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My First Guest Blogger
This past week has been just crazy. I've known for a long time it would be, because it's been the week that an upgraded accounts software suite went live for my largest offline client. They've been a customer for over 30 years, and the software grew like topsy, so the overhaul has been over a year in the preparation. I've been spinning, sorting out unexpected issues and just getting everything in place – with more to do this weekend, when I usually write my blog post.
I knew that producing a quality blog post was unlikely to happen this week – so I turned to one of my blogging friends for help and I'm delighted to welcome James McAllister of Help Start My Site as my first guest blogger and interviewee.
James is a full-time student and I am in complete admiration of the business sense and action he packs into his life. So, without further ado – here's my interview of James McAllister.
About James McAllister
What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? What's that? LOL. When I'm not working I'll usually be playing, writing, or performing music somewhere. It's one of my biggest passions outside of working. I also really enjoy playing soccer as well as playing video games.
How do you relax?
Meditation is my go-to tool for relaxation. I'm excited to see that it's rising in popularity because it's SO beneficial – not only as a relaxation tool but as a learning tool as well. Through meditation, I have not only learned a lot about myself, but many important truths of life.
It's something I recommend everyone practices on a daily basis, even if it's only for a short period of time. It's hard to truly understand how beneficial it is until you actually try it, but let me tell you – it will definitely be worth doing!
What do you like most about blogging?
I love talking about blogging because it's one of those things where you get to help people out and truly make an impact on their lives. You get to connect with people, learn about them, work with them, and watch them grow.
It's great because you succeed when others succeed, so you try your hardest to make that happen. I have a habit of working with people one-on-one because I know that those sort of relationships tend to ultimately make more sales. Plus, I just love connecting and learning about people.
What was the most important day of your life so far?
Today is the most important day of my life. Every day of my life so far has led up to this one. I can't change what's already been written, but today I have been given a blank page so I will do whatever I can to make it an impactful one. This is the mindset I have every day when I wake up and I hope to continue it until the day I die.
If you were prime minister/president for a day, what's the first thing you'd do?
Interesting question! Assuming I couldn't make any changes, I'd probably give a speech on unemployment and talk a bit about blogging and working online. Could you imagine all of the leads and customers I'd get that day? I'd be set!
What do your family members/friends say about your success?
You know, my family and I don't really talk about it that much. My family has always been really poor and financially illiterate so I'm hoping that it changes with me.
Friends are a different story – I lost quite a few over jealousy, and a few more because I just work so darn much. Most think my work involves waking up at 3PM and sitting at my computer for a few hours a day and enjoying a life of luxury while money magically flows into my bank account. Unfortunately, we know that's not the case!
Still, I do have a few friends who are in touch with reality who have started their own websites or blogs. Early on my top earner was actually from Hostgator affiliate commissions, because I had so many friends interested in starting their own sites! It was great.
Is anyone else in your family entrepreneurial?
Unfortunately not, but I'm trying to change that. I've been trying to hammer it into my family's head that they're never going to get anywhere if they don't make changes to both their financial habits as well as their jobs. Yet at the end of the month, I hear complaint after complaint about finances, with blame aimed towards the government, their boss, their hours etc.
Really, the only person responsible for their situation is themselves. I will talk about this a bit more later on, because I believe it's a very important thing to understand.
About Your Business….
How long have you been doing this?
I started blogging in 2007 for personal reasons, but began blogging for business purposes in 2011. It's been an incredibly wild ride since then!
As far as entrepreneurial tasks go, I actually began in the 3rd grade selling candy. I'd buy bags of individually wrapped candy at our local dollar store and mark it up 10 or 15 times what I paid for it, and sell it at school. I'd only make about $10 a day, but that's a lot of money when you're 9 years old!
How old were you when you started?
I started blogging when I was 11 years old, and started blogging for business purposes when I was 15. It was my freshman year in high school when I learned that it was possible to make money online, and I became interested extremely quickly. I got web hosting and launched my first website that weekend, and haven't stopped blogging since!
