She Travels the World, Blogs About It, and Earns $6k Per Month Doing It

“Don’t let what other travel bloggers are doing intimidate you – find your own way and your own story, and the rest will follow.”

It’s the glamorous life.

A part time travel blogger seeing the world, snapping photos, unexpected adventures, indulging in the local cuisine, and creating lifelong memories.

Picture this as your job and you get paid to write about your experiences.

For some, it’s the dream, and it sounds far out of reach.

Nowadays, it’s fairly common to see millennials living this “digital nomad” lifestyle.

Renegades with nothing to lose, who live and travel abroad while running their blogs and/or businesses online.

I’ve got a handful of friends that do it.

They don’t have kids. They don’t have a ton of possessions. They don’t have a house.

Really, it’s an easy decision for them to let go and start living their dream.

But, what about those who don’t want to pack up shop, unload all of their possessions, and become a permanent vagabond?

Is travel blogging still a possibility?

Amanda Williams - Part Time Travel Blogger at A Dangerous Business
Amanda Williams from A Dangerous Business

Enter Amanda Williams…

A small-town Ohio girl with a big vision to see the world.

Amanda caught the travel bug and started her blog in 2010 while working a full-time job for a newspaper.

She’s always been an ambitious traveler, but never so much to leave everything behind for a full-time travel lifestyle.

Never has she given up her normal life to travel, but she has been able to still visit 35 countries while being in school or working full-time.

“As much as I love traveling and having adventures, I also enjoy coming home to sleep in my own bed, drive my own car, and cuddle with my kitty.”

For Amanda, it’s been a slow passion fueled growth. It’s not about the money for her, but now she is earning a great income doing what most people can only dream.

She owns her time. She travels freely. She lives her passion. She inspires many others to do the same.

So, in today’s interview, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amanda Williams and bring you into the life of a travel blogger.

What is your claim to fame at “A Dangerous Business” and who is your typical reader?

I’m not sure that I’m even really “Internet famous,” but I suppose my claim to fame is that I’m not a full-time traveler. I’m not a digital nomad. I have a home base, and try to focus on writing about how the average person (you know, with a job and bills and maybe some debt) can fit travel into a more “normal” lifestyle. And I absolutely practice what I preach.

Makeup of the Readers of Dangerous Business
Makeup of the Readers of Dangerous Business

My audience tends to skew towards female (70%, according to Google Analytics), which is probably because I myself am a woman writing about travel. I tend to draw an audience close to my own age, too, with 35% falling in the 25-34 age range, followed by 18-24 (24%) and 35-44 (14%),

Being able to travel the world and blog about it sounds like a pretty spectacular life. Are you living your dream? What are some of the not-so-glorious parts about being a travel blogger?

It definitely does not suck! And, most days, yes, I’m living my dream. Not only do I get to travel frequently, but I also get to be my own boss. I can write what I want on my blog and usually get to travel where I want, too, and tell the stories that stand out to me. I also get to choose which freelance/contract work to say yes or no to. For some people, that might *not* be the dream, but I’m happy with being able to work remotely (i.e. from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection), and to have the freedom to travel whenever I want.

But there are downsides. I’m way too connected most days – I spend much more than 8 hours a day working. And even though it usually doesn’t feel like work, I’m still working A LOT. I sometimes have to peel myself away from the blog or social media and actually be a real person (my boyfriend kind of gets mad when I ignore him for too long!).

A Dangerous Business Pics
Photos shot by Amanda from a few places she visited

There’s also the fact that I don’t really make a steady income. Some months I make a lot, and other months I struggle to reach the monthly income goal I’ve set for myself. It can get stressful when you never know exactly how much money you’ll be making each month.

Your philosophy is a little different than most. You speak from a perspective of not being a complete vagabond. In fact, when you first started, you told me that you were still working a job. How does one manage to work a job or have a family while being a travel blogger?

Yup, I started my blog when I was working full-time as a copy editor at a newspaper. And after that, I was blogging while going to school full-time to get my master’s degree (and working an assistantship to help pay for it). Last year, I was running my blog while also working 6-7 hours per day for a social media startup. It’s not easy to have a job AND try to run a successful blog – you have to prioritize and pay attention to your time management. But you know what? I found I was sometimes able to do that better when I was balancing work and blogging! Simply because I had my “work hours” and my “blogging hours,” and I was able to concentrate more fully on my blog when I had dedicated hours set aside for it.

What She's Packing
What She’s Packing

Were you always so adventurous? It seems like that you would always have to outdo yourself as a travel blogger. How do you keep your readers (and yourself) excited about new content?

I guess I’ve always had a bit of an adventurous streak, yes, and I’ve also always been a really independent person (which is probably why I’ve taken to solo travel so well). But as far as content goes, I never really think of my blog content from a business standpoint. I plan my travels based on where I actually want to go; based on what’s on my bucket list at any given point in time. And I think the simple fact that I’m so excited about my trips translates into my audience being excited about my trips.

It’s easy for someone to think “she’s so lucky” because you get to travel the world. Like something was handed to you. How would you respond to that and what was life like before starting the blog?

Well, here’s the thing: I AM lucky, in many respects. It’s easy to take for granted the fact that I was born in the US to a middle-class family with parents who have been really supportive; it would be easy for me to say, “I’ve worked hard for all of this and luck has nothing to do with it!” But I AM lucky to have an American passport and a background that allowed me to go to college and gain some of the skills I use today to run my blog/business.

But, having acknowledged the privilege that I was born with, I also have worked to get to where I am today. Before I started my blog, I knew NOTHING about blogging or SEO or marketing or running a business. I had to learn it all along the way, and learn how to experiment to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Blogging is an easy thing to quit after a year or so, so I have worked hard to make it a viable career over the last six years. But it’s something someone else like me can do, too.

Nowadays, there quite a few travel blogs online. We are living in an incredible time with the internet allowing us these type of freedoms. How does one like you stay relevant with your audience and do you ever worry about competition?

I always say that people don’t follow blogs – they follow other PEOPLE. And, when you think about it that way, there’s nothing to worry about in terms of competition. Sure, another blogger could write about the same destination or tour as me. But no one can copy my voice or style or talk about my personal experiences the way I can. To stay relevant to my audience (and to hopefully attract even more of an audience), I simply have to keep being me. That sometimes means publishing more personal posts, and it ALWAYS means being upfront with my readers about anything I’ve received for free.

How much on average does your blog earn today and give us a breakdown of from where do you generate that income?

Right now, I’m earning anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 per month from my blog – some months I earn a little more, but that’s the average.

The largest chunk (probably about 40%) comes from the blog itself, usually from branded content (i.e. what we used to refer to as sponsored posts). I’m really picky about what branded content I will agree to run these days (my audience always comes first!!), but I usually sell 2-3 branded posts per month. I also sell other types of ads on my site – everything from mini reviews to the “Featured Blog” ads I sell to fellow travel bloggers for $75 per month.

