It’s so frustrating when you read articles claiming overnight success with their blogs just to get clicks to their website. Here’s the raw, honest truth about what you need to know before you start a blog and how we REALLY went from zero to a five-figure launch in just six months.
As bloggers, we often use search engines like Pinterest, YouTube, and Google.
We’re always adding content to Pinterest and Tailwind to boost our blog posts’ traffic. We reference YouTube and Google regularly for popular keywords to spark new content ideas.
We even search for things to learn more about, so we’re constantly providing up-to-date information for our own readers!
But there’s one thing we simply don’t do. In fact, we NEVER did, even when we were starting this Simplifying DIY Design journey.
Don’t forget our FREE Product Creators Quickstart Kit! You’ll get a checklist, cheatsheet, and Canva design template to help you nail your launch!
We don’t spend any time reading posts about “How I Get 50k Pageviews After 3 Months with No Experience!”
We don’t read “How to Start a Blog in Under 5 Minutes.” And we definitely skip right over “How I Got 1k Subscribers My First Month Blogging!”
REMEMBER THIS POST LATER! PIN IT TO YOUR FAVORITE PINTEREST BOARD! ⬇
If there’s one thing that makes our blood boil, it’s when people make online business seem fast, easy, and free.
Business isn’t supposed to be quick and easy. Unfortunately, people write these blog posts because it gets others to click. This is also known as clickbait.
What’s ‘clickbait,’ you ask?
According to Merriam-Webster, clickbait refers to “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest”
We can’t tell you how many times our readers have expressed frustration about how blogging was much harder than they thought. And we totally agree!
Most who aren’t familiar with the stark reality of blogging think they can write nonsense about THEIR life, and the masses would come.
All they have to do is slap up a few ads, and poof! They replaced their full-time income in a few months.
To be fair, we don’t blame them because that’s what those posts led them to believe.
Here’s the honest truth about what it’s really like to start a blog.
Setting up your blog shouldn’t take five minutes. It should take five minutes to install WordPress, maybe… but the rest of it?
The theme, the logo, the pillar content; That all takes time.
It matters what your site looks like. It matters what your logo looks like. The quality of your content matters. The overall foundation of your blog matters!
If you’ve launched your blog but still have minimal growth, always revert back to your foundation.
What’s your brand personality like? Is your content packed with the value your audience wants to learn more about?
Are your titles easy to read, or are you writing sentences in a fancy script that can’t be read on a giant computer screen, let alone a mobile device?
Related Post: Rock Your Fonts with These 5 Typography Tips
Are you using all the “free” stuff because you don’t want to invest in your business?
You have to spend money in order to make money. Even something as simple as a stock photo membership (we chose DepositPhotos) can make a world of difference.
#1: Know your audience FIRST
Instead of focusing our blog on a topic that’s centered around $$$, we combined our love for design with a common problem in the blogging world. In other words, we chose passion over profit.
We created our blog FOR our avatar.
Because we did the research right from the get-go, we already knew our avatar and had a crystal clear focus on what they needed.
A common mistake with starting a blog is choosing something you like FIRST and then trying to figure out your avatar and who you’re speaking to.
We spent literal months getting to know our audience FIRST through Facebook group research and surveys. Lots of surveys!
Related Post: The Easy Way to Create and Sell Printable Products
That’s actually how we mapped out our first product, which generated $10k in sales in just one week!
#2: Focus on content OVER products
You didn’t get 1k email subscribers in your first month?
Well, that blog post you read probably forgot to mention that they already had an established network (like a Facebook group) to which they could drive their offer.
They weren’t starting from scratch. And they probably didn’t mention that they were knowledgeable about Facebook ads or had a decent ad budget.
Oh, and we’re sure they conveniently forgot to get into the nitty-gritty details of a fantastic lead magnet that people want.
Related Post: Hot Content Upgrade Ideas To Grow Your Blog
After we knew exactly who we were writing to, we jumped head first into our content.
We started with 10-15 pillar posts (aka cornerstone or very in-depth blog posts) centered around our main topic – blog design. Then, we created a resource library to hold all of our lead magnets as our primary opt-in method.
