It’s time for my 2016 performance review.
Back in January, I set big goals to accomplish over this calendar year. Some of these were reasonable goals I felt I could accomplish, and others were stretch goals.
Now that it’s the end of December, I have to take an honest look at the year to see where I failed and succeeded.
Otherwise, let’s jump in and see how well I executed my goals for the past year.
Final Results Of My 2016 Goals
1) Author three books
Although you would be perfectly reasonable to put an asterisk on this goal, I wrote two more Amazon bestselling books in 2016 and then completed an online course at the end of this year (not yet released). I decided to pursue this online course instead of another book. So if you look at the goal as three major projects, as I am because this is my blog and I make the rules here, I completed this goal.
This course actually took more work than a book. The transcript totals almost 14,000 words. I have PowerPoint slides with audio narration in the background. Another domain and website had to be created. And I also had to implement the videos and modules onto the pages. Bottom line, I’m super stoked with completing three major projects this year, including this course! (You’ll definitely learn more about it in a week or two.)
2) 250,000 total views
Final Result: Failed—Take Your Success reached just shy of 240,000 total views (with three days left in December).
Website views are probably the least important goal on this list. What’s ironic is when I started my website, I used to check my stats page all the time and view it as the Holy Grail for my website’s success. Now, I give much less weight to views.
While I still would have wanted to reach this 250,000 total views goal, I’m not too upset because I’m close. And organic search totals more than 50% of my daily views. That is really good for the health of this site moving forward. So as long as people keep Google searching, then they’ll find my site. It will be unbelievable when this site hits 1 million total views!
3) 3,000 total subscribers
Final Result: Completed—I reached north of 4,000 plus email subscribers.
Through my hundreds of blog posts this year, books, interviews, and word of mouth, I significantly multiplied my email subscriber total. In advance of the How To College book launch, the Apple Watch Giveaway also made a significant dent in the subscriber count.
Be sure to join the email list to receive other giveaways, weekly success content, free books, and Take Your Success insider information.
4) 750,000 Alexa rank
Final Result: Failed—My current Alexa rank is around 1.3 million.
Although I improved from my 2015 Alexa rank of 1.85 million (which ranks websites based on their traffic and traffic metrics), I didn’t hit the 750,000 mark. Personally, I believe excuses are the worst. Yet I’m going to make one, because I believe that I would have hit this ranking if I didn’t start my other site—SelfPublishingX.com. Without a second site on my plate, all of the time spent producing content on there would have went to time spent on Take Your Success and increasing its traffic.
When I continue to put out consistent, valuable content and market myself, I’m bound to improve my Alexa score. So hitting this 750,000 goal is really just a matter of time—and I’m hoping that I do it in 2017.
5) 15,000 Twitter followers and 100,000 Instagram followers
So maybe I set the bar too high, but remember that I don’t believe in excuses. I should have taken more action on both of these mediums. I felt those numbers were doable, but didn’t collaborate with enough people and publish enough consistent, quality content to increase my followers.
Missing my goal doesn’t discourage me though. It actually makes me more fired up to get stronger in my social media reach. For 2017, I’m going to aim to get a huge amount of social media followers and traffic. I have some promising ideas in the works! You’ll learn about them soon.
6) Write a minimum of 12 guest posts in 2016
Final Result: Completed—I can’t find or remember all the media mentions I had in 2016, but it’s certainly more than 12.
I also slightly changed this goal from guest posts to include podcast interviews and radio interviews. Here are some of the guest posts and interviews I did in 2016.
- Freedom Mindset – The Road to Financial Freedom (guest post)
- Building Financial Freedom with Brian Robben (podcast interview)
- Publishing and Money Advice from #1 Amazon Bestselling Author: Brian Robben (guest post)
- 6 Steps To Stay Safe At College (guest post)
- How to Create Your Personal Brand and Other Tips to Rock College (podcast interview)
- How to Be More Successful in College (podcast interview)
- Never Do Homework In Bed: 3 Reasons Why (guest post)
- Interview with Brian Robben of takeyoursuccess.com (podcast interview)
- 700 WLW Radio Appearance (radio interview on 12/15, starting at 36:32 mark)
- Financial Advice from Personal Finance Bloggers – Part 2 (quote)
- Major AOL.com feature (see Goal 7 below for more information)
7) Get featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Fortune, Entrepreneur, LifeHacker, or another major website
Final Result: Completed—AOL.com featured my How To Negotiate A Higher Salary article!
After going more than 11 months without a major website feature, AOL featured my salary negotiation article on December 15. It 100% made my day.
