It’s that time of year again! Welcome to the 4th annual THM Business Update – 2017 edition! If you’re unfamiliar with these, I recommend you check out some of the past year’s posts: 2014 | 2015 | 2016
In a nutshell, I try to take some time at the end of each year to look back on the business side of The Healthy Maven and see how things have grown and evolved over the last year. It’s pretty fun for me to be able to look back and see how much things can change in a year, but I’ve also been told these posts are helpful and inspiring to you. If you’re a blogger aspiring to do this full-time, I hope this post can be a reminder that with hard work, commitment and deep passion it is possible to turn this into a career. And for my non-bloggers out there, I hope this can shed some light on what the blog is like from the business perspective and increase some transparency for you.
Each year these posts get increasingly lengthy because THM is no longer just a blog. It’s a blog, a podcast, a youtube channel, a platform. It’s a space that encourages you to be your authentic self and listen to your body – even if every “expert” out there is telling you differently. But no matter which medium we are using to convey this message, this reminder remains consistent.
So I will do my best to summarize everything but know that this is really only a snapshot into what it’s like on a daily basis. But first I thought I’d tackle what has changed over the past year.
1. THM got a makeover! – I think this is a pretty obvious one. In May of 2017, I began a process of redoing THM. Thanks to the incredible Saevil Row and Bettina Bogar, I could not be more thrilled with the results. You can read more about it here.
2. We moved – While this was certainly a personal growth inducing experience, it definitely affected the way I operate my business. Getting my business set-up in the US, opening up business accounts, trademarking in the US have all been a lengthy process and a steep learning curve. Let me know if you guys want to hear more about this.
3. I finally set a work schedule – I talked about this in my Work-Life Balance post, but I put myself on a strict work schedule and have never looked back. I work a normal 9-5 (or 6-3 at the moment) schedule and I don’t work on weekends. This has given me more time off to reset and recharge and be more present and focused when I am working.
4. I got organized – I’m notoriously the most disorganized person (Mama Maven makes that abundantly clear every time she visits!). The problem is that you cannot be disorganized and run a business successfully. You just can’t. So I made it a priority in 2017 to really get my ducks in a row when it comes to keeping THM on track. I’ve always had a content calendar, but I got a lot more diligent about sticking to it. I also invested in tools that keep me organized and the ROI on them has been 10-fold!
Hard drives – My external computer hard drive and my SanDisk iXpand™ Base phone hard drive are legit my best friends. With so much content being produced on THM, my poor computer and phone cannot always keep up with it. My phone is also increasingly becoming a more valuable tool for my business and the possibility of losing everything on it is terrifying. I’ve become religious about backing it up in case anything happens to it. The nice thing about the SanDisk iXpand™ Base is that it backs-up automatically while you’re charging. So when I plug my phone in at night to charge, it’s also backing up my photos and contacts. If you have an iPhone 5 through 7+ or an iPad I highly highly recommend it. It has made my life and business operations infinitely easier and less stress-inducing without having to deal with a monthly fee charge.
Content Calendar – I’ve had CoSchedule for a couple of years, but only in the last year became pretty religious about it. I’ve always had a great memory but I’m starting to see what people meant when they said “just wait till you get older”. I now know that if it isn’t on the calendar, it doesn’t exist. Everything from blog posts, to videos to podcast episodes are scheduled on there. I also use Calendly to schedule my podcast interviews that syncs directly with my Google Calendar.
Last year I talked about how my content was shifting away from food and more into lifestyle. I still very much post recipes, but just not as many as I used to. I love food, but I also love a lot of other things. Now I post about what inspires me, what I’m loving and what I think might be helpful to you. For the first time since I started the blog, I totally feel in a groove with my content. It just feels so reflective of me and my life and that’s what gives me the fire to show up here everyday. I also now have several different platforms to share my content and it’s been interesting (to say the least) figuring out which platform to use for what. Here’s where I’m at now:
The podcast has really become I place where I get to chat with “mavens” and shakers in the health and wellness community that have similar and different perspectives on health from me. We don’t always agree, but as a host, my goal is to provide a safe space for the guest to express their views. I’ve learned SO much from the show and I love that I get to highlight other people’s journeys when mine is available in so many other places.
