From Newbie to Influencer -- Thanks to Solo Build It! and a Change in Mindset
Born in Germany, immigrated to Canada as a toddler, wife (celebrated our 48th anniversary this year), mother of three, grandmother of three, teacher, writer, cook, website consultant, mentor, and lover of life: that's me -- Gerhild Fulson.
My Online Business Journey Began with a Trip to Germany
The present path I'm on started in 2006 with a trip to Germany. It was my first visit to Germany since I immigrated to Canada over 50 years ago.
What struck Andy (my pastor hubby) and me was the deadness of many of the churches we visited. Beautiful, historic buildings, lovingly restored, empty, except for tourists.
We were touched by the hopelessness of many we spoke to; their families suffering from cancer, depression, and suicide.
We returned, and together with another couple, founded the "Gottes Wort" ("God's Word") ministry and started traveling regularly to Germany, ministering and teaching in small house groups and churches.
In order to provide resource material that people could access when we weren't in Germany, we figured a German website would be ideal. However, none of us had any experience doing something like that, so I volunteered.
How hard could it be?
Discovering Solo Build It!
A friend of mine told me about SBI!, so of course, I googled. I searched: "SBI! reviews" and "Is SBI! a scam?" etc., etc. I did my homework.
Yes, I found good reviews. Yes, I found bad reviews. Yes, I found scam reviews.
What sold me?
A real live review: from Wendy, that friend. She had been using SBI! to build her new online business and she showed me her actual monthly AdSense check -- four figures (this was back in 2009!).
That "proved" to me that this company knew what they were doing, and she made it sound very doable, even for me.
Slow Beginnings and a Lightbulb Moment
I started with a recipe site, www.quick-german-recipes.com, rather than the German ministry site simply because … it seemed simpler. Since I was more concerned with all the aspects of building a website rather than building a business, I didn't bother much with following the SBI! Action Guide.
I started our www.gottes-wort.com site shortly afterwards.
Our German "Gottes Wort" site in its early days.
And that's how it looks today.
The ministry in Germany was taking a lot of our time. So the recipe site was put on the back-burner, with the occasional new recipe added. I continued sending a monthly newsletter though and, surprisingly, the subscriber list kept growing, into the thousands.
About three years ago, the lightbulb moment came when I changed my attitude from "building a website" to "building a business."
I realized that the recipe site could have had the potential to become a business, had I built it properly. I knew I had set it up wrong as far as monetization was concerned and, because of that, I struggled with making any real money from it.
Since hubby and I were retired, I committed to having the recipe site's income fund the Gottes Wort ministry. That meant I needed to do something. I had two choices. Start over with a more monetizable site, or fix my existing recipe site. I chose to fix it, because it already had over 200 pages.
I started by working through the Action Guide again. This time, I followed it closely and applied what I learned to my pages. Among other things I...
- Looked into monetization streams and started implementing them.
- Searched keywords properly in Brainstorm It! and used my Master Keyword List (MKL) constantly.
- Fixed on-page SEO criteria, with the help of SBI!'s Analyze It! tool.
- Relied heavily on the "Tips and Techniques" articles and the SBI! forums.
- Added photos.
- Added better quality content.
I Am Now Considered an Influencer - Who Would've Thought!
It always amazes me when I see how far things have come. Even though my time is divided between the two niches, both have grown far beyond what I ever imagined.
I've learned how to use social media, particularly Facebook, as a means to drive traffic. The recipe site has 106K Facebook fans and the ministry site over 205K. Pinterest is also a huge contributor. For the recipe site, social media drives about 50% of the traffic. For the ministry site, it's about 15%.
I was amazed to learn that I am considered an "influencer." With my website traffic and social media fans, brands are willing to pay me to promote them. That was something I never dreamed of.
I added a third site a couple of years ago, more of a business card site, and that's my www.fulsonweb.com, where I provide SBI! teaching, Facebook coaching, and e-commerce site-building. Here too, all the income goes directly to the ministry.
My Recipe for Overcoming Challenges: No Stress Allowed
Running three businesses (something I really don't recommend to others, lol) creates one major challenge: time, or rather, lack of time.
The way I deal with this is by instituting the following house rule: No Stress Allowed. It's a choice I make every day. Do I allow stress to interfere with productivity or do I decide to enjoy my day? I choose to enjoy my day and enjoy what I'm doing!
Having a wonderful and supportive hubby makes a huge difference. He keeps me grounded and helps every way he can. He does the content for the ministry site and its newsletter, so I can just concentrate on its techy stuff.
And, he takes me off to Cuba yearly where we have no internet access. A real holiday. In between, there are the other trips: business mixed with pleasure.
Branding had been a challenge for me for the longest time. Once I understood its importance, I delved into making it happen. I rebranded and promoted myself as Oma (German for grandma) and redirect my site to www.justlikeoma.com, making sure all my social media had the same name and look.
My recipe site before the re-branding.
New look and feel after the rebranding, with a link to my online store in the left column.
For the ministry, my hubby is known as Pastor Wolle (his nickname) and the site redirects to www.gotteswort.org, as well as all the social media. Logos, colors, fonts, and look and feel became important for ads, media, and posts as well as the redesigned websites.
Selling digital cookbooks has been my main income stream (along with passive income from advertising).The fact that my recipe site was not secure (it used http rather than https) caused problems for some of my customers.
To deal with that, I started a dedicated store using WordPress (and SBI!'s sister offering for WordPress users, SBI! for WP), and linked that store to my main content site.
My www.justlikeoma.store went live last August and has been growing rapidly. Not only have I been selling my e-cookbooks at rates far surpassing previous sales, I've also added print-on-demand products, such as T-shirts, mugs, etc. I use my recipe site, its newsletters and its Facebook page to send traffic to the store. A win-win.
With Google's new browser requirements, having a secure https site has now become extremely important for all sites, not just online stores. SBI! made that process easy with a new conversion tool. I've now converted my sites so that they display that coveted green security lock.
Retired? Yes. But Done? Never!
The future looks bright. How can it not?
That hard-copy cookbook, the one my fans keep asking for, is hopefully not too far in the future.
Hot off the Press: Sometimes the future comes sooner than expected! I was approached by a publishing company (that works with Macmillan Publishers) if I would write them a cookbook. After working my way through all the legal deal and contract, I'm busy researching, cooking, and eating.
They'll do the cooking, photography and marketing. I just give them 75 new recipes. I've my first advance check in the bank. 'My' book should hit the shelves in places like Walmart and Costco (I can hardly believe that) in late fall.
Building out my store and keeping the websites current and updated are ongoing processes. I see no end for that.
Most importantly, since I really do enjoy all that I do, I'm just going to keep on doing it, together with my hubby. With an online business, as long as there's internet, there's no telling where we'll go.
The alternative? Since I'll soon be 70 and hubby 80, should we be sitting in those proverbial rocking chairs? I think not.
Update: My book is now available at Amazon and many other bookstores!
It's been a long, long process, a lot of work, a lot of research, a lot of cooking, a lot of added pounds (LOL), and a lot of fun! I got to meet many people (online) I didn't even know existed: proofreaders, editors, copy editors, graphic designers, indexers, photographers and chefs.
My thanks goes to Ken Evoy and everyone at SiteSell for all they have done here for us at Solo Build It!. It was learning the skills needed to make my website a successful business that brought the publisher knocking on my door.
May I encourage you to keep on going. Now matter what Google does, what Facebook does, what anyone else does, follow your dream.