Have you ever been in a situation where you want to quit your 9-to-5 job and start working for yourself? Have you dreamt of becoming a blogger and earn by working from your dining table? Are you one of those who have a passion for blogging, but do not know how to use those skills to start earning? If you nodded a yes to any of those questions, we believe you will find great inspiration in Harsh Agrawal's journey of becoming a professional blogger.
After graduating in engineering in the year 2008, Harsh set up his blog called ShoutMeLoud.com in the year 2008. He learnt the skills required to make the blog successful on his own and gradually built healthy traffic to his website.
Harsh has received many accolades for his work and his work is regularly featured in various online and print media. With 'ShoutDreams', Harsh set up India's first professional blogging network. When not blogging, he is busy conducting workshops and seminars. He has also helped several businesses build their online visibility.
In 2009, he started sharing his income reports on his blog. In years ahead, Harsh not only wrote really useful tips and tutorials via his site, but also inspired millions of his readers to try their hand in the world of blogging.
In his latest income report for the month of June 2015, Harsh mentions that he made 1 Million INR from his blog network. He wrote a complete breakdown of how he used various channels like advertisements, affiliate programs and other services to earn more than $16000 in a month.
He was recently invited by Pakistani entrepreneur community to speak at their event organized by STC network. Though he couldn't attend the event, he has now become the first Indian blogger to be invited to such an event.
Well, there's more to Harsh's story. In an exclusive interview with us, we got him to talk about his initial years in the world of blogging, his experience of working from home, his Top 5 Offbeat Tips for Bloggers and much more. Read on!
CE: What has been the most fulfilling part of your journey with ShoutMeLoud?
Harsh Agrawal, Founder - ShoutMeLoud.com
Harsh: If I have to say one thing, that would be "It made me discover myself" else I would have been working for a big company from 9-6 and living somebody else's life.
CE: Before starting the blog and then in the first few years of learning, what did you spend most of your time on? What was the toughest part to learn about blogging?
Harsh: When I started blogging, I was mesmerized with the kind of things I could do. Since 1st December 2008, I have learned something new every other day. The game-changer for me was working on article writing & learning online marketing. SEO helped the most in marketing, as 90% of my blog traffic is organic or from word to mouth marketing. I remember, there used to be a blog by an Indian blogger name Mani Karthik who used to share great tips on SEO. For first few months, I spent reading his blog (It's no more on the internet) & many other blogs that were about blogging & online marketing. This is the same thing I recommend to all the young bloggers; spend your initial days sharpening your skills, rather than getting worried that their blog is not growing.
CE: We've read about your journey so far. Tell us about the reaction you received from parents and friends when you told them you are not joining Accenture.
Harsh: It was a mix reaction as different people have reacted differently. My parents initially wanted me to join the company, as back in 2009, working in an MNC was a great deal. Later on, they supported my views & idea of working. My elder brother Gaurav wanted me to work for a corporate for some time & continue blogging as a part-time. His thought was "one should work in an office to learn how business/corporate life works". Moreover companies offer free training that is priceless.My friends circle is a mix of creative minds. One of them is Keshav who was working with Infosys & he left his job to start his e-commerce startup call Screenguards. I called him to take his advice on my big decision and that time he was working in Infosys Pune. He said the best thing to me:
"We all work for someone with a dream of starting something of our own, and you are already doing that! Why do you want to move your career backward?"
He said something that was like an affirmation of my idea & even after six years, I still remember those life-changing words.
CE: Why did you choose to blog about blogging? Why that particular theme?
Harsh: I started ShoutMeLoud on 1st December 2008 as a technology blog. Back in those days there was very few blog in the blogging & WordPress theme, and most of my time was utilized to find a solution for any queries related to blogging, WordPress, and SEO. I started documenting those unique findings as a blog post, and later they started becoming more popular among readers. The shift happened gradually and from a hardcore tech blog, it become an A-Z solution of blogging. I still cover technology related articles, but they are too less in compare to the one that is for bloggers.
