How I Started Making a Full-Time Blogging Income (Story Time Y’all)
The first time I realized I had the “idea problem” and/or the “fraud problem” was when I told a friend to email me the link to something he was talking about and he jokingly replied: “To which email account ‘Ms. I Have a Million Businesses Because I Can’t Make Up My Mind’?”
Burn. You know those people who want to discuss a “problem” they see in your life but they joke about it instead of addressing it? It hurts, because you realize they’re serious, but it’s hard to defend yourself to a joke.
And believe me, I get the joke. I’ll quickly lay out the basis of my “problem,” and then I’ll let you know why it’s not really a problem (and how you can avoid a few of my gaffes), then tell you how I finally accepted who I was as an entrepreneur and started making a full-time income through this blog.
See, the thing is . . . I love a lot of stuff.
- I started using a computer regularly when I was four. And not a kiddie computer. An adult computer. Nowadays that’s not so strange, but in the 1980s, your parents might have had to save money for a year or more just to buy a computer. Thank you mum + pops for sacrificing for us. I love y’all.
- I learned C++, Basic, HTML, and Microsoft Access (strange, right?) before I was 13. I was my parents’ daughter, so there was no escaping my fate.
- Instead of enjoying my senior year of high school, in which I was done with classes at 11 a.m. and could spend the rest of the day working (at a shoe store in the mall) or goofing off (with friends in the mall), my dad made me take a Dreamweaver class, along with a video editing course, and a Fireworks course. This started my love of design and websites.
- I love to write. It used to be kiddie mystery stories (Fat Man Bob was the title of my first mystery–I can’t explain these things, but I might send you a copy if you ask nicely) and poetry about butterflies and whatnot.
- I’m obsessed with business. To quote the epic poet Rob Base, “I get stupid, I mean outrageous” when it comes to business. I studied business in school and managed a few businesses (was general manager for a large shoe company and office manager/trainer for a large car company).
- Entrepreneurship makes me happy on the inside. I love business ideas and business success stories. Whenever I had a regular job, I wanted to run away screaming from it (Every.Day.), within the first hour of walking through the door.
So, yeah, I have a few passions: business, writing, design, coaching, teaching, and more. You might be able to look at this list and go, “Duh. She should be a blogger who coaches other business owners,” as a way to logically combine all those passions, but I did not see it that way. I saw a completely different picture. Specifically, I saw it the ways below:
- My unnamed t-shirt business (2005): I printed designs on shirts
- Regina’s Cookie Jar (2007): Yeah, I can bake
- True Clean Machine (2007 – 2008): Whatever, I hate germs, so I thought a cleaning business made sense
- My (then) unnamed consulting business (circa 2007 – present)
- Graphic design business #1 (2008 – 2010): I bought a used computer with Photoshop CS3 on it and decided I could start doing graphic design as a business, my best friend joined me
- Regina as a writer (2009 – present): USAToday.com, Entrepreneur.com, Houston Chronicle Online
- Graphic design + web design business #2 (2010 – 2011): rename of graphic design business #1
- A local Austin magazine (2011): Oh, you know, I’m not busy enough, let’s start a magazine
- Anjou Consulting (2011 – 2014): rename of graphic design business #2 (+ no longer working with a business partner)
- Regina as an instructor (2012 – present): Started teaching classes for the University of Texas Continuing Education program
- DaysAway (2013): I wanted to focus more on teaching so I started a site for my online classes
- byRegina (2014): Yeah, I finally decided to roll my consulting (Anjou Consulting), teaching (DaysAway), writing, and designing together under one brand, one name that made sense
Since making the hop to byRegina.com, I lost some of my web traffic, saw a decline in Google search results, refocused my content, became consistent about my content plan, let people’s questions direct my blog posts + classes + products, regained my web traffic, far surpassed what my web traffic had ever been, and started making a full-time income from my blog–I previously had not made more than a few bucks from my blog, if that. And P.S. This post details exactly how much I earned last month as an example. [The image below to the left was a month or so after I started blogging on byRegina.com–April 2014. That was an all-time high for me, being ranked 461,920 globally and 62,292 in the U.S.. The picture on the right is of my stats as of the end of last month–September 2014. You can check your stats for free at Alexa.com.]
