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The recent series of articles I wrote on blogging as a business model sparked a few queries about how I have gone about outsourcing the writing of my blogs. In the article I talked about how it is important to move away from being solely responsible for content output, otherwise you limit your potential for growth and are effectively self employed.
Over a year ago I purchased the blog SmallBusinessBranding.com (SBB) from Michael Pollock. When I first took over ownership of the blog I began writing the content myself, doubling my writing commitments since I was also writing to this blog, Entrepreneurs-Journey (EJ), at the same time.
I had a lot of difficulty writing to two blogs. Each time I wrote an article for SBB, I realized it was appropriate for EJ as well. I went from writing one blog 100% of the time to dividing my output across two blogs, and I knew from experience running two businesses at once would end in weakening both sites (see my business timeline for the story of the English School I was running [badly] as a second business). I decided to come up with a solution to keep SBB running without me as the author, since I wanted to devote all my writing output to EJ.
After asking for suggestions in my forums and brainstorming, I decided to bring on one or two bloggers to write for SBB. My initial plan was to advertise for the bloggers and test them for a month. If they proved dedicated I would offer them revenue share of income generated by SBB – I was thinking something along the lines of 50%. I was going to do some number crunching first to work out how many posts were done vs how much they would get paid, but this situation never eventuated.
After placing the ad for bloggers I was flooded with responses and a good 4-6 of them seemed like they could be candidates for the job. At that point I had a different idea.
Instead of hiring only a couple of bloggers who would have to commit to multiple articles per week, I’d take on everyone who looked like they could do a good job and reduce the amount of articles required to one per week each. With up to six writers, one article per week would result in near-daily content, which was my goal.
The problem was how to remunerate the authors. Part of the justification for writing for SBB was the exposure and credibility you can build. There are at least 1000 daily RSS readers of the blog, which for a new author can be a nice boost to their readership. As much as I think that is valuable, I didn’t want that to be the sole motivation behind wanting to write for SBB.
I thought about a revenue share, but with only about under $400 a month coming in from that blog and six authors to pay, it wasn’t going to work out very well. In the end I came up with an innovative way to empower authors with the ability to monetize their content published to SBB in whatever way they chose.
I commissioned Michael Pollock, the original owner of SBB, to do a redesign of the site. Previously SBB looked like a sister site to EJ with a similar design that clearly focused on me. For the new design the focus moved away from me and SBB became a blog magazine with multiple authors profiled.
Each author was provided a homepage [ example ] within the site that lists a history of their articles and other data about what they do and how they can be contacted. Also on this page are designated advertising areas where the writers can decide to promote anything they want to. They can use Google AdSense or Yahoo Publishers Network, or banners from an affiliate product or their own business banners, or text links or any content they wish to promote.
Each article the author writes also has the same adspace where their content is displayed, so effectively every page that author contributes to the blog, contains an area where they can monetize their work.
The more articles an author writes, the more pages they have online with ads, potentially bringing in traffic and thus income. Add to this the combined efforts of every writer working hard on great content increasing the blog’s overall traffic, *should* result in each author enjoying exponential traffic growth to their individual pages as well. In this way every author benefits from the traffic brought in by the other authors. It pays to be part of the group as long as everyone contributes to the overall growth of the site.
Unfortunately that ideal situation hasn’t quite eventuated yet at SBB because some of the authors had to stop writing or reduce their contributions to focus on their own projects. It takes some testing and a clear purpose/flow from article to advertisement in order to monetize their adspace and I don’t think any of the authors writing for SBB have made much money from it yet. Those who have kept writing are enjoying the more intrinsic value that comes from blogging – exposure, networking and creative expression – like Danielle Rodgers, Nick Rice and our latest team member, Christine Buske.
In future the new authors who join the site will have to be prepared to write often and carefully choose how they monetize their content if they want to make money directly, or perhaps a better strategy, have a way to leverage the exposure and traffic indirectly by promoting their own business, blog or website as the current authors do. Incidentally, if you know a thing or two about small business or you are running one now and want to tell your story, contact me if you are interested in joining the Small Business Branding team.
One very good thing did come of the SBB outsourcing experiment so far – I met Robert Kingston.
Rob lives in Brisbane, like me, and demonstrated great enthusiasm for SBB when he first came aboard as a writer. Because of this I offered him the opportunity to take over management of the blog and he’s also coming on board for some other projects. I’m very grateful that he’s shown so much interest, professionalism and talent too.
I’m sharing revenues with Rob obviously because he deserves it for all the work he is doing running four of my sites and as a form of motivation for him to increase the income the sites produce. If he can help to double the income of the sites he is in charge of, his own income will double as well. I’m still involved and will definitely help Rob with the strategic direction, but it is his job to implement, which no doubt will give him all kinds of experiences that will enhance his Internet marketing credentials and give him a great head-start when he finishes university.
The key ingredients to make blog outsourcing work is managing people well. If you can’t structure something that people want to work for, then you won’t get people prepared to work for you. Many elements, including your blog’s current traffic, revenues, credibility, and exposure can all help to attract the right people and give you tools to motivate others, but it’s not a clear cut area – there are many ways to structure a system and it might take some experimentation and creative thinking to figure out what works.
Now that you know how I set-up SBB, you can see one possible blog outsourcing model. In the next article I’m going to run through the different considerations and models you should contemplate if your goal is to bring in additional authors to your blog.