Do you ever wonder why blogging and social media seem so hard? Why you post and create all this content and nobody seems to read it or react to it? You do all this work and your following isn’t growing and you’re definitely not making any money off of your blog.
You thought you’d be so much further ahead by now, but it’s still just your Mom and your best friend and that one random person who found you liking your stuff.
And do they actually click like on your stuff? No. They phone or text you about it, which feels nice, but doesn’t really help you. In fact, you’re pretty tempted to just throw in the towel.
But what if there was a way to stop worrying about the numbers, see real engagement, and make money even if you have a small following? Sounds crazy, right?
In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly how I’ve been moving my online business forward with the help of Nicole & Dan Culver and their groups and courses for online influencers. I’ve been in Shift U for the past year and a half, as well as the Serial Method and Influencer Intensive. So if you’re thinking about joining one of their groups or purchasing one of their courses, here’s what you need to know.
This post contains affiliate links, which means, if you purchase one of their courses using my links, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting Shifting Roots! (P.S. While blogging about blogging is not my normal niche–it’s gardening–I hope you’ll stick around if you happen to be someone who loves gardening or someone who wants to learn more.)
The Early Days of a Blog
I’ve been blogging on Shifting Roots for the last 3 1/2 years, and blogging as a business for the last 1 1/2 years. I started blogging because I was tired and needed a career change. I was working as a private music teacher, teaching 50 private students in 4 locations and directing 3 choirs, all while caring for my Grandma and being Mama to a 2 year old we suspected had Autism (and was later diagnosed). My husband worked away, so I was mostly parenting & caregiving on my own.
That year I got mono at the end of November and almost cried with relief, because it meant that I could finally rest and it would be okay to sleep. While I was healing, I resolved that something had to change. I could not continue at this pace. Teaching music and being a performer was my dream, but it was costing me everything.
When I did my taxes that year, I realized that I wasn’t even making enough money to be considered above the poverty line. All that work and stress and I wasn’t getting paid enough. I needed some way to make money that didn’t require me to go back to school and wouldn’t suck up all my energy.
So I researched how to blog in the best way possible every night while my son fought a crazy sleep regression, and in February of 2016 Shifting Roots was born.
If you go back to those first couple of posts when I first started out, they’re not great. They’re not even about gardening. But everyone has to start somewhere and get the imperfect posts and mistakes out of the way.
My friends and family were supportive, but no one would like my stuff. Sure, they’d call and tell me it was good, but they wouldn’t press that silly Like button! I was so concerned with building my numbers that I joined share group after share group. Every day I would spend at least 2 hours liking other people’s posts and commenting on their stuff. I was growing a following, but it was filled with people who didn’t really care about my stuff. And I was really frustrated with how many people followed me (especially on Instagram) only to unfollow me a day or two later. I just couldn’t get ahead.
I was also scared to niche down. People already didn’t participate on my stuff and my following was so small–now I’m supposed to make it even smaller?!? Shouldn’t I go as broad as possible to hit as many people as possible?!?!
But it just wasn’t working. And I was starting to realize that most of the advice that was available for free on the Internet wasn’t that great, especially when it came to scaling up your business. So I had a decision to make–did I want to wait for 5-10 years to figure out everything on my own, or did I want to invest some money now and get an actual strategy that actually works?
I never wanted to be so physically weak and run down by my circumstances again (remember the mono?), so I decided to invest in myself and my business.
Now, before you think–oh Kristen is brave, I could never do that–I might be brave but I’m not without fear. It’s hard to invest money in yourself when you’re not sure if this thing is actually going to work out. It’s hard to tell your spouse who is working his butt off for his family that you want to try this new thing that seems so uncertain. But I’m here to tell you that if you put in the work, it’s worth it!
The Social Shift & Shift University
I first learned about Nicole Culver through Mellissa of Blog Clarity. I had been learning how to blog mostly through reading her stuff and purchasing all her courses. (Seriously, Pinning Perfect is practically a blogging requirement in my opinion.) She sent an email saying that Nicole was running a summer boot camp for bloggers. The price was right, it touched on a lot of the things I needed help with, and I was in.
I watched the videos over and over, and my skills slowly got better. A few months later, Nicole asked if I’d like to be part of her blogger to business group (now Shift University) and I said yes. Again, I was a little scared to commit, because I was making some money through the odd sponsored post and getting some freebies, but it still wasn’t serious enough that I could stop teaching or even consider it.
Shift University made such a difference. Finally I could get answers to my blogging questions that weren’t just based on rumours and conjecture. (Remember the shadowban on IG?) Every week there were videos to learn about mindset, money, content planning, photography, Instagram and more. And Nicole really listens! If there’s something that everyone seems to want more help on and it’s not her specialty, she will find someone to come and do a presentation for us.
Everything is recorded and ready for you to access in Membervault whenever you need it. I usually listen to past recordings or catch up on the ones I wasn’t at live while I’m feeding the baby or doing dishes.
