The Blog Shop Bandwagon - Where Do You Begin?

30 August 2011 Comments
shopping cart
Take a look at Multiply sites, and you will see that the place has evolved from a mere blogging platform to a thriving online marketplace. People are posting less of personal photos and uploading more pictures of merchandise for sale. A lot of Facebook users have become hybrid traders on the social networking site.

Setting up a blog shop these days seems like a painless process. Even teens and college students have eagerly ventured on the blog shop bandwagon with little apprehensions. If you want to join the fun, then nobody's stopping you. Here are some general guidelines and hints to help you out.
  1. Know what you want to sell and are capable of selling. Do you want to market goods or services or both? If blogging is something that you don't really enjoy or have time for, then you may want to set up a conventional web store instead of a blog shop.

  2. Consider your role in the market place. Are you a direct seller or a reseller? Buyers prefer to transact business with direct distributors over middlemen, but it's a given that the number of resellers far outnumber direct suppliers. Make your role clear to your potential buyers.

  3. Select where you want to put up your shop. Many considerations come to mind - Is the platform secure? Is it user-friendly? Does it allow you to customize the look of your shop or integrate other software? Is the site scalable? Are there any restrictions? We'll look into these options in the next blog post, so stay tuned.

  4. Choose an advertising medium. When you're just starting out, you don't have to think right away of paying for advertisements. Some communities allow ad posting. Oftentimes, the best way to start spreading word about your shop would be through friends and referrals.

  5. Anticipate your needs. As a seller, you might require order forms, shopping carts, vouchers, a phone line and flexible modes of payment. You might even want to upgrade your PayPal account from a personal account to a business account. At any rate, putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer will really help you anticipate your needs better.*

Blog Shop - A Lucrative Venture for Sellers Who Love to Write

22 August 2011 Comments
kitties hugging
Teecup Limited has been pretty quiet for a couple of weeks -- this is all for good reason. I've decided to take a detour from pure web content writing to a fun and lucrative venture called online selling. Simply put, I opened a blog shop.

The Defining Elements

So, what exactly is a blog shop? To put it bluntly, a blog shop is a hybrid of a web log and an online shop. It slightly differs from your typical e-commerce sites in at least two ways:

  • The blog is the heart of the blog shop. Fresh content takes the center stage. Without the blogging element, the site can easily pass for a traditional online store where you see shopping carts and photos of products for sale.

  • The home page of the blog shop is not static. Depending on how frequently the seller updates the site, the home page typically reflects your latest posts. Majority of the blog posts reflect the publication date, so that readers are assured that the shop is not one of the virtual white elephants.
If you love to write and know how to sell things using your flair for words, then setting up a blog shop might be just your thing.

You need not limit yourself to selling tangible products. You can also sell your services and use the blog shop to strengthen your online portfolio for a number of lucrative web content writing thrusts such as ad copy writing, product description writing, blog posting, and regular article writing.

Judgment Call on Content

Generic e-commerce sites all follow a similar pattern. Apart from the standard "About Us" and "Contact Us" pages, majority of the online stores devote a huge percentage of their space to displaying the items for sale, including the prices, shipping charges and a "check out" shopping cart.

Blog shops may also have all of the above-mentioned features. When it comes to content creation, the seller has full creative control. It's not enough to include just the price updates. There are plenty of other things that you can do as a writer and seller:

  1. Include informative articles. Doing so can assure customers that you know what you're doing. Articles also help to build your credibility as a seller and help prospective buyers to get to know the product fully before making a purchase.

  2. Elaborate on the products for sale. One-liner descriptions are okay, but if you are selling electronic products, don't just copy and paste the specs. Write a convincing user review, especially when you have had first-hand experience with the gadget you're marketing.

  3. Give your potential buyers a choice. Press releases and testimonials are fine, but be careful of sounding too aggressive. Provide your customers the information they need to come up with a decision by themselves. Stating the mall price and your selling price is a very effective and subtle sales pitch.

