[Note: This post was originally published in March 17, 2010, but I have rewritten and revised it to add new details and insights. Enjoy.]
It took me 101 days to hit 1,012 subscribers. I did it by using a very simple strategy that was free from overwhelm and stress.
Most bloggers never get past the 1,000 subscriber mark, or create a profitable online business, not because they aren’t good, but because they are afraid to use the most effective tools available.
I worked hard during those 101 days, but I loved every second of it. Looking back, I can still see where I made mistakes, but making mistakes is not the problem, not taking action is.
If you can consistently take action, you will achieve your goals.
And the way to consistently have the fuel to take action is to find and follow your passion.
We all have something like this inside of us.
If you can find a topic you could die for, you’re on the right track. If someone had a gun to your head and you had to choose one topic to write about for the next few years, what would you choose?
1. Finding My Passion
In November 2009 I had been contemplating starting what would become Wake Up Cloud and following my true passion. In the early days I wrote mainly about personal development, but as people got wind of the fact that I made a living online, I started writing more about online business, and it evolved from there.
I wasn’t always clear about my passion. Earlier in 2009, I wanted to start a blog about health, personal development, and money. I jotted down some ideas, but I succumbed to my own excuses and never took action.
I went back to building websites that made money. I hoped that if I only had enough money, I could do what I loved. And on top of that, in early 2009, I was still playing poker, but it was slowly eroding my soul.
The money was good, but there’s more to life than money.
I wanted to do something else.
Around March-April of 2009 I stopped playing poker cold-turkey and haven’t played a hand of poker since. I forced myself to work on my website at the time and make it more profitable. While I wasn’t following my true passion, I was writing about topics I was interested in.
It was a step in the right direction.
During the months leading up to November 2009, I was constantly thinking about what I would want to write about. What did I do all day when I wasn’t working on my websites?
It was a slow process. The answer I kept getting was online business and personal development.
When the end of 2009 came, I had already built up a solid income stream from my websites that could keep me alive while I was learning how to blog. I realized that building any kind of income online would take a long time. I was okay with that, because I was going to write on a topic I was passionate about.
I was also very interested in natural health, but I knew I had to pick one main topic to be successful. I could always build a blog around natural health later on. I hesitated for a while, until one morning I had a dream that basically sent me the message “don’t wait, start NOW!”
I woke up confused. It was one of those dreams you just can’t seem to shake off. It was vivid in my mind and I took it as a kick in my ass to get started, so I did . . .
2. Modeling What Works
I credit my poker success to all the coaches I’ve had during the years. When I hired my first poker coach in early 2005, I instantly fell in love (not in the coach ;)). While it wasn’t cheap, it helped me improve my game tremendously.
I used the same strategy in blogging and online business. I remembered earlier that year that I had thought about hiring Chris Garrett. I didn’t think much of it at that time. One day, out of the blue, I received an e-mail from Chris where he announced he was opening his course, Authority Blogger.
To be honest, at that point I had been subscribed to Chris’ blog but I never read his articles, which is why what was about to happen was very weird. When I received that e-mail, I knew that this was what I wanted. When I looked through the offer I saw that Chris offered comprehensive e-mail support. I was sold.
I have never thought twice about finding a mentor and paying them for helping me. It helps me avoid common mistakes and most important of all, it helps me reach my goals at a much more rapid pace.
Would I have been able to reach 1,012 blog subscribers in 101 days without joining a course?
I highly doubt it.
As I started blogging, I had a lot of questions, which were answered rapidly by Chris and it helped me stay on course. I had the same problems as any new blogger would have. I wanted to chase every new shiny object that came across my path, but I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I had to stay focused.
3. Planning My Attack
Before I even started my blog, I thought about things like:
- What did I want to achieve?
- How did I want to achieve it?
- Who was my target audience?
- How often did I want to post?
- How was I going to get traffic?
- How was I going to keep readers interested?
- Did I want to make money with my blog?
- How was I going to produce a profit?
There are many more questions you should think about when you’re starting your blog. Naturally, all of these questions can be overwhelming to consider, which is why it’s good to have someone nearby who can help clear up confusion.
I already knew my passion, but I had a lot of work ahead of me to write out what I really wanted to achieve. It’s easy to ignore the planning process and jump right in, but going through and writing down your goals can bring a lot of clarity to your writing and business.
It’s not enough to start a blog. You have to know who you’re helping and what you’re helping them with. This is where most people fail.
And it’s something I overlooked in the beginning, which was a mistake, but I kept going, and that’s key. You won’t get this perfect right off the bat, but you have to keep going anyway.
