Sally O’Neill stumbled into blogging completely by accident.
When she moved to Australia from the UK, two things happened. First, she become interested in, and then obsessed with (for a time at least), food and fitness. As she worked to eat healthier, she quickly realized that plain-tasting, low-calorie options weren’t going to cut it. Not if she wanted to stick with a healthy eating plan. So, she started experimenting with healthy, tasty, clean recipes.
And second, as her healthy cooking skills got better and better, she wanted an easy way to share those recipes with her mum… who was still in the UK.
Her partner stepped in and set up a website to make recipe sharing easy.
At first Sal didn’t realize how many people, other than her mother, were visiting her site. When she noticed that she had traffic — and it was growing — she gave her site a name (The Fit Foodie) and a logo… and she never looked back.
Since then, Sal’s love of healthy food, inspired living, and beautiful photography has shifted from an obsession into a sustainable passion — one that earns her a six-figure income.
When I asked Sal about challenges she faced early on, she talked about her decision to invest in her website.
As her blog was just getting off the ground, it was exciting to see it was well received by her audience. She was writing to a specific audience — she was writing about what she enjoyed and the things that inspired her. It was amazing to see that her own interests and passions were shared by a growing group.
At the same time, she also received encouragement from her followers on Instagram (@thefitfoodieblog). She worked hard to develop her writing and recipe skills.
And she knew that she had to showcase those recipes in the best possible way. Which meant her blog needed to be a feast for the eyes. Sal noted, “Making the initial investment into branding and a beautiful website design was pivotal in my success, but I had to part with a chunk of money, not knowing if I would see my return.”
She looked at it in the same light as spending money on a hobby and invested in upgrading her website.
It grew and grew. She decided to enlist help in fully realizing the blog’s monetary potential. It was a breakthrough moment for her. “I approached a prestigious management agency and they sounded excited to work… Validation from someone experienced in the industry who specialized in monetizing what I do was amazing.”
For a blog to be successful, traffic is key. Sal has seen particularly good results with Pinterest — a good chunk of her traffic still comes from a handful of posts that have gone viral on the visual search engine — though she prefers the usability and inspiration on Instagram.
Sal also participates in interviews, does guest blogging, and shares recipes. These all contribute to stronger search engine rankings and more backlinks to her site.
Traffic alone isn’t enough. Developing deep connections with your audience is key. I asked Sal what her main methods were for keeping her visitors coming back. She answered, “I reply to everyone who sends me a personal message. It takes so much time, but it’s also forged amazing friendships for me both online and in real life.”
Sal has experimented with a lot of different ways to earn money from her blogs. She has sold e-books, paperback books, Lightroom presets, sponsored posts, and recipe development. For Sal, “the sponsored posts have been the most successful because the brands I work with have big budgets and their content is well aligned with my readers’ interests.”
Sal started her blog seven years ago, when the internet was a little less crowded. I asked her if it would be more difficult to start a blog today. She replied, “It is hard to cut through the noise in a crowded marketplace… but that being said, I think that shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone starting a blog. Everyone has their own take on the world, and the blog is the perfect place to share that.”
Sal lives that philosophy, letting her interests and personal experiences be the primary driver of her content rather than data or research.
“My only USP is my personality, so I have to use that to the best of my ability and express that wherever I can.”
When asked what she would go back and say to herself as she was just getting started, Sal had two bits of advice for her younger self:
- Say yes to everything and work it out later.
- YouTube will be your best friend for tutorials.
Her final advice to someone considering started a blog is this: “Just start and perfect as you go along. Work hard. Expect nothing but aim for everything. Blog on your passions, but not on fleeting interests. Share yourself and voice with the world.”
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 (This Article)
- Follow Your Passion – A Blogging Success Story with Carol Bryant
- Building the Life You Want – Holly Reisem Hanna’s Blogging Success Story
- From $700 a month to $3.5 million a year – Sarah Titus and Blogging Success