Made Sh*t Happen -- Q&A with Shannyn Allan: From Broke Grad Student to Rockstar Blogger

I've been working like a maniac for the last two weeks to get all kinds of big updates ready for you -- more to come in my mega year-end wrap-up post next week! One of the major projects is getting ready to kick-off the biggest, baddest, most awesome Make Sh*t Happen course yet in January (with the help of launch genius Melissa Anzman). It will be the fourth time I take a group through the course; seeing people come alive through the pursuit of what really matters to them is truly one of the tip-top highlights of my work.

Today I'm excited to introduce you to a long-time blog reader, coaching client, and MSH Alum -- Shannyn Allen -- to share her inspiring journey from broke grad student to successful blogger and speaker.

What I love about Shannyn is her vulnerability -- watching her find her confidence and her true gifts and the courage to share them with the world has been a inspiration to me. This woman is gutsy, brazen, determined and bold -- and is an amazing example of what is possible when you set your sights on something scary, then take the steps to actually make it happen.

Made Sh*t Happen: Q&A with Shannyn Allan

ABOUT: Describe your goal in more detail – what did it involve? What inspired you to go after it?

Shannyn Allen - getting ready to speak at FINCON this yearWhen I started the Make Sh*t Happen course I desperately wanted to make my blog, Frugal Beautiful, the “real deal.” It seemed like an impossible dream to build a blog that was successful like the bloggers I looked up to. They made real money from their blog, and their blog made other dreams (like working from home, travel, etc.) a possibility. I had been blogging for about a year but it felt like it wasn’t as successful as others that inspired me.

I wanted to be a rockstar blogger -- someone who was getting recognition by big brands for ads and sponsorships, who were pulling in $1000+ in extra income a month with extra perks like invites to conferences and fun freebies (like getting test driving cars or staying at new hotels to provide feedback on their blog).

This wasn’t just a matter of pride or ego -- I knew that if I could get my blog to work, it would help me pay my bills and stretch a tight budget. There was a lot on the line and a lot of longing to make it work!

FEAR/DOUBTS: What were your biggest fears, doubts and insecurities before starting? What barriers (real or imagined) were in your way?

I was scared that if I committed my money and time to becoming a problogger that I could fail, and fail hard. I was worried that I would have wasted money on a professional designer or that I’d feel like a loser if people ignored my posts or my ad pitches.

My biggest fear about trying to be a problogger was emulating the people that inspired me. Before I truly, honestly committed to the goal of being a rockstar problogger it was easy to feel inspired by other bloggers that had books published, started their own businesses or made enough money on their blogs to work for themselves, but after I started trying to emulate them myself it made me feel vulnerable.

For the first time in my life, after taking action to become who I wanted to be, I was worried that if I failed, I was an honest failure. I feared if I confronted the character of success and didn’t win, I would have lacked the grit to be a success. I feared I would discover I was nothing like my heroes and never could be.

COURAGE: How did you build the courage to actually do it? How did you know it was time?

I had seen that other bloggers were building a business for themselves with ad revenue, products, book deals and were getting noticed by big brands to bring in sponsorships and freebies.

They made a living doing what I loved -- blogging! Not only did the money appeal to me (as a broke grad student) but I wanted the perks and lifestyle though I knew it would hard work. The turning point came when I was tired of being mediocre, or “hobby blogging” and wanted more for myself and my blog.

SUPPORT: Who held you accountable to your goal? Were friends and family supportive, or did they think you were crazy?

Most of my family and friends didn’t understand my goal to make money from my blog -- they thought it was just a hobby. I knew from the MSH course that it was vital to enlist the help of others.

I made blogger friends, reached out to others via email and attended any conferences I could. I realized that if the support wasn’t there when I started, then I would have to build those supports myself if I were to succeed.

THE DIP: Was there ever a moment/period if time that you felt you had hit a dip (felt like a failure and/or wanted to quit)?

Uh, YES! There were off-months when my ad revenue fell through or traffic sucked. Then, when I decided to make my first product to sell, it was so overwhelming -- trying to figure out how to write it, how to edit video, what marketing techniques I should use, setting up a site, etc. that I wanted to give up numerous times -- I would work on a post for hours that got zero comments or I would write up a great marketing proposal for a major brand to find that they’d changed their mind or no longer had a budget.  There were times I would take the dips personally, and since blogging is our personal creation, if the site didn’t succeed, I wasn’t succeeding.

The biggest dip was consistently facing down the potential for failure in both small and big tasks. Each time I faced potential failure I had to enlist the support of others to remind myself it wasn’t the end of the world and it was an opportunity to learn and grow -- that no failure is definitive.

Now, my traffic has doubled, I finished my very first product to launch, I’m running my own social media consulting gig as I figure out the next steps, and my blog successfully scored me some big-ticket sponsorship to travel and have fun! It was worth the work and the dips, no doubt.

ADVICE: What advice would you give to future Make Sh*t Happeners?

1. Start a blog and commit its purpose to align with yours: It doesn’t matter what you blog about, the right blog can bolster your goals by giving you some fun money, a community of supportive readers and friends and a place to jot ideas down and keep track of your goals.

2. Be brave and tell your story: I was afraid that being too personal on the blog would get me laughed at. I was afraid that marketing my blog to advertisers would get me rejected (ouch!) or that I wasn’t good enough. People love compelling content -- tell your story and make connections around it!

3. Reach out and stretch out: If you want to make money from your blog, get famous or have a blog that’s book-worthy, whatever your goal -- tell people about it! Go to conferences, ask to talk to major brands/publishers/sponsors to get their support. It’s uncomfortable to ask for support, help or funding but you have to do it!

4. Hire a professional: If your blog isn’t getting the traction you want, hire a designer. I also advise anyone to read up on great books by Seth Godin, listen in to Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast and take any online courses by Corbett Barr...all of these helped me get to where I’m at.

When I started MSH I was terrified to admit that my big dream was being a problogger and having a brand of my own -- I thought that was a silly goal, but it was mine. Then, when I admitted it to the world, it seemed impossible, but now that I have my first product coming out, my blogging business has come full circle. Jenny & my MSH community really pushed me to embrace the challenge and go all in.

Whatever your big dream -- start today. Push, push, push. When you turn around, you will not believe the amazing sh*t you made happen in a few months time!

More about Shannyn

Shannyn AllenShannyn started Frugal Beautiful when she was a broke and struggling grad student in a new city. Eventually, this little blog lead her to quit a job, change careers and start her own social media consulting business, Cake Mix Media, to supplement her work as a blogger. Her first product, Rockstar Blogging, is geared to help any blogger get their first $1K in free products, sponsorships and direct ads to supplement and fund their passions no matter where they start.

In addition to Shannyn's Rockstar Blogging guide, those of you interested in starting a blog might also be interested in Corbett Barr's Start a Blog That Matters, Dave Ursillo's Literati Writing Group, and Make Sh*t Happen of course! No matter what, for more details and a jump at early enrollment, sign-up to be notified when the MSH doors re-open in January.