6 Months to Full-Time Blogger? Find Out Exactly How James Clear Did It

  • October 4, 2011 by Caleb Wojcik
  • 67 Comments

Sometimes it takes well over a year to gain any momentum online, especially in a crowded niche. But it doesn’t always have to.

With a strategic plan, the right tactics, and some hustle some can become an authority on a topic and grow a large community in a matter of months.

We sat down for a chat with James Clear of Passive Panda to discuss the impressive growth of his site so far.

James has built a full-time income from his site in six months, a thriving audience, and has created a sizable list over the past nine months.

In this video you will find out exactly how he built his audience from scratch, the easiest way to make money from your site in the beginning, and how he got featured on Lifehacker and Alltop.

(If you are reading this in an email, click here to watch the video.)

We love hearing the stories first hand about how people can build a highly targeted audience for their brand in less than a year. We are always trying to find examples to share their stories with you.

If you want to check out James Clear’s How to Email Important People you can read more about it here.

Now we want to hear from you, what are other examples of people that have stood out in crowded niches in a short period of time?

Also, do you have any questions about Passive Panda? We’re sure James would be happy to answer them in the comments below.

Written by . Caleb Wojcik is one of the 3 C's at Think Traffic and Fizzle.co. He writes at CalebWojcik.com and hosts the Cubicle Renegade Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebWojcik.


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Kenneth Ashley October 4, 2011 at 6:38 am

Hey Corbett,

Excellent post. Getting a lot of traffic is simply a mental thing. If you want a lot of traffic, do what it takes to get it. Sure it might take awhile but you WILL get it. You are where you are because of you, and only because of you. If you want to be somewhere in life then do what it takes (legally).

Best regards,
Kenneth Ashley

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 2:55 pm

“Getting traffic is a mental thing.” I like that. I’d say it can be monetary too.

Mental = hard work, building relationships, making the best content possible.
Monetary = setting up a solid business funnel and paying for traffic.

p.s. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

Jeffrey Trull October 4, 2011 at 6:38 am

I’ve been following James Clear and Passive Panda for a few months now, and I’ve been really impressed. He’s one of those bloggers puts out quality content every time, so I know when I click over to his site it’s going to be worth it.

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 7:50 am

Thanks Jeff!

Glad to hear that you’ve been enjoying Passive Panda. I’ll do my best to keep the good stuff coming your way. :)

Jason October 4, 2011 at 6:45 am

I need to watch this! The niche I’m entering is pretty crowded, but my blog is the only one like it from what I’ve found. Using a couple different search terms I’d expect people to find us with, I went through at least 4 or 5 pages of search results with sites claiming to be what mine is but not delivering. I want to be the first to deliver.

Guys like James are the kind I need to pay attention to and learn as much as I can from. :)

-j

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 7:54 am

Jason,

Big markets always have space for more people, so competition is never really too big of an issue.

Plus, big markets are where people spend money. (Think health and fitness, dating and relationships, and business and money. That’s where 99% of the money flows online.)

Just work on finding your niche within a crowded market (it sounds like you’re on the right track).

Good Luck!

Loz James October 4, 2011 at 6:50 am

Thanks Corbett

I hadn’t heard about James’ blog before but having just checked it out I’ll definitely be going back. His story has inspired me to keep going with my own blogging efforts over the next few months. :-)

Cheers!

Loz

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 7:51 am

Good Luck, Loz! Keep at it.

Rob October 4, 2011 at 6:54 am

Yeah James! So glad to see this, I remember the beginnings. Solid reporting as usual Corbett.

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 7:56 am

Thanks Rob!

David Krug October 4, 2011 at 6:55 am

Doesn’t matter if your niche is overcrowded. Just do something to be excellent and results will follow.

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I think you need an excellent strategy too… but in principle, you’re right.

I actually think competition is a good thing. It can validate your offer. If you have competition then it’s easier to differentiate because you can say we are this, not that.

Plus, you know people are willing to spend money in that area.

Betsy Talbot October 4, 2011 at 7:36 am

I am a recent follower of Passive Panda and used his tips on emailing important people to snag 2 great partners for our upcoming product launch as well as get James himself to bless the inclusion of some of his freelancing tips in our new guide.

What I love about sites like Think Traffic and Passive Panda is that they give a lot of great info for free…which leads the average reader to conclude that the paid products are off the charts good. I felt the same way about Dave Navarro’s Launch Coach site products. This is what all bloggers should strive for and certainly what we work to do on our site.

What a great rep to have – and well deserved. Thanks for sharing a great interview, Corbett.

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 7:55 am

Thanks Betsy! It’s always nice to hear that people are putting the information to good use. :)

Lucy October 4, 2011 at 8:21 am

Formula

Very Specific + Add Value Like a Mother *ucker! = Awesomeness

Thanks for the post Corbett!

