Almost seven years ago, I came to my husband with a few sketch drawings for a concept that I had for launching a website. Our family had suffered an almost year of unemployment and I was a new mother trying to find a way to stay home with my one year-old son. A woman desperate to make her husband’s paycheck stretch as far as it could go, I became a human sponge for anything and everything that was frugal. It was before the truly big days of blogging, before the days of Facebook and Twitter, when being frugal was far from the minds of most people. It was me, with ideas, and Yahoo groups and forums trying to share information on frugality with anyone who would listen…
It was me with a tiny little megaphone shouting my message of frugality to a very small niche community.
The beauty of that, for me, was that I didn’t have the noise that bloggers have now coming at them from all angles. No one was sending me on trips, no one was pushing products to me, no one wanted to hire me to do anything, my inbox was relatively empty, my guests were few, my failures great. It was me with just my written words and trying to figure out who I was.
I had time to experiment with finding flow, and discovering what I wanted to stand for. I can’t imagine how different my approach would have been if I started now and where I would have concentrated my efforts.
It was the roots of that time without the noise that I cling to and that I still can easily fall back into. It is those little nuggets that I want to share with you today for how to have long-term blogging success in a saturated blogging world.
Write What You are Passionate About– I knew from day one that I was passionate about saving families money and showcasing ways to make their life beautiful for less. I could talk all day and night about how to change life’s little budget-draining habits, I loved to share how families can create a restaurant experience within their own home, I loved anything that was free, and I loved finding ingenious ways that others have found that too. I still love it and it is still what I am talking about today.
I will admit, reading my earlier work makes me cringe a little inside, but it also has served to remind me how far my writing has come. Even in those cringe-worthy days, that passionate life was fiercely alive.
People ask me all the time if I encounter writer’s block and the short answer is no. The longer answer is, I don’t have writer’s block because I am wildly passionate about what I am talking about and I live my life with that same passionate. While I have never really had an editorial calendar necessarily, I do have a flow for my writing that has served this passion for frugality well. Find what you are wildly passionate about and make that your top priority. If you are not passionate about it, no one else will be either.
To learn more about how to develop great content, I encourage you to read what I shared this past year at BlissDom!
You are Worth More Than Free Yogurt– Free stuff is often one of the perks that bloggers get most excited about. As someone who was watching her spending, it was something I was very enthusiastic about when I started. Here’s the thing I wish someone would have told me…your blog is worth more than a carton of free yogurt.
I use yogurt only as a free analogy, but I am saddened at how many seem to compromise their blogging space for free stuff. I would encourage you to really think about what your time is worth and select opportunities that are really worth the time you are spending on them. Focus your efforts on the things that promote your passions and that will benefit your community.
This means you have to turn down opportunities, it means you will be overlooked for trip opportunities, it means you might not be able to receive a pay check from a company… and you know why all that is okay? Because your readers will respect you. And that is worth more than a free yogurt, more than a trip, and even more than a pay check. It is that loyalty that will help your community grow and will translate into paid opportunities that do fit with you.
The stuff that I have turned down sometimes was really hard. I had an opportunity to do my grocery shopping for free, but they wanted me to showcase convenience foods you could buy to start the school year off right. A stocked fridge would have been great, but would you have respected me for telling you to buy crap food to stock your freezer to get your kid’s day started out right?
This is not an exclusive opportunity, I get something like that in my inbox all of the time. I refuse a lot of it because I respect your opinion more than a corporation’s opinion. It means I have moved to the D-list for a lot of invites and parties, but I hope I made the A-List for my readers!
Be sure to read this article on how to do great product reviews!
Find a Rhythm You Can Live With– Blogger balance is a topic that comes up all of the time and I always love to hear how people find their own work/home life balance. I will tell you my secret that has held this site together over the years…I chose a balance to posting and taking on assignments that I can live with.
Here is what I had envisioned for myself when I started. I wanted to be able to be home with my children, do what I love, and do it when I wanted, in a way that would not take away from the time I wanted to spend with my kids. It meant I had to step away from time-sensitive posts, and to instead concentrate my efforts on providing evergreen content that I could develop on the weekends.
I work primarily Saturday, rising early before the rest of the family, and then Sunday afternoon through the evening. I write all of the content for the week and schedule to air on the weekday mornings. The rest of the week, I do my best to maintain my email inbox, take pictures and create for the next week, share on our Facebook page, and do a little tweeting when I feel like it.
