Most of us start a blog to have a creative outlet, to connect with others, and to make some money on the side.
That first 1K is a big milestone.
It could go towards savings for a significant expense or investment. It could also make a difference in the decisions you make for your family.
But based on a couple of stats I came across, only 5% of bloggers make a full-time income with their blog. Majority hardly make any money at all.
It is harder than it looks to hit that significant milestone. Often, it’s the foundational steps that make a difference and determine how soon we hit that milestone.
In this post, I outline the exact steps I took to make my first 1K blogging and also highlight some mistakes I made along the way.
Need help with the starter aspects of starting a blog? Grab the Blog Zero Cheat sheet below with 5 quick hacks to make naming your site effortless, a checklist to see if your domain will run into legal issues in future essential plugins cheatsheet as well as a step-by-step tutorial to get your hosting set-up.
*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.
Here’s an overview of the steps and the entire process. You can open the image in a new tab or download it from dropbox here
#1 Get your own domain with a good host
This is the first step so that your site grows with you and you don’t end up having to deal with it being down at unexpected times or have ridiculously slow speeds.
When I first started my blog, I signed up with Bluehost as do most new bloggers. In this post, I talk about why I switched from Bluehost to Siteground and outline the entire transfer process. If you’re on Blogger or WordPress.com, it’s easy to get your site transferred for free via Siteground too.
#2 Invest in a responsive theme
I have blogging friends who started with a free theme and moved on to a paid one. What I hear from most of them is that in the long run, a free theme starts to cost you more in terms of the problems it gives.
Lack of widget areas, site speed and security concerns are just a few of the issues that come with free themes.
Here are a few other options:
- Pretty Darn Cute Designs
- Elegant Themes and Thrive are other options that have simple to use, drag and drop builders at an affordable price
Determine your blog markers – 5W1H
#3 What do you blog about?
If you intend to monetize your blog, you need to serve a reader. Your blog can still be filled with your personal stories, failures, and successes but they need to have a takeaway for your reader.
You don’t have to be an expert.
You don’t need 5 years of blogging experience.
You only need to be a few steps ahead of your target audience and help them bridge the gap to that place you are at right now.
You also need to have the passion and interest to research and learn more about the topics in your niche.
Do you see that sweet spot there in the picture? Your blog should be an intersection of your passions and interests, what people need help with and your core skill set.
#4 Determine who your ideal reader is?
To get a deep picture of who your audience is and what they want, you need to:
1. Research your ideal reader
2. Create a persona based on that research.
Here are some questions you need to answer:
- Male or female?
- Age range
- Single or married?
- Kids or no kids
- What are they frustrated with?
- What worries do they have?
- What do they want to achieve in the next 3 years?
- What websites do they frequent?
- What media does she consume?
There are also the motivational factors:
- What do they desire, want and aspire to?
- What are their fears, frustrations, and challenges?
Taken together, these questions will help you understand at a deeper level the type of person you want to attract and influence.
Your ideal reader could very well be you a few years earlier. What were you looking for?
When you start out, this person could very well be fictional. But start writing for ‘her’ and when your audience grows bigger you’ll get greater clarity on who this person is and your profile will change and shift accordingly.
#5 Why are you blogging?
Besides money, your blog has to have a greater purpose.
Your content is the hub that has to bring people to your blog before you can monetize it.
Your content has to educate, entertain, inspire, teach or help them in some way.
This is where your value proposition or blog purpose has to come in. It forms the basis for every single email, video, image, blog post or product you create. If something doesn’t fit in here, it goes out.
#6 What do you want to be known for?
It’s important to think about your brand in the online space. How different are you from the thousands of blogs online and what do you want to be known for?
Here are some questions to think about?:
- What does your blog business believe in?
- If you were a blogging personality, who would you be?
- You would never want to be seen as ____________
- You would never want your content to be ______________
- How would you describe your writing?
- What words would describe your blog?
- What feelings do you want your brand to evoke?
These questions will help you form your identity and the other pieces that make up your brand, such as your logo, imagery, and colors.
#7 Create cornerstone content pieces + pages
Determine your blog categories and create cornerstone content pieces. Cornerstone pieces are those you would find on a ‘start here’ page. These are posts that answer questions majority of your audience have trouble with.
Also have a few critical pages set-up on your blog. These pages are:
- A ‘Contact Me’ page
- An ‘About me’ or ‘Start here’ page
- A resources page with your favorite tools. Resource pages are a great way to earn affiliate income from your blog when you’re brand new
#8 Sign-up with an email service provider
There are plenty of email service provider options.
