Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Audrey and I am a blogger at Mommy Enlightened. This site is focused on giving new mothers advice on pregnancy, babies, toddlerhood, and motherhood in general. I started Mommy Enlightened with the intention of making money, but I genuinely wanted to give moms like me a place to find good information. A year after I started it, I realized the mother’s I wanted to reach were the ones who were struggling with their self-confidence, so this is who I write to now (when I write - I have a writer who I pay to write most of the content).
I sell a small pregnancy journal. Graphic design is another passion of mine (and I actually have another blog that I share with my husband on it) so I made it for fun and now I sell it. It does fairly well, but I do plan to create a toddler product this month because that is where my most engaged audience is. My target reader is a toddler mom who wants to discipline her child in a loving way but isn’t really sure how to do it without being a pushover. She is overwhelmed by motherhood and life in general, and my hope is to ease that overwhelm and help her build up confidence.
My current flagship product is actually on my graphic design site, and it’s a complete graphic design course focused on Pinterest pin creation for bloggers and other online business owners. My partner and I started doing virtual assistant work at the same time I started my blog, and I ended up working with some big names in the blogging world. Because of that, I have others sell my graphic design course. I do not have an audience of my own (yet), but I’ve still profited greatly from the sales of the course because of my affiliates.
Overall, I’m making three times the amount I made working a full-time job. The month that I launched our graphic design product (October), I made over 10k with our ad income, affiliate income, minimal virtual assistant work, and course income. This was with around 40 hours a week of work.
Since then, I’ve dropped back down to about 6k a month, but I have also minimized my virtual assistant work so I’m only working around 20 hours a week. Keep in mind, this amount is before taxes and expenses. Take home is probably closer to sixty percent of that. I only started my blog a year and a half ago, so I am a strong believer that you can succeed in an online business venture despite a lack of experience.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Blogging has been a crazy journey for me. I found out about blogging really randomly, and as soon I read the first article about it I decided I was going to go for it. I never once believed I would fail - and I think that’s a large part of why I didn’t. My partner and I had to sell our house and move in with my in-laws due to my husband’s job location. We were in a situation where we could afford to have me quit my job short-term. It was a risk because we were still paying off a large amount of debt (and desperately wanted to get back into a house of our own) but it was the first time in our marriage where there was a smaller risk associated with it. I planned to try it for a year, and if it didn’t work out I would go back and get a job. I worked 60 hour weeks - not only creating content but also learning about the RIGHT things. I invested a LOT of money in the first year, but I believe that’s necessary if you want to progress faster.
Before starting, I had limited knowledge of all things technology. I used Facebook and Youtube, but I had no knowledge of the technical aspects of it all. It was very frustrating in the beginning, but blogging is in large part about taking the initiative to do your own research and never stop trying to learn. So that’s what I did. It’s a huge learning curve, but it’s definitely doable. It helps that I have a myriad of new skills now. I can do minor coding, marketing, copywriting, SEO, and create/sell products. I have learned more in the last year and a half than I have from any other job - and it’s neat to think that even if I decide to stop blogging, I can get a job with many of my new skills.
There are no fast hacks to success. You have to do a lot of grinding to see success, and there aren’t any shortcuts to success.
As far as validating my idea for the mom blog. I knew that other women were making money with their mom blog, so I knew I could do it too. I think there’s a lot of dishonest marketers out there, but there’s a lot of honest ones as well. If there are others making money a certain way, you can probably do it too. The only uncertainty is whether you’re willing to do what it takes.
As far as my graphic design product, I got the idea because many of my clients order pin design. I am booked out for months, and I wanted a way to help those people without continuing to stretch myself thin. My partner and I looked at the market, and we felt that not enough people were talking about the elements that make up a good Pinterest marketing design - and these elements are universal regardless of your niche or platform.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The only products I’ve created have been digital products. I will talk about the graphic design course since the pregnancy journal was made for fun. I plan to model my toddler courses off of what was done with the graphic design course. For the course, we spent a couple of weeks brainstorming the content we wanted to include in the course. After that, we set a hard deadline for ourselves for when the course needed to be finished, and even though it didn’t feel like something we were going to make, we pushed ourselves and made it happen.
I researched to find the easiest screen recording software available, which ended up being the free version of Loom. After that, we spent some time learning the Teachable platform and adding our text lessons to the platform. We then added video once the text was all in. After that, we opened the course up to affiliates and let them take it from there. Overall, it was a much easier process than I anticipated. We have had a hard time going back and updating the course. After spending two weeks doing almost nothing else, I almost dreaded having to go back into the interface.
As far as the legal stuff, I just used the legal resources available on Teachable.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I launched with four posts because I was told the best thing I could do was get it online. I did not do anything fancy to launch, I just put the site live and started marketing on Pinterest. I joined a few Facebook groups and tried to promote by using share threads with other bloggers, but this honestly ended up to be pointless. The amount of time spent doing this yielded fewer results than I got from marketing organically via Pinterest.
I started an Instagram and a Facebook page but quickly learned that I was not yielding results on these platforms and I was spreading myself too thin. I quit doing Facebook and Instagram and doubled-down on my Pinterest efforts. I started creating content that had the potential to go “viral” on Pinterest, all while learning about SEO. Throughout all of this, I purchased around $1,000 in courses. Most of them taught me something valuable, although not all.
