Darren: Welcome to episode 256 of the ProBlogger Podcast the podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind the problogger.com. A blog, podcast, event, job board, and a series of eBooks, and courses all designed to help you as a blogger to start an amazing blog that’s going to help people, that’s going to give you an opportunity to make the world a better place in some way, and also that will hopefully build some profit for you as well, and give you an extra income stream. You can learn more about ProBlogger and check out our courses and eBooks over at problogger.com.
Now, today we’re kicking off our blogging breakthroughs series where you’ll be hearing over the coming weeks from a variety of bloggers who are going to tell you their stories of breakthroughs that they’ve had over the years. I put the call out a couple episodes ago for this series, and we were inundated with amazing stories. We can’t use them all, but we are going to use quite a few of them over the coming weeks. We’re still working through those applications to be honest, there’s so many of them, but today I want to introduce you to the first of them, a friend of mine called Andrea Vahl. I actually asked Andrea to submit her story while we went through all the other submissions.
Now, Andrea is someone I met many years ago now at a blogging conference, I think it was in Las Vegas of all places, but at the time of meeting her, she wasn’t actually Andrea Vahl, she was Grandma Mary, which is a strange one, and I was a little bit freaked out when I first met her because she was obviously someone dressed up in costume.
Andrea is someone who had been doing improvisational comedy before she started getting into blogging. As she started getting into social media, she realized that no one was teaching social media in an entertaining way.
She invented this character Grandma Mary to teach how to do social media via video. There’s actually a photo in the show notes of her and me from one of those early conferences, so you could see what she looked like. She would also show up at events as Grandma Mary, which was a great way to stand out.
I remember walking through these conference halls with thousands of people in them, and everyone would be of course looking at who this person was and she was a kind of a bit of an outrageous, funny kind of character and got a lot of attention, a really great way to stand out.
Anyway, Andrea has not only built Grandma Mary’s profile, but she also today is well known for herself. She’s the coauthor of A Dummies Book with Amy Porterfield and Phyllis Khare. Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies, I’ll link to it in today’s show notes, and she also does a lot of speaking.
In fact, last year she spoke at the Success Incubator event that I ran with some friends. In today’s blogging breakthrough story, she could really tell a lot of stories, but today, she’s going to tell you the story of starting her blog back in 2009, so she has been doing it for a while now, and also how she got that book deal which is a great story. She also shares some really good tips that I want to talk more about at the end of her story.
This story goes for about seven minutes, so in seven minutes time, I’ll come back on and I want to kind of just expand upon a few of the things that she said and give you a little bit of further listening if it piques your interest.
Today’s show notes including links to Andrea’s site at andreavahl.com, the show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/256.
Okay, here’s Andrea.
Andrea: Hi, this is Andrea Vahl, coauthor of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies and wig-wearing comedian. I just want to thank Darren for having me on the ProBlogger Podcast, and I want to tell my blogging breakthrough story.
It really is about how I got the book deal to write Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies through blogging, and through my social media connections. What happened is I started my blog as Grandma Mary, social media edu-tainer because I saw that there weren’t a lot of really fun entertaining blogs out there, and I started it more as a video blog.
I used YouTube videos and also was blogging, adding some content with the YouTube videos, and I started blogging in about 2009. I started a video blog mostly because I didn’t like writing that much. It was a perfect combination for me to use my humor, and to create content quickly with a video blog, and I was initially putting out a lot of content, I was blogging maybe three times a week, it wasn’t super consistent as far as how many times I was blogging, but I knew I had to get a lot of content out there.
I also knew that I wanted to have some products. I launched a product, and I launched some eBooks way before I was ready to do that. I kind of forced myself to get those out there, and I launched my first product and eBook in the fall. I started blogging in the summer, and right away started just launching because I knew that I would just get better at doing that.
I was also at the same time making connections on social media, and showing up and doing regular things by commenting on people’s tutorials, commenting when people had maybe a live show going on, there was some live shows out there that were happening, and I was making those social media connections.
