Beyond a Blog that Matters: Building a Business that Performs

Guest article by Barrie Davenport

Note from Corbett: today we have another interesting established blogger case study to share. Barrie Davenport has become a very successful blogger over the past few years by many standards, but she has felt the need to take the business side of her blogging more seriously. Earlier this year I helped Barrie develop a strategy for taking her online business to the next level, and today she’s going to share with you why (and how) she’s launching based on her personal brand and expertise to help people find and live their life’s passion.

I have a blog I started a few years ago when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

In spite of that, it has become a fairly successful blog, and I’ve generated a modestly successful income with it.

I started the blog as a marketing tool for my personal coaching business. Then I discovered how much I love blogging and began to focus much of my energy on that. I did a good job of creating a blog that matters, as Corbett so wisely teaches. My passion is helping other people live to their potential, so creating a blog that matters was easy for me.

The problem for me was this: as I was building a blog that mattered, I wasn’t focused on building a business that performed.

Or at least one that performed the way I’d like it to. My goal isn’t to make a decent income. It’s to make a great income, a six-figure income, while doing work that is meaningful, fulfilling, and one that serves others in a wildly useful way. Is that too ambitious? I don’t think so. There’s plenty of evidence out there that it is quite possible.

Early in 2012, I had a “come-to-Jesus” meeting with myself. I had to decide if I wanted to be a blogger who made a little money or an entrepreneur who was building a business. I decided it was time to build a business. But before I tell you how I’ve done that, let me share a few of the roadblocks I unknowingly created for myself before I got to this point. Maybe they will help you avoid them for yourself.

Roadblock #1: Niche Too Big

When I created my blog, Live Bold and Bloom, I wanted to help people move past fears and self-imposed limitations to create better lives. This covers just about everything in life. Along with hundreds of other personal development bloggers, I was offering a pupu platter of self-help information. I frequently wrote about life passion, and even created a course around it, but it wasn’t the obvious focus of my blog.

Roadblock #2: Mixed Messages

All newbie bloggers can attest to the fact that they’ve “tried it all” to make money, and I was no exception. I’ve thrown just about every possible income-generating hoo ha against the wall to see what would stick. But that simply throws the reader into a state of purchase paralysis. My brand was confusing because I gave my reader so many options (different types of courses, affiliate programs, books, etc.). Too many readers just enjoyed my free articles, free products, and free information and left it at that.

Roadblock #3: Hiding Behind My Blog

I had been a PR professional for over 20 years, working behind-the-scenes to promote other people and businesses. It felt hugely awkward and uncomfortable tooting my own horn and putting myself out there as an expert. But readers aren’t going to trust you before they see a lot of your face, hear your voice, know who you are, and can relate to you personally. I had to embrace putting myself in the forefront as a key strategy to business success.

Roadblock #4: Lack of Focus

As I got to know other bloggers, so many wonderful opportunities came my way. And I jumped on all of them like white on rice. I became a jack of all trades and the master of none. In the first couple of years after starting my blog, in addition to working on the blog, I launched and managed The Daily Brainstorm (an aggregate blog); created a couple of niche sites; co-launched A-List Blog Marketing; co-created The Habit Course; co-created the Simple Self-Confidence Course; and co-created The Empowerment Pack promotion. I had so many plates spinning, I could have been in the circus.

All of these projects were fun and very useful in helping me get to know a lot of people (which is important). But they divided my time and energy to the extent that my blog suffered.

Roadblock #5: Ignorance

One of the main reasons I floundered and lost focus was that I simply didn’t know what to do in order to create a successful business model. Because I was so busy, reading and researching experts on creating a successful online business felt like an indulgence. Plus, there were so many people giving so much advice, I felt overwhelmed. I was paralyzed and couldn’t act because I didn’t know what to do first to change the course of my business.

The Turnaround

One day my friend Scott Dinsmore (of Live Your Legend) emailed to ask if he could interview me as part of new course on life passion he was creating. Scott and I talked regularly to share ideas, and at the time he hadn’t launched Live Your Legend. He was working like the rest of us to get traction for his moderately successful original blog.

