Welcome to yet another series of The Aha!NOW Chat. I’ve with me a special guest for today’s interview. He is a well-known blogger who’s one of the top earners, a blogging idol of many, very helpful, and a person known for his humbleness.
He’s none other than Harsh Agrawal and he certainly needs no introduction. All I can say is that he was already dominating the blogging arena much before I started blogging.
He has shown that it really takes courage, determination, passionate labor, and smart blogging skills to be a successful blogger, and that language or nationality is not a hindrance at all to excel in blogging.
I won’t keep you waiting, so let’s start with the interview right away.
Interview with Harsh Agrawal
Q1: Welcome to Aha!NOW, Harsh. You surely don’t need any introduction to my Indian visitors, but since my blog audience is mostly International, I’d request you to introduce yourself to my blog community.
Harsh: Hey Harleena, Thanks for the warm welcome and it would be my honor to introduce myself in-front of your audience. Hey all, I’m +Harsh Agrawal from New Delhi, and a blogger by profession.
In the year 2008, I graduated from an engineering college (Sharda university) and since then I’m a self-employed professional blogger.
I started my blogging career with ShoutMeLoud, which is an award winning blog, where I teach people about blogging and how they can earn money from home.
Along with ShoutMeLoud, I run a group of blogs (ShoutMeTech, Wpfreesetup, ShoutMyDomain) under the banner ShoutDreams.
Along with blogging, I’m also a speaker and I share my tips and learning via online and offline seminar. You can check out one of my seminar over here. When I’m not blogging, you will usually find me doing adventure sports or learning something new.
Q2: Tell us something about your childhood, growing up, and your family. Did you have any entrepreneurial influences early in your life?
Harsh: My childhood was just like a typical young kid’s childhood, where I used to play more and study less. One of the most influential impacts on my life is of my Grandfather, who is no less than an entrepreneur of the 70’s.
We belong to a small town of Rajasthan, near Pilani (India), my grandfather moved from there in his young age with almost no money, and within 20 years he had set up his own business empire and a big family in a city called Deoghar in Jharkhand (India).
I believe entrepreneurship in that era was all about creating something from nothing. Moreover, it’s not only about money, but to find the balance between money, life, and happiness.
From my grandfather I learned many things and one of them is to value the time, and value the money. I’m still struggling with learning the second part, but he is the one person that is my consistent source of inspiration and motivation.
Q3: How and when did you get the idea to start a blog? How long did it take you to get serious about blogging?
Harsh: I was quite fascinated with the idea of websites back in the days of my college. I used to browse and read many websites/blogs back then like Lifehacker, Lifehack to name a few.
At the same time, I used to play with many new tools, software and used to come up with my own solutions to common Internet and computer related problems.
After finishing college, I started my first blog to share all those non-bookish knowledge, which I acquired while completing my engineering degree, and got decent appreciation from readers.
Later on, I saw great earning potential from blogging via affiliate marketing and advertising, and decided to take that risk of choosing blogging as a career.
Q4: How did your family react to you becoming a blogger? Did you have supportive parents?
Harsh: My family was quite supportive but at the same time they were little worried.
Parents were quite ok and confident with my decision, but my brother wanted me to work in some multi-national company for a couple of years to gain corporate knowledge.
I didn’t disagree with his point of view, as blogging was not a risk-free and popular career option at that time and was not something very common. Probably, I would have suggested something similar for my younger brother too.
Over all, they didn’t interfere with my final decision and were quite supportive since then.
Q5: What were the initial difficulties you faced in your blogging journey and how did you tackle them?
Harsh: One of the biggest challenges that I faced in the initial days was setting up the theme of my blog.
It was literally a headache and I used to change the blog theme after every 1-2 week to make it more friendly and ended up messing it up more. In fact, I consider this as my biggest time-waster of initial days and should have hired someone to get it done.
Though, with almost no budget, I believe it helped me to learn a lot about WordPress. Later on one of my friend (@honeytech) helped me to set up ShoutmeLoud theme on Thesis theme. Later on, I hired a full-time designer/coder to design all my websites.
Another biggest challenge was driving traffic to my blog and SEO sounded like rocket-science to me.
After lots of silly SEO mistakes and failing to find the right person to do SEO optimization of my blog, I learned it myself and I’m now managing my blog’s SEO.
Q6: When and how did you earn your first buck from your blog? Do you offer any products or services? What is your main source of earning online presently?
Harsh: My first online earning was from not my blog, but by helping a guy with small issue related to his Webmaster tool, which was only $10 but none less than a golden trophy back in those days. My first blog earning was from Dreamhost affiliate program and it was $47.
