Starting a blog can open so many doors. In fact, I am where I am today thanks to learning how to grow my blog. So, how did I do it?
Throughout my childhood, I lived in many different cities, which taught me how to adapt to change. This proved true when my career path swerved after I married the love of my life.
I was 25 years old when we were married in Mexico, and I saw a world of possibilities ahead of me. I thought to myself that anything was possible, but we had to move to a different country.
But before I dive into all the details, I want to tell you a little bit about my personal story.
How I stumbled upon blogging
Moving to the United States as a newlywed didn’t really scare me that much. The thing that scared me was figuring out what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Starting a new life in Michigan meant first resigning from my job in Mexico.
During the first months of living with my husband, I was blinded by love and all the happiness that came with my new life—and this kept me afloat in the beginning.
After six months of settling in, I started to get impatient. I said to myself, I’m only 25. The thought of not being able to work horrified me every single night. I am an ambitious woman; it devastated me to picture myself in ten years, not having a story of my own, not scaling up the corporate ladder as I had planned.
I started to feel insecure and unstable. What if my “new reality” meant staying at home? I tried to be a happy newlywed wife, but I couldn’t fake it anymore. Staying at home doing nothing was not the person I wanted to be for the rest of my life. So what did I do? I decided to challenge myself, and that is how I stumbled into starting a blog.
I knew there were many ways to make money online, where people were building businesses without geographical boundaries. And so, I decided to give it a try.
Choosing my blog topic
If you want to start and grow a blog, the most important thing is to first define your topic. Many people think that blogging is simply talking about the topics that are relevant to their own lives. It is a big mistake to assume your blog is about you.
As a marketing graduate, I knew that analyzing the competition and defining a niche was the first step to start a blog, so that is exactly what I did.
Fashion has always been an important part of my life. My mom was a fashion designer before she decided to become a full-time mom. I wanted to start a blog related to fashion, but I knew that was too broad of a topic.
I wrote my first couple of posts presenting myself as an “influencer” and linking to the brands I had in my wardrobe. But after the first two posts, I felt unattached. I thought to myself, this is not me. I am not a fashion influencer. I didn’t feel a connection with the brands I was blogging about or to the intention of my blog posts. This led me to my next concept.
It’s okay to have no idea where to start
You may think that successful bloggers always knew what they were doing; that’s a complete misconception. Like any business or idea, you need trial and error to really understand what you have to do.
I had no idea what I was doing. I watched a couple of YouTube videos, read some tips on the internet, and tried to mix them all in my head. I started trying everything I was learning from random sources.
After the first couple of months of going nowhere, I decided to take a few steps back to redefine my goals.
I became more focused on what was truly important to me and how I could connect it to a broad topic like fashion. One day on my volunteer shift at an organization in Michigan, a friend told me about the concept of “capsule wardrobes.”
This concept really intrigued me and I started researching it. Creating a capsule wardrobe means building a wardrobe with timeless essentials to reduce the number of items in your wardrobe while making conscious and sustainable choices.
Sometimes that “great idea” can come from where you least expect it. I still reflect on that day when the “capsule wardrobe” concept came into my life; it literally changed my path forever.
When you start a blog, you must have a purpose and a goal. You have to identify your audience and create content that will be useful to them. Your blog should not be about you.
Your blog should be an endless resource to help people
Of course, you can blog about what you love and tie that content into helpful resources, but in my experience, a blog that doesn’t teach or help others in some way is a soulless blog.
So, once I had the clear vision that sustainability and fashion sounded more like the type of audience I related to, I felt more connected to my blog because I started to look for brands that shared my values in some way.
When you share the same purpose with a brand, it is easier to write about that brand without sounding “salesy.”
Take advantage of all the free resources you can find
Once I had my blog topic and purpose defined, I still wasn’t sure how to grow my blog. The best advice I can give you is to take advantage of all the free resources you can find on the web.
Investment is a common barrier for many businesses
When you are small and starting out, expenses can seem like barriers. You think to yourself that you can’t afford them.
