Interview with Heather Hernandez – Founder of Freebies 4 Mom
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I had a hobby of finding freebies online as I was learning to save money for my family of four. I shared what I found by sending out an email to my friends once a week. Well, my friends told their friends and my email list quickly grew so large that I was warned by my email provider to stop sending out emails to hundreds of people.
A computer-savvy friend gave me the push I needed to start a blog (I barely knew what a blog was). I started Freebies4Mom.com in October 2007 when my two kids were 2 years and 11 months old. I was determined to find a way to make money from home so I could be home full-time with my kids. I had no idea my blog could become a business, but I’ve monetized it from day 1 because I wanted to remain open to the opportunity of making money.
After a few months, I started making enough money that I could quit my part-time technical editing job I was doing from home. One year after starting my blog, I was contacted by Inside Edition and they came to my house to film a segment about finding freebies. The segment was included in their ‘Best of 2009’ so I got maximum exposure from the national TV appearance. Someone working for The Tyra Banks Show saw me on Inside Edition and invited me to go to New York City to be on a panel of experts for their Free Stuff show. The national exposure those two appearances gave me helped launch my business into a successful business. I work full-time from home and love every day of it!
How are you growing your audience?
I’m saying “YES” to most opportunities that will lead to a mention of Freebies 4 Mom on a website, print media, or television. I was just featured on Fox 26 Houston’s Savvy segment and got wonderful local exposure from it. It was an opportunity that almost didn’t work out because they called me while I was on vacation, filming at my house would be the day after we returned, I had to take my son to the doctor that morning instead of taking him to summer camp, breaking news delayed filming, and they couldn’t find my house. I’m glad everything worked out, but it reminded me that I need to be careful about saying yes to every opportunity because it can make life too crazy.
I’m spending time making all of my graphics Pinterest-friendly because you can’t control what people will pin from your site. I assume that every image could be pinned and I’m going to spend time making all of those images look better on Pinterest. I’m learning how to take better photos without buying a new camera. I’ve setup a “photo studio” by placing a folding table beside a window in my guest bedroom. I have two large pieces of foam board in three colors (white, black, and blue) so I can place one on the table and one leaning against the window shutter. This gives me the best natural light without going outside, plus I get a great solid background for adding text using PicMonkey.
What is your number one source of traffic?
Facebook is my top source of traffic. I love the interaction I get with my fans on Facebook, but I hate how Facebook controls who sees my content and is making it harder and harder to reach my 195,000+ fans. Diversifying your traffic sources is a great strategy if your business relies on traffic to produce income, but it’s hard to be on all social media channels at all times. I’m a fan of “live interaction” on social media rather than “schedule & forget it”. I think fans can tell when you’re not really there, and I think they expect some feedback from you. To make my “live” approach possible, I post the same (or similar) message on four social media channels at the same time (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, G+).
What types of monetization work best for you?
As ad and affiliate revenue is falling, I’m doing more sponsored posts and giveaways. I absolutely love hosting giveaways and giving out prizes to my readers, but it’s challenging to find companies that can pay a fee for a sponsored giveaway.
How did you take your blog to the next level?
I’m learning how to grow my business with the help of business coach Amy Applebaum. She helped me launch a redesign in May to help me communicate my mission and attract more email subscribers. Amy’s also helping me focus on income-producing results and I’ve been able to grow my revenue since working with her.
What advice would you give to a coupon/money-saving blogger?
Diversify everything – your sources of traffic, your sources of income, your content. Always learn new things and adapt your blog to the needs of your readers and changing social media trends.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I’m a great example of what not to do when working from home, because I’m constantly on the verge of burnout. I work all hours of the day and I work while on vacation. It’s strange, but I enjoy working too much to take a vacation from it completely. So when I’m on vacation, I still work but just less hours than normal. I’m trying to find more balance by not working on the weekend, but the truth is I’m a slave to the content and if I know about a hot new freebie then I’m going to take the time to post it.
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