I’ve been asked time and again how to I became a full time blogger. Friends ask, family members ask, and even fellow bloggers ask. 4 Hats and Frugal has been around for almost 8 years as I write this article, yet it’s only until the past 2 years that I’ve understood the real work behind having a blog that produces income. I’ve made many mistakes, I’ve done some silly things, but I’ve also decided that this is the career that brings me joy.
So, in 2015, I declared that I would become a six figure blogger. Yes, my blog is “smaller” in comparison to others. Yes, we have a unique niche on this website (a frugal blog that doesn’t talk about deals or coupons? What?!). But, I knew I could do it, as long as I decided to do it. In this post, I’ll share how I earned 6 figures blogging, and the big mistakes I made in 2015. We all learn from mistakes, and I want to make sure you learn from mine. Ready? Let’s get real.
What I Did Right in 2015
Let’s start out with some positives before we get into the negatives, shall we? There are many things I actually did right in 2015, and they all attributed to how well the website did financially. I didn’t know it at the time, but standing my ground on these things caused me to attain some very big opportunities.
We Focused Only On Family
In 2015, we niched down even more on the blog, and focused on the whole family. In past years, I would take opportunities that highlighted our platform, but it was mostly me in the spotlight. In 2015, I decided to focus on the other family members. From our Johnson’s Baby ambassadorship, and many other financial opportunities, they were focused on either my husband, our kids, or our whole family. This helped me to say no to other campaigns and ambassadorships that didn’t fit into our plan. Guess what? The more I said no, the better the YES opportunities became. We even ended our year with our whole family on the cover of Parade Magazine, with grandparents in tow. I’d say our year of family ended well.
You’re going to hear every blogger on the planet talk about diversifying their income. Well, I did do a little of that, but I didn’t completely focus on it. I love sponsored ambassadorships, and I have to say, I do them pretty well. You guys (our awesome readers) tend to respond well to them, so if the ambassadorship fits with our community and it’s something we would have talked about anyway, I said yes to it. I also got to be an ambassador for 2 conferences this year, one being my favorite conference, Type-A Parent. Ambassadorships are where most of my income from 2015 came from, but not all of it.
This year, I had an ebook for sale, I consulted for other companies as an advisor, I took part in a few social media-only campaigns, and oh yeah, I helped create content for a large company’s brand new website. That last part? That was a big income booster. Big. Diversification will look different for each blogger, but don’t think it always has to focus on creating your own products. There are tons of ways to make money.
I also added one more google adsense box to the blog. Just one. Well, that doubled my adsense income! I made four figures from my google adsense boxes, as well as the ads within my YouTube videos.
Yes, you have to talk to people from time to time as a blogger. The blogging community seems vast, but we are very close. We tend to know each other. We also pay attention to what our passions and talents are. When campaigns or ambassadorships come around where we think someone would do well, we recommend one another. OK, well I do that. Some others may not. But, I frequent blog conferences, talk to members of my community, and I remember. When a Public Relations representative comes to me with a campaign, and I have to say no to it, I give them 3 names of other bloggers that would rock that partnership. This does three things:
- It gives the PR rep a short list of bloggers to check out, which means they can stop looking at the LONG list given to them by their superiors.
- They are connected with bloggers that have the same values and interests as the brands they are representing, again making their jobs easier.
- When something comes up that fits MY brand, they remember that I did them a solid and contact me again. Those secondary opportunities are usually worth way more than the campaign I had to pass on. I genuinely helped them out, so they genuinely want to work with me.
My friends like to call me a connector. I do way more connecting for others than I do for myself. Besides it being so fun to do, I know that eventually my turn will come. 2015’s income has shown me how true that can be.
My Blog Coach Is The Bomb
In 2015, I bit the bullet and hired a blog coach. Out of all of the good things I did, this was the best. Brandi Riley is a true expert at what she does, and rocks as a blog coach. I actually started with Brandi through her blog strategy report. She gave me 5 PAGES of things I should do to increase my income in 2015. They weren’t blanketed items, they were very personal to my brand, my family and my life. She blew my mind with all of the tasks she thought up just from spending some quality time on my blog!
I didn’t get through them all (I’ll still be working on them in 2016), but I knew that I needed to hire her as a blog coach as soon as possible. I did exactly that, and it has changed my family’s life. When I won my Iris Award, I knew it was because I listened to what Brandi said to do. It was because she believed in what we’re trying to accomplish here on 4 Hats and Frugal, and made sure I stuck to it. It was because she encouraged me to share our story, our family life, and why simple things like meal planning and budgeting mean so much to me. I did what she said, and I made a money AND a difference.
What I Did Wrong In 2015
Ok, it’s time for the negatives. I made mistakes while trying to monetize my blog in 2015. I made lots of them. But, let’s just focus on the biggest ones, so you will make sure not to follow in my footsteps.
The $64 Grocery Budget Series is our most popular series on 4 Hats and Frugal. In 2015, I decided to find contributors to take the challenge all over the country. My readers had been emailing me non-stop to try the challenge at their local stores, and since we don’t have all of America’s grocery stores here in NJ, I had to “hire out.” Some contributors even got to work with their local stores, because those stores read the post! While some of my contributors did an amazing job putting together their posts, some just phoned it in. Why was this an issue? I was paying them. I even paid and extra $64 to cover the groceries.
