Dear person who thinks my blog is not a business, I’d like to create some understanding between us. Maybe if you get your facts straight, I’ll feel more comfortable around you and we’ll have a decent interaction in which I’m not trying to prove my worth or the value of what I do for a living.
I don’t take it personally, because I know you don’t think of any blog as a business. I’m not going to hate on you, because hating is not my thing – not deliberately, anyways. Just hear me out!
I am proud of what I do whether you take me seriously or not, because the work I do is meaningful and it supports my lifestyle, but it would be nice if our discussions were founded on actual information and not on your preconceived idea of what I do as a blogger, influencer, and storyteller.
First things first. Let’s figure out if my blog fits in the definition of what a business is. If you look it up in the dictionary, it means: a person’s regular occupation, profession, or trade. Yeah, blogging is my line of work and I do it instead of regular employment.
For tax purposes, a business is actually any activity you consistently engage in with the purpose to make a profit (this is whether you do make a profit or not, but because I know you are wondering, yeah I do profit from blogging and I earn a substantial income). In case you didn’t know, it is normal for many businesses not to be profitable the first few years, so even when bloggers are scraping by, they’re still running a small business IF they have a strategy to profit from their blogging efforts.
I know I’ve said these things before, but I often find myself unheard and misunderstood. I am not going to pretend it doesn’t get frustrating at times, especially because I’m not questioning or judging everyone else’s chosen career path to deem it worthy of acceptance. Yet I know you don’t mean to be condescending and skeptical… you are concerned for me and I think that’s noble. When I focus on that, I feel connected to you. If I thought you were just being a toxic troll, I wouldn’t bother explaining this to you.
Let’s explore what essential skills it takes to run a successful business and how it plays out in my journey as a full-time blogger and content creator. It’s not an exhaustive list and I’m not listing them in a priority order, because I’m writing as I think about them.
Business Skill #1 ~ Bloggers Do Accounting
As a blogger, I have fixed costs (such as web hosting and Internet connection) and variable costs (such as buying props for a picture or a stock photo for a post). I have a business budget, I practice principles of finance and record keeping, I pay myself a percentage of my earnings, and I file taxes, too!
When I tell people I’m a writer and speaker, they wouldn’t believe that much of my workday involves reviewing book keeping software, PayPal statements, and spreadsheets. I wouldn’t had believed it when I started 12 years ago either!
Business Skill # 2 ~ Bloggers Do Marketing
One of the main roads to take you from surviving to successful in any business is the discipline of marketing. If you have the best business, product, or service in the planet and no one knows you exist, it will be really hard for people to do business with you. A blog thrives on its readership, so as a blogger, I do a lot of marketing, which includes promotion on social media to drive traffic, Search Engine Optimization techniques to get found online, and strategies such as e-mail marketing to keep people coming back.
Business Skill #3 ~ Bloggers Do Sales
Blogs are free for readers. Readers “consume” a blog post and they can give back by sharing with others, providing feedback, and subscribing, but they don’t pay for the content they receive – that’s part of the magic of sharing a message you believe in! And since we established that it takes money to run a blog and that the purpose of a business is to make a profit, bloggers must master the art of pitching, negotiating, and following up. Most bloggers are supported by brand sponsorships (directly or through a PR agency or influencer network), and others supplement with ads, affiliate relationships, book sales, public speaking, consulting and other services. In any case, if I don’t sell anything, my blog is still a business, but a failing business.
Business Skill #4 ~ Bloggers Follow Regulations
Any blogger/brand agreement is legally binding. Whenever a pitch is successful, a contract is drawn and I need to abide by that contract. I have deadlines that including posting on a certain date and at a certain time (usually before 3pm EST) and the number of promotional social media posts to amplify the blog post, which could either go live within 12 hours from the time of publication, or spread out during a period of time.
There are terms, guardrails, specs, exclusivity clauses, and all that jazz. And there’s the absolute need to comply with FTC rules, in order to protect me as an influencer, protect the network or agency, and protect the brand in question. All compensated content needs to include a disclosure statement in an explicit manner, and before any links or brand key messages are shared.
And then, there are the platform-specific terms I must be aware of, mindful of, and respectful of if I want to stay in business:
- Facebook Page Guidelines and Policies on Branded Content
- Google Terms and Policies
- Pinterest Terms of Service
… and a lot more!
