How I Made My First $1000 Blogging (and the Lessons I Learned on the Way)

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I can say with certainty that I'm not a giant fan of blog income reports. There is honestly nothing I hate more than online guru's who swear up and down that it's sooo easy to make money online. 

When I started my blog in October 2016 all the bloggers I followed were doing it so I thought I should, too. 

For the first few months of the blog, I wrote about how I didn't make money (again) so I started talking about my traffic and social media growth (like this post from May 2017). After doing that for over a year, I decided that I'd only give an update when I reached a huge milestone like $1K, $10K, $50K, $100K and beyond. 

So here we are... I've finally made my first $1000 online.

My Blogging Journey

I started my blog in October of 2016.

My best friend and I hosted monthly knowledge-sharing and goal setting events catering to millennial women in the DC area and we wanted to expand our reach - so we started a blog.

 

Our First Paid Event

After hosting free events for 2 years, we decided to host a conference in December 2016.

We spent countless hours in event planning, booking speakers, landing a few hundred dollars (and free food) in sponsorships and completely filling the room. We even did a news segment! At the end of the event we made about $200 each after expenses. 

The struggle was real! We might've made $1/hour.

A few months after the event, my co-founder (and BFF) decided to leave Thrive Lounge and pursue her passion - so I was rolling solo.

I tried hosting other events, but they all had the same outcome. I had expenses up to my eyeballs so I always ended up making nothing or losing money

That's when I decided it was time to ditch event planning as an income generator (I was clearly bad at it) and instead create online products. 

 

My First Dollar

 
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After making the decision to ditch events, I decided to turn my focus to creating online products. On November 2nd, 2017 I launched The Vision Board Planner.

I made my first official dollar that month when a friend purchased The Vision Board Planner for her vision board party attendees. (She also hired me as a speaker for her event.) Since the money didn't "officially" hit my account until December I started this chart where the money started coming in. 

Even though I published my planner to my online audience, my first purchase was still someone I knew in person. I hoped that people reading my blog would click over to my shop and buy the product, but that did not happen at all!

 

Timing Is Everything

There's a huge difference in how much money I made in December and January compared to the rest of the year. That's because vision boards are primarily December/January kinda thing.

While people are setting New Year's Resolutions, they are also planning vision board parties and creating their personal vision boards. My sales reflect the popularity of my product around this huge life-reflection time of year. 

I intentionally created The Vision Board Planner in November for this very reason. Make sure you know your audience and when and why they buy. If you know there are certain times of the year that your products will be in high demand, make sure you're ready for it. :)

 

How I Made My First $1000

 
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Digital Products 

My blog income really started to grow once I actually started sending emails to my list.

I spent a lot of time creating beautiful + helpful freebies to build subscribers, but I never sent out emails because I was terrified that they would unsubscribe. 

In December (prime vision board creating time), I decided to send out a few emails to my list simply reminding people about why they should create a vision board and what a vision board can do for their lives. 

It turns out people really were interested in creating vision boards because when I sent out an email (even with no discount during peak discount-on-everything time of year) people clicked over and purchased the planner. 

Excited by the sales coming from people on my email list, I decided to be more intentional about my email marketing.

I tailored the customer journey to each reader's interest using ConvertKit. Basically, when a reader subscribes to my list, they will follow an automated sequence of emails that tells them more about me, the benefits of vision boards and then let them know about the product I have to offer. 

This immediately led to an increase in people purchasing my products... and I didn't have to create any new content. #winning

 

Speaking Engagements

I was hired to speak at two vision board workshops in December. Both of the events were hosted by people I knew so it was very easy to make the sale. In both cases, they asked what my fees were... and paid it.

No negotiation. 

No shopping around for lowest prices.

No hassle at all. 

 

Affiliate Income

100% of my affiliate income came from ConvertKit. This is the only service that I highly recommend to anyone trying to transition from hobby blogger to professional blogger. 

ConvertKit has literally changed my blogging game and I couldn't be happier with everything about it. 

Surprisingly enough, even though I have created content in the past about ConvertKit and I have several affiliate links on the blog all of my affiliate sales are people I know in person. (Just goes to show that sometimes you have to get up from behind your computer and make some friends.) 

The best thing about the ConvertKit affiliate program is that it's a recurring payment. That means if a friend signs up for ConvertKit through your link, you will get paid every month they pay their bill! 

 

The Expenses

 
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The only ongoing service I pay for on the blog is ConvertKit, the email service that helps me manage my list.

I also pay for website hosting with Squarespace (but the payment did not come up within this time period so it's not listed here).

In December, there is a huge jump in my expenses because I paid for Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I had been following the creator's blog for months, daydreaming about her affiliate income - she makes over $30K per month through affiliate sales each month.

As soon as she posted a holiday sale for her affiliate marketing course, I jumped on it. 

Related: 9 Simple Tips For Beginners To Use ConvertKit Like A Pro
 

Net Income

Okay, let's be real... Even though I have legitimately "made" my first thousand dollars on my blog. I don't get to keep it all. I have to subtract my expenses. So my net income is what I get to keep AFTER subtracting the money I spent each month. 

revenue - expenses = INCOME
$1120.10 - $411.87 = $708.23

 

What's next? 

Of course I want to continue making more money from my blog so I want to continue thinking about ways that I can . (I invest about 15 hours per week working on it!)

 

What I've Learned So Far

fail forward.

I tried hosting local events three times before I realized that it would not be a revenue generator for me. I couldn't figure out how to make it an event worth paying more for or how to get my expenses low enough to make it affordable for attendees. 

That was a fail, but it was a great learning experience and I was able to cultivate a strong close knit community of focused and brilliant women. 

 

TRY SOMETHING NEW.

Rather that giving up on my blog and becoming discouraged, I decided to try something new when I created my vision board planner. I knew that vision boards have made a huge impact on my life and I was certain they could help others. I just needed to find another way to reach them. 

 

CULTIVATE A COMMUNITY.

Creating the vision board planner directly read to my first sale. My event planner (from my event-planning days) was hosting a vision board party and she reached out to me directly to speak at her event and bought my planner. 

While it's important to put your butt in the chair and create content for your blog if you want to be a professional blogger, it's equally as important to get out into your community and make some friends. When an opportunity comes up that you're a great fit for, those same friends will come directly to you. 

 

Put your side hustle income in a separate account. 

I was not expecting to make any money (since my blog went a full year and three months making $0) so I didn't have a plan in place once I launched The Vision Board Planner. Instead everything was linked to my personal account. Needless to say, the money I made in December and January completely disappeared. (I probably used it to pay a bill or something.) 

The second you anticipate making money, open a separate bank account. That will help you keep track of your side hustle income better as your grow.

 

It's been a long journey of creating and building my special place on the internet for goal setting and vision boards (and I'm not done yet!). I've learned how to be consistent with something that's important to me, how to be a better writer and met and mentored tons of women ready to take control of their life.

I may not be making a ton of $$ just yet, but I'm still enjoying the ride. 

xoxo

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