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Losing my job was one of the most horrible and wonderful things to happen to me.
For four months, I was in limbo. Paychecks stopped being deposited. Savings accounts started dwindling. Ramen noodle consumption skyrocketed.
This wasn’t part of “the plan.”
It wasn’t what I had in mind when I entered the work force 12 years ago. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I worked 40+ hours a week while going to graduate school. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I proposed to my wife, confident in the knowledge I would be able to financially support her and our future family.
And yet, there I was. Contemplating our future. Contemplating a career change. Contemplating whether or not to put on pants that particular day.
Somehow, as He often does, God blessed me during this trial. Oh, sure, I was worried about finding work and paying bills. But this worry couldn’t override the fact I was able to spend every morning, every afternoon, and every evening with my wife.
We woke up and, instead of me having to rush off to work, we had coffee together. Instead of working on [top secret projects] in my windowless office, I helped my wife wash dishes while looking out our kitchen window. Instead of eating lunch at my desk while watching cat videos on YouTube, I had lunch with my wife on the couch while we watched Netflix.
When the phone call came telling those of us who remained to come back to work, it was a bittersweet moment. Sweet because I could stop worrying about money. Bitter because what I would be giving up…
I loved being at home with my wife.
The Start of Something Good
Sometime during those 4-months of limbo, I decided I wanted to find a way to work from home. Honestly, I’m not sure why the thought hadn’t occurred to me before. I do four things well — develop websites, blog, teach, and sneeze with my eyes open — and three of those things are ideal for home-based businesses.
I had been a teacher for 3 years. I had been blogging for almost 10. I had been developing websites for over a decade, and creating custom WordPress themes for almost as long. Why wasn’t I using my experience to help other bloggers?
That’s when the idea for Be A Better Blogger was born.
Using Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger as inspiration, I wanted to create the greatest “blogging on blogging” blog since… well, ProBlogger. At the same time, I wanted to present content in a way people weren’t accustomed.
I wanted to be motivational. I wanted to be entertaining. I wanted to be funny. Much like I did when I taught classrooms full of high school freshmen, I wanted my readers to not even realize they were learning.
If I could accomplish this tricky feat more times than not, I knew I had a chance to be successful.
A year later, this idea has turned into a thriving blog. I’ve written the most popular guest post in the history of Jon Morrow’s Boost Blog Traffic. I’ve gone from 22 to 21,704 (and climbing) followers on Google+. I’ve made more blogging friends than you can shake a stick at (if you were inclined to do so for some reason).
I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed. A year ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed I could be here right now. Here is great. Here is awesome.
But here isn’t enough.
I Dreamed Big
If my goal was for Be A Better Blogger to earn enough money to buy Starbucks once a month, then guess who has two thumbs and one vanilla latte? That’s right. This guy.
“No, I don’t want a ‘tall,’ Mr. Barista. Give me the ‘grande’ size. It’s been a good month!”
However, that wasn’t my goal. I dreamed bigger. A good bit bigger.
My goal is to do this for a living.
I want to be able to quit my day job, work from home, and spend as much time with my wife and our future children as I possibly can.
That’s my goal.
And to reach it, I can’t be content with “nice traffic.” I need great traffic.
I don’t need several thousand followers on social media. I need tens of thousands.
I don’t need a few hundred email subscribers. I need ten times that many.
Aiming high? You better believe it. And to be where I want to be, I have to constantly be thinking several moves ahead.
Enter the Rainmaker Platform by Copyblogger.
What Rainmaker is
Some of you may already be familiar with it, but I imagine most of my readers know very little about it. And if you Google information on the Rainmaker Platform, you’ll find descriptions like “all-in-one platform” and “turn-key website solution.”
Those descriptions are simultaneously accurate… and ridiculously vague.
Rainmaker is a powerful, hosted platform built on WordPress. For a monthly (or annual) fee, your website runs on the platform, is hosted by Copyblogger’s fast and secure servers, and has access to a growing list of features.
I’ll discuss those features (or at least the ones which compelled me to sign up) momentarily.
What Rainmaker is Not
It’s not a domain registrar. You need to already have your own domain name, such as beabetterblogger.com, or you need to go to a registrar such as GoDaddy or Namecheap to buy one.
It’s not an email provider. If you want to have an address such as firstname.lastname@example.org, this capability is not offered by Rainmaker (“due to performance and security reasons”). You will have to use a service like Google Apps Email or GoDaddy’s Email Essentials, which costs $4 to $5 per month.
