Around February of 2016, I started actively growing my blog audience and email list.
I knew I eventually wanted to make money blogging + grow a community of people I could help with freelance writing/blogging advice.
My audience grew fairly quickly, which was awesome.
But as far as making an income from my blog?
Well, for the first several months, I didn’t make shit.
After putting in a lot of work, learning a ton, and busting my ass to help my community, my blog now generates a full-time income.
This blog allowed me to make about $8,000 last month alone!
Holy SHIT. That’s way more than I’ve ever made monthly at a full-time job.
(Not saying this to brag – just want you to know what’s possible!)
And just as important, I’ve been able to build a community I LOVE.
I don’t have a VA.
I don’t have a team or any employees.
I don’t have a college degree or tons of business experience.
And I don’t work 120 hours per week/neglect my personal life.
I take it easy some days and work really, really long hours other days.
Typical entrepreneur stuff.
Even when it’s tough, it’s absolutely WORTH IT.
Now, I’m not here to paint this pretty picture of:
Oh, blogging! Such an easy way to make $1.5 zillion dollars overnight! Join me, and let’s sip beers on the beach together as our bank accounts skyrocket.
In fact, if you’re looking to make an income online, like, next month (or sometime SOON), I suggest starting a service-based business instead.
It’d be easier.
The tough truth is that if you want to make money blogging, you can expect to put a LOT of time and effort in with little to show for it for a while.
But the good news is that you can turn your blog into a thriving community and full-time income if you approach it the right way.
How, you ask?
Today, I’m going to give you the answer by sharing what I did to grow my blog audience and income quickly.
Let’s talk about how it’s done.
What I Did to Grow My Blog + Make Money Blogging (~$8,000 in One Month)
Invested in myself.
From the start, I treated my blog like a business.
And you have to invest in a business if you want to scale it quickly.
Even MINOR investments can make a massive difference in your business growth.
Here are some examples of ways I invested in my business:
- Hiring a graphic designer to create a brand style guide
- Getting hosting and a custom domain
- Getting a paid WordPress theme
And in 2016 alone, I spent about $2,000 on online courses.
I didn’t have a bunch of money to blow when I spent this much on courses.
But I still went for it because I knew the return on the investment on those courses would be well worth it.
(When I need to invest in something but don’t feel like I can swing it, I don’t make excuses. I work EXTRA until I can afford what I need.)
One course I dropped about $1K on has had SUCH good ROI (about 35x), I can’t imagine NOT having taken it.
And by the way, and it wasn’t easy to drop that much on a course.
Honestly, I felt sick to my stomach spending that much on something. Totally that feeling of, “OH CRAP, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!”
But I’m so glad I went through with it.
Because that course played a MAJOR role in me creating/launching helpful digital products for my audience successfully.
Sure, I still had to put in the work.
And it was a LOT of work.
But without investing in courses like that one, I’d have had to go through a hell of a lot more trial and error.
My blog/business definitely wouldn’t have grown as quickly.
Am I saying you need to have make it rain money to start a blog?
But you do need to at LEAST make the basic investments at first, like getting hosting and a custom domain for your site.
Maybe even a nice-looking website theme and a designer who can help you come up with a strong brand presence.
Think about it.
Even if you have to spend a couple hundred bucks at first, that’s SUCH a low price to pay for starting a business.
And as you figure out exactly what you need to learn to progress your blog, you can take courses on those specific topics.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of investing…
Realize that I’m not JUST talking about money. I’m talking about time too.
Blogging is a full-time job, even when you’re not making any money from it.
I remember one month I wrote about 40 freelance pieces on TOP of running this blog.
It was a lot of work. One of my most hectic months ever.
But it was worth it.
If you want to make money blogging, go into it with the mindset that you’re going to have to play the long game.
There can be a BIG payoff, but it may not happen for a while. You’ve got to be patient and put in the time/work necessary for growth.
Scaled back before I grew.
When I started my blog, I had a full-time freelance writing business.
I was making good money, but I started to think stuff like:
Hmmmm. As much as I love writing and as awesome as my clients are, my REAL passion is helping others create online businesses.
Seriously. Seeing reader/student success stories makes me SO. DAMN. HAPPY.
So I decided to make a change.
I deliberately cut my freelance writing income in half so I could spend more of my time creating helpful content for my blog audience.
