085: 9 million visitors & 450 contributors: the Story of Her View From Home with Leslie Means

Welcome to episode 85 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week, Bjork chats with Leslie Means, cofounder of Her View From Home, about scaling her website to over 450 contributors and 9 million visitors per month.

Last week, Bjork gave us some motivation for the new year in a solo episode focusing on 1% ∞. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

9 million visitors & 450 contributors

Leslie Means started her website just like many of us did – with a passion and a dream. However, instead of the typical create-publish-promote-repeat agenda, she took a bit of a different path: she wanted to publish articles from contributors and pay those authors based on article performance.

Today, Her View From Home has over 9 million monthly visitors and pulls from a pool of 450 contributors. The business is thriving, and Leslie is here to tell us all about it.

In this episode, Leslie shares:

  • How Her View from Home started, and where it is today
  • How she monetized her website from the beginning
  • Why writing a business plan was instrumental for her success
  • Why her husband was so helpful in the early days
  • When she started working with contributors and why
  • How they afforded to pay contributors
  • When she started taking an income from the site
  • What she would have done differently at the start
  • What social media platform has worked best for HVFH

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Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, we’re talking to Leslie Means from Her View From Home about what it’s been like to build a blog with contributors and having her best month ever in January 2017.

Hey, guys. It’s Bjork, and I hope you’re doing well. I’m talking to Leslie today from Her View From Home, and Leslie and I have exchanged a couple emails through the years. She’s a member of Food Blogger Pro and somebody that we connected with and have followed along with her journey as she’s built Her View From Home.

She’s going to talk a little bit about what the site is like, what the blog is like, what it’s been like to build contributors, what it’s been like to have 15 million views in the first half of January when we did this interview, and that being her best month ever, and how exciting that is, and how it justified all of the hard work that she did in those first two to three years when it was the grind when you don’t necessarily know if it’s going to work or not, and how all of that hard work paid off over time.

I think you’ll really like it. It’s been fun for me to look through Her View From Home, the site that she’s built, and it has everything from articles about health and fitness to style to … One of the categories that they have that I was so appreciative of especially recently is grief, so they talk about … contributors that talk about child loss, which has been such a big part of Lindsay and I.

The harsh story is we’ve lost Afton at the beginning of the year and processing through that, so there’s just lots of articles from people that have had similar experiences and just a lot of really cool, valuable, important stuff that’s on this site, so excited to jump in this interview with Leslie. Leslie, welcome to the podcast.

Leslie Means: Thank you so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s really fun. Whenever I’m able to talk to somebody in person, it’s always nice because usually, what happens in this world that we live in that you know so well, there’s so much emailing back and forth, right?

Leslie Means: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s so nice to finally jump on “call,” a Skype call, and to actually hear somebody, and to put a voice behind the words that you hear.

Leslie Means: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s fun to be talking to you today.

Leslie Means: Yeah. Thank you so much.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’ve traded a couple emails back and forth, so I know a little bit about your story, but people that are listening to this might not be familiar with it, so why don’t we lead things off here by having you talk a little bit about Her View From Home, what the story is with your site, and then I’m excited to dig in some details.

Leslie Means: I promise not to talk forever because I could talk for hours about mistakes and awesome moments of the site.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Okay.

Leslie Means: My background is actually broadcast journalism. I was in the television world for about seven years, and after I had my second daughter, I wanted to leave that crazy schedule. I was a morning anchor and actually a morning talk show host for our local television station.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, and I have to jump in here because sometimes, I’ll do these calls, and right off the bat, I’ll know like, “Okay. This person is somebody who’s like really able to hold their own,” and it totally make sense like you were paid to talk to people that you didn’t see, right, like that’s exactly what a podcast is.

Leslie Means: I know. It’s crazy. Exactly, and I do so much better talking to, right now, my computer or the camera that I would people, and so I think that’s why writing works so well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so you were somebody that … Like you would literally be the morning news person that would be on TV?

Leslie Means: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Leslie Means: Yes. Yeah. I left it when my second daughter was born, and I actually started working for our local Chamber of Commerce. All of a sudden, I had this business side that I was learning in our community, and I missed the creative vibe that I was still doing on TV, and so that’s when Her View From Home actually got started in 2012. We won a local business planning competition, and it was really supposed to be the best of Nebraska. People in Places is what it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be a local website at first, but it quickly grew into something much bigger. Actually, I say quickly. It was really like over two years …

Bjork Ostrom: It’s all relative, right?

