During the beginning stages of my blog, it was just something I used to build my freelance writing portfolio. Then in the past several years, I’ve leveraged it into an awesome community of freelancers.
One thing that I always struggled with though, was that my blog and business were a bit disconnected.
The blog was a fun side project I worked on because I personally wanted to connect with other freelancers, and find support. While the business was about working with clients, and paying the bills. I never really viewed my brand as a business of itself, until the past few months.
Without a doubt, having my own website has allowed me to build a freelance portfolio, quit my full-time job, and make a living as my own boss. I highly recommend that if you’re thinking of starting a blog, or rekindling one you’ve let slip, that you follow through.
Check out the top 10 website builders site for the best comparisons, and start earning income on your terms.
Without this platform I would never have been able to achieve some of the most amazing career goals of my life. Nor would I have connected with some of the most influential people in the industry.
I’ve been inspired by J. Money’s success story, as shared on Forbes, not because he accumulated over $400,000 (which is super impressive) but that he did it while still expressing his personality, and not selling out.
This brings me to my own 2015 goal — to turn my blog into a business (aka my #blogtobiz plan). Here’s how I plan to do it.
1. Make my business legit
I always encourage my biz mentoring clients to take their businesses seriously, even if they are just a business-of-one and don’t have any assistants or employees. This is something I live by as well. I have a separate business checking account for my income, expenses, and taxes.
I have a DBA (doing business as) license, work with a bookkeeper, and use accounting software. I even require clients I work with to sign contracts and I implement payment processes to ensure I get paid.
However, I’ve failed on one thing. Even with all that, I haven’t taken the time to treat my business like a business. I still operate as a sole-prioprietor, but with my personal social security number. Eeeek! I know…you’re probably cringing right now.
Being a sole-proprietor is a great thing, but not filing for a separate Tax ID number and DBA is not the smartest idea. I may even take it to the next level and become a single-member LLC entity later this year. But first things first. It’s time to file my paperwork with the IRS, and make this business legitimate.
If you want to follow the same path this year (hooray!), a good place to start is with the Small Business Administration’s website. You’ll find articles and resources for registering your DBA name. Then the IRS offers a complete PDF guide to getting a Tax ID number, which includes who needs one and who doesn’t.
Step 1: Apply online or by mail
Of course, you don’t technically need a Tax ID or DBA license if you operate as a freelancer. I mean, I’ve done it like this for the past 3.5 years and it’s been great.
But this year is all about going to that next level — the audacious, I’m going places, don’t get in my way — level.
And because of this, I have to take things more seriously (not only so everyone else will take me seriously too, but because sometimes legal stuff gets in the way and I want to be prepared).
Here’s why having a DBA and separate Tax ID number is so helpful:
- In case you want to take on employees in the future,
- It offers added security of not having putting your personal social security number on contracts or tax forms,
- If you plan to resell digital or physical products.
In these situations, as well as select others, you’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) — which is the same thing as a Tax ID number. Additionally, if your state requires you to collect sales tax, you’ll need a separate Tax ID number to collect sales tax (for example, if you sell your work at a craft fair).
You can apply for a Tax ID online, by fax, or by mail depending on how soon you need to start using it. This is a free service the IRS provides on their site, so don’t be fooled into paying for it from another provider.
Just visit the IRS website and type in the keywords EIN in the search box (or use the direct link, here). If you choose to file by fax or snail mail, you’ll need to fill out form SS-4. But the online application is the preferred method since it’s quick and easy to complete, compared to the mail-in form.
Step 2: Figure out a “Doing Business As” name
If you already operate with a specific business name, (for example, mine is Careful Cents), then this part is easy. Otherwise, you’ll want to spend some time figuring out the perfect name.
But don’t think too hard, because you may need to have a few other options as backups, in case your preferred name is already chosen/registered. You cannot operate under the same DBA as someone else in your state, so be prepared with a plan B.
Registering for a DBA license is done either at your county clerk’s office or with the local state government’s office, depending on where your business is located.
