logging. It seems like everyone is doing it. Maybe you already have a blog and aren’t sure what to do with it, or maybe you’ve thought about starting a blog, but figured Who would read it? What would make my blog stand out? And even if I did blog, what's the point? Will it ever pay off?
With perseverance and dedication, yes, it can! Deb Ng took her blog idea to the next level and created (and sold) a blog that readers love.
Deb is the founder and former owner of the Freelance Writing Jobs network. Currently, she blogs at Kommein and works as Conference Director for BlogWorld & New Media Expo. Deb spent over a dozen years in the publishing industry acting as an administrative and editorial assistant before leaving the business world for good in 2002 to freelance full time as a writer, blogger, and social media consultant.
WOW: How did you get started as a freelance writer?
DEB: It all started innocently enough. In 2000, I decided to see if I could write professionally and landed my first-ever gig from my first-ever query, as an online humor columnist/blogger. That led to other opportunities and when I left Corporate America in 2002 to move to another state and raise our son, I decided to try my hand at full-time freelancing.
WOW: What was your goal when you launched FreelanceWritingGigs.com?
DEB: I didn't start out wanting to build this awesome freelance writing community, but that's what happened. In 2005, a bunch of writers and I started Writer's Row. It was a place to showcase our writing with blogs and articles. At that same time, we were all looking for gigs and I decided to list leads at the website. Also, at the same time, I joined the WAHM.com community, a group of work at home moms who were sharing tips for success. However, I was dismayed by the low rates they were accepting for their writing. So I made it the mission of my blog to never post any jobs paying less than $10 per hour.
WOW: How did FWG evolve over the next 5 years? What were some of the challenges, personally and professionally, you faced as it grew?
DEB: I'm so proud of Freelance Writing Jobs. Originally, it was a blog filled with job listings and by the time I sold it, it was a network of eight blogs with about a dozen bloggers on board. Eventually, it was too big to be hosted on the Writer's Row subdomain and I struck out on my own. FWJ was the go-to place for tips, advice, and gigs, and finished in the Top 5 in the Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest each year since its inception. It's also been listed as one of Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writer's for several years.
Growing a blog from scratch is a challenge for sure. It's a huge time commitment, almost an obsession. My biggest challenge was in remaining positive and to continue finding ways to monetize, so I could keep the blog running.
“The reason most people fail as bloggers is because they don’t realize how much time they need to put into it.”
WOW: For newbie freelancers, what do you think are the primary benefits of blogging?
DEB: Blogging is a wonderful way to establish expertise both as a writer and in the niche. It's a showcase for writing, but also a way to gain a following and show off your authority in whatever your topic might be.
WOW: If a blogger wanted to model your success, from start to sold, what would you say are the most important steps to create a niche site that draws traffic, builds a community, attracts advertisers, and entices buyers?
DEB: First and foremost, blogging isn't some get-rich scheme. The reason most people fail as bloggers is because they don’t realize how much time they need to put into it. You can't just set it and forget it. You have to blog every day, stay on top of trends and keywords, analyze stats, moderate and respond to comments, and more. It can take years for a blog to reach a big following or to earn a decent income. Perseverance and patience are key.
You also can't enter into it blindly. When I started blogging, there weren't all the resources in place that there are today, but now you can read up and learn everything you can about traffic, SEO, and community.
I owe my success to starting each day on a positive note and remaining true to my community.
WOW: When you were ready to sell FWG, how did you go about letting potential buyers know it was available? Were you concerned about how your community would respond to the sale? Have there been any negative reactions from your followers?
DEB: I was so afraid my community would react negatively, which is why I was very selective about who I sold to. Instead of putting up a "For Sale!" sign, I contacted everyone who had inquired about buying in the past, and a couple of others who I thought might be interested. I didn't sell to the highest offer, but rather, the company who would be the most respectful to the FWJ community and the FWJ bloggers.
Though some of my community expressed disappointment, it wasn't in a negative way. All were very understanding and happy that FWJ is still going strong. Also, I didn't abandon anyone, I still have a blog and a lot of the old FWJ friends visit me there too.
“Monetization shouldn't be a dirty word. Too many people compare it to selling out and it's just silly.”
WOW: I’ve heard that, like real estate, there are appraisers, auctions, and people who “flip” websites. Where would a seller go to find the right resources? Did you find an established or recommended process for selling a site?
DEB: I sought advice from a friend of mine who builds and flips websites. I didn't go the auction route because I didn't want lowball bids. FWJ was my life and I wasn't about to sell it for a few thousand dollars. I'm actually writing an ebook on the process at the moment, so I can share my experience with others.
WOW: On your “Shared By All” blog http://kommein.com, you focus on the topics of social media, blogging, and community building. Do you intend to create the same kind of resource for bloggers that FreelanceWritingGigs.com is for freelancers?
DEB: I don't think Kommein will be a number-one resource as FWJ was, but I do think people are enjoying what I have to say. To be honest, I was feeling a little stale blogging about writing day in and day out for five years. With Kommein, I feel refreshed and my passion has come back. It's not heavily monetized and promoted as FWJ was, but it's enjoying a nice, steady growth and receives some good mentions now and then, which is very cool.
