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The four phases of online blogging success will help you analyze where you are at on your path to making money online and manage your expectations along the way.
Expectations are everything, aren’t they?
Picture this: Your best friend Susie tells you about this guy she works with and wants to introduce you. She says he’s cute, smart, and most important – a lot of fun to be around. She keeps going on and on about how amazing and funny he is.
So, naturally, you get excited to meet him. I mean, she’s making him sound like prince charming, so why wouldn’t you be stoked?
Finally, the big day comes when you’re meeting for drinks at a local bar. You take a little extra time making yourself look especially good because he sounds awesome and in the back of your head, even if you won’t admit it to yourself, there’s always some chance he’s the one.
So you hop out of your Uber, walk into the bar and there he is standing by the door.
And frankly, you deflate a little on the inside.
After sitting down at a high top and talking to him for 10 minutes, you realize why.
I mean, he’s okay-looking and seems smart enough, but he’s not any different from the same guy you’ve met a dozen times before.
Boring day job. Likes guy movies and football. Nice, crisp sweater.
He’s about as exciting as the turtleneck you imagine he’ll be wearing in the next 10 years.
For some reason, you feel even more disappointed because you spent all this time getting ready excited to meet the amazing man.
Only to meet another carbon copy. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with him.
The problem is your expectations were higher than reality and that makes disappointment hurt more.
And we’ve all experienced the opposite.
You watch some random movie kind of expecting it to suck. Your girlfriend loves it or whatever and it turns out to be really freaking good.
Because your expectation was low, it adds a new thrill to the mix. It becomes something you look very fondly on because you had no expectations for it.
Garden State, I’m looking at you.
These analogies may seem strange, but welcome to one of the biggest problems newbies face when getting into the blogging scene.
The expectations are usually WAY off.
All I have to do is write a few articles and link a few products and I can make thousands, right!?
Lauren and I know this because we see statements like this all the time:
- Why am I not making money yet?
- Why is WordPress just soooooo hard?
- UGH, I’m just so frustrated with X,Y,Z!
When people say things like this, there’s an important reason. Well, maybe two important reasons…
- They were coddled too hard as a kid and told they were a snowflake too many times (kidding, but partly serious. I’ll explain in a minute).
- Poor expectations about what blogging for money actually looks like.
Because of this, I wanted to give you guys more of an insight into what your journey blogging will ACTUALLY look like.
What we’ve learned from going from $0 (actually losing money because we were spending money before we made any) to making over $100,000 per month.
Let’s start with a chart. Success, in almost every area I’ve experienced in my life so far (women, blogging, sports), has always looked a lot like this:
It’s a pattern that has become even more recognizable for me today as I am working on my new passion: Photography and Videography.
You’ll also notice how this chart will directly correlate with your emotions.
Let’s talk about it.
Phase 1: The Poop Phase
If you asked me the #1 reason why people fail at finding success in life, this would be the reason why. Because at the beginning of any journey, trying to master anything just plain sucks. It always does.
This is also called, by me in my living room, the poop phase.
As a blogger and online business owner, you’re going to go through a period of time when you are working insanely hard and not going anywhere. It will feel like you’re trying to push a giant brick wall, through the snow, up Mt. Everest.
There is a reason for this.
You don’t have any skills yet [in the blogging world]. Skills only come through time, effort, and dedication and the online world is a totally different ballgame.
And because you have no skills, everything you do at the beginning is absolute poop.
- Your posts are poop.
- Your ideas are poop.
- And your products are poop.
And most likely, at some point, you’re going to feel like poop.
Here’s what also makes this stage so damn hard to get through:
You will likely be putting in a TON of effort and have virtually nothing to show for it. So, not only are you producing poop, you’re giving a lot of effort to make that poop.
Like the Picasso of poop.
99% of people who start ANYTHING never make it out of this stage.
Because it’s just plain hard. If you want to get through this phase, there are only two things you have to do…
- Don’t give up.
- Keep moving forward.
Some days, that’s going to translate into big leaps forward, and other days, it will only be small steps.
The key is to just keep moving and working on your skills knowing that there IS a light to the end of the tunnel – even if you don’t know how long the tunnel is.
