From Corporate Desk Jobs to Full-Time Bloggers – 2 Tech Bloggers Tell their Story

In today’s episode we’re continuing our series where I’m handing the podcast over to you as listeners to tell your stories and tips of starting and growing your blogs.

It started yesterday with the story of Brittany Bailey, a DIY blogger who grew her blog to hundreds of thousands of readers a month.

Today I want to introduce two tech bloggers whose blogs have allowed them both to leave their corporate jobs to start their own businesses around their blogs.

We’re sharing these stories and tips in the lead-up to the launch of our free ‘Start a Blog’ course, which launches in the second week of January. If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog, this free course will walk you through how to do it, and provide you with a good foundation for building a business around it.

Links and Resources for From Corporate Desk Jobs to Full-Time Blogger:

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Darren: My name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, a podcast, event, job board, series of ebooks, and courses all designed to help you to start a great blog to create some amazing content that will change your readers’ lives and to build some profit around that blog too. You can learn more about ProBlogger and all that we do over at problogger.com.

In today’s episode, episode 222, we’re continuing our series of blogger stories where I’m handing the podcast over to you as listeners, to tell your stories and to share some tips of starting and growing your blogs. This series started yesterday with the story of Brittany Bailey, a DIY blogger who grew her blog to hundreds of thousands of readers a month. You can listen to that. She did the introduction to these series, in episode 221.

Today, I want to introduce you to two bloggers, two tech bloggers. Both of whom whose blogs enabled them to leave their real world desk corporate jobs to start their own businesses around their blogs. We’re sharing their stories and tips in the lead up to our Start A Blog course which launches in the second week of January.

Have you been thinking about starting a blog? This free course will walk you through how to set up that blog with good foundations for building not only a useful blog to your readers but also good foundations for building a profitable blog. You can get notified when this course goes live by signing up over at problogger.com/startablog. You can also find a link to that in today’s show notes where I’ll also link our two bloggers of the day over at problogger.com/podcast/222.

As I said at the top of the show, today, I want to play you two stories, both of which are from tech bloggers who started their blogs in the last four years. Both of whom have grown their blogs to a point where they’ve been able to give up their previous corporate jobs to become full-time bloggers which I know is a dream of many listeners of this podcast.

I’ve decided to put these two stories together today because there are some real similarities and I know also that there are many of you who are our listeners to this podcast who blog about these more technical things. I thought putting those two together will give you a couple of examples of the kind of blogs that have done well.

The first blogger that I want to introduce you to will be familiar to many of you, it’s Paul Cunningham from practical365.com. Paul will be familiar to many of you who are part of their Facebook group because he’s a regular contributor there. He’s also written at least a couple of articles on ProBlogger, as a contributor. His most recent one was a really popular post on How to Create an Efficient Contact Page on your Blog. I’ll link to that in the show notes as well. Paul also has made many of our Aussie events as well.

When he submitted his story, which I found really interesting to hear even though I’ve met Paul so many times, I wanted to include it. He’s an Aussie so you’re going to hear a different accent today or not different to me really although he’s from a northern part of Australia. I hope you find his story interesting. I’ve got another Indian blogger coming up after Paul as well, another technical blogger. I will be back to introduce him in a moment. I hope you enjoy Paul’s story.

Paul: My name is Paul Cunningham. I run the practical365.com website which is a blog focused on the topic of Office 365 cloud services for I.T. professionals. I started blogging over 10 years ago. In fact, my very first blog posts are still on my blog at practical65.com today.

I originally started blogging because I was noticing some of the people in my industry who had their own blogs and I was finding their blog posts when I was searching for solutions to problems. Up until that point, I was active in various forms and online communities but I was becoming aware that my efforts in these forms were not translating to any real world benefit to myself. It still felt good to help people but being in the I.T. industry which can be quite volatile at times as the economy rises and falls, I wanted to do something that more directly boosted my job prospects.

I basically figured that I should start a blog just like those other people that I was noticing who would build up name recognition in the industry through their own online writing. I also figured that it might be a way that I can earn a few extra dollars to go towards things like travelling to conferences in my industry, buying a laptop, getting some nice Christmas presents for my kids and that sort of thing.

I think in hindsight, the fact that I just stopped messing around with different blogging software and services and just settled on WordPress and started writing was the first good move that I made. WordPress wasn’t the obvious choice back then. It’s not like today where WordPress is kind of “the” factor in the blogging platform. But it turned out to be the right choice for me and ultimately, it was more important to just start actually blogging not messing around with all that technical stuff anyway.

The other good move that I made which in hindsight was probably the best move I’ve made as far as long impact goes, was rebranding my blog and setting on a particular technical niche that I really went deep on. I rebranded to a good name that mixed branding and keywords and so I was good for SEO. I’ve got a nice simple logo, I had it professionally made and I invested in a nice, professional premium WordPress theme. I think that just really elevated the overall appearance of my blog as an authority site rather than just be some guy with a blog sharing his random thoughts online.

