March 29, 2013

Blogging Part 3 // maintaining your blog


Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Maintaining will cover:
finding your voice
connecting with bigger brands
attending a conference
making money


I think one of the toughest parts about starting a blog is being consistent right out of the gate. Oftentimes we set too high of standards for our posting habits (frequency, content, etc) and then as soon as you miss a day, you feel instantly behind. 

But, once you get to the right balance of blogging, it takes consistency with your topics to maintain your blog. That doesn't mean you can't incorporate new ideas, it just means you have a "default" set in place. You know what you like to write about, and write about it. 

Finding your blogging "voice" is something that comes with time and experience. You will learn what excites you most and what you find most interesting to write about. You'll learn if you like to add a little humor (or heck, a lot of humor) in your posts. You'll find out if you like to be emotional and vulnerable. And that will help you hone in on your voice and your mission statement. Make sure you are writing from your natural self, instead of what kind of writer you "want" to be.

Be sensitive to your readers. Make sure what you are writing is clear, easy to understand, and thorough. Consider various points of view on the topic to preemptively answer any questions readers may have.

Be aware that people are reading what you write. Although it may feel like you are just typing some words and sending it off into cyberland, you aren't. You are representing yourself, your family, maybe your industry, etc. 

I try to always write what I'd be perfectly comfortable talking about to a group of people. Easy or hard topics, I always want to be careful that I'm not over-sharing, and staying within the boundaries that I've set for myself.


A fun aspect of blogging that I've enjoyed is working with brands on collaborations. This could range anywhere from handmade shops to big retail brands. 

I've been lucky enough to work with a range of businesses, with the largest being the Real Simple feature. That was so fun to work on, and it was pretty much the coolest thing ever to see my face on Realsimple.com. By far, one of the greatest blogging accomplishments I've achieved. 

If you are interested in working with brands, either by product features or giveaways, there are a few things to consdier and some smart steps to take. 

1. Consider whether the product is right for your blog. Would it fit in naturally with your content? It is something you truly like? 
It can be obvious if a certain product doesn't fit your content. I learned this the hard way. So, I'd encourage you to really narrow down what types of products, what brands, etc. you are interested in collaborating with from the beginning. And if you are presented with an opportunity from a brand that doesn't make sense, strongly consider declining. The more "wrong" brands you say no to means you'll have more to say yes to with the right brands.

2. Consider what you have to offer the business. Let's think of a hypothetical Etsy shop called "KittyKitty". Let's say they make cat rings and you want to feature it on your blog. First, lets hope you like cats. If you do, and decide to pursue a feature, draft an email containing pertinent info for the owners of KittyKitty. 

They'll want to know things like :
a. daily page views
b. unique visitors
c. facebook fans/twitter followers/instgram followers/pinterest followers
d. testimonials of brands/businesses you've worked with in the past
e. why you think it will be a great fit on your blog

Create a document that you can send to any business you are interested in working with containing all this information. Update it as it changes. 

Explain a little bit about you who are, what your blog is about, and why you think it would be a good fit. You essentially need to present your blog as an advertising opportunity for the business, with the idea that their "payment" is item they give to you. 

Think also about what sort of things you would like to know if you were in their shoes. They may be interested in knowing how often you are going to tweet about the post, or other social media touts.

Make this document easy to read, like you would a resume. Consider writing your stats in bold or in bullet point form, so it's easy for the business to quickly see what you are bringing to the table.

I'd go this route when contacting any "size" business--from small time to big time. Business is business, and no matter what the cost of the product, you need to offer something in exchange. 

A big question that comes from this topic is "Do you charge for the product feature, or do you accept the 'free product' as payment?"

Honestly, I'd say that's up to you. Whatever you feel comfortable with. While there is a lot to consider, I'd say a safe rule of thumb is when YOU are pursuing a business, consider starting with free product. Conversely, if a business finds you, don't hesitate to let them know what the fee may be on top of the feature.

I think the reason that makes sense is because a business that finds you seemingly already knows you have a fair amount of influence, whereas the business you are contacting may not realize it yet. 

Again, this isn't cut and dry, and I'd suggest doing a bit of research as you are forming your ideas about working with brands. 

In the case of my working with Real Simple, I was contacted by Real Simple. The editor of the .com found my hair tutorials on Pinterest, and pursued me in creating unique content just for them. 

So, don't underestimate the power of your blog in and of itself, pitched or not.


Attending a blog conference is a great way to both learn a lot and meet a ton of other bloggers. In my experience, I've left inspired, motivated, and impressed by the talent of so many other bloggers. 

In 2012, I attended Blissdom and spoke at Becoming. Blissdom was a blogging conference, while Becoming was more of a conference for anyone to come and hear from bloggers on various topics.


