When I started my blog I loved reading income reports (Oh, who am I kidding?! I still love reading income reports!). Sometimes I’d be intimidated by a blogger’s success, and sometimes I’d be inspired, but I almost always got some new insight into how I could grow my own blog.
Last month was so tough for me. I felt like I was working incredibly hard and getting nothing in return. So if you’re in the blogging trenches with me, read on to find out what went wrong and how I plan to move forward.
This post includes affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy something using my link, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read more on my disclosure page.
I started blogging in February 2016, but I didn’t make any money from my blog in 2016.
I knew that I eventually wanted to monetize, but in 2016 I was more focused on learning about blogging and growing my email list.
I always intended to turn my blog into a business though, so I invested in good hosting, a professional blog design, and a real email service provider, among other tools.
I was able to pay for all of my blogging expenses through freelance writing, but didn’t really make money directly from my blog.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to grow at your own pace. And don’t be afraid to invest in your blog. This post lists all the tools I paid for in my first year of blogging.
In 2017, my goal is to make $10,000 through affiliate marketing and selling my time management course.
There are other ways to monetize a blog, but right now this is all I’m focusing on.
Why I’m Not Doing Sponsored Posts or Ads
A few companies have offered me sponsored posts, and one company has asked if I’d be willing to host ads on my site.
I was flattered and excited to hear from them all, but ultimately decided not to go that route.
I had a blog years ago, and I wrote some sponsored posts. While it felt good to make some money from my blog, I realized that sponsored posts weren’t necessarily helping my reader.
As for ads, I didn’t want to clutter up or slow down my site just to make a few dollars a month.
Breaking Down My Goal Into Sub-Goals
In late December I did some serious calculations to figure out how I would earn $10,000 from my blog.
Here’s how it breaks down.
I want to earn $4,000 from affiliate marketing.
I want to earn $6,000 from selling my own products.
In order to reach these two goals, I need to get 3,000 email subscribers by the end of the year.
As for the $10,000? It’s the amount that I think I can realistically earn this year based on how much time I have to work and the pace my blog has grown historically.
Need help setting your own blogging goals or breaking those goals down into action steps? Sign up here for my free time management e-course.
This Month’s Progress
Total Income- $119.50
Course Income- $97
A reader bought my course on March 31, so for all of March I was down in the dumps that no one (literally no one) was buying. I wasn’t sure if the issue was my sales page, my funnel, my lack of traffic/email subscribers, or something else.
Needless to say, I had been expecting a much better return for March because I was planning to launch my course to a segment of my list. But I made one big mistake with this launch. Instead of just launching, I asked my readers if they were interested in a free 5-day email course, which would eventually lead to my paid product.
So, instead of launching to 200 people, I launched to about 60 people who opted in for the 5-day email course. This was a bad strategy because people may not have had time or been interested in a mini course, but may have still been interested in the full course.
If I could get a do-over, I would have simply launched to the whole segment.
Affiliate Income- $22.20
Find Your Tribe Online– $13.50
I took Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing in March, and started implementing many of the things I learned in the course. I’m not expecting immediate returns on anything, so I’m mostly just pleased that I made $20 in affiliate income this month. 🙂
Why I Felt Like Quitting My Blog
March was a really tough month for me in terms of mindset. All this time I thought creating my course was going to be the big challenge, but it turns out selling the course is much more difficult (at least for me).
In March I felt like I was working my butt off and getting nowhere. I often felt like quitting my blog altogether, but I’ve made a commitment to myself to keep working on it until the end of the year. So many successful entrepreneurs say that you need to show up every day for 2 years before you see great results and can decide whether or not your business is worth pursuing.
On a more practical level, we are moving from Mozambique to India this summer, so now isn’t a great time for me to find a regular job or even go back to freelancing. I’ve got to get our family organized for the move, and help my kids make the transition. In between the move, we’ll also be back in the states for 6 weeks visiting friends and family, and I don’t expect to have much working time.
So alas, my whole reason for starting a blog (ultimate flexibility) is keeping me going, even though it feels so hard.
Because I felt like things weren’t going well, I started to suffer from major FOMO and shiny object syndrome. I was like, “Bah…my course isn’t selling… I should start a Facebook group! I need to get on Instagram! I need to take a course on something, but I don’t even know what the problem is!”
It’s so easy to fall down that rabbit hole. I mean, I write about time management and productivity, so I KNOW that chasing random strategies and spreading myself too thin is NOT the solution. But still…I was tempted.
The only thing that helped me pull back from the brink of crazy hot mess blogging? Pressing the pause button and doing some serious reflection on what’s working in my biz, what’s not working, and how I can build on my successes.
I’m great at planning and organizing, but I rarely stop and reflect. I just want to keep moving forward! Well, it turns out that reflecting and evaluating was just what I needed. I was able to pull back from my disappointment about the month and see what’s actually working, where I’m getting stuck, and plan my next moves strategically.
If you want to see the insights I gained from my reflection and get a copy of the reflection questions I used to assess my biz, just enter your email here, and I’ll send ‘em along!
Takeaway: If you’re not getting the results you want in your business, don’t jump immediately on some new tactic or strategy. Press the pause button, take a look at what IS working, and be intentional about your next move.
My course is hosted here. If you’re thinking of creating your own online course, Teachable has a free ebook you can download to walk you through the steps.
