24-year-old Dele Onibalusi is today acknowledged internationally as an authority on guest blogging. Through sheer grit, Dele faced and defeated the initial setback of losing his dad when he was barely seven years old to achieve fame and financial independence. After his secondary school education from a public school in Ibadan, Oyo State, he developed a passion for the Internet – a vocation that today ranks him among the highest paid bloggers in Nigeria. He spoke with LAOLU HAROLDS. Excerpts:
Can you give us a peek into your background, how you grew up and the effect this has had on your progress in life?
I’m Bamidele Onibalusi, the second son of the late Engineer Olusegun Onibalusi. I lost my father at a very tender age – while I was just seven – and this made life very difficult for me as a young boy. My parents had six of us, so when my father died, the burden of taking care of my parents’ six children fell on my mother. Things were very difficult, and my mother really did her best, but we had to go through a lot of challenges. Often, my siblings and I struggled to eat twice a day, we were repeatedly sent home from school due to problems paying our school fees, and most of the ‘necessities’ kids our age had were luxury for us. I have deep respect for my mother for putting in her best effort and not sending us to the streets to hawk to generate income for the family at that tender age, and my greatest gratitude goes to the Almighty God for putting those difficult times all behind us.
In essence, my childhood was difficult but I wouldn’t have it any other way; I had to go through those difficult times to get me ready for the great future God has prepared for me.
What is ‘guest blogging’ all about?
Guest blogging is about blogging on a blog that is not yours with the aim of increasing exposure for your business or brand. When you write a guest post for another blog, you will be given a bio inside your guest post. In this bio, you have the opportunity to tell readers of that blog who you are, what you do, how they can get in touch with you and how they can work with you. When you guest post on a blog, you are potentially having access to that blog’s audience. Imagine writing for a blog with 10,000 readers and 1,000 people read your article. That’s 1,000 new people who now know your name. Some of them could end up checking out your blog or even inquiring about your services.
If done right, guest blogging can be a very powerful way to gain exposure and generate income for your business.
How did you find your niche as a blogger?
My current niche, as indicated by the name of my blog ‘Writers in Charge’, is teaching writers how to be in charge and make a living without having to be subservient to others. I didn’t set out to be in this niche; instead, I started by talking about entrepreneurship, business and motivation from the perspective of a young person. I did this through a blog I used to call ‘Young Pre Pro’. In an attempt to promote this blog, I had to do a lot of guest posts (at a time I did as much as 270 guest posts in eight months). Due to being a very active and prolific guest blogger, people took note of me and started to contract me to write for them. I started getting freelance work requests left and right, and I began to cherry-pick whom I get to work with. Seeing that I did really well as a freelance writer, I felt I was more qualified to teach people (more) how to be successful freelance writers than how to be entrepreneurs/business people. That was how I found my niche; or, rather, how my niche found me, as a blogger.
How long have you been doing this? And what would you say has helped you succeed?
I started blogging in 2010. This will be the seventh year I have been doing this. First, I credit my success to God above all else. I was just 16 when I started, and I blogged for a whole year without earning a cent. There was no income, but for some reasons I persisted and did not give up. Looking back, I really don’t understand why. I’m confident, though, that if not for God I would have given up, looked elsewhere and missed out on the success He has planned for me.
I have also found tenacity, a burning quest to learn and improve my skills, and extreme confidence that I am worth much more than many people would like to peg me at to be invaluable. With these traits, I work hard without giving up, even if it appears as if results aren’t forthcoming. I constantly work to improve my skills to be able to demand good pay, and I confidently demand what I feel I am worth without apology or remorse.
What challenges have you had to surmount in your way to success in this line, and were there times when you felt like giving up and doing something else?
In this line of work, being a Nigerian is a challenge in itself. Being a Nigerian presents both local and international challenges; locally, especially when I started, it was difficult getting access to the Internet. Internet access was highly expensive and hugely unavailable. There is also the electricity issue. These challenges made things really difficult and almost led to frustration. However, I wouldn’t trade being Nigerian for anything (and I’ve indeed gotten numerous opportunities to relocate outside the country which I turned down. I’m just too comfortable here). However, what I believe to be the real challenges are the international ones: first, discrimination because I am Nigerian. Often, due to being Nigerian, many people naturally expect me to charge less than I am worth. They assume I am incapable of doing good work, and they treat me as such without even giving me an opportunity. This is a major challenge that every Nigerian in this field, working on an international level, has to deal with. I know this because I’ve ghost-written for clients in Europe, in America, using the exact same techniques I use for myself, and they get better results much faster because they are from America or some European country. Then, there is the part where many people, especially internationally, think you are a scammer or a 419 person because you are Nigerian. These are real challenges and made me feel like giving up. When you have problem with light or Internet access, you can creatively solve this by partnering with others and leveraging their resources. When people judge you, discriminate against you or assume you are a criminal without interacting with you… just by virtue of the country you’re from, well, that gets to your bone.
