Generally you’ll find the pages of the internet filled with glowing success stories of how your fellow blogger found instant smashing success in their niche. Honestly, until now, I haven’t been much of an exception. The first case study I published was how I went from 67 – 9,873 website visitors in 24 hours using $11 of Facebook ad spend. Instead of talking about the struggles I wanted to share my successes.
I get it . . . we are often way more intrigued by whatever means might be our shortcut than really learning about all the times our colleagues have crashed and burned. But with all the noise of social media I’m starting to see much greater lessons in learning from everyone’s mistakes than I am trying to copy my colleagues successes. If you want to learn from my blunders check out the top 5 mistakes I’ve made since starting my blog.
1. Do It Now, Don’t Wait
I remember being interviewed when I was 1 year into blogging. One of the pieces of advice I gave was about “deferring monetization” and how waiting 6 months to take monetary compensation was really important. WRONG. My thinking at the time was holding out for better opportunities meant that when I started taking them my value would be higher and my rates would be higher. WRONG.
The current market conditions dictate your worth as an influencer. The larger the pool of influencers in your niche the more competition for each opportunity. While my audience continues to grow the value of that growth is lower because the market is so highly saturated. If I had wrote even 10 more blog posts in the first year my income today would be substantially more.
Take-Away: The opportunity cost, particularly in our quickly evolving niche, is profound. Strike while the iron is hot and seize all the opportunities that come out way. If they aren’t coming for you, go out and ask for them.
2. I Should Have Followed My Path Instead of Someone Else’s
This lesson goes hand in hand with gaining confidence. In the beginning few of us know what we are doing or how our ideas for creating a revenue generating blog will pan out. I was the same way. I looked at other bloggers who had large followings and tried to follow their path. Ironically, it was the more that I tried to be like them and the less I tried to be me the less success I had.
When I took a pause to reevaluate my content I realized that majority of my best content was produced early on, before I tried to go in the direction of the pack. To give you an example 2 months into creating my blog, I was sitting at lunch with my outside the blog work family (some of the best marketers in the business) and they point blank told me exactly what I should do. “If you are getting that much traffic and that many inquires to one post, find a way to turn it into a service and start charging for it.” Instead of taking this sage advice that came from an expert and a necessary 100 ft view, I decided “nah, I’ll just try to do whatever else is.” It’s taken me over two years and a lot of wasted efforts to realize the value of that advice. Then when I finally followed the advice that matches my content success it took me only 1 week to turn that post into a profitable service.
Take-away: The riches are in the niches. Find your niche (whatever you can offer that everyone else isn’t or isn’t doing as well) and focus almost all of your efforts there.
3. Popular and Profitable Are Not The Same Thing
It took me about 2 years to figure this one out but here’s the truth. The people making real money in this industry are not the fashion bloggers. In the beginning I was so attracted the perfectly styled worlds that was jumping out of the tiny Instagram squares on my phone. In my head I created a narrative about their lives and then decided that I too wanted that narrative so I considered their path the way to success – growing my social media following. Sounds familiar?
A large social media following doesn’t necessarily mean a larger income potential. The most important thing is who is the audience you are reaching. In my case I wasted a lot of time focusing on who and how many people were following me on Instagram. I put more efforts into those posts than I did carve the time out to blog. Time has shown me that I make more money off the blog and all my efforts there than I do by taking a handful of sponsored Instagram posts each money.
I’ve probably wasted hundreds of hours trying to grow an audience that I have little control over and are probably not even seeing my posts. Pinterest was my largest traffic source for just a handful of pins yet I spent maybe 3 hours of pinning in the past year while I would easily spend 3 hours a week on my Instagram feed.
Take-Away: Your core audience is your most important audience. Do everything you can to give them all the reason to stick with you.
4. Be a Blogger Who Blogs
For the first years more hours of my week were eaten up by Instagram than go into writing a blog post. And that mindset has put the brakes on my growth big time.
If you’re familiar with Warren Buffet you’re probably familiar with compound interest. Basically, it’s like the snowball effect but with interest or in the case of this analogy growth/revenue. There is practically zero compounding effect to growing your social media following. The number of followers alone bears little weight on your revenue potential and now more than ever, advertising are starting
It wasn’t until I started seeing the trend of “Income Reports” that I was able to put two and two together. When I focused on Instagram revenue with things like LiketoKnow.it or sponsored posts, I wasn’t creating evergreen content or residual income. A sponsored post is a fair amount of work for a one time capped payout. But a blog post with an affiliate link can earn you money day in and day out for years to come. That’s where the real sweet spot it and that’s where I should have been focusing from the start.
Take-away: There are so many more ways to make money off your blog than just sponsored posts. Instead of upfront payments look at the long term income you’ll gain off your initial efforts.
5. Watch Your Expenses But Never Be Afraid to Invest
The revenue margins for most blogs would probably have the Sharks on Shark Tank kicking most of us out the doors real quick.
You spend how much on photography?
You didn’t get paid in advance when you bought the outfit and paid the photographer to shoot it?
You are just hoping you’ll rack up enough $5 sales commissions to offset your costs because you think someone else is?
Expenses are real a killer for our small revenue businesses and one of the biggest single points of failure for us. Without clients are guaranteed revenue coming in future months, watching those expenses is very important. While I don’t run an operation that requires photographers or product that I pay for, I have my own set of expenses. I pay a good chunk of change for hosting because my traffic is high and I pay a lot for security because hackers have tried to take over my site more times than I want to remember. In the beginning those expenses kept me from making investments.
If you are even stuck on what’s an expense versus and investment, try to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI). Typically, you won’t be able to measure ROI on something like buying a Free People dress or paying a photographer. But if you invest in something like learning how to run Facebook Ads For Your Blog you can calculate that ROI and guess that you’ll probably get a full return on investment in 30 days. Once you’ve made back your return on investment everything from there on our is profit.
I’m sorry and I’m speaking from experience, that Free People dress will most likely not generate a ROI for you!
In the past 6 months I let go of my hang up on investing in my business and the growth has been tremendous. I can only image if I had plan my hand accordingly from the beginning where I would be in the business today.
Take-Away: Never confuse your expense as an invest. Treat your blog like a business and focus on where you can and should invest your time and money to grow.
The Bottom Line
Whatever stage of blogging you are in, whether it’s just at idea phase or you’ve already created steady revenue stream never skip the opportunity for reflection and to look at where you have failed. Often times we’ll learn much more from out failures than we ever can our quick successes.