Now this link continues to send daily traffic to my site. Thank you AOL! And this AOL link, with its high domain authority, is the number one site linking to Take Your Success.
Final 2016 Results: 4 / 7 Goals Completed (57%)
My Feelings And Takeaways From 2016
In 2015, the first year of Take Your Success, I spent most of my time learning the ins and outs of producing valuable content for you (my audience).
And I feel that in 2016, my second year in the middle of this, Take Your Success became solidified as a brand in the personal development space (at least in my mind). In March of this year, I became a real entrepreneur and could dedicate all my time to the cause.
All in all, I’m proud of what I accomplished in 2016. I made major strides in producing content, audience growth, and revenue. Plus, I’d rather hit 4/7 stretch goals than 7/7 easy goals.
Missing these three goals only fires me up for setting new goals for 2017.
Which reminds me that I can’t put to words how motivated I am to help thousands of people, including you, in the new year.
I’ve never been more confident that 2017 is going to be a massive. This campaign will be unlike any other year to date! Get ready.
5 Most Realistic Ways To Earn A Living Writing
Want to earn a living writing? Hate to burst your bubble, but it’s a tough field to enter. Though there are realistic ways to make money as a writer.
Turning a writing hobby into a career is a dream for many people from all walks of life, but it is also one of the most difficult ways to make money.
Want to know why? Millions of people would love to get paid if their only responsibility was to write.
The problem is that whole supply and demand concept. Since there is a great supply of writers looking for work it lowers the demand (how much they get paid).
Most writers aren’t going to become bestselling authors or a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, but that doesn’t mean that earning a living doing something we love isn’t possible.
Thanks to the Internet, in particular, it has never been more possible to write for a living.
You got that? There’s hope for you and your writing career. If you’re committed enough, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t make this dream become a reality.
Keep reading to see the blueprint on how to make this happen.
How To Separate Yourself From Other Writers
Hunger, drive, willpower (whatever you want to call it) is one of the most powerful traits human beings possess.
When harnessed in the right direction, I’d say it’s almost unstoppable. Believe that.
And assuming you want to become a professional writer as bad as you say you do, this means you already have a key ingredient of what it takes to make money writing.
Hunger isn’t the only key ingredient though. And these next two components are where the real deal writers separate themselves from the pack.
The dedicated individuals who are working hard to write every day (if even for only 15 minutes) and always keeping their head up for new opportunities while remaining hopeful in the midst of struggle go the farthest in this field.
Take this to heart: if you feel you were born to be a writer, then it shouldn’t matter how long it takes to make this your profession. It shouldn’t matter how many odd writing jobs you have to pick up to make progress.
You’d be living a lie if you stopped pursuing your writing craft or gave up your aspirations early. Live true to yourself by sticking with it through the thick and thin moments.
The writer and individual you become through this process will be the best gift you give yourself. I promise you.
And for inspiration, look at the less than glamorous positions of these now legendary writers while they were writing on the side trying to make it a career:
- Stephen King worked as a janitor
- Nicholas Sparks sold dental products as a telemarketer
- Harper Lee worked as a ticket agent
- John Green was a chaplain
These guys never gave up on their passion of creating sentences out of words and you shouldn’t either.
That means if you have to work a day job to support yourself before your writing does, then that’s an obvious decision to do it.
However, maybe even better, who says your day job can’t be writing?
Earn A Living Writing
Before your hard work and patience gets enough time to work its magic, in the beginning of your writing career you have to be realistic about the sort of work you’re likely to get.
Here are 5 of the most likely ways you could start working as a writer, right now.
Working as a freelance writer is maybe the easiest way to start out as a professional writer.
You simply sign up to freelance sites like peopleperhour.com and Upwork and start bidding for gigs you think you can handle. Once you’ve built up a reputation for producing quality work to deadline, you should see more offers of work coming in.
Perhaps, the best thing about this route into writing is that it’s highly flexible and can be carried out from any location with an internet connection.
For those impatient, here’s a warning that the freelancer route can be a difficult road until you build your portfolio and secure more profitable work.
I encourage you to stick it out when times get tough. If writing is truly your thing, you’ll be glad you did in only a year or two from now (not a long time in the grand scheme of things).
2) Content Writing
As businesses rely more and more on their websites and online marketing to draw the customers in, there are more and more opportunities for budding writers to find their first jobs as content writers.
The good thing about content writing gigs is that they are often employed positions. So you will get a regular wage for creating web copy, articles, and blog posts for your employer.
That’s not a bad gig at all—especially if you find yourself in a position where you get to write about topics you’re already interested in. Then life’s good.
