The first time I realized I had the “idea problem” was when I told a friend to email me the link to something he was talking about and he jokingly replied: “To which email account ‘Ms. I Have a Million Businesses Because I Can’t Make Up My Mind’?”
Burn 🔥. You know those people who want to discuss a “problem” they see in your life but they joke about it instead of addressing it? It hurts, because you realize they’re serious, but you look goofy AF defending yourself to a joke.
And believe me, I get the joke.
I’ll quickly lay out the basis of my “problem,” and then I’ll let you know why it’s not really a problem (and how you can avoid a few of my gaffes), then tell you how I finally accepted who I was as an entrepreneur and started making a full-time income through blogging.
See, the thing is . . . I love a lot of stuff. You too, huh? Is your story anything like mine (below)?
- I started using a computer regularly when I was four. And not a kiddie computer. An adult computer. Nowadays that’s not so strange, but in the 1980s, your parents might have had to save money for a year or more just to buy a computer. Thank you parentals for sacrificing for us. I love y’all.
- I learned C++, Basic, HTML, and Microsoft Access (strange, right?) before I was 13. I was my parents’ daughter (they were into computers 🤷🏽♀️), so there was no escaping my fate.
- Instead of enjoying my senior year of high school, in which I was done with classes at 11 a.m. and could spend the rest of the day working (at a shoe store in the mall) or goofing off (with friends in the mall), my dad made me take a Dreamweaver class, along with a video editing course, and a Fireworks course. This started my love of design and websites.
- I love to write. It used to be kiddie mystery stories (I’m pretty sure Nancy Drew was the inspiration at the time) and poetry about butterflies and whatnot.
- I’m obsessed with business. To quote the epic poet Rob Base, “I get stupid, I mean outrageous” when it comes to business. I studied business in school and managed a few businesses (was general manager for a large shoe company and office manager/trainer for a large car company).
- Entrepreneurship makes me happy on the inside. I love business ideas and business success stories. Whenever I had a regular job, I wanted to run away screaming from it (Every.Day.), within the first hour of walking through the door.
- I won’t even get into mentioning my love for books, nutrition, vegan food, sustainable farming practices, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, real estate and house flipping, interior design, etc.
So, yeah, I have a few passions: business, writing, design, teaching, and more. And I went on a very roundabout journey to get to where I am now.
I’m one of those 10-year overnight success stories. There was:
- My unnamed t-shirt business (2005): I printed designs on iron-on sheets (that I got from Walmart) then applied them to shirts
- Regina’s Cookie Jar (2007): Yeah, I can bake
- Cleaning business (2007 – 2008): Whatever, I hate germs, so I thought a cleaning business made sense
- My (then) unnamed consulting business (circa 2007 – present)
- Graphic design business #1 (2008 – 2010): I bought a used computer with Photoshop CS3 on it and decided I could start doing graphic design as a business, my best friend joined me
- Regina as a writer (2009 – present): USAToday.com, Entrepreneur.com, Houston Chronicle Online
- Graphic design + web design business #2 (2010 – 2011): rename of graphic design business #1
- A local Austin magazine (2011): Oh, you know, I’m not busy enough, let’s start a magazine
- Anjou Consulting (2011 – 2014): rename of graphic design business #2 (+ no longer working with a business partner)
- Regina as an instructor (2012 – present): Started teaching classes for the University of Texas Continuing Education program
- DaysAway (2013): I wanted to focus more on teaching so I started a site for my online classes
- byRegina (2014): Yeah, I finally decided to roll my consulting (Anjou Consulting), teaching (DaysAway), writing, and designing together under one brand, one name that made sense
Since making the hop to byRegina.com, I:
- lost some of my web traffic
- saw a decline in Google search results
- refocused my content (P.S. here’s a guide on 51 types of blog posts you can write if you want some content ideas)
- became consistent about my content plan
- let people’s questions direct my blog posts + classes + products
- regained my web traffic
- far surpassed what my web traffic had ever been, and
- started making a full-time income from my blog (using some of the revenue streams shared in this guide on 17 ways to make money blogging)
The image below to the left was a month or so after I started blogging on byRegina.com—April 2014. That was an all-time high for me, being ranked 461,920 globally and 62,292 in the U.S. 🎉
The picture below on the right is of my stats as of the end of last month—September 2014 💃🏽. You can check your stats for free at Alexa.com.
