This is an interview with Sara of Gathering Dreams.
Hey, Sara. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Hi guys, I am Sara and I am a travel lover, healthy food addict, and blogger at Gathering Dreams.
I devoted the last 5 years of my life to finding ways to make money outside a ‘normal job’. I reached financial freedom 2 years ago, and I now share everything I learned in the process and everything I am passionate about on my blog!
How was your life like before becoming a blogger and working from home?
I used to work in films. It’s a very creative industry and it sounds like a lot of fun but the reality is a bit different. I used to work over 60 hours a week for years.
It was a very time-consuming job and I felt trapped in a situation I couldn’t escape from. I knew I couldn’t keep working like that for another 40 years and that I had to do something to change my work-life balance.
5 years ago I was on holiday on a beautiful beach, trying to relax after delivering a difficult project at work. I read Tim Ferris’ book “The 4-Hour Work Week” and it changed my life.
Mostly because it made me realize that there were other options out there, and working in an office for 14 hours a day wasn’t the only way to earn money.
Since then I started a journey to learn more about financial freedom, passive income and making money from home.
What are some side hustle ideas you tried before blogging?
I guess I’ve always been a hustler at heart. I started making money on the side since I was in high school.
I remember when Dan and I were 17, we wanted to go on a trip to Paris. We had to earn our own money to go. We started making salt dough dolls and sold them to friends and families in the neighbors. Dan’s mum was in charge of marketing and she helped us to spread the word about our products. We ended up making over $1000!
More recently I flipped properties for a profit and we have 2 rentals that generate passive income.
I also started a business to sell tea, but I found that physical products and the headache that comes with shipping and managing stock weren’t for me!
Read also: 67 Side Hustle Ideas You Can Try to Earn an Extra $1000/Month
When and why did you start Gathering Dreams?
I started Gathering Dreams in November 2017 for 2 reasons:
- I wanted a passion project to share everything I loved in life with other people. I hoped my journey to reach financial freedom and a great life-work balance could help others doing the same.
- I always loved reading other people’s blogs and when I discovered you could actually make money with a blog, I wanted to give it a try.
I wasn’t really sure it was possible to earn anything (and to be honest, I kind of didn’t really believe all the bloggers out there that were sharing incredible income reports!).
I gave myself a year to earn $1,000 a month. But I was blown away by what happened after only 3 months: I earned over $3,800! It was actually true that you could make money blogging.
I still have to pinch myself every day!
Also read: How to Start a Lifestyle Blog & Make Money (+ 50 Lifestyle Blog Names)
What challenges did you face in the first months of being a blogger with no experience?
I read all these posts about starting a blog in 5 minutes and how easy it was to set up. I think of myself as a tech-savvy person but wow! The first 4-6 weeks were hard hard work!
Not many people tell you that!
The only thing that took 5 minutes was to buy a domain. Everything else was tricky and complicated!
Lots of headaches to learn how to set up everything, customize a theme, make your blog look like you want it, learn how to write…I also found quite difficult to know what I had to prioritize and spend time on at first.
People tell you that you need to be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I found trying to learn everything at once overwhelming. That’s when I decided to concentrate on one thing at the time.
I read somewhere that writing should only take 20% of the work, the remaining 80% should go into research and promotion and I couldn’t agree more.
There is no point in writing 2-3 posts a week if no one knows they are on your blog. So I spent most of my efforts on Pinterest promotion from day one.
Read also: How to Easily Get 100K Pinterest Page Views in 1 Month
Why was Pinterest your first real source of traffic and how did you make it work?
Pinterest is an amazing tool for new bloggers. It can help you to drive free traffic to your blog from the start. It’s a search engine where people look for images instead of typing words.
It can take anything from 3 months to a year to establish any kind of authority with search engine optimization before you see any traffic from Google. With Pinterest, if you pick the right topic and create the right graphics for your pins, you can get to thousands of page views in a few weeks!
I wanted to try to get traffic to my blog as quickly as possible, therefore I knew Pinterest was my first source to crack.
Pinterest works incredibly well for food bloggers, parenting, crafts, and travel. But for me, it also worked for more obscure niches like personal finance and make money online.
What are some tools and tactics that helped you reach millions of Pinners?
- Create multiple beautiful pins per post.
People are attracted by clean images. You need to make sure your pins stand out. You also need to try as many different options a possible.
Don’t get stuck with your brand color scheme, or with a single template. You need to keep experimenting all the time.
- Add click-worthy titles: boring doesn’t work on Pinterest.
If you want people to click, you need to use catchy headlines.
What are you more likely to click? A pin that says “10 vegan sandwiches” or a pin that says “10 mouth-watering vegan sandwiches that you’ll love”?
