Blogging Success: How Shannon Grew her Frugal Living Blog to Six Figures
Today, I am talking to Shannon Cairns from Making Frugal Fun, formerly thefrugalfootdoc.com.
Shannon has had a lot of success, not just with blogging, but also with TikTok.
She’s a really prolific content creator and she had a really, really big year in 2021, all the way from having a couple of things go viral to having her first six-figure month.
Shannon, tell us a little bit of your blogging success story.
I started blogging four years ago in March of 2017. I always followed blogs and thought, “I would really like to do that.”
When I started, I thought it would be a mom blog. It was almost like a diary. I was writing things we did that weekend and just thinking, eventually it’ll make money somehow. I had no idea how, but just hoping.
My husband and I are both doctors, and we’ve struggled a lot financially because of student loan debt and business debt.
And, right at the beginning of 2018, before and right after my third child was born, I also really struggled with postpartum depression, because of our finances. We started making really drastic changes and following the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover Plan and all that kind of thing.
Then, I just decided to start sharing what we were doing – all the frugal living tips. I had seen other people be successful with personal finance blogs. I thought that even though it was competitive, that some people would maybe relate to my story.
Want to read more about money mindset? Check out this post about money fears.
That’s when I changed it up from just a mom blog to a frugal living blog.
For the first two or three years, I made maybe $100 – $200 a month. In that time, I never hit Mediavine. I’m still in the process of applying for Mediavine – and I still had a six-figure month anyway.
Then, I took one of the big blogging courses. That helped me focus, and I grew to a huge audience.
I would hear people say, “However many people you have on your email list, you should be able to make $1 per person per month.”
But I had almost 100,000 people on my email list – and my best month was about $3,000 to $5,000. I was very happy to be making $5,000 a month, but I felt like I was missing something. Where were these six-figure launches everyone talks about?
Blogging success, to me, was to make 10k a month, to be able to replace my physician income, so people didn’t think I was crazy for leaving being a doctor to be a blogger. Personally, I was just happier being at home with my kids, and I wanted my blog to be my full-time source of income.
What I find really compelling about your story is it’s not a subtle story. Just seeing you able tackle this really big problem with three kids, with a huge amount of debt, with needing a career and starting the side hustle. So, how did you get to $5,000 months?
It took me about a year to go through the blogging course, because I’m doing everything at 4:00 AM on the side of kids and my job and everything. That’s another thing that was important – just not giving up, even though it took so long. I could see the endgame and I was like, “I know I’m not making any money this month, but I can see that down the road, it’s going to be profitable.”
That’s really powerful. How did you do that? Without making any money that month, how could you see the endgame? A lot of people have a hard time with that.
Honestly, just seeing other people that had done it. I just kept thinking, “Even if it takes five years, eventually, if I just keep going, I’ll have hundreds of thousands of email subscribers.”
If I can get to that point, even if it’s five years from now, but then I’m making $200,000 a month or something crazy like that, then it will be worth not making any money right now and the time that it took. Anytime I would get frustrated with not having enough pageviews to get Mediavine, I’d think, “Well, but I have this going for me over here.” If my TikTok views would go down, I’d be like, “Well, at least I have my email list over here.”
I love that.
One time I had a crash and burn in my email open rate – like a 6% email open rate. I was panicking. It was just something technical that I ended up fixing, but I was like, “Well, at least I have my Instagram growing, and my TikTok growing.”
If I got frustrated in one area, I shifted my focus to something else really helps me to stay motivated.
When I’m more diverse, then yes, there’s more opportunities to make sales. But also, I’m not afraid to not write content on my blog for a couple months and just focus on creating a product or just relaxing on YouTube for a couple months because TikTok’s being really profitable.
At first, that used to stress me out because I’d think, “Oh, my gosh, my YouTube people are probably like, ‘Where are you?'” In reality, they probably don’t care that much if I haven’t posted a YouTube video in two months. But for me, I was panicking: “Oh, everyone’s going to hate me because I don’t post a YouTube video.”