Next, we made sure our lead magnets were heavily promoted in our pillar posts AND that it was super easy to sign-up thanks to our eye-catching forms.
#3: Shout from the rooftops
Because we were determined to make our blog successful, we pulled out all the stops, including stepping out of our comfort zone.
For some, just the thought of telling other people about their blog makes their stomachs turn. What will people think? What if they think it’s silly, right?
You should be so unbelievably proud of this and want to shout from the rooftops!
We told everyone about our blog. Family, our favorite Facebook groups, and even other blogging friends we’ve met while researching our avatar.
We never “hid” our blog with a coming soon page because we wanted Google to have to find us and our keyword-rich content. Google can sometimes be a bit slow, even through your requested indexing!
#4: Add a well-thought-out tripwire
Soon after we ‘officially’ launched Simplifying DIY Design, we were ready for our first product!
It wasn’t long until we quickly realized our lead magnets were converting well with the traffic we had, so we made a tripwire product.
Related Post: Tripwire Product Ideas for Your Blog
Tripwires are a product you can offer to new subscribers after they sign-up for your opt-in.
Because our lead magnets were very specific (just like our pillar posts), we knew what tripwire products to start with – product templates!
We created a planner and workbook template using Canva and bundled them together for just $7.
If you want to learn everything there is to know about creating, designing, and setting up a profitable tripwire product, check out our Tripwire Deep Dive Workshop for just $27!
#5: Utilizing ads for faster growth
Once our tripwire was complete, we started with Facebook ads (we recommend Pinterest now, though) and promoting in Facebook groups that offered promotional content on specific threads. Always make sure to reference group rules first!
Because our tripwire was bringing in about 2-3x what we spent on ads, we were already making money while we worked on growing our email list.
Now, before anyone jumps to any conclusions, we started with a VERY small ad budget ($2 a day) because we didn’t have a ton to start with.
We went into this fully prepared to invest for faster growth, so we did set aside a little each month leading up to this point.
#6: Email list, email list, email list
While location means everything to a realtor, an email list is a gold mine for a blogger.
You own your email list. No matter what happens to your email service provider, the list you export every month is YOURS.
Can you say the same about Instagram or Facebook? You’re at the whim of the algorithms, which, as we all know, is a complete mystery and changes with the wind.
Not to mention the dreaded #Instagramdown that conveniently happens right when we want to go live…
Within the first six months of starting our blog, we spent 100% of our time growing our list by writing newsletters that focused solely on value (even when it was just a handful of people).
We wanted to provide them with useful information while getting to know them (and vice versa) at the same time. Every morning we’d wake up to replies with a simple “this is so good, thank you!” to “My pins weren’t converting until I found your blog!”
It’s things like that that give us the motivation to push forward, even on our worst days.
#7: Time for product surveys
Once we hit about 800 subscribers, we sent out a survey (using SurveyMonkey) to see what products they’d be interested in.
Surveys work because people love to be heard. They love to tell their story and share their opinions, whether good or bad.
Don’t believe us? Go into a business-related Facebook group and ask, “what’s your favorite planner?” You’ll be turning off notifications within 15 minutes – guaranteed.
We even added a survey to our welcome sequence, so we always had a full content bank. This is huge when you’re struggling to come up with something new to write!
#8: Listen, create, launch
A couple of weeks after our original product survey went out, we knew exactly what our audience wanted.
They wanted a product that took the stress of design completely off the table.
While it wasn’t an easy feat, we created our Complete Blogger Template Toolkit with, at the time of our first launch, had 250+ Canva templates that covered every facet of a blog.
We have since grown that product to incorporate 450+ design templates available for both Canva AND PicMonkey users because we never stopped surveying our audience!
We spent another few weeks designing the product, writing the copy, and creating a sales page.
Because our readers already knew that we were in the works on a product they specifically asked for, we didn’t spend a ton of time on our sales page.
In fact, we were selling it before the product was even done because we had built so much hype around it.
The sales page came after when the testimonials started pouring in. What better way to write copy than using the exact words and phrases from the people who bought it from you? With their permission, of course.
