Before you even attempt to read this monster post I want to make clear that these results aren’t normal. I’m not here to sell you snake oil or hustle you. Below you will find out exactly how and why I was able to do so well in just my fourth month of blogging.
I also advise you to read the comments after the post to see a good discussion on how the skills I already possessed helped me get to this point.
Month #4 is in the books and there are two ways to look at it:
- I sabotaged myself and actively prevented myself from making money. I know this sounds crazy when you look at the numbers.
- I set myself up to make more money in the future while also giving myself much more work.
With that being said let’s talk a bit about making money. Many people that want to start a blog to make money ignore the fact that they need to learn how to make money first.
The most important part of making money with your blog is understanding your audience.
You won’t know them exactly when you launch your blog so it takes a little bit of time to understand the different motivations that they have.
Is your audience filled with people who expect everything to be free?
Is your audience filled with people that don’t really want to put the work in?
Is your audience filled with people that have extra income to spend on whatever they want?
When I first launched Obstacle.co the picture I had of my audience was that they were people that had blogs and were looking to grow them. Many of the posts that I wrote were tailored around these individuals.
But after talking with people for the past couple of months I found that my audience is pretty divided. One group wants to start a blog but has no idea where to begin and the other group has a blog that isn’t really doing much.
While they might not seem like distinct audiences they are completely different. If I continue to write about how to make money with your blog then the first group that doesn’t have a blog will overthink everything and never launch at all. Much of what I talk about will either go over their heads or be completely ignored because they just aren’t at that phase of the journey yet.
If I focus on how to get your blog off the ground then the intermediate bloggers will go find the information they need somewhere else.
This is the battle that many bloggers don’t realize that they are facing. It’s why you can look at your analytics and wonder why so many people are leaving your site after viewing one post or why people aren’t signing up for your mailing list.
What you write about isn’t for most of the people that land on your site.
If it were anybody else I would tell them to pick one audience and go with it. That’s the exact advice I give the people that take the Cultivate Your Tribe free email course.
But my ego likes to get in the way and I knew I could figure out a way to address both audiences.
So I got to brainstorming and started to do a little bit of research to see what kind of resources are out there for people that are starting from square one.
There are a ton of resources out there that will help you start a blog.
Like in the thousands.
There really is no reason for people new to blogging to come to Obstacle.co, but they still are because they see that I’m aiming for $500,000. Because I want to help them I decided to take a step back and look at Obstacle.co not as a singular site, but as a complete ecosystem.
Warning: I do not recommend you do this if you are just starting to blog. Focus on a single person and do the best job to help that one person. I am only doing everything I talk about below because I work for myself and don’t have to worry about paying anybody else to do these things for me. This is not even remotely realistic for the majority of people reading this.
In business, there is a term called owning the vertical. It’s when you own every single step of a process. So a car manufacturer might own all of the factories that make the parts for their cars and they own the car dealerships as well.
They control everything.
I wondered would it be possible for me to own the journey of a blogger? From the very first step of when they think about starting a blog to the final step of quitting their job and running their business from Fiji?
I think I can. It’s ridiculously ambitious, but $500,000 isn’t made on small ideas.
So here is my line of thinking:
- Someone is looking to make more money and hopefully one day quit their job, but they aren’t sure how to do it. They come across the $500,000 Challenge and realize that blogging can be a great step to helping them achieve their goals.
- But what goes into a blog? How do you get started? How do you decide which thing to blog about? There are a ton of questions that run through a person’s head that need to be answered. You can research them and hit up a number of different blogs and blog posts to try and compile clear steps or you can buy a blogging course and hope everything is covered.
I could create a free resource that covers everything. I talk more about Blog Rocket and my motivations behind it down below.
- So now they have a blog and are ready to grow it and make money. This leads them to 1,000 Subscribers. They can also check out The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Bloggers and Powerful Pinterest Profiting.
- Obstacle.co can focus more on things like sales funnels and affiliate marketing.
- Finally, they have a blog that is making good money, growing and they want to surround themselves with others in the same situation. It can be hard to find because most blog communities are for people starting off. These people will want a more advanced group to share things with so I started work on that as well (won’t launch until next year).
