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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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
All photos courtesy of Bettina Bogar
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