I know it is such a cliche, but where did the year go?
I honestly feel like it was one of the fastest years of my life. Not only was 2016 a busy time, but it was full of a lot of ups and downs and a ton of new learning experiences for me.
It was also a year of taking action and figuring out where I wanted my businesses to go.
Not only was it a time for business growth, but it was also a time for personal growth and learning how to balance my life.
I used to only focus on reaching these huge business goals and I would neglect other aspects of my life. A huge part of the success I had in 2016 came from finding balance and prioritizing what is important in my life.
I always center what I am doing around the concept of having a ‘family-first’ business. In my mind, this concept is two-fold.
One, my family comes first. Two, I am building my business to provide my family with more freedom.
Sometimes it can be a catch twenty-two; because it is hard to build a successful business while putting my family first. It is all about being efficient and effective with my time.
One of the biggest lessons I learned was to appreciate my journey and not get caught up in other people’s success. It is hard to not compare my business to other online entrepreneurs, but I have learned that in order for me to be successful I need to wholeheartedly be proud of where I am and how I got here.
So I wanted to share some of the changes I made in 2016 to grow my blog and business. These are in no specific order, but have had the biggest impact on my growth.
This post may contain affiliate links.
7 Things I did to Grow My Biz + Blog in 2016
#1 - Webinars = game changing business strategy
I did my very first webinar in February of 2016 and it was a joint webinar with Brilliant Business Moms. I was absolutely terrified to do it.
Honestly, I was SO sick the day of the webinar because of how nervous I was to get on camera. I always told myself that I would NEVER do webinars. Thankfully I pushed my fear aside and didn't chicken out, and the webinar led to more than $3k in course sales.
Little did I know…. they are so much fun!
I know that may sound ridiculous, but being able to connect with my audience LIVE and answer their questions is a whole different ball game. From the time I started my blog in 2011, I hid behind my computer. I never wanted to do anything on camera and it totally stunted the growth of my business.
Not only did webinars help me to increase sales and grow my email list (more on that below), but it also helped me to engage with my readers. I know a lot of people (like the old me), think that doing a webinar is some kind of cheesy sales tactic, but you can host a webinar without pitching anything. I’ve actually done a few where I just answered questions and I’ve even done blog review workshops to give my readers feedback on their websites.
It isn’t just about making money. It is a fun way to grow your audience and give them what they need from you. I like to think of a webinar as another form of free content for my readers. Instead of writing a new blog post, I can create a mini teaching workshop to help provide them with valuable content.
#2 - I joined a mastermind group
This was one of the things that had the biggest impact on my business for 2016. I’ve had a few blogging friends over the years to talk with about my site and learn from, but I have never been part of a mastermind group made up of some really great entrepreneurs who have similar goals as I do.
I learned so much about myself and about my business through a mastermind I joined with Mariah Coz from Femtrepreneur. It helped me to stay on track to reach my goals and held me accountable every single month.
The success of my blog and business that took place in the past year has relied heavily on the relationships that I have built. Having a group of people to turn to when I have a question or problem is honestly priceless.
The mastermind group helped me to:
● Get a better perspective before moving forward with certain projects. It is always nice to get someone else’s opinion or outlook on a situation. Being able to get assurance or bounce ideas off each other is awesome.
● Stay accountable. Working at home is hard. With a small amount of time to actually ‘work’, I get easily distracted simply because I am at my own house and have my boys walking in and out of my office. The mastermind group encouraged me to stay on task and be accountable for the work I said I would complete.
● Take action on new projects. You know when you have a new idea or a vision for your business, but you’re just not sure how to achieve it? Having this tribe provided me with valuable plans and tactics to accomplish my goals.
● Learn. Being able to hear other entrepreneurs talk about their businesses and what they have done to be successful is absolutely amazing. Even if you are in the same niche as someone, you still have a different background and different business processes.