Next (25%) would probably be affiliate income. I have Amazon affiliate links in some key posts on my site, and also, use Amazon CPM ads in a few posts. I also make a tiny bit each month from Booking.com’s affiliate program.

Amazon affiliate Feb 2016
February 2016 Income from Amazon Associates Program

The next largest income source (20%) comes from a travel blogging course I launched in November 2015 in conjunction with Travel Blog Success. The course teaches travel bloggers how to pitch and work with travel brands and tourism boards. I hope this will eventually make up a larger chunk of my income!

Lastly, I also do freelance writing, which accounts for the last 15% or so of my income. This is usually writing travel pieces for other websites, with the occasional social media updates thrown in, too.

Now, I understand that is just a portion of what you earn. There are a lot of perks for being a travel blogger, am I correct? What are some of the coolest perks you have received and what did you have to do for them?

There are perks. For example, I often work with tour companies and tourism boards when I travel, which usually covers at least 50% of my total travel costs. Some cool perks in the past year include two different trips to Norway, where I worked with Visit Norway and some local tourism boards; a Christmas market river cruise with Viking River Cruises; and a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train in Canada. In return for comped trips, I write about my adventures on my blog and social media – and this means working while I’m ON those trips, too.

If you had to put a value on those perks for 2015, how much would you estimate in total you received?

To be honest, I haven’t calculated it! It would be upwards of $15,000, though.

You are getting a ton of engagement on Instagram. What has been the impact of this on your blog traffic? 

I don’t get a lot of traffic from Instagram, but that’s not really why I like the platform. I use Instagram because it’s just another place to reach and grow a different subset of my audience.

What are your biggest traffic sources and how many unique visitors do you get on average per month?

My biggest traffic source is Google search, followed by social media (and my social media breakdown goes Pinterest, Facebook, and then Twitter). I get roughly 110,000-120,000 unique visitors per month to my blog.

GA traffic sources
Where Amanda Gets Her Blog Traffic

How big is your email subscriber list, how often do you email them, and what purpose does it server for you?

My email list isn’t nearly as big as it should be! I recently purged some inactive email addresses and have just under 2,000 total subscribers right now. I send out a monthly newsletter with exclusive content and links, and also give the option for people to get a weekly RSS roundup of new posts from my blog.

One of my goals for 2016 is to figure out ways to leverage and grow this list more with autoresponder series and opt-in incentives.

Take me into a typical day in the life of a travel blogger…

It’s honestly not that different from anyone else’s average workday! (The biggest difference is that I get to work from home – or from wherever in the world I happen to be.) I actually wrote a post about my day-to-day life.

What is the craziest thing that ever happened to you in your travels?

Hmmm, well I have plenty of crazy travel moments, but some of them were really only crazy at the time. Like the time a monkey jumped into my mini bus in Cambodia, or the time a tour guide bribed a border guard in Albania with 15 Euro and 3 cans of Red Bull to let our bus pass through without stopping to get our passports stamped.

The craziest thing I’ve *done* was probably a 134-meter bungee jump in New Zealand.

The craziest/scariest thing to happen to me was probably being driven off a small cliff on a mountainside in Iceland and honestly being convinced I was going to die.

How long did it take to make your first dollar? Is there an interesting story there?

No interesting story. It took me about a year of serious blogging before I started getting advertising offers. That was back in 2011 when the easiest way to make money on a blog was selling sponsored posts/links. It was easy money, and my first “paycheck” I think was for $100. That way of making money isn’t sustainable any longer, though, and I’d say it wasn’t until just the last year where I felt confident in going fully freelance and living off my blog/online income.

Let’s say someone who is reading this wants to become a travel blogger, any words of wisdom on how to do that when they are just starting off and without income?

First of all, I would say only do it if you’re passionate about both traveling AND writing. I don’t necessarily mean to dissuade people, but I know from experience that growing a travel blog to a point where it’s profitable takes a considerable amount of time and dedication – it’s more difficult to make money than if you’re blogging about, say, fashion or beauty or recipes. So step one is being really passionate about it.

Secondly, it’s all about building an audience in the beginning – this means producing quality content on a consistent basis, being active on social media, networking with other bloggers, and basically hustling to get your name out there. It’s definitely a time commitment, but you just have to stick with it!

What would you say to someone who wants to start a travel blog, but they feel like their travels are a lot less interesting compared to someone like you?

I would say don’t be silly! Every destination (even if it’s just your hometown) can be a travel destination for someone else. When I first started traveling, I didn’t travel very far or very often, and yet I made it work.

There’s that one saying that goes “comparison is the thief of joy,” and I think it applies to travel blogging, too. Don’t let what other travel bloggers are doing intimidate you – find your own way and your own story, and the rest will follow.

The design of your blog is gorgeous and unique. Is this something you did yourself? From where did the inspiration come?

My blog is currently just running on a paid theme called Simple Mag! I’m not very tech-savvy, and I definitely could never code a website myself. But thankfully so many other people CAN, which means there are some great pre-made themes out there. The header on my site (that gorgeous watercolor image) was made for me by Candace Rardon of The Great Affair, who is a talented artist.

The inspiration for my site (and name) comes from a Tolkien quote that goes: “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might get swept off to.”

If you look closely at my header, you’ll find a further nod to Tolkien in the form of a hobbit hole. 🙂

You graduated college with a Journalism degree (and have the student loans to prove it). What is one thing that you learned from a journalism perspective that helps you as a blogger, that someone who doesn’t have your education likely would not know?

I think getting a degree in journalism helped me in a lot of ways. First, I learned how to edit and how to work on strict deadlines. It also helped me hone my writing voice. But writing for a blog is so different from “traditional” journalism. In news writing, a journalist is never supposed to let personal opinions/biases seep into a piece (unless it’s an opinion piece). But with blogging, that’s kind of the point!

I think, most of all, going to journalism school and working at a newspaper has given me an appreciation for how things “used to be.” I can appreciate the digital age of news and blogging, but I’ve also seen things from the “other side,” which I think gives me a unique perspective.

Also, when I want to pitch something more traditional to an online news outlet, I don’t have to go and learn how to conduct interviews or write feature stories. 🙂

If someone said “consistency is everything with content,” how would you respond?

I would say that’s correct, especially when you’re first starting out with a blog. When I decided to get serious about my blog back in 2010, I was posting 6-7 times per week.

As a blog grows, though, I think the consistency has to be more about voice and the quality of content. You have to make people want to keep coming back.

I like your “Stuff You Should Know About” posts. Let’s say as a new travel blogger, I don’t have the time to go on as many trips, what’s an idea for content I can write in between trips so that I can remain consistent?

I’m glad you asked – I actually wrote an entire post on this topic back when I was working my newspaper job and feeling a bit down because I wasn’t able to travel a lot.

