David Risley of www.davidrisley.com was nice enough to visit with us about his job as a professional blogger.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a blogger, which I know doesn’t really sound like a real job. What I sometimes tell people is that I actually market things on the Internet, and that I just happen to do it using blogs.
How would you describe what you do?
Basically I write for online readers in order to provide them value to help them accomplish things that they want to accomplish. So the purpose of these blogs is basically to attract readers’ attention, to help them, and then to ultimately form an ongoing relationship with them.
What does your work entail?
It entails a lot of things, obviously writing is one of them. In fact right before you and I started speaking that was exactly what I was doing. But a lot of people would be surprised, especially when you say that you are a blogger, that you don’t just write. You also have to create products to be sold, you have to go out there and line up promotions and promote other people’s products as an affiliate. I also have to prepare webinar presentations sometimes and deal with e-mail and customer support issues. There is a lot really. It’s the typical things that would go into running a business. You are doing the same exact thing when you are running a business online.
What does a typical workweek look like for you?
These days I try to work a fairly normal schedule. I’ve got kids now, so whereas I used to work sometimes at night or even the weekends, I try not to do that anymore. These days it is typically about a nine to five or a nine to six type thing. I obviously I work for myself so if something comes up I can take care of it, but on a typical basis I work a pretty standard forty-hour week.
How did you get started in this career?
I started a long time ago. I’ve been doing this since about 1999, and I kind of fell into it as a hobby. I started a pretty large tech site which helped people with upgrading and building computers. I got into that mainly because it was just a hobby for me at the time. Then it took maybe a couple of years, three at the max for that idea to eventually evolve into a business. I was getting into having banner ads on my sites and things like that, and from there it evolved into an actual career rather than just a hobby.
What do you like about what you do?
I like being able to help people and to influence them. I like the flexibility of what I do and the fact that I can do as well as I am financially but not have to report to a boss. If I want to go on a vacation or schedule even a business trip I don’t have to arrange it with anybody else, except for maybe my wife. So I like the flexibility, I really don’t know how well I would take to having a normal job, so what I do suits me pretty well.
What do you dislike about it?
Not a whole lot. I would say one of the biggest challenges is the fact that when you are your own boss then every single thing depends on me. When things go right it is because I thought up the right ideas. When things go wrong it is because I screwed up. So I’m the ultimate point of responsibility. At the end of the day I can’t really say I dislike it, some people probably would, but I’ve grown to take it on as a challenge.
How do you make money or how are you compensated as a Blogger?
I make money in a variety of ways. Most bloggers out there make their money via banner advertising, and I do as well, primarily on my tech site. So people pay to put the banner ads there and if I run it through an ad network such as Google or some other network then I will take a percentage of whatever the gross is that they are paying to be seen on my website. But where my main focus is, at least these days, is selling products to my audience. I promote other people’s products using an affiliate link, so basically I am getting paid a commission every time one of my readers buys that product. I sell my own stuff as well, I’ve got four trade programs out there now, more are coming soon, and obviously whenever somebody buys into one of those it is 100% profit for me. So I create these membership sites and I sell access to them as a value added service. They are being helped for free on my blog but if they want more information or more access to me, videos and things like that, then they have the option to pay for that.
How much money do you make as Blogger?
It goes up and down, that is one of the things about it. Last year my business brought in about $210,000. This year, we are only about half way through and it will probably line up to being fairly close. Whether it is going to be up or down I am not really sure yet. But on a monthly basis it goes up and down. Sometimes there are pretty wild variations. If I conduct a product launch I can have a really, really good month. On a month where I am not really promoting much of anything, then it is a lot less than that, but on the whole that is what I made last year.
How much money did you make starting out in this career?
