Imagining a Bright and Busy Future

Wrong TurnI have to admit this whole reimagining myself and this blog have me pretty excited. My Muse is equally enchanted by the idea and that’s always a good sign that I’m going in the right direction. Somehow, I think we instinctively sense when life takes a wrong turn. For me, it’s a niggling ache in the pit of my stomach. Over time it weighs down the heart too until eventually you have to turn a corner. It’s the right turns we take to get back on course that sing through our bodies shouting, “YES! Finally!”

I wanted to share some of the future with you. I have a few posts in mind that have called to me over the past few years but I never came back to because they didn’t quite fit my vision of what I thought this blog was becoming. For example, I have a drafts of more days from my “Postcards from L.A.” series that I never published. Fantastic and fun things like my day as a V.I.P. in Disneyland; my first experience with live theatre at the L.A. production of Wicked at Pantages; my explosive tour of Universal Studio; my emotional adventure attending the Writer’s Digest Writers’ Conference; and my final, mixed-emotions farewell and homecoming.

I was also thinking about writing more of the “Dog Train Your Writing Skills” series. I’d been meaning to turn those posts into a book and when I fleshed out the outline and expanded it to book-worthy length the task became so daunting that I kept putting it off. Recently, I was reading the September Writer’s Digest and Nina Amir wrote, “Blog your way to a book deal”. It occurred to me as I read that I could make the writing the DTYWS book idea less daunting by just writing blog posts on the topics I want to include and consider those the first draft. Just as I used the posts I originally wrote as content within the book I could keep writing the book in that style. Then compile, improve, expand, edit, polish, and publish the series as a book when I’m done.

There are a few other posts tucked away on my “to be written” list. Some are true treasures. I’m committed, over the coming months, to finally write those ones that are close to my heart. Fun things like, “How a Romance Story is like NCIS”, and “The 8-Step Prison Break Plan to Escaping Writer’s Block”. I also wanted to rave about some awesome things I learned in a Screenwriting Workshop about The Hero’s Journey, Character Archetypes, Monomyth and Mythical Structure, and more!

So, I think I have a lot of writing ahead of me. But the good news is I’m excited again and I’m hoping I can keep putting the me into these posts and any others I’m inspired to write in the weeks and months to come. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Have you ever taken a wrong turn in life that needed a course correction? Do your characters ever do this in your stories? Is there any writing you’ve been putting off that you really do wish you could get done?

A Rocketing Business Plan Will Launch Your Blog

Lift Off! Rocket Launch Your Blog With A PlanA number of people I know are launching, re-designing, abandoning, or selling their blog right now. An equal number are starting new blogs. One fellow writer mentioned how hard it is to keep a high level of enthusiasm after blogging for a while — more than a few months, but not quite a year.

I liken it to writing the middle of a novel. You may know where your story is going, you may have goals and some idea of how to achieve them, but getting there is another story. In the case of novel-writing — and blogging — you just need to plow through. And a support system of fellow writers can help.

Another way to avoid the middle-of-the-blog doldrums is to enter blogging with a clear business plan. If you are blogging to make money, approach it as you would any other business. If you started selling Mary Kay, opened a corner deli, started a day care center in your home or launched any other kind of business, would you give up within the first year just because you were bored? Since most of these businesses require an investment of time and money — and a certain level of commitment to other people — you’d keep it going. When you launch a blog, you have a commitment to your readers. If you plan to stay the course, start with a solid plan.

Identify your target market.

The first step in your blogging business plan is to identify your target market. The target market should be easy, but you might be surprised by who you think your blog is targeting versus the potential readers you actually attract. That audience may be much larger than you imagine.

For instance, my new blog, targets parents who intend to raise their children following the principles and beliefs of the Law of Attraction. But I may also attract life and business coaches, people who love shopping for baby and household products, and fellow writers. I may even gain a following from other blogs — people who just enjoy my writing. Knowing who you’re targeting will help you when you reach out to potential readers on social media sites — and may also give you new ideas for posts.

[Editor’s Note:
I use and recommend
Market Samurai for researching as you plan your blog. You’ll discover markets, consider your niche, and can even find the best way to monetize and grow your blog. Download a free 12 day trial to see if it’s the right tool for you.]

