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The Secret to Feeding Your Family with a Blog

This guest post is by Russ Henneberry of Tiny Business, Mighty Profits.

It’s every blogger’s dream: to take something you created and generate enough money to take care of your obligations.

But time is running out. The time bomb is ticking. Generate sales, or die.

With each second that ticks by, the pressure mounts. And it becomes tough to know where to spend your time as a blogger.

Should you study methods for getting more comments? Should you become an SEO ninja and analyze your traffic data on Google Analytics? Should you master the art of getting retweets or Facebook “likes?”

The answer? Yes and no.

Allow me to explain with a quick story about how I defused my own time bomb.

The time bomb starts ticking

image is author's own

I wasn’t ready for her, but she came anyway. She weighed 6 lbs 10ozs, and she was beautiful. She looked like a peanut and the name stuck.

Five weeks prior to her birth, I left my job with a pink slip and a prayer, laid off with little or no sympathy from my employer. Those five weeks went by in a blur:

  • Contracts were created.
  • Business cards were printed.
  • A stapler and sticky notes were purchased.

And … I launched my blog.

The day Peanut came home from the hospital, we settled her into her crib. I tore open a pack of note cards. With a thick, black Sharpie, I wrote what would become my new mantra and pinned it to my office wall. It said:

“FEED THE PEANUT”

Then, I went to work defusing the time bomb.

I cut the red wire

For you, Feeding the Peanut may mean paying medical bills or mounting credit card debt. Or perhaps recovering from a bad stock or real estate investment. Maybe you need to supplement your retirement to lead the lifestyle you want.

Feed Your Family With A BlogFor me, Feeding the Peanut is taking care of those that I love, including my newborn daughter. And I didn’t have much time, so I searched for shortcuts.

I worked 12-hour days while my wife took care of the kids. I toiled and toiled for more comments, more visits, and more social media connections. I spent my days (and nights):

  • marketing my products and services to the masses using social media and email blasts
  • writing blog post after blog post that I optimized for Google but not my readers
  • checking my Google Analytics twice a day
  • using tricks to get thousands of Twitter followers
  • automating my Twitter and Facebook streams
  • submitting articles full of keywords and gibberish to thousands of article directories
  • using tools to bookmark articles on dozens of sites.

Wrong answer. The time bomb clock sped up. I was seeing no results.

Meanwhile, the Peanut was going through a pack of diapers and two cans of formula a week! Feeding the Peanut was becoming increasingly expensive. I wasn’t sleeping, and not just because we had a newborn. With each passing night, I felt like less and less oxygen was in my bedroom.

One day, however, I stopped and did a 180-degree turn because of something my four-year-old son said to me.

I cut the green wire

Ever had one of those head-smacking moments when someone simplifies something you have complicated?

Late one night my son came down to kiss me goodnight and he asked me what I was doing.
“I’m working on getting more people to read what Daddy is writing.” I said.
“Why do you want to do that?” he asked.
I nearly spit coffee on my keyboard.

Why did I want more traffic? Traffic isn’t sales. Google rankings, Facebook Likes, and Twitter retweets aren’t sales either.

Sales are sales.

So, I tried cutting the green wire. I began spending my days (and nights):

  • selling my products and services one person at a time, meeting one on one
  • going to in-person networking events
  • meeting one on one with people that would be a good fit for my services
  • listening
  • shaking hands
  • creating products and services that were laser-focused on the individuals I was meeting on and off-line
  • handing out business cards
  • having real conversations with people via social media
  • posting answers to people’s questions on my blog
  • burning educational video content to DVD and personally delivering it to people
  • ignoring my Google Analytics.

Getting closer. The bomb clock slowed down, but it didn’t stop. I was landing sales and my savings account was not hemorrhaging like it was when I was using Red Wire tactics. Meanwhile, the Peanut started walking. Day care costs doubled as my wife went back to her teaching job and both my son and daughter needed care.

I was extremely busy, but I could see that I wasn’t going to make it. I was at my breaking point. I couldn’t possibly work any harder, yet I was merely delaying the inevitable. Until something happened.

I crossed the red wire with the green wire

Using only Green Wire tactics, I would die a slow death. Using only Red Wire tactics, my demise would be swift. So, I took the most effective Red Wire tactics and combined them with the best Green Wire tactics.