Throw in the free courses and you start to see how something is being offered for every person no matter where they are in their blogging journey. Each step is presented through a different experience.
It’s ambitious and crazy.
Why? Because it’s a lot easier to make good money when your sole focus is on a very targeted group of people. It’s also less work.
This 100% puts my goal of making $500,000 in 12 months at risk because if this all flops then I have completely wasted my time. On the flip side, this could propel me beyond the $500,000 goal and possibly eyeing $1,000,000 (I’m not scared to dream big).
Laying a Foundation
One of the toughest concepts to grasp for any blogger is that of laying a foundation. Every time you publish a blog post you are laying down the foundation for the future. You won’t see immediate results, but a couple months from now you’ll look back and be thankful that you wrote those posts.
The foundation you spent months laying down is now supporting your current success.
This is tough to grasp because you might be looking at the present and what success you are getting now. If you don’t see any you can get frustrated and think that you are wasting your time. Keeping an eye on the future is a tough thing to do, even for me.
The month of September was spent laying down a ton of foundation.
- I worked on Blog Rocket. What you see now is probably the 5th iteration.
- I completely redid all of my Pinterest templates.
- I changed my Pinterest pinning strategy to see if it was more effective (I talk about more of this below).
- I sent over 1,000 emails/replies to the Obstacle.co audience. I took the time to get to know my audience as much as I possibly could. This took an enormous amount of time but I wouldn’t have changed it. This was the most valuable thing I did this month.
- I made design tweaks to the site that you probably won’t notice, but are having a nice impact on things like conversion rates for my mailing list.
Most of my money has come from services that I’ve been offering (at super cheap prices) and to really scale you can’t do that with services.
So I made the conscious decision that September would be the last month for offering Obstacle.co services and I wouldn’t take on any more high-paying clients.
Offering some type of services is the fastest way you can make money with your blog and some people love to work 1-on-1 with others. However, the only way to make $500,000 through services is to hire people to help me and scale or only take on a couple of clients that can pay 5 figures a month.
The main reason why I focused on services initially was because I wanted another case study for The Gain 1,000 course. While I’ve done $1,000 in 90 days a lot of different times, I needed to prove that it could be done (again) with a blog from scratch.
Now it’s time to move on to bigger things.
Why Blog Rocket?
You can’t make serious money with your blog until you treat it like a business. Once your blog is a business that means your understanding of selling and marketing has to go beyond just writing X posts per month.
One of the core concepts of running a business is understanding the buying cycle of a customer.
Each customer comes to you at a different place in the buying cycle. Some are completely fresh and don’t know anything about your industry let alone why they should buy your product while others already know everything and are just looking for a solution.
The easiest way to sell an online course is to only target the people that are ready for it. This is also why bloggers recommend you setup a launch sequence for a course. To sell anything first you need to educate. A lot.
It’s why you see bloggers with mailing lists of 50,000 people, but only able to sell their products to 100 of them. A lot of their audience doesn’t understand why they need the product.
It’s why me constantly talking about The Gain 1,000 Course doesn’t make sense unless I”m only talking to the people that are ready for it.
Learning how to create a successful blog is a huge pain in the ass. Not because there are a ton of difficult tasks, but because there is just so much stuff you have to do and be aware of. Most successful bloggers take years to get to where they are at simply because they have to go through a bunch of different trials and errors.
They learn by doing.
That doesn’t mean you should have to.
If you’ve ever searched for how to start a blog odds are you landed on a blog post that showed you how to start a WordPress site (probably with Bluehost). After that what do you do?
You have to go to a number of different blogs to find out. That sucks.
Even worse you find out that starting a blog is more than just installing it on WordPress. You end up going back trying to undo a lot of the stuff you did because you missed a step or two. 3 months later you change your blog topic. 6 months later you stop blogging. 1 year later you decide you want to pick things back up again.
It’s a dumb cycle and I want to prevent as many people as possible from having to go through it.
The Guide is your definitive guide to starting a blog. It covers all of the steps that I go through in creating a new blog. The goal is to make something that doesn’t require you to spend a single penny. Everything that most people put into blog courses and books, will be freely available to anyone online.
