Let me guess… Between the 9-5, the 30-minutes-each-way commute, and having a social life, you feel like you're piling too much on your plate. You're terrible at using the little free time you do have to work on your side hustle, because you're exhausted. So how do you find time to focus on your own blog when you're already working all day for somebody else? If this sounds familiar, it's because I know what you're going through. I've been there. When I started my first blog, I was working full-time and taking a full-time course load. When I started Unsettle, I held down a contract that took up most of my daytime hours. Now, I juggle coaching clients, freelancing clients, consulting clients, online courses, product creation, contributing to other publications like Huffington Post, writing for Unsettle, and being a new mom. “Content marketing” – or my blog – is the one thing that keeps my business going and allows me to make multiple 5-figures/month. . So how do I juggle it all? And more importantly, how can you juggle your full-time gig with your fledgling blog and live to tell the tale? Well, you cut out everything and become hyper-focused on three things.

The Only 3 Things You Need to Focus on To Build Your Blog

A funny thing happens when you start a blog. You're writing articles, interacting with your readers, answering comments, and then you're yanked in a different direction.

  • Social media!
  • YouTube videos!
  • Branding!

You've got shiny object syndrome, which would be fine, if only you had time for that shit. But you don't. You're a side-hustler, and you need to focus. There are only three things you need to focus on to build a profitable blog. Notice that I said profitable blog. You can do whatever you want – and focus on whatever you want – if you're journalling. That's cool. But if you want to build a blog that not only has an impact on the world but also gives you at least the option to quit that 9-5, here are the three things you need to buckle down on:

  1. Building Your Email List
  2. Nurturing Your Audience
  3. Solving Problems

Let’s go.

1. Building Your Email List

When I started my first blog, and throughout the entire time I owned it, I didn't have an email list. Big mistake. Without an email list I missed out on the opportunity to have a great relationship with my readers – not to mention tens of thousands of dollars I would have been able to earn if I had one. Your email list is your results driver and will make everything you do easier.

Why You Need an Email List

Think of your email list as your VIP readership. They gave you their email because they considered your resources valuable, liked you, and want to hear more from you. Your subscribers are more likely to interact with your brand, tell a friend about you, buy a product, or enroll in a course. They’re the real MVPs. Statistics show that:

  • Email marketing has the highest ROI of any other marketing platform available. A 4300% ROI, to be exact.
  • Landing a new customer is 40x more likely on email than it is on social media.
  • People click on email links 6x more than Tweets.
  • The subscribers on your email list are 3x more likely to share your content on social media than a visitor from another source.
  • It’s easier to make money. Because your subscribers like and trust you, they’re more likely to support your launches and buy your products. Your marketing efforts will be more effective with them than with strangers on Facebook.
  • It’s cheaper, too. You can make more money by sending a single email to your 4000-people email list than by spending thousands of dollars on Facebook ads to bring 10k people to your landing page.

Ok, so more conversions, money, traffic, and shares. So far so good, right? The benefits don’t stop there. Having an engaged email list also means… How? It’s all about your conversion rate. If your email marketing conversion rate is 7% and the conversion rate of Facebook marketing is 2%, considering you have a $30 product, here’s what happens… 4k*7%=280*$30=$8.4k in sales. 10k*2%=200*$30=$6k-$2.7k(ad fee*)=$3.3k in sales. *The CPC (cost-per-click) is $0.27 in average and we are assuming 10k people click through your ad. Email list for the win. With email marketing, you don’t have to pay for ads, you get a higher conversion rate, and you don’t even need a giant list to make it happen.