Leslie Means: Right, where we saw success.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: It started out with just local writers, and I also used to have two business partners with me. Of course, those first two years were incredibly difficult because I was still working full-time, and then at night, I would be working on the website. Then, after a couple years, actually, in 2013, I think we had our first viral article take off, and that’s when the site got a lot bigger, and so now, it’s women across the United States who share stories on parenting, on … Some share recipes. Not nearly as well as yours, but …

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Well, recipes nonetheless. When you say yours, it’s like 0% me and 100% Lindsay, so we need to give all credit to …

Leslie Means: You’re right. You’re right. Right, but a big thing is parenting and women just sharing their thoughts. It’s just a community of these women online. Oh gosh, it has changed, and it has continued to evolve over the years, and we used to only pay people about $15 an article, and now, we’ve been able to increase our rates to about $100 an article depending on views and it … We have probably about 450 writers now, and we get a handful new each day, so it’s just …

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.

Leslie Means: Yeah. It’s amazing how it’s grown.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a lot of stuff in there that I’m really excited to dig in to. One of the things I want to go back to and talk about is even pre-starting the site where you had talked about your experience in broadcasting, and then also, working for the Chamber of Commerce, and one of the things that I always like to bring up or point out on this podcast is that even if people don’t have the experience that they would think is necessary in starting a blog, which people usually think about technical expertise, right, like, “I need to know how to install plug-ins and optimize for search engines and things like that.”

Leslie Means: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: So often, it’s not the case, but people do have these things that are valuable, these experiences, so I’m curious to know. With your experience from broadcasting as well as your time at the Chamber of Commerce, what did you like lift from those experiences, and then apply to Her View From Home as you were building that in order to leverage your past skills and expertise?

Leslie Means: Right. I knew nothing about websites, and I still find it quite interesting that I run this successful site and I really … Like this is the first time I’ve Skyped with you because I am this journalism girl.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Leslie Means: Really, I just knew how to talk when I left TV, but what I did know is I knew how to make connections with the correct people to get me in the right direction, and so I worked and I still work with a fabulous local company for all the behind-the-scenes setup work on Her View From Home. Then, at the Chamber, I learned how to really work with other local businesses to finance the site. In fact, I couldn’t even … Up until the last two months, I was depending on local advertisers for over half of my income on Her View From Home, and so I think that was the biggest takeaway I learned from working with those businesses is how to have those connections and those relationships to really leverage my business.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s such a huge part of it, this process of building something is being able to connect with the right people. I’ve been thinking about that as we’ve grown the different things that we’re working on Pinch of Yum, Food Blogger Pro, whatever it would be, and as I look back, so much of the success that we’ve had is more so due to other people than myself, right?

Leslie Means: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like it’s connecting with people, and a huge part of it is like continually improving and working on it, and dedicating a lot of time and energy when it’s not very fun. For you, that was the first two years, right?

Leslie Means: Oh, and it’s still all the time.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, and then while doing that, reaching out to people and connecting with people that have a certain expertise or ability and saying, “Hey, I know that I’m not the person that’s going to be optimizing the site and working behind the scenes to make sure it’s up to date and stuff like that,” but using your skills and ability to connect with people, and to talk to people, and to reach out to people, and communicating essentially. You’re a good communicator communicating with those people to help establish relationships that then help you build your business, which I think is such an important point, and you don’t have to do everything on your own, which is one of the reasons I’m so excited to talk to you because you’ve built something where you work with a lot of people.

Leslie Means: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: I think normally, people think about having to do everything on their own, and that’s like just such a huge burden to bear, right?

Leslie Means: Right, and I think when you can get over yourself a little bit. I was coming from this broadcast journalism world where I thought, “Oh, this is going to be easy. Being online is going to be the same thing as TV. I can totally do this.” When I recognized that I knew absolutely nothing going into this and that I needed help from everyone, that’s when it really took off. I talk about you guys all the time whenever I’m talking to my writers because once, I think it was fall of maybe 2013, and I just immersed myself in a weekend in your income reports … I mean, like all weekend long, and I was like, “Okay. There is a way to make money from national advertisers as well as local.” Then, when I was able to really combine those two is when it became much more successful as well.

Bjork Ostrom: This is maybe getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, but can you talk about how it works with the local advertisers, what that relationship looks like because I’m guessing that most people would assume they would start first with the national?

Leslie Means: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: But because of your initial idea for what the side would be, it was very local, you had said, so what does it look like to work with local advertisers?