  4. Establish your online presence. Provide a paper trail of feedback, as this builds buyer confidence in your blog shop. Respond to inquiries in a polite, timely and comprehensive manner. Responsive online sellers are twice more likely to succeed than individuals who stick to just text messaging.

Profiting from Your Blog Shop

Physical stalls and mall space all incur steep overhead costs for rental and maintenance. With a blog shop, you cut these operational expenses. Furthermore, by combining your online selling and web content writing activities, you benefit from the blog shop in the following ways:

  1. You get to hone and test your web content writing skills: ad copies, online articles, blog posts, product descriptions, user reviews and sundry. You will even develop the discipline to stick to the topic and to a schedule along the way. Your best critics are your own prospective buyers.

  2. You get to reinforce your online portfolio. There is no better testament to how good a copy writer you are than by showing to prospective clients that you run your own shop and that you've made a handsome amount of money by selling products with your crisp and convincing copies.

  3. You get to diversify your income stream. Churning out pure web content for clients may burn out even the most passionate writer. Online selling lets you take a fun breather from heavy deadline-oriented projects and allows you to make money from the web all the same.

  4. You get to socialize and network with netizens who share your interest in the same products. Depending on how open you are to making connections, you might well be on the way to establishing your own circle of trusted business partners, resellers and friends.*

    Why Freelancers and Banks Do Not Jibe

    05 August 2011 Comments
    fat kitty
    If the world were free from robberies, break-ins and all sorts of criminal tactics, there's no doubt that freelancers would choose a good old piggy bank over a real bank.

    Sad to say, the latter has become an integral part of any transaction imaginable.

    Whether you get paid for freelancing or for reporting to your day job, your earnings eventually end up in your bank account.

    Even PayPal funds are not exempt. To note, one of the primary reasons that you want to verify your PayPal account is not only to lift the spending limit but also to allow you to move your PayPal funds to your ATM or bank account.

    Financial Suicide

    The sense of necessity and the false assurance of security that comes when experts hold your money for you make the banking institution the necessary evil that it is. Other than these, entrusting your entire earnings with the bank is financial suicide:
    • When you think of it, the bank gets to use your money for free but will charge exorbitant rates to individuals who want to make a loan (out of the money you just deposited). Not fair.

    • Penalties are everywhere: from average daily maintaining balances to dormancy fees and annual service charges, and God knows what. You're always on the tiptoe, because the bank is ready to cash in on the slightest misstep you take.

    • Each time you move money, the bank slaps you with charges and fees of all sorts. There's no such thing as a free lunch, but can you imagine having to pay the bank a huge cut of your check deposit or incoming remittance from abroad? Even the oh-so-convenient online banking system is ruthless in this respect.

      • Most banks will still ask you to pay up for inter-branch money transfers initiated online. For instance, from one BPI account to another, 150 pesos (for peso transfers) or 6.50 US dollars (for foreign currency transfers) from the receiving party will be withheld by the bank as service fee deduction. 

      • Use the "wrong" ATM, and you get charged for every transaction you enter with the machine - be it in the form of a balance inquiry, an electronic fund transfer or a withdrawal. The average deduction ranges from 10 to 12 pesos per transaction type. This does not include other fees for international card holders and sundry.

      • Have your card "eaten" by the ATM machine, and get ready to shell out 100 to 150 pesos for a replacement card. Some banks follow a strict schedule for claiming the card and will destroy all unclaimed cards by the third day. You are at the bank's entire mercy.
    • When the bank files for bankruptcy and folds up, you're the last to know. You might not even know unless you read the headlines and until media will make a ruckus out of the event. As most depositors attest, getting your money back from the insurance company PDIC will be a long and tedious wait. Imagine having to wait for years to get your money back. Draining. 

