5 Thriving Online Businesses Inspired By Personal Passions

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One of the reasons I created a blog about starting an online business is because I am so intrigued about how modern technology opens infinite doors for those who have entrepreneurial ideas while removing old, outdated barriers of entry and reducing risk!

We now live in a time where we can build an online platform to get our personal message out there, attract those who are searching for our message and get compensated for work that's authentic to who we are.

But getting your mind around the opportunities now available requires you to suspend your old beliefs about what was required in the past to have a chance at success-- things like advanced educational degrees, knowing the right person, or a large sum of money. All of these are no longer necessary to achieve great success.

Today, you can "Choose Yourself," as well-known blogger James Altucher is famous for saying, instead of waiting or hoping someone will choose (hire) you.

Success in this new paradigm of business involves consistently providing value to solve your community's problems.

No doubt about it-- a shot at online entrepreneurship is yours for the taking, but because this is all so new and unless you've been keeping up with sources that educate how many are creating their own online businesses inspired by personal passions, you may not be aware of all the creative ways people are designing multiple-income-stream businesses.

What You Will Learn In This Post

Given the confusion and general lack of awareness about how people are building successful online businesses, in this post, I will share 5 examples of different ways it's being done. 

I hope these examples will not only show how people are doing it but also inspire you to consider the possibilities for how you might be able to create your personal online business.

But before I get into the examples, I'd like to stress how successful online entrepreneurship still requires massive levels of dedication, consistency, hard work, and learning. The good news is that by embracing these elements, it is doable, rewarding and enjoyable!

So, let's dive into the examples, shall we? I hope you feel surprised about what some have done and inspired about what you could possibly do!

5 Thriving Online Businesses Inspired By Personal Passions

Below are five examples of online businesses borne out of each blogger's personal passion or life story. All of these bloggers started from the ground and through hard work and consistency, have grown massive followings, paving the way for their blog to become a full-time income.

Keep in mind that in most of these cases, these bloggers did not necessarily envision where they would be today. They started, evolved as they learned from their communities and created products that meet their communities' needs or solve their biggest problems. Most of these blogs started with one person and now employ a team of people to operate.

Below is a brief overview of each blog and the income streams implemented to generate income:

1 | Vegan Lifestyle For Athletes Blog | No Meat Athlete | Matt Frazier | nomeatathlete.com

Blog Overview: No Meat Athlete was founded in 2009 by Matt Frazier, around the time he went vegan. No Meat Athlete is a blog for athletes (especially runners) who embrace a plant-based/vegan diet and lifestyle. Readers learn from Matt through his experience as a "no meat athlete," and Matt is more accountable to his vegan/runner lifestyle because he's blogging.

The blog informs, encourages and inspires others to embrace a plant-based diet and lifestyle by providing valuable information through blog posts and podcast (No Meat Athlete Radio) episodes. No Meat Athlete is a perfect example how a blog can be a creative combination of two interests and or passions. Chances are if a combination lives in your life, it lives in the lives of others, who are waiting to be led by you.

Income Streams: Some of the ways Matt Frazier is compensated for his effort in maintaining the blog are the following:

1) Sales from the proprietary digital training programs Matt sells on his Resources page. Matt has created several digital products like the No Meat Athlete Triathalon and Marathon Roadmaps to guide others through the processes of training for either.

The beauty of digital products is that the blogger puts in a limited amount of work to create the program, but it can be sold an unlimited number of times. The bigger the blogger's audience, the greater the sales "scale."

2) Matt also has a monthly subscription-based "No Meat Athlete Academy for those who want to delve a little deeper into issues concerning the plant-based-athletic lifestyle. Members of the Academy are billed $9.99 a month.

3) Matt is also the co-author of a cookbook entitled (you guessed it!) The No Meat Athlete Cookbook sold on Amazon (currently the #1 New Release in the Vegetarian Diets category.)

4) Matt also has a tab on his website called Gear, where he recommends various products related to cooking, running, fitness & learning. When readers happen to purchase a product as a result of clicking on one of Matt's link, Matt will receive a fee based on a percent of the total price of the product.

5) And finally, another stream of income for Matt is selling t-shirts with the No Meat Athlete logo.

