Today I’m thrilled to have Toni Anderson on the show. Toni and I met at the World Domination Summit last year and she’s one of my favorite mommy bloggers of all time. I always love talking to Toni because every time I talk to her, I realize how much of a cake walk my life really is.
Toni runs the ridiculously popular blog, TheHappyHousewife.com, where she blogs about how to better manage your household. And here’s the kicker. The woman has 7 kids and she homeschools all of them. In addition to the blog, she also runs a conference and she consults on the side.
In short, her time management skills and drive are amazing and we can learn a lot about how she manages her time. Enjoy the show!
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What You’ll Learn
- How Toni got the attention of Oliver North
- How Toni convinces you to sign up for her newsletter
- How to start a blog while homeschooling 7 kids
- Tips on time management
- Toni’s early strategy to gain traffic
- How to use Google Groups to boost your blog
- How Toni pitches other bloggers for guest posts
- How to use Pinterest effectively
- The importance of having an email list
- How Toni makes money with her site
- The right way to run sponsored campaigns
- How to get sponsored campaigns for your blog
- How long it took to make money with her blog
- CPM networks vs Adsense and why you need to use DFP
- If you need a website logo or website design, make sure you check out 99Designs.com and enjoy $99 in savings by clicking on this link!
Other Resources And Books
Now if you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/contest. And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to www.mywifequitherjob.com for more information.
Now before I begin, I just wanted to give a quick shout out to this episodes sponsor 99 designs. Now originally I wasn’t going to take any sponsors at all but 99 designs caught my eye, because I suck at design. And in fact when I first started my online store back in 2007 the design for my website was terrible, and I had absolutely no idea who to turn to. Now fast forward to today 99 designs is a site where you can provide a description of anything that you want designed whether it be a logo, a webpage, a t-shirt, pretty much anything, and have dozens of designers compete to deliver you the best design possible. And by best I mean you get to choose your favorite design among dozens of submissions from a pool of over 315,000 designers.
So if you are design challenged like I am, I highly recommend that you go over to 99designs.com/mywifequit, and if you use that link and tell them that Steve from mywifequitherjob.com referred you, your design listing will be bolded, highlighted given a prominent background, and featured before all regular listings so that your request stands out among all of the designers, and in fact this special offer is worth 99 dollars. So if you need a logo, website, t-shirt, business card, or anything designed go to www.99designs.com/mywifequit now onto the show.
Welcome to the my wife quit her job podcast where. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the my wife quit her job podcast. Today I have a very special guest on the show Toni Anderson. Now Toni runs a popular blog thehappyhousewife.com where she’s created an incredible resource that teachers others how to better manage their homes. She also runs Digital CoLab which is a conference that caters to web professionals who want to expand their online businesses. But here’s the kicker, the woman has seven kids, her husband is in the military and he’s not around all that often and she home schools all of her kids.
Now is that ridiculous or what, and she does all of this while running a six figure blog, a conference and she also consults on the side. Now I had the pleasure of meeting Toni in person at the World domination summit a couple of months ago, and I’ve got a couple of confessions to make. So when I first met her, I half expected to meet a frazzled, beaten down, disheveled and ungroomed woman who is a little out of shape. Now that’s actually how I picture someone who has been worn down over the years from the rigors of taking care of seven kids.
Now my wife and I have problems with just two, so I can’t even imagine having seven. But much to my surprise, Toni looked great and she was in shape too and she was down to earth, calm, composed, and very easy to talk to. And in fact I randomly went up to her when she was in the middle of talking to someone else, rudely interrupted her conversation and said “hey are you Toni Anderson?” And at the time I didn’t think anything of it, but she was probably thinking to herself “who is this crazy Chinese guy coming up to me?” So anyways I’m looking at my inbox right now and I’m seeing a couple of emails from people complaining that they don’t have enough time to start their own businesses. So after listening to this interview you will never ever be able to complain that you don’t have enough time ever again, and with that welcome to the show Toni, how’s it going today?
Toni: It’s great, how are you?
Steve: I’m very good. So give us the quick background story and tell us how you came up with the idea the happy house wife.
Toni: All right, so I started blogging in 2006. My husband was deployed to Iraq and because of the computer systems there he couldn’t get like the Yahoo and the AOL account emails. So because we couldn’t communicate via email, I started a blog just to basically write him a letter every day. And it was you know, it was a public site but of course no one was reading it but ham or so I thought, and one day I got an email from someone who claimed to be Oliver North’s publicists, and I had written a post, it was around 4th of July and I had written a post sort of a letter to my husband thanking him for his military service.
Somehow, someone in Oliver North’s team stumbled upon it, read it, loved it and wanted to re-publish it in his newsletter and of course having not a lot of experience in this area I kind of deleted the email, it was like “yeah whatever” I’ll also send you my social security number, my bank account, move on. And a couple of days later, I got another email and I think on the third email I realized this was legitimate and they did want to republish my article. So that was my first realization that it wasn’t just my husband reading this site, and perhaps this was a little bigger than you know what I thought it was. I was a reader of blogs– actually I was J.D. Roth that would get registered in front of the first blogs that I read. I read a couple you know mom type blogs, and so I knew that they were out there, but I didn’t really understand that this could be something about a business.
So I kept up with this first blog for– well my husband was deployed and then once he came back he was actually injured during deployment and we spent about 18 months with him in rehab kind of wondering if he was able to work again. He wasn’t able to drive or get himself to therapy, and so I started doing all that. And realizing that we were just one income family that we were like what are we going to do if he can’t work anymore? And he didn’t have enough seniority in the military to retire. So they were talking about like a medical discharge, which is basically where they try not to give you a lot of money, and I realized that I needed to figure out what I could do to start working, but yeah we still had six kids you know. So I thought I can’t really like put them all in day care because that’s too expensive.