The Experiment is where I put theory to practice. Instead of just telling you how you can go about starting a blog, I’m going to show you how I am doing one. I will be going over all of my thoughts and decisions in creating a new blog over a 60-day period so you can see how I take what I teach in the Guide and apply it to a live site.
This is going to take up a ridiculous amount of time initially, but I think the payoff will be well worth it in the end.
How This Benefits Me
I always preach about making sure that everything you do is for your audience and that holds true to Blog Rocket. However, a lot of what you do should come back to you in a positive way at some point. My goal is to help as many people as possible, but I can’t do that if I am not helping myself.
Hard to change the world without a roof over your head and food on the table.
So how does Blog Rocket help me? In a ridiculous amount of ways actually:
- Helps to build my mailing list. Obstacle.co’s free courses can be seen in the footer of the site and as I continue to build the site out there will be more content upgrades available. This is helpful because I know the audience interested in Blog Rocket are those people wanting to start a blog. This means I can provide a more customized email funnel just for them.
- Helps to grow my brand. Have you ever bought something from someone that you felt didn’t have any idea what they were talking about? Of course not! You buy from people that you feel have some authority on a subject. Authority can take a long time to build up, but by creating the ultimate resource on blogging I am increasing my authority without having to spend years blogging.
- Helps to open up new revenue channels. Maybe the site offers a monthly membership to get extra material or there is a store that offers workbooks. By March I fully expect to have at least 5 different revenue streams active across these sites.
- Small SEO boost. Backlinks are always a good thing to have. Because Blog Rocket and Obstacle.co link back and forth through relevant backlinks it helps to provide a small SEO boost to each.
- Provides further case study material for future courses. Authority and social proof are two of the best ways to sell a product or service. When you are just starting off you might not have any customers to provide you with social proof so the next best thing is to manufacture it yourself with your own case studies.
- Affiliate marketing revenue. When people hear about how affiliate marketing works their eyes light up. Then they try to make it work and they don’t make much. The best way to make money through affiliate marketing is by providing a ridiculous amount of value. You don’t get much more valuable than a complete, free guide to blogging.
As you can see this isn’t charity. This is all about building a strong foundation for an empire.
But creating something like this is only one part of growing this empire.
For your blog to truly grow you have to build relationships with other bloggers. Nobody can be friends with everybody and I know this will sound selfish, but if someone approaches you with an offer that doesn’t benefit you in some way then will you accept? If this person has no authority in anything is it worth your time to listen?
Of course, this is different if you are asking me a question on blogging, but if I run a podcast and you come to me saying you want to be a guest and yet your blog is only a week old, why should I listen to you?
Is it easier for me to get on the Smart Passive Income podcast now that I have made a decent amount of money from blogging? Yes.
Building awesome and useful resources can help you take shortcuts. That is the power of giving things away for free.
There was just a lot of things happening outside that affected how things were going. Basically, life happened. You know how it goes.
So we sat down in September and formulated a plan. Our Pinterest strategy up to that point had been to only pin to our own boards. We did a lot of pinning, but we weren’t doing everything possible to extend our reach. In September, my brother and I applied to a number of relevant group boards and start to pin to those.
This is one of the best things that you can do for your Pinterest account.
When we did that something magical happened.
- Pageviews June 1 – August 31: 1,692
- Pageviews September 1 – September 30: 18,961
I am not even going to try and calculate the percentage increase but I imagine it’s in the bazillions. It’s important for me to note that pageviews were so low for 3 months because we were experimenting with a lot of different ideas on the site and doing zero promotion. These numbers are definitely not typical for my blogs, but I wanted my wife and brother to get the feeling of building a blog.
I didn’t want them to be passengers on my ride.
While the pageview increase was great the other numbers weren’t as impressive. Bounce rate was a whopping 96.64% and the average session duration was only 11 seconds. That means people came to the site, didn’t see a miracle, and left.
The good thing is that we know our audience is interested in getting to our site and we know how to reach them. The bad news is the site needs some optimization to keep them there longer, but that’s what running a business is all about. Iteration, iteration, iteration.