It’s not for bloggers who love plugins. Because it’s a hosted platform, you can’t just pick and install any plugin you desire. (More on this one in a little bit.)
It’s not for casual bloggers. If you have zero plans to monetize your blog or website, Rainmaker is an unnecessary luxury. Could it get the job done? Of course. But it would be overkill.
Finally, it’s not irreplaceable. By this I mean you could duplicate most of, if not all of, what Rainmaker offers. You could buy a premium theme here, a hosting account there, a plugin here, a tool there… wash, rinse, and repeat. And if done properly, the end result could be just as good as a site built with Rainmaker.
It just will have cost you more. More of your money. More of your time.
Why I Switched to the Rainmaker Platform
I’m a frugal guy. I value… well, value.
That’s the difference between someone who is cheap, and someone who is frugal. A cheap person doesn’t like to spend money period. A frugal person will happily spend money if it’s a good deal.
A cheap person would never purchase something like Rainmaker. Never in a million years.
But a frugal guy like me? A guy who will gladly spend $1 today if it will save him $2 tomorrow? Such a guy would research it, strongly consider it, and pray about it.
And that’s what I did.
What I soon realized is Rainmaker could eliminate certain expenses I have today, and many expenses I planned to take on in the future.
Expenses such as…
Starting at $37 per month (paid quarterly), LeadPages is a lead-generation platform which helps you turn readers into subscribers. In this screenshot, you can see an example of LeadPages used by my friend Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard.
I signed up for LeadPages after being blown away by its amazing features. It allowed me to create “LeadBoxes” like the one used by Adam in the image, and it let me create some slick-looking landing pages.
And it’s worked. The number of subscribers I’ve gained since signing up for LeadPages has gone way up!
But it costs $37 a month.
That’s over 1/3 the cost of Rainmaker, which covers some of the same territory as LeadPages.
I won’t have as many templates for landing pages to choose from with Rainmaker as I do with LeadPages, but the number is more than adequate and the quality is excellent. My Welcome page was created using Rainmaker’s landing page template.
Is it a perfect replacement? No, but combined with AWeber and free options offered by SumoMe, I won’t be hurting for list-building tools if I decide to leave LeadPages.
Buffer / Hootsuite
Buffer and Hootsuite are social media management systems. Both offer free plans, and their paid plans cost around $10 a month.
These tools allow you to schedule updates on social media platforms in advance. So, for example, if I was about to go on vacation for a week, I could schedule it so tweets would be published throughout the week while I was away.
I could be sleeping, swimming at the beach, or fighting a bear in the mountains; all the while my Twitter account is posting tweets promoting my “The Howdy Neighbor Technique” post.
Scheduling tools like these come in very handy as you get more involved in social media. And the bigger you get, the bigger your needs. In the past, I have used Buffer’s free plan. But upgrading to their paid plan is something I’d already planned on doing sometime soon.
Well, now I won’t have to.
One of the newer features of Rainmaker is “social media posting and scheduling.” I’m able to schedule tweets hours, days, and weeks in advance. And I’m able to do it right there in my Rainmaker dashboard.
I’m a huge fan of AWeber. It’s an opt-in email marketing service used by over 120,000 businesses, bloggers, and entrepreneurs.
When a reader subscribes using one of my forms here at Be A Better Blogger, they’re added to a mailing list maintained by AWeber. I can then email my list, and AWeber works to ensure my messages aren’t labeled as spam. I’m able to track subscribers, see who is opening my emails, see who is clicking on links in my emails, and much more.
You’ve probably heard other bloggers say “the money is in the list.” That’s true, and it should give you an idea how important it is use a reliable email service.
However, “reliable” usually isn’t free. And in AWeber’s case, it sets you back $19 a month if you have 500 subscribers or less. Have more than 500? It’ll cost you $29 a month. Have more than 2,500 subscribers? Now you’re paying $49 a month.
You can see where this is going. The more subscribers you have (yea!) the more you pay (boo!). And if God smiles down at me and grants me 10,000 or more subscribers, I’ll be paying a whopping $130 a month to AWeber.
Granted, you can chalk this up as one of those “nice problems to have.”
But what if you could eliminate the excess cost from the equation?
One feature Rainmaker will be implementing in the months to come is an “integrated email service.” Once it’s launched, and once it’s worked out any bugs it might have, I could cancel AWeber and switch my list over to it.