I spend my time today:

  • selling high-dollar products and services in a personal one-on-one environment and low-dollar products via email and social media blasts
  • writing high-quality, search engine optimized content
  • working hard to increase my Twitter and Facebook connections by connecting with influential people and providing them value
  • using data in my Google Analytics to make better decisions about my marketing, once per week
  • attending off-line networking events that are consistent with my business objectives
  • scheduling some of my Twitter and Facebook stream but always participating in conversations with others as well.

This combination of Red Wire and Green Wire tactics stopped the clock.

Today, I sleep through the night and work hard during the day. It’s not easy but I am able to Feed the Peanut better than I ever was working for someone else.

You can defuse your time bomb!

The time bomb is a morbid but accurate metaphor. The truth is that it is hard. The pressure can feel like it will crush you at times. After all, this is real life, not a game.

But don’t panic. You can do this! Remember that blogging is just like any other business. It’s about making sales. It’s about making enough money to stop the time bomb.

Marketing your products and services through your blog is about both volume (Red Wire tactics) and quality of interaction (Green Wire tactics). But either one alone is likely to explode in your face.

In hindsight, I could have avoided a lot of pain by beginning with Green Wire tactics and adding Red Wire tactics as my blog grew. Lesson learned: blog comments, traffic, retweets and Facebook Likes will feed your ego, but they won’t Feed the Peanut.

So get out there and make sales. Your Peanut is counting on you.

Russ Henneberry is the founder of the #1 resource for tiny business owners in the galaxy, Tiny Business, Mighty Profits. Find out how Russ learned to Feed the Peanut with his blog by watching these 10 free Internet marketing videos.

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Comments

  1. Megan says:

    When it comes down to it, you will never feed your family by doing something you don’t enjoy doing. If running a blogging machine makes you unhappy you will never make it work. Thankfully my blog runs alongside by business as a freelance writer. they compliment each other and so far, the writing is paying for the blogging. But the time will come when they will be equal partners.

    That’s the plan anyway!

    • Graham Lutz says:

      I think the majority of people in the world feed their family doing something they hate, and a ton of people making no money doing something they love.

      If you can find a way to make money doing the thing you love,you are in the minority – not to say you shouldn’t do that, because you can and you should!

  2. Blippitt says:

    I am learning this hard lesson right now. We have tons of traffic…and I mean tons…but traffic isn’t sales. Like you said, sales = sales. So I’m refocusing a bit on the more important things so I can feed my own peanuts. :)

    • Christopher says:

      I’m in a similar position — I work for a company that has a lot of traffic, and actually does well with sales too, but they aren’t engaging with people one-on-one as Darren mentioned above. Without that one-on-one engagement, we’re too dependent on search engine traffic … which isn’t necessarily a bad thing so much as a scary thing.

  3. Lexi Rodrigo says:

    I cannot imagine going into Internet marketing with this much pressure! Kudos to you for making it all work, and for sharing your experience with us.

    What struck me most was your emphasis on interacting “one-on-one” with prospects and clients/customers. The Internet allows us to reach big numbers of people with very little effort. Yet your success seems to lie in keeping things personal.

    I find it very intriguing and I look forward to learning more from you.

    Lexi

  4. Good points about combining the online and offline tactics to build your revenue stream.

    Do you also spend time researching new streams like Google + ? Or wait till there is a large enough user base before jumping in?

    • For something like Google +, I will join and mess around with it because that is my nature. However, I won’t commit a new tactic to my regular marketing mix until I see that there is a real upside to it.

  5. I’m confused now. I thought that the object of a blog (not a sales site) was to write high quality material that people would want to read. Then through affiliate marketing etc. you turned a profit. Am I completely off base? Should I cut back on my blog and proceed to writing an e-book? That way I have something tangible to sell? I have managed to generate a small amount of traffic in the last month, but have only made .01 cents thus far from my blog. Any insight would be appreciated, thanks!

    • @Believer with a Bible — You are not off-base. My formula for making money and yours will be different. I don’t make much money from affiliate sales. I do sell hosting and a few other things but overall it makes up a small portion of my income. I am a big believer in GoToMeeting and I am considering advertising their product through affiliate sales on my blog as well.

      I sell website designs on WordPress and the training/consulting to generate sales from those websites.

      eBooks and other information products are also a great way to make sales from your blog.