I thought about who my ideal reader/customer was. It was someone I’d like to hang out with in real life, which meant they would be interested in weird stuff, and they would be determined to succeed.
After all this it was time to write down my strategy.
How was I going to get traffic?
I didn’t know when I was going to write my first guest post. I just knew I wanted to do it.
It’s all well and good to get traffic, but how was I going to turn them into subscribers?
The best option was to use a sign-up incentive, which is basically a bribe you give people for signing up. This would help me get people on my e-mail list, which would help me engage the people that were serious about building an advice-based online business.
There are a lot of e-mail list services out there. I personally have used Aweber for several years and haven’t had problems with them. I recommend you do some comparisons do find a service that resonates with you, but if you want my recommendation, go with Aweber.
At this point I didn’t really know how I was going to help people by creating products and services.
What I did know was that there were a lot of people out there struggling with making a living online and following their passion. I was making it happen, and I had already helped a few people make money online, so I was confident I could lend a helping hand.
4. Executing My Strategy
Writing and planning is cool, but nothing happens until you take action. I knew what I wanted with my blog and I knew how I was going to achieve it. I have always hated planning, so I try to skip it every chance I get, but in this instance I really discovered how much clarity it can bring to whatever I am doing.
Just knowing what I was going to do and how I was going to do it gave me certainty and confidence to take massive action. I basically had everything written down, so I knew the steps I needed to take to make progress.
I was scared a lot of the time.
I was scared before I started my blog.
I was scared when I put my first blog post up.
I was scared when I wrote my first comment.
And I was scared when I submitted my first guest post to a big blog.
Those were the good old days, and I’ve since realized that there’s not much to be scared of. You take action, you keep going, and you push through the discomfort.
There’s a lot of information you can follow. There are thousands of blogs, courses, and training programs.
But which one of them is right for you?
And how do you even know they give you the best information?
That’s why I recommend you get a coach, and that’s why I have a coach even now when I have thousands of subscribers.
If you’re just starting out, chances are you will make a lot of mistakes, and you won’t make progress as fast as you want to. That’s normal. Expect it, and then take even more action.
Many of my coaching clients are worried about what other’s will think of them. I experienced that in the beginning, too, but then again, are you going to let that fear hold you back from building a business around your passions?
People will think what they think. There will always be people that are unhappy and take it out on you.
It’s not personal, so why care?
Do what you feel excited about and let other people wallow in misery if they want to.
The more passionate you are about a subject, the harder you’ll work and the higher chances are that you will succeed.
5. Guest Posting
After I got my first guest post published and saw the traffic it brought to my website, I was hooked. I recognized the power of guest blogging and I made guest posting my main strategy for getting traffic, links and subscribers to my blog.
It is one of the reasons why I have grown so fast. I haven’t kept track of all my guest posts, but during these 101 days, I wrote close to 50 guest posts on various blogs. Some brought me ten visitors while others brought me a thousand.
I started by guest posting on the smaller blogs, because I was a bit intimidated of having my writing on the bigger ones. Once I got comfortable writing more and more, I started approaching bigger blogs. After a while I realized that my fears were unfounded.
All the blog owners I got in touch with were incredibly friendly.
Here’s a tip if you’re starting out and want to grow fast: get over your fears and go for the biggest blogs, because that’s where you’ll get 80% of the results with 20% of the effort.
Stop tip-toeing around your fears and take them head on. They are just ideas in your head.
You don’t have to guest post on 50 blogs, you just need a few big ones and you’ll have 1,000 subscribers in half the time that I did it.
If you’re sitting there wondering why you aren’t getting traffic to your blog, it’s most likely because you aren’t putting in the work. I made my fears insignificant by having an important purpose and following my passion.
You can do the same.
6. Adapting to Circumstances
As with anything, your plan won’t be flawless. You will have to adapt your approach over and over again. When I had written for a few months, I realized that something was wrong. I felt bad writing and I got writer’s block.
When you get writer’s block, it’s usually because you’re focusing on you, instead of your readers.
You don’t have to come up with topics to write about, you just have to listen to your readers and clients.
What questions are they asking?
What are they struggling with?
Where do they get stuck, and why?
Just because your initial enthusiasm runs out doesn’t mean you should quit blogging. I see a lot of new, promising bloggers quit because of this.
They just don’t have the stamina to keep going.
This is not for everyone. To be honest, it seems like it’s not for most people, because they’re not ready to face their fears and take action when the going gets tough.
How did I deal with this?
I took things one day at a time. Sure, I felt overwhelmed and confused, but I kept doing what I could do.
One action every day will get you a lot further than letting your fears control your life, even if that action is in the wrong direction.
