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THM Business Update 2016 + The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned This Year

December 13, 2016

It’s been a wild ride since writing my last THM Business Update almost a year ago. So much has changed with me and my business and not surprisingly there’s been about a million lessons learned. It’s still absolutely bonkers to me that THM is more than just my passion project (which it still is!) and in almost 4 years has become the source of my livelihood.

Big things happened for The Healthy Maven in 2016! Stopping in with an update on how things are going, what I've learned and what to expect in 2017.I could talk for hours on the pros and cons of running a blog as a business, being an entrepreneur and having to explain how you make money to at least 3 people everyday, but I’ll spare you that talk. Mostly I just want to update you guys on where things are at and fill you in on the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year. Also to gain some perspective on how things have changed, read last year’s post.

THE CONTENT

Last year at this time if you’d asked me what I did, I’d tell you I was a food blogger. These days it’s much much harder to define what I do. I still blog about food, but I also blog about so many other things, so calling myself a food blogger just doesn’t cut it anymore.

When I wrote this post 6 months ago I had a lot going on. But mainly I was feeling sad and an uninspired by my content. When I started The Healthy Maven, I never had any intention of it being a food blog. I love food, but it has and I hope will never be the center of my universe. Being a deeply emotional person has meant that my blog needs to be the ultimate reflection of me. As such, I couldn’t just blog about food anymore.

It’s been a bit of a rocky road trying to expand the content of my blog to be more reflective of my life, but I love feeling that deep sense of passion I felt when I started the blog, return to my life. First and foremost, I have to care about my content. Maybe it’s bad business or maybe it’s selfish but I know that in order to have the motivation to show up here everyday, my desires have to be met first.

At the same time, I haven’t seen a huge drop in numbers, which I take as a sign that you guys aren’t absolutely hating this new direction, something I’m eternally grateful for. But let’s talk more about the numbers…

THE NUMBERS

Since starting The Healthy Maven, each year has seen at least a doubling of numbers, but this year has certainly seen the slowest growth. I saw a large jump last January (very normal for health-focused blogs) and since then have seen a slow decline/plateau. I’ve learned never to focus on the numbers so it’s definitely not something I spend more than a few seconds thinking about, or at least not on why I haven’t personally seen much growth.

Big things happened for The Healthy Maven in 2016! Stopping in with an update on how things are going, what I've learned and what to expect in 2017.

On a larger scale, I think many people are turning to social media as their resource for all things healthy living. People just aren’t spending as much time on blogs and certainly not as video has become an inherent part of the game. This is all an ever-evolving process and it’s not worthwhile to wallow in it. Instead I think it’s important to adapt to what’s relevant and trending and how you can best serve your community.

I should also add that I’m a total stickler for organic readership. While I’ve seen some people in the community (many of whom I know personally) use various bots and programs to hack their way to a larger audience, I am determined to build a tribe that actually cares. It’s a slower process as a result, but I’d rather earn your trust than earn your likes.

SOCIAL MEDIA

As readership on blogs slowly decreases. engagement on social media only becomes more powerful. You can’t just run a blog anymore. You have to also be present on most social media channels, or at least pick certain ones and be pretty damn active on them.

As you guys know, I’m not the only person behind my social media channels. I’ll get more into this later, but I will say that to any blogger who also manages all of their own social channels, you.are.amazing. It’s an insane amount of work (one that anyone on the outside would never understand) and I feel lucky and grateful to have amazing people helping me behind-the-scenes.

Engagement continues to be my main priority on social media, with the exception of Pinterest. I depend on Pinterest for high-volume, low-engagement traffic but my focus remains steady on making sure the rest of my channels are relevant, active and authentic. It’s the reason I am the sole voice behind my Instagram account and changed my strategy from posting a lot to posting when it feels meaningful.

Social media remains a really tricky balance in my life. Personally, I don’t really use it, but professionally I’m obligated to. Whenever I’m feeling run down I remind myself how fortunate I am to have a platform to share my voice and that generally puts everything into perspective. Still a challenge for me though…

Big things happened for The Healthy Maven in 2016! Stopping in with an update on how things are going, what I've learned and what to expect in 2017.

