How a New Blogger Went From Zero to $20k in 12 Months

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Tami Smith

From burned out freelance writer to making $200+ a day in affiliate sales … all in less than a year.

That’s Tami Smith’s story.

Tami was writing affiliate content for clients when she had a “why don’t I try that?” moment.

Starting in late 2019, Tami went from watching clients make money from the articles she wrote, to making her own affiliate commissions on a site of her own — as much as $20,000 in a single month.

Her effort and results on are extraordinary, all while combining two things she loves — fitness and writing.

Tune in to hear:

  • how Tami gained traction and traffic so quickly
  • the tools she uses to get the job done
  • how you can follow a similar path with a side hustle of your own

If this inspires you to start a blog of your own, my free video series will help you get online quickly and affordably.

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How’d You Come up With the Idea To Start Fit Healthy Momma?

This story starts, as new projects often do, with another side hustle. Tami was working as a freelance writer, and although she was making good money, she wasn’t enjoying it.

“At the peak of my freelance writing career, I was making about $6,000 a month,” Tami told me. “But I was completely burned out.”

Tami was working long hours and most of the content she was writing didn’t interest her. Apart from one client, who had a women’s health and fitness site.

This client was making money through affiliate marketing, and Tami was doing most of the writing for her. It was mostly ‘classic’ best of affiliate posts, like ‘best treadmills under $500’ and so on.

Tami had become a certified personal trainer a few years ago (that was another fitness side hustle). She also enjoyed writing about things she was interested in.

This sparked an idea for Tami: “If she’s doing this website and clearly she’s making money on it, why don’t I try that?” Tami told me.

So, Tami started her site; Not knowing at the time if it would become anything, what direction she would go in, or how she was going to grow the site.

Gaining Initial Traction and Monetizing

Tami started off doing what she knew best, writing what she calls “classic, old school affiliate posts”. These are posts with buyer intent, where Tami can link to products on Amazon and make a commission.

Here’s how Tami approached creating content for her site:

Keyword Research

Typical examples of the ‘best of’ posts are:

  • Best treadmills under $500
  • Best running sneakers for women
  • Best dumbbells for women

However, Tami knew from her freelance writing that buyer keywords are typically fairly competitive. Tami said she would try to find longtail keywords with variations, as these tend to be less competitive.

By this, she means, instead of ‘best dumbbells’, Tami would look for a keyword like ‘best dumbbells for women under $300’. Really niching down on the topic.

She would look for a keyword with a small amount of volume, and try to rank highly for that instead of going for the bigger volume keywords and not ranking well.

Structuring Content

Tami wrote these “best of” posts for the first few months. She would structure the articles as “buying guides”, following this basic structure:

  • Intro
  • List the top 10 products
  • Walk people through a buying guide identifying the things buyers look for

Diversifying Affiliate Programs

Tami said that just when a lot of her posts were starting to get some traction, Amazon slashed their commission rates (April 2020) and set her back in earnings.

She really considered if the “juice was worth the squeeze” in terms of how much time she was putting into her site for the money she would now be making.

Although looking back now, Tami said it was the best thing that could have happened to her. The commission cuts made her look elsewhere, and she started to discover higher-paying affiliate programs off-Amazon.

The affiliate networks Tami signed up with are:

All of which offer much higher commissions than Amazon and include lots of the top brands.

It was at this point Tami also shifted her focus from “best of” style posts to looking more so at specific brands and the products they sell.

How Tami Finds Low Competition Profitable Keywords

Keyword research is an important part of Tami’s strategy to find those longtail keywords she can rank affiliate content for.

She starts by finding products or brands she knows about or has used, then starts to search for keywords to target.

To do her keyword research, Tami uses two tools:

Tami said a lot of the time these tools will show zero search volume for a keyword she’s interested in, but she will write an article anyway.

If the keyword/brand is new to the market, or if many sites haven’t targeted it, Tami said she often ranks high and sees sales immediately.

One of the big keyword wins Tami has had a lot of success with is writing “vs.” posts, like this one on Peloton vs. MYX Fitness. Tami said that by comparing one product against another, she’s catching people when they’re ready to buy and these articles convert well.

How to Write Detailed Review Articles That Convert

Tami doesn’t buy all of the exercise equipment she’s reviewing, that just wouldn’t be possible. What Tami does do, is “research the heck out of whatever it is that I’m reviewing,” she told me.

Tami scrapes all the information on the company’s website, reads press releases, customer reviews, and finds out everything she can about a product.

She then creates one concise, structured article with the goal of answering all the questions someone considering purchasing the item would have. For example, here’s how she presents Tempo Studio.

Side note: If you check out one of her articles and like the layout and tables Tami uses, she builds her pages using ThriveThemes.

What’s Working on the Marketing Front?

Publishing great content will only get you so far, and Tami knows this.

She’s been putting in some time marketing and promoting her content in the following areas:

Link Building

Link building is a big part of Tami’s strategy to promote her content and improve her organic rankings.

Over the last couple of months, she’s been focusing on HARO requests, which stands for Help A Reporter Out.

This involves replying to daily emails from reporters looking for experts in certain industries to help them answer questions. In return, the reporter will add a link and cite the source as the person/website who answered their question.

Tami said that she doesn’t get many links from the number of emails she sends off. But the ones that she does get links from more than make up for the time she spends replying.

Tami also reaches out to other sites in her niche asking to guest post on their sites. She pitches them a few ideas, and goes ahead and writes an article for them if they say ‘yes’.

Social Media

Tami has set up profiles with all the major social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, and recently started a YouTube channel.

It’s her YouTube channel that has surprised her. Not only because Tami says she’s a bit of an introvert and it was a challenge getting in front of the camera, but also because it took off so fast.

Tami is very aware that her blog isn’t very old, and competing against established sites in Google is difficult.

She’s been turning some of her review posts into YouTube videos and seen much quicker traction. Both on YouTube, and with her videos appearing in Google’s search results.

One of her videos has already had more than 10k views, and she’s passed the 1k subscriber mark.

Tami has also started a Facebook group. She links out to it from her homepage and it’s been growing faster than her email list has.

Where Are You Spending Your Time on Your Business?

With a couple of young kids at home, Tami said she only gets about 2-3 hours a day to work on her site.

Tami divides her time between deciding what articles she wants to write and producing the content. This is where all those years working as a freelance writer pays off, as she’s able to produce blog content quickly.

She also has to fit in producing YouTube videos, doing outreach, and other tasks. With such a small amount of time, Tami said it’s all about prioritizing her workload.

What Else Is Bringing in Revenue?

Affiliate commissions are bringing in the bulk of the income for Tami, but she has plans to diversify more.

Tami has published a handful of paid sponsored posts on her site, and this is something she’s open to doing more of in the future.

These relationships come about by brands reaching out to her to review their products. Tami now has a media kit she sends out when companies contact her.

It has to be the right fit though. Tami has had to turn away some offers that didn’t align with what she believes in and wants to share with her audience.

What’s Next?

Tami is considering hiring a video editor to help out with her YouTube videos. That role is currently filled by her husband. But with plans to focus more on video content, she needs to hire some help to speed up the process.

Tami is also exploring starting secondary sites that are more niche-specific. She doesn’t want to have all her eggs in one basket with just one site, and she sees some opportunities to target more niche-specific products.

Tami’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation

“Don’t give up!”

Free Bonus: Common Website Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

Is Your Website Leaking Money?

I've reviewed hundreds of websites over the last 10 years. Here are the most common (and costly) website mistakes.

Get the free guide and plug up those holes!

You'll also receive my best side hustle tips and weekly-ish newsletter. Opt-out anytime.

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

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