First, some background: I’ve started several small businesses, blogs and websites. A few endured. Currently, one called pentozen.com, is really succeeding.
It probably wasn’t going to at first, though, because it was launched as a niche site on the topic of journaling.
It was a decent topic, and there are products to sell in that category, so it wasn’t a completely foolish idea. But it mostly likely wasn’t going to be much more than a labor of love in the end.
In fact, I probably started it out of love. Looking back, I was sick of hacking away at business, and it showed.
Writing for a Living
Alas. I need to get paid. I also need no more writing hobbies (with the three unfinished novels and all).
In this case, where was my buying audience of rabid journaling fans? If I found them, would they already have pens and notebooks? Or, for the others, what was I convincing them of, really? Get a legal pad going vs. scribbling brilliance on cocktail napkins?
I had this decent domain name, and a desire to share my special way of making peace and progress with the writing process. Don’t forget the getting paid part, either. Now, we have a convenient pivot in the story here, because I happen to be able to sell my writing services, instead of just write about my writing.
But it works for anything you do, that you blog about. My chance to make a living online changed when I received a gift in the form of a question from Nick, a friend in a forum for entrepreneurs.
The Most Important Question, EVER
“Do you want to have a blog or do you want to sell your services?” asked Nick.
After only two months of working on my niche journaling site, I realized I was also promoting keeping a journal for things like creating brand names and taglines, and writing marketing copy.
Then I put a small portfolio of my writing work up on the site, to show the results of my habits, so a small business person with a copywriting problem, could contact me to get the job done with ease.
It was muddled. My audience widened and my message scattered. This was the opposite advice I’d give anyone who would hire me to consult on their own project! Thank you, Nick.
The answer to my friend’s key question was that I wanted to sell my services, but what I had was a blogging site.
How to Turn Your Blog into a Business in 3 Steps
I decided to relaunch. I applied the know-how I offer to my clients (duh!), to change pen to Zen from a blog into a site that is focused on selling my services as a copywriter and brand communications specialist.
Below are the three main problems I addressed. If you wonder why you’re not getting more business from your site, consider the following:
1. Make your main goals for readers unmistakable on the home page.
When we log on to your site, do we read a lot of information about your topic right away? You might have a “soft sell” happening like I did, by having a blog post as my home page. Maybe you want to build a list or readership through opt-ins. Those are different goals than selling a service or product directly.
Think of it this way: if you had a restaurant, would your home page be a blog post about wine? It would be better home page featured the location, the menu, the chef… whatever sells your reservations.
My main goals now are for readers to see that my website delivers some free DIY writing advice from a person who understands their needs, and for them to view the affordable, accessible services I offer. What are yours? Are they apparent?
2. Call your audience to action.
Similar to the advice above, but more specific and bold: be sure you are telling your readers what you want them to do, and what benefit that will bring them.
There are many website tools and design elements available to you that will help you amplify a call to action (CTA) for your audience when they land. Use at least one!
Also, actionable words that tell the reader what to do to get a clear benefit can make the difference between reactions like “Oh, that’s interesting,” followed by a bookmark, and someone clicking on a box to get something now.
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3. Create a business model and a price list.
When I realized the goal of my site was to sell my services, it meant I needed to approach my work on pen to Zen as a business, and pentozen.com as its site (with a blog page on there).
Owning a business that has a website with a blog, is different than having a blog with affiliate ads and a side bar that sells your eBook. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the latter—a blog can still be very successful revenue generator. But it’s important not to mix up the two approaches.
If your goal is to be a business that runs online, you need to model your site in such a way that it features the tasks and/or inventories that lead you to revenue, in primary positions. Even if prices lists aren’t possible (say, custom work), you should still describe a services suite. It’s good for reference, for validation and for differentiation.
In the end, though a blog may not make a whole business, it can help launch a wonderful business website. It shows you have the expertise you need to call readers to act on your offers to help them—and get paid for it!
About the Author
Faith Watson created pen to Zen to help entrepreneurs and small business owners solve their writing problems in a day with a peaceful, easy process. Advice, inspiration and encouragement are free on the blog. Or, she’ll work on your project with you to get it done just right in 1 day for $99. So you can move forward and be happy. It’s how we go from pen to Zen. Faith Tweets live @pentozen and loves sharing conversation on Facebook. Email firstname.lastname@example.org