P.S. Access to the previous recordings is worth the price of membership alone. There’s something there for every stage of business you’re at.
Progress over Perfection
Nicole has also taught me how to get off of the content treadmill and given me the mindset shift to not worry about perfection. This was really important this year as I had my baby girl. I was so nervous about running my blog and keeping up the pace with a newborn. But with Nicole and Dan’s encouragement I was able to rest, enjoy my baby, and put one foot in front of the other and get it done.
Since I’ve had my baby girl, I’ve had a local TV appearance, been featured in another gardening blog, featured in a local magazine, in talks about sponsorships with a couple of different seed companies, and continued to show up on social and make money on my blog. The trade off? A lot of dirty dishes, and unweeded garden, and occasional tears. But I’m really proud of what I accomplished and I know that I would never have been able to keep my business going without losing my mind if it wasn’t for the mentorship of Nicole and Dan.
Part of how I was able to do all these things was because I had a solid content plan. I wasn’t just winging it and I was able to focus on the tasks that paid off in my business. Nicole has a great resource you can use for free–the planning party. It will give you a taste of Shift U and help you get your content thoughts in order.
A Strategy No One Else is Using
The key thing about what’s going on in Shift University is that Nicole and Dan are teaching us a blogging strategy that no one else is really teaching. It doesn’t rely on huge traffic, a huge following, or selling your soul. It frees you from worrying about your numbers and lets you create real connections with real followers.
Before I used their influencer marketing strategy, I hated Instagram because I could never get ahead. I had pretty enough pictures, but I lost followers as soon as I gained them, and it was so rare to get a real follower (aka not a bot, business, or another blogger–not that the last two aren’t followers, but they have their own motivations). Same with Facebook. Nobody talked to me except my Mom and my cousins and it may or may not have been out of pity.
Now almost all of my followers are real followers. I don’t worry about my numbers because I’m more concerned with attracting the right people instead of just sheer numbers. People actually share my stuff on Facebook, and I have regular followers from all over North America and beyond that I have never met. My engagement rates have never been better, and my people regularly follow my gardening advice, make my recipes, and participate in my weed-picking contests.
Do you ever find yourself posting and praying? Posting something random you think is cool, and praying that everyone else will too? When you use Nicole’s methods, you’ll finally know what your people want to see and have them binge on your content.
Sure, sometimes I get it wrong and there’s the odd content that doesn’t resonate. But with Nicole I’ve learned a system for figuring out what my people really want to read about and 90% of the time my people are excited about what I’m putting out there.
If you are serious about finding your perfect people and delivering content in a way that has your audience hungry for more, you need the Serial Method.
Nicole shows you exactly how to find your perfect person, figure out what resonates with them, and create a series of content that makes them hungry for more. Maybe this sounds too perfect, but I promise you it works.
I use the serial method to gain trust and show my expertise with my audience by creating simple serial series, and make a larger serial series with a product launch twice a year. I’ve also been using this method to pitch brands with something that no one else is doing. It’s not just another blog post–it’s so much more.
You will go from wondering it you’re making a difference, to having people message you to tell you how much they love your content and feel like you’re reading their mind.
Nicole has broken the Serial Method into bite sized pieces for us. There’s no guesswork–once you figure out your person and what they want, there’s templates and examples for every step of the process, plus a weekly group call to get your questions answered.
Nicole explains it better than I do, so watch her video series for more information. The video series alone will shake up how you think about social media and provides value to you as a blogger.
When you’re farther in on your blogging journey, the Influencer Intensive is the next logical step. I joined this group shortly after my baby girl was born and I was terrified. Could I actually take this on? Would I really do the work?
It was the right decision. With weekly group check-in’s and monthly strategy calls, I know it was instrumental in keeping my business moving forward. Sometimes you just need someone to say, “You need to charge what you’re worth” or “It’s okay to feel the fear and do it anyway.” A personal one on one call is so much more effective than just reading something and feeling guilty that you’re not doing it, or confused as to what the next step is.
There is never a right time. I didn’t feel like joining the the Influencer Intensive when I did was the right time. But when would be the right time? When baby is 1? or 2? Or when the stars magically aligned?
But instead of regretting my choices and wishing I would have signed up months ago, or still waiting for the perfect moment, I’m ahead in my business and getting the skills, accountability, and motivation to keep going.
When you join, do everything you can to get on the live calls. You’ll get even more feedback and help on your projects, and it’s helpful to see other influencers going through the same struggles as you.
Trust me, you aren’t going to get this kind of help for free, and if you do, the help is likely not that good.
The Fine Print
While Shift University is going to be amazing for your blog and business, it won’t work unless you do. It will teach you to work smarter and with better strategy, but it is no substitute for sitting down and actually doing the work. Fill out the handouts, dig deep into the questions, show up for the Zoom calls (or watch the replays if you can’t), and test out the strategy for yourself. The people who show up and do the work always end up getting the most out of the courses and the group.
I hope this review has helped you make your decision. Feel free to leave questions in the comments.
Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots. She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden. She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.