As I approach my 7th blogoversary the first week of February, it’s definitely hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for so long. It’s become such a part of my life than I can’t imagine it ever ending now. A big thanks go out to ALL of you who still stop by faithfully every single week/day/month and read my adventures of renovation, recipes, family and travel. I still don’t quite understand WHY you find my blog so fascinating, but I’m eternally grateful that you do!
Never in a million years would I have dreamed I would be where I am today, 3 years ago when my life very nearly fell apart. Well, it did fall apart, but I didn’t quit and I didn’t give up. I made the best of a very bad situation and God made up for it and turned my story around big time, restoring some of what was lost to me. And now 3 years later, I’m living and doing my dream job every single day. How in the world does that happen? I can’t explain it all, but I’m still so so grateful for a God that can change circumstances, because He certainly changed mine.
I look back now and think that if I wasn’t being a stay at home wife at the time, that I may never have started this blog. So, that’s how I have to look at how that timing contributed to putting me where I am today. The marriage ended so badly, but God took that opportunity to give me the greatest gift in turning this blog into a fulltime endeavor and career for me. The last 2 years have been so wonderful and the financial rewards more than I could ever have dreamed. I’m now able to save money again, contributing to a retirement account, a nest egg that was lost at the time.
The house my dad helped me buy going on 2 years ago now, I’ve been able to pay cash for all the home improvements that have been done to my house and that’s a big praise too. Glory hallelujah!
So, I’m going to give an update on the last year of blogging and where I am at the moment. Things in blogland have really been changing the last 2 years, so I’m going to talk about some of that too. Things have changed drastically in the 7 years since I started my blog, and almost NOTHING is the same as it was when I started. One thing for sure, when you blog you have to constantly be willing to change and adapt to all the changes that WILL come along. That is a given!
Let’s take a look back at the last year, 2013! It was a good one for me!
In January, I got a few projects finished up in my house that were on the waiting list, like getting new runners on the stairs finally. That was a fun project to see completed and they are still holding up great to this day. I wouldn’t change a thing about how I did these stairs.
I also finished up stenciling the drapes for my master bedroom windows and that room came together in January of 2013. It was such a great feeling to have my master bedroom be a place of rest and relaxation and I love my space to this day. It’s a wonderful retreat to me.
At the end of January, I also had a very fun Open House and invited readers, bloggers and friends in the area to stop by and meet my family and see the house in person. That was a banner day for sure, as smiling people came in my house and marveled with me at the changes that were made. This house has been such a sanctuary for me the last year and I tear up thinking about the blessings I have in this house and how it’s my home again. When I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a house again,that’s a pretty big accomplishment and blessing! So that Open House meant the world to me.
I have been so fortunate this past year to work with some amazing companies and also in January I hosted a Homegoods blogger party, which was also a dream come true. I’ve always been a fan of Homegoods and to get to host a party was so surreal and fun. To get to interact and work with some world class brands has been the most unreal thing about blogging and I’m so blessed because of those collaborations.
In January, I also got around to doing a whole breakdown on my Ikea kitchen renovation and how much it all cost. I feel like I have a dream kitchen and love every inch of that space. I will be sharing soon about when the Better Homes and Gardens magazine will be out with MY kitchen renovation inside. That was a dream come true from 2013 as well, getting published 2 times in Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas. I just had to wait until 2014 to see it come to fruition, but I’ll be celebrating all over again when the issues hit the newsstands. I heard it might be out in February, in the Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath ideas magazine. And I think the guestbath will be in another separate issue. I’ll let you know when I find out!
Last year, I saw even more brand interaction and in February, was invited to a RustOleum blogger event in Charlotte, NC. That was a very fun and special time with several of my blog friends and 2013 saw more of an increase in brand awareness in working with bloggers. The good news is, it’s still growing! I’ve been so fortunate to get in on so many amazing opportunities with great home brands.
In March, I got to see my friend Marian, when she was in town doing a paint workshop with her awesome line of milk paint. Blogging has opened up so many friendships and the possibilities for bloggers of having their own business endeavors and I’m so happy and proud to know so many successful bloggers like Marian, doing her own unique thing.
In April, I met up with a fun group of bloggers and hit the High Point Furniture market, a very exciting place to visit.
In May, I helped along with 2 of my blog friends, to renovate a room at the United Methodist Children’s home girls cottage, a very rewarding experience. We hope that the girl who is living there is enjoying that beautiful space now.
