Want to get blogging tips from bloggers with a proven track record? Blogging Success Stories is an interview series to introduce you to other successful bloggers, motivate you to keep blogging and send you away with actionabwle blogging tips.
To that end I’ve been grilling business blogger Natalie Sisson, pictured above and aka The Suitcase Entrepreneur.
Natalie's been blogging for three years now while travelling the world, funding her nomadic lifestyle from her blog. Natalie writes mainly about business and the business of being a digital and nomadic entrepreneur but has recently set up the $100 Change initiative to help other people kick start their new businesses.
Here’s more about Natalie’s blogging success story along with some handy blogging tips.
Hi Natalie, thank you for joining us on Successful Blogging. Please introduce yourself for those who don't know you yet.
I'm on a mission to ensure others create freedom in business and adventure in life and I write about how best to use online tools, social media and outsourcing to build a thriving online business you can take anywhere. You can find me at The Suitcase Entrepreneur as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Let's get personal! Where do you live? Do you have a family? What do you do for work and play?
I live in my suitcase, so wherever that is usually, is where I’m based, whether it’s for 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months (more rare). At the time of writing I’m living in Amsterdam. I am single and love my freedom and independence, not having dependents or a partner definitely makes it easy to travel all the time.
My business is completely virtual and involves showing others how to create a business they love from anywhere, using online tools, outsourcing and social media. It’s what I love to do so I have fun while working – and traveling is part of that fun and adventure.
When I want even more fun I go to Ultimate Frisbee tournaments around the world (my favourite sport) and play hard and party hard too.
You really are blogging your way round the world. So what's your blog about? Who reads it? How long have you been blogging?
The Suitcase Entrepreneur is a blog for digital nomads, small business owners wanting to take their business mobile and aspiring entrepreneurs who want to get paid to do what they love.
The focus is on providing massive value through articles that teach you how to start and run a portable business. There’s a big focus on what it takes to run a location independent business, as well as online marketing strategies, social media, using tools and technology and outsourcing your work.
It’s also a place of inspiration and motivation including a bi-monthly podcast where I interview successful entrepreneurs on how they built their business and inside tips on marketing, branding, productivity and more. Plus a new weekly video series shot on location that combines travel tips with business how to.
I also offer a ton of free resources on my site. In fact 90% of what I do is free.
What do you offer your readers that no one else does?
I like to think of myself as living and breathing the values of freedom. So I walk the talk and show people exactly how I’m building my business at the same time as helping them build theirs.
I’m known for my passion and genuine love for helping people be their best self and their ideal lifestyle business. I guess I’m keeping it real!
How much time did you spend setting up your blog?
Oh too much, I’m sure. I started on WordPress and probably took a week to to buy a domain name, transfer a WordPress blog to a hosted domain and pick a free template to start with. I think those early months were so important to understand and learn what it takes to write great blog posts, what great design is, and what plugins and apps will make your life easier.
That’s also an ongoing process and something I really enjoy, but for people who aren’t prepared to learn about how the tools and technologies work, I think you’re cutting yourself short. I recommend people outsource a lot of this work once they’re set up and running, but in the beginning stages it helps to know what’s involved.
Did you design and set up your blog yourself? What work did you outsource?
The set up and hosting and getting started was all me, and I asked a friend if she’d design my initial logo and make the free theme look a bit better and paid her for this. I ran with this for the first 7 months or so when I really wasn’t focused on building my blog, I was just learning about how it all worked, writing regularly and interviewing people for the blog that would inspire others.
Then I went on to hire a website designer to upgrade my blog as its grown in popularity.
I hired a website designer back in December 2010 when I rebranded from WomanzWorld to Suitcase Entrepreneur. I bought a package through them and spent around $500 on a new look, a rejig of my logo and freebie eBook cover design and optin. They did a great job making my site look much better. That worked for around 1.5 years (and lots of tweaking and improving and testing over that time).
Just on three months ago I hired another firm and invested a lot more to have a completely customized site that I absolutely love and has skyrocketed my blog’s traffic, conversion and leads as a result. I wrote all about why I did the redesign in The Suitcase Entrepreneur has a new home, which readers really appreciated. I think it’s important to bring them along on your journey so they buy in to what you’re doing and feel a part of it.
Where do most of your readers come from? Google search, other sites
This has changed a lot over the years. Initially it was from my friends spreading the word and social media links. Then Google started to take over as my SEO work was paying off. Now search engines account for 60% of my site visitors. In addition I get a lot of direct hits from guest posts I write regularly, and websites I am a contributor to like Forbes and Social Media Today. Plus when I post a comment on popular blogs I notice a decent amount of new visits.
Twitter is my biggest traffic referrer – and I love it so! Then Facebook and now I have my new Suitcase Entrepreneur Video show I imagine YouTube will play a big part.
Do you have a big email list too?
It’s certainly growing with around 250 new sign ups a month since the website redesign and my increased guest posting strategy. Plus I’ve got 3 places they can opt in on my site and my incentive to opt-in is improved too. I am always looking at ways to offer more value to my readers. I constantly work on the design of my newsletter and content that goes out weekly.
