Growing your blog & staying *motivated*

by J. Money on November 5, 2012

eyes on goals lol cat

I get asked  a LOT of questions on blogging, and after taking about an hour or so to respond back to this latest one I’ve posted below, I decided it was high time to put them all on one separate site in hopes it helps other bloggers searching for the same answers too :)

I’m not the best blogger out there in the world, but I do have a lot of experience in the game and highly enjoy doing it for a living all day long! So if anyone else wants to drop a few questions my way, by all means please do… if you’re lucky, we’ll make you famous here too, haha…

Also be sure to check out our “about” page if we’ve never met before :)

Here’s the email that started it all – submitted by Serena:

Hey, J!

If you don’t mind, I wanted to ask you a few questions about how you became successful at blogging… Just getting a little frustrated over here, because I’m not sure which direction I’m headed in order to turn this into a real gig and not just a “I do think in the evenings when my kids go to sleep” thing.

Here are a few questions:

  1. When you were starting out, what were the TOP 3 things that you did to grow your blog? I hear guest posting is KEY. But were there other things that really brought that traffic in for you?
  2. What are the key ways to make money from blogging (OTHER than AdSense)? My niche is a bit different (DIY, thrift stores, home decorating, etc). But the structure has to be the same.
  3.  Were there times you felt discouraged and wanted to give up, and if so, what did you do to keep rollin’ forward?

Thanks! I really am just trying to see how others are making it happen and I’m dwiddling my thumbs, it feels. LOL

And here was my response:

Hey friend! Here you go – sorry it turned into a novel ;)

1. When you were starting out, what were the TOP 3 things that you did to grow your blog? I hear guest posting is KEY. But were there other things that really brought that graffic in for you?

Yup, Guest posting, participating in Carnivals (CarnivalofPersonalFinance.com was the big one back then, and still may be, and now there are like 20 others out there. But submitting to 5 or so a week helped a LOT to get my name and my links out in front of people. And it took like 15 mins), and then trying to write things that were *DIFFERENT*. Which is the hardest part because there’s a billion bloggers out there all saying pretty much the same stuff!

But when you’re trying to grow and separate yourself from the gang, you’ve got to purposefully concentrate enough to do that. Now all blogs can’t just go crazy and curse and talk about drinking or sex or anything (I on purpose left mine more edgy so I could! haha…), but you can still figure out ways to have a “voice” and get people to know about YOUR personality and vision over the others.  That’s what you want in the end – people to say, “Oh, you need to know about ____? You should totally go see Serena over at ThriftDiving.com – She’s the best at it!”

It doesn’t matter what it is either – the more people know that you’re good at something, the more they’ll spread it and help grow your site incrementally over time. I rarely talk about budgets anymore, but since I did so much of it early on (and it’s in my domain) everyone thinks I’m a master at them! Whether I am or not! It’s all about branding :)

A 4th thing that I find pretty important – NETWORKING with other bloggers. Just like you’re doing with me right now. Reach out to as many as you can that you think you’d get along with and enjoy talking to, and try helping each other out and pitching ideas/etc/etc. That was the main way I got to be linked on some of the bigger bloggers out there early on, and now we’re all friends and it’s awesome. Unfortunately it does take a lot more time form your schedule, but on the plus side it’s more fun and you never know what can come out of things :) One of my blogging friends introduced me to someone she thought I’d get along great with on Twitter, and now, 2 years later, we’re best friends in REAL life and he’s now my business partner on other projects :) So it helps in both worlds, really.

2. What are the key ways to make money from blogging (OTHER than AdSense)? My niche is a bit different (DIY, thrift stores, home decorating, etc). But the structure has to be the same.

Here are a bunch of ways you can make money:

