Today’s contribution comes from Grace Moser, who, together with her husband Silas, took action on one Side Hustle Show episode in a big way.
In this post, she shares their incredible results and best-practices from starting a blog from scratch in late 2015, and turning it into a 5-figure a month income stream today! Wow!
Silas and Grace are two adventurers who blog at ChasingFoxes.com about lifestyle, travel, and food. They enjoy creating awesome content for their readers, spending time with each other, and traveling full-time.
Take it away, Grace!
So it was almost a year into marriage and a year into searching for the right hustle that would get us out of the corporate world.. and we were horribly broke. Seriously, it was depressing.
My husband Silas was working 60+ hours at an energy draining job, while I stayed at home trying to find other ways to make money online and trying some out. We wanted to be full-time travelers; seeing the world was a passion for us. So staying in a dead-end job that was soul-sucking (literally), was not an option.
However, me staying at home was really hard for us. The car kept on breaking down in the middle of winter, unexpected bills kept on popping up, and we were living paycheck to paycheck.
So as you can imagine, we really needed the extra money I could bring in with even a part-time retail job (I had no college degree yet, so that was the best I could do at the time).
That was until we heard one of Nick Loper’s podcast episodes.
We had been listening to his podcast, The Side Hustle Show, for months now. He had really inspiring case studies and success stories which had us coming back every week to hear more. Unlike other podcasts, he found people with real actionable advice and ideas on how to start up a side hustle. And to be honest, we needed that. There were too many out there that had too much fluff (click bait; promising big and delivering little).
Seriously, we listened to so many episodes done by interviewers and interviewees that wouldn’t help us at all. We’d listen for almost an hour, hoping we could find a nugget of gold, and turning out empty handed. But Nick’s show didn’t do that to us.
Nick’s Notes: Ahh flattery — the key to getting your guest post pitch noticed :)
And in November 2015, we listened to his interview with Rosemarie Groner from The Busy Budgeter. In this episode, Rosemarie explained about how she was able to make $5k per month online in just a year. And she did this through blogging.
Now blogging was the last thing Silas and I ever wanted to do. In all of the interviews and articles out there, people talked about how long it took to make any real income from blogging. And we didn’t want years, we wanted it sooner.
And that’s what Rosemarie provided for us; real actionable advice on how we could work online full-time within a year. And she did it through Pinterest.
Now I was pretty familiar with Pinterest, but I had no idea you could use it as a way to drive traffic to your site. And I could go into all the ins and outs of how to get started doing that, but instead, I’ll just link to the episode itself so you can hear her steps on making Pinterest work for your blog.
Nick’s Notes: If you’re short on time or prefer reading instead, I shared my own steps and results in implementing Rosemarie’s Pinterest advice here.
Right now though, I’m going to share with you how I found my own ways to hack virality on Pinterest and make $3k in my 3rd month after launching my blog.
Before You Launch
Many people think that when they’re starting a blog, they have to launch it right away! You’ve gotta get yourself out there quickly so you can start getting pageviews rolling in.
However, there are few steps to take before you even launch.
Now why do this?
Well, I’ve seen people start right out of the gate and be successful, but for many, it can be discouraging when you’re not getting the pageviews or income you want… and that may lead to quitting. So I fully encourage you to follow these steps so you can start seeing results right after launching.
Before even buying the hosting for our site (we couldn’t even afford it yet, we had to put money back first), we made around 30-40 posts. I would highly encourage you to write at least 25-50 blog posts before launching.
That way when people land on your site, they have more content to read if they get curious, and it doesn’t make it look like you just started out.
Another important reason for having 25-50 blog posts is so that when you put them out on Pinterest, you can start to get good traffic right away. Even if it starts out small, you’ll start to get encouraged by the numbers you see.
Now this is something I worked hard at before my blog went live. Since we couldn’t afford hosting just yet, I had to do anything and everything to make sure I was prepped for when we could. And group boards were one of my top priorities.
Like what Rosemarie Groner said in the podcast, group boards are created when an owner of a specific Pinterest board decides to add other people to pin to that board as well. This can mean that if you get added to a group board that has over 100k followers, any of the pins from your site can get seen in front of that audience.
So before you launch, make sure you have a good number of group boards ready to go so that you can start promoting your pins. That’s how I was able to get in front of so many people when first starting out.
Nick’s Notes: You can’t just hit “join” for these boards; you have to request an invite to these boards. I asked Grace what tactics worked for her in getting those requests approved.
I would be extremely polite and friendly, letting them know that I loved their content and would love to contribute to their group board. Then I would let them know that I would follow any rules they had and not spam.
Finally, I would finish it by telling them that if they needed help with anything, just to let me know. Many times this caught the bigger bloggers’ attention and without me even having a blog up and running yet, they would add me onto the group board.
A really cool way I found awesome group boards, was going to some of my favorite bloggers (in my niche) on Pinterest and seeing if they had any group boards of their own. Also, I would see what group boards, they had been added to. Chances are, if these top performing bloggers were on a group board, it was performing well.