  • You have guaranteed traffic. With an audience eager to read your articles, you don’t have to hope the SEO gods to send you traffic, or that your article will go viral on Twitter. If your email click-through is 20% (on a 4k person list), you’ll have an initial traffic boost of 800 people who’ll read, comment, and share your article. Better than refreshing your new blog post for 10 mins and seeing a big fat 0 on your share bar, right?
  • You can easily validate your product ideas. Have an idea for a course you’re not sure people will buy? Just ask your subscribers what they struggle with regarding the topic of your course. For example, if you want to create a course about indoor gardening, you’ll ask your list “Do you wish you could start an indoor garden? What stops you? What would make it easy?”. This will help you 1) realize whether or not you have the right idea for the course and 2) know your audience better.
  • You are in total control. Your email list is yours, and no platform or corporation can take it away. There’s no middle man who can affect your reach by changing its algorithm, so your access to your subscribers relies solely on you.
  • You can access your audience any time you want. Because you’re in control, you can choose when to contact your readers. If you just published an article, you can tell your audience immediately and get a traffic boost, instead of having to wait for it to gain traction on social media.
  • You have your target market on speed dial. Struggling to find the right words for your sales page? Wondering what type of offers will attract your audience? Take a peek inside your readers’ minds. Ask them what their #1 struggle is right now, and use their words in your copy, or ask them what they’d like to learn the most from you, and create freebies around that.
  • You can literally make money while you sleep. What if I told you, you can create an automated email marketing sequence in an hour that will do the selling for you 24/7 without you lifting a finger? You can when you have an engaged email list. You’re able to set up an email sequence with premium offers once, automate it, and then watch the money roll into your Paypal account.
  • You can bond with your audience. The more you talk and share with your readers, the more they’ll care about you. Chatting with your subscribers through email creates a level of trust and connection no other platform can match.

Want to have the time to grow your email list?

Click here to sign up for my time management class and learn how to build a profitable blog when you're working full-time.

Now that you’re convinced growing your email list is crucial for your biz, it’s time to take action. Get started with these tools:

The Tools I Use to Grow My Email List


I love using Sumo for email capture. I offer content upgrades, freebies, and courses with their easy-to-customize opt-in boxes, welcome mats, click triggers, and in-line forms.

The clean dashboard gives me a quick overview of how each form is performing, and all the opt-ins can be edited in minutes with a drag-and-drop editor.

You can create a high-converting form in just six steps.

Full disclosure: I write for Sumo, so while I don’t get any affiliate commission for mentioning them, I may be slightly biased 😉

Click Funnels

I use Click Funnels to design landing pages and some opt-in forms. Their editor is intuitive and I love how easy it is to A/B test all the elements I want.


ConvertKit is my new email service provider.

I use it to schedule emails, create automated sequences, segment my audience by the topic they’re interested in, and A/B test my headlines to make sure I’m using the language that resonates the most with my audience. An email service provider is necessary — think of it like a house for your new subscribers. It stores the emails that Sumo and Click Funnels allows you to capture, and communicate with your people.

Grow Your List With Irresistible Content Upgrades

Once you have the right tools to capture leads, it’s time to use them in the most effective way. That means setting up pops-ups all over your blog, right? Wrong. Random pop-ups on your site will grow your list as fast as writing “subscribe to my list” in a piece of paper, putting it inside a bottle, and throwing it into the sea. The only way to skyrocket your email list is by combining…

  • The right offer
  • The right opt-in form for that offer

That’s where content upgrades come in.

If you want to grow your list, give people something they want and need.

Content upgrades are content-specific bonus resources that boost the value of your articles. An effective upgrade complements a blog post so well it feels like a no-brainer to get it. Any resource that makes your article more actionable, more digestible, and easier to follow, is an useful content upgrade. For example:

  • A checklist.
  • A workbook.
  • A template.
  • A printable pdf.
  • This video class 😉

Next time you write an blog post, include a downloadable resource to shower your readers with value and grow your email list. After you’ve optimized your site for conversions, the next step is…

2. Nurturing a Great Relationship with Your Audience

This funny things seems to happen with some bloggers as they grow. They sit on top of their growth like Scrooge McDuck on a pile of cash and forget about the real meaning of what they have. Behind their email lists they have human beings who care enough to pay attention to what they're writing, saying, and doing, and supporting them on the ride. I think a lot of the online marketing world forgets that the number you see when you log into Aweber or ConvertKit or MailChimp? Those are real people. There's no point in building an email list or a blog at all if you don't care about them, too. This is why you need an amazing relationship with those people who have subscribed to your email list, and read your blog. Spend time nurturing a relationship with them. They're not robots and neither are you.

How to Connect with Your Audience

You’ll interact with your audience in three places:

  • On your email
  • On your blog
  • On social media

Since your time is limited, you can’t spend 4 hours chatting with people on Twitter, so you have to focus on your most impactful interactions and cut out the rest. Here’s how:

What to Send Your Email List

Once you set up opt-in boxes with irresistible freebies and subscribers start pouring in, you have to keep them engaged. Getting your readers’ emails is just step one. You have to make it worth their while and grow the relationship. This is exactly what you should send your list:

A Killer Welcome Email

A welcome email is the beginning of your relationship with your subscribers, so make it a an awesome one. Your first email should have:

  • A friendly headline.
  • A thank you for signing up to your list.
  • A short explanation of what your readers can expect from your emails.
  • A description of who you are, what you do, and why you do it (optional).
  • Links to your most helpful/popular resources (optional).
  • An invitation to follow you on social media.

In my welcome email, I tell my readers what they can expect from my emails, who I am, what is Unsettle, and why I started it:

Noah’s welcome email encourages replies by asking his readers what type of emails they want to receive from him:

Tim Ferriss’ first email points his readers to his best material:

The two main goals of your welcome email are:

  1. To set the right expectations.
  2. To get your readers excited about being a part of your list.

Once you do that, you can start sending out your best resources.

New Article Updates

Your subscribers should be the first to know when you publish a new article. Send them a short email with a link to your new piece each time you publish to give them priority and boost your traffic. This is the email I sent my list last week when I published my latest article:

Exclusive Tips

Share helpful tips and tools that have worked for you with your subscribers. I sent my list this productivity hack one day that I felt insanely focused and energized:

Exclusive Discounts

If you are doing affiliate marketing or have your own course or product, show your subs some love with a promo code. Gina Horkey from Horkey Handbook sent her list a promo code for 25% off on a pitch template bundle. Who doesn’t love saving money?

Invitations to Webinars and Workshops

If you’re having a webinar, masterclass, training, or workshop, tell your email list first. You’ll boost attendance and they might invite their friends because they trust you. Look at how Nico Moreno did it:

Behind-the-Scenes Sneak Peeks

Build a stronger relationship with your audience by sharing some behind-the-scenes snippets. Being real and transparent with your subscribers will make them like and trust you even more. People can’t relate to a faceless brand, but they can relate to you. This is the email I sent my list after my daughter Poppy was born. I had been away from Unsettle for a while, and here I explained why and made the big reveal:


Remember what I said before about validating your course and product ideas with your list? That’s how I finished up my Etsy course. I sent my list a short & sweet email about the upcoming course and asked them to take a quick survey to find out what they wanted to know about running an Etsy shop. I received a ton of responses that I used to shape the copy of the sales page and the course itself.

Pro tip: Use Survey Monkey to create quick surveys for your list. Step #1. After creating your account, click on “Create Survey”.Step #2. Choose “start from scratch”. Step #3. Name your survey and choose the right category. Step #4. Customize your survey.

Newsletter Topics

If you picked the newsletter option to grow your list, you’re probably wondering what it should be about. Get inspired with these newsletter formats:

  • The weekly curation. Cover a lot of ground by curating your favorite reads and finds of the week. Include a mix of your own content as well as other people’s resources, news, and tools. See how Nat does it in his Monday Medley newsletter:
  • The practical newsletter. Show off your expertise (and research skills) by sharing weekly tips that make life easier for your readers. Amy Lynn Andrews shares practical tips for bloggers, freelancers, and business owners through her “Useletter”.
  • The private article. Instead of talking about 5 different things, focus on one topic. Paul Jarvis sends one useful mini article every weekend on his Sunday Dispatches.
  • The conversation starter. Start a discussion with your readers by giving your opinion on a subject and asking questions. You want to make your readers feel they’re having a chat with you. Lauren from Restored 316 Designs sends a weekly “From Lauren’s Desk” newsletter to discuss blogging-related topics with her readers.

