If you like adult homework and careful planning, this post is for you. If you don't like adult homework or planning out the details of your blog as a business, then this post is DEFINITELY for you. If you currently (or ever plan to in the future) regard your blog as a business, or a way to make money, or grow your platform, or enhance your brand, then creating a blog business plan is essential.
"Why? Why must I do this? This is just part of your nefarious plan to keep me busy . . ." you say.
True. But, if you don't 100% love your blog plan and me after you're done, I'll enter you into the "Regina wastes my time and life e-gift card drawing" for $25 to Amazon.com, because here's the deal: I'd never recommend starting a business without a business plan, so I feel passionately about you developing a blog business plan if you'll ever regard your blog as a business.
Don't let the list of blog business plan sections (below) scare you. You don't have to write the whole plan in one sitting, and you will find that each section is simpler than it looks. Since you probably take your blog + business pretty seriously, I actually think you'll enjoy filling out the sections below.
Your business plan for your blog will accomplish many things. It will:
Give you new blog + business ideas as you write.
Help you take your blog seriously as a business.
Prompt you to discover and analyze your growth potential.
Help you to carefully plan the ways to make money from your blog that best fit your brand.
Help you to budget and not overspend.
Guide you through future decisions for your blog as a business.
Give you a clear picture of how you will promote + grow your blog.
Your blog may not require each section of this plan; you'll be the one who determines how much to include. However, if you're running your blog as a business, each section you write is important and should ideally be completed before you invest a substantial amount of time or money in your business.
A thorough blog business plan will help you avoid major obstacles and will guide your decisions unlike any other document. When considering a new idea, upcoming blog post, customer request or suggestion, expansion, marketing opportunity, or any other operational item, you will have this plan to consult.
Operating a blog and a business without a roadmap can hurt your growth potential or cause your reach to grow more slowly than it could have.
(Quick tip:I recommend reading through your blog business plan at least once each month. This will help you stay on track with goals as well as remind you of objectives you’ve forgotten about that can fill your “free time.”)
Writing tip: You can write your blog business plan in any order you wish, and in fact it might be easiest to start with the sections you're most excited about to get the ideas and energy flowing.
Download Alert: You can get this epic, FREE, beautiful workbook version of your business plan---36 pages that you can fill out on your computer or print out to work through---by clicking right here.
Hey: When you sign up for your free Blog Business Plan Workbook and Template above, you'll start receiving Humans of Online Business Notes from me each week. They're filled with action packed guidance for your blog or business. I'll also send you a link to a free course on blogging that I have as well as a free 80-page eBook on creating a stellar brand.
1.0 Blog + Brand Summary
1.1 Vision Statement A vision statement should be inspirational and practical; it should give a clear picture of your blog's purpose. Answer questions such as: Why does this blog exist? Where do I see it going in the future? What are my long-term core values and plans? How do I want society to view my blog?
1.2 Mission Statement Your mission statement should set you apart from other blogs and should show the practical ways in which you will accomplish your overall vision. Answer questions such as: What are my responsibilities and commitments to my readers? What is my "blog culture" and how will it show through? How will I practically accomplish my vision during day-to-day operations?
1.3 Ideal Reader Define and discover your ideal reader or target market. Who are you writing for? Who will ideally come to read your content . . . and stay? Here's a post I wrote with a free download and tons of questions to get you thinking about your ideal reader: How to Create an Ideal Reader Profile for Your Blog
1.4 Blog Culture Determine and define the "culture" you want your blog to have. What quirks will you show? What style and tone will you write in? What types of images will you use? If your blog had human personality traits, what would they be?
2.0 Blog + Brand Goals
2.1 Objectives List three or more short objectives for your blog in the next six months to one year. Your objectives should be concise and measurable so you’ll be able to determine whether or not you've met them. Below are examples of objectives for a "hipster" wedding blog:
‣ To grow our blog traffic at least 5% each month. ‣ To find four modern/hipster wedding vendors who will purchase ad space in our sidebar within the first year. ‣ To create a unique wedding look book (during each of the four seasons) for quirky/non-traditional weddings.
