make money blogging

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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How I made $190.83 Blogging This Month - December 2017 Blog Income Report

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to have made money from my blog in December 2017. This is not my first time making money though my side hustle, but it is my first time passively making money from my blog. 

Last month, I created my first e-book for sale on my site (and it means everything in the world to me). I was terrified to actually create it, then I was terrified to hit publish because I always thought it could be better, I can add more, or no one would like it. Then, despite my fears, I decided to put my ideas into the world anyway - and my audience responded with their wallet. #ThankYou And I gotta admit, it's the best feeling in the world.

Never mind the fact that I put about 12 hours a week into my blog to make that $190.83 (that's about $4 an hour:). That $4 an hour taught me two things: 

  1. I CAN add value to this world. 
  2. Making money on line is possible. 

If you've never made a dollar online, trust me, there is no better feeling than waking up from a great night's sleep only to realize that someone bought your product. (At my day job, we call it #SleepMoney)

Let's jump right into the dollars and cents, shall we? 

 

There are three ways I made money this month: 

 

The Ultimate Vision Board Planner Bundle

This is the book that I created in November to help people build a vision board to map out their dreams and goals in a fun + visual way. It walks through planning out your goals, thinking through your problems and determining what you want to get out of your life. Then it helps you to create a vision board. 

If you think it's about time you put yourself (and your future) first in your life, it might be time to create a vision board. Purchase the e-book here

 

Speaking engagements

From December through January every year there are several vision board parties, conferences and corporate events - and I'm asked to be a speaker or run the vision board workshop. This month, I was asked to do two (one for a friend and another for a nonprofit). I love that I am able to speak at these events and nothing makes me happier than being able to help people in person talk through their goals and map out their vision.

 

Affiliate Sales

An affiliate sale is when you make money for sharing a product that you love - and they buy the product through your link. Have you ever shared your Uber link with your friends and family and then you get $10 for referring them? It's the same thing. Many companies will happily offer you a referral fee for sending them new business.

To be honest, I didn't really believe in it until I made my first sale, without even trying. I was so shocked at the fact that I made money without trying that I decided to learn more about affiliate marketing by taking Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing email course.

 

Costs This Month: 

ConvertKit

ConvertKit is my email service of choice. I switched to ConvertKit around April 2017 and from the moment I made the switch my email subscribers have skyrocketed. With ConvertKit, I'm able to make beautiful landing pages, email forms and pop-ups for my blog (with VERY little effort). #winning

 

Making sense of Affiliate Marketing

After making a tiny bit of money by promoting a product I love without even trying, I decided to invest in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course to learn how the pros are doing it and how I can be more intentional about sharing products I love with the audience I love. (That's you!) #EverybodyWins

 

The Money Breakdown

Income: 

Expenses: 

 

Total: $406.70 (income) - $215.87 (expenses) = $190.83

 

Here's What Happened Behind The Scenes

 

How Much Time I Put Into My Blog

I'm going to be honest with you here. My friends and I HATE reading income reports where it seems like a blogger just starts a blog one day and ends up making $2000 in the first month of blogging. (Meanwhile we're at home banging our head up against the keyboard wondering where's our mystery thousands.)

Making just under $200 on my blog took work. 

First thing to note is THIS IS NOT MY FIRST BLOG. I had two unsuccessful blogs before Thrive Lounge. One about arts and crafts that I was doing while I was too broke to put food on the table. I lost that blog after one year when I couldn't afford to pay my hosting. The second blog was a marketing blog, which I got about 2 good posts on before I realized I did not want to talk about marketing all the time. Thrive Lounge is blog #3. 

I spend about 12-14 hours a week on my blog. I work a full time job from 9-5 and wake up daily at 5:30 to get two hours of work in on my blog Monday-Thursday. Every Sunday, I wake up early and walk to Starbucks to spend at least 6 hours working on my blog. 

I say all of this to reiterate that it is not (and was never) my intention to start this blog with the sole purpose of getting #SleepMoney (thought that would be nice). I love sharing all of my tools and strategies for creating the life I love daily and helping others do the same. 

 

Getting Traffic

Some of the time I spend weekly on my blog is put towards building more traffic to the blog. Getting more traffic allows me to get my message out to a larger audience, get more subscribers onto my email list (where I can share more about myself, my brand and also my latest products). 

As you can see here, I got a huge traffic bump in December (after hovering around 3K pageviews for the past 3 months) because my blog is all about goal setting and that is a huge focus in December. 

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I don't focus too much of my energy on social media except for Pinterest - because that's where almost 95% of my traffic comes from. 

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Looking at my stats, I clearly haven't been able to break any huge milestones with my blog.

After bogging for a year, this could be discouraging that I still don't have a massive following to my blog. But I choose to look at it another way...

Even with a small amount of traffic, I am able to create value and make money with my blog.

No matter how small you are - it is possible. (And that's all that really matters right?) 

 

Email

My email list has been the primary source of sales for my book. People who come to my website and really like what I have here are most likely to sign up to my email list.

I am using ConverKit to manage my email list and email marketing so that once someone is on my list, they are immediately welcomed! I tell them more about who I am and why I do this. I give them more information based on the topics they are interested in and I'm able to offer them a product that might be relevant to their interests. ConvertKit allows me to do this easily and effectively (with zero tech skills!).