7. Staying Focused
One of the most obvious traits of successful blogs is their consistency. It takes time to build a blog readership, which means you have to be in it for the long haul.
When I first wrote this article, I wrote “I know I’m probably not going to make close to a living for at least a few years from this blog, which is fine by me, because I really like what I’m doing, whether I get paid or not.”
I said that mainly because I was deluding myself, but also because I was already making a living from my other websites, so life was good.
How was I deluding myself?
I was taking the easy road, because I wasn’t focused on my blog as a business. I just focused on writing and having fun. If you want a business, you have to sell stuff, and I wasn’t ready for that then.
It’s been a long journey, but I’ve come around. I’ve learned a lot, and that experience translates to my coaching clients, because I can help them shave years off their learning curve.
Don’t worry about making mistakes, because what matters it that you do something. I knew I wasn’t doing things optimally in the beginning, but I still kept going, because I had no other choice.
I refused to give up.
And that’s why you’re reading the second edition of this article.
So, what are you waiting for?
Whether you want to build a business or a popular blog, the time is now.
The stars will never align.
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Jennifer Hart says
Great post Henri! So much valuable information and support for people just starting out and wanting to live their passion and make a living w/blogging. I appreciate your leadership and writing from experience. You always keep it straightforward and simple. Thank u!
Thank you for reading and all of your support, Jennifer!
Srinivas Rao says
@Henri: This is such great news. It’s an inspiration to all of us and I’m so glad that we caught you on BlogcastFM at the beginning of this journey. That’s such amazing rapid growth and as I look back my own blog I realized an agressive guest posting strategy is really effective. I may actually shift my focus to doing more guests post and only 1-2 posts on my blog. I’ve found that guest posts are definitely the most powerful way to go.
It’s amazing what a little guest posting can do, eh? Guest post a lot, give people a good reason to sign-up and you’ll grow fast!
Congratulations man! You have grown rather fast and it’s a big inspiration for others (myself included!). Someone else mentioned it to me and you have proven it again, getting a good mentor will up your game incredibly.
You achieved in 3 months what I did in 7, but you worked hard for it and you deserve the success! 50 Guest posts is massive! Keep writing and you’ll grow into a huge self improvement resource. 🙂
Thanks Diggy! One of the most rewarding things in this short period has been the people I’ve met, they’re a lot of fun! I intend to keep on writing for a long time. In one form or another 😉
Mike Tiojanco says
Any tips on how to approach blogs re: guest posting. I know some of the bigger ones have guest post guidelines.
Is the normal path to completely write out a post and submit it as a possible guest post, or do you typically pitch an idea for approval before fleshing out the entire post?
I usually just ask before I send out a post. When I write a post beforehand it usually doesn’t work out for me. Experiment and see what works for you. Don’t think about it too much, just jump in and join the game.
Sid Savara says
I think this is the part many bloggers struggle with:
“Writing and planning is cool, but nothing really happens if you don’t take action”
Even when I started, I read so much of Problogger and other blogs and got all this advice. And I was excited – I made a lot of grand plans, huge to do lists, and had all these things I was going to do
I really started to grow though when I backed up for a second and looked at what I had in front of me and said ok – what can I actually execute? What plan can I put together that makes sense, and that I know I can work on?
I think you nailed it with regards to guest posting too. I don’t do enough of it now, but that’s something I need to get back into. It’s really a key fundamental for my growth – every time I guest post, I get targeted traffic and subscribers! =)
I can relate. I did the whole learn, learn, learn phase before I started making a living online. A weird coincidence I guess. When you stop reading so much and start taking action, stuff happens.
Glen Allsopp says
I thought I was your mentor. What is this?!? 😉
Great stuff and fully deserved. Best of luck for the future.
Oh no. You’re one of my secret behind-the-scenes mentors 😉
Archan Mehta says
I was one of the first to predict that you would go places with your brand new blog.
It was a hunch and I played it: I just know good writing when I come across it.
I even recommended your blog to (the many) people I know on-line. Those of us who participate on-line tend to build up a community of sorts or fellowship, as you know. And there are countless people on-line looking for good content to read.
So, I am glad this strategy has worked for you. And your strategy as well, which is primary. We, your loyal readers, feel like supporting your creative efforts, that’s all.
Congratulations on your success story. And we are sure to hear more from you too, so don’t stop now. Continue with the great work you are doing. Thanks. Cheers!
Indeed Archan, you’ve been here form the start and your comments are always filled with coolness.
Wilson Usman says
I love your site man, I wish I would have found it earlier, but thanks to Pat I finally found it. This was a great post I think is really going to help a lot of people. I am ready to keep up with all the great content you have going on here. I am excited!