Because Matt consistently provides valuable information and "walks his talk," concerning a vegan runner lifestyle, he builds credibility with his readers and they are more inclined to buy his products.

2 | How-To Lifestyle & Fashion Blog | Oh Joy! | Joy Cho | ohjoy.com

Blog Overview: Oh Joy was originally launched in 2005 as a graphic design studio and has grown into a daily blog with a massive following that covers topics like design, fashion, home, food and "joyful moments" of daily living. Oh Joy! is a very colorful, fun brand that can't help but spread inspiration and well, joy!

Income Streams: Some of the income streams for Joy Cho's Oh Joy! blog are:

1) Oh Joy! has several licensed product lines sold through Target, wallpaper sold through Hygge & West and photo books sold through Chatbooks. Her licensed products available through Target include items like upholstered furniture, a variety of pet items, home decor, baby nursery items and Band-Aid brand bandages.

2) Joy Cho is the author of three books: 1) Creative Inc. for design freelancers; 2) Blog Inc., a guide for bloggers and 3) Oh Joy!, a guide with tips, ideas and DIY projects to bring more food, fashion and decor-related joy into your life!

3) Every month Oh Joy! is featured in countless popular publications and media outlets like InStyle, Apartment Therapy, Allure, Dominoe, Real Simple, Time Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, The Today Show and Access Hollywood Live. This publicity surely brings more awareness to her brand and the sale of her products.

Through her strategy of daily blogging, Joy stays in front of her audience, wowing and inspiring them, creating more brand awareness and impacting the sales of her products.

3 | Food Blog | Pinch of Yum | Lindsay & Bjork Ostrum | pinchofyum.com

Blog Overview: Pinch of Yum is a husband-and-wife-run food blog. The blog was initially started by then 4th-grade teacher, Lindsay Ostrum. According to the blog, Lindsay was a teacher by day and a food blogger by night.

Eventually, Lindsay's husband, Bjork, got involved in helping out with tech and finances, and in 2014 Lindsay stepped away from teaching and pursued the blog full time.

The blog is about 6 years old now and since August 2011 Pinch of Yum has published their income reports. I took a peek at their October 2016 income totals and after subtracting expenses, the blog netted about $38,000 in income for the month. (As of June 7, 2017, however, Bjork shared here why the blog will no longer post income reports.)

Their income is so substantial because Pinch of Yum provides consistent, beautiful, inspiring and valuable content helping their readership grow, which drives more traffic to their website, which increases sales.

Income Streams: Pinch of Yum's main sources of income are the following: ads, sponsored content, speaking, and affiliate payouts for a wide variety of products-- from blogging tools they recommend to the best camera gear for food bloggers. They also developed an online course to teach people how to food blog.

Prior to writing this blog post, I wasn't too familiar with Pinch of Yum, but sadly, I learned while visiting the blog that Lindsay and Bjork tragically lost their first child, Afton, who was born prematurely at the end of 2016. Given the obvious close connection Lindsay has with her readers, she has been very open about sharing her heart-wrenching story with them. Her readers responded with open hearts and an outpouring of love on Instagram as they created a hashtag for Lindsay (#feedingabrokenheart). Readers began posting pictures of yummy comfort food as their way of comforting Lindsay and Bjork in their grief.

The more time I spent on Lindsay and Bjork's blog, the more impressed I grew. I have also been following them on Instagram @pinchofyum, and their short videos highlighting recipes are not only beautiful but inspire me to think different about food. I can't wait to try some of their recipes and tune into their podcast, Food Blogger Pro, for a listen in the near future.

4 | Simplifying Life Blog | Living Well Spending Less | Ruth Soukup | livingwellspendingless.com

Blog Overview: Living Well Spending Less (LWSL) was founded in 2010 by Ruth Soukup because her spending habits were out of control and her marriage was in "big trouble." Ruth blogged to help herself get better at budgeting and shared what she was learning along the way with her readers.

Ruth's blog has evolved over time and presently the blog's main focus is to eliminate overwhelm and make women's lives "just a little bit easier" by sharing tips to help her readers simplify food preparation, life in general, modern homemaking and personal finances/budgeting.

