When most people start blogging, the main goal behind it is to make money from it. The more you familiarize yourself with the blogging industry, learn the ropes, the more you realize that blogging is a real career, as real as a 9-5 job. The difference is that you must wear many hats and be ready to put in the work to succeed.
Then with time you learn about other bloggers who are making good money from their websites, and you might wonder how do these people do it, what’s their secret, can you learn that process and find similar success?
One of such people that I admire and look up to in the blogging world is Debbie Gartner. She is incredibly generous with the amount of information she shares with others, answers their questions, and provides value overall. I am fortunate to call her a good friend (even though we’ve never met to face to face). Today I am bringing you this interview with Debbie so that you can learn more about her and her work.
I think an interview gives you an opportunity to get to know Debbie in a way that you might not have before.
Last week I interviewed another amazing blogger, Tracie Fobes, and you can read my interview with her.
Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products and services. This means that if you click on my link to make a purchase, then I will get a small commission at no extra expense to you. I only align myself with products and services that I use and love. You can read my full disclosure for more details.
Debbie, tell me a little about yourself.
I’m known as The Flooring Girl and I blog about flooring, painting and home decor. I used to have my own shop at a home flooring store. I got the nickname from one of my customers and developed my website, TheFlooringGirl.com for it.
From there, all of my customers and business networking partners (e.g. realtors, painters, inspectors) called me The Flooring Girl. They might forget my first name, but they never forgot my nickname. And, even if they lost my business card, they could find me online – everywhere.
Yes, I was a woman-owned business in a male-dominated category, and I used it to my advantage. My customers loved dealing with a woman as I was easy to relate to and could provide great design advice. And, of course, we all know who the key decision-maker is.
My business partners and customers loved recommending a woman to their clients…and seeing their reaction when they said, oh yes, call The Flooring Girl.
How did you get into blogging?
Oh, I was just using it as a marketing vehicle for my local flooring business. When I started to learn social media and email in 2008-2009, I heard that blogging was the next big thing and could have a much larger impact.
Of course, I put it off for a year or two. I started to blog in 2010 and created my own site in 2011.
It worked out well. It grew my business 50% and accounted for about a third of my business.
What inspired you to start a blog?
I was simply looking for ways to grow my local business. I had no idea I could monetize it…until years later.
How soon after starting your blog did you start to monetize?
Maybe 4 or 5 years later. I had no idea that monetizing was a thing. Then when I did learn, I was way too busy working over 100 hours a month. I figured it would be easy since I had a lot of traffic already.
Well, that was wrong. So I just kind of let it go and worked on my business.
It wasn’t until December 2016 that I really started to monetize. My life took an unexpected turn and I found myself $238,000 in debt and without a means of income.
It was very scary, but this is when I decided to learn how to monetize my blog. I took on 2 part-time jobs to support myself during the first 2 years. I worked really hard – just to survive. Now, I’m starting to thrive.
Fast forward, and 2 years and 3 months later, I started earning $20,000+ (net profit) per month.
In one of her books Debbie Gartner lists all the valuable lessons she’s learned on her way to making $20,000 a month. Get her 45 Not So Obvious Lessons I Learned On The Way to Making $20,000 a Month (affiliate) ebook.
It’s now been 11 months in a row earning $20K or more per month, and now I’m down to just $82,000 in debt. (It should be paid off within 1.5 years and hoping a bit sooner).
What’s your main source of income from your monetization methods?
My #1 source of income is affiliate marketing. This accounts for 52% of my income. The rest is split with ad revenue and my own products, mainly my SEO ebooks (affiliate link).
In some months income from ads are high; other months income from products is higher. I’m trying to build out my products further over time to include more home decor options.
At what point did you feel that you created a real business that would help support you?
Well, it certainly wasn’t when I hit $10,000 per month! Yes, then I hired my first virtual assistant, only to find that Google changed their algorithm and my traffic and income tanked to $7,500.
Debbie Gartner gets over half a million page-views a month and most is due to organic traffic from Google. She explains SEO in a simple and easy to understand terms. Get her SEO Books bundle (affiliate) and you’ll be on your way understanding Google and getting traffic from it.
That was so frustrating and depressing and just reinforced the need to diversify my income streams. I knew this already and was working towards it, but it was a kick in the pants to accelerate that.
Thankfully, 2 months later, there was a new Google algorithm shift and I ended up higher than before and reached $11,000, followed by $12,000, and that’s when I felt I had built something real and just needed to continue making the foundation stronger and building outward.
A few months later, I had launched 2 new ebooks and ramped up my affiliate income.
From the combo of those 2 factors (and some more traffic growth from SEO), I topped $20,000. Then, I felt that I had a real business. That’s because I knew that if I dropped again, I would still be making a good amount of money.
Approximately how many hours a week do you work on your blog?
