Is your goal to eventually become a full-time blogger?
In August of 2015, I took the leap from my 9-to-5 job at an investment firm and dove into the online business world.
“Blogging” isn’t what I originally set out to do when I left my job (I tried running an investment research membership site). For the past few years, though, blogging has been my main source of income.
We’ve had many highs and lows in this journey. Each one has taught us something not only about blogging as a career, but about how to start and grow a successful business.
Lessons from the Full-Time Blogger Life
If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog, whether as a side hustle or something more, here are a few things we’ve learned over the past couple of years that might help inspire you.
1. Being a full time-blogger is a real career
Of course bloggers know this, but for some reason, people in real life don’t seem to understand that yes, this is a legit way that people make money. Our blog income has increased almost every month for the last year and is more than enough to support us both full time.
If you just choose to blog about whatever comes to your mind that day, then no, you probably won’t make much money from this type of work. But if you treat your blog as a business, then there is an opportunity to create meaningful income for yourself.
When we first started out and weren’t making any money yet, it was hard for us to actually know that this could work, if that makes sense. We were overwhelmed, clueless, and not totally sold on the fact that we could eventually make money blogging. In fact, it took about a year to start seeing results.
If you can provide value to your readers in a way that also generates revenue for you, then you have a real business.
If either piece is missing, you have a hobby.
Early on in our blogging journey, we published blog income reports documenting our progress:
2. Sometimes it’s hard to keep perspective about blogging
It’s easy to get numb to stats.
As a full-time blogger, sometimes I get a little lost in the process — content creation, social media, SEO, email marketing, etc., etc.
Earlier this month I was looking through our numbers in Google Analytics and realized the magnitude of what we are doing. Millions of people each year read DollarSprout. Sometimes it’s easy to just look at the numbers on a screen — I have to remind myself that these are real people coming to our site.
The thing is, I still feel like we are very, very small fish. In the grand scheme, our audience is teeny tiny compared to the bigger blogs out there.
All these people reading our stuff on a screen. That’s real.
Even if you only get 50K pageviews a year, that’s still significant. That is a lot of people giving their attention to you, and that’s a big deal. Not many people can say that about their job.
To me, that is crazy motivation to not only make awesome content, but to do everything I can to get it out to more people.
3. I can never have a boss again
Yeah… it’s just not going to happen. I really don’t think my brain is wired to work for someone else.
Now that I’ve experienced entrepreneurship and know what it feels like (including a failed attempt) I know for sure that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There is no doubt in my mind — and that’s an amazing feeling that I wish everyone could experience (in whatever career path they choose).
Some things I don’t miss about the regular 9-to-5 grind:
- Being paid less than I’m worth (I wrote about my bombed pay raise discussion here).
- The feeling that my work is unappreciated. Apparently, I had a worse case of this than most people.
- Pointless meetings (seriously, they were my kryptonite)
One of my favorite things about being my own boss:
It’s really nice to go on random trips on a whim to meet up with family, without having to request PTO.
I don’t feel like a slave anymore.
Nobody owns me.
Here’s me with my Uncle Mike on a Tuesday in NYC (I live in Virginia Beach, VA):
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4. Building the right team is 10/10 important
Ben and I, as amazing as I think we are, can’t do it all. And we each definitely suck at certain things.
Example: If you ever catch Ben making pins for us, you can forget about us ever getting traffic. And if I’m tasked with solving a technical website issue…Lord help us all.
Having a partner helps. A lot.
And it extends beyond just that.
When we launched our newest blog a couple months ago, we hired a professional web design team to do the project. We don’t know much about design, so we found someone who does.
This past month is also our first month having full-time help on board. If you follow DollarSprout at all, you’ve probably noticed a girl named Megan that is pumping out a tib of content.
She’s been awesome. Here’s her bio on DollarSprout:
She’s a better writer than Ben and I put together, and having her help with content (and other stuff) helps free us up to get even more work done, and make more progress, than before.