It’s really important that you find the right boards, as some do better than others, hence this strategy.
Quick Note on Your Personal Boards: While you don’t want your boards to be too personal or too off topic with your blog’s Pinterest account, I found that creating boards that appeal to a wide range of people (ex. tasty food, budgeting tips, organization, etc.) can help attract more potential followers of your blog.
Even if it’s not directly a part of your niche or a smaller part of it (like food boards), you still want to catch the eye of as many people as you can.
Whether you’ve launched your blog yet or not, follow these tips to make sure that you get great virality!
For each post, you’ll make a set of pins. Now there are a few tips and hacks I have for getting heavy hitting pin images which result in great views for a specific post or a post even going viral.
You don’t want to make just any pins with any image you find on the free photo sites; you want to think with virality in mind.
Nick’s Notes: For a case study example on what a killer Pinterest profile looks like, check out Chasing Foxes on Pinterest:
How to Make Pins with the Potential to Go Viral: Study the Blogging Pros
For the first couple of weeks I made pins, they were … average at best. I found any image that would do, and slapped a mediocre title on them. But after getting not as many views as I wanted, I knew I had to change my strategy.
I started looking at people who had found the “secret sauce” for pin images and started to make pins inspired by them. Reinventing the wheel wasn’t my strong suit (as it might not be for many), so I had to learn from others. As soon as I started mimicking image styles from other bloggers, I started to see more pageviews roll in instantly.
Here’s one style of pin I saw performing really well, so I decided to emulate it:
And here’s one of my creations it inspired:
PicMonkey is a great photo editing site that helps you make great pin images.
When it comes to images, I will either go to Google Advanced Image Search and filter to usage rights that allow for modification and commercial use. Or if I am doing a round-up post of great ideas done by other bloggers, I will use their photos and give them credit.
Next, I studied blogs like Buzzfeed or The Krazy Coupon Lady for how they titled their pins.
I noticed that they would use phrases that would give a sense of urgency like, “8 Frozen Hot Chocolate Recipes You NEED to Try this Summer!” Or a sense of curiosity such as, “10 Beyond Genius Clothing Hacks You’ve Probably Never Heard Of!”
Before, I was using titles like “10 Amazing Tips for Saving Money on Groceries.” Now yes this provided a solution for a problem, but with all the other “grocery month hacks” out there, it didn’t stand out.. at all. So I would experiment with at least 4-5 titles that would catch my reader’s attention and get them to click through. And that brings me to my next point.
Later on, I ended up titling that post as, “10 Simple Grocery Shopping Hacks That’ll Save You a Lot of Money.” It’s long, but words such as “Simple” and phrases like, “That’ll Save You a Lot of Money,” grab the attention and spark curiosity.
A/B/C and D Test!
I had always heard about a/b testing. You take two pin images with two different titles, pin them to certain boards and see which one does better, and then delete the one that didn’t do as well.
However, I found a different way of doing this; a way that would guarantee me to get great views for each post. Instead of two pins, I would make around 4-6 pins per post. It sounds like a lot, but it’s worth it for a few reasons.
Nick’s Notes: Um, I’ve only ever made 1 pin per post. I’m listening…
First, you have 4-6 different titles and images that have the opportunity of catching many different people’s attentions and more of a chance for something to go viral.
Second, I don’t delete any of them as you would think (unless 1 or 2 of the pins didn’t take off at all). If I have 4-6 great pins for each post doing relatively well (even if there’s one that’s doing better than the rest), I have that many more people to see the post and and drive in more traffic.
For example, here’s a set of pins I made for one of my posts:
Nick’s Notes: I’ve definitely seen some of these floating around the Pint-universe! Follow Side Hustle Nation on Pinterest here.
As for boards I pin them to, I spread them out. I’ll set up an automated pinning campaign on BoardBooster that pins one of the pins to the different group boards I schedule them to. That way, there’s never more than 1 pin (from the set of 5 pins) that gets pinned to an individual board.
Third, I’ve found out something that came as a bit of a surprise. It turns out that if one pin in a group of pins goes viral, the rest of the pin images linking back to that same URL do EXTREMELY well too!
I see it as Pinterest knowing that a post is doing well and wanting even more people to see it. So they boost any other pins linked to the same source. Pretty awesome and crazy right?
Pain Points and WIIFM
Pain points are the problems that people want fixed now, and you have to know how to hit them.
They don’t want to know about you and your dog’s relationship; they want to know how they can lose 5 pounds in a week for their sister’s wedding.
They want to know how they can cut out $2,000 from their monthly budget because they’re living paycheck to paycheck.
Another way to put this is WIIFM which means, “What’s In It For Me.” You have to act like everyone has this written on their foreheads. People want to know how this blog post is going to make a big or small change in their life. So every time you write a post, make sure you have WIIFM in mind.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they first start out blogging (and of course I made this mistake at first too), is assuming that people want to know about their personal life. I also see them give vague titles to their blog that doesn’t tell the reader in any way how this will benefit them, or they write on a subject that only a small amount of people will care about. If you want to have blogging success, you can’t do this.