So my blog had kind of just be going along, it was very personal and I realized I needed to stop that and start something that was less personal, and more just about life and how to manage your home, because when I got married I couldn’t cook a hotdog. So I kind of learned it all as I went along, and I thought hey if I didn’t know there’s probably a lot of people like me out there that go through the same struggles, and being a military family you know not living close to my own family. So I had to kind of learn it without the help of parent’s, grandparent’s kind of thing.
So I launched the happy housewife in 2008 fully expecting it to be a business. I thought you know dreaming that it would support our family one day– not really knowing how to get there or having any idea how to monetize the blog, but realizing that I thought at some point I could get there. And so I launched in 2008– he actually ended up getting better and going back on full duty, and you know so the pressure was off to sort of make it a business right away, but over the years obviously it has grown into being its own little online empire, but yeah that’s where we started
Steve: The happy housewife– was this your original blog where you were writing personal messages to your husband?
Steve: Oh, okay.
Toni: I had my kids’ names on the first blog and I knew enough about the internet to know that I didn’t want my kids’ names or real specific information about our family…
Toni: On a blog that I was intending for a lot of people to read. So I pulled most of the old content, and I think there were a few posts that I kept on there and changed the name and everything and launched on a WordPress site.
Steve: Okay. And the reason why I ask this is because I’ve been on your site and there’s actually this really long 30 page article I would say which I spent you know 30 minutes reading a couple of weeks ago, and it’s really personal and it’s got a lot of juicy stuff. It’s was almost like reading a romance novel. Not that I read those by the way for those listening…
Steve: But very interesting stuff. So is the rest of your– like I haven’t gone through your blog you know over the years, but is a lot of that that personal, or?
Toni: No, that would be the most personal. I actually wrote that story– I went to a blog conference– I think it was 2009 and when I started my site the whole goal was to make it personal and not like I’m your friend and I want to help you, but not personal and that you’re going to hear stories about how my kid takes off the diaper and eats the poop kind of thing, right?
Toni: So I wanted it to be relatable but not personable. But I went to this blog conference and someone talked about the importance of sharing your story, and of course I bought into it because who doesn’t buy into those talks right? I thought I actually have a pretty interesting story. And so I sat on the plane and wrote for two and a half hours of just starting from the very beginning– well when I met my husband and…
Toni: You know kind of hit publish and went to bed sort of thing and of course woke up the next day to people flipping out. I can’t believe you did this or I did the same thing or I did it, it didn’t work, or people that are like, hey I think I know your husband from high school because that sounds a lot like him, and I’ve been reading your blog for a year. So it sort of just got a life of its own and I don’t do a very good job of updating it because it’s it is hard for me to put a lot of personal stuff out there, and obviously my goal in writing that is the only person I ever want to look like a dog is myself. I don’t want anyone, my family or people that I care about to feel that I’m saying anything about them that won’t be well received. So it’s– and you know– but of course your life isn’t really like that, so it’s hard to write it and make everybody else look really good, because then not always but you know.
Steve: I’ll have to link that story up because as soon as I read it, I was reading it and I was like “oh, my God this is really juicy.” And so I pulled my wife over, and what’s hilarious is at the very end you had this little nugget like, if you want to hear the rest of this story you better sign up for my newsletter, I’m like “oh! Man, this is like…”
Toni: And that’s how I grew my subscriber base.
Steve: Yes, very clever and that is how I became a member of the happyhousewife.com.
Toni: That’s right, that’s right and I get hate mail regularly because it’s not finished. You know I get like the email with like the title of that email is in all caps and it’s like, “YOU NEED TO FINISH!!!!” I’m like you want to come babysit for me so that I can finish it. So yeah, it’s a work In progress, plus I’m not dead yet, so the story can’t end, so come on.
Steve: Yeah, but you’re a lot more successful now. So maybe it’s a little less interesting I guess. But, so let’s talk about, okay when you first started happy house– this is 2008, how many kids did you have at the time?
Toni: Six, only six.
Steve: Only six? All right, so how does one find the time to blog with six kids?
Toni: You know it’s something and this is what I tell a lot of people because obviously I work in a space where we help bloggers, but if you’re not passionate about it, you’re not willing to put in those you know 2a.m. sessions to get it done…
Toni: And so you know for me it was about– this was an outlet. This is where I could put all my recipes fun online and my laundry tips and all these things that, it’s like being a housewife I’m just going to say it it’s pretty monotonous, like it’s not fun to do. I don’t care what anybody tells you, it’s not fun to do laundry, it’s not fun to fold sheets, I don’t care how good you are at it. But to me it was fun to find out clever ways of doing it, and then sharing it with other people. So for me it really helped to break up what I felt like it was sort of a boring job at– with it day to day. Like obviously raising kids is far from boring, but things like you know cleaning your house and all that stuff you know not super exciting, and so I felt like it was a way for me to get it all out there, and talk about it you know exchange ideas with people.
Steve: What about the home school part of it, didn’t that take up most of the day?
Toni: Yes it did, and it should– shouldn’t it? Yeah so home schooling and you know when I started I always say my kids were little; they weren’t really little, I think my oldest was 13 when I started.
Toni: You know home schooling doesn’t take up 9 and 10 hours of your day, if you’re doing it well. So you know we would home school in the morning, and then you know until the early afternoon, and then the kids would just play and do things. It’s one of those things that I would– while they’re reading lunch, I would sign on and check things and approve comments and do all that stuff, and then– and you know blogging has gotten a lot different from when I started. When I started you basically had a blog, and I think Twitter had just started, but you know people weren’t on it like they’re today and there wasn’t a Pinterest that you had to focus on you know Facebook wasn’t really used by brands. So as the internet social networking has grown, I think people’s time online has grown a lot too, because you didn’t have to do all this stuff that I think when I started in 2008, you know you weren’t spending five hours a day on a Pinterest strategy.