    Local Fund Transfers from ODesk - Hyped

    In April this year, ODesk stepped up with a workaround: the local fund transfer (LFT). For freelancers signed up with ODesk, doing direct bank transfers may turn out to be pocket-friendlier than taking the ODesk-to PayPal-to your bank account route. The bidding site lowered the withdrawal fee from 1.99 dollars to 99 cents, and your first withdrawal comes free.  

    News has it that ODesk to PayPal to bank fund transfers normally incur a minimum charge of 1.99 dollars, excluding the exchange rate by the third-party vendor and bank fees for remittance (zero actually from PayPal to EON). With the LFT, you are able to cut off PayPal (and its exchange rates and fees) as the intermediary. Your two worries would boil down to:

    • revealing your bank account information, which is risky when it reaches the wrong eyes
    • dealing with your local bank's inbound remittance fees

    So, as you can see, the LFT eliminates only the middleman. In exchange, you would need divulge to the site your bank account details. The LFT option does little to resolve the freelancers' issue with the bank and its outrageous incoming remittance fees. To note, the following incoming remittance charges were reported by ODesk freelancers at a local forum:

    • Banco De Oro (BDO): 200 pesos
    • China Bank: 200 pesos
    • Land Bank: 50 pesos
    • Metrobank: 77 pesos
    • Philippine National Bank (PNB): 250 pesos
    • Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC): 100 pesos
    • Unionbank: 50 pesos

    Yes, you read it right. The bank expects you to pay every time you put money to your account. The fees are no different actually when you transfer funds from PayPal to your bank. The only exception appears to be Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) which does not charge any incoming fee for local fund transfers. This privilege can only be enjoyed under the umbrella of ODesk. Under normal circumstances, the bank is notorious for its steep 150-peso incoming remittance fee.

    Things to Remember
    1. If you're using PayPal, the only bank which collects no remittance charge is Unionbank.
    2. If you're doing local fund transfers from ODesk, the best choice would be BPI.
    3. Don't let all of your money sleep in the bank.
    4. To move your freelance earnings, choose the lesser of two evils.
    5. Always research your options before transacting business.
    Note: The photo of this piggy kitty of a bank comes from People's Daily Online. To view more photos of the adorably fat feline, check out the February 17, 2006 story. The feline is unnamed. What is known is that the super fat cat belongs to a Chinese man named Xu Jirong. *

        Cutline Writing - 8 Winning Tips

        03 August 2011 Comments
        In Teaching by Principles, Brown compared writing to swimming. Not every human being can swim. Similarly, if you want to learn how to write, you've got to study, practice and hone the skill. 

        big cats in a boxYou have got to do things the right way, because perfection is not achieved by constant practice alone but by correct and constant practice.

        Next to creating a humorous feature story, crafting a good cutline is one of the most difficult tasks for a serious journalist. 

        It is true that people publish photos everyday. A very small percentage of the images comes with effective cutlines and captions.

        We already covered how you can write good photo captions last week. This time, we'll move to cutline writing. You'll need 8 tips to do the job right. Are you ready to think inside the box?

        1. Mind the facts. Fact-check and spell-check your cutline. Any information you include must reflect the details published in the main story. Be careful about gender references, civil status and spelling of names. You want to be as accurate and as consistent as possible.

        2. If the photo is an accompanying artwork, be a tease. Don't reveal all pertinent information in one blow. Remember that your main purpose is to hook the audience to read the full-length story. Visualize the image and the cutline as the appetizer. You want readers to proceed to the main course.

        3. If the image is wild art, make conciseness your primary objective. Wild artworks are stand-alone images. They do not come with a full-length story. As such, it is essential that your cutline be as complete as possible. 

        4. Do not repeat the headline. Oftentimes, a single line or a short phrase is enough to help readers make the connection between the image and the main story. Don't risk writing a sloppy cutline for the sake of just having a cutline.

        5. Edit out your opinion. Traditional mass communication is very strict about objectivity, so you might want to omit adjectives, interpretations and fictional allusions. Include only the facts. It's not surprising that the journalistic cutline reads a lot like straight news.