  • Adsense — Great but only when you have a ton of traffic and you don’t mind crap ads sometimes (or, even *all* the time ;)). There are, however, tweaks you can do here and there to double/triple your money – even if it’s small – by playing with the locations of where you put them. The more upfront they are on your site, the more you’ll normally make. And of course possibly piss off your readers too ;)
  • Affiliates — Promoting other products you love (or don’t love) and getting a cut from them. 95% of all the “big” blogs out there bringing home thousands and even millions of dollars are all pimping out affiliate links in one form or another. Credit Cards being the #1 in the personal finance niche, but maybe in yours it’s something else? There are sites like flexoffers.com and cj.com which aggregate THOUSANDS of products/companies which you can become a member of for free and then apply to promote a bunch of companies they work with – rather than specifically reaching out to every company separately when you want to promote something of theirs. This can be a money maker if done right.
  • Selling your own product — People make ebooks, templates, art, etc etc and then sell it all on their sites. This is the best for maximizing your profits and building trust and a name for yourself online, but it’s also the hardest and you need to be really good at whatever it is :) Unfortunately this bores the pants off of me which is why I don’t try it, but there really IS good money in this arena! Especially those who KILL it like Chris Guillebeau.
  • Direct ads — Every now and then you may get pitched to add a text link or banner ad to your site by someone, and they’ll pay you a monthly fee to keep it up (sometimes $15/mo, others $50/mo). This is both the fastest way to make money when people are coming to you, as well as the easiest, but it’s also the most detrimental to your site because Google does not like paid text links and will penalize you if you get caught. Which is why people are now accepting more “sponsored posts” instead which is more on the low (but still not wanted by Google!). It’s a fine line that you have to decide whether or not it’s worth walking… Banner ads are okay though, they’re just more far and few in between.
  • Ad networks -- If you get enough traffic, you can also join an ad network which is similar to Adsense in that you plop in the code and then the ad network populates the ads for you. These ads are usually a TON better though, and can pay on CPM (impressions) instead of CPC (clicks) like Adsense does. This route is one of my favorites ‘cuz you can “set it and forget it” ;)
  • Amazon affiliates – This falls under “affiliates” above, but I separate it out because it tends to be easier to promote/make a little money from since everyone knows and loves Amazon already :)  The key is to put links where it makes sense on your site, because when people click it leaves a cookie w/ Amazon for 24 or 48 hours (can’t remember) and if they buy ANYTHING doing that time, you get a commission for it. Even if they don’t buy whatever it is you were linking to! (In fact, MOST times they don’t!). It takes a little time to figure out the best way to rock these with your site, but when you do it’s one of those things that’s super easy to initiate and can pay you dividends every day/week/month going forward :) A quick example – we did a guest post on my site about how to be a phone sex operator for side money, and at the end we added a few books from Amazon we thought were helpful to people. That post alone generates $20-$30 a month and we only had to place ‘em once! It’s not a ton of money, but you start having a few others like that mix in with your other revenue streams coming, and it becomes a nice full pot for sure. AND it helps your readers! (For more info on them: Amazon Associates)

Those are the main ways I can think of off my head. Pros and cons to most of them ;)

3. Were there times you felt discouraged and wanted to give up, and if so, what did you do to keep rollin’ forward?

Yes. Sometimes every week! (In fact just the other day I wanted to stop, haha…) The thing that keeps me going though is I always ask myself – “If you weren’t doing this right now, what would you be doing instead?” And so far I haven’t thought of anything else that’s better – so I keep on trucking! And really the hardest part for me is just the writing and writing and writing… I’m naturally not a good writer and I don’t enjoy it hardly as much as I should, but it’s the only part of the “job” that is somewhat hard for me. And every time I think of doing another one, I know in comparison it would be easy as pie! :) So I keep on going… And before I was doing it full-time, it was all about putting in the hours so I could leave my 9-5 which I’ve since done.

Other things I do when I’m bored/want to give up:

  • Start trying to meet more people online to get inspired
  • Start thinking of more fun topics to write about and somehow relate to money ;)
  • Go do something different outside and away from the computer to hopefully get an idea or change of pace.
  • Take the rest of the day off and just say “fuck it”. Oftentimes you’re just in a funk, and if you can leave and come back the next day fresh and more normal, the phase may pass ;)
  • Start a NEW project! It can be as big or small as you want it, but once you focus your brainwaves on something else that’s exciting at the moment, sometimes the old site is no longer “routine” and you get excited again to get back to working on that one later :) Or at least with less stress. You just have to make sure not to take on TOO much or then you get spread thing – something I’m currently working on fixing myself.

Any of that help? I’ll be honest with you and say that it really DOES take a lot of time and energy and ups and downs to be successful in the end – however it is you determine that. There’s no easy way to get there and every “big” blogger out there will tell you the same – it takes forever. BUT, if your end goal is to do it full time or get a book deal or open up a store, or whatever, then the only thing you can do is push forward or you’ll never reach your dreams!

And again you have to ask yourself - if you weren’t blogging, what would you be doing instead that’s BETTER?

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Photo Credit: gurdonark

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline Salaman November 13, 2012 at 3:15 am

Really helpful. Learned some new things.

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J. Money November 13, 2012 at 3:55 am

Awesome, I’m glad! Congrats on being the first person to check out the new site too ;)

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Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy November 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

Wow, I totally am digging these practical straight forward tips combined with the traditional J Money flair. I now dub thee my blogging fairy godfather, lol. Subscribing and will be returning for further tidbits of wisdom.

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J. Money November 26, 2012 at 11:35 am

Haha cool! You’ll be the very first one then ;) Hope these help!

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RichUncle EL December 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Great tips J. Funks are just a part of any job you do.

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J. Money December 9, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Indeed! Even the “dream” jobs out there have parts you wish you didn’t have to do :) And you need the downs in order to appreciate the ups too!

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Trevor @ 5 gallon ideas December 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I like the Q&A format – maybe we will see this as a regular feature?

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J. Money December 11, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Yup! The whole site will pretty much be like that, except for a few one-offs when they come up :)

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