It’s that time again… Time to take a look at what I did (and didn’t) accomplish over the past year.
This time last year, I was frustrated by the fact that I didn’t really know what I’d done or hadn’t done. One of my major goals was to make sure that didn’t happen again… and in that goal, I succeeded.
So here are just the highlights…
I ended 2012 with the plan to invest some serious time and effort into building more Squidoo lenses the entire first quarter. But then Seth Godin started making some major changes over at Squidoo Land.
The first few affected hundreds, if not thousands, of existing lens creators, along with their Christmas incomes (the largest being major changes to the layout, causing people to have to “fix” hundreds of lenses in a hurry, since holiday shopping was already happening).
The next few affected what I was trying to do, the largest one there being that they took away the ability to transfer lenses (which left about 50 of my lenses sitting in my VA accounts with no way to get them moved back to my main account).
Then, Squidoo began randomly shutting down lenses due to “poor quality or copied content”. They say that’s what they were shut down for anyway. What I know, is that my lenses that got locked were ones I had spent a lot of time building, and had the most comments and likes on them. I had used NO content but that which was inside my own head, so copied content couldn’t possibly have been an issue.
And the final straw (for me and many other Squid Angels), was when they shut them down AND took the income that had been earned by them. So they got the monies that my lenses earned for THEM, as well as the monies they’d earned for me.
That’s when I wrote off Squidoo as a viable source for me to generate income.
Dare to Get Personal Blog
The next step for me was a new blog. I was participating in Tiffany Dow’s (now Lambert) 90-Day Blogging Challenge and decided that starting a niche blog would be a great idea. Since my most successful business had been in the area of Personal Development, I started a new blog at DareToGetPersonal.com.
It didn’t last long.
I figured out very quickly that since I use personal development in all areas of my life, including business, that I was getting “stuck”. I’d start my day with an idea for a post, but then couldn’t decide whether to post it on my new blog or this one. So when it came down to it, why have two blogs (and all the technical stuff that goes along with maintaining them), when the information could be wrapped up onto one?
90-Day Blogging Challenge with Tiffany Lambert
Even though I started and ended my Dare To Get Personal blog, I continued putting my efforts into Tiffany’s 90-day blogging challenge using this blog. I began consistently posting three days per week, and I watched my traffic grow by over 1,000 unique views each and every month.
During the past two months, I’ve barely posted here, but I did learn from the challenge that in order to generate traffic and grow an audience, consistency and regular posting is definitely a key factor… and I’ll be incorporating that into my 2014 plans!
Most importantly, I got to know a lot of really great bloggers, many of which I now call friends. Since my goal is to keep this post as brief as I can, you can check out who they are over at my Pinterest board! They’re friendly, helpful, ethical, and honest… traits that are sadly lacking in many online places nowadays!
I’ve always loved big trucks and I love driving a big rig. But while it was a lot of fun during the first two years, the last four have really started taking their toll. The constant vibration, the horrible roads and constant bouncing, the constant change of hours, sleeping habits, crappy truck stop food, and more… it’s just too much for my body to take.
I’m seeing a chiropractor for bone spurs caused by the constant bouncing up and down (and we have seats that bounce with the roads). My gynecologist had put me on medicine for my bladder to keep it relaxed so that the constant motion doesn’t keep causing bladder spasms. I was getting occasional flutters with my heart. My body ached so bad that there were days I could barely walk. And my cholesterol… my triglycerides alone had reached 380.
So, at the end of January, my sweetheart and I got off the road. My health had gotten to the point that I simply had to stop driving and start getting some tests done to see what was happening. My internist ran tests, sent me to a Cardiologist to have more run, and then told me I was going to live.
My heart is fine. Our daily use of our Nutribullet has brought my triglycerides down to 140 within six months, and I’m now only driving one week each month for a friend. That means I’m only on my bladder meds for a week and a half at a time, and I can take enough food with me to keep eating healthy on the road!
