Taylor Flanery just had her third child. She was unhappy with her job, because it took her away from her children more than she wanted. So she looked for an alternative; a job that would provide some income, lots more flexibility and could be done from anywhere. An online business seemed ideal.
Little did she know that what started with the goal of making a small side income would become the way how she and her husband support their family completely (both were able to quit their day jobs).
We spoke with Taylor about her remarkable solopreneur journey…
1) Taylor, you are the publisher of 3 web sites, www.stain-removal-101.com, www.home-storage-solutions-101.com and www.household-management-101.com. Can you tell us a bit why and when you started your sites?
When I started my first site with SBI, Household-Management-101.com, in 2008, I had just had my third child, and was feeling dissatisfied with my job, because it took me away from my kids more than I wanted. (I was a litigation attorney in a small firm practice.) We also planned to move a lot for my husband’s future career.
I wanted a job that provided some income, lots more flexibility, could be done from anywhere, and so I wouldn’t have to take another bar exam in each state we moved to. An online business seemed ideal. From the very beginning I had a business mindset when it came to the sites. They were meant to make me money. I remember my first goal was $500/month.
I don’t remember now how I discovered SBI, but I did and I’m so glad, because I had no idea how to start a website or a business, and SBI helped with both of those things. I started the Household Management 101 site in 2008. Over the coming years I added the other two sites: Stain-Removal-101.com in late 2009 and Home-Storage-Solutions-101.com in late 2011.
The reason I kept adding websites is because I learned things with my first, and wanted to do a better job with the second and third, but also because I was finding success and wanted to keep growing.
2. One question we get asked often is “How can I make money with a website?” Can you answer that question from your perspective?
There are almost infinite ways to make money from your websites, and also infinite ways to lose money, or at least not see any results. It is hard work; some people may think of what I do as “playing on the computer,” but I can tell you from my own experience, and from networking with lots of other successful website owners within SBI and outside of it, that for those who find success it is not play at all. It is a serious business.
You can make money with ad networks (Google AdSense being only one of the many out there), affiliate sales, selling your own products, directly from your social media presence, writing sponsored content on your own sites or off site, and more. The sky’s really the limit.
3) I’ve heard that you are getting invited to speak at blogging conferences and podcasts. How did this come about? What topics do you cover?
Yes, I do speak at blogging conferences and have guested on a few podcasts related to blogging. These opportunities were the result of me making a conscious decision to network and try to build relationships with other bloggers and website owners within my niche, and in complementary niches.
Being able to speak with others doing the same work, in person, is really invaluable, because we can share ideas, tips, and even cross-promote our platforms. It started first with going to SBI conferences years ago. But I soon decided to go to additional conferences as well, starting with small ones a few hours from my home and then venturing to some larger conferences across the country upon the recommendation of bloggers I met at the initial conferences.
The relationships I have made, both within SBI and outside of it, have been very important to growing my business. In addition, I now count many of these people as some of my best “real life” friends. That’s because I didn’t just go to the conference, learn stuff and leave, but I made a conscious effort to maintain those relationships, often in closed Facebook groups, even after the conferences were over.
Those relationships have resulted in lots of business opportunities for me, mastermind groups, joint venture proposals, and even in these opportunities to speak on podcasts and to teach others at blogging conferences.
Once you’ve made real connections, and nurtured them, you can teach others about your skills and experiences.
Insider tip: Make sure that the people in charge of the blogging conferences are aware of what you do, and they will ask you to present!
I have worked hard to grow my Facebook presence. I now have a large Facebook Page with over 850,000 fans (at the time of this writing), and an active Facebook group, called Declutter 365 with more than 96,000 members.
Some of the leaders in the blogging community who I consider friends now, after connecting at conferences, know about these social media accomplishments and because of it I’ve been asked to speak at several conferences and on podcasts mainly on the topic of growing your social media presence organically, focusing on best practices for Facebook.
I like to discuss how to not only grow your fan base, but how to build community, get traffic to your sites from social media, and even how to make money directly from social media. In addition, I also discuss email newsletters, which is what your next question is about, below.
