Who are you and how did you get started in blogging?
Hello! My name is Lisa Tanner. I blog over at LisaTannerWriting.com. I love helping busy mamas find time for their business while raising a family. My niche is time management and work from home tips for mompreneurs.
Through services, affiliate marketing, and products of my own, I’ve been making money from my blog since 2015 – while also homeschooling nine kids. Life can be crazy, but if you develop a plan and take consistent baby steps, I truly believe that anyone can earn money from a blog!
What’s the backstory of your blog and how did you choose the niche?
I left teaching several years ago to homeschool my kids. But, our budget took a huge hit without my income, and we were well below the poverty line. I didn’t want to go back to the classroom, so I started researching ways to make money online. I stumbled across freelance writing, and got started. Soon, I had earned enough to cash flow my website. It started as a way for me to get samples for my writing business.
But, everyone I connected with on social media had the same question for me – how in the world do you find time to write when you have so many kids? So, I started writing occasional posts about balancing diapers and deadlines. I loved it! It was a natural fit for me, as streamlining, being intentional, and prioritizing are everyday occurrences around here.
My niche allows me to connect my knowledge and experience about growing a successful freelance business as a busy mom, with the time management strategies that make it possible. Though we are still considered low income, my blog has dramatically changed our financial picture. We are now nearly out of debt, and have been able to do more traveling with the family.
Describe the process of launching your blog/site and getting it off the ground.
I had been using a free Blogger blog as a way to keep in touch with friends and family for a couple of years when I launched my writing business. But, I knew a free site wasn’t going to be professional enough to use for my freelance writing portfolio.
So, I started saving money from my writing gigs until I had enough. Then I purchased my domain and started getting things ready. Since I wanted to move my other blog over to WordPress as well, I started with a hosting plan that let you have multiple sites. My total costs for hosting the first year were around $80 with the privacy option.
I also rented a PO box for a year, to avoid plastering my personal address all over the internet while applying for gigs. That runs me just under $50/year, but saved me a ton in peace of mind.
My first blog readers were potential freelance clients I reached out to looking for gigs. Then I got connected with some other writers on Facebook. I used Facebook Groups to help bring some initial traffic.
After about a year of blogging from the mindset of – this is my portfolio site – I realized that I was helping other moms at the same time. It was then I had the lightbulb moment to start monetizing my blog with something other than services. So, I started shifting my content, focusing on who I could help, and finding my tribe.
My first blogging income was from affiliate sales, and it occurred about a week after I went back through my old posts and started optimizing them. When I got an email from the affiliate program congratulating me on my first sale, I was over the moon! I was way more excited about that $25 than I was about my latest good paying freelance writing gig.
The biggest lessons I learned through all of this are:
- Just start. You will probably change down the road, and that’s okay. Do not wait until you have the “perfect” plan.
- It’s never too late to go back and monetize old content
- Diversifying your income streams is a great idea!
How do you create revenue on your blog?
I have three main income streams on my blog. My primary one is still services – though I’ve moved from strictly freelance writing to also offer coaching for mompreneurs and virtual assistance to bloggers. I think this is the fastest way to bring a steady income while you’re waiting on other streams to take off. You can market it on social media and harness the power of referrals.
Affiliate marketing is another money maker for me. I have grown so much in this area from when I started. You can’t just throw in a random link and call it good. You may get lucky and get a sale or two (like my very first sale!), but until you start being purposeful with your marketing, you won’t see consistent results. Have a plan for your content, and provide value for your readers. My favorite affiliate programs for my niche are Horkey Handbook (her freelance writing course in particular) and Ultimate Bundles (I prefer their evergreen sales to their 2 or 5 day ones).
Finally, I make some income from my products, a course and an ebook. I created my course way back in 2016. But, I didn’t do anything with it then except slap up a bare-bones sales page. You can’t have the “build it and they will come” attitude. You must be intentional. Put time and effort into your sales page. Get someone else to look it over for you, and pay to have a graphic created. When I tried to DIY everything, I flopped big time.
What are the strategies you use to build and grow traffic to your blog?
Here’s a big picture view of my traffic from when I started my blog in September 2015 to the present. My traffic has never been spectacular – well except for that one day. Can you guess when I had a guest post go live on Money Saving Mom? 😀
But, I am slowly growing, and since I don’t spend a ton of time or money on marketing, I am okay with where I am. The very best way I’ve found to grow traffic is to guest post on bigger blogs with an overlapping audience. But, you have to do it the right way. I had a ton of traffic from a post I wrote in the summer of 2017. It lead to a ton of clicks back to my site. But, I didn’t even think about how to keep those readers. And as you can tell by my stats, I didn’t They came and saw and left.
That was a huge learning experience for me. I learned that I really need to target my guest posts differently. Instead of just writing them for the sake of a little bit of traffic or a backlink, I need to write them with purpose. How can the reader over there benefit when they come over here? Think about changing the link in your bio to point to a specific similar post. Or to a special landing page thanking them for visiting and sharing some of your closely related articles for them to get started. Do something to make them stick around.
Facebook Groups are another consistent source of traffic for me, and I appreciate the community feeling. Sometimes you feel alone when you’re sitting in you house writing and connecting with other bloggers has been important in my journey.
SEO is so important, and I didn’t even realize it until partway through 2018. Thankfully, Google likes aged content. So going back and optimizing my older posts is helping. I recently hired someone to help me with this area, because keywords are not my speciality. I always felt like I was spinning my wheels trying to research, and it just frustrated me.
