April was an interesting month for Matt and me.
We learned a lot and ultimately decided to part ways, at least for now.
More on that shortly.
Here are the numbers:
Traffic: 469 visitors
Total revenue from e-book sales: $30.42 (divide this by 2 since Matt and I are splitting revenue on these)
- Web hosting: $13.87
- Ninja Pinner: $28
- Buffer: $10
Profit (loss): $-36.66
Annual profit (loss): $12.70
Becoming a Solopreneur: The Why and How
I was very hesitant to go into business with Matt.
Because he’s one of my best friends and I know that money can muddy the waters of any good relationship.
But we both decided to partner when we felt we couldn’t produce enough content on our own to be successful.
We hustled to write two e-books* and didn’t get the results we wanted.
Though I’m sure we could eventually experience greater success with e-books, we decided that the business model wasn’t the path of least resistance, especially considering we were splitting revenue.
I think my ideal relationship with my entrepreneurial friends is that of an accountability partner.
I want a friend to spur me on to better work as I spur them on as well.
I want us to experience success independently and not feel like we are the other’s boss.
Though I absolutely enjoy working with Matt, I thought it would be better to split ways before we had made a significant amount of money.
I also feel comfortable parting ways because ultimately, I think we proved our assumption wrong: we can produce a volume of content independently of one another.
And I think we will ultimately be happier this way.
Along the lines of content production, my personal goal is to write 5 blog posts a week.
It’s a lofty goal, I know, and I may not succeed.
But I believe adding as much value as possible is the key to financial success and am pursuing that goal with everything I’ve got!
Spending Money as a Lean Startup
In general, I’m a huge fan of the lean startup concept, where you focus on validating business concepts before you invest money in them.
For instance, you could write 25 blog posts in a word processor on your laptop before buying web hosting to start a blog.
In this way, you would prove to yourself that you’re committed to blogging before spending money on hosting.
This mindset is so different from our typical way of thinking, which is:
“Spend money first, ask questions later.”
We all want to believe that spending can solve our problems.
But it’s rare that a true solution to a problem requires more spending.
That said, I think you can take the lean startup concept too far.
I think I did just that.
I was spending so little money on my business that I wasn’t taking it as seriously as I needed.
Now that I have more skin in the game, I’m hustling even harder to make money and earn success. More on that below.
Driving Traffic with Social Media
All of the increased investments I’ve made this month have been in social media tools.
Why social media?
I’ve talked before about the two primary ways to drive traffic to your blog:
- With social media
- With organic search traffic
Social media can be an excellent tool for driving website traffic and sales.
But as a new solopreneur, I’m realizing more and more how important automating repetitive tasks is for maximizing productivity, especially in the realm of social media.
That’s why I’ve turned to Ninja Pinner to help me grow my following on Pinterest.
Before Ninja Pinner, a tool that can automate following/unfollowing, commenting, and liking on Pinterest, Matt and I would manually follow hundreds of Pinterest users a day.
Now I can choose a user on Pinterest whose followers I believe would be interested in my brand and let Ninja Pinner do the following.
The follow-back ratio I’ve gotten so far isn’t great, but every little bit helps.
One more great thing about Ninja Pinner is that it’s a one-time expense for lifetime updates.
But I know not everyone thinks social media automation tools are necessary.
In fact, many feel like it’s deceptive marketing.
Here’s why I’m in favor of automation and don’t feel like it’s damaging to my brand.
Ultimately, promotion of any sort is a numbers game.
So when I promote my blog, I want to promote it to as many people as possible so I can find the handful that will love my blog and receive value from it.
One way to do this is to show up in people’s social media notifications.
For instance, when Ninja Pinner follows someone on Pinterest on my behalf, my profile will show up in their notifications as having followed them.
Just because I used a program to do the following for me doesn’t mean I don’t think they could receive value from my brand or that I’m not potentially interested in that user’s content.
Instead, I view social media automation as an opportunity to maximize the likelihood of someone receiving value from my brand.
Social media automation crosses the line and becomes spam when automators violate the social media platforms’ terms (by say, attempting to follow 1000+ people a day) or by interacting with users purely to get attention and not because they believe the users could benefit from their brand.
In general, I’m in favor of outsourcing everything possible to machines so that humans can focus on what they do best – making creative works of art (in my context – web content).
To that end, I’ve also purchased a monthly plan of Bufferapp to schedule my social media posts.
Anyone familiar with social media marketing knows that there are optimal and less than optimal times to post on social media.
With Bufferapp, I can schedule my posts for maximum reach in advance so I can focus on creating better content for my audience without feeling the urgency of making sure I post at a particular time.
Herein lies the problem for many with social media automation.
They feel like it ultimately becomes less social if programs are running the show.
I also disagree with this point of view.
Just because I’m not constantly focused on promoting content in real-time on social media doesn’t mean I don’t check it.
In fact, automating the following of users and posting of content enables me to spend more time on social media interacting with others and less time on these tasks.
Driving Traffic with Organic Search
I have a love-hate relationship with organic search traffic.
On one hand, I know it’s the best way to acquire highly-qualified leads who often turn into customers.
I can see this traffic is valuable even now with the very small amount of organic search traffic my website receives:
Organic search, combined with referral links, bring my most valuable users to the site.
On the other hand, I’ve had a really tough time with my link-building efforts and email outreach.
For our last e-book, Matt and I sent 1,000 outreach emails requesting reviews and received only 9 reviews!
That’s less than a 1% conversion rate!
When I had a health and fitness blog, I had only a 3% conversion rate in obtaining backlinks.
In short, link-building has been really discouraging for me.
But I’m realizing more and more that it’s totally worth it.
Unlike social media promotion where links (and website visitors) are here today and gone tomorrow, links from other bloggers and websites send you regular traffic day after day, even before those links result in better search engine rankings.
I’ve learned the hard way that products with extremely low dollar conversions (like e-books) might not be the best monetization strategy for internet entrepreneurship.
I’ve also learned that lean entrepreneurship in general is good, but that I need to invest some money in business tools to make me work harder and take my dream of internet entrepreneurship more seriously.
And I’ve begun to learn more about social media.
In the past, I’ve left social media to Matt as my resident expert.
Now that I’m on my own, I need to understand it better.
As usual, I’ll keep you all updated with my monthly income and everything else going on here at the blog!
Thanks for reading.