After our incredibly successful first-ever launch, we knew we had to put this product into an evergreen sales funnel.
So, we turned to our email service provider ConvertKit and got to work.
#9: Automated email funnel
ConvertKit has been our choice of ESPs from the very beginning. It’s simple enough for even the most non-techy blogger all the way up to fully customized, automated email funnels with segmented offers.
We wrote a handful of promotional emails within a ‘sequence’ and then added them to specific ‘automations’ within ConvertKit. (Try ConvertKit free for 30 days here!)
This now converts our product into an evergreen launch which means it’s on constant promotion to subscribers who hit a certain point of our sales funnel.
To put it simply, it means less work for us!
Simplifying DIY Design wasn’t our first blog. It wasn’t our second or third.
We weren’t new to the blogging world, which meant we had a competitive edge. We knew what didn’t work so we could cut out a lot of the trial and error most bloggers have with their first blog.
Because of this, we can help YOU create a clear line of focus and get results a lot quicker!
Blogging is anything but easy. We laid out our exact game plan to help you and also show that it was not an overnight success.
The first six months had a lot of (very) long nights, dinner-less evenings, missed get-togethers, LOTS of tears, and many finger cramps.
Why do those EASY ‘start a blog’ posts bother us so much?
It bothers us because it’s discouraging. It’s discouraging to those that work so hard and don’t understand why they aren’t seeing those same results.
It’s discouraging to have the resources and money to get that success, but you never knew you needed to do those things because people weren’t honest about what it takes in the first place!
It’s discouraging to read posts about quick success and think, “Yeah, I DO all that, so what the heck?!”
What happens when people get discouraged? They give up. They succumb to defeat, and they never see success.
We want nothing more than for you to be successful, which is why we’re sharing the real, honest truth about what it’s like REALLY like to start a blog.
- You need to invest time, money, energy
- You need to believe in yourself and have the confidence to put yourself out there
- You need to sacrifice – any moment you have to yourself, you blog
- You write, create, learn, and don’t stop
And if not, that doesn’t mean you won’t be successful eventually, but it’ll take longer, and you need to be okay with that.
You can’t look at others’ success and wonder, “why not me?” But we know you, you’re not like that. You do the work. You have what it takes.
We’re not saying to burn yourself out or that you need a lot of money to succeed.
Instead, you need to trust the process. Don’t give up. Stop comparing yourself to others. There’s always another side to their story!
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS POST:
- FREE Product Creators Quickstart Kit
- Hot Content Upgrade Ideas To Grow Your Blog
- Tripwire Deep Dive Workshop
- Repurposing Blog Contenet for List Building
- Free 30-Day Trial of ConvertKit
Don’t forget our FREE Product Creators Quickstart Kit! You’ll get a checklist, cheatsheet, and Canva design template to help you nail your launch!
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Start your FREE Canva Pro trial today and unlock ALL of their incredible time-saving features that cut your design time to just minutes.
To be honest? It’s the best $12.99/mo OR $119/yr we spend on our business because that time we save with every design is put back into making MORE money in our business!
Lisa Van Groningen says
Kara, This was spot on. Blogging now for almost 2 years I understand the hard work and can now see the real and the fake of the stories of quick success. I love how real you are and I wish there were more people out there that would speak the truth. Thank you for this!!
Stacey - Food Safety Superheri says
I totally loved this. I’ve always passed by those click bait titles. Reality is….nothing in this world happens quickly unless you have a brother, sister, husband or wife who already has a huge social following and they tell their sheep…oops, I mean fans, to subscribe to their blog or you tube channel. To me, it’s okay if I go slow and only made .80 cents during month one. Heck its .80 cents more than I made the month before. People need to remember, everyone’s journey is different.
Exactly! It’s so easy to get defeated when we never really know the whole story! Head down, do the work, and trust the process <3
I needed this today! I’ve been so discouraged the last couple days.
Blogging can be such a rollercoaster… there are lots of ups and downs– it’s totally normal. Just don’t give up because I PROMISE it’s all worth it! I’m glad the article was what you needed to hear <3
Your templates are a lifesaver! I was feeling discouraged with my boring design. Thank you!!
