Elizabeth Harrin learned early on that she was good at project management, and she liked it too. She set out to publish a book on the subject and became active on the conference circuit.
As an author, she needed a blog to be able to connect with her readers, so she started The Rebel’s Guide to Project Management. She was able to promote her books there and talk about her experience and expertise, which focused on sharing a more female experience of working in project management.
A combination of different strategies allowed her to become an authority over the years, and today she’s earning 6 figures from her site while only working part-time.
Keep reading to find out:
How she came to write her first book
How she approached her blog in the beginning
Where her income comes from
Which marketing strategies work for her
Her thoughts on SEO
Her approach to keyword research and link building
How she grows her email list
The tools and resources she uses
Her biggest challenge
Her main accomplishment
Her worst mistake
Her advice for other entrepreneurs
Meet Elizabeth Harrin
I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a job when I left university, so I joined a graduate training scheme.
At American Express, I discovered that project management was a job that required all the things I liked to do and it seemed to play to my strengths. I feel lucky that I was given the opportunity to discover the career early in my professional life and, as a result, I sought out project management roles.
I also really enjoyed writing, and wrote magazine articles throughout my time at university, although I really wanted to write a book before I was 30. My attempts at fiction were awful, and they do say write what you know, so I decided that a book about project management was the answer.
I pitched a proposal to a big publisher who took a year to say no, and then I sent the proposal to a smaller publisher who wanted more information almost straight away, which was fantastic as I was about to move to Paris for a new job.
I wrote the book in my apartment in Paris and at a cafe round the corner from my office during my lunch breaks. It came out a couple of months after my 30th birthday.
Why She Created Her Site
I started my blog, The Rebel’s Guide to Project Management because, apparently, book authors needed to have ways to reach readers. Back in 2006, blogging was quite different from how it is now!
My blog was originally called A Girl’s Guide to Project Management when I started it, but I changed it in 2022. This involved migrating to a new URL, and that was an effort but worth it.
There weren’t any side effects really. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.
Back when I started, I was writing about my life as a project manager, what it was like day to day doing the job, and sharing stories of living abroad. I was able to attend a lot of conferences, which gave me dozens of ideas for articles.
At the time, most of the people speaking at conferences and writing articles were men, which did not reflect my work experience, as the teams I had worked in were 50% women, at least.
I wanted to use my blog to reflect a more female experience of working in project management, what it was like to do the work, and to showcase the wide range of projects that female leaders managed.
Today, blogging is far more search-led than story-led, so I spend more time thinking about what other people would like to read.
I’ve deleted a lot of the story-led, short articles from the early years as no one really wants to read my first experiences of dying my hair or where I got my breakfast from on the way to work.
How Much She’s Earning
The Rebel’s Guide to Project Management makes money through a variety of income streams. I make low 6 figures a year in revenue, with around 50% profit margin.
Copywriting for other websites used to make up nearly half of my income, but in the last 2 years I’ve really scaled that down due to the time it takes.
I only work on my blog part-time now; however, during the worst of the pandemic, I was able to spend more time on it as I was self-employed at the time.
This is the breakdown from 2022-23:
My income streams are:
Product sales (templates and ebooks): My tripwire performs reasonably well, although it has dipped this year.
Membership site(s): I had two, but I have just closed the low ticket ($9/month) membership. Creating new assets every week was a struggle after 2 years, to be honest!
Kindle book sales: This is not a lot, but it does bring in some money each month.
Advertising: Currently, most of my direct-from-blog income is via Mediavine. Ad revenue is not passive, though. I’m constantly tweaking articles and trying to make sure they are optimized appropriately, but it is a nice income each month.
I find the site follows the standard ad revenue trends, e.g. RPMs dip during the first month of the quarter and Q4 is the best month for me.
Sponsored content: This is unreliable income, but it’s good when it happens! I rarely reach out to companies; they approach me and I have built up some long-standing relationships with brands that are a great fit for readers.
Sponsored content is either emails or blog posts, and I make sure that the content is fit for purpose and going to be engaging. I provide campaign stats afterward so we can track how effective it was, and I always try to understand the sponsor’s goals so I can meet their expectations.
Affiliate revenue: Some of my articles contain affiliate links.
Book royalties and speaker fees: Book royalties are much less than you would expect given the number of hours that go into writing and publishing, but having books provides credibility and it has been a great experience, especially as I have interviewed lots of experts and met interesting people as a result of writing.
My most recent book, Managing Multiple Projects, was shortlisted in the Business Book Awards this year, and the award ceremony evening was fantastic.
The site gets about 100k page views per month. Traffic is seasonal and dips during any national holidays and the weekends.
It’s pretty obvious from the Google Analytics graphs that people aren’t searching for project management advice when they’re not at work!
Elizabeth’s Top Marketing Strategy
As an author, I also do a fair amount of public speaking, so attending events and presenting on project management is a key marketing activity for me.
I confess that public speaking is not my favorite activity, though. I do get quite nervous! It’s part of the job of an author to promote my writing, and if it encourages people to check out my blog and my books, then it’s worth it.
During the worst of the Covid pandemic, my blog was my main job, but now I’ve gone back to employment, so I spend very few hours per week on the business.
I reply to emails and make sure my clients have what they need, but I rarely create new blog content any longer. I probably spend a couple of hours a week updating content or writing emails.
The Importance of SEO
Most of my traffic is from organic search, so SEO is incredibly important for my business.
