Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers





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Now displaying: October, 2016
Oct 31, 2016

Raise your hand if you've ever been a part of a failed collaborations? Working with other people means you WILL run into trouble. Of various kinds. 

Here are some of the issues you may run into and some tips for dealing with your difficulties!


Oct 24, 2016

The famous quote tells us that "the money's in the list." As in, your email list. But for many people, this is still somewhat of a mystery. Marketers and entrepreneurs have this DOWN, but for writers and bloggers, monetizing your email list is often a foreign concept. I'm going to break down a few main ways that you can monetize your list and some best practices to sell to your list without being smarmy. 

For more on email lists, you can check out my Free Email Course or snag my book (which is currently 99 cent!), Email Lists Made Easy for Writers & Bloggers


**This post contains affiliate links!**

Monetizing Your Email List

There are a few main ways that you can monetize your email list as a writer or blogger. You may choose one main way or a combination of a few. 

Affiliate Sales 

Affiliate sales are when you promote products for other people and earn a commission when people buy through your link. There are a number of great affiliate opportunities for email, but be sure you check the Terms of Service for your email service provider and also for the company you are an affiliate for. Amazon does NOT allow for affiliate links in email, PDFs, or ebooks.

Be sure that you ALWAYS disclose affiliate links. You should be disclosing BEFORE the first outbound link and in a way that is clear to someone who isn't marketing savvy. (Don't use aff or spon. Those words are not easily understood by a general audience.) Even if the gateway to a paid product is through a free product, DISCLOSE. If there is a cookie involved, you should disclose. (More on the FTC guidelines or check out my post & episode on disclosure!) 

Here are some other sources for affiliate programs: 


  • Ultimate Bundles - A few times a year there are some high value, great cost bundles of digital books and courses. The Genius Blogger's Toolkit launches this week! Want to be notified when it launches? Click HERE to sign up and hear all about it!
  • Grove Collaborative - This is a great affiliate program if you have an audience that deals with the home. Whether that's moms or simply people who want more sustainable and green products, Grove Collaborative has great products & deals.
  • Share a Sale - You'll find a number of companies in different niches from parenting and kids to computers and business.
  • Commission Junction - This site also has a number of advertisers you can apply to promote as an affiliate.
  • Affiliate Window - Another program with a lot of brands including Etsy, Fiverr, & EZPrints! You can also use tools like Convert-a-Link, which will automatically change any links in posts going to an affiliate program with AW into affiliate links.

Tools & Tech

  • ConvertKit - This is my top affiliate program. It's my favorite email service provider---not just because of the affiliate program, which pays out 30% every month of what people who sign up under you pay. (Read my post about why I love ConvertKit!)
  • Genesis - The Genesis framework is really popular with Wordpress users and has a great affiliate program.
  • Your Web Host - I used to recommend BlueHost because I used them and they had a great program. But I had to leave because of service issues. I'm now with SiteGround, but not an affiliate yet. Check out your web host to see if they have a program!
  • Tailwind - This Pinterest scheduler is fantastic and also offers $15 or sometimes $30 for anyone who signs up under you.
  • Board Booster - This is another Pinterest scheduler that has a $5 referral fee when someone signs up under you.
  • AppSumo - I love the deals they offer and you get credit when people buy in with your link. This has enabled me to get a ton of great tools and resources for free.
  • Courses, Summits, eBooks & Programs - Many marketers have affiliate programs that they open up. If you hear about a course that suits your audience or really love a particular content creator, contact them to see if you can sign up for their affiliate program. These often pay 30-50% of each sale of several hundred to a thousand dollars.

Your Products 

Do you create online courses or write ebooks? Many people say you SHOULD, but I want to argue that you COULD. This may not be for you if you don't like creating and teaching. (In which case you could be an affiliate for products that relate to your audience.) Some people are afraid to teach or create courses or digital products because they don't feel like enough of an expert. Don't sell yourself short, but don't do it because everyone else is. 

If you aren't sure where to start, consider your most popular posts, the questions people always ask you, or what you're really passionate about. You can also check out the market. Finding other courses or ebooks on the same topic doesn't mean you shouldn't create your own. It's a good validation that there is a market for it. And YOUR people on YOUR list who love YOUR style are more likely to buy YOUR course or product. 

Your Services

You may be a coach or virtual assistant or help people with the backend of their Wordpress site (like Merri Dennis of WPTech Cafe, my go to when I break things!) As with courses, your people who know you are more likely to hire you for their needs.

Your email subscribers are like validated customers in that they have already taken the time and effort to sign up for your list. They are your BEST chance at making sales. Unlike a follow on Twitter or a like on Facebook, people don't let EVERYONE into the sacred space of the inbox. So if you land a spot there, you are already a step closer to having someone be a customer. (But stay tuned for best practices on how to treat your email subscribers!) 

