As you’ll be aware if you’re a long term reader of Inside Laura’s Head, in July 2017 I went full time freelance, earning a living from this blog and Laura Haley Photography. If you’ve been keeping up to date, you’ll know that I’ve now gone back to working full time so I can buy a house, and that my long term plan is to still freelance outside of the 9-5. When I was asked if I wanted to write about how to turn your blog into a business this seemed like a pretty perfect post for me right now, and so in collaboration with Boost Capital, who offer small business loans, here are my thoughts on how to turn your blog into a business.
Photo credit: Kariss
There’s a few things I’d say you need before you even start to think of turning your blog into a business. Your own domain (that is, www.yourblog.com, rather than www.yourblog.blogspot.com) a professional looking design that you’re proud of, social media channels with a respectable following (mine’s not huge, around 3.5k on Twitter, 1.3k on Instagram-but that’s been high enough, for me, to get the odd social media promotional work) and a basic understanding of how to promote your posts so that people know you exist. I’d suggest you also need a decent amount of pageviews-chances are a brand won’t be paying you to work with them if the only people who read your work are your boyfriend and your mum-and a good domain authority. What’s acceptable varies, but I didn’t earn a penny until I’d hit 20, at 25 my work started to speed up, and once I hit 30 I found it easier to secure more paid posts. Spend some time really working on this stuff, as well as building a solid library of content, before you aim to make your blog a business.
Find your niche
Before attempting to make money from your blog, you need to find your niche. That’s less about what you enjoy, and more about what your readers enjoy-there’s no point doing daily ‘face of the day’ posts if the only thing people read on your blog is your travel content. So, install Google Analytics, promote different categories of posts in lots of different ways, then check back in a few months to see what’s been the most popular with your readers. Write more of that stuff, and think about how you can make money from that.
I’ll step foward and be honest now-I don’t think most of us can make a full time income, consistenty, from JUST blogging. It’s important to think about what else you can do, whether linked to your blog or not, and start working out how to make money from it too. I did make £4,500 last year from freelancing, the majority of that in my 8 months of freelancing full time-which for the first year of doing this seriously is very respectable, especially when you think I had no clue what I was doing when I started (which brings me to my next tip nicely!) but that wasn’t all from the blog. At least 25% was from Laura Haley Photography, and another 10% from doing VA work for other bloggers.
Because of how I went into freelancing, I didn’t plan. If I was going to go full time freelance again I would be saving up as much money as I could for at least 6-12 months to create a buffer, and I’d be planning how and what I was going to do to increase my earnings from the very beginning. I’d be building up clients for a year before so that when I made that jump I was already consistently earning a decent amount of money from the blog and my other ventures.
Remember the back end
It’s so easy to work on your blog and just write content, putting out your very best work with brilliant SEO, great photography, and promoting really well. And that’s all great, but it’s also important, if you’re taking this seriously, to do all the behind the scenes stuff. Fix your broken links regularly, rewrite old content that’s not as good as it should be, make sure your SEO is fantastic on every single post-even the really terrible ones you wrote in 2014. Long term, this will all help you to carry on growing. I probably worked more behind the scenes than I did on stuff you could see, and it’s only now starting to pay off in my pageviews.
As a person with a full time job and a blog on the side, it’s easy enough to be pleased with the odd sponsored post request coming in to your inbox. But as a full time freelancer, that’s just not enough. As an example, my freelance earnings were at least £500 a month, and this month I’ve only earned £170. That’s fine now because I have my full time wage but I will be aiming to increase that right back up again longer term.
The best way to up your earning potential is to apply for work. I know it’s scary, but pitch out to brands you want to work with, asking them to consider you. Contact agencies you’ve worked with before to see if they have more work you could do for them. Think outside the box with what you can offer and remember that a no doesn’t have to mean no forever-it’s worth contacting someone 6 or 12 months later when your stats are better, or if someone says you’re not the right fit for them, consider politely asking what they’re looking for.
I had a brand I pitched to come back to me saying I didn’t have a high enough following, and asking me to go back to them when I was at a certain level of pageviews. I’m working hard to get there and will be contacting them again when I am. Pitching is always a good idea, in my opinion, and I’ll be right back on it myself soon.
Photo credit: Kirsty
Blow your own trumpet
This is something most of us find really hard, but it’s important. Shout, loudly, about your successes. Had a great brand collaboration you’re proud of? Tell your social media networks. Share the post on LinkedIn. This is how other brands see you, through good work, so point it out. Don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t, because you need to. I’m trying to be better at this and I’m also trying to be better at shouting out other people’s successes too.
Keep detailed records
As soon as you earn a penny from your blog, or are sent a product in return for a review, or given a free meal as long as you write about it-you need to register as self employed with HMRC (if you’re in the UK, anyway. If you’re not, please check the arrangements in your country to make sure you’re doing it right) You’ll need to do a tax return every year and so it’s important to keep a detailed, accurate record of your income and expenditure. I have a spreadsheet and I aim to update it weekly-though in reality it’s more like monthly.
Look to the future
I definitely think you shoud take an honest look at your future, to see if you can honestly see this working. If you spent 6 months freelancing, doing everything you could think of to improve your earnings, and you’re coming out with £100 a month-maybe it’s not going to be your long term career. If you’re working hard, managing a bit of a work life balance, paying the bills and getting more and more higher paid work in, then even though it’s difficult now, it’s looking like things will get better for you. Don’t feel afraid to change your plans and go back to work, like I did, if that’s going to work better for you.
In my situation, I was earning more each month and things were going well, I had a house deposit saved, and so I consulted a mortgage advisor. She said I’d need three years worth of self employed books, showing the earnings I needed each month, to apply for my mortgage. So, for me, I’d be looking at AT LEAST three years, probably more, as I wasn’t consistently earning ENOUGH yet. And at 31, I didn’t want to wait until nearly 35 to buy a house when I could get a full time job and do it sooner. So I got a full time job. That’s not failing, that’s working out what’s best for me.
Do you have any tips for making your blog into a business?
*This is a collaborative post I have been paid to write. All thoughts, words and opinions are my own.