Leslie Means: Right. It might be different for me because I’m in Nebraska, and Nebraska is a fairly small state.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Leslie Means: When you’re on television, you have connections already, so people don’t think I’m crazy, so I’m walking into businesses talking to people, and we’ve already established a friendship and a relationship, which really made things easier, but what I would do … Essentially, even before the site started, I walked into to two local businesses where we had a friendship, and I said, “I have this idea. I think it’s going to be really fabulous. Can you give me X amount of money and I’ll put your ad on my site?” A couple people said, “Sure, I’ll do that for you, Leslie,” and that’s really how it took off.

Honestly, the past, probably four years, that has been some of the hardest work I’ve ever had to do because you really have to swallow your pride and walk into a business. It’s old-fashion sales. You walk into a business and say, “Here is the rates. Do you think that you want to advertise on Her View From Home?” What I did know is I have also done some marketing in our communities and I knew what local media companies were charging, so I knew how much it was for a television spot. I knew how much ads were for the radio and billboards, and so I could compare with the viewers that were coming to our site and the local members, and then explain to them how that is similar or even better than some of the local media.

Bjork Ostrom: When you were having those conversations, what were the things that like resonated most with those decision-makers? I’m guessing if you have enough of those decisions or have enough of those conversations, you start to realize like, “Oh, here are the things that really land well.” Do you remember what those things were?

Leslie Means: Yeah. The thing that they loved the most is that they could see exactly who is coming to their business.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Metrics. Yeah.

Leslie Means: The numbers are so … Exactly, they’re very specific. It’s so hard. You can’t tell with a billboard.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Leslie Means: When you have an online ad, they know exactly who’s coming to their site, and so they loved that. They love the social media because our social media is still very strong in Nebraska, and so they love the combination ads plus … We would do some chats and things on Facebook for them as well, so it was a combination of things.

Bjork Ostrom: Would you supply those metrics to them before or after, or how they wanted that to look like?

Leslie Means: Yup, yup. At any time, they could ask me. They even had logins at times to see how many people were clicking on to their site. That’s been my biggest thing. I’m not a salesperson at all, and these people knew that. I was just as open and honest as I possibly could be and just flat out tell them, “Here is what you’re going to get.” We’re very passionate on our site. We’re very open and honest, and there are some tough subjects that are covered, and I think people really like that. They like the honesty that comes across.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. One of the things you said was in 2012 that you won the local business plan competition?

Leslie Means: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: I’ve never written a business plan, and I probably should, and it feels like the right thing to do. I am curious to know what that process was like for you, and was it helpful? If you’re to do it again, what would you do differently? There’s a few different questions in there.

Leslie Means: Yes. No, this is a unique situation, so this is a whole other story in and of itself, but I used to have two business partners with me. Actually, the woman who wrote our business plan, she was an old boss of mine from the television station, and it was a full … I actually don’t even know how many pages it was, the business plan. She wrote the business plan side of it, and then I presented it, and then we had another local author who’s also a part of the site.

Between the three of us is how we came up with the business plan. You go to the bank, and we worked with local business members in the community. We actually went to our local university to help us set up, how to write the business plan, how to even get it started and … Yes. It was a $10,000 grant, so it was huge because we had nothing obviously to start, and so that’s really how it started.

Both of my business partners left. The first one left … They are both stay-at-home moms, and I was working, and so I was working full-time, so I still had daycare, and I had lunch breaks and things. They couldn’t juggle staying home with their kids and working on a site that wasn’t making any income. Sorry, this is going into a whole other story.

Bjork Ostrom: No, it’s good. Yeah.

Leslie Means: I think that’s the really, really tough part of blogging is they knew. They knew that it had potential, and they could see that someday, it would be successful, but at that point, they couldn’t justify hiring a babysitter to work on a site that wasn’t making profit.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Leslie Means: Now, it’s just me. I don’t know how that [crosstalk 00:15:10].

Bjork Ostrom: No, it’s good, and there’s some more that I want to dig in to that.

Leslie Means: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: With the business plan, do you feel like that is something … If you were to go back and start again, do you feel like it was valuable enough for the launching of the business that you would do it again?

Leslie Means: Yes. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: What was valuable about it?

Leslie Means: I think the profits that we could see, the potential that was there was huge, and so just writing out the three-year goals, the five-year goals. I think if you don’t even have a business plan, just writing those goals of what you want to accomplish in two years, five years, 10 years down the road is really, really important.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you feel like those were relatively accurate in terms of what was achievable because I know sometimes with business plans, especially like in the startup community, it’d be like, “In next year, we want to have one million users and be the top downloaded app.”

Leslie Means: Right. I know.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you remember what those numbers were? Were you able to have them be relatively realistic?

