When you decided to write that first blog post, did you have a clue as to the cost of blogging? When I started blogging in 2015 I just started doing it. No plans for a business. I didn’t even know that was a possibility! I had a few minimal setup costs – hosting & theme. I also paid someone I trusted to help me set it up. But then I just started blogging.
And about that time, all these blogging PRODUCTS and COURSES started coming my way. Oh – just $10 a month here. A mere $99 for a course there. And before I knew it I was spending a lot on my blog and not making a penny.
I figured that was OK for the first year – I was “investing” in learning the blogging profession. But then came the end of 2017 – the end of my second year of blogging when I had finally STARTED to make some money. And I was more in the RED than I had been in year one!!!!!
So as I have entered 2018, I’ve had a few “come to Jesus” moments with myself. This can no longer be an expensive hobby. It needs to be a profitable business, which means I no longer spend more than I make. So I analyzed everything I spent money on in 2017. What gave me a great return on investment? What is a good product that I probably should have waited to purchase until I was making more money? What was a total waste of money for this time in my blogging journey?
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. If you purchase a product through my link, I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
Totally Worth It
The best money I spent in 2017 was on the Pitch Perfect Pro Course by Jenny Melrose. In this course, you learn how to pitch brands for sponsored posts directly without going through the networks. And you don’t have to have a bunch of pageviews or a huge social media following. I took this course in August 2017 and here are my results so far:
- I made the money back that I spent on this course in 3 months.
- In the last quarter of 2017, I had 4 times the number of sponsored posts that I had in the previous 3 quarters.
- I am getting 125% more for a sponsored posts than I was through the networks.
And I do NOT have a high number of pageviews or a huge social media following.
Now – don’t misunderstand me. This course is NOT magic. I worked really hard on this. But I followed Jenny’s method and it worked.
ConvertKit – It was a big leap to go from a free e-mail service to paying $29/month. I bit the bullet on this because I wanted to segment my list. Mostly I write about lifestyle topics for midlife women. But I also have this whole list of blogging friend that I write to from time to time. Two entirely different topics and audiences. And I also wanted to grow my list and the engagement I get with the people on those lists. ConvertKit helped me do that. I doubled the number on my list in 2017 and I am getting a 36-40% open rate. Here’s what I like about ConvertKit:
- There are a lot of different e-mail sign-up form and landing page templates – even pop-ups. I don’t have to buy another landing page or sign-up form service.
- The forms are easy to implement on my site.
- With their plugin, I can easily have different sign-up forms attached to different lead magnets that go with the various types of blog posts I write. For example, I have a form that is tied to my 5 Favorite Appetizers lead magnet on all my recipe posts.
- I can easily segment my list so that when I am selling products I can strategically target who might be interested.
- If I want to send a BUNCH of e-mails about something I’m selling, I can create an opt-out link so that people can opt-out of that promotion without unsubscribing from my list.
Can you get this from other programs? Probably. But ConvertKit is so user-friendly, has everything in one place and their customer service is excellent.
SiteGround – The person who set my blog up originally put me with SiteGround. I have only had my site down once for just a few minutes in over two years with SiteGround. Their customer service is superb!
Canva – I am TERRIBLE at creating graphics. But using Canva helps me make graphics that look good. They have lots free images, templates and fonts to use. And with their paid plan you can easily access your brand colors and resize your graphics with the click of a button.
Tailwind – I get a lot of my traffic from Pinterest and I credit Tailwind with their easy way to schedule pins for a lot of that. I fill up my queue when I have time to pin and Tailwind does all the work for me.
Buffer – I am able to schedule to my 2 Facebook Pages, a Facebook Group, my personal page and my Twitter account all in one place. Buffer allows me to set it and forget it. It posts at the best time for my audience. And gives me great analytics so that I know what types of posts my audience engages with the most.
Fiverr – I tried this for the first time this year when I wanted a professional looking design for one of my lead magnets. It cost $15 to get a professional looking lead magnet and I had it in-hand in less than 24 hours. Fiverr offers a lot of other services besides graphic design. And there is no annual fee. You just pay by the job.
Content Sponsorship Contract from Businessese – This is a contract template that I use when working with brands, written by an attorney who knows what bloggers need in a contract. Totally worth it. I wouldn’t have a clue without it!
The Jury is Still Out
Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers from Tasha at Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body. I took the free version of this course that came as a part of the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit a couple of years ago. Then I paid for the complete version. Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers is a good course. I learned many ways to incorporate affiliate marketing into my income strategy. But I am still not making that much from affiliate marketing. That could be for several reasons:
- Affiliate Marketing is not the main focus of my strategy, so I don’t spend a lot of time on it.
- As a Lifestyle Blogger, I don’t have a single focus. So if I promote one type of affiliate product, part of my audience will be interested. Another part will be not. Tasha has a much more targeted focus (DIY) than me.
- Her list and pageviews are HUGE. Mine are not. Part of affiliate marketing is a numbers game.
Again, this is a VERY GOOD course. If you want to get into affiliate marketing, this is definitely the one to take. It just hasn’t yielded the ROI I was hoping for.
Wouldn’t Do It Again
In the area of photography, I have a LOT of room for improvement. So what did I do? Did I invest in a photography course? NO. I purchased a new lens for my camera and a high-end tripod. Never mind that I barely knew how to use the lens I already had. And that I couldn’t even set up the tripod by myself and had to ask my mechanical engineer husband to do it! I’ve used the new lens and tripod ONE time. Lesson: If you need to learn a new skill, don’t buy better equipment until you learn with what you have.
Product Launch Playbook by Ruth Soukup of Elite Blog Academy. I LOVE EBA and think all the products they put out are exceptional. This one is no exception. If you are ready to launch a product, Ruth will take you step by step with how to do it. The problem was that I bought it when I wasn’t ready to launch a product in a severe moment of FOMO. At the time, all the blogging world was abuzz with “you have to have your own product to make money”. And no doubt there is money to be made in having your own product. But does EVERYONE have to have a product to make money? No.
If I ever have an idea for a product that I want to launch, this will be a great resource for me. But I bought it at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons.
Pic Monkey – It used to be free and everyone loves it. I never quite got the hang of it and always used Canva. When I looked back over the year’s expenses, I couldn’t remember why I paid for it! So I obviously didn’t need it. Rule #1 in business: PAY ATTENTION to where the money is going.
Retweet Chores – If you take part in retweet threads where you can be retweeting 100+ tweets a day, this makes it easy. With a couple of clicks, this app does the work for you. And it’s only about $10 a month. But, I had way too many $10/month things going on and had no business adding another. I can do my own tweeting at night in front of the TV. But, I will say that Retweet Chores would be perfect for a VA who is handling several Twitter accounts.
So the bottom line for me:
- Only pay for products that are totally worth it.
- Get a handle on my finances so that I will have a profitable business in 2018. I am doing that through what I am learning in Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
- Don’t buy ANYTHING that you don’t have the money for already – no more “you have to spend money to make money” for me.
- And get over FOMO. Those FOMO purchases have never been a good investment in the long run.
Here’s are two great FREE resources:
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