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How A Teenager Built A Design Blog In One Year Reaching 650,000 Unique Monthly Visits

Let’s know each other. My name is Stelian and I am a web designer and writer. I have been living off the design niche since I was a teenager.

If you would like to know how I managed to earn from $20 to $1,500 per month in my teenage years, then keep on reading.

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going – Jim Rohn Click to Tweet this!

The Idea:

It all started in the spring of 2010. I was 16 and was just another teenager you would meet on the street.

I had only one wish: to reach financial independency.

While others were asking parents for money, or were sharing flyers on the streets (yeah, I’ve actually done that as well) I wanted to find a more interesting and better way of earning money.

At that time, I was actively following the design community. I was following successful design blogs by young people because I felt I could achieve the same. I was firm that was going to do it.

Requirements:

  • A blogging system, preferably open-source
  • Paid Hosting. At least a shared plan
  • Skills and/or money to keep up with fresh content
  • A lot of time for blog promotion and development

I started thinking of a name, and what I came up with was a quite simple, yet catchy name: RocketGraphs. I can’t remember exactly why I chose “Graphs” instead of “Graphics” but probably it was because “RocketGraphics” was taken.

Meanwhile, I got my first ever gig related to web design. I wrote an article for a web design blog and got paid $75, which was an outrageous amount that time. I had to share flyers (part-time) for a month or two to get that money. That was the starting point in my design carreer.

How I Started A Design Blog

It was the month of June, summer vacation came, and I had a lot of free time. My action-plan was simple: a design blog must be launched before September.

I read a lot of articles on how to start a blog, read a lot on how to engage visitors, and most importantly how to get visitors to your new website.

I can’t remember how many blogs were on my “read-list”, but I know exactly that this book by Collis Ta’eed has helped me a lot!

I didn’t debate much on which hosting company to choose, there were approximately 15 posts ready and awaiting to be published. Everything was polished and ready to be launched.

For a teenager who started a blog with $45 ($35 for a ThemeForest theme, and $10 for the hosting plan) I was very happy.

The Launch:

On August 1, 2010 I decided to launch the blog. Everything went smoothly as planned. I managed to get a few “early visits” by placing URLs to my blog postings on design networks like DesignBump and DesignFloat which were really popular at that time. I was really happy to see 500 visits/day in my second week of “blogging”.

Time passed, I started writing guest posts on any website related to graphic design I could find, so I could get some incoming links to my website. That was a good move from my side because I started to bump in positions on various search networks like Google and Yahoo.

Struggles:

The blog was pretty easy to maintain during the early months because I was ready to face difficulties. It became getting harder and harder because there wasn’t any kind of motivation behind.

My only revenue was 8-20 dollars which weren’t significant and were only covering my hosting expenses. I was ready to give up because I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. My efforts were almost worthless and the blog didn’t bring any income.

I felt like this project was a failure, and I had to stop working on it because I was simply wasting my time. I was ready to do so, but I thought I’d work two more months on it because I felt “I had to do it.”

Well, this was a great decision because a few days after I noticed some really good growth in traffic, and eventually in revenue. This was the boost I needed to continue.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm – W. Churchill Click to Tweet this!

Blog Maintenance

I did my best to keep posting articles every two days. I followed this schedule till February 2011. I found out that this “posting schedule” was great and the number of visitors kept increasing. I also noticed that visitors were engaged and I was glad to have a few regular commenters as well.

The traffic kept growing, and by the end of 2010 I already had about 115,000 unique visits per month. By April of 2011 I had 450,000 unique visitors which was an amazing achievement. Most hits were generated by search engines and I was pretty happy with that.

I understood that I was already managing a pretty big blog on my own, that is why I decided to ask my best friend to help me. He wasn’t very much into design, but he was very capable and he helped me out a lot with writing posts. I wouldn’t have achieved that success if he wasn’t there for me.

It was the month of June when we broke our hits record. We had 650,000 unique visitors which were reading a relatively new blog. I was really happy but I wasn’t so excited about it anymore. I wasn’t feeling happy about writing on that blog anymore.

That is probably why it no longer exist today. Because we both lost interest in it, it died in a few months, and I am really OK with that. I stopped writing and started designing because I was enjoying it a lot more.

Even if the blog and everything related to it is lost, I didn’t lose the experience I gathered while building it. That experience can’t be valued in money. I don’t have any plans on launching a web design blog again, but if I had any, I would have done a lot of things in a different way.

Lessons Learned:

  • Everything is possible with enough dedication. There are three keys of success: Passion, Dream and Money.
  • Your investment of time is directly proportional to your blog’s growth level.
  • Never over-estimate your own powers and capabilities.
  • Experimenting won’t lead you to failure.
  • Eat or be Eaten.
  • Aim for the big piece of cake, or don’t aim at all.

Traffic Growth

There are many things which affect your earnings both negatively and positively but I always believed that your traffic is directly proportional to your income, and that is true.

There are more things to consider like the “quality” of traffic, it’s source and other factors but you can’t bother about those until you’ve built a solid readership.

