How I turned my blog into a business
I wanted to start a blog for years before I took the time to do it. While working very demanding corporate jobs in public relations, communications and copywriting, I was just never able to devote the time I needed to begin a blog or even research how to begin a blog. However, shortly after getting married in 2012, the perfect opportunity to begin my online journal or “weblog” (as they used to be called) came about as Dave and I decided we were going to move across the country from Orlando, Florida to San Francisco, California. Even before we left Florida, I came up with a name for my blog — aptly “A Lady Goes West” — to share all of our adventures, and the rest is history. But of course, A Lady Goes West has come a long way …
Starting slowly using the free route
Although I immediately purchased the domain name of aladygoeswest.com, I didn’t pursue self-hosting (which is what you must do to have ads, affiliate links and tons of functionality) for another year-and-a-half. For the first year-and-a-half, I used Wordpress.com for a free blog, on a couple of free templates. I wrote once-a-week updates, sometimes less, sometimes more, describing the fun activities and explorations that Dave and I were pursuing in San Francisco. I also wrote about healthy living and fitness, because those were and are such huge parts of my life.
While only my friends and family knew about my blog, it still gave me the opportunity to write down my thoughts, add a few pictures and push “Publish.” But I never really shared my posts further than that. I was a little unsure as to what I was going after, and didn’t spend a ton of time working on my blog, even though in the back of my head I really wanted to. (And if you’ve been around since the beginning as a reader, I thank you so much!)
Committing to take the blog to a new level
Finally, in March of 2014, I decided to spend more time on my blog. First up, I purchased a custom theme and did a redesign of my site, no longer relying on a free template. Second, I selected a “host” of my site, which is the step you must take to begin monetizing your blog and adding cool features. After researching other blogs, I settled on HostGator, which was a great decision. The folks at HostGator handled the transition of my blog from the free WordPress.com to a more functional WordPress.org and made sure everything was up-and-running. In addition, whenever I had a question, I just sent a Tweet to the HostGator customer service team, or opened a ticket on the site. All of my issues have been resolved in less than a few hours, and my site rarely goes down. HostGator provides 24/7 care, and I’ve always been incredibly pleased with the service.
Professional headshots were another piece of the puzzle. And I had these taken in February, compliments of the lovely Leah Bentley Photography. These shots are now the image on the front-page of my blog, as well as on most of my social media accounts.
I’m a writer by trade, so it wasn’t a huge leap to think that I could start and maintain a blog. However, I didn’t really know everything that was involved at first. And I didn’t really expect my blog to take off as it has, but boy am I loving the fact that it continues to grow. I began blogging because I love to share my words and write, but what has come about for me from this little piece of the Web has been pretty awesome.
A lot of work goes on behind-the-scenes
There’s a lot to learn about blogging, once you leave the free platform. In addition to the WordPress.org dashboard, which is what I use to create my posts, I also have to work with the back-end site information for A Lady Goes West, like having enough bandwidth for my site’s usage, backing up my site and updating all of my plug-ins (the apps I use within WordPress.org).
Here’s a look at the cPanel inside HostGator, which is where you can access many tools to work on your site.
But it’s been fun to learn new things. Much of what I learn is from Google research, however, HostGator also helps me with plenty of hosting questions.
Sticking to a schedule to grow my blog
Right after I transferred my blog to a self-hosted site and had officially invested in it, I told myself that I would blog every single week-day starting in March 2014 and have done so without only missing one or two days here and there. And I know that I love blogging, because it is not a chore at all. Many times I have more than enough ideas to fill my posts each week and sometimes wish I posted more. It takes me hours and hours to create a post, and I am proud of the content I put out, because I try to write posts that I would want to read.