Finally, Pinterest is consistently my top referrer. And that’s saying something since I used to make really ugly pins. It’s definitely worth paying for some solid templates that will resonate with your audience. Remember that Pinterest is a search engine, so optimize your pins with keywords.
How do you grow your email list?
Growing an email list wasn’t on my radar until about two years into my blogging journey. Then I realized the importance of it and went out and spent $1000 I didn’t have on a big name course. I hated it. The strategies felt spammy to me, and I wanted genuine readers, not just a fluff number.
So I started doing things differently. The folks at Ultimate Bundles approached me and asked to include my Balancing Diapers and Deadlines course in a bundle. I said sure. And within two months of that big sale, my list had grown to nearly 1000.
But, I don’t want numbers just to have numbers. So I actively delete cold subscribers. I’d much rather have a smaller, engaged list than a large one that sends me straight to the trash bin.
I’ve had my course in two different bundles, and those were the biggest driver for my email list. But, I’ve also had success with opt-ins. I learned the hard way that you really need to take time to make these look pretty. If that’s not your thing, hire someone. My results have gone way up since I found a designer to make things pretty.
Finally, be consistent with connecting to your list. Make it a habit to email your list on a specific day. Have a plan for what you want to say. And work on building that relationship. Subscribers are my biggest source of repeat traffic, so I want to keep them around.
How do you write content that performs well and readers love?
I love creating content! I always keep a list of ideas. My kids help me brainstorm post ideas, they have great insight, and I love the different way they look at things. I’ll read through old posts and think about what I’ve missed.
Then I write. At first, I tried too hard to copy the writing style of bloggers I admired. That way really, really hard. I’m not them, and my voice is different. Learn to write like you talk and your posts won’t take nearly as long to create.
I have hired guest bloggers to create content when I wanted a baby blogging break after my eighth and ninth kiddos were born. I just emailed the details to my list and found four people each time.
For busy moms, learning to write in the noise is crucial. Interruptions happens. When I try to get up really early, my kids do too. And I”m not a night owl so staying up late didn’t work so well. Now, I just create content around my busy life, instead of trying to keep the writing and the family separate.
Figure out when you are in the zone, and build habits and routines around that time. We do a Family Writing Time each morning, and this practice gave me an extra 2.5 hours a week to write when I’m really productive.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to start and grow your blog?
Time has been my biggest obstacle. I’m a homeschooling mom with nine kids and there are only so many hours in the day. It took learning to create the perfect routine based schedule for my family. Streamlining has also been essential. We have an annual meal plan so I never have to think about what to cook. Free up your brain from all the little decisions!
I also have dealt with imposter syndrome and fear of success. Going back and reading my old posts and seeing the value in them has helped me with the imposter syndrome. So has learning to embrace my own voice. Each of us brings something new to the table, and you have to recognize that you will never be that other blogger over there. Do not get stuck making comparisons, because then you will never move forward.
Fear of success has been harder for me to overcome. I recently realized I have many limiting beliefs when it comes to how much traffic I can get, or how much I can generate from my blog. Communication has been essential in helping me move past these thoughts. Find a community with other like-minded bloggers and purposefully make connections. You can’t do this alone!
What lessons have you learned in the process of building your blog?
Blogging has truly been a life-changing experience for me. I’ve learned that my words have value, and that I can help others in a meaningful way. As an introverted homebody, joining a mastermind was one of the best decisions I ever made. It pushes me out of my comfort zone in a good way and inspires me.
I learned the hard way that you have to be super clear on your target audience. You cannot be all things to everyone. If you try, you will have no readers. Figure out who your people are, and what you want to say to them. Write directly to your reader. And never, ever take on a sponsored post/advertising/anything like that if it doesn’t resonate with your target audience. They should be at the forefront of every single decision you make.
Also, realize that you are not great at everything. As much as I didn’t want to pay for themes or design help, I realize now that having an ugly blog for so long really set me back. Visuals matter, so if it’s not your thing pay for help.
What platform/tools do you use for your blog?
I’m on WordPress, hosted with FastComet. I use ConvertKit for list building. I have a beautiful theme and some landing page templates from Bluchic. I’m starting to create pages with Elementor, and am loving the results.
As far as social media goes, I’m learning to use Tailwind for Pinterest. I create pins primarily in Canva, using templates I purchased from Full Circle Digital.
For SEO, I have Yoast installed. I use Pinterest for keyword research, and recently paid for help in this area. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of that investment.
What have been the most influential people, books, podcasts, courses, or other resources?
The book Finish by Jon Acuff really helped me see the problems with seeking perfection, and helped me to realize the importance of setting realistic goals. Gina Horkey over at Horkey Handbook definitely inspired me, especially early in my journey of building a service based blog.
I love Elna Cain’s Blogging for Traffic course, and learned a lot, especially about guest posting and increasing posting frequency for a time. I’m in Crystal Paine’s new blogging mastermind group, and the value there is tremendous.
There is definite value in in-person networking, and attending a conference is on my list for 2020.
Advice you can give other bloggers/entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Do not try to copy what’s working for other people. Instead, figure out what your audience wants and deliver it to them. Make your tribe your focus instead of wasting time doing something just because an expert says to. Be authentically you. Sometimes going against the digital marketing tidal wave can be the thing that works out the best.
Have a way for people to easily share your posts. It took a mentor checking out my blog and pointing this out before I realized it. Make it easy or people won’t do it.
Finally, don’t put profits before people. Disclose your relationship with companies and don’t take on something just because of the money. If it’s not a good fit with your audience, it will not be a good move in the long run.
Where can we go to learn more?