HOW IT STARTED
In 2007 as a corps member, I joined Nairaland, Nigeria’s biggest online forum with a view to contributing to discussions of interest. In 2008, when I started working in an oil and gas company, I became quite active on careers section of Nairaland, giving careers and job search tips based on my experience.
My contributions sat well with many readers and by 2009, I was voted the second best poster on the careers section of Nairaland. By 2013, I had become hugely popular on Nairaland, especially on politics, education and careers sections, that when I decided to open my independent blog, I had a steady following.
I did some background work before floating the blog, read materials on the internet and consulted well known gurus like Seun Osewa of Nairaland, Jide Ogunsanya of Ogbongeblog and Zainab Ayeleso, for expert advice. I sought advice on everything, from the name to give the blog to the platform to use. The advices given by all of them were helpful, but it wasn’t everything I took. For example, I defied Seun’s advice that I use Bloggers platform instead of wordpress.
I came up with several names like Jarus Arena, JarusHub etc. I finally settled for JarusHub and on March 17, 2013, the blog went live.
I sought out to run a general blog (politics, health, entertainment, news, careers, etc), but within first few weeks some things happened that made me to refocus the blog.
First, because I had (and still have) a 9-5 job, I was hesitant to publish posts on politics because of the sensitivity. I had the network to get me political scoops that will be close to what you get on Sahara Reporters, but I knew that could land me into trouble. In fact, the first interview we had on JarusHub was with Professor Pius Adesanmi, a well-known social critic, and he came down hard on then President Jonathan and his handlers in that interview. The interview traveled quite far as I got to know that the President’s Media Adviser, Dr. Reuben Abati, read it.
Few days after I published that interview, I tried to interview the CEO of a top bank in Nigeria on her careers, but he turned down the invite, principally because he had seen a recent interview I published and didn’t want to associate with a blog where someone came down hard on the President in a country where vindictiveness is rife.
Second, I realized that articles I published on careers got more views than on other areas. My article, Common Interview Questions & Answer Tips, traveled quite far in those early weeks.
Third, although I can discuss politics, I’m at my best when discussing career issues.
Fourth, I got some feedback from other bloggers I asked to review the website that I was better off narrowing down my niches.
For the above reasons, I decided to focus squarely on careers.
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The first thing that changed, as I explained in the foregoing paragraphs, was the focus, from a multi-niche blog to one focusing on careers.
The catchphrases and slogans of the blog also changed over time. The slogan I opted for for the blog at inception was “Nigeria’s Blog on the Block”. Later, I changed it to “Bridging Career Information Gap; Mentoring a Generation to Success”. I still use that today, but our favourite slogan today is “The Bridge to Your Career Potentials”. We also use “No one Knows Corporate Nigeria More than We Do”, depending on the focus of the post.
We have also used slogans like “Nigeria’s Most Influential Career Portal”, given the caliber of people we have attracted to the blog and its offline events, and “The Forbes of Nigeria”, given our renown for coming up with Top 10 this, Top 10 that, like Forbes.
When I decided to focus mainly on careers I still found it difficult to drop politics, so I came up with the catchwords “Career. Mentorship.Political Economy”, since political economy marries politics and careers (economy).I just didn’t want to drop the political part.
By 2014, I was courageous enough to fully discard the political economy part, and changed the catchwords to “Careers. Mentorship.Management”. Management and leadership lessons are another area I’m very comfortable studying and writing on, and what’s more, they are close to career. In fact they are intertwined, as top publications that we follow like Harvard Business Review, Forbes etc focus on careers and management.
Today our favourite slogan is “The Bridge to Career Potentials”, while we also address ourselves as knowing Corporate Nigeria more than anyone, on the sales pages of relevant products. “Careers.Mentorship. Management” are our catchwords.
Our About page has been updated more 50 times to take care of these evolutions, just as we have also changed our inception logo to something that reflects our current focus. Of course, the blog design has changed a couple of times as we learned more.
The evolution continues as we learn more. We continue to get opinions on things we can do better. I have had a number of people, including a writer for Forbes Africa, review the blog and offer advice as our journey continues.
I enlisted some of my friends, who are high-flyers in their careers, to write for me. I was writing most of the articles initially and publishing three to four posts per day. 90% of our articles are original and it was only on very few occasions that we republished articles from other sites.
I also used my modest network to get some top professionals for interview. I have interviewed personalities like Nuhu Ribadu, Segun Adeniyi, Pius Adesanmi, Abimbola Adelakun, to mention a few. I have also interviewed CEOs and GMs of top companies like Accenture, StanbicIBTC, Proshare, Global Analytics, etc. The quality of our content made us attractive to people.
Now, I hardly even write again, as I have freelance writers from Nigeria and India in particular, send articles to us for publication. We publish the ones that meet our standard and fall within our theme.
