Review: The Blog Business Funnel by Skellie

Posted: April 8th, 2010

Photo From Skelliewag.org

Photo from Skelliewag.org

I’ve read ebooks all the time on various subjects whether freelancing, marketing or the like. Occasionally, I’ve received a nugget or two of information that has been very useful to me but, nowadays, I tend to shy away from ebooks. Even the free ones.

That’s because many ebooks are simply too general when explaining a topic. I’d prefer to see an ebook explain something in detail and give examples rather than pointing me in a direction to do a Google search.

Yep, I’ve even fallen victim to those “six figures to…” which now clutter up my hard disk. These days, I’m not an easy sell.

Then I happened to run across Skellie’s ebook, came across the sales page and read this:

In July 2008 I was studying full-time and freelancing part-time as a writer, copywriter and consultant. In that month, I earned more than $8,000 through my own Blog Business Funnel. Every single cent was earned through jobs that came through my blog.

Wow, I thought. OK, fairly credible. I forked over the 29 USD, not for the advice inside, but just to see how the hell Skellie did that.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

What intrigued me was that Skellie utilizes techniques used in online sales (read: big red headline, long sales page) and presents it as a way for freelancers to adopt without being all sales-pitchy-pushy.

Not only that, but it is written from the perspective of the everyday freelancer. No numbers, charts, formulas or the like. Just simple logic expressed in Layman’s terms with clear examples and a bit of  “pep talk” thrown in to convince you that Skellie’s techniques can be done.

Here are some key items that the ebook covers:

  • The building blocks of a blog that sells your services.
  • Writing to gain trust of your blog audience.
  • Branding yourself and creating a buzz.
  • Setting up a non-sales-pitchy sales page on your website.
  • Utilizing a business launch to generate clients.
  • Effectively using advertising and email lists to promote your services.
  • How to effectively raise your rates.

Now, the material is geared toward freelancers of any level. In my opinion, however, you will need some time freelancing under your belt and experiment a bit in blogging to really understand or get anything out of this ebook. If you’re at least at the point where you are asking yourself “How can I get better?” then this is for you.

This also may require you to step outside your normal marketing boundaries. Typically, freelancers are used to obtaining clients through job boards and referrals and are less skilled at their own sales.  While the material isn’t aimed at teaching sales, you will be using it, though in a manner freelancers can be comfortable with.

Personally, I consider myself a successful freelancer but, I admit, I’ve done very little of what was presented in the ebook. I also haven’t made $8,000 in any single month yet either. Therefore, I can guarantee that this ebook will not be collecting dust on my hard drive.

Read a preview of The Blog Business Funnel on Freelance Switch

Order the ebook here (with chapter previews)

The Freelance Rant is not in any way affiliated with The Blog Business Funnel and did not received a free copy for evaluation. The Freelance Rant also hints that there is a discount code in the first link above that he forgot to use. D’oh!

7 Blogging Lessons I Learned The Hard Way

Posted: December 16th, 2009

Photo by Cyndie@smilebig! (Flickr)

Photo by Cyndie@smilebig! (Flickr)

It’s been a little over a year and around 170 blog posts later, but it seems like an eternity since I started The Freelance Rant. I have to admit, I went into it not knowing a thing about blogging much less promoting a blog.

Even worse, I wasn’t even a great writer.

I’ll admit, too, that I went into blogging with dollar signs in my eyes.

Now I’m left standing with a whole new prospective: I stopped being an internet introvert and have a soap box to step on.

The dollar signs turned into burned out retinas.

Anyway, here are some real lessons I learned about the whole experience.

You Don’t Need To Be a Writer To Blog

Sure you need to know how to write but we all have our own lingo that, with a little direction, becomes our own unique writing style. And that writing style, in turn, reflects our personality and becomes the true identity of our blog.

Then it’s off to the races. The blog grows and so do you as a writer.

For myself, the hard part was developing that writing style. The only way to do that was to write and write and write. Then write some more. Those first few posts sometimes took a few agonizing hours to write.

I don’t want to say an old dog was teaching himself a new trick but such was the case.