I was aware that I wasn’t generating income, but I was fortunate enough to be supported by my husband, reducing the mental risk for me to experiment and learn online. I asked him for $200 to pay for a Pinterest course from Create & Go. The instructors are a blogging couple that turned two blogs into six-figure businesses.
They promised they would teach me how to generate organic traffic to my website with Pinterest, so I took that leap of faith. Mark my words, that $200 was the best money I ever spent online.
I am not telling you this so that you go off and buy that course, though. My point is that that $200 was the first time I wasn’t afraid to invest in my business. Losing that fear of the first “big” expense had a domino effect on my mindset.
There are millions of online courses out there that will promise you many things, and you don’t have to go and buy all of them. Some of them will be great, others will not be so great, but once you lose the fear of investing and understand what others are doing, you will start building your own criteria and roadmap of what you can apply to your niche.
Learn about opt-ins
Once you learn to treat your blog seriously, you’ll understand that building an email list is a key strategy to grow your blog.
Social media followers are great, but email subscribers are better. Why? Because social media posts depend on algorithms and you’re never the owner of your audience. If Facebook decides to shut down tomorrow, and your complete business depends on your Facebook and Instagram followers…you’re doomed forever!
If you put all your efforts into building an email list that you actually own, you’ll never have that risk of losing your audience.
While I was learning about all of these concepts, I knew I had to add an opt-in to my website to start generating leads. One of my top posts that was driving traffic to my website was: How to choose your capsule wardrobe style. I decided to add a “Style Quiz” to that post using Interact.
You need trial and error experimenting with lead magnets to grow your blog
Like all the steps in my blogging journey, I had no idea what I was doing. This led to many phases of trial and error.
A lead magnet can be a free PDF, e-book, or any resource you can think of in exchange for a visitor’s email address. You need to try different lead magnets to understand what is generating more conversions and what your audience is interested in.
I experimented with creating an opt-in saying, “Subscribe to take a style quiz” and in the first email, I linked to my free Style Quiz.
After two to three months, I gained 800 email subscribers. I was ecstatic about finally figuring out how to start building my email list, but my big mistake was not realizing that my lead magnet didn’t really speak to the audience I wanted to build.
If you research email marketing, you’ll understand that having a big audience that doesn’t open your emails is bad because Gmail can start to tag you as a “spam” account, blocking your emails from inboxes.
Most of the people who subscribed were only interested in taking the quiz. After that, they didn’t engage or open any other emails I sent them.
Unfortunately, I had to acknowledge this mistake. I knew my 800 new subscribers meant nothing, so I deleted them and decided to try again. I’ve tested so many different lead magnets, that I could write a post just on that topic. But to summarize, I learned that my opt-ins had to have the same purpose as my blog.
I built a different opt-in and called it “The Free Guide to Building a Capsule Wardrobe,” which then evolved into the “Free Capsule Wardrobe 4-day Email Course.”
At first, I had way fewer signups than a broad topic like a style quiz would, but the people who subscribed to the free 4-day email course actually did open my four emails because that is exactly what they signed up for.
Many of the opt-ins I experimented with taught me that the more precise you are about why your audience should subscribe, the more engaged your audience will be.
Using quizzes and lead magnets are essential to building your audience. The more precise your quiz or lead magnet is, the better results you’ll get.
If you create high-quality milestones and strategies in your blogging journey, I promise it will pay off in the long run. I know it may be disappointing to find out that being too specific can make your audience smaller, but that’s where perseverance comes in.
I treated my blog like a full-time job, even though I didn’t make money for six months
I decided to give eight to ten hours a day to understand everything I had to do to turn my blog into a business.
This meant waking up at 3:00 a.m. some nights with crazy new topic ideas that I wanted to open my computer to start writing down my thoughts.
Some days I would just read about case studies or analyze what other blogs were doing. Other days I would do keyword research and learn about affiliate marketing and so on and so on.
The more time I invested in learning about the blogging world, the more I became fascinated with it
Seeing bloggers traveling the world while earning passive income through their blog really motivated me to persevere.
There were days where I felt nostalgic because I wasn’t on the corporate path anymore. But that same nostalgia was the fuel for pushing myself to gain more and more knowledge.
