The 4 Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned From 4 Months of Blogging
Four months into my blogging journey, it’s time for a report card. I made a commitment to myself back in September that I would never go to a job interview again. I have always dreaded coming up with answers to questions like ‘Why should I hire you?’ and ‘Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to help your team.’ Well, teamwork was never my cup of tea so I became my own boss.
On a more serious note, I created this blog to live an extraordinary, purpose-driven life. That means pursuing my greatest passions, travel and writing, while serving others in a meaningful way. Not having to ask for time off or sit at a desk staring at the clock was also really appealing.
There has been a steep learning curve over the last four months, but I’m thrilled with the path I’ve chosen. My mom even notices that I’ve been a lot happier since I became a full-time blogger. I’m sharing the four biggest lessons I’ve learned so far in my blogging journey to hopefully help aspiring bloggers.
This post contains affiliate links as explained in my disclosure policy
1. Don’t try to do it alone
I repeat: DO NOT try to do it alone! That is a guaranteed strategy for failure. I’m a life-long introvert with a strong preference for working by myself. I used to hate working with others, but now it’s a necessity. I thought I could teach myself how to design a professional website, manage Facebook ads, write viral posts, secure brand sponsorships, grow my Instagram, network with other bloggers, and build an email list. Wrong! Case in point: for my first Facebook campaign, I spent $50 and got only 22 clicks on my ads. Laughable, right? Even more comical are the four months of frustration I spent building my website. Indecisive, I switched from one design to another, trying to create a masterpiece. I had to postpone my blog launch a few times as a result. Moral of the story: hire a programmer if you’re not techy.
I’ve realized how much time I’ve wasted doing tasks that have not contributed to the growth of my blog. In the first few weeks, I spent hours on Instagram and Facebook, thinking that growing my presence on those social media platforms would be critical. Nope.
1) Growing an email list of loyal subscribers is much more important. Unlike your social media accounts, your email list is an asset you own. I wouldn’t have truly understood the value of an email list if I hadn’t hired a marketing coach.
2) Pinterest is by far the most important social media platform for new bloggers. No questions asked. It was only a few weeks ago that I learned this after signing up for a course I will tell you about in the next section.
2. Invest in Learning (A Lot!)
Speaking of my marketing coach, I can’t stress how crucial it is to invest in education. The other day, I tallied all the money I’ve spent on books, courses, consultants, and coaches. It was a whopping $7,000! Why spend so much on learning when my income so far can only afford me a few sandwiches? It’s because you need to build a foundation of knowledge that will serve you throughout your blogging career. That means being well-versed in topics like search engine optimization, branding, travel writing, and affiliate marketing. What you don’t know will hurt you both in the short run and the long run. The most successful bloggers are avid readers. They are constantly networking, attending conferences, and expanding their knowledge. I consider the money I’ve invested in learning to be worth every money. Here are some of the best blogging resources I’ve purchased so far:
The Business of Travel Blogging
The Business of Travel Blogging, the first blogging course I purchased, is a great start for a blogging newbie with zero technical or business experience. It was created by Nomadic Matt, who gets over a million monthly visitors to his blog. He has also written a New York Times Best Seller about budget travel. The Business of Travel Blogging is a 12-week step by step guide to create your blog from scratch. Each week is focused on one critical element of running a successful blog. This is the list of topics covered in the course:
What I liked about this course is the is the level of information provided. It felt like someone was holding my hand and walking me through everything I needed to know. There are also four case studies about successful bloggers, like The Blonde Abroad, that give you a sense of what’s possible. The bloggers discuss what has and hasn’t worked for them. That way you can avoid some of the mistakes they made early in their blogging careers.
The course gives you an overview of running your blog as a business. It doesn’t go in depth into any particular topic, expect the technical setup process. Basically, you learn what you don’t know so that you can go and do some more learning. Make sense?
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing School
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of the blog Making Sense of Cents is the queen of affiliate marketing. She makes $50,000/month and even made $300,000 from ONE post. Isn’t that insane? Given her results, of course I had to learn her strategies. I’m half-way through her text-based course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, and I’m beyond happy with the content. Like Nomadic Matt, she breaks down affiliate marketing in great detail. The course is If you want to learn the ins and outs of affiliate marketing, from the legal aspects to the best strategies to drive sales.
If you like video-based learning, you might find this course a little tedious since it consists of text-based instructions and workbooks. I’ve done tons of video-based courses lately so this was refreshing. I found that I could get through the course faster. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing also comes with eight bonuses, including private coaching.
Pins to Profits: Affiliate Marketing
McKinzie Bean of the blog Moms Make Cents created this course to walk you through everything you need to know about posting affiliate links on Pinterest. McKinzie actually took Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s affiliate marketing course and went on to become really successful. Now she is teaching about affiliate marketing. Maybe I’ll follow in her footsteps.
Right now, I’m about 30% done with Pins to Profits: Affiliate Marketing, which is video-based. McKinzie presents information in a way that is easy to digest. It’s straight forward and actionable. You can also sign up for McKinzie’s free Pinterest course for beginners to learn the basics and get a sense of her teaching style.
Rapid List Building
Bryan Harris of Videofruit is a master of building massive email lists. His team has researched every strategy under the sun and come up with best practices. The Rapid List Building Course is a good place to start if you barely know what an email list is. The goal of the course is to help you get your first 100 subscribers. After taking the course, I upgraded to their coaching program.
*If you sign up for Bryan’s free email list building course, Jumpstart Your Email List, you can get a 60% discount on the Rapid List Building course.
3. Don’t Pay Attention to Too Many Gurus
I signed up for a total of 11 courses and two business seminars. Great, right? The more information you have, the better. Wrong! You see, while it is important to invest in learning, there is such a thing as too much learning. This is the trap I fell into:
- See an ad for a business training webinar on Instagram
- Sign up for the webinar immediately
- Become impressed with the guru
- Believe their course is just what I need to get to the next level
- Purchase their course and add it to my to-do list
Signing up for so many courses led to three problems: information overload, an overwhelming to-do list, and a lack of focus. Every guru has their own take on what’s the most important strategy to build a successful online business. Because I was taking advice from so many gurus, I was overwhelmed with too many strategies and didn’t know where to begin. Sometimes I was actually getting conflicting information. One person would recommend publishing three posts a week. Another would recommend once a month. I was so confused!
Despite all the information I learned, I didn’t have a roadmap for success. The solution? I hired a coach to help me sift through all that information and find focus. Now at 9 am every morning, I receive a text reminding me that my #1 goal is to grow my email list.
4. Patience, My Dear
I had a lot of doubts when I committed to becoming a full-time travel writer back in September. Will anyone read my blog? Can I actually make a living from this? To be honest, those doubts have not gone away. Trying to establish yourself in the saturated world of travel blogging is an uphill climb. It is easy to get discouraged when you pour your heart out into a post and only 10 people read it. I’ve had days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. In those moments, I think back to the underlying reason I started blogging in the first place. Then, I take a break, do something fun, and continue working.
Creating a successful blog that you can count on to provide you a full-time income is challenging. That may seem obvious, but it’s important to stress. I fell into the trap of looking at people who had been blogging for 5+ years and wondering why my blog wasn’t as successful as theirs. My pesky self-limiting beliefs started to surface. It’s important to remember that everyone’s blogging journey is different. For some it takes 3 months for their blog to take off; for others, it’s 3 years. Don’t treat this journey as a race. Instead of beating yourself up for what you haven’t achieved, focus on small wins. Also, don’t forget to enjoy the journey.
Are you interested in starting a travel blog? What are your main concerns or questions? Comment below.