I had one big problem: i was only receiving direct traffic or traffic from design news websites which simply weren’t able to generate hundreds of thousands of visits per month. I knew that only Google will be able to generate hundreds of thousands of visits so i started planning my SEO strategy.

The Issue?

There were already a lot of big, established design blogs which were holding really strong positions in Google and other search engines. It would have been stupid of me to aim for popular “web design” related terms because i wasn’t nearly as big and strong as the competition.

The Solution:

I started thinking what are the keywords I can focus on to generate search engine-driven traffic. I thought that while my blog was related to web design, I could do a list of topics which which are quite similar, but not belong to web design.

After I made a list of suitable keywords, I decided to go with “print” and everything related to printing.

Bingo! There were a lot of searches for print-related terms but the competition wasn’t strong or wasn’t focusing on print at all. When I started focusing my articles for “print-related” keywords, I kept releasing posts on web design topics because after all, I had a web design blog and I want it to remain one.

I started focusing on print topics only because I wanted to generate traffic, not because I was more passionated about print or saw no potential for growth in the web design field.

Monetization:

Many would say that they started their blogs because they were passionated about blogging and writing, and I would believe them, however, I didn’t have the same intention. My first aim was to achieve that financial freedom and earn money.

Eventually, I became passionated as well, but my first ever aim was to earn money. I successfully achieved that goal. Because of my blog, I received many gigs which were paid really well, and most importantly, I made money off that blog.

I have tried many ad networks like: Google Adsense, BuySellAds and similar, but they were not suitable for me. I settled with Yoggrt, an ad network which pays you by hits. My first ever month with Yoggrt brought me $20 so did the second, however the revenue started to increase month by month, until it reached almost $1.5K.

Below is a screenshot of my April 2011 earnings from Yoggrt alone:

Questions and Answers

Here are a few questions and answers elaborated by me in detail that I didn’t write above. I think they are somewhat relevant.

Q: What were your total earnings?
A: In the last year of its running, the blog has brought me somewhere around $5,000 to $7,000

Q: How many people were managing the blog?
A: 2.

Q: How many authors have guest-posted on the blog?
A: There were about 10 people who wrote for free and about 5 occasional authors which were hired to produce content.

Q: What were the hosting expenses?
A: I started with a plan which was only $10, by June I was paying $280/month for hosting and CDN.

Conclusion

Building a blog in my teenage years has been one of the best and tough experiences I faced at that time. I did not risk anything, but received a lot.

Marketers would say that my ROI (Return on Investment) is amazingly high. I can’t say that I didn’t have any hard days, I did, but because I didn’t give up, I managed to achieve results I never expected and never thought of.

This article was originally written for Foundertips.com, a blog started by Dainis Graveris, founder of 1stWebDesiger.com. But then Foundertips was merged with BloggerJet, so the article is here now. If you want more from Dainis - go check his blog or his course to becoming a successful freelance web designer.

13 Comments

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  1. Anli

    Hi Stelian, this is a great story. It’s so inspiring to see how you managed to make a living from a blog in just 2 years. But, did you ever consider selling this popular blog when you lost passion in it? Or you just left it die?

  2. Ben Holland

    Hey, great article. I love reading about young people like myself building blogs or applications and getting great success through hard work and determination. It’s a shame you didn’t keep the blog and pass it over to some other young, budding bloggers, but I am glad you decided to pursue your real passion for designing. I’d be interested to know what you are doing now? Are you working for a company or still for yourself?

  3. Ben

    Hi Stelian! Your story is truly inspiring. I have learned something from your experience. I hope you will write another inspiring story that will enlighten the readers. Cheers!

  4. Chiranjeev

    Hi Stelian,
    Really great story, No doubt, you story is inspiration for newbies. Nice to read you whole story and struggle.
    Thanks & Best of luck for ahead,

  5. phillip

    I like the story. I think you would have sold the blog on flippa . Good u moved to bigger things

  6. Celso Hernandez

    I had a great time reading your post, very spiring and useful for anyone seeking to achieve such a challenging project. thanks!

  7. Jake

    Very inspiring blog, it’s very unfortunate that you gave up on a blog with such high traffic like that? Why did you give up? If it was making you money why would you just throw it away like that?

    • Dainis Graveris

      Jake, I kept asking him the same..heh! Seems he dont regret, but yes, give it away such work so easily – I don’t think he considers it his smartest decision, but hey – we have something to learn ourselves.

  8. jay kanakiya

    An awesome story..
    This story resonates with my own story .. I also have a web design blog .. I use yoggrt payment. .I started it as a way to earn money… but I love the experience and challenge. .. of time ..because handling engineering and posting one plugin daily is kinda difficult .
    Anyway ..gr8ly inspiring .

  9. Minimalist

    I almost gave up and then i read yours: “but I thought I’d work two more months on it because I felt “I had to do it.” Thanks

    • Ganee

      I had the same problem. I started a few blog and it just died after a while. Thanks to this article, I am going to bring those dead blog alive now.

      Thanks Dainis for bringing these awesome articles.

  10. Mohannad

    Great story! Keep it up :)

  11. Benswank

    I struggle to believe this is genuine.

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