CE: When and why did you decide to share your monthly income reports? How big is ShoutMeLoud at the moment?
Harsh: It was February 2009 when I started writing monthly income & traffic report. I'm glad that the report is still online & you can see it here. I was blogging as a hobby back then, and since I was making passive income, I thought of documenting it & monitoring the up's and downs. At the same time, I wanted to let readers know that one can make money from their blog.
CE: How do you keep yourself motivated on low days? Share your work-from-home experiences with us.
Harsh:After first few years, many of my known people recommended to have an office, which would help to grow the business. I can't deny the importance of having an in-house team, but I couldn't keep up with going to the office. I find it better to work from anywhere at any time. I have a home-office & this is where I do all my activities. When it gets monotonous, me any my team go out to do fun stuff. Last time we went out to Connaught place in Delhi, and took opinions of people on blogging. These videos are quite interesting as we got to know unique perspective about people opinion. Here are two of such videos:
Here are few things which I have found to be working for me to stay productive & motivated:
- Anshita feels people blog to inspire. Do you agree?
- Amitabh Bachchan's blog fan share his views on blogging
- When you don't feel like working, don't push yourself.
- People get motivated with different things. Find what motivates you & keep that motivation close. It could be as simple as books, TED videos or seminars.
- Online is a distracting place & one should train their mind not to get distracted.
- Never forget why you are doing; what you are doing!
CE: Though your blog is full of precious advice for new bloggers, we would like you to list the Top 5 Offbeat Tips for Bloggers that are very important to follow but not commonly known.
Harsh: Here are few things which are not shared much, but I find it important for any blogger.
CE: Are you worried about Google's Panda & other updates that affect thousands of websites in rankings/traffic? What key measures do you take to keep your blog safe from harm?
- Focus on details: A good blog is not all about content. You should make your blog a space which gives an experience to your reader. This comes with your unique language, your content style, design & everything which is associated with your blog. This also holds true for the kind of advertisement you are running on your blog. This may slow down your blog & you may start growing slow, but if you focus on details; you would grow very big.
- Don't live dual life: Blogging is your personal space & you don't have to be like somebody else. Your blog should speak your personality. Always remember being online is all about connecting to like-minded people. You will connect with right people only when you are reflecting your true personality online. You will keep growing with time, but the change will happen at a consistent pace. So in your article writing or next tweet, ensure you speak your personality. Just one tip: don't do or say anything to harm others. Focus on things which improves your life & in turn your readers.
- Have taste for quality: Always remember: You can raise your standards by improving the taste for quality. Whenever you see something better than what you have or someone doing something better than you, think what can you learn from them & how you can integrate it into your life. No element of your blog should stay the same for long period. Experiment & have fun online. Remember, at your blog, you are your own boss.
- Don't be afraid of experimenting: So you have a blog & you been writing post all these time, but what next? Can your blog be more than just a blog? Can you sell your knowledge in the form of eBook (Via your blog) or can you add an e-commerce store? Don't limit your blog to blogging only. Blogging has no limit and everyday people are increasing their limit.
- Technology: One of the biggest limitation of any growing blog or blogger is to keep up with technology requirement. A blog will grow only if you add new features & functionalities. For example, on WordPress you can use EasyDigitalDownloads to create your own digital download e-store. You can use AffiliateWP to have your own affiliate program. The only challenge which I also faced two years back was the kind of infrastructure in term of hosting & developers. Do remember quality stuff would cost money & don't be afraid to spend money on the quality stuff. Your blog will stay small if you try to save your money on essential investments like hosting, hiring developers or branding. And never ever say to yourself that "I'm alone"! The Internet is full of creative & self- motivated people like you, all you need to do is to look in the right direction.
