147: How I Made Over One Million Dollars Blogging In 2016 With Steve Chou

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147: How I Made Over One Million Dollars Blogging In 2016 With Steve Chou

My wife just closed the books on MyWifeQuitHerJob.com for 2016 and I’m happy to say that I hit 2 major milestones this past year. In this episode, I go over in detail how I managed to make over a million dollars blogging and what’s in store for 2017.

What You’ll Learn

  • The 2 milestones I hit this year
  • Why I decided to quit my job
  • Why it was so hard for me to quit
  • The income report for my blog
  • How I hit the million dollar mark this year
  • My Facebook ads strategy
  • Should you start a blog or an online store

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. Now I’m Steve Chou, and today we’re going to do a solo episode where I break down how I made over a million dollars blogging in 2016, but before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show.

Now I’m actually super excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store and I actually depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another email provider. Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they purchased which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, boom, let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, piece of cake, and there’s a full revenue tracking on every email too.

Now Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can actually try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and the way you spell Klaviyo is K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

Now I also want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Now what’s also cool about Privy is I use and rely on Privy for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they actually manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with Klaviyo.

Now there is a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but here’s why I like and chose Privy. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So for example let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over $100 in your store, now you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item in their cart.

Here’s another cool case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a special coupon code for that item or display a related item or offer. And in terms of email capture, I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop. So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed over to Klaviyo to close the sale, so head on over to Privy.com/mywifequitherjob and try it for free, and if you decide that you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. So once again that’s privy.com/mywifequitherjob, now onto the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I have a very special guest and that special guest is actually me. Since my wife just closed the books on mywifequitherjob.com, I thought it would be good to kind of give a little recap of how I did and everything that I did this past year to reach the one million dollar mark, which is really cool.
I hit two major milestones this year, so first one I just mentioned I made over one million dollars in revenue which is something that I never thought that I’d be able to do with my blog, with my store certainly but not with the blog for some reason because it still feels like kind of funny money to me in a way.

The second major milestone that I hit was that I finally quit my job after 17 years of working at the exact same company. Now out of both of those milestones I would have to say that quitting was actually more difficult to me than making the money, and the reason why it was so hard for me is you got to understand when you are at a company for 17 years you build a lot of these friendships, and my entire identity was carried along with my profession.

And here’s the thing about me, I don’t know if you guys know this about me but I’ve known that I’ve wanted to be an electrical engineer since the age 10. My dad was an electrical engineer and really bottom line as an Asian; I really had only three choices to begin with. I could be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer, so naturally I chose an engineer because my dad was one.

I’ve actually designed micro processors for over 20 years, and so a lot of my brain power over the years has been dedicated to designing micro processors, and if you’ve done anything for that long, you probably know that it’s really tough to give something up like that, it was a part of my identity.

And here is the thing, so I was just up at my buddy’s engagement, and one of his friends came up to me and asked me, “Hey what do you do for living? I had already quit at that point and honestly I didn’t know what to say, am I a blogger, am I a writer, am I a podcaster, am I a conference thrower?

And so what I ended up telling that guy was, “I’m actually unemployed right now, and just kind of doing my own thing.” The guy was like, “Oh man okay that’s tough, if you ever need any leads or help getting a job, I can hook you up.” I said, “Oh no, no, that’s good, I’m just doing my own thing, it’s not a big deal.

I ended up just feeling a little awkward at that conversation because in the old days I could just say that I was a hardware engineer, a micro process designer and that would be the end of the conversation, because no one would ever want me to go into more depth about the technical stuff. Now if I say I’m a business owner or a blogger or a writer, the follow on questions are, oh yeah what do you write about, what do you sell and what not.

To be honest sometimes I don’t want to get into all that, and it was just so much easier back in the day just to say I’m an engineer, no one wants to know any more, and that’s that. I did want to talk a little bit about what it’s been like to quit, because it wasn’t like an amazing thing when I first quit and perhaps it’s because I was just kind of slowly leading up to that point.

I wrote a blog post back in June saying that I had quit my job, but that was actually slightly a lie. I did announce my resignation during that point, but the company gave me this really sweet offer to stay just two days a week, gave me full health insurance and there were some other line items to that deal which I don’t want to disclose publicly, but in a nut shell it was an offer that I could not refuse, and so I stayed on working two days a week, and then I finally left cold turkey on October 1st.

It’s just been okay, and one of the reasons why, and you guys might be thinking that I’m crazy for thinking this way, but I’ve got too much time on my hands right now. So right now I work until noon, I usually have lunch with my wife, then I usually work out in the afternoon, then I pick up the kids and that’s it pretty much. There’s just very little social interaction outside of Skype, I’ve got my Skype friends and that sort of thing.

