Curious if you can turn your hobby into a successful business? You can. And it's exactly what Rachel Counts from Desert Blossom Crafts did.
She started her blog when she was just 17 years old with the goal to create a place to share her love for crocheting and make some money.
It took her a few years to figure out the best path forward for her business, and she made plenty of mistakes along the way. But now her blog is bringing in between $4,000 and $7,000 per month.
Keep reading to find out how this young entrepreneur built her business, how she approaches SEO, and how she uses a creative marketing strategy to hook new customers.
Why She Created Her Website
I created Desert Blossom Crafts because I wanted to earn a living doing what I love—crafting.
When I was around 15, I started brainstorming how I could sell my crochet projects to earn extra money. I started out trying to sell my finished projects on Etsy, but I made very few sales. It took me a few years to figure out that pattern designing and blogging were much more profitable, and more fun!
I saw other Etsy shops selling patterns and I could tell they were making passive income. Once they designed a pattern, they never had to make it again. They could sell it over and over again.
This sounded awesome to me.
I also read some income reports and saw other people were making good money blogging. I thought if they can do it, why can’t I? So I jumped right in.
From there, it took me a few more years (and a whole lot of mistakes) to finally start earning money from my blog.
Business Earnings and Breakdown
My income varies greatly depending on the month and time of year.
The crochet niche is actually quite seasonal, so the fall and winter months are when traffic starts to really pick up. This also increases my ad and affiliate income, and pattern/ebook sales.
In the slow summer months, I usually make about $4,000, but in the busy months, I can make $7,000 or more. This is partly due to the increase in ad RPMs during the last quarter of the year.
The majority of my income comes from ads, specifically AdThrive.
For example, here is December’s income breakdown:
- Ads: 79%
- Digital products: 15%
- YouTube: 4%
- Affiliates: 2%
At other times of the year, the ad percentage would be lower since RPMs and traffic are both lower.
Affiliates are not extremely profitable in my niche since the products are all low-cost. My digital products are also low-cost as the crochet audience tends to be very budget-conscious.
I sell my patterns for $4-5 on my own Shopify shop, as well as on Etsy. I also have ebooks and pattern bundles that I sell for $10-20 through email funnels and events. The “off season” of my blog is when these digital products keep me going.
How She Grew Her Business
When it comes to marketing, I use SEO and email in tandem. My SEO-optimized content brings people to my website. Readers can then sign up for my email list. And from there, I nurture them with the goal to turn them into loyal readers and customers.
My favorite unique marketing strategy that I use is running events for my audience. In the crochet world, this is called a “Crochet-Along.”
I design a series of patterns focused on one topic and people sign up to crochet them together over a series of weeks.
This has a number of different benefits:
- First, it allows me to get ahead on a lot of SEO-optimized content.
- Second, it creates community. People always love the events and want more of them.
- And third, it allows me to create and launch a new digital product.
Enrollment in my events is always free, but I also offer a digital product as a paid upgrade. This always works out to be highly profitable! With some thought, I’m sure this concept could be adapted to work in a variety of different niches.
Her Unique Strategy in Action
At the beginning of 2021, I started prepping for a ‘Christmas in July Crochet-Along'.
I created 12 highly related Christmas crochet patterns. I did “The 12 Days of Christmas in July” and released one pattern per day. This worked extremely well because I got 12 Christmas blog posts up 6 months in advance.
This gave the posts time to sit and “marinate” in Google, so that come December, they would hopefully be ranking well. As it turned out, most of them got very good traffic, and one went viral across numerous social platforms.
I mainly publicize these events through my email list and Facebook group. The digital product I created was an ad-free PDF of all 12 patterns, plus Christmas gift planners and checklists (sold for $15).
I include the blog content in an ad-free format, but I also make sure to include some kind of “bonus” that makes people want to purchase it even more. The great thing is I can continue to sell this product forever. I expect it to get more sales when the holiday season comes around again and people are searching for the patterns on Google.
It’s hard to estimate the amount I make from these crochet-alongs though because part of the income comes from traffic. In terms of the digital products though, when I launched this event, I made about $500 from the ebook.
I was initially disappointed by this number because the previous crochet-along brought in about $1,000; however, as it got closer to Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised.
As the blog posts picked up with Google and Pinterest, ebook sales started pouring in. I’ve now made about $1,500 from the Christmas ebook, and since it continues to be available, that number will only continue to go up!
The Importance of SEO
SEO is vital to my business. If there is one thing I recommend focusing on to grow your website, it’s SEO. I ignored this during my first few years of blogging because I had no idea how important it was. Now, it is my number 1 focus!
When you know what you’re doing with SEO, you can put out a new article and have confidence you will make money with it once it starts ranking, rather than just “hoping” to go viral on Pinterest or other social media platforms, for example.
My SEO strategy involves finding low competition keywords and writing the best possible article to rank.