What did you do before starting this business?
My life didn't really have any clear direction. I was in school, but had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or what profession I wanted to enter into. I spent most of my time either playing video games or music. Needless to say, I was pretty unproductive!
Who (or what) inspires you?
Seeing my growth each month. Achieving my goals. Seeing others improve after I've helped them. Knowing I've had an impact on people's lives in some ways.
Some may think this makes me self-centered but I don't feel much inspiration from other people's stories unless I've been a part of them. I'm not one to compare myself to others. I'm always glad to hear of someone else's success but that doesn't really affect me in any way.
When did you know, for sure, that this would be your profession?
I had heard a lot from my parents growing up about the hardships of working for someone else, and I knew it was something that wasn't appealing to me. Sure, I could probably find a traditional job I'd enjoy, but I'd still be told how and when to work. I chose self-employment because I want to be free.
What would you be doing if you weren't working in this niche?
If I wasn't focusing so much on Help Start My Site I'd probably be focusing more attention on some of my other websites. I've worked less and less on them as I've discovered it's usually a better idea to focus on one or two big projects than a lot of smaller ones.
I'm also going to begin selling on Amazon in 2015 so I'm focusing a lot of time on that as well. It's incredibly exciting!
Do you have a particular routine you stick to?
Not particularly, I tend to work until I'm tired of it and then do something else. I never force myself to work when I don't want to, because I've found that the quality of my work diminishes drastically when I do. Fortunately, I love the work I'm doing and it's incredibly diverse so I don't tend to get bored easily.
How hard do you push yourself?
I push myself pretty hard, but as I said I stop working as soon as I stop enjoying it. I make up for it by working long hours each day. I probably work an average of 10 hours a day on various projects, although I occasionally have days where I work 16 hours or more.
When are you completely satisfied with your work?
Almost never. I'm always finding ways to improve upon my work, though I try not to go too over the top. If I waited until I was completely satisfied I'd never end up getting anything published!
What do you like best and/or least about your day to day routine?
My favorite thing has got to be looking back at the end of the day and seeing everything I've accomplished that day. I set goals for myself on a daily basis, and when you're able to complete them and see the progress you've made it's an incredible feeling.
My least favorite time of the day has got to be when I unwind and tell myself, “OK, you've got to stop working. It's time to get some sleep!” It's frustrating because I'm at a point in my life where I'm so excited for what's next, so I have a really hard time settling down. I usually lay there for at least an hour before I'm able to fall asleep.
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
That's a tough question, because all of my mistakes and hardships have made me who I am today. If I had to pick something, I'd probably look at the idea of blogging from more of a business standpoint early on.
My first blog I tried to monetize was a general technology blog. As you could imagine, the content was hardly related and I had a really hard time maintaining a regular audience. The site didn't make a lot, but it was a great learning experience.
Who are your heroes – personal or business?
All of my blogging friends. Everyone who comments on my website. Everyone who emails me. Everyone that reads what I put out. They make my job what it is, and I love them for it.
Although I must give special thanks to Lisa Irby, who gave me the inspiration and knowledge to get started with blogging. If I had never stumbled upon her YouTube channel, I have no idea what my life would be like today.
How has your business changed over the last year or two?
These past two years (this last one especially) is really when things started to come together. I was doing alright, but only recently have things started to really take off. Now I can clearly see that this whole idea of making money online is actually possible. Occasionally I have to ask myself, “Is this real, or just a dream?” Sometimes I'm still not sure!
I'm not yet raking in 6 figures or anything but the progress and growth each month is clear and I know things are only going to get better from here!
What's the magic formula for success?
What helps you stay focused?
A write down everything I want to get done each day, so I can get onto the next task instead of thinking about what I should do next. I also have reminders go off periodically to remind myself if what I'm doing is actually productive. If it's not, I make changes.
Which of your products would you say you are most proud of?
