I’m thrilled to introduce my guest today – Deby, from Moms Make Money.
Although we’ll talk a bit about her blog that can be considered a “make money online blog,” that’s not what she’s about at all. For her, it all began with a site about sewing, that she started as a hobby.
In 2013, she went from earning $90/month to $4,900/month – amazing growth for a blog that was originally created without much of an intention to make money.
In this interview, she shares a lot of other inspiring statistics, along with some excellent advice.
I’ll say it at the beginning of this one – I really appreciate the time that Deby put into answering these questions. There is SO much depth here.
I know you’ll enjoy it.
(As always, questions from The Daily Interview are in bold.)
I really like what you’ve done with Moms Make Money, and I appreciate how transparent you’ve been with reporting your (growing) income. Congrats on what you’ve achieved so far.
Tell us a bit about your journey – how did you get started with blogging (on So Sew Easy), and what led you to create a blog in the “make money online” niche? What’s your biggest focus right now, as it pertains to your online business?
It really all started by accident, Eric. I had no idea about blogging, but after losing my job through illness, I found myself at home with a lot of time on my hands and not much to do. I was interested in learning a new hobby to keep me occupied and I wanted to learn to sew.
Well, what do we all do when we want to learn something? I went to Google and YouTube and started looking through the amazing content online from other bloggers. With so much time on my hands, I thought it would be an interesting project to start a sewing blog at the very first time I sat at a sewing machine and tried to make something.
You can see my first terrible attempt here – My First Project.
Yikes, looking back now, my sewing and photos were terrible. But that was the whole point. I was learning. Learning about sewing, learning about how to blog. Of course it was all going to start off poorly, but things could only get better.
And they really did get better – much better and much quicker than I imagined. I don’t know how it started to happen, but people found me. Other ladies out there looking to learn to sew, and others who were already experts dropped in to my early projects to offer me advice. I started getting views and comments right from the get-go. I was amazed! I sincerely thought my blog was just for me and would live forever in obscurity.
Just a few months down the line, I was still browsing around other blogs in my sewing niche and I noticed that a lot of them had advertisements. I wondered how much they were earning from them, whether it was worth it, and especially whether I would lose some of my readers if I started to do the same. If you want to know something, ASK!
So, I added in a few sidebar ads and asked my readers to fill in a poll to tell me what they thought about advertising on blogs, and would it put them off from visiting me. That post got more visits and more comments than anything I had written about sewing! I had so many bloggers write to me and say they were really interested in this subject and would love to learn more.
So, when the results of the poll were published, I set up a newsletter for interested bloggers and I started to send out emails every now and then about what I was trying out on my site, what I was learning and recommending. Very soon, even without a site and just through word-of-mouth and sharing, this list grew larger than my sewing list and I knew I had to do something to put this information online.
So the new site, Moms Make Money was born.
In 2013, I became probably equally interested in sewing and blogging and spent time on both sites. 2014 is going to be the year I concentrate more on sewing as this tends to be where I make my earnings, but Moms Make Money will continue to share all of the blogging and money-making tips I learn this year too. Actually, I‘m not even really focusing on earning at all, just on having some fun, making enough to get by and not working too hard.
I don’t have any ambition to be a ‘big blogger’ or make thousands a month or change my blogging in any way to try to make money from it. If money comes, that’s nice, but its certainly not my focus like some of the other bloggers you interview.
What has been your greatest success (or successes) so far?
Well I think my answer to this one might surprise you. Yes, we can talk statistics and we’ll do that in a minute, but I think my greatest success is just how happy I am!
Finally, in life, I am doing something I love, and making a living at the same time. I’ve had a couple of job offers in 2013, and with the agreement of my husband, I turned them both down. Sure, I could earn a good wage and get a steady income if I returned to work, but where would be the fun in that! Being a ‘professional blogger’ gives me the ability to work where and when I like. I work at home, no rat race or long commute for me.
I get to practice my sewing hobby for a job and I get to write about things I am interested in. I network far and wide with a huge variety of people worldwide every day and usually what I love, they find interesting too – thank goodness! I’m truly in my happy place.