As far as mistakes go, most of the mistakes I’ve made have really been about me being overly cautious or too slow. I should have started a mailing list sooner, I know we all say that but that didn’t really sink me, it just sent me back a little bit. I should have launched a product sooner. When I finally did it, I was still able to have success from it. They weren’t career-ending blogging mistakes by any stretch.

When I did find success in different areas, I was also guilty of not aggressively assuming those channels to really maximize them. Part of that is caution, and part of that was just juggling a blog with a full-time career and a young family. I probably could’ve gone full-time with my blogging sooner than I did but I was being a bit cautious about it. In the end, it still worked out okay.

There’s been a lot of good things that have come from starting my blog. It certainly became easy for me to find jobs which was good because most of my jobs in I.T. ended to the company’s outsourcing my team or going bankrupt, or mergers and acquisitions and downsizing and things like that. I was regularly out there looking for new jobs and being a little bit known in the industry certainly helped me along in that respect.

I’ve also spoken at overseas conferences. That’s been a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of great people and travelled a little bit and seen some interesting places. I’ve got some recognition from Microsoft themselves through what they call their MVP program which stands for Most Valuable Professional, which is their award to people like myself who had contributions to the I.T. community. There’s benefits that come from that as well. It’s not a paid award by any stretch but you get some nice sort of insider news and access to Microsoft through that award program.

I’ve been able to write and self-publish ebooks. I also landed a book deal with a traditional publisher. My first traditionally published book is in 2016. I also do some contract work creating training courses for one of the leading online training companies in the I.T. industry, they’re called Pluralsight.

All those benefits and revenue streams as well as the income that I’ve been able to build from affiliate commissions and advertising on their website, some private consulting and things like that, is what really made it possible for me to quit my full-time job a few years ago. Ultimately, that meant a lot more freedom in my life, more time to spend with my family, be more present for our kids, do more at home, now my wife had a lot more and allow her to pursue her career a lot more than she was able to when I had a full-time job.

My number one tip for new bloggers aside from being patient because a lot of the success takes time to build up very slowly, my number one tip would be to use your blog to answer as many simple and small questions as you can. The blogpost that you write that solve all those little problems, they’re not going to be blockbuster, traffic posts that draw in millions of visitors a year and go viral on Facebook and Twitter, but they will help the people who need help the most which is the people who are beginners in your area, in your topic, and in your niche. Those people have lots of small simple questions that made small simple answers and you’re the person that’s going to help them because you’ve got the information right there on your blog and those people will become your most loyal fans as your blog grows along with them.

Darren: I love those tips from Paul. He’s a great example of how niching down into a really specific topic is powerful. You don’t have to do all things Microsoft. You don’t have to do all things tech. You can become the go to person in a particular nichey kind of product or suite of products. That can be very powerful, to be that number one person or one of the main people talking about that. A very specific thing can be a good thing as long as that thing isn’t going to go away. Our next story is another brilliant example of that.

I also love that Paul went through some of his different income streams there. His blog has enabled him to do a number of things, that he’s self-published ebooks and sold ebooks, he’s written a traditionally published book and had income and royalties from that. He’s done contract work creating training courses and his blog has enabled him to get the profile so that people would hire him to do that type of thing. He’s done some affiliate promotion and earned commissions that way. He’s worked directly with advertisers and he’s also offered private consulting and coaching.

This is very, very typical. You’ve heard me talk about this before. In fact, back in Episode 153, I talked about my own journey from being a hobby blogger to being a full-time blogger and how I made that leap through a variety of income streams as well, some of which are the same as what Paul’s done. This is what I hear again and again from people who make that leap to full-time is that they have all these different income streams. If you’re thinking about starting out, you might have one income stream in mind.

I challenge you based on Paul’s story to think broader than that. Look at what other bloggers in your nature are doing. Presume maybe two or three different income streams to get you to that full-time level faster.

Lastly, I love that tip that he finished on there. It’s building your blog around solving lots of little problems and answering lots of little questions. It is the accumulation of those answers and solutions that often what makes a blog successful.

Now I want to introduce you to our next blogger. This is Sumit Bansal from trumpexcel.com. That might sound like a political blog, it is not. It’s a blog about Microsoft Excel. You’re already seeing a bit of a similarity here with both of our bloggers today are Microsoft bloggers. But I wanted to feature Sumit’s advice and story as well. He’s from India, a different part of the world. Again, we’ve got lots of readers from India and countries around India as well. I want to welcome Sumit and I will wrap things up after his story as well.