Leslie Means: Crazy enough, I have been able to meet those goals this month, which is bunkers because we just hit like nine million people on the site this month like in 15 days. I don’t even know how this is happening.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s amazing.

Leslie Means: I know. Isn’t it crazy and like the internet is so weird? I think we had those kind of goals for our five-year plan, but it was local. It wasn’t a national site.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: I think everything … It changed very much. I think they do suggest that you update your business plan every so often, but I have not done that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so that’s … You have nine million visitors in the first half of January?

Leslie Means: Yes. It’s crazy.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s incredible. I’m guessing that that is, for you, a peak for Her View From Home?

Leslie Means: Yes. This is the peak. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and is it …

Leslie Means: I think I just sat here on my computer. Oh, actually, when that came out the other day, we made … We have AdThrive on our site, which I love those guys, and thank you for that recommendation.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.

Leslie Means: I woke up the other morning, and we’d had like a three million view day, and I’m sitting here in like an old t-shirt with a big splash of chocolate on the front that I had worn from like two days prior. I told my husband. I was like, “Oh my gosh, like we just made this much money overnight.” He just looked at me, and he’s like, “Will you now go just buy yourself a new t-shirt?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right.

Leslie Means: Seriously like …

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If people can see what I’m wearing right now, they would have a new opinion of me.

Leslie Means: I know. I know. Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m going down this rabbit trail because we’re there, but can you talk about that reality? Obviously, you’re at this point where the site is successful. It has a lot of momentum. How are you starting to think differently about the site and building the site and even from a year ago because I’m guessing a lot has changed in 12 months?

Leslie Means: Yeah. A lot has changed in six months, so we … We actually were sued for a photo that we used in like three years ago. It was actually a local … One of our local writers, she owns a boutique in town, and she was sharing jeans. She wanted to talk about jeans that she was selling in her store, and she used a photo, a celebrity photo of someone who is wearing the jeans that she sold, and we were then sued for that photo, which made me panic and had to get our lawyers on board and everything. That was such a learning experience.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: The bills all came for that in July of this year, so it was probably one of the lowest points in July financially of being sued, and then having to make sure we’re paying all of our writers.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s so expensive to work with lawyers.

Leslie Means: Oh my gosh, it’s so expensive.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: They were fabulous, but they were like, “Leslie, here is the …”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: It was interesting. They’re like, “We can probably win this, but you’d have to fly to New York City.” I’m like, “No, people. Let’s just get this … Can we just get this done?” We went from the toughest time financially to two months later, we had one of our … It was one of the most viral at that time. That’s when we had probably two to three million people on the site in September, so it’s such a rollercoaster.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: Obviously, as you know too of going from such lows to such highs.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. Yup.

Leslie Means: I think right now, in this high, what we try to do is just capitalize on the people who are coming to the site, so I try to make sure to get their emails, find them on social media, and work with all these new writers that are coming to the site because I know there can be moments that month where it’s much lower as well. I would love to get on a consistent basis obviously for each month. That’s the goal this year I think is to have a little more consistency, not so much up and down hopefully.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. That’s one of the hard things about being an entrepreneur, right? It’s like you can’t predict the future, and the longer you’re in it, you can start to see the patterns, and the ebbs and flows, and come to predict those in some sense, but it’s like you can’t come to predict when somebody will sue because of a picture that a contributor used, and it’s like you didn’t use it.

Leslie Means: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: It was a contributor, and then that introduces all of these questions of like, “Oh, do we have to like filter every photo that contributors use?”

Leslie Means: Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: Like there’s all these complications that come along with it, and that’s not necessarily fun stuff to deal with.

Leslie Means: No, and that’s where we’re at now. Now, everybody has to sign contracts, and you have to make it very specific. I suppose the business side of things are so much more than I probably initially thought because you spend most of your day doing all the business work when really, I’d rather just talk to people, and find new writers, and have fun conversations online.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Yeah. I was talking to somebody about that yesterday and was saying like, “Yeah. Essentially, I spend the greater part of the day yesterday like working on taxes and talking to Intercom.

Leslie Means: Oh, yes.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s so boring. It’s so boring.

Leslie Means: It’s so bad.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like it has to be done.

Leslie Means: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork Ostrom: Before we get too far down the road, I want to go back, and I want to talk about those first two years. I think those are really important. It’s a really important period to talk about, and to bring up, and to focus on because it’s the grind, and you’re not getting paid, and you’re spending time doing it. You think it will work, but you don’t know if it will work. It’s difficult, right? I want to hear you talk about what those first two years were like and what kept you going throughout those first two years.