As part of my perseverance path, sometimes I sacrificed a nice sunny summer weekday to just be on my computer typing or learning, even though I was not earning one single dollar—yet.
Maybe some of my friends thought I was a crazy workaholic nerd, but I didn’t care. I knew that investing time in my blog would someday bring something positive, so I kept going.
How to grow a blog with affiliate links and by monetizing words
I was intrigued by how I could include affiliate brands in my blog. While I was doing keyword research one day, I came across Bead & Reel, which is now Reclaim Collaborative, an affiliate network for ethical and sustainable brands.
I was so excited to find a network that aligned with my purpose. Once I got accepted, I immediately started to design a keyword strategy to start writing about all these brands on my blog. I was eager to use affiliate links so I could start earning commissions by promoting the brands I loved.
I knew I had to create a media kit to collaborate with brands. I had built an audience (which was small but still it meant something). I started pitching brands with my media kit and offered them a free blog post in exchange for a free product.
Every tiny success in a blogging journey feels amazing
After a couple of weeks, I got a response from the first brand—I couldn’t believe it! So with this brand and the brands that followed, I delivered what I had promised in exchange for their free product and asked for testimonials afterward.
Asking for testimonials is very important to build a portfolio and trust, to eventually work with bigger brands. This is how, little by little, more brands approached me without having to pitch them myself. I got offers to collaborate with more brands and so I decided to adjust my media kit to charge for sponsored posts.
Being very transparent with brands about their sales expectations and what I would deliver made me feel comfortable with charging. I made sure that brands knew that they were paying for the time and effort of creating high-quality content and that I did not see myself as an influencer who generated sales with every post.
It was surprising to see that many brands decided to move forward, despite my not promising sales, which motivated me to do a great job.
Affiliate marketing is a long-term strategy
I had heard so many success stories about affiliate marketing. But there were times when I realized I was not a “huge influencer” who made $500 every time I posted something.
This was frustrating because I wanted to feel like I was replacing my previous full-time income— but I wasn’t there yet. I was doing everything I was supposed to do, such as driving traffic to my blog through Pinterest, creating a keyword strategy, and linking to affiliate brands.
My blog was getting traffic and generating clicks, but I had only generated around $80 in affiliate sales within a complete year. The main source of income for my blog was sponsored posts, but they were unpredictable.
I was really disappointed to see that all my efforts were not really turning into money or at least my income goals, but I didn’t give up.
I realized that I had to understand that affiliate marketing is a long-term strategy to grow passive income. Slow growth doesn’t mean your blog is a failure.
If your blog has a purpose, please don’t give up. Perseverance will reward you with time.
Starting The Mindful Choice has led me to pursue bigger goals every year. It pushed me to start another online business called Green Studio where I help ethical and sustainable entrepreneurs with content marketing strategies. Green Studio is my main source of income and in the past five months, I’ve doubled the income I was earning at my full-time job in Mexico.
I may sound a little crazy to you if you’ve read this far—but what I can tell you is that my blog gets 6k-7k visits per month, which turns into around 80k yearly visits. It does not generate the income that I want yet, but I will get there some day.
Blogging can take you so many places that you never imagined. For me, The Mindful Choice is my corner of the internet where I get to say what I feel about controversial topics, sustainability, conscious consumerism, and also promote ethical brands. While it is not my main source of income, it generates credibility for my other business.
Many of the brands I work with today have found me via The Mindful Choice, which makes me believe that my blog does have a purpose. At least 80k people in the world take the time to read it every year, so even though I haven’t monetized it to its full potential yet, my purpose with it is not only money.
A blog without a purpose is like a person without a soul
I believe each blog has different goals. If you are a business owner, you can earn full-time income with services or online courses, like I am doing with Green Studio. If you are an individual, I promise that if you persevere, your blog will open many doors for you like it has for me.
I hope my story inspires you to never give up on what you do. The world needs more leaders, more drivers of change, and entrepreneurs who are not afraid to give their crazy ideas a try. Good luck on your journey. I hope it takes you very far.