The Different Stages of Building an Online Blogging Business

by Amanda Abella  - March 12, 2018

I recently saw a post in a Facebook group dedicated to those who didn’t have six-figure years, major campaigns, or tens of thousands of social media followers in 2017.

I thought this was a really important message for those of us in the online blogging business world and I want to share my two cents. It just so happens by two cents is really long, so grab a cup of coffee (or two) for this one.

In the world we live in today, blogging, entrepreneurship and online business is now sexy.

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This still blows my mind to a certain extent because I started blogging back in 2010 when no one knew what the hell they were doing.

Never in a million years did we think we’d be getting hired for spokesperson work, making money with affiliate marketing, quitting our day jobs and pursuing a career in online marketing.

Quite frankly, we were all doing this online blogging business thing for the sheer love of it. Most of us didn’t even know we could make money doing it.

And then things started shifting.

Opportunities started presenting themselves. In my case, these opportunities looked like getting writing gigs here and there and people asking me to teach them how to blog.All I did was put one foot in front of the other when I saw the opportunities coming in.

Of course, I’ve had to learn important skills along the way. Namely, marketing and sales. I also had to learn how to get organized and I needed to get comfortable dealing with numbers. Without these skills, my online blogging business would have never made it.

It’s been a journey to say the least.

So I’m writing this post for those of you who are feeling frustrated because you aren’t seeing results in your own online blogging business. I’ve been there and I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to look around and see other people succeeding while you’re floundering.

The truth is there are different stages in online business. There’s also something to be said for the right timing. Here’s what my journey has looked like over the last eight years.

2010: The humble beginnings

I graduated from college and went several months without a job. Moved back home. I was suffering from panic attacks at the time. I was also recovering from a health issue that forced me to take a medical leave of absence my last year in school.

A good friend of mine suggests that I read “The Art of Non-Conformity” by Chris Guillebeau. He lets me borrow his copy. The book talks about entrepreneurship, traveling the world on choosing to live life on your terms. It was the fire under my ass that I needed so I’d stop feeling sorry for myself.

I googled “how to start freelance writing” and signed up to write for a content mill. I made $5 my first month. This was my first online blogging business payment. A couple of weeks into writing for this website, I noticed they had open assignments for personal finance content. At the time, my thought process looked like this:

“I know nothing about money. I’m terrified of numbers. I need to know about money to make it in life. If I take these assignments then it will give me incentive to learn finance, because I’ll be getting paid.”

So I took the gigs. I was making $15 an article.

Shortly afterward, I started a blog to help millennials learn how to adult. I had no idea the world would become obsessed with millennials, I just saw the content was needed.

2011-2013: The day job years

I found a job. I was working as a recruiter for an agency. I interviewed job candidates for jobs within Fortune 500 companies.

During this time, I kept blogging about various personal development topics. I kept taking freelance clients on the side. One client, who I still do work for to this day, found me because of my finance and career blogs. Suddenly, my online blogging business was making me more money.

I didn’t yet understand how to turn a blog into a business, but I knew I was onto something. I worked hard to build that something. Between my day job, the blog and my freelance clients I was working seven days a week.

In 2012, I started to notice that some of the online friends I’d made started to quit their jobs to focus on blogging full-time. I saw how much money they were starting to make and thought, “Maybe I can do that too.” I also started seeing more people making money coaching.

So I signed up for a life coaching certification program. It took me 18 months to complete the program.

By the end of 2012, I was tired of trying to figure stuff out on my own so I hired my first coach. She helped me create my first initial sales funnel and she helped me through the emotional process of quitting my job. This was the first system and the first big decision of my online blogging business.

At the time, conventional wisdom still said to stick to a day job. This”make money online world” was still in its infancy. There was no guarantee that I would succeed.

Quitting my job was hard. We’ve been drilled to believe a regular job is secure. I can tell you as a former recruiter that it’s not. Once I realized I was interviewing people who’d just lost their jobs every day, I started to think I could actually quit.

After all, what is the difference between building a business (which is risky) and relying on an employer for a paycheck (which is super risky)?

There is none.

I was also still home. I had nine months to figure out how to start paying for my own health insurance through the funds from my business.

One day after I’d had enough of burning the candle on both ends, I walked into my boss’ office and quit.

As soon as I announced publicly that I’d quit my job, I got a couple of coaching clients who wanted me to help them.

I attended my first two conferences shortly thereafter. After all, if I wanted to take my online blogging business seriously I needed to go to events right? World Domination Summit in July and The Financial Blogger Conference in St. Louis in October. The latter conference showed me I could self-publish a book. I spent the rest of the year writing, formatting and promoting Make Money Your Honey.

I did 100 interviews with readers and social media followers to see what they wanted from me in a book. I then emailed everyone who attended FinCon to see if they would help me promote.

2014: The year Make Money Your Honey changed everything

On January 7th, 2014 I launched my book, Make Money Your Honey on Amazon. It became a bestseller for Budgeting (#3 baby!) and Entrepreneurship categories.

I mustered up the courage to pitch Entrepreneur on Fire and they agreed to have me come on for an interview. After that, I must have been invited to 100 podcasts. I did them all.

This was also the year I was trying to figure out my next steps. I had my first attempt at group coaching. The students did well, but I had no idea what I was doing in terms of scalability or creating a membership site. Lots of lessons were learned.

I also tried a one-off live workshop here and there. I had no idea what to charge, didn’t know a damn thing about email marketing and yet still managed to fill the classes.

I also took some trainings this year. In particular, I did Kendrick Shope’s Sales School. This was my first in-depth sales training and it helped me learn the nuances of sales conversations.

This is also the year I realized I needed to narrow down my focus in order for my online blogging business to succeed. It wasn’t until I launched Make Money Your Honey and spent an entire year doing market research that I realized I needed to focus on money and entrepreneurship.