Leslie Means: I think I’m crazy. My husband is a huge supporter. He is also a journalism guy, but he’s actually in marketing now at a local university. I tell all of our bloggers, “If you don’t have someone to support you with your blogging, you got to find that person. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, if it’s your mom, if it’s your husband, whoever it is, you’ve got to find somebody who believes in what you’re doing and doesn’t think you’re crazy.” That was the first huge thing for me because I would spend my evenings talking to my husband about this passion of mine and what I could see for the future, and I knew that there was success in online websites, and he believed in me, so that was a huge step for me.

The other parts of it were I had to keep working, so I worked full-time, and I have my two girls. They’re eight and six now, and I knew that I was putting all this time and effort into the website after they would go to bed, and lunch breaks, and any time I had. After so many months, you’re putting so much time into it. You’re like, “I can’t. I cannot let this fail.” I just had a vision, and I was going to just keep trekking forward until it could become successful.

So many aspects of it kept failing, but then you would have a day where it would be successful, and it would just keep you going. I have a lot of faith in my life as well, and so that really pushed me too, and it was the hardest. It can seem so easy when people look at a website, but it’s been the hardest job I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some unique, interesting jobs in my life.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: The most passionate that I’ve ever … I love this. I love what I do. Every single day, I can say that I love it so much.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things I think is so true is that the rollercoaster that you talked about before. It’s like there’s the lows, but then you talked about that one day where an article takes off or you finally get a payment when you’ve never gotten a payment before for something, and you realize like, “Oh, this is something that I could build into a job or a career.”

Leslie Means: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m reading a book right now called “The Slight Edge,” and it actually ties into this concept that we talk a lot about on the podcast, 1% Infinity. Like getting a little bit better each and every day over a long period of time.

Leslie Means: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that he talks about essentially is what you’re talking about here in the first two years is like it’s putting in time and energy, and it’s working the lunch hours and late at night over a long period of time. Then, what happens is you come to January of 2017, and then you get 15 million page views in the first half of the month.

Leslie Means: That’s right. It’s so crazy.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s the culmination of all of those tiny little things over a long period of time, but the hard part is getting through each and every day in that first two to three years or really, potentially, the first three to five years where it feels like the stuff that you’re doing in the day-to-day isn’t having an impact, but now, where you’re at is you can look back and say, “This is essentially this massive snowball that I’ve built by putting five snowflakes on it each day,” and then that builds up over time, which I think is so cool.

Leslie Means: Right. Right. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that you’ve done that is very unique with Her View From Home and is different from most of the people that listen to this podcast, I would assume. I don’t know, is that you … From the start, I think, right, have worked with contributors versus being the single author on the site.

Leslie Means: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about why you decided to do that when you first started?

Leslie Means: I think that goes back to my journalism background. I love interviewing people. I love talking to people, and that’s what I miss the most when I actually left TV, and so I knew I didn’t want to hear myself talk all darn day. I wanted to hear stories from other people, but that essentially was really hard at first too because we just had to find friends who wanted to write for us because we couldn’t offer them any money. We couldn’t offer them really any views, and so they would just … We found people who weren’t even bloggers, who just wanted to share their story, and you’ll find that you don’t have to have a blog to have a fabulous story.

Everyone has a unique, interesting perspective in their life, and so that was important for us to keep going. Why this type has grown and how it’s grown now is because we have some very big bloggers who are contributing their words on our site. Of course, it’s a snowball effect. When their words are on our site, it goes on theirs, and it just trickles from there and really gets bigger. Of course, we can pay them now. That changed it a lot, but it was very important to share a view from someone else, not just my view every day on the site.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. One of the things that I thought was interesting was that first period, and I’d love to talk to you about getting contributors, and you said that you’re not in sales, but you’ve had to sell some people on some things that aren’t hard to sell people on like contributing, and taking time and energy to produce an article, and to write that at either not a lot of money or for free. Can you tell me about what that conversation look like and even, yeah, just how you were able to have that conversation with people?

Leslie Means: To do that?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: I think I was just very honest with them. I told them what it was that we were doing and gave them the opportunity. I think people just want to share their story actually. Some of the bloggers where it was tougher for them to share because they knew they weren’t getting anything out of it, I said, “That’s totally okay. We’re here for you when you’re ready. If you want to make some money later on down the road, great, but in the meantime, we …” What we always do, we would tag them on Facebook, or we would share their content, or we would put links of their blogs into our blog as well just to give them a little more incentive to really help them out as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so there was an economic exchange. Maybe it wasn’t money, but you’re saying, “Hey, we’re going to link to the content that you’re producing,” or …

Leslie Means: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. Okay. Great. At what point did you say, “Hey, it makes sense for us to start paying authors,” and also, how do you manage that?

