Dream together. These two words have defined Matt and I’s life for over a year now and I couldn’t be more thankful for the day our marriage mentors asked us, “Have you guys ever thought to dream together…?”
We both looked at each other and said, “No, we haven’t, but maybe we should!”
Then, a few weeks later, while on a flight to New York City, we decided to have a Dooley Dream Date. Matt and I literally pulled out a notebook and just started answering questions like, “What do we want for our family?” and, “What kind of work do we really want to do?”
We were at a point in our life where we were both so busy yet feeling pulled in opposite directions. And this exercise helped us see that we were ready to join together when it came to our careers, and helped us set clear goals for the years to come for ourselves.
If you’re interested in having a Dream Date of your own, tune in to this episode to hear several more of the questions that we answered on this epic date on a plane.
You might be debating joining your partners entrepreneurial journey, simply trying to be supportive and understand each other’s careers, or just wanting to learn some tangible ways to work better together as a team.
This exercise that Matt and I went through will be helpful for you regardless which situation you currently find yourself in.
Whether you’re working together on a business or not, you’re still working on life together, and we both know it’s crucial to fully understand each other’s dreams and together create your future vision.
HOW WE HANDLED FINANCIAL DECISION
I had to bring this up because it’s a question we’re asked all the time, and I totally understand why.
We knew that the stability we had from Matt’s 9-5 was going to disappear if we chose to go all in on the entrepreneur journey together, but we both also knew that him coming on board and helping in areas that truly needed him, getting his perspective, was going to be life changing.
Step 1. We planned ahead, we cut costs that weren’t necessary and put away about six months worth of expenses so we could simplify and take some time to build something together.
Step 2. We figured out the right health insurance for us, and we’d recommend it over and over again. Tune in to learn more about the route we’ve chosen.
EVERYTHING COMES FULL CIRCLE
Sometimes you don’t know what the picture’s going to be or how it’s going to eb and flow, or how it’s going to come full circle but now, not even a full year into this journey, we’re beginning to see it.
We are noticing how much progress has been made through that step of faith, of Matt joining me 100% and making this thing ours.
The best part? Because of this decision we made together, Matt is now starting his own coaching and consulting business and so much more – more of what his dream was over a year ago.
One thing I constantly say is that when you love someone, their dreams become your dreams.
For years, when we were dating, engaged, and first married, we chased Matt’s NFL dream as a team.
Then, when God showed us that wasn’t our path, and my brand began to grow rapidly online, and we realized it may be time to chase a new dream as a team.
And it has taught us so much about why God created roles in marriage. A marriage is a team, and when whether or not you’re in business together, when you’re willing to serve your role – whether that’s in the lead or behind the scenes – you both win.
Listen to Matt and I talk about every step we took along the way and how much we’ve learned. We bring up an exercise that helps couples decide whether it’s smart to work together, let you know exactly which health care company we use, and even give you a glimpse of our daily life (you know the parts where Matt teases me every ten minutes, yeah it’s a good laugh). So hop on now.
My recommendation? Listen to this one with your significant other, watch their reactions, and hit the pause button when that light bulb turns on, this can be amazing to do together!
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When I was on book tour, one of the women I met during meet and greet told me that she has a HUGE heart for women (same 🙌🏻) and for Jesus (also same 🙌🏻), and that she was super multi-passionate (do we have the same brain?)… and she was struggling.
Why was she struggling, you ask?
Because she had been blogging to help women in their life and faith, but it wasn’t growing…
Then, she said, “J, I have rent to pay. And I want to do this… but I need to figure out how to support it financially or I can’t keep putting this much time into it. I feel bad saying it but it’s the truth…”
She’s not the only one to have asked me something like this.
I’ve had so many women reach out and say something like, “J, I’ve been running a lifestyle blog for over a year and it’s just NOT growing…”
When I ask them what their blog-business strategy is, they look at me like I have three eyeballs.
And I’m not surprised when they do.
It can be hard for us big-hearted babes to remember that business strategy is paramount to ANYTHING we do (yes, including writing about our families or our health journeys or our faith) if we want to see it succeed.
Anyway, then, I usually end up explaining what I mean (and what I had to learn the hard way after several years of navigating my own blogging waters). That said. before we get into the steps to launching your blog, I want to make sure you don’t jump over the foundational step of STRATEGIZING your blog.
