I first met Michael Kwan a few years back through my good friend John Chow. It’s funny because we’ve been working together for a few years now and Michael does a lot of writing on this blog for me, but we have yet to actually meet up with each other yet. Seems like that’s how the majority of internet business and blogging is done these days, and is yet another reason why it’s important that we continue to learn more about each other through these “meet the blogger” interview series!
1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?
My name is Michael Kwan and I am a professional freelance writer. You might have seen some of my articles here on Blogging Tips. I got started with blogging even before blogging was really a thing. Way back in 1999, I started an e-mail newsletter with my musings, sending it out to a small distribution list consisting of mostly my friends. That evolved into a Geocities website a few years later and I eventually launched Beyond the Rhetoric in 2006 as my first “true” blog running on a true blog CMS. I’ve always had an interest in writing, so falling into a career as a writer and having my own blog felt like a natural fit.
2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?
Beyond the Rhetoric approaches a number of different topics, but many of these have to do with the business of freelancing. They might talk about how to best manage client preferences or about some of the best strategies for maintaining a healthy life-work balance when working from home. I recently wrote on what freelancers can learn from Abraham Lincoln, for example. There are also posts about finances and money management, as well as grammar tips, memorable quotes and personal development advice.
The focus of the blog is two-fold. First, I want to provide a platform where I could provide advice for entrepreneurs, freelancers and home-based business owners, but I also want to get them thinking. Perhaps I’m just a philosopher at heart. The second goal was to provide some variety to the content. This way, it wouldn’t feel so serious all the time. That’s why I mix things up with restaurant and movie reviews from time to time too.
3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?
The traffic is being monetized primarily through Google AdSense and Text Link Ads, as well as some display advertising in the form of banners. There are also some Amazon affiliate links in certain posts, but that’s fairly minimal. Indirectly, the blog serves as passive marketing for my freelance writing services, as it gives potential clients some insight into my general writing style.
4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?
The platform is important. When I first started with Geocities, I was manually updating every page by manually editing the HTML. When Beyond the Rhetoric first launched, I was using some proprietary CMS from GoDaddy that was hardly adaptive or flexible. If I had known back then, I would have started with WordPress right from the beginning. Migrating the posts from the GoDaddy CMS to WordPress was an exercise in frustration and it’s not something I would wish on anyone.
5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?
Aside from the blogs where I contribute regularly, most of the blogs that I read on a daily basis are related to the work that I do. I keep up with the world of consumer electronics and gadgets by reading blogs like The Verge. Outside of that, I read Miss 604 for local Vancouver coverage and xkcd for insightful giggles.
6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?
WordPress, for sure, as it’s one of the most flexible and versatile content management systems that you can use. It’s also free. Hootsuite is my favorite social media dashboard, allowing me to manage multiple social media profiles from a single web interface, as well as through the mobile app. And third, RSS Graffiti is a great way to syndicate your RSS feed onto your Facebook page.
7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?
Write about what you love and stick with it. You will experience tremendous growing pains in the beginning and when you see that you’ve only earn 30 cents from AdSense in that first month, it’s easy to get disheartened. Growing a blog is a long process and you need to love writing about your niche to continue with it, even when the numbers don’t really back it up.
8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?
Metrics are important. When I first started, I didn’t really do much in terms of tracking my traffic or my audience, but that kind of information is incredibly useful for so many reasons. Use those Insights on Facebook, implement Analytics on you blog, and so on. Advertisers want this data and you should have it available to you.
9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?
Of course, your costs may vary and you may be able to find some better deals, but there are some basics you’ll want to cover. A domain will be about $10 and basic shared hosting will run you about $80 for the year. It’s important to have your own domain right from the get-go. Hire a designer to create a header image and a logo for your blog; you can go on Fiverr to get those done for $5 each.
10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?
Thanks again Michael for taking the time to share your advice and story with the Blogging Tips community. If you would like to learn about other bloggers and how they are finding success online, be sure to read through our blogger interview series.