I’m working on my first real product as a blogging course, and pre-sign up page is ready at http://shoutuniversity.com
Along with this, I offer Panda recovery and personal blog coaching service at this time.
Over the time I realize, product is always better than service, as with product I can offer better quality and reach out to more people, whereas services are not only tiring but require a great deal of time and energy which is not worth it; in comparison to product.
Q7: Honestly, do you think your blogging job is better than having a 9 to 5 job? How many hours a day do you work, and what is your daily schedule like?
Harsh: Anytime blogging is better than working for some other company, as with blogging you are your own boss and moreover you can earn way more than a traditional 9-5 job.
When I started blogging, I used to work almost 16 hours a day, and these days I work only 6-8 hours depending upon work. Moreover, I haven’t worked much from the last 2 months but it didn’t impact my revenue or blog growth in any ways.
Usually my schedule is to work for minimum of 6 hours a day and the timings are flexible.
When I’m not working, I usually go out and socialize. Along with that, I spend one hour on Yoga to keep my body and mind fresh.
Q8: What is your long-term vision of blogging? How should a blogger prepare for the changes in the coming times to stay ahead in blogging?
Harsh: Blogging is constantly changing and evolving. A blogger needs to be open-minded when it comes to adopting new variation, technology, and ideas.
Video blogging is what I highly recommend and more importantly, focusing on mobile and tablet audience to ride the mobile wave as early as possible.
Make sure to have your own product, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Q9: How do you find time for your family from your blogging schedule? How do you spend your “me” time and what are your favorite pastime hobbies?
Harsh: Wow, that’s quite a question because finding this balance is always challenging for anyone who works from home.
I have a home-office and when I’m inside my office, that’s my “do not disturb time”. I ensure that I give ample time to my family.
My “me time” is learning something new, which doesn’t have to be related to blogging, it could be as silly as learning how to paint a wall or tie my shoelace properly.
Music, photography, long drives are a few things that usually consist of my favorite hobbies.
Q10: You’re a software engineer by qualification. Did it make a difference and help you in your blogging career?
Harsh: It indeed helped me a bit to understand web hosting and the technical aspect of blogging, but I don’t see much impact of my engineering qualification in blogging.
And yes, it also helped me to sit in-front of computer for hours without getting agitated or tired, which is certainly a bonus.
Q11: What do you assess are the reasons for your blogging success? What course of action should bloggers take in today’s competitive blogging to be successful?
Harsh: Definition of success varies from person to person, and for me blogging success is earning enough and sharing things that matters.
Create your unique style and be honest. Make your blog worthy rather than becoming “Just another blog”. Bloggers need to be dynamic in their online and personal life to be truly successful.
One can’t really be successful if he or she is truly a hero online, and not worthy in offline life.
Q12: What are the important software and plugins you use on your blog? What do you rely on for the SEO of your blog?
Harsh: Here are some of the tools that I use as of May 2014 (List may change in future, so you can always bookmark this blogging resource page for updated list).
- WPEngine: Reliable Web-hosting for WordPress. It’s quite costly, but after shifting to them I had almost negligible headache when it comes to managing my server.
- Integrity: This is a desktop tool to check broken links on a website.
- Gocodes: For managing affiliate links on my blog.
- Wangguard: Useful prevent spam registration.
- OptinMonster: Premium Email subscriber pop-up plugin.
- Snag-it: For image capturing
- Camtasia: For Video blogging and recording.
- Dreamfoot.in: Company I’m currently using for video editing.
- SEMRUSH: Best tool for finding new keywords for your niche blog. Check this video to learn how to use it for finding keywords.
Q13: How do you manage your social media and how much time should a blogger devote to it? How much of your blogging work do you outsource or delegate?
Harsh: I use couple of tools to manage all my social media needs like Bufferapp, Hootsuite, Fb Pages and G+ iOS app to name a few.
Social media is great marketing and promotion channel, and the more targeted time you will spend on it, you will get better results.
However, too much time on social-media is also not good, as I find it to be very distracting and information overload is a headache.
30 minutes-60 minutes a day is quite a decent time for a good blog, and one can obviously use few automated tools to lower down the time.
I have few hard-working people to help me like @sharatnik and Srikanth at times for certain work.
Q14: How do you balance your work and life? What are your experiences with pros and cons of working from home?
Harsh: For me, blogging is not work but a part of my life; so I don’t really have to do much about it. The only thing, which I take care of, is the time-management, as I need to give quality time to my family too.