Want to learn the techniques I use to boost all of my Pinterest profiles helping my blogs increase both traffic and revenue every single month? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Bloggers.
This month my brother and I are launching a spinoff site to Thrive/Strive that we are extremely excited about. I’ll also be trying a revenue model that I’ve never attempted before: selling physical goods.
It will be fun and terrifying.
Okay, I’m sure a lot of you just skipped down to this section because all you care about are numbers. However, I urge you to read through this whole post when you are done so you get a better idea of my business thinking.
I want to report two different numbers:
The first number is what I made in September directly because of Obstacle.co. That means services and products.
The second number is what I made just from products.
Why am I distinguishing between the two? Because starting in October I am no longer offering Obstacle.co services (see below about a new agency I’m starting though) so then the question becomes can I make up the difference this month by only selling products?
To be honest I’m not sweating it. I know that sounds silly but a lot of the work I am going to be doing from now until the end of the year is to set myself up for a big 2017. Starting January 1st I have 5 months left in my $500,000 challenge and I won’t get there in increments of 4-5 digit months. I’m aiming for my first 6-figure month in February and for that to happen things need to be in place.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be trying to make as much money as possible, it just means that I don’t expect any crazy months between now and January.
This could also mean that I’ll have a significant drop in revenue this month. It will be interesting, to say the least.
Please note that these results aren’t typical. I’m fortunate enough to have a skillset (I code, design and have been at this online game for 14 years) that is desirable to a lot of people. I do think every blogger can make $1,000 within the first 90 days of running a blog, but I don’t think every blogger can make over $17,000 in the first 120 days of running a blog.
I do not say this to discourage you. I say this so you don’t disappoint yourself with lofty expectations and think you need to quit because you didn’t achieve the exact same success I had at the beginning.
Let’s break the revenue down a bit more so you can see what went into making $9,000. Note that I only account for money that entered my bank account. That means if someone bought one of my courses on September 30th and the money wouldn’t arrive until October 6th, it is not counted here.
- $4,700 client project
- $1,326.86 client project (strange number for a client project, but they messed up the invoice and told me to keep the change)
- $1,146.15 Pinterest Takeover
- $127.14 The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest
- $1,796.77 The Gain 1,000 Course Package (includes Powerful Pinterest Profiting and Understanding Google Analytics)
- $93.89 Powerful Pinterest Profiting
Some of you might have the dream of freelancing. Freelancing is great if you can manage your clients well. One of the stressful things about freelancing though is making sure you have money coming in next month.
That means you need to market yourself. Blogging is one of the best ways to do this and Obstacle.co has been no exception.
People see what I’m able to accomplish with this site and they want the same work done on theirs.
I even turned down two larger projects because there was no way I could fit them in and they would’ve gone on longer than I wanted.
Why does blogging work so well for marketing your freelancing services? Because it allows people to get to know the face behind the business. They build a relationship with you before they even start communicating with you.
Build a couple strong relationships and next thing you know you are cruising along just on word of mouth marketing alone.
Unfortunately for you these client projects also make my revenue numbers look outrageous. Of course, I don’t mind, but it can give people the impression that I’m selling bullshit when it comes to making money with your blog.
I put a lot of work into creating this masterpiece you see in front of you. Don’t let the cute face fool ya.
I love Pinterest and what it has done for my blogs. If you’re a blogger that doesn’t use Pinterest to its maximum capabilities then you are missing out. I offer a free guide, a book, and an online course to help people with Pinterest.
Learning about how to best use Pinterest isn’t stopping people from using it. The problem is they don’t have time.
So I decided to try something out and on Friday I sent out an email to my audience letting them know that I would take over their Pinterest account for the month of October for just $79. I would implement all of the strategies that I talk about in my learning resources.
They just had to sit back and enjoy the show.
15 people jumped on this offer over that weekend (smart people). That means I made $1,185 over a weekend by simply analyzing what was holding my audience back from using Pinterest and then offering a service to help solve that problem.
I’ll repeat this again.
To make good money with your blog you need to understand your audience.
This worked out so well that I’m seriously considering starting an agency to handle things like this.