STEP 01. DETERMINE YOUR BBS (BLOG BUSINESS STRATEGY)
In other words, determine what your viable vehicle will be. Instead of trying to grow a blog so big that it supports you off affiliate links and brand deals (aka this requires building a relatively big audience and that can take years), begin by using a skill you have and offer it as a service. Although I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time, this is kind of how I started out at first.
My blog supported/directly related to my Etsy shop. But then after awhile, I took on other freelance businesses (such as photography and social media marketing in the wedding industry) that were basically 100% unrelated to my blog — and I just burned out trying to do it all separately.
My blog was full of life and faith advice but my businesses were in the wedding industry and there was virtually no strategy connecting the two, and therefore, virtually no way to leverage either one with the other.
And it was EXHAUSTING.
Had someone explained to me what I’m explaining to you when I first started, I would have saved myself a lot of exhaustion and wasted time trying to figure it out via trial and error.
So, step 1 is to determine your viable vehicle, or in other words, the offering (product or service) your blog supports and essentially serves as a marketing tool for instead of making the blog the offering itself.
So, business strategy 1 is what I like to call the Blog to Offer Strategy. This strategy is to have a clear offering (such as photography services or financial coaching or pre-designed templates) and use the blog to educate, inspire, and funnel traffic to that offer.
Think of the destination wedding photographer. If she’s smart, she has a blog and shares her clients’ photoshoots. If she’s really smart, she has a blog that also touches on a few other categories such as personal life, education for other photographers or advice for soon-to-be brides, and travel tips.
This creates benefits to the viewer in that her blog isn’t 100% “Sarah and Blake” and “Lauren and David” and so forth. It offers an interesting variety of content, value, and personal connection. But you’ll notice her blog isn’t FULL of affiliate links and brand partnerships because she’s selling her own expertise instead.
Let’s compare this to the alternative strategy, which I call The Popularity Strategy. In other words, this is the strategy where sponsorships and affiliate marketing are the main funding of the blog (aka the business model).
I call this the Popularity Strategy because it requires more eyeballs on your stuff.
Here’s what I mean: You could work for two years, try with all your might to go viral, and eventually build up to, say, 5,000 subscribers.
Great. Now you’ve got 5,000 subscribers after maybe 2 years of work.
Now, let’s say a lifestyle brand is willing to sponsor you. The requirements are that you try the product, publish 2-3 photos on your social profiles (instagram, feed, etc.) and write a blog post with links and review of the product.
With 5,000 sets of eyeballs on your site, they may be willing to pay you $250-500 for everything. You could push for more but that’s a safe bet.
Now think about strategy 1. How much faster could you make $250-500 if you created one offering of your own?
You could make the same amount of money by selling two to five $100 strategy calls, or mini photoshoots, or template packages, or whatever it is you offer. You see how this works? You only need to make 2 to 5 sales to make the same amount of money (in a lot less time) as you would with 5,000 eyeballs on your site promoting a brand you may or may not care about (which could take years to build to).
Don’t get me wrong, a brand deal here or there can be a great cash infusion from time to time. And there’s nothing wrong with them! But to make them your entire business model (especially when you’re just starting out but honestly, at whatever stage of the blogging game you’re in) is risky and very unpredictable.
Take companies such as Cohley and Heartbeat for example. They provide brand deals for influencers at all stages, basically like talent agents, but the income just isn’t realistic to make a living off of. Oftentimes when you start out with these companies, they simply offer free product and $20 max for an Instagram post and story.
When you set yourself up with the Blog to Offer Strategy, the blog (or podcast or youtube channel) can still include other things you’re passionate about sharing now and then (faith, family, etc) AND revolve around that service/expertise to serve two purposes:
1) It funnel / drive people to the offer that actually puts food on the table
2) It adds FREE value to your community WITHOUT annoying them with a million links or pop ups.
Plus, you don’t have to feel the pressure to grow a huge audience this way. You can start with a small audience, stand out in a specific space, grow at a sustainable pace, and make a living without depending on how popular your blog is.
Now, to clarify, you don’t have to have the offer READY once you start your blog. You just need to generally know what it’s going to be when starting your blog so you can write with a goal, or trajectory, in mind. When you know your end game or where you’re ultimately leading people, your blog will speak MUCH clearer to the ones your offer will ultimately be irresistible to.
STEP 02. PICK A VERY SPECIFIC NICHE TO SERVE
When I started my first blog, it was suuuuper niche. As I mentioned, it complimented my hand lettering Etsy store where I lettered scripture prints, signage for weddings, and t-shirt designs for faith based companies.
So, my blog content mainly pivoted around that (kind of like the photographer example I shared).
