“It was like a flashing neon sign pointing to exactly what they needed. That little tweak made all the difference. And I could focus on providing that information to them.”
When Theresa Loe, founder of Living Homegrown, had this big realization, it was through one simple step:
“The “Aha Moment” for me was when I shifted my blog writing focus from “What should I write about today?” to “How can I best serve my reader today? And really move the needle in their lives?”
That’s when everything changed because I became laser focused on serving my reader so THEY could succeed in the topics I cover: canning, small-space food growing and sustainable living.
But how do you know what they really need?
One way that I did this was to set up an automated email that would go out whenever someone opted into my list. (This is the method that Pat Flynn uses) The email had 2 goals: to be of service and to see what they needed next. In that email, I would first ask if they got what they had opted in for (in my case, it was a PDF Canning Resource Guide) and then would ask them to hit reply and tell me where they were struggling in the world of homesteading.
I basically asked them to tell me their pain points so I could either direct them to that content on my blog (if I had already covered it) or I could create new content if I had not addressed it yet.
As my readers started answering that question, it was like a flashing neon sign pointing to exactly what they needed. That little tweak made all the difference. And I could focus on providing that information to them.”
So what is the information Theresa provides? Theresa is a blogger who makes her living helping people live a farm-fresh lifestyle without actually having a farm. Through her blog, podcast and brand (Living Homegrown), she teaches people:
- How to preserve and ferment food
- How to grow their own food in even the smallest of spaces
- And how to live more sustainably with simple lifestyle shifts
She homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in the heart of Los Angeles and she is the canning/homesteading expert and Co-Executive Producer of the national PBS television series, Growing A Greener World.
Theresa knows what she’s talking about when it comes to urban farming and her audience is hungry (literally) for what she has to share. And it’s not just based on her own experience as education either.
“My background and training is in food preservation, horticulture and culinary arts with an engineering degree thrown in for good measure. Not exactly your typical education! So I built my brand to combine my unusual training. I discovered that other people wanted to learn how to do what I do, so I built a business around that.
I started my blog WAY back in 2008 – Can you believe it? But I didn’t transition to it being a real business venture until a couple of years ago. Prior to that, I was just blogging as a way to document my own food growing journey with no real sense of what I could do with it beyond that.
Once I solved that big mystery of what my audience really wanted, everything took off.”
Well, one she solved that mystery, her days got longer at first (sound familiar?) Productivity dropped as the days got longer and Theresa started to feel chained to her dream job she was building for herself.
“I felt I was working nonstop but not getting the traction I wanted. So I changed my routine to remove distractions and it made all the difference.”
Sure, removing distractions seems like an obvious way to increase productivity. But it’s not easy. Theresa completely changed her regular routine and started to see things paying off:
“I actually start my day the night before. The last thing I do at the end of the workday is layout the top priority project for the next day. For example, if I need to write a blog post, all the windows on my computer are closed except for a blank word document and my topic notes are setting next to my computer. That way when I walk up to my desk in the morning, I don’t get distracted with an email (or Facebook – ha ha) or anything else. Instead, I can start the day working on the most important task first.
I’m an early riser and I do my best work in the morning. So, I start my day at 4:30 am with a 30-minute morning ritual. I drink a tall glass of water; I meditate for 10 minutes and then I either read or journal for 20 minutes. I know that probably sounds weird, but it really sets me up for the day mentally.
I start with a short burst of work from 5-6:30 am while the house is quiet. I always get more work done in that quiet time than any other time of the day. That’s why I save it for the most important tasks. Then, I get my two teenages up for school at 6:30 am to fix them breakfast.
After getting the kids out the door, I am back at my desk at 7:30 am until noon.
At this point of the day, I am usually starting to lose energy. So I will take a 2-hour mid-day break to workout, shower and have lunch. I am back on the job at 2 pm to take care of end of the day emails and any loose ends. I try to end my workday between 3-4 pm so I can spend the evening with the family. I typically work 7-8 hours/day. Before changing to this routine, I was working 10 hours/day and not getting nearly as much work done.”
It’s easy to see why someone who blogs about food and urban homesteading can be overwhelmed by the options of what they can write about. After all, with (at least) three meals a day, constant tasks around your homestead, and the learning and education you do to keep up with the industry, the possibilities for content are seemingly endless.
“When I was starting out, the biggest mystery for me was in trying to figure out what topic to focus on. I started out really scattered and was just writing about growing food as a general topic. But I didn’t realize at the time that I was throwing the net too wide. By trying to draw in everyone, I was drawing in no one.
So I first had to narrow down my niche to what was very specific to my area of expertise. In other words, I had to figure out the single person I was creating content for. For me, it was to serve someone who have little to no garden space (urban dwellers) who still wanted to grow their own food and make artisan food projects like homemade jam or cheese. That’s a very specific group of people! When I narrowed my writing focus, my brand and my business grew.
However, I have to say that I do not think of my blog or my podcast as my business. They are just the marketing tools for my business. My actual business is to sell content that takes the blog information to the next level. My online courses are the fastest growing area of my business and I plan to expand the course offerings this year.
I work very hard to provide top-notch free information on my blog. But if people really want to dial in that topic even further, they can pay to learn about the topic on a much deeper level.”
Speaking of getting paid, Theresa spreads her revenue stream between three channels:
Brand Partnership & TV Work: 60%
Online Courses: 35%
Freelance Writing/Consulting: 5%
And she’s adding sponsorship to her podcast this year. #levelingup
Revenue growth means business growth and business growth means building a team. We’ve heard it over and over again in this series and Theresa echoed a familiar sentiment around growing a team:
“If I could change one thing today, I would build a bigger team earlier. I waited WAY too long to hire help. That was a huge mistake. I am now working on creating systems for all the repetitive things I do so that I can hand off more items and focus my work on just content creation.
Now I have a virtual assistant who transcribes my podcast and helps me manage the online courses and the website. I also hire outside contractors for my graphic design needs and all the backend, website fixes.”
If Theresa could give one piece of advice to any blogger starting out on the journey right now, she’d circle back to that game-changing realization:
“Really hone in on whom you want to serve. What can only you provide that will really make a difference to them? How can you help them succeed? Sometimes the audience thinks they want one thing, but YOU know that they really need something bigger.”