Lucy Castle

Jayme October 4, 2011 at 8:51 am

Thanks for sharing such great insights James! I love what you said that in a big niche, there’s more than enough room for everybody. It’s just a matter of standing out and offering more value.

Thanks too for doing this interview Corbett! I am participating in the #MDBP and it’s inspiring to hear how a blogger worked his way from the ground up. I’ve been blogging for awhile but it’s only recently that I decided to make it a major part of my career and business plan.

Looking forward to learning more from both of you! :)

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

You bet! Just doing my best to help however I can.

Good luck with the MDBP!

Brandon October 4, 2011 at 9:23 am

James,

You’re awesome! You’re like a more successful version of myself :) I am a freelance web designer who’d love to make an income blogging to put myself through a physician assistant program. You’re an inspiration! I’ll be a long term reader from now on.

I think getting a guest post accepted on your site seems like an appropriate challenge for me. I look forward to giving it a try!

- Brandon

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 10:56 am

Thanks Brandon. Keep up the good work on your end as well.

P.S. Looking forward to reading your guest post submission. :)

Steve October 4, 2011 at 11:19 am

James,
Are you believer in a big blow out launch or stealth until you have time to tweak…then big launch? What is your launch strategy?

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 11:37 am

I’m not sure if you’re talking about launching your site or launching a product, so I’ll answer both.

When launching your site, I don’t think a big launch is necessary. You’re going to need some time to find your voice and discover what you’re really going to be writing about. (If this isn’t your first big site, then maybe you’ll have a better handle on that.) Then, once you have that established, you can use your first product launch as a “big launch” for your site as well.

When launching a product, obviously a big push is nice. Especially if you can sustain the momentum after the push. (Chris Guillebeau did this really well with his Travel Hacking Cartel launch.)

That said, I think the best long-term strategy is to create a product that customers will rave about. If you can make people fans for life … that’s where the real money is because they will buy up everything you put out.

Maria October 4, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Loved that interview! Congrats to Passive Panda! I also loved their clean, simple and straightforward design! Thanks Corbett!

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 11:27 am

Thanks Maria!

Tim October 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm

One thing that stands out is you have 5 strands rather than nicheing. Most people teach go for a tighter niche. For example i have no interest in awards or employment but entrepreneurship yes. It must be hard to cover them all as a team of one. Anyway congrats on the site and for finding the x factor.

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 11:11 am

Thanks Tim!

With regards to the 5 strands… that’s where the site will go, not were it currently is. When I started, most of my articles were on freelancing. Then I transitioned a bit into employment and entrepreneurship. Eventually, I’ll go more into awards and investing.

It provides room for the site to grow. Plus, since I only want the absolute best information on the site, it gives me enough topics without needing to repeat information.

Glad you enjoyed the interview!

Tim Murphy October 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Corbett and James….awesome interview. Corbett it’s like you were reading my mind with the questions you were asking and James, you delivered such powerful information in such a clear manner. I want to burn this interview into my brain. Great stuff guys.

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 11:13 am

Ha! Careful with the burning. :)

But, I’m excited that you enjoyed it.

p.s. As always, take action with what you got from the interview. Information is good, practice is better.

Corbett Barr October 5, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thanks Tim, glad you liked the questions.

Marios October 4, 2011 at 8:25 pm

James,
Great interview and great points, there is no silver bullet to any success, but to work hard and make connections with other people.
James are you still doing web design or are you only focus on your blog?

Marios

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 11:15 am

Hi Marios,

I’m just focusing on Passive Panda for now. I stopped doing freelance web design a few months ago.

Good luck with your own work!

JoAnn Donahue October 5, 2011 at 2:52 am

Hey Corbett,
Great video/interview.Thanks for sharing insightful information once again!
I have a question for James and you too Corbett you are both so good at what you do.
As a beginner wanna be blogger wanting to build. sMiles…..
I listen, I feel inspired and filled with gumption and then you start talking about all the stats
and percentages and I sit paralyzed. It’s the technical side of blogging that stops me dead in
my tracks. How much of this do I need to know from the word go? How did you come to know how to
track and do all of that IMPORTANT stuff?
James, I also love your take on Big Markets always have space for more.. I have been saying this to myself a lot lately or I should say convincing myself… Yes those niches ( health and fitness, dating and relationships, and business and money. That’s where 99% of the money flows online.) Love it! others can write about dog grooming ;-) I want to be where the people are and I want my voice to be heard in hopes that others will listen to theirs!
Peace to you both!
JoAnn

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 11:24 am

Hi JoAnn,

I think you’re describing something that everyone faces in the beginning. When I first started, I can remember being totally confused by the process of just setting up a blog.

Anyway, I learned the stats and conversions stuff the same way I learned everything else … a day at a time.