You’ll Probably Suck At First, But So What

A reality I had to face when I started blogging was that, worst case, my posts would suck hard and no one would want to read my blog. Then I quickly found out this was also the best case scenario, especially since I was pretty new to the scene.

I’ve read stories where other more popular blogs have similarly started from nowhere and worked hard for years before becoming frequently visited. So I kept that in mind, put my eyes to the screen and wrote. The plan: keep writing and if the masses come, great. If not, I won’t give up.

Then, after fifty or so posts later (and fifty or so total visitors up to that point), I found a sudden spike in traffic for a particular post.

Eureka! I had found something that worked.  Then the process repeated and other posts were written here or there that drew visitors.

And throughout the whole time, I noticed my writing improved. Coincidence?

It’s Not About The Benjamins

I’ve seen countless ebooks and “help” out there that promise you’ll make five or six figures a year (in some cases, a month) from blogging. This is enough to make you think that, hey,  it’s a breeze. Why didn’t I start this a long time ago?

Bullshit.

Well, not really for those who are making their blogging fortunes. Those that are new to blogging with cashing in on it as the sole intent, however, face a harsh reality.

No, readers don’t exactly come knocking on your blog door and buy whatever crap you’re selling much less click on your ads at will. So therein lied the real issue which is attracting people to my blog.

In other words, I had to think about churning out posts that people read and find useful. And find a lot of them.

Not an easy task.

It’s Not About Me Either

I, being the genius I am, had assumed that whatever I wrote (crap or not) will just get indexed in Google and, in time, people will eventually discover it on the search engines and come flocking over to read it. Slowly but surely.

Uhmmm, not quite.

Then I learned of one word that made all the difference: networking.

For starters, I never caught on the social media train until this year. Nonetheless, discovering Twitter, Stumbleupon and their siblings was a wake up call that these were great tools for getting traffic to my blog.

Then I learned sharing information and meeting other similar freelancers and bloggers was fun. Even better, it’s a great way to learn from other which, believe me, I have. Other bloggers included.

Getting traffic to my blog from social media is just the gravy now.

A Passion Has To Shine Through

I can’t count the number of days where I wrote posts when I was dead tired from working my freelancing gigs. Nor can I count the number of days where just didn’t want to write… or where I had writer’s block… or seeing that I had three visits last week and thinking, “fuck this.”

You catch the drift. But those posts got written anyway.

While discipline was a major player here, I had to know and enjoy what I was writing about in order to crank out those posts a few times a week. Otherwise, I was basically in my old writing class having to write garbage about a subject that I could care the least about.

Passion keeps the words flowing when you aren’t.

Now I Know Why Other Bloggers Die Off

I’m a bit lazy right now to look up stats on all the blogs in the world. I’m willing to bet, however, that the majority of them are in the junkyard of abandoned blogs. Their owners had lost all hope and went back to something that “doesn’t waste their time.”

Like I said above, discipline is a major factor in getting those posts written on a regular basis. There are also other factors, though, which almost made me quit forever:

  • Low visitor count
  • No money to be had
  • Time and effort invested with no results (i.e. low visitors, no money)
  • Getting out of the habit of regular posting

While I’m nowhere near the upper caste of the blogging kingdom, I know that continuing to write on a regular basis and finding little nuggets to improve will pan out someday.

Of course, I may be extremely naive too. If ignorance is bliss…

I Oddly have To Follow My Own Advice Now

I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach. After writing all the advice that I have up until now, however, I made a stark discovery that I wasn’t always practicing what I know.

Yes, you heard that right.

Even funnier is that I go back to some of my older posts to see what I’ve written for a little guidance.

Well, a positive result was that, to keep in line with my preaching, I made quite a bit of changes in how I work as a freelancer. While I won’t go into great detail, it’s pretty obvious the lazy bug hit me a couple times in the past.

Thank God I had myself to give me good advice.

Let Me Know What You Think

Are you a new blogger, too? Maybe a blogger guru laughing his pants off right now? Leave a comment and let me know if you had similar experiences.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 32]: Networking, Or Schmoozing With Your Fellow Freelancers

Posted: November 26th, 2009

Photo by Kengo (Flickr)

Photo by Kengo (Flickr)

This is Day 32 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll learn the basics of networking to promote your freelance business and website/blog.

