It’s been pointed out in several past interviews, but it’s always worth mentioning again: It doesn’t matter if you have a great product, or great content, if no one knows about it. The key to success usually has something to do with your marketing and promotion strategy.
I found today’s guest, Karol K, to be really interesting because he seems to have “figured it out.” As a blogger, freelance writer, and now WordPress plugin creator, he understands the value of promoting your product and content the right way. And he did it all despite a language barrier (English is not his native language).
In this interview, Karol shares with us his story about how he got started as a freelance writer, talks about his awesome social share plugin (that is especially helpful for new bloggers), and discusses his primary method for promoting his content. I’ll give you a hint: It’s very simple, yet most people never focus much on it.
Enjoy, and be sure to leave a comment when you’re done!
Karol, I’m a big fan of your blog at New Internet Order – you write a ton of great content about online business, blogging, etc., and for someone who isn’t a native English speaker (or writer), your writing is excellent. Tell us a bit about your background and journey. How did you get into blogging and doing freelance writing? What areas of your business do you focus most of your time on?
It was 2008 (I think). I just graduated (Master’s Degree, Computer Science ) and I was sitting in my room having no clue what I’m going to do in life. There were some opportunities out there on the table, but they all required me to get a job. So I decided “nah, jobs suck, that’s not for me.”
This is literally what my mindset was back then.
I was lucky that I had a roof over my head and food in the fridge, so I was able to pursue other projects. I’ve always been interested in technology, programming, understanding how the web works, and possibly making good use of it. So I started consuming tens of blog posts every day, eventually stumbling upon sites like ProBlogger and others that were similar. They convinced me that building a blog can actually be a career. So in 2010, I finally decided to give it a go!
The only challenge was writing my posts in English. I learned most of my English from movies and music, so I wasn’t all that great. First, I tried writing everything in Polish and have a friend proofread it.
Not particularly effective, especially if you’re writing a lot, so I decided to ditch the idea and switch to writing in English right away because … reasons.
In hindsight, I can tell you that there’s no other better way to learn a language than to start writing your thoughts in that language.
And freelance writing? That happened kind of naturally. I began guest posting like hell, and some people just picked those posts up, reached out to me and offered me a gig.
(By the way, guest blogging still works to this day as a great tool to get freelance writing gigs. What’s important is where you post and if it’s in front of the right audience.)
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far with your online business?
That’s actually a difficult question. It’s because my greatest success isn’t about achievements. What I consider the most important for me is that I was able to build my thing around a lifestyle. I can go abroad whenever I want, spend a month here, a couple of weeks there, etc., and my projects will continue normally. The freedom this gives is something I’m really grateful for.
Apart from that, I don’t think I have a huge success under my belt yet (at least by my standards), but there’s a lot of smaller ones. I do have a book published together with Packt Publishing – WordPress Complete. I’ve been featured on some great sites around the web (with around 300-400 guest posts in total). And I have just enough freelance clients to keep food on the table and wine on the rack.
I understand you created a social share plugin, and although I haven’t tried it yet, I really like the way that it improves positive social proof and eliminates the negative social proof. What was the experience like creating this plugin, and how has it been received so far?
Building plugins is hard. Really! I mean, when you’re building something for yourself, you only have to take care of one possible use case. You have to make it optimal for your own server configuration and your own site. If something doesn’t work, you can fix it in minutes. But when you’re building something like this for other people, you have to predict every possible issue and make sure that the plugin doesn’t mess up anyone’s site. It’s easily 3x more work.
I am lucky, however, because the people who have tried the plugin have given me some really great suggestions, support, and even expressed their interest in purchasing a premium version (even though no such thing exists yet). I guess that what the plugin does is something that a lot of people need.
Basically, what I’ve built is a social media buttons plugin. Sounds basic, right? What’s different about it, though, is that it’s meant specifically for new and low traffic sites.
It has just two main features (beyond displaying the social media share buttons, obviously):
- Instead of displaying share numbers for every service individually, it combines the numbers into one; so if you have, say, 5 tweets, 3 likes, and 6 +1s, the plugin will show the total number of 14 – which looks a lot better;
- You can also set the minimal number of shares that your content needs to have before any numbers get displayed at all – this gets rid of negative social proof (the plugin doesn’t show the buzzkill number of “0 shares”).
Both of these things matter a lot for new and low traffic sites. Here’s more info: http://newinternetorder.com/giveaway-heres-why-social-share-counters-suck-plus-what-i-can-give-you-that-doesnt/
I know you’ve done a ton of freelance writing, and a lot of it has been for some pretty well-known blogs. For someone who is just starting out as a writer, how do you think they should go about finding these types of opportunities? What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started?
I actually shared my best advice for getting freelance writing gigs here: http://beafreelanceblogger.com/job-ads-suck/
In short, it’s about finding a site, going through the content, finding chinks in the armor, pointing them out to the site owner, and providing one simple solution – something they can do to fix it.
Then, most of the time, they will get back to you and ask for more. This is when you get hired.
I wish someone had told me that freelance writing really is something that works as a career and a way to build your brand. I mean, I didn’t believe it all that much. At first, I thought that what I’m doing is just “for fun” -kind of, and that the successful folks are somewhat different than me. Well, now I know that they’re not. We’re all the same, and if you can provide people with something they need, you’ll be just fine in this world.
I also wish someone had told me this: http://newinternetorder.com/do-the-hard-things/ (I absolutely love this post. It keeps me inspired every day.)
Having great content can go a long way, but sometimes, people have difficulty getting enough people to read their content. What are some of your favorite promotion methods to actually grow traffic to your great content?
Just one. Outreach.
The day I stopped being afraid and started messaging people saying “hey, look at my content!” is the day I started growing consistently.
Shameless promotion is key. It may seem like it can annoy a lot of people, but actually:
- if your content is good, no one will be mad that you’ve just invited them to see it,
- if you don’t ask, the answer’s always no.
Looking generally at becoming a successful online business owner: If you had to take your best advice or inspirational thought and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right. [Click here to tweet this]
I think Henry Ford said this … not sure. Either way, this is the quote I live by, really.
What are your favorite online resources – ones that you couldn’t live without?
My number one tool is FreeMind. It’s a mind mapping software. And it’s the best one out there. It has keyboard shortcuts and works lightning fast in comparison to things like MindMeister or other iOS mind mapping nonsense.
Fizzle. The best online business training out there. Honest, non-douchebaggery approach. And a great community willing to help you out when in doubt.
The new resource pack we’ve developed at Bidsketch – a project I’m part of. It has proposal templates, samples, and worksheets. Practically everything a freelancer needs in order to pitch a client effectively.
Dropbox or SugarSync or Box. Keep your data secure, damn it! I really think that investing in a good online data synchronization and backup tool is the best tech-related investment you’ll ever make!
By the way, did you notice I’m actually the only person in the world not preaching the Evernote gospel?
Finally, where can people find you online?
The best way to get a real connection with me is by going here: http://newinternetorder.com/about/
Of course, Twitter works too: https://twitter.com/carlosinho
Need someone to help you develop content for your site – content that converts and builds your brand – and set it up in a way that your audience will love, understand, and resonate with? Go here: http://karol.cc/
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Karol.
What did you think of this interview? Has “shameless promotion” worked well for your business? Leave a comment below!
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