Creative jobs working online are there for the making, reports Megan Blandford.
Darren Rowse is an open book. "Anything goes, on a business level," says this professional blogger. "I tend to share the good and the bad." With his websites (problogger.net and digital-photography-school.com) attracting 5 million readers each month, there's a lot of good to communicate.
His business model revolves around knowledge sharing. On the surface, this means his online tips for improving photography skills and teaching others how to make money from blogging, but it's a two-way street and his readers are directly involved.
"My goal every day is to write something that's going to solve a problem for someone. The best way I know to do that is to share the problems I had and what I did to overcome them, and to share the problems I have that I still haven't overcome and hope someone will help me as well."
Rowse came across the idea of blogging in 2002 and just about two years later it was his career. "I'm a fairly impulsive person, so I'm always looking for something new ... and to constantly experiment," he says. Certainly Rowse displayed entrepreneurial instincts when growing up, as he sold stationery to fellow students. It's this creativity that has seen him become an early success story in a new industry.
His income strategy - which includes site advertising, sponsorships, book deals, e-book sales, a jobs board, Google AdSense, affiliate programs and speaking gigs - has developed over time, but is now moving into a period of stability.
"It's consolidated a bit. Since hiring team members, I don't want to inflict my impulsiveness on them every day!" he laughs. Still, he hints at the possibility of future plans, possibly including paid membership to his sites, showing that creativity is never far from the surface. The team, which helps him do what he does best, will work with him to decide on and implement the next move. Rowse says building a good team was a turning point in expanding his business. He started doing this when opportunities were slipping past him, owing to restraints in time and skills.
In the early days of little cashflow, he'd barter an exchange of services, and eventually this grew into a need to expand more permanently.
"My first foray into [building a team] was outsourcing a few bits and pieces. Gradually, as I began to earn some income, I realised there were skills I didn't have or things that were distracting."
He says it was a tricky balancing act, given that his blogs are so reliant on his own voice and personal brand.
"It was about developing systems," he says.
He has since outsourced administrative work, comment moderation on the blogs, assistance with product and e-book creation, and a team co-ordinating what has become his flagship marketing tool, the ProBlogger Training Event. This event has grown into an annual industry conference attracting more than 550 attendees in person and virtually, and shows Rowse's dedication to a career driven by passion. "The first time I did it, I realised how useful it was to people," he says of the event. "It was fun but it also gave a lot back to the Australian 'blogosphere', which I got a lot of personal satisfaction out of."
Eleven years on from that first discovery of blogging, and its success as a long-term career has surprised no one more than the ProBlogger himself. Rowse says it's one of the best moves he ever made and he will keep on sharing, growing his business and "building something that's hopefully enhancing people's lives".