Market Samurai: Niche Market Research and Search Engine Optimization Tool

Identify and evaluate your competition.

When I say “evaluate your competition”, I don’t mean to look over your shoulder at other blogs you fear are better than yours. In fact, the blogging world is so friendly, once you find your competitors you may forge relationships with them. Trade links. Share guest posts. Inspire each other. Like wealth, readers are abundant in the Universe and there are plenty to go around.

Set goals.

When one blog owner I work with set goals that were tremendously high compared to where readership was at that time, I chalked it up to the old adage, “Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.” But in the first month of tracking results, we came incredibly close to reaching those goals. Dream big — you’ll never know what you can accomplish until you work at it, but if you aim too low, you’re limiting yourself.

Make a promotions and marketing plan.

Once you have your goals written down (don’t forget that important step!) make a plan to reach them. Does it involve increasing your social media following on Twitter and Facebook? Growing your mailing list? Guest blogging on high-traffic sites? Landing radio or TV appearances? All of these things can help you grow your blog readership — and keep you inspired when the going gets rough. If you intend to monetize your blog, research the best ways to do so and put those programs into place.

Track your results.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Many professional bloggers use Google Analytics for tracking their traffic but there are plenty of ways to measure your hits and, of course, income from your blog. Whatever you use, follow it closely, tracking results weekly.

Blog, blog, blog.

Regular, high-quality content and community interaction keeps readers coming back and attracts new fans. This is the hard part when you’re in those middle stages, where it feels like you’re almost there but you’re not getting much feedback. Keep going. Keep your goals in sight (literally and figuratively!) And remember that you’re not alone.

Of course, there are other elements to running a successful blog, but getting back to basics can keep you going when the going gets tough.

Have you launched a blog? What did you learn in the process?

Image Credit: 06-29-06 © Stephen Sweet

How NOT To Generate Controversy With A Blog Post

Controversial blog posts are one way to get your readers talking, commenting and sharing the links to your blog which — of course — generates traffic.

But there’s a fine line between encouraging controversial discussion and going completely over the top.

Here are six ways to generate controversy with a blog post that you should avoid.

  1. Insulting your readers. Using words you’d hear on a playground (“stupid-head” … and worse) doesn’t support your argument, and it doesn’t paint you in the best light as a human being. And why would anyone want to visit the blog of someone they don’t respect?

    Liking you is a completely different thing; take Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who calls these right-wing talk show hosts like-able, but plenty of people respect their opinions, or at least care enough about what they say to keep tuning in.

    In short, your readers don’t have to LIKE you, but they should respect you. And calling people names won’t earn you respect from anyone.

  2. Failing to support your arguments. “Because I said so,” may work (for a little while) when your toddler asks you why she can’t have another cookie before dinner or soda pop before bed, but don’t expect your readers to take your word as the truth if you don’t have strong supporting arguments. As a parent, I typically believe in giving reasons for telling children “No.” As a blogger, I give my readers the same respect and support every incendiary post with facts, statistics and/or anecdotes to back up my beliefs.

  3. Disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing. If you truly believe in a viewpoint, it’s fine to voice your opinions. But don’t take the side opposite of popular opinion just for the sake of controversy. You won’t be able to argue it well if you don’t really believe it. And when the argument escalates, you won’t feel good about yourself, defending a point you don’t really believe. Remember, everything you say on the Internet is there, forever, for people to read. Consider how you’re representing yourself and what you’re telling the world about your beliefs.

  4. Alienating your readers. There’s a huge difference between discussing relevant, controversial topics and putting up a post purely for shock value. Profanity and posts that cross the line over what most people would deem “appropriate in mixed company” can alienate your readers. Know your audience. You can be respectful and controversial.

  5. Permitting trolls. Everything I’ve said about how you should act in controversial posts applies to your readers, as well. It’s your blog — don’t permit behavior from others that you wouldn’t allow from yourself.

  6. Letting the argument drone on incessantly. Even the best controversies get old after a while. People begin repeating themselves. Arguments become circular. You can end any controversy politely with a statement along the lines of, “Let’s agree to disagree.” If you absolutely have to, close the comment thread before things get nasty.