Right now, though, I haven’t been posting TikToks for a few weeks just because my life’s been really crazy lately. I’m also in the middle of changing the name of my blog and all that stuff. Some people started commenting, “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you lately.” I just told them that I’m just taking a little mental health break.
They’re like, “Well, just remember, you matter and your content matters.”
No one’s going to be mad at you if you can’t post for a few weeks.
It’s not going to be the end of your blog or something like that. You can always come back, especially you have that email list. All I need to do really is get my Facebook ads back up and running and I can be back up to that income level.
A lot of what you’re talking about is really simple mindset things. I love how you’re able to always focus on the positive because staying in that energy is really what helps you to keep going.
Then the other thing I feel like is really powerful that you said is focusing on the task at hand, and on top of that, focusing on where the money is coming from.
Where did you feel like you were getting stuck? What had you already tried to push those 5k months a little bit further?
Being in the personal finance niche or niche, I thought people wanted one thing.
I was like, “People need or want a budgeting course.” I was adamant about that.
My first product I made was a debt payoff eBook.
It sold fine. It brought in enough income to cover my expenses, my email list, that kind of stuff, but I would only sell like 20 or 30 to a list of 10,000, 20,000, 30,000. My list kept growing, but I was still only selling like 30 or 40 of my budgeting course. The conversion rate was terrible.
Tell us about your $9000 month.
So, at the beginning of COVID, I decided to make like a little $7 meal planning printable. I had way more people buy that than had ever bought my budgeting stuff.
Then I had a freebie tripwire thing going and I ran Facebook ads to it.
Then, I made a TikTok about it: “Here’s how we feed our family for $100 a week.”
The TikTok went crazy viral. It’s had 5 million views or something like that.
That first time that I made a video and it was a $7 product, I made like $2,000 the first day, and then over the next few weeks, I ended up ending that month with $9,000 or something which was the most my blog had ever made.
That was really interesting. It had to do with budgeting, but not like a budgeting course. It’s more actionable. People could save money right away if they implement this plan for grocery shopping and everything.
I kept thinking, “Well, I bet I could make it better if I added recipes, and did a year meal plan, and sell it for a higher, price,” but I just never implemented it.
It was a mental block; I knew what was going to make me money, but I just didn’t do it.
That’s when I reached out to you.
I was like, “I know that I can have 10k months because I almost hit it in September. I think I know what people want. But why is my budgeting course not selling?”
At the same time, I was telling my husband, “Maybe I should just sell my blog. I’m tired of dealing with this.”
Whenever I have a big blogging success, I often draw back for some reason. It’s like I’m scared of success or something.
But then I reached out to you, and then in January, we tried launching the budgeting thing. Again, it totally flopped. I was like, “Okay, people don’t want this. I don’t know why, but they don’t want this.”
We surveyed the audience, and a lot of people were saying they wanted meal planning stuff.
I remember saying to you that I just didn’t feel passionate about the budgeting thing, too.
I felt annoyed at it, because my budgeting course had monthly coaching and I didn’t look forward to it. It felt like a chore. My passion was really in creating content.
I wanted to do recipes and more homemaking type things, something completely different from my day job as a doctor, which I was totally over at the time. Instead of going into another serious professional service industry, I really want to be creative and do fun DIY and stuff like that.
I knew that the meal planning this was what people wanted. You were like, “Okay, let’s do it.”
You were so stoked about the meal planning and knew exactly what to do. What happened next?
Then I decided to launch it. It was already selling well on day one to my list. Then that morning, I was like, “I should just make a quick TikTok about this.”
I totally wasn’t planning on doing it.
I have 200,000 followers on Tiktok. It’s a big audience, and I want to utilize that.
I made just a flip through of the binder printed out, talking about it. It’s crazy because it didn’t necessarily go viral – it ended up with around 200,000 views, but it was so targeted towards a sale. I always thought you had to direct people to a freebie.
This is the first time I said, “Buy this right now. It’s on sale.”
