The Sad Truth About Online Business (and Blogging)

The Sad Truth About Online Business (and Blogging)

Is that it might not be for you.

For the full experience, I’d highly encourage you to hit play on the audio below and then start scrolling. All music composed and performed by Yours Truly.


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Earlier this week, I witnessed a bad situation.

It seems this guy was having a bad week.

After a personal health emergency, he desperately needed money to support his family.

He had a 3-year old blog–and turned to his blogging Facebook group cohorts in desperation.

He stated his traffic was still really low, he doesn’t have a lot of time to blog, and he needs money.

His blogging cohorts encouraged him to double-down.

1 – Post more
2 – Do better marketing
3 – You’ll make money

They told him he wasn’t doing the right thing.

They told him to dig in.

What do you think?

Did that advice help this person in the short term?

What about the long-term?

At great risk to EVER selling you a blogging course, let me be the one to drop this on you:

Chances are high you won’t have a million-dollar online business.

And maybe blogging is not for you.

And maybe you should stop telling other people it’s for them.

And maybe digital marketing influencers like me should do a better job preparing you for this truth.

And maybe we do a terrible job a setting proper expectations–because success is insanely effective marketing.

Online income reports, anyone?

Giving credit where it's due.

For years–Pat Flynn has been releasing his online business income reports.

In fact, it was seeing him earn over $100,000 in a single month is what go me into online business. They were inspiring and probably great marketing.

But then he stopped.

Just this week, Pat released a YouTube video sharing WHY he decided to stop releasing income reports.

Why shut down such an authority-building marketing tool?

Pat felt his income reports no longer resonated with his audience–and may have even turned people away from his brand.

So he stopped–and I’ve never been prouder to say I’m a Pat Flynn fan. Kudos Pat. I still aspire to be like you.

Personally, I’m torn.

Every time I release a personal success story, win, or dazzling income report, the same thing happens.

The more “look how amazing I am” rhetoric and language I use, the more I seem to make people think I’m actually amazing.

And bloggers buy products from other bloggers they think are amazing.

The more “look how easy this can be” rhetoric and language I use, the more opt-ins I see.

There is a fine line between sharing authentic successes that inspire and sincerely teach people…

…and hyping myself up for the sake of authority.

I hereby admit I have crossed that line before.

The truth is, I do need Blogger U sales in order to feed my family. In order to continue to do this for a living.

That’s an incredibly stressful life at times, and one I sincerely don’t wish on anybody.

So what to do?

So here it is.

Keep in mind that I’m well aware this will turn some bloggers off of the DYEB brand.

However, if there’s a small chance this will turn some of you into “true” fans, then I’m willing to take the risk.

The truth about online business from my eyes:

The truth is...

…growing a blog into something “successful” is really, really hard.

…it can be absurdly stressful for such a seemingly “fun and easy” hobby or passion project.

…it never gets easier. At least not in the way you want it to.

The truth is…no single influencer is to blame for over-hyping your chance at success. This is a broad issue across online business.

The truth is...

…bloggers often feel shame when they lose motivation, fall behind on their posting and simply want/need a break.

…as much as we know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other, more successful bloggers…

…we do. And that can destroy our progress, as well as our ability to change the lives of our readers.

The truth is...

…that “step-by-step” formula might not bring you any results.

…Blogger U might not be worth your hard-earned cash. Especially if I’ve sold you without proper expectations.

…I’m afraid this message will still fail to get in front of the proper people who enter the online business space, at the time when they need it most.

The truth is…the fact that you might not ever be “successful” are made even more complicated by one last thing…

There's one more truth:

You can still make a difference.

The truth is...you can build something that matters.

You can make money blogging. You can.

You can grow an audience, and get heart-warming emails, and become influential.

You can get speaking gigs, and social media shares, and organic email list growth.

You can launch courses and build side hustles–and yes, you can even quit your day job.

You can absolutely gain at least some modicum of success…

It is possible.

But not for nothing in return.

Allow me to set proper expectations right now–regardless of where you’re at on your journey.

It’s going to take work.

It’s going to take grit, sacrificing time with family or loved ones.