WOW: For a blogger who is looking for ways to monetize her blog, what would you recommend and what would you caution her about?
DEB: Monetization shouldn't be a dirty word. Too many people compare it to selling out and it's just silly. When you're sharing your knowledge every day, you shouldn't be ashamed of wanting compensation. There are so many ways to earn money from a blog. If you're looking to go the advertising route, you'll want to build up your traffic and community first. Learn about the people who visit your blog each day. Are they clickers or buyers? What types of products are they most likely to spend money on? You might do better selling ebooks than putting up ads or coaching others. You can't do any of that without knowing your community and how they'll respond.
WOW: What are some of the most important things you learned from your experience creating and maintaining FWG?
DEB: The most important thing is that the community matters. They're so supportive, but when you let them down, they'll let you know it. Boy, will they let you know it. I learned that taking on a lucrative sponsor doesn't always sit well with the people who visit a blog. I learned that loved ones don't always appreciate the amount of time spent blogging, especially if money isn't coming in—and that some people think it's downright silly. I also learned that the negativity of others truly can shatter your confidence and cause you to doubt yourself and what you do. Remain positive and don't give up, no matter what anyone else throws at you.
“Do what makes you happy. Get your start with the writing you're most comfortable with.”
WOW: With so many online publishing opportunities for freelancers, from blogs to content mills to traditional glossies gone digital, where should a newbie start to build her portfolio?
DEB: I'm supposed to pretend this didn't happen, but I started with content sites and blogs and did very well. Those opportunities led to more lucrative opportunities. I was About.com's Guide to Blogs, a family-finance contributing writer for iParenting Media, a newspaper columnist, and I helped Oxygen Media launch a blog network. And guess what? I landed some of these gigs with content site clips.
I had some very high-paying gigs and some lower-paying opportunities, and they were all valuable. I'm supposed to tell you to stay away from content sites, but that would be hypocritical. I'm not going to pretend, that now that they're not in vogue anymore, they were bad for me. Many writers started with them, used them to get where they wanted, and now condemn them. I'm not going that route.
Do what makes you happy. Get your start with the writing you're most comfortable with. That can be a $30 gig or a $150 gig. It can be a magazine article or a blog post. It can be a content site or a white paper. Only you know what's best for your situation. Make sure the end justifies the means and that you don't sell yourself short, but only you know what is best for you.
WOW: You have two ebooks in the works: “The Freelance Writers Guide to Social Media” and “Niche Blogging for Fun and Profit.” What additional books would you recommend for freelancers and bloggers?
DEB: I actually have four ebooks in the works! As for books, I like The Wealthy Freelancer by Ed Gandia and Pete Savage, ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett and Undress for Success: The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home by Kate Lister, Tom Harnish and Jack M. Nilles.
WOW: After your success with FWG, you must be excited to move on to your next project. What are you planning for the near future?
DEB: In addition to Kommein and a food blog, Cookerati, that I do with my sister, I'm working as the Conference Director for the BlogWorld and New Media Expo. This is an exciting opportunity for me as I'm tasked with helping to line-up speakers and plan the educational content for this event. BlogWorld is the world's biggest social media conference and I've been to every one since the first, so you can imagine how honored I am to have been offered this position.
WOW: What final words of wisdom do you have for aspiring freelance writers who are considering taking the leap out of the cubicle and into full-time freelancing?
DEB: Have a few clients lined up before leaving your job. Things are so competitive right now and even though there's plenty of work, you may not land gigs right away. Don't quit until you have a few regular clients. Also, know you're going to receive rejections. Don't be discouraged. Remember that even Stephen King received rejections and you're in very good company. It may take some time. Don't give up and don't let anyone take advantage of you.
WOW: Thank you, Deb, for sharing your inspiring story. It proves that with perseverance and dedication, blogging can boost your freelance career and your bank balance!
For more information about Deb and to keep an eye out for her forthcoming ebooks, visit her blog at http://kommein.com.
Annette Fix is the author of The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir. She speaks at national writer's conferences and hosts online and in-person workshops: “Online Author and Book Promotion,” “How to Get the Right Agent for Your Manuscript,” and “Memoir 101: Drawing from Your Life to Create Your Story.”
Annette blogs about writing and book marketing at www.annettefix.com. She is the former senior editor of WOW! Women On Writing.
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Enjoyed this interview? Check out some of Annette’s other interviews on WOW!:
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The Happiness Project: 20 Questions with Gretchen Rubin
The Truth About Writing Memoir: 20 Questions with Judith Barrington
Secrets for Your Success: An Interview with Literary Agent Wendy Sherman
Time to Write: An Interview with Kelly L. Stone
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Storytelling in a Reader’s Theater with Wendy Kamenoff
The Voice of Comedy: 20 Questions with Lori Alan
Humor in the 10 Items or Less Lane: An Interview with Hillary Carlip
Book Groups Unite!: An Interview with Book Group Expo Founder Ann Kent
Give Children Their First Book: An Interview with Kyle Zimmer