My First Delicious Year as a Full Time Blogger

My first delicious year as a full time blogger

2015 was my first full year of blogging.

In December of 2014, I decided to start yet another blog. (It was my 6th blog since 2011.) I was afraid to start yet another failed blog, but my need to write overrode my fear.

In the beginning, I just wrote whatever felt right to me. But I knew that my deeper purpose for blogging was to carve out a business for myself in this crazy online world.

In building this blog, I somehow found my way back to my 3 passions in life – writing, teaching, and entrepreneurship. Because my blog was built on a solid foundation of what I really care about, I stuck with it. I grew an audience, I created a membership site, and I built a business that allows me to do what I love while making money.

That all happened in 2015.

Many bloggers write a round up post at the end of each year where they explore what they’ve learned and struggled with that year, and their plans for the year ahead.

I think it’s super important to do a lot of self-reflection at the end of the year, and I like the idea of putting it out there and sharing it with the world. So this is my first year-end wrap up post. It’s been a crazy, delicious year. I grew so much.

Thanks for reading about my journey.

My greatest accomplishments in 2015

In the blogging world, it’s all about the numbers. Page views, Facebook likes, email subscribers.

But my greatest accomplishments in 2015 have nothing to do with numbers, and everything to do with connection – both to myself, and to others.

The greatest blogging accomplishments aren't stats. They're connections with others.Click To Tweet

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • I stuck with my blog and wrote almost every week. (My past blogs never made it past 10 posts.)
  • I faced my fears and did webinars and went on Periscope.
  • I created a community of bloggers who truly support each other. It’s a place for bloggers to go when they feel alone on their blogging journeys, something I struggled with for years.
  • I created the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge, which gave me the incredible opportunity to teach lots of people, and to form deep connections with other bloggers.
  • I built Have Your Cupcake, my blogging membership community, a truly special and supportive group of women bloggers who always look out for each other and help each other on their blogging journeys.
  • I’ve been able to inspire lots of bloggers and get tweets and comments on a daily basis where people thank me for helping them.

My greatest struggles in 2015

Let’s face it – blogging is hard. Freaking hard.

And even though this blog took off and sustained me in a way that no other blog or business has, the journey has been fraught with challenges.

Challenge #1: My income didn’t grow as fast as I wanted it to

There are so many blogging gurus out there, people who talk about 6 figure launches and becoming wealthy overnight. I wanted that for myself. And when I launched Have Your Cupcake, I had this dream that I would make 20k in one day.

Well…that didn’t happen. I did get quite a few members, but nothing near what I had envisioned for myself.

What I learned from this is that it makes more sense to create a business based on reality, based on slow and steady growth, than to expect a huge launch to open up a gigantic cash flow.

My business was born this year.

And it grew enough to let me know that I am on the right path. I learned that instead of dreaming about 5 or 6 figure launches, it’s healthier and more sustainable to focus on what’s going right, and what I want to see in the future, and work on building and growing that every day.

Challenge #2: I got overwhelmed on a weekly (and often, daily) basis.

There are SO MANY things to do to grow an online platform.

Writing blog posts, building your email list, creating courses, promoting the heck out of everything you do, building relationships. The list goes on and on. And on.

And yes, I got overwhelmed.

I was in Denver at my parents’ house the day that the first course in Have Your Cupcake started, AND the 3rd round of the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge kicked off.

I felt like I was buried under a mass of work.

My mom said, “You seem so overwhelmed. Do you really want to keep doing this online business thing?”

YES!!! I did!

But blogging and building a business is so overwhelming sometimes. I always feel like I’m not doing something I should be doing.

In 2016, I want to get ahead with my blog posts, with my courses in Have Your Cupcake.

I want to focus on what really matters – serving my members and adding to their number.

That means being really focused about how I spend my time. My goal is to get ahead with my content so I don’t have to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or rushed.

