What 5 years of blogging taught me about business success
5 years ago, if someone looked in a crystal ball and predicted that on a cold November evening under the bright light of the full moon, I would be writing an article for an American blog, I’d have a hard time believing that!
Not because I don’t believe in fortune tellers.
Back then, it just seemed really impossible, for the following reasons:
- I knew nothing about blogging -my only experience was being an occasional blog reader.
- I was convinced that my marketing skills were simply non-existent.
- I hated writing.
How probable would it be for me to write long articles in a foreign language; when even a brief report in my mother tongue was a boring or daunting task?
I decided to set up my own blog because I almost had no other choice.
Hiring an interior designer, due to the worst financial crisis that hit my country, Greece, suddenly became a forbidden luxury.
I had to take action instead of waiting desperately for the phone to ring.
5 years later, I can proudly declare, that this was the second most clever decision in my whole career.
The first one was to study what I love the most — i.e. architecture.
For some people, their blog is just their hobby and a way to communicate with the world.
For others, it’s their business, or as it is for me, a valuable tool for my business.
My online presence was firstly based on my blog, which now sends traffic to my website. I had reasons to keep them separate and independent but closely linked to each other.
My goals were clear:
- share my knowledge and educate people and prospective clients
- promote my architectural studio and attract new clients
- show to the existing clients what differentiates me from other architects and interior designers
- establish me as an expert in the new field, not quite explored yet, of interior design psychology.
The results were beyond my expectations!
Not only did I achieve my goals, which led to more ambitious plans, but I also learned a ton of things about running my business successfully.
Whether you are a passionate blogger earning or anticipating to earn money from your blog or an entrepreneur who owns/does not own a blog — this article applies in both situations.
Replace where needed audience or readers with clients or prospects and blog with business.
It makes sense either way.
After all, when you’re heading for success, you follow the same rules!
1. Have fun or you’ll give up soon
This is the most precious advice I could give.
Do something that you really like, or don’t do it at all!
According to a New York Times article, 95% of bloggers will abandon their blog, sooner or later.
I don’t know the exact percentage of freelancers or entrepreneurs who quit their business, but I have already met plenty of them.
Choosing a topic just because some bloggers are making millions from it, or a profession only because you think it will make you rich and famous is not a clever decision.
If you are not in love with what you’re doing, there’s not much of a chance to become rich or successful.
Because you simply won’t work as hard as required in order to achieve your goals.
It’s essential to enjoy the journey that will probably last for long — or forever — as much as the destination. If not more!
2. See what others are offering and become better or different
There are plenty of amazing blogs about architecture and interior design, based mostly on gorgeous photos.
But, if you subscribe to a couple of them, you don’t have to follow any other.
Their content is almost identical.
There are also some scientific architecture and design blogs, with articles written for the industry professionals.
I knew I couldn’t compete with established blogs with hundreds of thousands of visitors and I didn’t intend to start an online discussion with colleagues.
After all, there was no need to launch a blog, without having anything new to contribute.
Researching online, I found out there was no such blog in Greece and there were also only a few worldwide, specialized on what attracted me since I was a student of architecture — i.e. the impact of architecture and design in human psychology.
I also knew that design and psychology are topics that most of my prospective clients — especially women — are very interested in.
It was obvious I would stand out in the crowd, doing something nobody has done before, which was bringing the researchers’ knowledge to non-experts.
After that, it was a matter of time to be considered as an expert in a niche I almost invented!
Find what’s missing, then offer it in the best package.
3. Don’t lose your main target, but be open to unexpected opportunities
Whether you’re trying to grow your email list or to land quality clients, do not lose your main target and make sure you’re following the right path that leads to it.
It’s easier than you think to find yourself wasting your energy, doing unnecessary, time-consuming things.
Use the right strategy and stay focused.
At the same time, it’s clever to be open and explore new ways or opportunities that may come in your way.
I would probably increase traffic if I didn’t try to keep my blog’s content strictly relevant to the topic I’ve chosen.
However, I wouldn’t attract the right target group and I couldn’t differentiate myself from other design bloggers.
On the other hand, taking the chance to write for another blog, helped me reach out to a broader audience, sharing my experiences in a totally different aspect.
4. First, you offer and then you receive
A lot of people expect to receive without giving anything.They believe that the universe owes them everything and all they have to do is sit and wait.
Where others see personal effort, they see luck and good fate.
I call them losers!
You have to create or produce something before you start receiving.
It’s not karma, it’s common sense!
I invested plenty of time and effort to have quality and original content, that prospective clients would find helpful. There was no other way to attract clients from all over the country (and abroad!)
Eventually, this paid back.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean you should give away your work for free or you shouldn’t ask for a down payment.
Readers or prospects are window shopping; make sure you showcase your “goods” irresistibly to make them cross the threshold.
5. If you are good, one day you’ll be discovered. Before that, you have to shout it to everyone!
What if you wrote the perfect article and nobody except for your mother and your cat has seen it?
You’ll have a difficult time marketing your business if you are very shy and modest.
Many professionals do really quality work, but they get lost because they don’t know how to promote it.
Apple and Coca Cola, who sell millions of products worldwide, still need advertisement; and you don’t?
Before you say, it’s not my style, I am a designer or artist and not a marketer, I can assure you that these were my exact words and strong belief a few years ago!
I had to learn to sell my work.
Not only did I learn to do it, but I finally enjoyed it so much, that I now give advice to other freelancers!
If I did, then you can certainly do it as well!
Loving what you’re doing and being convinced that you can really help others to solve their problems or become happier make things easier.