I found a rhythm to my posting schedule that I would not have a hard time creating and that my readers could expect from me each day. The rhythm of a recipe a week, a craft/money-saving-tip/organizing idea/mommy time management (once idea highlighted each month), a notebook of inspiration, and a weekly dose of freebies has serviced our site well.
Note, I will never be a social media starlet and I will never make a million dollars on my blog… and I have found that I am okay with that. I am paid in sticky kisses from my kids and more time being the mom I really desire to be which is so much cooler.
Be sure to read this article on finding your own blogger balance!
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone– Blogging requires a lot of bravery. I thought I was brave just blogging, but I never dreamed all of the things that I would try over the years to stay in the blogging game and providing creative content for our readers. I have done a podcast, I did our local news for a year, I joined Twitter, I created a fan page on Facebook, I vlogged, I consulted companies, I did cooking demos, I did media tours, I created content for brands…. and none of those things were things that I ever imagined I would attempt in a million years.
Keeping up with the trends and finding new ways to interact with your readers becomes essential for growing your audience. It doesn’t mean that you will always have to stick with it, but it is great if you can try things that are out of your comfort zone.
I have found that no matter what type of medium I attempt, I feel most comfortable writing. Vlogging is my least favorite thing to do because I am a perfectionist and it requires take after take for me. Live segments, however, go really well because I don’t have the opportunity to rethink thing. Podcasting is fun, but required time and effort that I didn’t have extra of. Doing demos for brands has been my favorite thing to do yet and I never thought I could have done that. It is attempting something out of the ordinary that helped our site continue to grow.
It doesn’t mean you always have to do what doesn’t feel right in your comfort zone, but it feels good to know that you can if someone requests it!
Embrace Your Inner Madonna- Along with stepping out of your comfort zone, I encourage you to not be afraid to reinvent yourself and your blog. In the beginning I wanted my blog to be very personal to me and to my family. Living in a small town and being a girl that craves privacy, this format just didn’t work for me. While you hopefully still see my personality and what I am passionate about you will find that I also don’t disclose a lot about my family online to protect who they are. It was a risk I took and it has paid off.
Likewise, if you find new passions and talents, don’t be afraid to take your readers on that journey with you. Over the years, I have discovered a new talent for knitting, love fumbling around with my camera, and I have embraced my inner bookworm. Those hobbies might not interest all of my readers, but they do bring in new ones while still maintaining my tried-and-true categories of the site.
Want to learn more about my commandments for blogging? Read my 5 Commandments for Blogging!
Be Humble And Grateful- If there is anything that I am working so hard on it is to recognize what a gift that this journey has been. I don’t know what else to say except that I am so thankful for every little blessing that has come. I do my best to never feel entitled, I stay clear of drama, and I would probably cry if anyone thought I was a diva. The best compliment I have ever gotten is, “You write exactly like you are.”
My grandma is from the South and if there is ever any wisdom that was passed down from her and our Tennessee roots, it was that it was always important to be a lady… oh, and wear a slip under your dress!
The best part about being a lady in this business though is that if you do your very best, you are genuine, and you always follow-up business opportunities with a thank you, then you will find that the most amazing opportunities happen to you!
And when they do, count your blessings!
This past week on our Facebook page, I asked what you wanted to know about me and about blogging. Here are some of those questions that were asked and my answers.
Q: How do you come up with so many great ideas to keep people interested?
A: I think the beauty of our site has been that we started the site when my son was only a year old. We were exploring ways to save as a family who were dealing with the budget-busters of having an infant. In those days, I was sharing on topics like baby food, cloth diapers, and how to baby proof your home without spending a lot.
Now my children are eight and four and we are sharing on how to save on lunches for school, how to organize those homework papers, and how to keep your children entertained during those long summer breaks. We don’t plan to go back to cloth diapering and baby food, but those topics are there in the archives for our readers! We will continue to press on as we discover and strive to live our simple life as our kids get older and we will continue to face new budget-challenges and share those with our readers.
That being said, I also try to appeal to universal subjects that all people struggle with- how to get dinner on the table every day, how to manage those household routines, how to keep entertainment affordable, and how to manage the day-to-day of a busy life. That is why we have readers that aren’t moms and why there is something for everyone no matter what ages your children are at!