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In December alone, 543 people signed up for my email list! This is because in December a lot of people are thinking about creating vision boards to mentally prepare for the new year and I give away several freebies to help people create their 5-year vision, build their vision boards or host a vision board party with their friends.

 

Goals For Next Month

This month, I enrolled in (and went through) the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course, I want to put the things I've learned into practice. One of the biggest reasons for people not reaching their goals, even when they have put energy into learning about the subject is that they don't immediately implement what they have learned. 

My goal is to implement exactly what I've learned from this course - and increase my affiliate sales. (That shouldn't be very hard since I only made one affiliate sale :) but you never know!) 

 

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February 2017 Blog + Income Report: How We Aligned Our Actions with Our Vision

Align Your Actions With Your Vision

February was.... an interesting month. Rather than spending a ton of time on the goals we set, we took a step back to reflect on our big vision for Thrive Lounge (making sure we practice what we preach).

We are quickly realizing how easy it is to get sucked into an endless stream of "best marketing practices" and "20-step processes to promote each blog post" and "must-haves grow your email list" ideas. Seriously, trying to be like the influencers was starting to suck the fun out of creating.... and, to be honest, we really wanted to get back to the FUN.

We spent a lot of time thinking about:

  1. How we could REALLY connect with our audience.
  2. How we can create something of value to them.
  3. How we can have fun doing it. 

During all of this internal reflection, we still tried to reach are the goals we set at at the end of January. We wanted to:

  • Make at least $385 through our events/workshops (This would be a 10% increase on what we made in January.)
  • 200 Email List Subscribers (10% increase from January)
  • Add a hello bar to our website (Totally crushed this goal! Check out our new Hello Bar at the top of the page.)
  • 1070 website page views 
Blog Monthly Traffic Report

Page Views: 

  • January 2017: 972
  • February Goal: 1070 page views
  • Actual: 862 (Missed the goal by 208)

Facebook Likes:

  • January 2017: 248 Facebook Page Likes
  • Goal: none set
  • January: 267

If you want to know how we got over 200 followers, take a look at our first blog post here.

Email List: 

  • January 2017: 181 Total Email List Subscribers
  • Goal: 200
  • February: 217 (#Success)

862 Page views, 267 Facebook Likes, 217 Email List

Despite our efforts to share our website on social media, our website page views have continued to drop. We are sharing our blog posts through our email list, Facebook (pages and groups), Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus (yes, we know there's no one there), and Pinterest but no luck in getting these numbers up.  (So if you have some tips on how to get your blog page views up, let us know! :)

Here's the breakdown of where our traffic came from:

Top Traffic Sources:

  • 50% came through direct link
  • 34% Facebook
  • 8.7% Instagram
  • 3.9% Twitter

Top Pages Visited:

Even though our website traffic is refusing to show us some love, we were able to grow our email list - and even surpass our goal! This was due to a few things: 

  1. Creating more freebies to add to the site.
  2. Adding the Hello Bar.
  3. Starting the meetup group catering to our target audience. (Did you know you get all of the emails for the members of your meetup group? #winning)
blog income report
  • January 2017: $350

  • Goal: $385

  • February: $199 (Missed by $186)

We launched a new event this month - C L A R I T Y Mastermind for the Ambitious Girlboss. Throughout February, we sold tickets at an early bird rate and also offered an email-only discount for Valentine's Day.  (Pro Tip: Join our #ThriveSquad to get access to all our email-only deals.)

With a new event, you never know what to expect. We had no idea whether people will like the new concept or if you just wasted your time building something that no one wants. We launched the event mid-February and sold 7 tickets by the end of the month. This is a huge success because these sales immediately validated the idea and we can feel comfortable creating more events like this. :)

 

What Else Happened This Month: 

  • Started a meetup group! (Just for fun)
  • Booked one nonprofit workshop for March (woot woot!)
  • Created a short to-do list to promote each weekly blog post.
  • Took Melyssa Griffin's Pinfinite Growth Course (which is AWESOME)
Monthly Goal Setting
  • Start planning for VisionCon 2017 (get a legit business plan)
  • 238 Email List Subscribes ( this would be a 10% increase from February)
  • 948 website page views (10% increase from February)

 

WHAT WE LEARNED:

After VisionCon, we were in a hurry to build our empire (because one successful event totally means you're empire-worthy). We were receptive to every idea from every influencer on how to build your email list, get more page views, win at social media, AND become a rockstar influencer (all at the same time, of course). This left us feeling very drained because we were no longer enjoying the process.

Taking a step back to reflect on what is best for BOTH us AND our audience was the best thing we could've done this month. It's very easy to get side-tracked from your vision because there are so many people online totally killing it in their niche giving advice on how you can do the same. It's tempting to try to follow all of the good advice and best practices. But, what good is building your own company when what you're creating is no longer in line with your vision?

Creating a new product was our opportunity to be innovative and bring something different to our audience. Starting a meetup group was a chance to connect with our audience, provide value and get back to the fun side of Thrive Lounge (because all work and no play was turning us into dull ladies)! The shorter to-do list for blog post promotion also gave us an opportunity to promote each blog post and get our marketing on without being exhausted by the end of the process. At the end of the day, we found a balance that works for us (#success)!

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Subscribe to the newsletter to join our community of 2000+ UNSTOPPABLE women for exclusive access to our premium content, events & products to take your hustle to the next level. #winning

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