Of course, my statistics play a big part in that. Without readers and without income, I would have had to say Yes to one of those jobs, and wouldn’t get much time to sew. So let’s have a look at my first year of blogging and current statistics:
- Start date – 28 Nov 2012 at So Sew Easy
- Page views in first year – 1.1 million +
- Pinterest followers – 20,000+
- Facebook fans – 3,700+
- Blog comments – 5,000+
- Mailing list subscribers – 6,000+
- Earnings Jan 2013 – $90
- Biggest month earnings in 2013 – $4,900
- See my monthly income reports
Even the most successful people have failed at least one time along the way. What do you consider your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
Ah, failure. We don’t like to publicly admit our mistakes or things that didn’t work out, but in some ways, that was one of the reasons the Moms Make Money site was established. It was a place to test new schemes, new networks and report back. But I have to reluctantly admit, although I love the site, in terms of making me any money – it doesn’t! It’s my sewing site that generates most of my income.
This is easily explained by looking at my target audience I think. The site is there for new and very small bloggers to give them advice on how to start out in blogging and how to make money from their blog. Which means that my target audience is already not making the money they want to. They may be SAHMs (stay at home moms), or those in a position like I was, without a job. They don’t have a lot of disposable income to spend, especially on their sites which aren’t making them much money (yet).
So although I have recommended some products from time to time, which would generate me an affiliate income, sales have been dismally low. I really do only recommend a few things that I use myself and that I genuinely think would help make their site better, and help to generate more income as a result.
Overall, I see the site as a way to help my readers make a little or save money, not spend money. So it doesn’t generate much of a profit and that means I can’t invest as much time on it as I would ideally like to do.
Therefore the Moms Make Money site itself could be my biggest failure if you looked at it purely from an income point of view. What did I learn? If you are going to start a site with the notion of making money from it, consider whether your target audience has any money to spend!
One of your strengths has definitely been monetizing the content you create. What do you find are the most effective types of monetization that you’d recommend for most niches? Is there something you think a lot of people are missing out on (and leaving money “on the table”)?
OK, I’ll share my secret. It’s not something I’ve written about before because, well, I have to keep a few tips and tricks up my sleeve for just me.
My biggest success in affiliate sales has actually come from not trying to sell anything! People LOVE free content. I have to recognize that marketing is not one of my strong points. I don’t know how to sell, but there are people out there who do.
There are big commercial websites that sell products, lots of them and they employ marketing experts to get the very best sales from the visitors to their site. Which means that I only have to get people there, I don’t have to try to sell to them, or even sell any products. By linking out to sites that have great free content, long tracking periods, a reason to sign up to their newsletter, and relevant products, I can utilize the marketing efforts of that site to my advantage.
I just need to introduce people to the site and get the site to do the rest, then if they make a purchase somewhere down the line as a result of the marketing efforts of the site, I can earn a nice affiliate commission. My readers are happy that I sent them to some great free content and they didn’t feel pressure from me to buy anything.
Of course, nothing still beats the personal recommendations you can make on affiliate products and if there are products that you use that would be of interest to your readers, by all means review them and make a genuine recommendation. This forms the basis of my recent post on How to Make Money with Affiliate Sales Case Study and making these kind of recommendations is often the core of my earnings..
I definitely agree with idea of monetizing through giving away “free” content. While most of your income looks like it’s affiliate-related, I noticed you have a fair number of ads as well (on So Sew Easy). While the earnings aren’t as strong with ads, is there something that seems to be working particularly well with them? Do you have any plans to seek out more private advertisers?
My ad income took a turn for the better when I was accepted to join the BlogHer network. They have some great premium rate advertisers, and if more of my page views were from the US, I could do even better. That really applies to all of my advertising income.
I’m a bit wary of relying on Adsense too heavily after my account with them was suspended back in Mar/April last year for ‘invalid activity’. Luckily I had kept good records to show I was aware of the problem and had acted accordingly and I am one of the rare cases whose Adsense account was reinstated on appeal. Although I do still use Adsense, I try to diversify my ad income through other networks and private advertising.
I’m actually not a huge fan of too much sidebar advertising personally. Especially the sort of ads where you cannot control the content of what pops up. I’ve seen some pretty inappropriate ads on my site, and also seen some for companies I am an affiliate for, which takes away from my own earnings potential. I removed two sidebar ads in a site review back in November which lost me about $100 a month.