2.2 Keys to Success List three or more keys (or crucial items) to your blog + business success. Choose items that are vital for growth. Set keys to success that will make your objectives from the previous section possible. Here are some keys to success for our fictional wedding blog:
‣ Establish a following on Facebook among recently engaged women through the use of Facebook ad campaigns. ‣ Develop eye-catching designs for our website and social media materials. ‣ Create a following on Pinterest that will share and promote our unique brand of "hipster wedding" posts, lookbooks, images, quotes, and humor in a way that will keep us on the minds of people planning quirky, cool weddings.
2.3 Platform + Expansion Goals Decide the type of platform you are creating through your blog and any goals for expansion you have for the next one to five years and beyond.
Do you want to build a community around your brand? Develop a platform for speaking engagements or a book? Attract enough people to your products and services to make a full-time income? Connect with like-minded people and share your thoughts? Establish your expertise in your field?
3.0 Blog Guidelines + Best Practices
3.1 Blog Categories Based on what you like to talk about within your blog genre or niche, as well as what your ideal reader might like, develop a list of your blog's main categories. These may change over time and that's okay. Categories should be easy to understand and user friendly because many blog readers like to navigate around your site or access your content based on how you have posts categorized.
3.2 Blog Schedule Whether you have an actual posting schedule (ex: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) or you simply develop a writing schedule with the idea that you'll try to post at least X times per week or month, make sure you set up a system to help you consistently create quality content. Whereas I used to use huge, bright stickers from MOO for my blog topics in a traditional calendar/planner (as pictured below), (and I of course now use the Epic Blog one-year editorial planner), you may use a digital calendar like normal people. Whatever works!
By the way: Don't judge me. I know I should probably do this all using Google Calendar or something a little bit more "techie," but this is what currently works for me. Don't be afraid to find your perfect system, no matter how weird.
Note: Your readers will become accustomed to seeing your posts at a certain frequency. Part of building reader trust and value for your visitors is maintaining regular posts.
3.3 Business Tasks + Schedule . . . and since your blog is your business, make sure you don't neglect business tasks, such as accounting, marketing, following up on invoices, providing customer service, and so on. Write down all the regular tasks you need to complete and assign them to different days of the week. Whatever works for you. My business tasks go in my planner as the square black & white stickers you can see in the planner image above.
3.4 Guest Posting Guidelines If you plan to feature guest posts on your blog from other bloggers/experts, create some general guidelines that you can email out or post on your site to make the process smooth and beneficial for your guests and your blog.
4.0 Blog Offerings + Monetization
4.1 Blog Products List any physical or digital products you will sell from your blog. List the items' features and the value each item will add to your readers or clients. When it comes time to write a sales page, sidebar note, or blog post about the items you sell, use descriptions that communicate the problem your item solves for you customer or the way your products add fun, enjoyment, et cetera. to your readers' lives.
4.2 Services Follow the same process that's listed above for products. Make sure to include any services you plan to offer in the near future so you can start planning for them.
4.3 Affiliates + Partnerships If you plan to use any partner, affiliate, or associate programs (where you make a commission if a reader clicks a link on your site and goes to another site where she purchases something), list them in this section and determine how they fit with your brand and culture. If you read my Income + Traffic Reports, you know I use a mix of products, services, and associate programs related to my audience.
Note: Write out the ways in which you will incorporate products for sale, partner programs and ads into your content. Will you mention products in posts, link to them from your sidebar, make a tools or recommendations page on your blog, or a combination of all of these?
4.4 Ad Space If you plan to sell ad space to companies yourself or using a service like Adproval, decide which types of ads and organizations will be a good fit for your brand. Write down any types of companies or promotions you won't allow in your space as well. If you want to continually provide an amazing experience for your readers, you'll want to select ads and monetization strategies that add value to their experience, not distract them from learning from you or enjoying your blog.
4.5 PPC, PPV, or Other Ad Programs Whether displaying ads from Google or a network like BlogHer, decide if you will build in space for a pay-per-click or pay-per-view advertisement system. How will your readers respond? Don't be afraid to try new methods out and see how things work for you and your audience.
4.6 Memberships or Subscriptions If you are going to offer premium content to members that pay a one-time, monthly, or yearly fee, record the details of your program or idea in this section. Examples of membership sites & exclusive content are Fizzle.co and Sarah Morgan's Bada** Babes Blog Club for Women.