Stuff You Should Know About
Amanda’s Stuff You Should Know About Series

A few things you can try include:

  • Spread out your posts (don’t be too hasty to write a ton of posts right after a big trip if you know you won’t be traveling again for a while)
  • Publish photo essays
  • Do interviews with other travelers
  • Put together collaborative posts (great way to work with fellow bloggers)
  • Write about places you’d like to go
  • Concentrate on more inspirational topics

And, lastly, remember that you can “travel” closer to home, too! You don’t always have to travel far away to find interesting stories.

What are three things that you are sure to do every time you publish a new blog post?

1. Proofread! I’m not perfect, so the occasional typo does make it through. But I always take the time to re-read my post at least once all the way through before hitting publish.

2. Create a Pinterest-friendly image to put inside the post. Pinterest is now my #1 social referrer, so I always want to make it as easy as possible for readers to pin my new posts.

3. Share on social media! I usually share to Facebook within 24 hours of publishing a new post, and schedule at least 4-5 tweets for the weeks following publication, too.

What blog post are you most proud of and why?

That’s almost impossible to say! I have a couple (like my NZ bucket list) that get a ton of Google and Pinterest traffic, and my big manifesto on solo female travel that I think is useful. But, writing-wise, I think this Cambodia post might be the one I’m most proud of.

When you began, how technically savvy were you and how steep was your learning curve? Any advice for people who get slowed down by the tech side of things?

When I began, I wasn’t very tech/Internet-savvy at all. I mean, I knew how to use the Internet and had Facebook and MySpace and all that. But I knew nothing about actually running a blog or doing SEO or building a social media following. I’ve learned it all along the way.

The biggest advice I would give to other not-so-tech-savvy people who want to start blogs is to do what you can, learn what you can’t, and don’t be afraid to ask for/pay for help when you need it. There are so many resources online to help you through a lot of the stuff that seems daunting at first. And if you can learn how to do your own SEO or Pinterest, that’s one more marketable skill you can put on a future resume.

Was there ever a point on this journey where you felt like giving up? If so, how did you break through?

You know what? I don’t think there was. But that’s partly because that I never started this with the intention of turning it into a career. It’s always been a labor of love.

Too many people I think start blogs assuming they will be able to make money right away. And when that’s not the case, they give up. I’ve always just wanted to write, and the fact that I can make money doing it is just an added bonus.

Top three favorite online tools that you use…

Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling, SmugMug for photo storage/hosting, and Edgar for Twitter scheduling/sharing.

One book that was pivotal to your success…

I don’t have one! (Really. I don’t like reading books about business or blogging!)

Who inspires you?

Other travel bloggers who are doing cool and innovative things inspire me all the time. I can name some specific ones if you want, but my list changes all the time!

What is one thing that irritates you that is happening in the blogging world…

Hmmm. I think one thing that bothers me is the fact that a lot of newer bloggers have a bit of a sense of entitlement. They assume that they deserve press trips and freelance gigs right away before they’ve even built up an audience. Not only is this annoying, but it’s the sort of attitude that will hurt travel blogging in the long run.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new bloggers?

Do what you love and what you want to do – make your stories real and authentic, and the audience will find you.

Also, don’t be afraid of or opposed to investing in your blog. If you want to treat it as a business, then that means you need to spend money on it. I can’t stand when I see bloggers complaining about paying for necessary services like web hosting or social media tools, and yet also trying to make money from their sites.

Imagine there were one million dollars on the line for the person who can give the best online marketing tip of something that is working well in your business. You’ve got one shot at it. What would you tell everyone?

Experiment, experiment, experiment. Don’t ever get comfortable just doing the same thing over and over. Things – hot topics, social media algorithms – change all the time, so the quicker you can be on top of those changes, the better off you’ll be.

If your whole online presence were deleted, and you had to build your blog audience rapidly from scratch, what would you do?

Probably the same thing I did when I was starting out: Produce kickass content, interact with other travel-lovers on social media, and make sure to let my personality and voice shine through in everything I do.

What is your vision for the future of this blog?

I hope to continue traveling and writing about it! It’s as simple as that.

I also want to start taking into account the interests of more of my readers and hope to write an ebook sometime this year about how you can fit travel into a more “normal” lifestyle.

Closing thoughts…

If you are starting a part time travel blog today, can you still make it?

It seems like the competition is huge.

Absolutely it is. There are millions of blogs online. But, why try to compete?

You are unique. You have a story to tell.

Just as there are certain people and styles that draw your attention, the way you tell the story is different.

Some people like to travel cheap, some living luxurious, some sustainable travel, some with family.

We like to hear the story from different perspectives. Stories in which we can relate.

So, while there are many people out there, no one can do it like you can.

If you would like to connect with Amanda, you can do so on her blogFacebook, and Instagram.


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And check out some of my other recent interviews…

How One Woman Blogged Her Way to a $20,000 Per Month Ornament Empire

She’s Quitting Her Hospital Job to Become a Full-Time Food Blogger

Why One Woman Is Quitting Her Hospital Job to Become a Full-Time Food Blogger

“When you’re at your day job, and all you think about is how you are going to write your next post, it’s time to make a change.”

Lalaine had just made the most thrilling decision of her life.

Fifteen minutes prior to our phone call, she gathered the courage, walked into her bosses office, and set her resignation letter on the desk.

After deliberating over this decision for months, she couldn’t believe what she had just done.

I could sense the nervousness and excitement in her voice.

“Like, literally fifteen minutes ago?” I asked in disbelief.

Excitedly, she confirmed that this was it.

Like most, Lalaine works a comfortable day job. Her bills are covered. She’s got health insurance taken care of. Not a bad gig at all.

More specifically, she works as a dietary manager in a California hospital. You could say it aligns somewhat with her passion for food and cooking.

Passion that dates back to before she moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in the early 90’s.

Home cooked meals, she remembers, were what would bring her family closer together.

But, Lalaine is ready to throw away this cushy job in pursuit of her dream.

Sinch 2013, she’s been slowly building a food and recipe blog with Filipino-inspired recipes.

Literally, on a “whenever I find the time” basis while working her full-time job.

Fifteen minutes here. One hour there.

Exchanging parties with friends for cooking, snapping photos, and uploading recipes to her blog.

Most being an uphill battle, as she had zero tech experience and it was only made possible with the help of her daughter.

However, this is not your typical food blog.

Lalaine incorporates unreserved life stories into her recipes. She feels that people will make these meals in their home and share with their families, so letting people into her life and kitchen was only natural for her.

And this formula has worked very well.

Her income exceeded $8,000 in December 2015 alone.

A passion project that is now earning more than her full-time salary.

Now, this is NOT a story of a blogger striking it rich and making millions online. You can find these stories anywhere (and frankly, those stories are often difficult to relate to).

This is a story of one woman investing every waking moment outside her full-time job into her passion.

Leaving her in a position that most people dream of…

Should she choose comfortability and security and stay with her job, or give it all up for passion and inspiration?