Over this past year of posting regularly, reading and commenting on other blogs and beginning to promote my posts, little-by-little, my blog has become a legitimate business. I’m now associated with FitFluential, Sweat Pink, POPSUGAR Select, IDEA Inspired Bloggers, Clever Girls Collective and a bunch of other blogger networks, which help me to connect with other bloggers as well as brands. And I’ve even been named one of the Top 20 San Francisco-based Blogs by TripAdvisor’s FlipKey, which just makes my day. But of course, I’m by NO means a big blogger and may never be. But I do have a brand and a business, and I couldn’t love it any more than I do. (And you can see more about what I’ve been working on and where I’ve been featured on my Press + Sponsor page.)
How I make money off of my blog
Through my affiliations with network groups, I started writing sponsored posts, much like this one right here. While a brand can offer me money to write a post and mention their name, they do not dictate my words nor sway my thoughts on whatever I am writing. And I’m pretty selective with the brands I choose to work with and have said no to a lot of well-paying campaigns, because they just didn’t fit into my interests of fitness, food, fun, San Francisco, travel and blogging. These sponsored posts range in compensation, but I have seen the compensation for my posts quadruple as of late, and I see it continuing to grow.
In addition to sponsored posts, I also put ads on my site. While I started out with Google Ads, I was eventually invited to join the BlogHer/SheKnows Media Group, and have been running those ads for about seven or eight months. The money I make from these ads is based on the amount of visitors I have to my site. And of course, if someone clicks on an ad, that is worth even more.
I also use affiliate links, which are special links associated with my name, and if someone clicks on that link and makes a purchase, I get a few pennies of credit for it. I use affiliate links to introduce new services that I’ve reviewed and tried like StitchFix, LE TOTE, POPSUGAR Must-Have Box to name a few, as well as to link to everyday products that I enjoy on Amazon.com.
Getting business cards was another step in the marketing game for A Lady Goes West and my brand. I bring these cards with me to blogger events, fitness events and even dinner parties. You never know when you’ll need to share your blog and contact information!
I’ve also done freelance writing for other websites, which is not only a way to make money, but a way to get more published work.
How I promote my blog
Writing a blog post takes me a ton of time, because I tend to spend a lot of time proofreading, perfecting and removing content. But even after pushing publish, there’s more to do.
It took me a while to get the courage, but after a couple of months of regular blogging, I finally created an A Lady Goes West Facebook page, renamed my Instagram account to include my blog name, as well as returned to Twitter after a several year hiatus. Now, I use all of these accounts to connect with other bloggers and promote my content. Once I hit publish, here are the other steps I take each day …
- Share each post in my ambassador networks, like FitFluential, SweatPink and IDEA Inspired blogger groups on Facebook.
- Share each post on Google Plus.
- Add a link to my post on a blogger link-up, if appropriate.
- Share each post with different text and images about 5-6 times on Twitter each day.
- Pin all the images of the post on Pinterest with a clickable link.
- Share each post on the A Lady Goes West Facebook page.
- Occasionally share an image from the post on Instagram with information on how to access the post.
- Comment on a few other blogs, which will sometimes automatically include a link to my most recent post.
I also spend a lot of time looking for publicity opportunities, working on guest posts for other blogs, applying for campaigns, emailing with brands and planning out content. Overall, blogging could totally be my full-time job, however I also work every day outside the home in various gyms as a trainer and group fitness instructor. But when I’m away? I’m always thinking about new posts and ideas for the future.
I truly enjoy every single thing about blogging and will continue writing this blog, no matter what happens on the business side. There’s nothing like hearing stories from readers and getting to know so many of you online, as well as in person. Blogging is rewarding. And being a blogger is the best job I’ve ever had. So I must say to you — if you have been thinking about taking a leap to start your own blog. Don’t wait, just do it!
How you can start a blog
If you’re interested in starting up a blog or a business, I highly recommend HostGator. And if you use this special link, you can get up to 30 percent off your hosting plan.