Not much at all. That is one of the things about blogging, or even online marketing, whatever you want to call it. There is a lot of work involved before you make money. It doesn’t necessarily have to take as long as I took. I didn’t know what I was doing when I started this out, and not only that I was doing it as a hobby. There are other people who do what I do who have built up quite nice incomes online in two or three years, so I’m not going to sit here and say you have to do it for a decade like I had to before it works. But most of the time, regardless of how good you are, you are going to have to put in a little bit of time at the beginning, and you are really not going to be making very much at all.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
Well you obviously need to know how to write, and it’s not writing like you would do in school or to pass an English class or something. This is writing which is designed to attract people’s attention, and then hold it. Because on the Internet there are so many things vying and competing for our attention that you need to know how to write something to keep that attention once you have got it. So that is a skill in and of itself. You have to apply marketing too, even just in the creation of your free blog posts to be able to do things like that. There are certain skills that go along with marketing online, quite frankly marketing at all, because a lot of the old marketing techniques like direct response marketing or something like that in the 70s and 80s. They all still very much still apply, it has just translated into the Internet. Those types of things can help make or break people. On top of all that you’ve got various technical things; designing your site, installing your blog software, etc.
What would you say is the most challenging about what you do?
The reason you are not making a lot of money when you start is because at the beginning all of it is a challenge. Just learning how to write in such a way that attracts and gets attention. Learning how to get traffic. A lot of bloggers struggle with how to get enough people actually reading their website. A lot of people struggle with the technical aspect. They let it get the best of them in some cases and they will even give up because they can’t figure out how to install WordPress or something like that, which isn’t that complicated, but can seem tough if you don’t know what you’re doing. So again, you just need to hire somebody or just learn it, or maybe just dedicate a day to figure it out. All those are some of the challenges that go into it, but once you have been doing it for a while you’ve already mastered all that. The biggest challenges after that are just continually growing the website and not plateauing, and also continuingly being able to provide fresh value to your readers so that you are not repeating yourself over and over again. That is probably a couple of challenges that I deal with.
What would you say is the most rewarding about this job?
I love the fact that I can help people from the comfort of my home. I love being able to influence other people, help them, communicate with them and do all that without having to travel all over the world or the country. And not only that, you are providing value that actually helps them get things done, and they can turn that into an actual business. So the fact that I can make a living doing all that is just awesome.
What advice would you offer to someone considering this career?
The first thing would be to make sure you give it time. But the caveat there is that time itself is not going to bring success, it is a matter of doing the right things in that time. So you need to learn from the people that are making it in this career already, learn what they are doing and consider the products they offer. I’m not saying go out there and buy everything everyone offers, but typically these people are providing real value, they have the right to charge for it and you might want to consider it. I know that one of the ways my business really took off was when I finally stopped trying to get everything for free and I actually started paying people for what they knew and what they were teaching. I put that information to use and I took action and it really worked out. So that would be my biggest advice, just taking action, learn from the people who are already making it work and on top of that make sure you understand that this is not something that is going to happen overnight.
How much time off do you take each year?
I don’t really have a set amount, but basically I can kind of do it whenever I want. Things need to get done in the business, so it is not like I can take off six months without coming back to something that has essentially collapsed without me. But at the same time I don’t have a set amount.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Probably one of the big misconceptions, is the fact that you can’t make money doing it. That is why a lot of times when I tell people I am a blogger I sometimes now will tell them I’m an online marketer or something like that. This is because a lot of people associate the word Blog with people that are out there writing about their pets or something like that, and nothing serious. Whereas if you are doing this as a business then you are not doing that at all, you are actually doing things that are actually valuable to people, so that is probably the biggest misconception, the fact that you really can’t make money doing it.
What are your goals and dreams for the future in this career?
Right now I am basically focused on simply growing what I am already doing. I want to just help more people. There is still a lot of room for growth in my business.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
It is a lot of fun. There are a lot of people out there, especially these days who are having a hard time finding a job, or they have lost the one that they had, and I am not saying you need to go out and become a blogger because I am not going to sit here also and say this is the easiest thing in the world to do. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of the right moves, but there is a lot of opportunity online, and there are a lot of people who have given up trying to find a job and they are simply trying to do the entrepreneur thing using the Internet. Because the Internet is a global marketplace, there is a lot going on there online. So I think I would just leave it off with that. There is a lot of opportunity online. If somebody has not considered doing something like that, even if it just a spare type of thing then I think they should look into it.