Let’s start with a little bit about you. What kind of work do you do with Matt Smith at Modmacro, and how did that lead to your role at Businessing Magazine?
At Modmacro, I am a content strategist and writer. For our digital marketing and web design clients, I help determine (with input from both Matt and our clients) what their website copy, blogs, and digital ad copy should say. I take into consideration popular Google keyword searches, but also try to craft content that will position a company as an expert or leader in their industry and that will be of interest to a company’s target customers.
That’s challenging! Journalists and other types of writers might be surprised to know this, but content writing is a very specific skill.
Exactly. It has really pushed me as a writer. Sometimes I need to be succinct and write really “grabby” copy, while other times it benefits the client for me to go into a lot of detail and write lengthy, in-depth articles. And don’t even get me started on writing headlines or article titles—that’s another whole writing skill set I’ve had to learn. There’s so much more that goes into writing a headline or title than I ever imagined. You need it to be interesting (but not too click-baity), while still making sure you get the necessary terms in there so Google understands what the article is about.
And how did Businessing Magazine get started?
The idea started with Matt Smith, our publication’s editor-in-chief. He is a small business owner himself and a small business enthusiast. He’s also what you’d call a “lifelong learner.” He wanted to create a publication dedicated to small business owners and entrepreneurs where they could come to get advice and inspiration on a wide range of topics related to starting and running a small business.
The magazine started in July of 2014 and I was brought in to help as a writer and editor on day one. I soon became responsible for many of the day-to-day operations and about a year later I was promoted to the position of managing editor. I’ve enjoyed having a voice in the direction of Businessing, helping to create something that we are proud of, and that today includes articles from hundreds of authors.
What has surprised you about starting and running an online publication?
One of the things that surprised me is the type of guest submissions we receive. When we started the magazine, I thought that we’d mostly receive articles from small business owners looking to talk about their experiences in business. However, the articles we typically receive come from professionals who work with small business owners, like marketers, business consultants, and lawyers. But this has produced some great content for our site, as these types of professionals typically write helpful, in-depth articles on the topics that small business owners care about.
One of the challenges we face though is keeping the magazine from becoming too “promotional.” While we do allow our contributors to insert links in their articles that take you to their websites, we don’t publish articles that read like a sales pitch. We often publish articles that spotlight specific businesses or business owners who are doing great work, but we only do so when the featured article offers benefit to our general readership. It can be a fine line to walk.
We also work hard to keep Businessing easy to use. As strange as that might sound, most of the large, well-respected business publications, like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company can be challenging to navigate. We want to provide readers with an easy-to-manage interface that’s not overrun with popups, auto-play videos, push-down ads, and dynamic layouts that take a long time to load. The Businessing platform offers a fast-loading, uncluttered design, and a seamless user experience across pretty much all devices. You can get at the content you want without having to wait, close popups, or wade through on-screen interruptions. We saw this as a difference when we first launched the publication, and today we continue to believe that this is a critical distinction.
What have you learned about yourself as a writer and editor after writing many of the articles for the magazine and also editing so many others’ work?
I’ve learned that writing for an online publication is very different than the type of writing I had done previously. My major in college required me to write a lot of lengthy research papers, and I also worked for a while as a grant writer—working both in-house at a nonprofit organization and also as a freelance grant writer. In these instances, it was expected that my work contain very formal, lengthy paragraphs.
When I write articles for Businessing, I have found that it’s better to ditch the traditional idea of paragraphs, and instead, opt for shorter, one- to three-sentence sections. It’s also good to break up main ideas with sub-headings. Both of these things help keep readers interested and engaged, which is important to do since there is so much competing information on the internet.
When it comes to editing, I find myself doing a lot less of it now than I did in the early days of the publication. We’ve gotten to a place where we have the luxury of receiving a lot of quality submissions that don’t require much editing. And to be honest, we also reject of healthy percentage of submissions.
What do you hope to see in the future of Businessing?
We’ve kind of allowed Businessing to evolve based on what our readership tells us they want to see on our site. We keep a close eye on the types of articles that are popular and try to do more of them. For example, one of our most-read articles is one that we published early on that lists a series of inspirational quotes for business leaders. From that, we learned that not only are our readers looking for advice and information about business ownership, but also for inspiration to help them keep going during the challenging times.
The magazine is now read by small business owners and entrepreneurs in all 50 states and several countries. We’re currently experiencing record highs in readership almost every month and we’re excited to see this growth continue. We’ll continue to direct the publication to best meet the desires of our readers by both crafting and curating relevant content and by further expanding the number of writers who choose Businessing as the platform to get their content in front of hundreds of thousands of readers.
We’re also now in the process of taking the tactics that have made Businessing successful and applying them to build out some of our other publications. More to come on that soon!
What’s the best advice you have for someone who wants to start an online publication of their own?
Be patient! It takes time to grow it to a point where you start receiving quality submissions from writers. We spent a good two to three years writing a lot of the content ourselves and supplementing it with articles that we paid freelance writers to produce. Now, we are to the point where great writers are coming to us and asking to have their articles published on Businessing. At the same time, our advertising revenue has increased.
You also need an experienced technical staff to work on the site, the publication process, and SEO on a regular basis. And as your readership increases, your server and network requirements do too.
No matter what, you have to stay committed and keep plugging away at it. Don’t expect overnight success, and don’t expect it to be easy.