4.7 Document any other monetization techniques you'll use . . . such as sponsored posts and reviews.
5.0 Market + Reader Analysis
5.1 Leading Blogs in My Genre Analyze 5 - 10 of the leading blogs in your niche. Record 3 - 5 key points of what the blogs do extremely well and 3 - 5 points on things you might do to grow/change these blogs if they were yours.
5.2 Comparable Blogs in My Genre Find 3 - 5 blogs in your topic area that have similar readerships and categories to yours. You'll want to make sure to use comparison wisely here. It shouldn't be used to make you feel good or bad about your web presence, but to see what others are doing, support their efforts, and start interacting with some of their readers who might be interested in adding your blog to their lists. That's the thing about blog readers: we won't necessarily abandon a blog just because we found another good one on a similar topic. It's just like TV shows. I watch about 5,011 spy shows. I've got 17 favorites.
Make the same types of notes about these comparable blogs as you did about the leading blogs in your field.
5.3 Blog Benefits + Reader Use Based on your Ideal Reader Profile, write out at least five benefits that readers can experience from following your blog. Are there things you do differently than other blogs in your space? This is the place to record those things. You should probably also list some of what makes you unique on your blog's "about page" as well as in your social media accounts and marketing materials.
5.4 Blog Traffic Goals Your objectives in Section 2.1 might not have been about traffic, but even if some of them were, write down some traffic goals in this section. If you're using Google Analytics (for free), or another program of your choice to track your website traffic, you'll be able to set realistic, exciting goals for your blog. You can aim to increase your overall traffic levels, the amount of quality traffic you get (visitors who stay at least X minutes on your site), or you can even try to track the effectiveness of certain links and paths through your site.
6.0 Social Promotion Strategy
A wealth of information exists in the form of blog posts (such as this one that details 33 Ways to Get Serious About Social Media), books, and courses to help you learn how to utilize social media for your blog business. I recommend developing a plan to work on "getting good" at one or two platforms at a time. Take a class, read, and focus until you become comfortable with each platform, then move on to focusing on new ones. This is not to say you can't or shouldn't be using the other ones while you learn, because you should.
6.1 Pinterest Plan Record the details of how you will use each account, general guidelines, scheduling, image sizes and styles, and more.
6.2 Facebook Plan Ditto.
6.3 Twitter Plan Ditto.
6.4 YouTube Plan Ditto.
6.x Additional Sections for Each Social Account You'll Use Add or remove other social media accounts to your blog business plan as necessary.
6.x Email List Plan It's never too early to begin building an email list. Having a list full of readers and potential clients that have opted in to hear your tips, thoughts, and more, is one of the most valuable things your blog business will have. Your engaged email subscribers can become some of your biggest supporters, traffic drivers, and customers if you treat them well. I like to use MailChimp to send out free, attractive emails to my list.
6.x Guest Appearances Plan Develop a plan for other blogs and websites on which you can make some guest appearances (posts, videos, interviews, quick tips, expert articles, and more). Start a spreadsheet or table of all the relevant sources you can think of, and begin to politely contact these "host" sites once you have enough valuable content on your site to lead visitors back to. This will maximize the value for your brand and blog.
6.x Social Media Strategies and Best Practices Once you've researched and thought about the best ways to use each platform, tie them all together into one overall strategy and any guidelines or consistencies you want to see across each platform.
7.0 Other Marketing + Sales Strategies
7.1 Offline Marketing It seems crazy to even think of offline marketing techniques sometimes when there is so much you can do online, but even though you are promoting a digital space on the Interwebs, there are likely still things you can do in real life to promote your brand: business cards, speaking engagements, magazine ads, promotions at related fairs or events, partnerships or sponsorships of activities in your community, and more. Think of at least 3 - 5 things you can try that don't involve an Internet connection.
7.2 Sales Plan Other than marketing your blog and products through social media, how do you plan to sell your blog's services and other items? Will you open an Etsy shop? Will you sell on Amazon.com? Will you teach workshops and classes at a local center or on your own? Will you sell your wares at markets and fairs?
Also, whether marketing online, offline, or a combination of both, write out a sales plan for each additional item (or categories of items) you decide to sell through your blog.
7.3 Milestones Accomplishing goals is fun. Reaching milestones, no matter how "small," can be the push we need to keep going during an unpleasant moment or it can be a sweet affirmation that we're doing what we're "supposed to be doing" with our lives.