Toni: You were just writing content you know.
Steve: Right, actually you know that’s a good segway to the next topic that I want to talk about. So, let’s start with the very beginning first of all, what was your early strategy to kind of obtain traffic?
Toni: So I was in the old school approach, probably you were in this too; I don’t know when you started.
Steve: 2009 actually, so around the same time.
Toni: Yeah, so commenting on other sites, doing– getting links you know, so either submitting guest posts to bigger bloggers, participating in like the linking parties. I did a lot of guest blogging, so that was a big one for me was you know hitting up some of the bigger bloggers in sort of the home management, lifestyle type space and then I created a blogging network. I think I’m not sure when I did this, I think it was about six months in, and I just realized that there were several bloggers that we seem to always be commenting on each other’s post and that sort of thing. And I think we’re at that point, I think Facebook, and I basically emailed ten bloggers and I said “hey would you like to start a group?” And you know kind of like a mastermind group, but I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time and you know basically share ideas, promote each other, and work to grow each other’s sites together. And you know almost everybody that started in that group is now a full time income blogger.
Steve: Wow, so can you just talk about how this group was run?
Toni: Yeah, so we used– I think it was Google groups– was that what it was called?
Steve: Yeah, I think so yeah, basically that’s email based right?
Toni: Yeah, so you get a digest, you could get it– you can get like single emails or get it through digest. So we basically used that as set up and we just– I think when we started it was pretty formal and I actually would– since I was probably the most experienced blogger in the group, I would send out little like weekly lessons, like challenges like “hey let’s this week, let’s try to like work on back linking, or this week let’s try to work on email marketing” or something like that. And so probably for the first like nine months, it was pretty formal like each week being a lesson or a challenge, and then after that my site grew pretty significantly after my first year, and I just didn’t have time to look– because this was a big chunk of our time was participating in this group, and I didn’t have time to be as formal.
So then it became of more you know “hey can you all share this post for me?” Or “can you comment or can you go do this” and you know hey back when linkings were really big you know, and you wanted to be the first person to link up at 9a.m. if someone was like in the west coast. You know the east coast would link up the west coasters blog form and things like that. So that’s when it became, as we got farther on and now we don’t really do it at all, we’ve all kind of gone different directions, but we’re still friends. So it worked out pretty well.
Steve: That’s pretty cool, so would that be a good strategy today if you’re starting all over again?
Toni: I definitely think getting in a group is a great strategy. I don’t– you know I feel like the guest posting– I think it still has value, I don’t think it has value like it used to you know, obviously commentings– I think commenting is a great way to get someone’s attention if you’re a frequent reader. I know I know my frequent readers, I know the people that comment on my site. I interact with them usually on every platform. So if they were a growing blogger, I would probably put them on my radar to promote them you know…
Toni: Based on opportunities. So I think there’s still that, but it takes a lot of time. So I don’t know if the time verses value is as good as it used to be.
Toni: But I definitely feel like getting in a group, honestly if it’s just to bounce ideas of each other, I think it’s worth it as long as you give as much as you’re getting.
Steve: Okay and then what was your strategy for approaching some of the larger blogs in the beginning to guest post on?
Toni: You know I just– I would– obviously there are blogs that I would read or were familiar with, and so I would usually pitch them an idea of something that was really relevant to what they were already talking about. So if it was a frugal site you know, I was like “hey, can I write a post about how clock saved us all this money?” You know something like that, so it would be something that they maybe hadn’t talked about to the depth that I could write about it.
Toni: So, you know I did some research and I think that’s really important is I think we all get these pitches from who knows India whatever, trying to submit guest posts for links and you know obviously as bloggers we tend to delete almost everything like that when it comes in. So I think when you’re crafting a pitch to a bigger blog or that you make sure that you’ve really done your research on their site, you know what they talk about and you can add a lot of value to what they’re doing. Because I mean even people like Problogger will take guest posts from people that do a good job in pitching him right, and are creating that relevant content for a site.
Steve: Yeah sure of course. And then today you know you mentioned Pinterest, but are there any particular traffic sources that you kind of focus on today, with all the different social media that’s out there?
Toni: Yes, so I actually have an assistant that does Pinterest for me, that’s one of her main jobs, and so she’s become my Pinterest expert. And when we started I was on Pinterest and I actually– when I started I had an idea that it would be really cool to create these home school boards based on themes, and so you know a theme of like oceans and a theme of pirates or whatever you know, and then basically create unit studies which is something you do on homeschooling around those themes and basically use Pinterest to create a curriculum to put on my site, but then drive back to Pinterest and then drive back to my site. So sort of this circular traffic plan which actually worked pretty well, but it became overwhelming to keep creating sort of these themed studies because we weren’t actually doing them all.
Toni: And so, I had a I had a girl that actually worked for me last year who really worked on honing those boards down and creating that content for me, and then she ended up leaving in the Christmas time not for any reason, that then she just didn’t want to work anymore, and so my other VA now manages my Pinterest exclusively. And from doing things like ransom groups where you know your growing depends so much on content from other people every week and they are pinning your content…
Steve: I see.
Toni: You know really studying like going back on old posts and making them more Pinterest friendly either by changing the images or you know I’ll get an email from her telling me to retake a picture on a recipe because it was made in 2008 and that’s when you didn’t put in pictures with the recipes, right? So you know just creating– taking out that old content because I have so much on my site and really repurposing it so it can’t be pinned on Pinterest and get a lot of new eyeballs on it.
Steve: So how did you become a part of these groups, like how do you find them?
Toni: You know a lot of them from Digital CoLab.
