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DNW community member, Leanna Brown, shares how she has been able to find blogging success while being a full-time mum and blogging only ten hours a week. She totally dispels the myth that you need to be all over the place to build the blog you want.
You may know Leanna already from my Authority Site Case Study updates. Below, she shares her blogging journey. Where she has come from, where she is now and how she got here as well as her new side business.
I hope this story inspires you to form your own blogging goals and to have faith that if you work for them, you can have success even if you don’t have full-time hours to work on your blog. A huge thank you to Leanna from Well Traveled Nebraskan for sharing this.
Today, I want to tell you a little story.
A story of two blogs. A story of how you can define your own terms of what a “successful” blog is. But most importantly, a story of how to turn ten hours of blogging into a project, a hobby, a job (whatever level you want your blog to be) into an income generating task.
In 2015, I was living abroad and jumping between small jobs that I knew were never going anywhere. So, I did what every Digital Nomad Wannabe secretly wants to do.
I just up and quit to work full time on my blog.
This was it. I was going to be a successful blogger!!!! HUZZAH!
I poured hours, nay WEEKS, and arguably months worth of time into “learning to blog.” I read tons of ebooks and listened to dozens of podcasts and webinars on how to gain a massive following of engaged audience members.
But two years into it, I was exhausted.
I had decent traffic.
I LOVED writing.
But I was spending over 40 hours a week on something that brought in maybe $5 a month…maybe.
This wasn’t paying the bills and I found myself getting more and more stressed with the ever building “to do” list that plagues all bloggers.
Where was I going wrong?
I knew I had quality content, so why was the “If you build it, they will come” theory not working? Why weren’t my Amazon links bringing in revenue? Why weren’t my travel affiliate links converting?
I was working obsessively on something that I knew I was so close to succeeding at, but I also knew there were just one or two missing puzzle pieces. If only I could figure those pieces out! I knew I was close to a breakthrough.
Defeated with social media and completely overwhelmed with the next new “Big thing that was going to make me successful” (Oooh, do webinars, THAT’S your golden ticket! No, no…now you’ve GOT to be doing lead pages! Ah, how have you not been list building!? Once you do that, THEN you’ll be set!) but the problem with all of that was I needed eyeballs TO the lead pages, the lists and the webinars…
How the heck do I get eyeballs!?!? What in the world was I missing!?
So I did what anyone with a lack of coping skills would do (well, actually what the vast majority of blogs end up doing)…
I stared at the massive overwhelm and up and quit.
I pretended like the blog just didn’t exist. If I pretended like it wasn’t there then surely I could just forget about all those wasted hours.
But I LOVE WRITING.
So two years later, I knew I needed back in. But this time, it HAD to be different.
I didn’t need to make major moolah, but I did need to feel successful and not stuck on a hamster wheel.
I didn’t need to make an income, but I did want some of my time and energy to be compensated for.
But now, today, with TWO kids, time is so limited. Could I possibly succeed in blogging with 5 or 10 hours a week!? Or, was I going to be cornered into “It’s just a hobby”?
Thus, began my journey with Digital Nomad Wannabe, Build Blog Freedom, and Sharon Gourlay.
Fast forward only ONE year, and I am now making more with a brand new blog (and SEO skills) with a FRACTION of the viewers than I ever did with my first one.
In fact, I pulled up some data in Google Analytics. Right now, my 1 year old site’s revenue per page view is making close to 10 times more than my first, well-established site (that I ATTEMPTED to monetize originally!).
10 TIMES MORE! And that is with my original blog having 250% more pageviews!!!
This means that my revenue per pageview is higher. Clearly, I’m doing something different and something right (more on this below).
The best part? I work on my new site for about 10 hours a week. 12 if my boys are REALLY cooperative (aka nap at the same time- but that’s a unicorn in and of itself!).
I finally started to crack the code. But how?
Here are some more specifics on what I did.
1) I Defined Insanely Clear Goals
I had such little time, I KNEW I could only focus on what would give me a return.
There are SO many great parts about blogging, a plethora of ways to make money and opportunities to collaborate with brands. But each of those are all different goals. I defined my first and primary goal:
WRITE GREAT AND INSPIRING CONTENT (that also creates passive revenue).
That was it.
Maybe for you, it is “Become a social media influencer.” or “Work with brands.”
Whatever it is, define it.
Once you do that, it’s easy to cut out all the fluff.
For me, that meant, forget about social media (more on that in a bit), minimize time spent on pitching brands, and don’t worry about things like lead pages and other time-sucking blog tasks.
This also meant focusing on best Amazon affiliate practices- which is what I learned in the Build Blog Freedom course.
The point is, KNOW what your goal is. Like, REALLY drill down and define it. Sharon even has a great 5 Day Goal Setting Challenge (click here to join for free) on this to help you get started.