I also make the sign up process valuable by sharing my manifesto with them too as part of that and asking for a tweet in return which helps draw in more visitors. I also have separate lists for webinars I run and products I sell so all up around 7,500 across all lists and growing!
What are the three most popular posts ever on your blog?
These are based on popularity and comments although unfortunately in the recent redesign a lot of comments are no longer visible as I swapped commenting platforms from WordPress to Disqus for better integration and social sharing.
- Why Nice Should Be Banished From the English Language
- The Suitcase Entrepreneurs Top Tips For Savvy Business Travel
- 24 Incredible Lesson Learned From Being In Business
Blogging Successes so far
What kind of good things have come to you from blogging? Please tell us your blogging success story.
Where do I start? I credit the last two years of my life (which have been two of the best) to blogging. The connections you make as a result of wanting to help people build their ideal lifestyle continues to blow my mind. I’ve met so many amazing people from authors, speakers and change makers, to people just trying to start something.
I’ve been put up in people’s home through a conversation on Twitter and been given travel perks and biz perks like conference tickets or upgrades through companies who find me. I was able to bike across Africa and raise $12,500 for Women Win thanks to the community I’ve built through my blog and social media.
Do you make a full time living from blogging?
I know very few people who do. Blogging allowed me to create a full time living through my business and I’d say it contributes to 60% of the revenue I make through my digital products that I sell on my website and have been launched as a result of my blog, plus commissions I make through recommending products and programs I love and trust as an affiliate. The rest comes from my Business Design Coaching and client work.
How exactly do you earn money from your blog? Affiliate sales, products, services, advertising or other?
I have digital products and programs for sale in my Biz Shop ranging from $10 through to $197. I have a joint venture program I run with Natalie MacNeil once a year that contributes a huge percentage to my revenue line as it’s a higher price ticket item at $997 and up (and it’s a brilliant program!). Some of those products like my eBooks are available ongoing, others are specifically during a launch period when the program is running. I’d say this 30%
I am an affiliate for products and services I personally use – whether it’s tools, applications, educational programs or travel related products. I promote these on my blog on various pages dedicated to business and travel, sometimes in blog posts and in webinars I run specifically with the people who have produced them so people can make up their own mind on whether it’s a right fit for them and also get introduced to the person behind the offering. This is around 30% of revenue too.
My Business Design Coaching and the WE Mastermind program are the 40% of my revenue.
What's the best way to get new readers to a blog?
That’s a loaded question… let me count the ways. If you bring it back to basics – write epic shit and provide massive value. Then go out and tell people about it on other peoples’ blogs. I see too many people (including myself for the first year) who expect people to miraculously just find their brilliant posts on their blog. You have to go to where your audience is and lure them back your unique value – hint guest posting is key.
What are your recommendations for other bloggers who want to monetise their blogs?
Stand firm on your values. It’s easy to slip into displaying adverts or promoting products that you don’t really like or don’t fit with your blog in order to gain short term profits. Focus on your community and treat them well, in turn they will reward you. If you want to monetize there really are 3 ways in my mind:
- Sell your own services;
- Sell your own products;
- Sell other peoples’ products (as an affiliate or advertising on your site).
Tell us your best blogging tip for new bloggers
Treat it as a business from the beginning if you’re serious about making your blog into something special. If you treat it as a hobby it will stay that way. If you actively look to grow it with a content and marketing strategy, joint ventures and product launch plan you will really see how blogging can change your life!
Oh and don’t give up. It takes guts, persistence and determination and I can definitely say it’s worth it.
Have you got any writing tips?
Write from the heart, don’t use big fancy words, write as if you’re talking to a friend. Oh and be transparent and vulnerable – this works wonders if you want people to believe in you.
How about productivity tips?
This is one of my favourite topics. I’d suggest you read my post 24 Ways To Be Uncommonly Productive Today And Your Daily Productivity Checklist and my guest post 10 Best Time Saving Apps and Plugins To Optimize Your Blog.
Can you share one final blogging tip?
Get really clear on the purpose of your blog and why you’re doing this. It’s one heck of a journey to embark on and one you will never regret but if you can stay true to your blog’s vision from the beginning you’ll have a much more worthwhile journey.
Where can people find out more about you? Is there anything else you'd like to share?
They can visit my blog and connect with me on all my fave places like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus.
If you’re serious about starting something special – a blog, a business or any other initiative or project I’d love for you to join the $100 Change Program. It’s a movement designed to change hundreds of peoples’ lives quite honestly and 100 days of inspiration and amazing advice from 100 change makers. Oh and there’s 10 scholarships to be won too. It’s my best work yet and totally non-profit.
It sounds brilliant Natalie, I know I've learnt a lot from you so thank you for sharing your tips with the Successful Blogging team. It's great to have you here.
Natalie Sisson is a Suitcase Entrepreneur who is on a mission to ensure others create freedom in business and adventure in life. She blogs about how best to use online tools, social media and outsourcing to build a thriving online business you can take anywhere. Over at the Suitcase Entrepreneur she offers free resources and tools, digital products and programs and business design coaching to ensure you create your ideal lifestyle. She’s also founded the $100 Change Initiative to empower hundreds of other entrepreneurs to start a business or project they love for $100.
What are your big take aways from Natalie’s blogging story and tips? Or maybe you have another question forNatalie?