Then, as the brand grew, I focused on the niche of Christian college women. My content has been able to become much broader since then but began very niche.
Do the same. What are you an authority on? What 2-3 problems can you provide solutions to or answers can you provide questions to within that niche?
They say the ‘riches are in the niches.’
Maybe your goal isn’t to get rich from your blog. Neither was mine.
But I’d be willing to bet that you’d like to make some decent money from what you’re about to pour a ton of time and energy into, right?
Then, start with a niche. And make sure the majority of your content serves those in that niche. Content that serves inspires, educates, informs, entertains, or evokes action.
And if you have any plans of using the blog to make sales on your offering with the Blog to Offer Model, then make sure you have a solid amount of educational content as well as content that showcases your work.
In other words, if it’s only inspiration and stories about your life, it’s going to be a hard time getting strangers to pay you for anything, let alone to pay attention to what you have to say.
Sorry, it’s just the truth. However, the more value you provide a certain niche when it comes to what they care about, and then strategically sprinkle in personal posts and passions of your own, the more they’ll begin to care about your personal life and passions you share.
PS. Not sure what your niche could be? What you might POSSIBLY be an expert at? Check out the Kickstart course here.
STEP 03. ONCE YOU PICK YOUR BLOG BUSINESS STRATEGY AND NICHE, PICK YOUR PLATFORM
If you’re new to blogging and don’t have a massive design budget, I suggest starting on Squarespace. It’s clean, user friendly, and easy to get up and running. If you’re ready for something more robust, WordPress is your best bet, click here to get started.
If you do choose WordPress, it’s best to opt for WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com. It’s definitely more complex. I’ve included an article that explains the difference here.
However, I highly recommend Squarespace to keep it simple when you’re starting out — especially if you’re digging the Blog to Offer Model.
STEP 04. SET UP SQUARESPACE
If it applies, follow the steps below to get Squarespace set up from start to finish! If you’re not planning to use Squarespace, skip to step 5!
STEP 05. POPULATE YOUR BLOG WITH 3-5 BINGE WORTHY POSTS BEFORE LAUNCHING IT
Give them something to binge — seriously! It’s that simple. Once you know your niche, pick 3 sub-categories of that niche and write a super informative and helpful post on that sub-category.
For example, if your niche is fitness for moms, your subcategories might be Keto recipes, at home workouts, and training apparel. Write a post with information or ideas in each one of these sub-categories. Perhaps include a personal post with your story in this area as well.
Wait, wait wait, what the heck is a binge-worthy post?
To clarify, binge-worthy posts 1) captivate or connect 2) educate or inform and 3) activate.
They add value to people’s lives in a specific area they care about and need advice or education in. In other words, don’t just have one post titled “Why I Started a Blog.”
Like, good for you, sister, but that’s boring and doesn’t tell me how you can help me or why I should stick around.
Packing it with tons of relevant, juicy content on a subject related to what you can help them with (such as wedding photos or getting out of debt) before ever announcing it into Social Media Land, or driving traffic on Pinterest, helps your ideal reader know what they’re signing up for (and why they should subscribe!), as well as gives people something to dig into, get lost finding value in (aka ‘binging’), fall in love with, and share with all their friends!
STEP 06. SET UP AND CONNECT GOOGLE ANALYTICS
STEP 07. USE EFFECTIVE IMAGERY AND CREATIVE VISUALS
Can you use stock images from the internet? Sure. Now and then it’s not a bad idea, especially if you’re tight on time.
Should you make this your visuals plan? Abso-freakin-lutely-not.
Again, an occasional cover image from somewhere like Unsplash is totally fine. But don’t build your brand with stock images.
If you want to build connection and brand loyalty, people need to see YOU. Your face, your workspace, your BTS moments, etc.
Pick a few tones you want to include in your brand look (such as neutrals or greens) and schedule a stinkin’ brand shoot.
If you can’t afford that, have your husband or best friend snap some images of you on an iPhone (the cameras on those babies are WAY nicer than when I started!).
Make sure you include elements of those chosen brand colors in many of them and start there.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be YOU.
STEP 08. START WRITING AND USE SPACING OFTEN (AVOID REALLY LONG PARAGRAPHS WITH NO BREAKS)
The more white space, sub-headings (great in step-by-step articles like this one), and visuals breaking up the texts in your articles (especially the long ones), the better.
Keep your articles straight-forward and to the point if you want people to actually finish them, and make sure to include GIFs, memes, and imagery where it’s relevant.