The next time I lifted my head up from my platter of projects, Scott had launched Live Your Legend, launched his passion course, generated thousands of new subscribers, and become the overnight wunderkind of the blogosphere.

My first thought was, “Damn. How did he do that, and where have I been?” His success didn’t provoke jealousy (who can be jealous of one of the nicest people on the planet??). It lit a fire under me. It was time to make some decisions and take action.

First Steps

I needed direction, and I needed it from an expert whose integrity I respected.

The first thing I did was email Corbett.

I had followed Think Traffic for a while and knew Corbett from other blogging circles. And I knew he’d helped launch Scott to success. His advice is golden, but his willingness to help and serve others is truly what sets him apart. I worked with Corbett to get an overview of what he thought I should be doing to take the next steps with my blog and my business. Here’s what he advised me:

Corbett’s Advice

  • “For God’s sake woman, stop doing so many things and focus!” (He didn’t say it like that. He was very nice. But I’m sure that’s what he was thinking.) So I cut out just about everything except working on my new business.
  • Decide what aspect of your work you are most passionate about, and make that the focus of your business. In other words, tighten your niche to what matters most. Just be sure there’s an audience for it.
  • Write down your core beliefs around the niche and use these to guide your business decisions.
  • Re-design your current blog or create a new site to put yourself front and center — in other words, create an expert site.
  • Determine your mid and long-term business goals so you know where you’re going and what to do to get there.
  • Find a good blog designer who understands how to create an expert site.

Corbett’s advice gave me some clear direction and a starting point for building my business. But I knew I needed someone to help me stay on track, so I hired an online business marketing coach, Jason Gracia. Jason and I worked together weekly for several months to keep things moving. Here’s what he helped me do:

Jason’s Coaching

  • Refine my brand, my target audience, and my key selling proposition. I chose helping people uncover and live their life passions, as this is a subject around which I have a lot of experience, as a coach, a publicist, and someone who has gone through the process herself.
  • Required me to read everything I could get my hands on related to my niche of life passion to further my expertise.
  • Study my competition and find my point of difference. (My point of difference is that one doesn’t necessarily have to live passion through work or by starting an online lifestyle business. There are other ways to live it and create a fulfilling, happy life.)
  • Define and develop a specific, customized “solution” that I would be offering readers — “Barrie’s formula” for finding and living a life passion. This formula would be offered in my coaching, courses, books, and other products.
  • Define and highlight all of the experience, expertise, and credibility I brought to the table to use in my messaging, products, etc.
  • Create a free guide as a lead magnet (this required many revisions and edits to ensure it was extremely useful and valuable to the reader and to make sure it had the right call to action at the end of the guide).
  • Learn the basics of expert site design and navigation, what to highlight, where to direct the readers’ attention, and the copy to use for the various elements of the site. I studied a variety of other successful expert sites (including Think Traffic) to see what they were doing and learn why they were doing it well.
  • Create coaching packages to have immediately available for purchase when the site launched. Launch your expert site with something that you offer for money (in addition to loads of quality free posts and products) to teach your readers that this site is a business.
  • Forced me to get over my anxiety about featuring my name and face and suggested I use my name for the title of the blog,

At this point, it was time to hire a designer. I hired Stephanie Wetzel, a designer I’ve used many times, whose work ethic and talent I respect. I gave her an overview of what I was creating, the brand, the target audience, and the solution I would be providing.

She asked me to provide her with:

  • links to other sites I liked and the specific design elements that stood out to me;
  • colors and type fonts that resonated with me;
  • any specifics that I knew I wanted on the site (navigation titles, images, etc.)
  • professional photos featuring me in a way that best reflects my personality (I tried to avoid hiring a professional photographer, but in the long run, it was one of the best decisions I made);
  • testimonials from clients and readers;
  • social proof — the logos of publications and other blogs in which I have appeared or guest posted.

While Stephanie was working on the site design and layout, I was busy writing copy for each of the various pages of the site, creating a video to put on my “about” page, and writing blog posts to have ready on the site when it launches.

The copy for each of these pages should be written with care – every word crafted to reinforce your brand, build trust and credibility, and to invite the reader to subscribe. I learned from studying Corbett’s new site design how important it is to have a subscriber opt-in form and lead magnet on nearly every page.

