I honestly can’t believe I’m writing this post already. 6 months? It doesn’t even seem possible!
Yet here I am in awe of where the past 6 months have taken me. I can tell you that I would never have imagined how far I’ve come. When I started, I knew that I’d never make enough from my blog to quit my $70k/year software development gig. Yet here I am, getting ready to go full-time in just a couple of weeks. It’s seriously crazy.
I’ve learned a lot in the past 6 months. I’ve read more blog posts than is healthy for a single human. Posts filled with tips and tricks, what to do and what not to do. Some of those tips have worked together to get me where I am and some didn’t do a darn thing.
But in this post, I’ll share what worked and what didn’t work for me, personally. It certainly doesn’t mean that something that worked for me will work for you or vice versa, but hopefully you’ll either learn a thing or two or connect with me on a few things!
1. Connections Are Everything
I’m gonna go ahead and start with the big one here. Without the connections I’ve made I would not be where I am, no questions about it.
Out of the 14 amazing women I’ve had the chance to work with so far this year, only 3 of those came to me without being referred by someone else. How crazy is that?!
I can tell you right now, those 3 clients wouldn’t be enough for me to be leaving my job right now. Without the wonderful friends I’ve made I’d still be stuck in the corporate world.
On top of that, these girls are the reason I’m still going. I’m sure you’ve had days where you’re just not sure if it’s worth it anymore. You don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, someone didn’t treat you right, one of your ideas didn’t work out, and you’re ready to quit. I’ve been there many times and these women have helped me through every single struggle.
And maybe most importantly? They get it. Sure, my husband, mom, and several other friends and family members are supportive, but they don’t fully understand what’s going on. All they know is that I sit at my computer all day and night and somehow find clients. But to them, blogging is silly. YouTube is terrifying and I shouldn’t be broadcasting myself to the world. What if there are weird people?! And they still can’t believe that I talk to (or run off to South Carolina to visit) “strangers”.
If you haven’t found your blogging buddies yet, don’t let this discourage you. Instead, hit up Twitter and start making connections. Answer people’s questions, share blog posts, and reply to tweets. Sooner or later you’ll find someone that clicks.
2. Choose Collaborations Wisely
Related to making connections, be careful of the collaborations you choose. I’ve been guilty of forcing collaborations and I’ve certainly learned my lesson.
First, don’t force it. Whether you’ve just met or you’re good friends, if your topics don’t fit well or your chemistry in a live setting isn’t great, just don’t do it. If you feel forced or awkward your audience is going to feel it too.
Next, be sure the other person is willing and able to do the work and get it done on time. I’ve done collaborations where I had to do 90% of the work and others where we were scrambling at the last second to get things done because the other person’s portion got put off. There were warning signs in every situation. Usually those warning signs were excuses about why they couldn’t do things or being late on deliverables early on in the process.
Trust me, collaborations sound fun and they are a great way to generate new traffic, but they can turn from fun to stressful very quickly.
3. You Don’t Need Crazy Views Or A Huge List
This may be good news for you, but you don’t need tens of thousands of views per month or thousands of email subscribers to get consistent clients.
Right now I’m just under 200 views per day and after cleaning up my list of inactive subscribers my email list is back under 500. However, even with those “small” numbers, I still have enough consistent clients coming in to be booked out 1-2 months in advance.
It’s all about getting yourself out there, proving your knowledge, and making those connections.
And on a similar note…
4. Just Because It Works For Them Doesn’t Mean It Will Work For You
This tip applies both in terms of the way you think/act and what applies to your audience.
Here are some things that didn’t work out for me the way they were “supposed” to:
- Being overly salesy and pitchy – It just didn’t feel right. While I wanted to show my audience the value in what I offered I didn’t want to push them into something they weren’t ready for or come off as super annoying.
- Webinars – They aren’t always effective. Of the 3 webinars I did during my course launch, one made 6 sales, one made 1 sale, and one made 0 sales. These don’t look like the numbers we’re promised, right?!! I bought a course on webinars, followed all the steps, and just didn’t see the sales rolling in like I was “supposed” to. But you know what? I am 100% okay with that.
- Guest posts – They’re completely hit or miss. I’ve done guest posts where I was only sent 1 new visitor on the day it was published and I’ve done a guest post that got me 30 new email subscribers on that first day. It really depends on the engagement of the person’s audience, their audience size, and how well your topic fits.
- Periscope – It won’t immediately build you a crazy engaged and thriving community. I jumped on Periscope because I saw how well it worked for several other people. I just HAD to get in on that. But after a few weekly ‘scopes, I just wasn’t seeing it. I might jump on again in the next few weeks, but don’t be surprised if I don’t.
5. Someone Else’s Success Doesn’t Define Yours
If you’re like me and run into some things that just don’t work for you (like the things we just went over), don’t let it get you down.
I just finished up my first course launch. I went into it expecting to put in a ton of work for 0 or maybe 1 signups. I’d never sold to my audience before and when I started launching I only had about 200 people on my list (when I’d heard you needed 500).
Now, after the launch, I have 9 students in my course, which blows my mind. Right around the time my course was closing I got an email from someone saying how they make $30k during their course launch.
I definitely could have let that get me down. I could have wondered where I went wrong and why I wasn’t getting anywhere. But, that person’s story isn’t mine. Her audience isn’t mine. And honestly, my experience isn’t hers.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to the people who have been around longer than we have and allow ourselves to be happy with the steps we make, however small they are.
6. Communicate With Your Audience
This lesson is one I’ve learned based on experiences I’ve had with other bloggers. Communicating with your audience is so so important.
