business tips

So You Want To Scale Your Blog Biz: What You Need To Know

Despite having been around since the very first days of the internet, blogging still remains very much a staple of the digital world.

Modern content monetization methods were all brought into existence by bloggers. And though the level of competition today is overwhelmingly tougher to contend with than it was a decade ago (or even earlier), the big improvements in technology accessibility have ensured that turning blogging into a source of income is still completely viable. 

But there’s a big difference between picking up some small amounts of affiliate commission, and making enough money from your blog that it can conceivably become your primary revenue source.

Regardless of your current level, scaling a business is a real challenge. It’s essential that you do your research first — so before you try to scale your blog, here’s what you need to know.

Automation tools are essential

Blogs almost always start out as solo operations, and there’s a decent chance that you’re in that boat right now.

Handling a business solo has its pros and cons: having complete control over everything that happens is a big positive, but it makes you the bottleneck. Only through your work can anything happen — the moment you can’t keep up with demand, your business will be left in limbo. This is why you need to free up your schedule as much as possible.

If you’re serious about scaling, you’re going to have to embrace automation. Luckily, there are many automation options available for bloggers, and it’s usually easy, free and fun.

Think about all the tasks you do for your blog on a frequent (or even daily) basis. Which parts need your creative input, and which are repetitive processes that require little thought? The latter are going to cause you trouble the larger your business gets, so it’s best to find ways around them right away.

For example, take social media and email marketing. If you want to scale your blog biz, you will also need to scale your promotion.

This is where automation will be invaluable. There’s no shortage of great email automation tools, and plenty of advanced social media tools for communicating across multiple platforms.

Think carefully about everything that goes into your average day, and hunt down tools for saving time and making your life easier.

Take shortcuts with your visuals

Your visual content on your blog is as important as your written content — it’s what’s going to grab people and reel them in, illustrate your points, and inject some vibrancy to your posts. Every blog post needs at least one image to accompany it.

And although it would be great to use original images taken with an expensive camera and edited on PhotoShop until they’re perfect, this isn’t always (or usually) possible. Time and money get in the way — especially if you’re trying to scale your blog biz.  

Thankfully, there are ways to get around this. The creation of free stock image sites — which offer millions of high-resolution, royalty-free images — is the blogger’s savior when it comes to scaling a business. It’s an easy way to scale up, offering you countless images to add to blog posts and social media promotion without the effort or money previously needed.  

Plus, if you want to further reduce the time you spend hunting down stock images, you can try a stock image plugin (if your blog runs on WordPress) to choose an appropriate image without even needing to leave the post window.

You may need help with content production

No matter how prolific a blogger you may be, and how relentlessly you can type at pace, it’s super unlikely that you’ll be able to hugely scale your content production process without suffering from burnout. Whether this is creative (writer’s block is the worst) or physical (RSI is a real concern for bloggers), or both, you definitely want to avoid this.  

That’s why you’ll need some kind of human assistance at some point. 

You may not like the idea of farming out your content to other writers (especially if your blog is your baby), but you don’t actually need to do exactly that to speed up your production. There are other elements you can hand out — like research, graphic design, networking, or even editing (you can write the rough draft, then pass it to someone else to be cleaned up, or vice versa).

How you go about it is totally up to you. You can hire a full-time employee, get a part-time employee, or hire a freelancer using a freelance website like Fiverr or Upwork (there are many different freelance sites that you can choose from).

The point is that you have options. And, if you feel that you’re biting off more than you can chew when it comes to scaling, you can find ways to pick up the pace without completely sacrificing your creative integrity.

Reworkable material is invaluable

Getting the most value you possibly can from each piece of content becomes more important the more you scale.

This is because quality demands get much higher, requiring you to invest more time, effort and resources into everything you do. Uploading a blog post that ultimately gets a couple of thousand views might be solid for an amateur operation, but not for a business.

One of the best ways to increase the value you receive from a piece of content is to make it reworkable.

What we mean by this is that you can create a substantial piece of content that can then be adapted for various distinct platforms. For instance, writing a post that can easily become a script for a tutorial video, or be turned into a podcast, or cut down to an infographic. There are lots of ways that you can repurpose a blog post. 

It’ll take longer to create a comprehensive piece of source content, but that investment will pay off in the long run, allowing you to create 4-5 unique pieces of content that will attract different (and bigger) audiences. This will also allow you to showcase your expertise in specific areas, which makes you look great if you’re trying to establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche.