      You understand that first you must build an audience and that is a key understanding. You must become a media source. A publisher. Once you have an audience (and that audience doesn’t have to be huge) you can begin making offers.

      • That’s a relief, I thought that I had completely gone astray.. Thanks for the prompt reply, I find your insight, and your willingness to share your experience to be encouraging. Keep up the great work!

      • What I am struggling with is how to build an audience. Of course, I’ve just started my blog recently, and I know that it will come with time, but I really don’t know whether to spend my time on social networking of creating content. I’ve seen so many different people saying different things. For now, I’ve decided to take a “content is king” approach. I guess we’ll see whether that’s the right choice.

  6. Wonderful tactic to blogging success by crossing green wire and red wire strategies. The Peanut had been and still is your super motivator. When the time bomb is ticking the same motivator seems like a pressure (I mean your Peanut here), but that is a bad thing. Great thing that you proved that you can feed your Peanut :)

    Jane.

  7. Kevin Cullis says:

    Russ, you NAILED IT!!

    First, you took at look at what you were doing and PIVOTED to change (cut the green wire) what you were doing.

    Second, you PIVOTED AGAIN by changing (crossing the red and green wires) what you’re doing. THAT is the game of business. It’s not an either/or answer, but a BOTH answer.

    Thirdly, you responded to no RESULTS with changing something, you took at look at how you were doing it and changed. Persistence is about achieving your results, not about keeping doing the same thing over and over again expecting to get different results.

    I learned the same thing writing my book, I changed it three times based on feedback and my audience.

    Good going.

    Kevin

  8. Dixie says:

    It’s like a recipe isn’t it? The right balance of sugar and flour, of enticement and glue. “Marketing your products and services through your blog ” – I think a lot of us lose sight of that exact equation, if you’re blogging to “feed the peanut” then your blog is a medium for marketing and all the elements of marketing apply – message, information, entertainment, image, stickiness, memorability, etc…

    Great job making an ever-so-true point.

  9. Thanks Kevin! And congratulations on your book!

  10. What an awesome story, Russ!

    Your continual behavior/action adjustment and happy outcome gives you a template that you can, and are, advising others to use to defuse their ticking time bombs.

    You didn’t give up! You made the correct decision to not just “be busy,” but to spend major time on maximum opportunities.

    I have benefitted greatly from your knowledge and appreciate your candor and lessons.

    YOU are the BOMB, Sir!

  11. Sue Harrison says:

    Russ, this is just awesome! Thanks so much for bringing it all together. I am going to print this one out and stick it to the wall by my desk so I can read it every day!

  12. I know people learn the hard way, which makes things hard, but your story showed there’s light at the end of the tunnel as you see what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and optimizing from there. My peanut is living haha. After being laid off, it’s been hard paying the bills, keeping my account from overdrafting, the works. I know with some hard work, and like you said, 12 hour days, things will eventually get better.

  13. Will Hanke says:

    Love, love, love this post. I see my same evolution in it. I started out hitting the affiliate side and making crappy Adsense sites. Once I was kicked out of that (duh!) I tried building my social side to convince everyone to buy from me. Only once I crossed the wires did I realize the zen of providing great content on a consistent basis (with a little sales thrown in, of course!) and building a reputable business network. Great job, Russ!

  14. Salman says:

    Truly awesome post Russ … Filled with motivation !! I like the simile employed (time bomb) :)

  15. Interesting read. Definitely a motivation for beginners like us! Somehow I too am working towards ‘raking in the moolah’ and putting in all possible efforts and reading this further motivates me! All the best to you.

    ‘Crossing the red wire with the green one’ is what I liked most Russ.

  16. Graham Lutz says:

    The problem with kids is that they eat…every day…multiple times! Don’t they know money doesn’t grow on trees?

  17. You have nicely mixed emotions with blogging techniques, bringing in your “peanut” has made me read the entire blog. Thanks for sharing, and love to your “peanut”.

  18. Kevin says:

    What a superbly written article! I’m recharged with inspiration!

    I was a freelance web designer and Internet marketing consultant, I still am on the weekends because of my new day job but I really want to get back into it full time. Your words not only gave me fresh inspiration for a redo, but also gave me some ideas on how to better my consultation tactics.

    Thank you Russ for a wonderfully written article!