6. Respect is something you earn with hard work, nobody owes it to you
It has almost become a slogan that everybody deserves to be respected and appreciated.
But, is everybody worth it?
I don’t think so.
In fact, there are many bloggers and professionals, that try to deceive their readers or clients, taking for granted that they are smarter than them.
Usually, it’s the other way around!
The web is full of lazy bloggers that steal other blogs’ content or reproduce inaccuracies and deliver false information. It won’t take long before the fraud is revealed.
As long as you respect yourself and your audience and keep doing your best, you’ll soon be appreciated and rewarded.
You can take my word for it!
7. There’s always room for improvement — educate yourself constantly
The day you’ll think you’ve finally made it, the end is close.
As they say, it’s not so difficult to climb but to remain on top.
The good thing about blogging is not only you can improve day after day, but you can always go back in time and update or make corrections to older posts.
You normally do this with your business, by practicing and learning from your mistakes.
The more you work, the better you become.
8. Educate your readers and clients
This is exactly what you do by writing articles for your blog.
Although you may say exactly the same things, people will “listen” to you more carefully, if they see your words written.
When something is published, even on the web, we gain authority.
My best clients and the easiest to communicate with, are those who are visually ‘educated’ and can distinguish good from bad design.
In fact, my “dream clients” are those who have read my articles.
Our mission as a creative professional is not only to offer them solutions but to educate them.
9. Know your readers and clients and listen to them
When I started my blog, I wrote about what I thought people would like to read, or what fascinated me.
Posts that generated traffic revealed to me what my readers actually want to read about. Their preferences gave me insight into their most painful problems.
Recently, I took it a bit further, by asking my subscribers to fill a form and tell me their opinion about the blog, configuring its future content.
I used this knowledge to launch services that meet their needs.
For instance, my studio is the first in my country that offers 2 online color services and 3 consulting services for professionals.
The most important part: I learned to really listen to my client’s needs and desires.
This not only helped me to be one step ahead, offering them what they need but made the whole process of design smoother and easier for me and more pleasant for my clients.
It’s amazing that I make a presentation of an interior design project and need almost no revisions! Believe me, it wasn’t always like that!
So, it’s really important to know your audience or clients and listen to them.
Even in case you don’t own a blog, other blogs in your niche can be a resource for useful information.
10. If something doesn’t bring results, you’re probably doing it wrong
During my first year of blogging, the subscribers were only a few friends of mine.
I had read many times about pop-ups and free eBooks, but couldn’t imagine that this could make a huge difference.
To be honest, I was almost certain that Greeks, unlike readers from other countries, prefer to follow a page on Facebook than subscribe to a blog’s newsletter.
However, I decided to give it a try. I’ve written an eBook to give as a gift and use it as a popup. I did what most successful bloggers are doing and advise us to do.
The subscriptions tripled overnight! It was that simple, I couldn’t believe it! Now I have constantly 10 times more subscribers a month, than before.
(Actually, unlike most bloggers, my newsletter subscribers are way over my social media followers! I focused on the essential.)
It happens many times in business, to underestimate a method’s results.
This leads to the next great lesson.
11. Follow the rules, but break them when necessary
There are certain things that work well in blogging and business. It’s very helpful that we don’t have to start from scratch, but have the opportunity to follow tested recipes that eventually bring results.
However, it’s necessary once in a while to break the rules and dare to do things for the first time.
Don’t be afraid to follow your intuition and be different — this may either lead to a failure or to unexpected success.
Test your ideas before you reject them or apply them.
Being frightened or unwilling to change won’t help you to make progress.
12. Be patient, think long term and keep on working
Being impatient and craving for quick results are the main reasons the majority abandon a blog or an idea.
You cannot become rich in a few days or weeks, although many books promise instant results with only positive thinking!
If you want to earn money from the first day at work, you better stay at your paid job.
Whether you’re building your business or your blog, it will take time and effort before you see the first results and even more time and effort, before you achieve your goals.
Every time I start feeling restless or anxious, I remind myself of a quote I once read:
“The secret of patience is to find what to do in the meantime”.
Fortunately, in blogging and in business there are so many exciting things that can keep us busy — apart from funny cat videos — while waiting for our posts to rank high on Google or for clients to reply to our proposals.
Actually, it’s extremely difficult for me not to find something to do!
Don’t get discouraged when you work hard and see no results, yet.
13. If you don’t quit, you will probably succeed
Truer words were never spoken!
Most people fail, just because they were disappointed and gave up too early.
Perhaps they lacked passion and patience.
Or, they had other choices and priorities.
Being insistent and persistent on something you strongly believe and love is the key to success.
14. Never say never
I don’t exaggerate when I’m saying that for many years, writing was among my most hated occupations.
While once filling up a simple page was absolute torture, now I try hard to keep my posts shorter than 3000 words.
Surprisingly, writing became a pleasure! Apparently, I have a lot to say!
Some things won’t ever happen to us because we are not really interested, committed or even obliged to make them happen.
There are times, however, that deep inside we really want something, but we feel the chances are so slim, that it’s not worth the effort.
We also fear that in case we fail to achieve our goal, we will be frustrated.
In that case, a little success, encouragement or positive feedback can motivate us.
We finally realize that it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed.
Everything starts with a first step.
Even the most successful blogs, with thousands of posts and visitors, started with the first, not so amazing article that a person wrote.
Some of the billion dollar companies started with one smart idea — and a few failures.
The only way to eliminate your chance to succeed is to avoid taking this first step. In blogging and in business.
But, why would you do that?
Share if you like!
Originally published at Millo, with the title “What 3 years of blogging taught me about business success”, on February 3, 2017