Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I actually started my business back in 2013 as a fun hobby. Fitnancials was originally a health and fitness blog (as well as personal finance), but I ended up ditching the health portion altogether because it no longer resonated with me anymore. I wanted to be hyper-focused on finances.
I had zero intention of creating any income from Fitnancials. It was purely a passion project where I shared tips and tricks with my friends and family (because people were always asking me for weight loss tips since I had lost 60 pounds).
Over the next few years, I started writing about personal finance more and Fitnancials blossomed into this journey of my genuinely loving personal finance. I paid off $40,000 in debt and graduated college debt-free. I also earned $80,000 through my blog and side hustles in my senior year of college. I logged into my student loan dashboard and paid off the entire balance the day I graduated. It was incredible.
Now, my business makes money from affiliate marketing, ad revenue, sponsored partnerships, and digital products. I make a huge portion of my income from sponsored posts, which is when I work with a brand and we partner together to create a piece about their product and publish it on my site.
I currently have one product called Making Sense of Sponsored Posts in partnership with my sister Michelle, from Making Sense of Cents. I’ve created several free online products for women who want to pay off debt or make more money.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
After I graduated high school, I went through a huge lifestyle change and lost 60 pounds. Fitness became my life, so naturally, friends and family would come to me for advice. My sister who had started a blog already (Michelle from Making Sense of Cents) told me it’d be a great idea to start a blog so I could help people. So I did!
Treat your business as a legit business and not a hobby.
I went on to become a NASM Certified Personal Trainer with a specialty in Fitness Nutrition. I worked at a gym for a short while and realized I hated the culture (at the particular gym I worked at), and fortunately kept my job working as a special needs caregiver. I then started college and wanted to be a special education teacher.
2 years before I was supposed to graduate, my blog was picking up traffic and I started to see real potential in it. People were asking me why I wasn’t trying to monetize my blog and turn it into a real business. I asked myself the same question.
It was pretty sudden when I decided to go all-in on Fitnancials and create a full-time income from it. I quit my full-time job pretty suddenly and worked side hustles while growing my blog. I decided to finish getting my degree because it meant a lot to me to do so.
My website started as a fitness and finance blog and blossomed into something that I truly feel passionate about, which is managing money and making more of it. Now, Fitnancials is a website that helps over 100,000 people a month with saving and earning more money. I no longer write about health and fitness because most of my readers were gravitating towards the money content.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Starting Fitnancials was incredibly inexpensive. I think I remember it costing less than $100 and I didn’t put any money into it for many years since it was a hobby blog.
When I decided to go all-in on my business, I eventually invested in courses, email marketing, and graphic designers to design my website.
Describe the process of launching the business.
When I decided to go all-in on my business years after it started, I had most of the important stuff set up. I was self-hosted and bought my domain name. I created social media accounts on all major platforms and started email marketing.
I really wish I had started taking email marketing seriously from day 1. I didn’t start it until years later and I’ve come to realize that email is one of the most important things about running a business.
I didn’t go into any debt to run my business. I paid for things as I went and managed to take care of everything financially with my side hustles from babysitting and dog walking.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I contribute so many things to the growth of my business. In no particular order:
- Email marketing
- Pinterest and Google SEO
Without email marketing, my business growth would most likely be a lot different. I’d also be in a panic because I’d be relying on social media to attract and retain customers, which is a huge risk.
To attract and retain readers, I use an email marketing software called ConvertKit and create a wide variety of free resources which entices people to sign up for my email. One of my top free resources is a monthly budget planner that gets a lot of signups. I’ve created a few and tested each of them out, and I now use one that gets the most conversions.
To attract readers to sign up for my email list, I continually work on boosting my Google and Pinterest organic reach. I have not paid for ads once, but may in the future. I recently enrolled in a course called Stupid Simple SEO, which is all about increasing Google SEO and getting organic traffic. I’m always doing keyword research and seeing what topics to write about. I publish once per week, and I also update old posts and recirculate articles.
I’ve never struggled with finding post ideas. I currently have 300 drafts on my blog filled with different titles and ideas, and I’m always doing keyword research to see what personal finance topics people are searching for.
I provide a ton of free value in my emails and build a relationship with readers via email. I share new posts and products through my weekly email newsletter.
I’m naturally an introvert, so networking was tough for me in the beginning, but it’s also been a huge contributor to the growth in my business. I meet other business owners and brands through conferences like Fincon, which is a personal finance conference for bloggers, and I also meet business owners through social media.
One of the biggest parts of running a business is getting eyeballs on your site. I enrolled in a Pinterest course called Pinterest Traffic Avalanche and a Google SEO course Stupid Simple SEO and they’ve both been game-changers in my business.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My business is doing better than I could’ve ever imagined. When I decided to go full-time, I remember telling friends that I’d be happy making just $3,000 a month because I can live off of $2,000. It was a shock to get my first $15,000 month, and I now average about $7,500 with the slow months being $4,000.
2020 is a really exciting year for me because I’m going all-in on creating digital products for my business. I’m coming out with products for money management, side hustles, and growing a blog.
My short-term goals are to create 3 digital products to help my readers better. Long-term goals are to continue finding new ways to inspire and motivate women and how they manage their finances.
Of course, I could put in 60-hour work-weeks in my business and make a lot more money, but I love the way things are going. I really love the way things are going in my business and love how I’ve been able to grow my business and achieve work-life balance. I work roughly 20 hours a week now and love the freedom my business gives me.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the most amazing things I’ve learned throughout my business journey is that each journey will be unique to another. One person may decide they want to create a massive team and have 10 people working for them and grow to seven-figures.
I’ve decided to create my business on my own and I have no future plans to hire anyone besides freelancers here and there.
I recently read a book called Company of One which I highly recommend. If you are starting a business or already have a small business, it’s a great read about growing a sustainable business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use the following tools for my business:
My all-time favorite tool is Canva. I’ve grown to love graphic design and use Canva to create Pinterest pins, Instagram graphics, and other social media graphics.
Below is an example of how I use Canva to create fun images for Instagram.
My business wouldn’t be where it’s at without these tools, which is why I have no problem paying for them each month!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m a huge book nerd and read 50 books last year. Some of my favorites for building a business are;
- 1) Company of One
- 2) Everything Is Figureoutable
- 3) Expert Secrets.
I cannot forget to mention one of the most important parts of growing a business, which is a mindset and personal development. I spent a huge portion of 2018 working on building my confidence and self-worth with a course called Personal Development For Her.
I even ended up getting a life coach named Candice Toone who I’ve been working with for the past year. She helps me with mental roadblocks I face in my personal life and therefore helps me perform better in my business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Treat your business as a legit business and not a hobby. I made the mistake of treating my business like a hobby for the longest time, which meant no progress and no increase in income.
A few things I do to ensure I’m treating my business like a real business is:
Creating a daily to-do list with results I want to have by the end of the day. For example, my daily to-do list might look like this: Get started with an outline of a new eBook, create 10 new high-quality pins + descriptions for Pinterest, and finish 1 weekly email and schedule to subscribers.
At the beginning of building my business, I used a free app called ezClocker which helped me track how many hours I was putting into my business. I no longer use it because I focus on tasks I’m getting done each day, but it can be helpful to some people transitioning into entrepreneur life.
Investing in my education and knowledge on a regular basis. I have to do things to grow my business just like a massive corporation like Walmart or Amazon, but instead, I’m a 1-person team. Currently, I’m working on learning about Google SEO and building my presence there.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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