To understand her logic, you must get into her head.

If she could see these returns just staying up late and on weekends working on this, what would be the return with all of her energy invested into her passion?

Lalaine Manalo Kawaling Pinoy - LearnToBlog.com
Lalaine Manalo at her “day job” as a hospital dietary manager

Clearly there are many variables at play, and there is no easy way to predict that.

One thing is certain with Lalaine…

She doesn’t want to live asking herself “What if…?”.

As one door closes, another door opens.

This is the story of Lalaine Manalo and her journey to become a full-time food blogger.

You publish a food blog called Kawaling Pinoy. Can you explain what your blog is about and who is it that reads your blog?

My niche is Filipino and Asian-inspired recipes. Although 25% of visits come from the Philippines, my target audience is Filipinos who work or live overseas such as in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

What is the meaning of the “Kawaling Pinoy name?

Kawaling Pinoy means “Filipino cooking pot.”

So basically, you get to cook amazing food, eat it, write about it, and you get paid to do so? Is this the life of a food blogger?

Cooking, eating and writing about food are just a small percentage of the work involved in maintaining a food blog. I spend a huge amount of time connecting with my readers via answering emails and comments, and participating in groups, share threads and social media to promote my content.

Why do you love cooking so much?

lalainekitchen
Lalaine Working In The Kitchen

My mom was not a very good cook, but I always went to school with a home cooked packed lunch. It was a “must” when I was growing up that everyone in the family sat down to dinner together every day. I guess I grew up associating food to showing love and care.

You built this blog all while working full-time as a dietary manager at a hospital and raising a daughter through college. How did you find the time to work on your blog?

I cook and take photos on weekends when I am off to take advantage of natural light. The rest of the week, I am up till the crack of dawn writing my blog posts, maintaining my social media accounts, connecting with my readers via answering emails, comments.

I definitely missed a lot of parties in the last three years, especially during weekends when happenings happen. Not being able to cook one Saturday would have meant not having content to post for the coming week. It’s sweat and sacrifice I don’t quite mind as I really enjoy the whole process. Of course, it also helped that when I started my food blogs, my daughter was already in college and was busy pursuing her own life to need me as much.

It’s sweat and sacrifice I don’t quite mind as I really enjoy the whole process. Of course, it also helped that when I started my food blogs, my daughter was already in college and was busy pursuing her own life to need me as much.

The day we spoke on the phone you told me you just placed your resignation letter on your bosses desk to quit your job and blog full-time. What was that experience like for you?

I was scared as heck yet super excited! I mulled and mulled and mulled again over the decision for many months. I’ve worked for a company all my adult life, and I was (and still am) worried about letting go of the cushion a regular paycheck provided me. The advice of well-meaning family and friends was for me wait a little longer before making the leap, but I found it harder and harder every day to go to work with enthusiasm.

When you’re at your day job, and all you think about is how you are going to write your next post, it’s time to make a change. Up to the last second, before I handed my boss my resignation letter, I was questioning in my head the big step I was making. Yet the minute I walked out of her door, I felt so liberated.

Whatever happens from this point forward is all up to me.

How much on average does your blog earn today and give us a breakdown of the sources of that income?

Other than December when I made my all-time high of $8000 plus, I average about $4000 to $4600 a month. 100% of my income comes from display ads.

Kawaling Pinoy December 2015 Earnings: BlogHer Publishing Network (1/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December 2015 Earnings: BlogHer Publishing Network (1/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December 2015 Earnings: The Blog Network (2/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December 2015 Earnings: The Blog Network (2/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December Earnings: Swoop Ad Network (3/3)
Kawaling Pinoy December Earnings: Swoop Ad Network (3/3)

When you say display ads, can you give a little more detail to what this means? Whose ads do you display and how did you get started with them?

The display ads will be the banner ads that show on my sidebar, header and in posts. They’re a combination of CPC and CPM. I am part of two major ad networks, The Blogger Network and Blogher and they take care of the backend stuff for me for a split of the revenue.

You’ve incorporated your family into your food blog. I find that very interesting that you talk about your daughter and ex-husband. What made you decide to do this?

People can go online and find 100 versions of a recipe. I just thought I can set my food blog apart by having a “person” behind it and not a “cookbook.”

How does it feel that your most successful article is about a recipe that you got from your ex-husband? That article alone probably has made you thousands of dollars!

Funny because when I had my now-defunct blog in 2007 and I first shared that leche flan recipe, my ex-husband and I were still “happily” married so the old article was all warm and fuzzy. When I got into food blogging again in 2013 and had to share the recipe on the new blog, I was still reeling from the divorce and, admittedly, still bitter about his infidelity.

KawalingPinoy_com_Leche_Flan__the_Most_Popular_Post
KawalingPinoy.com Leche Flan Recipe — the Most Popular Post

I kinda just wrote my heart out, not thinking or considering how readers will take it. I was basically writing for myself and being true to how I felt at that time. It’s amazing how the article became instrumental to the growth of my blog. It’s my most viewed, most commented and most shared recipe. It brings the most traffic every day primarily because Kawaling Pinoy currently ranks number #1 for that recipe on Google search. Victory for the scorned woman!

Can you tell me about your experience in moving to the United States with your family in 1990? Was there a language barrier for you? How have your experiences in raising a family and moving to a new country helped you in the success with your blog?

English is actually taught as a second language in the Philippines. It’s the form of instruction in our school system and that helped a lot in my having a blog in English. I still struggle, though, and I have to go back and edit my posts many times because I would use “can” when it should have been “could” or “that” instead of “which.” etc.

I never really learned how to cook in the Philippines. I grew up with house help preparing our meals, which is the norm in the Philippines. I had to teach myself how to cook because you can only have so much Big Macs in your lifetime. Managing my own household helped with the blog because I share recipes my family have personally tried and enjoyed. I write about my own experiences, trial and errors in the kitchen, and whatever tips and tricks that worked for me.

You do something on your blog called “income reports” where you disclose the results you are creating with your blog. You say that you want it to serve as an inspiration to fellow “kababayans” (Tagalog word that means fellow Filipino, countryman, or town mate). Why is this important to you?

I’ve been awesomely blessed through my cooking blog. To this very minute as I type this, I still can’t believe Kawaling Pinoy has grown to a point where I can quit my job and carve my own path. My monthly giveaways and income reports are my way of giving back to the people (my readers) who support me. How I see it, there are thousands of cooking blogs out there and yet they choose to visit mine. And that is a big deal for me. It’s humbling to know I have inspired a few of my kababayans to follow their passion and start their own blogs.

Some people when they start blogging struggle to find their voice. Some are not confident in their writing ability or worry about being perfect. You’ve clearly found your voice, and you know exactly who you are speaking to with your blog. But, was there ever a time where you were challenged about how your content would be received?