2) Content Is King
As bloggers, we’ve all heard this a million times.
HOWEVER, traditional “Be Successful in Blogging” guides or courses will often tell you, it’s in how your MARKET your content that is important.
Yes. Create content, but then be smart in marketing and promoting it.
Yes, ok, that is great and fine. But what if I don’t want to be a marketer? What if I don’t enjoy that, am not good at it or more importantly, I DON’T HAVE THE TIME!?
Sharon’s “content is king” plan is so simple that I have NO clue why I hadn’t thought of it myself!?
1. Produce Quality Content.
Like, REALLY REALLY good, thorough pieces that not only am I proud of but that also give SO much information that someone would be silly to click over to another site.
How do I know what to write about that drives this kind of content? SEO research!!
2. Write content that people want.
This is part of the puzzle that killed me before.
I was writing really great stuff. But nobody was searching for “A Day With Sharks and Wine” (High fives for anyone who can guess that location!). That post was chock-full of great insider tips on vineyards and cage diving. But who was actually searching for that phrase?
I’ll tell you who.
On the other hand, with just a tiny bit of effort and time put into keyword planning, I can now write about the exact same topics that I love and enjoy writing about. But now, instead of spending time marketing or trying to get it shared on social, and other time-consuming tasks, I can now sit back and have readers come to me from Google!!
It’s the same content, just better prepared, planned and written so that Google says “Wow, this is answering a ton of questions, I better put this on the first page, shoot, the top spots on page 1!”
And voila! I now have readers searching for my phrases.
Instead of me begging for them to find me in the pits of social media and 43rd page of Google I know exactly what they are looking for and so I give it to them.
And they gladly consume it.
3) Affiliate Content Is An Even Better King!
Joffrey was king, but he wasn’t very good at it. But can we all agree that Jon Snow would be the best king out there!? (I guess we’ll find out in the final Game of Thrones season!)
The same is true with blogging.
After learning about keyword driven content and how it can be natural sounding and inspiring for readers, my mind was blown when Sharon taught me about affiliate marketing and how it can be the same… Except that it can make me passive income as well!
So, basically, write what was I writing before (only better) and also make some side cash at the same time.
(Keep reading to see my actual stats and current income)
I now spend half of my allotted hours for my blog on specific affiliate marketing guides that are useful to my reader.
So, let’s do some quick math people. I promise it’s easy!
I work about 10 hours a week. Times about 4 weeks in a month. That’s only 40 hours A MONTH that I work on my blog.
Divide that in half. 20 hours.
I spend only 20 hours a month writing extremely detailed, thorough affiliate guides that I know my readers need based on SEO research.
I don’t waste time on products and guides that will never compete against the big guys in Google land. Instead, I find low hanging fruit, grab it, and take a big ol’ juicy bite!
In fact, as Sharon’s mentee, I’ve become such an expert in SEO research and writing, she’s encouraged me to start offering my writing and research skills to other bloggers who don’t have the time or expertise to do it themselves!
(For those of you wondering what I spend my other 20 hours a month on, it’s writing keyword driven inspiring content for my readers on my expertise topic and travel niche which isn’t solely focused on affiliate marketing. This gives me a good balance of the two on my site. Any leftover or extra time is spent on link building, since you can never underestimate the power of links! In fact, during weeks where I don’t have time to work on content, I spend a few minutes just doing link building since it is that important.)
And that’s it, my fellow blogging friends!
That is all I’ve done to start what I am more hopeful than ever, is a successful blog!
So, you might be wondering a few things now. You’ve probably read other “Get Successful Blogging” guides before, so you may be wondering where all the other STUFF to blogging comes into play.
Here’s my take on all of that…
Are you ready for a truth bomb?
Forget social media if you want to. Like, ALL of it.
I know a lot of people will say “Choose one social media platform. Learn it. Excel at it. Master it. Then choose the next one.”
I’m telling you to just toss it all out the window completely (if you want to).
There, I said it. I am officially giving you permission to break up with social media.
Ok. Ok. I know what you are saying, “But LeAnna, I also want to work with brands! No brand is going to want to work with me if I don’t have a social presence!”
Then explain the following collaborations with companies and brands on a blog that just had it’s first birthday. A blog with minimal traffic (but steadily growing!) and a Facebook page with a whopping 43 people.
No, that wasn’t a typo where I left off a zero.
I just (after 12 months) got my forty-third Facebook fan and here are just a few of the things that I’ve already gotten, worked on and received with brands and companies:
- A paid for sky diving trip
- Paid sponsored (no follow) links + free swag on already published posts
- A day of skiing for me and my better half
- Free Spa services
- Several giveaways for my readers
* Full disclosure, since writing this, I accidentally had a meme go viral on Facebook which shot up my fan numbers, but all of the above things were obtained with less than 50 people liking my page.