Challenge #3: I had a huge lack of work/life balance

My husband is a medical resident, so you would think that he would be the busy one in the family.

Nope. I’m the one that is constantly working. I can barely go a day without building my blog.

And you might think that’s a good thing. But when it keeps me from deepening my relationship with my husband, from forming great relationships in Miami, from doing what nurtures my soul, it’s actually detrimental.

In 2015, I didn’t do a great job of taking care of myself or my relationships. I want to change that in 2016.

Challenge #4: I didn’t get practical shit done

Along the lines of the last 2 struggles, in 2015, I didn’t do the practical shit I needed to do.

I let emails linger in my inbox for weeks before I answered them.

I didn’t clean my apartment as much as I should have.

I didn’t buy groceries and cook healthy meals for myself on a regular enough basis.

I didn’t create a budget for myself (like I’ve been meaning to do for…uh…years).

As a creative person, I would far rather spend my time dreaming, creating, and connecting. So I struggle with all of those practical tasks. I know they’re simple for most people, but I really struggle to prioritize them.

Hopefully in 2016 I’ll be able to make enough money to pay other people to do most of these things – or that I’ll get on top of my business enough to take a break and tackle them.

Challenge #5: I struggled with jealousy and fear a lot.

So this one is hard for me to admit, but I took on an unhealthy habit of looking up Alexa rankings of every blogger in my niche that I found. When they had a worse ranking than mine, I would feel (just a tiny bit) superior. When they had a better one, I would feel a tinge of jealousy that kept me from getting back on track with my own work.

Yes I know that most bloggers deal with this so called imposter syndrome. So, the words of Todd Herman, I’m not a special snowflake. But the struggle was real.

What helped me was connecting with people who loved learning from me and taking walks and appreciating the heck out of life.

I also let my fears hold me back.

I didn’t sell memberships to Have Your Cupcake as much as I should have, because I was afraid of rejection.

I didn’t reach out to more popular bloggers, because I was afraid they wouldn’t “like” me. I’m learning to hang out with my fears, realize they’ll always be there, and just let them be, but get shit done anyway.

What I was most grateful for in 2016

On a happier note, there was a lot to be grateful for in 2016.

  • My husband, for believing in me and my ability to grow a blog and business.
  • My parents, who have always been extremely supportive of me following my own unique path through life, even when they don’t understand it.
  • All of the bloggers in Blogging on Your Own Terms, who inspire me with their stories and their dedication to their blogs.
  • My Have Your Cupcake members, who are truly the most caring, giving bloggers I know and who make me profoundly grateful everyday that I get to do what I do.
  • My dog, for being my constant companion and making me smile pretty much every time I look at her (unless she’s eating something off of the ground…).
  • My 2 Mastermind groups, who really help me keep going and grow my blog and business.
  • My accountability partner, Josh, who I talked to every single week about both of our businesses.
  • The 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge and everyone who participated in it. (Btw, the next one starts on January 18th if you’re interested.)
  • Living right near the bay and being able to walk there every day.
  • All of my blogging mentors and teachers (they have their own special section coming up).
  • Yoneco Evans for creating one of the most giving and generous Facebook groups out there and letting me join.

What I learned in 2015

I’ve heard people say that there’s nothing better for self-discovery than starting a business. And although I’ve been self-employed since 2011, this was the first year I actually built a scalable business. I learned a HECK of a lot.

I learned…

  • That using my own voice and following my own path was the best way to succeed – much more so than listening to advice from all of the “gurus” out there.
  • That discipline is far more important than inspiration when it comes to blogging consistently.
  • That developing relationships with other bloggers is HUGELY important to staying on track and becoming a successful blogger.
  • How to start and grow a Facebook group to nearly 3,000 members.
  • That my self worth is not tied to my blog stats.
  • How to run successful Facebook ads and put on a blogging challenge for over 1300 people.
  • How to create, manage, and grow a membership site.
  • How to blog consistently, even when it’s hard.
  • How to put on a day long blogging retreat.
  • How to do webinars.
  • How to become a Pinterest expert and gets lots of blog traffic.
  • How to create branded graphics for my blog posts.
  • How to sell.