You’re right if you are thinking I like writing and sharing online or I wouldn’t have chosen blogging as a business, but while the writing part often comes easy, flows naturally, and doesn’t take a chunk of my time, you can now understand how much more effort is behind even the simplest 140-character tweet (more like 100 characters when you factor in the hashtags and the URL), trying to stay compliant.
Business Skill #5 ~ Bloggers Do Human Resource Management
I am the only blogger that writes for my blog, so you may think it’s a one-woman show – and it was, for a while. But only because I’m a web and graphic designer! Bloggers need to hire out so many pieces of their operation, even from the start!
Hiring someone to design your WordPress blog, do your brand logo, be your virtual assistant (VA) may sound like the simplest process, but I assure you it’s as time-consuming and nerve-wrecking as hiring an employee in “Corporate America.”
As I’ve grown in my blogging operations (and in my willingness to delegate), I’ve had to gain the skills needed to hire, manage, and let go of people in my team. It doesn’t get any more “real business” than having people on payroll!
Business Skill #6 ~ Bloggers Do Strategic Business Planning
Sitting in front of the computer and hoping for your inspired words to take you viral? Good luck with that! From identifying your ideal audience, selecting your topic categories, to partnering with the right brands, the business of blogging takes a lot of market research and strategy! After a thorough analysis of what my audience wants, I create an editorial calendar, do keyword research, and create outlines, just to get started.
I have a business plan, business goals, and business projections, just like every other business owner should, and always engaging with the strategies, tools, and relationships to get me where I want to go.
Business Skill #7 ~ Bloggers Track Business Metrics
With every vision, goal, and plan comes the need to measure. That’s how you’ll know you’re on track. As a blogger, besides all the financial reports I run, I also need to be all up on my Google Analytics, which will tell me all about my “sessions,” “users,” and “page views,” and the demographic and behavioral details, too.
I also need to analyze my social media platform insights, check hashtag reach in terms of “impressions,” “retweets,” “comments” and other forms of engagement.
Yup, I’m all about that data… no trouble. (Except those days when I’d lose sleep over that green light on the SEO plugin, or when I used to tie your self-worth to subscribes, likes, and follows. Ugh! Moving on…
Business Skill #8 ~ Bloggers Engage in Continuing Education
Have you heard of someone who majored in blogging sciences? If you scoff, I don’t blame you. Some of the people I love most in the world don’t consider a profession a career unless you can go to college for it. It makes it so simple to say “Jane is an accountant,” “Margaret is a doctor,” “Josephine is a Lawyer,” and “Patricia is an engineer,” because everyone knows what that is.
“Elayna, well, she does that little computer thing where she goes on a lot of trips, takes a lot of selfies, and tells everyone everything she’s feeling and everything she had for breakfast. It’s totally cute!” Explaining all this is too much work and you don’t feel like you even know what you’re talking about, so it is uncomfortable.
While it’s true that I didn’t go to blogging school and blogging was not even something being taught when I started almost 13 years ago, I have spent countless hours and probably a literal TON of money in U.S. currency educating myself in disciplines that help me become a successful mom entrepreneur as I run my blogging business.
As bloggers, we read free info and watch free YouTube videos just like the next person, but we also invest big money in conferences, training courses, and classes. I had the advantage of having a marketing, web design, and graphic design background going into it, but whether you learn it before or during your entrepreneurial journey, you don’t learn that by osmosis. As a blogger, my everyday is comprised of a complex mixture of video production, photography, journalism, public relations, communication, art, and so many other disciplines you give credit to in isolation and that escape me at the present moment.
Business Skill #9 ~ Bloggers Use Business Advisors
As a blogger, just like another business owners, we have trusted business advisors outside of the blogging community. To run our blogs are businesses we work with accountants, attorneys (does copyright infringement and intellectual property ring a bell?), publicists, booking agents, and coaches to help us achieve our business goals.
We belong to groups and associations, we attend local networking groups, and we subscribe to publications to stay competitive. Being a blogger has helped me stay coachable, because there are so many experts in their own field that can bring great perspective – and yes, their advice does apply to blogging (because it’s business advice)!
Well, that was a lot! I’ll let you come up with number 10! I think now that you have more of a behind-the-scenes, you can acknowledge that blogging is a real business and you can appreciate the blessing it has been in my life for allowing me to stay home with my daughters as a single mom, while providing for my family, and offering value to my readers.
Maybe not, but hey! I think I just feel better that I got this off my chest and let go some of the awkwardness. Thank you for wanting the best for me, and for listening for my own version of what “the best” is. Yours, Ela.