What I found to be difficult about quitting is that it’s really hard to stay motivated in a way. In the old ways when I worked my full time job and I still run my blog, my podcast, and my store, I only had like a really small amount of time to get my stuff done and I had to plan my day really carefully. Now that I have so much time, I don’t feel like I have to plan anything and so big blocks of time can pass before you know it, so I’ve had to be a lot more diligent about planning my day.

But it has also allowed me to kind of figure out what makes me happy in life, and I’ll probably get into a little bit more about that in a future podcast episode, but having all this time has caused me to think about a lot of different things and what actually makes me happy. Anyways I don’t want to bore you with those details, let’s go ahead and jump to the numbers real quick.

So revenues for my blog increased by 46%, as I mentioned before we hit one million dollars. February was the highest month where I made over $125,000 in a single month, the traffic to my blog increased by 15%, the profit margins for a blog of course are astronomical, 90 plus percent. I just want to say this, what I really love about blogging is that it’s really highly scalable, and I can honestly maintain my blog in just 15 hours a week.

I’ve got it kind of down to a system, it takes me three hours to write a blog post, and I write one blog post per week. It takes me roughly two hours to put together a podcast, it takes me 10 hours roughly to manage my course and my email load and so overall it’s very scalable, and that’s what I like about blogging. Now what’s funny about all of this also is I routinely get a bunch of entrepreneurs on my podcast and even though the blog is doing really well, I still have my insecurities so to speak.

Now I recently interviewed someone who is really high profile and if I told you who this person was you would instantly recognize that person, world renowned author. He basically flat out told me that my blog was just a job and not a business. At first I was going to argue with him and debate back and forth, but he is right in a way, the blog and everything I do that’s related to the blog cannot function without me being there, like I got to be the one to write the blog post and that sort of thing.

Of course I can probably contract it out but it just wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t putting out that content myself. So instead of trying to argue with the guy I just let it go because honestly at 15 hours per week it’s not really a bad gig and a million bucks is nothing to sneeze at either. But anyways you probably noticed that the traffic to my blog went up only 15% and the revenue actually went up 46%.

For 2016 my intention was actually not to grow the blog that much. I was going to focus all my efforts on my ecommerce store and what ended up happening was I didn’t end up focusing my time on my blog or my store all that much because I ended up working until October, that was kind of unplanned. But I did want to talk a little bit about how I did grow my blog that 46%, so one of the things that I did was I ran more webinars.

I just want to take a little bit of time to give a quick shout out to Grant Baldwin and Toni Anderson who kind of pushed me towards giving webinars a try because I did not want to give them at all. I can be someone anti social at times, I like to hide behind the computer and do coding, I don’t really particularly like doing webinars.

The space for blogs is a little bit different because it’s a little more off the curve and I can just talk about whatever, but I was reluctant to try it, but then Grant sent me this spreadsheet of all of his profits that he was making with his webinars, and then Toni kept nagging me to give it a try. Nagging is probably not the right word; she kept urging me to try because she knew that it would be big for me.

So I ended up doing one and I made $60,000 in 90 minutes of work, and then I just sat there I was like $60,000 in 90 minutes of work, all right, it’s not bad, I can do these, I can do even once a month.

I want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now in this day and age word of mouth is a huge driver of business for most ecommerce stores, and the best way to amplify word of mouth marketing is through a referral program. And this is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks to the mouse you could add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders, and in fact it is not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer is currently seeing a 20X ROI, and referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because everyone is talking about your company with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve, once again it’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try out the service risk free. Now back to the show.

And I still don’t completely enjoy doing them, so I just do them once a month, and what’s cool about these webinars is that it’s like instant cash, so during the month of November my wife told me that I was short of my million dollar goal by about $30,000, and I was like don’t worry about it I’ll just do a webinar. And so I just did a webinar a couple of weeks later and that webinar ended up doing $50,000 and so I hit my goal in early December actually.

Now the funny thing about webinars is I don’t really know how they work. When I get on a webinar I’m certainly not an expert but it just converts so well, and I think it really has to do with like the real time and personal nature of giving a live webinar. I always stay on till the very end to answer as many questions as possible and for all of you guys who know me, I’m not really a sales guy, I’m not a sales person by any means.

So what’s funny about all this also is I started having these successive webinars, and I ended up giving two speeches about webinars at FINCON and Digital CoLab which are two awesome conferences this past year. If anyone is interested about how I ran my webinars, I could be coaxed into doing a Facebook live session or even a podcast about it if you guys are interested. If you guys are interested leave a comment in the box for me.

