Client attraction. Business growth. Pretty profits.
Today I am delighted to introduce you to my gorgeous friend and blogging buddy Karen Gunton, owner of ‘build a little biz.’
Karen is a visual maestro, continuously blowing me away with her talent and achievements. I’m sure you’ll pick up on her passion as you read her story. You’ll also find out about her rebellious streak so make you sure read right to the end.
1. How long have you been blogging?
my journey actually starts long before i started blogging – i am a teacher and taught in a high school for many years before starting a family and moving from canada to australia. in early 2008 i started dabbling with the idea of starting my own photography business. as i was researching everything i could about starting my own business i came across information on blogging, so i first tried out blogger as a place to experiment with having a blog and sharing my photography.
i quickly realized that i would not be able to create the type of blog and website i needed on blogger so in march 2009 i rebranded and relaunched my new and improved professional photography business and that is when i really got into blogging as a marketing tool: to share my brand message, to share the stories and experiences of my clients, and of course to share my photographs. before then i had never considered myself as a writer but i found that blogging really allowed me to find my voice, i fell in love with it!
2. You previously owned a photography business. Why the change in direction?
as i was learning everything i could about branding and marketing a micro home business i discovered that i really loved sharing what i was learning with others… i think it is because i am a teacher – it makes me a life long learner, and it is in my blood to share what i know with people who can learn from it. anyhow, i was always talking about business and found my photography blog was starting to include more and more biz related information.
in july 2010 i decided to start a new blog called build a little biz, as a place to share branding, marketing and business tips and resources with other women who were building micro business from home, just like me! i had no idea if anyone would even be interested in what i was sharing… i thought my only reader might be my mom! but i gave myself 6 months to give it a try as a little “thing on the side” and see what happened.
at that 6 month mark i wrote and launched my first workbook, and that was the start of something really big for me. by the end of 2011 build a little biz was much larger than my photography business and in july 2013 i decided to shut the doors on the family photography biz and to turn my “little blog on the side” into a full time, full income earning business.
3. How critical has blogging been to Build A Little Biz?
build a little biz was built as a blog – when i first started blogging i had no idea where the journey would take me, i just had the strong gut feeling that i needed to do it. sharing free actionable content on my blog is really what helped me to build relationships and gain trust – i never would have been able to turn my blog into a business without them – they are the heart of my biz. i treat my blog as my place to chat with people – just like you would chat at the front counter of your bricks and mortar shop – and because of that i can learn the ways i can really be of service to people, come up with new products & services, find helpful resources and more. blogging also helped me to find my voice and really amplify my brand message so that i stand out in a fairly crowded “biz advice” niche.
4. Can you share a breakdown of your income?
100% of my income comes from the products and services i offer at build a little biz. i use the blog as part of my online marketing strategy along with my email list and social media – i don’t do any advertising or sponsored posts on my blog, but i do affiliate marketing and the blog is a big part of that. so i suppose it is hard to say what percentage of my income is attributing to blogging – all of it really! without the blog there wouldn’t be a business !!
to give you an idea of where i am at now i should share that when i was running my photography business my annual income was approximately $10,000. this was completely fine with me at the time – i was doing that part time while raising my family and happy to earn a bit of extra income.
in comparison, my first year of turning build a little biz into a full time, full income earning businesses resulted in an annual income of $60,000. of course before that year i had built a large following for build a little biz – i had an email list of people to sell products and services to, and i had a deep understanding of how i could be of service to others. so the years of blogging that i put in before focusing on the blog as a full time biz really helped to achieve success in my first “full time” year!
my earnings break down to approximately 40% affiliate marketing, 35% classroom (online workshops & e-workbooks), 25% one on one services (skype brainstorming sessions, design services, and membership site.)
5. What strategies have been critical to the success of your blog?
the thing that helped my to grow my community was my authentic desire to help people. from the start i have aimed to share excellent free content and i am positive that is the reason that people keep coming back to build a little biz.
building relationships with readers/fans and building an email list to stay connected to those fans was crucial to being able to sell the products and services i offer – most of my paying customers come from my email list or from word of mouth.
and finding my own spark – what i like to call the combination of my passions and strengths along with the ways i can be of service to others – is what has helped me make this past year such a success. i am now doing work that i am intensely passionate and excited about – it is so easy to market myself and to communicate with my right customers. i love it!
6. Can you identify ‘tipping points’ along your blogging journey?
my first tipping point came when i wrote a blog post that was extremely helpful to my readers – it was about facebook rules and people read and shared that post like crazy! that was when i first grew my fan base beyond people who i knew by name.
the next one came when i decided to start monetizing my blog by writing and launching my first ebook. the first sale i made on something based on my expertise was a pretty incredible moment – it taught me that i did indeed have something of value to offer and gave me the confidence to continue down that path!
the most recent tipping point was to start talking about a topic that other bloggers and biz builders weren’t really talking about. last year i started sharing ideas about visual marketing, based on my expertise with my photography biz and my intense belief that all businesses could use the opportunities that sharing visual content can offer. it was a bit scary to talk about something no one else was talking about, but i followed my gut and i am so glad. it is exciting to put new ideas out into the world, and i am really grateful that blogging gave me both the confidence and the opportunity to share my ideas!
7. What is next for Build A Little Biz and the blog?
i plan to keep talking about visual marketing as a business strategy and teaching others how to create their own branded visual content as a way to share their message and resonate with their customers – i really want to empower biz builders to make use of these visual opportunities online!
i am also really passionate about helping women in biz find their own spark, to feel authentic and genuine, to have fun with marketing… i want them to shine! so i have plans for some new workshops and workbooks to help with this, as well as looking for opportunities to speak with micro-biz owners at live events. i love the online world but i also really love teaching in person too!
8. What would you say to business owners considering blogging as a growth strategy?
do it! do it. i really believe that your blog is your chance to create your own “shop counter” for your store. it is your place to chat – to be you – to engage with people – to be helpful – to tell stories – to share bits of expertise… all those things you would do if people were wandering into your shop!
and there are no rules. or if it feels like there are rules – i say break them. your blog posts don’t have to be any certain length, or any style of writing, or even writing at all! use photos, draw cartoons, record audio, make a video, share links, write lists, write poetry… whatever feels right to you. explore it as you go, it’s not a tattoo. if you try a blog post tomorrow that doesn’t work, try something different next week. hell, i don’t use capitals. ever. are there people that don’t like it? absolutely. do i care? not. one. bit. the people who care about capitalization aren’t going to like any of my products and won’t like my one on one style either. they can find someone else to follow. my most awesome customers love me just the way i am, just as i love them.
be you. and have fun with it!
Thank you to Karen for her transparency and generosity in sharing with us!!
Have Your Say
Did you enjoy learning about Karen’s journey? Are you feeling inspired to start or ramp up your blogging for business efforts? What is the first action you’ll take?