Income Streams:  Some of the income streams for Ruth Soukup's LWSL blog are:

1) Books: Ruth sells several books that she wrote covering topics that reflect her blog's focus-- living a clutter-free life, best spending/saving practices and how to blog and make money. Ruth also sells many of her favorite books by other authors, covering related topics, and it appears that (rather than providing a link to Amazon) she does keep these books in stock and ships them out directly.

2) Planner & Accessories: Because it has its own navigational tab and web page, one of the main sources of income (and the second biggest ticket item) for Ruth's blog is her Living Well Planner. The planner is $55 and it helps you get organized and prioritize many areas of life like personal growth, goals, health, fun, home improvements, meal planning, relationships and finances. According to Ruth, she created the planner she never could find. Ruth also sells accessories to use with the planner like stickers, sticky notes, and tear sheets.

3) Elite Blog Academy: Ruth also has a robust online course (currently priced at $797) and community that teaches her students how to make money blogging. The course opens for enrollment at least twice a year, and students are guided through various steps and exercises to become full-time bloggers.

It is suggested that students should spend between 5-10 hours a week going through the exercises for the first 4-6 months.

Ruth's blog is the perfect example of "when you need to learn something, blog about it." In other words, teach what you need to learn yourself. Ruth's spending habits were out of control and now she teaches and inspires others to reign theirs in and simplify their lives. Today, anyone can be a voice for something they care about or need to learn.

5 | Expert Photography | Josh Dunlop | expertphotography.com

Blog Overview: Expert Photography was started in April 2011 by England-based, Josh Dunlop. Josh is a self-taught photographer, and he created his blog to help others on their path as photographers. Frustrated by the lack of images needed to learn photography on other websites, Josh created the site he wished existed.

Income Streams: Some of the income streams for Josh Dunlop's Expert Photography blog are:

1) Online Courses that are generally $97. Topics include general photography for beginners, how to master landscape photography and mastering how to capture the milky way.

2) Sales from ebooks for beginner photographers

3) Website Building Service for Photographers. For $397 or 5 payments of $97 photographers can get access to a pre-designed Wordpress website template geared toward those who want to start getting compensated for their efforts in photography.

4) Recommended Products Sold On Amazon. Josh does recommend photography gear and links to Amazon for readers to purchase the products he recommends. In turn, Josh will be paid a percentage of each item's total cost.

Josh saw a need for the type of blog he created, so he built it! For the very beginner photographer, there is plenty of free info on Josh's site to get started. Then once you've gone through and mastered the very basics, you could move on to some of his products for more advanced photography. Another robust photography blog is Digital Photography School. It's definitely worth checking out in a time when the quality of photography should matter to every brand or business.

I hope you are inspired by what you just read and all that's possible with blogging.  

If you would love a little help figuring out your personal niche, click below to access my 7-page guide that will take you through a series of exercises to get your ideas flowing.

After clicking the button below and providing your email address, it will be sent directly to your email immediately.

3 Exercises To Help You Find Your Online Business Idea

Have you ever thought about starting your own online business, but you aren't exactly sure how to create a business from what you have to offer?

You have many interests, passions, skills, strengths and a lifetime of experiences, and you desire to make a difference in the lives of others, but you don't have your one distilled, clear, viable business idea.

This is a common struggle, I can assure you.

To get your ideas flowing, it might be helpful to do a little self-reflection, research and imagining on the front end of your journey to help "stir the idea pot" before taking action.

By doing so, you may discover a key clue or idea (that otherwise would have gotten overlooked) to give you more clarity on your idea.

What You Will Learn In This Post

In this post, I'll share a series of three worthwhile exercises to take yourself through to "kick the bushes" (one of my old sales managers liked to say that ... haha!) and shake out some possible ideas or clues for your personal online business.

If you're already doing business online, this post may help you discover some new threads about yourself that you can weave into your brand's online content.

Going through these three exercises was a great help to me, which is why I want to share them with you!

And, to make it easier for you, I've created a 7-page guide that you can download to walk you through the 3 exercises I discuss. You can grab it right here or look for this red button again at the end of the article.

Why So Many Struggle With Deciding On Their Online Business Idea

One of the biggest struggles of those who desire to create an online business is zeroing in on their online business idea.