Thank you Melanie!!
Marjorie Crist says
Kara-this is a BEAUTIFUL post-for so many reasons! I love your honesty-it’s one of the many reasons that I tune in to everything from you. I’m someone who only stays subscribed to email lists/people that I feel have something that is very important to me: INTEGRITY. For me-integrity is definitely non-negotiable. Thank you so much for doing what you do and for being honest, incredibly generous and consistently being YOU!
That’s so sweet and wonderful to here Marjorie!! Thank you so much!!!!!
Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been having lots of doubt about my blog and sometimes when people ask me how much traffic and money I get from it and I don’t want to answer because it’s embarrassing to me at times.
Never be embarrassed at the progress you’ve made and always celebrate the little wins! Sometimes just knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s day is enough to give you the strength to push through the frustrating times! 🙂
Kara, this is a very helpful post. I was wondering what is wrong with my blog. I struggle to get 20-30 views per day. I was beginning to think that my blog’s content really wasn’t worth reading. I appreciate your pointing out these facts to your readers.
I am trying to get more pinnable pins as a way to drive traffic to my blog. I currently have photoshop elements on my computer, but I wouldn’t say that I am literate in using the program. Do you think Canva is a better way to go to make pinnable pins? Also, if I use my own photos is the free version sufficient at first while I am learning?
Again, thank you for your advice on “my first month of blogging” – very helpful. Lucy
Lucy, I personally like Canva for social media images, I think it’s faster! The free version is totally fine for now! I’m glad you found the article helpful, I love the saying “Don’t compare your beginning to someone elses middle” I think it’s a good thing to remind ourselves of from time to time!
I am so glad to read this. I was starting to think that my content wasn’t really worth it. Yes, this is the first month of my new blog, but it is a continuation of a blog I’ve had for over 2 years. I struggle to get 20-30 views a day. Very frustrating. I saw some of images you made for JenniferMaker and they are incredible. I have photoshop elements, but do you think Canva makes more sense to make attractive pinnable pins? I’m not really literate in photoshop elements anyway.
Thank you again for your reality check and encouragement.
Jennifer is so great to work with, I love her blog!
I. LOVE. THIS. POST. Thank you so much for being real about all the lies and half-truths out there about blogging. It ain’t a get rich quick scheme. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something you probably don’t need.
Totally agree Michelle!! While there is a TON of potential with blogging, it takes a MAJOR time investment and a lot of hard work to get going, I feel like people put themselves down, get frustrated, and even quit because they compare themselves to others when in fact, it was tough for others too!
I can’t wait to get your templates. I’ve been blogging for 10 years and have made very little since the google slap. 🙁 My 3rd blog is over 2 years old and I still get about 100 views a day. Yes, I’m on pinterest and lots of group boards. I have done all the things that the courses tell me to do, but am still very stuck. Do you have any suggestions for the stuck bloggers?
It’s totally normal to feel stuck. Have you heard of the Just Keep Blogging podcast? I love it, especially when I’m feeling stuck or defeated- it’s like blogging therapy haha. My biggest advice is to really listen to your readers, figure out what resonates with them and do more of it. I started this blog with the intention of teaching but found out my readers really like templates so I do more of those and it’s working great, I can still teach AND I get to provide tools that help people with their blogs- win win!
Thank you for that tip. I haven’t heard of that podcast before and will definitely listen to it. Her website looks great.
You’re right! We love templates! You are amazing and I love all your resources. I plan to live on your site for a while until I get through everything you have here. 🙂
Awesome Heidi! Thank you 🙂
Loved reading this! Just put it out there and say it like it is! Excellent
Thank you, Brian!
Paula @ I'm Busy Being Awesome says
Thank you so much for this reality check. I am definitely one who gets discouraged when my blog, or Pinterest, or instagram (or whatever else) didn’t get the number counts I’m “supposed” to get as a new blogger. This was really encouraging. Thank you again!
I’m so glad to hear this encouraged you! Please don’t get discouraged, I’m sure you are doing awesome!