If you are just joining my story, read Part 1 first.
I left you in Part 1 at the beginning of 2008, when I set up my own home business of decorating and blogging. I had hoped to launch my decorating business and get in person consultations as well as online business.
I did get a few jobs that year, some in person and some online, but I wasn’t burning it up with my new business venture. I worked with a local designer in Birmingham on a few jobs and enjoyed learning from her. She stayed busy and hired me to help her on a few jobs that year and it was a lot of fun. And I had about 3 redesigns of my own in the area during that time and it felt good to help some other women pull their rooms together. I enjoy that creative process and seeing the Before and After results was exciting.
Here’s another little sidenote about deciding what to blog about. From the very beginning, I knew I would share DIY home projects and decorating ideas, that is what I’m passionate and excited about. But since that is not all my life entails, sharing other topics seemed to be the best way to pull it all together, so recipes, thrifting, gardening, travel, and family were added to the mix too. Talking about decorating every single day would be too much for me and thankfully, all my readers seem to like the mix!
So, I kept blogging and sharing all the projects I was doing in my house at the time. Around March of 2008, I found out about a blog ad network that I had seen on other blogs, BlogHer. I checked them out and applied to get into the network. I figured I wouldn’t mind having their ads on my blog just to see what would happen.
There was a lot of discussion back then among bloggers about advertising. To advertise or not to advertise, that was the question? I had no problem with it. I figured if someone works hard on a blog, then what is wrong with getting some money from that. Blogging takes a lot of work to keep up with it all, so why not enjoy some perks from it?
I wish I had kept a record of my blog stats back then too. When I set up my free blogger blog, I added Sitemeter to it and it was free, but it only keeps records for one year at a time. So, that is how I knew how many people came by my blog. I’d say that first year, I grew to about 25,000 visits a month and that was about where I was when I joined BlogHer ad network. The first year’s growth was slow and steady. Not a big explosion, but I kept growing and attracting more readers by the time 2008 rolled around.
I didn’t install Google Analytics until I moved to WordPress in July of 2009, so I’ll get to that later. To me, it’s the best tool for tracking your blog stats and will tell you so much information if you get in there and look.
My first check with BlogHer was $84.00, certainly nothing to write home about, but I was giddy with excitement over making a few dollars from my blog. I will say too, that I’ve been completely happy with my association with BlogHer and can’t say enough about how they have treated me well and given me opportunities along the way. I’ll talk more about them later on too, when I break down the business side a little more.
Along with my decorating income, making a few hundred dollars here and there, it was a small part-time job. I made $3,000 in 2008, not much, but it was a start. I still wasn’t sure where it was all going, but I kept doing what I loved to do and that was sharing my decorating and DIY passion with my blog readers.
In September of 2009, I shared my Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers and that post is still a good one to read if you are brand new to blogging and want to learn a few things to help you get started. I didn’t have a lot of help when I got started and I like to pass it on, so hopefully my story and these tips will help you out. So go back and read that post too, it’s got some good solid info on starting a blog.
So, back to 2008. Married at the time, I considered my blog and the decorating just a part-time venture and wasn’t really trying to grow it huge. I was fine with making some extra money for the household and doing what I could to work from home. I hoped that it would grow, but didn’t have a lot of goals in mind for helping it along.
2008 rocked along with sharing projects, recipes, life, most anything that I figured would be interesting enough to recap on the blog. I really fell in love with blogging and it became such a part of my life into that year.
Let me make a stop here and do a little recap on my views of blogging and how the process worked for me. These 5 bullet points are my thoughts and ideas on how blogging works:
- First and foremost, be yourself! If there is anything I could stress the most, it is this one. I have many blog friends that I look up to and admire. They do a fabulous job with their blogs. I’m not going to try to name them all, they are numerous and all unique. I can look at all of them, their style of writing and how they present themselves on their blogs and wish that I was more like each of them. They do wonderful projects, take beautiful pictures,and show it all off on their blogs with such impact. There is always going to be another blogger out there who just does it all better than I do, from creating projects, to taking pics, to writing eloquently, all of it! How can we compete with all the fabulousness that is going on at any given time in the blogosphere. The simple answer is this: We can’t. I can’t! You can’t! But, what we can do and be is OURSELVES. We all have unique talents and skills to share and that is what makes the blogworld so multi-faceted and fun to hang out in. I’ll admit that I have sometimes struggled over the years of blogging with wanting to be more and wishing I was more like so-and-so or had her talent and expertise. Fill in the blank with your favorite rock-star blogger. Sound familiar? I have finally realized that my blog is a representation of me, my unique abilities and skills and that is why all of my readers come back day after day, week after week, year after year. I am no better than you or anyone else, but somehow I’ve presented myself on my blog in a real and open way and I do believe that is why my audience has grown as much as it has. I am not the biggest or the best blog on the block. Never will be. But, I’m so very grateful that God has allowed mine to grow to where it is now and allowed me to share from my heart, the good and the bad. If you are passionate about what you are blogging about, I truly believe that will come through to your readers and they will love YOU for YOU and what you are sharing. They will come by to see what you are up to and it will become part of their lives.