Courses and Books
I have yet to do an official launch of my courses or book. I simply just tell my audience that they are there when I’m done with them. In August, I did do pre-orders, but that was the extent of crazy launches.
I don’t think I’ll have a launch sequence set up for October, but I do plan on having one in November.
In September I came across an income report by a blogger that I had never heard of before. I love reading income reports because they let me into the business mind of a blogger. This blogger had been blogging for 2+ years and their blog received over 170,000 pageviews in a month.
That is so awesome.
In that month they made $1,600.
Not so awesome.
Because if you’re going to work hard on your blog to get it to a place where it is receiving over 170,000 pageviews a month then you deserve to be equally rewarded for your effort. Making less than a penny for each pageview is not a good way to make money.
I don’t care if you’d be happy with $1,600 extra a month. You start doing traffic like that you need to rethink your business strategy to increase your revenues.
I mention this because pageviews in September were much lower than in August.
- August: 12,391
- September: 7,212
Over 5,000 pageviews less month-to-month, but revenue increased $2,000. What gives? September was spent understanding my audience so there was less effort on building up traffic. I also started to tweak my Pinterest strategy to better target Obstacle.co’s audience.
The better you can hone in on the right audience, the better chance you have of making money.
Well if I made that much and it wasn’t because of pageviews then it must be from my mailing list, right?
Hmph. Here are the numbers for that:
- August: 305
- September: 409
I netted 104 more subscribers. The big bloggers in my niche increase their total by the thousands each month.
$9,000+ from 409 subscribers and 7,000 pageviews. Numbers aren’t everything. Even if I take away the larger client services that came in that still leaves me with over $3,000 from a much smaller audience.
$3,000 from 7,000 pageviews means I am getting $0.42 a pageview. This stat is useless since I don’t make my money from ads, but just wanted to use it as a comparison with the blog I talked about above.
$3,000 from 409 subscribers mean I am getting $7.34 per subscriber. Most bloggers are happy to make $1 per subscriber. The difference is my audience is much more targeted.
When you come to Obstacle.co the only things that you can sign up for are the free courses. Not everyone wants to take a course because it means you need to invest time. Most people would rather have a nice PDF cheatsheet that offers them a silver bullet.
When they see that it doesn’t they move on.
I’m not saying this is a bad strategy. I’ll be offering a lot more PDF-type content upgrades this month to start to rev up my subscriber numbers, but I also expect my $/subscriber numbers to fall because of it.
A large audience doesn’t always mean big money and a small audience doesn’t always mean baked beans every night for dinner. Obstacle.co’s growth is slow and calculated because I need to understand my audience before I can really do everything that I want.
That was why Blog Rocket was created. I needed another site to better cater to the part of my audience that needs a resource like it. I couldn’t provide that on Obstacle.co without ruining the overall experience.
The goal for me isn’t to build a massive audience. The goal is to build healthy group of True Fans. That is how you build a successful business.
By no means should you attempt to always keep your audience small. A larger audience provides you with more opportunities, but a lot of the people in your audience are better off not being there. It’s why you often see big bloggers purging their mailing lists every couple of months because there is no point in paying for people that don’t open emails or buy your products.
Usually, I talk about the goals for October, but instead I want to talk about my plans for October.
This month Blog Rocket can be considered to be in beta. The goal is to finish version 1 (all content in the Guide) along with a couple of other small offerings.
I’m still undecided about this one, but I was thinking about creating a Youtube channel that covered some of the aspects of blogging that don’t really warrant a mega post.
This also allows you to see more of me because that is what the world wants obviously.
It’s time to ramp up the Webinars again so if you’re all about free learning and having fun then sign up and join me.
Up until this point, I’ve been sitting pretty in Obstacle.co tower. That is one of the main reasons for the slow growth you see. Well, it’s time to really step outside and reach other audiences.
That means guest posting and guest podcasting. I want to talk to their bloggers!
I was also thinking about doing an interview series where I interview bloggers and talk about the things they usually don’t get to talk about in other interviews.
Courses and Books
Yes, more things! More!!!! One is a Google Analytics course and the other is a ConvertKit course.
Besides the blog, I will be working on for the Experiment I also have another blog waiting in the wings. It’s almost ready to be unleashed.