I'd have to say my first book. It hasn't been the most successful of my 3 products but it's by far the one I'm the most proud of. Not only did I become a much better writer from writing it, but it showed me that I can take on huge projects and actually finish them to completion. I learned a lot about myself and the time was very well spent. The idea that I just brought something into existence is astonishing to me.
I'm planning to release several more books in 2015 and if I had never written this first one, the idea of writing multiple would have never of crossed my mind!
Is there anything you'd done that you'd like to burn all the copies of?
No. Even though I published some terrible stuff in the past, I use it to measure my growth. It's really easy to see how far you've come when you compare your old work to your new work. It's quite inspiring, actually!
What have you been working on lately?
Recently I've been aiming to improve upon my free traffic building course. It's a 7-day course that teaches you 7 different ways to bring long-term traffic to your site, and then profit from all of your new visitors.
Let's be honest here – the one thing we could all use more of is traffic. Sorry to say, but content doesn't do much if it never gets read by anybody!
If you'd like to sign up for it, visit Help Start My Site and enter your email into one of the opt-in forms. You can find one below each post, on the sidebar, or at the top of each page. It'll be the best decision you make all day!
What would you say is the ultimate goal for your business?
That's a tough one, because my goals are always changing as I make progress. My goal when I started was to be making enough to not have to work a traditional part-time job when I got into college. Now my goals are much different.
I'm not a real big fan of setting optimistic long-term goals because I feel it causes people to become discouraged when they aren't achieving them right away. Therefore, I'd have to say my ultimate goal is to continue growing every month while remaining to enjoy the work I'm doing. If for some reason I ever stop enjoying blogging, that'll be the end of it for me.
2014 was a big year for me, but I want 2015 to be even bigger. In the last quarter of 2014, I created 3 products. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I'd like to create at least 5 this year. I'd say product creation is going to be a huge focus of mine and I'm extremely excited for it.
What challenges have you overcome in order to achieve success?
I'd say my biggest problem, especially early on, was motivation and belief in myself. I didn't think I'd ever “make it.” I had created this false illusion that all of the top bloggers were born with some special skill-set I couldn't ever have. Of course, this couldn't have been further from the truth.
I told myself that if I was growing, even if it was at a slow pace, that I had no reason to worry. I was right.
Have you partnered with someone to create a product? If so, who have you enjoyed working with the most?
I haven't, but it's not something I'd rule out for the future. Let me tell you, you never know where blogging will take you!
Do you have a mentor?
No, but I am a mentor!
Would you recommend others to have a mentor/coach?
Yes, but only if you know that you're serious about blogging and you understand that you will likely not see results right away.
Although I never had one I know they are extremely valuable to the right people. As someone who's currently mentoring a few people, mentors will:
- Steer you away from failure and towards success. I spent a year on a site with ZERO potential – that's a mistake that could've been avoided with a mentor.
- Help you form connections. Networking is everything in business.
- Save your time by encouraging you to do what actually works, and nothing that doesn't.
- Answer questions in a manner that's tailored to you personally.
- Share or improve ideas.
- And SO much more.
They really are a great investment if you're serious about building a long-term business. You've just got to remember that they are there to help you and work with you, but not do the work for you. A coach will not make up for laziness – and that's a fact!
What special skills do you have that let you achieve what you’ve achieved?
None. Remember, everyone is born knowing absolutely nothing about blogging or marketing. We all start at the bottom.
The only difference between me and someone who failed was the mindset. I wanted it more. I worked harder. I didn't give up when it seemed pointless. I constantly seek to improve.
That's the only difference.
What Are Your Top 5 Tips For Success?
- Understand That You Are Responsible For Yourself
It's easy to play the blame game. It's easy to blame your problems on someone or something else. It's easy to say, “it's not my fault.”
I'm a realist, no-nonsense sort of guy. So here's the truth. It's always your fault.
Sometimes we're put in rough situations that we weren't expecting, but you always have two choices. You either deal with it and find a way to make it work, or you don't. And if you don't, and you give up, than the blame isn't on the situation, it's on you for giving up.
The only person responsible for yourself is you. Not your friends, family, or mentors. Only YOU.