Freelancers are very lucky to live in a day and age where we can network with others from all over the world without even leaving our homes. And that means an opportunity to make a new client from Australia while working on a project for a client in Canada.

It all starts with getting your name out there in cyberland. By schmoozing.

But it is quite similar to moving to a new town 5,000 miles away from where you live. You start from zero and take it from there. This also takes some hard work which, unfortunately, you don’t get paid for.

The reward in the end, however, is you gain a great support base of other freelancers, exposure to your website and business and maybe even client lined up for you 8,000 miles away.

So let’s get started at zero and look at ways you can network yourself, website and business in the process.

Twitter

While Twitter is generally geared toward socializing and sharing informative links, rather than promoting your business, it is by far the easiest way to meet other freelancers who do what you do. It’s also good to generate some traffic to your blog.

Twitter is very simple to use, but it is essential to know the “rules” and general etiquette before you start tweeting away. Break the rules of etiquette and you could find yourself having to deal with a backlash from your followers.

So if you’re new to Twitter, have a look at these resources:

Commenting On Other Blogs

Its a lesser known method of generating traffic to your website, but when you leave a comment in a popular blog in your field of freelance, you can also include a link to your website with it. Those comments get read, and not just by the casual reader, but by other freelancers leaving comments.

While only a small percentage of those reading a blog post you comment on will click to your site, from your comment, there are still those few that will.

Comment enough and these few add up.

Here are a few tips when commenting on other blog posts:

  • Leave thoughtful and meaningful comments or questions that relate to the post. A quick, two-second “Hey, loved the post, nice tips” is considered blog spamming and will do more harm than good.
  • Get a gravatar, so your logo or picture will show up next to the comment in the blogs that support it (and a lot do). After signing up, use the same email address you used to sign up for the gravatar when leaving a blog comment for the gravatar to appear.
  • Try to be the first to comment on a blog post which tends to get read (and clicked on to your website) more. It helps to know the tendencies of what time bloggers post articles so you don’t have to check every minute.

Contact Other Experts In Your Field of Freelance

Don’t be afraid to send an email to other freelance bloggers for mentoring… especially the real popular ones who you may think are too busy to acknowledge you. Don’t just email any question, though. Follow these few tips when sending a contact email:

  • Prior to sending a contact email, it goes a long way to leave comments on his or her blog.
  • Say who you are and what you do. My name is Johnny and I’m a freelance web programmer and a part-time blogger.
  • Flatter. Mention that you’re a fan of his or her blog and that article on XXX really helped you out.
  • Then politely ask a question or if they have 15 minutes for a quick Skype session.

Note that some people you contact may be just too busy to help you or even answer your email.

Don’t take it as an insult. It happens, so find someone else to mentor you.

Freelancers are generally more than willing to help other freelancers. All you have to do is ask.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 31]: What On Earth Do I Write In My Blog

Posted: November 25th, 2009

Photo by OkayCityNate (Flickr)

Photo by OkayCityNate (Flickr)

This is Day 31 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today I’ll give you some ideas on how to get started in writing your blog.

So you now have your nice, shiny new portfolio website and a blog that you’ll use to promote and grow your website. Now the real question becomes what do you put in the damn blog now?

An even bigger question is will people visit my site and read what I have to say?

If you aren’t used to writing, don’t lose hope.

If you view your blog as a stage, where you have to perform by pleasing your audience with your writing, then you are already doomed from the start.

Wrong approach.

The reality is your blog is your own personal journal. You can write whatever the hell you want and not worrying about your sixth grade teacher coming around to correct your grammar. That’s the beauty of blogging… you can write how you want to even if it means sloppy sentences (though you might want to use the spell check).

After a while, writing gets easier and you develop you own flow and style. And lo and behold, a blogger is born.

In other words, just write.

Now to answer that question on what to write…

Advice

A great way to attract visitors to your blog is to offer advice on whatever your specialty is. It doesn’t necessarily mean giving away your “trade secrets” but if there is something you know how to do better than others, write about it. Take this blog for example. Did you come here seeking out some sort of advice on freelancing?