I highly recommend you find your tribe or join a mastermind group for 2017. Having this support system allowed me to make meaningful changes without worrying about failing.
#3 - Continued learning
This sort of goes with #2. In 2016 I invested in myself and my business by taking some pretty amazing online courses.
Before this point, I had taken maybe 1 course, and wasn’t happy with it, so I thought that it wasn't worth my time. I was wrong.
There are so many facets of my business that I am not even close to being at a beginner level, let alone an expert at, so I made the decision to invest in the growth of my business by learning new skills.
Even though enrolling in online courses was expensive, it was totally worth it. Being able to learn from someone who has a lot of success in a particular area has helped me to increase my sales and overall grow my business. Here are some of the courses I took in 2016:
● 90 Day Year (I just enrolled in this one!)
I highly believe that growing your knowledge helps you to grow your business. Continuing my education and personal growth are both things that I am going to emphasize in 2017.
#4 - I grew my team
I’ve hired a few sub-contractors over the past couple of years, but I’ve never really had a team of people who work towards a common goal and understand the vision of my business. I can honestly say it has had a major impact on how I do things and the success I’ve had this year.
For years I heard other online entrepreneurs talking about ‘scaling’ your business and hiring people to expand your team, but I always felt like I didn’t need help. I had the mentality that if something needed done and I knew how to do it, why would I pay someone else?
Again, I was wrong. As my business grew this year, so did my lists of tasks that needed to be done. I couldn’t possibly do everything that I thought I could do. Not only was I wasting a lot of my time, but it was preventing me from doing the projects that I enjoy doing.
I realized that if I wanted to reach my goals for the year, then I NEEDED to grow my team. I was so hesitant to give someone access to my business, as if I had some top secret private information (haha!).
Now, I rely heavily on my amazing team and they help me to be much more efficient with my time. One of my favorite benefits of having people who understand my business and my goals is getting their feedback on projects and everyday processes. It is nice to just talk through situations and plan what needs to be done.
#5 - Launched my first paid online course
This was a HUGE turning point for my blog. Before I launched my first course, Blog Audience Formula, in February of 2016, my income relied heavily on affiliate earnings, ad income and brand partnerships. I had created free courses in the past, but nothing that I ever charged my audience for.
Not only are online courses a TON of fun, but they have been extremely profitable for my business. I love sharing my knowledge and expertise with my audience so that they can learn from it.
The cool thing for me is I have a teaching degree and I have my MBA, so teaching online courses is the perfect intersection between the two.
In 2016, I launched:
● Blog Audience Formula (paid course)
● Affiliate Blueprint (free course)
● Pinaffiliate Masterclass (paid course)
● Passive Income Without a Product (paid course)
● Pinterest Powerhouse (paid course)
I experimented with both evergreen launches and open-close launches. It’s all about finding what works best for you and your audience. I have learned SO much from launching a course and I am constantly improving my tactics.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from launching courses this year is it isn’t always about doing things on autopilot. As much as I love streamlining my processes and creating funnels that generate revenue without putting in more work, I have learned the importance of creating an experience for my students.
In order for my courses to be successful I need my students to be successful.
This means they need to actually DO the work and complete the course material. This is where I come in and play an active role in helping them show up and complete the course by doing it together.
● LIVE office hours
● Private support group
● Weekly prompts and bonus assignments
● Giveaways for accountability and hitting milestones
I am excited to re-launch my course Pinaffiliate Masterclass in 2017 (you can get on the VIP list here to be notified) and launch my brand spankin’ new course for online entrepreneurs.
#6 - Became more visible with my brand
In the summer of 2016, I decided to change the name of my site from SimplyBloggingAlong.com to AddiGanley.com. It was a change that I had been considering doing for a long time.
I started Simply Blogging Along on a whim because I needed a place to share what I learned from my blogging journey from the time I started my other site, Frugal Fanatic. I did not take the time to really plan it or think about it too much, and I was never really happy with the name.