In the first one year of JarusHub we were publishing two to three articles per day, principally to gain traffic. After we had become a little popular, we decided to be publishing once per day, and nil in days we don’t have anything to publish. Now, we publish between four to five articles per week.
As an amateur blogger in the early days of JarusHub, I didn’t know anything about scheduling, I just published an article on the go. Later, I got to know about scheduling, which makes it possible to schedule articles for the next five days for example.
Currently, our articles are usually scheduled for 6pm on weekdays, when we know people are on their way home from work and will likely be surfing the internet inside traffic, and for 5am on weekends, so that when they wake up between 6-8am to surf the net, they find a new article on JarusHub.
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WEBSITES WE LEARN FROM
The most important factor that has kept us going is seeing the success of other websites, especially abroad. From Forbes to Bloomberg to Entrepreneur.com, to The Muse to Timothy Sykes to Glassdoor, and other top American websites that deal, in part or full, with careers and related issues, we have learnt a lot.
As a matter of fact, I visit Entrepreneur.com everyday and read the experience of other top bloggers and entrepreneurs in general. I study these websites a lot and I know we can get there too.
PARTNERSHIPS: FROM BLOG TO FULL SCALE STARTUP
I floated the blog alone, but along the line, I read about the need to partner with people. In September 2014, I brought on board two people who made financial contributions.
One of them is an Ivy League school-trained engineer who works in a Fortune 10 company in North America, while the other is a humble digital strategist. Both of them had known me from Nairaland since at least 2008.
We later decided to register a company, JarusHub Limited, as the corporate vehicle for the blog. In April 2015, I headhunted a guy that I had observed from distance as a highly internet savvy individual, and he does the operational part of the enterprise, assisted by a young graduate we hired to assist with running around.
The 4 of us are now partners, and the last guy a salaried employee. I handle the soft resources of the startup as Chief Resource Officer (CRO), the partner in North America handles the international strategy part, the digital strategist guy, who is also in Nigeria but busy with other ventures, is the second biggest financier (after me) and the third guy runs the startup on day to day basis. I only have time on weekends, being one with a 9-5 job.
We decided to open an office in May 2015, after using lobbies of hotels and restaurants to meet clients for the first two years. We shelled out N600,000 for one year office rent, but it is worth the while.
Since we are not a charity (even though our free content qualifies as charity. LOL), we decided to introduce some premium services to pay for our efforts. We learn from other blogs the world over. I made efforts to apply for Google Adsense but it was not approved (and still not approved). I learnt it’s because we have our own direct advert running.
I don’t care much about Adsense, because I know we are a low traffic blog (our daily views averaged 520 in 2013, 750 in 2014 and 1000 in 2014). I know right from onset that I am into authority/expert blogging and rendering services is our best bet to monetization rather than advert. So we decided to introduce premium services like CV review, ebooks, etc. Later we saw interview coaching as done by similar blogs in America and decided to introduce to it too (we are the only one that does interview coaching in Nigeria today).
In the first year (2013), our total revenue was – don’t laugh – N76,000, principally from a career seminar we organized and sale of ebook. In 2014, it was N126,000, principally from sale of ebook, print book ( I wrote a book on careers) and CV writing services, and within the first 6 months of 2015, we have made about N750,000, principally from interview coaching, bringing our Total Revenue to date to a little more than one million naira. Actually, we made more than half a million naira in one month – June 2015 – which is more than what we made in the previous 27 months of operation (March 2013 to April 2015).
We don’t have Adsense and did not make a dime from it or any affiliate programme.
Again, one million naira is still small money, but we are only sharing this to tell our story and let other bloggers learn from our model, which is authority blogging.
BUT HEY, WE’RE STILL NOT MILLIONAIRES O
Those who know business or accounting know that revenue is not equal to profit. We only talked about revenue so far, we are actually still a loss-making startup/blog, as we have spent more than N2m on the blog/startup to date, which means we are in a loss position.
In other words, we have spent more than we made. Our office rent alone gulped N600,000, not to talk of other costs. So when you see us on the street, don’t think you have seen millionaire bloggers. LOL
We are not resting on our oars as we continue to provide valuable resources on employability and career advancement which has made Nigerians trust us. We do not believe money is everything, and this is the reason we never rested in providing valuable information to Nigerian graduates despite the discouragingly low patronage of our premium services in the first two years.
We are happier seeing the joy on the faces of people that visited our blog and gained valuable information than in the numbers in our revenue account. This is why our biggest joy is not hitting million Naira in revenue, but our contribution to the career goals of our loyal readers, which is not even quantifiable in monetary terms.
What do you have to say about our story???
Editors’ words- I hope you have grabbed one or two lessons of persistence,discipline focus,purpose,dream and desire. theirs is a story of all this virtues put together.
Published with permission from the original publishers Suraj Oyewale and Jide Ogunsanya of Jarushub and OgbongeBlog respectively