Sign up with one of them from the start. Here are my considerations for signing up with Convertkit vs Mailchimp when I was making $0 on my blog.
#9 Determine how you will grow your audience?
Without an audience your blog doesn’t exist, unless you’re blogging as a hobby.
There are 3 key questions you need to answer:
How are you going to get this audience?
You could borrow someone else’s platforms and get in front of their audience through guest posting.
This is the strategy I used very early on.
Your strategy could be running ads or promoting on social media. The idea is to capture this audience into your ‘home base’ so that you can nurture a relationship with them
Focus on 1-2 platforms that are aligned with your ideal reader. It’s impossible to have a solid presence on every platform. You will end up spreading yourself too thinly.
Determine what will be your ‘home base’
My blog and email are my home base. Yours could be a Facebook group where you’re heavily engaged. That could be your home base.
What medium(s) will you use to build trust and give value?
I used email and blog content to build trust. Periscopes and free webinars are also possible mediums.
That said, remember that you shouldn’t rely on social media to build trust. If Periscope closes shop or Facebook decides to change its algorithm, the huge audiences you have built on these platforms vanishes in an instant.
You need to get this audience back to your home base. And you don’t own anything other than your blog and email list.
#10 Capture traffic and convert them to subscribers
Have a system of capturing traffic and converting them to subscribers.
Readers are getting used to seeing opt-in forms in all the usual places that you need to work extra hard to catch their attention.
Make your site as sticky as possible. You want your readers to be on your site long enough. You want them clicking around to find more of your valuable content so that they turn into a subscriber.
Here are some things you can try:
- Use a related-post plugin like Zemanta or UpPrev. I have both on my site.
- Add opt-in forms to your site using plugins like Bloom from Elegant Themes, Thrive Leads , or pop-up ally. I recently came across Rapidology which is a free WordPress plugin similar to Bloom as well. You can consider adding opt-in forms to your
- Top bar
- Below your posts
- Content upgrades
- Exit intent pop-ups
- Make it ridiculously easy to share your posts. I use Social Warfare and this allows you to show the right images for the major social media platforms.
#11 Set up a nurturing welcome email/series
Once you’ve captured subscribers, create a plan for how you’re going to nurture your subscribers
My welcome email series was a game changer for me and one of the best decisions I made.
A single welcome email just doesn’t cut it anymore.
What you want to do is offer a series of 3-5 emails when subscribers just sign up and are most engaged with your brand. In this post, I have a template and quick tips on how to craft your welcome email series.
#12 Have a plan for your subscribers
There has to be a bigger incentive to stay on your list than purely receiving blog post notifications. If you’re looking for ideas, I have 16 different types of emails you can send in this post.
Determine what types of emails you want to send
Plan out your email marketing calendar
- Monthly Themes: If your blog content follows themes, your email content can complement these themes as well. For instance, if you write about a particular topic for the whole of the February, your emails can do the same so that they lead to your posts.
- Launches: If you’re launching courses, services or products during certain periods of the year, block your email calendar so that your audience receives launch specific content.
- Weekly themes: You could also have each week of the month with a slightly different email content. You could have each week of the month with a different theme which rotates through month after month.
#13 Offer a sign-up incentive or opt-in freebie on a landing page
There’s more to an opt-in freebie than offering something that addresses your target audience’s pain points.
Your opt-in also has to:
- Tie in with your blog strategy or what you want to be known for
- Act as a primer for a related product or service that you may be potentially offering
- Be easily consumable
- Be housed on a landing page
Or sign-up for my Opt-in mini-course below.
#14 Invest in good tools
In this post, I talk about 10 of my favourite blogging investments.
But how do you decide what to invest in? Here are some considerations:
- Will it move your blog + business forward?
- Convertkit, for instance, makes it really easy for me to offer multiple content upgrades, email courses, and opt-in freebies. It is an instrumental part of my list building success.
- Will it save you time?
- Do you need it right now?
- Will this move the needle for your blog + business right now? Or is a shiny object that just looks good? I ask this questions especially when it comes to investing in courses. If a course is not what I need right now, I don’t buy it.
- Is there a deal or special discount?
- Is there a recurring fee?
- When I was considering a landing page tool, the two options I had were lead pages and Thrive landing pages. Lead pages has a recurring fee whereas Thrive is a one-time flat fee. As much as possible, I try to avoid adding a recurring fee to my monthly blog expenditure. $67 one time fee versus $67 monthly fee adds up to a huge difference.