This includes things like:
- Responding to blog comments
- Answering questions or thanking them for sharing on social media
- Sharing their content, and
- Answering their emails
I mean it. Every single one.
I absolutely love learning more about my audience. Sometimes it feels like I’m talking to a wall, just because I don’t know who so many of my audience members are. That being said, I can’t imagine ignoring someone who reaches out, but I have had a couple of bad experiences myself.
I’ve completely lost interest and stopped following bloggers who wouldn’t reply to blog comments. I’ve also stopped sharing posts of bloggers who didn’t take the time to thank me on Twitter. One of these was even my absolute favorite blogger at one time.
It’s not because I’m whiny, want attention, or got my feelings hurt. I simply didn’t feel valued by those people and even felt like I was bothering them.
Let your audience know they’re valued. Even if you have to spend a little extra time in your inbox or on Twitter each day. It’s worth it.
7. You Are Just Important As Your Audience
And now that I’ve told you how important your audience is you need to know that you’re important too. I see so many people only caring about their audience and making all their decisions without themselves in mind.
And maybe that will work for you, but it definitely wouldn’t work for me.
I’ve had a blog in the past where I tried too hard to cater to my audience. I seriously hated it. Looking at my blog didn’t bring me any joy, I hated my branding, and it just wasn’t worth it in the end.
If I couldn’t have my bright, obnoxious colors all over the place I simply would not love my business as much as I do. So, while your audience is important don’t forget about yourself.
8. Learning To DIY Is Worth It (But Outsourcing Is Awesome)
I’ve learned a crazy amount of new skills since I’ve started this blog. I truly wouldn’t want it any other way.
I’ve learned how to use things like:
- A camera (kinda)
- And a lot more
Learning some of these things was stressful (darn you, Photoshop!), but after doing so I wouldn’t want it any other way. I enjoy learning how to do new things, but most importantly I don’t want to have to rely on someone else.
With that being said, I’ve hired a VA and have a friend that does some of my design work and it’s a huge relief. Having someone there to back you up consistently or just when you need it will lift a huge weight off your shoulders.
9. An Awesome Website Is Everything
This one sounds shallow, but it’s true. Having a professionally designed website has made such a huge difference in my business.
Rather than having to work at it for months, a lot of people started taking me seriously right when I launched. The stage during which people viewed me as completely new was largely shortened by the fact that I had a professional-looking website.
I know that a custom website simply isn’t possible for everyone, though. It was a huge investment, actually 3x more than what my original budget was, but it has paid for itself several times over.
If you can’t afford a custom website, check out some premium WordPress themes, like the ones from Coded Creative, or give SquareSpace a try.
10. Blogging Really Is Important
I’ve always heard about how blogging is important for your business, but I never got it until I saw it for myself.
Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten any of the clients I did without a blog, but 3 of them have found me directly through blog posts, whether that was on Pinterest or from people sharing on Twitter.
Not only are your blog posts a way for your audience to discover you, but they give your potential clients and customers a reason to trust you. Even though they aren’t likely to purchase from you right away, you’ll be in their mind when they’re in need of your products or services.
11. People Won’t Understand
This one has been hard for me. I never imagined what an emotional roller coaster I’d be jumping on when making the decision to leave my day job.
There have been friends, family, and co-workers who just don’t get it. That lack of understanding causes many of those people to turn out as being super unsupportive. And let me tell you, when you’re already doubting yourself and are more terrified than you’ve ever been, having people that don’t support you is really tough.
There are three reasons I’ve come across that people just don’t understand:
First, they’re wired into the corporate world. Trying to explain what I’m doing to anyone in a management position, both in my current job and elsewhere, has left me frustrated every time. In their minds, I’m leaving a perfectly good job to run off and do nothing.
Second, others are too busy worrying to care how it works. I would never have guessed it, but my dad is a big offender here. As of writing this post I haven’t even told him I’m leaving my job yet due to previous reactions he’s had. And it’s definitely not that he’s unsupportive because he’s always supported everything I’ve done. But he’s scared. He wants me to be safe and always be able to get what I want. He knows my current job will do those things for me and isn’t quite sold on the idea of me working for myself. (He’ll get there 🙂 ) (Update: I told him the day before publishing this post and he was super sweet and supportive. Yay!)
And last, sometimes I just suck at explaining things. I’ve totally been guilty of panicking when someone asks what I do and I say something like, “Oh, I blog and then get clients!” …good job self. I know that I need to set time aside to plan out what to say when people ask what I do…I just haven’t quite done that yet.
12. You Can Do It
And the last (super corny) lesson I’ve learned in my first 6 months is that it’s possible.
If you would have asked me what I thought this blog would amount to back in September I would have said “not a lot” without any hesitation. I was just doing it for fun.
However, 3 months after that my self-doubt turned into a goal to quit my full-time job in December of 2016.
And just three months after that I gave my resignation at my full-time job.
And now, just a couple weeks later, I have less than 3 weeks left at my job.
It’s crazy to think about, but if I can do it so can you. The hustle is real though so don’t think you can plan out all these cool things to do and sit and watch Hulu all day instead. After 6 months of this, I don’t even remember what my hobbies are, my husband and I are severely lacking quality time together, and I’ve only seen my family once in the past 3 months. I’ve gotten through by telling myself that it’s temporary and that it will pay off in the end. Hopefully it will 🙂
I hope you’ve truly found some value in these lessons I’ve shared. I also hope you see that you can make it happen for yourself too!
What lessons have you learned since starting?