Allison Boyer is a freelance writer who is most known for her work with New Media Expo. New Media Expo or NMX for short, is the world’s largest conference and tradeshow for online content creators. Make sure you stay tuned for the end of this post as Allison has a special surprise for Blog Herald readers :-)
How did you first get involved with freelance writing/blogging?
When I was a senior in college, I kind of freaked out because I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to write for a newspaper or teach. What else do you do with an English degree? I had no idea. What I did know is that I enjoyed the part-time freelance work I did from time to time. So I decided to give it a go as a full time freelancer. From there, blogging kind of fell into my lap when I just happened to get a job working for a blog network. The pay was horrible, but I really loved the conversational style. So, I slowly phased out other types of writing jobs and started working exclusively as a blogger, both for clients and for my own blogs.
One thing I noticed early on is just how difficult it can be to break through all the noise, and establish consistent work for yourself. What’s some advice you have to those wanting to make a career out of writing or blogging for a living?
What worked for me is to start on the very lowest rung and climb up. No one wants to work for $10 an hour, but hard work pays off in the end. If you’re a new writer, it doesn’t matter what you think you are worth. People who hire bloggers need to see a return on their investment, so you have to prove yourself first. If you do an amazing job every single time without fail, you’ll soon find that you don’t have to look for work anymore. Opportunities will come your way because people recommend you. And remember, it’s about more than just being able to write. Without a strong work ethic, it doesn’t matter how well you write.
I was offered my dream job with New Media Expo (BlogWorld at the time) because someone remembered how hard I worked and recommended me to them – and that was over two years after I worked with her. All those hours working for peanuts really paid off because I did my best job every single time, no matter how much money I was making.
We all like to hear about the positives of establishing a certain line of work, but what are some examples of the “dark side” of writing online? Are there some mistakes that are easily avoidable?
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I’m not just talking about scams, either (though that is part of it). When it comes to easy money, the bubble always bursts eventually, so look at any job you take with a critical eye. Is it sustainable (and does it make sense) for your client/employer to continue paying you? If you’re charging $100 per post, but they’re only making $50 back in sales, your job is not safe even if you’re good at it. Always have a backup plan.
I enjoy your work at the New Media Expo blog where you post all the time. How do you publish consistent high quality work? What does your writing process look like?
Thanks! It helps that I absolutely love writing, especially about new media. It’s hard to do anything well consistently if you hate it. That’s why I have a food blog (The PinterTest Kitchen) too – I love being in the kitchen. In the past, I’ve been involved with some niche sites where there was a high earning potential, but I would totally dread writing posts. The lack of passion comes through and your work suffers when that is the case.
For me, the writing process starts with a basic outline, which is generally 5-10 bullet points about the topic I want to cover. I’m very new to SEO, but I’ve learned how important it is, so I do a little basic keyword research next. I also research what others are saying about the topic so when I’m writing, I can link to others in the community as well. It’s amazing how much traffic an outbound link can bring you. I generally email or send a tweet to someone when I’ve linked to them, and often they’ll not only stop by to read the post, but they’ll also share it with their followers.
Before I finish my posts, I always try to cut it down by at least 30%. Most of my posts are pretty lengthy (1000+ words), so I find that by challenging myself to cut so much out, I really tighten my writing.
Keeping content fresh and interesting can be difficult. What are some ways you come up with new ideas and/or get inspiration?
My mind is always coming up with topics, even when I’m doing things unrelated to blogging. For example, last year I visited a Holocaust Museum that ended up being a post about the power of storytelling online. A conversation with a friend, a television show, something I see during a walk…these things can all end up sparking blog post ideas. I carry a notebook with me everywhere for jotting down any kernels of ideas that develop when I’m not at my computer.
Google Reader is now shut down, and many saw it going away as a bad sign for the future of blogs. Do you see it as a big deal?
It’s a big deal, but not because I think it is a bad sign for the future of blogs. To me, it represents a shift in the way people think about blogging. It’s now so mainstream that Google sees feed readers as outdated (and competition) to social. Your average Joe on the street probably has no idea what RSS means. But he probably reads a blog and he almost certainly has at least one social profile. RSS readers will always be around for us geeks who like following blogs that way, but most people (especially those who aren’t bloggers themselves) follow via social (or email). I think it was a smart move if Google wants Google+ to grow, though I think they also did Facebook and Twitter a favor.
I hope this will also give some bloggers the kick in the pants they need to start taking email more seriously. When someone subscribes via their favorite RSS reader, you have no way of contacting them other than through published blog posts and few options for tracking stats. Anyone who didn’t switch from Google Reader to another service is now lost to you completely. By collecting subscribers via your own list through services like Aweber, Mailchimp, etc., you don’t have to worry about that and you can contact them whenever you want.
In your opinion, what does it take to build a successful blog? How do you especially build a community, one that comes back for more and more?
It takes hard work, above all. Blogging for others is one thing, but blogging for yourself is a whole other level. You won’t make $10 an hour. At first, you’ll be lucky to make $10 per month! The key is to not give up and to educate yourself on how to make money with your blog (if that is your goal).
For me, that’s what community building is about as well: education. Not every strategy is going to work in every niche. However, at the end of the day, it’s hard to build a community if you aren’t an active member of it. Build relationships one-by-one with other bloggers in your niche. Get active on social and in forums. Comment on other blogs. Participate.
And always remember that whatever post you are writing will be the first impression someone gets of you. What if Oprah reads your blog tomorrow? Are you proud of your most recent content? If not, you shouldn’t publish it. Sometimes, you only have one chance to make someone a life-long fan.
Do you have any favorite apps or tools in regards to writing/blogging?
I love PicMonkey for quickly editing images for my posts (one of my least favorite tasks). That’s probably the tool I use most often. I’m also a huge fan of Zapier, which is a tool that allows you automate tasks between services. For example, you can set it up to automatically schedule posts via Buffer whenever you update via WordPress or automatically post to Facebook any new YouTube videos you upload. Zapier works with tons of tools and just makes life simpler.
Oh, and I don’t know what I would do without the Editorial Calendar plugin for WordPress. There is, in my opinion, no better way to create and organize your content schedule. Other apps/tools I love in no particular order: SproutSocial, CommentLuv, Evernote, TweetDeck, Google Keyword Tool, and Bloglovin.
If there was one thing you could change about the current state of blogs, what would it be and why?
Facebook drives me nuts. If it wasn’t so helpful in promoting my blogs, I would gladly never use it.
Where can everyone learn more about you and check out your work?
You can catch me on Twitter at @allison_boyer, on the NMX blog, or on my food blog, The PinterTest Kitchen. I also occasionally rant and rave about the blogging industry at Blog Zombies. I definitely hope that all of your readers will come hang out with me and the rest of the NMX team in person at our next conference.
And hang out you should. NMX 2014 takes place January 4-6 in Las Vegas, and when you use the promo code ALLI20, you’ll get 20% off the purchase of any pass! Click here to visit NMX, and learn more.
Mike Stenger is a writer with a love of all things technology.