During the first few months of my blog, writing a post took forever and a day. I wanted, as you said, to be perfect. When I finally decided to relax and enjoy the process, pulling the article together became a lot easier. I write on my blog like how I would write to my closest friend and this seem to connect better with my audience. I try to proofread my posts as much as I can. I think the quality of writing is very important in building credibility.

Without any technical experience, how steep was the learning curve for you? How did you learn how to do everything you do online and what was your motivation?

I started blogging not knowing what a blog was! I was lucky that my then-16-year-old daughter took a few classes in school on web design and Photoshop (2007 was the heyday of Myspace so she was into making banners etc) and she taught me a lot. Although she was a great help, I had to learn fast (through reading, researching) because she charged too much hahaha. Also, it was kind of difficult to ask her to edit my photos in Photoshop after I just grounded her.

One thing I realized, you can’t be the master of all trades. Anything beyond my skills, I just outsource. For example, I spent months trying to figure out how to make an ebook. It’s time I could have used developing a recipe or answering a reader’s email. Eventually, I decided to save myself the grief and hired somebody to make the ecookbook (digital cookbook) for me. $180 for a 20-page ecookbook is nothing to sneeze at but so worth the investment. Outsourcing the ecookbook freed me to work on what I am good at, which is cooking!

What is the hardest part about what you do as a blogger?

Hard to believe as I talk too much but I am actually painfully shy. I am the person you find in a party sitting in a corner watching everybody dance. The hardest part of blogging for me is connecting and maintaining relationships with other bloggers. I have a handful of blogs I visit on a daily basis but I never leave comments because I am
embarrassed.

Where do you come up with your recipes? Do you have any particular process you go through before publishing them?

Inspirations come from memories of food I enjoyed growing up, from cookbooks, other blogs in my niche, Pinterest, Facebook. I call my mother a lot for ideas. One of my best ways of learning a new dish: I go to the market every week for groceries. I spend a good few hours strolling the aisles and talking with fellow shoppers about their favorite recipes and prep tips. We have a Mexican grocery a few blocks from our house and I learned at least a dozen recipes just from asking other customers.

Have you ever had a recipe that just bombed with your community?

Yes, BBQ pork ears. And this was a recipe I thought was going to be insanely popular.

How have you grown as a person through your blog?

Oh wow! Great question. My blog created a brand new me and that is without exaggeration. For one thing, my blog was launched during a dark age in my life. I was newly-divorced and at the same time, empty nesting as my daughter was in college and was more into spending time with friends than with mom. After 20 plus years doing the same type of job, I was also getting burnt out at work but was afraid to make a change. My blogs gave me something to be excited about again. They sort of re-purposed me.

If someone told you that there is way too much competition with food blogs, and you are just lucky because you started early, what would you say?

I do believe there is an element of luck involved but I don’t agree about “too much competition” hindering the growth or success of a food blog. I had my first blog in 2007 when there was but a handful of food blogs and that first blog never saw more than 10,000 page views in its two-year existence. Kawaling Pinoy launched in 2013 with thousands of blogs already before it (and after it) and yet I’ve had better success with it than my 2007 blog that had far less competition.

Behind the Scenes of a Kawaling Pinoy Photo Shoot
Behind the Scenes of a Kawaling Pinoy Photo Shoot

What is your secret to taking nice images for your recipes?

I always take pictures with natural light. I don’t shoot after 2:30 PM as I am not yet adept at working my camera in different light settings. I invested on macro lens, and bought and read a good number of food photography books. I am still struggling with the food photography but much better than when I first started.

What is one thing every food blogger must be doing?

Making sure the recipes are solid. There is nothing more aggravating than spending money and time on a recipe that doesn’t work.

What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you as a blogger?

Being able to own my own business!

Does anyone ever reach out to you to send you products to promote or review? If so, what kind of things have you gotten for free?

I’ve been offered a few items but I had to refuse each time. I want to promote products I believe in. I would be very uncomfortable giving a negative review to somebody who just gave me a free product so I would just end up lying, claiming I loved the product when I didn’t.

With around one million views on your blog each month, can you give us a breakdown of where your traffic comes from?

75% of my traffic comes from search (Google) and the other 25% are social referral and direct traffic.

With 75% of your traffic coming from search, how did you learn to optimize each post, and what is your process for SEO each time you publish a new post?

I am not really technically inclined and don’t know much about SEO optimization. I just try to write as engaging as possible and provide useful content. However, I do use Yoast (WordPress) SEO plug-in where I add a focus keyword and meta description for my posts.

kp
Kawaling Pinoy Regularly Has Over 900,000 Page Views Per Month

What did you do to get traffic when you first started?

Looking back, I think my initial growth in traffic was more of a stroke of luck than anything. I launched my main blog (Onion Rings and Things) in October 2012, and Kawaling Pinoy was just an afterthought. Bluehost (the hosting I started with) allows as many domains as you can add in the hosting plan I had so I thought since it wouldn’t cost me anymore than one, I might as well have two blogs.

I was busy building content on Onion Rings and Things, so I kind of pushed Kawaling Pinoy to the sidelines for about 3 to 4 months after I launched in January 2013 with about 4 to 5 recipes. However, I noticed that the 4 to 5 recipes I had ranked on the first page of Google search and were bringing in traffic (I was up 10K page views in May from 53 in January). The site was growing faster than the other blog I was focusing my energy on and inspired by the growth, I diverted my focus and built on Kawaling Pinoy instead. I posted regularly, 2 to 4 recipes a week.

Leche Flan Recipe --LearnToBlog
Leche Flan Recipe Ranking #1 On Google

In June 2013, I started doing my monthly giveaways even though I was barely making enough to cover the costs of maintaining the blogs. I tried Pinterest but realized my type of recipes don’t do well on this social platform because my target audience is more active on Facebook. In July 2013, I had less than 50 likes on my Facebook page. I invested on Facebook ads and had them running until I hit 5k. It cost me about $100 to $150 but worth the investment. It is easier to grow when you have 5000 people sharing and liking your content than 50. Also, I thought a higher number of likes gave my Facebook page validation. People are more likely to “like” a page with 5K likes than 50. My growth from 5K to 30k has been organic.

How big is your email subscriber list, how often do you email them, and what do you use it for?

I have 4,908 email subscribers. I use my mailing list mainly to notify subscribers of fresh content on the site. I have set it up to blog broadcasts, email is sent I soon as I publish a new post. I also set up a follow up series, first one is sent out immediately after they confirm, with link to download the ebook plus tips on how to navigate my site; the second goes out when they’ve been subscribed for 6 months with suggestions on popular recipes; and last one after one year thanking them for their continued support.

How long did it take to make your first dollar? Is there an interesting story there?

During my first months, I was making .28 cents to $2 every day and I was very excited. Then one day a bigger page shared one of my recipes and I had more than usual traffic. I made $26 in Google Adsense in one day and it confirmed to me that it is possible to make a living blogging. $4,500, which was my goal amount, felt insurmountable so I divided it to 30 days. $150 a day was less daunting.

