One of the biggest things I’ve learned this year is that you do not need a high traffic website to build a profitable online business.
This time last year I thought my Google Analytics were the bottom line when it came to defining the potential success of my online brand. Now a year later I very rarely check my analytics, unless I want to find out more about certain conversions and which pages are attracting more visitors, and when it comes to assessing the health of my business, tracking my page views is at the bottom of my list. And today I want to share in depth why this is and how I’ve built a profitable online business without relying on traffic, because I see so much in my clients and community online how much anxiety there is around website traffic and how much that anxiety can hold you back from making big and beautiful things happen online.
Before we jump in, there are two things to note:
1. I have a service based business model
My income streams are built around my service based coaching business; I make a living working one-on-one with other creatives, and this has without a doubt shaped the way I market, grow, and cultivate community around my work. If you’re building a product based business, the ideas and lessons learned that I’m sharing in this post may not be as relevant for you, but if you're building a service based business (whether B2B or B2C) there will hopefully be some key insights in here for you to takeaway.
2. I’m building a lifestyle business
Probably the most important thing to note is that I’m building a lifestyle business. If you’ve not heard that term before you can find out more here, but in a nutshell what it means is that:
For me, the work I do is about the lifestyle I want to be living and the part my business plays in that. I’m building a business to support my pursuit of a life of creative and financial freedom and so I can spend my days being of service to others, while also finding fulfilment in the work I do too. I’m not chasing big money nor do I have my sights set on a big six figure goal; for me, my focus is on making a living from the work I love that sustains the life I want to live.
So why don't I rely on traffic? (+ September 2015 Income Report)
In 2015, as my website traffic has decreased, my monthly income has increased. I’ve seen a consistent pattern of how my website traffic does not correlate with my earning potential as a creative business owner, and that has allowed me to then focus my energy into the things that do make a difference instead. To be as transparent as possible, today I want to share with you my income and traffic report from September 2015, so you can see how it’s possible to make a sustainable living online without relying on high website traffic along the way.
September 2015 Income + Traffic Report
Current clients: £1210 ($1836.96)
New clients: £2435 ($3696.74)
Joint venture webinars: £1198.48 ($1819.61)
- Affiliates: £74.22 ($112.68)
Total: £4917.70 ($7465.99)
As a side note: This is in no way what I need to earn every month to make ends meet and put a roof over my head. I feel crazy lucky that the work I feel inspired to do allows me to make this kind of living some months, but it in no way is what I'm chasing when I'm hustling hard in my business. What I'm working for is a life of financial and creative freedom and on months like this it's great that I can save more and invest in the things that can add extra joy to mine and Alex's life, like travel and adventures together, but on the months when I earn less that's a-okay too as the most important thing is that my business enables me to live the life I'm building right now. For me it's way less about the cold hard cash and the figure in my bank account each month and way more about the life I'm building, how my business supports that, and the work I get to do within my business with my clients who inspire me every single day.
And just to compare, in September 2014 this was my website traffic for the month:
And in September 2014 my total earnings that month from my online presence was £197.25 ($299.36). Now this isn't a completely fair comparison as I hadn't launched my coaching business at the point, but what I've learned since then is that high website traffic isn't as valuable to me as I once thought it would be.
September 2015 has been my lowest traffic month of the year so far, but my highest in terms of earnings. August 2015 was my third lowest traffic month with just 20,000 pageviews and 6,000 visitors, yet I made £4135 ($6281.81). I'm sharing this with you today because I truly believe that we can build a profitable online business without having to focus on SEO and increasing website traffic and instead focus on building community and developing word of mouth around our brand. You could argue that with higher website traffic I could increase my income, but as I'm building a lifestyle business my focus isn't on earning more money but instead on earning enough to sustain the life I want to live while doing work that is fulfilling along the way.
The four biggest takeaways that I've learned so far about building an online presence without relying on traffic?
1. A community can’t always be measured in metrics
A community is built up of real people living real lives, not the numbers showed to us on a screen on our Google Analytics or social media accounts. Lack of high website traffic doesn’t always correlate with the lack of an engaged community; the two don’t always go hand in hand. Your community is the people who get what you do, who engage with it, who share it, who buy from you, and who root for you along the way. Your community is the people who you can have a positive impact with through the awesome work you do. It’s way more about conversations and listening to each other than it is empty numbers on an analytics page.
2. Word of mouth can be more powerful than high website traffic
I used to believe that the higher my website traffic, the higher my influx of clients would be, but what I’ve found is that they don't work alongside each other and the growth of my business and brand. Instead, word of mouth has changed everything for my business - I talk more about it in this post here. Current and past clients talking about the work we did together and recommending me to others, and friends and peers in my community telling their audience about who I am and what it is I do has played a huge part in why I’m able to get booked out in advance and have a consistent stream of clients coming in at all times.
3. Collaborations off-the-blog can be more effective than driving traffic directly to your website
Every time I’ve collaborated with someone else in my industry I’ve found that I have more client enquiries and bookings in the days and weeks to follow. For example, whenever I do a joint venture webinar I almost always attract new clients who hadn’t come across me and my work before, and although my own content strategy plays a huge part in how I market and grow my business, collaborations have always proved to be super effective along the way. Collaborations may not turn into an increase in website traffic, but what they do usually lead to is community growth and relationship building with potential new clients.
4. You don’t need to build an empire to build a profitable service based business
Maybe you do want to build an empire online, and if that’s the case for you that’s awesome and I’m rooting for you along the way. But if you’re like me and you want to build a lifestyle business that allows you to do good work that feeds your soul while also bringing in a consistent and sustainable income, I hope this post can encourage you to know that your website traffic (high or low) doesn’t have to define your potential for profit and success. Building a profitable service based business online is so much more about human connections and building relationships than it is anything else. I'm now booked out until February 2016 and I've been able to do that without relying on high website traffic and instead just showing up, doing good work, creating content that resonates with the people I'm here to serve best, and having word of mouth referrals that move my business forward in a way that I couldn't do alone.
Whenever my clients who are service based (whether B2B or B2C) are feeling anxious about their website traffic and whether it means they won't be able to attract clients along the way, I have them do one simple task: write down how many clients they need a year to build a profitable business that sustains the life they want to live. For some it's 20, for others 50, maybe even 100. Whatever it is, you usually don't need to chase thousands and thousands of pageviews each month to bring in a consistent amount of work. What you need is a game changing community, word of mouth that moves your business forward, content that resonates with the right people, and a network of creatives who you can collaborate with along the way.
I know for many high website traffic can play a huge part in the growth and earning potential of their business, but for me that hasn't been the case and I wanted to share that with you today for anyone else who wants to build a profitable business online without relying on traffic along the way. More than anything I hope this can encourage you to know that there is no one size fits all way to build a profitable online presence, and if you don't want to chase the big numbers and instead just show up for the people you want to serve and do good work along the way, it's totally doable if you're ready and willing to put in the work to make it happen.
Some further reading: if you're struggling to stabilise your freelance income I have just the post for you here.