I want to share some tips on how to grow your blog traffic and make more income. And how I would do it if I had to do it over again, but first I want to say: It was not easy.
There are a few things I did, and thoughts I had, that helped me, and I’ll suggest them to you today (before we get into the other tips):
1. Get rid of stuff you don’t need.
I sold or gave away all my furniture, moved to a small place in a non-affluent neighborhood (that’s my nice way of putting it 🤷🏽♀️), cut cable and entertainment expenses, shopped wisely at the grocery store, and cut all the expenses I could possibly think of.
My life was not cluttered. I focused.
This may not be practical, or even wise, for you. So obviously, adjust accordingly. But it really helped me to not feel or be cluttered and to have one focus when it came to making my livelihood out of something I enjoyed doing.
2. The past is the past, but it can sure be useful.
Every single business idea I’ve had and pursued, every single blog or product I’ve dreamt up and planned, every word I’ve written . . . they’ve all led me to my current business.
In other words: You haven’t wasted your time. You have gained valuable knowledge.
If you need to forgive yourself, then do so, and don’t waste any more headspace on negativity, blame, or the feeling of disappointment in yourself.
Think of how all your experiences combine together.
Recognize that no other person has your exact combination of experiences, skills, and knowledge. Realize that you can therefore build a brand that NO ONE ELSE CAN BUILD.
3. Fortune favors the people who make the most out of what they have.
What I’m not going to do is insult your unique situation and story by making a blanket statement (that I see everywhere on the web 🙄) about how it’s time to stop making excuses.
I think that it’s gross, privileged, and ridiculous to assume that everyone who is not exactly like you is just lazy or making excuses.
Some of us have families, grueling jobs, multiple generations of people we’re taking care of, health conditions, mental and emotional situations, and so much more.
So, I’ll just say that for me, things started changing when I did as much as I could imagine with the tools and time I did have.
I wasn’t caught up by thoughts such as “Well, if I had as much time in the day as SoAndSo, then I could get [all this stuff] done.” or “If I just had [some new tool or software better than my janky old tools], I could do [so much more stuff].”
Focusing on any level of lack or negative never helped me move forward.
If all I had was 15 minutes some days, I used the 15 minutes. I learned to focus on the best things for me to focus on (the things I could control and show up for with a good attitude) and let the rest just be what it was.
4. Your readers + customers are just not that into you. Until they are.
Unnnnnfortunately, other people don’t wake up wondering how they can support us today. Desperately seeking every single way to make us happy: commenting on our posts, sharing our stuff, buying from us, spreading the buzz about us.
I don’t know why they don’t wake up with that in the forefront of their minds 🤷🏽♀️, but they don’t 🤦🏽♀️. However, [think of a real life romantic relationship here] after you spend enough time caring for the needs of the other person (your reader), that person eventually will be “into you” and wonder what they can do to support you.
If you keep creating content that really inspires, entertains, or helps people, they will WANT to share it. It will become an honor and a pleasure to spread your blog around.
5. Make sure you’re building something you’re proud of. Build your “you brand.”
If you find it (1) hard to explain your business idea, (2) embarrassing to present your business card or blog to others, (3) hard to think of content ideas, or (4) difficult to stay focused on your business, then it is very likely you haven’t developed your “you brand” yet.
Your “you brand” makes sense, clicks, works, gets you excited, takes more work than you imagined, is more fun than you imagined, and combines a lot of your interests into one place.
Stop trying to break your passions down into different brands and split your time between the brands when you’re just starting out.
Take the sneaky-smart approach to building your “you brand” instead.
Consider starting with one or two topics/things you do really well and that don’t bore you even after talking about them for hours.
Build up content and products around those initial things while sprinkling in mentions and references to your other interests. If you execute on one thing really well, there will be room to expand into the other things (or start new businesses when the first one is stable).
6. Spend 3 months pretending quality content is your only job. Your only purpose in (business) life.
The lovely Susannah of Feast + West shared with me that she spent 30 – 35 hours over a couple months creating a free eBook for people who sign up for her email list.
I’ll repeat. She spent 35 hours on a free piece of content.