Controversial posts are fun to read — and to write. If you follow the “golden rule” and keep it friendly, there’s a good chance that the next time people stop to talk around the water cooler (or, more likely, on Twitter), they’ll be talking about your blog.

What do you think makes a successful, or unsuccessful, controversial post?

10 Types of Blog Posts That Draw Traffic to Your Site (Part Two, 5 – 10)

The more I think about it, the longer my list of “types of blog posts” could be. Looking over Part One of my list of “Top 10 Types of Blog Posts” I wonder how I ever run out of ideas for my blogs. If you’re having trouble writing, simply pick one of these types of posts and go for it.

Rather than keeping  this series continuing forever, I’ve narrowed down the list to the 10 best posts designed to generate traffic, and, I admit, many of these are my personal favorites to write.

6. Motivational posts – Most people need a little kick in the pants sometimes. Motivational blog posts are designed to spark your readers into action, remind them why they love their industry or hobby, or just make them feel good.

7. Fun stuff –
A cartoon. A funny photo. A quick joke, quote or one-liner. These are the fun things you can put up in a hurry, when you don’t have time to write a full-length post. It gives your readers something new to see when they visit your blog and takes you only a few minutes to find and share. These posts, usually culled from other sources, have a great chance of going viral. (Who doesn’t love to share a good joke or funny picture?) You’ll also get the benefits of spreading the link love when you share the original source (which you should, of course).

8. Controversial posts – My post “Is Ghostwriting Ethical?” was designed to spark debate. It did, but perhaps not as much as I would have liked. Part of the secret to writing successful controversial posts is knowing what really sparks strong feelings in your readers.

In the freelance writing world, posts about money and rates generate controversy. It’s the same argument over and over again, but people never tire of it. When you post about a controversial topic, add a new perspective or a fresh viewpoint. Don’t generate controversy just for the sake of argument (so to speak). But if a situation has really gotten your hackles up, post away! You’ll get to share your views and generate traffic to your website. It’s a win-win, as long as you monitor the comments and make sure no one gets nasty about it.

9. News posts – When the FCC introduced fair disclosure standards for bloggers, this was big news for the industry. Many writers shared their views, tips and advice on the subject. The trick to writing a successful news post is either to break the story or to come up with an original perspective — to share insight you haven’t read anywhere else. (If you can’t be first, be the best!) You can also take a news topic not directly related to your industry and think about how it affects your blogs readers.

10. Videos – Like cartoons and photos, videos have a great chance of going viral. Since this is a writer’s blog, I won’t offer too many tips about posting videos on your blog. There are nearly as many types of video blogs as there are written blogs. I will say this: Even if you think of yourself as a writer, be open to posting a video on your blog now and then. You may find a whole new audience for your work.

Why types of posts have you had the greatest response with on your own blog?

10 Types of Blog Posts That Draw Traffic to Your Site (Part One, 1 – 5)

Maintaining a blog with new and exciting posts every day gets tedious. Finding topics and writing about them in a compelling way, that is different from all the bloggers out there can become a full time job and, for many writers, is their biggest challenge. It helps to have a road map that will spark ideas.

Over the years as blogging has grown into a full-time, moneymaking endeavor for many people, bloggers have discovered many different types of blog posts that draw traffic to your website. This list could go on forever — as I write, I keep coming up with more ideas. So I’ll share with you the Top 10 blog posts that draw traffic to your site. Please add your own favorite type of posts in the comments section!

1. List posts – This article is an example of a “list post:” — “Five types of…” I could also have written about “Five Ways to…” or even “The Top 10…” These are some of the easiest posts to write, because you don’t have to worry about transition sentences between ideas, and they receive a lot of hits.

2. “Link love” – A variation on a list post, a link love post lists the Top 10 (or five or 100) blogs, bloggers, posts, videos or people in a specific field. These are called “link love” posts because you link from your site to other top blogs. These type of posts pay off because the people you link to typically link back… sometimes to show their readers they made the list, and sometimes just to return the favor. When you do a link love post, you may also gain new readers — the names on your list! Even if none of this happens, spreading a little link love is good karma.

When fellow freelancer Thursday Bram listed me as the number 17 writer of 100 Freelance Writers You Can Outsource Your Blog Content To, I got a few gigs and quite a bit of attention from making the list. (Thanks, Thursday!)