(Fun fact: My new digital marketing company has signed content marketing deals with companies and we’re actively paying writers to publish content. This alone proves you can make solid money writing.)
3) Academic Writing
If you have an academic background or you’re a graduate, you could sign up to a research paper writing service, where you will be tasked with writing papers in your particular field of knowledge.
The work will likely be taxing, but it certainly meets the criteria of getting paid for putting fingers to keyboards.
Speaking for myself only, this seems like the least enjoyable writing work on this list but there are nerdier people than me who love academic writing. If that’s you, go for it!
Blogging for a living is by no means an easy way to make money, especially if you want to bring in a regular income.
But it is certainly one of the easiest ways to get started.
To start your own blog, all you need is an idea and a few dollars for a domain name and hosting package.
You can write about anything from your life as a mom to your passion for photography and make a living from it.
To begin with, you might only bring in a few dollars each week, if that, but if you stick at it, produce quality content and fill your site with quality affiliate links and ads, you can turn a hobby into a full-time gig.
Related: 11 Signs You’re A Newb Blogger
5) Become An Author
It can take years for your first novel to garner the interest of an agent, let alone for it to be published, if it ever is. That’s why this method is slightly outdated in the age of the Internet.
When you write and self publish your own book on Amazon, you can start selling it, and making money as soon as it goes up for sale. Talk about convenience people!
No agent or publishing company can stop you now.
Sure, it might not have the same cache of being published by a big company, but you’ll be earning a living as a writer if you’re good enough and market yourself well.
At the end of the day, for true die hard writers, that’s all that really matters.
Do you earn a living as a writer? What exactly do you do?
11 Signs You’re A Total Newb Blogger Who Can’t Sit At The Big Kids Table Yet
Blogging is competitive, like insanely competitive. To be a successful blogger, you need to act like a pro and stop making beginner blogger mistakes.
I get it. I used to be new to this space back in early 2015 and there’s a huge learning curve. But learn I did.
With over 500,000 views on Take Your Success in less than 3 years and leveraging my blog to profit $10,000 income months, there’s not a doubt in my mind now that I’m a professional blogger.
But if you’re going to join me as a professional blogger, you can’t mess around making silly mistakes.
Though you should still enjoy the topics you write, you need to raise your game if you’re going to make a push in a saturated market like blogging. Because readers (and top bloggers) are smart enough to know who is for real and who doesn’t have their act together.
If you want to climb the ranks, here are 11 mistakes that amateur bloggers need to give up to improve their blog.
Amateur Blogger Mistakes
1. Your domain name isn’t professional.
Professional domains don’t look like this: yoursite.wordpress.com.
If you don’t want to be a pro blogger then don’t heed this advice. But if you do…Stop being so cheap (it’s like $4 a month to have your own domain and hosting). Step into the big league’s. And buy a professional domain name and hosting that doesn’t have a company’s name in your site’s link.
If you start out self-hosting your blog through a company like Bluehost (who hosts my blog and I’m an affiliate for), then your blog will start out professional on Day 1. You can use their 1-click WordPress install and have your site set up in minutes.
Having your own domain name goes a long way in building your online brand.
2. Your blog’s topics are all over the place.
Beginner bloggers make the mistake of not knowing themselves and the message they want to communicate to the world. So they brain dump everything and anything that comes to their mind.
The problem is their audience gets confused. And it’s hard to build a successful blog when your audience doesn’t understand what topics to expect from you.
If one minute it looks like you’re going for a celebrity gossip blog and the next minute you’re striving to be a model, you have an issue. Get it straight. Do you want to be Perez Hilton or Paris Hilton?
Veteran bloggers know their sweet spot topic and stick to their niche for the most part. Occasionally they might dive into other topics, but their audience doesn’t think they’re bipolar.
Like don’t take this literal and think a personal finance blogger can only talk about money and they’re not allowed to talk politics, fitness, or social opinions (which money plays in a role in those other topics).
The point is 75% of your content should cover the main topic and every once in awhile cover a different topic that has some application to money. Use proper discernment here and don’t be an idiot.
3. Your writing voice has no personality.
The problem with most English classes from middle school to high school to college is their teaching focuses on spelling and grammar usage, but not your writing voice.
So many newbie bloggers think they need to write all professional and formal to sound smart. This couldn’t be a worse approach!
Your writing voice is your personal style that makes you unique. Ideally, your voice is so present that the reader can not see your name at the top of the article but know it’s you writing it based on the way you put words together. People will be drawn to a unique voice.
Professionals know themselves, their voice, and think about their readers. They ask themselves questions like what’s an entertaining way to right this? Or how would I tell this story if I was at a cocktail party? That’s why it sticks with the reader.