Leslie Means: I don’t know. I still had one business partner with me, and I remember I told her. I was like, “I think we need to start paying people,” and she was like, “Leslie, how are we going to pay them?” I’m like, “I don’t know. We’ll figure out a way.” All I knew was that … because you never know. It’s like what if people start actually making a lot of money on these articles, but to me, I thought … Once we had our national ads, once we had AdThrive on, honestly, I thought, “If we’re going to get people …” because we pay them per view, so if an article gets over 4,000 views in 30 days, they make $100. I thought, “If they’re getting the over 4,000 views, then I’m going to be making more money on national ads, so it’s a no-brainer to me to pay them that amount of money,” but it was really risky.

At first, before we had the national ads and we were paying smaller amounts, I would just have to go to more local advertisers and really just hope and pray that I would get another ad, and there are many months where I could not. I didn’t start paying myself until about a year ago is when I actually started taking an income from the site. There were many months where we were just breaking even or just trying to get enough just to pay all the writers. Of course, I was still working another job, and so I could do that.

Bjork Ostrom: When did you switch? When did you leave your job and start working on Her View From Home full-time?

Leslie Means: It was fall of 2015.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Leslie Means: It’s been a little over a year. Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: You’ve had a huge change in a year with the site, and with your job, and your work.

Leslie Means: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: With the transition, can you talk a little bit about that because I think that’s one thing that people are interested in hearing about? How did you know that you were at a point where you felt comfortable leaving your job and working on your site full-time?

Leslie Means: That’s a great question. I don’t even know. I don’t know if I had a backup plan. I probably should have. It was the combination of when I was making enough from national ads and local advertisers, so I was really about 50% each way. My husband and I just had a deal. He’s like, “Okay. If you can’t …” because I had to sustain and get what I was making from my other job. That was our deal to each other when I left my full-time gig that I would be able to bring that same amount in with Her View From Home, and I just knew that if I couldn’t make it one month, I’d have to pound the pavement, and go into local businesses, and make up for it. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. With the contributors, can you talk about what that looks like because you said you had, at this point, over 450 contributors which is …

Leslie Means: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a big team, right? They’re all individual freelance contract type people. It’s not like employees.

Leslie Means: Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: Still, that’s potentially on any given day, if the lightning strikes at the wrong time, you could get 450 emails from people.

Leslie Means: Right, which happened with this latest viral article. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, guys. I’m so sorry. You’re going to have to wait to hear from me.” Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about what that process is like to manage and communicate with such a big group?

Leslie Means: Yeah. We have our own private group on Her View From Home of all the writers who discuss and who talk on a daily basis, so that helps a lot.

Bjork Ostrom: Is that on Facebook?

Leslie Means: Yup, yup.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Leslie Means: It’s just a private group, obviously, for just all of us.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Leslie Means: What I do now is … and our regulations have changed a little bit as we’ve grown, but I tell people that they need to wait two weeks before I will give them a response, but if it’s been longer than two weeks to please reach out because a big thing to me at this point still is I love to be able to talk to everybody who at least tries to apply to write on our site. I think that is what will forever be different about us from the other really large sites is that we do contact and we want to get in touch with them.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a phone call that you have with them?

Leslie Means: Email.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, got it.

Leslie Means: Yup, yup. Email. In that two weeks’ time, we just talk. There are some specific things that I have them give me when … and that link is on our site of what I want them to send. Then, if we like their content, we have them sign a contract, and then we’ll tell them what day the article will be posted. Actually, after a 30-day time period, I write back to them. I tell them how many views the article got, and then if they were successful view-wise on their end, then I offer them more of the regular contributor position. So then, I actually give them logins and where they can go on to the site and upload their own content. It doesn’t mean I’ll always run it, but they have an in now of I’m getting their content on the site.

Bjork Ostrom: You, at this point, are the gatekeeper for the content?

Leslie Means: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: In WordPress, they’ll submit it as … I don’t what it would be. Contributor probably?

Leslie Means: Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s different like roles that you can have in WordPress, and most people, if you are a single author, you are the admin, which means you can do everything, which I’m guessing that’s what you would be in WordPress?

Leslie Means: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: But then, you can have people sign up to be contributors where they can’t publish. They don’t have a “Publish” button, but they have … I don’t know what it is. Something like “Submit to Editor” or something like that where like they submit it.

Leslie Means: Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: Then, you have the chance to review it and publish it. Is that the general process for how that works?

