I first started blogging in May of 2015. It began so innocently with random answers on Quora.com, a Yahoo! Answers for more… “refined” individuals. Answers about hobbies of mine, answers about my failed start-up attempt, and answers about my experiences selling on eBay in middle school.
You see, I was out-of-town for the summer completing an internship. Combine all that free-time with a pre-existing tendency to read for hours on end, and somehow I found myself writing. Who would’ve thought? A couple answers a week, never more, in varying lengths.
Before I knew it, some of my answers were gaining serious traction. A surprise to me, considering I was never really a talented writer. I was using a couple online tools to deal with some of those struggles, no shame.
I suppose my story just resonated with people. When the view counts started picking up a couple months in, I wasted no time setting up my own blog. The plan was to build a simple one-pager to start, so I could collect e-mail addresses from my most interested readers, interact with them, and send them new stuff as it came. This would hold me over until I had enough content to start publishing the rest of the blog.
That e-mail list grew to 1,000 readers in a month.
One of my first blog posts reached 60,000 views. Both on my blog, Quora (links in my Quora answers brought a ton of traffic), and on the e-mail list. The sort-of-silly post described how I would have ran my middle school eBay venture 10x better if I could do it again (and made a million dollars in the process). I explained that I would have established my own online storefront, and set up ‘drop-shipping’ relationships with suppliers. These relationships would keep me from ever touching the actual products, and not paying for them until I actually sold them.
Well, with 60,000 views, I decided I may as well recommend some services people would find helpful, if they wanted to give it a shot themselves. Shopify, an easy e-commerce platform, paid me double the user’s first-month subscription fee as a commission for bringing them a new customer. I also pointed users to a drop-shipping supplier directory, where they could find products to sell. That directory costs users just $.17/day on an annual basis, and paid me a commission of $30 every year they start/renew.
Within 3o minutes, I had my first sale. $30 to my name. I remember feeling a rush of adrenaline fly through my veins.
“If I can make $30 every 30 minutes, I’ll be a millionaire in no time!”
I thought I was going to pass out.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make any more sales that day. But, the next two week’s commissions totaled $1,000. And, readers were thanking me for making the process so simple for them.
Imagine my surprise when admired business magazine, Inc, reached out to ask if they could post that article to Inc.com. “Of course!” I said. “But first, let me clean up my sloppy, sloppy writing.” They obliged.
I like to think my writing has improved greatly since then, but it is still a proud moment for me. I think that post has been read about one million times by now. The rest is history.
Now, I don’t write this post to arouse any false hopes in any of you. I have met several bloggers who’s blogs now earn six figures a month after 7 to 10 years. May of them never made a dime in their first year.
It is standard to take about a year to learn the ropes, so, you better be producing content you like anyways. I was an exception, but I had read about these things casually for a few months prior.
Even still, I made a lot of mistakes starting off.
For instance, the first few weeks I was just posting referral links in Quora answers. Not only do I now know that goes against policy, it also leaves a LOT of money on the table.
I was forgetting something that had been hammered into my head in marketing courses: on average, it takes five impressions of or thoughts about a product before the consumer buys. In other words, I was only making money on the rare occasion the customer bought impulsively on the first read of the answer. I needed those readers to see more content about the offering, at least five more times.
By establishing a home base, my own blog, I could use a pixel code copied from facebook ads manager to track visitors who read about the offering on my blog. Then I could give those visitors more content on the subject in their facebook feeds later. You know those ads that follow you around the internet? That’s called re-targeting.
Which leads me to my next mistake: I sent out affiliate links in my e-mail campaigns, rather than just directing readers to a link on my site. Sounds innocent, no? After all, I always disclose affiliate links to my readers. Well, spam filter bots crawled my website, joined my e-mail list, and found the affiliate links in e-mails. Apparently they don’t take to kindly to that. My site was soon tagged as “malicious”, and while I was able to fix that misunderstanding with the spam filtering company, I pretty much had to abandon my site. It couldn’t be posted to facebook or some other social media sites for its false ‘malicious’ tag.
So, here I am. Why do I tell you these things?
I want you to have realistic expectations, so you will keep at it in uncertain times. I also want to demonstrate that I too made mistakes early on. Plus, I made them recently. As a result, I can help you navigate the waters.
If building a life for yourself that is independent of jobs, bosses, and financial troubles sounds appealing to you, the best thing you can do is dive in now. It won’t happen overnight. But if you remain persistent, you can do great things. Just a post a week for a year goes a long way.
All you need to start is a blog, that will take you ten minutes. You can customize the look and feel yourself, no coding or technical expertise necessary. It took me 2 hours to drag-and-drop blogtojob.com to my liking, and it looks pretty great if you ask me.