You can also use HostGator for the following services:
- 24/7 live support via chat, phone and email
- One click WordPress installs
- One click and start easy to use website builder
- Design services for your site
- Marketing services (SEO and PPC) to generate traffic
- Domain names
And isn’t that logo cute? Makes me think of the mascot from my alma mater, The University of Florida Gator!
That’s it, folks! I have a full day ahead of blogging, working at Orangetheory Fitness (did you see my announcement about my new gig there) and teaching a BODYPUMP class. Have a great Tuesday, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for some pictures of food.
Disclaimer: I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Questions of the day
Are you a blogger? If so, what’s your number one tip for growing your blog?
What’s your favorite kind of post to read on A Lady Goes West?
What are some of your favorite blogs to read?
Follow along with me on Bloglovin‘, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.
Great post! I love hearing about people’s journey with blogging. Thanks for mentioning HostGator. I’ve never heard of the company before so that’s one I’ll look into when I’m ready to make the move to self hosting.
Hi Chrissy! Yes! It’s a big step, but you’ll be glad once you’ve done it. Happy blogging, lady! 🙂
This was such an interesting read for me! I can’t believe how quickly your blog has transitioned within just a year’s time!
Thanks, Stacie! It’s just so darn fun. I love blogging! As I’m sure you do too! 🙂 Happy Tuesday!
A great summarization of building a blog into a brand! I really need to get better about backing up my site–I’m trying to figure out the best option for that now.
Hi Susie! I’m just using a WordPress plugin right now for back-ups. Happy blogging to you, lady! 🙂
I’ve been reading your blog since last March so I guess it was about the time you started writing regular blog posts. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon your blog … I think it was from a Friday Favorites linkup. Your blog has become one of my favorites to read because of the content and how you interact with your readers. I’ll keep coming back as long as you continue writing 🙂
I’m so glad you found me Catherine! I love reading your comments and staying in touch! 🙂
I’m one of the readers who has been here since the beginning! And you definitely have created an amazing blog, Ashley! I look forward to it every day. I’m so happy for you and your business.
And HostGator! I obvi love that just for the name. 🙂 Have a great day and thanks for sharing all this info. I have always wanted to start a blog, but for some reason I just can’t get myself to take the leap.
Hi Courtney! I could totally see you starting a blog one day! And I love having you as a reader and a friend, that’s for sure! Nice work on the spin class this morning. Totally out of routine to work out away from home, right? hahah! 🙂 Happy Tuesday!
Thanks so much for sharing all this information! I really liked how you took us through step by step and so clearly. You had a lot of ideas which were new to me.
I’ve been blogging for just over a year now, and truly love it, but have been debating about if and how to take it a little bigger. Time constraints are an issue, but all this info will be stored away for the future!
Thanks for taking the time to share 🙂
You are so very welcome, Ashleigh. Thank you for reading! And I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday. Happy blogging to you! 🙂
Great post and congrats on how far you have come– your blog is amazing!I would really like to dedicate more time and take my blog to the “next level” soon, just not sure how soon. Thanks for the motivation!
Thank you so much, Katie! I appreciate it! I look forward to seeing what’s next for your blog too! 🙂 Happy Tuesday!
What are your tips for reaching out to brands? Do you use a Media Kit? Great post!
Hi Pragati! Yes, I have a media kit with all of my stats, sponsored post rates, contact information and background on my blog. I share this with brands along with a pitch to see if they’d like to work with me. 🙂
I LOVE this post and I’m definitely saving it for future-reference! Thank you so much for these insights. I’ve only had my blog for about 3 months and I’m struggling with the time commitment because I work full time. Blogger networks have been huge for me and I really love the collaborative environment. I am interested in participating in sponsored posts as well – did you find out about those mostly through your networks? xo Lisa
Hi Lisa! Yes, at first my sponsored posts came about by applying through my networks. Now I get contacted by brands and agencies a lot as well, and sometimes I reach out myself. A media kit is a useful tool to have to share your stats! Best of luck to you! 🙂
You have done a fabulous job at kicking off A Lady Goes West and turning it into your own brand and business! It’s been fun to see it (and you!) grow.