I do spend time identifying keywords, but to be honest, so many of the core keywords in my industry have already been “taken.”
A lot of my time is spent updating old articles. I have over 1,000 articles, and I’ve already deleted loads of the more diary-based, personal-story-type blog articles that we all wrote on blogs 15 years ago.
Today, blogging is more about ranking keywords, which is a shame, as it means I’m writing fewer and fewer articles that are fun to research and write.
My goal is to write more thought leadership, advanced-level content but unfortunately, that’s not the sort of thing that ranks on Google. Fortunately, writing books provides an outlet for sharing new strategies and innovative ideas, things that people aren’t searching for yet as they don’t know they need to know!
I don’t think SEO is something you wake up and go, “Oh, I need to be doing SEO.” SEO is just a way of making sure your content reaches people. It’s optimizing for search and making sure you’re writing interesting and relevant things, and I hope I’ve always done that.
There was no moment where I realized I needed it, although I have realized over time that the blogging scene has changed, and blogs meet different needs now as users’ needs have changed, too.
I did take some blogging courses. The first one I took was from Ruth Soukup, which was really helpful.
I do share my content on social media, but the big challenge with that is having the time to engage appropriately on each channel. I think algorithms on social media prefer that you engage in real time instead of using scheduling tools to automate the process.
I do use scheduling tools, and I’m sure that if I was more present on social media I’d probably get better results. I do use Pinterest and I’m starting to use LinkedIn more.
I’ve worked in the niche for a long time, so I tend to use my professional judgment to identify keywords.
Also, I write what I would like to read. I’m sure that’s not the smartest keyword research starting point, but I have limited time for writing and I think there are already too many “how do I do this completely basic project management technique” articles out there, many on huge websites that I cannot compete with.
I tend to go after smaller topics aimed at a more advanced audience, but I do mix in some more general articles aimed at beginner and aspirational practitioners, as those do get a lot of searches.
I use Google Autocomplete, Search Console, and LowFruits for keyword validation.
I use HARO for link building as well as industry contacts.
Now, I’m much more choosy about who gets a link from me, and I do try to link organically to non-commercial links where it makes sense to do so.
Her Content Creation Process
I have experimented with AI for content creation and outlines, but as I’ve been writing about this topic for many years, I find that AI content needs to be so heavily edited that it’s just as fast to start from one of my own templates.
These days, most of my content creation is about editing old articles to ensure they’re relevant.
I would love to do more videos, but they are time-consuming and the standard of video editing and production in my niche is now so high that it would take me hours to compete… I just can’t, so I don’t.
Her Email List
I grow my list by offering free project management templates.
In reality, that means I’ve grown a large list of people who like free things. I absolutely would not recommend this strategy to newbie bloggers. Maintaining a whole load of freebies is so time-consuming.
Content upgrades are a valid strategy to get people on your list, but when you have to create and maintain 30 or so, the workflows, tags, and forms in ConvertKit are too much.
We streamlined everything into one resource library, so at least that’s just one workflow to manage now.
Here’s a view of 2022:
For the RGPM list, it’s 15,822 people.
Her Go-To Tools
The tools I use on a regular basis are:
FreeAgent, which manages all my accounting and invoicing
Infinity, which manages all my content archives, content planning calendar, and project/task lists
Frase, for keywords. When I’ve written an article, I’ll often run it through Frase to see if there are any more keywords I can include. Frase has loads of features I don’t use as well, so I really should learn more about what it can do.
Also, I use TidyCal for booking all client calls.
Her Main Challenge
My biggest challenge is time.
Before I had children it was easy to find time to work. As I’ve gotten older and had to learn how to balance family, my employment, and my blog and writing commitments, it is more of a juggle.
In theory, this should be easy: I literally wrote the book on Managing Multiple Projects! But in practice, as any working parent will tell you, you end up feeling like you’re not doing anything properly.
I can’t blog until midnight any longer and then still get up to do a full day’s work.
Her Greatest Accomplishment
I was contacted by a reader from Africa who was teaching girls and he said he used my blog as an example of a job that women could do.
It sounds rubbish when I say it now, but it really made me realize that what I do is teaching people the skills to do a job and showing them how I do it and that it is possible.
If that provides inspiration for young people thinking about future career paths, then that’s fantastic.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I wish I had given more thought to my approach to advertising. Direct ads are more lucrative than ad networks when you’re small. Upgrade to a good ad network as soon as possible.
I waited until I was at about 60k pageviews before applying for Mediavine! Don’t wait that long!
Her Biggest Mistake
My main mistake would be comparing myself to others. There are some big, successful blogs in my space. I want to be like them, and I think I’m good enough to be like them. But it’s not something I do full-time.
I have a VA who works 8 hours a week, but that’s it. It’s just the two of us. If we’re talking about pageviews, the blogs that do better than me have teams of people behind the scenes.
I’m an English Lit graduate who learned HTML and CSS so I could style my own web pages, back when we had to FTP files into WordPress to make any changes. I’ve learned a lot over the years, but I’m not going to compete with a team of UX designers, web editors, graphic designers, community managers, and SEOs.
And yet I still compare myself and wish I had the time and skills to do more, better!
Her Advice to Other Entrepreneurs
Get testimonials. Now. Even with one sale. Even with your freebies.
Don’t wait until you think you might need testimonials. Email back people who say nice things and ask to quote their email comments.
I still don’t really use them as much as I should. I put them on the cart pages and I hope that the social proof increases conversions but I could do a lot more with all the comments.