It’s going to take willpower to sit down and do the work when you’ve been away for a while and don’t even know where to start.

It’s going to take a little luck.

It’s going to take a passion for what you’re doing–and a constant reminder of why you’re doing it and the people you’re doing it for.

Maybe online business and blogging truly isn’t a good fit for you.

Maybe it totally is.

My sincere desire is that you find the guts necessary to stand up and figure it out for yourself. 

I pray you understand the crazy obstacles you’re almost certainly going to encounter–and I hope you have the support in place to crash through the other side.

I hope you’re up for it.

Are you up for it?

Hey! Pete here.

Thanks for reading.

First, If any of this resonated with you, or if you’ve been bruised by improper expectations before, know that you’re not alone.

The desire to do great things and make a ton of money is completely natural, and being driven to success is human.

That’s still a good thing, even if it does result in stress and occasional heartbreak.

Second, you should join my tribe.

Not because I’m a millionaire blogger, or because I have all the answers, or because Blogger U might be a chance to level up your blog.

Forget all that.

You should join my tribe because you’d fit in.

I will attempt to teach you things based on my own experiences. I will sell you things.

But I’ll also speak the truth when the truth is what’s needed.

DYEB is your community, too. Not just mine.

You can start by joining our private Facebook group, or by joining the newsletter below.

Furthermore, feel free to share if it’s that important to you. I sincerely appreciate you.

Pete McPherson
Rome, GA
October 31, 2018

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[Survey Results] How Should a New Blogger Spend $1,000 Over 12 Months?

Bloggers love to spend money.

“You need to invest in your blog” is a popular piece of advice.

But what should you spend money on?

  • courses?
  • ads?
  • conferences?
  • software?

Where can you spend cash that will help you grow the fastest?

Investing in your blog or business = good. Wasting money on low-ROI activities or products = BAD.

So, I asked around the blogosphere and compiled some incredibly useful answers!

Below is the following:

  1. the most useful answer
  2. a rundown of different stuff bloggers can/should spend money on
  3. my answer

Let’s dive in:

Important Note: For the sake of this conversation, I am not counting initial domain and hosting expenses. Whether it’s $60 on Bluehost or $150 on Siteground, I’m NOT counting that in the $1,000.

Nick True on how to invest in your blog/online biz during the first year:

First, I’d like to present a totally-unexpected-but-amazing assessment.

Here’s Nick’s answer in full:

Dang Nick. Think things through why don’t ya

The takeaway?

By default–you should NOT spend your money based on what worked for other people. You should find what is going to bring YOU and YOUR BUSINESS a positive ROI.

This comes from determining your strengths and figuring out how spending cash can play into those strengths.

Simple, but not easy.

If you’re thinking “ok–but what are my strengths exactly? How do I KNOW?”

Keep reading.

FYI – You can get more Nick True over at Mapped Out Money.

If I wanted to invest in my blog–what are my options?

There were several pieces of advice that came up repeatedly from folks.

1 – Courses

Hey, did you all know that there are blogging courses for sale via the internet?

Ranging anywhere from $15 to $5,000+?

I know. It’s hard to believe that new bloggers (those in their first 0-12 months) would spend so much on their blogging education–but they do.

Pete’s thoughts on how to make courses a POSITIVE ROI:

Courses are NOT a magic bullet to grow your blog/biz.

The trick to making courses a worthwhile investment is three-fold…

  1. knowing that what other people did for “success” won’t necessarily work for you
  2. realizing that you still have to Do The Work
  3. Understanding what you need and don’t need.

If you lack any one of those three, you should not blindly spend money on blogging courses.

See my answer below for more on this…

#worstBloggerUpitchever

David gave a similar response:

don't load up on blogging courses
DON’T load up on $1k worth of courses unless you KNOW it’s going to help

2 – Software and WordPress Design/Themes

Blogging tools can make our lives a lot easier, and also contribute directly or indirectly to our growth…

…or they could be unnecessary expenses.

