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The first quarter of 2018 is nearly over. I’ve spent a ton of time these past few months reflecting and planning. My biggest goal was to learn from the business and blogging mistakes I made in 2017.
After all, mistakes are only devastating if you refuse to learn from them.
2017 was a tough year for me and my business. Though I made more money than I did in 2016, I felt like I slid backwards in many areas. In fact last fall, I had my first (and only) month where I didn’t even break even.
I made some huge changes last fall, and my business is growing again as a result. I’ll be sharing those in a future post. But today, I want to dive into the five mistakes I made that really caused the downward spiral of my business and blog.
Let’s start with the biggest one. It actually started at the end of 2016.
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1. Taking a Huge Project Just for the Money
In late 2016, I signed a contract with an education company to provide content editing services for a fourth grade ELA curriculum.
Was this a job I thought would advance my career in any way?
It was a job I took for the money. And taking a gig you’re not interested in just for the money isn’t really a good idea.
Especially when it winds up taking ALL of your time.
And then, to make matters worse, one of their writers quit in the spring. So they asked me to upgrade to a writer. It paid more, and I was still looking at it with green colored glasses.
So I accepted.
And if I thought editing a curriculum took a lot of time, writing one took way more. I was spending over thirty hours a week on this project.
Do you know how much time I was spending on my business prior to this? Only 20, max.
Taking on the extra hours pushed me to the very edge of my limits. I dropped my Tanner Learning blog. I streamlined our meals even more. And stopped pitching for new gigs.
There just wasn’t time to do anything but work and do the basics of homeschooling, housework, and everything else.
And looking back, I’m not really sure how we made it through. I’m so thankful for my husband for stepping up and helping out more around the house and with the homeschooling.
Money is important. You need it for everything, after all.
But, money isn’t everything. And you really need to examine the costs of earning that money.
This gig took too much of my time. And as a busy mom, I didn’t have the time to give.
I knew this gig had a definite ending point. That’s when the money would dry up.
But, because I didn’t have time to pitch, I ended up at the bottom of another freelance famine.
So if you’re in a freelance business and need to pitch, make it a priority. I should have made that more of a priority and cut my posting schedule on this blog or something.
Know what your ROI is for different tasks, and make sure to prioritize them correctly.
2. Not Taking a Break After Having a Baby
My family welcomed baby Bryson into the world in February 2017. And though I took steps to take some of the tasks off my plate, I didn’t clear all of them.
I was still doing the content editing mentioned above (and a couple of months later, the writing).
Bryson’s birth and the days following were a challenge for me. He failed his heart test, and we had to go in for further testing. Two-days postpartum, I spent six hours in the hospital, waiting for an ECHO and the corresponding doctor appointment.
That day was hard. I should have been in bed resting with my new baby.
Instead, I was sitting in a waiting room or the car, and walking around the hospital. Then I came home and had to get caught up with my content editing. It was too much, and I should have asked for an extension. But I was stubborn and prideful and didn’t.
And that day?
I’m pretty sure it’s what triggered my first ever experience with postpartum depression.
The months that followed are kind of a blur. Everything kind of just happened on auto-pilot, and I stopped caring. And trying.
I did what I had to do, but it was hard to keep my head above water. I felt like a failure. And my self-confidence fell almost completely. My imposter syndrome came back with a vengeance.
And I honestly considered quitting this whole freelance/blogging thing.
Thankfully, I didn’t.
But I did take time to focus on me and build a better foundation, with time for self-care. I spent more time in prayer.
I also started spending some money on all-natural supplements a friend recommended.
When I started taking Plexus, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was just desperate to feel like myself again.
And while the Tri-Plex I started taking wasn’t an instant cure-all, I have seen definite improvements each month since. My moods are more level, my fog head is gone, and I no longer crave sugar constantly. I have enough energy to make it through the days, and don’t have as much trouble falling asleep at night.
I’m a whole new woman, ready to tackle life and business again.
You can’t keep pouring from an empty cup.
Put time into you, because you matter.
And invest in yourself, because you are worth it.
3. Buying a Big Course on Payments
This one was a huge mistake financially.
I knew I wanted to invest in the blogging side of my business in 2017. So, when a course came around for list building, I fell for the hype.
And even though I had the money at the time to pay in full, I opted for the payment plan.
Without crunching the numbers first.
Over the course of ten months, I ended up paying over double what I would have paid if I did it in full.
And, I had to keep paying a monthly payment even when my income dried up.
Just like my husband and I have decided not to go into debt in our personal finances, I shouldn’t in my business. And a payment plan for a course is a form of debt.