It’s far better to write like you talk. Because a mix of information and entertainment always beats just information alone.
Aim to always include some personality in your writing if you want to resonate with people.
4. Your permalink structure is not optimized for SEO.
A permalink is a link to a specific page or post on your site. For example, the permalink of this individual blog post is:
My permalink structure is correct, you better believe it.
But beginners will have permalinks looking like this:
To fix your permalinks, go to the WordPress admin page of your site and follow these instructions:
- Hover over “Settings”
- Click “Permalinks”
- Select “Post name”
- Click “Save Changes”
Recently I’ve seen WordPress get smart and make the default permalink the correct one. But if you have an older WordPress or different website provider, check your permalink structure to ensure that it shows the post title (or you can edit it for keywords).
When your permalinks don’t look foolish, you’ll get more organic traffic this way and keep them coming back.
5. Your layout is disorganized.
I get it because those new to the blogging world often don’t have a ton of cash in their bank account to spend on a nice blog design.
But blogs are more like magazines than ever before. Like magazines, blogs need to be regimented and visually appealing. Every piece of land on your site needs to have a specific purpose, with nothing on there just for the heck of it.
You need to have specific sections without overwhelming the eyes of anyone who opens up your home page, a navigation menu page, or an individual article page.
Humans like order; we don’t like feeling we have to dig through a layout and a thousand and one ads just to view the post we want to see.
Your pageviews will soar when you make it easier for your audience to navigate to different links.
Keep it simple and functional for best results.
6. Your article formatting is horrible.
Newbie bloggers will write their entire post in normal text and have 5 to 7 sentences in each paragraph like they’re writing a high school research paper.
This is not cool for blogging because your readers are busy people. Sometimes they don’t have time to read the entire article so they want to skim past 60% of it.
Readers prefer easy to digest content (and the longer they stay on your site the better your SEO gets).
The big kid bloggers get this and format their articles differently.
Here’s the way to properly format a blog post for both your readers and SEO purposes:
- Use Heading 1 (H1) only once on the page for the page title
- Use H2 to break your page down into a summarized outline
- Use H3 for the subheadings in the H2, most often used for lists or use normal text in bold font to make lists
- Ignore using a H4, H5, or H6
- Write 1 to 2 sentence paragraphs then hit enter and space down to the next paragraph
- Include links to internal posts and external sites, pictures, charts, and sometimes videos if applicable
Ironically, outlining your blog posts in a nice format will help you write a better post. I’m telling you it pays to do things right!
7. You haven’t written an About page.
Surprising to many, the most frequently visited page on a lot of sites is not the Home page or the Blog page. It’s the About page.
Who for sure knows why, but I have an idea. People are inherently interested in other people. They want to know the name, face, and life story of the person behind the site. So give it to them!
If you’re not comfortable putting your individual self in the mix of your blog posts, you need to do that for your About page.
But it’s too common for beginners to have no About page or an awful one that doesn’t do their readers or them any justice.
Top bloggers use the About page to communicate how they will help their reader, what the reader has to gain from sticking around this site, and who they are as individuals. Check out this Copyblogger article to learn how to get the most out of your About page.
8. Your images are poor quality or you don’t have any.
Blogging may have begun as a solely text-based hobby, but we’ve come a long way from those days. You’d for sure admit that only the most old-fashioned of bloggers ignore the fact they need images to help break up text and make their blog look prettier.
And we can’t forget the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Some blog post concepts are hard to explain without an image, graph, or chart to aid the reader’s understanding.
However it’s not just about having images and calling it a day. The quality of those images is extremely important and you can’t sleep on that.
If you’re serious about making a profession out of blogging, then stock image sites can boost the professionalism of your website. (In case it helps you, my favorite site in that list is Pixabay.)
9. You don’t have a mailing list.
If you have a blog, then you should have a mailing list. It’s that black and white! No excuses.
A mailing list offers these benefits for your blogging career and much more:
- Build a personal relationship with your audience
- Your site will gain more traffic when you email a new blog post
- Grow a list of fans and ready buyers who are opting in to receive more from you
- You own the customer contact information (not the case with social media followers)
Just like investing in the stock market, the earlier you start your mailing list the better the return. Sign up for Mailchimp (it’s free), add a form to your site, and start collecting sign ups.
Also, make asks at the end of your articles for readers to join your email list. Give a guide away for free in exchange for an email address. And don’t be afraid to promote your site on social media to gain more email subscribers.
Then email this list once a week to send them new articles, ask them what content they want to see, offer to help people who respond with a question, and pitch your products or services when you offer them.