May was a busy month and I went on a whirlwind Gulf seafood event in New Orleans that was so fun and got to see my niece, Lauren too.
May also brought the Southern Coterie conference on Jekyl Island and that was fun too. Blogging has been so rewarding along the way.
June brought my finally finished screened porch, just in time for summer. That was a fun project to see completed and I’m so going to enjoy it again this year, when we get some warm weather again!
In July, I got invited to a blogger preview of the Southern Living idea house in Nashville and that was such a fun treat. To be able to do all of these events just blows my mind sometimes. I love my job!
I announced in August that my family is having a new baby this February and that was some exciting news for sure. It’s going to completely and utterly change our entire family very soon and we cannot wait! Two baby showers later, we are ready for this baby girl to make her entrance into the world.
August also brought around the 2nd annual Haven conference and we were so proud to pull that off again, another very successful blog conference for home/DIY bloggers. That’s been a dream come true, to head this up along with the entire Haven team and see it turn out so successfully. Another dream come true moment for me in 2013! We are doing it all over again this July, for Haven 2014.
In October, I was invited along with 9 other bloggers, to High Point, NC to participate in a LaZBoy blogger event and that was again, a wonderful highlight to the year for me. I’m constantly amazed at all I get to do that goes hand in hand with this blogging thing. Just one more thing to be grateful for! The Design Dash competition was so much fun. We just recently found out the winner. I didn’t win, but Kelli from Rue Magazine got the win on that one. But, I just last week got my new sofa delivered to my house, so stay tuned on seeing my den go through some changes soon!
October also brought The Chapel Market, brainchild of my friend, Layla. I went just to experience it all and take it all in and it was such a fun time with sweet blog friends. Another memory that I’ll never forget.
My laundry room finale happened in October too, so that was one more project to cross off the long list that we started with. I’ve been completely happy with my finished laundry room and am proud to show it off now.
I also got a new blog design in October, which was much needed and I still love it. The changes were good ones, since I hadn’t had a blog design in 3 1/2 years and in blog years, that’s an eternity. It’s fresh and clean now and I love it.
As you can see, 2013 was quite the exciting year for me personally and in blogland too.
So, back to the topic of blogging, there have been a lot of growth explosions the last 2 years and lots of changes along the way, so I’m covering some of the top topics that I see in blogland:
1. Let’s talk about Pinterest!
I have long had a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. There, I said it!
One of the social media tools that has really exploded this past year is Pinterest. Are you a Pinterest addict now? What started off as an online bulletin board to pin and save projects that you see all over the web, has turned into a mega social media outlet for bloggers.
I think most bloggers I know have jumped into Pinterest full force and we do try to use it as a vehicle back to our blogs and I’m no exception to that. It brings me lots of traffic every month (approx. 17% of my traffic), although I know I don’t use it to the max. I just don’t want to spend that much time using it all the time, but some bloggers have figured out a way to use it that has really made their blogs grow tremendously in a short amount of time. Pinning lots of pretty pics with great projects out there pays off with traffic back to their blogs. With all that traffic, pageviews go up, up, and up.
I’m probably not that intentional with how I do things on the business side of my blog with Pinterest, so that’s how I differ somewhat from what I see happening out there in blogland right now. Pinterest is a tool and there is even a site called Viraltag (not free) that will set up scheduled pins and many bloggers are now using that tool too. I haven’t embraced Viraltag yet for myself, but I try to use Pinterest to help my blog as much as I can. Pinning projects and great posts out there will get shared and searched in Pinterest and bring traffic back to a blog. That’s a given, but Pinterest even seems to be shifting a bit and no one knows what will happen to Pinterest in the long run. Will it continue to be mega-popular and bring tons of traffic to blogs? We just don’t know. I hope it does and it’s working for now, but I can see that changing in the future, if they start trying to make money from Pinterest users. And I think people are just getting burned out from so much visual stimulation from picture-perfect pins all over Pinterest. Too much of a good thing, maybe?
I try to write my posts and structure my blog so that my content is good and still gets me a lot of organic traffic, meaning people put in search terms and find my blog by looking for a particular set of words, like “painting furniture black”. There’s been a huge growth in the last couple of years in doing picture-perfect posts with graphics that are all beautiful and tidy and putting that out there on Pinterest to get lots of pins and that is definitely working too for lots of bloggers. That’s just not how I choose to spend my time. I’ve been blogging now for 7 years and with that time, came a lot of projects and posts over the years that continue to bring me traffic and continue to be pinned as well, which also brings me traffic to my blog. I may not grow as huge as some of these blogs are growing who are using these methods, but as long as I hold my own out there, I’m fine with that. And I’m not criticizing how anyone chooses to grow their blog, we all have to find our own comfort zone.