    Kevin

  19. Thanks Praveen, I will send my love to the Peanut. She is actually on vacation visiting her grandparents. I miss her!

  20. Tom Ewer says:

    I love this article – not only is it inspiring, it hammers home one of my favourite points – the best experience is built upon short term failure. Make mistakes, learn from them, then reap the rewards.

  21. such an inspiring and cute story. loved it:D

  22. STL Beds says:

    Great story Russ, my peanut is boating, two pooches, and a wife who I love dearly. I am not a writer and never planned on being one however blogging about my services and products has been a great way to connect to customers. Instead of yelling sale, sale, sale and waiting for them to flock to my door or website, I wait. I write about the things they want to know. It’s fun to help them answer their questions and in the end it seems they trust me more because I share my industry knowledge at no cost, so much so that some buy from me while others refer people to me.
    Thnx again Doug Belleville

  23. jeff h says:

    That is the perfect systematic approach to blogging. I’m on it!

  24. Great post Russ, I like your writing style and sense of humour, enjoyable read :)

    Can relate to your mantra, really brings it all home and into focus that is for sure!

  25. Jeremy says:

    This is great. I am currently trying to “feed my peanuts” with a blogging supplemental income. I’ve picked topics that are interesting to me and am having a good time. I haven’t been slick enough to garner much search engine traffic, and really don’t know which wires I am cutting. My goal is just to get a little better each day.

    I wish you continued success. I’ll take with me the point of focusing on the little things and doing them well.

  26. @Jeremy — Keep it up Jeremy. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint!

  27. I really enjoyed to read your story as you told everything so frankly. I began with a website and little later added a blog. From the beginning I had more visitors on the website as on the blog. And with the website I got a PR 1 after a few months. With another website I have a PR of 3 after 1 1/2 years. I hardly make any sales from my blogs, as this is where people go to read, but not to buy. I make most of my sales from the website. I rarely add a new site, but write almost one blog post a day.
    I did not only work on my business, I also worked on myself with subliminals and subliminal videos. I read that your income level is a belief and a habit. Both are part of your subconscious programming. If you want to make more money, you have to change your subconscious programming. From my experience, it takes a few weeks, until you start to feel different and you get calmer and at the same time your income level starts to “climb up”.

  28. Hi Russ,

    Sensational in depth analysis here.

    Engage. Engage. Engage. Join conversations. Start conversations. Keep conversations going. Have real discussions. Don’t pitch. Become a problem solver by asking and answering questions. Develop the reputation of being a problem solver, people buy what you have to offer. Help people for free, and you eventually get paid for your problem solving skills.

    Be genuine. People sense if you’re genuine or not, without reading your content, or seeing you on video. People who genuinely want to help others, and do so by asking questions and sharing answers, develop the reputation of being able to help others. So people tend to buy from them, a trusted source.

    The worst way to make money online is to try to make money. The best way to make money online is to help people…and helping people again and again, without any attachment to an outcome.

    Network with Big Dawgs. Share your insight in the comments section. Readers’ perception of you changes, as you share your insight freely on a well read blog. I know, because it’s happened to me here, leaving comments on problogger.

    The comments section has been really good to me, because I never write a comment trying to generate traffic, or get backlinks, or send people to my blog to make sales, or join my team. No, I intend to help people through my comments, by sharing my experiences. By sharing what’s worked for me, what hasn’t.

    Adopt a servant’s mindset – at all times – and you can make money with any endeavor.

    Excellent insight Russ. Thanks for sharing your experience with a super creative analogy.

    Ryan

  29. Oracle says:

    Thanks for all your efforts to help other bloggers get up on their feet. i have given you a link in my little blog.

  30. Vijay says:

    Russ,

    The post is awesome. I got connected immediately with your story because it is my story. The same way I struggle to feed my peanut. The bomb analogy is perfectly fitting. I can hear the clock is ticking. I went the same ( not exactly the same, but yes the same )red wire and green wire road trips and now working on the perfect or close to perfect green-red mix.

    You have given me hope. You have given me confident that I can feed my peanut through my blog. Tons of thanks for that.

    I am going to get the idle properties up and working. Find the better working green and red mix for me.