I decided to begin the process of branding myself. This also became a bigger part of my business because I wanted to become more visible in my brand. Like I mentioned before, I always hid behind my computer and was scared to put myself out there.
After 5 years of doing my site, it was time to put my fears aside. In order to become more visible with my brand, I did webinars, LIVE workshops, LIVE streaming and...
1. Changed the name and focus of my brand - becoming a focal point in my brand was scary. I hated the idea of using my name and having pictures of myself all over my site (ugh!), but I needed to do it to push myself forward. It has definitely helped me to grow my readership and create more brand awareness because people can now associate my name with the topics I write about. Since I never took the time to do it last year, I am actually in the process of re-designing my brand and website right now.
2. Became active in my private Facebook group - I started a Facebook group in June of 2015, but never did anything with it. I was worried that I didn’t have the time to build a community on that platform, so I put it on the back burner for a really long time. In the last couple of months of 2016, thanks to my friend, Caitlin Bacher, I have MADE the time to utilize my Facebook group to connect with my audience. It is growing on a daily basis and is now full of engaged online entrepreneurs and bloggers who support and help each other.
3. Went to an in-person conference - I haven’t gone to any conferences in a couple of years, so in July I went to Amplify Live in Las Vegas. One of the things I wanted to do to be more visible with my brand was to build relationships with other bloggers and entrepreneurs. I was able to connect with some really cool people at this conference while learning some of the best practices from industry leaders. This also included the opportunity to listen to Gary Vee in person!
4. Appeared on the Femtrepreneur podcast - Normally when I get asked to do interviews or podcasts I say no because I am an introvert. I am always afraid that I will say something stupid. But I decided to put that aside and be on Mariah Coz and Megan Minn’s The Fem Show podcast. Not only was it a lot of fun, but it helped me get in front of a new audience which in turn grew my email list.
Even though each of these were small changes, combined they made a big impact on my business.
I want to take it a step further in 2017 and launch a YouTube channel and do LIVE weekly trainings inside of my Facebook group. Being able to connect with my audience by using different platforms has totally transformed the way I reach my audience and the experience I create around my brand.
#7 - Created better systems and strategic paths
This is all because of Convertkit. You can read my entire post about Why I Switched to Convertkit back in 2015 (thanks to Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog). It has played a major role in how I have streamlined my business, created strategic paths for my readers, and grew my list by more than 40,000 people in one year.
If someone would have told me that I would grow my list by that many people in one year I NEVER would have believed them.
It happened because I was very strategic in how I used Convertkit to grow my audience. I am working on a step-by-step post to lay out the process of exactly how I increased my list (keep an eye out for it soon), but I wanted to focus on the importance of creating intentional paths for new readers.
Having systems in place for a new subscriber and sending them emails based upon their interests have helped me to create a better connection with my readers this past year.
Instead of just adding everyone who signs up for my email list to a ‘master list,’ I use Convertkit to segment them depending on their interests. This helps me to provide them with content based upon what they want to learn more about.
Sometimes email can feel really impersonal and I wanted to have a way to send emails that each of my audience members would want to read. To break through that barrier, Convertkit helped me to create several different email sequences, tags, and automations, so that when someone signs up for a particular content upgrade they are tagged by topic.
This allows me to create a type of ‘funnel’ (I really don’t like that word!) to lead my audience to what they are interested in. This could be a product, a workshop, or even an affiliate product.
Being more strategic and creating particular paths for my readers has helped me to build a more engaged community and have systems in place to keep my business running.
These 7 were just the top things that made the biggest impact. There were a lot of factors that played a role in my growth, including narrowing down my focus more, writing better content, outsourcing, and investing in products like SamCart, etc.
Overall it has been a fun and rewarding year. I can’t wait to see the changes and growth in my blog and business in 2017.
What did you do to grow your business, or what changes did you made that had the biggest impact on your business?