Also, I’ve been writing a book, The 52-Week Life Passion Project, that will be available in November 2012. So I continued to write furiously so it would be available shortly after the site launch. Of course, having a published book (even self-published) adds to your credibility as an expert.

And I worked on my launch plan long before the launch. More on that below.

After a series of site design iterations, several copy re-writes, much proofing and re-proofing, lots of testing, and all fingers and toes crossed, the site was ready.

The Launch Plan

Two months before site was finished, I started planning how to launch it. If I’ve learned one thing from Corbett, it’s that you can’t wait until launch day to let people know what you are doing. In fact, I went straight to Think Traffic to find a launch plan blueprint which he lays out so beautifully.

I have been informally mentioning my plans for a new site to my blogging peers for several months. But in the last 6 weeks, I’ve really ramped up my efforts. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

6 Weeks Before Launch

  • Wrote a personal email to all of my online personal development peers and other online entrepreneurs, letting them know about the new site, what it will be about, and the new book.
  • Sent out some Facebook and Twitter messages about my plans.

5 Weeks Before Launch

  • Wrote an announcement post on my blog Live Bold and Bloom to let my 13,000+ subscribers and other readers know about my plans to create a life passion expert site and how it can help them — with an invitation to join the new site when I launch.
  • Began contacting people to include in a launch day post on people who have uncovered their passions and found a way to incorporate them into their lives.
  • Started contacting bloggers with similar niches to ask for a guest post or interview on their sites for launch day. Offered a book giveaway for their readers.
  • Continued the occasional tweet and mention on social media.

4 Weeks Before Launch

  • Began writing the various guest posts for other blogs.
  • Began preparing my launch-day post by sorting through responses from people who contributed their life passion stories.
  • Created a list of online peers and bigger bloggers to ask to tweet about my launch.
  • Continued the occasional tweet and social media mentions.

Final 3 Weeks Before Launch

  • Continued writing guest posts and participating in video and written interviews.
  • Wrote a “welcome” post to run before launch day.
  • Created a mini-manifesto post explaining the core principles of to run during launch week.
  • Created an additional free report to offer subscribers who invite 3 friends to subscribe.
  • Began brainstorming amazing content for posts throughout launch week and the weeks following.
  • Continued with my social media efforts.

I’m finalizing this post for Think Traffic during the week before launch day — so I can’t tell you now how the story ends. has been a work in progress for over 7 months from conception to inception. Every decision and action has been balanced against my core beliefs around my niche and my desire to build a sustainable business. Hopefully, I’ve done what I need to do.

If my mentors on this journey are any measure of my future success, I will have found a way to turn my own passion into a business that really performs. If you follow their expert advice, I know you can too!

Barrie Davenport is a life passion coach, author, and founder of, a site devoted to helping people uncover and live their life passions.

54 thoughts on “Beyond a Blog that Matters: Building a Business that Performs”

  1. This is a really great and really interesting article- There are actually little bits of advice from each of these examples that I can take away and put to good use!

  2. Barrie, what a great post! I’ve followed your original blog for some time. I’m very excited to see your new blog. I’m also working on a blog and really appreciate you sharing your own path for your new site. I wish you all the best and look forward to joining in your adventures. Stephanie Rogers

  3. As much as I enjoyed reading about Barrie’s journey, that’s all it is. It’s NOT a case study. No before & after results. Too premature to tell if it’s a success. Does a nice job of promoting Corbett’s consulting though. Look forward to reading the follow-up w/ actual stats.

    1. Hi Maria,
      Well, it’s a case study of how I decided to build a business with an expert site and what I did to create it. I think it’s helpful for people to see what led me to the decision and how I went about building the site. Hopefully, Corbett will invite me back to talk about my success. I feel pretty confident that I’m on the right track. I’ll be excited to let you know. I have 14,000 subscribers on my other site without all of the knowledge I’ve gained in the last several months.

  4. Thanks Barrie for sharing your journey and hard work with us. A lot of good info there and best of luck to you! Looking forward to following your journey as well.

  5. Barrie, your new site is gorgeous! I might need to hire your designer someday. :) I recognize your name from A-List Blog Marketing, so reading your story here was a pleasant surprise. And I learned a lot of great ideas for my website, too. Good luck with your new venture!

  6. Wow, Barrie, this is a massive post! Thanks so much for sharing all the nuts and bolts and insider info about your new blog and its purpose and direction, I can’t wait to check it out.

    I love it when folks are transparent and talk about both what worked, AND what didn’t — so helpful to the rest of us.

    I too worked in PR for a while, and in sales and marketing for many years too, but still found it really challenging to toot my own horn and put myself out there as an expert when it came to my own business and blog, so I totally feel you on that one. : )

    Good luck with everything!

    1. Hi Kimberly,
      I think we learn as much from people’s mistakes as we do from their successes. When you are first starting out, there is SO much you don’t know. I’m so grateful that there were others who wrote posts like this to help educate me as I was struggling to figure it out (and continuing to figure it out!). Yes, we PR people get really cozy behind the scenes, don’t we? :)

  7. A good post that highlights many of the mistakes I’ve made (am making) trying to build my own blog. Thank God, I bought into Fizzle early and will have the help on hand to upgrade my site.

    All The Best

  8. Barrie, thanks so much for sharing your personal story here. I can’t tell you how helpful and inspirational this is for me right now as I’m building my own blog. I think you’ve probably helped me avoid a handful of mistakes that I would have made without reading this.

    And thanks also for sharing your qualms about “putting yourself out there.” I share that hesitation and you’ve really modeled how to suck it up and do it anyway!

    Stellar post. A jillion thanks to both you and Corbett.

    1. Hi Bobbi,
      So great to see you here! I am thrilled that this post helped you avoid some mistakes. I can’t wait to see your new site. You will get used to putting yourself out there — especially when nice people like you give you positive feedback. :)

  9. Barrie,

    I felt like I was reading about myself when reading up intro to the roadblocks.

    I started my own blog last year and felt so lost back then. I too, am aiming to create not just decent income, but great income online.

    Your journey truly resonates with me and I applaud your efforts. I sure wish I could afford to hire some mentors right now, but I’m completely on my own… along with my outsourced designer and programmer from India.

    Your blog looks totally awesome now and 13,000 subscribers? The future is totally yours!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments Alden. You don’t have to hire mentors — find them on the web. Find people like Corbett and other great online experts. Read their blogs regularly. Make comments on their posts. Create a real relationship with them by sending an email with a compliment or engaging on Facebook or Twitter with them. Ask the occasional question, being mindful of their time. You can learn so much by looking at the sites of successful people to see what they are doing. Yes, I have nearly 14,000 subscribers on my original blog, Live Bold and Bloom — not on this new site yet. :)

  10. Loved reading through your process. I imagined me and my blog as I was reading and how I know there are areas I could improve on.

  11. Wow, Barrie. What a generous spirit you are. I’ve paid good money for blueprints that weren’t half as informative. Thanks and what reassurance that your book will be of high quality after reading all that you put into a guest blog!!! Thanks to you AND Corbett. He has consistently introduced me to good folks. Your post actually made me lift my depressed IM head off the desk in hopefulness…ha ha ha…

  12. This is a great and thorough post. I’ve thought about (and pulled my hair out!) regarding a lot of these points for my own blog ( Good to know I’m not going insane. And great points to follow here.

    And once you’ve done all the hard work to set strategy, etc., then you have all that work to guest post, write copy, reach out to others. Kudos on all the hard work. I’m in the middle of it all myself right now!


    1. Hi Casey,
      It is hard work — but I just love it. I’m having so much fun with this. I hope you are too. I think it is so amazing how we have this enormous network of people we can reach through the internet and make such a positive impact from our little desks! I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and to meet so many amazing people.

  13. Hi Barrie,

    Thank you for writing this article. My biggest take away: starting a blog=starting a business=putting in a LOT of work before you even launch… 7 months of intense research, planing, and “networking.”

    All with the help and advice of professionals in the field.

    I wish you all the best!

    1. Hi Mag,
      Yes, you really have to treat it like a business and understand the business model. That’s where the expert help comes in. Doing the advance work will save you lots of time, energy, and money in the long run.

