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Today I’m sharing with you how this little blog of mine has turned into the greatest blessing and business for me and my family. Perhaps a lot of you know what blogging is and how I earn money, but maybe some of you don’t. So, this is to give you the history of my blog incase you’re new, and maybe a few pointers if you are also a blogger starting out.
But first, a little history…
My husband actually started my blog back in the day when we were married two years and Brooke was our only baby! He was taking a college online web business class in 2009 and the whole point of it was to actually start a web business. He couldn’t come up with any ideas that made sense to him so I casually mentioned a blog. He wasn’t completely sold on the idea, but deadlines were coming and he didn’t have a better idea so he started me a blog.
We started on the blogspot platform and only paid about $10 when all was said and done. Ta-da! A blog!
That semester he was in school, I threw a few recipes on there, but was mostly hands off because Gordon was using it for his class, adding Adsense ads here and tweaking the design there. After the semester though, he handed me the blogging baton and I ran with it.
In those first three or four years, I was focused on content (creating lots of recipes so I had something for people to look at when they visited!), trying to improve my photography skills, reaching out to other bloggers and brands, trying to get my name out there. I was working part time on my blog, slowly increasing my page views and following.
Three to four years in also meant the introduction of Facebook business pages, Pinterest and Instagram. Social media started taking up more and more of my time. I also rebranded to Lauren’s Latest (I started my blog with a different name and url) and I found a company to manage my ads on my site.
In our personal lives, Gordon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Finance, we moved to Oregon, Gordon joined the military, Gordon got a job, we bought our first house and had Blake.
Taking a Leap of Faith
Then in January 2014, Gordon got laid off from his job. My blog was making decent money, but definitely not enough to live off of. So, we felt our options were (1) Gordon could just get another finance job OR (2) he could go back to school to get his Master’s and I could work full time on the blog and hope it would earn the money we needed to make ends meet.
As we thought each decision through, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years down the road, the choice became clear that Gordon would go back to school and we would pray really hard and hope for the best.
So Gordon quickly enrolled in school and I started working 60-80 hours/week on my blog doing anything and everything I could think of to increase my traffic. (See the Q&A below for more of an understanding of why traffic is important to bloggers.) It was a hard adjustment at first, but we made it work with all four of us at home, playing, working, cooking, blogging.
Day and night, I would work, praying the whole way. I felt the weight of being the breadwinner and I was laser focused on that goal. I felt like God knew me and knew my struggles and would help me as long as I put in my effort.
By April, I had earned enough to pay our mortgage and the rest of our bills. Amazing!! After the summer months came and went, I started earning double what we needed and from that point on, things just seemed to snowball. Financial blessings were pouring down upon us and we were oh so grateful (and continue to be grateful!) for it all.
Because of the blog, we were able to pay back Gordon’s student loans and start paying for his education with cash. We were able to become debt free. We were able to have a savings account with actual money in it instead of a few pennies.
By December 2014 though, I was burnt out. Fulfilled and amazed, yes! But burnt out from those more often then not 80 hour work weeks. I turned to some friends to voice my frustrations and one of them offered to help. So I took her up on it and she took a big chunk of my workload off my shoulders, bringing my weekly hours down to a more manageable 40 hours.
From 2015 to now
My blog has continued to grow and I’ve been able to bring a few extra people on board to help and relieve my load. This was especially important to me because I had Eddie in 2016! Having a third child was a turning point because I knew my work had to change based on the time I absolutely needed to spend with my family. They needed me and I needed them.
So for all you followers who have followed me in the long run may have noticed a shift in the things I blog about. Yes, the food is still important to me (and to you!!) and I still post delicious, well-tested and loved recipes, but the frequency of those recipes has gone down because I don’t have the kind of time to spend on recipe development like I used to. KIDS!!
I’ve also started including more family posts on my blog because I find its a way to connect and relate to the vast majority of you lovely people, my readers. A lot of you have been with me for the long haul and know me and my kids and want to know what we’re up to, especially now that we live in New York City! For personal reasons, I also want to have documentation of the things we are doing week to week. (I’m really sorry if you are one of those upset people who followed my blog just for the recipes and now feel my family posts interfere with your love for my blog. Feel free to unfollow! And not that it matters anymore, but I am working on a solution for you.)