Where/how did you make your business cards? This is something I’ve wanted to do for like…two years now and just haven’t bitten the bullet. There’s been so many times where I wish I had a business card with me! Also, how do you do affiliate links for Amazon? Is it just on Amazon.com?
Hi Ashley! Yes, I go through Amazon Affiliates. You have to apply, then you can create links from there. And I ordered my business cards from Moo.com — Here’s my referral link — http://www.moo.com/share/jjpxdx. Check it out! Great site! I designed them myself. Happy blogging, lady! And YES, you should definitely get cards!
Awesome, thanks! I just created and ordered some cards – thanks for the discount! 🙂
Great lost girl! I’ve just started doing more sponsored posts and I love working with the brands I adore! Do you have any suggestions for getting more freelance work? I would love to write recipes for something like cooking light. Also clickable Pinterest images? I never heard of those!
Hi Megan, All Pinterest images are clickable. So I use a plugin on my blog, and make sure to pin every single image, so it links back to the post. I think I’m using Frizzly for the Pinterest plugin. It’s free. As far as freelance work. Yes, you can reach out to the publications you’re interested, share a media and kit and examples of good writing from your site. I also found some freelance work with job boards and through connections from my PR days. Good luck!!
I’ve been riding the safe train in blog land for a long while now. Perhaps one day I will take the leap to make my blog more of a business!! Great post and great tips.
Thanks, Brittany! And I very much enjoy your blog! 🙂 Happy Tuesday!
Thanks for writing this post! I’m currently at Step 1 of your trajectory (writing a blog to keep my friends/family back home up to date with my life out in SF) and found this post very helpful.
Hi Aishwarya, Well welcome to SF! Where did you move from? Keep writing and blogging!! 🙂
I moved from NYC about 1.5 years ago and have been loving SF so far
Awesome! So many people seem to come to SF from NYC! Bet you like the weather better here. 🙂
This is a great post! I have been stuck in the first step, Free zone since June 2011. My Blog is turning 4 this summer, and I have big plans to make it grow. I love the tips and ideas to help take things to the next level! Business Cards and an new Pro Theme, have been my first steps! Saving this post to come back to 🙂
Yes, Rachel! You can do it! Take the next steps! And I look forward to seeing your blog continue to grow! 🙂
Hi Ashley! I have been thinking of making the leap into self-hosting so will research these guys! How long did it take you to get everything moved over?
Hi Alexa, It took about a full 24 hours for the transfer, which wasn’t bad at all! Go for it! 🙂
I feel like I’ve seen you grow so much since I started following along which has only been what, less than a year? Maybe longer, it’s hard to keep track. 😉
Starting a blog might be easy but it takes a lot of hustling to grow it and keep it alive so kudos to you for all of your hard work!
Hustling! You’re so right. That’s what it takes! 🙂 Happy blogging, Sarah! So glad you found me and we’ve become friends in real life too!
This post is so awesome, thanks for sharing all your tips, Ashley! I think being a part of collective and groups is so helpful. I’m a part of Mode rather than BlogHer – but BlogHer has so many awesome opportunities!!
Hi Cassie! Sure does! Loving your blog as well! Keep it up! 🙂
This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am SO ready for self-hosting and a site face-lift. I just relocated overseas and have downtime as I’m looking for a job, so I have finally got my blog to a point where I want to put more and more into it, so these were some very helpful tips. Thank you so much! 🙂
You moved overseas? Wow! Good for you! I hope all things go smoothly with getting settled, and it sounds like a perfect time to get your blog upgraded! Go for it, Erin! 🙂
I am so glad you wrote this post! I would love to ‘build my brand’ and grow my blog but it is so overwhelming! I have been blogging for a few months now and still consider myself very new at it. I am hoping to take some further steps to grow my blog this summer! Thank you for the tips and inspiration, as always!