If someone said “consistency is everything with content,” how would you respond?

I can’t agree more! There was this blog I used to read regularly but her new posts were sporadic, often weeks from the last. I would visit her blog and there will be no posts for days so I just stopped. After 6 months, I received an email update about her recent post and for a second I thought the email was spam because I forgot all about her blog! I mean, it’s like having guests. Why would people visit your house when you’re not always home? Why would they drop by to see you when they don’t know if or when you’ll be there?

What blog post are you most proud of and why?

Ginisang Munggo with Sotanghon. I wrote this a few months after the leche flan and I discussed in detail about my finding out my ex had a child with another woman during our marriage. I was writing and it suddenly hit me, I was no longer hurting! I realized by forgiving, I have devoid that person the power to hurt me.

Where do you see the future of food blogging heading?

I see the start of more new food blogs. Consumers will be buying less and less cookbooks, and food blogs will replace these magazines and cookbooks as their go-to source for dinner inspirations.

Was there ever a point in this journey where you felt like giving up? If so, how did you break through?

I don’t think there was a moment where I felt like giving up because I was very fortunate to see consistent growth in traffic and income year to year. Also, I really enjoy blogging and the whole process doesn’t feel like work.

Top three favorite online tools that you use…

Photoshop, Tailwind, Canva

One book that was pivotal to your success…

Crush it! Why Now is the Time to Cash in on your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk

Who inspires you?

My mother. She’s the strongest woman I know.

What is one thing that irritates you that is happening in the blogging world…

Other sites copying and pasting recipes word for word and using photos without credit. I wish they understand the amount of work involved.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new bloggers?

The financial reward during the first months (or years) are so pitiful, most blogs fold on their first year. You gotta love it, live it and be passionate about it because your only compensation on the first few years would be the joy of doing what you love it.

Imagine there were one million dollars on the line for the person who can give the best online marketing tip of something that is working really well in your business. You’ve got one shot at it. What would you tell everyone?

Be yourself.

If everything was taken from you and you had to rapidly build your blog from scratch, what would you do to build an audience?

Build my Facebook page.

What is your vision for the future of this blog?

I am envisioning my blog to be the ultimate resource for Filipino recipes. I am working to include kitchen tips and cool tools. I am looking into including videos as well.

Closing thoughts from the editor…

One of the biggest stories I hear people say is that they don’t have the time.

Dig a little deeper and what I find that they are really saying is that they are not excited enough about what they are doing to find the time.

We make time for the things that we love.

Lalaine had a choice.

She could have come home from work and watched TV or scrolled Facebook on her phone. Instead, she chose herself. She chose her dream.

She didn’t get stuck on the idea that she was only making pennies when she first started. She celebrated every moment of it.

Without the pressure, she was able to have fun with it and fully express herself.

We’ve all heard the saying…

“Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life.”

The key is finding and focusing on that one thing and giving it your all.

If you would like to connect with Lalaine and follow her journey, you can do so at her blog and over on Facebook.


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MORE INTERVIEWS: How One Woman Blogged Her Way to a $20,000 Per Month Ornament Empire

How One Woman Blogged Her Way to a $20,000 Per Month Ornament Empire

“I heard many times, from many people, and even from those who love me and meant well, that my ornament business was cute, and could be a great little side income, but that it might be time for me to get a real job.”

Adversity, Ambition, and… Ornaments?

Three words that make up Staci Ann Lowry. On the surface, you will probably wonder, “How does one build a $20,000 per month blog about ornaments?” Of all things. That was my first thought.

When you dig a little deeper, you will see that Staci’s success was not by accident. A former stay-at-home mom with an ornament hobby was at a turning point in her life. Life changed in an instant when tragedy struck her family.

It was at this moment she was forced to make a decision. Go to work or see her hobby as an opportunity. With almost no tech experience and driven by the hunger for providing for her family, Staci made her decision and it paid off.

This little crafting hobby into a bustling business that educates women across the globe and allows them to express their creative ability through beautiful hand-crafted ornaments.

In this interview, I get to bring you into the life of the Ornament Girl and give you an exclusive look at how her blog propelled her to success.

Are you ready? Let’s go…

Blogger and Entrepreneur Staci Ann Lowry a.k.a. The Ornament Girl
Blogger and Entrepreneur Staci Ann Lowry a.k.a. The Ornament Girl

Who is the Ornament Girl and what is your claim to fame?

I sell handmade quilted ornaments, “make your own” kits, and pattern eBooks. I have a website/blog where I share ideas, tools, tutorials, and inspiration for other crafters and quilters to make their own (or buy mine if they aren’t crafty themselves).

So, tell me the story behind you and making ornaments…

I have always been into being crafty and making things, but making my Christmas ornaments has been something I’ve stuck with since I was a teenager. I learned how to make them from my mom when I was about 15 or so, and I’ve been making them ever since.

Take me back to life before earning a living online. What was it like and why did you decide to start this blog?

Before I started online, I was a stay-at-home mom. My husband was a Marine, and so between moving around, and having 2 kids, pursuing my own “normal” career was hard. I occasionally held a few part-time jobs here and there, but that was about it.

One year I wanted to try and make a little extra money for Christmas, so I listed a few things for sale on eBay. I was hooked on the idea of making money online from the moment I made the first sale (an old pair of jeans). I decided to list a couple of of my handmade ornaments up for auction, with no clue what to expect. During the first round, I had zero bids. I decided to try one more time though, and this time, I actually sold them. The final bid for each of them was only around $6 or 7 dollars, but I was ecstatic. This was in the Fall, so for the next 2 months or so, I sold as many as I was able to make, but as soon as Christmas came and went, my sales went completely down the tubes.

Thats when I started realizing that if I wanted to sell more of my ornaments, I was going to have to try and grow outside of eBay, and I decided I wanted my own website. I built the first version of my site in Notepad using basic HTML that I’d pieced together and taught myself from searching Google. I’d be super embarrassed to see the site now – it was ugly. I also started a little blog on Blogspot (that was just as ugly). 🙂

At that point, making sales was still a hit or miss thing, and the “business” was really more of a hobby. I would work on my website or learn about SEO and internet marketing when I had some free time, but since my hubby was the breadwinner, I didn’t really have anything pushing me to work harder at it. Aside from that, the handmade market was getting bigger and busier every day, and I started to feel like I was getting lost in all the noise. It really seemed like it was getting impossible to stand out online.

Then, a short time after getting out of the Marines, my husband had a motorcycle accident and our lives changed forever. I was suddenly a widow with 2 young kids and no job.

Until then, being a hobby crafter had been okay. It really hadn’t mattered all that much if I made money or didn’t. But, once I was faced with the need to make a living, on my own, and possibly having to put my grieving kids into daycare so that I could get a “real” job….that’s when I got serious about turning my ornament business into my real job.