And I will be saving $19, $29, $49, etc. each month when I do.
To quote Annie Edison: “That’s jacket money!”
Over the years, I’ve looked into several influential blogging communities.
Jon Morrow offers an excellent course called “Serious Bloggers Only,” which includes a private community of bloggers looking to better their craft. It costs $49 a month.
I looked at Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger Community, which cost $27 per month (and now appears to closed to new members).
And I’ve looked at Copyblogger’s “Authority,” a content marketing and training community which boasts among its instructors… Jon Morrow and Darren Rowse.
Of the three, Authority is the one I’ve considered strongest. My friend Henneke Duistermaat, one of the best writers I’ve ever come across, is a member. And she had this to say about it:
Most of what I know about content marketing and copywriting I have learned from the team at Copyblogger.”
Coming from someone like Henneke, this is high praise.
Of course, the downside is Authority costs $399 annually, which works out to $33.25 per month. That’s a pretty penny, and it’s why I had yet to take the plunge.
Thanks to Rainmaker, I’ll never have to.
As part of the Rainmaker Platform, you gain membership to Authority. It’s included in Rainmaker’s price.
That’s a huge bonus.
“Okay, Kevin. You’re frugal and Rainmaker will cut down on future expenses for you. But what else?”
I get it. I know frugality means little in a vacuum.
Rainmaker helps me with those expenses, but they’re voluntary expenses. I don’t have to use an email service like AWeber. I don’t have to use Hootsuite or Buffer. And I certainly don’t have to pay for a training community like Authority.
These are expenses I’ve taken on, or will soon take on, because I believe they’re necessary. I believe I need them to help me be the best blogger I can be. I believe I need them to help take my blog from here…to there.
Having the potential to eliminate the aforementioned expenses is how a platform like Rainmaker gets the attention of a frugal guy like me.
It makes me sit up and take notice.
Then it gets the wheels in my head turning.
“Wow, imagine what I could do with that.” Or, “boy… the things I could do with this feature.”
Rainmaker is designed for people who mean business. It’s designed to help you go from where you are to where you want to be.
It’s designed for the dreamers like me.
I didn’t “need” Rainmaker in order to reach my goal of working from home full time. But as I researched and prayed about it, it became clear the platform would give me a far better chance…
My site would be hosted on state-of-the-art servers, the same used by Copyblogger and Chris Brogan
Previously, Be A Better Blogger was hosted on a shared server which cost me $3.96 per month. As a starter host, it was fine. It served my needs well. The site rarely experienced down time, and the customer support was adequate.
But was it fast? Was it secure?
No. No it wasn’t.
According to Alexa.com, 87% of sites are faster than Be A Better Blogger. This was despite the fact it was built on the Genesis Framework, which is known for its clean code, and designed by yours truly, a trained web developer who created the theme with speed in mind.
My web host was friendly to my wallet, but it wasn’t friendly to my visitors. Online, speed is the name of the game. And if Be A Better Blogger was slower than 87% of the sites online, my site was losing.
From now on, my readers will get to experience a faster website. I’ve gone from a 4 cylinder engine to an 8. And I no longer have to deal with upgrading my site someday once it gets more popular. I’m already with a web host built for large traffic.
I could easily create free or paid membership areas
Maybe I have a few PDF bonuses. Maybe I have an eBook. Maybe I have a never-before-seen blog post titled “What the Little Mermaid Can Teach Us About Blogging.”
With Rainmaker, I could create a library or membership area on Be A Better Blogger. When someone joins it, they would be granted access to all the content I made available for members.
By offering a free members area, I could entice more people to join my mailing list. This is a strategy used successfully by numerous businesses and blog owners, including my friend Bryan Harris of Video Fruit.
Thanks to Rainmaker, it’s a strategy I can easily implement one day, too.
I could easily sell my products
The free content I create each week will never end. I enjoy blogging too, too much for it to ever go away. Still, the reality is it serves a greater purpose.
The more content I create, the more readers and subscribers I gain. The more readers and subscribers I gain, the more people who will buy or promote my digital products. The more people who buy my digital products, the more feasible “quitting my day job” becomes.
And once I’m ready to join my friends Jaime Buckley and Brittany Bullen in the book-writing game, Rainmaker will make it easy for me to sell my products thanks to its integrated shopping-cart and merchant features.
