You’ve heard the success stories.
Successful bloggers who make six figures a year, writing about topics they’re passionate about.
Top-earning bloggers make tens of thousands dollars a month. Some, like Jon Morrow, break the seven-figure mark.
But what does it really take to grow your own blog into a full-time income? To find out, I interviewed Holly Reisem Hanna, the creator of The Work-at-Home Woman, a blog that explores legitimate income opportunities for women who want to work at home.
Holly didn’t start out intending to be a blogger. After her daughter was born, Holly knew she wanted to be at home with her. But it didn’t take long before she decided that, in addition to being home with her daughter, she also wanted to earn an income and challenge her brain.
She started looking into ways to earn an income at home. What she found were a ton of scammers and very few credible opportunities. Holly said, “After months of coming up empty-handed, I decided to create a blog that would help other women who were in the same boat. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, my blog came to fruition because I wasn’t able to find what I was searching for.”
That decision put her on the path to creating a well-known and respected blog catering to women who want to work at home. Holly has worked with brands like HP, Tastefully Simple, cabi, NeatDesk, Staples, and MSN. Her writing has quoted in big name publications like the New York Times, CNN, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Woman’s Day Magazine, Working Mother, and HLN TV.
Like most bloggers, Holly is frank that her blog wasn’t an overnight success. To supplement her income when she started out, she also took on freelance clients.
“As a new mom who was extremely sleep-deprived, it was a never-ending struggle to balance my blogging business, my freelance work, and of course, my most important job, being a mom. It was a lot of trial and error.”
But she stuck with it. And when her daughter was old enough to start school, that freed up more time to focus on her blog. Her blogging business began to increase, allowing her to let go of her freelance clients… which gave her even more time to focus on her blog.
And that’s when things really started to happen.
Simply writing a blog doesn’t bring money in. What it can bring you is an audience. And with an engaged audience, you have the potential to earn an income.
Attracting traffic to your site is key. Holly relies on Google as her primary source of traffic. She also connects with her audience on Facebook and Pinterest. Her advice to new bloggers is two-fold:
“The only constant with web traffic is things are always changing — you have to be able to roll with the punches and adapt as necessary. As far as sharing posts — you need to know where your target audience is hanging out… experiment and see what works best for your site.”
One of the key characteristics of successful blogs is an audience who is eager to hear what you have to say next and who feel connected to you. I asked Holly about what she does to connect with her audience. In response, she said, “In my blog posts, I tend to incorporate personal stories so that the reader can get to know me better. In my newsletter, I’m very vulnerable, I let my readers know about my failures, pain points, and personal feelings. It seems like the more personal I am, the more they can relate. It’s always my most personal emails that receive the best responses from readers.”
By being a real person, Holly keeps her readers coming back. They feel like they know her. And they trust her.
Having that kind of audience opens the door to income opportunities. For bloggers there are quite a few possible income streams.
Holly initially planned to sell banner ad space to clients, but she quickly realized that those spaces fill up, creating a natural cap on your income. She went on to try affiliate marketing, consulting, and writing and selling her own e-book. Her current income mix includes direct ad space, sponsored content, affiliate marketing, the ad network AdThrive, and selling digital printables in her own online store.
When it comes to earning income, Holly said, “Affiliate marketing is the biggest piece of the pie, and one of my favorite ways to earn money. Whatever monetization path your take, make sure that you’re diversifying your streams because you never know when one will dry up.”
Holly started her blog in 2009 when the web was a less crowded space. I asked her if she thought launching a blog in today’s landscape was easier or harder. Her answer was… both, but that overall, today is a good time to start a blog.
She explained it like this: “In some aspects, it’s easier, because technology has simplified processes and made it more affordable to start up a blog up on your own. On the other hand, I feel like there is more competition, but I see this as a good thing. Overall, it raises the standards for quality… once individuals could rank well with lousy content, using black-hat SEO techniques. This is no longer the case.” Which means your competition will being doing good work, and if you’re also doing good work, there’s likely to be room for you to succeed.
Blogging isn’t just about writing. Sometimes you’ll be marketing. Sometimes you’ll be balancing the books or planning strategies or negotiating ad deals. Holly’s advice here is this:
“Do the tasks that you love and that you’re good at, then outsource the rest.”
On the more abstract side, Holly shared some other things she thinks are important to success.
“You need to be passionate about your niche. Without an unwavering enthusiasm for what you’re writing on, you won’t be able to sustain your momentum for the long haul. Of course, you should enjoy writing and marketing, but you also need to have a positive mindset. Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of ups and downs, and without a positive mindset, you’ll fold under pressure and quit. Find a group of like-minded individuals that you can share your frustrations, successes, and questions; having a tribe will be imperative to your success.”
When asked what she would do differently if she were able to go back and launch her blog all over again, Holly emphasized the importance of email marketing. She said, “I’ve always participated in email marketing, but I didn’t understand the real value of nurturing and growing your list. Unfortunately, search engine and social media algorithms are continually changing, which means your traffic can go up or down without any warning. But with email marketing, you own your list, and you can use it anytime to connect with your audience.
Holly’s parting advice to would be bloggers?
“Go for it! It costs little to nothing to start, but the opportunities that it affords you are priceless.”
Editor’s Note: If you want to write your own blogging success story, AWAI now has a program to help you do that. It walks you through picking a topic, coming up with ideas, writing excellent blog entries, building your audience, and earning money from your efforts. You can find all the details here.
This article is part of the Blogging Stories series.
Series Table of Contents:
- A Serial Entrepreneur Shares His Story of Blogging Success
- A Blog – The Ultimate Writer’s Tool
- Blogging Your Way to a Life of Adventure
- Blogging and Business: Harnessing the Power of Attention
- How Jon Morrow Launched His Blog with 13,000 Subscribers – and Other Blogging Stories
- Living a Beautiful Life – Blogging Success with Sal O’Neill
- Follow Your Passion – A Blogging Success Story with Carol Bryant
- Building the Life You Want – Holly Reisem Hanna’s Blogging Success Story (This Article)
- From $700 a month to $3.5 million a year – Sarah Titus and Blogging Success