THE MONEY

If I could run The Healthy Maven and never have to deal with money, I would truly believe in miracles. But alas, in order to do what I love AND pay my bills, I had to find a way to monetize. I always say I work for my readers and get paid by my brands and that’s a way of operating I hope to maintain for as long as I can. But even if it’s working, there are many moments that I fear my integrity is being questioned because of the sponsored work I do.

From my perspective, I work really hard to bring you guys valuable content and helpful guides. And even if this is what I love to do, in order to do the work at its highest calibre, I have to dedicate myself fully to it. And this means getting paid (that is until my money tree finally sprouts). That being said, I completely get it when bloggers get called out for “selling out”. Even I look at bloggers and am like WTF?! I looooove the brands I get to work with, and while it’s something that I truly hope you guys see, I understand and respect if my getting paid to blog makes you question my authenticity. I’ve long accepted I can never change your mind on that.

But in terms of income, I do well. Better than I ever could have imagined. So if you are a blogger looking to turn this into something bigger I’m here to tell you that it IS possible. It takes work and a deep understanding your value, but don’t let anyone tell you that this can’t be your career.

THE BIGGEST LESSON I’VE LEARNED

It’s been a year of serious growth for me and The Healthy Maven. My life is not the blog anymore, but it still continues to be one of the most precious things in my life. Without The Healthy Maven, I would feel like half of myself. But it’s also been a challenge trying to keep up in the blogging world.

The only way to stay afloat (and by that I mean, run the blog as a business) is to constantly be evolving and taking on new, and unknown projects. It means learning everything from web design to podcast editing to videography in pretty much the drop of a hat. I’m lucky in that I love a good challenge so I’m pretty much up for anything.

Fortunately, there are so many people whose jobs consist solely of these specific activities. Gone are the days of having to learn something and now we enter a century where you can hire a freelancer with the click of a button. Of course, this is a privilege granted to the select few who can afford it or for those who aren’t complete control freaks…I’m not going to pretend I’m not the latter.

I long ago learned that I can’t do it all, but I’ve recently learned that this doesn’t mean I have to hire people to do things for me. I think there’s a lot of pressure in business to grow and scale and as I’ve watched The Healthy Maven experience both these things I’ve also realized that in many ways, I don’t want it to.

I love my job. I love being creative. I love knowing I’m the one who earned every piece of work that came into this space. And I love you. What I don’t want is to spend my days having to manage other people’s time and projects in order to make this space even bigger and better for you.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with wanting to scale. My way of doing it means that my business is limited by my ability to work, which is a lot, but not 24/hours a day. Growing your business in many ways can free up more time for you and make your business even more valuable to your audience. However, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that there is no one way to do business.

It’s okay to not want to be bigger. It’s okay to want to stay exactly where you are. 

So what does this mean for The Healthy Maven moving forward? For now, we’re keeping things small. The almighty Jess is no longer a part of Team Maven, but mostly because she’s a total badass who landed her dream job. I could not be more proud or impressed by that girl! Right now, I have the incomparable Cassie helping me out with some projects and of course C is behind the scenes being the awesome Instagram boyfriend that he is. And while I’m certainly open to having room for more people to join Team Maven, it is no longer my goal.

Otherwise, it’s just me. I’m the one cooking, shooting, filming, editing, recording, negotiating and doing whatever challenge this crazy business throws at me. And while I won’t deny that this is stressful, I also love every second of it. I just wanted to remind anyone out there feeling the pressure to grow that there isn’t a single way to do business and the end goal is not always the same. Keep that in mind as you set your goals for 2017!

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017

I’m going in to my 4th year of running The Healthy Maven, which for lack of a better word is fucking wild. I honestly never could have imagined that I’d be in this position, but alas it is a true testament that anything is possible if you set your heart to something.

