What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Full Time Blogger
Blogging is my dream job. I'm not going to sit here and say that it's hard work (it is and you know that), that it has its own challenges (yep), or that it's sometimes scary (that too) but it's also incredibly rewarding and liberating. I make my own schedule, I work when I want – and yes that often means long hours but, I travel the world, and I am able to make a steady income. I remember when I first began to realize it was possible to make a living blogging. I read A Cup of Jo and idolized the fact that she was able to work from home doing what she loved: writing. But a weight fell over me: she is this huge, famous blogger, how could I ever possibly do this?
The fact is you don't have to be famous or have a million followers. You have to be strategic.
I truly believe that you should start a blog right now. The world needs your voice and it's a wonderful adventure, even it means you're documenting your days with just your Mom and dog as readers. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, so I'd like to share what I wish, desperately wish, I knew before before becoming a full time blogger.
The online world is both incredible and daunting. We have all this knowledge at our fingertips yet a slew of misinformation and sometimes, a lack of self preservation. I am a lifestyle blogger through and through. That means I share much of my life online. But not everything. I quickly learned that putting things out there means it can come back to bite you. Like maybe turning a selfie into a meme. I hope to share my story and give you encouragement that you CAN turn this whole thing into a full time job. It takes effort and diligence but you can make it happen. Promise.
What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Full Time Blogger
My story of becoming a full time blogger
I've always wanted to have my own business. From the age of 7 selling lemonade that I turned into a bracelet making stand and employed other children (for real), to the time I started my own dance camp in college, to now. I can't put my finger on why, I just knew I wanted to be my own boss. I've had literally thousands of ideas on how to do that. I've tried many different things. Including buying maroon colored jewelry. But that's a story for a different day. This blog, however, stuck.
I started this particular blog back in 2012. But actually, I've had various blogs for years before. One was actually called “Helene's Notebook” and it documented Michael and I's love story. Can you tell we started dating at 17? It was a silly, teeny-bop site that I kept mostly to myself. But I adored it. In 2012 I started a blog called Do Dallas Cheap where I reported daily on the best deals around town. I woke up at 5 am to scour through the deals and have a post out by 7 am, before going to work. I enjoyed it, but it became a chore and I lost my passion for it.
Then I broke my ankle and leg falling 20 feet rock climbing. Long story short it gave me tons of time to sit on my butt and write. My blog morphed from Do Dallas Cheap to Helene in Between. I learned that I was more passionate about this than anything else before. I knew I had to make this my career. Loads of people told me it wasn't possible but I had to try. Plenty of people start blogs because people are asking them questions about saving money, their fashion, etc. Not me. No one was asking me for advice. I just felt the need to write and express myself. I quickly learned that I needed to find why I interested people.
I'm not a fashionista, I'm not a DIYer, a minimalist, or a cook. But I had a deep desire to connect. It took me a long time to figure out my strengths and hone in on that. My background is in social media and marketing. I started applying the things I learned from my degree (PR) and my job into my blog. To my surprise, it worked. I was growing my blog's pageviews and followers. I decided to share what I learned on my blog and those posts really seemed to interest people.
Another big part of my life was travel. I grew up traveling and going to Europe. By the time I was 27 I had flown out of the states more than I had flown in the states. I knew I wanted to incorporate that into my blog. But how could I? Could I really talk about my life, social media, blogging, and travel? Turns out, yes. I've long believed that niches aren't necessary and that it's more about creating enthusiasm around your work.
Through the years I've fine-tuned my blogging voice, I've learned what posts do well on my blog, and I've tried to come up with new ways to intrigue new readers. I'm always learning and changing and finding that not everything I do sticks. Despite the pitfalls and stresses, blogging is still the best and longest held job I've ever had. And getting to work at home with my dogs, husband, and fuzzy slippers is my greatest joy.
The world of full time bloggers can often seem mysterious. Sure, we see the income reports but that doesn't always paint a clear picture. Everyone's path is different but this holds true: it takes effort, creativity, support, and a strong will to keep going. Here are the five things I wish I knew before I started a full time blog.
