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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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19 thoughts on “Bloggers and Writers: Make 2009 a Year of Expansion”

  • Great post Leo,

    Personally, I am planning to make this coming year one of unprecedented growth, personally and in my business. What do you get when enough people adopt an expansion mindset? You get expansion of course. Why should we listen to the negative sensationalism of the talking heads? Hey, we live in the blogisphere and it is expanding, let’s ride the wave.

  • joylene says:

    You’re right, I survived the expansion. It’s been fun. I don’t know if it increased sales, but it’s introduced me to some excellent writers.

  • Great advice Leo! This is definitely the time to look into diversifying. And having multiple streams of income seems like almost a necessity now-a-days.

    When in a recession, things can only get better right? =-)

  • dr aletta says:

    My first blog was designed to be an added value for my clients present and future. Last May I started a second blog purely for fun (myhorseismytherapist.com). For months I hesitated starting the new blog. When I would l find the time write two blogs and do everything else in my life? Amazingly what I found was that the new blog sparked new life into all my writing, like finding a new gear. I wonder if others find that kind of creative synergy when they expand as well.

  • Perhaps the field will be less crowded for debut’s. I absolutely needed a method to process and make habit all the stuff I was taking in but not implementing. I was already journaling so a blog seemed a natural progression. Good luck to all.

  • Leo,

    These are great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  • Zoe says:

    I often find that when we expect more of ourselves, we suddenly realize how much more we’re capable of doing. When you are invested in your projects, it’s amazing how far you can go.

    Thanks for the extra motivation :)

  • Very persuasive advice Leo. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jessica says:

    Thanks for the inspiration, Leo! I really appreciate that you stayed away from the whole “how bad will it get” discussion and got proactive about what *could* be next for people. I’ve just launched my first blog, so I’m nowhere near ready for a second ;-), but after writing a weekly newsletter for two years, I’ve definitely found that doing more of something almost always makes the work easier as opposed to harder. Based on how much more my newsletter grew when it went out weekly as opposed to monthly, it also made the work I was doing a lot more effective!

    Something else I find encouraging is seeing firsthand that within advertising itself, there are opportunities to diversify as well–sure, it might not be as easy to let adwords do the work at bringing in advertising revenues these days, but there are still plenty of companies interested in investing in sites that reach the right market.

  • Elisabeth says:

    I really enjoyed reading your advice, and found it even more interesting because I just recently started my own blog called Writer Savvy. I’m hoping to give advice to both beginner writers and seasoned professionals on how to become better at the craft of writing, increase revenue as freelancers, and improve their networking skills. I stumbled upon this blog after reading an interview on mediabistro.com, and when I found that you had a Writers’ Blog, I had to take a look for myself. Of course, I also wanted to mention my new blog, and include a link to it: http://writersavvy.blogspot.com (shameless self promotion). I hope that you take a look at it! I’m planning on interviewing professionals in the writing industry (editors, freelancers, bloggers and more) once a month, and would be honored to include an interview with you as well!

  • Diversifying is definitely the key; it’s far too risky carrying all your eggs in one basket. Not only that, by diversifying your activities it opens new avenues and can increase productivity as you over come new challenges, as well as re-invigorates the mind.

  • Great tips! We can be in our toes to check on the latest “most profitable” niches to touch for blogging/writing to help us increase revenue in 2009.

  • Rick says:

    Thanks for great inspiration! Expansion is certainly an appropriate choice for blogging in 2009.

  • I agree, Leo.

    Times are tough economically, but keeping positive and opening up new avenues is a great way to stay fresh and motivated. Let the creativity flow and be prepared for the upswing of the economy.

  • Precise Edit says:

    Diversity: great advice.

    As the economy slows, our number of business clients has dropped off a bit (not too much, fortunately). We began to diversity.

    Diversifying isn’t about doing something completely different but using skills and knowledge in a new way. For example, our main focus is providing editorial services. We know a lot about editing and writing. That’s what we do, after all.

    To diversify, we used our expertise with writing and editing clients’ documents to create a new service called Writing Tips for a Year. We’re using our same knowledge and skills, but in a new way.

    One last point about diversifying. You have to know what your core skills are, what your focus is, and what identity you have created. Keeping these in mind while diversifying helps you determine where you can expand successfully.

  • LC Sanders says:

    I found you by clicking through blogspot.com. You have some good advice and I am glad that what I am doing is going to be worth it. Thanks for the tips.

    You can find me on http://www.triond.com/users/LC+Sanders
    and my blogspot http://lazylisa2012.blogspot.com/

    Thanks, LC Sanders

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