4) You are using MailChimp for your email marketing. Can you tell us what role email marketing plays for your online businesses?
I do use MailChimp for my email marketing, and have since I started my third site, Home-Storage-Solutions-101.com, in 2011. Email marketing is an integral part of my business, because it is one of the most reliable ways to communicate with your readers on a regular basis.
I love to talk to my readers on social media, but every day it gets harder and harder to do that, especially for organic reach. It can still be worth your time, definitely (or I wouldn’t still be doing it myself, and recommending it to others), but I would never advise you to rely solely on social media to communicate with your audience.
You’ve got to have email as the backbone of your communication strategy. I send out emails regularly, at least once a week, for each of my websites. Most of the time those emails are what I term “giving emails,” because in them I’m giving people free content on topics I believe they will be interested.
But every once in awhile I send a sales email. My newsletter makes me money each month, first from the traffic it brings back to my own sites regularly with these “giving emails,” and in addition, when I occasionally sell an affiliate product to my audience that I believe will benefit them.
5) You build and market your websites with SBI!. If you had to review SBI! for someone who never heard about it, which features or benefits would you highlight?
There are many things about SBI I love, but the two I most often tell others about are the Brainstormer tool and the included hosting. I have heavily used the keyword brainstormer over the years, and not only has it helped me rank well for Google search traffic for terms, but many people don’t realize how keyword dependent social media is. So I use the brainstormer just as much now for social media planning as for SEO.
In addition, the built in hosting as part of the annual fee for SBI is absolutely amazing. I get a LOT of traffic to my three sites, and I could easily be paying thousands of dollars a month for a dedicated server. But with SBI, hosting is part of the package and it allows me to keep a lot more of my money in my pockets as profit. And yes, my sites have gone down before. But heck, so has Facebook and Amazon!
But I can count on one hand over the years when it has gone down, and it always has come back up quickly without me having to do anything — SBI has my back. And SBI servers can handle huge traffic surges.
In December 2014 and January of 2015, for example, I had a mega-viral post on Facebook which brought in millions of pageviews, and my sites never crashed or even loaded slowly. This consistency allowed me to take advantage of those huge traffic surges to build my mailing list. I got so much traffic during that two month period, with no outages from a crashed site, I increased my mailing list by over 100,000 people!
Has your life changed since you started your sites? Can you describe these changes for us?
My life has definitely changed since I started my sites. For one thing, I’ve now been with SBI for 7 years, and a lot happens in that amount of time. Many of these changes I attribute to the business I’ve started.
First, I’ve quit my job as a litigation attorney and for over 4 years now I’ve been running my websites full time. Things changed with my husband’s career plans as well, and now we support our entire family with the websites, with both of us working on them full time, together. What started as a goal of making a small side-income has become the way we support ourselves completely.
My husband does a lot of admin work for the sites such as answering emails, and other backend work for the sites, while I write content, do social media marketing, and am the face of the blogs. We both work from home, together, and are able to do things with our kids when we want or need to, without having to ask off from work or juggle schedules quite as much.
A couple summers ago we got the chance, last minute, for my daughter to compete in Nationals for tennis in Atlanta, and we were able to pick up and take the whole family on a more than week long adventure without much lead time to plan. I was able to work on the road, as was he, and we got to have that life experience for everyone. That is the type of thing I really appreciate about being my own boss.
7) What one piece of advice would you give someone who is just getting started as an online entrepreneur?
If I had to pick one thing I would say, over and over as I’ve met successful website owners, no matter what their niche, the thing they all have in common is putting in the time and work, consistently. Building an online business is hard work, and it isn’t quick and easy.
It will most likely take you several years to really get in the groove and begin to make serious money, although you can begin to see some more modest results sooner. But don’t compare yourself to those farther ahead of you. You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. If you focus, put in the time daily, and hustle, you can do it too.
To the reader… are you ready to begin your own solopreneur career? Like Taylor says, if you focus, and put in the time and work consistently, you can achieve your financial and lifestyle dreams too.