Working from home comes with its own taste of sweet and bitter experiences. The biggest benefit is; it saves lot of time and within a minute, I’m in my Home-office.
Keeping consistent focus is a challenge and constantly staying online makes things monotonous at times.
Sometime back, I have talked about some of the biggest challenges of working from home, which I’m sure your work from home readers would find it useful. You can read the complete article here.
Q15: What are your tips to boost blog traffic that could work for any blogger?
- Consistency: Be consistent and make your readers addicted to your blog. Fix a time for publishing new posts, so that your regular readers would know when to check your blog for updated content.
- SEO: Best traffic source is from search-engine, and SEO is the key to this.
- Social-media: Back in days social-media used to be the honey pot for free-traffic, but after social-media explosion and the Facebook reach going to all time low, I don’t see social-media as effective as it used to be. However, a good mixture of automation and manual work is always advisable.
- Email marketing: Start offering Email subscription from day one and you can use feedburner (Free) or Aweber (Paid) to offer Email subscription. Email subscribers are the real readers of your blog, and with one email you can direct traffic to anywhere.
Q16: You have many blogs. How do you manage them all and what are your tips for multi-blog management?
Harsh: Few tools like managewp, desktop editor, Google Docs, Bufferapp, Hootsuite are very effective when it comes to managing multiple blogs. Post scheduling is the key to keep them updated all the time.
The best tip I would advice for anyone working alone and managing multiple blog is to start a new blog on topic that you are interested in. If you are a blogger by heart, you will find no problem handling it.
Also ensure that you use a reliable hosting and use a proper backup mechanism for your blogs.
Q17: What are the best ways to make money blogging that you would suggest to bloggers who don’t get much traffic on their blogs?
Harsh: Harleena, I believe every blog is different and can be monetized accordingly.
A blog with less but targeted traffic can be monetized using Affiliate marketing, your own product or set of services. It’s really hard to generalize, because monetization depends a lot on the kind of audience a blog has.
Q18: Aha!NOW is basically a life and self development blog. So, I’d like to know your personal views about life and thoughts about self-development. What is your concept of happiness and what do you do to have that in your life?
Harsh: Self-development in short is “constantly evolving yourself”. Self-development in an attitude and people who have it are not only open-minded; they are also visible everywhere.
Happiness is a state of mind and one can’t be happy throughout the life. One has to experience other emotions like sadness, anger, rage to experience happiness.
For me happiness is how you deal with your other emotions, and I try to be as rational as I can when I’m experiencing other happiness. Moreover, for me, happiness is helping others.
Q19: Lastly, I’d like to know your views about Aha!NOW and its blog community. Do you have any suggestions for me and message for my vibrant readers?
Harsh: What I like the most about you and your blog is the feeling of a community. You have setup a tribe of like-minded people who are constantly adding value to your well-written articles via meaningful comments.
Moreover, you are doing great with your social-media skills by creating meaningful connections.
You’re doing great with your articles, and there are few suggestions like don’t use robots.txt to block access to your tag pages or other pages which you don’t want to be indexed in Google.
Aha! NOW can use a design uplift and especially bigger font and prominent placement of Email subscription in the sidebar. (I feel shy to say this as ShoutMeLoud design update is pending for long).
If I would be you, I would have gotten rid of Comment luv plugin, as I don’t see that adding much value when it comes to the quality post you are writing. I’m sure you will get similar quality comments even without that plugin.
For your readers: Keep sharing and spreading the good words. Participate by sharing your own life experience and tips in blog comments, and adding more value for others.
Thank you Harsh for taking out time from your busy schedule, especially when you’re amidst preparing for one of the most important events of your life.
As expected, all that you have shared through your interview are words in gold to any newbie blogger. Not only them, even experienced bloggers who can take a leaf or two from your golden experiences of blogging.
I’m so grateful for the critical evaluation of my blog and your helpful suggestions. In fact, I implemented a couple of them without waiting to get this post published!
Over to my lovely community, how did you like the interview? I hope you checked out Harsh’s blog and videos.
Well, talking of the videos, here’s one more message from Harsh.
Message For Young Entrepreneurs from An Infopreneur ~ YouTube Video
Now, I’ll express my thoughts and answers in the comment below, and I hope you also do the same!
Thanks for reading this interview with Harsh Agrawal and hope you’re able to take away some worthwhile tips from here to help you in your blogging.
Over to You –
What’s the best thing about Harsh that impresses you the most? What is your take away and message that you liked the most from this interview with Harsh Agrawal?
Photo Credit: Harsh Agrawal
Posted on: May 30th, 2014
Last Updated on: May 30th, 2014