By Mary Jaksch
This is my story of how I went from bust to boom. I was reluctant to write about all this, but people urged me to share it, so here goes …
Have you ever been dealt a devastating economic blow?
Maybe you lost your job, or your business went under. It’s a dreadful moment, because suddenly the future looks bleak and you have to pick yourself up and start again. And no matter what happened, you blame yourself.
But how to pick yourself up again, and what to do next?
I stumbled upon a solution quite by accident after I lost my mother’s inheritance through trusting the wrong kind of people. My journey as a rookie blogger and accidental entrepreneur led to a six-figure online business in under 19 months.
I’m quite a private person and am reluctant to talk about all this. But many people have begged me to write about my experience because they need to find a solution. A solution that works whether you’re a man or a woman, and whatever age you’re at. So I’ve decided to speak out and describe what worked for me. It may not work for everyone – but my story and the 10 tips I’ve put together – may well change your life.
Here’s what happened….
The year 2007 was bad. I lost all of the inheritance my mother had left me. My son Sebastian and I had decided to build a house and then sell it. But the plan went horribly wrong when the builder escaped to a South Sea island with a big chunk of my money, leaving our property half built and steadily degrading in the winter rains. In the end it had to be demolished and I ended up with debts, instead of with an inheritance. I’ll never forget the sense of shock and dread.
It took me a while to pick myself up after that debacle, and I started to think seriously about how to produce an income, and still retain my creative freedom.
Finally Sebastian came up with an idea. He said,
“Mum, I’ll make you a website. But you’ll have to write a blog.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I started to research blogs on the Internet. It seemed like an amazing opportunity. I settled on ‘Goodlife ZEN’ as a blog name, bought the domain, and started with a free out-of-box WordPress theme. The start-up cost me $119 hosting fee for the year.
I know it sounds strange, but the moment I bought the domain was when my life turned around. But I didn’t know it at the time.
Tip #1: Just do it!
Nike is right. What counts is getting started. An idea stays just that without action. Even the smallest action allows the idea to materialize. Most people fail for one simple reason: they never get started. Luckily it’s no great deal to start a blog: hosting is cheap and you can get free blogging software.
Tip #2: Focus on your passion.
If you want to taste success – without getting burned out, it’s important to build your blog around your passion. What is it you would like to tell people about? What is the message you want to convey?
It doesn’t matter what it is you are passionate about. The Internet is huge and there is an audience out there for you, no matter what your passion is.
I was happy with my blog name, Goodlife ZEN, and was soon writing a weekly post. At first, people laughed at me because I put so much effort into something that didn’t show any results. For months I only had three subscribers, my best friend, my son, and my cat Sweetie (whom I subscribed out of sheer desperation). I was definitely not a ‘wunderkind’ blogger!
Tip #3: Be determined
Most people give up when the going gets tough. And with every endeavor things get tough at times. Have you got enough stickability to keep going? Calvin Coolidge, a former President of the USA, had something to say about determination:
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
~ Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933)
When I first started blogging, I checked out other blogs in the personal growth field and came across Zen Habits. I liked Leo Babauta’s style and thought, “I’d love to get to know him.” But to make contact seemed an impossible dream. Zen Habits already had over 50,000 subscribers (now over 200,000). And I was still a rookie blogger.
In January of 2008, Leo Babauta started WritetoDone.com, a blog for writers. I was excited and subscribed right away. It quickly became one of my favorite blogs.
I could see that Leo was struggling with writing for two blogs, as well as writing an Ebook. I was concerned, so I decided to offer my help. I asked Leo whether he would like me to write a guest post for Write-to-Done. When Leo emailed back with a friendly ‘yes’, I screamed so loudly that Sweetie fled under the bed, and my partner David came running in alarm.
Tip #4: Help others.
Yes, helping others is the most important thing you can do. Be helpful not as a strategic move, but because you truly care.
Some months down the track, I began to think creatively about Write to Done and how I could maybe work with Leo Babauta to rescue the blog. That was a crucial moment. Because teaming up with others who are successful is a great way to advance.
Leo Babauta had a huge readership and a reputation as a super-blogger. What I had to offer was ‘sweat equity’ and vision. That is, I was willing to do all the hard work and create something we could both be proud of.
The most important thing here is that you need to build a relationship first, before you ever suggest a joint venture.
Tip #5 Team up.
You can be successful on your own. But it’s much easier if you team up with others. Because then you reap the benefit of synergy. Synergy means that the combined effect is greater than the sum of individual effort.
If you team up with someone else you need to focus on your potential partner. Here are questions you need to ask:
What does he or she enjoy doing? What’s a hassle for him or her? What benefits could your partnership bring to her or him?
After long deliberation I emailed Leo with a suggestion of how we could work together. Here are the benefits I listed:
- You retain an interest – both creative and financial – in WTD,
- You don’t have to kill off a beautiful brainchild,
- You get ongoing income from WTD,
- You can delegate all the drudgery of running a blog, whilst still retaining some enjoyable creative work.
I sent off the proposal and sat around, biting my nails. When Leo replied enthusiastically, I was beside myself with excitement.
When I first started as Editor in Chief, Write to Done had 4,500 subscribers. I was nervous about running a blog that was seemed so huge. But I soon hit my stride and subscriber numbers started to climb.