Steve: Okay your conference, okay.
Steve: We’ll talk about that later
Toni: Yeah, so I think it’s really all about networking and connecting with people and not being afraid to sort of hop in and build those relationships. I think a lot of bloggers are really introverted, and so they’re very-very comfortable behind their computer, but don’t put them in a conference, don’t have them socialize, because they’re not great at really like the networking skills that I feel like are important like in any business that you would own. So for me it’s important, like if I’m in an event I’m not around hanging out with the people that I know, but most of the time I want to meet people that I don’t know to figure out if there’s a way we can work together, because the internet’s huge, right so..
Toni: To me it’s like why would I spend half as much money it takes to get to an event if I’m not going to– just to see my friends. I mean we could just meet somewhere in the middle. So to me it’s really about getting out of your comfort zone, meeting new people and then finding people that are similar enough to you to where you’ll be able to share their content authentically like your readers wouldn’t be turned off, but different enough to where– because I mean a lot of us have similar readership you know bases. So it’s the same people that are always sharing, then it’s the same readers that are always seeing everything. So trying to find a few people that you might not know very well, and maybe just slightly outside of your niche, but same type of demographic to work with is really helpful too.
Steve: Like kind of random Chinese people at conferences, that sort of thing?
Toni: That’s my goal.
Steve: Okay, that’s what I thought.
Toni: Yeah, I’m too [Inaudible] [00:21:19] too now, so…
Steve: Yeah we all know who that other Asian is.
Toni: We won’t say his name.
Steve: We won’t say his name.
Steve: So that’s cool then, so okay so you’re starting to get all this traffic from Pinterest, what else you got– so there’s search, there’s Pinterest– are you do a lot with Facebook at all?
Toni: You know Facebook for me was really big a couple of years ago, and then I was in the group where Facebook just fell of the map. So which you know to me that’s one of the biggest– never put all your eggs in one basket, right? So I feel like one of the reasons why– I mean I think the reasons why I’ve had a more successful site, in my niche I got in early, I was one of the first people in. Whoever tells you that getting in early doesn’t matter is a liar, it does. There’s a real advantage to that because you have more experience in the space and then I think two is like every year we kind of on something different with the sites. So I think our first or second year, we really focused on our email list which nobody was really focusing on email list…
Toni: In my niche early on. So we did that and then the next year I think it was 2010 was our big year to focus on Facebook. I think I started the year with like 2,000 Facebook fans and ended the year with like 22,000 fans.
Steve: Okay, nice.
Toni: And did things like you know free eBook for fans and you know better content and really like spend a lot of time figuring out what my Facebook folks wanted. And so it did drive a lot of traffic to my site, but at the same time we were still working on SEO, we were still building our email list and we were still doing these other things to grow traffic from other sources, and obviously just that the traffic of people coming back to your site everyday because they like you and they want to read what you have to say, that’s really important too.
Steve: So, with Facebook you did what sounds like just giveaways– a bunch of giveaways and that sort of thing to build your fan base.
Toni: I didn’t really– well I did freebies, so I would…
Steve: Freebies, sure?
Toni: Write an e-book and then give it– you had to be– like my page and then once you liked the page it unlocked the book, and you could download it.
Steve: Is there a plug in that you use for that?
Toni: You know I haven’t done it in several years. What I remember we coded it into Facebook, it was just a code you dropped in.
Steve: Okay and then when you mention that you were doing email marketing, could you be a little more specific. So let’s say you get someone sign up, what do you do after that?
Toni: So I’m not– well I don’t do it anymore, so that’s why we’re having you.
Steve: Oh me, oh okay, right on, okay just curious, okay
Toni: We’ve done lots of things. We’ve experimented with, if you’re an email subscriber then we did a monthly newsletter with completely premium content. So nothing will appear on the site, so we did that for about an year and a half. We saw really great results initially, but then it sort of– it was almost like the excitement wore off and I don’t know if maybe they didn’t feel like the content was up to par, or if they were just they didn’t want that other email in their inbox.
Toni: So initially it helped and then we felt like it kind of stagnated. So we stopped doing it at the beginning of this year mainly because it took a lot of time and it cost me a lot of money to do it, and I wasn’t getting the investment back, yeah. So we’ve done that, we’ve done– for me it’s more like the email subscribers get premium content, they would get coupons or discounts that I wouldn’t put on the site so…
Toni: We would work with advertisers too, they would actually pay for placement in the newsletter but then they would also be able to get like an exclusive deal. And usually that worked well with the home school part of thing, because it’s not super expensive for those companies and most of those companies are like you know mom and pop type of stores. So we’ve done things like that, you know things like– one of the things that we did early on was that since my site has like six different kind of sub topics, we allowed people to subscribe only to the subtopics that they wanted to hear about.
So if they didn’t home school they would never have to hear anything about home schooling because they not choose to subscribe to that section. So that was something we did before and a lot of people do that now. We did that pretty early on and that was something I felt like was important because my site did cover a pretty big variety of things, and I knew that I had– my home school base is not very big, and so I felt those people out there that never ever want to hear about home schooling, they don’t want to feel like that’s important to them you know whatever it’s fine, but they want my recipes, so they can only get my recipes and that’s fine too. And that was a big– that was actually a big boost for me is segmenting those email lists because you know I find that and also it’s great to research to find out what my readers really wanted because I realized people were really coming to my site for the food.
Steve: So curious are you on Aweber, what do you use for your email list?
Toni: I use Feedlets.
Steve: Feedlets okay, so is it really easy to segment with that tool, I’ve actually never used it?
Toni: It didn’t seem easy.
Toni: I have to be honest, it didn’t seem easy.