I’ve also cut down on the spaces available for private advertisers too, although this is my preferred method. I like to be able to choose what ads appear on my site because any sidebar space is valuable and I have to decide if it is better to use that space to promote my own content or use that space for ad revenue. It’s something I’m still undecided about.
I’ve been a bit slack with the private advertising recently and really should do more work on that. I love to work with private sponsors and my premium advertiser spot is always booked, usually well in advance. It includes a ‘sponsored post’ where I write about the company’s products or services and this always gets an excellent response. I’ve noticed that companies spend less on advertising in January, perhaps while they are working on new budgets and campaigns.
I get a LOT of applications for advertising on Moms Make Money, but I turn down 95% of them. There are so many ‘get rich quick’ or ‘I’ll tell you my secret for $97’ sites out there that drive me crazy with all their nonsense, and it seems they all want to advertise on Moms Make Money. I value my readers too highly to accept this kind of site, and would gladly turn down money to not be associated with that kind of content.
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at blogging. I know you have a lot of great advice to share, but If you had to take your best advice and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Blog passionately about the one thing you know and love, to people who love it too. [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources?
I’m a WordPress blogger through and through. I once made the mistake of starting a site on Blogger and after a couple of months of intensive work on my new site, just days before the launch, I woke up one morning to an email from Google to say they had removed my blog for ‘spam’. I was horrified, I lost everything I had worked on. I didn’t realize at the time how critical it was to keep a daily backup of the site.
I URGE everyone who reads this who might still be using a blogspot.com domain to think very seriously about making the switch to WordPress – now! I’ve helped a lot of bloggers make the move, and while it can be a complicated process if you don’t know what to do, its actually pretty straightforward to move all of your content, traffic and followers over to a self-hosted WordPress site on your own domain name.
I’m so serious that this is the only option if you are serious about your site and your content, that I want to make your readers a very special offer Eric. I hope you don’t mind a bit of self-promotion here. I have an online course for making the move at DIY Blogger to WordPress E-Course.
In the course, I carry out an actual site transfer in real time. It’s all recorded on screen-share video and broken down into short easy to follow lessons, complete with checklists and all the notes you’ll ever need. It starts right at the very beginning and follows the process right through to the very end with the new site up and running and all traffic redirected.
There are lessons on using WordPress along the way along with all my recommended settings and plugins, and access to another 30 follow up WordPress tutorial videos. I used to be a scuba diving instructor so I know how to break complicated tasks down into easy steps and I assure you that this is easy to do once I show you how.
The course usually sells at $37, but I’m so serious that this is an essential for serious bloggers that I want to make your readers an offer. If you use code 4hrworkweek, you’ll get a whopping 85% off, making this just $5.55. It’s a crazy price! Also included is a voucher for a free domain name and 50% off your first year of hosting. If you want to set a target for 2014 – this should be your number 1 priority.
For someone who is just starting out creating a blog or attempting to create a new product online, what advice would you offer? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?
My advice would be – be genuine.
Write about what you love, don’t write about what you think will make you money. Most bloggers give up in their first year. If you don’t want to be one of them, write about something sustainable, something you are passionate about and you can write about every week without getting bored, even if the success you are hoping for doesn’t happen.
If you start out looking for money, you are doing it wrong. You need to start out looking for readers. People with whom you can make a connection, share an interest, and give and receive information.
Be careful what you write about. Don’t make your site one long list of sponsored posts and adverts or links for random products unless you want to drive away everyone who visits. Your readers may visit your site for various reasons; advice, learning, entertainment, inspiration, community. You can be sure they don’t sit there just waiting for you to give them your opinion on the latest toilet paper or air freshener.
See it as a hobby or an interest, and hope for but don’t expect success. See it as a means to make money or as a job, and you’ll soon start to feel about it the same way you did your last job – you can’t wait to leave and get a new one.
Finally, where can people find you online?
I’d love for your readers to drop over and take a look at my sites. If you are interested in sewing for middle-aged women, then drop into So Sew Easy. More likely, you’ll enjoy the content on Moms Make Money where I share my advice to new bloggers and those looking to earn from their sites.
Thanks so much Deby – this was an EPIC interview! 🙂
Did you get a lot out of this interview? (I know you did.) Leave a comment below!
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