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Yes, you read that right- I quit my full time job as a paralegal to dive head first into the world of blogging! After toying with the idea of starting a blog and devoting a handful of hours to it here & there, I decided after a crazy work week and long conversation with my husband that I was going to focus 100% of my time on my blog, Looks Like Happy.
It’s a big step- losing my income was going to stretch us pretty thin, we had kids in college with tuition payments & apartments to pay for. We had been renovating our cottage slowly but surely for about a year. We got our ducks in a row as quickly as we could, I gave my boss a month’s notice, and the decision was made.
And immediately I felt a huge sense of relief. While I absolutely love the law, the practice area I was in was not my dream area. I stayed as long as I did because my boss was awesome & we got along fantastically. But I knew I wanted more. I wanted something that I did, that would benefit myself, my husband and possibly our adult children. I wanted to make more money, be able to take an afternoon off here and there, utilize all of my husband’s vacation time and grow something that would not only supplement my husband’s income, but provide a serious boost to our household income. And I wanted to do this as quickly as possible.
As far as I could figure, the way for me to accomplish this asap was to devote myself 100% to my blog. And so that is what I did. If you’ve asked yourself “how do I start a blog” or “can I make money blogging” then I think you’re going to like what I have to say!
How to Start a Blog That Makes Money
You know the old saying “it takes money to make money?” That was my mantra when starting out. I am always hesitant to spend money on myself, so I had quite a lot of prompting from my always supportive husband. I’d say, “so I was looking at this course…” and he’d say “take it.” I’d say, “well it’s $300…” and he’d say, “take it.” My entire goal was (and is) to have a money making blog.
Blogging for Beginners
If you browse through Pinterest after searching “blogging” or “how to blog,” very quickly you’ll see the question “can I make money in my first year blogging?” I saw the questions, too, and of course I was skeptical, because there are about 4.2 million blogs out there and then another 9.6 million aspiring bloggers. The pool is filled with people who want to make money from home. But you know what I decided after looking at hundreds & hundreds of blogs, after googling “best blogs” and “top blogs” and “lifestyle blogs?” I decided that a lot of them aren’t great- they are sloppy, there are spelling & grammar errors all over the place, they don’t flow and a lot (and I mean A LOT) of blogs have less than 30-40 posts. And to me that means they’ve given up, because that’s not even one post for every week of the year.
With my husband’s technical help I decided I could go all in on this job and I was determined not to fail.
I studied the best blogs- read their content, saw how they engaged with their readers in their blog posts, on Facebook and on Instagram, and looked at what they were doing on Pinterest. Blogging is a lot more than writing a blog post, even if it is on the newest, trendiest, most recent topic, and clicking “publish” to your website. No one will find your post. You need to advertise it, just like stores advertise sales and commercials advertise products. Blogging is 30% writing and 70% promotion.
I looked at everything the most successful bloggers were doing and followed in their footsteps.
Let’s see how I made money as a first year blogger!
First Things First
This are the initial steps I took as I prepared to launch Looks Like Happy:
- I decided on a niche:
- My niche is broad based- “lifestyle.” It’s a bit of this & a bit of that and it is mostly about home & life.
- There are so many niches you could choose from, especially if you are an expert in one field or one area.
- Food, Travel, Teaching, Nursing, Health & Wellness, Parenting, Finances…you can have a blog about anything.
- From your general niche you can “niche it down” to something even more specific, such as Middle Eastern Food, Gifted & Talented Teaching, Becoming a Travel Nurse, Caring for Cancer Patients, Parenting Kids in Your 50’s, Saving Money While Paying Off Loans…you get the idea.
- For me, I get bored easily so having a number of topics to research & write about is better for me. That and to be honest, I’m really not an expert on any one thing, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from becoming a lifestyle blogger.
- I thought and thought and thought some more about my blog’s name.
- It’s surprisingly NOT easy- you’ll find the perfect name, but it will be taken.
- A .com is the way to go. If you really, really want the name happiness.com and it’s taken, you can certainly take happiness.org, but people will automatically go to happiness.com to find you, and you won’t be there. Keep thinking & looking to see if specific domains are available and eventually you will find one that you love & is also available.
- I set up a Pinterest for Business profile.
- You can read my post on How to Set Up the Perfect Pinterest Profile in 10 Easy Steps here.