Steve: So did you have someone like in the beginning for your first email you just say “hey are you interested in these categories?” And then that instantly just segments them to different lists, is that how it works kind of?
Toni: Actually when they go to subscribe page they choose there.
Steve: Got it, okay that makes sense that makes sense, yeah. And I was going to ask you also because it all kind of ties together, what is the business model and how does the happy housewife make money exactly? So you got all this traffic, how do you convert to dollars?
Toni: So part of my biggest source of revenue is either like influencer marketing, brand spokesman, sponsored campaigns.
Toni: So I work a lot with brands either doing things– and one of the things that’s nice about a site like mine is that it actually puts you in that expert category. So I’ve become like an expert home economic person whatever, so I’ve done a lot of work with brands where I don’t even write anything about them on my own site, but I do things for them on their sites which pays really well. So things like interviews for magazines or TV, quote the brands. So you basically get paid to do these articles and then you actually– it’s kind of cool because you’re not even marking the waters of your own brand because it’s completely off your site, but then I have done things…
Steve: Interesting, okay.
Toni: And so I’ve done that with like the [Inaudible] [00:26:45] board and OxiClean and Arm and Hammer and several like pretty big craft.
Steve: As the model for the– like OxiClean for example is it like a commercial or…
Toni: Yeah, they just put all my kids… so I worked for their print last year. So I did– I think I did one or two posts on my own site, but I most– So I did interview I think with Women’s day ladies home journal. And it was all about stain tips and things like that, so I would create articles for OxiClean and then they would pitch those out to you know the different publications and I was the expert. So they could use my brand as being the expert mom, expert cleaning tip lady to then leverage their products in these articles.
Steve: Okay, so they were leveraging your audience right, because your audience knows you and as a result they`ll follow that brand that you are pitching kind off, okay. And then they find you just naturally through the blog. Is that how they…
Toni: Yeah, yeah and you know a lot of it is just– a lot of it is definitely having traffic and being out there in social media and being at events and meeting the right people, you know meeting those marketing and PR folks that go to a lot of the blogging conferences. And then a lot of it is just creating really great content. So one of the things for me that I think is really important is that when you do work on a brand campaign, a lot of bloggers I know you know they write a pretty crappy post and then burry it, right. So they put it up– they are kind of embarrassed if they did the sponsored campaign for a brand that they weren’t really sure about, and then they bury it under like seven posts, which to me that says that you don’t really want to work with the brand and so for me I`ve really tried when I work with brands is to do the– make the pictures phenomenal, like those pictures are Pinterest worthy and you know I`m going to give them a little extra promotion on social media.
One of the girls I was talking with last weekend and was talking about– she actually allocates part of her budget on sponsored post to actually boost Facebook posts for the brand when she puts them on the site. So she is doing some paid marketing for them as part of her compensation. So, I think that’s big, it’s just doing really quality work when you get into it, so that the brands– because the brands know if you do things on time and you submit everything you are supposed to and you are easy to work with, they will come back to you over and over and over again. And it`s actually like in the food space, they pay pretty well, so you can easily just have a full time income off of working with the brands.
Steve: So can you just give us an idea, so it sounds like a lot of work actually what you just kind of described, and so can you give us an idea what the compensation looks like for one of your sponsored gigs for example and what is– what do you have to do as part of that gig?
Toni: So if you were just doing a simple sponsored post, so it’s one post let`s just say it was a recipe creation. So they are going to say, hey we have this and actually I`m doing one in the next couple of weeks with something called [Jeep weeps] [phonetic], and it`s like they are small, small flavor.
Toni: So creating a recipe with that, with the jeep weeps and then put up the post, you’ll promote on social media and that’s basically all you have to do.
Toni: So the compensation for something like that and I obviously can’t say what this compensation is because I`m under non disclosure, but you know would be anywhere for a decent size blog you are looking at between 500 and 1000 dollars.
Steve: Okay and what about something much more involved where you are like the spokesperson on that other person’s site or something like that?
Toni: Yeah, so that’s between like five and ten grand.
Steve: Wow, okay.
Toni: So I mean it definitely works, and I try to break it up into like an hourly wage. So for me personally I don’t want to make less than 100 dollars an hour in anything that I do.
Toni: So, or it’s not worth it for me because I can pass and figure out another way to make 100 dollars an hour.
Toni: So I usually take you know if a brand approaches me or really anyone approaches me and says “hey I have a project for you,” I really kind of factor in how much time it’s going to take, and if I can’t hit that 100 dollars an hour unless it– I mean if it`s Walt Disney world, I will work for free. I`ve said that many times I will work for free for Disney tickets, but for most other things you know obviously being a yoghurt doesn’t pay your mortgage. So you know getting fairly compensated is pretty important, and so for me and you know for me 100 dollars an hour is what I feel I`m earning that at this point and where I am. For some people it’s a lot more and for some people if you are just starting out– I mean, I think even if you just a brand new blogger, your time is still worth something. So even if you have a very small readership, don’t do things for free for people because all these companies have budgets to pay you.
Toni: So even if it`s 25 bucks because you know three months into blogging, charge 25 bucks, charge something because you`ve got to start setting your worth at some level. So I think that’s really important, and I think most of the bloggers that are about my age in blogging years, we all did really stupid free stuff initially. Right, we would blog for…
Toni: You know you are looking back and you are like, oh my Gosh I can’t believe I was excited when they sent me a lunch box you know. So we`ve all done it, so you know I`m not sitting here and saying, oh you guys shouldn’t do this. I just think about your time and your time is valuable and your time is valuable, and if you think yourself , if I`m going to do this post and it`s going to take me two hours and they are going to pay me 50 bucks can I make 50 bucks in an hour doing something else?