I want to share some tips on how to grow your blog traffic and make more income. How I would do it if I had to do it over again, but first I want to say: It was not easy. There are a few things you may want to do to get your mind right beforehand:
Get rid of stuff you don’t need. I sold or gave away all my furniture, moved to a small place in a non-affluent neighborhood (that’s my nice way of putting it), cut cable and entertainment expenses, shopped wisely at the grocery store, and cut all the expenses I could possibly think of. My life was not cluttered. I focused.
The past is the past, but it can sure be useful. Every single business idea I’ve had and pursued, every single blog or product I’ve dreamt up and planned, every word I’ve written . . . they’ve all led me to my current business. You haven’t wasted your time. You have gained valuable knowledge. If you need to forgive yourself, then do so, and don’t waste anymore headspace on negativity, blame, or the feeling of disappointment in yourself. Think of how all your experiences combine together. Recognize that no other person has your exact combination of experiences, skills, and knowledge. Realize that you can therefore build a brand that NO ONE ELSE CAN BUILD.
Fortune favors the non-excuse makers. Stop with the excuses. I understand that you’re busy. Yet we can look around at those who’ve built businesses and successful blogs in college (KoryWoodard.com), or while helping to take care of four children and a husband (TheLatinaHomemaker.com), or while holding down full-time jobs (this was once my story), so please . . . please with the excuses. I’ve even been creating some heartfelt quotes for Instagram lately, about excuses, and fear, and legacy.
Step 1. Realize you are not a fraud. You are a fighter.
When I was finishing my first book (on how to start a business), I was sleeping on an air mattress with a slow leak. I’d start off the evening all comfy, and I’d end up the next morning sleeping on the floor. Also, my business income was at an all-time low with all the changes I was making. And I almost never slept. It was the first time in my life I drank coffee. I felt like the biggest fraud finishing a book on how to start a business while my own business was suffering. You may feel like you don’t have the place to blog about your chosen topics, or that you don’t have the right to charge $XYZ for your services. Listen to me please: You are not a fraud. You are simply fighting for who you know you are. You are fighting for what you’re worth. You are fighting to make a difference in the world while other people are sitting around laughing. They wish they could have your courage. And maybe one day you will help them get it, but for now, YOU MUST FIGHT. Please, you must continue to fight.
Step 2. Realize your readers + customers are just not that into you. Until they are.
Unnnnnfortunately, other people don’t wake up wondering how they can support us today. Desperately seeking every single way to make us happy: commenting on our posts, sharing our stuff, buying from us, spreading the buzz about us. I don’t know why they don’t wake up with that in the forefront of their minds, but they don’t. However, [think of a real life romantic relationship here] after you spend enough time caring for the needs of the other person (your reader), that person eventually will be “into you” and wonder what they can do to support you. If you keep creating content that really inspires, entertains, or helps people, they will WANT to share it. It will become an honor and a pleasure to spread your blog around.
Step 3. Make sure you’re building something you’re proud of. Build your “you brand.”
If you find it (1) hard to explain your business idea, (2) embarrassing to present your business card or blog to others, (3) hard to think of content ideas, or (4) difficult to stay focused on your business, then it is very likely you haven’t developed your “you brand” yet. Your “you brand” makes sense, clicks, works, gets you excited, takes more work than you imagined, is more fun than you imagined, and combines a lot of your interests into one place.
Stop trying to break your passions down into different brands. Build your “you brand” instead. I can confidently say that this blog is my “me brand.” This doesn’t mean I’ll never start another business. I have a few concepts that I believe will help other creatives and they will be possible to build because of the loooooooong hours I’ve put in on my me brand.
Step 4. Spend 3 months pretending quality content is your only job. Your only purpose in (business) life.
The lovely Susannah of Feast + West shared with me that she spent 30 – 35 hours over a couple months creating The Complete Guide to Building Your Home Bar (eBook) for FREE for people who sign up for her email list. I’ll repeat. She spent 35 hours on a free piece of content. But, it is quite literally one of the most beautiful, and useful documents I’ve seen. I’m obsessed with it. You can sign up for her amazingness in her sidebar. Spend time on each piece you create as if it’s the one piece that will create an impression in readers’ minds.