I started devouring everything I could find about online marketing, and I started hearing a lot about a new buzzphrase, “content marketing”. The more I learned about it, the more I knew it was time to get off of Blogspot and move over to WordPress. That was when my blog became a primary focus, and it has been ever since.

What is the typical day in the life of an ornament blogger? (your first 3 months compared to today)

The first few months of blogging were so frustrating because, even though it felt like I was spending so much time on it, no one was actually seeing it. I would spend what seemed like forever on a new post, hit publish, just to be the only one reading it. And, since I didn’t really know what to blog about, I was treating it like it was my diary. I’d post things like pictures of my kids or the new little tomato bud that had sprouted on my tomato plant. I was afraid to post only about ornament-related stuff, because I thought that would be too boring, no one would care, or even that I would seem too “sales-y”

Over time, I figured out:

1. The point of my blog was not just to write about whatever struck my fancy – it was to attract potential customers. In order to attract people who like ornaments, I needed to post about ornaments…not tomato plants.

2. The right audience for my ornaments would not find a blog about ornaments boring or sales-y at all, and they’d actually appreciate it.

Now when I post on my blog, I always have an intention… for example, if a particular occasion or holiday is coming up, I will start posting ornament ideas relating to it, and I add in any links to patterns or products wherever it would just naturally occur. I also re-post old content if it’s relevant.

How to Build a Craft Blog -- Start with Great Content

I try to make sure every post gets as much mileage as possible. If it’s something I think could be relevant all year, I add it to my autoresponder and I put it in my marketing calendar to re-share on my Facebook page throughout the year. If it’s a particularly successful post, I add it to my list of popular articles in my sidebar so that new people will be able to find it easier.

How much on average does your blog earn today and what is a breakdown of where that income comes from?

Right now, most of my income is coming from the sales of my ornaments, kits, and patterns. On an average day, I sell between $100-200 in patterns and products from my blog, and leading up to a holiday, sales will reach $500-600 a day or more. I occasionally do promotions (I don’t do sales though), where I will offer a special eBook bundle or introduce a new pattern. For example, I did a special bundle for 2 days in December, and sold a little over $10K.

I also started a monthly ornament kit club back in the fall of 2015, and we now have over 800 members. I launch an opening day for the club on the 1st of each month and allow in about 100 or so new members as I’m able. The club membership is up to about 17K per month in revenue. At the rate that it’s growing, my goal is to reach 2,000 members by December, 2016.

Sales Report from the Ornament Girl

I also have a small income stream from affiliate marketing. I include affiliate links inside all of my tutorials, both in my eBooks and on my blog, and that usually brings in between $500-1500 a month, depending on what time of the year it is. I affiliate mostly for Amazon because they carry so many of the craft supplies I recommend (and I actually do buy a lot from Amazon!), but I’d like to add more affiliations this year and increase my income from this.

Looking at your site, you ornaments are stunning. I never knew these hand crafted ornaments existed. What kind of shift was required from you to transition from the “artist role” to teaching people to replicate your creations?

It took me way too long to make this shift! I was so afraid that I would put myself out of business if I began sharing all my “secrets”. More and more though, I could see that the landscape of internet marketing was moving more towards teaching, and that I would be putting myself out of business anyway if I didn’t overcome this fear.

When I finally got over myself and offered my first eBook for sale, I started seeing a return right away… not just income-wise, but in a much faster growth of my following. I have never regretted it. The more I share, the more the business grows.

You offer a monthly ornament kit club. How did you start sourcing the materials for this?

When I first began the monthly club, I was still buying materials locally. After the first month, and once I saw the demand, I realized I needed a better way.. not just so I could get things cheaper, but because it was really hard to find the amounts of fabrics, etc, that I would need in order to fulfill so many orders.

The first 3 months were hard, because I had to source from all over the place to get enough of a particular fabric or material, and buying wholesale means you have to order very far (sometimes 6 months) in advance. So, in the beginning, I had to not only order for the next couple months, but I had to start placing my wholesale orders for the rest of the year.

It was a little bit stressful during those first few months, trying to plan ahead for the entire year, and trying to estimate accordingly for how many members I would get each month. It is getting easier now though that I am 5 months in and settling into a routine.

When you originally launched, did you pre-sell it first before you sourced the materials?

I did not pre-sell, other than announce about a week or so on my blog that I would be starting the club. I just planned a kit, got as much of the material as I could get my hands on, and made as many kits as I could for that first month (which was about 320 I believe). Once I launched, they sold out in about 5 hours.

How long does it take you each month to prepare the kits to mail out? Are you able to get your kids involved in the process?

It is starting to take quite a long time. It probably takes a good 2 weeks for me to make everything. It also takes me about a day and a half to photograph and write the eBook instructions. My kids and boyfriend have been help me with a LOT, (putting together kits, shipping, etc) but it’s beginning to be too much for us to do ourselves and still have any kind of life. I am currently looking for someone to start as soon as possible, to help me with production.

How long did it take you to start making money? Was it a slow growth thing or did your income immediately spike?

Life at the Ornament Factory
Life at the Ornament Factory

It was very slow, and looking back now, I see so many things I could have done to speed it up. My income initially spiked once I really put a focus on content marketing and my blog began to start coming up in the search engines. I noticed that a few of my tutorial posts in particular were getting lots of traffic from Google, and so I started focusing on doing even more posts like those. I also began noticing a lot of my blog’s photos & images were bringing traffic from both Google and Pinterest.

But, even when sales were great, and I couldn’t seem to make my ornaments fast enough to keep up with demand, I was still completely limited by how much I could physically produce. My income spiked again when I began offering my patterns. I was finally able to sell an unlimited amount of something without creating more and work for myself.

And finally, things spiked again last year when I started doing Facebook ads. I actually don’t “sell” in my ads, but I do try to bring people back to my blog, where I can introduce them to my brand, and hopefully get them to sign up for my email list.

Now, I’m seeing growth happen exponentially. The beginning was so slow and it seemed like I was going nowhere, but once I began to gain traction, it’s been like a snowball ever since.

Did you have a background with technology and building websites, or was there a learning curve for you? What was that like?

I have zero background with technology. In fact, when I started on eBay, I had never even uploaded a photo online. I messed up my poor website so many times… everything from deleting every single image from my cPanel in one fell swoop, to completely crashing the entire site and having to re-upload everything from scratch.[pullquote cite=”Staci Ann Lowery” type=”right”]If a slightly ditzy, right-brained crafter-type can build one, anyone can.[/pullquote]

However, with all of that being said… whenever someone says, “I could never build my own website”, I adamantly disagree. If a slightly ditzy, right-brained crafter-type can build one, anyone can. And, it is so much easier now than it was a few years ago.

I learned from Googling everything, watching videos and webinars, reading books, and most of all trial and error. I also joined several paid courses (including Learn To Blog) and I’m still in a few, because things change all the time, and I also love learning new ways to do things.