It would eliminate distractions
I’ve been a web developer for 13 years. I’m also a micro-manager. I’m also a perfectionist.
Know what that means? Well, yes, it means I have the ability to drive my wife crazy. But mainly, it means I can’t… stop… redesigning.
Be A Better Blogger is a year old, and yet I have “tweaked” its design approximately 274 times. And I’ve tested countless number of plugins.
Most of these tweaks and plugins have been very, very small.
And that’s the point. I’m tweaking and changing things which 99.9% of my readers won’t even notice. In most cases, my wife and I are the only ones who notice. And the only reason she notices sometimes is because I point them out to her.
This is a horrible, horrible use of my time.
There’s no money in it. I’m simply scratching an itch. Don’t you think my time would be far better served writing blog posts? Or working on an eBook? Or connecting with new bloggers?
Absolutely it would.
Rainmaker comes with 27 HTML5 responsive designs to choose from, most of which have multiple color options. I do have the ability to submit my own custom theme for review, but I’ve made a conscious decision not to do so.
I picked one of the 27 designs. Yes, I tweaked it. (They provide the Custom CSS option. I couldn’t help myself.) But there’s only so much I can change these existing themes.
Besides, they don’t need changing. These designs are the same premium Genesis themes sold by StudioPress. They’re beautiful. I picked the one I liked best, put my own spin on it, and now I’m leaving it alone.
True, it requires a bit of self control on my part. I can constantly tweak the CSS if I so choose. It’s going to be on me not to do so.
As for plugins, yes, I can no longer install any WordPress plugin I desire.
That’s simply a product of hosted platforms. I’m limited to what Rainmaker offers.
Many of the plugins I used and enjoyed previously are no longer an option for me. Goodbye CommentLuv. Goodbye Q2W3 Sticky Widget. Goodbye “subscribe to replies to your comment” plugin (and sorry I can’t remember your name).
Some of these I’ll definitely miss. Some were incredibly useful.
But did I need all of them? Not really.
Plugins are like potato chips. When you start out, you plan on only having one or two. Next thing you know the entire bag is gone. For WordPress users, what starts out as a handful of “essential” plugins soon turns into baker’s dozen. Times two. Plus seven.
Heck, I routinely fell into the trap even though I knew better. Plugins slow down your site. They break. They have to be updated over and over.
Honestly? It’s a relief not having to deal with them anymore. Now, I can…
Focus on What Matters
Writing. Promoting. Networking. Creating digital products. Responding to comments readers have left me. Building my list.
I don’t have to worry about security, upgrades, maintenance, and hosting headaches. Rainmaker handles those.
I don’t have to hunt for tools to help me optimize my content for search engines and social media. Rainmaker has those tools built right in.
Soon, I won’t have to use separate tools for social media and email marketing (or have to pay extra for said tools). Rainmaker will soon be providing both right in my dashboard.
Rainmaker is going to make everything easier for me. I like easy. And, frankly, I’ve been doing it the hard way for far, far too long.
It’s finally time I let someone else carry my luggage. It’s heavy! Besides, I have a big journey ahead of me…
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
A couple years ago, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers referenced a book by Marshall Goldsmith to explain why he was about to begin producing YouTube videos.
The book was titled “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful.”
Derek had already reached an enviable level of success by this point, but he knew the things which had gotten him to his current level at the time — blog posts and podcasts — weren’t enough to get him to the next level. He didn’t want to plateau, so he added “video” to his arsenal.
Though I’m several rungs down the success ladder today than Derek was two years ago, I was approaching the same crossroads in which he found himself. I could have been passive, waited until I hit the inevitable plateau, and figured out a solution when the time came…
Or, I could be proactive. I could position Be A Better Blogger with the future — not what’s worked for me in the past — in mind. I could give my dream its best chance for success.
I chose the latter.
I chose Rainmaker to make it easier to grow my site. Whether it’s a membership area, forum, podcast, or something else entirely, I now have integrated tools to make it happen. I can now do A/B testing, to see what’s working and what isn’t. I can now track my progress without getting elbow deep into Google Analytics. I can now spend less time updating plugins and themes, and more time updating content.
I can now focus on the important things.
The Rainmaker Platform has every feature I need today, every feature I’ll need tomorrow, and probably every feature I don’t yet know I need.
It’s my very own dreamcatcher.
I’ll be home shortly, Sweetie. See you soon.