So you want to be a blogger, social media influencer or content creator, eh?
Creating content about a topic you are obsessed with can be incredibly rewarding; both for your pride and, potentially, your pocket. You might choose to writing articles, film videos, record podcasts, post product reviews on social media, or create animations… the world is your oyster - you just need create the pearls (of wisdom)!
Here’s how to get your budding blogging business off the ground:
First things first, you need to define your specialty. Ask yourself: ‘what am I passionate about?’ Food? Sport? Movies? However, you’ll also need to research the blogging landscape to see if this topic is a crowded space. If it is, and you still believe in it, you have two choices:
1. Do it better than anyone else
2. Find a niche within the topic that you can make your own
There are probably lots of blogs about breakfast. But you can guarantee that there are a lot less blogs about retro breakfast cereals that should be brought back!
Next, if you’re serious about creating content, start by creating your own website. It’s risky to put all your eggs in an online channel you don’t own (ie. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Soundcloud), as they can change their rules at any moment, and without your consent. Consider the recent YouTube Demonetization scandal; content creators had their ad revenue drop (dramatically in some cases) overnight. Nightmare!
What’s more, no matter what happens in social media land, only YOU have a say in what happens on your website. Posts on social media are most often very short lived, however, website content is permanent and over time will start to appear in organic Google search results. You can gather email addresses on your website for people who want to sign up to your newsletter – this is your most valuable marketing asset.
For example, an Instagram Story might generate thousands of views for a 24 hour period, but then completely disappears. Why not extend the life of these by incorporating a series of these stories into a YouTube video, then embedding the video into a blog post along with content that will provide some depth – further details, photos, etc.
Your website is also an excellent resource for earning income through both sponsored content and ad space (banner ads, video pre-roll ads, and more).
Now that you have got your blog up and running, here’s how to develop it!
Grants, Funding, Patreon
It’s worth exploring if there are any grants available from your local county enterprise board, or anyone else. Here’s a good article listing some of the grant opportunities out there (although it could use an update as the links no longer work!).
Once you’re regularly creating content, you should also look into Patreon. This allows creators to get paid by your fans every time you release new content. If you don’t create anything new, you won’t get paid, so it’s a good motivator to keep to your content schedule (more on that later).
And if you think people won’t pay for your content, think again!
As a real world example, if you were a petrol-head, you might find George Karellas YouTube videos really enjoyable, so to show your support, you could donate $1 every time he releases a video.
Creating a blog/website
You’ll need a domain name and hosting, and both will require small annual fees. Hosting Ireland is one great option to consider, as their support and pricing are excellent.
Once you have your domain name and hosting sorted, you’ll need to choose a blogging platform. WordPress is a popular option, due to the community of people supporting it, and extensive library of themes and plugins. With a little reading up, it’s pretty easy to figure out how to set up a WordPress website, how to apply a theme, and customise it. If you’re not comfortable doing this, there are lots of freelancers who can do this for you very cheaply. You can find freelancers at UpWork. But if it is possible, try figuring it out for yourself You’ll be constantly tweaking your website, changing the design and features, and it’s best if you don’t have to hire someone every time you want a change.
Make sure you include an email newsletter signup form. Ideally you should incentivise signing up – giving them access to exclusive offers, a free guide, or something your visitors will value. It’s also essential to add Google Analytics and Remarketing codes to your website. More on this later.
After you start getting some traction online, you should consider adding an online shop to your website. This will allow you to earn revenue through branded merchandise or add links to affiliate ecommerce websites where you can earn commission.
When creating your website, you’ll need to add your logo. You can always give this a go yourself –Canva can be used to do this quickly and easily. However if you’d prefer to hire a professional, UpWork is again a good place to start. While you’re at it, you can get business cards designed for those face-to-face business meetings you may have.
Based on the topic you have chosen, you’ll need to figure out who you want to address with your content. Understanding who you’re talking to will dictate a lot of things:
- What channels your target audience use
- What type of language/tone of voice you should use
- What formats will get the most engagement for your blog and social media posts
- Short form content, long form content, images, infographics, video, podcasts, amateur or professional levels of production, etc.