  14. Another important thing you should take into consideration when planning your blog is to write a mission statement. This was something I read about on ProBlogger and I implemented immediately.

    What you need to do is define what your mission is. To help people, to make money, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you define WHY you’re in this business.

    For me my mission for my website is to build up an asset that will generate me income. Only has to be a sentence but will make things a lot clearer.

  15. Barrie, GREAT post!! You hit home on so many issues that I face, namely that I get distracted and have become sort of lost in blogging….as well as social media. I was just chatting with a friend who is my mock business coach and I told her how many hours I spend online. She flat out said ‘well that is just plain inefficient!’ Ha! A slap in the virtual face!! But she was right. I find myself getting confused as to what I could be doing for our businesses and such, and have focused much more on blogging. Not even guest blogging either! I look forward to checking out your site and book!!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      It is so easy to get pulled away by non-productive stuff, including social media. It all has its place, but you have to prioritize. Pick three non-negotiable things a day that will move you toward your business goals, and do those things first. If you get those accomplished each day, you will have a successful day. Before you know it, you’ll have reached your goal. But start your day by defining those 3 things. I have found this really helpful in remaining focused and on task.

  16. Barrie, really excited for you. I went through Corbett’s course too and am making great headway. It is certainly a challenge but making progress every day seems to be the key. Thanks for the very informative post.

    Best wishes!

  17. Barrie that’s very useful info thanks. I have a question for you about that offer you made of an extra report for people that refer three friends. How would you keep track of that?

    1. Hi Darlene,
      WPSubscribers has a referral system, but this is a paid plugin. I’m going to test it on the trust system. I’m going to notify subscribers in one of the opt-in emails that if they send the link to my free report landing page to 3 friends, and then email me letting me know they have done so, I’ll send them my additional free report. If someone lies about it, it has only taken a minute of my time, and perhaps they will learn something from my extra report. :)

  18. Wonderful post!! I just started my own blog and this post gives me a sense of direction on the things I should do to build a business with my blog. Thanks a lot Barrie.
    FYI, your blog is a bomb and is very packaged for your readers(who I am now part of…lol).
    Well done!!!

    1. Hey Kene,
      Thank you so much! Having a bit of direction is so helpful isn’t it? Thank goodness I had people like Corbett and other online experts cranking out posts to help me. What goes around, comes around. So glad to be of help.

  19. What an incredible case study and testimonial! I have often wondered if the problem with my blog and gaining traffic is if my net is too widely cast, and I need to narrow in on my niche. Your story makes me wonder if I too need to be more focused.

    1. That’s certainly possible. I’ve learned that in general it’s more lucrative to be the expert on “training German Shepard’s” rather than the “dog training expert” (or whatever your topic is). You’ll have far less competition and will be the go-to expert in a very specific niche.

  20. Love this case study and all the tips in here. Definitely a lot of things which I’m already doing which helps because I know I’m on the right track. But also quite a few things I haven’t thought about and I’m really excited to implement them!


  21. Barrie, I so appreciate your generous spirit!

    That ere so many blog posts “out there” – including on highly recognized blogs – that are just rehashing the same information over and over, using ever new metaphors yet giving very little actual value.

    Yours is very different. It’s a keeper.
    As is Corbett’s blog. It’s one of the few I continue reading.

    Wishing you a fantastic launch – and an even greater journey from there.

    Warm greetings from Denmark


  22. Thanks for sharing this story. It was a huge eye opener for me. With all that planning and preparation I would guess that your site would be a huge success. It really demonstrates what it takes to create an online business, not just a blog or website.
    All the best,

  23. Wow! This was powerful. Believe it or not it took me 5 hours to go through this – I read, printed out and drew pointers for my own business. In many ways, I’m where you were.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this. Really appreciate.

  24. I have red a lot of ‘how to start a business’ , ‘running a business’ etc etc. But the one that you have here is definitely wonderful. Blogging and business at the same time and I mean doing it the right way. Two thumbs up for you Barrie !!

  25. Congrats to you Barrie! Great information here. Definitely a keeper. I’ve been following you for quite awhile now and your blog has always inspired me, not only in your content, but how you put it together. Looking forward to reading more on your new site. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

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