But, it is quite literally one of the most beautiful, and useful documents I’ve ever seen.
Spend time on each piece you create as if it’s the one piece that will create an impression in readers’ minds.
If you spend whatever time you can spare over a 90-day period devoted to content (examples: blog posts, freebies, an eBook you can give away, etc.), and you’re creating the best content you can during that time . . . you will most likely get an amazing return on that investment.
As you release more and more helpful content, and take the time to find and connect with your potential readers online, you’ll find that people are all to happy to share your content for you.
How would you like to struggle just to keep up with all the “thank you” DMs, tweets, and emails? How would you like to have people spread your message for you?
They gladly will when you give them the type of content that spurs them into action. The type of content that likely takes you hours, days, or weeks to put together.
Spend time on your content with the thought: “This is the first piece someone might see of mine. This might be the only piece someone sees from me unless I make it informative/wonderful/entertaining.”
My most pinned + visited pieces are all pieces that took me 10+ hours to create. Your brand may not require posts that are as long, or it may, but the point is really about the value you build in.
Part of “my story” is spending many nights blogging until 5 or 6:30 or 7 a.m., then taking a nap, and getting back up at 8 or 9 to start my day of meeting with clients and creating more content.
Part of my story is finishing a post then spending two hours finding the right image and another 30 minutes creating the graphic for the post. I can’t count the number of evenings over the last six months that I didn’t sleep at all or that I barely slept.
I’m not saying this to scare you (or imply you have to set your schedule up the same way), I’m saying this because it is a part of who I am, a part of my story, a part of my brand, and a part of what I love to do so I can communicate with you.
7. Make an actual plan. The kind that’s written down.
All those other major life things that worked out without a plan. What were those again? Write a blog business plan, or a freelance business plan, or whatever you need to actually direct you and keep you on track.
8. You’ll have to act before you feel ready. And choose the scary stuff.
I’ve launched more products, concepts, ideas, and pitches that I wasn’t sure of than ones I have been.
In fact, I’m pretty much afraid of launching almost everything I’ve launched: Will it be useful? Will people like it? Is it helping? Is it pretty enough? Are people tired of me?
If you wait until you feel “ready” . . . until you’re sure of something, it will never get done.
9. Realize luck is imaginary.
“Luck” is usually the word people use to explain why they’re not getting the opportunities they see come your way. Yup, I’ve assumed that before, and I think it was lazy of me.
It’s more than a bit ridiculous to explain away someone’s hard work + preparation with such a flimsy word. Luck is imaginary. If you ever want to insult an entrepreneur, tell them about how lucky they are to have done what they did.
The one word others throw around too much that belittles how hard I know you work: LUCK. If they only knew how many work hours “luck” took.
— Regina Anaejionu (@byReginaTV) August 30, 2014
And now for some steps/concepts to help you grow your business.
Each of these is probably a post of its own, but below are the top 10 things I used to build a brand that makes a full-time blogging income, and they’re what I’d recommend to you.
How to Build a Profitable Blog
- Lots of quality free stuff (blog posts, downloads, and resources that truly help or entertain your audience)
- Multiple revenue streams (classes, affiliates, downloads, ads, memberships, etc.—here are 17 ideas of how to monetize your blog)
- A well maintained email list (not only is it a way to connect more deeply, but it has serious sales potential)
- A recognizable + attractive brand identity (I’d say it’s impossible to stand out without this—the marketplace is crowded)
- A true understanding of your audience (get to know your readers so you will know what to write for them + how to attract them)
- A maintained social media presence (your audience will want to connect in their preferred format, so be available)
- A simple services/products page (with an easy-to-use mobile checkout system)
- Quality imagery (because not only will you keep people on your blog longer, but Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook will be more effective for your brand with high-quality images)
- A tailored tone (that works for your audience, makes them comfortable, and inspires them to action)
- Quality responses (to blog comments, on social media platforms, and to any emails or other contact; this is invaluable for gaining clients and increasing social sharing)
Now that you know almost everything there is to know about my business history (sorry not sorry for the long post) and tips for getting started . . . do you have any specific questions?
If you already got started, or have been doing this work for a while now, what would you tell your past self or anyone who hasn’t started yet but wants so?
Photo of me: (c) Drew Elaine Photography