Sumit: Hello Darren, hello team. I’m a huge fan of problogger.com, the blog and the podcast. I’ve been following you guys for more than three years now and I have learned so much from you. A big thank you for all the work that you do at problogger.com. My name is Sumit Bansal and I’m from India. My blog’s name is Trump Excel and the URL is trumpexcel.com.

I started Trump Excel in May 2013 and I was working with IBM at that point in time. I started this because in my work, I was using Excel spreadsheets a lot. I used to work with a lot of data and I was learning a lot of new things in Excel. I started this blog and I photo shared what I was learning every and it’s also helping my team then. A lot of my colleagues would come up to me and ask the same questions again and again so I thought maybe I would write tutorials so that these guys can simply refer to those tutorials. I can also then share it on my social media or other people online.

With that thought, I created a Blogspot account and I started writing. And then I had written 10 tutorials, then I thought that this is something that I was enjoying, this is something that I wanted to do as a long-term thing. I registered a domain name and got the hosting and started this in May 2013.

My objective was very clear, it was to help people in doing things in Excel and shared what I was learning everyday. At the same time, I also hope to make a little bit of side income something that would supplement my full-time income. To be honest, at that point in time, I had not thought that I would be able to leave my full-time job in IBM and to be able to work on my blog as a full-time deal. That happened in January 2015. I was able to leave my job and now I work on my blog full-time.

Coming to the things that I’m really grateful for when I started this blog and there are actually two things. Let me quickly also share a short anecdote with you. I wrote my first blogpost, that was 10th May 2013. I also shared it on my social media accounts. I’m a little bit introverted so it takes a little bit of effort and courage for me to share stuff and post to my social media account. I’m not really active on my posts in social media, I am to my Trump Excel account but not in my personal account.

I shared my first blogpost on Google+ and Facebook. The first comment that I got in Google+ was, “Really? He found that worth sharing?” And then I read that comment, it really my broke my confidence, at least at that point in time, it broke my confidence. I felt sad and at the same time, I felt really, really angry because the person who had commented did not consider the effort that had gone into writing that blogpost, the courage that it had taken me to post this online on social media accounts. That person completely trashed it. After 15 minutes, I really could not come up with a response to that so I simply replied with a yes, and I moved on and I did not stop.

The first thing that I’m really, really grateful for is that I did not stop. Had I taken that feedback, had I stopped because I only have the blogs for the content, I may not have reached where I am, my life would have been really different. I’m really grateful that I did not stop there.

The second thing that I’m grateful for is that I created a YouTube channel and I thought that since I’m writing blog posts, I’ll also create videos for my audience. That led to a lot of traction off my blog.

Right now, I have close to 18,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel and it also made me realize that I can be a very good teacher. That has become my super power. It’s a nice super power that I can really dump down stuff and teach it to people which also led me to create more online courses. I really just created a YouTube channel because I thought that it would be nice to share to people and share a video of what I was writing, but in hindsight, I think that was a great, great thing that I did and it has really helped me. I’m grateful for that as well.

Coming to the mistakes that I made and I would advise others not to make, especially new bloggers, is to reach out to people in your industry, in your niche, the influencers in your industry. I did not do that. I did not reach out to influencers in my industry for at least two years. Had I done that, things could have been a little bit different. My blog might have taken off even faster. It took me close to two years to get to a level where I could think of making this as a full-time income. But had I reached out to influencers, to people who are doing great work in this niche, in spreadsheets niche, then I could have done much better.

If you want to start now, just make connections, just network with people, just comment on their blog posts, make a relationship, and that would help you. That may even land you an opportunity to collaborate with someone who’s really big in your niche. That’s a mistake that I would advise others to avoid.

The good thing that have happened to me since I started my blog, there are quite a few. As I said, my blog took off after two years and now it gets close to 300,000 page views every month which is growing exponentially every single month. Now I have a lot of social media following, it’s been close to 23,000, 24,000 people on my Facebook page. I have close to 17,000, 18,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel and these are people who are really engage, who would comment on the stuff that I would post. These are some good things that have happened.

I was also able to offer my own online paid courses. I have more than 500 students in my paid courses. I’m thankful that I’m now making close to five-figure income every month and hopefully looking forward to a six-figure year next year. Those are the good things that have happened.

There are top two things that happened after I started my blog, close to a year, somehow Microsoft came to know about the blog and I was recognized as one of the Excel MVPs. That is the Most Valuable Professional for Excel. I was recognized by Microsoft and that made me 1 of the 2 people in India to have that kind of recognition and 1 of the 100 other people in the world. That really lend credibility to anything I do. If I reach out to anyone, being a Microsoft MVP really helps. That’s something really good that happened. It also helps me in establishing my authority in this niche and in selling more online courses.

Another thing that has happened over the years is my blog has been recognized by many different blogs in many different websites as one of the best Excel blogs in the world. People or companies would randomly pick my blog as one of the best resources to learn Excel. This has happened over the years just because I’ve been consistent in writing tutorials and creating videos every single week.