When the time is right, everything happens.
I’m glad I read your post today. I’m having one of those days when I doubt my own ability, it all just seems too hard, and I feel trapped in the 9 to 5. Reading your post makes me realise that I’m not alone, it’s normal to feel daunted, and I can get back on track. I’m off for a walk, to get some fresh air, then I’m going to come back to my plan and take some action. Thanks for sharing your journey so far, I am looking forward to seeing where you go next.
We all have those days. Even though someone seems to be higher up on the success ladder doesn’t mean they are immune to those days. If you’re human, chances are you will have bad days. Taking a walk is one of my fav strategies to clear my mind. Good choice there!
Julius Kuhn-Regnier says
Great article Henri. You are right guest posting is a great strategy to grow your blog. I think I will rely more heavily on this from now on.
Awesome Henri! I am really delighted for you. It is obvious you have a lot going for you with your approach, but I think the thing to remember for all of us trying to create a succesful blog is that nothing replaces hard work.
You speak a lot of sense and through listening to your advice I am getting some steam up on the guest posting. One thing I noticed is that our barriers to success are usually in our mind rather than ‘out there’. I submitted my first guest post to a big blog (pickthebrain) this week … I was very scared of rejection… but I had an approval email back in less than 10 minutes and some really great feedback from commenters. I am going to bite the bullet and submit to bigger blogs more often now.
I LOVED this re your ideal readers: “It was someone I’d like to hang out with in real life, which meant they would be interested in weird stuff, they would be cool and happy.” Ha ha! Yep, that’s me! 🙂
Once you get that one guest post approved on a big blog, you release a lot of the fear and realize that it really isn’t so bad. And oh yes, I’ve put in tons of hours into this blog, so make sure you find a topic you love, because you will be working a lot if you want results 😉
Cool achievement. Have to be inspired by you!
Mark Dowdell says
Good work, Henri. I’m digging the site so far, your posts are spot on and deliver the goods well. Here’s to the next 1000 subscribers!
Eric Nishio says
Congrats, Henri. You are a prime example of a person who learns a handful of principles and applies them. Reading other successful bloggers alone won’t help; the reader has to put himself out there coupled with the knowledge he has absorbed.
Exacto. You don’t have to keep reminding for weeks on end. Find one concept and apply it.
Well done Henri! Finding your blog and following much of your advice has already helped give my site a boost as well, so I thank you for that!
I keep getting side-tracked myself, so it seems to happen to everyone. Keep on bringing your focus back to one single thing and work on it until it works!
Phil - Less Ordinary Living says
Henri – great to hear about your success. Congratulations on 1,000 subscribers. I’m amazed by your output – 50 guest post that is stunning.
K9 Coach says
Fabulous article! It supports exactly what I am doing… gives me the motivation to keep on keepin’ on!
My passion is dogs… I train dogs… but I really can teach a lot about life through dog analogies. I love my blog and am building a business around it. Sent out my first guest post 2 weeks ago. This article again stimulates my motivation to write more guest posts.
Good stuff. Thanks!
Vladimir Caluya says
Wow, i’m amazed that you reply to most comments. Most blogs I visit don’t do that. Interesting…
There’s nothing more fun than interacting with your commenters and readers 😉
Welcome to the Cloud, WR 😉
Thanks for so much valuable information. And best wishes with your new product.
I look forward to tuning in often!
You are most welcome, Lauren. Thank you for the support. I really appreciate it!
@Henri Your not kidding about the traffic from guest blogging. That is actually how I found you via Daily Blog Tips. Guest blogging is definitely the strategy I’m using for 2010. What I like to do is to create a relationship with the blog author first via blog commenting or engaging in social media. Then try to understand the topics being discussed on the blog. Finally approach the blog author with ideas for a guest post. Anyone can do it if they are focused enough and can provide value to the readers of that blog. Obviously you have done this otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Good stuff man!
Great tips! Thanks for the post. I’m going to apply them to my own metaphysical blog and grow, grow, grow….
Chris Webb says
Wow. I’m one week into a plan to write and pitch 2 guest posts a week. By my count, you did 3.6 a week. Time to up my game!
Great post, and great success. Congrats
Sandra Lee says
Excellent article. Congratulations on your success. I look forward to exploring your archives. Wishing you continued success.
Thanks Sandra. Enjoy! 🙂
Insightful & inspiring post. For a starter like me, you’ve just exposed me to what i need to know to move ahead with my blog. I celebrate your success. looking forward to have you as one of my mentors. Thanks so much.