This is the email service provider I use to stay in touch with my fabulous email subscribers. Check out this blog post to take a sneak peek at my ConvertKit dashboard and learn how CK works.
I use BoardBooster to automatically pin a new blog post image to all 45 of my group boards, and now the majority of my blog traffic comes from Pinterest. Want to learn how to use BoardBooster? Check out my tutorial video over here.
Normally I spend $10 a month on BoardBooster, but this month I had $5 in referral credit because someone joined BB using my link. Hurray! If you want to try BoardBooster for free, you can use this link for a free trial of 100 pins.
Canva for Work – $13
I pay for this design software because it’s easy for a beginner like me to use, and it saves my templates and branding materials, so creating graphics is much quicker. Canva also has a free version, so check it out if you want to get started with design.
One of my goals from last month was to host a giveaway. After much procrastination, I finally pulled together some awesome prizes and made the giveaway happen! I used Vyper to host my giveaway because it was more affordable than KingSumo, but still had some of the viral sharing features I wanted for the giveaway.
So, that gives me a profit of $10 for the month. Did I mention it was a rough month? 😉
I also pay for these services annually:
Hosting – WPEngine – $290
I’m not gonna name any names, but I’ve tried cheap hosting plans in the past and it always comes back to bite me in the butt. I don’t want to build my blog on a shaky foundation, so I pay for the best hosting.
Did you know that most email service providers require that you send emails to your subscribers from a professional email account and not your personal account? Well, it’s true! So I get my professional email and inbox from Hover.
Email subscribers + Traffic
Current List Size- 612 (+131 new subscribers this month)
In March I was focused on growing my list. My three strategies were to guest post extensively, optimize old content, and do a viral giveaway.
First, I had 3 guest posts published. Those guest posts have brought a trickle of new subscribers, but I think the beauty of guest posting is that the trickle can continue for months and months. Plus, guest posting should help my SEO, which means that over time I should be able to get more organic traffic, too.
I’m kicking myself because I didn’t create unique landing pages for the freebie I offered for each guest post. It would have been SO easy to clone a landing page in ConvertKit, write a note welcoming the readers from each blog, and track how many new subscribers came from each guest post. Next time I guest post, I must do this! Otherwise, I have no idea how successful my guest posting was!
Side note: I’m really proud of these guest posts, and you can check them out here:
After creating my course, I was burnt out on content creation, so I spent some time updating and optimizing old posts. Mainly, I wanted to add relevant affiliate links (a strategy I learned in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing), and add more prominent, relevant opt-ins to popular posts.
I still managed to publish a few times on the blog, and you can read those posts here:
20 Mess-Free Toys to Give Your Toddler So You Can Get Work Done– I’ve been working from home for 5 years! And while we always pay for childcare when I’m actually making money, there are times when I need to work and my kiddo is home. These are my top 20, tried and true toys for keeping 2-4 year-olds entertained without mess or noise. You’re welcome. 🙂
The Epic Blogging Toolkit Giveaway– This post describes all the prizes I gave away.
The Best Planners for Bloggers and Solopreneurs: Day Designer Review– I bought 8 planners this year to test and review. You can watch a video walk-through of the Day Designer and find out which bloggers will benefit the most from this planner.
Blog Income Report: How I Made $243 and Why I’m Putting it All Back in My Biz– Here’s my income report from last month. It’s a little more optimistic than this month’s report. 🙂
My final list-building strategy for March was to do a giveaway. I procrastinated on the giveaway, so it didn’t launch until April 1. My goal is to add 200 new subscribers, and I’ll report back in April’s income report on how I did.
Takeaway: Always create unique landing pages for each guest post so that you can track how many new subscribers came from each guest post. Also, try a variety of list-building strategies. What works for one person may or may not work for you!
Next Month’s Action Steps
For List Building
Pinterest continues to be my largest traffic source, so I’m going to create more pins for my various opt-ins and promote them heavily in Pinterest group boards. I have a super simple and quick system for this, you can find a tutorial here!
For Affiliate Income
First, I’d like to write sales funnels for my three favorite affiliate products. I don’t expect to have time to write all 3 funnels this month, but my goal is to write one of them.
Second, ConvertKit is doing a big, awesome promotion. They are giving away 1 month free of their service, plus some free trials of other services AND they’ve got a 30-day challenge to help people create their first product. (You can sign up for the challenge and all the freebies here.)
I KNOW people on my email list would benefit from this, and it’s all free! So I want to come up with some creative ways to support my people and help them create a product and sell it via email. I’m still brainstorming how to do this.
For Course Income
I’m going to revise my sales funnel for my course, so let’s all keep our fingers crossed that it works.
I’m also experimenting with an affiliate launch. People who have taken my course get to be affiliates for it. I’ve sent them promo materials, and together we are trying out a small launch for their readers. I have no idea what to expect with this, so I’ll report back.
What I’m not doing this month
As always, I’m not going to stress about posting weekly on my blog. I usually end up posting weekly, but this is one of my lowest priorities. I’m also not going to start a Facebook group or get active on Instagram. 😉
If you’d like to see more details on what I’m doing and not doing next month and get a copy of the reflection questions I used to assess my biz, just enter your email here, and I’ll send ‘em along!
Takeaway: You can’t do it all, so get clear on your goals and the action steps that will help you reach your goals. Ignore the rest!
Have any questions about my blog/biz strategy? Please ask away!