Plan your social media channels
When you understand what social networks your audience uses, you can assess them for suitability against what content and format is relevant for your chosen subject area.
For example, if you plan on creating gaming reviews for teenagers, LinkedIn probably isn’t a network you should invest time in. And while Snapchat might be a network your target audience uses, it may not be a platform that lends itself to reviews, so should be put at a lower priority.
As the old saying goes – ’jack of all trades, master of none’. If you try to publish content on lots of lots of channels (your blog, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Medium, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Email), you’ll stretch yourself too thin. It takes time to master each network.
My advice would be to start with your website and ONE social network. Try different approaches, different content formats, until you find a combination that works reliably. THEN expand into a second social network (if appropriate) and learn the next one before looking to expand again. One size does not fit all. Each network or channel will need a unique approach. What works on Instagram may not work on Twitter. Through experimenting, you’ll find the format that works for your audience on each platform.
Now that you’ve decided who your target audience is, what format to create your content in, what channels you will be publishing to, and what tone of voice/style to use, you can start creating content!
The most successful content creators release their content on a regular basis. It will take time to find your feet, and to understand how long it takes you to create content. Once you have a handle on this, you should create a content schedule. This will dictate how often you publish content, and you can use this information to create a content calendar.
SEO, or search engine optimisation, is all about formatting your website content to be friendly for Google to find it. That means optimising both the content you can see on website pages (like the body content / headings / images) and content you can’t see on the website pages (like page titles and meta descriptions). The items you can’t see on the website help Google to understand what the content of your website pages is about so that they can rank your site in their search results.
You only really need to know the basics to get started. There are some great free plugins for WordPress, like Yoast SEO. This is simple and easy to use. If you want a deep dive into what SEO is all about, why not start with the MOZ Guide to SEO. A well optimised website sets a solid foundation for attracting traffic.
Hopefully you’ll get lots of people visiting your website, and signing up to your email newsletter. This is an excellent way to get fresh content to your followers, and much more effective than any other marketing channel. It’s also very cheap. Some popular options for email software are MailChimp and Campaign Monitor.
Remember, you need to give visitors a good reason to sign up to your newsletter. Make it crystal clear what the benefits are, and follow through on your promises. That will keep your unsubscribes down.
Earning Income from Blogging
The advertising landscape for content creators is constantly evolving. 10 years ago, your only options were to put banner ads on your website and add some Amazon affiliate links. While these are still available, there are a host of other options for generating revenue from your content. Some influencers exist purely on social media, and have no website. They generate revenue through sponsored posts, endorsements, guest posting on company profiles, affiliate shops, and more.
It is very important to be aware of the guidelines around sponsored content. There is a lot of misinformation out there about how using #ad in the text solves the problem. This Forbes article describes it clearly.
“Here’s the difference.
@BRAND hamburgers are dope. I have been crushing them since I was a kid #AD
I’m freaking psyched to partner with @BRAND. Everyone already knows their hamburgers are dope and I’ve been crushing them since I was a kid.
Both disclose. One is better.”
Create a page on your website listing all of the advertising options you provide, as well as your contact details or a contact form so brands/agencies can get in touch. Put your best foot forward - give statistics on how many followers you have on each platform, how much traffic your website gets, how many email subscribers you have, and what brands you’ve previously worked with.
The Legal Side to Earning Income
It doesn’t matter if you’re in full time employment and simply making some extra money in your spare time, or if your whole job is as a blogger, you need to declare your income. This will differ from country to country, but in Ireland, if you earn over €5000, you need to set yourself up as a sole trader, using this TR1 form. This registers you for income tax with Revenue. If your sales are over a certain threshold (€75,000 in 2017), then you’ll need to register for VAT on this form too.
As well as a completing a TR1 from you must file a self-assessed tax return each year stating the income earned. Declare everything! Any payment a blogger receives from operating a blog counts as income. The deadline for self-assessed tax returns in Ireland is October 31st so you must make sure you meet this, otherwise you could be subject to fines or penalties.
Taxback.com can help you file your tax return and iron out any other details you may be worried about ensuring you’re tax compliant. Our professional tax accountants can also check if you’re due any relief or expenses to reduce you overall tax liability. Self-assessed expenses can include items you need for you blogging business such as stationary, internet, travel to meetings, events.