Ads & Sponsored Content

I don't have a LOT to say here because I've found a few ad networks that do email, but haven't vetted them and can't recommend them. I DO think that sponsored content and ads are going to continue moving into the email space since blogger and writers are way more savvy now than they have been in the past about growing an email list. 

If you already work with brands, your email list is something that you could leverage, either on its own or as part of a package deal with a blog post and other social media shares. Consider reaching out to a brand you've got a relationship with and ask if they'd like to sponsor an email or a month's worth of emails. I do foresee this being a direction that email moves into as more and more bloggers take their lists more seriously. 

Best Practices for Monetizing Your Email List

The thing about monetizing your email list is that you can't JUST sell. If you've ever been on a list like that, you know how impersonal and how smarmy it feels. You don't feel like a person. You feel like a number or a customer. Here are a few tips to treat your people well. This will establish a better relationship with your people which should naturally result in more sales. 

Treat Your List Like VIPs

Always treat your email subscribers like your inner circle. They really have jumped through all the hoops to let you in their inbox, so they should receive great treatment from you. I often give out exclusive content or let them know what I'm up to first. I speak to them more intimately and personally and I encourage replies to email so that I can actually have a RELATIONSHIP with them. Most of the other best practices fall under this umbrella. 

Don't Get Stuck on Numbers

I heard someone once say that if you don't know how to treat a list of 200, you won't know how to treat a list of 2000. No matter what the size of your list, connect. Don't focus on growth alone, but quality growth and actual relationship with those people. If you can effectively reach your small list, you'll learn to scale as you go. 

Give Value Before You Sell

Make sure your list is valuable. Offer great content that's free before you ever try to sell things to your people. There should be a nice balance when it comes to the proportion of value offered and sales presented to your list. 

Be Trustworthy

A lot of this (to me) hinges on disclosure. I've gotten so many promotions for so-and-so's free webinar/book/video series. No disclosure. But having been on the back end of these same programs, what I know is that there are cash prizes (SIGNIFICANT cash) for those who get the most signups. And that those free things attach a cookie that result in a commission if there is a sale down the line, even months later.

This feels like a breach of trust when there is no disclosure. Because it DOES affect how I feel if someone promotes simply because they support the product OR because they get a commission. It doesn't mean the product is any less good, just that we should KNOW about that relationship. The FTC agrees, so remember to disclose clearly. 


Finding Your Selling Voice

I think a lot of bloggers and writers struggle with selling if they haven't been trained in business or sales copy. This means that often when we try to sell, it feels stiff and awkward and it's overall ineffective. What you need is to find your selling "voice."

I've talked about finding your writing voice before and your selling voice is similar. It's the way that you sell that feels and sounds natural to you and to your readers. It should feel familiar and authentic. It should be confident. It should be clear. 

If you are struggling with confidence, you should ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Am I not confident because sales makes me uncomfortable?
  2. Am I not confident because I'm selling something I feel uncomfortable about? 

If you fall into the first camp, then you simply need to sell more. Get more comfortable and confident in your sales. If it's the second, then you need to consider NOT selling that product or being an affiliate for that product. There is nothing worse than promoting something you really aren't sure of just for the money. Ew! Don't do that. 

I don't think that you have to have tried or currently use every product you promote. But be sure you can stand behind it (because you trust the creator or have seen the back end or used it in the past when it was a better fit for you) and that it's a good fit for your people. 


Monetizing your list can result in more income than monetizing your blog or other social media. It can be more enjoyable too, because you are providing for a need that your audience has through a personal relationship. 

Oct 17, 2016

Facebook groups are a useful tool to build your business, either as a group owner or a group member. Much of the advice recently about finding your perfect readers or customers is to use Facebook groups. The only problem? This has created a culture of people behaving badly in groups. From shameless self-promotion to poaching group members, people seem to have forgotten their manners. 

[Want to join my Facebook Community? You really should.]


How NOT To Be Smarmy in Facebook Groups as a Member

The easiest, overarching thing to remember in a Facebook group is that it's not YOUR group. 

  • Follow the rules (listed usually in a pinned thread or in the description in the side)
  • Listen before you speak when you join a group- see the culture
  • When in doubt about posting, ask the group owner. 
  • DON'T JUST DROP LINKS TO YOUR POSTS/SALES PAGES/OPT-INS. (unless that is allowed in the group)
  • DON'T POST YOUR AFFILIATE LINKS TO PRODUCTS. (unless that is allowed in the group)

If you want to bring value to the group, you can engage in conversations and respond if people ask questions. When it comes to posting content in the group, make sure what you are posting is not a thinly guised, smarmy promotion, but something that's actually helpful.