3. How-to posts. For many blogs, how-to posts are the meat and potatoes of their website. At a glance, I’d say more than 50% of the posts here at Writer’s Roundabout are “how-to” posts. We read blogs for information, and most people want to know how the experts do what they do to achieve success.

4. Reviews – We live in a consumer-driven economy and people want to know what other people are buying. Whether you’re reviewing books, iPhone apps or products that interest your audience, you’ll get lots of hits from review posts. These also offer the opportunity to earn residual income with affiliate links. (Just be sure to disclose that you get a percentage if your readers buy the product.)

5. Interviews – Many blogs are designed to provide their authors with a personalized voice in a specific industry. Even if your blog is mainly about you, your business or your life, interviews with other experts in your field offer another perspective and a change of pace.

You can also ask experts to provide a guest post on a particular topic. This offers the same benefits as publishing an interview, but it’s less work for you. Interviews and guest posts are a great way to cross-promote your blog and grow your readership, because your interview subject is sure to share the link with her network, too.

Stay tuned for part two of “10 Types of Blog Posts to Draw Traffic to Your Site.”

Does a Freelance Writer Need a Blog?

Does a Freelance Writer need a Blog?Blogging has come a long way since the days of angst-ridden teenagers sharing bad poetry on Live Journal. Many social media experts insist that every business needs a blog. If you’re a freelance writer, is this true? Do you need a blog? Maybe.

The Purpose of Business Blogging

Blogging keeps you connected to clients, potential clients and fellow writers in a way many other media cannot. A well-targeted blog (by that, I mean one that covers a specific topic relevant to your audience), permits you to:

  • Showcase your writing skills
  • Provide advice and information to fellow writers and clients
  • Share your accomplishments as a means of subtle self-promotion

Remember, though, if you want to see a return on your time investment, you’ll need to market your blog. You may be better off marketing your writing business in other ways that will lead directly to assignments.

Before you start a blog

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who will be your readership?
  • Are you willing to make the commitment to blogging at least once or twice a week, promoting the blog, and staying connected with your readers by responding to comments?
  • Do you have something worthwhile to say that is different form the thousands of other writing blogs on the Internet?

I used to maintain my own blog, but in the face of paying writing assignments that showed an immediate ROI, I had a hard time staying committed to updating it and building a readership. Besides, the topic I blogged about (writing) served to attract other writers rather than potential clients, so it wasn’t an effective marketing vehicle for my freelance writing business. Now, as a writing coach, it makes more sense for me to blog about writing to draw clients to my website, but I don’t want to invest the time in building up a readership. That’s why the WRA writing community is perfect for me. The Freelance Writing Collaborative Blogging Project has a built-in readership who come here looking for people like me to share my knowledge. If one writer promoting a blog is good, a whole staff of writers promoting that blog is even better.
Click here if you’d like to write for WRA, too!

Niche Writing and Blogging

If you specialize in a particular topic — say, technology, pet care or paintball — a blog targeted at your niche market (not other writers) may help you attracts clients in the industry. You can build a name for yourself through the blog, building a platform for books, eBooks or information products you want to sell. If you’re a niche writer, a blog can be a very effective way to market yourself.

Websites and Writers

I want to emphasize: a blog and a website are not the same thing. I believe most writers need a website. This can be a place to post your biography, list contact information, and put links to writing clips. (Side note: Don’t ever send an editor to the main page of your website expecting him to find your clips; instead, select particular articles you want to highlight and send the direct links.) A website helps you establish yourself on the Internet as a legitimate writer. But does your website need a blog?

Not necessarily. What do you think?

Do you have a blog? Does it generate leads and assignments? If not, what can you do differently so that it does?

Photo Credit: 07-15-08 © Kronick

How to Get Back to the Roots of Writing

I’ve been in danger lately of getting overwhelmed with blogging work. I have all my ideas on my editorial calendar, but with so many topics in so many niches, I often sit down to write and still don’t know where to start.

Which blog? They’re all priority. Which idea? Each one tugs at my attention, begging to be released onto the page. Which client? They all pay well and on time — no favoritism here.

