My Blogging Story: Part 5

If you haven’t read my entire blogging story up to this point, you’ll want to start with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

When I left you last with my story, the new year of 2011 turned the calendar.  My entire world as I knew it for 5 years had completely blown up and I scrambled to find truth for myself.  My marriage had crumbled in lies and deceptions and I had no idea what I was going to do financially going forward to make it.  It would be 3 months of sitting in my house in Birmingham, waiting until my family could come and move me out of that house and back to Georgia.  I had 2 moving sales during that time and the friends in my church rallied around me with support.  Life felt so bleak at the time.

It was decided that my family would come over at the very end of March.  We would rent moving trucks and move me back to Marietta, home with my parents.  I was still blogging, sharing bits and pieces of what was going on in my world, but still not telling it all.  It was too much of a shocker to deal with and so much to process and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.

I wanted to continue blogging, but wasn’t sure if I could do that and make it.  My income was still part time and not enough to support myself.  I had visions of living with my parents for years on end, dreaming of getting another house, but that dream seemed to be so far off in the distance.  I just wanted a normal life again.  And I didn’t know what normal would feel like anymore.  A very bad bonehead marital decision almost 6 years ago had cost me nearly everything I had worked for.  It was not a pretty picture.  My post from last year, Life is Not a Magazine Cover, goes into a bit more detail about the situation I found myself in.

Going back to a Corporate job was definitely in my mind and that is what I  had mostly resigned myself to do.  Back to the Corporate grind, doing what I had done for so many years.  I could always be an Admin Assistant again.  It was something that I’m good at and I did quite well in that world for 30 years (hard to believe it was that many years, but true).  It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but I knew that I could do it if I had to.

I kept sharing on my blog all last year, even through all the changes in my life and you kept coming back! I’m so grateful for all of you too, who have supported me and given me encouraging words, even when I didn’t feel great about life. Y’all are the best encouragers there are and I appreciate the support that I’ve felt this last year. That’s been amazing to me too. We had a few family milestones and I blogged about all of them, like Lauren’s wedding last year in March, along with all the showers and festivities that go along with weddings. All of that gave me something fun to look forward to in February and March.  As hard as things were, I had my family’s love around me.  They could have easily said “we told you so”, but they never uttered those words.

I kept blogging and all of you kept reading and coming back to see how I was doing.  I felt your love and support all across the country as I scrambled to find my new life and where it was heading.  It was a crazy time, with so much turmoil and uncertainty.  Once I actually got moved and back home with my parents, I breathed a big sigh of relief.  I was emotionally safe again. I began to sleep better than I had in many, many years.  I knew that I would survive and make it.

I had so much financial ruin to climb out of and I began to do that once I settled back in Georgia. As hard as it is to admit this publicly, I had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.  It was a humiliating thing to do, especially for someone like me who had always been self-sufficient, taking care of myself and making it just fine for so many years.  I learned how to handle money from my dad at a young age and had always lived within my means and saved my money.  As someone who had a 800+ credit score most of my life,to get to this point in life and have all that ruined by the decisions of someone I was married to, well, it just made me sick to my stomach and like somewhat of an idiot for trusting too much.  But, I pressed on and made it through all that, with hope and optimism for the future.  I knew it wouldn’t kill me (although at times, it certainly felt like it would) and what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

By May, I had made the decision to keep blogging full-time and jump in there with my whole entire heart, doing what I love to do and hopefully doing it well. I had no distractions and no one to answer to or deal with.  My blog revenue began increasing with my main ad network, BlogHer.  I was with several other ad networks and they were all bringing in money.  Lots of great opportunities began landing in my inbox, with more exciting things offered to me and more avenues to add to my income as well.

I don’t know how else to put this but to just put it out there as it happened, but the Lord was looking out for me.  There is no doubt in my mind that He is the one who has provided opportunities and opened doors for me to make a living doing this blog thing and I am so grateful for His hand on my life.  It’s as if after I went through the worst of the storm, He began pouring out showers of blessings on me and showing me favor left and right.  Every time I turned around, something good was happening last year and it hasn’t stopped yet.