My best teachers of 2015

Some of my teachers are people I know. Others are online educators. I learned so much this year, and I am so grateful for every one of my incredible teachers.

Sue Dunlevie of Successful Blogging is my friend and mentor. She taught me how to grow my blog traffic, how to use my emails effectively, and how to connect with other bloggers in a truly generous and caring way. She is not only a great blogger and teacher, but one of the most giving people I know, and I am so grateful for her.

Kathy Pine of This Cherished Life, a friend and Mastermind buddy of mine, inspired me to do the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge, which ultimately led to my starting Have Your Cupcake, my membership site for bloggers.

Andrea Beltrami of The Branded Solopreneur taught me how to build genuine relationships with other bloggers, how to create a great brand, and how to stay true to your voice. She is in my Mastermind group with Sue, and I have truly cherished our sessions.

Tor Refsland of Time Management Chef taught me how to set SMART and DUMB goals, and how to do blogger outreach like a rockstar. He is hilarious and awesome, and I’m glad I connected with him through Sue this year.

Leonie Dawson’s Create Your Shining Year planners (affiliate link) made a ginormous impact on my life and business in 2015, and I’m already seeing their incredible effects as I use them to plan 2016. If you haven’t checked them out, I highly recommend them. They are gorgeous, life changing, and a no-brainer investment.

Rebecca Tracy’s Hey, Nice Package program (affiliate link) made a huge impact on my life as a blogger and business owner. It helped me define how I could help people, and reshaped the way I think about content and product creation.

Jordan Jaffe’s Facebook challenges were the inspiration for the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge, and I used her guidance to build and grow Blogging on Your Own Terms.

Even though I just joined it a few weeks ago, Todd Herman’s program The 90 Day Year has already changed the way I think about running my business and achieving my goals. With his help, I know I will be unstoppable in 2016.

My 3 words for 2016

Chris Brogan chooses 3 words for each year. They are meant to encompass what you want to build, and grow, and focus on that year.

Here are mine:

Intuition – I commit to following my intuition and listening to my own guidance whenever I come to a tough spot in 2016. I choose this word because living in intuition is a daily practice, and I know it will help me with everything I am growing this year.
Cupcakes – I choose cupcakes as my second word for a few reasons. 1, I want to grow my membership site, Have Your Cupcake, to 400 members this year. 2, cupcakes are small, and I will use small, daily habits, to keep going toward my goals. 3, cupcakes are delicious and enjoyable to eat. I commit to enjoying the journey in 2016. And 4, I want to bring mini-cupcakes of joy and education to everyone in my community.
CEO – Being the CEO of your business or blog means seeing the big picture, strategizing, not letting emotions cloud your decisions, and delegating. This year, I don’t just want to be a business owner, but a CEO who creates massive growth.

My big goals for 2016

In addition to my 3 words, here are my big goals for 2016.

To grow Have Your Cupcake to 400 members while maintaining the close-knit, incredible community we have there now. I just know that I can grow my community while making it a better experience for my members. That’s my huge focus for 2016.

Getting better at keeping track of my money. As a creative, I haven’t put the time and energy into bookkeeping that I know I really need to for business success. I am hiring a bookkeeper so that I always know what is flowing in and out of my business.

To build a close knit community here in Miami. I’ve been working so hard for the past year and a half that I haven’t put the time or energy into fostering relationships here. This year, I want to feel surrounded by friends and people I love.

My first delicious year as a full time blogger

So…that’s my 2015 in a cupcake wrapper.

What are your big lessons learned in 2015 and your big plans for 2016? Share in the comments below.

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  • Amanda Kanashiro

    Being part of blogging on your own terms and have your cupcake has been amazing. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for you!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Amanda! The feeling is mutual! Happy New Year!