This stage can last 5 years, 5 months, or 5 days. That’s what’s so damn difficult about it. The timetable will be different for everyone.
There are so many factors that go into it, including how much time you put into it, how focused you are, how badly you want it (perhaps the most important), etc.
Here’s the thing though.
Every successful entrepreneur, blogger, whatever has gone through the poop stage. It’s a rite of passage and what sets you apart from the rest.
If you stick with it, learn constantly, keep an open mind, listen, work hard, and continue to grow, you WILL get out of it. Only once you’ve started making your first bit of real income from a real audience do you begin to enter the next phase.
Also — Check out our post on blogging mistakes to make sure you aren’t making some avoidable mistakes along the way.
Phase 2: The Teenage Girl Phase
She loves you. She hates you. She’s hot. She’s ice cold.
One moment she’s crying in the bathroom about her how her friend wore the same thing as her to school and her life is now OVER, the next she’s smiling ear to ear texting her new boyfriend about her favorite band.
She’s the emotional rollercoaster that defines the second phase of having any type of business.
Welcome to the teenage girl phase.
This is the period of emotional turbulence and ups and downs that usually begins right after you start getting some traction.
As soon as you start making your first bit of real income online, you will foolishly think “I’ve done it! I’m in the clear! I’ve got this thing figured out!”
I hope you’re strapped in for this phase because this is how your business will actually go:
- Sales will be great one day and nonexistent the next.
- A post goes viral and then your website will shut down because of a technical issue.
- You’ll think you know something and have it proven wrong in epic fashion, making you question everything you thought you knew.
- You’ll go up really high (because success finally feels real) only to be dropped back down to the pits of Hades (the lows are now worse after having tasted success).
Up and down and up and down. It’s going to be a rollercoaster of emotions.
Depending on how you personally deal with stress, these will be some of the hardest days.
When you’re in the poop phase, you kind of expect to suck. Or at least you should. The advantage of the beginning is that the expectations are low.
However, the teenage girl phase is the one that hurts the most as it gives you hope only to stab you in the back and snatch it right from you.
It’s like having a bipolar friend who loves you to pieces one minute and then pours hot coffee on your face the next.
This phase can last a long time for people and some never escape it. If you’re in this phase, your next steps are to…
Learn How to Automate
Unless your processes are automated, you’ll always feel tied emotionally to next month’s successes and failures. The more you can automate, the less you’ll be moved by them and the faster you can scale.
Our favorite tools to help with automation include:
- ConvertKit — Create and send emails, landing pages, email opt-ins
- Tailwind — Pinterest content scheduler and Analytics
- Teachable — Sales pages and online course platform
Scale to Multiple Revenue Streams
The fluctuations become infinitely less painful when you have multiple sources of revenue.
A bad sales month on one product doesn’t hurt nearly as bad when you have ten of them. Simple diversification.
Improve Your Processes
The more efficiently you move people from not knowing you to buying one of your products the better. There are about a thousand ways to improve this process and the better you get at it, the less emotional your business will be. Trust me.
We have improved our processes through:
- Getting high-quality subscribers to our blog
- Writing high-quality content (How to Write a Blog Post – Blog Writing 101)
- Getting better at writing and selling through emails
Building an email list and a better relationship with your readers and subscribers is the most important thing you can do at this stage.
You can check out our article on building an email list if you need some help with this stage.
The final phase is weird because it sounds like a fantasy until you get here.
Phase 3: The Rocket-Ship Phase
This is why you work so hard and sacrifice so much at the beginning.
Once your systems are in place, and you’re making money relatively consistently, the only thing left to do is to focus on GROWTH and OPTIMIZATION.
And that’s where things get stupidly fun… Getting to this phase is the “secret” behind why other successful bloggers and marketers make everything look so easy.
Why they can take photos working on their laptops on the beach (see below) while you’re making $0 crushing the midnight oil in your shitty apartment.
Rockets, because of their weight, take an immense amount of force to get off the ground. The takeoff is the time they are burning the most fuel and require the most amount of push.
However, the more momentum they build as they get further away from gravity, the less force is required to keep them moving.
Online businesses aren’t much different.