Around June, I got in touch with several of my close blog friends, since we had previously discussed trying to plan our own blog conference for the DIY home niche.  I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by jumping in and taking charge of it, but I needed to know that they were on my side and would help out.  We were all spread out all over the country and I told them that I’d take the lead in this endeavor, but it was going to have to be in Atlanta.  They were all on board and ready to tackle it.  The planning process started and Haven was born.  Layla designed our logo, but then dropped out of the planning committee, because of their time constraints with the TV show they were taping.  That ended up not working out for them (boo-hoo!), but now they will be at Haven teaching a class on Photography.  The rest of the girls all came together and we began the tentative steps of actually planning a big conference.  I had never tackled that before, but I figured why not?  It was a big step for me to do that, since the financial burden of it all would be on my shoulders too.  But, I’m happy to say that it has all come together beautifully and all the details have been worked out.  I met up with a savvy events planner here in Atlanta, my now friend Kristin, and we were off and running with Haven.  That has been a God-thing too!  There were so many behind the scenes things happening to get us where we are now and without the Lord moving in all of it, Haven would have never happened.  It gives me chills to think about it.

My blog was doing great by Summer of 2011 and my income started going up.  I knew I was going to make it and be able to support myself with all the things that were happening.  Advertisers and sponsors and brands were really getting geared up in 2011 and realizing the power of bloggers and many were eager to work with bloggers in a bigger capacity.  It was the perfect time for Haven to be born and we have not had any problem getting sponsors on board for this new and exciting conference.  I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be the founder.

All during the summer of 2011, many things started happening for me. Exciting opportunities!  I was happy and busy, doing what I loved to do.  In July, I helped Mr. Goodwill Hunting host an I Love Thrifting party here in Atlanta.  We’ll be doing it again this summer, so I hope you’ll join me if you’re in the area!

Also in July, I was chosen to participate in a super-fun event with Shaw Floors and HGTV Home, a design competition in NC.  We were given a wonderful tour of the Biltmore House and wined and dined for 3 days, all the while having a blast with the design competition.  That was such a fun time and I haven’t gotten over it yet!

In August, I headed to my very first BlogHer conference in San Diego, CA.  I’ve been with the BlogHer ad network since 2008 and had always wanted to attend their conference, but never had the money or opportunity to go.  Nothing was holding me back anymore.  After entering a Knorr contest with my mom’s homemade chicken and dumplings, I found out I had won the final 8 and we were all heading to BlogHer to a cook-off with some well-known chefs, courtesy of Knorr.  The final 4 would have the pleasure of being sponsored by Knorr USA by cooking and featuring recipes using their products.  Pinch me!   Those dumplings won me a place in the final 4 and it’s been a whirlwind of opportunities since then.

In September, I got to tag along with Kevin and Layla, as they filmed a TV pilot for HGTV for several days in Suwanee.  It didn’t end up working out for them, but it sure was a fun experience for all of us.

Also in September, I got the fun pleasure of flying out to San Francisco for a few days and staying with my energetic and talented bloggy friend, Kate, also known world-wide as the Centsational Girl.  I enjoyed every minute of time out there with Kate.

What a fun year 2011 ended up being.  From despair and sadness to joy and gladness in just a few months.  You can’t tell me God hasn’t been looking out for me!  He has been there every beautiful step of the way.  I could tell you countless times how He has come through in big and small ways over the last year, working on my behalf.

My blogging income has steadily gone up in the past year.  It went from part-time income in 2010 to full-time income in 2011.  I’m not getting rich, but it is enough to live on and support myself.   I still have to pay taxes, health insurance, and all of that, just like any self-employed person.  Bloggers are business owners, self-employed folks who have the privilege of working at home and doing what they love to do.  So why not get paid for that, I say?  None of us who started blogging had any intention of it ever becoming a full-time business.  We didn’t even know that was possible back then.  But, I’m happy to say, it is possible.  And it is working for me!