Tutorials

Do a search in Google for how to do anything and you come up with an endless list of how-to tutorials. That’s because, by instinct, we automatically look up the web whenever we want to know how to do something. And that’s the reason why online tutorials are widely popular.

There is always something we know, done our own unique way, which we can share and benefit others too.

Commentaries

One of the easiest ways to come up with a topic is to read other blogs and write a commentary on a post you feel strongly for or against. Take it a step further and take a controversial stance. Posts that draw a debate are a great way to get a reader’s attention.

One thing to note is that, since your blog is linked to your portfolio, keep commentaries free from politics, religion and negativity (i.e. arrogance, badmouthing others). These are all topics that will turn off readers and can dirty your reputation as the freelancer.

It doesn’t mean you can’t disagree on anything. Just be polite about it.

Whatever Is On Your Mind

One of the quirks of blogging is that you sometimes write a post that goes off tangent and was something you wrote in five minutes just to clear your head.

Then people read it and like it.

For example, I wrote this as only my second blog post which drew a lot of visitors and was a reason I continued doing The FR Ten.

The point is if it’s on your mind then write about it. Not only might it turn into a gem, but you also improve your ability to sit there and write without the dreaded writer’s block.

Now To Draw Those Visitors

Check back for the next tutorial where I’ll show tips on how to draw visitors to your blog without having to wait for the search engines to show mercy on you.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 30]: A Little SEO To Promote Your Website

Posted: November 24th, 2009

Photo by Luke Redmond (Flickr)

Photo by Luke Redmond (Flickr)

This is Day 30 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll have a simple lesson in search engine optimization to promote your website.

Some of you may be familiar with the old days of search engine optimization, or SEO. To give you a refresher, there was the “bag o’ tricks” that could be done to get your website on the first page of Google that included:

  • Keyword stuffing, or cramming a search phrase repeatedly in a page to where it became awkward to read.
  • Multi-Keyword stuffed pages, repeating the above using a unique search phrase for multiple pages on a website.
  • Reciprocal linking, or getting every website you can to add a link to your website while you do the same in return.

Well, times have changed and search engines have become increasingly sophisticated to do one single thing: give you exactly what you are looking for when you do a search. In other words, not keyword stuffed fluff containing a million links to irrelevant websites.

Use Your Blog  To Do Your SEO

Your own freelance website will contain at least a portfolio, an about page, a contact page and maybe a few more. Unfortunately for Google and her sisters, Yahoo and Bing, these pages alone won’t be enough.

The reason is that having only a handful of pages lacks the amount of content needed for your website to become relevant in the search engines. So what to do?

Well, that’s why we have the advantage of our blog to do the SEO work for us.

To explain, search engines simply give higher rankings to websites with a lot of good content. Search engines love blogs because new content is constantly added and, over time, a blog essentially becomes a very large website when you consider that each post is equal to one page of a website.

So by making the blog the focal point of your website and, of course, consistently writing posts, your website slowly grows in size enough to where it becomes relevant in the search engines.

Keep in mind that while your portfolio and contact pages may not be the focal point of your website, you actually gain more exposure to them through the blog since that will become the main source of traffic to your website.

A Few Simple SEO Tips

  • Register your domain for two years or more. According to WebsiteGrader.com, search engines tend to penalize websites with domains that expire within a year since most of these are considered spammy sites.
  • Use keywords in the title of your blog posts. Try Wordtracker’s free keyword tool to come up with keywords often used in search queries. Note that not every single post you create has to be specially keyworded but a majority should be.
  • Don’t bother with reciprocal links to other websites or blogs. Although search engines value other websites linking to yours, that will come naturally as you gain more visitors to your website.
  • Do, however, link to other similar websites inside the content. Also, as your blog grows, refer to and link to other posts within your blog. The links contained in your website do add to it’s relevance in the search engines.
  • Don’t worry about having to keyword the content inside of posts. If your title is keyworded and your content stays within the meaning of the title, then keywording will come naturally within the content anyway.
  • Keep writing and be patient. Visitors don’t come overnight and it could take up to a year or more before you start to notice even a page 15 ranking in the search engines. This takes time.

What Should I Write About?