In general though, I would definitely wait on posting more personal posts (posts on family, everyday life, more niched topics, etc.) until you get a loyal following. For now, focus on virality for each post. Follow the WIIFM strategy, and you’ll start to gain that loyal following a lot sooner.
For example, one of my earlier posts, “10 Brilliant Home Hack Posts That’ll Improve Your Life,” took off way better than I ever thought it would.
I made a list of really high quality posts done by awesome bloggers to help my readers improve their homes in small and big ways. I knew that people really took pride in their homes, so helping them out with finding the best sources for home tips and decor ideas definitely helped them out.
People responded to it really well and it ended up sending CRAZY amounts of traffic to those blogger’s sites as well.
Now this was one of the best ways I found to get a ton of traffic from Pinterest. I noticed that sites like Buzzfeed would do posts like, “11 of the Best Healthy Pizza Recipes for People Trying to Lose Weight.” They would take pre-made content and curate (compile) a list of these tips and tricks and it would give them massive traffic.
So as you can probably guess, I decided to try my hand at it. Not every post was a curated post, but I found ways to take ideas from other bloggers (whether it was food or cleaning hacks), give them credit and link back to them, and then gain HUGE traffic from people wanting to know about “8 Beyond Genius Clothing Fix Hacks That’ll Save You Money,” or “10 Clever Bedroom Organization Tips That’ll Make Your Life Easier.”
Now even if this isn’t something you’d be crazy about doing, I’d still suggest doing it every once in awhile. There are plenty of ways you can make it work with your niche. So for example, if your niche is money, you could do “10 of the Best Budgeting Printables for the New Year.”
Fulfill Multiple Niches
When starting our blog, my husband Silas and I decided that we’d do more than one niche. Many bloggers were saying to niche down, but we were passionate about multiple things and didn’t want to start multiple blogs. In short, we decided to blog about making life better.
Nick’s Notes: And I probably would have been the first to say that’s waaaay too broad a topic.
Another reason this was a good fit for us is because certain topics do better at other times of the year. So if your niche is food, it’ll do amazing during the holidays. If your niche is money or organization, it’ll do awesome during the beginning months. We learned that if we did more than one niche, we could still get great views no matter what part of the year we were in.
The next reason for this was because we wanted massive traffic which meant hitting multiple niches at once, and bringing in audiences from all around.
Posting Almost Every Day
We wanted to get our name out there and we wanted to do it fast. So we decided we’d have posts going out onto the blog and Pinterest almost every day of the week (save a couple so we didn’t burn ourselves out). It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. It gave us more opportunity to go viral and gain massive amounts of traffic sooner.
In the earlier days, I would spend around 50 hours a week working on writing posts, creating pins, and getting onto group boards. I know it’s a lot, but the time goes by fast and it paid off big time.
I was inspired by people like Sarah Titus who was just divorced when she started her blog so she could stay home with her 3 kids full-time. She would work nights and any other part of the day she had free. I knew that if a busy mother of three could start making $10k in a year, I could too.
It may sound tiring, but it really is worth it. You’ll have multiple traffic streams coming in, so even if you need to take a week off from working, you’ll have those posts working for you.
So when my husband was working a soul-sucking corporate job and we kept on having bills pop up and the car breaking down, it was pretty tempting for me to go out and get a part-time minimum wage job (Remember? I don’t have a college degree) to ease the money stresses.
But we chose not to. We believed in our dream so we kept pushing.
The opportunity cost in my case was me losing out on easy money for a dream that wasn’t bringing in anything. It was just a dream at that time, but I still went after it because I knew I’d have bigger benefits later on instead of working at the dollar store down the street which was the ultimate definition of a “dead end job.”
I believe opportunity cost is one of the the biggest things you need to remind yourself of when blogging. You need to be constantly weighing your short term options against the benefits that exist in the long term.
Nick’s Notes: Lately, Chasing Foxes is earning $10k-20k per month, with no signs of slowing down. The main monetization channels are display ads and affiliate relationships.
Here’s a screenshot of their traffic Grace sent me from August, the month they decided to begin traveling full-time:
Yeah, that says 1.4 MILLION uniques!
A Few Last Thoughts
People want to say that the work you put in before your blog takes off is worthless, but I couldn’t disagree more. The time and energy you put into creating content and a firm foundation for success is paid back to you in HUGE dividends once your blog gains recognition. So don’t feel discouraged when first starting out, you’ll be able to pay yourself back any money and time invested multiple times over.
Lastly, just remember that a year from now, you’ll wish you started today.
This is something my husband always reminded me of. So where do you want to be in a year from now? Would you rather be surfing Facebook or watching Netflix after a hard day of work at a dead end job, or would you rather be bringing in a new income stream and working from home?
You may think that you deserve to relax after working so hard at your job, but what you really deserve is to work hard now so that you can have time and financial freedom later.
Nick’s Notes: If you don’t yet have a blog of your own, check out my free video course on how to get your site online quickly and affordably.
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Stock photo by Sata Production via Shutterstock