2016 was a year of growing pains. A lot has changed in my personal life (I’ll get to that in another post) and as a result, the blog has shifted directions to be a more complete version of me. I’m still trying to balance this with my desire to serve you guys so I’m hoping that I’ll get a bit better at this in 2017. But for now, here’s what I know to expect…

-The Podcast! – I’m so excited about this project and the fabulous people who I get to share with you. I’m excited to dedicate myself more fully to this and see where it takes me!

-Adventure video – If you’ve paid attention to my YouTube channel, you know how much I love to travel and capture it on film. While the food videos are certainly fun, it’s definitely the travel videos that fuel my fire. I’m hoping to be able to do more local videos, while also showcasing adventures that don’t require you to get on a plane and travel far.

-More personal talk – I know, I know, is it even possible for me to get more personal?! Turns out I’m a total oversharer. But I love that this place gets to be a virtual diary that you get to come along on the ride for. Like I said, lots of changes so get ready to hear about all of those.

-Food in a realistic way– I know this sounds kind of weird, but for the last couple of years I felt the need to constantly be super innovative in the kitchen. But what I find most satisfying and what I hope you can see, is that sometimes the most original isn’t always the best. I make damn good soups and cookies so I plan to share the recipes I make all the time, and not just ones I create for the blog.

It’s been another one for the record books! Thank you from the deepest depths of my heart for making it all possible. I would be nowhere without you.

Big things happened for The Healthy Maven in 2016! Stopping in with an update on how things are going, what I've learned and what to expect in 2017.All photos courtesy of Bettina Bogar

I thought rather than ask you questions, I’d let you guys put me in the hot seat! What do you want to know about blogging full time? Any questions about The Healthy Maven? I’m an open book!

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  • Reply
    Karlie
    December 13, 2016 at 7:35 am

    I absolutely loved this post, for your authenticity and beautiful writing. It’s really refreshing to read about a business update that didn’t involve numbers or strategies. This year is going to be great, can’t wait to follow along xx
    Karlie recently posted…The Best Gluten Free Vegan Cookies (that taste exactly like the classic)

  • Reply
    Chelsey
    December 13, 2016 at 9:00 am

    So great to see another fantastic year for you!!! You only deserve the best! And I love those leggings in the last photo…where are they from?!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks girl! I actually don’t know haha. They’re Bettina’s, my friend who shot the images. I’ll ask her 🙂

  • Reply
    Angela
    December 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

    I’m one of the few who stays away from social media due to having very little free time. I think blog readership has gone down due to sponsored posts taking over. Since 2011 I’ve seen most blogs shift from a focus on authenticity and real life to mechanical posts about making money. It’s been alienating to say the least. However, you’ve stayed true to yourself and your values while building a business and I have a lot of respect for blogs like yours.

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Thank you so much, Angela! I see it from all angles and I totally agree that the increase in sponsored content has made things a bit tricky for bloggers. I also know the time and work blogger’s put into their content so I can appreciate the need to get paid. But there is such thing as too much. I’ll be interested to see how this all plays out!

  • Reply
    Renee
    December 13, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I love this! As a beginner blogger, I love seeing how you’re making this grow as you do, and adapt with you. It’s part of the reasons I’ve been so nervous to start blogging in the first place– what if I haven’t found my niche? So I’m glad that you’re addressing this and I can’t wait to see what you come up with in 2017! Super excited to listen to the podcast!!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Oh girlllll don’t worry about the niche! Give yourself time to figure out what you love and what sticks! In order to show up everyday you have to love it all and sometimes that means slower growth. Hang in there and keep showing up! xoxo

      • Reply
        Renee
        December 22, 2016 at 8:45 am

        Ahh thanks so much for those words!! I’ll definitely do that! Listened to episode 1 of the podcast on my flight the other day and loved it! Jumping into #2 today!!

  • Reply
    amanda -runtothefinish
    December 13, 2016 at 11:27 am

    well said my friend!!! i haven’t grown as much with numbers this year, but I have focused on creating better and deeper engagement because that’s what I LOVED when I started the blog so long ago. It’s brought me opportunities and friendships I never could have imagined, but it’s requires a constant vigilance with social to not let it overwhelm
    amanda -runtothefinish recently posted…How to Build Your Own Training Plan–5k to Marathon

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Literally took the words out of my mouth! Your focus on engagement and building valuable content for your audience does not go unnoticed! I’ve always admired your approach and can’t wait to watch it unfold!

