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10 Tips to Help You Start Your First Online Magazine

Are you a writer who wants to go beyond blogging and freelance writing for magazines? Here are several things you need to know about starting online magazines.

online magazine tipsIn Writing Online: Write Your Dreams To Reality, Sean Platt describes how to teaches you how to write content that attracts readers. He also describes selling, marketing, blogging, social media, SEO, list building, and building a strong reader or fan base for websites or online magazines. There’s no way I could tell you everything you need to know about starting an online magazine – you need to research what’s worked for other writers, editors and publishers. And, you need to combine their experience with your own unique style of writing and website creation.

Here’s the inspiration for this article: “I’m tinkering with the idea of online magazines,” says a fellow writer. “Do you have any experience with this?” Yup, I know a few things about creating and writing for online magazines. I call myself a blogger, but I’m more of a magazine-style writer than a blogger. Below, I share 10 tips for writing online magazines. If you want your magazine to pay your electric bill (or even your mortgage), read What Types of Blogs Earn the Most Money?

Starting Your First Online Magazine

I started freelance writing and blogging full-time in 2008; I quit freelancing after two years because blogging was more interesting, fun, profitable, and easier. My blogs were never your traditional blogs; rather they all contained tips-based articles to inform and educate readers.

So my “Quips and Tips” websites weren’t blogs, really. They were online magazines. I even hired writers for a time, and considered hiring an editor because I deplored editing. I learned a lot about creating and running online magazines – so I’m glad my foodie writer friend asked me this question!

Here’s what I know for sure about starting online magazines…

Schedule time to create your online magazine

Creating and running a successful online magazine is a full-time endeavor, especially if you’re serious about making this your job. A magazine is a business, and you are an entrepreneur. This means you need startup money from investors – even if those “investors” are your family members or savings accounts. Starting anything new involves a sacrifice, but if you love what you’re doing…then the sacrifice is easy.

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You need to make time to read other online magazines in the field you’re interested in. Don’t copy their ideas; rather, find ways to expand and insert your own original style into successful online formats. Make time to learn the business of online magazines.

If you struggle to find time to write – much less think about starting online magazines – read 8 Tips for Writers Who Want to Blog Full-Time.

Hire a webmaster and “SEO expert” to launch your online magazine? Maybe

I learned everything I needed to know about starting online magazines and blogs by trial and error. This wasn’t hard labor because I love the creation part of blogging. The writing part is what gets me! If you have more money than time, I think hiring a webmaster who has search engine optimization experience is the way to go. If you have more time than money, then start asking Google your questions right now.

If you aren’t sure if you should DIY or hire someone, read When to Hire a Webmaster for Your Blog.

Focus on an audience and content for your online magazine

Who are you writing for? The more specific the better. This is probably the least helpful of all my tips to help you start your first online magazine because it’s said so often. If you’ve done any research on writing for magazines, you know that you need to have a target audience.

But I can add this tidbit for blogging and online magazine writing: sometimes your audience changes. My first blog was a general Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals blog. The love and relationship articles were so popular, I created Quips and Tips for Love and Relationships, which was a totally separate website. Not all online magazines follow their audience, but it’s important to be aware of any shifts in demographics or readership.

Hire content writers

This is the biggest difference between blogs and online magazines. A blog is usually self-sustained; an online magazine accepts content from writers and other types of contributors (eg, photographers, illustrators, etc).

online magazine writing tips

10 Tips to Help You Start Your First Online Magazine

Many online magazines don’t pay writers. This is financially awesome, but it affects the quality of the writing. When I was paying writers for my online magazines, I found myself editing articles for hours – which I didn’t expect and I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t paying much, but I didn’t expect so many typos, unfinished sentences, huge grammatical errors, and pink fonts!

If your online magazine accepts contributions that are writing by “real people” (as opposed to writers), you don’t need to worry about the writing. But if you want quality content from contributors, you have to pay for it.  Read my Freelance Writing Pay Rates – How Much Do Writers Charge? to get an idea.

Hire editors who know search engine optimization? Maybe

I didn’t want to run a series of online magazines, so I didn’t hire editors to edit the articles I paid for. I don’t want to be a manager or administrator, and found that hiring writers created way too much follow-up work. My goal in hiring writers for my online magazines was to free up time to write. Instead, I spent more time dealing with contributors, invoices, editing, etc than writing. So I stopped hiring writers.

Ideally, you’ll love editing and posting articles on your online magazine. If you want to start your first online magazine, you’ll need to learn how to edit quickly and inoffensively (some writers don’t like to be edited).

