Many people will start a blog with the goal of making money online or creating a resource for others to learn from. For others, blogging is about having a platform to share personal stories, life events and tragic events that need discussion.
In this week’s latest edition of Meet the Bloggers, we had the opportunity to connect with James McAllister, who has been blogging for quite a while now. With an early start in the world of online marketing, site creation and blogging, James has also created a powerful resource at Starlight Baby. Be sure to read through his story below and see how blogging continues to change the world through content creation and sharing life lessons.
1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?
I feel fortunate to have grown up with the internet, because it allowed me to get my start into the world of business early. I was only 14 when my eyes were opened to the possibility of making money online, after running into a YouTube video talking about Google Adsense.
That same weekend I begged my grandmother for the $20 I needed to buy web hosting a domain name, and started my first blog. It didn’t end up doing too well, but one project led to another and eventually things came together.
Of course, back then we didn’t have many resources like BloggingTips.com to turn to. A lot of it was just trial and error – and if I’m honest, mostly error.
2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?
Today I run a company selling products for babies and toddlers. This is a completely different focus than blogs I’ve ran in the past, which have always been around tech or business subjects.
I learned quite quickly after finding success that you have to do work that aligns with your values. Eventually the money doesn’t matter as much as it used to, and doesn’t act as the same powerful motivator it does when you’re starting out. I feel that you need a reason that’s bigger than yourself if you intend to go beyond a certain level.
I started Starlight Baby after tragically losing a very close family member. The loss ended up tearing my family apart, and I would’ve traded everything I had to have fixed it. Of course, I still would, but I do not have that option. However, this event shifted my values, and my work had to shift with it to match them.
Having felt that much pain, I would do anything to prevent another person from going through it. We can’t magically fix all the world’s problems, but we can all make small differences. A lot of our profit goes to children’s charities and we are constantly coming out with more free tools and resources for parents to use. It’s something I feel really great about.
3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?
Currently, our sole method of monetization is done by funneling our blog traffic to our store, where we sell an assortment of physical products. The increased brand awareness that our blog brings also leads to increased sales on third-party marketplaces such as Amazon, and encourages more retailers to carry our products in their stores.
We’re also currently working on a pregnancy course, with our goal to make the need for most pregnancy books obsolete. While most of what we offer is free, paid courses, services and tools are going to be a big part of our future as well.
4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?
Running a blog itself does not inherently mean that you are running a business. The same basic business principles that have been in place for thousands of years still apply. You need to be working in a market with demand. You need to be able to come up with a clear, well-defined marketing strategy to bring people to your site, and you must have a way to monetize that traffic that is scalable. You can be the world’s most passionate person on something, but if you’re operating with a failing formula then you’ll ultimately come away with nothing but a lesson.
5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?
If I’m honest, there aren’t a whole lot of blogs that I read regularly anymore. I have a wide assortment that I look over in Feedly, and also frequently visit sites like GrowthHackers.com and Inbound.org which list articles from many different sites side-by-side. When I see an article that looks interesting or valuable to me, chances are I’ll read over it. Although I used to follow certain blogs religiously, I now look over them on an article-by-article basis.
6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?
- SEMRush. We use it not only to track how our website is doing in search but to target optimal keywords in new content as well. The number of features and tools SEMRush contains is well worth the monthly fee.
- Hootsuite. Hands-down the best social media management tool I’ve ever used, especially for managing lots of different accounts. Our VA schedules the content well in advance and I’m able to look over and make changes if I feel something doesn’t quite fit right with our social strategy.
- GetResponse. For us, email marketing is more powerful than anything else for converting information-seekers into buyers. A large focus of our blog is to get people onto our email list.
7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself, and re-invest everything you make to scale quickly. Buy tools. Enroll in courses. Read books. If you can learn even one thing that you can utilize for your business, the time and money spent will be well worth it in the long run. Unlike most other investments, knowledge never goes down in value and it can never be taken away from you.
Once you have money coming in regularly, develop systems and reinvest that money to grow your profits exponentially.
8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?
Force yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable.
I was afraid to make my blog known when I first started, because I was only 14 and thought that nobody would take me seriously.
I was afraid to reach out to other bloggers because I didn’t carry as much authority as they did, despite knowing that networking is the quickest way to skyrocket your own site’s traffic.
I was afraid to hire because I was afraid of giving up control, and my ego told me that I could manage it all on my own.
Deep down inside, you know that there are things that simply need to be done. I’ve learned over and over again that it’s better to just tackle them right away, without hesitation. Fear is a sign that you care about the outcome, so you may as well do what you know to be right – even if it means pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.
9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?
With web hosting and a domain costing about $20, I’d spend the other $80 on books. There is almost no investment that provides the same ROI as a good book does.
10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?
The easiest way would be to email me directly at james[at]starlight-baby.com. Parenting bloggers and other parents will also be able to reach me through our forum. Outside of our site, I’m fairly active on Twitter and Facebook, although I do not post there as much as I used to.
Regardless of how you’d like to get in touch with me, I really look forward to speaking with you. I always love to chat, even if it’s not something business or parenting related, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
Thanks again James for taking the time to share your advice and story with the Blogging Tips community. If you would like to learn about other bloggers and how they are finding success online, be sure to read through our blogger interview series.