After talking to many other bloggers who have contributors, I found out that I was paying them way too much, and if I wasn’t satisfied with their work, I shouldn’t have paid. Oof. As someone who loves the blogging community so much, that was hard to hear. We should be paid what we are worth, but if I wasn’t getting quality content, then I needed to not let go of that money. So, what did I learn? Contributors don’t have to be paid big bucks. Contributors have to give you quality content, and if they don’t, they can’t get paid. Bartering is OK, too. I’ve been blogging for a while. I know a few things. I could have mentored a few of the bloggers in exchange for the post. Duh. I never even though about that.
I Split My Focus
In 2015, I helped to start a wonderful community called Disney Moms of Color. It was so exciting to see this new community blossom, and I wanted to make sure that we were rooted in good soil. Many of the moms said that they would love a place to be able to write about their love of Disney, so I took some of my income and created a blog. I also hired a blog manager, again with the money made on 4 Hats and Frugal. My focus was turned away from the site that was making me money, and towards a site that wasn’t really mine in the first place. So, not only did I lose money, I lost my groove a bit, since I wanted this community to win. I could have done so much more here, if I would have given myself a small, yet allotted, amount of time to focus on Disney Moms of Color. Lesson: Keep your blinders on. If you have to switch gears to focus on something else, make sure that it won’t cause you to lose income.
I traveled my bum off in 2015. I actually traveled way less than I did in 2014, but traveling as a blogger means that you will have to pay (for the most part). Many of my traveling sessions were to conferences (see Networking above), while a few of them were for press events, TV appearances, and other opportunities. What’s the problem with traveling? It’s a time-suck. As much as I think I’m going to work while I’m traveling this place and that place, I don’t. Less time working means less money made through partnerships, projects, and traffic to the blog (I have to blog to get blog traffic). Be strategic with your traveling. Make a game plan for the conferences you attend. Schedule meetings with other bloggers that might be in town during your press event. Use your money wisely, if you have to travel. Also? If you travel for a conference, give yourself 90 days to implement what you learn before you go to another conference.
Online Course Buyers Remorse
I purchased way too many online courses in 2015. I mentioned implementation above, and that goes for online courses, virtual conferences, e-books and more. I don’t even want to tell you how many online educational items I purchased for business and blogging in 2015. I didn’t think about how I needed to digest what I would learn from each one, before I bought it. If you are thinking of buying online courses, give yourself time to actually use what you learn before you buy another. Otherwise, you’re wasting time and money.
Not Hiring Help
I have this issue with being a “boss.” This kept me from hiring help for the blog in 2015. Eventually, I did hire a VA to help with blog post syndication on Pinterest and Twitter, but that was a bust because I wouldn’t make the time to actually TEACH her what I needed on my accounts. While you should hire slow and fire fast, you still have to hire. I should have started 2015 with a VA, and I should have stopped creating, traveling and doing all the things to train them. In 2016, I will be building my team for 4 Hats and Frugal, but I will make sure to stop all work in order to show them what kind of quality work I need from them. This boss stuff is hard, yo.
What I’m Doing This Year
Did I learn from my mistakes? Of course. Will I be doing things a little differently this year? Yup. I’ll share some of those tasks with you.
I’m Going To Pitch More
I was OK with pitching in 2015, but I’m upping that quite a bit this year. I have a few partnerships with brands and other bloggers on my dream list for 2016. Yes, I said brands AND bloggers. I mentioned how much connecting with the blogging community means to me, and I want to increase that by partnering with bloggers that I love and respect. Remember, it’s not all about the brands! My goal is to pitch at least once a day. Three pitches on Monday, since I take weekends off. That’s 365 pitches to send. Yes, that’s a lot, but you have to think about this. Maybe 10% of those will get a response. Maybe 5% will turn into a campaign, ambassadorship, or project. Pitch, pitch, pitch.
I’m Hiring Help
I will hire slow and fire fast. I would love to have a full team of help by the end of 2016, but I’m going to be smart about this. I’ve already written down each step I take to post and syndicate on my social media accounts. Now, I just need to find team members that get me, and understand how our platform works. I don’t want to just employ anyone, I want someone special. This might be the hardest thing I do in 2016, but it’s the most important.
From Coach to Agent
Did you know that there are blog agents? Me neither. Well, they exist and I will be getting help from one in 2016. We’ve already had meetings. They get me. They REALLY get me and what I would like to accomplish this year. They even gave me homework. So, now I have a coach and an “agent.” Why? Because I can’t do it all myself, and I can’t think of it all myself. This may not be an option for everyone, but I see it as the next step for me. If you just can’t do an agent right now, see the pitching section above.
Products Are Coming
Yes, I will be diving into products in 2016. I’m partnering with a platform that will make it so much easier for my readers to purchase and download the products I’m creating (thank you, Jesus and goodbye, E-Junkie). I’m also taking a class on e-Course creation, so by the end of this year, I will have a full e-Course for sale. The best part is this is something my readers have emailed constantly about, so I need to make it into a course. Within the plans are workbooks, ebooks, and possibly a planner of some sort. Will this all happen in 2016? Maybe not. But it will be started, and that’s cool with me.
I hope this post was helpful to you, fellow blogger. This can be done. You can make full-time income blogging, and you can turn it into a six-figure business. Take my mistakes and learn from them. Once you do make six figures, do me a favor? Shoot me an email, so I can have a virtual dance party for you.