The other thing that I did to grow my blog this past year is I ran a lot of Facebook ads. Now for all of you guys who aren’t quite familiar with what I sell, I sell a course that retails for about $1300. Now no one is going to spend $1300 dollars with me on impulse, and you got to get people to like you, you got to get people to trust you. Very few people will actually even sign up for your email list unless they trust you.

And so what is started doing this past year is I started running ads to some of my best content. These are great blog posts that I had written in the past just to get a little bit of mind share and then I ran ads to these posts. When you ran ads to posts, it ends up being really cheap. Some of my best posts and ads, I’m paying like nine to 13 cents per click which is really good.

And then what I do, for all the people who actually land on that page and read the article, I retarget them to an email sign up page, and because they are already familiar with my work, they’ve read a blog post, they are much more likely to sign up for my email list and as a result I’ve been paying between one and two dollars per email sign up for those people who’ve actually experienced my content in the past.

I’ve also tried running ads straight to a sign up form but I end up paying a lot more money when I do that, sometimes on the order of five or six dollars. So just by sending people to content first and then a sign up form, it ends up being cheaper and much more effective. So right now I’m not really scaling these ads, but I plan to this year in 2017, and I’ve got a strategy plan for this year that I’ll probably talk about publicly a little bit later once I’ve implemented it and once I know that it actually works.

Ultimately the key to all of my course sales is email. Email is the backbone of my entire blogging business. Now for all of you guys who are unfamiliar with that, I offer a free six day mini course on how to start your own ecommerce store, and if you’re curious right now you can head on over to mywifequitherjob.com, there is sign up form right there on the front page and I’ll deliver that course to you via email.

Now I’ve given a bunch of talks about my email sequence in the past, but I’ll just quickly summarize a little bit. The first nine lessons of that free six day mini course are hard core teaching lessons and I actually don’t hold anything back. I teach you everything that it takes to get started in ecommerce, so it’s a 30 email sequence, and the remaining 20 or so emails are what I call get to know Steve type of emails.

What’s funny about this is I have separate emails targeting females and separate emails targeting males in particular to just kind of get them to jump on the Steve band wagon so to speak. So for example for the women I have an email that talks about when we had our first born and she couldn’t stop crying. I talk about the story how I felt so prepared for my first baby.

I was reading all these baby books and I just got really cocky about being able to calm down a baby, but when my baby girl finally came out, she ended up crying uncontrollably and all that book knowledge that I had amassed was worthless. I ended up [inaudible 00:17:57] the baby at last and buying all these toys to help pacify my child, and the point of that email of course is to say that no matter what you read online, and no matter how many books you read, you’re never going to be prepared to start your own business and that’s why you need extra instructions to sign off for my class.

So that email actually goes put to the women. For the guys I have a post on six pack abs and comparing getting six pack abs to starting a business, so it’s really funny. So for both of those posts I always get a lot of comments on the six pack one from guys and a lot of comments from the women about the baby post.

For those later 20 emails I also do a bunch of case studies with my students and needless to say that this email sequence converts really well to get people to actually sign up for my class. Now one other thing that happened this past year which was just really incredible for me was on May 19th, 2016 I started my own conference which is called the Sellers Summit.
Here’s the thing about the Sellers Summit, I had always wanted to be a keynote speaker, but no one was willing to let me become a keynote at any of their conferences, and so instead of kind of begging people to let me be their keynote, I decided to start my own conference instead. And once again I want to give a special thanks out to Toni Anderson for pushing me to do this, and she is actually a partner with me in launching this conference.

Anyways this conference was actually the most fun that I’ve ever had outside of my wedding reception just in case you’re listening Jen, and I had a blast and I decided to throw another one and I’ll probably do a separate FB live on this. But the reason I started the conference of my own, and there are other ecommerce conferences out there, it’s mainly because I was just tired of conferences with just inspirational speakers.

I wanted to start a conference that was more strategy focused, based on strategies and low level tactics and kind of avoid all the inspirational stuff, because I don’t know if you guys know my personality but I don’t need to be inspired, I just need to learn. And I was just betting that a bunch of other people out there had the same philosophy. And so as a result, I only get hardcore ecommerce [inaudible 00:20:17] to actually talk in my conference.

These are entrepreneurs who are actually getting their own hands dirty. There is a huge difference in actually doing something versus having high level knowledge about something or even contracting stuff out to other people. I like to get speakers who are kind of deep in the trenches and doing everything and getting their hands dirty. And so the summit was actually designed to provide very actionable content.