My YouTube Channel
Speaking of my journey, I’ve found that sharing mine as it unfolds has been the perfect match for video. Whether it’s a travel diary, what I eat in a day vlog, or a week in the life, my YouTube channel feels like a place where I can really just be me. The ultimate compliment I get from you guys is when you tell me how real my videos feel. Sure, I love me an aspirational travel diary, but mostly I just love capturing those daily moments that are unscripted and not covered in a vsco filter. I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying watching them as much as I love making them!
This is really the space where I take everything I’m learning from the podcast and in my own personal journey and synthesize it for you into valuable content. Whether it be teaching you how to make a recipe or the difference between an emotional support animal and service animal, the blog has to have some kind of takeaway for you. Like this post, for example – it is a combination of my experiences and what I’ve learned from other people and *hopefully* is full of valuable insight for your own blogging journey or understanding of the blogging industry.
Ahhhhh social media! I feel like I could dedicate a whole post to the business side of social media. I think my roots as a blogger have made my perspective on social media different from the next wave of “influencers” (for lack of a better term). To me, social media is a tool to bring people back to the blog, the podcast or YouTube. It is not a business in and of itself. I know these days it has become increasingly popular to just start an Instagram and not even bother with a blog, but that simply isn’t my jam. I like creating evergreen, valuable content. Not images that have a 24 hour shelf-life. When I do share on social media, the goal is to be authentic and real and ultimately drive traffic back to my various platforms where the real meat is.
I’ve also become increasingly weary of building a business on another person’s algorithm. While I certainly see the value in social media, I don’t like the idea of putting all my eggs in one basket. I use it to connect with you guys, share behind-the-scenes and market my content.
Facebook – Georgia is scheduling content here and sharing other people’s fantastic content
Pinterest– My bread and butter and where most of my traffic comes from
Twitter – does anyone still use Twitter?
Instagram – I’m kind of over being frustrated with Instagram and instead focus on sharing when I want to and stepping away when I don’t. The problem with IG is the only way to grow is the use it all the time and well, I just simply don’t want to do that so yeah my IG growth is crawling. But more importantly, it’s been a fantastic place to connect with you guys (especially over stories) and for that reason I still love it.
Every year I have a section about growth and it’s funny to think how each year I write this section I care a little bit less. Maybe it’s complacency, but honestly, growth just isn’t my priority anymore. I’ve had double the number of page views but felt less connected to my business. Do numbers matter? Yes, they do. But they aren’t the be-all and end-all of a successful business. Offering value and being authentic will result in an engaged audience, which is far more gratifying and influential than any amount of page views.
That being said, I also recognize that I’m fortunate to have experienced a lot of growth in those early years that I’ve benefitted from now. In many ways I feel like I started off very strong and then over the last two years have been weaning and pruning my audience to those who actually care about the entirety of THM’s message, not just my latest healthy energy ball recipe. It’s been cool to see who’s stuck around for the ride and I’m honestly so grateful for those of you who have. You are my people.
Instead of providing numbers (as I’ve done in the past), I’ll just direct you to last year’s post, because they’re pretty much the same. I’m doing this because what the numbers don’t show you are the emails, comments, DMs and in-person conversations I have with you guys on a daily basis. It also doesn’t capture the person growth and balance I’ve found in my business. These metrics matter more to my personal and professional success. I just don’t want to discourage any new bloggers who feel like their numbers don’t match up. If I could give you any piece of advice, it is that blogging is SO not about the numbers.
And guess what? It’s so not about the money either. But girl’s gotta pay her bills so let’s talk about this…
The first question I get asked after “what do you do?” is always “but how do you make money?” I’ve answered this question in person and on the blog at least 1000 times. I wrote this post on sponsored content here if you want to learn more.
What’s funny is that people keep commenting on how much sponsored work I do (fortunately in a good light) but ironically I’m doing less sponsored content now than I ever have. I’m just not posting 6 days a week so there’s less “free” content to break it up. BUT I also only work with brands who allow me to talk about the things that I already plan to talk about so there’s less need to have unsponsored content when the sponsored content is already the perfect fit.