  • Tunisia Jolyn

    Congratulations on a successful year! I totally understand having multiple blogs and feeling guilty ending them. I had 6 blogs before this one and I finally have just one website. I always had the bad habit of creating one blog, loving that and then feeling like I am not expressing all that I want to so then I would naturally create another one and another and then I’d wind up with 4 blogs and wonder how did this happen? lol This year, I finally have been able to keep it to just one which I think does wonders for me but you are right blogging is damn hard and I am happy that I found your blog and so many others that can help provide useful information, support and inspiration. I pray you meet all your goals and more in 2016. 🙂

    http://www.tunisiajolyn.com

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Tunisia! I pray for you to meet your goals in 2016 as well. Happy New Year!

  • Monica Bruno

    This is a wonderful wrap up of 2015. It was quite a year for you, congratulations! Thank you for all you do. Blogging on Your Own Terms and Have Your Cupcake have been insrtamental in helping me grow my blog. I know you will continue to be successful and 2016 is going to be even better! Happy New Year, Daniela!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks, Monica! You are one of the huge reasons I love doing what I do. Keep it up and I look forward to connecting and growing together further in 2016!

  • Peggy Nolan

    I loved watching you grow Daniela. You know I’m a huge fan of yours 🙂
    So many fantastic things happened in 2015 – things I intentionally set in motion at the end of 2014. The biggest thing I learned is to watch the timing on things…I got slammed with black belt testing, 2 books being published and 2 speaking gigs within a 30 day period of time…on top of working full time. It was like drinking water from a firehouse. Good things came from that period of intensity and overwhelm. I stuck to my “do the most important 3 things” each day mantra and that saw me through. Breathe and believe was another big reminder.

    Growing a close knit community locally is something I did that happened as a benefit of growing my yoga classes. I also discovered what makes my inner cheerleader break out in her happy dance. I’ll be doing more of that in 2016 🙂

    • Daniela Uslan

      Woah….that sounds like a crazy 30 days, Peggy! I’m glad you got through it and remembered to breathe! I love the idea of your inner cheerleader doing a happy dance! So glad to have you on this blogging journey with me. Here’s to a wonderful 2016!

  • You gave me an idea. Budgeting is something I learned the hard way. Lots of debt and tiny income. I wonder if there’s a blog series in there. Anyway, good luck on all your goals. I know you have helped me!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Rose, I would definitely read that series! Good luck to you as well, and I’m glad I’ve been able to help you!

  • Debra Klein

    Great wrap up! So impressed by your honesty and ability to articulate what’s going on —-like REALLY going on…and be able to see it all…..the good, the bad, and the ugly! Celebrate your success…..there’s so much to be proud of!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks, Debra. Honesty is kind of my thing, so I’m glad you noticed! Happy New Year!

  • Cheers to a roller coaster year and congrats on coming out stronger than ever, Daniela! I just LOVE this post, so much that resonates with me, I couldn’t agree more with you on stats Vs the connections you make.

    First delicious year is HUGE, way to go…and thanks so much for Blogging on your own terms! 🙂
    Have a great 2016!

    http://www.sveeteskapes.com

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks so much! I am glad that you resonated with the post and that you’re in BOYOT! Happy New Year!

  • Awesome words for the year! And congratulations on all of your successes—super exciting. Blogging can be so tough but it pays off!

    I have four books that I want to publish in 2016 (two business books and two apocalyptic fiction novellas)—so I’m making a goal of writing every single day to see that happen 🙂

    • Daniela Uslan

      Hi Sagan! How exciting to publish 4 books in 2016! You can do it if you stick to your daily writing goal! Happy New Year!

  • You did great this past year! Thanks to your Facebook group, I’m learning so much. Thanks!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks, Jeff! I am so glad you’re learning in Blogging on Your Own Terms! Happy New Year!