I did a whole post a couple of years ago back in 2010 on the business side of blogging and I will do an update on this post as well.  I said back then that it was part-time pay and it was.  Now, in 2012 it is full-time pay and work.  Those of us who blog for a living put a lot of time and heart into our blogs. We want them to work and be successful, sure, but we don’t want to lose our heart and why we started blogging either.  I still want my personality to come through and I don’t ever want money to over-shadow that.  The perks and the money are a great reward for putting so much of ourselves into our blogs.  Anyone who has a business at home feels the same way.  I feel very blessed to have started blogging when I did.  I doubt I would be where I am now if I had not started way back in 2007.

The blogworld has changed SO much in the last 5 years.  So many new blogs are popping up every single day.  I daresay there are millions of blogs out there now and many of them have aspirations of making a living at home by blogging.  I’ve said it SO many times and I will say it again.

Please don’t start a blog with plans of getting rich and famous. 

I think you’ll be extremely disappointed if you do that.  Blog because you love it, because you have something good to share and you want to connect with others who love the same things you do.  If it comes from your heart, that will always shine through and people will recognize that. And if you do that, you’ll be successful and the perks will come. I still blog because I love it and I’m just very, very blessed that it has turned into a sustainable income for me.

Some will say that bloggers who advertise have sold out.  They can say that all they want, but all of this takes a lot of time and energy to do it well and making money is the perk that keeps things rolling along.  I will never apologize for running ads on my blog or for doing sponsored posts.

What are the main ways I make money from my blog?  I’ll go over them again here.  Most of us who blog and get paid for it always try to choose the best avenues for making money, so we look around for the best networks out there and that is constantly changing too:

Blogher ad network:  I joined them back in 2008 and it has been a wonderful partnership for me. They have been great to me, given me some super-fun opportunities, as well as good revenue and financial perks.  I plan to stay with BlogHer for the longhaul.  They are my main ad network and the #1 way that I make money from my blog.  I run their ads on my blog and depending on how much traffic (visitors) I get each month determines how much I make.  BlogHer takes applications and lets in a few blogs at a time, so you can check them out and get on the waiting list if you are interested. One of the things you have to keep in mind with BlogHer is this:  if you are running other ad networks, you have to run BlogHer above them all.  And if you do paid giveaways and reviews, most of those have to go on an ad-free page. That is why you have to click over to another page for most of my giveaways and sponsored posts.

Rivit Media:  This is a smaller ad network and sometimes they do campaigns directed at the home decor/crafting arena.  This network just does OK for me, nothing majorly big.

Lijit Networks:  Another smaller ad network, this one just supplements with extra money per month.  Again, you sign up with them and start running their ads and all of these depend on how much traffic a blog gets on how much you can make.

Google Adsense:  This one is probably the most common ad network to sign up with.  Operated by the giant, Google, if you sign up for Adsense it will pull ads based on your content and deliver to your blog and again, it’s based on traffic and clicks on how much $$ you can make with Google Adsense.   If you are already signed up with Google and Blogger, it’s easy to add these ad tags to your blog.  It does take a little bit of playing around to get the ads to look  like you want them to and figure out the sizes.

houzz interior design ideas

Houzz:  I joined Houzz about a year ago as a monthly contributor and I get paid to put together a product ideabook for them once a month.  It’s fun to pull products together that I find inspiring and share them on Houzz.  I can choose any subject I want to write about and do my own thing.

Personal Ad Buttons:  These are monthly or quarterly sponsors and I place their ads on my sidebar and do giveaways and reviews with most of them.  I only accept advertisers that I feel will be a good fit with my blog and most of them are home/decor related.
Set Your Price. Choose your Advertisers. Sign up for SocialSpark!

Social Spark:  This innovative ad network brings together advertisers and bloggers and gives bloggers the chance to make extra money writing about and sometimes trying out new products and sharing them with our blog audience.  Most of them are informational posts, sharing new products or ideas that are out on the web.  There is nothing hard sell about writing these posts, but it does allow bloggers to get paid for sharing information with their readers.  This company pays based on a blog’s traffic and the more traffic you have, the more money you can make.  I’ve really enjoyed working with them the past year.