So, that’s some of the changes I’ve seen in the last year in particular. Pinterest is reigning as the #1 social media tool for bloggers to get eyes back to their blogs, which means pageviews and money. And it all works, it just depends on how much time you want to spend on that media. My friends and I do help each other out by pinning and repinning each other’s projects, so that is the norm in blogging now too. Pinterest is just one big tool that seems to be working well at the moment, so we’ll see how long the popularity continues. As I’ve found in 7 years of blogging, nothing stays the same!
2. Advertising and Making Money 2014
I’ve shared in several of my posts over the years how I make money on my blog. I shared this slide at last year’s Haven, so I’ll share it here with all of you too. If you’re not a blogger, this probably will not interest you that much, but this is the breakdown on the bulk of my blogging business and how I make money. There are several different pieces of the pie that make up my income and these are the main ones.
I’ve been so, so fortunate to have this turn into my full time business and to be able to make a very nice income from blogging is just one of those things that I didn’t see coming. The last 2 years have been financially great ones for me and the timing couldn’t have been better for my circumstances. With blogging, has come so many great opportunities and I’ve been fortunate to get in with some great brands and companies that want to work with me.
You can see in the piechart below, that I make money in several different ways. Ad networks continue to be the biggest piece of the pie, so I appreciate you all indulging me on my blog with sidebar ads. I still try to keep any annoying pop-up ads off there, but occasionally some of those happen. Thank you for understanding that this is how I make a living for myself! You all have been so encouraging and supportive on all things to do with advertising and sponsored posts and you have no idea how grateful I am for that. If you didn’t understand that this is part of doing business as a blogger and just stopped coming back, I’d be out of business!
I am still a Brand Ambassador for a few companies: FrogTape, Lowes Home Improvement, and Payless Décor. These are the main three that I continue to do projects with and for and to write about. All 3 of these companies are companies I support and endorse wholeheartedly.
During the last year or two, sponsored posts have also grown in opportunities for bloggers and I’ve done my share of those too. Most of them include using products from companies and blogging about it, so I don’t have a problem doing that too. I only try to use products that I would normally use around here anyway and that goes for all products that I might blog about, whether it’s home improvement tools, home décor items, paint, kitchen tools, food, or really anything that I myself would use and endorse. I don’t take on just anything that comes along either. If I don’t feel that I can write about things authentically and truthfully, then I don’t take them on. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with some great brands and companies and that has been a huge growth potential in making a living doing this blogging thing. Again, I appreciate that most of you understand how this works and are fully supportive to me in my endeavors. I’ve had a few complainers along the way in regards to advertising and sponsored posts, but for the most part, a whole lot of support.
Below are the ad networks I’m currently using on my blog, with BlogHer still being the top income producing ad network for me. Google and the others fall under BlogHer. Also, last year, I hired a company to take over my ad networks and they monitor them for me monthly. That is not something I’m skilled at (nor do I want to spend time on this part of the blog business), so I happily handed over the reins of my advertising to someone who is a lot smarter than I am with these things. Believe me when I tell you that this area has also gone through tremendous changes in the last few years, with so much more to know in handling advertising and ad networks. That is not something that comes easily to my brain, either the setting up or monitoring of ad networks and how to get the most money from each. So, when I was introduced to Andy with Ad Thrive last year, I happily signed on. He is a former teacher who started helping his wife, Kelly, with her own blog advertising and from word of mouth and growth of his start-up company, he quit his job and has now hired others to help him run this thriving new business.
THAT is how much this blog stuff has grown just in the last year! Amazing, isn’t it!? Andy takes blogs that have over 300K in pageviews, so be aware of that if you are a blogger looking to do this. I’ve been very happy with my association with Andy and Ad Thrive and have seen some growth in my ad revenue as a result.
During 2013, I changed over from Bluehost hosting service to RFE Hosting (affiliate link) and have been very happy with the changes. They’ve been able to respond and handle the traffic that I get, as well as help troubleshoot any problems. A good hosting service is crucial as a blogger! I am also set up as an affiliate for them, so anyone I send them, I’ll get a small commission for referring.