I would suggest just trying to learn one or two things that would help you right now and then repeat that method as needed.

For example, have you installed Google Analytics on your site? If not, figure that out. If you have, then figure out how to set up a goal in Google Analytics or how to create a custom report that tracks key metrics. Start small and go from there.

Sidenote: Most of the data I pay attention to comes from two sources that were pretty much set up for me. 1) I make a separate email form for each place, so Aweber tracks all of the conversions for me. 2) I added two custom reports to my Google Analytics, which tells me everything I need to know about my highest converting pages, etc. all on one page.

You can get those reports here: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/best-downloadable-custom-web-analytics-reports/

Corbett Barr October 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Hey JoAnn, I wouldn’t stress too much about stats and numbers. Some people naturally like to dissect them and chat about ‘em, but you don’t really need to analyze your stats much if at all (especially in the beginning). Creating outstanding content should be your #1 goal. You can simply judge how people are reacting to your content by the number of comments, retweets, likes, etc. each post gets.

Otherwise, like James says, you can learn this stuff like anything else: one day at a time.

Gabor Szabo October 5, 2011 at 5:38 am

It was a very interesting interview. I think I learned quite a lot from James Clear. Now I “only” need to implement them. I am going to check out the Passive Panda now.

I wonder if you had interviews or if you are planning to interview other entrepreneurs who are NOT in the “Make money” niche? While it was very interesting to hear what worked for James to get Passive Panda where it is now, most of us are running businesses in other fields. It would be interesting to hear people who were successful in those fields.

Corbett Barr October 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Hey Gabor, we’re always looking for other great interview topics/subjects. If you have any suggestions feel free to email us.

Shlomo October 5, 2011 at 7:09 am

Hey Corbett,
Just wondering what software or service you are suing to make these split screens interviews?

Thee are really cool and I’d like to use them also.
Thanks,
Shlomo

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

Hi Shlomo,

I’m pretty sure Corbett and I use the same software. It’s Call Recorder for Skype. It’s about $20.

You can find it here: http://www.ecamm.com/mac/callrecorder/

Terry Dunn October 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Corbett,

Great video. I learned a lot. But what knocked me out was when James told us he has 120,000 monthly uniques on an 8 month old blog! And I thought “how in the world does anyone achieve outstanding results like that so fast!” But then I realised James is a great writer with a sharp business mind and seems to have done everything just right. The 99 interview tips article is also outstanding. I think he’s raised the bar a little higher for bloggers everywhere.

Terry

Corbett Barr October 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Absolutely Terry, I’ve been impressed with the quality of articles James puts out and with his overall growth numbers. He’s definitely someone to learn from.

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Thanks for the compliments, Terry!

With regards to traffic, there is no real mystery around getting a lot of visitors. I say that for two reasons…

1) Free traffic isn’t hard to get if you’re willing to put in time and effort. It just takes time to create excellent content and build relationships, but once you do, it’s easier to get free traffic.

2) Paid traffic is probably even easier to get if you have a good system set up. Imagine, for example, that you have a $20 ebook for sale. You offer it to your newsletter subscribers and you know that about 1 out of every 10 of them buy it.

With that data, you can spend up to $2 per subscriber and you know you’ll get your money back. You could buy Ads on Google or Bing, Facebook Ads, media buys on blogs or forums, YouTube video ads, whatever.

I haven’t reached this level yet, but I’m hoping to get there soon.

If you know that you can put $1 in to the traffic system and get $2 out the other end, then you can buy as much traffic as you want all day long. Plus, you have a real business at that point.

Sean Davis October 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Thanks for sharing this!

That’s some inspiring stuff right there. 6 months and done with the rat race? Lovely.

Great job, James.

joann donahue October 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Corbett and James,
Thanks for your response and encouragement.
James yes I do have Google Analytics, just not installed and I will do that “just because” for now
as there will come a day for me to know these things and I do believe I want to learn these things.
So from your advise guess what I just did? I answered an email and told the guy I would like to interview
him and asked when could I spend some time with on Skype?
Corbett your encouragement gave me the permission I needed NOW… but I def want to learn how to gauge my work other than by comments (one day) however because of you and James and our timing here together I just asked for interview…Why? This takes effort… and GOOD Content is KING…. Thanks much!

Chris Webb October 5, 2011 at 5:45 pm

James/Corbett,

Truly, truly great story and a lot of great insights and info. Case studies like this get me up in the morning and want to push harder.

Questions for James if you’ve got time –

Given the success you’ve had with various forms of networking, (and the “do more of what works” comment), what will you keep doing on the networking side in the future?

Thanks guys

James Clear October 5, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the kind words.

The number one thing you can do is meet people in person. So, I’ll be attempting to do more of that as time goes on. Right now it’s mostly email, Skype, etc.

