Some of us start a blog as a way to be more creative, some do it to fill their spare time and others want to turn it into a career. If you’re one of the people looking to turn your blog into a thriving business, having a long term plan is something you need to start thinking about.
A business plan sounds like the most boring thing in the world, but putting together a blog business plan is a very important step in starting to see your blog as an actual business and not just a hobby. To be able to reach your big blogging goals, you need to have an end goals and mini goals to help you get there.
I’ll be using my own blog business plan to help give examples of each step and give you a better idea of what you should be thinking of. So grab yourself a snazzy notebook (or get yourself down to Paperchase and go crazy), or download this very helpful little workbook I put together for this very occasion!
Step 1: Audience
Like any business, you need to know who your audience is before you do anything else. Knowing your audience will help you to understand if there’s actually a market for what you’re offering. There has to be a market for your business or it’s just going to fall flat on its face.
In this section, we’ll define your audience and get a better idea of who they are, what they need and how you can help them!
Define your audience
When you start a blog, you must have an audience in mind, who do you see reading it, engaging with your content? Are they female or male? What age ranges do they fall under?
All these demographic points will give you a better idea of which direction to go down and you can start to narrow down your audience to niche proportions. So, here are a few things you need to think about:
- What gender are they?
- How old are they?
- Where in the world do they live?
- What is their occupation?
- Are they single?
- Do they have families?
- What income bracket do they fall into?
- Are they home owners?
- Do they spend more time of their laptop or phone?
Example: My audience demographic is female, creative entrepreneurs, aged between 21-35, located in english speaking countries, no families, low income, laptop users.
Obviously, just because I’ve identified this as my audience demographic through collecting data from tools like Google Analytics, it doesn’t mean that my audience is strictly these things. The idea is that narrowing down by demographic helps you to better cater your content, if people outside this demographic find your blog helpful, then that’s just an added bonus!
What issues do they have?
When treating your blog as a business, you need to identify what issues your blog fixes or helps with. Even if you own a lifestyle blog, you will be catering to your audiences pressure points. So if you’re a mummy blogger, you may be offering reviews of baby products, which helps inform other mothers of what they should buy for their children and what is best.
Travel bloggers may cater to their audiences wanderlust, helping them to plan their next trip, inspire them to travel or change an aspect of their life that they are not happy with.
You need to pinpoint the thing that all of your audience has in common, how it affects their personal or professional lives and what their pain point makes them look for online.
Example: My audience pain point is that they are trying to build their online business, but have to do everything on their own with no budget to take fancy courses or classes. They need to learn on their own and only have access to free or cheap online resources.
Knowing what pain points and issues your audience has will help you to plan your content better, attract the right people and prove your content’s value.
How does your blog help them or solve their problems?
Now you know what issues your audience struggle with, you can better plan how your blogging business will help them with those issues. Your blog needs to help your audience to overcome something, whether that’s to help them understand a subject, help them to achieve something in their own businesses, help them to plan the trip they’ve always wanted to go on or even just choose the right product for their current needs!
Example: I create content that doesn’t use jargon and lays things out simply. All of my content is focused on practical and actionable tips that my users can use to better understand digital marketing and the blogging industry. I provide a cheap/free online resource that is easily accessible and easy to understand.
Once you’ve figured out how your blog solves your audiences dilemmas, this then becomes your mission statement. So for example, my mission statement is:
Helping young, female solopreneurs to take matters into their own hands, with simple and easy to follow tips and tutorials centered around digital marketing.
Your mission statement should be a sentence that perfectly sums up who your audience is, how your blog helps them and in what way. This then forms the foundation of your business.
In practical terms, how does your blog do this?
Now you need to narrow down HOW your blog helps to solve or address these problems. What types of content will you post to help your audience overcome their issues?
Will you create in depth videos that talk about sensitive topics, film tutorials to help show your audience how to do something in particular?
Will you write long articles which include lots of images and links to helpful resources? You get the idea. What content will you create for your audience?
Example: I want to teach my audience in the easiest way as possible, so I use a mix of detailed blog articles, downloadable workbooks and guides and YouTube video tutorials showing how to use certain online tools and social media advertising tools.
Knowing HOW you’ll get your information across makes content planning a whole lot easier. So when you sit down and draw a blank with a new blog or video idea, you’ll be able to refer back to this and identify a way you can help your audience.
Where does your audience hang out online and how can you get their attention?
The last part of understanding your audience is knowing where you can find them online and how you can attract them to your blog.
Many new bloggers and businesses will head straight to social media and create every social profile known to man, but that may be a complete waste of time if that isn’t where your audience is hanging out!
