What I enjoy most is the freedom to work on my own terms, in my own time and to have full responsibility for the work I put in and the rewards I receive. - Heidi Holvoet, SBI! member since 2008

How Her Passion for Knitting Helped End a Lifetime of Abuse

How a Love for Knitting Helped End a Lifetime of Abuse

My computer became my window to the world and to life. I took a huge personal risk by joining SBI! and it changed my life forever. Vickie Danielsen from www.simple-knitting.com

Vickie Danielsen’s story is the stuff that movies are made of. She was isolated from the world, with no friends, in an abusive relationship. She felt stuck. She was afraid to stay and afraid to leave.

But she still dared to dream. She dreamed about finding a way to earn money from home. Money that could help her leave, to start a new and better life. She just didn’t know how — until she discovered Solo Build It!.

She learned, step-by-step, how to turn her life-long love for knitting into an income-generating online business. And not only that, but working on her site made her feel happy and alive. It felt healthy. It felt like life should be.

In our interview Vickie tells us how she managed to turn her life around, how she found the freedom she had been craving for so long. If you enjoy happy endings, you’ll love Vickie’s story! ❤️️

 

1. Vickie, you said that after 16 years of mere survival, your web business with SBI!, www.simple-knitting.com, finally gave you a dream of possibility. Can you tell us more about that?

Basically I’ve lived a lifetime of abuse. You name it. I lived it, I’ve gone through it, I’ve been there. Those 16 years of mere survival were my final ones. I knew I had come to the end of the cycle of abuse (my cycle of abuse that is) and there was nothing more I could go through because I’d already been through it.

I was probably going to die and I knew how dire my situation was. Every day was worse than the one before. And really, it seems like every day you hear on the news that another woman has been murdered by her boyfriend or spouse.

Sadly it seems to be something that’s becoming more familiar and commonplace. And I realized I was going to be another statistic, another face to add to an unending list of murdered women.

I came to a place where I had no choices left and all I could do was pray. All I kept saying was “Lord can you help me get out of this.” Remember those grade school scripture classes? Well, as a child in school I learned Psalm 23, called “The Lord is My Shepherd.” I recited it over and over again.

I had no one and really had nothing left but to pray, and I did. I knew nothing about praying, but when you’re alone and in a constant state of crisis all the time what do you do? Every day when I woke up was a day that could have been my last.

The first wonderful thing to happen in my life was Solo Build It! (SBI!). It was so refreshing to deal with a healthy company. SBI! members were kind and respectful and happy. For the first time I found something that just felt right.

SBI! was the complete opposite from everything I was living or had ever lived. In my heart I always believed that there were good people out there. In my circumstances it just wasn’t the case.

So SBI! gave me hope in something far greater than having a successful online business. And it was the beginning of my journey to have a good life and a successful online business.

What about now? I live in a small, quiet community a mile away from the ocean. I’ve been free from all that abuse for four years. I have to tell you, it’s so nice to not live in fear! Yes, I am working on myself. I was completely isolated back then so I’ve had to do a lot of catching up on life.

I have PTSD so some days can be a little tough. I can’t go through all that and not be affected by it, but I’m doing my best to be the best I can be. I know it sounds cliché but it’s true. The good people in my life I’m holding very close to my heart. I strive to be a healthy addition in the world.

SBI! gave me the opportunity to explore my ideas and hopes for living a life of freedom and they did it so darn well! I bet they didn’t expect me to take it all so literally. I do take things quite personally though. 😊

The sailboat races Vickie loves to watch with her newly found freedom.


I owe an awful lot to SBI!. They helped me start a new beginning in life and they helped me find freedom.

No, I don’t mean by money or anything like that. Just regular everyday freedom to enjoy a quiet simple life. What more can I ask for? Maybe a walk down to the beach to watch the sailboat races and just breathe in the freedom I have now to live the way I want to.

