When I first started Entrepreneurs-Journey I wrote something that I believe was one of the most powerful rapport building pieces of content I have ever created.
I called it my “Business Timeline” and it was exactly what it sounds like, a chronicle of my life as an entrepreneur.
Since this blog began when I had already enjoyed a “career” as an entrepreneur, I had many stories to tell.
I used EJ to chronicle my experiences, in particular in an ongoing series that ended up being six parts long, taking people from my birth in 1979, briefly reviewing my upbringing, then from about the year 2000 onwards, giving a blow-by-blow account of all my business projects.
Around the year 2006 I stopped keeping it up to date, since most of my focus was then on EJ, so the blog posts I wrote were the story unfolding.
Then in 2009 as I turned 30 years old, I wrote a very popular post called How To Become Comfortable With Yourself.
This article was a reflection piece, reviewing many of my successes over the previous five years from age 25 to 30, and also talking about how negative I was during my early twenties when I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks.
That article garnered over 250 comments and really struck a cord with people.
Why A Life Story Is So Important
When I created the Blog Mastermind training program, one of the lessons instructed my members to chronicle their life story, as it pertains to the subject of their blog.
Blogging, especially as an individual, is very much personality driven. Your success often comes because your audience likes you. They like what you write about and share a common interest, but they keep coming back because of your personality and how it comes through in your content.
The “Life Story” article or series is a great way to establish strong rapport and build your tribe. It’s the perfect combination of demonstrating why you know what you know, it captures attention because it uses the storytelling narrative style of writing and it demonstrates who you are as a person. This is a recipe for a strong connection with your audience.
It’s also a vital tool to introduce yourself to new readers. A small handful of your audience might have stayed with you for the long haul, but most will join you somewhere along the journey, not at the start. As a result, they won’t have any connection with your past, and your timeline article series is the best tool to summarise your history and build that connection.
The Last Few Years
I am now 33, only a few months away from my 34th birthday. Quite a number of people have been asking me what I am up to now. One friend, my Kenyan buddy Mwangi, who has been with EJ since the early days, suggested I continue my life story series again.
Initially I was hesitant. While I enjoy writing about myself, as every good blogger does (we have HUGE egos), for the first time I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to relive the last few years.
This is primarily because my mother had a stroke and spent 20 months in hospital before she died. As I wrote about in What Happens When Your Mother Dies I spent a lot of time in hospital with her. It wasn’t exactly a fun time – and not something I want to write about too much more than I already have.
From a business standpoint, things have been contracting rather than growing during this time. The main reason for this is because of some decisions I made. I closed down my two coaching programs, Blog Mastermind and Membership Site Mastermind because I want to update them. Leslie Samuel took over my other co-created with Gideon Shalwick program, Become A Blogger.
I experimented with EJ becoming a multi-author blog, which while good timing because it allowed me to focus on my mother when she first went into hospital, it didn’t have the desired effect on growth.
Although some of the columnists that came on board had some hit articles, and EJ had some great content during this time from some very smart and successful people, traffic stayed the same. Unfortunately the change harmed my connection with my audience. Some people left since they only came to EJ for my words and they still don’t realise that I’m once again the only writer here.
The one big new project I focused on during the last two years is CrankyAds. This project has gathered some traction and made some money, but it is far from what I want it to be due to the difficulty of software development.
Team CrankyAds have decided to leave the project in a holding pattern, supporting the service to let it grow organically, but not putting any more significant development into it, unless cash flow increases to cover hiring a developer.
I suspect we will sell CrankyAds towards the end of the year. I would certainly love to see it continue, but it needs someone who wants to continue to develop it.
During this time EJ itself has also contracted. Traffic has decreased for the first time ever. I’m not sure exactly what has caused the downturn, but around November 2012 traffic started to go down. Before this EJ has held steady for years, not going up or down significantly.
I suspect it is because Google decreased some of my long tail rankings. I believe it could be because I have had too many ads, or because I did a couple of sponsored posts for Visa or because my post frequency dropped to weekly, or perhaps I need more organic link building to maintain my position. It might be a combination of all these things.
I have been rolling out some slow changes to address these possible issues, so I will hopefully figure out what caused the traffic drop. This includes reducing the number of external ads on the site (I may drop advertising altogether if my strategy works out), and I’ve stopped doing any sponsored posts as well.
I want to increase content frequency, and marketing in general to bring more new visitors to EJ and increase incoming links, but I’ve made a very deliberate strategic decision to hold off on marketing or increasing content production until I have finished the business behind the marketing. I’ll explain what I mean by this in a future post.
The other change that has impacted my income is not promoting affiliate launches.
I used to promote five to ten big launches a year, each bringing in $5,000 to $20,000 in affiliate commissions. I decided that I want to focus more on selling my own training products and keep my community focused on what I stand for. I may still recommend the odd course or software now and then, but I’m a lot more picky now.
Needless to say, my income is not what it used to be. It has steadily decreased over the last few years for obvious reasons. If you close your training programs, stop promoting products and slowly pull the ads from your site, that doesn’t leave you with many income streams!
I have been okay thanks to ongoing affiliate commissions from recursive programs and I did a little private coaching earlier in the year. I don’t have a lot of expenses and I own my own home thanks to the proceeds from previous years.
You might be thinking what is wrong with me. Why say no to the $2,000 to $3,000 a month I was making in advertising, and the $5,000 to $10,000 per month in affiliate commissions, not to mention why take my best-selling products off the market?!?
There is a method behind my madness. It’s all focused on a strategy I want my business to be focused on. I made this decision because I believe my business will be better if I focus on what I am best at and enjoy – teaching through writing – and tighten up my niche focus.
It’s pretty obvious that the world of internet marketing and blogging has become a much more crowded place since I started. I’ve talked before about how important I believe having a tribe is, a group of people who love your style, what you stand for and teach. They have similar goals and aspirations and you can help them the most because you focus on their specific problems.
I believe the tribe is even more critical because a lot of people do similar things online. If I want to be helpful to my members, I need to be very good at one thing. I know what that one thing is, now it’s time for me to build a bigger business around it.
This might sound all a bit cryptic, that’s deliberate because this blog post isn’t meant to be about my change in strategic direction. If you really want to know what that is, stay tuned over the next 12 months and you will see me roll it out here on EJ.
Whether it works or not is yet to be determined of course. I am excited about teaching again, especially now that my focus is even narrower than it used to be.
Up Next: The Last Four Years
I’ve glossed over everything that has happened in the last four years in the above paragraphs. It’s been a challenging time for me both personally and professionally.
There’s a lot to learn when things aren’t going well, just as much as when things are on the up. Not everything has been bad over the last few years of course. You certainly learn how good your business really is when you leave it almost completely alone spending every day in hospital.
This is a transition period for me. The end of the previous period recently came to a close. I find it’s always a smart idea to review the last few years as you are about to start a new period, which is exactly what I am going to do in the next article.
I’ll take you through each of the above major decisions I made during the previous years since I turned 30, why I did them, what worked and what didn’t and how they have impacted the decision to follow the strategy I am about to roll out over the next 12 months.
This is a continuation of my Business Timeline, and I hope you find it valuable.
Stay tuned, there’s a lot I can reveal to you that might have a dramatic impact on what kind of business you decide to build as well.