Today we’re talking about blogging for profit and the number one rule of selling yourself without selling your soul. You get total fangirl (or fanboy) bonus points if you know why I used a picture of crossroads in the graphic below! The answer is at the bottom of the post.*
When I started Pretty Opinionated, I had one goal in mind: grow a site that could eventually help support me and my son. At the time, I was freelancing for a few well-known content mills. With each edit, I noticed more and more of my own personality slipping away, until I became ashamed of the work I was producing. Not because it wasn’t overall well-written, but because it had no voice. It was soulless.
In the early stages of Pretty Opinionated, I wrote much like I learned for those mills: dry, boring, matter-0f-fact. Afraid to express anything resembling my own personality. I thought that’s what people wanted. Just the facts, ma’am. I hated it. I created this baby, this site that was supposed to be mine, and I hated it.
Next, I tried to be more like other bloggers. Successful bloggers. Do what they said worked for them. Listen to all their advice and constantly change every strategy when someone I respected said “oh, no no no, you’re pinning all wrong, you HAVE to do it this way!” or “that never works, I hate blogs like that, do it THIS way instead!” I started making a little more money, but I was still feeling soulless. It still wasn’t ME.
I think it was about two years ago- almost three years into Pretty Opinionated’s lifespan- when I finally said “duck it, I’m doing it MY way!” Except I didn’t say “duck.” Guess what? Pretty Opinionated is doing better than it’s ever done before. In fact, once I started acting like myself, it really took off! I don’t want you to spend 3+ years trying to learn the lessons I learned, so I want to really drive this point home: the number one rule for selling yourself without selling your soul is to BE YOURSELF!
The Number One Rule: BE YOURSELF! Here’s How to Master it!
Write like YOU!
Don’t try to be other people. If, like me, you spent years writing for dry content mills or ghostwriting for clients, finding your voice again can be hard. Clear your head, sit down and think “how would I write this if I could write it any way I want?” Then DO it, because hon, you CAN write it ANY WAY you want.
“What about sponsored posts?” you ask. Same thing goes for those! Definitely fulfill the client’s requirements for story direction, word count, etc, but do it in your own voice. That’s why they came to you in the first place, to hear what YOU have to say. They don’t want cookie-cutter crap anymore than you want to write it. I typically only take posts when I already know the overall direction or goal of the client. That way I know if it’s a good fit before I ever say yes. Good sponsored posts should be fun to write. If they’re not, they’ll be boring to read.
Don’t be Afraid to Say No
Being yourself means not being afraid to say “no, thank you” to the things you’re not interested in writing. When Pretty first started, I was spending hours upon hours reviewing tiny things that I really didn’t need (or even want all that much) because I felt bad about saying no. I felt like I should be grateful someone wanted me at all, so I said yes to everything. Part of that comes from my anxiety disorder and self-esteem issues I’ve had since childhood. Trust me, that mentality has gotten me into more trouble in life than I care to admit. Now, I say “yes” when I want to (or, since I have a co-reviewer now, when she wants to) and “sorry, not a good fit” when I don’t want to.
Don’t be Afraid to Say “Yes, but…”
Being yourself also means you get to lay the ground rules. I used to be all “yes, yes, yes! I’ll do whatever you want! A million words for $1? Oh thank you for thinking of me! A pint of my blood too? You got it! Thank you for thinking I’m good enough! I love you!” Bah! I want to hit that girl. If she wasn’t so crazy, maybe it wouldn’t have taken us so long to become financially solvent! Maybe I wouldn’t have needed to face near homelessness to realize that something wasn’t working. Now, I feel comfortable saying “yes, I’d love to work with you, but I’m sorry, pints of my blood are not included in my rates.”
Take All Advice with a Shaker of Salt
Forget the grain of salt, throw the whole shaker at anyone who says “my way is the right way.” Yes, even me, although I’m not saying my way IS the only right way here, but it’s the only right way for ME! Number two rule of making something of yourself in the blogging world: only YOU know what works for YOU. I used to follow every bit of advice I came across, driving myself, my host (crashed site from too many plugins), my mom (my tech support) and my poor site mad with new plugins, old plugins, new themes, new headers, new widgets, new this, new that, new ways of writing, new social media strategies. New, new, new! If someone said “I found a new way that works better” I jumped on it.
Then I just decided to stop. I still read the advice, still enjoy gaining insights from the more experienced bloggers that I highly respect. BUT, I only apply the advice to my life if I feel like it really fits with what I want to do and what I feel works for my site. You really have to decide what works for you. Leave the rest behind.
Bottom line: if you just let yourself be free to be who you are, you’ll never have to feel like you’re selling your soul to make a profit. You’ll never have to choose between writing for fun or writing for money either! Sounds pretty awesome, right? So go do it!
*The crossroads picture: it’s a reference to the crossroad demons in Supernatural. They’re the ones you call when you want to make a deal to sell your soul in exchange for something you really want. The deals, of course, never go well. Even if you’re a Winchester! Maybe especially if you’re a Winchester!
For more posts on sales and selling, visit a few of my favorite bloggers:
- How to Sell an eBook on Your Blog Easily by Ellen Blogs
- How to Get More Sponsored Posts by Biannual Blogathon
- What is Affiliate Marketing and Will I Actually Make Money by Day by Day in Our World
- 5 Ways to Earn More Affiliate Income by Sunshine and Sippy Cups
How would you describe your writing style? Do you feel like you let your voice shine through in your writing? What do you think your biggest challenges are when it comes to being yourself on your blog?
This is definitely great advice. Being yourself is the best part of blogging!
It’s really just about being who you are that matters, because you want to be happy with your work too. These tips are spot on and I recommend this for new bloggers too!
These are awesome tips. I think it’s important to just be yourself when you’re blogging.
I do too many reviews. I say yes, yes, yes and then get too far behind to write something real. Your advice is well taken (and well founded too).
Absolutely amazing advice. I know all this now but I didn’t years ago and my blog posts suffered as did my readers. My posts were boring and I was behind in reviews because I said yes to ones I didn’t want to do.
What a great post! I remember being thrilled I was getting offers in the beginning. Now I’m more selective as I want my blog to reflect me.