Toni: So maybe it’s like working on Facebook strategy or doing something on Pinterest or you are networking or writing a guest posts, maybe you can, maybe you can’t. And so consider that whenever you are– to me you need to consider that whenever you are deciding what you need to take because obviously everyone’s time is limited, and so you have to make decisions. To me I make decisions based on what my time is worth and what I think I`m going to get in return.
Steve: So let say you are really small, how do you actually get on the radar of some of these brands? Do you approach them or do you wait for them to approach you? How do you go about getting these sponsorships?
Toni: Honestly I know a lot of people don’t– they are not on twitter any more, but twitter is a great place to connect with the brands. They are all on twitter.
Toni: You know several campaigns that I`ve had are because I absolutely organically not trying to get anything you know, one time– we’re a big family– we love butter, and so I`m all about butter.
Steve: Who doesn’t like butter?
Toni: Who doesn’t like butter, butter and bacon– those are my two favorite brands, right?
Steve: Nice, yes.
Toni: It’s a win-win. So I tweeted out something about butter one day like I think I went to the– I think I was at the commissary and of course when I go to the commissary, I`m going to buy like 25 pounds of butter because we got a big family. So I think I tweeted a picture of like all this butter or something like that and the challenge butter people were like, we love you, you are so awesome, you are tweeting out pictures of our butter. Well, ended up that I got a couple opportunities with them down the road because I was on their radar, and I wasn’t trying to get a challenge butter contract. I just– we love the butter. And so I think that those brands that you authentically like and you know I would say engage them on twitter, connect with PR people on LinkedIn.
I mean if you meet people at a conference, think old school like get a business card, write something that you remember about them on the back of the card and then get on their LinkedIn, send them a request and add that little fact like great to meet you, so happy that we both love pinnacolada you know whatever it is, do some networking like that because in the brand space because as a consultant I work as a brand, and I find bloggers and you are dealing with thousands of bloggers that all look exactly the same to you, right? From an aerial perspective, so if you are the pinnacolada blogger, I remember you, you know.
Steve: I see.
Steve: Okay, if you are the Chinese blogger, then you remember me.
Toni: Exactly, exactly.
Steve: So what is the approximate time line, like obviously you didn’t start making money and getting sponsorships when you first started? How long did it take actually for your blog to kind of gain some traction?
Toni: I think I actually found when I was cleaning out my desk a couple of months ago, I found my first cheque from Blogger the ad network.
Toni: It was about 11 months in, so that was probably my first you know I think it was like 97 dollars or something. So it was probably a full year before I made any money and then I probably made like 15 bucks here and there, but nothing significant.
Toni: And then it was really probably about 18 months when I realized that it was definitely like a part time you know if I had a job I probably could have quit it sort of income.
Steve: So you mentioned sponsorships, I forgot to ask you about some of the other income sources. So you just mentioned bloggers, so that’s CPM advertising, right?
Toni: Yep and that you know those are great obviously all these studies are showing that CPM ad networks are kind of, they are sinking because people are just blind to those adds now on the side line, and they don’t click and they don’t have very effective, but that being said all those networks still exist and you can still– especially if you have something like DFP set up where your adds are rotating based on your CPM model, you are still going to– if you have significant traffic, that’s a great way to earn pretty big chunk of change.
Steve: So just for the benefit of the listeners DFP is Goggles platform which allows a whole bunch of different advertisers to kind of bid for that slot on your site, and usually it will only display whichever advertiser is bidding the most, so you make the most amount of money.
Toni: Yes and I would say if your traffic is anywhere between like 150 plus thousand page views a month, I would get that set up because you can make some significant– you`ll see everyone that I have talked to– and I`m actually getting it set up on my site this month. Everyone that I have talked too is, I`ve heard my income has tripled, my income has doubled from just CPM network income has doubled or tripled just within a month or two of getting it set up.
Steve: Wow! So what CPMs could you expect to see in your space?
Toni: You know it really depends on who– obviously like if you are with federated media that’s really sort of elite network, and so you are going to see three to five dollar CPMs. Some of the other ones like burst and I think it`s called server, it used to be legit, but they changed their name. They are still in the dollar, dollar fifty range. You know most of the time you can set up floor, so when you set up floor they are going to show an add that’s not less than a certain CPM and that’s– I recommend that because you can always back that with adsense– most of these networks. So that’s important too because you don’t want to have them– because they are going to sell as much of remnants space on your site as they can if you don’t have that set. So they are going to be selling the 20 cents CPMs.
Steve: Okay. And so the fact that you have just mentioned that you back those with adsense, does that imply that adsense is the lowest paying?
Toni: For my site it is. For people in other niches that’s not the case, but I have found for my site adsense has not performed terribly well. So I would say you just have to test your own site to know what is performing.
Steve: Okay, and then have you tried any of the other ones. Any of the other CPC type of ad networks like media net and trying to think– I don’t run CPM adds anymore, so I actually kind of out of that space.
Toni: I think we tried them a couple of years ago. We did use media net I think for a very short period of time. It just– I think if you don’t have something automated set up, unless you have and also time manage that and track it, it’s probably not worth it.
Steve: Okay, what does it take to get on federated media’s radar screen?
Toni: I don’t know, talk to Erin.
Steve: Oh, Erin yes. Just had her on the show the podcast will be published shortly.
Toni: Yeah so, Yeah I think you have there’s definitely a traffic, but they are really looking for diverse, they are trying– they really pride themselves in having like we have all these different bloggers from all these different niches and these high end people and these home decor and DIY folks, so I think it’s just a matter of getting lucky and then you know having the right site with the right traffic at the right time.
Steve: Okay, and then today if you look at your blog at a very high level, where does most of your traffic come from, like what are the primary traffic sources?
Toni: So the primary traffic sources for my site today would be Pinterest and SEO.