Remember that you didn't build the group. This is someone else's work. If you feel bitter that you can't share or build your own platform from the group because of the rules, you may be there for the wrong reasons. Build your OWN group. 

How NOT To be Smarmy in Facebook Groups as an Owner

Many people join the larger groups because they are unhappy with their own group and want to access more people. 

REMEMBER that at one time, that giant group was small. It grew because that group owner valued the people in it. 

  • Don't add people without permission. 
  • Promote discussion. 
  • Allow people to share links, even if that's within threads, not on the wall. 
  • Be a good moderator. 
  • Be present.
  • Don't just schedule all the posts for the group. 
  • Value members with exclusive content. 
  • Use Facebook Live. 
  • Disclose Affiliate Links. 
Oct 10, 2016

Pinterest is my favorite social media platform. Well. My favorite for TRAFFIC. As an introvert, it's also my favorite because I DON'T HAVE TO TALK TO PEOPLE THERE. Pinterest is actually more search engine than social platform. Surprised? This interview with Alex Evjen from AVE Styles is going to give you Pinterest best practices so you can use the platform like a pro to drive traffic. 

 Connect with Alex!

Find her on her blog, Pinterest, or Instagram. If you gel with her style, she also has some fabulous (and affordable) classes! I'm an affiliate for them (and you KNOW I'm only an affiliate if I love things, right?) if you want to dive deeper with Alex after this interview! Browse her Pinterest classes to see if one suits your current needs. 

Pinterest Best Practices

Alex was an early adopter, using the platform for her personal stylist business. She was able to replace bulky binders of magazine clippings with a simple, easy-to-use digital format of Pinterest. As an avid user, she gained the attention of Pinterest's founder and has actually been invited TO Pinterest headquarters where she has received training on Pinterest best practices. Who better to share with us today? 

Tips for Using Pinterest

  • Be a great content curator. Share content from other people that lines up with your overall brand. Pin what you love and are genuinely interested in. 
  • Being a curator establishes you as an expert. 
  • Be an early adopter! Pinterest isn't new, but it is rolling out new things like VIDEO. When you get on board with a platform's new direction, that platform often gives back to you. 
  • Even though there are some great tools and schedulers, you should log into the Pinterest platform daily and interact. 
  • Alex repins 90% from other people and 10% from her own site. (That 10% includes repinning her pins that are from her site, not just pinning from her site directly.)
  • Use rich pins. This means that Pinterest has approved your site and knows it's legit. It helps your pins show up higher in search. 

Interaction on Pinterest looks like: repinning content mostly. Likes and comments can actually help, but most people don't do them. 

Tip: Power Pins are made up of comments, clicks, and repins. They are pins with a lot of engagement.

What's Working Right NOW on Pinterest

  • Don't hate the algorithm! It helps bring up the best content and doesn't favor the power pinners like Alex with millions of followers. 
  • Older pins have years or months of engagement, so those pins may surface higher. Don't delete your old pins! Give them time to grow. 
  • Create evergreen content that won't become obsolete in years to come. 
  • Seasonal content does do well, but 
  • The half-life of a pin is 30 days, but the full life of a pin is well over a year. This means you won't see the full potential for over a year and that you should be pinning time-relative content 30 or more days out. 
  • You want content that's attainable and actually will help someone. 
  • Your descriptions should contain keywords and robust descriptions. Think of what people will search for. Describe what's in the photo and maybe add how someone could use the thing or a context in which it might be used. 
  • Board covers now show your latest activity, so you need to make sure you are pinning great images so that your board covers will show the things that are the aesthetic of your brand. 
  • Every pin should be a quality pin that is an extension of your brand. 

An Argument for Fewer Boards

  • People are more likely to follow ALL of your Pinterest board if you have fewer. 
  • If Pinterest sees that your boards are active, Pinterest is more likely to recommend them and have them show up in the algorithm. 
  • The algorithm scores your profile. Dead, inactive boards hurt you. 
  • Don't delete boards because that could get rid of followers. Repin those pins to other boards. Check analytics to see how many people follow those boards. (Tailwind is an approved third-party app that can help with that.) 
  • You CAN move a board to secret, but that will take away the followers. 

"No more short term strategy on Pinterest. You have to think long term." -Alex Evjen

Alex's Pinning Workflow

She logs in daily and uses Pinterest itself, not a scheduling tool.

Her perfect number of pins/repins is around 25 a day. 

She shares 90% of other people's content and 10% her own.