TAKEAWAY #1:

It’s hard to find the right words after hearing Vickie’s story. A lifetime of abuse and despair finally ended, with the help of SBI!. You know, when we talk about SBI!’s life-changing impact — this is another striking example of it.

It takes a ton of courage and strength to drag yourself out of the kind of life Vickie had endured for 16 years. But she did it! 💥 She has what we call BAM in spades:

  • Brain: Deep knowledge of a subject and the wish to share it with others.
  • Attitude: A “can-do” attitude and the strong will to succeed against all odds.
  • Motivation: The drive and motivation to keep going.

Everyone here within the SBI! community is super happy and proud that we could play a role in turning Vickie’s life around for the better.

 

2. How did you decide about your niche, knitting? How did you know it was the right topic for you and had great business potential?

Brainstorm It! — It’s the greatest tool, one of the best tools for brainstorming keywords you’ll ever use.

I think it’s one of the main reasons I’ve been able to succeed with such a broad topic as knitting. Brainstorm It! showed me that knitting on its own was far too broad of a topic for me to choose. I was able to narrow my topic down into a nice comfortable, winnable niche.

I chose “how to knit” as my site concept keyword. The potential was there for it to be profitable; plus it was much easier for me to work with.

I also knew it was the right topic because I learned to knit as a child and have always enjoyed it throughout my life. I figured that if I was going to be spending a lot of time writing about knitting I’d better enjoy what I was writing about. So it all seemed to make sense.

In addition, knitting has made a huge comeback in recent years, which makes it even more exciting and fun to write about. The yarn industry has exploded with vibrant, exciting colors and textures that entice people to pick up those knitting needles. 😊

Exciting knitting patterns and colors from Vickie's site!
Exciting knitting patterns and colors from Vickie’s site!

Nowadays you’ll even find gourmet style knitting needles! Imagine that! People are discovering that knitting isn’t just for the older person but also for the younger generation.

What’s really exciting is that more and more men are taking up knitting as well. It’s so refreshing to hear from men, young mothers, and 30-somethings taking up the hobby.

I also discovered that there have been some recent studies done on therapeutic knitting: how it helps people with a whole host of health issues, a couple of which have to do with trauma and PTSD. Those are definitely things I can relate too.

Maybe it’s an area I can explore further. It’s certainly something that helped me a lot and still does

TAKEAWAY #2:

When you decide about your business niche, you’ll have to consider several factors:

  1. How much you know about the topic, or are willing to learn about it.
  2. How much you like the topic, aka the “passion factor.”
  3. How much time you have to regularly dedicate to building your business.
  4. How much competition there is, or — in other words — how “winnable” your niche is.
  5. How much potential your niche has in terms of earning you an income.

Brainstorm It!, the tool that Vickie speaks so highly of, is a comprehensive keyword brainstorming and evaluation tool that’s part of the SBI! platform. It helps you answer questions 4 and 5 in the above list of factors.

How does it do that? When you enter a topic like “knitting” into the tool, it will tell you how much demand and competition there is for this keyword, and for hundreds of related terms that it also brings back.

You can use Brainstorm It! to compare various business ideas, to refine or expand a topic, and even to come up with completely new ideas.

 

3. Tell us about your philosophy regarding content. How do you know what your prospective customers are looking for? Where does this information come from?

The most important thing for me when creating any content is to be thorough. Nothing is worse than getting only half the information so I try very hard to put myself in my reader’s shoes — the beginner knitter.

My content decisions are based on a variety of sources. Brainstorm It! is at the very heart of most pages I write. If I need ideas for pages or need to run some numbers on my own ideas it’s a great tool to have in my knitting bag. 😊

When I started building those important first pages, Brainstorm It! helped tremendously in giving me the topics to write about. It’s also great for finding keywords to sprinkle throughout my page, ones that aren’t maybe as popular but will help my page get found.