Spend 90 days devoted to content. Blog posts, freebies, an eBook you can give away, etc. This time will give you an immense number of valuable pieces to share. However, I’m pretty sure, that if you’re creating your best content, you’ll find that your audience goes nuts to share it for you. How would you like to just struggle to keep up with all the “thank you tweets” and retweeting you’ll need to be doing? How would you like to have people spread your message for you? They gladly will when you give them the type of content that takes hours, days, or weeks to put together. Spend time on your content with the thought: “This is the first piece someone might see of mine. This might be the only piece someone might see from me unless I make it informative/wonderful/entertaining.”
My most pinned + visited pieces are all pieces that took me 10+ hours to create. Your brand may not require posts that are as long, or it may, but the point is really about the value you build in. Part of “my story” is spending many nights blogging until 5 or 6:30 or 7 a.m., then taking a nap, and getting back up at 8 or 9 to start my day of meeting with clients and creating more content. Part of my story is finishing a post then spending two hours finding the right image and another 30 minutes creating the graphic for the post. I can’t count the number of evenings over the last six months that I didn’t sleep at all or that I barely slept. I’m not saying this to scare you, I’m saying this because it is a part of who I am, a part of my story, a part of my brand, a part of what I love to do so I can communicate with you, and quite possibly a part of what you might do to build a blog that makes a full-time income, if you’re not already doing so.
Step 5. Make an actual plan. The kind that’s written down.
All those other major life things that worked out without a plan. What were those again? Write a blog business plan, or a freelance business plan, or whatever you need to actually direct you and keep you on track.
Step 6. Act before you feel ready. Choose the scary stuff.
I’ve launched more products, concepts, ideas, and pitches that I wasn’t sure of than ones I have been. In fact, I’m pretty much afraid of launching almost everything I’ve launched: Will it be useful? Will people like it? Is it helping? Is it pretty enough? Are people tired of me? If you wait until you feel “ready” . . . until you’re sure of something, it will never get done.
Step 7. Realize luck is imaginary.
“Luck” is usually the word people use to explain why they’re not getting the opportunities they see come your way. Yup, I’ve done it. It’s lame. It’s also a bit ridiculous to explain away someone’s hard work + preparation with such a flimsy word. Luck is imaginary. If you ever want to insult an entrepreneur, tell them about how lucky they are to work from home, or make that much money, or have so much free time, or (yeah, whatever you say here . . . thanks for making me feel small).
The one word others throw around too much that belittles how hard I know you work: LUCK. If they only knew how many work hours “luck” took.
— Regina Anaejionu (@byReginaTV) August 30, 2014
Each of these is probably a post of its own, but below are the top 10 things I used to build a brand that makes a full-time blogging income, and they’re what I’d recommend to you.
How to Build a Profitable Blog
- Lots of quality free stuff (blog posts, downloads, and resources that truly help or entertain your audience)
- Multiple revenue streams (classes, affiliates, downloads, ads, memberships, etc.–it’s very important to have a variety of streams making up your income)
- A maintained email list (not only is it a way to connect more deeply, but it has serious sales potential)
- Recognizable + attractive brand identity (impossible to stand out without this—the marketplace is crowded)
- A true understanding of your audience (get to know your readers so you will know what to write for them + how to attract them)
- A maintained social media presence (your audience will want to connect in their preferred format, so be available)
- A simple services/products page (with an easy-to-use mobile checkout system—I actually need to improve mine majorly right now; don’t judge)
- Quality imagery (because not only will you keep people on your blog longer, but Pinterest, Insta, FB, and G+ will be more effective for your brand with high-quality images)
- A tailored tone (that works for your audience, makes them comfortable, inspires them to action)
- Quality responses (to blog comments, on social media platforms, and to any emails or other contact–I’ve seen how crazy great this has been in gaining clients and increasing social sharing)
Now that you know almost everything there is to know about my business history (sorry not sorry for the long post), do you have any specific questions? What would you say is one concern, fear, or limitation that has held you back in the past? what would you tell your past self or anyone in your position?
Photo of me: (c) Laurie Fryar
All other graphics/quotes: (c) moi