Steve: Okay, and then Facebook and twitter are on there, but not quite a large percentage?
Toni: No, yeah Facebook has definitely dwindled, I still get a lot of links so I get a lot of referrals from other sites you know and that’s another reason– you know honestly I think it really boils down to for most people it`s just creating really great content, because the better your content the more likely people with link to you, write about you, talk about you, talk to you, share your stuff and really everyone says content is king, content is king, but it`s really true. Anyone can just slop, put slop up there, I mean it’s just– anyone can buy post and you know I have writers that write for my site too, and we actually sometimes we’ll buy articles as well if we need to fill certain topics, but the most part putting that great content out there is really invaluable for readers, and that’s what they want. They are used to you and whatever your voice is, and it`s all these like cliché terms and stuff, but it’s actually pretty true.
Steve: So you know one thing about your blog that is pretty unique in my mind is that you have kind of completely outsourced the entire operation, right?
Toni: Yes. As I say you got be you, but I outsource everything.
Steve: So yeah, my question is your personality in my opinion is a large part of your blog after spending 30 minutes reading your life story. So how do you kind of manage to outsource the writing and still kind of remain kind of personal with your site?
Toni: You know, I try to still write occasionally.
Toni: For me it was actually all based on a conversation I had with Jay Ross several years ago about when do you know when it`s is time to sell your site, and I just– I wasn’t burned out, but I felt like I could get there pretty quickly and because I mean when you start blogging and when you start– you have to be willing to put in 12 hours a day unpaid. And honestly I say it`s a great business. It’s a very hard business to start, but it`s great because it doesn’t require any capital upfront. So if you don’t have any money, blogging is good way to start, but you have to have a business plan and everything else. But you have to be willing to do that, and for me I was tired of doing that, I was tired of outing in you know I was tired of every waking moment being about my site.
And so for me I talked to J.D. I felt like I think I need to figure out how to stop this and we had this conversation and then I realized that I didn’t really have to stop, I just needed to replace me. And so I actually picked my writers from my readers. So people that knew me well and knew my voice, and so people that wanted to be a part of the same theme that I had. And so that’s one of the reasons why I think it worked really well, because I didn’t just go, put an ad on the internet and get writers. I actually got writers from my readers, and I think that made a big difference for my site.
Steve: So are they paid or do they kind of write articles so that they can kind of get some exposure to their own sites?
Toni: They are paid.
Steve: Okay they are paid, okay. And how many writers do you have?
Toni: I think we have about 10 now. We used to have 24, but we scaled down at beginning of this year, just because I felt like there is too much content on the internet right now. So I felt like I didn’t want to be part of that anymore, so I thought how much can one person even if I’m a super fan, how much can I read of one site? And I felt we were just churning out a lot of content, and it didn’t feel– it didn’t have the right feel anymore for me. So we cut back at the beginning of the year, so I think we are down to about 10 writers.
Steve: Which is still quite a bit actually in my opinion?
Toni: Yes it is, when you basically go in half I mean it was a big change.
Steve: So you know for my blog at least I used to have two writers and I actually got rid of them because I kind of felt like goggle was kind of rewarding those posts with a lot more engagement and exposure, and so what I found was my guest writers weren’t getting as much social love I guess, and as a result those articles weren’t doing as well so I just got rid of everyone, I just write once a week now. So my question to you is you post still a lot of content on your site, so what kind of your take on just post quantity in general? Do you need to be posting as often as you do, and what advice would you give someone who is blogging today in terms of quantity?
Toni: I think sometimes it depends on the topic, so obviously if you are a deal blogger you have to be putting out a ton of content.
Toni: Like if you are a home décor or DIY blogger, if you are a food blogger, I think if you’re in your space as sort of the business blogging type thing, you can absolutely get away with one post a week. As long as it’s a nice meaty content type post, right. Where there is actionable items because really if you are teaching people how to refurnish a dining room table in a post and you actually expect people to refurnish the dining room table, they are not going to back the next day to then figure out how to install a window, right? They are going to spend three weeks refurnishing the dining room table before they are ready for more of you.
And same thing with like a business site, if you are teaching them how to you know do some– like the email finals I watched your FinCon talk. If you want people to actually implement some of those things that you are telling them, that’s going to take them a while. They are not going to be able to like sit down in their computer and in an hour and half, have everything finished and tomorrow they want their next job. So I think, when you are writing that kind of stuff recipes, I think you can go once or twice in a week and be absolutely fine, and still drive a lot of content based on everything else that is on your site.
Steve: Okay, and so given what you`ve just said then, with your ten writers what are they writing– like how are they split up to write on write on different topics?
Toni: So each writer is assigned in a niche, so I have writers that only write home school for me. So I have a couple– like Coleen my 740 square foot bungalow house lady, she only writes home school topics for me.
Toni: So she writes once a month, one home school article. I have bloggers that only do recipes and so I have a girl right now, I think she is paleo vegan– I don’t know she is something, but writes– it’s very-very popular whatever it is, but she writes one recipe a month, and for me I found that by keeping the writers in these niches, they become very popular. So my recipe writer who does these paleo recipes, every one of her recipes goes viral, I mean it gets pinned 800 times and gets shared 500 times on Facebook because people have become her fan on the site. So I`ve actually noticed the opposite but I think that’s partially because they stay very focused on topic and she only puts out one recipe a month for me.
Steve: And does she have her own blog as well?
Toni: She does.
Steve: She does, okay. And is she allowed to link back to her blog from your blog?
Toni: With limits.
Steve: With limits.
Steve: Okay, now that you have kind of freed up your time since you are not running your blog full time anymore, what do you spend your time– what are you working on these days? Do you get to read at all, do you read business books and that sort of thing, what do you do for fun?
Toni: I don’t have any fun.