Leslie Means: Yes. Yup, exactly. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork Ostrom: How do you decide what goes out when?

Leslie Means: So then, we do a weekly schedule every Thursday, so I get to do that this week, and we usually do three to five articles per day. Actually, no. It’s more now about three articles per day, and I will just decide. It’s funny. Now, I know exactly what our readers want to read and what won’t do as well, so it’s actually easier to go through the content. Then, we also are trying to stay up on timely content as well. When I left news, I said I would never do it again, and now, of course, I’m doing it again because some of the timely …

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. A version of it. Yeah.

Leslie Means: Yeah, but we always do it more of an opinion piece than the hot topic click-bait kind of stuff.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Leslie Means: That’s not really our thing.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Leslie Means: We’ll probably have a handful of those timely articles per week too.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Relating to current events or something that’s happening in the news as opposed to, “This mom opened her fridge, and you would never guess what she saw next?”

Leslie Means: Oh gosh, exactly. That kind of stuff.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah?

Leslie Means: Yeah. No.

Bjork Ostrom: Great, and then what does that look like? If you have 450 people and there’s all these different varying levels, right, of views and payments, how do you … What does that look like to keep track of all that?

Leslie Means: I don’t know. Every day, I’m going through to see how many views everybody got. Of course, Google Analytics gives me all of that, which is fabulous, but I will go through, and I just have a system now. If I know, “Okay. These 10 writers, I have to contact them today. I have to tell them what their numbers were,” and then we do payments about twice a month usually.

Bjork Ostrom: Using PayPal?

Leslie Means: Yup, using PayPal, and so it’s just a system every day. If I don’t stay on top of it every day, Mondays are usually tough because I’ve had a couple … The Saturday and Sunday, it goes through, and so then, I have more names that I have to contact on Monday, but if I stay on top of it, it’s not so overwhelming. If I get behind, it can be very overwhelming, but hopefully … The goal within the next year or so is to be able to hire more people so I’m not going crazy.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That was a huge step for us, and I feel like you’re probably at this point here in 2017, it sounds like, where it’s like bringing people into the fold. Once you’re able to pay yourself, you’re able to, in your case, pay your contributors and authors, and then it’s like, “Okay. Now, we have this other income, and let’s help make life not insanely crazy by bringing other people into the fold.”

Leslie Means: Yes, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like with business, it’s like you just continue to like slowly, but surely level up, right? You like those first two years, and then it transitions into the next three to five where the foundation is becoming a little bit stronger. Then, now, it’s like, “Okay,” building a team and a business around this, which is really cool to see that progress.

Leslie Means: Exactly. Yup. Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things I’m curious about is if you were to go back and you were to look at starting over, which probably sounds terrible, but if you can put yourself back there at that first point, what are some of the things that you would do differently knowing what you know now?

Leslie Means: I wouldn’t have been so cocky the first two years. I was. I should’ve listened to more people. I should’ve done more research. I got into it thinking I know exactly what I was doing, and I had no idea. Journalism is very, very different. Anything online is very different than TV.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: I wish I would’ve researched more at the beginning and given the readers more of what they wanted. I didn’t want it to be a parenting site because I thought there was too many. I wanted it to be more of a local site where women could share all their stories, but really, all the readers were going to more parenting articles, faith articles, grief. That kind of stuff really resonated with these people.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Leslie Means: Have I done that in the beginning more and really embraced that, I think it would have taken off faster than it has. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say research, do you mean research for the business or research around what people are interested in consuming or what’s like resonating with readers?

Leslie Means: All of it.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Leslie Means: All of it. I started it just thinking I could make it like the talk show. When I took the time to figure out how to actually do everything and when I joined groups online and groups on Facebook, and really met and connected with all these other people, that’s when it really started to take off, and I didn’t I didn’t do that. I don’t know. We just researched in a different way when really, all that information was at our fingertips, and we should have been online asking other people because people like you guys, you’re just … You’re willing, which is so fantastic to give this information. It’s out there and available for people if they just take time to learn it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, to learn it, and then implement it, right?

Leslie Means: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s the hard thing. It’s like everything that you need to know is available to you.

Leslie Means: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s such an important, but simple point that so often, people can think, “There’s something that I don’t know that others do,” and I think that’s why people are willing to pay these insane amounts for these certain courses like $2,000 on how to X, Y, Z.

Leslie Means: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like sometimes, those are very helpful and important courses, but other times, it’s … People think that there’s maybe a secret that they don’t know, and it’s like all of that information is out there.

Leslie Means: Exactly. It’s right there.