It was an adjustment making less money every month.
But sometimes, you have to take a few steps back so you can take a giant leap forward and do what you truly want to do.
Don’t build a business you’re not fully invested in just because it generates more income right now.
Your happiness/impact matters.
I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to focus on my blog as much as I wanted to if I had a ton of client work.
And focusing on this blog has REALLY allowed me to grow faster in a shorter amount of time.
Realize that you may have to make some sacrifices when you start your blog.
Running a blog is demanding, especially if one of your long-term goals is to make money blogging.
It’s not just writing. It’s designing, doing admin work, marketing, learning complicated new software/skills.
All kinds of things that take up lots of time.
I know for me, I’d have had to work pretty much every waking hour if I wanted to blog full-time and run a full-time freelance business.
Yeah… no thanks.
Chose a niche topic I knew I could create lots of in-depth, helpful, original content in.
When you choose your blog niche, you might be like:
Oooh I see lots of other successful people in this niche! I’m going to specialize in it too because it seems easy to make it work – even though it’s not really my thing or something I have a lot of firsthand knowledge in.
But that, my friend, is the wrong mindset and a totally backwards way to choose your niche.
People WILL be able to pick up on whether or not what you’re sharing is original.
If you can’t write about a topic regularly WITHOUT referencing/regurgitating other content non-stop, don’t choose it as your blog niche.
Now obviously, no one is born with tons of knowledge about any topic.
And I’m not saying you need to be a subject matter expert. You don’t.
But there’s a difference between learning something / sharing your own experience and just blatantly re-wording other people’s content.
Even if you just have intermediate-level knowledge in your niche topic, you can still offer SO MUCH value to beginners!
Don’t feel like you need to share expert-level content if you genuinely aren’t at that level.
Pick a niche that will allow you to create lots of original, in-depth content.
You can’t beat who you copy.
You aren’t going to rise to the top of ANY niche industry if you don’t have your own advice and point of view to share.
And it’s just plain wrong to share advice on a topic you don’t really understand yourself.
(Can you tell this is an issue that REALLY gets me fired up? Copycats, man.)
Grew my email list and traffic.
Having an engaged email list is key to your success as a blogger.
It’s how you share your products/services with your audience and build connections with them.
And unlike social media, with email, you OWN your following and can feel confident that you’re going to get your message in front of them.
I could write an entire blog post about why growing your list Is important, but let’s save that for another day and skip straight to an overview of the “how to grow your email list” part.
These are some of the best list-building methods I’ve used:
- Creating relevant lead magnets. In other words, I offer readers a downloadable freebie in exchange for their email address. Something useful/valuable and closely related to the topic of whatever blog post they’re reading. I set these up using ConvertKit and LeadPages (affiliate links because these are two products I love and use non-stop). Here’s an example of how I use graphics to promote lead magnets within my blog posts:
- Creating free email courses. These have grown my email list more than anything else. I promote them within my blog posts, on Pinterest, and on the home page of this blog. Here’s an example of the enrollment page for one of my free courses:
- Hosting live webinars. Usually, at least a few hundred people sign up for my webinars – many of which are new to me and my email list. Here’s an example of one I recently started promoting (which has resulted in over 400 registrants in less than a week!):
And as far as traffic, here are some of the most effective methods I’ve used:
- Automatically Pinning to group boards and looping my own Pins with Boardbooster. Right now, Pinterest is my #1 source of traffic. If your blog audience is on Pinterest, I definitely suggest learning how to use it for marketing.
- Optimizing my blog posts for SEO, and landing several backlinks from credible websites. Some of my blog posts rank on the 1st page of Google for their keywords, and one blog post shows up in a featured Google snippet.
- Automating a lot of my social media marketing. I got to a point where I was SUPER overwhelmed with scheduling my posts every week. Now, I use MeetEdgar for social media automation, and it recycles my content. In other words, I don’t have to update it unless I have a new post/video to add. It’s kind of pricey, but totally worth the time you’ll save! (No, I’m not an affiliate for MeetEdgar – I just LOVE it.)
I also recently started a YouTube channel, and that has been amazing for getting my content in front of a new audience and building my list even further.
I’ve only been active on YouTube for about 7 months, and one of my videos has over 15,000 views. Even though I only have 18 videos, I’ve managed to get almost 2,000 subscribers.