Invest in yourself.
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time then you know I am all about investing in things to help you grow. Now that I blog full time, I set aside a budget every year to spend on products, services, and education to help better myself and my blog. But I wasn't always like that. I've always been budget conscious and I thought it would be silly to invest in my blog. I ended up costing myself so much time and effort trying to do everything on my own.
Investing in your blog, website, tools, education is investing in yourself.
I remember I didn't take a photography course until Michael bought me one for my birthday. I just never thought I would ever really take great pictures. Guess what? It changed the game for me. First, pictures are a huge part of this blog and my travels. I needed help to understand how to properly use a camera, edit, and more. I have taken many classes over the years to improve my blog and the skills related therein. I regularly invest in tools and programs that will help me grow. My suggestion is to do your research. I'm not telling you to spend thousands of dollars. Look into what you want to buy, what you need help with, and what will help you achieve your goals.
Recommendations for what to invest in for your blog:
Newsletter – I wish I started my newsletter years ago. This is by far one of the best ways to encourage people to read my blog and make money from my products or affiliate links. I would say this is probably my most profitable aspect of my blog besides the actual website itself. I recommend Convertkit. You can find out how and why to start a newsletter here.
Blogging platform – I started on the free platform of Blogger. I was on there for years and years and thought nothing of it. Sure, I purchased my own domain name, so what could WordPress possibly do for me? Turns out, a lot. Switching isn't scary but if I could go back in time I would have told myself to start with WordPress because it offers so much more. Here's how to create a WordPress blog along with all the tools I use.
Courses – I can tell you right now an online course changed the game for me. It is called Webinar Rockstar and I believe the course is 4 years old. I bought it after deciding to start my own course and I wanted to ensure that the webinar I was offering would pack a punch. What I learned was incredible. It wasn't that it granted me life-changing information, but it helped me to actualize my vision for the course and how to structure it. From then on I started taking more and more courses. Some I recommend are: Blog Boss Babe -this is my own course that is for beginning to intermediate bloggers to help them create more traffic, streamline their blog, and make money, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – I highly recommend this course to learn how to make serious profit with affiliate marketing, FB Ads for Launching is a great one if you want to get your feet wet with Facebook ads.
Collaborate with others
I am an extroverted introvert. Many people tell me that I come off as bubbly and talkative (see also, loud) but in reality, I'm pretty introverted. I love music festivals, crowds, and events but when I need to reset and relax that means spending time by myself. I crave alone time. I have absolutely no problem with simply not interacting with others during the work day. So I have to force myself to get out of my comfort zone and collaborate with others.
It's not easy to put yourself out there. The simplest way is to start a conversation. Reach out to them on their blog by commenting, speak up on social media, send them a DM, or answer their question. This gets the ball rolling and won't sound out of the blue when you come up with an idea for how to work together. Networking with others actually brought me to two friendships that are some of the closest I have.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of being a full time blogger means working alone. It means you must hold yourself accountable and often times that's really difficult. But if you can have someone that you can rant or rave with it truly makes all the difference. The bonus, of course, is that when you collaborate you both grow your audience and influence. The fact of the matter is: blogging is competitive. So is social media. And honestly, so are most jobs, even traditional ones. We are out here to prove ourselves. But I'm a firm believer that there is room for everyone and you have to find your place to grow.
Multiple streams of income are your friend
I was hesitant to write, “multiple streams of income are necessary” because of course, you can have just one. But most bloggers have many, many different ways they make money. Whether they use display advertising, sponsored posts, selling products, offering services, the list goes on. When you diversify your income you are more likely to keep a steady paycheck.
It's true, my income changes from month to month. It can feel scary to ensure I am creating my own paycheck. There is pressure to not only keep up with the trends but keep up with a strategy to make money. But when you start, you'll soon realize that there are so many ways to make money from your blog or online. It's okay if one doesn't work out. Things change over time and you'll learn what works for you.
