as a potential customer.

    That doesn’t mean annoying marketing or selling, but just offering the right product or service at the right place and right time on the site. No hype, and no compromise to the free content.

    To treating our blogs as a business,
    Oleg

  22. @Steven Start now! Even if you’re not making any money now, set a budget for your costs, and account for them properly.

    First it will get you into the habit, and second all your current expenses can be offset against the vast profits you’re going to earn when you start selling your E Book.

  23. Hello MIKE, haha sorry about that, giving someone else your credit! Thats good advice, meaning you have the foundations in place before you get bigger, keep up the good work lara ; )
    http://www.studentspayless.com

  24. Even Nathan’s calling me Lara now. You started something.

    I just feel bad for Lara! :)

  25. @Mike, the two most powerful things that I’ve experienced in evolving from a blog to running it like a business are collaboration and asking for advice. The combo of those two things have ultimately fueled my growth more than anything.

  26. Thanks for the tips! Not to mention: track your clicks/visits/visitors professionally, e.g. using alexa and SEO tools etc. I use an EXCEL list where I copy the most important figures with time stamp. That way I can estimate which action drives which traffic or, the other way around, should traffic decrease, have an early warning system to counteract the trend.

  27. A blog is BIG business. Always treat your reader respectful no matter who they are. That reader can be a big fish. You never know. Great article.

  28. Nice post. I’m definitely going to give Outright a chance and I’m going to order that book on tax loopholes for eBay sellers as well.

    I don’t do eBay, but will be doing PayPal invoicing soon and don’t feel like giving much to the taxman.

  29. Treating your readers like customers is important when your blogging. I know of all to many people that just try to make up posts just to get content up there every few days. Take the time to research and give helpful and informative post. No ones going to come read if its generic of put together sloppy. I spend half of my day or longer writing up a blog post at the current moment to make sure my readers/customers/friends get the best information possible.

  30. Good post..some valuable points. I really liked the posit of treating your readers as customers.

  31. Great post. I’m working on this right now. I devote 4 hours a week to working on my business rather than in it. Recently, I have been trying to incorporate procedures into almost everything I do.

    Great idea about the monthly reports. Never thought about that.

  32. Training and goals are the top places I see that I am lacking in my sites. I’ve never really written anything down, but I remember telling my wife 6 months ago that I’d be happy to someday be where I am now, financially! Now on to the next step…

  33. Mike, great tips my man! Very nice to see the you keeping it real here on Darren’s hut as well!

    I’d believe many bloggers who look to build a business skip accounting, budgeting and producing any kind of reports. Those things are “not fun”, but for building a profitable business, those things are needed. And for example budgeting and proper planning (based on the reports) will fasten your decision making drastically.

  34. I agree with some and disagree with others.

    To me, running blog like a business is more of a mentality than a list of things that you need to do. It is hard to convey that mentality, but once you really get it, then you get it for good.

    That being said, just because you monitor all sorts of stats does not mean you are treating your blog like a business. Just because you dress like a cop, and having that cops have does not make you one.

    Some of the other ideas are more on track: collaborations, setting goals, asking for opinions and advice.

    Here is what running a blog like a business means to me:

    It means focusing on what matters: quality, content, consistency, professionalism, building a brand, a community and so on. Treating a blog like a business means becoming a professional and acting like one.

    Just my two cents.

    Best,
    Tomas

  35. It seems that “treating blog like business” become hot topic recently in blogosphere. I had learn many from others article in this topic but this article give me the most important lesson (or basic lesson i must said) about what is the meaning of “treating blog like business”. From this article, i know that i do not treat my blog as business yet.

  36. great advice here.. been spending hours trying to turn my blog into a business. hard to do without a big enough income for it :(

  37. It means making the commitment and taking responsibility like you would if you were running a small business.

  38. Initially i started blogging just to provide knowledge to all the visitors but day by day getting more knowledge in this field help me to find out the way to make it as a career in this field and show my presence in this bologosphere

  39. Thanks Darren, some great tips here. Currently I only have two of your suggestions in place, maybe that’s why it doesn’t make money.

    I will be sure to incorporate many of these factors in the near future, but not to be overwhelmed I think I will take them one by one.

  40. I’ve been working on treating my blog like a business, at least to some extent. It’s still young so I don’t create much for reports, but I do pay attention to all my stats in an unorganized way.

    I should probably start being more organized though, before I end up lost with too much too keep track of.

  41. Hey Mike,
    You offer some solid points here. At what point in time traffic wise would consider investing money if you’re not making some. How long should one be willing to make a loss, or should they?

  42. This is very important. Planning and organizing your blog will surely create the best outcome. Its sounds difficult but its a must for all bloggers.

  43. …And treat your businesses like your baby. Haha, great post, Mike!

  44. Hmm, We should not stop Investing especially in trainings. Good Ebooks, membership blogs and even one on one couching really helps a lot. Thanks for reminding us Darren.

  45. I was not aware of this!! Thanks for posting!! good informative blog!!

  46. @gordie It depends on what you can or can’t afford to be honest Gordie. But try to decide that at the start, and set a budget – even if it’s only $20 a month.

  47. Thanks for your valuble content.BNow i am also try to improve my blog with business manner

  48. Some great advice here, which I agree with. If you are making money of a blog, then it is a business, and all of the normal protocols should be taken seriously.

    I have problems keeping track of income and expenditure though, and it is on my to-do list. I just forget to note in down some days, which really isn’t good. Thanks for the link, going to try it out.

  49. if you want to make money by your blog, these suggestions are very useful, but if you just want to get fun by blog, you can conside these items as nothing. because these will make you keep busy and tired.

  50. you’ve outlined very well. I got a point or two which i’ll implement immediately as i also run a blog. i think it’d be even more useful if you outline the nature of business that a blog set up is more suitable to. I’m sorry i’ve not read some of your earlier posts and maybe you could’ve covered that. all the same good job.

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