A mix of evergreen and seasonal content is ideal

Broadly speaking, there are two types of digital content: evergreen, and seasonal.

Evergreen content covers topics that are always relevant. For example, this piece is (in principle) evergreen, because people seek to grow their blog businesses all throughout the year.

 Then there’s seasonal content, which covers topics that are only relevant either temporarily or at certain times of the year — topics like recent news stories, or public holidays, or (as the name suggests) the changing seasons. 

Each type of content has its advantages. Evergreen content is great for building up search rankings over time, because it’s always valuable to someone. Seasonal content is perfect for attracting maximum attention when deployed at the right time.

That’s why it’s good to aim for a decent split between the two for your scaled-up content — that way, you’ll cover your bases.

You should monetize everything you can

Unless you happen to be super-rich and you’re scaling up your blog business just to have something to do, making money is going to be a primary concern — perhaps the primary concern — of your blog.  

To make as much money as possible, you’ll want to monetize as much as you can without damaging your content and turning your blog into a walking, talking advert for someone else’s business.  

Here are four tips for achieving this:

  • Sign up to all relevant affiliate schemes. There are plenty of affiliate programs out there, with lots aimed squarely at bloggers. When you link to particular products (many of which you might link to anyway), you can get a commission for each person who clicks that link and places an order.

  • Clearly state your willingness to do business. Many bloggers are interested in finding ways to monetize what they do, but not all of them are. If someone arrives on your site and decides that they’d like to work with you, you’ll need some copy in an obvious place to explain that you do work with brands and you’re willing to listen to ideas and form partnerships.

  • Run ads on your blog. We maybe wouldn’t advise using something like Google’s AdSense, because even a small number of automatically-loaded ads can really dissuade someone from following your website, but you can easily run manual ads. Let people know that you’ll consider ads, then figure things out as you go.

  • Start selling branded products. It’s great to have a large audience and build sponsorship deals with big companies, but making your brand marketable will really expand your range of options. Think about branding merchandise: print-on-demand shirt services are very convenient and easy to use.

  • Reach out to prospective partners. It’s always good to be proactive instead of waiting for potential income sources to find you. If you think you have an audience that would be valuable for a particular brand, send them an email. Realistically, the worst outcome is that they turn you down, and you try again with someone else.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly for your sanity, you need to know that it’s going to take time to get where you want to go.

Blogging is a slow and labored business, with audiences typically building up over years. While you can definitely get some fast results, there isn’t really any way to take a shortcut to lasting long-term success.

So be patient with your scaling, stick to your long-term plan, and don’t make any snap decisions. Good luck!

7 Easy Business Concepts Every Founder Needs To Know

By Kayleigh Alexander

Over 500,000 new businesses are set up every month, but only half manage to get to the five year mark, a statistic that can be a little alarming if you’re thinking of founding one of your own. 

The infancy period of any start-up is volatile, and it can be especially difficult for entrepreneurs who don’t have any previous business experience.

Having a grip on some basic business concepts will give you some of the tools you need to successfully establish your brand and then keep it growing. Don’t blindly fight against established business norms — learn them, boss them, and then choose to subvert them if you want.

Here are seven easy business concepts that you need to know to help you realize your wildest creative business dreams.

Competitive advantage 

One of the main challenges for young businesses is finding a way to achieve and maintain a competitive advantage over other brands in a given market.

Put simply, a competitive advantage is an advantage you have over your competitors.  This is achieved by giving your customers greater value — either by offering lower prices or justifying higher prices by providing a better product or service.  

In his 1985 book ‘Competitive Advantage’, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter outlined three core ways that businesses can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage:

●      Cost leadership means providing reasonable value at a lower price, which can be done by improving operational efficiency. Basically doing more with less — gig economy businesses are great for this

●      Differentiation means delivering greater benefits to the customer than your competitors can. This can typically be achieved through having an innovative product, a very high quality product, or delivering a similar product as your competitors, but offering exceptional customer service. Differentiation is often how creative businesses like yours stand out

●      Focus means that the company’s founders understand and serve their target market better than their competitors. The key to focusing is to choose one specific target market, often a niche that bigger companies don’t serve, and then concentrating hard on nailing it.

Supply and Demand 

The concept of supply and demand is directly relevant to any company competing in the marketplace, regardless of its size. Supply and demand means that a market will respond to changes in demand and supply to overcome surplus and shortages and therefore maintain an ‘equilibrium price’. For example, a shortage of gold leads to a higher price, because, as demand for gold increases, the upward pressure on prices would naturally prevent a shortage.

