Millo is a blog with 1,200+ articles that generates $12,500/mo. Find out how Preston Lee figured out unique ways to monetize and bring in serious revenue.
Revenue of $12,500/mo
Email list size of 43,600
Founded in 2009
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
Hi! My name is Preston Lee and I run Millo which is a blog and media company focused on helping freelancers & solopreneurs. After freelancing myself during my final 2 years of college, I realized there was a serious lack of quality content and resources for freelancers on the web.
Years later, we have a large blog with 1,200+ articles, an active newsletter, and 3 podcasts and a few upcoming video series. We love helping people get started and grow their business as freelancers/solopreneurs.
Last Fall, after building the blog as a side-hustle since 2009, I finally took it 100% full-time. Together with my extraordinary team, we reach hundreds of thousands of readers and the blog brings in a healthy 6 figures every year.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
Millo started as a graphic design blog in 2009 under the name Graphic Design Blender. After about a year of writing about all things design, I realized I was a better writer & the content resonated more with my audience when I wrote specifically about the “business of design”.
I began sharing my own experiences in growing my solo business and recruited other freelancers and solopreneurs to submit their own experiences in the format of articles on the blog.
Eventually, we rebranded as Millo and we now focus on freelancers of all kinds—not just designers.
As I’ve continued from freelancer to side-hustler to full-time solopreneur, I’ve continued to share what I learn along the way and we continue to recruit solopreneurs with interesting stories and tactics to share.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
We have two primary revenue models currently at Millo. First, is sponsorships. We partner with like-minded companies who share our mission to improve the lives of freelancers and solopreneurs. These companies financially support our blog, newsletter, and podcasts via sponsorships. Occasionally but more rarely, these sponsorships are also generous affiliate arrangements.
We also have a subscription-based product called SolidGigs which is a weekly gig list for freelance writers, designers, marketers, and developers. Each week our SolidGigs team combs every single gig list and job board we know about on the internet and filters out all the worst gigs, sending our members only the top 2% of all the freelance gigs on the web.
Finally, we are also experimenting (and seeing pretty good results) with some more product creation (like with our course Cold Emails that Convert) and affiliate arrangements—working on a core affiliate strategy.'Building a blog is definitely not the fastest path to revenue. So if you’re looking to actually make profits fast from your business, consider other options.'Click To Tweet
It took me a couple years to treat my blog less like an experiment or a hobby and more like a business, but once I did, it only took a year or so before my blog was making more than I was making at my desk job.
Today, we average anywhere from $10-$15k/month through the blog in top-line revenue. Of course, there are a lot of expenses that come with that including producing 3+ podcasts, paying writers and content managers, and paying other incredibly vital members of our team. I personally make a modest fraction of that as take-home pay.
My best advice would be to treat your blog like a business—if you hope to make money from it. Focusing on how many comments you get, pageviews, how many shares your articles get, etc. is completely irrelevant if you’re not making money. Also, don’t just take the low-hanging fruit of network advertising (like Adsense or its more sophisticated counterparts). Where many bloggers are happy with a $10-20 CPM across their site via overdone and intrusive advertising, we’ve been able to achieve more like $60-80 CPMs using direct sales and much more human approach.
What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?
I used to link traffic with revenue at Millo. I used to think they went hand-in-hand. And for many bloggers who rely on ad networks to generate their revenue, it does rely 100% on traffic to your site.
So, allow me to say first of all: traffic isn’t everything. Millo only gets about 100K-130K pageviews per month. On an ad network, that might convert to $500-$1,000 USD. But Millo is bringing in over 20x that without major spikes in our traffic.
For anyone starting a blog they hope to treat as a business, I’d advise them to find the fastest path to revenue. They’ll quickly find that traffic is usually not the fastest path. You have to have millions of pageviews to make any sort of substantial money with an ad network and, in most cases, it takes full teams with decent funding to quickly get to millions of pageviews each month.
Focus on connecting with the people that do read your content; on helping them; serving them. These will be the people that will talk about you on social media. The people who will buy your products. I’d rather have 1,000 true fans any day (maybe you’ve heard the concept) than thousands of meaningless pageviews.
Once you’ve connected with people on a deeper level, use them as a support to help get your message out, identify blog topics, and grow your audience. Never underestimate how much someone who has been truly impacted by your work is willing to help you.
How have you grown the email list?
Our email list is currently at around 44,000 subscribers and is one of our primary means of driving traffic to the site.
We’ve tried all sorts of things with the list including 3x weekly newsletter, daily newsletter, and—what we do now—a once-a-week round-up newsletter.
Email list growth will almost never happen organically. Give people a reason to subscribe to your list. Offer them a lead magnet that is actually valuable and then deliver real value whenever you send your email. Utilize your email software to segment your list to deliver the right resources to the right people and build rapport with each individual.
If you want your list to grow, you have to give it a lot of attention and be constantly strategizing new ways to gain subscribers. But it’s worth it. An email subscriber is far more valuable than a Facebook like or a Pinterest follower.
How do you write great content that performs well?
I don’t write a ton of the content on the blog these days. Primarily, we host freelancers and solopreneurs in the trenches who want to share their stories and expertise.
But the content that always performs the best (1) tells a great story and (2) delivers a ton of valuable answers to questions our readers have.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Because my blog was a side-hustle for so many years, most of my biggest challenges had to do with time management. I wasn’t able to grow as quickly as I had wanted because my job and family often had to take priority. Even today, as I’m now full-time on the blog, the biggest challenge is not having enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I dream about doing.
Additionally, the site was hacked in 2013 pretty maliciously and it took upwards of a month to recover. So that was awful. Having team members leave with short notice and publishing or sending something that really upsets our audience are all common struggles.
If I had to start over now (which I’ve done in other niches) I’d focus on the high-revenue tactics first. Building a blog is definitely not the fastest path to revenue. So if you’re looking to actually make profits fast from your business, consider other options. But blogging is definitely one of the most fun and most rewarding ways to make money.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One book that changed how I thought about everything regarding entpreneurship was Chris Guillebeau’s book The Art of Non-Conformity. His follow-up book, The $100 Startup is also a must-read for any bootstrapper or solopreneur.
I also use some really excellent tools to manage the team and blog and to grow revenue.
A few include:
And also, a ton of success of any kind depends immensely on luck. But you create opportunities for luck the harder you work and the more often you show up to the get the work done.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
Focus on distribution. Even if you have the best writing in the world, if you don’t have a way to get it in front of people, you’ll never see any real traction.
This could mean guest blogging, building a Facebook group, or partnering with other bloggers in more creative ways.
But don’t spend years writing to no one as so many bloggers do. Get smart about building a distribution strategy and spend way more time on that than you do on your writing.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can find everything we produce at Millo.co. Including our newsletter, podcasts, blog, free guides, free FB group and more. You can also search “millo” or “milloteam” on most social platforms or in Apple Podcasts to find us there.