- Use Tailwind to schedule my pins.
I did some manual pinning when I started as I wanted to understand how Pinterest worked. But after a few weeks, I knew I couldn’t keep up.
Who has time to spend 1-2 hours a day on Pinterest? That’s when I started to use Tailwind to schedule my pins.
How did you make your first money blogging?
I made my first incredible $3 in my first month using display advertising with AdSense.
It doesn’t sound like much but for me it was incredible. It was true you could make money blogging! Now I just needed to scale that up 100 times!
Read also: How to Start a Fitness Blog and Make Money
How did you get to $1000/month from your blog?
2 months later a pin went viral on Pinterest and I made over $1000, mostly with ads again and some affiliate marketing. By this point, I barely knew what affiliate marketing was!
Remember: I had no experience in digital marketing, social media or writing before I started my blog! I had to learn everything as I went along.
How much are you currently earning per month and in what ways?
I now earn over $10k a month, 60% through affiliate marketing and 40% with advertising.
How did you grow your affiliate income?
By trial and error.
What really works for me is to promote products that I use and love. Every time I try to promote anything I am not passionate about, I fail!
That thought me to only endorse products that I believe in and to research extensively everything I promote.
It’s also very important to test different placements in the post for your affiliate links and check what works best.
Read also: How Caroline Grew a Parenting Blog to $100K Using Pinterest and Affiliate Marketing
What’s ‘easy’ about Pinterest traffic compared to the one coming from search engines?
As mentioned above, it’s not so much about being ‘easier’ but about being able to see results much faster.
With Pinterest, you could get a pin going ‘viral’ and sending you thousands of page view during your first week of blogging.
With search engines, you need to build trust and authority and you need to write great content to establish your blog as a ‘trusted source’ on a topic.
That takes more experience and practice.
Read also: How I Got 103,231 Page Views and Made $4,305 from My Blog Last Month
When did you decide to focus on SEO and what steps did you take?
It might sound silly but I decided to focus on SEO as soon as I found out what it was! I didn’t know anything about ranking in Google when I started.
After I made some money with my blog using Pinterest as my main source of traffic, I realized it was quite dangerous to base a business on one platform. A simple change in the Pinterest algorithm could have sent my blog traffic to zero.
That’s when I decided to learn as much as possible about SEO. I read many free resources like Backlinko, an invaluable blog with lots of incredible posts about SEO.
I have also invested in paid courses and learned so much. I think one of the most important things you can do if you are serious about making money blogging is to not be scared of investing some money in education.
I have to admit not all courses out there are packed with useful information, but there are some incredible people that I learned a lot from like Scrivs from Dare to Conquer and Mike from Stupid Simple SEO.
I now get over 450k page views a month from Google and Pinterest, and I feel much better about being able to diversify my traffic.
How did you go from 10K monthly page views to 180K?
I did a lot of research on topics that could go viral on Pinterest and I created several pins to promote each post. And when I say several I mean 15-30 pins per post, not 2 or 3.
How do you write epic content for your blog?
I look for popular topics on Pinterest and use tools like Buzzsumo to find popular topics. I then research all the articles written about that topic and try to create an epic post that is better than the other posts on that specific topic.
And by better, I don’t necessarily mean longer. It’s all about creating useful content that actually helps the reader and gives concrete answers to a problem, no matter if it’s a recipe or a way to improve their financial situation.
How many hours per week are you doing blogging-related tasks?
I now spend around 20-25 hours a week on the blog, but I also spend a lot of free time reading, researching and learning about everything blogging related.
What’s your advice for those who want to build a profitable blog while working full-time?
Use every minute you have to learn as much as you can and study what works for bloggers that are successful in the niche you want to blog in.
I used to listen to podcasts on my way to work and instead of watching Netflix at night I spend my time looking through other blogs for inspiration.
I really value the time I spend learning about blogging. I don’t think I would have been as successful without investing so much time in that.
Also, take action!
It’s easy to think a post you wrote isn’t good enough or you just need a bit more time to polish it. Just go for it! One step forward is a step in the right direction.
The great thing about blogging is that you can change everything you did in the past: from updating images to improving your content. Don’t get stuck on the little things like creating a logo or pick the right theme for your blog.
There is no right or wrong! Just create, one step at a time!
What’s next for you and Gathering Dreams?
I finally left my job and I can now work full-time on Gathering Dreams. I surpassed all my goals and I just want to enjoy the journey.
It took me many years to find something I truly enjoy doing every day that gives me the flexibility to do what I love and I just want to help other people doing the same.
It’s possible to quit a job you hate, being financially secure and live your dreams!