This is an interview with Abby Lawson from Just a Girl and Her Blog.
Hey, Abby. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I blog at JustAGirlAndHerBlog.com where I write mostly about organization and home decor, and I also teach bogging a little bit.
My husband Donnie is my business partner, and he does a lot of the technical and behind-the-scenes work on our site. We also have two sons, Connor and Caleb, who are 10 and 7 right now.
Was Just a Girl and Her Blog your first blog and why did you start it?
I dabbled in blogging a tiny bit before I started Just a Girl and Her Blog.
Donnie and I had a little blog together for a few weeks one time that didn’t get very far. I also had a handmade jewelry business for a short time with my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and we had a blog that went with that.
In both cases, I had no idea what I was doing, so I would say Just a Girl and Her Blog was the first real blog that I had and stuck with for more than a few weeks.
I started Just a Girl and Her Blog because I was a stay-at-home mom with my two boys who were one and three at the time.
I LOVED being home with them, but I also needed some sort of project, something that I did for me that wasn’t all about them.
I wasn’t 100% sure what a blog really was, but I have a degree in English education, so I thought I could at least use my writing skills and have a creative outlet.
I didn’t really ever think that anybody would actually read what I wrote, but I’m thankful that it didn’t work out the way I had planned!
When did you first realize blogging could turn into a real business?
I would say the first time I realized that blogging could be a business was when I had been at it for a little over a year.
Donnie wrote a guest post for my blog about the system that he uses to keep our family pretty much paperless. We use Evernote and digital tools to file all of our paperwork rather than an actual physical filing cabinet in our house.
In that post, he linked to an eBook that he recommended and also to the scanners that he uses to keep our house paperless. Shortly after he wrote the post it kind of took off, and a bunch of people started buying the eBook and scanners that he recommended.
One night I was at Target and Donnie texted me and said, “Guess what happened on Just a Girl and Her Blog today!” I told him that I had no idea, and he said, “We made $500 from the affiliate links that I put in the paperless post.”
And I didn’t believe him. I actually made him email the author of the eBook that we had recommended to make sure that it wasn’t some sort of error because I thought that there was no way we could make that much money in one day.
But it wasn’t an error. It was real.
That was the “aha” moment where it hit me that it actually was possible to make money online. And that this little hobby blog that I had started– that no one was ever supposed to read– was turning into a business that could help to support our family.
How has blogging changed your life as a stay at home mom?
So many ways! First, it allowed me to connect with people from all over the world who I never would have gotten to meet otherwise, which I love.
Blogging has also given me a lot of confidence. I’m fairly shy by nature. In fact, I used to be afraid to even call the utility company to discuss a bill because I was afraid they would yell at me, so I would make Donnie do that sort of thing.
But the more I’ve gotten into blogging, the more it has brought me out of my shell and given me the confidence to be able to interact with people and to figure out who I am and how I can help others.
And then, of course, both Donnie and I are now able to work at blogging full-time, which means we have a lot of flexibility.
We get to spend time with our kids. We don’t have a work schedule ruling our life. We kind of get to make our own rules, so that has been life changing as well.
What was your first blog monetization method and how much were you earning in the early days?
The first way I ever monetized the blog was just by putting a couple of Google AdSense ads on the site.
I think we made about $10 the first month that we had AdSense ads up. Then it took us around three or four months to get to the $100 threshold where they actually pay out the money you’ve earned.
So it was a small start, but everyone has to start somewhere, and it all grew from there!
Read also: How to Make Money Blogging: The Ultimate Guide to Starting, Growing and Monetizing Your Blog
How much is Just a Girl and Her Blog making per month now and in what ways?
Our income varies based on what we have going on that month. If we have a launch of one of our products or an affiliate sale of something that we’re promoting, our income will jump. And then on the months that we don’t really have any major events or promotions we don’t see as much of a spike.
We make a large portion of our income from sales of our own products. We also make affiliate sales on others’ products or some of the services that we use and recommend to others.
We just put ads back on our site very minimally after not having any ads for about 18 months, so we make some money from ad income. And then occasionally I will do sponsored posts and make money that way, although I don’t do many of those.
How many monthly page views does the blog get and where is most of the traffic coming from?
We typically get between 350,000 to 500,000 pageviews, depending on the month. Google is our number one traffic source, followed by Pinterest.
Read also: How Many Pageviews Do You Need to Make Money Blogging
How do you stay on top of your Pinterest game?
I use Tailwind, a scheduling service, to help me with Pinterest.
I dug in and did some research when I first started using Tailwind to figure out the best, most efficient way to use it, and then I trained my sister, who’s my assistant, on the system I use.
