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.
Karol Król seems to have figured it out. As a blogger, freelance writer, and now WordPress plugin creator, he understands the value of promoting the product and content the right way. And he does it all despite a language barrier — English is not his native language.
In this interview, Karol discusses how he got started as a freelance writer, as well as his social share plugin, which is especially helpful for new bloggers. He also reveals his primary method for promoting content. (I’ll give you a hint: It’s very simple, yet most people don’t focus much on it.)
Karol, I’m a fan of your blog at New Internet Order. You write a ton of business and blogging content. How did you get into this line of work? What areas of your business do you focus most of your time on?
It was 2008, and I had just graduated with a master’s degree in computer science. I was sitting in my room with no clue about what I was going to do in life. There were some opportunities out there, but they all required me to get a job. I thought, “Nah, jobs suck.”
I was lucky 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 a lot of blog posts every day, eventually stumbling upon sites like ProBlogger and others. They convinced me that building a blog can be a career. So in 2010, I finally decided to give it a go.
The challenge was writing my posts in English. I had learned most of my English from movies and music, so I wasn’t all that great. First, I tried writing everything in Polish and had a friend proofread it.
That’s not particularly effective, especially if you’re writing a lot, so I switched to writing in English. 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.
Guest blogging is still 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 so far with your online business?
That’s a difficult question to answer because my greatest success isn’t about achievements. What I consider the most important is that I was able to build the business around my lifestyle. I can go abroad whenever I want, spend a month here, a couple of weeks there, and my projects will continue normally. The freedom this gives is something I’m really grateful for.
I published a book, WordPress Complete (affiliate link). I’ve been featured on some great sites, with 300–400 total guest posts. And I have enough freelance clients to keep food on the table and wine on the rack.
I understand you created a social share plugin. I haven’t tried it yet, but I really like the way it improves positive social proof and eliminates the negative social proof. What was it 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 have to take care of only 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 the plugin doesn’t mess up anyone’s site. It’s easily three times the work.
I am lucky, though, because the people who have tried the plugin have given me some great suggestions and support, and even expressed their interest in buying a premium version, even though no such thing exists yet. I guess that what the plugin does is something a lot of people need.
It’s a social media buttons plugin with two cool extra features:
- Instead of displaying share numbers for every service individually, it combines the numbers into one; so if you have five tweets, three Facebook likes, and six +1s, the plugin will show the total number of 14, which looks a lot better.
- You can also set the minimum number of shares that your content must have before any numbers get displayed. This gets rid of negative social proof (the plugin doesn’t show a buzzkill “0 shares”).
Both of these things matter a lot for new and low-traffic sites.
You’ve done a ton of freelance writing, and much of it has been for well-known blogs. How do you think new writers should go about finding these types opportunities?
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” and that the successful folks are somewhat different from 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.
Having great content can go a long way, but sometimes people have trouble getting enough people to read their content. What are some of your favorite promotion methods to grow traffic?
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.
What are your favorite online resources that you couldn’t live without?
- My No. 1 tool is FreeMind, the best mind-mapping software out there. It has keyboard shortcuts and works lightning fast compared to MindMeister and other iOS mind-mapping nonsense.
- Fizzle is the best online business training out there. Honest, non-douchebaggery approach. And there’s a great built-in community willing to help you out when you’re in doubt.
- I also recommend a new resource pack we’ve developed over at Bidsketch, a project I’m part of. It has proposal templates, samples, and worksheets —practically everything a freelancer needs to pitch a client effectively.
- Dropbox, Box, or SugarSync. Keep your data secure, dammit! 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 one of the very few people in the world not preaching the Evernote gospel?