Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name’s Katie Emery and I’m the founder of KatieGoesPlatinum.com, a website that advises women on how to joyfully transition from dyed hair to their natural gray hair.
I don’t sell many products. Instead, I earn the bulk of my income through affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, and advertisements. My audience primarily consists of women ages 18-65, and the majority of my traffic is USA-based.
Within a few months of starting the blog, I was accepted into an ad network. I earned $500 in ad revenue that first month and I was thrilled.
But, two years later, my site consistently averages $6,000 per month in revenue (sometimes reaching as high as $10,000/month). It has grown much more than I ever anticipated!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started my blog in 2018 after I decided to embrace my gray hair.
I dyed my hair for over 25 years, and by 2018 my hair was horribly damaged. It really only looked good for a few days after dyeing.
I spent years thinking about ditching the dye and letting my hair go gray, but I was worried about looking old, or like I’d “let myself go.” Finally, I had enough of the constant chemicals, the cost, and the upkeep, and I decided I would stop dying my hair.
I joined some Facebook gray hair support groups and noticed that a lot of us had questions, but couldn’t find our answers online. So I decided to start a website that would be a “one-stop-shop” for women with gray hair where they could find the information and products they needed.
Up until the point where I started Katie Goes Platinum, I felt thwarted in my career. I had studied art history and photography, but couldn’t make a great living from them.
So I’d spent years in office jobs. They paid well but weren’t personally fulfilling.
In 2015, my husband got laid off, and our older son almost died from a mystery illness. The bills started piling up, and we started looking around for other ways to bring in income.
Jen Sincero’s book, You Are A Badass at Making Money inspired me to start thinking about blogging as a viable side hustle option. It seemed perfectly suited to me since I could do it from home, after work, and the start-up costs were fairly minimal.
I came up with two different blog ideas, but neither of them panned out. I wasn’t excited enough about the topics to write about them frequently enough to earn income.
But once I decided to go gray, I became obsessed with the topic of gray hair, and found that I LOVED writing about it! I knew the blog would be a success within a couple of months of starting it because my traffic took off pretty quickly.
Once I started this website, I realized I’d finally found something I loved to do that could also make money. At age 53, I’m finally tapping into that entrepreneurial spirit that I always knew I had; it feels great! And I can finally use those writing and photography skills that I honed in college.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
An important part of blogging is diversification. At first, I relied heavily on ad revenue but soon came to realize that I needed diverse income streams to protect myself in case one income stream dried up.
You don’t need a fancy logo, design, or a ton of posts to attract a loyal following. You need to write about things that nobody else is writing about, and you need to write well.
Right now, I still make the bulk of my money through ad revenue. My new ad partner is AdThrive, which is the largest programmatic advertising network that specializes in bloggers.
I also earn income through affiliate sales, mainly through the Amazon Associates network. I started an Influencer Shop at Amazon that does pretty well, although I’d like to grow my income there even more.
I recently started a shop through Shopify, where I sell t-shirts and other products that I create in Printful.
I market the products to my Facebook group, as well as on my Facebook page and Instagram. It’s not hard to create products in Printful - and the quality has been great so far!
Another revenue stream is influencer marketing where brands reach out to me and ask me to review their products. I only review products that I’ve tried and loved. If the brand and I can agree, I will write a sponsored blog post, social media post, etc. This revenue stream can be quite lucrative, but a little overwhelming at times.
I end up turning down the bulk of the requests I receive because so many young brands only want to pay influencers with free products. But my time is valuable, and I have to pay taxes on free products, so I only accept paid sponsorships.
The final income stream that I’ve created is my Gray-Friendly Salon Directory. Since salons are hurting right now due to the pandemic, I haven’t had a lot of sign-ups, but the directory receives a lot of traffic so once the pandemic is over, I plan to make a big push to market this service to salons around the world.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Before I launched my blog, I read a lot of “How To” articles about blogging to get a general idea of what I was getting into. I overloaded myself with so much information that I got discouraged. There are so many moving parts to running a blog that I worried, “Can I do this?”
But we needed the money so I decided to forge ahead.
I made a logo online for free, hired a WordPress tutor, bought a theme, domain name, and paid for hosting. I already had photography equipment and a laptop, so my start-up costs were very low (around $600).
I launched my blog in July of 2018, with just a handful of posts. I figured it would be a while before anybody started really reading my articles, so I wasn’t too concerned. But traffic took off pretty quickly so I’ve been playing a constant game of catch-up ever since!
Part of the reason my traffic took off quickly was that I took an excellent Pinterest course (Pinteresting Strategies). Pinterest is a great way to get your website noticed quickly, as it can take up to 18 months for Google to recognize your blog and send organic traffic your way.
Looking back, would I change anything about the way I launched my blog? Actually, I wouldn’t. Launching on a shoestring budget with just a handful of posts worked out well for me and I’ve got no regrets. You don’t need a fancy logo, design, or a ton of posts to attract a loyal following.