3 things came up often that could be “mandatory” to run a blog:

  1. Email service provider (ConvertKit, Mailchimp, Drip)
  2. Stock photo access
  3. A nice WordPress theme
ConvertKit came up a lot

I can kinda-sorta get behind these things–but it’s important to realize some other software folks pay for:

  • Tailwind
  • Leadpages
  • Elementor
  • Yoast Premium
  • Other premium plugins
  • SEO softare
  • Design tools

It’s insane how much you can spend when you start adding up blogging tools. Let’s be crystal clear: you can absolutely CRUSH your first year of blogging using ONLY free tools.

Mailchimp is free to 2,000 subscribers, and has made HUGE updates recently with regards to their tagging and segmenting systems, landing pages, and even advanced automation.

It’s MORE than enough for new bloggers (and I’d argue all bloggers).

Stop thinking you need more things to grow.

You probably don’t.

3 – Paid Ads

New bloggers who are not really well-off financially or have little experience RUNNING ads–shouldn’t run ads.

You’re blowing your hard-earned cash.

Learn how to properly run ads, get monetized, then run ads.

Moving on.

4 – Conferences

Blogging, marketing, and niche-specific meetups and conferences can be game-changers.

But can they be positive-ROI business-changers?

LOTS of people mentioned the benefits that in-person events bring:

Conferences are a recurring topic–but they’re expensive
connecting with other bloggers
connecting with like-minded folks is HUGE.

I gotta go with Josh on this: Everybody needs a Penny.

Here’s the thing about the “ROI” of conferences:

Their benefits are less obvious.

The truth is, the benefits of having off-line experiences and relationships extends far beyond easily-trackable revenue.

  • support
  • unforeseen opportunities in the future
  • fun
  • the chance to be around like-minded individuals

You can’t attach these to a monetary amount.

Conferences (and local meetups) can lead to many intangible opportunities for growth (and might actually provide the difference between quitting and not quitting).

I’d argue that’s high-ROI, but there’s a catch.

My Answer: How a New Blogger Should Spend $1,000 Over the First Year

I feel pretty strongly about this, so I’m going to break it out by time.

Also, if you listened to the podcast version of this blog post, you’ll note that Chelsea over at Mama Fish Saves pretty much said everything below 🙂

Phase 1 = spend $0

month 0-6 new blogger

In my massive guide for new bloggers–you might notice I talk very little about paid products for your first few months.

I truthfully believe brand new bloggers should not spend a dime on anything in their first 6 months.

Again, aside from initial hosting and domain.

Why?

You don’t know what you need yet.

This goes back to what Nick said about playing to your strengths–there’s almost no way you can correctly identify your blogging strengths and weaknesses when you first start.

It’s going to take to figure out exactly what will grow your blog best–both paid and free.

  • Not ConvertKit
  • Not Tailwind
  • Not Blogger U
  • Not FinCon

Sorry spenders.

Note: Did I violate this in my first six months? I ab-so-LUTE-ly did. But looking back–I’m pretty sure I’d be EXACTLY where I am today if I had stuck to free tools, no ads, etc for the first 6 months.

Also, your blog is probably not monetized during this phase.

I’m ok with spending a bit without a solid monetization strategy in place–but the more expenses that ramp up, the more I think you NEED to be monetized before you scale to spending $250/mo, $500/mo, or more.

Phase 2= spend $300

If you have blogged somewhat consistently for 6 months, I’d argue you probably have a MUCH clearer idea of what might help take you to the next level.

Note: When I say “1-2 tools,” I’m including 6 months worth of costs into the $300. I.e. if you signed up for ConvertKit at month 6, I’m including 6 months worth of expenses in this to round out year 1.

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Pick one tool
  2. Pick one smaller, topic-specific course.

What tool?

It’s up to you, but I’d highly recommend it be directly aligned with either a growth strategy or monetization strategy.

In other words, something mandatory for direct growth or making money.

  • ConvertKit = NO. Mailchimp is more than enough still. Sorry!
  • SmarterQueue or Tailwind = Maybe. These are almost mandatory for marketing purposes. Still, there’s Buffer for free.
  • SEO tool of which = Maybe. This is almost mandatory for accelerated SEO growth.