Why another blog?
- I’m a sick person and I like to torture myself.
- More case studies!
- I had a talk with one of Obstacle.co’s earliest Sasukes (what I’m calling my tribe members) and she was a little bit disparaged. Wait, let me get out of this list and tell this story.
I had written an email to my audience talking about the nice and steady growth of bloggers and how most bloggers that make over $5,000 a month did so after 2 years of blogging. She showed me an example of a guy that was now making over $4,000 a month from blogging in only his 7th month.
She wondered why she wasn’t at the same level of success as him so I told her I would analyze his site to see what I found.
To keep things simple, he was consistent with everything that he did.
He consistently published new posts.
He consistently promoted his posts.
Rinse and repeat.
My Sasuke, on the other hand, wasn’t consistent for a number of reasons. Many outside of her control. However, when your blog is still new you don’t have the luxury of taking weeks/months off. You don’t have enough blogging credits to do that yet.
You have to be consistent with the work that you put into your blog if you expect to reap any rewards from it.
Anyways, I told her that I was going to start a blog in the same niche. Why? Because I was curious if I could replicate this blogger’s success or improve upon it.
Also, it helps with the Obstacle.co brand of course.
Today she sent me an email after our pep talk:
Wanted to make you smile this morning! So, I have been watching your Pinterest course & implementing the steps that you suggested. I am only 34% along (which I did in 2-3 days) I digress:
As you know I was @ 80 Pinterest followers last week. Well, this week I’m @ 90! All I did was implement the steps you suggested real-time to my account. I have to say, your Course is one of the very few that actually does what it says it will. Not 6-9 Years from now either. LOL!
Super excited about that. Looking forward to making @ least $1500+ per month before the year ends!
How awesome is that? That’s why I blog and if you make helping people your #1 priority you’ll do good for yourself as well.
So if you are keeping track at home that means by the end of this month I’ll be running 4 (!!!!) different blogs.
- Secret blog #1
- Secret blog #2
I beg you to just stick with one blog for at least a year. Don’t do crazy things like me. You won’t forgive yourself later.
Redo Old Posts
Even though it’s only been 4 months a lot of my old posts need to be updated with new information and links to newer posts.
Most of your blog posts should be evergreen posts and to keep evergreen posts ticking they need a refresh from time-to-time.
Don’t assume that your audience is arriving at your site on the newest blog post. Many will be hitting the archives first so you want to make sure you are painting an accurate picture of things for them.
4 Months In…
My Obstacle.co journey is 4 months complete now, but it seems like it started 4 decades ago. When looking back it’s always important to remember how much you’ve progressed.
I’m as hard on myself as anybody is and so I often freak out when I think about all of the time I wasted. While I do wish I would’ve done more with Obstacle.co already, I have done enough that I am happy with the progress and glad that I started it.
I could’ve waited around and started it this month but that meant missing 4 months of being able to talk to you.
If you have an idea for a blog don’t wait around. Get started today. Get started tomorrow. Just get started so you don’t look back and wish you had started sooner.
Total since launch: $17,275.81.
A New Agency Made for You
If you’re on this site then odds are you are looking to make a blog your business. While there are a ton of resources out there to help you out, including this site, the one thing they can’t provide for you is time.
Two of the services that I have offered here on Obstacle.co have been a success because they save people time and help jumpstart things.
So while I am no longer doing Obstacle.co specific services, I am starting up an agency made specifically to help the person that wants to turn their blog into a business.
One of the services is what I call the Blog Takeover. In the blog takeover, I handle your blog and get you to 1,000 subscribers (or get you a 1,000 more). I’ll do everything necessary to get you on track and the service doesn’t end until you have 1,000 subscribers.
This means I could:
- Redesign your theme to improve conversions
- Create content upgrades to lure people in
- Write content that improves the authority of your site
- Setup email sequences to keep people around
- And whatever else is necessary
This is a cheat code to turning your blog into a business and I will be charging at least $1999 when it goes live. But before that I need some case studies so I’m giving some people a chance to grab this service for just $299.
Secure your spot now and the take over will begin on November 1st. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know about your blog or blog idea and we can get the ball rolling.