Like the saying goes, “You only get what you ask for,” and this applies to growing an email list.
The A-list bloggers are always pushing email signups, why not you?
10. Your articles have several spelling and grammatical errors.
If you misspell a word once every few blog posts, no one with a life is going to care. After all, Harry Potter books have had plenty of mistakes in them and that didn’t stop them from generating millions of dollars. (You think JK Rowling tosses and turns at night because her fans caught errors? Not a chance bro.)
But if every article you publish is drowning with errors then people will leave your blog and not come back. That’s when it’s a problem.
Write with sound grammar that’s easy to understand. Know the differences in those words like their, there, and they’re. And be a professional by spending the extra 10 minutes to reread your post before you click publish.
Whether you believe it or not, spelling and grammar makes a difference in your audience’s experience. I’m not asking for perfection here, just really solid quality.
11. Your website has no favicon.
It’s the little details that matter. The first thing I look at when visiting a new site is their favicon (or lack thereof).
If you’re not familiar with this term, the favicon is the 16×16 pixel icon that shows up to the left of the site name in a bookmark list or on your browser’s address bar.
Check out the image below to see what the TYS and ESPN favicon look like.
Professional bloggers have their site’s logo, an image, or text that represents their site’s brand. Beginner bloggers don’t have a favicon so the browser will show the hosting provider’s logo or a default gray, blank piece of paper as the icon. (Lame!)
Adding a favicon is an easy fix to put a nice touch on the presentation of your blog. Go to this site and either upload an image for them to resize it down or make your own favicon with the on-screen tools.
Then add a plugin like Favicon by Real Favicon Generator or name your favicon file favicon.ico and add it into your website’s root folder or your public_htmlfolder (on WordPress). Refresh your site and you’ll see it immediately if you did it right.
Look Like A Pro Blogger
Your blog could have 6 views a day, 3 email subscribers, and have generated $0 thus far, but that shouldn’t stop you from presenting yourself as a professional blogger.
Why wait a year to start putting in the work the expert bloggers put in on a consistent basis?
I encourage you to do the opposite of the 11 common beginner blogger mistakes above. This way you will more quickly provide value and grow a fan base around your work.
Here’s what professional bloggers do and how you can mimic them to improve:
- Their domain name is smooth.
- Their blog covers a specific topic with a clear ideal audience.
- Their writing voice is unique, fun, and interesting to read.
- Their site’s permalink structure contains SEO keywords.
- Their blog’s layout is clean and easy for the visitor to navigate.
- Their article formatting makes reading more convenient.
- Their About page tells the reader the purpose of the blog, who they are, and their story.
- Their images are high-quality to improve the user experience.
- Their mailing list is present and a key feature of their site.
- Their articles have minimal spelling and grammatical errors.
- Their favicon is slick.
The earlier you say goodbye to the amateur blogger ways and pick up skills from the pros, the quicker you’ll get paid for the value you provide.
And what’s getting paid for your blog mean? You officially get promoted to professional blogger status.
But to get there you have to first fake it until you make it, or you might never make it in the ultra-competitive world of blogging.
Related: How To Make Money From Blogging
Amazon Bestselling Author Reads His Mean Book Reviews
Hey guys, most of the time this site is super serious—for good reason too, since success is a daily battle of “how bad do you want it?”.
I loosened up a bit to have some fun in this last video from my YouTube channel.
Watch the clip above to see me read “mean” book reviews people left on Amazon when reviewing my 3 books: The Golden Resume, Freedom Mindset, and How To College.
You’ll probably get a kick out of my responses to these 1- and 2-star book reviews. Surprisingly the bad reviews weren’t terrible. I expected far worse before I did this video!
I got the idea for this video from the popular video Celebrities Read Mean Tweets, then did my own spin on it.
To be genuine for a second, many of the book reviews were by no means inaccurate.
For example, The Golden Resume is focused on a young adult audience. If someone picks it up and they’re 50 years old, of course they’re going to be a bit disappointed. I feel them on that.
So I’m just playing and being sarcastic the entire time to add some flair for the viewers. Back a few years ago these reviews would have triggered me, but now I’m much cooler when people’s opinions go against me.
If you left one of those reviews, I like you. After all, I love my haters (wink, wink).
And shameless plug time: If you’re new to this blog or a day one original but haven’t checked out my videos, go visit my YouTube channel and subscribe.
I cover similar topics in my videos as I do on this blog, except I’d say the videos are more titled to entrepreneurship and investing/personal finance.
You’ll see what I mean if you browse the list of my video uploads.