Sponsored Promotions/Posts:  I also do sponsored posts and reviews for other brands and companies that come along.  Most of these are promotional and informational, usually showing a product or giving a shout-out for a promotion of some type.  I do get paid for these, but I write them in my own words and from my on opinion or viewpoint.  I only take products or promotions that I feel would be beneficial to my readers, so I do think about that before I say yes, even though I’m getting paid for it.  The way I look at it is this:  I do a lot of posts on here about lots of interesting things from shopping venues to DIY projects and decorating, so adding in giveaways or promotions along the way is part of the business aspect.

Beadboard Wallpaper in my online shop:  Since I fell in love with beadboard wallpaper back in 2009, it was an easy decision to partner with Graham Brown and sell it in an online shop.  I do make commissions from my sales, but it’s a product I strongly believe in and wouldn’t put it out there if I didn’t.

One thing I wanted to mention to y’all that you might not know.  All of us who blog and keep up with stats look at our pageviews and visitors on a regular basis through Google Analytics.  All those ad networks pay by the number of clicks/visits we get on our blogs.  If we get more visits, it helps the paycheck go up.  If you read on a reader, like Google reader or subscribe by email and read that way, it never counts as a visit to our blogs.  So, just in case you didn’t know that and would like to help your favorite bloggers’ stats even more (and I hope I’m one of those!), please click over LIVE to my blog every chance you get, OK? You will make a blogger’s day if you do that! :) 

Several mentioned that you don’t know h0w to see a blog live.  If you are reading by email, click on the title of the post and it will take you directly to my blog url.  In a reader, you can do the same thing. To be sure you are reading LIVE, you will always see the address of the site you are reading if you glance up at your url box.  If it is an email site, you are reading in email.  If it’s Google Reader, you’ll see that address.  You can always click over live at anytime!

I know there are many people out there who really hate the fact that many bloggers (like me) are into advertising on our blogs.  Just know that we consider ourselves small business owners, we strive to do the best job we can with our blogs and we have to look at it from a business standpoint.  That’s how much time we spend on our blogs, it is a full-time job now.  So, I ask you to please be patient if you see an occasional pop-up ad or something annoying on my blog.  I try to keep those to a minimum, but I don’t always have full control on what shows up here in those sidebar ads. I also know that every sponsored post I do will not interest everyone, so please indulge me with those.

I try to be totally transparent here on my blog and along the way, I do get free products and the opportunity to try things out and get paid for them.  I will always disclose that in my posts if I get something free.  With this house renovation, you can be sure I will be getting some free products along the way and I will welcome all of them.  We are working on a tight budget!  I am already working with Lowes Creative Ideas blog team and will now get to put that $$ towards my house for the next few months.

I still see so many new bloggers striving to climb that bloggy ladder, making a name for themselves and grabbing some of the money out there.  I totally understand that, but sometimes the frantic shows through and I hate to see that happening.  Everyone has a different approach to blogging, but I’m old-school and feel it should come with hard work, great content, dedication and ethics.  That’s how you get ahead in blogworld!  So, I hope that message will come across loud and clear to all new bloggers who might be reading this.  I wish success for everyone, but I don’t think you can cut corners to get  to where you want to go.  Good things come to those who work hard and practice integrity along the way.  That is something that I’ve always striven for.

The good news is that sponsors and brands seem to be moving more and more in the direction of working with bloggers.  It’s growing tremendously in that area. That is such a great thing and will mean more success for all of us in this niche.  I feel so grateful to be in the home decor/DIY niche and to have grown along with the industry.  I love having the opportunity to work with great DIY/home decor brands and to show off their products.

Nothing inspires me more than seeing inspiration out there in blogland and the projects, they just don’t stop, do they?