Hire a salesperson to sell advertising space? Nah

Ah, making money with online magazines – the tip you’ve been waiting for! Many websites sell “virtual real estate.” For example, they offer space above the fold for a banner advertisement. I’ve never tried to make money by selling online ad space because I don’t want to bother with sales, marketing, administration, invoicing, etc.

Also, I believe selling advertising space on your online magazine isn’t as profitable as making money with Google and Amazon. However, this depends on the audience and content of your online magazine. If your audience is writers in New York City, then you might make a few hundred dollars a month from people who want to advertise directly to writers (eg, businesses that organize writers’ retreats, writers’ conferences, writers’ degrees, freelance writing jobs, etc).

However, if your online magazine is general, then you’ll have a harder time selling online ad space. Not only will the advertising content not match your articles, but advertisers don’t usually want to pay for ads in magazines that aren’t directed to their target audience.

Make money with Google and Amazon

Currently, I’m earning almost $300 per day from Google and about $70 per day from Amazon. Why? Because my articles help readers solve specific problems. And because I have that big fat ugly Google ad in the middle of my blog posts. It’s gross, but it works.

online magazines and writers

Writing for Online Magazines

If your online magazine helps specific people (eg, writers) solve specific problems (eg, write their memoirs, find literary agents, get published, organize writing retreats, etc) and if your articles and ads are targeted to the same subjects, then you will make money. Online magazines often don’t make money because they’re too general. Actually, it’s online newspapers that don’t make money. Their content is news, and isn’t geared towards helping people solve problems.

Send newsletters – but not like O magazine does

“Send a newsletter” is one of those tips you’ve seen everywhere, right? And, rumor has it that email newsletters are a thing of the past. Maybe soon, but not yet.

O magazine’s newsletters are crammed full of links, images, advertisements, notices, blurbs. It’s overwhelming! I read O’s print magazine every month, but delete the newsletter immediately. It’s too much.

Ironically, I just started sending my Blossom newsletter regularly last month! I’ve never wanted to email people directly (in fact, I deplored sending the newsletter at first) – and it was literally painful for me at first. Now I love it. I love connecting with readers, and inspiring them with blossoms and blessings.  You’ll find lots of tips for newsletters and online magazines if you ask Google.

My latest newsletter is How to Blossom When You’re Busy. Not only do I email my newsletters, I also publish them on my main website. It’s not monetized; it’s just my weekly messages. That’s the most “bloggy” website I have.

Participate in social media

I saved the worst for last. Social media isn’t my strong point. I’m a writer, and I just want to be alone in my loft writing and creating images for my articles. I have Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Pinterest accounts…but I don’t actually interact on them. I just post to them. I know this is the “wrong” way to do social media, but I just don’t have time to interact online.

What are your questions about starting your first online magazine? Feel free to ask below!

If you’ve decided that online magazines aren’t your thing, read 10 Careers for Writers Who Want to Make Money.

I wish you all the best as you move forward in your online endeavors. May you experience God’s blessings, spirit, and faith! May you take leap after leap in the dark, always knowing He’s got your back.


6 thoughts on “10 Tips to Help You Start Your First Online Magazine”

  1. There are many reasons why content publishers decide to run an online magazine e.g.: creating an additional revenue stream to further monetize content on increasing transparency on the road to building a strong, recognizable brand.

    In my opinion, the most important thing is that an online magazine will be read across all devices: desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet. The first thing to remember is that it has to be built upon the Responsive Design idea without compromising on quality.

    I’ve just written an article on PressPad blog about creating and promoting online magazines and I hope it will be helpful for every publisher 🙂

  2. When you’re starting your first website, it can be very useful to hire an SEO expert. Web optimization is essential, and the small details matter. Our website traffic increased considerably after we hired a company skilled in search engine optimization, but we’re still growing slowly. But the exciting thing is that we are now planning an online magazine! That’s how I found you, by searching for tips for starting an ezine. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for your offer, Karen! But I’m not concerned about the typos and errors in my blog posts. I’ve never been a perfectionist, and as long as my articles are readable, I’m happy with them.

    Of course, if I were actually starting an online magazine that was more formal than my Blossom blogs, I’d definitely consider hiring an editor or proofreader 🙂

    All good things,

  4. I’ve enjoyed a couple of your articles this evening. I enjoy your writing style but sometimes when we write our errors become invisible to us. Could you perhaps use the services of a proofreader?

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I’m glad my tips on how to start an online magazine were helpful! 🙂 I’d love to hear how it goes; do come back and share how these ideas worked for you.

  6. Wow, thank you so much for this wonderful post. I have learnt a lot, I must say and I’m going to implement everything you mentioned in this article. I have my own online magazine which I started in 2013 and I earn less than $2 a month from Google Adsense and nothing at all from my affiliate business. Will come back later with feedback. .

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