Once you get it going, you’ll be surprised at how little you have to push to keep the thing in the air. The beginning is a pain in the ass and requires an obnoxious amount of blood, sweat, and tears, but things do get easier as you move along.
And this is not because of some magical thing that happens either.
It’s because you’ve gained a variety of skills during the first two phases, and these skills have a compounding effect on your time:
New Projects Become Easier
Once you’ve built one sales page, the second will go much more quickly. The same goes with just every technical aspect of blogging:
- The second email funnel
- The second course
- And so on…
You begin to know your audience well enough that you don’t have to invest as much time and effort into the setup stages of new projects.
You’ll still make mistakes, but the past lessons you have learned leave clues as to where you should be heading next. Things like knowing you hate running subscription-based websites from experience is super helpful to the overall direction you should be heading.
Less Wasted Time
The “greener” you are, the more mistakes you will make. As time goes on, you will still make mistakes but thankfully a lot fewer of them.
- You know how to make a post quickly and efficiently with a headline that will catch people’s eyeballs.
- You know what to do when something breaks.
- You’ve dealt with about every customer service problem known to man and are ready for anything.
These skills are also why there’s massive security in this business.
Lauren and I could start over again and make another blog successful even quicker than the first two if we really wanted to because we now have a lot of skills and experience doing it.
Because you’ve gained all these skills along the way, everything moves so quickly that you feel like you can get away with spending much more time just relaxing.
And then there is one last phase…
Phase 4: Flatline into Gradual Growth or Plateau
This is the stage at which we are currently in.
There is a limit to how many people are interested in blogging in the world and there is a limit to the growth of ANY business.
Without compromising and doing things you don’t want to do, anyway. There just is.
This is the stage in which you would need to focus on the following things if you really want to continue scaling your income:
These are the tasks that make your income a little less passive, and it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to put in the additional effort.
It’s my personal belief that the purpose of every business should NOT be continued growth forever into eternity. This need for constant growth can cause companies and business owners to make poor ethical decisions and lose sight of their original audience.
Look at Facebook.
Their platform gets worse and worse every year because it needs more and more profits to satisfy shareholders. To the point now where the total user experience is abysmal.
This happens with every company.
The truth is that your online business will have a limited targeted audience and the key is to get there, while keeping your ethics intact, and stay there.
What I mean is this: Don’t grow it further just for growth’s sake.
If you have a good thing going on, hold down the fort and keep it going. Or start a new business. But don’t force growth if it doesn’t make sense.
This also doesn’t’ mean becoming complacent and burying your head in the sand.
Continue to LISTEN to that target audience and optimize and change your business over time as necessary.
If you want these things, you continue to reach for the moon. We just personally want a more passive income model from our business. And know that your “ceiling,” maybe be a little different than others, depending on how you’re monetizing, what niche you’re in, and other factors:
- For our health and wellness blog, it was in the $20-30k per month range.
- For Create and Go, it’s around the $100k per month range.
Anything beyond that requires a tremendous amount more effort than we’re currently putting in and we aren’t sure that it’s worth the sacrifice at the moment while we’re still trying to enjoy life and travel a lot.
But that’s what online success looks like. It always plateaus before you need to change your marketing strategy and hire a team to help you.
Check out this podcast episode to hear what strategies we’ve been using lately to continue scaling our business:
Let’s do a quick recap of the four phases of online success (aka blogging for us and most of our followers).
- Phase 1: The Poop Phase — You suck, you feel like poop, but you keep moving forward knowing that the goal is to gain skills so you stop sucking
- Phase 2: The Teenage Girl Phase — Your business goes up and down and sometimes even back to zero. You work hard at scaling and automating your processes so you don’t stay an emotional wreck forever.
- Phase 3: Rocket Ship Phase — Your success begins to build on itself because of the skills and experience you have gained. You continue to scale and enjoy the crap out of this stage.
- Phase 4: Flat-line into Gradual Growth or Plateau — Your business is steady. Your job is to continue to treat old customers well and continue to improve your processes gradually over time. Also, to be thankful for what you have and not get greedy.
If you’re feeling stuck in the trenches in the terrible “poop phase,” try reading our article on the common reasons you aren’t making money next.
That’s it for this one! Please leave us a comment below if you enjoyed this article on the phases of online success or have any questions for us!