I would guess that now I work around 40 hours a week. And, I get distracted easily, so not the most efficient 40 hours. But, I would venture to guess that it was more like 60-80 hours a week for my first 2 years. (But some of that included my part-time freelancing work).
Over time, I’ve been able to farm out more work to virtual assistants which allows me to accomplish more. This year, I’m starting to farm out more and reduce my hours a bit. But, I’m still anxious and excited to pay off my remaining debt so I want to continue to grow. I don’t need to grow a lot, but I would love to get to $25,000 per month both to clear the debt faster and to have more cushion. Blogging is not a straight line and there are always roadblocks and complications. So, the more I grow and diversify, the better and safer I am.
Have you experienced burnout as a blogger and how did you deal with it?
I’ve pushed myself very hard for 3 years, and I’m a bit tired (but still driven to clear the debt). Thankfully, I’m at a point where if I accomplish nothing for a day or a week (or even longer), my business still continues along at a steady pace. This really helped me when I got sick for 3.5 weeks in August. I still made over $20K for the month.
That is because I have a lot of passive income coming in, especially from my SEO articles that generate traffic and affiliate sales.
But, when I really feel burned out or extra tired/frustrated, my 2 best methods are cuddling with my cats (the purring just relaxes me) and taking a hot bath.
I also call people on the phone. It’s a nice diversion and gives me a lot of ideas to grow my business.
What’s your secret for keeping yourself productive?
Taking lots of breaks!
Also, I try to have either 1 or 2 must-do projects for each day. And, I do my best to work on 1 project at a time. I need to do a better job on this second point.
And, finally, exercising. I love to go down to the pool so starting in April, I’ll be there on most days. I’m planning on getting a walking desk too, but even now, just walking around my place is helping.
What’s one tool/software out there that you cannot go without?
My absolute favorite tool is the Google Search Console. And, it’s FREE. I use it to improve the SEO on my posts so I can get them to rank higher. I also use it to find new and unique article ideas. It’s really my secret weapon.
I just created a very successful course that teaches bloggers how to leverage this free tool to get better ranking on the search engines. It’s called Easy SEO Revamp (affiliate link).
Where do you think new and intermediary bloggers should concentrate their efforts for growth?
I would recommend that newer and intermediate bloggers learn and concentrate on SEO more (and start earlier). SEO traffic is much higher quality, way easier to monetize, much more sustainable and more passive.
Debbie has one of the best courses I’ve ever taken, Easy SEO Revamp (affiliate) where she uses a completely free tool and shows you how you can significantly improve your posts for SEO. This course is a must-have for any intermediate to advanced blogger.
Most people put it off because they think it’s hard. And, it isn’t. Once you understand it, it’s very logical. And, I’ve had so many bloggers tell me that my SEO ebooks are super easy to understand…and they wish they read them 6 months to 2 years earlier.
The sooner you learn it, the sooner you’ll do better…and the less rework you’ll have.
What’s one mistake that you see bloggers make that bothers you?
There are so many. But I think the most common one that is a major problem is not choosing a niche. It makes everything much harder – SEO, Pinterest, and email. And, it confuses your reader.
Related to this, many try to attempt Lifestyle blogs (which is code for let me write about everything because I’m not focused – jack of all trades, master of none) and writing a blog more like a journal. Nobody cares about you, your life or your family. They don’t. They only care about what you can do for them. So focus on solving your readers’ problems and questions. (And, of course, make sure you have a target audience and know them).
What advice do you have for new bloggers?
Diversify. Diversify your income streams and your traffic. But, at the same time focus. So in the beginning, just do one or two things. Master them and then move on to the next one. Then, build on that. A big mistake that many new bloggers make is to try to do everything at the beginning…and you can’t.
If you try to do too much at the beginning, you will fail. This is a journey, not a sprint. You have plenty of time to learn. At the very beginning, I’d focus on good content and then traffic. Because without this, you are lost. It’s your foundation.
For most bloggers, I’d learn Pinterest for the first 3 months, and by 3 start SEO. This will help you improve your content. Keep going and keep learning, but one step at a time.
As you saw from the interview with Debbie, anything is possible if you apply yourself, have a plan of action and don’t give up. Debbie is a great example of how one moment you will be struggling just to survive, and another moment you will start thriving thanks to your dedication and hard work.
I always knew that SEO was extremely important. However, after getting to know Debbie and understanding her passion and love for organic traffic, I started feeling even more enthusiastic about improving my SEO.
Where do you stand on this matter? Are you more invested in social traffic such as Facebook and Pinterest, or are you improving your SEO? If the latter, have you invested in Debbie’s books (affiliate) yet? Because they are a game changer.
If you liked this post and thought it was valuable, go ahead and share it with others so that they can learn from Debbie Gartner as well.