- I’ll get into Pinterest further down.
- I set up an account with WordPress.org, NOT WordPress.com.
- Why .org and not .com? Because the wordpress.org version allows you to take your site and have it hosted wherever you’d like. (You can read about all of the differences between the two here.)
- My site is hosted through Blue Host and from what I can tell, Blue Host is the preferred host among bloggers. It is currently $3.95/month, which is a steal. That’s less than one coffee shop coffee a month…
- Top three reasons why I chose Blue Host: it’s easy to use, customer service is great if you have a question, you can easily install plug-ins to make your blogging life easier.
- I picked a theme from Blue Host (another great thing about Blue Host is they have FREE themes to choose from, and also themes you can buy. When you’re just starting out, saving money on one thing to spend on another is great.)
- I got to work setting up my theme, and then writing posts. I wanted to launch with 20+ posts because I read over & over again to launch with 20+ posts. In hindsight, this was not necessary and the reason is twofold: 1) JUST DO IT, and 2) let’s face it, not many people are visiting your blog in the first 2, 3, 4+ weeks of your launch, so just launch it!
The Course That Started It All
When you’re researching blog courses you’ll undoubtedly see many, many courses pop up as “must take” courses. I did quite a lot of research and found that they range in price from under $100 to nearly $1000. Even though I was dedicated to diving into blogging, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend nearly $1000 on a course. And you know what? I am SO GLAD I didn’t because the course I decided to take was a fraction of the cost of more expensive courses and it gave me EVERYTHING I needed to get started, and I can reference the course any time I want (for up to two years) for free.
What is this course?
How much is the course?
$197. That’s it. Yes, you could spend less on a different course. Yes, you could spend more on a different course. But for me, this is the course that started it all and has allowed me to make full time income in my first year of blogging, so I recommend it to everyone I speak with who is thinking of getting started with blogging.
What do you get?
The 30 Day Blogging Fast Track has everything you need to launch a money making blog in 30 days. The course is designed to take 30 days, but you can absolutely go at your own pace. If you miss a day it’s no big deal and you can start up again from where you left off on any day because it is self-paced. It will go over everything from launching your blog to setting up social media accounts to applying for sponsored posts to affiliate marketing and creating eBooks and courses to sell on your site. It’s all-inclusive and each days’ lesson is thoughtfully & completely explained making it very easy to understand- even if you are not technically savvy.
There are also Facebook groups, 10 day challenges and almost instant responses to support emails which makes this course a terrific value for less than $200!
D0n’t make the mistake of underestimating the power of Pinterest no matter what your niche is. Think of Pinterest as another version of Google. Pinterest is not social media, it’s a search engine and you’re going to want to learn how to use Pinterest as soon s possible. If you’re a mom looking for new STEAM activities for your kids, Pinterest has hundreds & hundreds of activities to choose from, all with their own little Pinterest image to tempt you to click on one idea over another. The same is true for recipes, financial hacks, gardening tips, DIY home improvement, bucket list travel sites and everything else under the sun. And it’s 100% free advertising for all of your blog posts.
The key to Pinterest success is repinning other people’s pins. I know it sound weird, but Pinterest favors people who share pins, so you need to share pins. It’s what makes the Pinterest world go round. Eventually people will start following you because they like to see what you are pinning, and soon enough you will be pinning lots & lots of your own content, which those people will see. This leads them to repin your content, that their followers will then see, and it leads them to clicking on your pins that lead to your blog post. Once they are reading your blog post they are exposed to your ads ($$$) and they are exposed to your affiliate links ($$$).
Thanks to Pinterest, you do not have to have thousands & thousands of followers on social media to drive traffic to your site. By my fourth month blogging I had enough traffic to my site to earn $500 that month. That’s incredible! But what’s even more incredible is that it’s been uphill from there.
Pinterest Monthly Viewers
Pinterest also calculates monthly Pinterest viewers, which is not to be confused with page views because it has nothing to do with page views. I’ve had monthly Pinterest viewers as high as 5.6 million viewers a month all the way down to a few hundred thousand viewers a month. The number fluctuates drastically at times, and I seem to average at around 2.5 million viewers. The jury is out as to whether or not this number means anything at all, but I can tell you from my experience it does. The more people viewing the pins you pin means the more people viewing your own pinned content. The more people viewing your pins, the more traffic to your site, the more exposure to your ads and to your affiliate links.