I made $7,000 in one day, from the combination of my email list and the TikTok. The TikTok drove most of the sales.
Then by the end of the week, I think I came to you and I was like, “Should I run Facebook ads to this?”
So we did – and the ad started getting 3x return on ad spend. The product is only $12. I just started bumping up my budget.
By the end of that week, I had had my first 20k month.
Then, going into March, there was a point where I was running ads at $3,000 a day!
I finished the month of March with my first six-figure month. I was very close to a 200k month basically. It was insane. That was when I could say, “I made six figures this year as a blogger.” It’s just crazy. If I do nothing else this year…
“We’re done. I’m good to go.”
I am, which was my goal to feel like I was a blogging success – to make six figures. Now, I’m like, “Can I have my first million dollar year? Why not?”
Can we talk about your biggest fear after that big success?
Yes. I really struggled with wondering: “Is blogging success this just going to dry up overnight one day?”
This is my hardest thing to overcome – the fear of it all going away. Wondering if it’s sustainable.
My biggest thing for pulling out of that is just looking at other people who have done the same thing. I’m like, “Well, they’re fine. They keep coming up with new ideas. They’re fine. Their income didn’t dry up overnight.”
Let’s talk about coaching and how it impacted your blogging success.
This is the first time I’ve worked with a coach.
I’ve been in some little masterminds, but one-on-one coaching was new.
Eventually, when you’re an entrepreneur, you need someone to keep you accountable and just boost you to the next level.
I could only get so far on my own, even though I had all the tools, the audience, etc.
I needed someone to say, “Okay, next week, on Wednesday, we’re meeting, every week.” I would be like, “Oh, my gosh. I’m meeting Alison. I have to have something to tell her. I can’t just be like, ‘I did nothing this week.'”
For me, just having you be there to say, “Okay, you need to do this, this and this,” and I’d be like, “Okay, I’m going to do it because I’m paying money. I can’t just sit around and say, ‘Oh, well, whatever.’ I didn’t want to disappoint you, and also myself.”
I think that having someone to boost you the next level is really important for blogging success.
What advice do you have for someone who is starting out in their journey?
Definitely for someone starting out, I would say that you just have to START.
That sounds really cliche. But, really:
- I’ve changed my blog name four times.
- I didn’t have my message figured out when I first turned my blog on.
- The first year that I was blogging was honestly just learning tech and stuff.
- I didn’t even have an email list until my second year of blogging, when I took that big course.
- At this point, I still haven’t really even dug into SEO and I’m four years in.
- There are the most random blogposts on my blog from late 2017. If someone’s going to come across it, then I don’t really care. I just keep moving forward.
If I had tried to do it all at once, I probably would have gotten overwhelmed and quit. I just got it going, and I’ve purchased courses over time, and I’ve learned.
I just figure it will work itself out as I’m learning. For people getting started, really you just have to start. That’s that.
Now, what advice do you have for someone who has some blogging success and feels stuck?
Mindset meditation and journaling are great for that – thinking about what you really love talking about on your blog, and what are people asking you about the most.
I get ideas for blog posts and videos from the questions people ask.
People ask me questions on TikTok, and I respond to them. That’s how I get my content and product ideas.
Also, watch out for comparison, and define blogging success for yourself.
A lot of times, I compare myself to the TikTokers that have millions of followers, but then I wonder if they had a $7,000 day.” 200,000 followers is a lot, but on TikTok, people have millions and millions of followers. I’m always thinking, “Oh, it would be so cool to be them, but I wonder if they’re really making money.”
I’m sure they’re getting sponsorships, but you never know. You just have to go with what’s working for you, and you don’t need a million followers to make money.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Just that anyone can be achieve blogging success.
My background is in medicine – not any marketing, journalism experience, nothing. I just really love this whole creation process.
If other people can do it, why not me?
It’s really just sticking with it. People will say, “I’ve been blogging for five months and I’m not making any money. What am I doing wrong?” I’m like, “You just need to keep going. Wait until year three or four and you’ll be so glad that you didn’t stop.”
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