Find out the three biggest changes it takes to turn a blog from a hobby to a business. Learn how we turned our food blog from a side hustle that was almost shut down, to a business that overtook our day jobs to support us both.
In This Post You’ll Learn
Who Are We?
We’re Sarah and Laura. Wives in life and business.
In September 2019 we made the decision to concentrate on Wandercooks as a business, and not a hobby or side hustle.
At the time, we’d been running our blog for four years and had written in our achievements journal about making our first $50US day with Mediavine.
Fast forward to September 2022, and we just celebrated a $500US day with AdThrive – 10x the earnings in three short years.
How and Why Treating Our Blog Like a Business Got Us to Where We Are Today
It was over dinner in mid-2019 when we had our life changing conversation. We were discussing our businesses with close friends, and at the time our main income was from our website and graphic design business, with the blog making just enough to cover a few weeks of our (small) mortgage repayments.
Our issue was that we were rushed off our feet with work. Essentially, we’d hit our ceiling with design clients and didn’t have the time to commit to more work (or money). It was during this discussion, our friends threw out a strong suggestion: Shut down Wandercooks and hire someone for our design business to expand.
Doing so would free up our much needed time AND allow us to expand our design capacity. There was only one issue, the suggestion ignited some big emotions from the both of us. We came away from the night frustrated and angry, and it took us a while and many deep conversations to unpack why: Wandercooks meant too much to us to throw away. Which meant something had to change. We loved the blog work more than our design work, but at the time we were chasing the money (hey, we’ve got bills to pay!), which is where our focus ended up 90% of the time.
1. The Decision
The Decision is an important step in treating your blog like a business. You need to CHOOSE your blog over other options. Let me repeat that so it sinks in.
YOU need to CHOOSE your blog.
Choice shows priority, and making a choice is making a decision. Saying I don’t have time, I have other work to do or I’m too tired is still making a choice. It’s choosing not to focus on your blog. If you want something to happen, there is always a way. It all starts with a decision and taking that action.
Once you’ve made the decision to focus on your blog, things need to change. This takes time, effort and a lot of shuffling things around to make it work for your lifestyle. Depending on your situation and tolerance for risk, your journey may look different to ours in how you change your focus, but the most important thing is making those new decisions and actions to get you there.
For us, being self-employed with both businesses, our main goals were to make sure the blog could support us AND that we had enough in savings as a back up. With this in mind, we made sure to find small ways to start choosing Wandercooks over our design business, and to consider the blog at the forefront of any new business decisions made.
This meant we made the effort to find larger design jobs, which may at first seem counterproductive, but it did two things.
- Less clients meant less time communicating and the ability to focus on fewer projects, which opened up a few extra hours to work on the blog.
- More money meant we could shuffle any extra dollars into both building our savings AND spending money on the blog.
With that in mind, think about decisions you’ve been making lately, and ask yourself if it’s helping or hindering your blog growth as a business.
Some resources which were super helpful for this were:
2. Spending Money
Spending Money on the blog was another important change for us. We’re very budget conscious (and still are!) and had run the blog on a shoestring. This meant having the blog on the cheapest hosting (hello, Bluehost) and not spending a single dollar if we didn’t have to. Of course, this also sent a signal that we weren’t choosing to support and help our blog grow to the best it could be.
Our first big expense was to book in a content audit, because if we were going to spend money, we wanted it to be on the right things that would make the biggest difference. We booked Casey Markee from Media Wyse in for Feb, 2020.
Then we started spending more money.
- We upgraded our hosting to WPOpt so our site ran faster and could support more traffic.
- We updated our website theme and overhauled our branding (luckily we could do this ourselves, so it was a combination of time and money).
- We started paying for premium plugins to introduce more useful features on our site for our readers.
- We invested in Nerdpress to be our IT support gurus and clean up our backend database and make sure our site was backed up properly.
All up, this probably cost close to 3 months worth of earnings from Wandercooks at the time. So it was definitely an investment!
By spending the money in those areas, we’d laid the foundations so our website was in the best possible technical shape it could be. It was now onto the next step: Time.
Upgrading Your Blog Resources:
3. Spending Time AKA Doing The Work
Spending Time was our last major change. We had to make our days work so that Wandercooks was given more of a priority than before. We made two big changes to get us there.
Scheduling Thinking Weekends (Working Holidays)
Thinking Weekends was a concept spin off from Bill Gate’s Think Weeks. We planned quarterly think weekends to do only blog work, in a completely new environment away from friends, family and design clients.
This was a time to go through our blog in minute detail and lay the foundations for next steps. We established our goals, the work required to get there, and anticipated outcomes.
It made it easier doing it in a fun environment. We packed snacks, had a fire going and made sure to bring our puppy along! Essentially, you make it feel as holiday like as possible, but with nothing else to do but focus on your work and making plans!
One Think Weekend we spent the entire time going through every single post on Wandercooks and assigning it’s new main and /or secondary keyword. This was a gruelling, boring task. Once finished though, it told us which posts needed to be deleted, and which ones had the most potential that we should be concentrating on first. It gave us our next steps, so we had no excuses!
Next up was building more time to actually do the work we’d planned out.
Going Part-Time with our Design Business
This was a huge shift for us mentally. It’s so hard to say no to jobs bringing in “now money” to focus on blog posts that may bring in “potential future money”.
Changing our mindset helped, as well as really harnessing our blog analytics and financial knowledge. Diving into both of these areas allowed us to make calculations on income forecasts for the blog as a business.
Once we had our forecasts in place, it reduced our fear of failure and allowed us to explore a few worst case scenarios. We answered questions such as – how long could we support ourselves on less design work before having to dip into our savings? What areas are we willing to reduce our spending, and for how long, in order give us more time to grow the blog?
We then introduced a system to start stepping back from our design work:
- In January 2020, we implemented working on the design business from Monday – Thursday, opening up an entire day on Friday’s for our undivided blog attention. This new schedule worked great. We opened up time to start posting more and cleaning up some of our older posts as we worked through the findings from our SEO audit.
- After 5 months in May 2020, we knew we had to step back once again. We reduced our design days to Tuesday – Thursday and gave ourselves Monday and Friday to work on the blog. Here is where we really started to hone in on updating blog posts, taking on even less design work and even working on the blog in between projects on design days. By this stage, we really felt like the blog was beginning to feel like another business, and no longer our side hobby.
- In January 2021, we reached what we call our crossover point. It was the first month Wandercooks had officially earnt enough to cover our expenses, making us financially independent on the blog’s income. It was also the month we decided to make the final leap and become full time bloggers. Sending out those emails to our design clients to notify them of that decision has to be one of the most liberating things we’ve done!
These resources helped us to work better:
Yes! We’ve collated all our food blogger resources with a list of our favourite service providers, courses, books, podcasts and more!
It took two years from the decision to treat the blog as a business to when it was supporting us full time. The blog was 6 years old at that point, but we didn’t spend much time on it prior to 2019.
The two biggest benefits of growing your blog into a business is the flexibility and financial independence it can provide.
So there’s our story, and the three essential things we worked on to turn our blog into business:
Our choices and decisions, investing in the blog and making the time.
More food blog resources here: