Lidiya is a full-time freelance writer who has started Let's Reach Success, an authoritative site on anything related to personal, spiritual and business growth. Now she is earning $2,000/month. However, she had to face big battles, most of them, in the beginning.
Hi Lidiya! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?
Hey, I’m Lidiya K, a full-time freelance writer and lifestyle designer. I’m from Bulgaria, but after becoming location, independent setting up the online business and making just enough to afford a life in a better country, I relocated to Amsterdam, Netherlands, which is my ideal destination. My biggest project is Let’s Reach Success, which started as a personal blog where I wrote about personal development (my original passion), but has now turned into an authoritative site on anything related to personal, spiritual and business growth, and the foundation of my brand and business.
While I’ve tested different ways to monetize my passion, together with many things on the side related to Internet Marketing, it turns out that it really is beneficial to have a platform online and this can be used in so many ways. Over the years, people started finding me through my site. Some wanted to contribute (I publish many guest posts), others to connect with me as they liked the story I share on my About page), plenty of people want to publish a sponsored post (these now make a big part of my monthly income), etc.
How did you build Let’s Reach Success? Which is your business model?
I was a total newbie and that’s why I believe my story resonates with so many people.
The world is full of aspiring bloggers who never set up a WordPress site and make that first post live. Or others who give up after a few months. The biggest thing that helped me be able to make a living and still do everything my way and enjoy it, is that I stucked to it and covered topics I was passionate about.
It is indeed possible to make it (not too big, but just enough to have a nice lifestyle thanks to that) in a competitive niche. I targeted personal development. But now it’s also Entrepreneurship, Health, Lifestyle, Travel, Career, Finance, and more.
The interesting this is that all this was happening as I myself was evolving. As a self-help enthusiast and a writer by nature, the magic happened only after I combined these two. Meaning, I defined my passion being personal growth and admitted to myself that I need to start writing and see where it takes me. It then became my hobby and my therapy, but I was also slowly building a blog.
I didn’t know a single thing in the beginning. Not about the publishing world, not about blogging, making money online, building traffic, or designing a site with a CMS. But it’s easy, as long as you’re ready to invest the hours and focus necessary for that.
There was never a business model. I just started with a simple wordpress.com site and kept it like that for a year. Then, I decided it’s time to invest as this blog was now sort of my portfolio. By that time I was already making my first money as a freelance writer, so no better way to build myself than to have more of my content published on the platform that I control. So I set up a hosting account and moved to wordpress.org.
For the first years I was selling my self-published books on the website using WooCommerce, but now they are all on Amazon. Organic traffic itself was what brought attention, and also sponsors interested in linking to their website or mentioning their brand naturally from an article. Either I write it or they provide the content. I now often get around $100-$200 for a single quality piece that I publish in the form of a guest post.
After I saw this business model became the best way to monetize the blog, I also invested more in better hosting, a premium theme (it now looks like a magazine-style blog and the focus is on content), optimized it better, started caring about rankings more, created a page for advertisers and did a few other things more professionally.
I also do affiliate marketing, although it’s not yet a permanent part of my monthly income. I’m still testing, but what seems to work best and what I feel most comfortable with (like most other bloggers) is to simply talk about products I myself am using or am a fan of and include a link to them.
No Amazon Associates, no Clickbank. Also, I was never a fan of ads and if you’re going to be creating a trusted resource and want to provide a great user experience, then Google AdSense isn’t an option.
I focus on content, a lot of it, and quality. The good thing about the Internet is that this strategy still works. And spammy sites can’t do it better than you regardless of their budget, if you’re investing the time to create and distribute great content.
Which are your marketing strategies to grow your traffic?
I’m not good at social media, I’m not aggressively promoting my newsletter, and I’m not paying for advertisement.
Optimizing my content for both search engines and visitors still works quite well. Together with the occasional backlink from a top site, be it from a guest post I wrote for them, or because they found a piece on Let’s Reach Success useful and added it as a resource.
So, let’s talk about how I do SEO as a non-marketer.
First, it’s something I’m interested in. It’s like a game and I like reading about it. I got familiar with the basics of on-page SEO early on, and over the years built the habit of writing this way. It’s yet another digital skill, really.
Many of my posts are ranking for certain keywords without being written with that in mind, but just because that exact keyword is mentioned a few times throughout the content. However, I enjoy writing a big post every now and then (2000-3500 words) that’s a guide, but also optimized for a long keyword phrase. The latest one, for instance, was How to Become a Millionaire Online. A week after it was published, it appeared as #5 in the SERP.
The keyword research I do is pretty simple. I put a keyword I have in mind related to the topic I feel like writing about in Google Keyword Planner and look at the results.
I save 5-10 of the ones that come up, which I like and which don’t have much competition but do have enough searches per month. You can easily rank for a keyword with 100-1K searches, but that could be more too. These results don’t need to be accurate, but what I do next is place the chosen keyword in Google and see what comes on the first page.
The point is to have just one or two articles from top sites about this, to check out their content, and to know you can write a better and longer piece. Then you go ahead and write it, while including the keyword enough times.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?
The biggest battle is with the doubts we all face in the beginning.
I didn't know anyone in my life doing what I do, so basically, I had no real proof it was possible. That’s okay for me, though, as I’m not the type of person who relies on others for support and I got plenty of motivation from people I follow online and all the great success stories out there.
What helped me get through these doubts and the fear of failure was the dissatisfaction I had with my previous lifestyle. I wasn’t doing anything meaningful, wasn’t independent, wasn’t making the most of my time every day, and was constantly reminding myself that there must be something more to life. This mental state doesn’t let you stop doing things in order to find a way out of the system and create a better lifestyle and one on your own terms.
So years before I did anything online that made money, I was reading about those who did it and who succeeded. They all started from nothing (I’m a big fan of self-made millionaires), had no connections, capital or experience in the beginning. But the digital world makes it possible for anyone to enter, build something and earn.
There’s another stage - that of boredom.
You enter it after you’ve been working on your passion project for a while and see no results. I had to remind myself of my vision to stay on track. That meant I was still waking up earlier than I had to and dedicated time to my work related to what will one day be an online business. Even when there wasn’t any official work yet, I built the discipline of someone doing it full-time. Now it’s still the first thing I do when I start the day, and that feels just as right.
The next challenge is distractions.
I was reading a lot about zen and minimalism before I turned Let’s Reach Success into not just a blog but also a registered company in the country I moved to. And I did simplify my life long before I started adding other elements to it. That’s part of lifestyle design too. Removing the unnecessary, but also defining distractions and making sure you minimize them. That could be other people in your life, other goals you’re after, other projects you’re working on, the high expectations you have, your bad spending habits, your procrastination or laziness.
All these were something I worked on, one thing at a time, to remove them. One of the best habits I ever developed was tracking everything I do. That allowed me to notice what works and do more of it, while removing the rest. For instance, here’s how my income has changed over the last year.
Now, I’m ruthless with my time. I plan my work, prioritize, structure my days according to my prime time. You too should find out when you’re most productive, dedicate these hours only to your business and leave anything else for the rest of the day.
Which are your greatest disadvantages?
There are two:
1) Not forming connections: The blogging world is all about networking. And there were tens of times that I've said 'no' to potential opportunities. I know I don't work well in a team and not delegating things or allowing others to do what they do best, is still something that might be preventing me from growing. But, let's not forget that this is a lifestyle business, which is meant to be making just enough so a person can live the lifestyle they want.
2) Staying away from video: I tried to get out of my comfort zone and get on YouTube. I already know what I could be talking about. I would be documenting my journey (following Gary Vee's advice), but I just don't feel comfortable. I did have a podcast, but recently stopped it as I didn't find joy doing it anymore. It was part of my brand and online presence for a long time, but I'm okay with leaving things behind as our time and attention are limited.
During the process of building & growing Let’s Reach Success, which were the worst mistakes you committed?