Supply and Demand Chart

Source: The Dasinger Daily

Understanding the specific supply and demand issues affecting both the sales and the purchases that your business makes will enable you to make more informed decisions.

Return on Investment

Return on Investment (ROI) is the financial benefit that is received from an investment, or, put more simply, a measure of what you get back compared to what you put in. For example, say you spent $1000 per month on Google Adwords, and your business made $2000 as a direct result of the ads, your ROI would be the difference. ROI is usually measured as a ratio, which in this case would be 2:1, because for every $1 you spend, you get $2 back.

Calculating ROI will help you to track what’s working and what isn’t working for your business. If your ads aren’t generating a profit, you will know that you need to make changes to them, or drop them altogether in favor of another form of marketing. 

Fixed and Variable Costs

When you start a business, your costs come in two forms: fixed and variable. Fixed costs don’t change when your sales volume changes, but variable costs do. Examples of fixed costs include the rent you pay for the space that your company uses, such as an office or storage facility, insurance, marketing and management salaries. Examples of variable costs are material and labor, the costs of which go up and down depending on sales. 

Economics

Source: PrepLounge

Understanding which costs are fixed and which are variable will enable you to budget and plan accordingly, and help you to identify what is a profitable price level for your products or services. If you suddenly lost your biggest customer account and therefore 25% of your sales, you’d still need to cover your fixed costs to keep your company running; figuring out these costs could be crucial to keeping your company alive.

Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is the total worth of a customer to a business over the entirety of their relationship. It’s important to your business because it costs less to keep existing customers than it does to acquire new ones. According to the book Marketing Metrics, “businesses have a 60-70% chance of selling to an existing customer, whilst the probability of selling to a new customer is only 5% to 20%”. Increasing the value of your existing customers will really help to drive growth. 

However, measuring CLV isn’t easy, with only 42% of companies feeling able to do it, and citing poor systems, lack of coherent marketing and lack of integration as the reasons why.

If big, established businesses struggle to measure CLV, then new and small businesses are likely to find it hard to make accurate measurements, but you can make a start with this simple formula: customer revenue minus the cost to acquire and serve the customer. If you are prepared to really drill down into the concept, there are more complex calculations that will help you get a more accurate result.

Customer Acquisition Cost 

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) means the price that your business pays to acquire a new customer. It can be worked out by dividing the total costs associated with acquisition by total new customers, within a specific time period. For example, if you spend $500 on marketing in one month and acquire 500 customers, then your CAC is $1. Web-based companies can roll out highly targeted campaigns and track customers from leads to conversions, making their CAC highly accurate. 

If you’ve just started a business, acquiring customers is crucial to making sure it is a success, but if you spend too much money on acquiring customers, then you won’t be able to pay your other costs and keep your business afloat. CAC is directly relevant to CLV, and combining the two will allow you to calculate what is the true value of a customer to your business.

Minimum Viable Product 

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a development technique where a new product is introduced to the market with basic features, which will capture the attention of early adopters. Companies such as Uber, Dropbox and AirBnB all started as MVPs and achieved very rapid growth. An MVP is a bare-bones version of a product that includes a minimum of features and directly addresses the core problem it is trying to solve. Once the initial product is successful, more features can be added.

Pyramid marketing

Source: Cheesecake Labs

An MVP allows you to release your product to market in the shortest possible time, reduce start-up costs and test demand before spending money adding all the bells and whistles.

An easy creative product-based MVP would be a print-on-demand business with low overheads. Simply set up shop, hook up with an app like Printful, and go out looking for ways to make your first sale. Using print-on-demand methods means you can keep costs of production down while you test your designs and brand out with your target market. 

On the service side, you might be looking to start a consultancy coaching business for creative entrepreneurs. Before going all-out, test the waters with a series of blogs, a webinar, or a training course (Thinkific is good for this) to gauge whether you have a viable market and compelling message. You may find that you need to adapt your messaging.

You can work directly with users to analyze behaviors and get feedback, allowing you to develop your product in ways that you know customers will like. Developing your business in this way can also avoid large capital losses, therefore attracting potential investors because it is a low-risk venture.

There’s a lot to learn when setting up a new business and there is no guarantee of success, but educating yourself about some of the basic principles will stack the odds in your favor. A firm grounding in everything from basic economic theory such as supply and demand to sophisticated development techniques like MVP will help you found a business that is both profitable and sustainable.


Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking and shining a light on innovative startups. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the world. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.