I also use my own experience and sometimes don’t use Brainstorm It! except to sprinkle extra words around my page. Here’s just one example of what I mean: I was having a lot of trouble understanding something centered around stitch pattern multiples and decided — as lots of people do — to search for the answer on Google.

Surprisingly I wasn’t able to find anything on it. I searched high and low for hours. So when I finally figured it out myself I made a page about it because other people must have been having trouble with it too.

What’s really cool about it is that now you’ll find a lot more information on it. I think I started something with that page and others started chiming in. My readers were happy too, and that’s what really matters.

Another way I get new content ideas is simply by talking with people when I’m out. One time I started talking with a young gal who was interested in learning just the basics of knitting for the purpose of knitting some gifts for her friends and family.

She didn’t have a lot of money to spend and she wasn’t interested in learning all about knitting, just the absolute basics so that she could make knitted gifts. So with that in mind I designed some very simple knitting patterns exactly for that purpose. It just made sense. Some people don’t want to know everything, they just want to know a little.

Another resource I use is other knitting sites. Even before I started building my website I subscribed to various newsletters from my favorite knitting places. When I notice something interesting or trending I make a note of it; then I put my own spin on it and build a page.

It’s so fun to find unique ways to help my readers. It’s also very important to keep an open mind and to listen to what people are looking for. It’s all about finding a need and filling it.

TAKEAWAY #3:

That’s some first rate business advice from Vickie: “It’s all about finding a need and filling it.” Yep. Exactly. How do you know what needs your audience has? Use various sources and tools, like Vickie.

First up is Brainstorm It! again. It tells you what people in your niche are searching for. You’ll get the exact terms they type into search engines to find information related to your topic. The data from your keyword research forms the backbone for your content.

You’ll supplement this quantitative research with qualitative insights. Listen to potential customers. If you can do that in person, all the better. But you can also do it online, for example in niche forums or on social media. And, once you have a list of newsletter subscribers, ask them, too!

Also draw from your own experiences. Is there a question you yourself had trouble finding the answer for? Or a topic that you simply know is of value for your readers, even if not that many people are searching for it? Write a page about it. You may even start a new trend. 😊

Who knew that knitting can be a pastime on those hot summer days, too?
Who knew that knitting can be a pastime on those hot summer days, too?

4. How many different income streams do you have? Which ones perform best?

Right now I’m using three income streams. The first one is Google AdSense. It worked quite well until recently.

My second way to monetize is with Amazon’s Associate Program. I use this to sell knitting supplies via my site for Amazon’s affiliate commission. There could be good potential in this area because there are lots of knitting supplies on Amazon. It’s been a little slow to get going, but is starting to pick up. It’s something I want to explore further.

I’ve also been an affiliate for some of the popular craft sites. My experiences are pretty mixed. One company in particular keeps changing their commission rates, which is frustrating. Being an affiliate involves a lot of trial and error. I think it does have potential but can be rather time-consuming. The decision is out on whether I’ll keep this income source.

Until recently I would have said that AdSense performed the best. However, things have changed quite dramatically. If the income from AdSense doesn’t pick up again, I’ll look into alternatives.

Hot off the press update: Shortly after sending us her interview answers, Vickie switched from AdSense to Mediavine, an alternative ad management service for publishers.

She gave us an account of her first impressions and encouraging results with Mediavine:

Once the setup process was done everything was okay. Setting up was kind of difficult because I’m not a technical person, but it only needed to be done once.

The nice thing now is that the money I’m making from them is looking better and better. So far I’ve earned almost triple the amount of money that I was earning from Adsense. Yippee! And it’s still growing because I’ve only just started, so that makes me very happy.

My true heroes in helping me get set up were the wonderful folks in the SBI! forums. I’m so grateful for all their help. Such a great, great bunch of people!

TAKEAWAY #4:

Part of your early research — when deciding about a niche — is to investigate and evaluate possible monetization options. Don’t skip this crucial part of your planning! It will give you a solid idea about how profitable your niche is.

How do you do that research? As an SBI! member, you simply follow the Action Guide.

