So, you are interested in blogging? Well, I could not be any more excited for you! Blogging has been the most challenging and most rewarding career choices that I have ever made. To be able to pursue my passion on my own terms has been amazing. What it takes in blood, sweat, and tears, it has made up for in the assurance that I am fulfilling my purpose in helping others.
Below I am going to share my blogging journey. From the daily operations to education, there has been a lot to do. I hope that this paints a picture for you about what is involved so that you can decide if blogging is something you would like to pursue.
This post contains affiliate links. Please read the full disclosure here.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
I purchased my first domain name, www.BrandiceLardner.com, in April of 2016 but the nudge to blog had begun much earlier. I have always loved to write and help others; blogging seemed like the perfect fit. I wrote several articles in the coming months. Nothing consistent but it was a good way to get my feet wet. It was a fun hobby that got very little of my attention.
When I lost my job in October I started to take the idea of having a profitable blog much more seriously. When faced with the idea of getting a “real job”, the fire to build a successful platform was set!
So, I began to post more consistently and tried my hand at food photography. My photos weren’t pretty at first (scroll) but I enjoyed it and so I persisted.
After spinning my wheels for months, I came across Elite Blog Academy. At the time the investment seemed too much but the relief of just following a proven structure was exactly what I needed. Then I remember several thousand dollars that I had tucked away.
You see when my Grandpa passed my Grandma distributed some money among their grandchildren. This meant so much to me as Gramps spent his days working hard as a mason to provide for his family. Over the years Grams worked in a daycare and would hide bits of cash behind a picture frame in her office for us as well. When she passed and returned to her husband, those funds were also sent to us grandkids. I knew that money deserved a special purpose and blogging was IT!
MY TIME IN THE ACADEMY
CLARIFYING MY MESSAGE
Elite Blog Academy has walked me through all of the critical steps to have a successful and profitable blog. When I first began writing I was completely overwhelmed, bouncing from idea to idea and accomplishing very little. EBA fixed that!
The first several lessons started at ground zero, with clarifying my message. It is uber important to know not just what you are going to write about but WHO you are writing to. If you can take the time to really get to know your reader, what they like, where they are, how they spend their free time, and so on, you will have consistency and content galore. Knowing WHO you want to help, helps you know HOW to do so.
This exercise is called finding your “avatar” and it is the foundation of everything that comes next.
RENAME AND REDESIGN
After I figured out who I was writing to, it was time to make sure that my name and tagline communicated what I was trying to say to my ideal reader. I settled in on “A Joyful Plate: Ditch Diets. Eat Well. Let Your Light Shine”. As you will find out later, I made a big error in name selection that ended up costing me more than just money.
Next up I focused on the redesign. I purchased a new theme for my blog which basically gives a blog the bones of its structure and how it looks. I chose Divine from Restored 316 Designs. From there I was able to customize the layout, graphics, colors, and fonts to fit my message. I do my own graphics through Canva, where you can great pins, posts, infographics and more for free!
CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT
Now that my blog was looking somewhat professional, it was time to fill up those pages with awesome content. I had about 20 posts from my previous blog but they needed to reworked and many were trashed. Consistency is more important than content for content’s sake. Elite Blog Academy provided me with a FOCUSed writing structure that has helped me tremendously. An easy worksheet walks you through several questions about your message and then you piece them together. Some days it feels like the posts almost write themselves.
If may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget that content is on of THE most important parts of a blog. You see, algorithms and trends may change but awesome, tell your friends about it content wins the long game. You can’t skimp here, no matter what.
To launch a blog you need at least 10 solid posts but more than that is preferable. I also worked on my about page in hopes to really connect with my readers.
EMAIL MARKETING STRATEGY
Second to having awesome content is building a solid email list. We can’t control what happens on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, but an email list is always ours. I made getting an email opt-in on my website my next priority. To do this, I created the 5 Strategies to Improving Your Diet Without Changing What You Eat Guide and offered this is a free download in exchange for the visitor’s email address.
I started out using Mail Chimp and then upgraded to ConvertKit, which I loved. Most recently I made the switch to Drip because it offers some advanced features that I will need in the future. I found ConvertKit much easier to use and later found out that they were to be rolling out the same features as Drip.
SOCIAL MEDIA FOCUS
Now that I was ready to collect email addresses, it was time to generate some traffic to my website. In Elite Blog Academy I was instructed to focus on one social media platform at a time. I choose to begin with Pinterest. This was a great decision!
To date, Pinterest generates 80-90% of my blog traffic. I use Board Booster to schedule my pins so that I do not have to be online to be actively pinning. It took me some time to discover that posts, titles, and graphics would get a response but once I did the traffic was steady. I hope it continues!
As Pinterest felt easier and took up less time, I began to shift my focus to Facebook. I chose the Strategies Worth Sharing course from Equipping Godly Women. This class has been incredible as it has taught me about how Facebook works so that I can work with it rather than trying to outsmart it (like I could, lol).
BEING PERSISTENT IN GROWTH
Once all of these pieces were in place it was time to sit back and grow my list of subscribers. This meant creating consistently fabulous content while keeping up with social media. In Elite Blog Academy students are instructed to get to at least 1,000 email subscribers before moving on to the next phase- product development!
It felt like it took ages to get to 1,000 subscribers but once that happened, I really picked up momentum.
In this interim, I decided to switch my website hosting to SiteGround and my email management service to Drip. While my blog was still small, I decided to graduate to these higher end services now, before the transition would be more difficult.
With an end goal of making a full-time income, I started the process of monetization by signing up for a few affiliates: Amazon, FitFabFun, Live Simply, and Ultimate Bundles, as well as my the companies that I have used for blog-related purposes. While I knew these partnerships would not bring a ton of income, I wanted my readers to become accustomed to seeing some advertisements on my site.
I also applied for and was accepted to Mediavine, a high-quality ad network. Google Adwords never appealed to me so I was waiting patiently to reach 25k users per month to apply.
The first step of product development was surveying my readers. I made a brief questionnaire to share with my followers and received about 60 responses. It is so helpful to see what your audience’s needs are. Based on their feedback I created my first e-book, The Ultimate 12 Week Healthy Habit Goal Setting Planner. It would be impossible for me to be more excited about a product!
A BUMP IN THE ROAD
As I was preparing to launch The Ultimate 12 Week Healthy Habit Goal Setting Planner something awful happened… I received a letter from a lawyer stating that A J@yful Plate was in trademark violation for a small New York food branding company called “J@yful Plate”. (I don’t even want to mention the name on my blog, hence the @).
I sought the counsel of a lawyer and it was decided that I needed to change my name. Oh, how I regret placing my logo on just about every photo on my blog.
But, I trust God. This was an unexpected challenge to me but not Him. In fact, when bad things happen there is peace in knowing that ultimately God will use it for good. Worrying and whining won’t get me anywhere. My only “job” is to do the daily work that God calls me to do and He will deal with the outcome. It is out of my control and into His. Such a relief!
And so, the rebranding process was underway. It took a solid month to switch everything over to Grace Filled Plate. In hindsight, I am so happy for the change as I feel like the new name sums up my message much more clearly!
Now that my URL is established and my social media accounts and graphics are all set, I am focusing on creating more awesome content that will drive readers to my website. Right now it is doing the daily tasks that matter.
It feels like greater reach and profitability are close… I now have over 3,00o people on my email list and have a post that has been shared over 67,000 times!
On those days it can feel like nothing is happening, I just keep blogging. I believe that this is what separates successful bloggers from those who never (put in the time to) get there.
I will update this page as my story continues. To find more about the resources that I recommend in the blogging world, check out this helpful post on Blogging Resources!