  • Thanks for sharing your celebrations and struggles. It is inspiring to see and I’ve loved learning from you this year! Happy New Year Daniela!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks, Heather! Happy New Year to you, too!

  • You’ve been a great cheerleader on my blogging journey. I’m so glad to be a part of your community. All the best in 2016! 🙂

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks, Christine! I am so glad you are part of the community as well! Happy New Year!

  • I appreciate your honesty. I’ve struggled with all those things. You have a lot to offer! I hope you realize all your words for the year.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Melanie, I appreciate it! Happy New Year!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Nicki! That’s amazing that you’ve had the same blog for 10 years. Wow!!! Thanks for the encouragement and Happy New Year!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Mardene! Happy New Year!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Petra! Happy New Year to you as well!

  • sue

    Daniela you know that I am a huge fan and am so appreciative of all you have given us this year. I love being a part of HYC and have learned so much from you. I know that 2016 will be a fabulous year for us all and I also know you will achieve what you have set out to do. Thank you for your guidance and friendship.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thank you so much Sue. You have been an inspiration and source of gratitude and joy for me this year. I look forward to continuing the journey with you!

  • Crystal

    Wow! What a year you have had! You do a great job at teaching. I love reading your blog.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Crystal! I really appreciate that! I do love teaching!

  • Sam – Journo and the Joker

    What a raw and honest look at the year that was and preparation for the year ahead. I love your choice of the word CEO for the year ahead. That really does make you think about things differently.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks so much, Sam! What’s your word for the year ahead?

  • I loved reading about your accomplishments, challenges, and goals! I appreciate your authenticity and thoughtfulness. Congrats on a great year! I look forward to seeing what you share in 2016.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks so much, Julie! I look forward to connecting with you in 2016 as well!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Yes, we definitely are! Maybe Panther Coffee…?

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Gigi! I appreciate your support, and it’s so great having you on this blogging journey with me!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Amber! I am glad that you’re in the group! Give a shout out if you even need any support!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Allie! I really appreciate it!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Jamie! I’m glad you found it helpful. What were your biggest achievements in 2015?

    • Jamie

      I started blogging in 2015, so it was mostly a learning process. Finding my niche, learning how to use social media, and how to create content that is actually helpful for my readers are probably my biggest accomplishments.

      • Daniela Uslan

        That’s great, Jamie! What are your plans for 2016?

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Sylvia! I’m glad the cupcakes lured you in! Here’s to a great 2016 for you as well!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Jonelle! You rock, too! I love the honesty of your blog. You always tell it like it is!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Elisha! Unfortunately those disappointments and overwhelming feelings are inevitable, it’s what you do to get through them that makes the difference.

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks so much Colleen! Joy and love (and cupcakes) to you in the new year as well!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Lisa! You are one of my favorite students. I love working with you and I’m so glad you found me!

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks Aimee! I feel like being overwhelmed and comparing is a constant battle. We just have to take it one day at a time!

  • Wow. Thanks for sharing. One thing I learned from The One Thing is that it’s okay to sometimes let the chaos pile up in other areas of life if in exchange we work on what truly matters to us (your challenge #4). I’ve noticed the same.

    It’s hard out here, but it’s worth it and the people I meet are such fun.

    I also had to overcome my fears to start doing webinars (I even did one together with Sue in December :))

    Keep going Daniela, whatever you do, don’t quit, we need people like you to inspire us!

  • Hey Daniela, sorry I didn´t see this one before now. Thanks a lot for the shout out, Daniela. I´m so glad that we are in the same mastermind group together.

    This year we are freakin´going to kick *ss BIG time 😉

    Rock on!

    Tor

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Tor. I totally agree!!!

  • Jennifer Francis

    Nice one! I’d be curious to hear about how you built the membership platform more. A very Pat Flynn post, I appreciate your transparency!

  • Congratulations on your first year! I appreciate your honesty and reflections. All the best for continued growth!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Skip! I appreciate that!