This is a fact of life, but it's a very liberating one. It means that you have the power to make your own choices. It means that you do not have to accept the situation you are in now. You can become whoever you want, and nobody can stop you.
If you want to be a professional blogger, you have the power to make it happen.
- Successful People Are Made, Not Born
I hear these excuses all of the time. “I'm just not meant to be successful.” “Successful people have something I don't.” Even I was guilty of it.
Here's the truth. Successful people aren't much different than unsuccessful people. The only difference is that instead of whining about how they can't do something, they try and try again, improving, and eventually achieving whatever goal they set out for themselves.
You have the capability to develop every skill the professional bloggers have if you want to. Don't underestimate the power of your mind – it can help bring you to unbelievable places, or it can ruin you. You're in control. Choose.
- If You Want To Make Money, Treat This Like A Business
I blog for business. I aim to create some sort of financial return out of the work I do. Therefore, I most look at my work from a business perspective.
When I started out, I failed to do that. I wanted to make money, but I didn't look at blogging from a business standpoint. I created a site with no real money making potential, and then wondered why it wasn't a success.
Sit down. Analyze your niche from a business standpoint. Are people spending money? What products are they spending money on? What products can you promote? What do people want to know – and how can you sell them a solution? Can you create your own product in this niche? Is this a niche where people will buy from you over and over again? What other niches would this audience be interested in? How can I promote those products to them?
Instead of telling you what you want to hear, I'll tell you the truth. “Follow your passion and the money will fall into place” is horrible advice. I soaked that up like a sponge and years of effort turned into little more than a learning experience.
If you don't treat your blog like a business, than don't complain when you're not making money. Again, you are responsible for yourself.
- Ignore SEO, Network instead!
I spend a lot of time in forums that primarily consist of beginners. Everywhere I look, people act like ranking high in search engines is an instant guarantee of success.
Here's reality. Focusing on search engine traffic is a huge waste of time.
In most cases, search engine traffic doesn't stick around, and converts horribly. Its power is in its numbers. And sure, you could be getting a 1000 visitors a day from Google and probably be doing well, but then an algorithm update can come and wipe all of that out overnight.
I don't know about you, but I like having my business in my own hands rather than in Google's.
Instead of focusing on SEO, focus on networking. Build relationships with other bloggers in your niche. Comment on their articles. Talk to them through email. Guest post on their site.
Networking is going to get you the natural backlinks that Google loves, and will end up boosting your rankings anyway. Not to mention the fact that other bloggers will send free traffic your way.
You're reading this right now because of my networking efforts. Point proven.
- Invest Your Money Wisely
I know this isn't exactly blogging related, but many people blog to become rich. That's great! You can.
The answer however doesn't lie in huge salaries. If I'm making $500,000 a year and I waste it all on stupid stuff I'm no better off than anyone else.
The key to riches is investing. The truth is, how you spend your money is equally as important as how much you make. And the smart people, the ones that become rich, are the ones that use their money to make more money. Then they reinvest that money as well. Before you know it, they're millionaires and dividends are paying them a full-time salary.
Investing isn't hard, nor is it risky. Even if you're investing only 10% of your salary, it's going to make a huge difference later on when you're retiring or even buying a house. Most people could take 10% out of their spending and hardly notice the money is gone. If you can invest more, great! You absolutely should.
It takes 15 minutes to set up a brokerage account and put money into an index fund. It requires no management, nor does it require economic knowledge. Why everyone isn't already doing this is beyond me.
If you want to become financially independent, then do so. You have the power.
Conclusion From James
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed learning more about me, and that I'll see you on Help Start My Site – but before you go, please leave your thoughts here. And I'd love to hear your best tips for success.
And Thanks From Joy…
Well – what can I say, other than a big thank-you to James for an interesting and motivational post from a remarkable young man.
He's already made his mark on the Blogging / Internet Marketing world, and certainly someone to watch in the years to come.
Update June 2016
His success just shows what hard work and dedication can achieve.