One of the people I got connected to was Phyllis Khare, and she was also watching one of the live shows with me and we started kind of chatting and connecting through that, and because my blog is a little unusual, a little different, it kind of grew in the fans that I had, and grew the followers so that was really exciting and fun, and what happened was, a year after I had started my blog, it was totally unexpected and out of the blue, I was just starting to monetize it a little bit because my first few products and eBooks were not huge sales, but I knew that would change.
It’s hard to stay in the course sometimes though, and what happened was a year after I started blogging, I got a call from Phyllis Khare, and she had a connection into Wiley who is the publisher of the Dummies series books, and they had seen my authority out there, seeing the fact that I created a lot of content, and also saw the fact that I had written some eBooks, and the combination of all of those things helped me get the book deal to write coauthor for Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies along with Amy Porterfield and Phyllis Khare. It was just a total shock to me that that would happen.
That wasn’t something I had on my radar was to write a book, I actually didn’t really like writing that much because I started a video blog, so you really never know where those connections are going to lead, and what might happen out there in the world. I kind of had the intention of starting my business as more of a part time thing.
I had two young kids at home, and all I wanted to do was just earn some money on the side, I’ve been laid off from my job, but I wanted to stay home with my kids. I thought, if I could just earn a little bit of money on the side, that would really help our family and it would just make things a little more comfortable for us, plus it kept me sane which was a huge benefit to all of that.
I ended up writing the book and I actually went on to write three editions of the book, and that experience has made me a much better writer. Now, I do enjoy writing a lot because I think that experience of writing the Dummies book while it was sometimes challenging because they have such strict requirements over how you write, it’s helped me be a better blogger, it’s helped me be a better writer, and what it did for me is really transform my business into something that was part time into something that is full time.
Now, I get to travel all over the world, I’m speaking in places, I just was speaking in Aruba, I’m heading to Malaysia next week to go speak. I’m going to be speaking in the Czech Republic, and then a lot of places in the US, and I really never thought all this was possible from a blog. I also have much more successful products that’s one of the big ways I monetize my blog is through the products, the speaking is great as well, but I focus a little bit more on the products since some of the other things I do like consulting as well, but the products are what really drives my business.
Now, the amazing thing is just not long ago my husband got laid off from his job, and really he doesn’t necessarily need to go find a new job, and that’s kind of an amazing thing is that, we can flip things around now, and my business can be what carries our family, and he can kind of find what he might want to do either online, or virtual, or something that might be a better fit for him, too.
I am such a big believer in blogging, I think some of my key lessons are really to continue to show up consistently, and participate and make those connections because you really don’t know where those social media connections are going to lead, and then be open to where that journey might take you, and also don’t be afraid to monetize early, that was something that was really helpful in my journey because it takes a long time to get to a really profitable product.
It really took me about six years before things really started kicking off, maybe it was really more like five, but it really takes awhile before you can see huge benefits, and it depends on how you work, but that was my experience and I know that I was doing a lot more things with my children as well, and that’s why I think blogging is an amazing business to be in. Thanks everyone, you can find me over at www.andreavahl.com. Thanks so much.
Darren: Thanks very much to Andrea for sharing her story. I appreciate you taking the time to do that with us today. I’ve shared links to Andrea’s site and her books in today’s show notes, you’ll also see a couple of photos of her and myself including one of Grandma Mary from, I think, it was a Copyblogger conference that we were at at that one.
A few things that really stood out to me in Andrea’s story, I really love the way that she articulated the tip of being open to where your blog might take you. When Andrea started her blog, she thought she was going to have one thing, a part time business, she didn’t know what would come from it, she wasn’t aiming for a book deal, but she did start to experiment with monetization with those early eBooks.
As so often happens in these little experiments we do in the early days, things turn out different to what we expect. She wasn’t to know that that early eBook was going to get her on the radar of a publisher.