Instead, you need to write about things that nobody else is writing about, and you need to write well. And you need to master Pinterest and social media to send people to your new site until Google traffic picks up.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
To retain my loyal audience, I write honestly about the experience of going gray.
I send out a weekly newsletter to my audience and I write it as if I’m writing to a friend, instead of a customer. My emails have an open rate of 70%, which is much higher than average, and I think it’s because I write very personal emails that are more about helping my readers than focusing purely on selling to them.
I’m active on Instagram and Facebook, and it’s hard sometimes because I don’t always want to spend my free time on social media, but I need to connect with my readers and find out what they’re concerned about so I can target their concerns in future blog posts.
I also get a lot of traffic to my blog from my Facebook group. My Facebook page? Not so much. Facebook groups are where it’s at!
To increase traffic, I’ve been working on learning as much as I can about SEO. I’ve taken an excellent class (Stupid Simple SEO) and read all of Debbie Gartner’s ebooks. Organic traffic is the best traffic to get as it usually results in higher conversions from your affiliates. People who find you organically are usually in buying mode, so you want that traffic.
As my traffic has grown, I’ve gotten busier. I still hold down my day job, so I hired a Pinterest pin designer, a CPA, and a virtual assistant. They’re worth every penny and allow me more time to focus on writing and marketing my site.
Try to breathe and take it day by day when you first start, so you don’t get too overwhelmed and quit before you even get started.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I’m doing really well today! My blog expenses are so small compared to the income coming in that I’m able to pay down debt, increase my savings, and think about someday doing this full-time.
To give you an idea of what my costs and income look like in a typical month, here’s a breakdown from June:
My goal is to keep increasing traffic and, therefore, my income. My traffic has gone down since May due to a Google algorithm update, so I recently paid for an SEO audit. I need to implement what I learned to regain some of that organic traffic that I lost.
I also need to better leverage my mailing list. I’m terrible at selling to them, and since they are a loyal audience, I need to figure out how to do that without turning them off.
My income goal for this year is to consistently hit $10,000 a month in gross income. I’m thinking about taking a course on Facebook or Pinterest ads, as ads are not my strong suit and I want to understand them better.
I also am trying to increase my presence on YouTube. It’s the 2nd largest search engine, and I know I could do more with it than I’ve been doing.
A few months ago, I joined Meredith Marsh’s Video Pursuit Society in the hopes of learning more about YouTube. I’ve learned a ton, and now I just need to implement what I’ve learned.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned pretty quickly that truly helpful information about blogging usually isn’t free. You need to search out the experts in the field and be willing to invest in their knowledge.
Bloggers always joke about becoming “course junkies” because there is SO much to learn when you’re first starting, and you start getting addicted to buying courses. And after a while, you realize that some of them are worth every penny while others are basically worthless.
So if you are new to blogging, I would recommend joining a group like the Blogger Education Network on Facebook, meeting some fellow bloggers, and picking their brains about courses and ebooks and best practices.
Personally, I overdid it on courses the first year or so, and I got a bit muddled. Now that I know whose information I trust, I turn to those bloggers (Tracie Fobes, Mike Pearson, Debbie Gartner…) and invest in their courses and forget about the rest.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My favorite tools for my business are:
WordPress.org - it’s the best platform for bloggers who want to monetize their blog.
BigScoots - this is my hosting company and they have the best customer service! I originally had HostGator but once my traffic increased, I moved to BigScoots with no regrets.
Coaching with Tracie: Tracie Fobes in my blog coach and she has taught me everything there is to know about monetization. I belong to both her regular AND her Advanced Coaching Group and they are invaluable. They are also a great way to form connections with other bloggers.
Tailwind - I use Tailwind to schedule my Pinterest posts. A lot of people like to manually pin but I just don’t have time to do that. I couldn’t live without Tailwind.
ShortPixel - I have a very image-heavy website, and images can slow down your site if you don’t optimize your images. I actually do optimize my images in Adobe Photoshop, and then once they are uploaded to my blog, ShortPixel further compresses them.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I find the Side Hustle Show incredibly inspiring. Even though I’m already making a great income through my blog, I always get new ideas after listening to this podcast.
And I can’t say enough good things about Jen Sincero’s You Are A Badass at Making Money. It really gave me food for thought about how I think about money and how to overcome what was holding me back. It’s a good fit for someone like me who is not super analytical but wants inspiration.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Try to breathe and take it day by day when you first start, so you don’t get too overwhelmed and quit before you even get started. I had a few days at the beginning where I felt like quitting, and I’m so glad I stayed the course!
And try to avoid negative thinking, such as “I’m too old to start a new career.” It’s never too late to try something new, and you’ll be so happy you did! In fact, I’d say that learning something new makes one feel younger in the long run.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m actually all set right now, but if you’re interested in blogging as a career, a great way to get your foot in the door is to become a virtual assistant to bloggers. There are many virtual assistant networks out there that can train you, and you’ll learn blogging along the way.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Katie Goes Platinum has provided an update on their business!
6 months ago, we followed up with Katie Goes Platinum to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:
- Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
- Step by step guides on how to start and grow
- Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
- And much more!