This post is a great example of that. I write a THM business update every year and 2017 is no exception. Teaming up with SanDisk allows me to share my blogging as a business experience with you, while also highlighting a product I already love and use. So everyone wins. It’s taken a lot of work to get to a place where I can work with these kinds of brands and really set down the law about the kind of sponsored work I’ll do. I feel fortunate to work with the brands I work with, but also know about all the behind-the-scenes negotiating and occasionally fighting that goes down to make sure THM and you guys don’t get taken advantage of.
In addition to sponsored work (which makes up the bulk of my income), I do have ads on the blog as well as affiliate links. My income can be piecemeal and totally up and down, but it is lucrative. And I’m not saying this to brag. I’m saying this to everyone who thinks someone else is supporting me or that I don’t make any money. I have worked my butt off for all of my monetary success and while I know I don’t have to prove this to anyone it can be frustrating when people make demeaning comments.
BUT I also put most of my money back into my business. Blogging is an investment. In tech, subscriptions, FOOD, travel and perhaps most importantly, staff….
Last year I talked about how one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in blogging is that there is no one way to grow. That building an empire and growing BIGGER isn’t the right fit for me. It’s a lesson that I’m grateful to have learned and one that I think about before jumping into any new project.
That being said, I can’t do this all alone. Over the past 5 years I’ve had A LOT of help. Some of it out of the kindness of people’s hearts and sometimes in paid roles. Hiring Jess a few years ago was a huge step for me in giving up a piece of my business but it’s a decision I’ve never regretted. As I mentioned last year Jess and I parted ways when I moved to the US and then Cassie took over her role. Cassie has been an immense help to me in navigating this transition to the US but it became increasingly clear over the past year that I needed more help. Especially in the realm of business management.
C actually came on for a few months between jobs and worked as my operations manager which worked out really well. But we both agreed we’re not comfortable both having our livelihoods dependent on a self-owned business. There also just simply wasn’t enough for him to do. So in August I hired Tanya and then soon after, Georgia.
Tanya handles all operations/business management for THM as well as email marketing and some content creation. Georgia takes care of social media and podcast coordination and management. I literally cannot even begin to explain how much I value these two incredible women in my life. It’s funny that my team is now made up of 3 people who live all across the country in different time zones but we make it work. Each of them is part-time and they both work super independently so all my fears of micromanaging were immediately gone. In so many ways I felt like I manifested their roles by talking about the help that I needed, with basically every blogger I knew. Then both of them ended up in my inbox. So to anyone who is looking to expand their team and get more help but doesn’t know where to turn, literally just start talking about it!
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018
Honestly? More of the same. I finally feel like I’m totally in my groove with THM. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t do everything, all at once, and that’s totally and completely okay! I’ve gotten organized, but when life inevitably happens and I can’t get that video up or I need to take a podcast break, I’ve given myself permission to do so. Consistency is important, but not if it creates an unmerited amount of stress in your life. That’s probably been my biggest learning lesson this year.
So expect a lot of the same stuff! Healthy recipes from time-to-time, life reflections, travel guides, what I eat in a day vlogs, controversial podcast episodes and then some.
The one thing that I’d like to see happen more in 2018 is more in-person meet-ups. To me, there is nothing more thrilling than getting to meet you guys in person and be able to take our online discussions beyond just the digital space. That is really where the magic happens.
I’m hosting an event with Sweetgreen and Imperfect Produce on intention setting for 2018 in a few weeks with a few more planned in the works for 2018. If you live in the Bay Area and want to join in on events make sure you join this list to stay up-to-date about future events in the area. But I’m also hoping to do more events outside of the Bay so stay tuned for those!
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It’s been another year for the record books! I cannot believe we’re coming up on THM’s 5th birthday. It feels like it was yesterday that I first hit publish but also like the girl behind the blog is a completely different human. It’s just been such a strange, overwhelming and deeply gratifying experience and I’m always so happy to be able to share it all with you.
As I always say, I’d be nowhere without you guys and I am so incredibly grateful that this is my job. Seriously. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about this. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you so so much for another fantastic year.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SanDisk. As ALWAYS, all opinions are 100% my own and I only work with brands who support THM’s mission. Thank you for helping to make my dream of running THM full-time a reality.
All images courtesy of me or Bettina Bogar
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