This morning, we're talking to Anne, who has a famous gift blog, Unique Gifter, and a new money blog, Money Propeller. She's motivated, and motivating. Learn how she keeps everything together. Her system should be studied and replicated.
What's your elevator pitch?
Have you ever received a gift of cash and thought, “man, what a crappy gift!”
I didn't think so.
I write to encourage people to give awesome, personalized gifts, that people actually want, by providing all sorts of ideas. Yes, that includes cash gifts, with creative twists. Now, I am also branching out to write about all things money, on the money management end of things, instead of the money gift giving end, with my latest site Money Propeller.
When did you start blogging? What made you start?
I started reading a bunch of personal finance blogs in late 2011 and early 2012. After wedding planning, I felt like I all of a sudden had a ton of time on my hands, and apparently that is how I chose to fill it up. The more I read, the more I heard people mention that they were making a bit of money from this whole blogging thing.
I wanted in on that action, but I had a problem. My finances were boooooring. Sure, I could write a few posts, but dozens and dozens? I didn't think I could come up with enough content. Thankfully, another idea came to light.
My brother was engaged and I was having way, way too much fun coming up with wedding gift ideas for him and his future spouse. I also, naively, thought that it would be super simple to start earning revenue from a gifts site. So, in May of 2012, I started Unique Gifter. At the very least, I would fill a void that I saw online, there were very few resources out there for gift giving ideas at the time.
How long before you made your first dollar? Do you remember what it felt like when that first payment went through?
Like I said, I naively believed that I would be able to generate some internet income, no-problem. Four months after I started, I finally brought home some proverbial bacon, in September 2012. After receiving that payment, I went through another bacon dry-spell that lasted several months.
Receiving that money was probably the encouragement that I needed to keep at it and not let my interest wane. It was like a huge “thank you for writing” of sorts, even though it was paid advertising for something unrelated to gift giving. Finally, I had real dollars, that I could turn around and save or spend, all for writing and promoting my own work.
How many blogs do you have? Did your first idea “stick” or is your current site some different version of your original idea?
I have two active blogs at the moment, but I own five or six domain names, and constantly have more ideas. I guess you could say that my latest site is my original original idea (personal finance), and my first site is still the same type of content as when I started. My different and new ideas take the form of completely new concepts (see: I own multiple domain names).
What are you working on now?
Right now, I am in the early stages of building a cloud app for bloggers. It is a rather exciting project, that I never, ever would have envisioned two years ago. Stay tuned to For Profit Blogging to find out more about it in the coming months.
Do you make a part-time living online? A full-time living?
Not even close to a part-time living. I am on track to crack into the five digits for the first time ever this year. Trickles can turn into streams, though, and this is all money earned from utilizing my spare time. For me, my online income is “fun money” that I can choose to spend or save however I please.
Can you break down your income into categories?
The lion’s share of my online income comes from affiliate earnings, specifically from Amazon, with a few dollars here and there from other affiliates. Doing some very rough estimate math for so far this year, my income is split the following ways: 46% affiliate, 34% sponsored content and direct advertising, 22% freelance writing, 5% CPC/RPM advertising. (Oh look, I make 107% income! I divided gross revenues by net blog income, so I haven’t accounted for all of my blog expenses in these percentages, but they show a rough split.)
I also have received free products, in exchange for reviews, and I don’t have a dollar value on those. (Of note, if you live in the US, you need to have this info for your taxes. In Canada, freebies are treated differently.)
What other ways have you made money? Writing for others, organizing for others, etc?
I stumbled into some freelance writing this year and it has been lots of fun, as the topics are well outside of what I normally write about, which keeps things interesting and challenging. So far, that is the only thing I have done outside of my own blog, but I have plans to write a book, launch an app, and generally take over the internet. 😉
How long before you started taking “this whole blogging thing” seriously?
I am not sure that I truly do? I am a fairly organized and strategic person, but I also tend to pay a lot of lip service to my ideas and don’t fully execute on them. That said, one of the tricky things about blogging is that there is always, always, more that you could be doing.
For the past six months or so, I have stepped up my game on the blogging front, thinking about which topics to cover when, actively seeking out new affiliate programs, hiring a virtual assistant, and coming up with systems for a lot of things.
If you had it all to do over again, what would you change? Anything?
I would be more organized from the get-go, more strategic. Now that I have been writing for two years, I know that I like to write in spurts. When I first started, if I had lots of ideas and wrote them, I would publish them all in a week or two. Now, I try to schedule way out in advance. If I have an idea for a post that needs to go up at a certain time, such as a valentine’s day post, I will either add in bonus posts during that time, or move a less-seasonal post out and replace it with the topical one.
This way, I can take advantage of the times I feel in the zone for writing, and not stress that I don’t have content, when the weeks and weeks of no-ideas happen. It also frees up my time to promote content, network and get to know other bloggers.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
Write down all of your ideas! When you first start, chances are good your brain is overflowing with ideas, but as time goes on, you will have fewer.
Write down all of your ideas!
You might never write them, but you may do a spin off, or come back to the topic in a year, or two, or three.
Then, just start writing.
There are a variety of ways bloggers can monetize. Which do you recommend? Which would you advise beginners to stay away from?
I like affiliate programs, myself. As long as you can maintain the traffic flow, affiliate links will continue to trickle. If you are relying solely on direct advertising, CPC/RPM, or sponsored posts, you’re 100% at the mercy of your advertisers and their budgets. Yes, affiliate programs change, but they can be much more consistent and you are in control of how much you promote them.
I would advise beginners to stay away from taking every single link and sponsored post that comes your way. If it feels icky to you, say no.
If it’s way too far out of your niche, you will alienate your audience, so say no. If your audience is coming to read about rainbow sparkle unicorns, and you give them scary sea monster content, you’re going to send them running for the hills with a bad taste in their mouths.
Name one thing bloggers do when they're beginners that you feel they shouldn't do.
Leaving out details in their posts. I am guilty of this in all writing, and definitely so when I started blogging. What I mean is that I write straight to the point, without providing any context, or spelling out the details. I have a post where I basically say “hey, buy someone an engraved cutting board for their wedding.” It isn’t clear enough and plain doesn’t have enough words in it. It doesn’t tie in a story, or provide a good reason why someone should do it.
Part of the reason you should avoid this is it is horrible for SEO, and because it’s a jilted writing style that audiences don’t particularly like. When you are just starting out, you don’t have much of an audience, other than your mother, so you need to bring them into your head and up to speed with all of the details. You can’t just assume they are following your jumps in logic and finding it to be useful.