In chapter 4 (we call them DAYs) you’ll learn about the various ways to earn an income from your website, from passive methods like AdSense or affiliate marketing to active methods like creating and selling your own products.

Once you’ve reviewed them for how suitable they are for your niche and your personal preferences, you settle on a primary monetization model. You’ll implement that one first, and then add other models as your business grows.

Many solopreneurs start with passive income models like Vickie did. AdSense is the easiest to implement and maintain. Affiliate marketing is a little bit more involved, but still on the passive end of the spectrum. The “price” for their ease-of-use is the usually low income potential. Income from AdSense dropped significantly for many website owners in the past few years.

So, if you want to stay with passive income methods, look at AdSense alternatives like Mediavine or Ezoic. Or — even better — delve into creating your own products. It’s not as difficult as you may think, especially if you have the right guidance and help from fellow solopreneurs!

Ever heard of a "temperature blanket"? It's an easy knitting project that you knit over a year. You knit one row per day for a year in a color that matches the temperature in your area.
Ever heard of a “temperature blanket”? It’s an easy knitting project that you knit over a year. You knit one row per day for a year in a color that matches the temperature in your area.

5. How long did it take to start earning income from your online business?  Is it a full-time or a part-time income?

I was slow at getting to the monetizing part of my website. I had to be very vigilant about how I did everything, which made things a bit difficult. First of all I had huge time constraints as I had to work on my site in secret and it was hard to override the fear in order to learn. Sometimes I had to go back and listen to tutorials over and over again.

I probably could have started earning money much sooner. My first $100 came in when I was in the women’s shelter in January 2014. I had implemented AdSense ads on my site in late 2013 when I had to stop working on it. Things were going from bad to worse at home. I was terribly worried that my then-husband would sabotage my website somehow, as he had done with everything else I cared about.

If you look at the time span though it only took about six months to start earning. Had I put up AdSense sooner I’m sure I would have had some money coming in sooner as well. At the time I only started with AdSense so there was no other income stream.

The income from my site has always been a part-time income. My recent switch from AdSense to Mediavine shows encouraging potential to grow my income beyond previous levels.

I am also looking into other possibilities for income (eBooks and possibly YouTube videos). It’s time to move forward and try something new.

TAKEAWAY #5:

Another good piece of advice from Vickie — move forward and try something new. Your niche constantly evolves and so do you, especially your knowledge about building and growing an online business.

What sounds like a foreign language in the beginning will become second nature. Keyword research, writing content that your readers (and the search engines) love, creating graphics, building a presence on social media… you’ll be amazed how much you’ll learn and master.

When you have good traffic numbers, it’s time to focus on making the most of it, i.e., trying and testing new ways to monetize!

When you’re just starting out, remember that an online business takes time to grow. There’s no instant gratification. Depending on your niche, time commitment and personal circumstances, it may take 6 to 12 months before the first earnings come in.

 

6. You mentioned that everyone has their own idea of success. What does success mean to you, and would you say you’ve achieved it?

Success? Wow… that’s a difficult question. I’ve never thought about it before; I’ve always been too busy to consider it. 😉

There’s a quote that I love: “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him.” — David Brinkley

Vickie in action! You can tell she loves her knitting.💙
Vickie in action! You can tell she loves her knitting.💙

OK I’d like to reword the quote as…

“A successful woman is one who can lay a foundation with the bricks that others throw at her.”

In some ways you might say that I am successful because I beat the odds and fought back and refused to believe the lies I was told all my life. Most of all I’m still alive. And despite constant abuse as a child and then again later in life, my thought was that no matter what anyone did to me physically or mentally, no one could ever touch the bright light inside me.

If you’re a Christian (as I am) that light is Jesus. However, not all people believe, and I’m not here to preach. When I was young, I just felt this light inside my very soul. It became a force to be reckoned with. I refused to give up when all those bricks were thrown at me. Believe me, there were many times when I wanted to give up and came pretty close. But I didn’t.

