[Updated from my original post 7 Biggest Lessons from 7 Years from December 2014]
A couple of days from now will actually be my ninth Blog-aversery (I think Blog years are like dog years though, because it feels more like forever). And considering the longest I have ever really stuck at something before was three months of piano lessons when I was eight (I can still play Chopsticks and The Simpson's theme pretty well by the way), that's a pretty massive milestone for me.
Also considering that when I first started my "Blog" ( which actually wasn't even a Blog, it was an email newsletter) back in 2007, I thought it would be just a little side-project that might take up an hour or so and hopefully make me a few extra hundred dollars a month. And now it's grown into a full-time-plus-some job (which I adore) that pays way better than my "real job" ever could, with
five seven staff members, and office off Chapel Street in Melbourne.
Well lets just say, it has way surpassed even what I dreamt could happen with it. And I dream big!
But of course it hasn't all been runway shows and free lipsticks (although it's been a lot of those too... particularly the lipsticks!). It has also been a LOT of hard work, a lot of stuffing things up (and then stuffing them up some more), a lot of feeling like you're just running on the spot and not getting anywhere, and a whole huge pile of self-doubt. And yep, there have been some tears as well.
And also of course with the highs and the low, comes an awful lot of lesson-learning.
So on my almost nine-year Blog-a-versery I just wanted to share my nine biggest hard-learned lessons with you now (because... well... they might help you out as well!).
1 - It's a marathon, not a sprint
One things that still surprises me about blogging is that nothing takes as long as you think it will. Some things happen much, much quicker than expected, but most happen much slower (a LOT slower). And you have to be prepared to just keep going, step-by-step, because if you want to build up a successful anything, it is going to take some time (and a whole lot of persistence!)
You also need to make sure you get your basics down right, so to keep with the running analogy you need good shoes (or a good blog theme/host), you need to train (you need to post, share and interact regularly), and you need a good coach and cheer squad (more on that later).
2 - The New Rule Of Thirds
This applies to anything that you rely on really on your blog, but it was a lesson that it took me a little too long to figure out. It is just crazy to rely on getting either all (or most) of your traffic or all your income from only one (or even two) sources. Because most of those can change or disappear pretty much overnight.
I mean look at Facebook? I know lots of people that built up huge following on Facebook (and they spent a lot of time and money doing it), and they used to get so much traffic from it, and then within the space of six-months their Facebook traffic dropped by about 90% (not kidding) and now it's like they are right back at the start.
The same goes for only relying on one type of income. If you rely solely on Sponsored posts or banners, it's a pretty stressful way to make a living (for example the price of banners is now less than a 10th of what it used to be, again because of Facebook... damn you Zuckerberg!). Advertising is not a reliable income source at all. And there are so many other ways to earn money blogging that you do have more control over (we cover all of this in the Bloggers MBA by the way), but most people don't start looking at those until they've been blogging for years.
3- Get help... as early as you can
When I started out blogging, there really weren't that many people doing it really well yet (or at all). It was still an industry finding it's feet, and so I had to learn a lot of things by trial and error. And while there is nothing wrong with that, if I could have skipped over some of those mistakes (especially the ones that meant I wasted a whole bunch of time or money) then I definitely would.
And that is why I created Secret Bloggers' Business because I wanted to help people stop wasting their precious time, and just get straight down to doing the stuff that needed to be done to get them where they needed to go. And I've seen the amazing difference it can make even in a few short months with some of the awesome results my SBBers have been getting (I'm like a super proud Mama bear right now!).
So Yep, don't waste time slogging it out on your own, particularly when so many people are willing to help you.
4 - It's all about community
One of my favourite things about being a Blogger is the awesome people I have gotten to meet. I have made some amazing friends through the blogosphere, and the Facebook group for the SBB Community is now one of my favourite places on the Internet to hang out.
Also one of the best ways to build a loyal readership is to nurture a community on your own site, and off it. Through commenting, sharing and interacting with your readers and with other bloggers as much as you can.
5 - Make your own rules
One of the biggest ah-ha moments I had in my life was when my business coach (yep, I am still learning and getting help too!), said to me " You need to build a business that works around your life, and not a life that works around your business".