I can’t tell you how freeing it was to come to the realization that I CAN be successful in blogging, not only without massive Instagram and Facebook followers but close to zero social media postings!
(Note: I did secure social handles on all platforms. However, I’ve pinned only a small handful of pins, maybe post once a week on Facebook and put up an Instagram picture oh….once every few months and I haven’t even touched twitter!!! Aaaah that feels SO good!!!)
But this all comes back to my clearly defined goal of quality content writing and creating the affiliate-driven guides that Sharon teaches.
By not spending hours upon hours curating content for every (or even one) platform, by not spending countless days on blogger threads where I have to share or comment on 50 other posts that, in reality, get me little in return, I now free up massive time to focus on affiliate marketing (which actually does give me a monetary return) as well as free up tons of personal time.
Note: If social media is your goal then this might look a lot different to you. But for those of you who love to BLOG, but hate all the other stuff, I bet you’d be amazed at what replacing your time with SEO and affiliate marketing can do over spending it on trying to build an ever-changing social media platform.
Ok, so you may now be wondering JUST how successful I have been. Remember, success is up to each person to define for themselves.
Some people see success as only monetary, and this is fine! So, maybe they believe that their blog is only successful if it replaces a good portion (or all!) of their traditional income.
For me, success is in a few different areas.
In addition to setting extremely clear goals, I also wrote out what success meant for me before starting my blog.
1. A creative outlet
I wanted something that I could put my time and talents into. I simply needed something a few hours a week that gave me a sense of pride and identity outside of “just” being a mother.
2. Only work part time
As a full-time mother, I didn’t want to get sucked into a full-time job. Maybe you aren’t a parent yourself but DO work a full-time desk job in addition to your blog.
The point here is that I couldn’t work TWO full-time jobs (Mommy and Blogger) and not be worn thin.
My blog was going to be (and has continued to remain) part-time only. In fact, most people are shocked when they hear I only work on average 10 hours a week.
3. Monetary Gain
When I started working with Sharon on affiliate marketing and SEO, she challenged me. She said “I think you can make $500 a month!!!”
I.Was.Shocked!!! She did (and still does believe) that I am on the path to this with passive affiliate income alone. Now that I’ve made some tweaks along the way, I would be surprised if I didn’t hit that by the end of 2019.
So, how did I fare for my goals?
Boy has it ever been a creative outlet for me!!!
By foregoing social media, I have poured my skills into my writing. I love that feeling of hitting publish on a piece that I am truly proud of!
The best part of this is I am already getting great traffic to my site just through SEO (aka quality writing!) alone.
It’s also now allowed me the opportunity to write for bloggers needing affiliate or travel content! I now get to share my talents with others which has been such an achievement.
I continue to only work about 10 hours a week on my own blog. This has allowed me to balance work and personal life beautifully. I get “my” time but also get to be fully present for my boys.
I’m not to the $500 a month in passive income. In fact, in all honesty, I’m still a ways away from that. But, I know I am on a clear path on how to achieve it. I no longer am just taking shots in the dark at earning income.
Each month, my Amazon revenue is slowly, yet steadily, increasing. And it’s clear that it’s not just a fluke, mistake or thanks to a random “viral” post. It’s intentional and planned out.
However, in addition to the passive income that is trickling in and growing month by month, I have become what Sharon often calls an “SEO Ninja” in her courses.
After a personal recommendation (and confidence boost) from Sharon, with my quality and thorough writing skills, combined with powerful SEO knowledge, I have started doing freelance writing for other bloggers needing product guides or even travel write ups.
The best part of this is that I have only added a few hours of work a week (about 5-10 extra hours) and from this alone, I am now making over $900 a month!!! This never would have been possible had I not learned what quality SEO research and writing was.
The goal with this is to keep working on my personal blog the same amount of time so that the scales will tip and I will be making more on the blog with passive affiliate income than hourly work for clients.
I do not necessarily want to trade my freedom and time that affiliate marketing can bring me in exchange for freelancing. However, with this opportunity right now, it affords me some extra time in child care to spend on the blog.
Plus, $900 extra a month aint so shabby!!!
(If you are looking at hiring out a content writer with killer SEO skills who follows Sharon’s teachings to a tee, feel free to reach out).
So, have I met the goal of my blog (and writing skills) earning me $500 a month?
Yes. Well over that!
Have I met my own defined terms of success?
Do I foresee even more success in the future?
What about you? One of the things that I love about the DNW community (join here) is that we celebrate each other’s wins big and small.
What improvements to your site, time, income, or blog have you seen by implementing proper SEO? Let’s celebrate each other!
If you want Leanna’s help with creating your own winning content with both SEO and affiliate marketing, you can reach out here. If you want to learn how to do this yourself, join Build Blog Freedom Fast Track here.
Find more posts on my case studies and niche sites here.