When Pen and Paper really means anything you can write with or on.I decided to take a unique approach last evening, almost like freewriting with purpose. I couldn’t find paper or pen so I grabbed my calendar and a blue, fine point Sharpie. (So blame any grammatical errors on the fumes please… and the fact that I often have trouble reading my handwriting the next day.)

I started writing. I had no topics or even a particular blog in mind. I let the words come, in the messy, haphazard way I write hand-written first drafts on the rare occasions I choose to.

First,  I wrote a post about types of blog posts for business owners. One Long Island Exchange column done.

Then I decided to blog about the entire experience here at WRA. In an odd way, the juxtaposition of the Sharpie, the calendar, sitting in my daughter’s room as she played for a bit before bed, took all pressure off me as a “professional writer with too much work.” (Is there such a thing as too much work?)

I completed my first post in record time. It is only now that I stop to think about what I’m writing, and, at this point the magic, the flurry, begins to vanish. The moment is gone.

Now I’m wondering about word count, graphics, linkback opportunities. (I know Rebecca and some of WRA’s other contributors have written about freewriting in the past.) I’m no longer writing. I’m “working” again.

And that’s not a bad thing. After all, those of us who love what we do everyday hesitate to even call it work. I am grateful every day to be blessed with this career path.

But for a brief time, it was nice to immerse myself in that “zone” — a writer, a pen (of sorts), paper… it’s cozy. It reminded me of a time when I thought of all writing as a hobby, not a vocation.

Writers, what do you do when you want to get back to basics — either to beat writer’s block, jumpstart a project or to simply begin enjoying the act of writing again and forget that you do it for a living?

I Suck at Writing Headlines

There. It’s out. Fifteen-plus years as a magazine editor and freelance writer, and I still feel like I can’t write a good headline to save my life. (I also like to toss a cliché into my lead every so often — call me a rebel.)

Take a look at some of the headlines our host, Rebecca Laffar-Smith, comes up with. She’s an SEO genius, but her titles would rock any print publication off bookstore shelves, too.

I know what to do. But inspiration rarely strikes when I need it. I can, however, tell you how not to write a good headline, especially for the Web.

How NOT to write a good headline

  • Get punny. Puns are just bad SEO, plain and simple – unless you can make a pun in such a way that you’re actually using one of your keywords and telling readers what your article is about. If you’re changing one of the key terms – forget it. Go for the straightforward over the obscure.
  • Use “is” as your verb. Ugh. I can’t think of anything duller. You want a title that will excite people, make them want to read what you have to say. Speaking of verbs, it’s an old writing convention that headlines must have a verb. When you get to my last tip, you’ll see why.
  • Admittedly, “suck” may not be the best verb for a headline (I don’t want to know what people who find this article were really searching for.) But at least there’s some action involved. (I’m just digging myself deeper, aren’t I?)
  • Don’t offer any benefit to the reader. A benefit, even a tongue-in-cheek benefit like “How NOT to write a good headline” will help readers. People are smart enough to know they can look at the opposite of these tips and follow the advice to write a good title. When you write a benefit-oriented headline, you’ll naturally include a verb.

Here are some examples of benefits, with the verbs highlighted:

Lose weight

Get rich

Hook readers

Live longer

A few bonus words about benefits

Unless you’re writing a news story, your headline should offer a benefit. What is a benefit? A benefit is what your reader will get from reading your article. Some examples of benefit-oriented headlines include:

What will the reader get out of reading your article? Presumably, the title to this article lets you know that you’ll discover how to write a good headline. One would hope I won’t just rant for 400-sum-odd words about how I suck at writing headlines, hate writing them, wish someone would offer me three easy tips to write better titles. But I’m taking a chance here – a leap of faith that you’ll get my sense of humor. And that the title itself is shocking and out of place enough that you’ll read what I have to say.

A better title might be the example I used above: Write Benefit-Oriented Headlines to Hook Your Readers. Even better would be…

I Suck at Writing Headlines… But You Don’t Have To.

If you’ve reached this point, I guess my title worked. Thank you for your time.

P.S. If you’d like, post some of your favorite titles below, or maybe some that need a little work. We can brainstorm and help each other.

