Even though I have no formal training in business, marketing, or writing anything besides literary analysis essays, the learning curve for the A-minus Mama seems to be less horrifyingly steep than, say, teaching a room full of teenagers about sexual reproduction. (In EUKARYOTIC CELLS, kids, please calm dow–okay, class dismissed, I guess.) I have never had an angry or disappointed client. I have never had an unpaid invoice. I always meet deadlines. But lest you think I have it all together (LOL), I want to tell you a bit about my costliest business mistake to date.

I paid $360 to send 25 people a few e-mails over the course of a year. And made exactly $0 as a result. Whoops.

But I’m not actually that upset about it. One, because I was able to write it off as a business expense. But more importantly, I learned a lot in the process.

Here’s what happened.

For those who don’t know, A-minus Mama started as a Pinterest-unworthy pregnancy blog. My pals started reading my work and hiring me to write stuff for them. (Or sending me to their pals who then hired me to write stuff for them.) I slowly pivoted from blogging about cloth diapers to blogging about whatever anyone would give me money for.

About a year and a half ago, I attended a blogger meetup that was sponsored by an e-mail marketing platform. Said platform shall remain anonymous because I don’t want you to think my mistake was choosing the particular platform itself. Let’s call it…”TransformPack.”

When the time came for me to set up e-mail subscriptions on my website, I naturally gravitated toward “TransformPack” since I had seen it demonstrated at the meetup. Plus it was made specifically for bloggers! I was a blogger, right?

Guess what? I LOVED IT. It had all the features I wanted, with none of the clunkiness associated with, uh, “PostGorilla.” It was a cinch to add downloads and opt-in forms to my posts. Building my welcome sequence was a breeze. (Writing the actual content took me eight months, but who’s counting?)

It also cost $30 a month, but I knew I would start selling products and e-mail courses soon that would totally pay for itself.

Spoiler alert: that did not happen.

I ended up finding all of my clients through referrals and doing work that made me money, which is really not a bad thing. But I was too busy creating content for others to make content and products to sell myself. It took me eight months to write even a simple welcome e-mail sequence, never mind an entire e-mail course. That’s $240 that I spent to offer a few free downloads to a bunch of strangers who don’t really give a fig about what I do for a living. (Most of my first downloads were housekeeping oriented because I thought I was gonna be a lifestyle maven. HAH.)

I kept thinking, “I’ll build my audience and write some e-mail courses when things slow down.” Things never slowed down. (Again, this is not a bad thing.)

Because the “TransformPack” interface was so beautiful and easy to use, I didn’t want to change over to “PostGorilla” or anything else. I tried to convince myself that I would start selling e-mail courses or at least automating customer service on my many product sales “soon.” I also told myself that as a blogger, I should have an e-mail marketing platform designed for bloggers.

But eventually it dawned on me that I wasn’t a “blogger” in the conventional sense of the word. I don’t make money with content (right now). I make money with my skills. My “list” is mostly friends who are being supportive.

And that’s totally fine. (Especially because those friends have sent me referrals!)

Eventually, I found a different e-mail marketing platform that had a similar interface to “TransformPack” and a usable free plan. (Wasssup, MailerLite?) After a few weeks of unnecessary dithering, I decided that rebuilding all my free download forms in an effort to trick people into subscribing to my newsletter was not a productive use of my time. I ended up putting all my free downloads on one page and putting a simple subscribe form on my home page. I figure if people really want to hear from me, they’ll sign up and I will remember to send a newsletter every few months or so.

This lesson of doing things the way that works for me cost $360 and a couple dozen hours of fretting and swearing at my computer, but I don’t regret it. Sometimes it just takes a bit of time and money to figure out what works best.