Example: I use Twitter because I know that many young, female solopreneurs are using Twitter to promote their own businesses. So, I use Twitter as a networking tool to connect with them and open a dialogue, which could lead to new business.
It will take a bit of research to find your people, there’s nothing wrong with testing out a social platform and then deleting it later on if you find that you just aren’t connecting with your audience.
I found this super helpful infographic on Social Factor, which gives you information on the demographics of the popular social platforms, definitely worth a look!
Next, you need to think about how to use these platforms to attract your target audience, we’ll go into this in more detail in the promotional stage, but it’s worth doing a bit of competitor research and seeing what works within your niche and what falls flat!
Step 2: Branding and personality
The next step after establishing your audience is deciding how you will brand your blog and what personality/tone it will have. The reason you need to define your audience first, is because your branding relies very heavily on knowing your audience inside and out.
You wouldn’t have a pastel pink blog with script font if you were trying to attract 60-year-old business men looking for professional advice. Or use very formal and technical language in your blog posts, if you are targeting young, laid back travellers. Your visual branding and blog personality is very important for retaining and building your community.
What tone of voice best attracts your audience?
Think about how your audience talks, have a look at their social media posts, what they share, how they interact with others etc. Now think about how those people might respond if you spoke to them in a very formal tone, how would they feel if you spoke to them in this way? Which one do they respond better to?
More professional industries that are targeting a slightly older audience will be better spoken to in a technical and formal tone, however young people in a creative environment will respond better to a more informal and friendly tone of voice.
It’s all about putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and thinking about how they would want to be spoken to.
Example: I use a very simple, tech free (as much as possible!) tone that is informal, but direct. I don’t piss about with fluffy ‘look how much knowledge I have’ speak because I know my audience don’t have the time or patience for that. I am my audience and so all I have to do is think about how I would want to be spoken to!
As bloggers we are fairly lucky in that we are often the people we are trying to attract, we are trying to find other people like us. Young entrepreneurs are trying to attract other young entrepreneurs, travel bloggers are trying to attract other travel enthusiasts etc. So it might be a simple case of thinking about yourself as your audience and going from there.
What mood and emotion do you want your audience to feel when reading your blog?
How do you want your audience to feel when reading your blog? Do you want them to feel focused and in the zone for getting shit done? Or do you want to offer an escape from normal life and leave them feeling uplifted and inspired?
Your visual branding is the thing that will determine much of this. Now I’m not a branding expert so I’m going to direct you to some better sources, such as ‘How to style your brand’ by Fiona Humberstone.
Example: When deciding on my branding, I used colour psychology a lot. My colour scheme is very simple, earthy tones that offer a simple and relaxing quality. I want people to feel ready to learn, but not stressing out about things!
What are your competitors doing?
It’s ok to have a little look at what other blogs in your niche are doing, what colours are they using, what patterns and what tone of voice. Think about it in a constructive way, pull their branding apart and think about why they have branded their blog in that way, go through all the checklists above and see if you can identify the audience they are trying to target.
*In the workbook, I want you to write down the URLs of blogs you think are your competitors and then go through each one.
Step 3: Revenue
When turning your blog into a business, you need to know how your blog is going to make money and cover the cost of actually running your blog as a business. Below, we’ll start to work through deciding on revenue streams for your blog and how you can make your blog profitable.
What are your biggest financial outgoings?
First things first, we need to know how much our blog costs us to run. This includes hosting costs, anything we have spent on custom themes, branding, fonts etc. Basically, anything you have ever spent on your blog needs to be noted down, particularly your monthly payments.
Example: I spend around £11 on WordPress hosting for my blog every month, I also spend £10 on Buffer premium to help me schedule all my tweets for weeks on end. So my blog costs me £21 every month to run.
Knowing your outgoings is extremely important for your business. You need to keep track of how much your business is spending every month to make sure you are actually making a profit for your efforts.
What revenue streams will your blog have?
Now to the very important part, how is your blog going to make you money?
There’s plenty of ways you can use your blog to create a revenue stream, here are just a few:
- Affiliate links – You get a cut of whatever is sold when someone uses a link on your website to buy a product
- Services – Offer services within your niche
- Products – Sell physical products through your blog like ebooks or online courses
- Sponsored posts – Work with brands, PR agencies or SEO agencies on sponsored posts
- Paid advertising – Work with brands to promote a product or service
Depending on which niche your blog falls under, some of these options may be more applicable than others. Mummy bloggers may use a combination of sponsored posts, affiliate links and paid advertising, whereas a business blogger may offer physical products and services.