  • Reply
    Lee
    December 13, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    You are all around one of the most amazing humans I know. So proud of this empire you’ve built and how you GSD no matter where you are in the world. Can’t wait to visit your ass in Cali!
    Lee recently posted…Why Every Human Needs a Ninja Kitchen

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Oh staaaaaaaaaap. And let’s be real, as long as I have a bed or a couch to recline on, I can get work done LOL

  • Reply
    Cassie @ Wholefully
    December 13, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    A 1000% yes to all of this! I’ve always struggled with not really having the same goals as many of my blogging peers (I have no interest in having a TV show or being in magazines or having a cookware line or even writing cookbooks ever again), and I always felt like something was “wrong” with me because I didn’t want to get bigger. Last year, I decided that was fine, and just did what I loved, hired people when I needed help, and say “no” A LOT. And I was happier, more satisfied, and more passionate than ever.

    Side note about the bots to grow readership: to each his or her own, but I wrote an Instagram post a few days back about struggling with depression, and half the comments were “This is so nice!” or “So wonderful!” from obvious bots and it just made me feel so sick to my stomach. I understand growing numbers is an important part of the game, but for those of us that use our platform to personally connect to our readers, it can, at best, seem inauthentic and at worst, be totally offensive.

    Keep on being awesome, kid. <3
    Cassie @ Wholefully recently posted…Wholefully 2016 Annual Report

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      I HEAR YA!!! It can be frustrating when you’re trying to build a real audience and get an authentic message out there to see these bots flying around everywhere growing accounts the truly don’t care about their audiences. I’ve long ago stopped ruminating on it, but it definitely still grinds my gears from time to time.

      Congrats to you on all of your success, Cass! It’s so clear to me (and so many others) how much you love what you do and the people you get to do it for. Never lose that because it makes you, you. I’ll be on the sidelines admiring 🙂

  • Reply
    Ashley N Hovey
    December 13, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    You should already know but I will say it anyways… I fucking love this. You are seriously a huge inspiration and everything you share is just so valuable. I can’t wait to hear all of your podcast episodes. Oh oh, and finally meet you in MAY 😀
    Ashley N Hovey recently posted…Goat Cheese Avocado Grapefruit Crostini

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      CANNOT WAIT! I have grand ambitions for an epic hotel afterparty. Why do I feel like I might be the first person kicked out of a food blogging conference?

  • Reply
    Sam @ Hygge Wellness
    December 13, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Loved your recap, Davida! I have always loved your authentic, organic relationship with your followers. It’s been awesome to see you grow, change, and evolve. As I always tell you, you’re truly inspiring to someone who’s just starting out, kind of struggling, and hoping to G-d to make it work ; )
    Sam @ Hygge Wellness recently posted…Cozying Up with The Little Book of Hygge [Book Review]

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      If you pursue anything from a place of real passion, anything is possible! Keep at it lovely, it’s worth it <3

  • Reply
    Ashley @ The Small Town Foodie
    December 13, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    You were one of the first bloggers I followed when I became interested in healthy living and blogging and I’ve loved watching you grow and really put your true self into everything you do. I just finished my first year and I’m a little frustrated because I’m not to the point I want to be, but reading this gives me so much motivation to keep working my butt off.

    I can’t wait to see you continue to do awesome things!
    Ashley @ The Small Town Foodie recently posted…Creamy Cashew Tomato Sauce Pasta

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      If you haven’t listened to the second podcast from That’s So Maven, definitely do! We talk a lot about not being in the place you want to be and how to find the motivation to show up even if you feel like it isn’t working. Hang in there babes and as always, thank you for the support!