Now, four years later, Leo has handed over Writetodone.com to me completely. WTD now has over 32,000 subscribers.
Meanwhile I was busy gathering new skills. I enrolled in Teaching Sells, an amazing course by Brian Clark on how to set up and run online courses.
Tip #6 Learn new skills
For every new venture you need a new set of skills. I did quite a few courses in order to gain the skills I needed. I think it’s good to regard education as part of the startup cost.
I began thinking about how to use my new skills. I could see that people on the Internet don’t want to pay for information, but they are willing to spend money in order to gain new skills.
In October 2008, I emailed Leo and suggested that we create a training program for bloggers. He replied with, “I’m in!”
A few months later, A-List Blogging Bootcamps was born.
Tip #7: Don’t wait for others to have good ideas – create them yourself.
I felt elated about the opportunity, but I was also secretly terrified. Because setting up a course – with it’s own website and content – seemed like a huge undertaking. Actually, every step on my journey as a blogger has felt like climbing a huge mountain. My response to the challenge has been to create an overall vision, and then to walk forward, step by step, learning as I go.
Tip #8: Learn on the job
As bloggers, the best way to learn is to struggle, to ask for help, to research how others do it, and then to go ahead and do it yourself. Don’t wait until you think you have enough knowledge.
Back to my story…
When we finally ran our first A-List Blogging Bootcamp in August 2009, it was a great success. We had a bunch of great students and I loved every moment of the Bootcamp, even though it was hard work. Afterward, Leo and I immediately planned the next one.
To my surprise, I had created an online income!
Tip #9: Create learning opportunities.
A blog is a perfect platform upon which to build a business. The reason is that your subscribers provide a customer base for whatever product you want to sell. There are some strategies that make this easier, such as building an email list, and staging a launch in order to create a buzz about your product.
What product can you offer?
I recognized early on that information doesn’t sell well on the Internet. That’s because most people expect to get information online for free. But what people are willing to pay for is new skills. That’s why I focused on producing quality learning opportunities. I love teaching and mentoring – so it was a natural progression to start doing that online.
The great thing is that you can do this while your blog is still quite small. In fact, creating a course can help your blog to grow. And you’ll start to earn some money while your blog grows.
But gaining new skill is not the only thing people are prepared to pay for on the Internet.
I noticed after the first Bootcamp that people didn’t want to leave. They loved the conversations on the forum and the connection with each other and with Leo in the live online Masterclasses.
I emailed Leo and suggested that we start the A-List Blogger Club, a low-cost, ongoing training program for bloggers. It turned out to be the best idea I’ve had on my blogging journey.
People are willing to pay for being part of a supportive community.
We started the A-List Blogger Club with only forty-five members. But we soon began to grow, and we now have over 800 members.
Tip #10: Create a community for ongoing success.
Everyone wants to belong. If you create a community where members feel welcome, supported, and appreciated – you are on to a winner. And if you can incorporate a training component as well, people will be happy to pay – and stay.
Within 9 months, A-List Blogging grew to a six-figure business. I was gobsmacked…
Learning new skills, working hard, and dreaming big finally paid off. I’m still not completely debt-free, but I hope to pay of the last of my last debts within the next six months.
These days I help other bloggers to succeed. And even those who laughed at me when I first started, come to me for help. There is one important piece of advice I give everyone: be trustworthy and loyal.
Your main asset on the Internet is trustworthiness. It’s not hard to find mentors online who will lend you a hand, or even team up with you. But the crucial thing is how you treat those who help you. If you treat them well, and are helpful, friendly, loyal and trustworthy – you’ll thrive. However, if you pull a fast one, the online relationship will not recover, and you will lose your mentor’s crucial support.
My story shows up some simple truths:
- You can recover from adversity if you are willing to start over.
- Creating a blog is one of the fastest ways to create a new, successful career.
- An online business has super low start-up costs and high earning potential.
- People pay for skills, so creating online courses is a great way to make a living
- Create a warm, welcoming community and people will flock to it – and pay for membership.
- Be helpful and decent, and others will lend you a hand.
Was I just lucky?
My ‘lucky’ strategy is to meet good fortune half way.
What made me successful is hard work, creative thinking, a desire to learn, and the courage to say ‘yes’ to seemingly impossible challenges. Along the way I made plenty of mistakes. But I tried to learn from them. I’ve really got no special skills for this venture. But I’m like a little terrier who just keeps on digging to find the rat.
I hope my journey will inspire you to try something similar. I can’t promise that it will work for you. But if you have the courage to become a blogger, learn new skills, and create a business on the back of your blog, you’ll have a good chance of success.
I don’t want to blow our trumpet here, but the reason Leo and I created the A-List Bootcamps and the A-List Blogger Club is to create a short-cut to success for bloggers. Because we know how hard it is to find all the knowledge you need, and then to put it into practice. And we know what a difference it makes to find mentors along the way.
But all the help in the world won’t work if you don’t take action. A simple first step is write down three things you are passionate about. And then to think about how others could benefit from your experience and knowledge.
Don’t worry if the start of your journey is slow. Everything worthwhile takes time to grow.
As you know, I was reluctant to break my silence and write about my journey from bust to boom, but I hope my story helps you to continue walking ahead, even when the journey gets tough.