On Being A "Pro Blogger" -- Interview With Jane Genova

01/17/2011

Pro blogger search 353,000 in 31 seconds. That's what was returned on a Google search for "pro blogger jobs."

When I launched Diva Marketing in 2004, professional blogging meant a few Google Ad Sense Ads on a site or perhaps a "tip jar." Does any one do tip jars any more?  

Soon blog ad networks became the rage offering bloggers and advertising more control and greater targeting. It seemed logical that if one blog could make some money than a network of blogs on diverse topics could make even more.

When Nick Denton sold Gawker Media for oodles of $$ the race was on for the next Blog Network. Enter stage right B5Media created by three successful bloggers Jeremy Wright, Darren Rowse and Duncan Riley. And the beat goes on .. 

Jane genova Earning a few sheckles from your blog has turned into The Brass Ring for many people. My friend Jane 
Genova agreed to open the kimono a bit and share her experiences on what it's like to be a problogger for a big brand

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: Welcome! to Diva Marketing Jane. Will you please tell us a little about your blogging and social media background?

Jane Genova: I've founded and operate four syndicated blogs Jane Genova, Career TransitionsOver-50 and Law And More.  The latter is housed in the Library of Congress. I also have been an unpaid guest blogger for Pointoflaw.com and a site for Harvard Law School.

 In addition, I've worked as a paid blogger in diverse settings ranging from ghostwriting content on attorney blogs to producing bylined content for brandname players in social media. 

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: There are several opportunities to make money from social media and blogging, from sponsorships and ads on your site to being paid to produce content for other blogs. Why did you choose to go the "pro blogger" route?

Jane Genova: A year ago. I toyed with the idea of selling ads on my blogs but knew I could lose my freedom of expression.  Blogging is how I attract new business for my boutique Genova Writing, Coaching, and More. And it’s my unique voice on those blogs which attracts buyers’s attention.  But, more importantly at least for me, it’s how I keep myself centered. No matter what has come down, if I start blogging I enter that state of “flow” or “being in the zone.”  One might say, I am lifted out of myself into the process.

 Since revenue wasn’t going to come directly from my own blogging, I put myself out there as a ghost blogger and a bylined one for that digital shops that produce tons of content.

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: What about the ghosting part? It's something that can be quite controversial.

Jane Genova: There is a learning curve.  I hope your readers learn faster than I did.

 Much of it turns out to be a loss leader. You enter the relationship with promises from the buyer that on this platform there will be many other promotional activities.  Eventually I could smell that kind of come-on and didn’t bite.  Recently, I forgot my sunk costs and nicely informed those I was ghosting for that I could no longer be available.  They probably wondered why I was dumb enough to hang in so long.

Then there is the strategic planning and creating content for clients that pay well.  I have developed a knack for selling myself to them.  Recently I agreed to work for a startup whose owners had two previous successes.  They knew what they were doing and had money.  The relationship is on a confidential basis.  That’s key to them because they want the digital content to represent their voice.  Incidentally, Toby, just tonight, I signed such a confidentiality agreement with a midsized organization for blogs, Facebook content, tweets, and scripts for training videos to download on YouTube. 

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: What can you tell us about behind the scenes of being a $ professional blogger for big brandname sites where your byline was on each and every post? 

Jane Genova: That’s a world very much like television.  The numbers are everything. Every hour many different categories of numbers are tracked.  Those include page views, comments, links from outside, and how the percentage of those compare to your earlier numbers.  In addition, daily reports for the whole team are issued as well as weekly reports.

So, the tone, content, and volume of what you produce must be determined by what has been shown to bring in page views and comments.  The links are less important.  

There’s more. The challenge is that, as Shakespeare observed, the crowd is fickle.  What sells today might not even attract one page view the next day. 

Needless to say, the pressure is enormous.  Also, I wonder if anyone in that niche is secure enough not to be filled with self-doubt when the numbers are low.  The numbers might stay low for a few days.

But, those like myself hang in, at least for a while, because of the heady experience of witnessing your post, with your byline, receiving about 200,000 page views and 100s of comments. You also receive lots of emails from readers. 

Then, at least for me, comes the time when that experience is all-consuming.  I found myself investing less energy in the parts of my communications work which brought in the most income.  Also, I had difficulty sleeping and was over-eating.

Here’s an analogy.  You know how those in the finance industry compulsively watch those numbers?  I got to be the same way.  The difference is that those in finance might make billions on the movement of the numbers.  My compensation was, relatively speaking, peanuts.  Yet, that was my world.  It happens, Toby.  This could be a novel by Stephen King.

One major brandname site and I parted company.  I won’t go into details.

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: Eeek! Sounds like a relationship that was not made in blog heaven. Would you ever consider a paid byline blogger gig with another big brandname site?

Only on a one-shot basis.  Once you become part of the “team,” even as a contract blogger, the force field takes over.  I was sucked in.  That kind of experience is worth getting, once.  If you’re made of sturdy emotional stuff, maybe twice. After that, the shrewd blogger leverages the knowledge gained to obtain assignments in a more staid environment.

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: Even though your experience with the big brand was, shall we say, far from optimal, would you encourage bloggers to pursue that direction?

Jane Genova: Yes. The experience is extraordinary. You are part of something lots of people pay attention to. 

The trick is to monitor yourself about how much you can handle and for how long.  Also, along the way, keep the doors open for other kinds of jobs and freelance assignments. 

Some readers might thrive in that environment and stay for a long while. 

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: Do you think pro blogging can be a "career?"

Jane Genova: No question, blogging is important in getting yourself out there.  But the odds are against making money directly from that blog you operate. 

What I have found the most effective way to make money is to position yourself as a service provider to financially solvent organizations which need social media, either the strategic planning or the content or both.  Individuals usually don’t have the budget.  You must screen prospects carefully.  Frequently they have hired a web company to guide them and are getting bad advice.  Don’t get in the middle of it.

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: What’s next for Jane Genova in the world of blogging and social media?

Toby, the economy is recovering. Communications niches which had dried up are coming back to life.  Take for example, speechwriting. In the past few weeks, I received two assignments in that relatively lucrative line of work. 

So, what’s next is again developing new business in niches which pay well, or at least more than social media. 

Here there is general principle: More and more of us will earn our living from multiple sources of income. I feel it was naïve on my part to focus so much of my marketing on social media. 

Toby ~ Diva Marketing: As we wrap it up, any last thought you'd like to tell the Diva Marketing community?

Getting work, any kind in any form be it a job or assignments, in this volatile economy is a hail mary pass.  Don’t plan too carefully to go after A, B, and C markets for X, Y, Z kinds of work.  Rather test out where you might be marketable.  Most opportunity has fallen into my lap.  I applied for this and that as an experiment.  I got the assignments and I could do them.

Planning is totally 20th century.  You might read my book on that “Over-50: How We Keep Working.”  Although it’s targeted for aging Baby Boomers the principles apply to all generations.  You can purchase it online.

Sidebar: If you're interested in monetizing your blog or pro blogging as a source of income Darren Rowe's ProBlogger site should be your first stop.

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