I am not from the perspective to just quit your job and cross your fingers that you will make a living blogging. That puts entirely too much of a burden on you and your blog and is the quickest way to evaporate your passion. Instead, I suggest devising a strategy and working your way up. It took me years before I became comfortable enough to quit my job to do this full time. I also highly suggest to save money and have enough to live on in case anything crazy happens. You know, like breaking your ankle in a rock climbing accident.
Monetizing your blog can feel overwhelming. But my advice is to start small. Start using affiliate links on places like Amazon or sites you already use and trust. Try out display advertising. Get your feet wet with sponsored posts. Think of your blog as a business. Treat it as such. What areas can you maximize? What areas are lacking? Or where do you see a way to improve or make money? Having a game plan will help you tremendously when you want to take your blog full time. Which brings me to my next point…
You might fail
Many of you might not know that this is my second attempt at blogging full time. The first round was a failure and I went back to a traditional 9-5. About 4 years ago I was in a terrible job. I mean horrible. I was ready to do just about anything to get out of there. So, I started selling t-shirts. My friend Taylor was selling out her incredible designs and encouraged me to do it as well. I started slow with a “Wine Not?” t-shirt and to my surprise, it was a HIT.
So, I quit my job and decided my t-shirt shop would be my ticket to making a living. Sales were fairly steady for a few months. I wasn't crazy about the idea of packaging t-shirts every day but hey, at least I wasn't in an office. My next t-shirt design went live and… crickets. I sold much, much less than I ever did before. I wasn't sure what to do next so I tried selling advertisements, offering free shirts to other bloggers to share on their Instagram, and coming up with new designs. But nothing worked.
With no real strategy or plan of what to do next, I headed back to work. I found a great job in marketing that I felt was a perfect fit for me – I even got to work from home! Despite the good fortune, I had a nagging feeling that I had to try again. This time with a clear objective, plan, and goal for how I would succeed.
So you might fail. But don't take it as the end of your dream. Take it as a lesson. It might take you down a different path entirely or it might help you realize what you need to work on. But if there's anything you can learn from me it's to have a plan.
Find your area of strength and get after it
I want you to sit down today or maybe tomorrow (but please don't put this off) and think about what you love. What do you truly enjoy? What are you passionate about? Aside from everything- what are your hobbies? If blogging is one of them, then dig deeper. What are you good at doing? It can be so many things. Especially things you might not think of. Sure we have writing, photography, social media, and editing. But go further. What else does blogging do for you? Figure this out and hone in on it.
I'll be the first to tell you I'm not particularly good at Facebook. I'll do a Facebook ad here and there, I'll post a few times a week, but after that I pretty much leave it alone. I don't actively try and grow it. I know I should but right now I don't have the time. You know what? That's okay. I like Instagram. I'm good at Instagram, so I focus there. I also focus on things that I think I'm good at such as helping other bloggers to grow and sharing my success tips. I try to write out extremely detailed posts (see this post on Instagram stories) to ensure that my readers are not only helped, but they keep coming back for new content.
So, what's your special sauce? What makes you stand apart from the rest of the pack?
Again, a story here, because I think it helps illustrate my point. When I started this blog it was actually called Do Dallas Cheap and I wrote about the deals of the day in Dallas. It did surprisingly well. Hey, it was 2012 and that was innovative at the time. But I loathed writing it. When I broke my ankle and wrote posts that focused on myself it's as if a light-bulb went off. Oh, this is so much more fun and more me!
I'm not telling you to get personal. I'm telling you to start digging deep and honing in on your unique skills. You have them and you can use them to build your blog to a place that helps you make money. It will take work. It will be worth it.
There's one trend that you should recognize through this: don't go at this alone. Find your strengths, ask for help, invest in yourself, and don't be afraid to fail. Create a plan, write down your goals, and by all means take the leap when you feel you have the means. If you truly think this is the right path for you then please never give up!
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