Today I want to share 10 lessons learned from my first year blogging as a business.
I was meant to write this post a while ago but I kept having other awesome ideas to write about instead!
In September, Flourishing Freelancer turned one. In December, I was able to quit my 9-5 job and now I blog/freelance full-time. To say that I’ve learnt a lot over the past 16 months would be an understatement.
Flourishing Freelancer is the first blog that I’ve run as a business so the lessons I’ve learned this year were new to me. Sure, they built on what I already knew as a blogger but they were different in so many ways. The past year has been hugely challenging but the results are totally worth it!
😫 Lots of tears!
📕 Huge amounts of learning
☕️ Even more coffee!
So, here’s the 10 most important lessons learned from my first year blogging as a business.
**This post may contain affiliate links for products I love. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. For my full disclaimer, please click here**
1. Investing in Your Blog is One of the Best Things You Can Do For it
With the obvious “creating high-quality content” thing aside, spending money on my blog was the best thing I did for it.
Spending money allowed me to make money.
When you start out blogging it’s really tough to know what you should be spending money on. Especially if you’re not 100% sure about your blog and you’re not making any income from it. When I started FF, I had a little spare money from my salary each month so I had to think carefully about what to spend it on.
My advice to new bloggers is to prioritise what you spend your money on. It’s the same as spending money on anything else in your life. Here’s what I would recommend you invest in for your blog (in this order):
Hosting and Domain Name
Having a self-hosted site with your own domain name is the first, and most basic thing that should be spending money on when it comes to building a profitable blog. Not only does it make you look more professional but it will save you loads of time and hassle not having to switch at a later date.
I can highly recommend SiteGround as a host for your blog. I host all four of my current sites with them and you can also purchase your domain name from them too.
You can check out my step-by-step guide for getting your blog started with SiteGround here.
Email Marketing Service Provider
I’ll go into more detail about this later in this post (as it’s one of the lessons I learned), but I would recommend starting to grow your email list from day one. And, to do that, you’ll need an email marketing service provider.
Ilove Convertkit; it’s super easy to use AND has a load of useful functions. Want to know why I love Convertkit so much? Check out this post.
A Premium theme
Yep, a premium theme is coming in at number three on this list. I wasn’t smart enough to realise just how important having a premium theme was to start out with!
You can read about why having a premium theme is more than just “a nice thing to have” here.
Social Media Scheduling Tools
The main reason that this is below a premium theme is because, in the early days, you should be able to manage with a free social media scheduling tool e.g. using Hootsuite’s free plan, scheduling directly onto Facebook and using Plann’s free plan. Once you’re ready to invest, I would recommend Boardbooster for Pinterest and SmarterQueue for everything else.
Want to learn how using SmarterQueue saves me 8 hours each week? Check out the post here.
Course and Resources
You can find a LOT of information online for free which is great. But, it’s hard to sift through everything. It’s difficult to know which advice to follow and it can take forever to find what you are actually looking for.
Here’s some of my favourite courses and resources that have helped my blog grow into a full-time business:
- The She Approach to Boosting Your Blog Traffic
- Pageviews from Pinterest
- From Zero to Superhero Affiliate Marketing Bundle
- The Ultimate Hashtag Database
Looking for something that covers all bases? Then I have just the thing for you – Blogging Babe to Business Boss.
2. There’s Never a “Right Time” to do Things
People usually say this in relation to having children or getting a dog (like we just did!) But it’s true.
You will always find an excuse not to do something or to put it off until next month.
I’ll launch my blog when I’ve got 10 posts written up. I’ll launch my course once I’m getting 10,000 page views per month. I’ll start guesting for other sites once I’m a little more well-known/my writing has improved.
I’ve said all of these things.
And, to a certain extent, I still do. I always start out with these things when I’m thinking about trying something new. But there will never be a right time. There will always be more page views you “need” and more editing to be done. And, you know what? Things will never be perfect, no matter how long you work on them and delay things.
One of the fantastic things about creating content online is that you can go back and update it whenever and as often as you want. If you create a course and 6 months down the line you’ve learnt some new information that you’d like to include, that’s fine. You can go back and update the course content. The same applies to your blog posts and opt-in freebies.
Quite simply, if there’s something that you want to do, you should just do it!
3. Listen to the Pros…
There are lots of people out there who have been doing this whole blogging/making money online thing for a long time. A lot of them write about it too. They’re (for the most part!) not doing this to brag. They’re doing it to help you avoid making the same mistakes that they did.
So listen to them.
Wanna know the one thing I wish I had listened to? Start an email list as soon as possible.
I didn’t start my email list until several months after I started Flourishing Freelancer and, even then, I put hardly any time into growing it or nurturing the people who were on the list. When I did start paying attention to my list all I could think was “Why didn’t I do this sooner?!”
The beauty of the internet is that you can Google pretty much any question you have and find an expert’s answer or opinion. Use this to your advantage and learn from the best in the biz.
4. …But Don’t Believe Everything that You Read
Now, I’m not saying that everything you read will be a lie when it comes to stats, income reports and sales pages BUT you should take them with a pinch of salt.
So often I read Facebook posts along the lines of “I’ve only got 2,000 pageviews in the first 24 hours of my site being live, is this okay?” and then everyone clicks over to their blog to see what the fuss is all about. They may not have had 2,000 pageviews to start with but they do now!
And those people who say they made £10,000 in their second month with this one “must-have” course…it’s a sales pitch/technique.