  • Reply
    Georgie
    December 13, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you as always for sharing so much of your light! I love the recaps and reports. I love your authenticity and always appreciate your drive to keep the content connected to the spirit in which you started the blog with.
    It’s kinda crazy to me sometimes to see how similar where are heads are at in terms of blog/life/content/balance. Thank you <3
    Georgie recently posted…Gift Guide for the Stylish Yogis, Wellness Junkies and Go Getters

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Thank you, lovely! I couldn’t agree more. Can humans be spirit animals? I think I’ve found mine…

  • Reply
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs
    December 13, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    I LOVE your plans for 2017 and your comment that it’s okay to not want to get bigger is HUGE for me. Not every can (or wants to) blog full time and knowing that’s okay is super important 🙂
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Weekend Recap

  • Reply
    rachel @ athletic avocado
    December 13, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for four years, it seems like forever! Thank you for posting this Davida, I love that you are do honest and real, that’s why I look up to you in the blogging world. I totally understand having help with social media because it’s so time consuming, that’s why I’m glad i have my twin sister to help me for our blog! How many hours per day/week do you spend blogging?
    rachel @ athletic avocado recently posted…The Best Paleo Vegan Desserts

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 15, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Oh man probably around 60 hours a week? It’s hard to say since I’m always kind of working!

  • Reply
    Hillary
    December 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    You’re killin’ it Davida! Thanks for sharing the personal yearly recap. You should be SO proud of this space of yours. xoxo

  • Reply
    Katie @ 24 Carrot Life
    December 13, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    I’ve been loving your new direction, slow growth, and authentic voice behind the blog and social media. Keep doin’ you, girl!! xoxo

  • Reply
    Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie
    December 14, 2016 at 5:55 am

    I <3 this post so much! You have inspired me so much to stay true to myself as I work to grow my own blog. I cannot wait to see what's in store for THM!
    Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie recently posted…Pomegranate Avocado Crostini

  • Reply
    Ronnie Parker
    December 21, 2016 at 2:28 am

    Hi, Davida! Thank you for sharing your precise business updating article, I am new to online business and your direction is my basis.
    Ronnie Parker recently posted…Mobile App for 0800 Calls

  • Reply
    Olena
    December 21, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Davida. I myself ended up in the same situation as you with numbers. And that is OK, I learnt. I am working on a few things to fix this situation like SEO (which I ignored for a while) and having an editorial calendar. But the main conclusion I came to after watching this crazy blogging world to evolve like crazy in 2016, not necessarily where I would like it to go haha, is that only being myself will save me. It means I don’t want to have a team of people to manage. I want to do what I want to do because I have a family. The way I want it to do. I don’t wanna do videos or crazy Pinterest collages because they are popular. Also very big eye opener was how many blogs are out there right now OMG. It is insane!!! And many are copycats and content generators just for #s. I will say that. It is boring. I will say that too. So, staying who you are is the only way to stay afloat and enjoy what you do. So, good for you! Love your new content! I can tell you are inspired! And it works. I can’t complain about my salary for sure. Happy Holidays!
    Olena recently posted…What I Ate Weekend #7

  • Reply
    Nisha @ Honey What's Cooking
    December 28, 2016 at 2:21 am

    I love your honesty about this post. My blog focus started with food and expanded into travel. I’m kinda in the middle of both worlds, I can’t do one without the other. I can relate to you at that level. Just do what you love and keep doing what inspires you.
    Nisha @ Honey What’s Cooking recently posted…15 Best Things I Ate in 2016

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      December 28, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Exactly! I’m so over trying to niche the blog. It never made me feel great about having to fit this space into a tiny box! Keep doing you, girl!

  • Reply
    Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves
    January 1, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    This is awesome, Davida. I am so excited to see what 2017 brings for you! ♥︎ Keep on being your cool and adventurous self.
    Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves recently posted…“It’s Just Food”

  • Reply
    Kelly
    January 22, 2017 at 9:26 am

    I’m a 54 year old school superintendent who is beginning to think of retirement. Basically, I’ll be starting the 2nd phase and I am excited about new opportunities. Do you ever host workshops for newbies to the blogging world? Perhaps a workshop(s) that would go over setting up websites, taking photos, writing the stories, branding, etc…

    Kelly

  • Reply
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    April 18, 2017 at 9:43 am

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