Also, I’m all for getting to know as many interesting people as possible, but eventually time does become a constraint.

I may clarify my own goals and start reaching out to people with a specific purpose in mind rather than simply getting to know anyone and everyone. (Not that general conversation is a bad thing!)

Terje Sannarnes October 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I would like to say that if a bloger can become successful within such a short period of time as 6 months it means that he/she has achieved great results in blogging. Only an online entrepreneur, who has a highly effective strategy can achieve such amazing results so quickly.

social media alert October 7, 2011 at 5:53 am

Thanks James, great content!!!! Love reading about how to increase traffic to a website.
Birdie~

Vanessa Williams October 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

Thanks for the insight guys! This was so helpful. I’m looking to take my blog to the next level from hobby to “job” so it’s great to hear how you did it from the horses mouth. So many basic pr and networking ideas that as a pr person I’m familiar with so that’s encouraging. Conversion and call to action is something I need to focus on. Thanks again.

Alan | Life's Too Good November 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Hey James/Corbett,

great job & another inspiring story. A couple of questions if I may:

James – you seem to have reached out to people from the beginning but presumably you can reach out in a more ad-hoc way now that you have built a reputation – i.e. I just can’t really see ‘reaching out’ for ‘reaching out’s’ skae working if you’re not known if you know what I mean. Even less so online – like a virtual coffee/catch-up might be harder than a real one

Also, do either/both of you use any kind of mic equipment with this software or just your standard PC/mac built in mic and webcam (I know Pat Flynn for example has a really fancy mic for all of his audio stuff),

thanks,
Alan

Andrew December 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm

I appreciate the great information. I liked what you said about how many people tend to wait to have all the information before getting started on something whether it’s starting a website or anything else. I am certainly guilty of doing that. (I would read every “self-help” book and would rarely apply what I learned…because there was always one more book to read and more to learn before moving forward). The important thing is to get started. Thanks again James. I wish you continued success.

HMDhome February 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm

What I really like about this interview is how James comes across as purposed and authentic – Corbett’s interview style was very effective for highlighting these attributes.

XeBii Mj September 7, 2012 at 1:46 am

James Clear,

You just gave me inspiration when i’m about to quitting :)
i will start again with more strength,
Thanks alot James :)

Jason October 4, 2011 at 8:03 am

Thanks, James! I just finished listening to the interview, and I took notes. ;) I’m trying to think about how I can reach out to some of the people in my niche (candle making), but I think it’ll just piss them off to see how much info I’m giving away for free. All of the blogs I had found before were just landing pages for courses. What really pissed ME off about THEM is that they made promises that misled me into thinking there was some solid content on their blog.

I’m also going to model after some of your landing pages, if that’s OK. :) I realized after getting 500 visits in one day without converting anyone that I suck at conversions!

Thanks for doing the interview!
-j

James Clear October 4, 2011 at 11:02 am

Feel free to model whatever you want. My general approach is to spread the best information possible, not to hoard it behind copyright laws.

Also, I think you’ll find conversions will improve if you do give away some great content for free. All sorts of people offer freebies or bribes to get visitors to sign up for lists (which can work well), but they don’t end up with many buyers because people only joined to get the bribe.

If you give away good intro content, then ask people to sign up, then offer more value on the backend, and then — finally — link to a product … you’ll have very engaged people who are willing to buy.

Jason October 4, 2011 at 11:08 am

Never even thought of it before, but I bet if I offered a free download – no address needed – with the intro content (in addition to the blog in general) and pimped the list in there, I’d get more signups.

Brilliant! No wonder you made it in 6 months. :)

-j

Wilson October 5, 2011 at 6:28 am

Hey James, I just tried finding you on Skype but no luck. Anyhow I really love how you offer actionable content that is real not just some fluffy tip we usually get from other “experts”.

Really liked the interview and would be awesome to connect with you.

Corbett Barr October 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Yup, Call Recorder for Skype. Cheap and effective.

Chris Webb October 5, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Thanks James .. trawling through some of your passive panda posts – great stuff.

Gregory Ciotti October 6, 2011 at 11:04 am

Hey James,

On that note, how do you like to do your writing?

I’ve found that full-screen writing programs are best for staying focused when it comes to producing the words.

The reason I ask you this is because your writing seems to include a lot of outside content, like quotes and things of that matter.

How do you like to stay focused when creating a really long post?

James Clear October 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I use Notational Velocity, which is a plain text editor. I love it.

I don’t use any full-screen programs. Sometimes I browse for info while I’m writing articles and sometimes I just write.

Eliminating distractions is a constant battle. Most of my best writing happens in the morning (when I haven’t seen all of the things happening in my email inbox). You’ll have to keep at it to find out what works for you.

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