How Jodi Carlson Grew A Niche Blog To $6.5K/Month

$6,500
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
Leader Connecting...
from Cleveland, Ohio
started March 2014
$6,500
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
1.08M
alexa rank
268
followers
1.54K
followers

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Jodi Carlson, I am a professional web designer, wife, and mom. I also run a successful profitable blog that all started from a hobby that started when I was 6 years old and said yes I want to join Girl Scouts.

I am currently making $5,000 – 8,000 a month from activity booklet sales which are 10 to 25-page printable booklets with activities for girls to do to learn about a specific topic. It could be games, activities, and crafts.

I also make some of my income from ad revenue and affiliate marketing. The big range difference is because this is a very specific niche, which also means, there are times of year when things are not in high demand.

Summertime is much slower for both traffic and sales, but I am working on new camping booklets that would be great for Summer Camp and hope to release in the next few months.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

When I graduated high school I didn’t stop with the hobby instead I then joined back in as an adult volunteer and became a Girl Scout leader for the same troop my mom started for me when I was 6 years old. So with over 25 years of Girl Scouting experience, I really thought I would be a leader forever.

Blogging is work, don’t start blogging and expect to quit your day job overnight. Any blogger who claims you can make 100k in 6 months either was super lucky or lying.

Then in 2015, I was blessed with a Son and quickly found out the time it took to run a troop and raise a child was not there so I stepped down as a Girl Scout Leader, but quickly missed the planning part of being a leader, so I decided to take my 25 years of experience and my 10+ years of web design and build a blog sharing all my knowledge to help other leaders plan and run their troop meetings easier. I started creating activity booklets to help earn the badges with everything you need to earn badge.

Since 2015 when I started the blog, I currently now have over 95 activity booklets and lots of free resources on the blog for planning meetings, ceremonies, parties, and badge earning. My site has grown into a resource for any organization inspiring girls to be leaders of tomorrow; I am reaching girl leaders in many organizations such as Frontier Girls, Girl Scout Leaders, Heritage Girls, and Girl Guides in other countries. And most recently discovered homeschooling parents and teachers are using my programs as well.

To this day it is hard for me to believe what I am doing and how it got started. Believe it or not, this blogging business came to be as an accident.

I started a blog to help myself and to help other leaders in my community. With two decades of experience in Girl Scouts under my belt, as a scout, then as a troop leader, I wanted to start documenting the activities so I have them as references to use again. For example, I would write out everything someone would need to run a certain type of party or how to earn a certain badge.

For example, our troop ran a Alice in Wonderland party so I shared the decorations, games, crafts and any other interesting things we did at the event. Then I publish the post on the blog I built and send the links out to leaders that lived in my area so they could use it with their girls in their troops.

Then one day everything changed, I went from just documenting things for a handful of people to a blog that would help 1000s of people and become a profitable project. This happened when I received an email from a leader on the other side of the country interested in one of the badge activity booklets that I mentioned on a blog post.

I was shocked someone so far away found my site, but Google will index anything. So from that day forward, it sparked the idea to start offering booklets for sale. My first activity booklet was the comic artist activity booklet, which for the first few weeks was simply a Paypal link on the website where I would manually send the booklet to people.

Take us through the process of creating your products and launching.

I created a booklet for my own troop and decided to put it out there on my blog with an easy Paypal “Buy Me” link.

For the first year, I reinvested everything I made. I wasn’t making much - about $50 bucks a month on average. But I was growing an audience, and a mailing list so I knew I was making progress.

I was not sure if people would buy something like that so I wanted to make it as easy as possible. Within the first week, I sold 5 and I asked them for feedback. As mentioned earlier the first booklet was the comic artist booklet.

how-jodi-carlson-grew-a-niche-blog-to-6-5k-month

My process creating booklets

When creating a booklet I start with researching all about the subject and outline the content I want to cover. Then, I start creating fun activities around those subjects. I create custom templates that are needed for the booklet.

With every booklet, there is a blog post that goes with it. That blog post will promote that booklet and also offer 4 to 5 free ideas that a leader could take and use and never buy the booklet at all. I also add more ways to make money through affiliate marketing specifically Etsy and Amazon.

There is always links to other helpful resources on my website to also keep them on site. My goal from the beginning has been that my blog would provide value even if readers never buy anything. Every product also gets an email out to the mailing list and promoting on Facebook and Pinterest.


Setting up the blog

As I mentioned earlier the blog was made to help myself. So early on there was no cost other than the domain. I had hosting through Bluehost already for my portfolio so it was shared. I created a WordPress site using a free theme and I was off the ground.

From there I learned as I went and costs came in when I started growing and wanted to buy a custom theme, WooCommerce extra features, backup and malware program, stock photo memberships, and advertising costs to name a few.

For the first year, I reinvested everything I made. I wasn’t making much - about $50 bucks a month on average. But I was growing an audience, and a mailing list so I knew I was making progress.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The core of my traffic started coming from Pinterest.

Troop leaders love Pinterest. So I focused primarily there for the first year. The first important things to do is to change your profile to a business profile and make sure to have rich pins set up on your blog.

It is worth getting Tailwindapp which will allow you to schedule pins ahead of time. Join Pinterest tribes, which is where other people who will see and share your content while you also share theirs. Additionally, there is some amazing analytics in the dashboard to know what pins are working and which pins are not.