Step 3: Know your state’s rules
There are a few states that do not require you to register DBA names, and some states have online registration forms, while others require business owners to sign up with the Secretary of State directly.
So you’ll have to do a little research before applying with your state. Simply research the laws within your local (county) and state governments, until you understand the exact guidelines.
Step 4: Obtain a business license
You may also need a business license to properly operate your DBA within your current state — even if you’re only working out of your home office while connected to the internet.
It just depends on your state’s licensing rules for small businesses. Check out the SBA’s website to find out your state’s requirements regarding any permits you may need.
For the most part these filings will only take a few minutes, and together cost $20-50 depending on how big your business is and where you live. So don’t let the time or money get in the way. (Reminding myself of this too!)
2. View my blog as a business
I’ve talked about this idea in the past, and how I’ve started viewing my own work as the number one client. Meaning, it takes precedence over other projects and distractions.
The way I’ve implemented this is by blocking off the first 1-2 hours of everyday to work on my own projects (as instructed by my business coach).
This could be blogging, interacting with the Club on Facebook, sharing stuff on Twitter, writing content for a new course or freebie. Basically whatever I want to spend the time doing, in relation to Careful Cents business. And the results have been quite astounding already!
Since I started this experiment in November 2014, (with only the first 15-30 minutes of each day blocked out) I’ve made HUGE strides in my to-do list.
- I co-created a course with the ladies from One Woman Shop
- Changed up the style of my business coaching sessions
- Updated my Tax Toolkit guide for freelancers that will be released soon
- Launched a new online store
- Pushed a passion project of mine out into the world
I’m not saying this to brag, but to prove that I’ve done more in the past 3 months than I have in the past 3 years. And I can honestly say it’s because I put my own business and blog FIRST each day, before anything else.
In conjunction with my Hit List, and prioritizing my day to give Careful Cents the premium time slot, I feel so much more in control of my work.
My blog no longer feels like something I need to rush through in order to get to the work that pays the bills. It’s become an asset that’s finally paying me back for all the investment I’ve put into it. Isn’t that what we all want for our blogs?
3. Steadily increase income each month
My final part of my blog to biz plan is to create streams of revenue that are produced directly from my blogging activities, products, and services. This is different than the freelance client services I currently offer, but want to make a smaller part of my overall income.
Right now, I basically use this blog as a portfolio for landing freelance work and it takes up the biggest portion of my income pie. Going forward though, I want to reach the end of the year with at least 40% of my income coming directly from blog related activities.
Here’s what the numbers currently look like:
In order to achieve my 40% income goal in the next 12 months, I’ll have to double what I’m currently bringing in. This works out to just under a 3% increase in revenue each month.
It sounds totally doable! But then when I turn that percentage into a definable number (based on my total monthly income) it makes this goal a little bit more difficult. In addition to the fact that I’ll have to break up with current clients, or raise my prices, in order to make room in my schedule for more CC work.
Right now I’m averaging about $5,000 a month, which doesn’t include paying taxes, business expenses, etc. So a 3% increase means consistently bringing in at least $150 more each month. The first few months should be an easy target to reach, but towards the end of the year I’m not feeling as confident.
In fact, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. Is this even possible? Let’s look at my current streams of blogging revenue:
- Product sponsorships and brand ambassador partnerships
- Selling products and services (finally!)
- Offering biz mentoring sessions
- Creating in-depth affiliate product tutorials (with products I use and love)
The plan now is to continue marketing, sharing, networking, and keeping the momentum going that I’ve created over the past few months. I will also be doing a quarterly review that includes making some tough cuts of client work (ugh, am I crazy for doing this?!)
I believe my blog to biz plan is doable, but it’s not without risk and will take some work. It will force me to really put myself out there and take a leap of faith.
Personal offerings through a blog are a lot more challenging than just offering freelance services. In order to keep myself accountable — and not chicken out — I will continue updates of my income progress throughout the year.
Is your blog a business? What ways do you make income from your blogging ventures? Share your ideas and thoughts!