Just keep writing what you love to write, Stacy! And happy blogging to you lady! Let me know if you have questions. Have a wonderful Tuesday! 🙂
Great post Ashley! I always can tell you put a lot of time into your posts, and am always so impressed. I always wondered if you personally pinned each image to Pinterest or if that was a plug-in. Very impressive! I know how much time that all takes. So happy I was able to connect with you through the blog world and look forward to many more blog “interactions.”
Absolutely, Sara! I use a plug-in for pinning each of my images separately, which I believe is called Frizzly. Happy blogging to you! 🙂
Thanks! I am going to look into that 🙂
Blogging is SO much work. I try to keep up with it the best I can, but sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything, especially with demanding little ones. Great post, I love hearing about how others started and what they do to grow their blogs!!
Hi Sue! I know, blogging can take up all day every single day, but you’ve also got to manager your REAL life too. Right? 🙂 Happy Tuesday!
Great post, Ashley! Thanks for all the tips. I really do need to start using some type of back up process. That has been on my radar for a while now!
Hi Lauren! I know! I’m using a plug-in from WordPress for back-ups. Happy blogging to you! 🙂
Love this!!! you are awesome. I love hearing blogging success stories 🙂
Thank you so much, Brittany! You are awesome too! Hope you’re having an awesome week, YouTuber! I need to watch some more of your videos soon. Love them 🙂
I have been super curious about bloggers’ paths to turning blogging into a business. You have so much dedication to your posting schedule, it is awesome! I’m currently in the not-too-many-readers stage, and it can be tough to stick to it. So kudos to you for becoming so involved and recognized. And thanks for sharing. 🙂
Hi Amanda! Of course! I had a long time where I had not too many readers, but I still wrote because I love to write! If you enjoy blogging, keep at it! If it feels like a chore, maybe write a little less? Thanks for stopping by to say hello! Hope you have an awesome night! 🙂
Are you a blogger? If so, what’s your number one tip for growing your blog?
I am a blogger, but I don’t know that I have a tip for growing my blog just yet. I’ve only been at it for about 3 or 4 months and I’ve gone through crisis of being overwhelmed by how many other AMAZING bloggers there are out there, and how I’m never going to be that way, and not knowing where to start, but every post like this is super helpful. I’m just trying to bite it off one day at a time.
What’s your favorite kind of post to read on A Lady Goes West?
I always like Day in the Life kind of posts, and I often use recipes. Although I love ‘how-to’ posts as well. 🙂
What are some of your favorite blogs to read?
Fitness, Foodie, Fashion, Mommy blogs.
Hi Emily! There are tons of great bloggers out there, but a whole world of readers. So never feel overwhelmed or like you have to compete. I’ve found the blogging world very nurturing and caring, not catty at all. So just put out content that you enjoy and write what you want. It’s awesome to express yourself in your own online world, so never compare yourself to someone further along in their blogging journey, you know? I love fitness, foodie and fashion as well! Thank you for stopping by lady! Have a great night and happy blogging!
Thanks Ashley! That was really encouraging. And I’ll just keep it up over on my end of the blog world.
Great post! I enjoyed reading more about your background as a blogger. I thoroughly enjoy blogging too, and it’s led me into other things like freelance writing and health coaching. I’m always looking for ways to learn, network and grow as a blogger 🙂
Hi Nicole! Yes, me too! We’re always going to be learning and growing, which is just another reason why I love blogging so much. Hope you have an awesome day! 🙂
Good job on everything with your blog, it is a lot of work! I haven’t taken the jump to self-hosted yet…mainly because I really suck at computer stuff and don’t want to deal with it lol.
Hi Marielle! I know! It can be scary, but you’ll know when you’re ready to take the next step. Keep on writing and sharing! Happy Wednesday, lady! 🙂
Thank you for sharing this! I started my blog almost 2 years ago when my husband and I moved from VA to TN but stopped after I had our baby because I just got too tied up. I recently decided to pick it back up so that we could keep family and friends in the loop on our life and also because I was finally ready to jump back in and grow it. Thanks for sharing the pointers!