I thank God I didn’t give up, though, I slowly and gradually built my credibility: eventually, getting featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Fast Company and several magazines and newspapers locally and internationally changed all these. It gave me a serious credibility boost that once and for all solved the discrimination problem as well as the problem of people thinking I am a criminal. However, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for other Nigerians trying to get the start without the same advantage.
For the purpose of inspiring those who may like to follow in your footsteps, how financially rewarding has guest blogging been to you over these years?
Very financially rewarding. Right now, by God’s grace, I have a farm that is currently over 50 acres (over 300 plots) big. My farm is into livestock (primarily catfish) and crops (yam, cassava, maize, rice and plantain). My farm also currently employs about 12 people, that it pays a monthly salary to and it regularly contracts work to others.
That’s it on a professional level; I won’t go into personal stuff. Suffice it to say, all these were directly or indirectly due to guest blogging. So, for those wondering how financially rewarding it is, the farm stuff I mentioned above is only possible because of it.
After your secondary education, and you started following your passion, what have you done about further studies?
To further my studies, I’m currently enrolled in California Southern University where I’m studying Psychology. All things being equal, I should get my bachelor’s degree this year or at the latest very early next year. Getting the degree has been a bit delayed due to business activities (it is the business that is paying for this after all!) but I’m near the end of my degree program. All things being equal, I eventually plan to get a PhD.
Personally, I believe formal education is important — as long as it is pursued with the right frame of mind: in other words, that people pursue it with the aim of attaining knowledge, and not expecting it to be the magic bullet that ends all their financial woes. This was why I chose to pursue an education in Psychology. I was initially enrolled to study Computer Science, but I later switched to Psychology when I realized that Computer Science won’t have a lot of practical application to my life and the kind of future I want to pursue. With Psychology, however, I can find direct applications to my life and business — both in interacting with and understanding people, as well as in closing deals.
New blogs are opening up almost on a daily basis. What secrets of success can you share as to how to succeed on this turf?
There are so many ‘secrets’ of blogging success. However, I have coached a few people and what I have noticed to be the key difference that determines success or failure for my students is consistency. Those who are consistent – especially in regards to their blog content schedule – will almost certainly succeed. Yes, there are marketing tactics one can use, but, as far as blogging is concerned, once you remove that consistency, everything else is a waste of effort.
Writing comes naturally to some people, while it is sheer drudgery for others. What has been your experience? Do you sometimes experience what they call ‘writer’s block’, and how do you get over it when you do?
I don’t believe in writer’s block.
Just as there isn’t talker’s block, or runner’s block, or eater’s block, there is nothing called writer’s block. Now, don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean you automatically master channeling your inner writer whenever you want to. In the early days, I had periods when I stared at the screen for minutes and hours thinking about what to write. This is what most people would call writer’s block. I used to call it the same. Over time, though, as I matured as a writer; I realized that you can only give what you have; you can’t give what you don’t have. If you’re not used to writing – if you only write whenever you want – you will regularly suffer from what people call writer’s block, because the inner writer in you is very weak. If you constantly train yourself to write, however, writing every day whether you like it or not, you would be able to write at will – even in your dreams! If you’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s probably because you have not practised writing enough.
You had what one may describe as a difficult start, having lost your dad so early in life; but you’ve made a success of your life today – even still as a young man. What lesson has this taught you, and what lesson have you got to teach from this experience?
I won’t really say I’ve made a ‘success’ of my life; success is subjective, and in my case, I’m still very far away. However, I want to believe I am on the right track.
Losing my dad taught me a lot. It taught me tenacity: persistent determination. From the age of seven, other than God, I’ve had to do most things on my own; no fatherly support or resources to make things ‘manifest’ for me. As a result, I grew up being highly independent and persistent. A fighter of sorts, I grew up learning that if you want something, you demand and fight for it; and you don’t give up until you get it… because there is no dad who is going to give it to you. You either get it, or you don’t. For me, this lesson is more valuable than anything else a father could have given me. When I want something, I go for it… and I don’t give up until I get it. This tenacity is God’s gift to the fatherless, and I’m taking it with me all my life.