Starting this website has been a lesson in success and failure for me. When we started doing this site, I would have never dreamed that I would become so devoted towards something like this or lovingly refer to the site as “my other child,” but something about writing and sharing in this way has really clicked with my life right now.
When you enter the world of blogging, people can start their blog with several different ideas for what they hope to gain from the experience. Some use their blogs to share about something they are passionate about (photography, sewing, politics, cooking) and use their blogs to vocalize their passions. Some bloggers are parents who use their blog as a way to keep family up-to-date on everything that their children are up to. Still other bloggers enter the blogging arena as storytellers and they share their beautiful prose or funny stories with the world.
What you shouldn’t enter into this equation with is the hopes of earning wild and crazy money. I will be honest with you and say for the first year or so, I had little more than $20 a month to show for my efforts. If I was doing it for the money, I think I would have abandoned this gig a long time ago. No, money shouldn’t be a powerful motivator for blogging because few actually bring home enough to even cover a trip to McDonald’s…and yet, we continue to blog. We blog for burgers, we blog for pennies, and some of us blog for not a single dime. I respect all of those scenarios.
This year has been a bit of a new experience for me because new opportunities have come my way and I have been trying to keep the careful and beautiful balance that I am desperately trying to create here. Regardless of what has been thrown our way, I have tried to not compromise my content or to lose focus on why I started blogging in the first place.
Some things that I have discovered about myself….
Thou shalt not exploit thy children for money. I love my kids so much and I would never ever want to exploit them in any way. Our family is the most precious thing in the world to me and I will never use them negatively in my writing. I try to be a positive parent even when stuff gets tough and I don’t want them looking back on things I have written and be mortified that their mom shared the stuff that I did. Gosh, if my mom wrote about some of the stuff I did when I was a kid, I would have been so hurt by that. I have even tried doing funny mommy stories and it just didn’t work for me because I am a private person and it didn’t feel comfortable for me. Blogging about parenting solutions or ways that we save our family money felt like a more comfortable platform for me and that is why I leaned towards it. It felt true to me and true to what I try to share with people. My mommy stories are better shared around a cup of coffee with my girlfriends than through the internet.
I recently was approached by a bigwig site to write a guest post and complain or rant about my kids and I know it would have boosted my traffic considerably. I turned that opportunity down and have had no regrets. I hope people see that writing in a positive way can be just as wonderful as writing negatively. In fact, I would much rather read someone who gave me solutions rather than to focus more negative attention on the problems I have. My life is not all rainbows and sunshine, but I hope to create a little piece of that for our readers. It makes me feel better about myself if I can be a positive person and surround myself with this positive community. I have had slow growth because of some of these decisions, but I would rather have ten really amazing people read my work than fifty who come to hear me rant and complain daily.
This is not to discredit all of the people out there who do that, but I knew I had to be true to myself and true to my kids to create the type of environment that I wanted in my life.
Thou shalt not worship the loot or the people who give it to you. When I first started getting products, it felt like Christmas. I would fall over myself thanking people for the things they sent and making sure that they really loved my review. “Does this sound okay to you, PR person? I hope you love the review I wrote! XOXO, Amy” This was wrong of me and wrong to do to my readers. I would take anything that anyone wanted to give me, and I would write a glowing review. Hindsight is always 20/20 and now I look back and know that it didn’t feel right and wasn’t cohesive with the parenting site I was trying to build.
I am now very hesitant to take any loot because 1) I don’t want the PR people writing me over and over again to see if I wrote what I was supposed to as soon as I received it. 2) I don’t want so much stuff in my house.
I have learned to request only the things that our readers will really and truly love and I took it a step further…I give you guys as much loot as I can. If a company sends me a product now, I ask how we can benefit our readers. To me, this feels like a win-win solution and it makes me a lot happier to hear how much you are enjoying the stuff than to write about how much I am enjoying my stuff that you can’t have. If the reviews all seem glowing now, it is because I only pick things that I know I will like. For every ten things that come our way, we pick two of the best ones and feature those. Since we are more choosy, it results in fewer opportunities and sometimes fewer reviews to read, but I would rather preserve the quality of the things I can share on and give them away to others. If the company doesn’t do a giveaway with us, most of the products do end up getting donated to charity. I will admit that I have kept products too that our family would use, but we try to review items in all age ranges and if my kids are too old for a product or we are out of those stages (or not in those stages) we share them with others in the community. It feels good to do that and I hope to be able to do more of that.
Thou shalt not allow the blog to rule thy life. It is hard to not let the blog rule your life…or reading other people’s blogs, or reading blogs about blogging, or listening to podcasts about blogs, or reading books on blogs. Basically, blogging can be a giant hole that can suck up your time and it can be easy to forget why you blogged in the first place. Let’s use my blog, for example, because I am narcissistic like that and love to talk about myself. I started blogging because I wanted to share ways that we save our family money and to show inexpensive solutions for homemakers. I also knew that I wanted to be a better mother and to be a “fun mommy” and share our ideas for things I do with my children. Now if I am on the computer all day and blogging all day, I end up doing none of those things. I am not being a fun mom, I am not saving money for our family, and I bet I can’t get dinner on the table because I was too busy on the computer all day.
I have learned to take advantage of nap time and after the kids go to bed to do my work. The majority of the rest of the day has to be focused on my family life. I try to jot down ideas or even start drafts of things that I want to write about, but those posts might be weeks or months down the road before I get the time to do them. I do the best I can and I am realizing that our readers will still be there if I write three times a day or three times a week.
Thou shalt not hog the spotlight or forget to network. I have discovered that a big part of whether or not a blog is successful is really based upon the network and the community that they build. Even though I think really good writing and a good design are the most important things, the networking comes in a close third. You can have a fabulous blog, but if you have no one reading it, then it is just a private show for you. Where do you start? Start commen
ting on other people’s blogs and networking within a community of people who will find your stuff interesting. If you blog is about photography, for example, start commenting and linking to the people that you admire most. Do a round-up of great stuff about photography. Highlight blogs that illustrate points you are making in your own entries and email the people that have enjoyed reading to tell them what a big fan you are. Don’t spam them, but tell them what their work means to you. Offer feedback, share questions you have (which they could use for future material and even link back to you) and just be a groupie to the people you really love. In turn, they may link to you or might highlight you in an entry.
Thou shalt be open-minded towards things other than blogging. Once you have built your community and have a great blog, other opportunities might start coming your way. Some of these might be paid gigs (speaking engagements, spokesperson opportunities) and others might not be paid gigs (television and print interviews, providing quotes for articles, reviewing products). Realize that whatever you do, you will be representing your blog/site and you will want the things that you say and the things that you do to reflect what you are doing in these other opportunities. For example, if I am a blogger who shares about cleaning & caring for your home, I wouldn’t want to go on the news and discuss the pros and cons of fast food. It just wouldn’t work together! When these opportunities come your way, make sure they are a good fit for you and what you hope to convey to others. Be open to those great paid opportunities, but understand that many opportunities don’t pay out. I look at the unpaid jobs as opportunities to prepare myself and practice for the paid opportunities. If you do something for your local news, save it and when a paid opportunity comes along you can say, “You can view my segment here and see how I do on camera.” That opportunity might not have paid anything, but it gives those paid gigs a better chance of happening because they can see exactly how great you are. Once that happens, you might start realizing that you get paid… just in a more roundabout kind of way.