A week ago today my husband, Mark, jumped on an aeroplane to the other side of the world.
A bit of an extreme measure to take, I’m sure you’ll agree, to get away from my nagging about the lawn needing a mow and my ever-present desire to spruce up different corners of the house.
Indeed, Mark’s flown off to Perth to visit his daughter who lives out there, leaving me holding the baby…
The baby, the toddler and the extremely precocious 6-year-old, in fact.
From Wednesday morning to Sunday afternoon I didn’t have a face-to-face conversation with another adult. Not one.
When the Tesco delivery man came yesterday morning I tried to start up some small talk about the price of grapes and Made in Chelsea.
I think he thought I was bonkers.
Looking after three children on your own takes endurance. My day starts sometime between 5.00 and 6.00 a.m., and I don’t sit down or rest until the eldest is asleep at around 8.30 p.m.
Not having someone to hand the baby over to at the end of the day as you tidy up after dinner and run the bath is exhausting.
But, truth be told, I love the challenge. Something about my personality enjoys the non-stop stress. I find it rewarding to get through it with a smile on my face. I have the promise of a glass of red wine for myself at the end of it all, like a carrot dangling a marathon-length ahead.
It struck me earlier that two qualities you need to succeed at looking after young children are very similar to the qualities you need when starting up your own business:
When you’re starting your own website or online business, you need to have some serious stamina to keep going.
A glass-half-full attitude will serve you well as you face a continuous stream of problems to solve, hurdles to leap and questions to answer.
Many of you reading this are parents… You know how tough and rewarding it can be when you put in all of your time, energy and love in to something you truly care about…
The qualities that brings out in us are very much the same we need to draw upon to create online businesses we can be proud of.
So when you hit your next hurdle or come unstuck, think of me, ready to collapse in an exhausted heap on the floor as I write this email to you, but smiling through it because I know the end result is more than worth it.
Anyway, before Mark jetted off on his visit to Perth, I asked him if he’d have a quick chat to me about one of his projects: a website he created devoted to the subject of self-publishing.
He also agreed to answer some questions some of you have put forward about creating a ‘guru’ or ‘expert’ authority site or blog…
Could you be an online ‘guru’ in your niche?
People are searching online ALL of the time for expert help and advice. The help and advice can take many forms (books, forums, videos), but the idea of an expert’s website (be it on a simple blog or authority site) is that they are passing on information to people who are seeking help, reassurance and advice.
This is unlikely to be a peer-to-peer transaction of information. It is more like a doctor/patient, builder/home owner type relationship, with you as the expert.
Sometimes these sites are monetised with people selling their services, or sometimes products like ebooks and other forms of information publishing.
The idea would be to package up expertise and sell it on. It could be the front end of a membership site or forum. Knowledge and expertise are key.
If you’re a working or retired professional with skills and qualifications, and don’t mind those skills and qualifications playing a big role in your new online venture, this could be the business for you.
??Q&A with Mark…
A brief history of your site…
Why did you start it?
When I self-published my first novel I wanted a platform to help me promote the book and to build awareness of me as an author.
I also wanted to blog about the self-publishing revolution, whereby authors are able to reach readers directly.
I decided to use IndieIQ as a place not just to talk about myself and my books but to feature other indie authors and share information about their books.
My initial aim was to attract readers rather than other writers. I believed that if I featured an interview with a popular writer they would promote it to their fans, who would then come to my blog and, hopefully, notice my books.
This strategy worked very well. It helped my first novel, Killing Cupid, climb the charts – and also helped me network with lots of other writers.
Last year, I re-launched the blog with a new focus: I shifted from trying to reach readers to writers.
This was partly because I have another blog for readers, www.vossandedwards.com, but mainly because I started to offer services to writers – writing book descriptions, marketing help, designing covers, etc. ??
So the blog is now different – but still contains interviews with other writers, with more of a focus on marketing than writing. The blog has been very successful at bringing in business.
How long has it been going?
I launched it in February 2011 and re-launched in late 2012.
How long did it take you to set up?
It was very quick – a few days. I used WordPress, which is pretty straightforward. I wasn’t trying to create a hugely slick-looking site.
Sometimes I think it’s OK for your site to look a little rough around the edges, because visitors can tell it’s a personal labour of love rather than a corporate site. This helps with trust.
Running your site…
How long does it take you to maintain?
It depends on how often I blog. Ideally I would like to update it once a week, but in reality I update it far less often.
At the peak of my marketing efforts I updated it twice a week and spent a lot of time organising guest posts and interviews, and promoting the posts via forums and social networking.
Promotion and sharing takes longer than actually blogging, but it’s important to let people know that your blog exists, otherwise you might as well be talking to yourself.
If you want to take blogging seriously I think you need to spend a good few hours on it every week.
How many contributors to you have to your blog? Do you write much content yourself?
I write all of the content myself apart from the guest blogs. These are great, not only because they give you lots of new content – and if you choose good guest bloggers it can be very attractive content – but you don’t have to write it yourself!
All you need to do is find guest bloggers, give them some ideas of what you want them to blog about, and they will do it all for you.
Do you spend much time on keyword research and analytics – working out what content is pulling in traffic?
I used to. In my former day job, I did this a lot, so know how important it is. If you can find some search terms with substantial searches that aren’t too competitive, you can get a lot of traffic from them.
But finding those less competitive terms is very hard. These days, I think that SEO is less important than social sharing – getting people to share your content on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc. ??To do this, you need to create interesting or funny content that people will want to tell their friends and colleagues about.
It is very important to keep a track of what content gets the most shares and the most traffic. Then you try to do more of this stuff and less of the content that no one reads or shares.
Do you think you need to be passionate about the subject you write about?
Absolutely. If you are not excited about your subject, your readers won’t be and they won’t spread the word.
Pretty much every successful blog in the world is written by someone who is passionate about their subject. You can’t fake it.
How do you (indeed, do you?) monetise your blog?
I used to monetise it by selling books. Now, it’s through selling services to visitors. I have enquiry forms on the site where visitors can approach me about writing book descriptions.
I am actually having to turn work away at the moment because I am so busy.
What do you most enjoy about managing your blog?
I love it when a particular blog post takes off and gets lots of shares and traffic.
I particularly enjoy getting comments and responding to them. I don’t like writing in a vacuum. Engaging with readers and knowing that people are interested in what I’m writing about it very important to me.
What is the most important piece of advice would you give to someone trying to set up a similar blog to yours? E.g. a blog on a subject they are knowledgeable about and want to teach to others…?
I would advise people to ensure you have a plan and a schedule, and stick to it.
If you only blog when you have spare moments or when you feel like it, you will probably end up not blogging at all.
You should write a content plan, including guest blogs and interviews. Make sure you monitor what works and do more of that, and less of the stuff that doesn’t.
That’s the secret of marketing!
I’d like to thank Mark for answering my questions… and chastise him for deserting me with our children for nearly three weeks. Hehe!
If you have any questions for him (or me), please drop me an email and I’ll make sure he answers you.
After all, he owes me one.