This year, I attended Blissdom as a community leader and really enjoyed it. I cannot recommend it enough if you are a blogger--and it does not matter what "level" you are at. Beginner or seasoned, I'm confident you'll leave Blissdom knowing much much more about blogging than before you came. 


Some say conferences are intimidating, but I think it's important to push past any fears and remember we're all in the same boat. So when you are at a conference remember that regardless of page views, you are all "doing" the same thing. We're all bloggers. Defining yourself by your blogs' 
page views, or "length of time spent blogging", or "popularity" may prevent you from meeting some great bloggers! Sure, some blogs get more pageviews than others, and sure, some blogs are more popular than others, but we're all doing the same thing--just in different capacities. 

Transitioning your blog into a business can be something that happens quite naturally. For me, it was around the time that my pageviews took a dramatic turn and I realized my hair tutorials were kind of popular. My first thought was to offer advertising opportunites in my sidebar.


That is a simple way to begin earning income on your blog. Here are a few tips to get that started:


1. If you are a beginner to monetizing, consider "button swapping" (exchanging your button with another bloggers and essentially trading advertisement) as a way to build sponsorship potential. The more sites you have linking in to yours, the better. From a blog swap, you can also have the person you swapped with give you details on the traffic they received from your site. Perfect for a testimonial page.


2. When you are ready to start charging, start looking into other blogs that are similar to yours (primarily in numbers). See what they charge. Average it out to determine a good starting point for yourself. 


3. Consider what advertising options you are going to offer. Is it simply a sidebar ad? Does it include a giveaway opportunity? A social media shout out? A featured "sponsor" post? The more information you can give to your advertisers, the better. 

4. Look into a blog ad management company, like PassionFruit, or consider taking care of it yourself. For the longest time I was simply invoicing advertisers via paypal, but I switched to PassionFruit in order to simplify it on my end. PassionFruit takes a nominal cut of each add, but personally, it's worth it to avoid more emailing and one more thing on my to-do list. 

p.s. PassionFruit has no idea who I am, I wasn't paid to include them, I use their service and like it.

Other money making opportunities include paid guest posts, becoming a regular contributor to another site (sometimes paid, sometimes not), running google adsense ads, becoming an affiliate, or joining a publishing network. 


I've been running BlogHer ads on my site since about Novmber 2011 and it's been a fantastic resource of income. My favorite part of it is that I have to do nothing. After you're accepted, fill out all the paperwork, fine tune what ad's you'll allow, and install the code, they begin running. There are a few rules you need to follow when running BlogHer ads on your site, but they have not interfered in my blogging in any way.


Monetizing your site is a process. I've learned a lot throughout the journey, and will continue to learn as new opportunities arise. 

I also think it's good to consider what you'll monetize and what will remain "free". It's hard to put a monetary value on things sometimes, so bouncing your ideas off of a friend (blogger or not) is usually helpful. You'll find bloggers than monetize things that you wouldn't, and vice versa--so do what you are comfortable with. 

My husband has been a great sounding board for me, always talking through any ideas I have. Sometimes I'm resistant, but in the end I appreciate his perspective and point of view. 

I thought about offering Blog Consulting sessions, for a fee, via skype/google+ and was talking to him one night about it. I was thinking through all the possibilities, getting excited, and as the conversation was coming to a close, and he turned to walk about the door, he mentioned, "what if you just did it for free?".

And I sat there thinking," Hm. I would have really appreciated a "free" chat with a blogger to ask questions to when I was starting, or growing."

I say all this to get you thinking: what do you want to monetize, and what do you want to offer for free? You have to be very careful when monetizing things--customers should leave a session feeling informed, and like they got their money's worth. So, the beauty of doing something for free? Freedom. If someone doesn't like it, or find it very helpful--oh well.

Again, I'm not saying make everything free, just think hard about what you are monetizing.

This is a helpful article on turning your blog into a business!

Another great post about making money on your blog!

--

Some other random tips I've thought of along the way:


Disable the "spam catcher" on your comment form. It's one more step that is oftentimes unnecessary and will lower a readers likelihood to comment.

I hosted a quick blog chat a few days ago via google+ that was live in YouTube as well, and answered a handful of questions posed my facebook fans. In the chat, I mentioned I would do a little follow up and share some more information here.



So, here are a few more answers to things I discussed!

Adding Pinterest to your sidebar: here is a step by step guide!
If you are interesting in adding a "pin it" button to appear on a photo when a reader "hovers" over it with their mouse, click here

How to create pages in Blogger than go to topics. (someone asked how I created my "beauty" and "style" pages to go to a specific label)


And finally, a few of my favorite blogs. Constantly changing, constantly updating.

38 comments:

  1. I absolutely love this series!! As a newbie blogger, this is just what I needed. You have really helped me out! Thank you!