The ideas come from just living my life. I like learning new things! I like being a sponge on new topics and it makes me happy to find new ways to save for families. I gain a lot of inspiration from reading other bloggers, reading magazines, and watching a whole heck of a lot of Food Network & TLC!
Q: How do you get sponsors for giveaways?
A: I only do product reviews very infrequently anymore because they are time-consuming and I don’t really have a great desire to clutter up our house with a lot of products. Instead if a company reaches out to me about a review, I try to see if there is a way we can offer a great giveaway for our readers instead. I know that our readers are leading a budget-minded life and there is nothing I enjoy more than sharing items with our readers.
I did a lot of product reviews in the beginning though to establish relationships with the companies that reached out to me and then established giveaways through them. I would encourage you to reach out to companies that you are passionate about (even if you just send out a tweet) and see if they would like to do a giveaway with you.
I don’t know if anyone has any better advice than this, please feel free to share in the comments below.
Q: I would like to know how you get Facebook followers to follow the blog?
A: I am still pretty new to Facebook and I am still trying to grow that page. I think if you are trying to get people to head over to the blog, that you need to offer some value-added benefits to being a part of your community. On our site we try to share other sites, freebies, a daily menu idea, and something from the archives that would be helpful during that month from the archived articles. Try pushing traffic back to the work you have already done because chances are that it will be new to someone and they will begin to explore and want to follow your blog.
In the beginning I found Twitter to be a great way to attract readers to the site and create new blog followers. I don’t find that Twitter is half as effective as it used to be for me, personally, and Facebook has been a bigger attractor for us. It is my belief that on Facebook there is often a personal investment there. Who wouldn’t want to see what their old high school friend is up to or what the mom down the road is doing to save money? It really is that personal investment that translates into traffic for me and those people are often my biggest referrers and happily share about my site with their friends.
(mobile upload: on set with Cheer)
Q: How do you get relationships with brands?
I have never approached a company about working with them as a spokesperson, they have always found me. I will tell you though the two things that have helped me secure jobs with brands.
The first thing is that I wrote about topics that would make me perfect for certain brands, unknowingly, but that is how the jobs have come to me. For example, I wrote a lot about ways to save with your appliances and Kenmore reached out to me about working with them as their spokesperson teaching moms home management tips and ways to save with their appliances. When I wrote about how to save moms time cleaning, Cascade hired me to work with them to write materials on how to save time in the kitchen. When I wrote about how to save money on gifts and the holidays, Glade approached me to be their spokesperson and showcase gifts and ideas for the holidays for cash-strapped moms. Keep that in mind when you are writing your blogs and articles that brands might be looking to hire someone just like you to represent their product.
The second recommendation would be to get some on-camera work. Contact your local news about working with them and doing a segment or a series of segments on what you write about. If you can’t get on your local news (if you live in a larger city), then put together some vlogs that showcase your camera work. Get comfortable in front of the camera because a brand is going to hire someone who can handle interviews, media tours, commercials, and online campaigns and represent their product well.
Honestly, I find being on camera to be nerve-wracking. The first five months that I did our local news, I never slept the night before my segments. I have learned to choose colors that won’t showcase how sweaty I get and I have to buy that prescripition strength deodorant. I am always thankful that I did years and years of theater though (even when I was pregnant with my Ethan) and it is that time invested in community theater that has helped me get through all of the camera work today.
Q: How/when do you fine time to read 5 books in a month for the Great Reads section with all that you do? Do you stay up late, get up early?
I am not a morning person, but I have been forced to be now that the kids are in school. I don’t have a lot of time to read in the mornings anymore though because both kids have to head to school in the morning at two different times. I used to do my best reading first thing in the morning.
The truth is, I don’t really watch a lot of television during the week. My husband freelances on the side and has a busy job as a web designer so I read a lot in the evenings after the kids go to bed . Keep in mind my kids are also 4 and 8 now- it was much harder when they were younger.
I truly just take advantage of those tiny pockets of time- an hour here and there in the afternoons, reading in the tub (seriously), time in the evenings, and when I travel all I do is read in the down time on my layovers. Does it also help to know that I used to help our English teacher and volunteered to help teach kids speed reading in middle school? I am a fast reader, especially if the book is a good one!
Do you have any questions for me that you would like to ask? I am an open book on the topic of blogging and will do my best to answer them!