At first I was hesitant to use ads. I didn’t want to be “that blogger,” and ironically the 30 Day Blogging Fast Track doesn’t address ads because It’s a Lovely Life doesn’t use ads. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I find that most blogs and websites I visit run ads. Some are annoying as all get out, while others run a moderate amount of ads and you really only notice the ones that catch your eye and interest you- just like tv commercials.
After about 6 weeks I turned on Google AdWords because it became evident that people weren’t going to read my posts & just send me money. 😉 I promoted my blog posts heavily on Pinterest and by the 4th month I qualified for Mediavine, which is one of the top two ad services with the best pay! Once you hit 25,000 unique viewers a month I recommend applying to Mediavine. It’s made a huge difference in my income.
Having a pin go viral is the golden ticket. Our most popular pin leads to our blog post titled Meal Prep Like a Pro with These 10 Yummy Recipes and has been shared over 90,000 times on social media. It continues to bring traffic to our site, which means it continues to make money in both ad revenue & affiliate sales.
You can read my post How to Create Viral Pins Quickly, Easily and for FREE Using Canva here.
I still cannot believe how FANTASTIC Tailwind is! If you are a blogger and you use Pinterest, and you are not using Tailwind yet, you absolutely MUST check it out! Tailwind is approved by Pinterest as a partner, which is really important- especially given what happened with Board Booster and its clients.
I used to spend hours each day manually pinning other peoples’ content to my Pinterest boards, and then my own content to group boards and my relevant Pinterest boards. Hours. I pinned constantly- while my coffee dripped out of the Keurig, while letting my dogs out, while on the phone…constantly, in every spare minute. Now I spend 1-2 days in a row (which don’t get me wrong is a huge UGH!!!) scheduling my Pinterest queue 45-60 days out. Set it & forget it! I add my pins to my Tailwind queue when I publish new posts, usually on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Other than that I let Tailwind do all of my pinning.
As I said above, blogging is really 30% writing & 70% promoting. How is that? Well, it may take anywhere from 1 hour to 12-14 hours to write a blog post, depending on what the content is and how in depth your research takes you. After the content is done you’ll spend quite a bit of time working on images for the post, tweaking SEO, making pins for Pinterest and fine tuning the final product. Once your post is published you’ll need to spend time promoting it on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter (I don’t really use Twitter, although I have an account) and Tailwind.
If you feel you have a blog post that could really take off, you may want to pay to promote it on Pinterest, Facebook & Instagram. It doesn’t cost much- I usually spend anywhere from $2-$5 a day for 5-7 days.
Then you’ll spend time promoting your old posts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter – and that includes creating brand new, fresh pins for Pinterest, which can take time!
You can see how promotion can easily take more time than the actual writing of the blog post. The more posts you publish each week, the more time you’ll need to spend promoting each post + old posts. I was publishing 3 posts a week and cut down to 2 posts each week because I felt like I couldn’t adequately promote 3 posts.
How Much Time I Spend Blogging
Let’s see, I don’t want to say “all of it,” because that’s not entirely true. But I don’t want you to think that I spend very little time blogging, because that’s definitely not true.
My typical day looks like this:
- Monday through Friday I am up by 6:00-7:00am.
- I talk to my husband on his way to work while I get ready for the day, make our bed, get my coffee drip going, etc.
- Between 7:00-8:00am I sit down with my bullet journal and my coffee for 10-20 minutes and go over the day/week and make updates to my schedule.
- After that I pretty much work on the blog until 7:00-10:00pm.
- I stop throughout the day to throw in laundry, let the dogs out, grab lunch, make dinner, etc., of course, but beyond that most weekdays of this first year I spent anywhere from 12-16 hours a day working on the blog.
- I am just now, 12 months into it, getting to the point where I feel like I am ahead of the game, so to speak. I have my content under control, my schedule has become a habit, I don’t feel bad saying “no” to friends who want to get together during my work day and I am able to post to social media and Tailwind quickly & efficiently without getting sucked into the rabbit hole of social media. (That said, I make it a point to visit my blogging friends – because, yes, you do network & make friends with people you don’t know and will likely never meet, lol!- sites and social media accounts to show them some love at least a few times a week. We’re in this together!)