Dr. Salim Ismail says
Hi henri, I really appreciate your outright honesty and candidness when you describe what many people are actually going through in their lives. You are a Superhero and the world needs more positive solution based journalism like you are providing. Hope we can connect and collaborate to make a difference.
Christina Crowe says
Thanks for sharing your journey with us! I’ve been meaning to do more guest posts myself – I did one so far this month and I’m aiming to write more by the end of the week. The newsletter and blog just take up so much time. I’m also active on content sites, where I’ve managed to make a steady residual income.
But I love what I do, and I’m passionate about my blog. I think that’s the first step – finding your passion. If you don’t enjoy what you write about, the excitement will soon die off and you’ll eventually crash and stop writing for your blog altogether. I learned this the hard way when creating my first blog. 🙂
Enjoyed the read!
Miss Rhei says
Lately, I made it a point to read blogs like yours and the moment I saw your blog I know I could learn something from you so I subscribed.
I wasn’t wrong and this post definitely describe the situation I’m in right now. I have these ideas in my head (and my notes) but can’t seem to go doing it. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s because of the wants. Money was the motivation, and it holds me back because like what you said, it should be hard work which at most times I’m not willing to give.
Anyway, this post is really a wake up call (your blog’s aptly called). It helped me to identify the things that I know I should do but I’m not doing and the things that will be helpful in my challenges to become like one of you (popular blogs).
Thanks so much and keep rocking! 🙂
Shad Ryman says
Dude, please tell me that youre going to write far more. I notice you havent written an additional blog for a while (Im just catching up myself). Your blog is just also important to be missed. Youve acquired so much to say, this kind of knowledge about this topic it would be a shame to see this weblog disappear. The internet needs you, man!
No worries. I’m working behind the scenes at the moment, so not as many blog posts, but stuff is happening, and I’m not going anywhere 😉
One of the best articles on the website Henri, nice job!
“If you can find a topic you could die for, you’re on the right track. If someone had a gun to your head and you had to choose one topic to write about for the next few years?”
Wow – speechless~
Hope that’s speechless in a good way 😉
Henri that is really cool. More than 1,000 subscribers in under six months is quite remarkable. I have a similar strategy like yours and I can tell you that it works. I am hooked at my stats page checking out which sites got me the most traffic. It is always interesting when you get traffic from sources you least expected to get them from.
Thanks for sharing Henri
Fantastic Henri! I know when I started blogging I was having loads of fun and wanted nothing more than to write more, connect more, and just have a lot of fun with it. I still want that to this day but have admittedly let my fears get the best of me in several ways.
Time is never right. I don’t need to get a job if I work hard and make this happen. People WILL say what they say and it shouldn’t matter as long as you’re NEVER ready to give up, keep going, learn from your mistakes, correct them, let nothing get in your way and have fun ultimately.
Btw, congrats on your son! 🙂
Scott Vong says
This is a great article! I’ve recently become more focused on my personal development blog. I’m still relatively new to blogging, but I wholesomely agree about pursing your passion. Generating money from my website is not my primary concern. As long as I enjoy what I’m doing, and I’m helping others along the way, that is more than enough reason to continue blogging.
Ricardo Bueno says
I’ve only done a few guest posts – one for a popular news outlet in my niche (real estate), a small contribution to a article on Social Media Examiner, and then I was interviewed on HubspotTV. Not bad, but I also didn’t leverage each of these instances as well as I could have.
My goal for this year = 1-2 guest posts per month. I’ve already picked out some sites and my entries are due next week. If I can step that number up, even better.
But here’s what I wanted to add… I think this is an excellent strategy whether you’re a seasoned blogger or a newbie. Period.
You’re right on, Ricardo.
Guest posting isn’t always easy, especially if you’re a beginner, but it pays off (even for the pro’s).
Thank you for this post. I have thought about guest posting for a while now and never went back to write one. I realize it would help me get the exposure that I need to grow:)
Staying focused in being consistent is the hardest part for me. Most people already have a plan or model to follow and it is being proactive in working toward a single goal that I still find challenging. Too often, I get distracted and overwhelmed by the massive info that is out there… but little by little I am getting better at focusing on what is the most important now and dealing with it now.
What you said about………. “Stop tip-toeing around your fears and take them head on. They are just ideas in your head.” ………… is so true! Feeding our fears by thinking about them only continues the cycle of fear. Stop Focusing on the Fear/s and Start Doing usually takes care of the fears.
I am now working on getting traffic to my plr mastery blog and it is a challenge indeed! But since it is a passion of mine – it is fun to work at it and that makes all the difference – do what you love and the rest will follow. ;O)
Great post on getting blog subscribers/traffic and taking action that counts!
Faith at Plr Mastery Blog