The other thing that I was just kind of tired about other conferences was going to like multi thousand person events, like you can get really lost in the crowd when there are just so many people there. And so I purposely made my conference very small and intimate, so I could actually form some meaningful, intimate relationships, and so those are some of the cool philosophies why I decided to start my own conference besides wanting to be a key note of course.

I just want to give a quick shout out; tickets are on sale right now for the Sellers Summit. Go to sellerssummit.com, the price is actually going to go up on February 1st, so be sure to get your tickets before the price goes up.
Now the other thing I did, or I should say that I’m constantly doing is I am always improving my class. Now here’s the thing about courses, if you don’t update them, they’re going to get stale and what’s ironic is that the more work that I put forth on improving my ecommerce store; it actually improves my training class because it creates a lot more material for me to teach.

And so I spend portion of the year improving my online store and I’m not going to go into too much depth about what I do for my store because incidentally the next podcast is going to go over the year and recap for my ecommerce store. But I’ve been updating my course constantly with all the latest things that I’ve been doing to improve my online store.

So a couple of these things are I completely revamped the email autoresponders for my store, I experimented with a lot of Facebook ads for my store, I talked a lot about conversion optimization, I invited more guests to the class, industry experts to come talk to the students about areas of their expertise. I also sent out the survey and was very pleasantly surprised by the results.

Here’s what’s really cool, 56% of the students who have been with me a year and launched their own product are now making at least four figures per month, and 9% of these students are making more than $50,000 a month in revenue which is really awesome, it makes me feel really good, I’m going to try to get some of these students to come on the podcast to talk about their experiences.

You probably have already heard from Jen Depaoli who runs showercurtainhq.com, you may want to check out that episode if you haven’t listened to it, but right now I have two other students lined up to tell their stories as well. So given my results in blogging and the fact that I made over a million dollars this past year, does that mean that you should go out and start blogging or should you start an online store, and I get this question a lot because I’ve been successful in both areas.

The answer I always give is it depends on your long term goals. I’m going to be upfront and say this, blogging is a slog, it actually took me three years before I made any sort of meaningful money with it and it can be hard to do something for three years and not have anyone really reading your or making any money, but it’s really incredible once the money does start rolling in because it ramps up really quickly.

Contrast that with my store. I actually ended up making six figures right away, but in the past couple of years the growth has slowed. It’s still in the double digits, we’ve maintained double digits since 2007, but it’s not as high as the blog. So bottom line if you want to make money sooner rather than later, you want to sell something online, and so if you want to make money soonest, go with the online store because you have a product you’re putting it up there and someone is exchanging you money for an actual product.

But if you have a three to five year time horizon I would say I would start a blog, maybe a podcast and really build your own personal brand. So of the two businesses that I had today I feel like the blog has much higher barriers to entry because no one can take my identity away from me. I’ve built up a personal brand, and this is despite the fact that my mom constantly asks me, why are people reading your stuff? I told her my results actually, I told her that I did a million dollars, and she is like what, why are people buying your stuff? And so at least now it’s gone from why are people reading your stuff to why are people buying your stuff.

In the Asian land that’s like a huge upgrade in terms of place. Anyways that’s pretty much all I had to say about how my blog performed in 2016, going forward I don’t know if I want to take on any additional products, projects just yet. I do have a software product that I’m hoping to release later on this year, but for now I’m just going to focus on making my existing properties better.

Hope you enjoyed that solo episode. Next week I’m actually going to be talking about how my ecommerce store performed in 2016, and discuss all the changes that I made to make that happen and grow that business as well. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode147.

Once again I want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site tagging tools to make it supper simple as well. Now I personally like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom purpose for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. So if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com/mywifequitherjob.

I also want to thank Klaviyo, which is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. Now you can easily put together automated flows like in abandoned cart sequence, or post purchase flow or win back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, once gain that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

Now I talk about how I use these tools Privy and Klaviyo on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

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5 thoughts on “147: How I Made Over One Million Dollars Blogging In 2016 With Steve Chou”

  1. Hey Steve,

    Just a quick question on referral partners…how does Privy compare to Sumome? Looking for a better, cheaper alternative. Never heard of Privy before.

    Thanks!

    -Ulrich

  2. Privy is a lot more powerful than SumoMe especially for ecommerce

  3. Rob says:

    Congrats Steve, so being an affiliate and selling info products seems the way to go. Do you offer coaching also?

  4. Mike says:

    Steve, I really enjoyed the last few podcasts where you “interview” yourself. Very informative. I would like to see more of these. Also, if you could do one on webinars that you mentioned, that would be awesome. Thanks.

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