When I think about it now, I cry happy tears because when SBI! came along they were showing me how to build a foundation for a healthy online business. For me, though, it was a healthy foundation for life, too.

And you know what the best part is? I came prepared because I already have the bricks! And I think I have enough to build a healthy life and business. Wow — I am so lucky!

TAKEAWAY #6:

There’s that BAM shining through in Vickie again. 💥 I love how she sees the “bricks” that life threw her way as “building material” for her success rather than as insurmountable obstacles.

It’s that “can-do” attitude that helped her to go from being a victim to being in control of her life, in every aspect. Granted, her online business doesn’t provide a full-time income (yet), but it provides something much more valuable: the foundation for a healthy and happy life!

 

7. What has been your biggest challenge so far as a solopreneur?

Oh my, I have a lot of challenges…

The biggest one is pushing myself to move forward beyond my comfort zone. I’m going to have to put myself out there if I want to move ahead. I’ve been in a place where staying in the background was my preference, but not anymore. Recently I read an article here on the Solo Build It! blog; one part of it said: “Do or do not, there is no try!”  That’s so true. So, here I am everyone! 😊

It’s also very easy to get comfortable at a certain stage and not push ahead. When things start going really well it’s time to keep pushing harder and not fall into complacency. You see, I started feeling comfortable when things were going well and then settled for less when my income began to drop. I made excuses and so on.

I also tend to be a perfectionist. Oh dear, it already makes me think of Ken Evoy’s booklet “Why People Fail.” I’ve been getting better at not being so picky about things. I can even leave a couple of dishes in my sink for the day now, so, yes, I am making progress.

There are always going to be challenges, so I’m working them out and moving forward. I want to be sure that I’ve done everything I could rather than end up knowing I could have done more.

TAKEAWAY #7:

Do you recognize yourself in Vickie’s challenges? Or do you suspect you have another personality trait that’s holding you back from succeeding with your business (or even attempting to start one)?

All successful people have bad traits, too. But they identify them and overcome them. Do yourself a favor and download “Why People Fail.” It’s a short read and a real eye opener for the patterns that may be holding you back.


8. What do you enjoy most about being an online business owner? How has it changed you, your life, your family?

I love working on something I built and created. Having the ability to make my own decisions adds to the freedom I finally have in my life. I love every minute of it.

What warms my heart even more are the wonderful comments I get from my readers. It’s so encouraging to hear from people who are thankful and enjoy what I’ve written.

Coming from a place where I had nothing, to building an online website business has been a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. I love a challenge, and also love to learn new things; SBI! provides me with both. One of the best things about having my own online business is that it’s helping me to move forward with my life.

I also love the flexibility of having my website business. It’s not something that has to be done all at once so it gives me time to do other things as well. Hmm… yarn shopping? Knitting? Knitting cruises? Well, I haven’t done the cruise yet but it’s possible.

And finally there was nothing more exciting than joining SBI! instead of sitting around being afraid. I turned my fear into something that could help me in the future just in case I ended up living. That’s literally what I thought at the time.

I may as well keep busy, right? I had nothing to lose. At the time it was also my way to let the world know I existed. I wanted someone to know that I was alive. It was my way of asking “is anyone out there?” It’s very sad and I haven’t mentioned it, but that’s exactly what I was feeling at the time. I’ll never ever forget it.

My computer became my window to the world and to life. I took a huge personal risk by joining SBI! and it changed my life forever.

The nice thing is, it gave me a much healthier outlook on life and snowballed into a much happier outcome too. Surrounding myself with healthy positive people was the beginning for everything that’s good in life.

TAKEAWAY #8:

Vickie described the benefits of having your own website business with SBI! in a better and more personal way than I ever could.

Her business gave her freedom, flexibility and a sense of accomplishment. She experienced the challenge and joy of continuously learning something new. She turned fear into a hopeful future. In short, she changed her life for the better!