Answer your email

Reply to emails from your readers personally. If someone admires you and your work enough to email you about it, a thoughtful response will make them feel acknowledged and appreciated, which increases trust in your brand.

How To Interact With Your Fans

Foster a deep sense of community around your brand by actively interacting with your followers on your blog and social media. Focus on these 2 things: #1. Reply to blog post comments. Replying to each and every comment makes those readers feel appreciated and shows others that you care about your audience. The more you reply, the more likely people are to leave a comment. #2. Pick ONE social media channel and excel at it. Dabbling into social media without a clear strategy is a disservice to your business. You simply don't have the time to keep up with all the social media platforms competing for your attention. That’s exactly why you need to laser focus your efforts on a single channel instead of spreading yourself thin across many platforms. Pick your favorite social media channel and be hella active in there. The rest can wait. For example, let’s say you pick Instagram. You’ll have to:

  • Post at least once a day
  • Reply to the comments people leave on your photos
  • Reply to DMs
  • Like and comment on posts from your fans
Get my time management class to learn the productivity strategies that will help you free up more time to interact with your audience and grow your blog.

3. Becoming a Problem-Solving Ninja

After you have built and email list and nurtured a relationship with the people on it, further that relationship (and your audience) by actually contributing to their lives. The words “provide value” are tossed around so much in internet marketing that they're devoid of all their – well, value. Don't just provide value. You can provide value by handing out pennies. Contribute to your audience's lives in a meaningful way. Make an impact on them. Solve the problems they're experiencing with your topic, niche, or industry. Don't hand out pennies. Hand out Benjamins worth of valuable, useful, and actionable guides, tips, advice, inspiration and just general written badassery.

How to Change Your Readers’ Lives

#1. Create the best damn content in your niche

If you want to make a life-changing impact on your readers, you have to become their go-to resource. Be so helpful that your name is the first thing that pops into their minds when they need a solution related to what you teach. You can achieve that level of authority by creating the top resources on your field. There’s no point in pounding away at your keyboard for hours if you are not trying to create the best content out there. Cranking out helpful resources won’t only boost your credibility and authority, it’ll also…

  • Improve your Google rankings
  • Boost your traffic
  • Get new readers in your email list
  • Turn you into an influencer
  • Help you get more clients and customers

I know that creating “the best” resources sounds daunting, but if you’re willing to put in the work it’s 100% doable. Let’s pretend you’re trying to create the best resources about biking. Here’s what you do:

Step #1: Listen to what your audience needs

The first step to creating awesome content is doing your research. You want to find out: What people want to read about biking. Use Answer the Public to find the topics and keywords people are searching for. You’ll get all these results by typing in “biking”:

Just download the CSV file to make it easier to study:

Search Reddit & Quora for questions people have about your topic and the problems they face. Quora search for “biking”:

Reddit search in r/bicycling:

How they want to read it. Google your topic in a incognito window to see the top organic results. What format are they in?

This website has long-form, detailed, and image-heavy articles, as well as videos. That’s how bikers like to consume content, so that’s the type of resources you have to create.

Step #2: Look at what is missing from other resources

Now that you have a sense of the problems bikers have, take a look at the articles from your competition and identify:

  • Weaknesses and gaps.
  • How you can improve those aspects.

Spend 1-2 hours checking the top resources on your niche, and then come up with a list things you can do better than them. Perhaps you can add more imagery, write more clearly, format your article better, write longer articles, make nicer videos, or remove annoying ads.

Step #3: Write better articles

After discovering how you can beat your competition, it’s time to craft your best content.

  • Brainstorm 20-30 headline ideas using the same headline structure your competitors use, and then pick the one you like the most.

For example, if you used the headline structure of this article:

You could come up a headline like this: 5 Pieces of Gear That Make Riding In The City Way Safer- and 3 Mistakes To Avoid.

