IT'S A CALL most of us dread. It always seems to come late at night or early in the morning. Either you answer the phone, or the message is just marked “urgent.” Once you hang up, the course of your life is altered forever.
The four letters that altered my life were not “d-i-e-d,” but “b-l-o-g.” It was a breathless individual on the other end of the phone asking me if I knew what a “blog” was. “Yeah, sure,” I said. Sure that it sort of sounded familiar, not exactly sure that I could give a winning definition if money was on the line. But, I figured my girlfriend was going to tell me where this whole conversation was going soon enough. She did.
“Blog” is short for “Web log.” In my very unsophisticated, nontechnical brain, I think a good way to think of it is as a running dialogue. Considering the many running dialogues going on in my brain at any given moment, this blog stuff sounded cool.
But along with standing for cool, blogs also stand for revenue. Learning about blogs has drastically altered the way I think about making money.
Blogs started years ago on personal Web sites as an easy way to sound off on a particular topic. For example, my Webmaster has a blog. Well, to be honest, it's mostly his wife's blog, and it's on home childbirth, voting and some stuff that happened at last year's Thanksgiving dinner. My graphic artist has a blog. Hers talks about digital cameras, starting your own business and how to raise money with those Lance Armstrong-type bracelets.
In my blog, I discuss things like how to get into the event industry, helping nonprofits raise money, finding the perfect client and how much booze to buy for your next event.
OK, there are a lot of people out there with lots of opinions on stuff. So what? Enter my favorite five-letter word: m-o-n-e-y. Yes, of course I want to educate people about the event industry and am passionate about my ideas and our company. However, my excitement level has been known to increase exponentially when a few Ben Franklins are put on the line.
How do you make money with a blog? It's actually pretty easy. You need:
A Web site.
Some ideas. Start by writing a blog relating to the type of business that you do or one of your passions. If you work for a company that represents a venue space, then you might want to write about venues, their costs and important questions to ask before booking one. What are the hidden fees? How can you get a lower venue rate, etc.? You see where I'm going with this. Your options are endless.
Make your first blog sort of general; make lists of tips, ideas and suggestions in your blogs. Feature a “guest blog.” You could have the general manager of your favorite rental company write a guest blog about keeping rental prices down, etc.
The help of your IT (information technology) person. I say this because it has been my experience that lots of us creative people have some difficulty being really creative and really computer-savvy. I am not trying to insult you. If you are particularly tech-smart, have at it. For the rest of us, read on. I think the tech stuff can be hard and enough to discourage you before you even get started.
Your IT person can fiddle with all of the HTML (“hypertext markup language,” the coding that turns ordinary text into live e-mail addresses and Web site links) necessary to get your blog up and running, plus teach you how to post content to your blog. I kicked and screamed about this part, but I swear it's not hard.
To decide what kind of ads you want to run and in what format. Yes, that's right, ads. There are many ways to get paid with a blog; I will not pretend to know all of them. In general, I am against having my Web site full of ads, but I've found a way to make it work for me.
You need to decide if you want just text ads, banner ads, ads with logos, flashing ads, etc. By clicking on an ad on your blog, the reader is forwarded to a particular advertiser's Web site, let's say, www.buyorangesnow.com. Every time that reader or any other reader clicks on www.buyorangesnow.com from your blog, you get paid.
To practice. Once your IT person (or you, smarty-pants) has set up your blog to accept these ads, you need to start writing. Companies with whom you've signed up will start placing ads on your site, kind of like magic, actually. Depending on the company, the ads that appear will be context-sensitive or appear because of the keywords you use. Start noticing which ads appear on your blogs. Steer your blogs to cover different topics and see how this affects the ads that show up.
To start tracking. Within hours of starting your blog and posting your ads, you can track your results. You will learn how much you are getting paid per click; certain clicks generate more income than others. Some clicks might generate 4 cents while others pay 50 cents. Or, if you work with companies that pay you only when a customer purchases something, your income will increase considerably. Easy now, actual customer purchases happen much more infrequently than customers just clicking on an ad because the ad's content interests them. Try a combination of ads.
To read and research. Do searches on other types of blogs out there, then start your own. Imagine how fabulous our industry could be if we all wrote blogs on different industry topics, shared ideas, inspiration and got instant feedback! We could help one another problem-solve, brainstorm and earn money, all with the click of a mouse.
To learn more. Well then, you'll just have to check out my blog. I've got links to some specific advertising options and lots more help. Give me a few clicks and reap the rewards of this fabulous new concept.
Marley Majcher is the head of The Party Goddess, based in Pasadena, Calif. You can visit her blog at www.thepartygoddess.com/blog or call her at 323/341-7000.
Photo by Merri Jill Finstrom