Example: I provide ebooks and will eventually run online courses for my audience, but I do also accept sponsored posts and paid ads if the products are relevant and helpful to my audience. These are the revenue streams I’ve identified as being the most appropriate for my audience.
Bloggers will usually have multiple income streams as one stream alone doesn’t usually generate enough to be able to live comfortably off, at least not in the very beginning of your blog business!
How will you implement these revenue streams?
Now you need to take these revenue streams and think about how you plan to set them up. Will you need to create the physical products you want to sell to your audience? Do you need to apply for affiliate schemes? Do you need to contact PR agencies and get on their books to be in with a chance of getting paid opportunities?
Put a deadline on setting these revenue streams up and start planning how long it will take for you to start making money from them. You’ll probably find you don’t make enough to support the monthly outgoings of your blog at first, but perseverance is key!
*Unless you are poverty stricken and struggling to put food on the table, in which case choose a free blogging platform and don’t pay for a single tool!
Step 4: Promotion & Sales
Now it’s time for the final stage, promotion and sales tactics! Yes, as a blog business owner, we have to play every role in our business and that includes marketing and sales. Without these, you are going nowhere fast.
Right at the very beginning of your blogging business you need to be spending a good chunk of your time on self-promotion. Remember that blogging is a saturated market, so you need to be persistent if you want to shout through the crowd.
How will you promote your blog?
Choose how you will promote you blog, will you be using only social media? Will you be guest posting? Writing press releases and sending them to publications? There are so many ways to promote yourself, both online and offline, so here are a few examples of things you could do:
- Guest posting on websites and blogs that get a lot of monthly views
- Collaborating on a YouTube video with someone with a large following
- Offering quotes for articles and blog posts in your niche
- Networking on Twitter and LinkedIn
- Building up your Instagram or Pinterest following
- Paying for social media advertising
- Being a guest on a podcast
Example: I work hard on my networking, both online and offline. I try and attend 2-3 networking events in Manchester every month, I’ve got a guest placement on a podcast coming up, I’ve written guest posts on other websites and for other bloggers, I’m constantly working on building my Instagram and Pinterest followers and I run boosted posts on my Facebook page.
Without promotion, your audience isn’t even going to know you’re there. Having a strategy and promo plan is incredibly important for the launch of your business and even for the months/years following your launch!
Have a look at some of my services, we might be able to work together to get this part nailed down!
How much time will you spend on promotion?
Obviously promotion is important, but you don’t want to spend all your time promoting and no time creating!
Think about your time as a pie chart, how much of that pie will you be spending on promotion, how much on admin and how much on creating?
I would suggest a 60%, 30%, 10% split to start with.
60% promotion, this means engaging with people on social media, guest blogging, networking, setting up paid social ads etc.
30% creating new and interesting content, I aim for 1 long form post every week.
10% admin, so this means emails, site maintenance, scheduling blogs and social posts etc.
This isn’t set in stone and as you start to see results you may choose to play around with these ratios. Do what works for you and brings you the best results and don’t be afraid to experiment with your time.
When it comes to social media, it can be easy to get sucked in and waste a huge amount of time, so use a scheduling tool to prevent you from falling into the scrolling blackhole and only check in 1-2 times a day to respond to comments and interact with others!
How will you sell your services and products to your audience?
Another incredibly important part of your blog business plan is knowing how you plan to sell your products or services to your audience.
Will you have to use certain tools to create your products and host them online? How will you make people feel comfortable clicking on your affiliate links? How much will you be charging for sponsored content? How open will you be about sponsored content?
Example: I use WooCommerce to host my shop on my blog, this is a free to use plugin. I also use Canva to create my ebooks and workbooks. I prove my contents value by providing a lot of information for free and only offering the very premium content as a paid service or product. I only work with companies that have a direct relation to my business niche and I charge £100 for a sponsored post, because that is how much my time and blog is valued at for publishing a blog post.
Start with establishing how you will practically get your paid services to your audience and then work on how much you should charge. You may have to charge more than you think if you have to pay for a specialist tool to help you create your product or provide a particular service.
And that’s it!
Hopefully you now have a much better idea of what your blog looks like as a business and how it will work. Building any business from scratch is a lot of work, but by having a plan like this takes a lot of the pressure and stress away from the whole process. You have a clearer path to follow and can start to set markers along the way to help you reach your big beautiful goals!
If you’ve completed this and you’re eager to get a bit of extra help, then feel free to get in touch! I’d love to work with you on getting your creative blogging business off the ground!