My sweetheart is still driving. But he’s at a more local type job that gets him back home every morning and weekends. My goal this year is to create a consistent enough income to get him off the road altogether as well.
Once I got off the truck, I jumped in to creating products with both feet. It took me nearly five months, but I (finally) got my Niche Research Packs put together and online for sale! Much of that time was spent on the technical side of things setting up my shopping cart (Download Guard) and then my affiliate program and information (JRox JAM).
Once all that was up and running, I put together my second product, my Mindless Mapping Method. I’d been using mindmaps to keep me on track and it worked so well for me, that I (with a bit of prodding from Britt Malka), decided to put together the information about how I was using them, and make it available for other people.
The biggest lessons I learned throughout the product creation process, were:
1. I’m smart enough to work through technical setup with enough support staff around… but I absolutely hate doing it!
2. I can create my own products… but by the time I get them put together, I’m too bored with looking at the same information every day that I don’t want to set up the marketing side of things.
So for now (and at least the first quarter of 2014), product creation will NOT be on my list of things to do.
Vlogging (and then Google Hangouts)
Along with Tiffany’s Blogging Challenge, I was finishing up the Vlogging Challenge that she had started in 2012.
I wasn’t afraid of Vlogging or doing video, but with being on a truck that was constantly moving, it made it very challenging to do any sort of video consistently. I’d finally done my initial one on the truck, simply because my fellow bloggers had thrown out the challenge to get it done or else. The constant motion probably made at least one viewer sea sick, but I’d gotten it done.
Once I was home regularly, and I’d learned how fun it was to get to know people via vlogging, I knew that it was important to start using that form of “blogging” more often.
That’s when I found Zane Miller and Google Hangouts!
Google Hangouts are a bit complicated to learn initially, so I bought Jason Fladlien’s Tube Method when he and Zane initially created it. After that, Zane offered his Hangouts course and the whole hands-on learning had me hooked.
During that course, I got much more comfortable with Hangouts and started doing them regularly. The instant traffic created via YouTube was immediately noticeable so this is something I’m incorporating into my 2014 plans as well.
The last one I did was at the end of July. At that point, we “rescued” my sweetheart’s family… and between the limited space, the additional noise, and the time constraints that ensued, it’s been impossible to find a time or space to do them.
I’m not sure exactly how, but I WILL find a way to incorporate them into my business again… if not during the first quarter of 2014, then definitely during the second quarter plans.
I went on a massive “Shiny Object” shopping spree at the start of May in my quest to learn more about membership sites, sales letters, and landing page plugins that might simplify my life in terms of getting my product sales pages set up. I didn’t find any particularly “off the chart” type of product, but then I haven’t finished going thru them all yet either (did I mention I got bored?).
Out of those that I did manage to get thru, only a handful really stood out to me.
* Jason Fladlien’s Instant Expert Review – Because it allowed me to narrow down some specific niches that I would love to be involved in.
* Rob Howard’s 30-Minute Product Creation Review – Which at this point is more memorable due to the number of times I had to contact him to become an affiliate rather than what I learned from the product… although I do remember liking it, which is why I spent the time bugging him for the link.
* WP-Member Champ Plugin Review, which is another of Jason Fladlien’s products – So far, it’s been the simplest and most plug-n-play plugin I’ve found for setting up and protecting specific information on my blog. And I like the fact that I don’t have to change my entire theme just to use it!
Amazon Affiliate Sites
This is another area that has really interested me as far as income streams go. I realize that the percentage you earn isn’t the same as IM Information products and obviously no where even close to what you can earn selling your own products. But I like the fact that it’s more of a “set and forget” type of income stream.
And yes, I realize it’s not completely set and forget, but it is something that doesn’t require daily updates. I can add posts as time allows and, as long as the majority of my products are evergreen, it will build over time.