Bjork Ostrom: The hard part is, number one, taking the time to not watch Breaking Bad and to read about taxes, or you working with contributors, or listening to a podcast like this, or whatever.

Leslie Means: Right. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork Ostrom: Then, the other part that’s even more difficult, which you’ve done and lots of the other people that we’ve interviewed on this podcast have done is like slowly, but surely, implementing that over a long period of time.

Leslie Means: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bjork Ostrom: I think so often, that’s the real key, which is so mundane when it comes down to it. It’s the day-to-day repetitive tasks that help you to build something significant like you’ve done.

Leslie Means: Right, and you can’t give up. There is. It’s this part where people just want to give up and it’s so hard. It is so darn hard, but I think if you believe in yourself and really just, like you said, go after it day by day, you can get there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Last question I’m just curious about is … For social media, obviously, there’s the site itself, but I’m curious about on the social media side of things. What is the platform that’s worked well for you guys or that you’ve had the most success with?

Leslie Means: Facebook. So much Facebook.

Bjork Ostrom: What is it about that?

Leslie Means: Oh my gosh, I don’t … We post 13 times a day, which is bunkers, but we have a connection with our readers on Facebook. We’re very open and transparent. We do a lot of Facebook Live videos as well. Though, I haven’t in the last couple weeks, but …

Bjork Ostrom: Is that you that does the live videos?

Leslie Means: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Leslie Means: Yeah. We did last year … Actually, the last probably 18 months, we had a lot of our writers just uploading their own videos to Her View From Home just so people could meet them. But now that we have so many, it’s difficult to organize, and so a lot of times, I’ll just do the Facebook Live things. That kind of stuff has never bothered me because of the TV background, so it’s easy for me to tell people to do that when some are very terrified, but I think once you put yourself out there, you’ll realize that people appreciate that more because they love the honesty.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Leslie Means: Yeah. We get so much of our traffic from Facebook, which is great, but I want to really reach out.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Leslie Means: We’re working more on our newsletters now and all the other social media channels too.

Bjork Ostrom: You’ve talked about articles going viral. Is that on Facebook that those articles go viral?

Leslie Means: Yup. Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup, so …

Leslie Means: It is usually from some massive site shares it, and then it just takes off from there. It’s how that works.

Bjork Ostrom: Then, other people share it?

Leslie Means: Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say like if there’s a day where there’s three million page views or visitors, that usually correlates to an article that somebody has shared, and then other people will re-share on Facebook?

Leslie Means: Yup.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Yup, which makes sense, and I can see how like the virility engine of Facebook is just so strong.

Leslie Means: It’s crazy.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. Really interesting. I’m sure that a lot of people would want to check out what you’re doing, and obviously, the site is Her View From Home, and then also would potentially be interested in being contributors, so can you talk a little bit about where people can find you, Leslie, and if they’re interested, also apply to be a contributor?

Leslie Means: You bet. Just on herviewfromhome.com is the website, and then if you go over to the “Contact” button, and it’s “Write for Her,” and there’s details there of how to contribute. I will suggest for people, get on the site and know a little bit about us before you just send me an email because I can tell. I can tell the people who say, “To whom it may concern.” No, like say, “Dear Leslie.” Know who we are and what we talk about before you submit content. There are some specific things now that I have people do. Otherwise, I will just delete their emails just because we get so many, but now, I know. If they’re genuinely interested and they really want to contribute, I want to know them because I want them on our site.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Cool.

Leslie Means: Just take a few minutes to look at it.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. Yup, and we’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes as well. Leslie, yeah, super fun to talk to you, and “meet” you, and to finally connect to you, so thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Leslie Means: Yeah. Thank you so much.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I really appreciate it.

That’s a wrap for this episode. Another big thank you to Leslie for coming on, sharing her insights and her journey as she’s grown Her View From Home over the years, and so fun to hear about her recent success, and how that has really exploded here in 2017, and no small parts due to all of that hard work over the first few years as she built the site up, so congratulations, Leslie.

Leslie is a member of Food Blogger Pro. If that’s something that you are interested in doing or interested in joining, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com, and we have some information about what we’re all about and how we work, and there’s a little “Waiting List” button that you can sign up for. We don’t have like an enrollment cap. That’s not what the waiting list it. We just have periods where we do enrollment like a college, so if you sign up for that waiting list, we’ll notify you when things open up, and that is simply what that is. It’s just a waiting list for notifications, and you can get there by going to foodbloggerpro.com.

Thanks so much for listening to this podcast. I really appreciate you guys and are excited to connect again in a few short days when we ramp back up with some more interviews. Until then, make it a great week. Thanks, guys.

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