Your Blog Is Not A Sweatshop, It’s Your Sales Rep.

The Blogging Upsell: The True Purpose Of Professional BlogsOn Monday, James of Men With Pens, challenged the idea that bloggers ‘must’ post their content for free. He asked, “Are Bloggers Creating Their Own Sweatshop?” Well? Are we devaluing ourselves? Why aren’t we charging readers to read our blog posts?

I left a detailed comment expressing my thoughts in the moment, but there is so much more to this topic than surface opinion. James isn’t the first or the last to question “Free” as a business model. Let’s face it, as a statement toward the financial viability of a business it doesn’t seem particularly sound.

Why “Free” Works

Over hundreds of years, society has been opening the door to free thought. Now, more than ever before, every person is invited to express their opinion, to have their say, to participate in an expanding global community. This exchange of thought has always been free. Every man, woman, and child is allowed to share openly. The only bar to communication is an unwillingness to “give”.

Freelance writers, and professional bloggers, put a new slant on the freedom of self expression. The difference, primarily, is motive. Everyone could blog, that is hobby blogging. Professional writers/bloggers write with an intent to earn. They may still write because they love to write, in fact, it is almost a pre-requisite in this industry, but they don’t write to be heard.

Professional writers write for the dollar. Freelance writing is a business. (If you don’t acknowledge that you’re in for a hard haul toward profit just like in any other business.)

So, why does “free” still work for freelancers? Because…

Blogs are a platform, not a product.

Let me stress that again, blogs are a “platform“, NOT a product. Your blog is a showcase, a portfolio. It is your business card, the company logo on your car, the mass mail campaign fliers, the t.v. commercial, the full page newspaper ad, the press release, etc. Your blog is your advert, the quarter inch of niche you’ve carved out where you can say whatever you want.

How are you using your Ad space?

The real question is, “How are you using your ad space?” Choosing to blog is not the only way you could fill your ad space, but it is one of the most effective. Each post puts your ad into a fresh print run with a potential circulation in the millions. What is more, many of your readers WANT to read your ad. They’ve subscribed or searched specifically for you or the information you’re offering.

You have the opportunity to run as many ads as you have time to write, or funds to outsource. But you must make good use of your content. Remember, each post is an ad space; an opportunity to reach your target audience with an offer they truly want or need.

Consumers like to be informed, they like to be educated, they like to be entertained. Your readers also love to be engaged which is why blogs have grown to incorporate more interactivity.

Your content is free because it is not your product. Your blog is your commercial and blogging is one of the most cost-effective ways to advertise. The great thing about your blog, from a business perspective, is that it is a jumping off point for your products and services.

The Blog As A Marketing Funnel

The Blog As A Marketing Funnel For RevenueHave you ever heard of the term upsell? It’s a marketing term. Let me describe it with a story.

One day, you decide to go to your local bedding store to buy a new quilt set for the master bedroom. The store has a broad range of products that seem daunting so you approach a salesman for assistance. The salesman is a friendly bloke (man to the non-Aussies), he is happy to help you find what you need, but to get there you have to walk past the king and queen bed frames. He ignores those, you asked about linens not frames and that need is his focus.

As you walk to a far wall where the bed linens are arrayed, this salesman, lets call him Bob, talks with you about the linens you’ve had in the past. Bob asks how you have been recently, he asks you about your favorite materials and fabrics, he asks you about the colors you love and the other decor in your home. He asks you about the bed, it’s size, etc.

When you reach the bed linens, Bob knows exactly which quilt sets to recommend, that you suffer heart-burn and back ache, that your mattress is sagging to the left, your queen-sized bed is several years old, you prefer 100% cotton sheets in shades of purple, your bedroom has apricot tones, twin bedside tables, a large recliner in one corner, and that your name is Jill. But, you came looking for linens so that is what he pitches you. He knows what to show you because he’s canvased your preferences so what he shows you on the shelf is exactly what you’re after. You’ve had a pleasant experience and found exactly what you wanted so you grab the quilt set and head for the counter.

Then comes the first upsell. “You know,” Bob says, “from time to time beautiful 100% cotton sheets in a range of purple colors and patterns are marked down. I could send you an email/letter or give you a call when we have something you’ll love if you leave your contact details with me.” Snag, ‘the list’, the right to contact you in the future.