  31. Awesome guest blog post, Russ. Your writing is candid, enlightening, AND entertaining – great style. This makes me think about the saying: “Fail early”. In this context, I’m going to take it to mean that if you had eeked out a living with your first approach you might still just be eeking. After a good solid test, if we’re still spinning our wheels, the sooner we realize it and tweak our approach the better. Great tips. Your peanut is one lucky gal. The love shines through.

  32. It’s taken me a year now, so I guess that means I’m an oldie when it comes to understanding this blogging thingy stuff. My suspicion is you need to create a product whether it be an eBook or software. It’s a tough road to walk in making money on the internet. Those who slog the hardest will eventually make an income. I remember Dick Smith (Australia) saying, if you want to be an millionaire you have to work long hours (90 hours a week). I think the answer was in Star Wars ” follow the force Luke, trust your instincts”. It’s a journey you have to travel. Smell the air. Listen to what people are saying and trust your intuitive instincts and passion to find the way that suits you. All this “Write a blog and make six figures” is marketing hype. It takes hard work and admin management to make a buck to survive. All I can say is, I’m still trying and so are you. Hang in there and trust your instincts. Don’t be confused by the marketers because they are selling to your needs and not giving you true direction.

  33. Awesome guest blog post, Russ. Your writing is candid, enlightening AND entertaining – great style. This reminds me of the saying “Fail Early”. If you had been able to eek out a living with your first approach, you might still be eeking. After a good solid test, if we are still spinning our wheels the sooner we realize that and begin tweaking the better. Great tips!

    Your peanut is one lucky gal. The love shines through.

  34. darkduck says:

    Good post! Like it! Nice metaphors. And clear explanation.

  35. jbledsoejr says:

    Great post! One clear lesson is you continued to learn from the mistakes you made, making the adjustments you thought best to improve and keep going. Thanks for sharing!

  36. Thanks! And thanks for the tweet!

  37. Glynis Jolly says:

    I have one question for you, Russ — Who do you consider influencial enough to rub shoulders with and which ones don’t have enough clout for you?

  38. @Glynis — I network with anyone and everyone both on and off-line but I do make it a point to create relationships with thought leaders and other influential people.

  39. I really like this article. It makes it clear what are needed to be successful, thanks for the post.

  40. Great article Russ. You raised some great points. A friend of mine is getting less than 200 unique visits per day but is earning thousands per month because all traffic is targeted .It’s important not to get too carried away by traffic figures though if traffic is increasing and sales are not, it certainly highlights that you need to look at your site again and modify your sales approach.

  41. Debe Maxwell says:

    Russ,

    This is one of the best posts I’ve seen in months! Very well written but, also hits the core of the concerns of many who have gone the route of only looking for likes, hits and comments. Engagement, whether it be online or belly button-to-belly button is CRUCIAL in any sales business. Focusing on only one marketing tactic such as social media is business ownership suicide.

    The time bomb is always ticking with a 100% commission business but, when we participate in both avenues of marketing ourselves and our businesses (SM and IRL), that ticking becomes a lot more copicetic!

    Debe

  42. Really inspiring story and I think it is the story of all the true bloggers(The bloggers who blogs by heart and follow principles of blogging) because blogging looks very simple and easy task but it is very hard to play with own thoughts and turm them into a article to share knowledge with your readers.

  43. This is just what I needed. As I’m preparing to launch my own blog and working on building my Twitter following. I’m insane with checking my Klout scores everyday and am trying to get as many retweets and followers as possible. This puts my thinking in check. Focus on what’s important and connecting with those people who A) want to connect with you and B) will ultimately be the people who will purchase your services one day.

    Good stuff, Russ! :)

  44. Stephanie says:

    This was great to read especially when I’ve been worried about the bomb all day! This helps me consider what is effective rather than do EVERYTHING!

  45. Murtaza says:

    Russ!…Truly salute to your post!

    Your Text Voice, Your Heart Feelings, Your True Image and Live Situation Of Life….

    Highly Inspiring!

    Wish to See You With More Success…

  46. Oh, those questions kids ask – so honest, so poignant! “Why do you want to get moe people to read what Daddy is writing?” Wow. Thanks for your story. Our loved ones will get the best of us and the best out of us!

  47. Ruan says:

    What an awesome blog about SEO and actualy client satisfaction (talking more to them,interacting). Thank you for the interesting read,all of the best for you your family and peanut ^^