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Blogging for money

MOHNISH Nagpal is an 18-year-old and just like his peers he loves to hang out with his friends, watch movies, and blog. But while other people his age might be busy making friends on social networking sites late into the wee hours, Nagpal is busy advising millions of readers through his blog sensonize.com, on how to make money online.

Nagpal is a professional blogger and also one of the youngest Internet entrepreneurs in the world. Purely a case of mixing business and pleasure, Nagpal, a student of Commerce and IT at Mumbai’s MMK college, stumbled into the world of blogging at the tender age of 13. “I began blogging by chance. I would follow other blogs and eventually started by own at Blogspot,” he says.

He started off with webmaster tips and tricks initially but as his experience grew he started blogging on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), affiliate and Internet marketing, blogging tips and how to make money online. His first salary was Rs. 5,000 at the age of 13. Today he earns a comfortable five-figure salary sitting in front of the computer. He also has an active presence on Twitter and earns some good cash from tweeting, too.

Nagpal is a typical example of a new and upcoming species called a professional blogger. He is the sort of blogger who takes his blog to the next level and turns it into a successfull business venture. Suddenly, spending hours in front of the net, blogging to your heart’s content is not considered a waste of time anymore but an enterprising money making venture. Recent studies on social media suggest that reader engagement on the social web has gone up thanks to blogging and other forms of social networking. CNN-IBN recently declared along with Outlook India and NIIT that professional blogging is one of the hottest alternative careers today.

Mohnish Nagpal
Blogger and entrepreneur
How did you monetise your blog?
My  motive was never to earn anything  but blog about what was new and interesting. I started Sensonize.com on July 31, 2008. I write  on how to make money online. Internet entrepreneurs, investors, tech heads, gear heads and interested consumers visit the site. They are not really my clients, more of my readers. Now I place ads on the web site. Also, affiliate ads. Currently finance ads convert the highest. I used Google Adsense, but I gave up because it didn’t convert well for me. Now, I have stable advertisers who pay me monthly or for leads and sales. You should choose ads, which are relevant to readers.
How did you increase traffic and readership?
I was active on social networking web sites like Facebook and networked with others interested in the same field. I joined Twitter in 2008 (at age 16) and then began attending Tweetups offline, through Twitter. I met people interested in the same field and told them about my web site. Many of them are still loyal readers of my blog. I would leave comments on their blog posts and they would comment on mine

Who is a professional blogger?
A professional blogger is usually a person who is a full-time blogger and works on his own from home. He/she does not have a day job, blogs for a living and earns an income from it. A professional blogger usually keeps his blog limited to posts about professional topics and keeps away from writing personal stuff.

A day in the life of a prof blogger
A typical professional blogger will begin his day by checking e-mails, replying to them and check whether anyone has linked up to his blog via trackbacks. He will also check his RSS feeds (a kind of stream that constantly updates you about content that is being uploaded on the net). Between sips of tea and bites of toast, he will check the last night’s comments and reply to each and every one of them painstakingly. He will keep checking his income and blog traffic (i.e the number of people who visited the blog and blog rankings) obsessively throughout the day.  Our professional blogger will then get to work just like a regular office-goer. He will have several social networking windows opened simultaneously where he will constantly reply and post interesting links related to his field on Twitter or Facebook. He will then think of a couple of ideas and start posting his first story for the day. Post lunch he gets to snooze and then get back to work where he will perhaps make another post and participate in blog forums, connect with other bloggers and tweet some more links. This is repeated throughout the day with more postings. At the end of the day, he will check his day’s earnings, reply to some comments and call it a day. Disclaimer: typical days might differ from professional blogger to blogger.

Qualities of a professional blogger
They are a disciplined lot. They take their blogs very seriously and frequently make new posts throughout the day.
They are tech savvy. They are passionate and experts on a certain topic.
They think of unique and creative ways of presenting their content and attracting readers to their blogs.
They are voracious readers. If they are not blogging, you will find them devouring content on the net 24/7.
They are good writers who know how to keep their language simple and to communicate effectively.
They love networking through social networking sites and other web media.

Money talk
Professional bloggers earn through strategically placed ads on their blogs, in tune with the nature of posts. A rookie blogger can make anywhere between Rs. 500-5,000 for starters. The initial few months or the first year may be tough but once your blog gets going as a business venture the earnings may go up sufficiently. You can earn anywhere between Rs. 50,000 to 1 lakh a month. Amit Agarwal, one of India’s first professional bloggers, reportedly earns in lakhs per month from his blog labnol.org.

Qualification and training
You are your own learner and the Internet  is your teacher. Professional new media courses, however, provide a foundation for blogging in future by teaching you online web authoring, designing skills and how to use advanced multimedia and software. They teach you how to use the Internet for reporting and writing along with online journalism ethics. You will learn to communicate effectively not only through writing but also combine it with design, images, and videos. All this training will go a long way when you are ready to design and write on your own blog. The other option is to start a professional blog about something that you have trained for. A media planner can start a blog on advertising trends, a marketing professional on market research and an IT student can start a technology blog.

Training Institutes
Asian College of Journalism, Chennai offers a postgraduate diploma in New Media. The Indian Institute of New Media and Journalism, Bangalore offers a graduate and postgraduate diploma in New Media.

Reality check
Don’t take up professional blogging just because it’s fun or cool. Just like any other career needs to be taken seriously, this is your daily bread and you need to be sincere. You need to approach the profession in a very focused and disciplined manner. You need to keep at it just like any other career.

Expert Speak
Professional Blogger and columnist Amit Agarwal runs Digital Inspiration, where he writes about personal technology, web-based consumer gadgets and lesser-known but useful features of software programme applications. In his own words, through his blog he likes to “explore techniques that help us do things in a more efficient manner.” His blog won the Best Technology Award at the indibloggies (Indian weblog awards) twice and Google AdSense has declared his blog as a “success story”. He regularly appears on TV as a digital expert and writes technology columns in newspapers.

Q: What do professionals need to keep in mind? 
A: Blogging has no rules but if you want to take your blog to the next level, don’t mix personal and professional talk – your family members would love to know what you ate last night but your reader in another continent is probably more interested in reading about topics that you are an expert at. Write what you are good at because that is the only way you can continue writing for a long, long time without losing interest.

Q: Once your blog is a professional success, how do you keep growing?
A: It’s probably time to expand your team. Hire smart writers like you. Explore content partnerships with media companies who may be interested in syndicating your content. Target other geographies by providing content in their native language.
Q: Tell us about your venture India Blog School.
A: I get lot of mails from people asking me how they can get started with blogging or how they can make a living online through blogs. The purpose of India Blog School is to help people get started and become better bloggers through offline conferences and online training material. It’s a non-profit initiative.
Q: Your tips for aspiring bloggers…
A: Get a good education and work experience. Then consider blogging as a career. If things don’t go as per plan (or if you lose interest in writing), you can always switch to the previous job.
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