The next addition to your blog is the Tasty Pin Plugin, this allows you to set pinterest descriptions for every picture on your site, set up hidden images on blog posts so when someone hits pin from a blog post they can pick between all the pictures you have saved for that post.

It will share it with the keyword rich description you added to that image. It also allows you to set the Alt text separately which is important for SEO. I also hired a VA this last year who makes 12 new images from my most popular blog posts. You can create pins that not only state what the title of the post is to grab things from within post that could catch someone's eye. And lastly, pinning daily at least 10 to 15 pins a day some your own and sharing other people's content is worth it as well.

I continued to get more and more people being added to my mailing list. I also used Facebook groups as a place to share my content.

In early 2017, I started a Facebook page for the blog, which has proven to be a big success as well. Since starting, I am at 5961 fans, with very engaging fans. As the income started coming in more and more and traffic picked up from Facebook as well.

Below is a screenshot of 2018 traffic sources. As you can see social media overall was double the organic search. While both were important I do spend a lot of time on my social media accounts.

how-jodi-carlson-grew-a-niche-blog-to-6-5k-month

I tried Facebook ads specifically boosted posts and found that people were sharing it with their friends, which led to more likes to page and more traffic to blog. This is an ongoing expense each month because the ROI on it is worth it. I also discovered if you post great content people want to share they share it with people that are not liking your page, so you can then look at those likes and invite them to join your page. I share my own content as well as other great ideas I find on the web that leaders will find helpful.

I set little goals for myself each month I would focus on reaching out to one new blogger, or person that I felt would make a great partner and would ask if they want to collaborate in some way. It sometimes was a blog exchange, or even just getting their content on my blog was a big win for me. I found authors who did patch programs and shared their ideas on my blog and then shared on Facebook, Pinterest and mailing list. With every bigger popular blog post I wrote brought more and more traffic.

I also have two shops I started selling my booklets strictly on teacherpaysteachers.com then in early 2017 I decided to try selling the booklets directly from my website. I have found having two different avenues of ways to purchase the booklets has paid off as well. People sometimes search and find my other shop first, or by finding that shop they discover my blog and join mailing list.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Over the last year, I have changed some of my branding to be broader for my audience to expand past Scout troops.

After years of focusing on what I know I have gotten feedback from readers and customers that are not even in scouts. Some are teachers, parents, and other leaders of different organizations. So as of today the name has stayed the same, but the product branding is evolving. I am working to change my marketing to grade levels rather than scout levels to bring in a larger audience.

Since this is a one man show, I do not have employees or very much over head as well as I do still work a full time job the process is slow but I am optimistic and hope to double my income from 2018.

I know my market base and I have seasonal slow times in the summer and during the holidays. With that I have products in mind to develop that would be useful in those slower times to hopefully even out the income year round.

I found that it is best to try something that has a low cost to begin with to determine if it will work then decide if you will put more money into the project. I have decided not to develop any more physical products because the ROI is not as high as PDF download products.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Beyond just writing blog posts and making products I have done a few things outside my comfort zone including:

I submitted my story to Side Hustle School Podcast and was featured. The audience was not specific, but the people who listen are also entrepreneurs like me and I have gained a number of great partnerships from people reaching out after hearing my story. Then a few years later I decided I was ready to do a actual interview on a podcast so I was interviewed on Side Hustle nationwhich also proved to be a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs and create partnerships.

I created my own patch set and found a company to develop and sell them through their website and in exchange I promote fun patches monthly on my site and get a royalty on every patch sold on their site.

Developed my own physical product. It is a spiral bound sticker book and a leader guide that can be used with k - 1st graders to teach them about 10 values everyone should follow. My main audience is for leaders in Girl Scout troops but I have had homeschooling parents, teachers and leaders of other types of scout groups use the program.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

  • Website is built using wordpress and hosted on site underground
  • Mailerliteis used for mailing list - it is great connects to Woocommerce shop on site and lets me know what campaign is doing well
  • Envato Elements- Stock photo site
  • PicMonkey - Making social media pictures
  • Adobe products - Indesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop
  • Woocommerce- Shopping cart plugins to allow me to accept money on my website

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

After I started blogging to make money I started following other bloggers, reading books and listening to podcasts. Some to learn more and others to get inspiration on things I could do on my site, or other people to reach out to and collaborate with.

Here is my top list:

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I have a few big takeaways from my last 4 years of blogging

  • Blogging is work, don’t start blogging and expect to quit your day job overnight. Any blogger who claims you can make 100k in 6 months either was super lucky or lying.
  • Find a few bloggers that inspire you and follow them. I have a few I follow and are in a completely different niche, but I have used some things they have done and tried on my blog.
  • Start your mailing list right from the start don’t wait till your getting a lot of traffic your mailing list is your moneymaker. Every time I send an email my sales go up even if I am not promoting anything that cost money.
  • Depending on where you are with your skills I recommend checking out online courses from bigger bloggers. I have purchased a number of programs from other bloggers that are successful to learn more about how they are making their money. It has helped spark even more ideas to make my blog better.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I currently do most things on my own, but I have also partnered with a number of other small business owners on activity booklets that I sell to leaders. I offer commission on every booklet sold of that particular booklet.

I also have hired blog writers on a per post basis. If you have any interest in talking about opportunities on my blog reach out through email.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Jodi Carlson,   Founder of Leader Connecting Leaders

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