Now that I think of it, every single thing was such a lesson, that I don’t wanna take it back. But here are some things that weren’t good ideas (although I did it all in my free time and am okay with such experiments as that’s how I got to know the publishing world in the first place):
Having a membership site
I spent a ton of time researching the best membership plugins and made a big plan on how to set up and promote a membership site (which is no easy thing). Got one (great product, by the way) for around $100, did the setting up part, created specific pages, restricted old content, re-branded the site as it was now a platform offering premium content, and started writing content for members. After some time I realized I don’t know how to get people on board and my new, super practical content ended up being read by almost no one. So I accepted this failure, removed the plugin, made all content free again, and got back to how things were before. The thing is, I wanted to have the ideal recurring revenue model which still allowed me to keep writing but only for those who care enough to pay. But it’s a lot of hard work, I don’t know how to promote it (there are different techniques to market such a product), and it’s quite the responsibility to charge people on a monthly basis. But hey, I now know the ins and outs of this monetization model and took some lessons to other aspects of my work.
Staying with BlueHost for too long
I’m sorry to be mentioning names, but I just have to. I’ve been with Bluehost since the first day I moved to a self-hosted site, and they are really good for beginners. Affordable and one of the most popular hosting companies that everyone’s talking about. I then moved to a pro package, after which I signed up for WordPress managed hosting on a dedicated server. At some point, I was paying close to $500 per year, and getting the worst customer support experience, and downtime without any explanation. I was just done with it and earlier this month switched to WPX Hosting. So far, it’s been great. But I knew from before that they have wonderful support and a quality product built with WordPress in mind. I’m now much happier and saw immediate results in performance.
If you had the chance of doing only one thing differently, what would it be?
As someone who built a powerful mindset before a powerful site, I can’t say there’s something like that. Most entrepreneurs say they wished they had started earlier. Sure, that could always be said. But it turns out that we start only when we are mentally prepared to handle the responsibility that comes with our new project. So it’s all good :)
Apart from mistakes, what are other sources of learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?
I have what I like to call my online mentors. These are people I’ve been following for years now. Most are millionaires, self-made ones, who ditched their old lifestyle (usually in their 30s), made mistakes and learned from them, enjoyed their freedom then settled down, built a few businesses, some scaled, others kept their free lifestyle. But they all helped me as their thinking resonated with me.
- Tim Ferriss: for those just starting out, read his very first book (or just skim it) - The 4-Hour Workweek. Then head to his blog and start listening to his podcast. His new bestsellers Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors might be the only thing you need on your bookshelf, as they are a combination of the best life tips and business strategies from some of the most successful people in the world.
- Mark Manson: His bestselling book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck might interest you. Not really business advice, though, just life truths that will help you come to some deep realizations, take some big decisions, make changes in your life, and start living more. He helped me a lot.
- Pat Flynn: He’s the go-to guy for many people about how to make money online and his income reports are a solid proof for that. I constantly go back to his blog to see what’s new, and I like his life story and how he got started in business.
- Dan and Ian: These two are the location independent entrepreneurs that relocated to Asia back in the days and started building businesses and networking with other like-minded entrepreneurs. They introduced me to some interesting concepts regarding lifestyle design.
- Tynan: Such an unusual guy. I like many of his habits and his way of living and thinking. It does take some reading, though, to get to the good stuff on his blog and start learning how to live smarter, manage your money and time better, and make sure you’re going after what you want in life.
- Neil Patel: This is the only marketing guru you need in your life. I like heading to QuickSprout to see his recent articles. He’s the founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, so many things going on for that entrepreneur.
- Gary Vaynerchuk: I hadn’t found him when I was starting out, but a bit later. However, his first book ‘Crush It’ was a game-changer for me as it was what helped me realize that not writing, but personal development was my passion. Writing was just the way I could share it with the world. When I combined these two, I started seeing results and it all felt right. By the way, in January he just released the next level version of that book, ‘Crushing It’. He’s an influencer, the owner of VaynerMedia ($150 million dollar company), and he’s making videos on a daily basis sharing the life of a CEO, meeting people, giving advice, and more.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you’re in the mood for reading one post of mine after this interview, I wanna share this one with you. It’s about the dark side of the entrepreneurial journey, but also about the beauty of it and how to overcome the difficulties to get to the good part.