I’m sure the eBook itself didn’t sell a lot of copies, but the book that followed then led to more opportunities. It gave opportunities to speak. It gave her more confidence to write more eBooks which were profitable. It built her audience. It opened up opportunities to network with other people. Today, she now has courses that she does as well as eBook, she does consulting, too. She wasn’t to know that just starting the blog would lead to all of these other things. She didn’t start with that plan in mind. She was just open to those possibilities and really, that is a story that I can relate to as well.
I remember my first book deal, and my book deal for the ProBlogger book came about because I had previously started writing an eBook. When a publisher did approach me, I was able to show them the thing I was already working on, and I probably would have rejected a book deal to be honest if I hadn’t already started writing that eBook.
You never quite know where things are going to open up, and while still I think it’s good, and it’s fine to start with a plan of where you might end up to kind of dream of some of those ideas, stay open to the opportunities, you might have some unexpected changes, or pivots, I guess in direction.
What she started as a simple blog today really is so much more, and I guess the other tip that she gave there is that she showed up consistently, and that’s certainly another big part of Andrea, she’s not someone who just started a blog and then it all fell into place after that. She’s someone who has shown up consistently and I really admire the way that she shows up to live events. She puts herself out there as Grandma Mary, and she steps out of her comfort zone in those ways.
She’s also shown up consistently online as well. She mentioned in her story the idea of networking, and I’m really glad she did this because it’s one of the things I’ve noticed about her from day one. She’s always been very well connected, very relational. She’s put herself out there.
You might think someone that’s showing up as a Grandma to an event is a crazy out there kind of person, but if you meet Andrea in real life, while she has done some of those crazy thing, she’s actually a very gentle person. I would almost say she’s a little bit shy. She’s obviously got some confidence, but she’s not what you might think she is. she’s pushed herself I suspect out of her comfort zone and as a result, some great things have happened, last piece of advice that she gave I think was really interesting, to monetize early.
I know some people who teach blogging say, you shouldn’t monetize until you’ve got an audience. I understand what they’re saying there, but I’ve been teaching for a while, that monetizing early is a good thing. It might not make you a lot of money, but as Andrea said, it can lead to opportunities, but more importantly, it leads to learning. No matter what way that you monetize early, whether it be with some AdSense Ads you’re going to then learn about ad positions, you’re going to learn about code and that type of thing, you’re going to learn about how to insert things into your template of your blog.
If you monetize with affiliate marketing, you’ll learn how to do a bit of marketing. If you’re going to learn by creating a product, an eBook, you’re going to learn so much as well. I particularly think having a product of your own, creating a product of your own is a very important thing. What I would say you don’t need to create a big product. In fact, I don’t think you should create a big product until you’ve tested it with some little things first, and so an eBook is a great way to do that type of thing or some affiliate marketing of someone else’s product will teach you a lot as well.
Now, I have done a couple of previous episodes on creating product, so if you do want to dig into those, I encourage you to head over to episode 67, which is an episode where I explore why you should create a product, and I’ll give you some tips on creating your first products. That was episode 67, and then a recent, episode 242 is on how to create a product library. This is more building upon those first products as well. That would be a couple that you might want to check out if you did want to begin to monetize.
That wraps up today’s show. I will put the links to those previous episodes to Andrea’s site on the show notes. The show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/256. I’ll also link to Andrea’s site, it’s andreavahl.com and I’ll also link to our Success Incubator event, which is happening again this year in Orlando, Florida in late September.
Andrea was one of our great speakers last year. We’ve begun to announce speakers for this year’s event as well. There’s also this year a lot of masterminding going on at event. If you are wanting a bit of good input, but more importantly, if you want mastermind type experience where you get to throw ideas around from your blog, check out Success Incubator, and I’ll link to that in today’s show notes, too.
Thanks everyone for listening. I’ll be back next week with another blogging breakthrough story and if you do have a blogging breakthrough story, dig back a couple of episodes, and you’ll learn how you can submit your story, too. We may not be able to use it straight away, but this is something that we do think we will continue to run from time-to-time, so you’re more than welcome to at least submit something there via the form that we have in that previous show episode, I think it was episode 254. Thanks everyone, chat next week.