Record several milestones you want to reach in growth and sales. Examples: Reaching 100 visitors per month, then reaching 10 per day, then 1,000 per month and so on. Or, selling your first eBook, then selling 5 eBooks per month, and then 100 per year, to infinity. Other examples might be reaching a certain level of monthly income, or earning enough to buy a new computer. You get the point.
8.0 Continuing Ed + Growth Plan
Just as lawyers have Continuing Legal Education (CLE) they must obtain, I like to promote CBE---Continuing Blogger Education. Set some goals for continually learning how to become a better blogger as well as how to grow in your niche/abilities.
This may come in the form of finding five blogging tips blogs to follow, finding five or more blogs and resource sites in your field to learn from, taking some Skillshare classes or other seminars and trainings, or going to school to learn more about a particular topic.
9.0 Blog Financials
9.1 Startup Budget Itemize the things you will need to launch your blog business. Consider items such as: ‣ logo and brand identity designs ‣ website hosting and domain name (I use both Bluehost and WPEngine for my sites) ‣ business cards and other promotional materials ‣ monthly Internet fees ‣ blog + website theme or development: I used to use ThemeForest and Creative Market a lot until I started creating my own themes ‣ business formation expenses (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.) ‣ new software or computer ‣ office supplies or office furniture ‣ materials and inventory to make cool stuff (DIY projects, recipes, etc.) for your blog audience
(Tip: I wrote this post, How to Launch a Blog on a Budget, just for you. Unless your budget is unlimited, that is.)
9.2 Monthly Expenses Follow the same process as above but for recurring expenses. If something is billed yearly, you can divide the cost by 12 to get your monthly fee.
9.3 Monthly Revenue Streams Create a spreadsheet or table of all the revenue streams your blog will have. As you get used to the process of selling your goods or services, creating effective advertisement or affiliate relationships, et cetera, you will start to see your revenue grow. Record your monthly income from each source. This will help you notice trends over time, get rid of ineffective partnerships, and capitalize on ideas that are working well for you.
9.4 Production Budget (per post) Determine how much the average post in each category will cost you to develop in terms of money and time. For example a DIY project or recipe post might get a bit pricey since you have to buy multiple ingredients or inputs for your creation. Some of what you buy will be deductible as a business expense, so you'll definitely want to keep great records of all your purchases . . . you know, receipts.
Other costs you may incur to create a post are: ‣ fees for photos or graphics ‣ the cost of items you review (such as books or software) ‣ any fees for apps or software that you use to create your post content ‣ hosting fees for large videos or downloads
9.5 Sales Forecasts Since you are operating your blog as a business, you'll want to possibly develop the habit of forecasting sales. You can do this based on past performance of your blog. Forecasting can help you predict if you'll be able to meet your goals and income needs.
10.0 Blog Style Guide
A blog style guide will help you develop a consistent tone + styling for your blog and brand. Check out my post on the sections of a blog style guide and how to create one; XOSarah has a great post about creating a blog style guide as well.
11.1 Monthly Blog Analytics Using your favorite tracking software (Google Analytics is my current favorite that's absolutely free), track important statistics and changes in your website's traffic and visitor use.
Perhaps you can print out certain reports each week/month and keep them in a binder with your business plan as an appendix. Great reports might be: overall visits + unique visitors, top pages and posts, and top traffic sources.
11.2 Monthly Social Influence If you want to also track your social media influence and account growth, decide which statistics are important to you or have an effect on your readers or your brand (such as number of retweets, number of "likes" and followers, etc.) and track their monthly flow. I'd caution you to be careful with any statistics tracking, whether web, social, or otherwise because as long as you have a happy audience and consistent growth, you're doing well and probably don't need to get stuck comparing your blog to others or feeling down if your Twitter followers haven't gone up in a while.
I think it is smart to track these things so you can notice any disturbing trends to figure out if there's a problem or find any positive trends to figure out what went right and how to repeat that effect. Again, you don't want to get sucked up into comparison, but as a business, you'll need to monitor your blog's reach and effectiveness.
You are spectacular for making it through this process. I know this is a lot to do for your blog, but you will be glad you spent the time planning out the details.
Photo of girl thinking + writing: © enotmaks -