Not everyone starts from a position as difficult as Vickie. However, if Thoreau’s famous quote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” resonates with you on some level, perhaps it’s time to do something about it.

How about getting started with SBI! in your spare time? There’s no need for a drastic change, like quitting your day job. With an online business, you determine the pace. Only have a few hours per week? Use them to build something of value, a long-term profitable business you can be proud of.

You’ll be amazed at how far you’ll get. Vickie’s story, and the stories of her fellow solopreneurs, are living proof!

 

9. And finally… What’s your top tip for someone who is just starting a solopreneur career?

If you’re seriously thinking about starting an online business, SBI! is the best place to be. That way you’ll be given all the support, all the information and all the steps you need to take to build a successful online business. Most of all, you’ll have the best chance at succeeding.

Make sure you really like the topic you choose. Take the time to research it to ensure it will be profitable. Talk with like-minded folks who will understand what you’re going through. SBI!’s forums are a great place to meet like-minded solopreneurs.

When I try to talk with people outside of SBI! they just don’t know what I’m talking about. Surround yourself with positive people. There’s a lot of skeptics out there so don’t let them rain on your parade. Make a rainbow instead and persevere.

 

 

You’ll have to be willing to take risks. This is very important and a valuable lesson I learned (OK, I’m still learning!). Be ready to step outside your comfort zone when the time comes. Success won’t come from living in your comfort zone.

 

Key Takeaways for Solopreneurs, Whether Beginner or Experienced

  1. Never underestimate yourself. No matter how dire your current life circumstances may be, you have it in you to change them for the better.
  2. Before deciding about your business niche, research its monetization potential thoroughly. Also make sure it passes the “passion” test (how much do you really love this topic?).
  3. Use a combination of tools, research and your own experience to determine your audience’s needs. Then fill that need with your high-quality content.
  4. Move out of your comfort zone. Try and test new ways to monetize, especially if your initial methods don’t work so well any more.
  5. Remember that an online business takes time to grow. There’s no instant gratification.
  6. Surround yourself with like-minded, positive people (the SBI! forums are just the right place for that!).
  7. And finally: Give yourself the best chances to succeed online. Objective, verifiable studies show that SBI! increases your chances of building a high traffic website by 9X to 115X compared to other popular site builders or web hosts. After all, it’s not the shiny features or modern look, but your results that matter most!

Ready to get started? SBI! can help you with your business idea.

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Learn From More High-Traffic, Profitable Solopreneurs

  • Recent Success Stories With Takeaway Lessons. Read more recent inspiring stories from our blog. They deliver useful ideas and takeaway lessons from folks who’ve “done it and won it.” If they can do it, you can, too!
  • Multi-Year SBI! Reviews. We take a deep-dive into the long term, full business stories of several different types of solopreneur successes. They periodically update their progress so you can see how they and their businesses grow over a period of years. This gives you excellent insight into what solopreneurs can accomplish with real online businesses.
  • Hundreds of the “Top 0.5%.” Every one of these SBI! businesses (hundreds of them) rank in the top 1 million active websites (out of approximately 200 million!). That’s all the more impressive because 1) we are such a small community and 2) many Top 0.5% sites are mid-sized or large companies.

Solopreneurs fail at astronomical rates. SBI! makes you up to 100x more likely to succeed (that’s not a typo!). It will never be easy, but we do make it way more doable.

Scan the wide variety of solopreneurs who are winning in real niches. Use it to get a feeling for what SBIers do, as well as to generate ideas. What do you know? Turn it into a business.

Margit Streifeneder
Margit Streifeneder is the Communications Manager at SiteSell. She handles the Editorial Calendar, coordinates marketing initiatives and is renowned for her organisational skills. She's passionate about helping solopreneurs achieve success, and enjoys interviewing SBI! members about their achievements. Her personal goal is "never being cold again," so she chose to settle in Nicaragua, for now.

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