Hi Sherri! You’re so welcome! Congrats on your move and baby! Of course, as life ebbs and flows you’ll have more time or not for blogging. Just write what you enjoy, and I’m sure your family and friends back home will be excited to see you providing more regular updates! Happy blogging! 🙂
This is such a great post – thanks so much for sharing your tips and tricks! As a new blogger I am trying to figure out ways to get my awareness out there, and this gives me a good place to start 🙂
xo Annie | http://www.collectivepassions.com
Hi Annie! Just keep writing what you love and hopefully the readers will come!! 🙂 Happy blogging to you! Have a fabulous night!
Thanks for all the great tips! I’ve been consistently building up my blog over the last year or so and am always looking for ways to get my name out there that actually work. I also recently became a Sweat Pink Ambassador 🙂 which is where I came across your website.
Hi Amanda! Thanks for stopping by to say hello. Blogging networks like SweatPink are definitely great ways to connect with other bloggers and brands. Are there local meet-ups in your area? That helps too! Keep on writing! Hope you have a great weekend! 🙂
Thank you so much for this post! I really needed this kind of step by step guide. I would love to make my blog my full time job in the next few years as my kids enter school and this gave me a great list from which to create my time line. This was the best post on the topic I’ve read!
Good morning Amberlynn! You’re so welcome. I think the most important thing is that you enjoy blogging and keeping sharing online. If you’re passionate about it, it will grow! Have a fabulous day, lady! 🙂 Happy blogging!
Awesome article. These are great ideas and a fun success story. Just wondering what type of information you recommend putting on your business cards?
Hi Kevin! Thanks! I suggest you include your full name, blog name, blog URL, blog logo, picture of you (blogger), contact email, Facebook page name, Instagram name, Twitter name and maybe a tagline. It’s a lot to fit on one card, but it’s doable!
What a helpful post!! I JUST discovered your blog and I’m so happy I did. I just launched my website a few weeks ago and I’m doing pretty much the same things as you mentioned in this article. I spend A LOT of time looking for publicity opportunities, but it’s hard since, like you, I have a Full-Time Job. Ugghhh! lol. My website is still very new, so I know I need to give it more time. I want to apply to join some networks, but I’m pretty sure I need to get my page views up before applying. Do you know of any networks/companies that work with small bloggers to help them grow their audience? Almost like a mentorship program? It seems all of the networks don’t want to help you until you’re already pretty well-known. Thanks for the tips!
If you’re willing to invest a bit, you should reach out to Katy Widrick (katywidrick.com) and tell her I sent you. She is an AWESOME person to help mentor you to grow your blog. 🙂
Also, if you have the time to answer, what is the benefit of Google Plus? I don’t do ANYTHING with my google plus account. I completely ignore it because I don’t know what’s for! I’m going to learn about google+ tonight because I’ve been hearing about it more and more.
Hi there! Google Plus used to be a lot more important when it came to helping your posts get into search results. But I’ve read that it’s not as important these days due to some changes in the algorithms. Basically, if you find that a site isn’t bringing you traffic — NO need to promote there. Just choose a couple that you can do well on and stick with those. Does’t hurt to set up a Google Plus account though.
Ooookay! That’s how it seemed when I was reading about Google Plus last night. Thanks so much for responding!
Of course! It seems like a lot of people are moving away from Google Plus.
I’m a bit late reading this, but really interesting post! I need to do so much more work on my blog, but I think it’s just about posting more regularly at the minute.
The one regret I have is probably using Blogger for mine, instead of WordPress. It just seemed easier at the start I guess.
I haven’t tried to make money too much, but I do have adverts and Amazon links. At the minute I’m just trying to improve my content and views, hopefully the site will soon earn me a little bit of pocket money 🙂