        6. As with the case of writing good photo captions, do not mention the obvious. This will waste space and make your readers feel dumb. "As shown in the photo" "as mentioned" and "shown here" are common examples of trite wording, which is best avoided.

        7. Add context. Shots of emotional events and facial expression tell a number of stories. It is wise to mention a related detail which led to the emotional outburst. For instance, if you publish an image of crying women, talk about the catastrophe in the cutline to help explain what the picture does not tell. 

        8. Keep it concise. You don't have to use more than two statements. Express the first in present tense, and the second one in past tense. Experts also suggest that you establish the timeline so as not to confuse the readers. 

        How do you like the list? For an extra treat and more insights to cutline writing, please do read Professor Malcolm Gibson's site Making Words Work.* 

        Photo Captions and Cutlines - the Difference

        02 August 2011 Comments
        Kitty loves spaghetti
        The man on the streets uses the terms "caption" and "cutline" interchangeably.

        In journalism, the two terms do not mean the same thing. A cutline refers to any textual information that accompanies a photo, while a caption is the headline or title that precedes the cutline.

        Can you tell which is which?

        Pasta for kitty. Available in tuna or anchovy sauce, the pasta pack retails at $1.50. Royal Spaghetti launched the product Monday at a Feline Park press conference.

        As you may well guess, "Pasta for kitty" is the caption. The rest of the statements are the cutline.

        In the case of one-liners, the accurate term to use is "cutline." The distinction is not obvious to common folks, which is why today, it is perfectly acceptable to interchange both terms.   

        Some things to keep in mind:

        1. Most photos use a cutline.
        2. Cutlines may or may not have a caption.
        3. Notwithstanding the headlines, the cutline is the most read text in a broad sheet (or newspaper).
        4. Crafting the cutline requires careful thought.
        5. By journalistic convention, cutlines must be accurate, concise, complete and readable.
        6. Distinguishing the caption is easy. It is the first to appear and it is usually formatted in bold.
        7. When accompanying a cutline, the caption may consist of only a few words or a short phrase.
        8. The cutline typically employs complete sentences.
        9. Just like headlines, the first sentence is usually expressed in the present tense.
        10. The second sentence is expressed in the past tense.*

        Month 6 in the Blogosphere

        01 August 2011 Comments
        teecup tea cupIt's been six months that Teecup Limited has managed stayed up and running in the blogosphere.

        Other bloggers have done it longer, but considering how easy it is to get derailed from a pursuit that pays nothing and imposes no disciplinary action to force an individual to "deliver," it's worth mentioning that genuine passion in blogging drives a blogger to be an active blogger.   

        Fast forward 120 posts later, what really happened between Month 1 and Month 6 of Teecup's blogging journey? Read on:
        • The site got indexed by Google 24 hours after the first few blog entries went live in January 2011. Analytics showed an average of 4 to 5 daily visitors.

        • The blog became part of the Adgitize blogging network in February 2011. The move dramatically improved the site's Alexa ranking from 14M to 600k.

        • Because no posts were published for May 2011, a lot of visitors thought the blog had already been abandoned. The last few entries talked about blogging in absentia.

        • By June 2011 and 100 blog posts later, the site became a PR1 blog. The kitty blog which only had about 10 posts was also assigned a site rank of 1.

        • On July 2011, Teecup Limited joined the Adgitize network of advertisers - a move that brought the average number of daily visitors to at least 50 and further improved the site's Alexa ranking from 600k to 300k. 

        What lies in store for the next half of the year? One thing is certain: The blog site will be walking hand in hand with friends who share Teecup's passion with writing, blogging and freelancing. A very special mention goes out to Chin Chin, Midnight Cowgirl, Umihoney and Geri for their regular visits and comments.

        August is going to be a pretty busy month. Now, let's talk about your blogging milestones, shall we?*
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