Up until that point, I was trying to be a general writer and “life coach.” While there were a few main topics I covered, I was still kind of all over the place. Because I was all over the place, I was also still kind of broke.

I did make a profit that year, but I was also still living at home and an unexpected oral surgery threw a wrench in my plans. I was plateauing at around $2500 a month. I needed a hell of a lot more than that to live in Miami.

2015: The year of the great 90-day rebrand

Oh man, 2015 was rough but it was a game changer.

The first quarter was crazy. I decided to go through a rebrand to focus on personal finance and entrepreneurship.

In a matter of 90 days, we took apart the entire website, upgraded to Infusionsoft (which was terrifying both financially and technologically), and launched the design you see today.

It was expensive and scary. I also didn’t realize how much work it was going to be as I tried to keep my business running at the same time. I did a free class for a networking group during this time as well. Two hundred women showed up. Sixty of them booked a consult. I showed up to every single one and gave it my all. Not a single one signed on as a client.

That’s right, I got rejected 60 times in a month.

I also fired writing clients for the first time. They weren’t paying enough and I needed to take the risk and let them go.

My body gave out to burnout and I got strep throat on my birthday. I also broke even the first quarter. I broke even the second quarter too.

During the summer of that year, I seriously thought I would give up and go find a job. I remember lying in bed one night thinking, “Okay God. I give up. If this business works it works. If it doesn’t it doesn’t. I’m done trying to control everything.”

Within three weeks I landed my first spokesperson deal as an influencer. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, but the point is I was making more money. I also had another client approach me with the opportunity to teach classes. And then FinTech companies started hiring me to write.

I was working, pitching and selling but it was with a different energy. Something shifted inside of me when I gave up the need to control. I showed up to these situations owning how good I am at what I do. If I didn’t know something, I would figure it out.

By September of that year, I start thinking I can start looking into moving out. God had different plans. My grandmother moved in and shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I stayed home to help my family. I was also having my own health issues at the time which led to some anxiety.

The holidays were spent learning how to manage my grandmother’s Alzheimers, managing my own health and still working. I was so close to what I’d envisioned for my business I could taste it.

2016 – The year of Imposter Syndrome

This is the year of Imposter Syndrome. Even though I was getting more media attention, starting to write content for banks and still getting coaching clients here and there, I felt like a fraud.

I was still living at home. I still wasn’t making as much money as I wanted. The most frustrating part was I knew I could do it, it just didn’t seem like things were falling into place.

I decided I needed to simplify my business. I noticed content marketing was making good money, so I took a hiatus from coaching just to focus on writing. I was pitching and writing every day.

I also experienced my first five-figure month. This was thanks to a big video project I did for a client. It would be another year before I experienced it again, but knowing I could do it once made me realize I could do it again.

By the end of 2016, I was averaging $6,000 a month in revenue. Work was starting to come to me. I was able to hire new team members to help me.

I also decided to kick my imposter syndrome to the curb. I obviously knew what I was doing and it was time to own it.

And then 2017 came.

2017 – The year I started really seeing this all come together

If you read my post on how much money I spent in 2017, you know it started off rough. I was grieving a friend who passed away, working myself to the bone and doing what I do best when I’m stressed – getting on planes and traveling somewhere.

My friend’s death was a wake-up call. I needed to build systems and scalability into my online blogging business. I needed to stop giving money so much importance and start living my life again.

In between travels, I invested in a business retreat and a group coaching program with a mentor who would help me create systems for my online blogging business. She helped me create my group coaching program, Persuade to Profit. I launched a beta version and grossed $10,000 in sales.

There was no magic in this either. I put in the work to create a killer product, started sending emails and sold my little heart out.

During this time, I moved to the apartment I live in now. Yes, it took me seven years after graduating from college to be able to sustain myself financially to the point where I could move. But hey, this is the view from my balcony so it was worth it.

It was also a matter of Divine Timing. My parents were now both retired and could care for grandma full-time. She also qualified for a program that covers some of her care.

As soon as this happened, both my brother and I got the opportunity to move out. Neither of us went out looking for it. The opportunities simply fell into our laps. We both moved out of our parents’ house within a month of each other.

Now the pressure was ON. I now have more expenses than ever. I live in the middle of the city.

Again, life had different plans because here came Hurricane Irma. I was thrown off for a month. Yes, two months after I move my area gets hit by a hurricane and I have to evacuate from the apartment I just moved into. So fun.

I also had two trips back to back after the hurricane. Neither of which I saved for ahead of time like I normally do. I had no idea how I was going to pay for this BUT by this time I believe I can make whatever kind of money I want.

I land the biggest influencer campaign of my career so far.

Land another two spokesperson campaigns.

My group coaching program keeps selling.

I start negotiating higher rates for writing when pitching.

By the end of 2017, five-figure months were becoming my new norm. (Click here to check out my December 2017 Income Report where I share how I earned $11,393 with my online blogging business!)

What’s the point of all of this?

It’s taken me nearly eight years of hard work and patience to get to where I am. By the way, of those eight years, it took four years of me focusing on one niche to really start seeing the fruits of my labor.

This journey has not all been roses and rainbows. And, a lot of the time, life got in the way and there were setbacks that were beyond my control. There’s also a lot to say for being in the right place at the right time and divine timing.

I persevered through it all.

We live in a society that wants results FAST. Nothing in life works that way. At all. That’s why it’s your job to be patient, resilient and roll with the punches.

Building a business takes a shit ton of grit. If you’re not cool with that, then you shouldn’t be in this game.  If you’re up for it, it will change your life.

I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world.

If you want to start your own journey as a blogger, make sure to check out my Resources page to help you get started.


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