The most difficult part about having a blog is easily coming up with something to write in it. In the next tutorial, I’ll give you some ideas that will fill up those posts and will generate visitors in the process. So stay tuned!

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 29]: Setting Up Your Own Blog

Posted: November 17th, 2009

Photo by Laughing Squid (Flickr)

Photo by Laughing Squid (Flickr)

This is Day 29 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll see how to set up your own blog.

In Day 19, I explained several advantages of blogging as a freelancer. If you create your own website for your freelance business blogging, in addition, can offer additional advantages that can be beneficial for your business too:

  • Awareness: By blogging, you establish yourself as an expert in whatever subject you are writing about. That exposure leads to your brand awareness and could lead to new business.
  • Promotion: Blogs are one of the best ways to promote your business website in the search engines. Search engines love blogs because they are updated frequently. Put a link visibly to your business website from your blog and you can easily generate traffic to it.
  • Networking: You’ll notice on any of your favorite blogs that they link to and promote other similar blogs. This is a great way to meet other freelance bloggers while also generating traffic to your blog from theirs.

There are some caveats to these advantages however.

  • You need to blog  frequently.  By frequently, I don’t mean every day, but develop the habit to blog at least once or twice a week. Try for three times a week if time permits.
  • You need to be willing to grow in your blogging skills. For some freelancers, take writers for example, blogging comes naturally. For the majority who are not use to writing, this will be difficult at the start. The only way to improve is to keep writing. Writing will improve with time.
  • You need to be patient. The benefits of blogging will not happen right away. In fact, this will take months or even a year or more. I’ll go over methods to promote your blog in a future tutorial so stay tuned.

To start blogging, there are two ways to set this up.

Hosted Blog Platforms

Hosted blog platforms offer the advantage of being easy to set up yourself while not having to deal with the techy issues of installing it on your own server. While you can customize the look of your blog to your liking, there are limits to what can be done.

So for those who do not need all the bells and whistles and are content with a simple, easy to manage blog, then this is your best option. The best part, too, is that it is free to set up your own blog account and start writing away.

The best and most widely used free platforms are Blogger and WordPress.

Hosting Your Own Blog

Installing a blog on your own web server is the preferred way to go if you want complete control in design and maintenance. WordPress is, by far, the most widely-used software and is raved for it’s slick editor and ability to customize in virtually any way possible. Plus it’s free to download and use.

It takes a little technical savvy to install and configure WordPress but the following resources will get you started:

Afterwards, you can customize the design of your blog by finding and installing a theme that suits you. There are plenty of free themes available to choose from and, don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds.

In addition, you can kill two birds with one stone by combining your portfolio website (from Day 28) with your blog in WordPress. Smashing Magazine offers a killer tutorial on how to do this.

Blogging Resources

To help you become a better blogger, check out these websites which offer useful tips on attracting an audience, making money from blogging and even a tip here or there on how to improve your WordPress installation:

Your Homework For Today

Start your own blog by setting up an account with Blogger or WordPress or install WordPress on your server using the resources above. Remember to keep writing too. Blogging gets easy over time.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 19]: Why You Need To Blog As A Freelancer

Posted: September 30th, 2009

Photo by Will Lion (Flickr)

Photo by Will Lion (Flickr)

This is Day 19 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today I’ll give you reasons to start blogging in your freelance career.

You Mean I Need To Start Writing?

Well, let’s begin by saying that if you are not freelancing as a writer nor inspired to be a writer then the motivation to start and write in a blog of your own probably isn’t there at the moment. Who can blame you either? If you are like me then those English classes weren’t your favorite in school either.

Just hear me out on this one though.

Personally, I started blogging because I got caught up in the idea that you can make a few dollars out of it. When I realized it was a very bad reason to start, I still continued on writing and noticed some major benefits blogging had on me as a freelancer: (By the way, don’t ever start blogging with the intent of money from it. Trust me.)