*Ad Networks – Sign up for at least 3 to 5 ad networks. Ad networks work for you 24/7 and in order for them to work to the max they have to be layered and backfilled.
*Sponsored Posts are good money makers. Network with brands you want to work with and tell them so.
*Brand Ambassadorships are also increasing and big brands are looking to work with bloggers more and more for a longer time period. What products do you love? Pitch the brand via twitter or an email to their social media dept.
*Be a contributor! Write for other blogs or websites and make extra money.
*Find a product you love and utilize that as a money maker. Use affiliate links for products you love and endorse. I have had a lot of success with selling beadboard wallpaper through my online shop, because it is a product I love and endorse.
*Diversify your blog income!!!
3. Blogging and Contributors
Another trend with bloggers in 2014 is hiring contributors for blogs who are established and have a big online presence. Many of my blog friends are doing this, but I haven’t chosen to go this route. I figure I built my blog on my own voice and you all come here to see what I’m up to, what projects I’m working on, or just family stuff I share. No one else can share that for me, so I really like to keep my own presence and voice on my blog. Many people feel differently about that and want more and more expertise on their blogs and having contributors sharing helps get fresh content to their blogs and frees them up to do other things. I totally get that and everyone has the opportunity to do what they want to do. For now, no contributors for me on my blog, other than a guest post here and there. My desire is to continue to focus on being personal on my blog, showing that I’m a real person behind the blog. Not that being professional isn’t important too, but I don’t want that to override the personal touch that I share here.
4. Starting Multiple Blogs
And yet another trend in blogging the last couple of years has been to start multiple blogs, which also creates multiple streams of income. Many of my friends are also doing this, but I see that as a fast road to burn-out (for me, anyway), so I don’t choose to go that road. It works and is working for many people and they have the energy and creative team to keep up with it all. I just don’t want to put myself through that stress and I know how difficult it would feel to me to try to keep up with 2 blogs. So, that’s not happening for me either (at least I have no plans for more blogs, not in the near future). I am in awe of those that do it well, it’s just not for me at this time.
So, that’s a wrapup of my 7 years of blogging! It’s been a really interesting road to get to where I am today and it really is amazing to see all the changes that have come about in the last 7 years. Most of the things I’ve talked about in this post weren’t even in the realm of possibility back then, but today there are countless ways to make it online. I’m really happy and grateful that there are these amazing opportunities now that were not remotely possible just a few short years ago. Making a living at home and being creative online is a dream come true for many people, myself included. I don’t take it for granted and realize that things could shift at any moment and all of this could change for us at a moment’s notice.
Blogging most definitely is a job and that’s the way I have to look at it now in 2014. A VERY fun job and a dream job, but a job nonetheless. Along with that comes working with brands and sponsors and meeting deadlines, feeling the crunch of getting things done on time and putting out great content that all of you will still enjoy reading week after week. There’s also the competition thing that I’ve had to let go of. If you are blogging now in the home decor/DIY niche, you can’t help but notice that it is super saturated with bloggers and that’s part of where we are now too. The competition thing is part of the territory and one area that I’ve just had to let go of and not focus too much concern over what everyone else is doing and if they are all doing it better than I am. If you let it get to you, it will drive you crazy! And this is still way too much fun for me to let that part get me down.
With the job aspect, comes hiring a CPA and keeping up with all of that too, income and expenses, filing taxes quarterly, getting health insurance, etc. Working for myself is wonderful, but it’s not completely without headaches. It was a lot easier (paperwork wise) getting a paycheck back when I worked in the corporate world, but this has certainly become a better road for me. I wouldn’t change it for anything now and working for myself is the BEST!
As long as things are still going well, I’ll keep on blogging! I’m still so, so grateful that I started when I did, because I totally don’t think I’d be where I am now if I had not. You all still amaze me that you are interested in me, my life, my family, my house and all the adventures I am blessed to participate in. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart! Without all of you faithful readers, I would definitely not be here. Thank you all a million times over!
I cannot wait to see what 2014 holds! So far, it’s starting off great. I’m helping to put together a blogger’s weekend with Mary Kay Andrews and Diane at Mermaid Cottages the first weekend of February and I’m heading to Tybee Island and Savannah for a few days, along with several of my blogging buddies. And of course, all of that will be shared with y’all!
Here’s to a wonderful blessed 2014!