One thing that is very hard is keeping up the pace of what everyone else is doing in blogland.  I had to get over that a long time ago, as I’ve been in this limbo state for the last year or so.  I was able to do a few projects and improvements at my sister’s house and my parents’ place and that has been so rewarding.  But, it’s easy to get in a competitive state of mind in blogging.

You’re only as good as your last pin-worthy super-fantastic project!  How many can you churn out in a month? You are nothing if you don’t have a blog-worthy project every single week.  At least that’s the way it feels sometimes.

That stinks!  Who can keep up with that?

There is a never-ending stream of fantastic and yes, pin-worthy super-fantastic projects out there and that feeling of being out of it can jump on all of us if we’re not careful.  I’ve felt it.  You’ve felt it.  That creeping up on you comparison thing.  That’s the thing about blogging that I don’t love.  That competitive nature and running to keep up.  So, I give you permission to be yourself and do your own thing, at your own pace.  That is what I’ve had to do.  My blog will not be the blog with the mind-blowing projects and DIY how-to’s every single week.  Really, who can keep up with all that is out there at any given time?  I decided a long time ago that I would share a variety of things on my blog and I still do that to this day, 5 years later.  Since I’ve just bought a fixer-upper house, you’ll see all sorts of real-life projects going on now, that is for sure and I will try to do weekly updates on the house!  They might not all be pretty, but they will be real-life.

Be you and you can’t go wrong!  My blog will never be the most popular or most talked about and win awards and accolades.  I have never expected that to happen.  But, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in this big ole’ bloggy world and I want to continue to inspire and create with all of you out there.  THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for continuing to care and continuing to come by on a regular basis.  I love you all and this blog would not be the blog it is without all of you.  I think of you when I’m writing posts and putting things out there.  Will YOU like it and enjoy it?  That’s how I think about my posts.  And you do, you really do!  So, thank you once again for 5 years of fun and friendship.   I tell my parents about all the wonderful folks who come by and read about them.

I wouldn’t be where I am without my readers and all the support you ALL have given me.  If you’ll stick around, I’ll continue for another 5 years and as long as this ride continues.  I promise to keep it real, keep it fun, and continue doing what I love to do and hopefully inspiring all of you in the process.

Deal?!

As of April 2012, with the help of my parents, I have bought a fixer upper house and we are in the process of renovating it.  You can follow those adventures under House Renovations.  I am SO grateful to the Lord for giving me another house to love on and live in.  It’s going to be a lot of work, but so rewarding and I’ll be sharing it all on the blog. I hope to move in by Fall of 2012.

Today, the DIY Forums is interviewing  me all about my new fixer-upper for their blog , so check it out if you get the chance!


- Rhoda


Comments

  1. Dear Sandy,
    Thank you so much for all your insights and links to numerous websites and blogs! I’ve learned so much in roughly an hour, but more than anything, you’ve given me the momentum to keep writing. I love The Pioneer Woman too, and was so excited to see you got to visit “the ranch”! This would be a dream come true for me as my boys L-O-V-E love her recipes as do I. Please visit my blog too.

  2. Jackie Bowen says:

    Now, you never know if your blog will win awards and accolades, right?? Lots of surprises happen, as you’ve already written about. It is a wonderful blog and your creativity is inspiring, Rhoda. I really hope you DO keep it up for AT LEAST another 5 years. Thanks for all the hard work. It blesses me.

  3. Loved reading your story. I am a newbie and do not have many followers yet. So you think I should make the switch now from Blogger to WordPress?

    • HI, Jo, it just depends where you want to go with your blog. If you think you want to try to grow it and make a business out of it, then yes, I’d say to move now rather than later. Moving to WordPress and setting up with a host yearly is not that expensive.

  4. How inspiring! I first started food blogging in 2007 (was part of Blogher Network then too) and I have to say, that cooking blog helped me through my divorce (in 2009) . It became I space for me to express my grief. Unfortunately, unlike you, I had to let it go after 4 years because of all the changes that were happening…new home, new kitchen. Oops, too long of a comment. I just want to say thank you. I guess when we think we are alone in our misery, just “surf the net” and we’ll find many who share our story.

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