Generally speaking, the blogging community is fantastic. It’s supportive and encouraging. BUT, just remember that it’s really easy to write anything you want from behind a computer screen!
5. Imposter Syndrome is a Real Thing
And it sucks!
There have been so many times over the last year where I’ve just sat here thinking “I have no idea what I’m doing” and “There are so many people out there who know a LOT more than me, people should be visiting their site, not mine”.
It’s horrible. And it’s made me feel like quitting more than once.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you aren’t worthy. It’s really, really, really rubbish. Especially when you’re putting a lot of time, thought and energy into something. The good news? The feeling will pass. You’ll have a win or get some nice feedback and that feeling will completely disappear.
If you want to learn more about overcoming imposter syndrome, read this post from The Little Novelist – How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome.
6. You Shouldn’t Compare Yourself to Other People
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with imposter syndrome. And, more often than not, was the starting point for an “imposter day” for me.
It’s also something that’s really easy to say but pretty much impossible to do.
My friend Holly (from A Branch of Holly) once told me that you shouldn’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. And it’s so true.
It’s easy to read someone’s income report and see that they are making £50,000 per month and feel like a complete failure with your £1. But you need to think about where you both are in your journeys and what your circumstances are. That other person may well have been blogging for 20 years and have a team of 15 people behind them. They may have also earned absolutely nothing for the first two year.
Whilst it’s great to draw inspiration and be motivated by other people’s success, you shouldn’t compare yourself to them directly or start telling yourself that you’re a failure because you’re not in the same place as them. Check out this post for more details on why comparing yourself to others is a big no-go.
7. Email Lists are All-Important!
I told you I’d come onto email lists in more detail in this post didn’t I?!
The biggest lesson learned from my first year blogging as a business is that email lists are essential for growth and monetisation. It’s one of those things that I kept reading everywhere I looked but I thought it didn’t apply to me. I thought that email lists were only for huge bloggers with thousands of followers.
I can tell you right now that they are not. And, one of the biggest regrets I have from my first year in blogging is not starting an email list sooner and then, once I had started it, not giving it the love and attention it deserved.
People sign up to email lists because they want to hear more from you. Chances are that they will miss the Tweet you post about your latest blog post or freebie. But, when an email from you lands in their inbox, they’ll open it to see what you’ve got to offer.
And, if you appear in the sacred place that is their email inbox regularly with lots of valuable information, your list will start to trust you more and more which is fantastic when it comes to selling – whether your own products and services or affiliate sales.
Already have an email list but not sure what to send to them? Grab my email welcome series swipe file here:
Email Welcome Series Swipe File
Want to get your hands on the welcome series I send to my new subscribers? Grab it now!
8. Passion Will Help You Grow
It’s tough to turn up day after day, hour after hour to something you don’t absolutely love. Hell, it’s hard even when you do love it.
Blogging is hard work.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you anything different. It’s time-consuming and way more demanding than I could ever have imagined. When I was blogging as a hobby, it didn’t matter that I didn’t share every single post multiple times. It didn’t matter if I didn’t turn up in people’s inboxes with my latest advice and promotions. And it didn’t matter if I just decided to take a week off unexpectedly.
Suddenly, these things did matter. Because I needed to do these things to make money to pay my bills and buy my food. Suddenly I had to turn up every day and get shit done even when I didn’t reallllllllly feel like it.
This was made so much easier by the fact that I love doing what I do. And having a passion for what I do means that I’m constantly trying to push myself further and grow my business. It also means that when I have a deadline and I’m awake at 2 a.m. trying to get things finished, I don’t mind
9. Choose Community Over Competition
If you’re driven (and quite possible, even if you’re not!) it’s easy to be competitive.
Some niches feel more competitive than others. For example, if you have a lifestyle blog where you’re posting about your personal life experiences, it’s difficult to feel competition. After all, those posts are personal to you.
But niches such as the blogging niche that Flourishing Freelancer is in, are easy to feel competitive. There’s lots of people out there writing about the same things.
Feeling competitive can be good in small amounts. It can drive you forward and motivate you to push harder and grow bigger. But it can also be dangerous and destructive within the blogosphere. It can lead to you comparing yourself to others (see my point above) and a downward spiral of imposter syndrome and generally not feeling good enough!
There is however, a fairly simple way to avoid this. And that is to embrace the community.
Make friends with other bloggers. Connect with others inside your niche. Support each other in any way you can. It might be as simple as liking and commenting on their posts. Or maybe you’d like something a little more personal. Joining a mastermind group is perfect for this – I love having a group of people who I know I can message whenever I need to with questions or problems (or just for a general chat!)
The most important thing to remember here is that you are all doing the same. And, chances are, other bloggers are looking for people to connect with too.
10. Planning and Scheduling is Essential
I feel like I say this in pretty much every single post I write but…
I love planning.
If I could make a living off planning I would (if you want me to plan out your blog content etc. let me know 😉 haha!)
But you may have noticed that point 10 here includes the word “essential”. It’s not just about my love of planning. Over the past 16 months I’ve learned just how important it is to plan and schedule as much as possible when it comes to my blogs and business.
There’s nothing worse than sitting staring at an empty laptop screen 15 minutes before your post is meant to go live and having no idea what to write about. Or getting no traffic because you’ve not scheduled out any social media promos.
Investing in a decent planner and taking time to put in place a planning process for every part of you blog is invaluable. And, whilst it might take you a fair amount of time to get set up initially it is totally worth it and will save you heaps of time in the long run!
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