I ended my first-month blogging with over 12,000 sessions. By the fourth month, I hit over 25,000 sessions and was able to apply for Mediavine ads. Those first six months I focused on trading off between content that would perform well on Pinterest and writing Google optimized affiliate heavy posts.
I spent over $5,000 dollars my first year blogging on hosting, blogging education, and blogging services (like plugins and an email service provider). I did not start making over 2,000 consistently until month eight, but it has not dropped below 2500 since then. I used credit cards for a lot of my purchases, and I am still paying that off. I struggle with money management, and that is actually one of my topics on the newest blog that I just launched.
There are two big lessons I want to highlight what I’ve learned from launching my business.
If you want to be successful in a shorter amount of time, you HAVE to spend money. To grow, you HAVE to spend money. With that being said - I regret some of the things I purchased, so I think it’s important to understand exactly WHY you need a resource before you purchase it. I read an article or two recommending certain products and decided to buy based on that. I think I could have saved money if I would have spent more time researching and understanding the tools before I purchased them.
The other lesson I learned is that there are no fast hacks to success. You have to do a lot of grinding to see success, and there aren’t any shortcuts to success. You can get lucky sometimes, but for the most part, succeeding in business is about doing enough of the right things for the right amount of time.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Succeeding with an online business requires a few things. First, I think you have to diversify your income streams. You can get your account with Pinterest shut down or a Google algorithm hit overnight, and you have to be prepared for that. Income sources will come and go, but as long as you’re diversified in how you make money you will survive these changes. Things in online business are constantly changing, and it’s important to remember it’s a matter of when not if.
Do not listen to the entrepreneurs who got rich overnight. These cases are few and far between, and there are too many variables in business to assume that you’ll see the same kind of success.
The other big lesson I’ve learned is how important networking is. We all have multiple people reaching out to us everyday wanting something from us, so you need to stand out. Offer free value, be genuine, and try to help others. People will notice. Even if your audience is not B2B, having the right connections opens up doors for guest-posting, cross-promotion, and affiliate relationships. Building relationships online can be difficult, but it’s one of the most powerful tools you can have at your disposal.
To increase my traffic and sales, my biggest tool has been education. Do your research, and get educated on what works and what doesn’t. Anyone can learn these things - you just have to be motivated to look for the information. I have never spent money on ads, although it’s something I plan to start soon since I now have a course to sell.
It’s important to understand that these things take time. Your efforts will pay off if you’re patient. Look at the graph below. This shows my overall blogging journey over the last eighteen months. The orange line is overall traffic, and the green is organic traffic. There are ups and downs all over the map, but the general direction is up.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, my business is still profitable, although income has slowed the last couple of months. I am taking less virtual assistant work and spending less time on marketing so that I can focus on longer-term monetization. I plan to launch a few products and work on my two blogs in the new year so that I am properly diversified.
Truthfully, I am not big on the finance side of my blog. I recently hired a CFO to handle my finances, as I struggled with finding the time to deal with it myself. I know that I spend less than $1000 on expenses. The following is what I pay for:
- CFO ($300/month)
- Writer ($400/month)
- Hosting ($35/month)
- Email provider ($50/month)
- A few miscellaneous plugins and subscriptions ($100/m)
- Monthly Pageviews (200,000)
I do not keep track of my customer lifetime value or conversion rates, but I do plan on paying for this in the new year.
Short-term, the goal is to create two or three products for the mom site, and continue growing my life. I will continue writing posts that bring in traffic via Pinterest and Google.
Long-term, I’d love to sell the mom site and focus more on my other projects. I do believe they will be easier to stabilize in terms of income long-term, plus that is where my passion lies.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think the hardest thing for me was that I did not diversify my income soon enough. At one point I was making a lot of money, but I ended up losing over half of it overnight because I lost a lot of income from the main traffic source. I knew that diversifying was important, but I did not prioritize it. You have to know what to prioritize, and you have to be flexible when things change.
The other thing that was hard for me was not losing hope when I lost fifty percent of my passive income overnight. It’s very difficult to keep going when you lose big, but you WILL lose big at some point and you need to prepare for it. I spent a month feeling depressed and unmotivated to keep going with it, but I think that situation in a business (that WILL happen at some point) is what truly defines whether someone will be successful or not.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I love business-related books and podcasts. Some of my favorite podcasts include Marie Haynes Search News You Can Use, Do You Even Blog, Search Engine Journal Blog, Video Creators, and Simple Pin Podcast.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I think a lot of entrepreneurs are looking for an “easier” way to do things. It makes sense because we’re all very busy, and it’s difficult to try and juggle life, work, school, and starting a business. Regardless - it’s important to make sure that we understand that there isn’t an easy way to do this, and there aren't many shortcuts.
Do not listen to the entrepreneurs who got rich overnight. These cases are few and far between, and there are too many variables in business to assume that you’ll see the same kind of success. It is something that takes a lot of time, growth, and learning.
I believe what separates business owners that fail and ones that succeed is your willingness to learn, be flexible, and do right by your customer. As long as you can do these things, you will succeed given enough time (this is what I believe anyway). Be willing to learn and stay flexible because the HOW to succeed will change which means your strategies will have to change.
I work as a virtual assistant for bloggers who teach others how to blog. I often see people reach out looking for advice. The problem is, they’re often looking for answers that are readily available via the internet. Recently, we had someone reach out to ask what a URL is. I think it is important for you to be able to do your own research. No question is a dumb question, but you have to be able to research and find the answers yourself. This is a huge part of owning a business - it’s an ongoing learning experience.
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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