In other words, how should they package their interests, strengths, skills and life experience in such a way to create a viable online business?

There's no wonder this process can be confusing and overwhelming because there are many variables at play, and the slightest tweak of those variables changes the whole focus of your business.

Before taking action, questions like these should be answered:

  • What is going to be the main purpose of my online business?
  • Or, rather ... How can I blend 2 or 3 of my interests to come up with a viable business idea?
  • Who specifically will my business serve?
  • What problem am I solving for my community?
  • How will I get paid for my time and effort so I can sustain doing what I love?

Without crystal clear answers to these questions, you're doomed because you'll delay taking action, eventually get stuck, and/or flounder around aimlessly, most likely wasting your energy, time and money.

Since I started blogging, I've been stuck a few times along the way because my ideas and vision weren't clear enough.

But I didn't give up and ultimately sent myself back to the drawing board.

So, without further ado, here are 3 activities I suggest trying before nailing down your online business idea:

Exercise 1: Write Down Your Entire Life | Self-Reflection

The idea to write down my entire life came to me out of the blue one morning before anyone in my house was up. I grabbed a legal pad and a pen and began writing out my entire life.

The almost 3 hours that had passed by the time I was done felt like 30 minutes. I was totally engrossed in "getting it all out."

There was something so refreshing about doing this. It was almost like I had been carrying my life around in my head for so long and letting it out all at once was such a relief.

I began with the day and place I was born, then moved onto elementary school and all the way through college and beyond.

As I went through time, I listed the following things for each phase of my life:

  • Activities I loved
  • My friends
  • Sports and other activities I participated in
  • Things I loved doing in my spare time
  • The different music I listened to
  • Books that made the most impact on my life
  • Schools I attended (elementary through college)
  • My relationships
  • My places of employment, my bosses and co-worker friends
  • My apartments when I was single
  • Life-changing events and crossroads
  • The favorite places I've traveled to
  • The births of my children
  • Places my husband I lived/moved to with our kids
  • My kids' milestones and where they are currently

As I was remembering and writing, I stopped to take note of the emotions that came up. It almost felt like I was stirring the pot of my life, which helped stir up ideas.

Yes, there were lots of ups and downs, but I felt a sense of pride as I considered where I'd been and how I navigated to get to where I am today.

Some of the following "clues" about who I am surfaced as I looked at my life:

  • The different versions of myself through each phase
  • What I naturally gravitated towards (and possibly abandoned along the way) and why?
  • My natural strengths
  • Skills I've learned
  • What I've enjoyed doing over the years and why?
  • Who were my favorite people along the way and why?
  • Where I've had success and failure
  • When and where I felt most myself
  • How I moved through and transitioned out of the peaks and valleys of my life.
  • What were the main impactful events of my life and why?
  • Am I currently at the beginning, middle or end of a phase in my life?

As I flip back through the pages, I notice recurring themes of what I enjoyed, disliked, was successful in, didn't do well in, etc. For example, starting from an early age, I noticed a theme that I enjoy helping and teaching others. I also saw a common thread of creativity from an early age.

Some of the themes you discover may be parts of you that you abandoned as years went by and you'd like to incorporate them into the nature of your business.

I will add that in no way was this a waste of time, and I have referred to the pages several times since to help me.

By writing down your entire life and seeing it on paper, you notice common threads and special themes about where you can go with who you are. These clues may not necessarily surface just by jotting down quick lists of your current interests.

Finally, what was clear is that I am at a crossroads in my life. It was obvious that I am at the end of a phase heading into a new one.

So, what did I do next?

Exercise 2: Observe & Listen To The Desires & Struggles Of Yourself & Others

Once you have an idea about how where you've been has made you who you are, as you speak to people in your local personal network or listen to those in any online communities you participate in, observe exactly what yourself and others are struggling with and how you may be able to help.

Here are some questions (to ask yourself) to help you with this exercise.