She does most of my Pinterest scheduling for me at this point. We will meet every other month or so to tweak the system and take a look at what’s working and what’s not, but she pretty much has it under control.
She and I will both also go in and do some live pinning from time to time.
What content on your blog performs best and why?
My organization content performs best. The majority of my content is in the organization category, and I probably put the most time and effort into it.
I try to offer organizing printables whenever I can because I think they make it easier for people to take the things that I’m teaching on the blog and apply them and their own lives.
The posts with organizing printables usually get a good amount of traffic. But really anything that people can follow step-by-step, anything that is going to help people in a practical way in their own lives, are the types of posts that tend to get the most traffic on my site.
What are your top strategies for growing an email list?
My strategy for growing my email list has always been to figure out what people need, what would be the most helpful for them, or what problem they have, and then try to solve that problem or need by giving them something for free.
After doing that for years and years, we now have a huge library of printables and resources that people can opt-in for and gain access to for free.
We’ve learned that the more that we can help people and the better ways we can find to do that, the more our email list grows.
Tell us about your most successful product ‘Building a Framework’, and why you decided to stop selling it.
Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook was the first product we ever created ourselves. It started out as an eBook, and then we went on to do two more versions of it that were courses.
In the almost five years that we sold Building a Framework, we had between 11,000-12,000 students go through the course. We really loved being able to help so many people start and grow their blogs over the years– that really meant a lot to us!
We ended up retiring Building a Framework in March of 2019. The biggest reason was just time.
Blogging changes so quickly, best practices are constantly shifting, and we didn’t feel like we could devote the amount of time it would take to have a constantly updated, reliable blogging course out there while still being able to complete everything that we needed to do for our own site.
Even though we’ve retired Framework, it is still important to us to continue to help boggers in other ways.
The way that we’re doing that currently is through a weekly email newsletter that Donnie writes called ClarityList.
ClarityList has allowed us to keep people up-to-date with the important changes that are happening in blogging in real time, rather than trying to maintain a course that will become easily outdated.
When did your husband officially become your business partner?
Donnie has always helped me with the blog. He’s the one that set up the technical side of things for me and when I first got started, but he really wasn’t involved in a major capacity until around the one year mark when we started writing Building a Framework the first time.
I wrote all the content for that first eBook, and he did the research and came up with the marketing plan—it really was a team effort!
When I had been blogging for about two years, in January of 2015, Donnie ended up getting laid off from his job in oil and gas because the industry tanked. We saw that as our opportunity to take this blogging thing and see if we could make it our full-time gig.
We’ve been doing the blog full time together ever since!
Read also: How This Stay-at-Home Mom Retired Her Husband at 30
What aspects of the business does Donnie take care of?
Donnie does just about everything technical, from maintenance on the site to researching and figuring out the best tools to use for landing pages, payment processors, email systems, etc.
He is also great at being able to see trends and direction in blogging and online business and helps to make sure our business is changing and growing along with the industry.
He manages Facebook and Pinterest ads and helps with the overall strategy. He also writes the weekly ClarityList newsletter for bloggers.
What does a day in the life of a full-time blogger look like?
It has changed over the years.
When our kids were younger, Donnie and I would switch off. One of us would watch the boys and the other one would work, and then we would swap.
Our younger son went to first grade this year, so this is the first year where both of the boys have been gone most of the day on weekdays.
Since that is the case, we try to get all of our work done between 9 and 4 so we can spend time with them and take them to their activities in the evenings and on weekends.
I typically spend my days planning and executing projects, taking and editing photos, writing posts, working on social media, answering email and comments, and creating new products.
What are the most common mistakes new bloggers make?
The most common mistake I see new bloggers make is that they get caught up in the minutiae of trying to get everything perfect right out of the gate.
I’ve seen people spend so much time trying to learn every single thing about blogging and working to have 25 perfect posts ready to go before they actually start getting out there and promoting their site.
While it’s great to know what you’re getting into and to have a strong body of content, the new bloggers that I have seen that have been most successful just dive in head-first and learn as they go along.
They make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and just keep learning and trying new things until they figure out what works for them. They don’t wait until everything is perfect to take action and put themselves out there with their site.
What’s next for Just a Girl and Her Blog?
Recently we have started to try to become more intentional about the content on our site. We’ve actually been creating less content, but hopefully it’s content that is more helpful for people.
We are also starting to create some new products, which we are excited about. We recently scaled back and retired several of the products that we used to have, and so we’re hoping to create some new things that will be even more helpful for people.