  • You stay focused in your career
    Putting your thoughts into typewritten words makes you realize you have those thoughts in the first place. You may not realize but often times those very thoughts do not get put into practice. I’ve noticed myself even going back to my old posts and recalling my own advice. There is no reason it won’t do the same for you.
  • You become a voice to the world
    Though this takes time and growth in your writing, you will eventually develop an audience which becomes empowering and gives confidence to you as a person and a freelancer. Keep on writing and writing and it will improve, too. If that isn’t enough for you, read The Simple Dollar’s article on developing 1000 true fans. Every blog has a beginning.
  • The flow in your work improves, not to mention your writing
    The hardest part about blogging is continuously keeping up with it. Sometimes a post can take hours to write. Guess what though? Master these and you begin to notice your flow of thought and creativity in your work improve as well. How many times have you sat in front of the computer screen with a “block” trying to get work done?

If you still have your doubts about starting a blog then I’ll answer for you the most common ones.

  • There’s already a million other blogs out there
    That’s true, but do you ever notice how those blog you read and like could be better or suited more to you? That alone is enough reason to start your own.
  • I can’t write
    You need to keep in mind that your English teacher is not looking over your shoulder. Blog posts can be as short or as long as you want and don’t have to be in that stupid introduction, three middle paragraphs and a conclusion format. Truthfully, your blog posts will suck in the beginning but, post and post often, and you will notice an improvement and writing becomes much easier.
  • I don’t know what to write about
    The easiest way to write posts is to write whatever is on your mind, taking a freestyle approach. There’s no requirement on what the subject has to be. With time, your writing becomes more focused and topics will be easier to come up with.
  • No one will visit my blog
    I won’t sugar coat this one. It will probably take anywhere from one to two years for your blog to appear anywhere meaningful in the search engines. Don’t let that be a discouragement, though. Many of the best bloggers out there have done their time and are reaping the rewards of high traffic.

    There will be a future tutorial on how you can use Twitter and Stumbleupon to promote your blog that can drastically cut the search engine wait.

Your Homework For Today

Create a blog and write your first post. Visit Day 29 which will show how to set up your own blog.

Can Having Your Own Blog Really Earn You Money?

Posted: August 11th, 2009

Over the course of the seven plus months writing away in my own blog, I couldn’t help but notice how the popularity of blogging has skyrocketed. The motive to start out usually boils down to one of three things: 1) To have an outlet for venting whatever subject. 2) To promote a business. 3) To make the loot.

Recently, the trend has moved towards #2 and #3. Unfortunately, the overall quality of blogs has diminished due to this this very fact. Even enough so that the primary function of a blog has become lost in an ocean of personal diaries and Google Adsense ads. Does anyone really believe that with a focus of “Hey, buy my product” or “Please click on one of my 50 ads” their goal will be achieved?

It seems too many believe exactly that to be the case. The end result is a blog abandoned to the world of cyber garbage waiting to be picked up when the domain name expires… or just sits there forever on Blogger like an empty coke can in a canal.

So what do you have to do to make money from a blog?

In a nutshell…

Have something to say that people want to hear.

This may seem like a no brainer, but people visit a blog because it entertains, engages or solves a problem. Focus on one of the three (instead of Adsense revenue) and you have a start to creating an ideal blog. Knowing how to write can only help you more.

Get involved within the community of your expertise.

Getting to know others with the same expertise as yours helps keeps you in touch and up to date on your subject. You can also drive traffic to your blog by visiting and commenting on other similar blogs. Not to mention, interacting on social media such as Twitter and Stumbleupon are also great ways to drive in traffic. It involves a lot of work outside of your own blog, but is worth the effort in the end.

Be patient.

A blog doesn’t grow popular overnight. In fact, you’d be very lucky to have a lot of traffic coming to it within a year. This is normal, however, and a part of being a new blogger. There’s no shortcut either. Keep pluggin’ away on those posts, improving your writing as you go and eventually the traffic will come.

Wait until you have traffic and have a reputation as an expert.

Once traffic starts to flow to your blog, it is then the time to consider monetizing it with paid ads or by promoting and selling products. It is always wise to first demonstrate your expertise and gain the trust of your visitors before this step though. Any earlier and you come off as some pushy salesman and drive visitors away rather than keep them coming back.

Of course, I can’t explain to you everything about blogging and earning from it in just this one post. However, the following sites below are highly recommended to fill you in on everything blog related:

31 Days To Build a Better Blog

Blogsessive

Copyblogger