Next month, you get an email, “Special deal, today only, purple 100% cotton bed sheets for your queen mattress. Buy two and get one free.” Upsell! Now you’re interested in paying for two bed linen sets to get one free.

A month later, “Did you know, aged mattresses can cause heartburn and backache?” (Remember, you mentioned suffering those symptoms to Bob.) “Improve your health and get a better night’s sleep with any of our wide range of circulation support queen-sized mattresses.” Upsell! Now, instead of linens you’re considering buying a new mattress.

This upsell action is one of the true powers of blogging. You’re blog is that first salesman. Blog Bob greets your potential customer, finds out why they came to you, and gives them exactly what they want, regardless of the depth of their pocket. That initial salesperson offers to give the customer more of what they want by leaving contact details (subscribing). It is then the platform for an upsell and can be combined with other promotional tools for maximum effect.

The most important thing is to provide the service that discovers what the customer initially wanted, delivers that, convinces them to subscribe, and continues to target their individual needs over time.

Is your blog your sweatshop or your sales representative? How could your blog more effectively showcase your products or services? Do you think this method is effective or could blogs be used in other ways to return a profit?

Blog a lot? Build an editorial calendar.

My writing career has crossed over – I’m now making close to a full-time living as a blogger. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up other writing (not at all!) But I’m making as much blogging as I did as an editorial assistant back in the day — enough for some people to live on, but not me.

With 12 blogs to write each week, I have almost-daily deadlines, creating the frenetic pace of a newspaper for me some mornings.

How do I keep track of it all?

I took a tip from my magazine editing days and created an editorial calendar. Some publishing houses call it a map, others an outline. Whatever you call it, an editorial calendar is a list of topics to be covered.

An editorial calendar for a monthly publication tells editors what to assign; it tells the sales department how they can best sell ads for each issue; and it helps all departments keep everything straight. For instance, my editorial calendar for RECON: The Magazine of Woods Paintball may have included an article on using handheld radios on the paintball field. Our sales department would want to call Motorola and give them a heads-up about it.

How do you keep an editorial calendar for blogging?
My calendar, right now, goes three months out. On my calendar for each day, I write the name of the blog and the topic to be covered. A typical entry for Monday, then, when I write for Freelance Writing Jobs and Babies Online, may look like this:

Monday: FWJ: The Cat Ate My Laptop: How to Kill Your Freelance Career

Babies Online: Whiskey: The Best Way to Get Baby to Sleep through the Night
(Note: These are not really blog titles!)

On Wednesday, I do my writing for AllReviews.com, which includes four blogs about baby gear and one about paintball products, so I won’t bore you with titles.

On Thursday, it’s FWJ and BOL again. Then, on Friday, I write for Long Island Exchange. Again, I always jot down a particular title or idea. For instance, with the holidays coming, I have scheduled a few techie gift guides for Long Island Exchange and suggestions for shopping on Cyber Monday.

On my hard-copy calendar page or in the Google Calendar, I include any links to resources I may have found. One day I will upload a productivity app on my iPod Touch and be totally mobile.

If a lead or cool sentence pops into my head, I jot it down as a prompt on either calendar. Eventually (again), I’ll have a whiteboard hung in my office where I can keep all my ideas in front of me all month long.

With ideas scheduled through February, I no longer have to worry about what I’m going to write. Because I have a loose outline, I’ll frequently come across resources that will help me, and I can write them down as I find them.

Keep it flexible
A blogging editorial calendar offers flexibility you may not get with print magazines. With print publications, your editorial calendar will often be printed and distributed to advertisers. To go back to my original example, if I decided to drop that handheld radio story at the last minute, I’d have a very angry sales department on my hands.

In most cases, blogs make money in other ways and sales people don’t pound the pavement to sell ad pages based on upcoming content. If news of a big research study involving babies and travel breaks on Monday morning, I can postpone my original Babies Online idea and cover the late-breaking news. If I come across a grammatical error that really gets me peeved, I can write about what inspires me and save the idea on the calendar for another day. Maybe I’ll even write both posts and schedule one to publish later in the week. Ah, the freedom of blogging for a living!