To be honest, I am not a huge fan of the “solopreneur” movement happening right now. I think better outcomes can happen when there are more hands on deck playing to their strengths — as long as spending is kept in check.
But the cool thing about entrepreneurship is that no one can tell you how to run your business, not even a random blogger like me on the internet. So if you want to stay as a blog of 1, you can.
5. You need these two things if you ever want to scale your blog income
You’ve heard the saying, “It takes money to make money.”
As we’ve started to grow our business, we’ve made it a point to reinvest our earnings back into the blog.
Example: Of the $86K we’ve made so far this year, I’ve paid myself just over $22k.
I don’t need a whole lot to get by.
And Ben hasn’t even taken a paycheck yet.
He is still working full time at his regular job as an RN (in addition to being a full-time blogger for us).
The rest of that money has gone back into the business. Buying the domain name for DollarSprout, getting the website professionally done, hiring top-notch talent, paying for quality stock photos, investing in FB ads, etc.
If you want to become a full-time blogger and treat your blog as a business, you have to be willing to make an absurd amount of sacrifice. Don’t be tempted to take the quick paycheck as soon as you start making money. There’s just no other way around it.
A new skill I am having to learn: Project Management.
As our small blogging team grows, there’s more to keep track of:
- Knowing who’s working on what
- Keeping on top of deadlines
- Keyword research
- Finding quality freelancers and keeping track of what they’re working on
- Affiliate management (we are working with almost 40 affiliates now)
- Link building and on-page SEO
- Social media marketing
- Facebook ads management (this is Ben)
- Tracking income/expenses more closely
- And a whole lot more
Being organized to this extent is something I haven’t really had to do before, so I’m learning as I go. I know that for us to really grow, we can’t be lax on anything. We have to stay on top of it all and make sure it’s all done really well (by people who are skilled at what they’re doing).
6. Your readers are real people, and you are affecting their lives
Sure, we’ve got some haters. All sites do. But there are also people like this:
No matter how big or small your audience is, remember: These are people who have taken time out of their lives to look at something you created.
Something you had to say.
In some capacity, people are living their lives differently as a result of what YOU are putting out there.
What you are doing matters.
It doesn’t matter what niche you’re in or what your income level is right now.
We are living in an age where anyone has the potential to create meaningful social and economic impact through the internet.
The fact that more people aren’t at least trying blogging honestly blows me away.
P.S. Don’t forget to join our Facebook group for bloggers.
7. Practicality and persistence mean more than you think
About nine months into starting my first attempt at full-time blogging, I had to do what every entrepreneur fears the most — I had to go back and get a job.
What we were doing wasn’t working, and it took some serious pride-swallowing to admit that.
And what’s even more humbling than that: My new job paid less than half of what I was making before (at my “real” job). But, knowing I was making enough to at least cover my personal expenses (barely), my stress levels instantly dropped.
Being practical and getting that job was the biggest stress relief of my life.
It didn’t matter that I was working 40 hours a week on top of running my business.
I knew we were going to make it.
I knew I was going to be okay and at least have enough money to feed myself and pay rent.
My biggest piece of advice if things aren’t going your way: Don’t worry about what other people will think of you if you need to pick up a job to make ends meet. Be practical and do what you need to do, regardless of how it looks to others.
Going back to work does not mean that you have failed.
And also, if you really want something, don’t ever give up.
Becoming a full-time blogger has 1,000,000% been worth it
Ben and I have worked really hard to get to our current (albeit modest) level of success. There have been tons of sleepless nights, $0 days, and major setbacks along the way.
Now that we’ve finally learned a lot of the things we didn’t know we didn’t know, we are on an upward trajectory with hopefully no limit (for a while, at least).
When it’s all said and done, we will probably end up somewhere around $92-94K total revenue for 2017.
Our goal for 2018?
I want to 3X what we did this year.
And I think we can do it. This is how it starts.
2015 was our learning year. 2016 was more learning. 2017 was about building traction.
2018 is going to be all about execution and momentum.