Hello, light-bulb moment!
And the same goes for blogging.
You need to build a blog that helps you have the life that you want, and not just do what you think you are supposed to be doing.
So if you only want to, or only have time to, blog once a week. Do it (just do it really well!). And if you hate Instagram and don't won't to be on their, then don't do it (social media only works when you really enjoy it anyway).
It's your blog, so it's your rules!
6 - You have to invest in it
You know the old saying, "You only get out, what you put in?"
Well I personally think who ever wrote that must have had a blog. Because man is it true.
I see so many bloggers out there who refuse to pay $30 for a theme they love (they'd rather have a free one they don't love), or $5 for a good spam-blocking plugin (they'd rather spend hours each week deleting the spam themselves, hey, your time is free right?). And these are the ones who seem to stay stuck on level one.
And yes I know everyone has different budgets, but I promise you, every time I personally stepped up and invested some money in either myself (I am all about the courses and coaches... and the good ones are not cheap), or the blog (good theme, better hosting, great staff members), I always made that money back ten-fold.
If you want your blog to be your job one day, then you have to treat it like a business. And businesses cost money to grow. It's as simple as that.
Yes, there are some things I wasted my money on (more details of that in my Blog 2 Profit Workshop), but up-levelling the tech side of the blog, getting help, and up-skilling myself where never one of them.
7 - Never stop learning
OK, so nine-years in and I am STILL figuring things out (Podcasting is my next frontier to conquer, watch this space for updates!). But I think that is what has kept me interested in my "little side project" for all this time.
And you can bet that I will be getting some help from the pros, and learning from the best as I go (I don't want to take another nine-years to figure this next bit out, that's crazy talk!).
8 - Sometimes making the decision is worse than the doing!
Over the last two years I've had to put my big-girl business pants on more than a few times.
I've had to fire some people.
I've had to leave my marriage (it wasn't a business decision, but the decision definitely effected my business!).
I've had to re-structure, re-launch and reassess pretty much everything.
And I've kept myself up at nights worrying about all of it.
I've tossed and turned, bored my friends and family stupid, and given myself my first grey hairs over deciding what to do.
And you know what?
At the end of the day. Actually making the decision was the hardest part. Once the decision was made (and the tricky conversations had), everything that came after that was just so much easier than just making the damn decisions ever was.
So moral to this story is peeps, if you are driving yourself nuts with a decision about your business (yourself and your loved ones), you have three choices.
Choice one - Just pick one already!! Doesn't' matter which, you'll make the best of it either way, trust me!
Choice two - Leave it for a set period of time. If you can. Give yourself a "worry deadline" and whichever seems best at that deadline is the way you go.
Choice three - Flip a coin. I shit you not. This is actually a brilliant decision making tool. Because if you flip the coin and you are either relieved or upset by it's result... that gives you a pretty good indicator of what you really want to do, doesn't it?
9 - No blog is an island!
So this might come as a shock to some of you, but I currently have a team of um... let me count... seven people who help me out on SBB... plus myself.
And I STILL struggle to get my damn fortnightly blog posts done on time.
I am not kidding.
It doesn't seem to matter what stage your blog is at, there is always more stuff you could be doing.
But the trick of it is, that to get to that next stage is pretty darn hard if you are trying to do it all totally solo.
So whether this means enrolling a family member to help you upload your posts or take your photos, or getting a Virtual Assistant (VA) for 3-4 hours a week to help with the more fiddly repetitive things (this would cost you about $20-25 a week btw).
Or even joining a blogger support network or group where you can share ideas, get support and encouragement, cross-promote each other etc..
Basically the more hands the better, and the sooner the better.
Just imagine if you could outsource even four hours a week of the "less important" stuff on your blog to someone else, and could then spend those four hours doing things like creating products, building advertiser relationships, improving you content, guest posting... basically anything that will help to grow your blog.
Imagine how much faster you could grow???
So there you have it,
seven nine years of ah-has and oh-nos. Personally I can't wait to see what the next nine-years bring.