What course?

I do NOT think you should spend more than $100 on a blogging course in month 6. Just don’t.

To be honest–this is part of my reasoning behind splitting Blogger U up into separate, topic-specific courses at smaller price points.

I seriously just think it’s a smarter move for new bloggers.

So rather than grabbing a generic “grow your blog” course, find a course that suits your strategy and strengths.

  • an SEO course
  • a Pinterest course
  • a copywriting course
  • a digital products sales course

Got it?

Spend months 0-9 learning more about yourself and your blog. After that, the chance of spending $1,000 and having it grow your blog–grows exponentially for a while.

Boom.

Phase 3= spend $700

Do I think bloggers should switch from free platforms to paid platforms for incremental gains?

No.

Unless you’re heavily monetized already (some people are), or really have a specific need tools-wise, I’d argue there’s very little need to move away from free tools.

Once you’ve taken the time to “find your position” in the blogging world–especially from a money-making business standpoint, I believe you should double-down on either a conference or larger blogging course(s).

“Should,” not “could.”

It’s at this point that a conference OR course will likely bring more ROI for growth and monetization that anything else.

Choosing a conference:

Again, Nick already outlined this.

If you’re a bomb networker, know how to stand out and make connections at conferences, or otherwise need in-person interactions for another reason (like seeking freelance clients–always works way better in person), then choose a conference.

Note: For anybody OUTSIDE of the digital marketing niches, I’d suggest finding niche-specific conferences! I.e. if you’re a travel blogger, go to either a travel conference or travel blogger conference–not social media marketing world.

Choosing a course:

It’s at this point where you should try and find a “bundle” course that covers more than 1 specific marketing aspect.

10K subs. EBA. Blogger U. Billionaire Blog Club. Tribes. Platform University.

While all of these are slightly different, they have one thing in common: they are more than online courses.

They’re communities and learning platforms that will help you grow beyond one specific topic or strategy.

Other “filler” purchases:

It’s at this point where I wouldn’t hesitate to advise somebody to purchase any of the following (within reason):

  • one-time payment plugins (Elementor is the highest ROI WordPress plugin of all time. It’s a steal at that price)
  • fancier WP themes that just “work”
  • freelance or contract help (ONLY if you’re monetized and they can create leverage–just my opinion)

Bottom Line: Be thoughtful about how your blogging expenses help you grow.

You should NOT spend money on FinCon just because you’ve heard it’s cool (though it is).

You should NOT upgrade to ConvertKit or Drip when you hear me raving about them–but you don’t really have the need for them yet.

You should NOT jump in for the full Blogger U membership bundle without a clear vision of how it’ll help you grow.

Or because my perfect sales copywriting & persuasion techniques.

#joking

#orami?

Those expensive tools, courses, and conferences will never make up for a lack of remarkable content, effort, or old-fashioned relentlessness.

Be thoughtful.

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Related Reading: My first Monthly Income Report & Traffic Breakdown – $51

How to Increase the ROI of Old Content – Robert From The College Investor

This is a BONUS unedited chat with the legendary Robert Farrington from The College Investor. We sat and recorded this live at FinCon18 in Orlando, FL. Robert’s the man, and has built up an insanely impressive business from his blog. Enjoy!

We chat about:

  • how Robert went back through his site and revamped a system for monetization (i.e. just updating old content really)
  • should you ever change your domain name?
  • why his first “turning point” was connecting with other bloggers
  • how new bloggers can better connect with companies and brands

That last one is a huge marketing opportunity in my opinion.

Listen to my episode with Robert from The College Investor

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Quick note on updating old blog posts:

I already wrote about my “POO” strategy here: How to update old blog posts for improved SEO.

POO = Page One Opportunities 😉

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Also, as I start to accumulate more and more content myself, I’ve been toying with this idea of scaling back new content operations.

It’s actually what prompted this post on where bloggers should spend their time.

Just thought I’d throw those out there today–in case other people have been thinking the same thing when they listen to people like Robert!

Who, by the way, can be found at https://thecollegeinvestor.com/ 🙂