How To Be A Professional Blogger, And Make a Great Living Doing It

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Sean Jackson (@SeanThinks) of CopyBlogger speak at the DFW WordPress Meetup. Having heard Sean before I was expecting a rehash of his previous spiels, but he surprised me. Sean’s presentation, Are You Ready To Go Pro, was both inspirational and challenging. It was the best I’ve ever heard from Sean.

One Blogger’s Story

Sean started the presentation telling us about a guy he knows named Jon. In 2006 the car Jon was in was hit by another car going 85 mph. During the next three months of recovery he evaluated his life, decided he didn’t like the way things were, and quit everything. When a friend asked him what he was going to do now his response was, “I don’t know, maybe start a blog.”

Van Jon was in when he was hit by a vehicle going 85 mph.

Van Jon Morrow was in when he was hit by a vehicle going 85 mph.

Start a blog he did, but he wasn’t just a casual blogger, he dedicated himself to his new task from first thing in the morning, till the wee hours of night. He didn’t watch TV. He didn’t see friends. He just worked on his blog.

In the first 30 days Jon had his blog off the ground, by the second 30 days he had over 2,000 visitors per month. A couple of months after that he was asked to be the Associate Editor of CopyBlogger, one of the most successful blogs in the world, so he sold his blog for five figures and went to work for them.

One day he realized he didn’t like living in cold Chicago any longer, and since all of CopyBlogger’s employees work from home, he wasn’t tied to living there. He was a blogger. He could live anywhere in the world he wanted to. Long story short, one year later he had moved to a beach front condo in one of the finest resorts in Mazatlan, Mexico.

So now he works for one of the most successful blogs in the world, writes on several other high profile blogs, lives in a beachfront condo, and blogs while watching dolphins play in the ocean. All while earning a high six figure income.

Jon Morrow's Office in Mazatlan, Mexico

Jon Morrow’s Office in Mazatlan, Mexico

One detail has been left out of this story. Jon has a fatal disease, can’t move from the neck down, and has round the clock nursing assistance. His hands have never touched a keyboard.

Pro Blogger Jon Morrow

Pro Blogger Jon Morrow

You can read the true story of Jon Morrow (@JonMorrow), in his own words, in this blog post, How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise And Get Paid to Change the World.

What is Your Excuse?

So here’s the question that hit me hard, and I quote Sean directly (sans the salty language), “What is your excuse?”

Are You Ready to Go Pro?

First let’s define what pro means. Once Brian Clark, founder and CEO of CopyBlogger, was asked, “What’s the one measurement that matters?” His answer, “Money.” Sean said it this way, “If you’re not making money you’re not a professional blogger.” Pro means you’re getting paid, and if you want to get paid you must tell stories that move people to take action.

What Does it Take to Go Pro?

A pro has three qualities: discipline, focus, and detail.


Sean described discipline as “Doing the same thing all the damn time.” As a blogger that means writing all the time. Seth Godin was asked, “Do you write every day?” His answer, “Do you talk every day?” When Jon was starting out he worked on his blog every day from the time he got up, till the time he fell asleep. There was no time for TV. There was no time for friends. Every waking minute was spent working on the blog.


Did you know that every time someone interrupts you it takes fifteen minutes to regain your concentration? Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, defined the 10,000 hour rule. Anyone who has truly mastered their craft – think Tiger Woods, Michael Jordon, and Jon Morrow – has spent 10,000 hours getting to that level of excellence. If that’s the case, we don’t have any fifteen minute increments to spare. Brian Clark, CEO of CopyBlogger, has certain times set aside to focus on his writing, during which the whole company knows not to disturb him.


Sean said you have to “Focus on little things, not be consumed with everything.” At CopyBlogger they obsess over details. Change seemingly minor things and test the response. As an example: the button used to subscribe to their e-mail list no longer says “Subscribe,” but now says “Join Us.” Look at the social share buttons on any of their blog posts. Their location and size have been tested and refined based on the response. (I would suggest copy this idea exactly.)

Build an Audience

The CopyBlogger mantra has been, “Build an audience and sell them what they want.” This is in stark contrast to most businesses who build the product first, then go looking for an audience.

Top Three Ways To Build an Audience

The top three methods for building an audience are magnetic headlines, guest blogging, and e-mail. Notice what isn’t included on this list: search engine optimization, website design, or social media, etc.

Magnetic Headlines

The single most important piece of your blogging success is writing headlines that grab someone’s attention, and make them want to keep reading. This one surprised me, but shouldn’t have, especially when you consider the following.

“Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader. Without a compelling promise that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist.” CopyBlogger

“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.” CopyBlogger

“Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader. Without a compelling promise that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist.” CopyBlogger

Ever sent out an e-mail, through a service such as MailChimp, later looked at your stats, and wondered why more of them weren’t opened? You now have an answer. Write a better subject line.

Ever wrote a blog post, put it out on Facebook, and wondered why more people didn’t click through to read it? You now have answer. Write a better status update.