Harsh: Back in April 2011, ShoutMeLoud lost about 60% of organic traffic due to Google panda algorithm. Since blogging is my only source of bread & butter, I was in a big dilemma. During that phase, I got into writer's block mode & couldn't write for weeks.Since then there are few things which I do to ensure my blog remains safe from all future algorithm based penalties:
CE: Have there been times when you regretted taking the decision to opt this as your career? How did you shake yourself off from it?
- Quality of the post
- On-site SEO & On page SEO
- Focus on building a community than just a blog
- For the first 3 years of ShoutMeLoud, I posted one post every day religiously. That includes lots of filler posts. Now, I skip days when I don't have a quality topic in my mind.
- Instead of time bound post, I focus on evergreen content: posts which hold value even after years.
Harsh: That was only when I lost traffic due to Google panda penalty. I was depressed as I was unsure how the future will unfold. I'm happy that I didn't lost the focus back then.
CE: How do you go about hiring freelancers?
Harsh: I follow few set of practices that I have never shared before. I'm not sure if this will work for everybody in every situation, but here is my formula:
CE: Tell us about your journey from less income to high income. What went on in your mind during the transition?
- No fixed price: If you are looking for freelancer or people to work with you online, don't have a fixed price to their job. I hire writers who get paid $10 & at times few writers who get paid up to $80. It all depends upon the quality of their writing & time devoted for work. I hire few writers at a time, and I fix variable pricing for different posts. Usually, it's easy to put a writer in a bracket of, let's say $15-25, and they get paid based on the topic. Same goes with a developer or other people, as I pay them based on work they do. There is always a base price, but the higher price is always paid upon the quality of work. I know one thing, if they are making money, that means I'm making money too.
- They work as team: Even though they are paid writers or developers, ShoutMeLoud gives them due credit. They have their column on the blog, our developers get big shoutout on Social networking or via our monthly report blog. One thing which I know, one will work for someone till the time they don't have enough money. If you want to have someone work for you for longer-term, you need to give them much more than money.
- Don't be afraid of Firing: When working with a freelancer, never compromise on quality. If the person is not delivering the quality work or can't sync with your idea & vision, give that space to someone more deserving.
- Make them feel they are working with you & not working for you.
Harsh: Money is quite a sensitive topic as it is essential but not the most important thing in the life. I was born in a conservative Indian family, and they taught me one thing "Nothing in life comes for free". My family is well off in terms of earning, however, I always had to work towards getting anything valuable. For example, I got my first cycle in standard 8th, when I won the first prize in school sports competition. I think these values had a big impact on my life, as it made me focus on work & I knew things would fall in place naturally.
More than money, for me life is all about having new experiences. There was a small phase in between my transition from low earning to high-earning when I focused more on accumulating as many stuff as I could.The more of less we have, we will have space for new stuff & experiences. I enjoy the life where I can buy anything that I like, but I spend money on experience more than objects. That goes for my personal & professional life both (Which is actually the same).
CE: Tell us about the 'Deals' section on your blog. What are the new things you are focusing your efforts on in the year 2015-16?
Harsh: I'm focusing on extending my blog to make it one stop solution for all your blogging needs. I have added 3 sections on ShoutMeLoud this year, and they all cater to a particular segment of bloggers.
CE: If you had taken that job offer and not pursued blogging/running a startup, what would have happened differently?
- Deals section: This is where any blogger can get an exclusive deal on stuff which can help to grow their blog.
- Videos: This is where one can watch videos related to blogging & online marketing. Along with videos from my Youtube channel & I'm also curating videos manually.
- Downloads: This is where one can buy premium exclusive stuff for their blog. This includes eBook, WordPress plugins & themes. A couple of days back, I got approval for a payment gateway & I integrated it on ShoutMeLoud. I have few ideas & plans for downloads section in coming days as it's an online store for bloggers.
Harsh: I would not have met the true myself.
CE: Any message for your readers?
Harsh: Keep following your passion. Thrive to experience things which help you to excel in life. Be the limitless!
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