If I can’t pay in full, I’m not signing up.
And I’ve been better about deleting all those “This course is over the moon good” emails before I get sucked in. There are some really convincing copy writers out there, you know?
And honestly? The course I took wasn’t worth the $2K I ended up spending. I got way more email sign-ups including my course in the Work at Home Bundle than I did from any of the lessons I implemented from that course.
4. Not Utilizing Pinterest
It took me forever to put any time into Pinterest. I mean, I made some quick Pins for my posts and Pinned them to my “Best of” board. But, that was it for most of the year.
Now that I took time to figure it out, Pinterest is my number one source of traffic.
Not taking time to learn from other bloggers and figure out how to work it was a mistake. Especially because it’s not that time consuming now that I know what I’m doing.
Pinterest is a huge source of potential traffic. If you aren’t utilizing it as a blogger, you probably should be.
Unless of course you’re already on the edge and trying to do one more thing is going to set you off on a downward spiral. In which case, Pinterest can wait while you get you taken care of. Okay?
5. Being Scared to Reach Out
I’ve worked with some amazing editors in the past. Editors I’d love to work with again.
But, I spent most of 2017 too scared to reach out to them and see if they needed any new articles. It wasn’t a cold connection, but I let fear stop me.
I spent way too much time imagining all the terrible scenarios that could come from sending a simple email.
I just knew they’d say:
- You’re a terrible writer, I never want to work with you again!
- You didn’t get the feel of our website and our readers hated what you wrote.
- Who are you again? I don’t want to hear from you.
And this fear of rejection stopped me. At least until I was back in a better frame of mind.
In the fall, I sent an email to the editor at one of the survival sites I enjoyed working for. I hadn’t written anything for her since December of 2016 (so it’d been almost a year!)
You know what she said?
She wondered how I was doing and was glad to hear from me. She was currently out of the country, but would love to connect when she got back.
All my fears?
They were unfounded.
And even though there were some staffing changes at that site, she took time to reach back out and introduce me to the new editor. I’ve had two posts published there recently, and have three more in the works.
All because I pushed past my fears and sent an email.
Fears can derail us.
They can drag us down into a pit of despair where we spend way too much time imagining all the bad things that could happen. Those thoughts never allow a good response to enter our mind. It’s just all negativity, all the time.
And it shouldn’t be.
We aren’t meant to have a spirit of fear.
So if you’re currently wallowing in the “what-ifs” let me encourage you. Do it scared.
The worst that can happen is NOT the worst case scenario you’re imagining. That’s just your fear taking you down.
Talk through it with someone. Pray. Realize the truth.
No isn’t the end of the world.
And, it just might be a yes.
How I’m Changing in 2018
So, what does all my reflection have to do with the present?
Well, I’ve been building a better framework and making some changes in 2018. I like where I’m heading.
Instead of just saying “YES!” to every possibility that comes my way, I’m really taking time to evaluate them. I analyze the time requirement as well as the money.
Because, I can’t work thirty hours a week anymore. It was too hard on my family (and myself!)
I’m also branding myself more as a blogger and less as a freelancer. I still freelance, but I’m really enjoying this pivot. I see myself eventually making the majority of my money from my blog and my products, which will make me even more of my own boss.
I’ve also been writing longer emails to my list each Thursday. (Not on my list? You can subscribe at the bottom of this post!)
Previously, I just stuck a link in to my post, wrote a paragraph or two, and called it a day.
Now I’ve been concentrating on adding value. And providing content that’s exclusive to my list. Like a recent note about how I found time to write a book in a month as a busy mom.
I truly am thankful for every one of my readers, and want to make sure I’m delivering the best content possible! Without you, this blogging thing wouldn’t be possible.
Ditching the “Experts”
I’m also realizing that many of the “Experts” are wrong.
Or rather, they’re wrong for me.
I don’t have tons of time to devote to my blog and marketing. I don’t have tons of money to sink into it either.
So, I’ve got to take the longer, scenic route. And along the way I’m discovering some amazing people out here in the outskirts of “expert” land. People who don’t have tens of thousands of followers and six-figure incomes. But, people who have heart and care. People who make me believe in me and the possibilities.
And out here? I’m loving it!
If you’re feeling left behind by those in the fast-lane, I’d love for you to join me. We might be taking baby steps, but we are making progress. Every single day.
And we are making an income. It may not be impressive. But, it is helping us stay home and live the life we want.
Let’s Learn from Our Business and Blogging Mistakes and Keep Moving Forward
No matter what speed you are moving at, mistakes happen. Remember to learn from them and keep going.
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Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.