Business Blogging: 9 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Out

Two years ago I decided I wanted to earn a living online. It was the only type of business flexible enough to fit around my chaotic family!

Back in 2009 I didn’t really know how to earn good money on the internet, so starting a blog was my way of diving into this world, getting to know people and learning as I went along. Back then my blog was hosted by WordPress and I moved over to businessplusbaby.com in July 2009.

I’ve learned so much in the last two years (copywriting, search engine optimisation, getting published, social media, internet marketing…), I’ve written a book, I’ve got to know some amazing people, I’m a regular writer at My Family magazine and next week I launch my first e-course, Earn What You Deserve as Mumpreneur. Oh and I had a baby! It’s been quite a journey.

So if you’re starting your online business or hoping to make a decent income from your blog, here’s what I wish I’d known back in May 2009…

  • Online business is a team sport

It may look like I’m sitting alone in front of my computer, but I’m totally reliant on other people to read and spread the word about Business Plus Baby. They may often be called ‘web traffic’ but they (we, you, me, all of us) are real people with real lives and I never forget that. Building a business online is about joining the dots between these people, giving people useful information, passing on the message about a new product or service.

It’s all about relationships.

  • You can ‘meet people’ very effectively without leaving home

I’m SO lucky to be growing a home business now. The internet has meant it is possible to start a business cheaply from home – had I had my kids earlier in life it could have been a very different story. It’s hard to believe now, but I didn’t receive my first email until I was 21 (and even then it had to be printed out and posted to me because I wasn’t online back in 1993!).

Anyway, enough of that because I’m sounding old…

I’m stunned at how effectively you can network without meeting people face-to-face using social media, email, Skype and even just picking up the phone. Antonia Chitty and I even managed to write Start a Family Friendly Business without meeting face-to-face at all!

Having said that, nothing beats meeting people in the real world, so if you can mix social media with a few well-chosen conferences you have a very powerful networking combination.

  • It’s not about ‘monetizing your blog’, it’s about having a business with a blog at the centre

A blog without a solid business behind it is just a marketing campaign. And there’s no point in promoting yourself  if you’ve got nothing to sell. I wish I’d started to promote other people’s products as an affiliate right from the beginning, because – even if I didn’t make a penny – at least I would have been learning how to do it.

I thought blogging was some magical new type of online business, but now I see it’s just the same as any other business. You have to find out what people want, offer it to them and do it all with great customer service. The rules are a little different online – mainly because it’s harder to build a relationship than face-to-face – but other than that it’s just business.

  • Don’t give in to overwhelm

Every couple of months I get the feeling I know only a fraction of what I really need to know. There will always be a mind-boggling amount of knowledge that you don’t have. Keep taking the steps forward one at a time and you’ll be amazed at your progress.

If you’re learning about online business or blogging, it seem like every guru has a different business model. And in a way, they have. So a good way to cut the overwhelm is to follow just one guru (or a handful of gurus who work in the same way). If you take advice from every blog you read you’ll end up going around in circles. Or completely paralysed.

  • Keep asking yourself questions

It’s too easy to get comfortable e.g. as long as you’re writing a blog post 3 times a week then that’s enough. Not true. Publishing a good post regularly is essential if your blog is at the heart of your business, but it’s not enough. You have to be growing your mailing list, promoting your blog, growing or maintaining your sources of income (e.g. finding advertisers, writing e-courses, promoting other people’s products as an affiliate) and more, too.

The questions I ask to keep myself on my toes are…..”Am I using my time as effectively as I can?”, “Is there a better way to do this task?”, ” Is now the right time to pay someone else to do this task instead of struggling along on my own?”,  “Does this piece of work look professional?”,  “Am I aiming high enough?”, ” What do my readers really want from me?”, “Who else should I be connecting with?”.

  • Don’t waste your time stressing about numbers that don’t really matter. Work on building your business instead.

It’s easy to get hung up on the precise number of visitors to your website by looking several times a day, when what matters is that the number is gradually going up each month.

Quality can be better than quantity. High visitor numbers might be essential if you’re selling advertising space. But for other business blogs, having a smaller group of true fans who love what you do is better than lots of visitors who come to your blog once and never return.

  • Your mailing list is incredibly important

You may have noticed there’s a social media gold-rush going on? 🙂 Compared to Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, YouTube (the list goes on…) good old fashioned email marketing can sound a little old hat, but any marketing expert will tell you a mailing list is critical. You don’t necessarily need  a huge list, but one where people are engaged and listening to what you say. It takes practice to send out a good marketing email and it takes time to get it right. So my advice to you if you’re marketing your business online is set up a mailing list right now. A blog is good, but you can only truly stay in touch with people if you have their email address. (And once they’ve given you their email address, it’s up to you to send them something that they really want to open – that’s why you need to practice!)

  • Completion, not perfection

Putting your work out there for the world to see is daunting. It’s tempting to spend forever getting your blog post, e-book, e-course, blog, website (or whatever it is) absolutely perfect before you unleash it on the world. You have to get comfortable with doing a job that’s ‘good enough’ rather than perfect, otherwise you won’t be productive enough to make a living.

(Yes, I’m still struggling with this one too!)

  • Have no regrets

One of the things I have learned about online business is that you frequently think “Argh! If only I’d known that 6 months ago I could have saved myself SO much time and hassle!”. But the only way to learn is to dive in and try it, which means you have to make mistakes along the way.

OK, enough reminiscing, lets get stuck into the next two years!

If you’d like to know more about business blogging, you might like to take a look at my e-book Business Blogging for Beginners

Contains affiliate links

Comments

  1. Loved this and recognised it all. It’s very reassuring to know I am doing the right things building my webcommunity Mum & Career, and that diving in is the only way to learn. I just wish I could do more in a week! And at the same time it’s wonderful to be able to spend so much time with my son and train our dogs.

    • Hi Inge – thank you! Your email a couple of weeks ago actually inspired me to write this post but I hadn’t got around to telling you about it!

  2. Wow so much good stuff here – thank you so much Helen, really encouraging.

  3. I don’t run an online business but I do have a blog on my website – and I’m learning something new just about every day – so thanks for the good advice!

  4. Just wanted to thank you for the informative articles – particularly this one. I have been going a year now as a SAHM and dressmaker – juggling both is not easy! I have been writing a blog since Christmas sharing things I make for myself, family and customers and received the first ‘order’ as a direct result of it today. I am now looking at bringing my website and blog together into one site using a web designer… think I’ll be referring here for tips!

    • Hi Lydia, thanks for your feedback! If you’re thinking of bringing your website and blog together, it might be worth asking your web designer about using WordPress. That way you would be able to update the content on your website yourself. It’s great to hear you’ve got your first order from blogging too. Blogging can feel a bit lonely sometimes, but it’s amazing how far you can reach with it.

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  1. […] thanks to Helen Lindop and in this month’s carnival she shares some of her top tips regarding running an online business, in which she reflects on the first two years in business: what’s she’s learned and […]

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