Steve: Besides going to conferences and just hanging out.
Toni: I buy and sell houses for fun in my free time– no I actually I`m a big remodeler. I do love to destroy houses and build them back up, so that is kind of what I do for fun and then I actually for the past two and a half years I’ve worked for a company called savings.com. And at first I worked with them really closely on their grocery initiative. They did a big grocery– they developed a grocery app and…
Steve: Great name by the way. That app has an awesome name.
Toni: So can I say it?
Steve: Yeah go ahead.
Toni: Favado, I know I can’t say anything else about that. So I helped him with that and then last year I was asked to help them develop like an influencing marketing network. So for the past year I’ve worked pretty exclusively running their sponsored campaign program, which for me I love because that means that I– that’s really been my bread and butter as a blogger. I love working with brands and it’s been really fun to work on the opposite side, and actually we do everything from doing the creative elements to the campaigns to creating the marketing and creative ideas from graphics to twitter parties and everything else, to then you know actually executing the campaign through the blogger networks, which is you know I`m going to have to brag just a little tiny bit, but you know we started from nothing and we`ve got 700 bloggers in our network. I think we`ve done 38 campaigns so far in nine months, so it’s you know it’s definitely growing, but it`s been really fun to me.
And someone asked the other day why would you want to work for a company when you’ve been an entrepreneur your whole career, and I said honestly one of the coolest things about working on this is that I get to use other people’s money to execute my ideas. So for me it`s been really fun because I don’t– it doesn’t feel like work because it`s something I`ve doing for years and I love it, and so to be able to build something from the ground up is pretty fun.
Steve: So you are just a consultant, you are not an employee there.
Toni: I`m just a consultant yep.
Steve: That’s great, do ever take your own blog and you know use your money to buy sponsor campaign for happy house wife or…
Toni: I have not, but I have thought about it, I actually have thought about it. No and I actually don’t participate in their sponsored campaign just because it will be a little bit of a conflict of interest. But yeah that’s what I’ve worked on for the past couple of years and that’s been– to me that has been something fun and different, and I’ve never worked in a corporate setting all those all those are just startups really, but it`s been a fun learning experience. For me I feel like I’ve learned a lot about business in the process which to me has been an asset for my own site and just making decisions for my own site as well.
Steve: Cool and then I also wanted you to mention what Digital CoLab is all about. Unfortunately I was not able to make it this past year, but what it that conference all about that you run.
Toni: So this is a conference that we run for people who work in the digital space. So obviously geared towards people who have websites or blogs, but we’ve worked with people who have online stores, people who just you know have a brick and mortar store and they want to figure out how to work online and increase their social presence. So basically we talk about everything from social strategies, Pinterest, to contract negotiation, to you know taxes and accounting to time management. So basically we try to cover a lot of the things that I think as entrepreneurs we all struggle with.
So I think taxes is always one that people have questions about, because you never know what you have to claim, what’s okay, who is this person going to be an employer or contractor, how does that work? You know things like that to you know Chris Tucker was at our event and he gave some great talks just on like time management and you know sort of blending the business family life, and how to make that work and how do you keep your– how do you prevent your business from taking over your life and finding that like great spot where you can be very successful, but also still have a life outside of your job, which I think is something entrepreneurs really struggle with and you know you it`s really– it`s sad you see marriages fall apart over this and all sorts of things, and families disintegrate and that’s not I think anybody’s goal when they start out.
But you just become consumed with your business, and so it think it`s important to talk about and it`s cool to get in a space with a bunch of people that are kind of doing the same thing even though we are all talking about different stuff. Because we all face a lot of the same challenges everyday as far as our business goes, and someone who is probably in a corporate setting doesn’t really understand exactly what we are doing. So it`s kind of a neat thing to just get it together and you know talk about AV testing you know, things like that.
Steve: You know if people want to find out more about this conference and kind of get in touch with you, where can they find more information?
Toni: So they can go to digitalcolab.com, and you can contact us through the site. We haven’t figured out exactly what we are doing next year. This year we had a pretty small event, it was 100 people and we loved the smallness of it, we felt like it allowed for a lot of like one on one sessions and very like eight on one type small group settings which we feel like in this business is the most effective.
You know those key notes are great for like encouraging you and getting you all exited, but at the end of the day it`s when you can sit down with two or three people and learn. Have your computer there and like open the computer and set it up right then and there you know, get out your Goggle analytics and set up your tracking and do all those things that most people aren’t going to take the time to do after they live an event. So we`ll do something next year, but we don’t know the scale of it, it`s probably going to be small like this year where people can get a lot of that one on one time and actually we don’t want people to go home with a long list, we want them to actually get it done at the event.
Steve: Cool, that’s pretty awesome. I tend to like smaller events as well yeah in my opinion. But hey Toni thanks a lot for coming on the show. I want to be respectful of your time and we’ve already been talking for 50 minutes. So thanks a lot for coming on the show, and it was really great meeting you on the conference.
Toni: Yeah, thanks for coming up to me.
Steve: Thanks for not shooing me away. All right, take care Toni.
Toni: Thank you.
Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode, so here is my take away. The next time I feel like I have no time to do anything, the next time I feel like my kids are uncontrollable, the next time I feel like my life is just too hectic, I`m going to think about Toni because the fact that she is able to home school seven kids while running a six figure business, a conference and a consulting gig on the side is just ridiculously amazing. And after listening to this episode you have no more excuses ever. I don’t want to hear any more excuses coming out of anyone’s mouth.
For more information about this episode go to my wife quit her job.com/episode38, and once again I just want to thank 99designs for sponsoring this episode. I know a lot of you listening are waiting on the sidelines and trying to get the courage to start your own online business. I also know a lot of you out there run your own businesses already and know you website design could be better.
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