- Don’t ever start a blog with the idea that you are going to make it BIG and make a lot of money. Chances are you will not. The bigger blogs who are making a living from their blogs have most likely been at it for several years and it simply takes much time, energy and a lot of hard work to turn a blog into a business. It has taken me 5 years to get to where I am at the moment. Yes, I’m very happy I started when I did, there were not nearly as many blogs out there and that alone helped my growing process in the beginning. There are a lot more opportunities out there now, than there were in 2007 when I started and yes, lots more companies are working with bloggers, so that is the good news. There is room for all, but you have to find your way. The best thing that has happened is that large and small companies are realizing the power of social media and how much influence that bloggers have online and that has opened many more doors for all of us who do this blogging thing. I’ll talk more about advertising in another post, but I do want to stress that I see too many new bloggers trying to advertise in the first few months of blogging and in my opinion, that is way too fast. Time is needed to build up quality content and to find your rhythm and blog voice, so don’t rush the process. In fact, it can’t be rushed! Very few bloggers will become superstars in the first year of blogging.
- You have to find your own group of friends in blogging to connect with. Those first couple of years, I didn’t have a group of blog friends like I do now to bounce ideas off, share with, connect and learn from. That has been a growing process to make real life friendships out of blogging. Those girls who want to see you succeed and do what they can to help and vice versa. We look out for each other and share ideas along the way, all in the spirit of friendship and helping each other grow. If one succeeds, then that will only help everyone who is blogging and trying to make it a business succeed. I hope that by passing along my experiences with blogging, it will help YOU with your journey too. Back then, it wasn’t as easy to connect with others in my niche, but that has changed and grown too. Now there are so many in the home decor/DIY/thrifting niche. I am so grateful for my group of blog friends, many of whom are on the Haven Conference 2012 team with me.
- It is hard when you start blogging not to feel competitive with others in your niche. You will not be best friends and connect with everyone in your niche. It’s sort of like high school or college in that regard. You probably only had a short list of friends who you really connected with and felt close to. It really took me a good 2-3 years to feel that I had a group of other women around me who I trusted and considered in real life friends. As hard as it is to admit, that competitiveness is there. You look at other blogs and wonder why they are bigger than you are. You see others grow and take off at a rapid rate and wonder why that didn’t happen to you? I wish I could say that there is not a competitive spirit or envy and jealousy in blogworld, but that simply would not be true! It happens to all of us. I’ve experienced my share of envy and feeling left out and like I didn’t belong with a certain group. I’m sure others feel that way about me and my friends sometimes too. (see point 2!) Blogging can feel so cliquish at times! But, one of the best things I’ve done is form friendships with other bloggers and that most of all, has helped me to grow in blogging. We support each other and truly want the other to succeed. I always want to be the blogger who will stop and help other newer bloggers with questions they may have and I have always made it a point to do that.
- It takes so much more hard work than most people realize to write and maintain a good blog. Some may think that blogging could be an easy way to work at home and make money. It certainly can work and has worked for many of us, but on the other hand, it’s not always apparent how much hard work goes into maintaining a blog and doing it well. From writing blog posts, to taking pics and editing them, to coming up with fun and interesting content to share on a weekly basis, it all takes lots of time and energy. Now, the big perk to that is that I work at home now and love it. I don’t have to run out the door in the a.m. heading to a corporate job. I love that! Working for myself has become the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I am still writing what I’m passionate about and it is working for me. I’m so thankful that so many people stop by to see what I’ve written or what I’m doing on any given day. I’m grateful every single day that I have my own business and can run it the way I want. Blogging has opened that door for me and I have to pinch myself every single day.
So, those 5 things in a nutshell are some of the most important ideas I’ve learned in my years of blogging. I didn’t learn them all the first or second year, but it has been an accumulation of knowledge that I’ve gained and I’m hoping that some of this will strike a chord with many of you and help you in your own journey as well.
By the end of 2008, I had made many great friend connections on line, but 2009 would introduce me to my first blogging conference, where I would meet many of those women in person, who I connected with early on. 2009 was another big year of growth and learning, so I’ll end here and begin Part 3 with year 3 of my blogging journey.
I really hope you’re enjoying my journey so far! Lots more to come. I decided to make these posts pretty detailed and just let all my thoughts out at once and hope that it is beneficial to many of you.
Continue Reading Part 3.