[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.