I started my blog, www.strawbaletales.com, five years ago as a Dear Diary to update friends and family about the unconventional home we were building in northern British Columbia, Canada. After a few years, the site languished and my blogging career appeared to be over before it started.
Until a few months ago.
A few months ago, I decided I’d turn the site into a blog about rural living; about motherhood; about the unconventional lives unfolding between the walls of our unconventional home. I was excited! I was pumped! I was ready to write!
I was so, so naïve.
The writing, of course, is the easy part.
It’s marketing your blog that takes a great deal of courage: Who would read it? What was I selling? Where the heck was I going with all this blogging business, anyway? And who, apart from maybe my mother, wanted yet another email in their inbox?
Eden’s list-building challenge (a 30-day challenge to start, grow, and nurture your email list so that you can turn a profit on your blog) was just the kick in the pants I needed to move beyond my comfort zone and grow my following. Here’s why.
1. I learned to get past my ego
The first hurdle I needed to overcome was getting past my ego. Isn’t that, ultimately, the hardest part about blogging? It’s so darn personal.
For me, I’ve always wanted to write a cookbook.
To be clear: I’m a writer and a competent photographer; I’m not a chef. But I take photos of my food. I record my recipes. I tinker with the layout for a book in the hopes of eventually self-publishing it.
When it came time to create a freebie for the list-building challenge (required in week-1 of the challenge), I pulled a few of those pages together for a downloadable mini-cookbook.
Man, was I scared! I have some kick-ass cooks in my social media circles. And there I was, a writer, letting them know I dreamed of publishing a cookbook! Intimidating!
You know what? It felt good to get it off my chest. And no one batted so much as a judgement-laden whisk in my direction.
2. I had my "ah-ha!" sales funnel moment
Until taking Eden’s course, all I knew about a sales funnel was that it resembled the whirlwind of ideas hurtling around in my head.
Blogging is inherently creative and there’s that little high we get from coming up with ideas, but if you can’t pin them down with a plan you’ll just end up chasing your tail.
Then, in the midst of this course about digital this and online that, Eden shared a photo of a simple grid she’d sketched explaining the sales funnel. It could have been doodled on a napkin for all I know, but it was my biggest ah-ha! moment of the challenge. My destination is still a little hazy, but now I have a clear path forward.
3. I got over myself and asked for support
My list-building breakthrough came in the simplest form: I asked my friends for support.
It’s so freaking simple. But it took half the challenge for me to screw up the courage. I didn’t want to sell to the people I know best. I didn’t want to feel like I was schmoozing them. So I didn’t.
I just put it out there honestly, like this: “Hey folks, this is a project I’m working on and I’d love it if you could get on board. Oh, also, here’s a freebie for your efforts.”
And you know what? The 50-plus friends and family who signed up weren’t just being nice — they genuinely wanted to check out what I’d be doing. They’re excited to receive my updates. They just needed a little nudge.
4. Influencers really DID help me out
Obviously, mining friends and family for subscribers will only get you so far — then you need to hustle. Over the course of the month-long email list building challenge, I’d been working to track down and connect with influencers: so many likes, messages and comments; so little response. I didn’t think my confidence could take any more. Then, as the challenge drew to a close, three things happened.
- I made the time (a couple hours) to craft a post and submitted it to a family-themed website that reaches 20 million parents every month. On the second last day of the challenge, I learned that my piece had been accepted. That’s a lot of readers, folks. And a lot of eyes on the links to my blog, right there at the bottom of the post.
- After several weeks and a couple of message, an influencer in my niche finally got back to me. He said he was sorry, he’d been busy and he loved the post I’d shared with him! It’s going to appear on his website.
- Another influencer I’d been emailing back and forth with advertised an eight-week mentoring program she was offering. For $130, I could work on a project under her guidance and develop a relationship with someone killing it in my niche. Um, yes, please!
The takeaway from the tasks I worked on in the challenge-group: the groundwork you lay today might not yield results for weeks or months to come. That’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. Keep. On. Going.
5. I made real friends from my class
One of the things that’s amazed me most since deciding to grow my blog has been the supportiveness of the blogging community. In online forums and groups, people come together from all over the world, with differing interests and projects, and cheer each other on.
They all have one thing in common: they’re passionate about what they’re doing. They’re working hard to make it happen. They’ll empower and inspire you to do the same. Lasting relationships were built in peer review threads.
I learned a ton from my fellow classmates in the list building challenge and loved seeing what everyone else was working on. I loved opening their blogs and being blown away by a stunning layout or beautiful photos. I loved getting excited with them.
Like anything we pursue that’s personal and meaningful, building a blog has its ups and downs; the list-building challenge was no different.
There were weeks when the tasks I set out for myself felt daunting, for sure. There were times with little growth and no inspiration. The great thing about joining a community of people in the same boat is that you have the incentive to keep moving forward.
If you want to learn more about the email list building challenge, check it out right here. I highly recommend it!
The great thing about joining a community of people in the same boat is that you have the incentive to keep moving forward #listbuildingchallenge
5 things that happened to @amandajfollett during her 30 days in the #listbuildngchallenge group