Your content marketing strategy when you started, what did that look like?

When I started, I didn’t have a strategy at all. I would blog about whatever I could think of and it was terrible. But, looking back, I think it was necessary in order for me to find my voice and discover what worked for my audience, and what didn’t.

How did you get traffic to your blog when you first started?

Getting traffic was an entirely different thing then than it is now. Social media didn’t exist as it does now, and getting found online was all about coming up in the first 5 results of Google. So, that was what I focused on – getting found for as many keywords as possible relating to handmade ornaments. The very first online “course” I ever joined was a Yahoo group about SEO. (I actually learned tons from that! I still do a little bit of search engine optimizing on every post and page of my site, even though so many people insist that SEO is dead.)

Traffic report from the Ornament Girl

Your email subscriber list. How big is your email subscriber list? How do people get on it? How often do you email them? And what do you use it for?

My main email list has about 16,000 subscribers. I’ve had the list for a long time, but up until about 2 years or so, I only had a simple form on my site that said: “Sign up for updates!” I definitely didn’t get very many subscribers that way. Now, I give away an ornament pattern, and that has been so much more effective.

She's accumulated almost 16,000 subscribers

I try to email once a week (and would like to email even more than that), but I sometimes have a hard time sticking to it. I feel that I am leaving potential sales on the table by not emailing more often, and it’s something I’d like to work on more throughout this year. I’d like to do more segmenting too, between different types of customers, etc. I get a little overwhelmed just thinking about that though!

I do have an autoresponder with a set of emails that go out once a week when someone first subscribes.

If someone reading this has a crafting blog, what are some things they absolutely should be doing?

You must be taking great photographs. You must be teaching and inspiring. You absolutely must not be simply jamming Etsy listings down people’s throats every day.

Imagine there were one million dollars on the line for the person who can give the best blogging tip of something that is working really well in your business. You’ve got one shot at it. What would you tell everyone?

Oh wow… huge question! So, I have a boring answer to this, and that’s to stop trying to find the best strategy… just get busy blogging. I think searching for the “best” strategy is just another function of perfectionism, which in turn just stands in the way of action. Taking action is what opens the doors, teaches you what works for your market and what doesn’t, allows you to find your voice, and helps you grow.

Was there ever a point on this journey where you felt like giving up?

Absolutely. I heard many times, from many people, and even from those who love me and meant well, that my ornament business was cute, and could be a great little side income, but that it might be time for me to get a real job.

Featured in a magazine

To tell the truth, though, for a long time it was ME who didn’t truly believe that I could ever make real money selling ornaments year round, and that held me back for quite awhile. When I finally made the concrete decision that “yes. I AM going to be successful at this”.. that is when things began falling into place.

What motivates you to keep doing this?

I just genuinely love it. I work a lot of hours lately, but I look forward to it. I get to make stuff and be creative, and then share it with an awesome group of customers who love being crafty, too.

What is your biggest weakness when it comes to blogging? In business?

I have a lot of weaknesses, but I think my biggest weakness… and mistake… has been trying to do everything myself. Letting go of certain aspects of my business has been such a huge fear of mine… I finally realized a few months ago I’d become my own bottleneck. I just finally took on an administrative assistant this last month, and it has been such a relief. Now that I see all that he’s doing to help me, I can’t believe I was even trying to do it all myself. My next step is to find “in-person” help with production, shipping, etc.

Top three favorite online tools that you use…

(This one is hard for me because I have a very severe case of shiny object syndrome.)

WordPress, of course. I couldn’t live without it.
Canva – I create all of my eBooks, and sometimes social media graphics, in Canva.
HelpScout – I’ve only been using this for a short time, but it has made handling and outsourcing all my email so much easier.

One book that was pivotal to your success…

The War of Art

Focus on your strengths or improve weaknesses?

Definitely, focus on your strengths, and then seek help from others who are strong where you are weak.

One change/decision you made that led to exponential growth…

Offering my ideas instead of simply my products. (And, realizing that my ideas were worth offering.)

Who inspires you or who do you look to as mentors?

I have a mastermind group that I joined last year. I consider them not just super-smart business people, but my friends, too. I have them to bring questions to, ask for help from, and to bring a new perspective to my business. And, I can strive to do the same for them, which helps me continue to learn and grow and be a better person.

One thing that irritates you that is happening in the blogging world…

In the handmade blogging world, I get a little irritated at the number of people who teach how to sell handmade products, even though they don’t actually sell any handmade items…. they’re only selling their “how to sell your stuff”…. stuff. 🙂

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new bloggers?

I think there is SO MUCH out there these days about blogging that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And even worse, when you’ve been going for a few weeks or months, and you’re not seeing a whole lot of results, that overwhelm turns to burnout, and so many people quit. They say, “It’s too hard…it wouldn’t work in my niche anyway… I don’t have time… etc”

My biggest piece of advice is to stick it out, and not expect that all the pieces will fit perfectly in place right from the beginning. Blogging takes a long time to work as a marketing strategy, but that’s exactly why it works so well. It’s not a quick fix. It will build like a snowball, but it takes persistence and endurance, just like anything worthwhile.

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It’s discouraging to think that it might take 1, 2, or even 5 years to make money with a blog. No one wants to wait that long. But, guess what? 5 years from now is coming anyway. Do you want to be further along in your business then you are right now? Just do a little more every day.

What about being a mom gives you an advantage as a blogger?

In my case, the fact that I wanted to continue being a stay-at-home mom after my husband’s death, really pushed me to work at my blog and make it successful.

If everything was taken from you and you had to rapidly build your blog from scratch, what would you do to build an audience?

I would create a few blog posts just to get started, add a sign up for an email list, and begin running Facebook ads right away. I would go back to add/perfect later.

What is your vision for the future of this blog?

Right now, my main goal is to continue growing my membership club, which I’ll do by continuing to attract my target audience with my blog, and then inviting them to join my email list. That way I can build my relationships with them over time, which will hopefully lead to them wanting to be a part of my paid community.

Closing thoughts…

When Staci responded back to be interviewed, I was very excited to speak with her.

She had such a unique story and blog. She’s proof that with focus and passion, you can build a successful online business in any niche. Yes, it does take some tactics. However, those come with time when you have put the work in. When you have laid the groundwork.

Originally, she was an artist who enjoyed her craft. Recognizing the demands of her audience, she pivoted to become a teacher so that many people can enjoy her work. Imagine all the families now doing crafts together. Girls are taking up a new hobby now because of the teacher they found on the internet.

By not staying the course too long in one direction, she was able to spike her income and help more people by letting go. The money is a response to the value she is bringing to the world.

I hope you enjoyed this interview. Was this helpful for you?

If so, please share Staci’s story on Facebook so that others can be inspired by it. Also, let me know in the comments one ah-ha moment you had from reading this article.

If you would like to connect further with Staci, you can visit her blog, ornament club, and Facebook page.