A Note about Group Boards

If you are on boards that are just made up of bloggers pinning their own and each other's content, Pinterest KNOWS. These kinds of boards are having their content pushed down. It can hurt you to be on these boards and the boards can even be shut down. 

Group boards are supposed to be collaborative and share great content, not a way for bloggers to game the system. Consider your group boards and how people behave. If your traffic is dependent on this traffic, then beware because this is not going to last.

About Alex's Classes

She has four classes (or a package of all) that are affordable and deal with creating the perfect pin, how to create a strong business profile, driving traffic to your blog, and how to grow your following. Find her classes through my affiliate link HERE

Oct 3, 2016

If you hadn't noticed, many people are utilizing challenges and courses to grow an audience, bring in revenue, and build their brand. You can create free or paid challenges and courses, serving to explode your email list or bring in passive income. Ready to learn more about using challenges and courses for YOUR brand?

***Can you take a moment to tell me about yourself? Click HERE to fill out a super simple 5-question demographic listener survey! ***


Connect with Jennifer

Utilizing Challenges and Courses for Your Brand

How Jennifer Runs Her Detox Challenges

  • When people sign up, they get the content dripped out over Mailchimp autoresponders.
  • The content is a mix of PDFs and video content shared or linked to in the emails.
  • You can sign up evergreen and go through the detox or at one of a 3-4 times a year with a group.
  • There is a Facebook group for the detox that mostly is active during the group challenges.
  • Once you buy, you are in it for life and still have access to the program guide and can restart a challenge when another group challenge starts up.

Evergreen Challenges vs Group Challenges

If people want to buy and are interested, evergreen offers a chance for people to start now and not wait. But the accountability piece and the group piece of doing a challenge together has been more popular and more successful for people. People can post successes or slip-ups, which helps them and also the group as a whole. 

Promoting a Challenge

  • If there is a time that makes more sense (like right after Christmas for a health challenge), plan around that. Start promoting ahead of the event, but have the start date relate to that key time of year. 
  • Have pictures that promote on Instagram and social media that give a teaser for the content of the challenge and have links in social profiles go to the signup page.
  • Ask other people to share images and posts on social media for you to help promote. 

Planning a Course

Start with a targeted audience in mind

Solve the problem or pain point that you know that specific target has

Speak the language of those people so they resonate

Options to Consider When Planning a Course

How Content Will Be Consumed

Decide between dripped content (released one week at a time), evergreen content (where people can access everything and bing if they want), or live courses (where you literally set dates and show up live to teach.

What Kind of Content 

You can have live videos (for the live course option), videos of you talking to the camera, or videos of you talking over slides. Or you don't have to use video at all! I've taken courses that are a mix of video and audio or written content. Just know that many people EXPECT video, so if you are using another format, be up front about this. 

Where Content Will Be Hosted 

You have the option to build out a course yourself using membership software and course software OR hosting it somewhere else like Teachable, where you pay monthly and/or transaction fees to have someone else host your content. With both, you own your content, but when you host it yourself you have more control, which ALSO means you are responsible for the issues that arise. (Story of my life as I type this.) Even things like an affiliate program are tied into Teachable's platform!

When you use another platform, you don't have to worry about the tech side, but it means your things are at another place and you are dependent on that platform's limitations. There are not great free options, so realize that you will be paying either monthly/transaction fees (with another hosted program) or paying for the course/membership software. 

If you can't decide between self-hosting and having it hosted somewhere else, don't let this decision hold you back if you're ready to get moving. Consider your big picture why and your current needs. If you take the time to learn all the software yourself, will you be losing out on potential revenue? Worse-case scenario, you can put things up on Teachable and move the content later if you want a membership site or something self-hosted. 

When looking at software and plugins for hosting yourself, consider all the pieces you will need. For courses, you'll need to set up and take payments, protect content, have a course interface, and a way to capture emails and communicate with the students. Those are the BASIC needs. You may also want to have the option to drip out content through the software or have it connect to your email service provider to drip content that way. Each of these pieces may be included or may be extras that cost more money. You'll also have to consider how to run an affiliate program. Sometimes this may be included and sometimes you will need a separate plugin to handle the affiliate piece. 

Using an Affiliate Program

Teachable makes this SIMPLE and people can automatically be added to the affiliate program. Your happy customers are the best salespeople for your products. You may want to consider using different language for your affiliates (but still clear under the FTC for disclosure!), but you can control how you talk to your people about being an affiliate and help train them to be better affiliates and share with their people in a way that isn't smarmy. 


Final Thoughts from Jennifer: Consider your actual passion. Where can you take less time to do something that ISN'T your passion or isn't something that needs YOU in it, you can save more of yourself to do the things that you really love or that need you personally involved with them.