So today as it stands now, I spend about 30 hours a week on my blog doing the usual things like developing, testing, re-testing and shooting recipes, editing photos, writing blog posts, creating videos, talking to you on social media, posting to instagram, sending out weekly meal plans, ensuring my blog stays online, correcting hosting/design issues, moderating comments (hi, trolls!!) and managing my brand new Facebook community. I will say that I tend to work closer to 40 hours during the summer months because there is more sunlight which means more shooting hours, but now I’m hovering right around 30.
I love what I do and don’t ever see myself quitting. It can get overwhelming because there is a lot to keep up with. Sometimes I have a hard time feeling like I’m keeping up or getting anything accomplished because I have yet to find that elusive work-life balance; It’s hard!! But I remain ever-grateful for this little platform I have even if I still haven’t figured out why I have it. Grateful to Heavenly Father for my success.
Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t blogging, like, super easy?
Starting out, I think it was pretty easy, but as my blog has grown, so has my to do list! If you want to be successful, you need to know how to do a lot of little things really well.
What do you spend your time doing now?
A lot of behind the scenes stuff that you don’t think about. Updating software, paying invoices (because I’m a business!), checking stats, looking for trends, testing recipes, photographing and editing, typing out posts, promoting those posts online, replying to emails, conference calls, bookkeeping, interacting with my readers, checking social media, managing the few helpers I have, etc. etc.
Pros and cons to being self employed?
Working from home is a draw for a lot of people to quit their 9-5 job, but for me that is the hard part. I wish I had set hours so I could come home and just be home and not worry about work. But that’s not the nature of the job. It comes with the territory. Yes, I can volunteer in my kids’ classrooms, drop them off and pick them up from school, take them to appointments and change my schedule based on their schedules, but for once, I’d like to not hit publish on a post at 11pm at night 😉
Pro’s would be getting new products to try that are not on the shelves yet or even trips for free! I have also loved the friends I’ve met. They are truly amazing women that I love so so much!
How do bloggers earn money?
A number of ways! The main ways I earn income is through the ads you see on my blog as well as sponsored posts. Depending on the month, I can earn anywhere from $0.005 to $0.05 per person coming to visit my site. If you have a large following, those pennies add up into lots of dollars.
I also work with companies from time to time on a recipe or a sponsored post that I then feature on my blog and get paid for. If you see #sponsored or #ad online, then you can know I am getting paid to post about xyz.
Other bloggers are big into affiliate marketing and selling their own products. I don’t like to do very much of this because its not my favorite, but maybe in the future there will be more opportunities. Who knows though! I do have my Christmas magazine, my ebook and my shop, but beyond that, that’s it for now.
Another note about Ads
I have ads in my sidebar and constantly have them there because it costs money to run a blog. Hosting, website, designs, lawyers, accountants, email subscription lists, groceries, equipment, software, etc.. are things I have to pay for consistently. Starting out, the costs are small, but as your site grows, so do your costs. So, that is a big reason why I (and a bunch of other bloggers) have ads in their sidebar.
It’s not because we are greedy, its because it costs us thousands of dollars to run a website. And keep in mind I do not earn what my business earns, just a portion. (And to answer that silly person’s question on my instagram stories when I was talking about this a few days ago, YES I pay taxes too 🙂 )
Don’t you feel like a sell-out when doing sponsored posts?
Not at all because I only partner with companies I love. Plain and simple. I get a lot of companies reaching out to me, asking me to promote this cereal or this imitation butter. But if I don’t love the product they want me to promote, then I won’t promote it.
What tips would you give bloggers just starting out?
- Network and become friends with bloggers! Some of my dearest friends I met through blogging!
- Don’t be afraid to share other people’s content. I used to only share my content online, but then I started partnering with my blogging friends and we began to share each other’s content to help each other out. Now, I try to be generous with my shares and shout outs to my friends. I know how stressful this career can be if you’re the only one bringing in income!
- Reach out to brands and ask to partner with them. Look through your pantry at things you love and buy regularly. Then try to google their PR rep to get an email address, or ask some of your new blogging friends for help. Then email them with a pitch!
- But, the biggest piece of advice I could give you is don’t get jealous when other bloggers grow quicker or larger than you or make more money than you or get that huge campaign. I used to be SO jealous because I needed the money and didn’t they know how awesome my blog was? But now, I get excited and hopeful. If ‘they’ can reach that goal or earn that much money or work with that company then that means it’s possible for me too and that excites me.
Read more FAQ’s here.
Thanks for following along in this crazy journey of mine! It’s been a big roller coaster for sure and continues to be a roller coaster, but you all wonderful and supportive and kind readers make the ups seem unreal and the downs not so bad.