  • Outline your article with the main points. Write down every single possible subtopic so you have a clear structure and flow. Remember you want to create an incredible resource, so the more points the better.
  • Do your research. Close any knowledge gaps you might have by researching the heck out of each point. Keep open the tabs with studies or relevant resources you want to link to in your piece.
  • Just write. Now that you have an article outline and researched your topic, start typing.
  • Proofread like your life depends on it. Ok, your life doesn’t depend on it, but your impact does. Read and re-read your piece until it’s the best it can be. Ask yourself these questions:
    • Does it sound conversational and friendly?
    • Is it entertaining?
    • Does your personality shine through?
    • Are your points backed up with studies?
    • Are you simplifying some concepts with metaphors and analogies?
    • Are you using language your target audience would use?
    • Are your paragraphs short and to the point?
    • Is your writing fluff-free?
Step #4. Promote your articles like crazy

After creating the best possible article, share it with the world.

  • Use an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO to make sure your article is optimized for search engines before you hit “Publish”. This won’t create any short-term results, but doing SEO right from the beginning pays off incredibly well in the long-term.
  • Tell your email list about it.
  • Post it on your Facebook page and FB group.
  • Post it on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Digg and Stumbleupon.
  • Post it to the right subreddit. In this case, r/bicycling.
  • Answer a Quora question about the topic you just wrote about, and drop a link to your article at the end.
  • Reach out to the authors of any articles you linked to, and politely ask if they would be willing to share it.

#2. Answer questions in forums and groups

Get the attention of your target audience by being extra helpful at the online communities they hang out. When you offer value for free, you quickly cut through the noise and people start to notice you. These are the best places to show off your expertise:

Facebook groups

Which FB groups have your ideal audience? Be there and become a valuable member by…

  • Responding to other people’s posts in a helpful way.
  • Posting 2-3 times a week on the group.
  • Sharing tips and asking thought-provoking questions.

That’s what Nico Moreno did in the Unsettle FB group when he became a member: Exhibit A

Exhibit B
Exhibit C
landed Nico high-playing clients


Answering relevant Quora questions makes you visible to your target audience and generates traffic to your site. Plus, the person who asked the question gets massive value from you.


Creating Reddit threads with useful advice can send you a lot of traffic if you do it right. Method #1: Post the right article in the right subreddit. Drop your link in a community that makes sense, like I did here:

I posted an article about toxic beliefs in a productivity subreddit and replied to all the comments. Method #2. Include your article in a text post, not a link. Instead of linking directly to your site, type out your advice in the text field and add a link to your piece at the bottom.

Why? Doing it like this will elicit more responses and make you look like a true problem-solver ninja.

Focus On These 3 Things and You'll Never Starve

You only have a few hours a week to focus on your blog. You don't have time to waste on frivolous things. Your full-time job is demanding and you need to buckle down and focus. So cut everything out except these three things. After all, to build a profitable business of any sort – including audience-based businesses like a blog – people need to know, like, and trust you.

  • Building your email list: Your audience is getting to know you.
  • Nurturing a great relationship with the people on your email list: Your audience is starting to like you.
  • Handing out Benjamins: Your audience is starting to trust you.

Nothing else matters. If you're wondering how to manage your time such that you can fit even these things in as you work full time, my friend Tor (who is a time management bad ass) and I hosted a free class to help you through it. The class is 100% free, and we won't try to sell you anything on it. We just want to set you up for blogging success. Cool?

5 thoughts on “Building a Blog While Working Full-Time? Cut Out EVERYTHING Except These 3 Things

  1. Debbie says:

    Great info Sarah! I just joined your list tonight so I missed the Dec 8 webinar. Any chance I can get access to the replay?

    • Sarah says:

      You sure can! We’ll be sending out a recording by the end of the week 🙂 Can’t wait for you to see it!

  2. Tom says:

    Great advice, thanks Sarah!
    I totally agree that when you are time-strapped starting your blog you definitely need to focus on high leverage tasks 🙂
    Will be sharing with our audience 🙂

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