Ahrefs is the tool I use to find keywords. At the end of each year, I pay for a month of Ahrefs and find loads of good keywords, which I then export and put into a spreadsheet. This helps because this way I have ALL my blog posts planned for the entire year, and I don’t get distracted by looking for keywords and never actually creating content.
I always write posts for keywords with a difficulty score under 10. As for volume, I’m willing to go very low because I’ve seen posts take off on Google with low volume.
After all the traffic numbers on these tools are just estimates from a 3rd party!
For example, I once went after a keyword with a volume of 100 and it now brings me over 1,000 pageviews to my blog per month!
Link building has not been my focus until recently. I have found that if you’re writing high-quality articles going after low competition keywords, you can do very well even if you have low domain authority.
The domain authority of Desert Blossom Crafts is in the 30s, and I rank for many keywords. That being said, link building is a valid SEO strategy. The main way I build links is through roundup groups on Facebook. This is a great way to get natural links from other bloggers in the same niche.
There are many other link-building strategies of course (some of which are debatable) but I have found this approach works best for me in this stage of my business.
Achieving Current Revenue Levels
It took me around 3 to 4 years to achieve this revenue.
For the first 2 years, I made next to nothing because I was focusing on the wrong things. Basically, I tried to increase my follower count on social media, thinking that would bring success. It didn’t. It wasn’t until I started focusing on SEO and digital products that I finally started to see a dramatic increase.
Building Up Traffic
Just like income, my traffic varies depending on the month.
In the summer months, traffic drops immensely in my niche, whereas during fall and Christmas, traffic spikes. That said, I usually get between 100,000 and 200,000 pageviews per month. And my traffic has become much more consistent since I started focusing on SEO.
For a long time, Pinterest was my main source of traffic, but with the company's recent changes, it has become increasingly unreliable.
With SEO, I can more easily predict when my content will pick up and when it will slow down.
I still use Pinterest, which accounts for about 30% of my traffic, but I don’t rely on it exclusively anymore. I pin manually and have a VA who creates fresh pins for old posts.
Rachel’s Top Three Tools
The main tools that have helped me to grow my business are:
Stupid Simple SEO & Niche Site Academy Courses – These are the best online courses on SEO that I have ever seen. They work for both beginner and advanced bloggers. Mike Pearson, the course creator, has a data-driven approach that he himself uses on all his niche sites. These courses changed my entire perspective on blogging. In fact, they changed me from just being a “blogger” to being a true niche site owner.
Canva – Canva is extremely useful to me because I create all my digital products there! It’s a great design platform, and the best part is there are both free and paid account options. I use the paid option because it allows me to organize all my projects, but the free version is great for beginners.
Thrivecart – There’s nothing quite like Thrivecart! As a powerful online shopping cart, Thrivecart allows me to sell my digital products with ease and high conversion rates. My absolute favorite part is that it is a one-time purchase fee, unlike practically all the other shopping carts out there! It also has a new branch called Learn, which allows you to create online courses for no extra fee.
Her Biggest Challenge
I would say there are two things.
The first is time. As my business has expanded, I’ve realized the number 1 thing I need to be doing to scale is creating more. More content, more digital products—these are the things that will help me grow. But I need time to finish them all! If you’re facing the same challenge, hiring a virtual assistant can help take some of the load off of you.
The second thing is technology. When I started my business I had no idea how many technical things I would need to learn. Things like website design, setup, and maintenance were all things I had to learn.
The moral of this story is that if you expect to earn money online crafting, make sure you’re ready to learn a lot more new skills too!
Rachel’s Greatest Accomplishment
I would consider my most important accomplishment to be making a living doing what I love. This has always been my goal from the beginning. There are times when I stop and think about it, and honestly, I’m just amazed!
When I first started out, I knew there was potential, but I never realized there was this much potential. Earning thousands of dollars per month being creative is a dream come true.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I wish I had known that social media does not matter that much. I wish I had kn own that you can literally just focus on SEO and ignore social media and still build a wildly profitable business.
I’m not saying that social media doesn’t have its place. For some people, being a social media influencer might be “their thing.” But personally, I wasted so much time on social media in the beginning. I would participate in “share threads” and “follow trains” on Instagram and Facebook.
The problem with social media is that the followers and engagement you gain aren’t real. I wasted time that could have been spent on creating valuable SEO-optimized content or digital products.
Her Biggest Mistake
I think one of my biggest mistakes was that I wasn't willing to invest in my business. As I mentioned, I started my blog before I turned 18, so I was definitely on a tight budget. But as time went on, I still saved my money and didn’t buy tools that could have helped me immensely.
When I finally changed this mindset, I was able to grow leaps and bounds as I invested in things that could truly help me grow.
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
My advice would be to focus on the tasks that bring you the highest ROI. This could be different for everyone. For me, the highest ROI comes from creating SEO-optimized content, creating new digital products, and running events for my audience.
When you focus on these types of things and cut back on the things that are wasting your time, it will allow you to grow much faster!