#14 Set blogging goals you can achieve
These are the 5 steps I take to plan and set goals.
- Identify your blogging stage
- Identify you Stage milestones
- Set quarterly goals
- Lay out the growth tasks or actions
- Put them together in a calendar
Your blogging stage plays a huge role in determining the types of tasks and goals you should focus on.
When you break down the entire blogging journey into stages, it keeps you from feeling overwhelmed and puts your focus on the most immediate milestones at hand.
You also want to break down your goals into actions you can directly influence so that you are not bound by metrics such as follower numbers or traffic.
#15 Market yourself, your posts, and your blog
Most of the time, when we are so engrossed in our blog and struggle to keep afloat with social media and producing content, marketing is the one that takes a back seat. When I talk about marketing, I’m not just talking about scheduling your posts on social media or posting in Facebook groups.
These tasks usually involve pitching your services to another party or getting in touch with someone to build a relationship.
Here are some other marketing or promotional activities:
- Pitching a sponsored post
- Pitching a guest post
- Pitching a podcast
- Offering suggestions to influencers
- Offering to teach someone’s audience for free
- Gaining visibility in popular Facebook groups
I have a list of 50+ promotional tasks you can do in this ebook
#16 Learn the Pinterest ropes
I’d recommend Pinterest and 1 other social media platform when you’re starting out.
Pinterest can be overwhelming if you have not used it before. There’s also tons of conflicting information and advice about the platform.
Here are some quick steps to take:
- Invest in a good Pinterest Course. I recommend Pinning Perfect and Pinterest to Profits.
- Experiment with pins to find a few styles that work for you
- When you have few posts, and your volume of pins is low, make multiple pins per post and even for pages
#17 Use Affiliate Marketing from Day 1
I neglected affiliate marketing till a couple of months back. This is something I could have focused on from Day 1.
I made $1000 in affiliate marketing last month and I owe much of it to this course I took by Michelle of Making Sense of Cents. I interviewed her 2 months back and she says that one of the biggest myths bloggers have is thinking you need a huge following or traffic to make some affiliate income.
Here are some quick steps to take:
- Identify a few products that you use and love
- Identify products that your target audience will use as well
- Sign-up for affiliate programs and networks. Check out this post I wrote with links to several of them.
- Write tutorials, reviews, and ‘how-to’s about the affiliate product. These are blog posts that will directly earn you money
#18 Put in place a system to get testimonials
Once you’ve received your first few testimonials, make sure to add these to your landing pages and opt-in forms.
Social proof can work wonders towards boosting your sign-ups.
#19 Analyze your content + Survey your audience
As certain pieces of content start to gain more traction than others, think about your positioning.
Are you being ‘known’ for a particular type of content? Do your readers come to you asking certain types of questions?
At this point, you would have also grown a small sized audience and if you’ve made the effort to nurture them, you would have gained their trust. Now is a great time to survey them.
Use a free tool like Typeform to conduct your survey.
#20 Put something out before you feel ready to
Aim to add two revenue streams at least. Affiliate marketing, your first product or start offering a service.
If you’re thinking of creating your first info product, here are 11 considerations.
In a nutshell, the product you create has to hit at a problem.
It also has to be a topic that you’re familiar with and enjoy talking about.
One way to validate your idea is to give away a freebie related to the problem your product is trying to solve.
When you give a short email course for free or a cheat sheet/workbook, you get to test the viability of your product idea depending on your audience’s reaction to it.
You could also write a series of blog posts to gauge interest.
#21 Test and review
Put in place a system to segment or tag subscribers as your list starts to grow more.
Keep track of your tasks and results. Determine your 80/20.
Analyze what tasks or projects help you make a greater impact for lesser time and effort. This impact is not necessarily just monetary impact. But impact in terms of community and influence as well.
Start a blog that’s worth driving traffic to
Anyone with a laptop and internet connection can start an online business within minutes.
Your competitors are not just in the dozens but in the thousands.
Build a strong foundation and work your way towards your monetary goals.
But remember that building a blog that’s worth driving traffic to and earning consistently from it takes time.
Need help with the starter aspects of starting a blog, grab the Blog Zero Cheat sheet below with 5 quick hacks to make naming your site effortless, a checklist to see if you domain will run into legal issues in future essential plugins cheatsheet as well as step-by-step tutorial to get your hosting.