- On the weekends, especially in the fall, winter & spring, my husband and I can usually be found working on work stuff, so there isn’t a lot of downtime. I have extra motivation to be set up nicely for summer (which is typically a slow time for Pinterest, anyway) because we have a lot of visitors during the summer months.
My schedule for the first year sounds contradictory to my goal of being able to take an afternoon off here and there and utilize all of my husband’s vacation time, but it hasn’t been. Like I said, the above schedule is/was my typical day, but that’s not my every day. There are at least a 2-3 days a month where I just can’t look at the computer for 15 hours and those are the days I escape, even if it’s just for a few hours to have lunch with a friend or slowly cruise the perimeter of Target for clearance finds. <— my favorite activity. 😉
We live on a lake, so if my husband uses some of his vacation time for a long weekend, I can join him for a day of floating in the lake or we can make plans to hit one of the nearby little towns for some shopping & lunch. In my past job I worked from home & I would frequently work from 8am well beyond 5-6:00pm and I very, very rarely would take a day off. I didn’t have paid sick days or paid vacation, so I felt like I was really letting my boss down when I was sick or we went on vacation- and then I’d come back from vacation to a mess of emails and put in even more hours. So while I work a ton I am able to take an afternoon or a day off.
Now, a little more than a year into blogging I feel like I still need to devote full time hours to my blog, but I am also more likely to close my laptop and set it aside to watch TV with my husband in the evenings. I still work 60+ hours a week most weeks, but it doesn’t feel like it, and it’s so easy to run errands for a few hours in the morning and work for a few hours in the evening to make up for it. It’s hard to explain, but working on the blog full time is not at all like working for someone else full time.
Full Time Money
So what is this “full time money” I’m making? Well, it’s only been a year so keep that in mind. This isn’t one of those “I had 12 viral posts in my 6th month blogging and now I make $22,000 a month from home!!!” posts, because it’s been a year, and while the occasional blogger may hit it big pretty much right off the bat, that is not the usual story. I don’t even think it’s usual for “most bloggers” to make any real money, so to speak, because I think “most bloggers” get discouraged from reading all of the “I make $12k a month as a SAHM” posts and when it doesn’t happen instantly, or they get hung up on a tech issue, or it takes a lot more effort than they thought, they give up.
What is “full time” money for me, may be “part time” money, or just not enough money, for other people. I’m not going to lie- I did not make as much money in my first year blogging as I would have if I’d never heard of blogging and was still working as a paralegal. That being said, I also didn’t make as much money as I could have as a paralegal because I loved working for my boss and I loved working from home. Both of those things made a smaller-than-usual paralegal salary easier to swallow. My goal for “full time money” was $2.5k a month, or $30,000 a year, which was less than what I would have made in my previous career, but enough for me to make it a goal to work towards without it seeming impossible.
So how did I do?
Well, the 4th month brought in $500 and from there I knew I was on the right track. After that the blog brought in more & more money each month, doubling & doubling, until it started tripling. By the 10th month I made $2100, the 11th month$2400 and the 12th month? I hit my goal and the blog made just under $2600!
No more YIKES, and all of the YAYS!
I know the income is going to fluctuate, and we are now entering the “summer slump” season in the blog world, but I AM THRILLED. This has been well worth 60+ hour work weeks and meeting my goal means I can move on to bigger and better goals that will eventually include course development so I can help other new bloggers realize their goals.
If you are interested in starting a blog, or you have started a blog and need some encouragement I am happy to help in anyway I can! Leave a comment below and let’s get started!
The bottom line, if you do everything you can to not fail, you’re not going to fail. Persistence wins. Treat blogging like a promotion or raise you are trying to get at work & make it happen! I am constantly researching, looking at blogs in my niche for fresh ideas, networking and participating in blogger groups to advertise my posts. I am still taking courses on how to better use Pinterest, how to use Facebook ads, how to create better Pins, etc. and I don’t think that will ever stop because there is always something new to learn.
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Blogging Weeks 3 & 4: AKA We Made Money! (This is the month we started making money! How much? ONE PENNY! You have to start somewhere…) 😉
20 Genius Ways to Take Your Side Hustle to the Next Level
How to Combine KonMari + Hygge to Live Your Ideal Life <– my favorite post to date!