Bloggers and Writers: Make 2009 a Year of Expansion


Don’t worry, be happy.

By Leo Babauta

If you’re a blogger or writer, now is the time to expand.

Yes, that’s right — in the middle of a tough economy, when everyone is downsizing and cutting back, you should be even more aggressive and look to expand your business.

As a blogger and book author, I’ve been giving this some thought. I’ve noticed major blog owners such as Nick Denton cutting back on his blogs as revenues decrease. I’ve heard other bloggers talk about decreasing revenues, and worry about whether blogging is dying.

It isn’t. Blogging is alive and well and growing — it’s just that ad revenues may be down for awhile. And that’s exactly why we writers and bloggers need to be more aggressive in the coming year. Let’s look at why, and how, we should do that.

Diversify

If you were investing in the stock market, you wouldn’t put all your money in one stock, right? Because if it fails, your money is gone. That’s basic investing strategy, and you should use it if your main business is writing or blogging.

If all of your income comes from the ads of one blog, you are making a risky gamble — if the blog’s revenues drop dramatically, so does all of your income.

Instead, consider diversifying — create multiple income streams if you haven’t already. If you already have multiple income streams, expand them even further. Make this a time of growth instead of a time of shrinking.

Growth in a time of recession isn’t unheard of — great businesses such as Microsoft were invented and took off during recessions. It’s a matter of being smart, nimble, hungry and hard working.

Expand

How can a writer or blogger expand during these tough economic times? Look for new ways to reach readers, to bring in income, to get your brand out there to more people.

There are too many ways to list here — each of us has our own strengths, skill sets, networks of friends and colleagues, assets and so on. But here are some ideas to get you started:

  • A second blog. If you have just one blog, consider starting a second and really trying to grow it this coming year. If that does well, start a third. Get others to partner with you in running, writing, and promoting the blog.
  • Ebooks. Bloggers with good audiences can sell a lot of ebooks if they write something of great value to their readers. Be aggressive in promoting the ebook on other blogs as well.
  • Freelancing. I’ve used this strategy many times — supplementing my income by writing for magazines, newspapers and other blogs. There’s a lot of freelance work out there if you’re a good writer.
  • Print book. While it’s not easy to sell a book deal, it’s worth a shot. Write up a great proposal, send it to some agents to see if they’ll shop it around for you, if they don’t shop it around yourself. If you can’t sell the book deal, consider self-publishing — it’s very possible these days.
  • Newsletter. Like a blog for email. You can sell ads on the newsletter to make income, or just use it to grow your readership and provide extra value. Remember that not everything has to make money — having a large number of readers, especially loyal ones who appreciate the value you give them, is a good thing for your business.
  • Other information products. Besides ebooks, you can create a package of digital or real-world media and sell it on the Internet (including on your blog). Things like audio and video files, DVDs or CDs, workbooks, references, guides, courses, etc.
  • Services. Provide consulting services or other types of service-based business. If you have a blog, you can promote it there. Some services might include blog consulting, design, web development, editing, and so on.
  • Membership service. Create an online service where people sign up and pay a monthly fee. Keep the fee low and try to get a lot of members — those small fees of $5-10 can add up each month!

Again, these are just a few ideas to get you started.

Focus Your Time

If you’re already busy as a writer or blogger, you’re probably asking, “How the heck will I be able to expand when my day is already full?”

Good question. It may be that you don’t have the time to expand. But don’t be too quick to give up on the idea.

My suggestion is to focus your time even more than you are now, if possible, so that you make the most of the hours you work. For example, if you’re running one blog and spending four hours a day (as a totally random number) writing and running the blog … focus yourself more so that you spend 1.5 hours a day on the blog — one hour for writing and 30 minutes for admin stuff. Then use the other 2.5 hours to expand in a very focused way.

How can you write a great blog post in 1 hour? It’s possible — this post was written in under an hour, for example. But sometimes it takes longer to write a good post … in that case, just post every other day … you’ll have two hours to write the post — one hour per day.

How can you do the admin required to run a blog in 30 minutes? By figuring out what’s most important. Quickly respond to comments (10 minutes), respond only to important emails (10 minutes), and do any other very important tasks in the other 10 minutes.

Other ways to expand if you don’t have the time:

  • Hire people. While it takes money to hire people, if it costs less than the revenue you’ll be making, it’s a good investment. You can hire people to write, design, develop websites, edit and do admin stuff, or do personal assistant stuff. This multiplies your power.
  • Form a team. If you can’t expand by yourself, get a team of other talented people together and expand as a group. More people multiplies your power, if you do it right.
  • Simplify. Reduce the amount of stuff you normally do to make more time for expansion.
  • Eliminate distractions. Most of us waste time by reading on the Internet, chatting or going on social sites. While you don’t have to eliminate these completely, reduce the time you spend doing these things, and cut out the distractions when you need to focus on your work.

For more on becoming more effective with your time, see my new book, Power of Less

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About the author

Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta is the blogger behind the superblog, Zen Habits, which is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of life.

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