So, since I’m new at Amazon sites too, I did what I always do… I went looking for the people who know, do, and teach! One of my favorite products I bought in regards to Amazon this year was a product called Casual Holiday Blogging by Britt Malka. I got to know Britt thru Tiffany’s website and challenges and we have since become good friends. She’s one of those marketers I trust, follow, and look to for advice about my business (and many times my personal life as well).
Britt’s done very well with Amazon, and she has a very simple way of teaching what she does. I own several of her products, and am very glad that I took the time to read thru this one!
Back in 2011, I had started to set up a holiday niche site at TopChristmasGifts.info, Of course then I kept reading how .info sites aren’t the best choice and that evergreen products may be the better way to go, so it sort of got left behind. It’s still there… I’m just not doing anything with it at the moment.
When I got Britt’s guide, I decided that setting up a dot com domain (one that covers more than just Christmas) would be a better choice and something I can add to throughout the year while I’m working on other projects. Shortly after I got the domain registered and a theme added, I let my life get the better of my business building time and it got put on the back burner.
The good news is that, no matter when I choose to, I can get back to that site, follow Britt’s directions, and KNOW that I’ll have a site up that’s going to grow over time in both traffic and income.
Now, here’s what has brought me thru the final quarter of 2013, and will be leading the way for me as I start 2014!
Sometime during 2012, someone (or many someone’s) had mentioned Pinterest to me. I created an account, set up a few boards, and then went on about my business for the most part. At the time, I thought that with everything I was already doing, “wasting time” on Pinterest was not going to be a smart idea.
And then one day, as I was going thru my emails, I started noticing that I was getting traffic from Pinterest. In fact, I was getting more traffic from Pinterest than from any other sources… and it was coming from pins that I’d done just for fun one night when I’d “wasted” a couple hours searching around the site trying to figure out it’s purpose.
So I started looking for people who knew what Pinterest was and what it was all about. And not just those types who had heard it was the next best thing and created a product to make a fast buck. As I learned a few years back, it pays to take the time to find people who are ethical, honest, and helpful.
That’s when I found Kelly Lieberman. She runs the #PinChat that I now attend every Wednesday night; Cynthia Sanchez of Oh, So Pinteresting ; and Peg Fitzpatrick, who I’ve also learned other social media tips from as well. Between these three ladies, I’ve learned more about Pinterest than I can possibly keep straight in the short time I’ve been learning.
And, because they are the kind of people they are, I’ve also met a lot of really fantastic pinners that I’m learning a lot from as well… from their pinning, from their attitudes, from their ideas that they’re so willing to share, and from several of their blogs.
“Pinners” are definitely a rare breed of friendly and helpful… if you don’t know many, you should go check it out!
Images and Image Editing
Because I’ve become so active with Pinterest, I’ve spent time looking for places to get images, along with software used for fast editing. I have Photoshop, but typically I use it for more detailed editing. I was looking for something that was simple and fast that I might be able to use on the fly.
I found a couple that I really like:
* Pinstamatic has to be my favorite so far. It’s one that I can “grab and go” with my images and immediately post without having to think a whole lot.
* PicMonkey is my next favorite. I started with the free version, but finally upgraded once I realized how often I was using it. It might be something you want to play with if you’re using Pinterest or putting images on your blog(s) at all.
As for where I get the images that I use for my posts and my Pinterest:
* Deposit Photos – This is where I typically go to first, and was the first graphics site where I purchased a package. I can buy them as I want, and most of the images I use for my blog and between 80 cents and a dollar each.
* Kozzi – I finally bought a monthly subscription for because I use them regularly. They have what I’m looking for quite often.
* GRSites – This is one I found years ago that I rediscovered during my image search. It used to be a free tool, but it looks like he’s charging for it now. When I’m back to creating backgrounds and such, I’ll sign up. I’m guessing that they’ve added more functions if they’re charging for it now. But I used it for the background on my PLR blog site (that is also stagnant at the moment).
Plans for 2014
I’ll be back with another post to cover that…
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