“Remember, every element of compelling copy has just one purpose — to get the next sentence read. And then the sentence after that, and so on, all the way down to your call to action. So it’s fairly obvious that if people stop at the headline, you’re already dead in the water.” CopyBlogger

CopyBlogger has a great resource on writing Magnetic Headlines.

Guest Blogging

Why should you be actively looking for opportunities to guest blog? It gives you an opportunity to reach an audience you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

Here is an example. Jon has a website where he teaches people about guest blogging. If you Google “guest blogging” you’re likely to find his site, but how does he reach people who haven’t even considered the possibility of guest blogging?

Well Jon has his gig at CopyBlogger, and at the end of every one of his posts, which generally aren’t about guest blogging, you’ll see the following message.

About the Author

About the Author

How many people do you think have gotten to Jon’s site on guest blogging by reading one of his articles on CopyBlogger? I think it’s safe to assume a very significant number.

The second reason for guest blogging is because of Google’s move into Google Authorship, which is a process for ranking articles based on who has written them. Imagine a future where people are no longer worried about how well their site ranks with Google, but how well an author ranks on their site. If you have a high ranking as an author, your services might soon become valuable to someone.

“Rel=Author is the biggest thing in SEO in a long time.” Sean Jackson

E-mail with Auto-Responders

E-mail is the most cost effective way of reaching someone who has visited your site before, getting them back for repeat visits, and one day taking action on something you’ve offered. How do you get people to join your email list? Give them a good reason to sign up, something of value, and make sure it’s free.

Sean shared with us that the method CopyBlogger has perfected is the no-pitch e-mail series. If you visit CopyBlogger you can find several tutorials on various subjects relevant to bloggers. Once you sign up for them, every few days you will get an email with the next installment in the series. At the end of the e-mail you might be softly invited to take another action with them, but whether you do or do not, in a few more days you will get another email with more information.

The auto-responder keeps your name in front of them, and when they need something you are offering, they know right where to get it. And the ultimate prize is when they forward your e-mail to one of their friends, or everyone in their address book, and suddenly you’ve been referred to a whole new group of people.

My favorite quote of Sean’s regarding email was this, “Real friends don’t send HTML e-mail.” When you are setting up your emails make sure they are short, and text based.

The Goal of Audience Building

When your audience trusts you they will do business with you. The formula for building trust is:

Frequency + Likability = Trust

Of those two, frequency is the most important. With enough frequency I can get you to like me.

E-mail gives you the ability to frequently communicate with your audience, so that they start to like you, then trust you, and eventually do business with you.

Dallas Design District

Let’s take a look at a real life example of trust.

In Dallas there is an area called the Dallas Design District. A developer bought up some of the property with the goal to, “breathe new life into a historic area and to raise the sea level for the entire neighborhood, not just its properties.” An ambitious goal, to say the least.

As part of their plan they included a social media component and hired a blogger, Kendall Shiffler (@KendallAnne). She created a blog that is now known as It took some Jon Morrow type of determination to develop, but let’s look at the results.

  • Over 60% of the apartments leased in the development were a direct result of the blog.
  • Apartments were leased at rates 30% higher than the competition.
  • Commercial property rates increased 50% over four years.

And kudos to Kendall. The marketing budget for the social and content marketing platform has stayed in place, while other marketing initiatives that didn’t produce have been cut.

Kendall Shiffler of

Kendall Shiffler of

Whatever business you’re in, wouldn’t you like to have the trust factor built up that generates these types of response rates?

The Five Things People Want To Buy

When it comes time to sell your audience a product, your product needs to have one or more of the following five characteristics:

  1. Ease
  2. Comfort
  3. Mental Stimulation
  4. Ego Reinforcement
  5. Social Acknowledgment

Sean says, “People will spend outrageous amounts of money to buy one or all of these.”

Take for example the iPhone. Is it necessary to have one? No, but it does have ease of use, it is comfortable to hold, and there is a certain amount of ego reinforcement and social acknowledgement that goes with owning it. Since it meets more than one of these requirements people pay a premium to have it.

After you build your audience, then start looking to build a product or service that meets these characteristics. When you accomplish that, selling it to your audience is easy.


What’s keeping you from going pro? What’s keeping you from living your dreams? For most people fear holds them back from doing what needs to be done, so they can live the way they want. If you’re not happy where you’re at, do something different.

“When you recognize your gifts, you can change anything for yourself that you wish to change. If you don’t like how something is going for you, change it. If something isn’t enough, change it. If something doesn’t suit you; change it. If something doesn’t please you, change it. You don’t ever have to be the same after today. If you don’t like your present address, change it—you’re not a tree!” Jim Rohn

In the Dallas area there are several resources you can tap into for learning more on what it takes to go pro.

The DFW WordPress Meetup (@DFWWP) meets on the fourth Saturday of the month and is a valuable resource for learning about WordPress, the most popular blogging platform.

The Dallas Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (@DFWSEM) meets once a month and covers topics related to getting ranked in the search engines.

About the Author: Scott Vann (@ScottVann) is the Vice President of Communication for DFWSEM, and a Realtor serving the Dallas area from Downtown to points north. Search for homes at