This makes it easy to read AND connect with you as a writer. It makes you fun and keeps a human element to it — even if you’re writing about something more serious like law or finance.
There you have it! My Top 7 Steps to creating a strategy and setting up your blog for success without the stress!
Now, tell me: Which Business model and blogging platform are you going to choose? Do you know your niche? Drop your thoughts or questions in the comments below!
Ever felt like you’ve been chasing your dreams forever? Like no matter how hard you work you make hardly any progress? Or like the journey has been more non-linear than clear?
In this episode, I had the privilege of sitting down and chatting with Jodi King of Love and the Outcome on how to find balance in a busy, on-the-go-lifestyle.
Additionally, we offer steps on how to be unashamed of your ambition but also faithful in the mundane, unglamorous moments of life. Tune in to learn why the long road isn’t necessarily the wrong road, what “healthy hustle” means, and why some investments that don’t appear to have a financial payoff are the ones worth making.
Follow Jodi here: instagram.com/loveandtheoutcome
Have you gone through something devastating? Are you walking through grief? Searching for your purpose and passion in the midst of pain?
In this episode, I bring on author, baker, TV personality, and friend, Emily Hutchinson, to share her powerful story of heartbreak and healing after the loss of a child.
In addition to an all around encouraging conversation, Emily dishes out some great baking tips for what she calls, “healing in the kitchen.” Not to be punny, but you’re in for a treat 😉 I mean look at these cookies –
Follow Emily here: Instagram.com/the_hutch_oven
In honor of mental health week, in this episode, I chat with blogger, shop owner, and lovely human being, Hannah Morrison. We cover how to navigate transitions in life and business, people pleasing, and overcoming mental health challenges.
Are you worried that a new season of life — like marriage or kids — will hurt your career?
Are you facing battles with mental health and feeling alone in a hard transition?
We gotchu covered, girl. If you’ve ever felt the pressure to live up to an image of perfection, struggled with others’ opinions, or battled mental illness… pull up a chair and tune in for wisdom and encouragement.
Follow Hannah on IG here: @thecakebyhannah
In this episode I am helping you figure out WHAT.TO.DO. A common theme amongst us all, am I right?
Are you always coming up with ideas and not sure which one to actually implement?
Do you tend to dabble in a million things only to end up feeling more directionless than before?
Have you been dreaming of something more but not entirely sure what that *something more* actually is?
Trying to figure out what you want to do next with your life or in your business?
If you respond yesss to any of the above, well my pretty friend, then this episode is for you!
I break down my own non-linear, multi-passionate journey AND bring on two women to share their stories — how each one found direction on their God-given dream and what they’re doing to make it happen.
This is for the woman who feels like she chose the wrong career path, or for the woman who’s considering making a change in her business.
If you know you want to do something different – whether that’s changing industries completely or taking your brand in a new direction – it can tough to know WHEN it’s time to make that leap.
In this episode, I share my best advice on knowing when is the time to make that leap! It’s all presented in a simple checklist format to make it easy for you to run through the list and make the right move with confidence.
Tune in to see if you’re at the place where it’s time to make a change – or if it may be wise to stick with what you’re doing a little longer.
And as a Bonus Pro Tip: Consider your passions but don’t just pursue your passions. Pursue opportunity! Get the free training or enroll in the coaching program waitlist here: theownitacademy.com/kickstart
Do you ever feel like you love too many things and can’t decide on what to do?
Are you multi-passionate?
Are you having a hard time choosing between 2+ options or passions?
These are some of my most asked questions, so I decided it was about time to answer them! In this episode, I give a 5 step framework to help you confidently make a the choice that’s best for you!
AND for even more help, sign up for the free training here: http://bit.ly/geniuszonetraining
Hey sista, what’s a girl supposed to do when the next thing she’s feeling called to step into doesn’t clearly align with her degree, certifications, or experience?
Sound like you? Well, in this episode I tackle this question and provide you with my best tips on what to do if this happens to you!
We also have a short quiz for you to take to find your next best move: https://bit.ly/2Lut4xc
In this episode, I’m chatting it up with Ruth Chou Simons to help answer the following questions:
Are you struggling to find balance between work, family, and faith?
Are you looking for some wisdom on blending godliness and business?
If you answered yes to either question, then this is the podcast for you! Ruth serves up heaps of wisdom for owning your season, marketing your expertise without shame, and stewarding both dream chasing and family building with everyday faithfulness.
I can’t wait for you to tune in and join us!