To learn more about your tax obligations in Ireland, read our article on Tax, Hashtags and Why Bloggers Should Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth.
The average Irish tax refund is €995
Software for invoicing and accounts
If you’re earning income from sponsored posts, banners, speaking events, collaborations, etc. it is essential to create invoices for everything, and keep all receipts for expenses and payments. You can do simply using Microsoft Office or Google Docs, or you could opt for a more tailored, but simple, accountancy software like Xero. Either way, you’ll need to be able to access this information when it comes to filing your tax return.
‘You gotta spend money to make money!’
Something you need to know up front is that most social networks have evolved from free-to-use platforms into pay-to-play channels. Even when you have large numbers of fans/followers, you should not expect your organic posts to reach any decent number of people (ie. ones you don’t pay to promote). Facebook organic reach is said to be lower than 1%, so even if you have 10,000 fans, your post probably only appears in the news feed of less than 100 people!
So if you want reach the timeline of more of your fans, and reach people who are not your fans, you need to pay. The objective of your advertising should be to get more engagement – either directly on the post, or by directing people to click through to your website. The more engagement, fans, website traffic, and emails you have on your database, the more you can charge for your sponsored content.
Targeting is critical to get right. You don’t want to waste budget on reaching people who will not be interested in your content. The easiest way to start advertising is to promote/boost an organic post. The targeting options are mind-bogglingly extensive, so this will help you reach exactly who you are looking for.
If you’re not getting instant results from your advertising, don’t give up. It’ll take time to master ads, so commit to a specific budget, and keep learning from every ad to improve things.
Another benefit to having a website is that you can insert tracking codes, which records the people who visit your website, so you can target these people with social media ads. Showing ads to these people will yield better results than any other ad type. There are separate codes for each channel, for example, for Google ads, Facebook ads, Linkedin ads, Twitter ads, etc.
Outreach and PR
To help spread your content far and wide, you should look outside your own website and social pages. If your content is high quality, funny or interesting, other websites or social pages might share it… but you’ll need to ask! If you read the MOZ Guide to SEO mentioned earlier, you’ll see that a very important factor in getting your website listed in the organic Google search results page, is inbound links from other websites.
There is an art to content outreach and it will take a lot of practice to get reliable results. If you would like to read more about this subject, here’s a good guide. I can tell you from experience that you will come up against a lot of websites or social pages that will only post your content if you pay them. Keep creating quality content and be patient with your outreach, and you’ll get your content shared for free.
Public Relations (PR)
PR Agencies are highly effective at getting your name, your story, or your opinion into print media, websites, radio and TV. You get what you pay for with these agencies, and they have been an essential part of our marketing at Taxback.com.
However, when you’re just starting out, it is possible to do-it-yourself. There are websites that give lists of journalists and editors, some of them require payment (such as MediaHQ), and you can use these lists to find individuals to contact with press releases that are relevant for specific publications that fit your target audience.
A great way to reach a wider (or different) audience with your content is to team up with other content creators that exist in the same, or related, subject area as you. You can share the content across both of your websites/socials, and the content itself is often more engaging as there is multiple personalities in the mix. It’s a win win! Ideally you should be looking to collaborate with creators that have a wider audience than you, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to that.
Remember when we mentioned that it is essential to include a Google Analytics code on your website? If you’re not familiar with Analytics, it is a tool that allows you to monitor the traffic to your website. It’ll help you to understand how people find your website, what they do when they get there, and how long they stay. This information can be used to help you improve your content, as you’ll be able to find your top performing content. Google has plenty of training materials here if you want to get up to speed on Analytics.
Stick to it. It gets easier.
One final note. If you’re finding it tough to create content on a regular basis when you first start. Keep at it. Stick to your schedule. Every piece of content you create is a learning opportunity and makes the next one better and faster. After 6 months, you’ll truly be in the flow, and will be able to churn out quality content without a second thought!
None of the providers, websites or tools mentioned in this article are paid endorsements. They are all recommendations from personally using them over the years.