One tip that I would give new bloggers is to focus on a niche, not cast a very wide net, but try and focus on one specific niche and then identify where your audience is hanging out.

For example, let’s say you’re a finance blogger, then I wouldn’t recommend you to talk about everything under the sun but rather talk about only mutual funds, only equity, or only property, or only goal funds, anything specific. Pick one niche and focus on that niche. Channel all your energy in that specific niche. And then also identify where your audience is hanging out. Maybe it’s a Reddit community, maybe it’s a Facebook group, maybe it’s YouTube, or maybe they’re finding these blogs through search engines.

Just identify where your audience hang out and focus your energy on those specific channels. Don’t try and cover everything. Let’s say Pinterest or Facebook or Reddit or StumbleUpon, don’t try and focus your energy on all these mediums. Just focus on those mediums that you think would be helpful in getting the kind of audience that you have and try and niche down. Don’t try and cover all things. That is what I would recommend as my tip for new bloggers.

I think that’s it. I’ve covered most of the questions. Thank you again, problogger.com team and Darren. I’ve been a huge fan and I have learned so much from you every week. I look forward to your podcast. I hope you continue to do this great work in many, many years to come. Thank you so much, have a good day.

Darren: Thanks so much, Sumit. That is just brilliant. I love hearing the stories. I love hearing the different accents. I love hearing the different experiences. I love hearing some of the overlap there between that story and Paul’s story as well, both in terms of topic, Microsoft blog. Who would have thought we would have two Microsoft bloggers submit but also some similar experiences, they are both being recognized by Microsoft.

A couple of things there that I love in what was said, pushing past those negative comments. I love what he said. It didn’t stop him. “I moved on and I did not stop,” were the words there. Don’t let those pushbacks and the negativity of others stop you. It could have stopped Sumit in his tracks and his life would have been remarkably different today.

All of us, every single full-time blogger that I’ve ever met has had something like that happen in the early days of their blogging. It might be a negative comment on social media, it might be a negative comment on the blog, it might be a friend who doesn’t get what we’re doing, it might be a technical challenge, it might be a fear or a doubt, it might be something else. In the scheme of things, it’s relatively small, someone leaving a negative thing. But it can become all consuming and it can be that type of thing in those early days of starting a blog where you’re feeling a bit fragile, you’re feeling a little bit horrible. It’s the type of thing that could quite easily stop you in your tracks. If it does, you never will know where things could have ended up. I’m so glad that Sumit pushed past that.

I want to encourage those of you who are thinking of starting a blog doing this course that we’ve got coming up to not allow those things to stop you in your tracks. One of the best things that you can do to not allow those things to stop you in your tracks is to join with other people who are at a similar stage to you. I would encourage you to join our Facebook group to join the course. We’ll try to get bloggers who are starting together, together to quick pass those little negative things that happen and to help each other. That’s really what this course that we’ve got coming up is all about. You can sign up to be notified about the course at problogger.com/startablog.

I also love there the idea of using video on the blog as well. As I was listening probably for the fourth time to that story because I love it so much, I went to across to Sumit’s blog at trumpmexcel.com and I had a look at his most recent blog posts. Every single post he writes is text but it’s also got a video. They’re three or four minute videos that illustrate what he’s talking about.

There’s something really amazing and powerful that happens when you can write about something but also illustrate it. With Sumit’s topic and many of your topics out there I know as well, a visual element can really bring a tutorial alive. Some people like to read, some people like and learn more when they watch. I’m one of those people. I know when I’ve got a technical challenge, it’s one thing to read a post and to read and have to do something but it really comes to life for me when I can see it. If you’ve got any kind of visual element to it and you can create a video that can really distinguish what you’re doing from what everyone else is doing. It can be very powerful, you’ll broaden your audience and you’d be much more effective particularly for teaching.

His videos are very simple. They’re just screen captures with him talking in a very similar way to what you just heard. But they do bring alive that article. Those tips there on reaching out to other influencers to making connections with other people. You’re going to hear that tip again in a number of future stories that we’ve got coming up in days ahead as well. Do take note of that.

Thanks so much to Paul and to Sumit who shared their stories today. You can find links to their blogs over on our show notes today at problogger.com/podcast/222. If you are inspired to start a blog like Paul and Sumit, head over to problogger.com/startablog and sign up to be notified when I start a blog and the course goes live. It’s completely free and it will help you to start a blog that’s not only technically set up the right way but also it helps you think through some of those foundational things to build a business around your blog and become more effective in your blogging as well. Thanks for listening. Chat with you tomorrow when I’ve got another story from another blogger. Thanks for listening.

How did you go with today’s episode?

Enjoy this podcast? Sign up to our ProBloggerPLUS newsletter to get notified of all new tutorials and podcasts.