  • What am I struggling with? (Hey, many people teach what they need to learn.)
  • What are my friends and people in my social circles struggling with? (Are their struggles similar to yours, meaning there's an untapped demand for this problem to be solved? Or, have you already been successful solving or mastering their challenge?)
  • Why do people seek me out for help? (Do you have specialized knowledge, skills, or strengths that present a business opportunity? Is there something I naturally help people with? Do I enjoy helping others with what they seek my help with? Can I teach people online what I do in-person at my job?
  • Have I overcome a personal challenge in life? (If so, there may be people out there who would love to learn from you, given your first-hand experience.)

After gathering this info, see if any of the recurring themes that you uncovered in your life (what you love doing, skills you acquired in your past jobs, personal life experiences, or your natural strengths & abilitites) intersect with these needs and make a list.

Chances are if you and/or people in your immediate social circles are struggling with something, there are many others you can reach on the internet who are struggling with the same challenge as well.

For me, I had a lightbulb moment when I ran into a mom I know, and we started chatting about how we've been at home raising kids for some time, and how we both want to put our skills to work for ourselves.

Personally, this was my current biggest challenge, but hearing it reflected back to me when this other mom had the same challenge was my "aha" moment. 

I just knew there are countless other women wanting to get back to work and would consider putting their skills, passions and life experience to work for themselves to help others.

Over the past few years I have been educating myself about building an online business so it made sense to put those skills to work. I will also be able to use the skills I acquired in the corporate world as well as weave in many creating things I enjoy doing too.

Most importantly, by creating this blog and helping others, I'm also helping myself.

How can you do the same?

Exercise 3: Your Future Self | Imagine & Write Down Who You Want To Become

Ok, so once you have some ideas of what you and others are struggling with and how you can help others with that struggle, now is the time to imagine who you will become on that journey. I believe there's power behind using the imagination to manifest reality.

At the top of another clean page in big letters write:  "Next Phase: Who Do I Want To Become?"

To give you an example, my list goes something like this:

  • A successful entrepreneur who helps others by using my skills and experience
  • A published author
  • Someone who is real and not afraid to share and be vulnerable
  • A leader of a creative community (This is surprising because I've always shied away from being a leader, but this is something I see myself doing in the context of my blog and helping others.)
  • Inspire others by sharing my perspective and learned insights

Ok, you get the idea, but seriously, envisioning where you'd ultimately like to be is the first step in getting there.

Some questions to ask yourself to prompt your imagination to envision your future self are:

  • What's important to me today? (values, morals, beliefs)
  • What do I know I'm capable of if I put in the time/work?
  • Is there something I feel called to do?
  • Am I willing to bridge the gap between who I am today and who I need to become to develop myself?
  • What's that "one thing" that if I don't do, I'll regret it?
  • What qualities and skills do I want to develop in myself?

Once you've come up with a description of your imagined future self, keep it in front of you so you can see it every day to bring more strength to your vision.

Finally, what dawned on me is that getting to my ideal "Next Phase/Future Self" will require a great deal of personal growth and dedication on my part. Becoming a better version of yourself is a huge benefit of starting your own personal online business.

Starting a personal online business is the first step in a new phase of your life. When we know where we want to go, the first steps we take not only begin to create the business but also the person we need to become.

    Recap & Let's Do This!

    I realize this post was lengthy and I covered a lot so let's take a minute to recap before taking action ...

    First, it's perfectly normal to desire to pursue work that makes a positive impact in the world, but it's also perfectly normal to be unsure about how you can combine what you have to offer to make an impact.

    So why don't you take a little extra time to stir up your best ideas before taking action?

    Again, the 3 helpful exercises I outlined above to help you stir up some ideas are:

    1. Self-Reflection | Write Down Your Entire Life (You'll be happy you did this!)
    2. The Desires & Struggles Of Yourself & Others | Observe & Listen (An idea could be right under your nose!)
    3. Your Future Self | Imagine & Write Down Who You Want To Become (I know and you know that you can do anything you set your mind to!)

    Ok, now it's up to you to take action on what you just read!

    To help walk you through the 3 Exercises To Help You Find Your Online Business Idea, I created a printable, 7-page guide to help you! You can have it sent directly to your inbox by clicking the button below. 

    After you're done with the three exercises, I'd love for you to leave me a comment here to let me know how it went!

    Good luck and most importantly, have fun taking action! ~Ellie