If you can commit to uploading regularly and have an audience that uses YouTube to search for information about your blog niche topic, it could be a good option for you to consider too.
Genuinely cared about my readers.
I know what you might be thinking after reading that header:
Oh, for fuck’s sake. That’s cheesy and not actionable. NEXT.
But stay with me here.
Caring about your audience is IMPORTANT.
So important that I’d say it’s one of the top things you’ll do to grow your blog.
If you aren’t passionate about helping your audience, you might as well not even have a blog.
There. I said it.
And I mean it.
I started my blog because I want to help people who are stuck in dead-end jobs and aching for a way out via self-employment.
I’ve been there.
I know what it’s like to work at a shitty call center for years.
I’ve worked as a door-to-door salesperson under the hot ass Texas sun, barely making enough money to pay for the gas to get to work.
I’ve had to sleep on friends’ floors and couches because I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
I’ve had to sell stuff I loved to keep my car from getting repossessed (bye, favorite guitar!).
I’ve felt like a total failure (as a 3-time college dropout who got fired from my first “real” job).
So I can really empathize with others in those kinds of situations.
And I want to help them by sharing how to make money blogging and/or freelance writing.
Make sure that you’re passionate about helping your audience too.
That passion/empathy is what will keep you going when times are tough.
Created multiple income streams.
Most of the income I’ve made from my blog has come from digital product sales.
But I’ve made a significant amount from affiliate income too.
And I’ve had some clients hire me as a freelance writer after finding this blog.
So my main monetization methods have been:
- Digital products
- Affiliate income
During my $8,000 month, most of my income came from digital product sales (2 online courses), and the rest came from affiliate income.
I’ve also got plans to release some other neat-o stuff here on the blog soon, which will result in more helpful resources for my audience and an additional income stream for me.
Think about the best monetization methods for you AND your audience, and focus on those.
And create a clear plan/timeline for creating these income streams.
Used content marketing from the start and wrote my posts from a marketing perspective
Make no mistake:
If you are just writing “words on a page” and not approaching your blog with a clear plan/purpose, you can’t expect to turn it into a business.
Bloggers who grow an audience and income quickly don’t do so by accident.
They do it because they’re busting their ass AND they have a clear plan and strategy.
They understand that it isn’t just about writing and publishing blog posts.
You HAVE to blog with intention and a clear content marketing strategy.
Your blog posts should tie into your long-term business goals.
I’ve seen a MASSIVE difference in my blogging results since I learned content marketing.
I shit you not, learning content marketing has made all of the difference for both my freelance blogging client work AND my own blog.
Before I learned content marketing?
Well… let’s just say I got some not so stellar feedback from a freelance blogging client.
And I started multiple blogs that NEVER grew an audience or turned into anything even remotely successful.
But AFTER learning content marketing, I’ve been able to:
- Have multiple posts on the first page of Google for targeted search terms
- Create a viral blog post with over 20,000 social shares
- Make ~$2,000-$8,000/mo from my blog and charge $200-$400+ for a single client blog post
- Grow an audience and community I’m thrilled about
- Get my blog posts shared by influencers on Twitter
Trust me – this kind of stuff doesn’t happen by accident.
It happens when you’re intentional and strategic in your approach to blogging.
So, tell me, are you using content marketing and writing from a marketing perspective to grow your blog?
- Do you have a content strategy based on your monetization plan, or are you writing just to write?
- Do you optimize your posts for SEO, or do you just cross your fingers and hope they rank?
- Are you crafting crazy clickable headlines every time you write a new post, or do you just go with whatever comes to mind first?
If you’re not using content marketing to grow your blog right now and want to learn how, I want to share something with you…
It’s my new course, Conquer Content Marketing.
This course is your step-by-step guide to creating/promoting blog content that drives traffic, social shares, and email subscribers.
(Whether you’re writing for your own blog OR for freelance blogging clients, this is stuff you’ve gotta know to drive business results with your posts!)
Enroll now during the pre-sale period (before doors close on July 14th), and you save $100 on the price of the course when you pay in full.
Stop wondering whether or not your blog is going to grow, and create a plan that makes you feel confident that it WILL grow.
Stop worrying that your freelance blogging client work isn’t good enough, and start commanding higher rates because you just KNOW your content will get results for their business.
(If you have questions, hit me up in the chat box on the course sales page!)