    -Sarah
    limitedspaceorganizing.blogspot.com

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  2. Kate, it was so gracious of you to share all of this! I've been blogging for over a year now, but I still need direction and advice from the experts (a.k.a. YOU!). Your blog is inspiration to me, and I aspire to be as great as you!

    xoxo
    Emily
    emilyannestyle.com

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  3. Thank you for sharing your insights and experience with others! I have really enjoyed your posts about blogging and have learned so much. It is always a pleasure to see your updates.

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  4. Your tips have been so super helpful! Thank you so so much :)

    Allie
    Bellasandra

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  5. Kate, this has been so helpful! Thank you so much! Quick question- how do you assess how many unique views you have to your page? Do you use something like google analytics?
    XO
    Nicole

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  6. I woke up today and decided my "blog task" of the day would be to figure out how to add the dang Pinterest button to images, thankfully I read this first and found your link! Took 2 seconds, thanks Kate!!

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  7. Great tips! Thank you for sharing your insight. I love the button swapping and guest post ideas. Anyone want to try?


    Amber
    FACE IT Catalog

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  8. thank you for your blog series! Since I am a new blogger I have learned a ton by just your posts! thanks again Kate!

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  9. Thanks for sharing your advice, Kate! I really appreciate your blog and love reading all of your posts...you are both honest and insightful. I can get frustrated when it feels as though my blog isn't growing or it's only reaching family and friends, but you reminded me why I blog in the first place and that is to share my story! Thanks again!

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  10. Thanks so much for posting this, Kate! I'm getting ready to launch my Etsy shop and to say I'm terrified would be an understatement. Although Etsy and my blog are separate, I appreciate this post because I think I could take aspects of what you said and work them for my shop, too.

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  11. Another super helpful post for a blogging newbie like me!! I am way far away from even thinking about monetizing but it is definitely something to think about in the future....maybe! It is great to get tips from someone who has been there and done that!
    ~ Kimberley

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  12. Thanks for the tips Kate! You are just too kind! : )
    Have a great weekend!!

    Kayla
    www.lovelucygirl.com

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  13. Thank you so much for these posts! You have given me some great ideas and pointers.

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  15. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and tips on blogging! I'm new to the blogging world and your insights are so helpful!

    Love the blog!

    Megan
    www.thetickledlife.blogspot.com

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  16. THANK YOU. I just started blogging to have a creative outlet and this is so helpful.

    xo Andrea
    www.sophisticatedsass.com

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  17. I've loved this series and absolutely loved the video -- you should do more of them! Thanks for sharing your insight and thoughts, also great to meet you last week at Blissdom!

    Megan
    www.lifeloveandgarlic.com

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  18. I just wanted you to know that this video was very helpful! I have been feeling discouraged the last few days and this really helped. Thanks for posting it!

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  19. Thank you so much for this post (well, 3 posts!). I just started a blog a week ago and will take any advice I can get at this point!

    http://sequindollfashion.blogspot.com/

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  20. This has been the most helpful post of your 3-part series! Everything has been so useful and I've pretty much added everything that you suggested! Thanks for the helpful links!

    Krista
    http://locketinmypocket.blogspot.com/

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  21. I'm really loving your blog series. I'm a mom and work part time, but some day I'd love to get my blog to be a real business. Thank you for sharing this! There is SO much to learn!

    xo Lulu
    simplylulustyle.com

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  22. Great tips, it's so easy to put yourself down if you're not 'on target' thanks for sharing the advice!

    http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/4164275
    http://beblacknblue.blogspot.co.uk

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  23. i find it interesting that some other pretty "popular" bloggers (for lack of a better word) attended Blissdom this year and apparently weren't welcomed at all, didn't feel worthy of being there because of how other bloggers treated them/looked at them/spoke or didn't speak to them, etc. They mentioned meeting you and said you were very nice, as i would imagine of course! but could you touch on that AT ALL please? are they making it up? or was there really a bunch of mean girls at blissdom???

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  24. Thank you for sharing your story! So many times you ask a blogger for advices on how to start and they never respond to your inquiries. My thought is that there is enough room in the blogging world for everyone to succeed. Again, thanks much for sharing :)

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  26. thank for this lovely post! I have just started new with my lottle blog about haircare and hairstyles and it is great to get some tips.
    I think blogging about something you truly love has also a big impact on your motivation and I think people will notice it, when your heart is into something.

    Love, Louisa :)

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  27. Thanks for this post and thanks for adding subscribe via email option to your blog! I have been infrequently reading the blog since last summer but now that I can read it via email I AM SO Excited! Thanks Kristy

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  28. Thank you so much for mentioning The Blog Guidebook's post about Making Money with Your Blog...so glad it put us in touch with YOUR blog! Just read all your latest posts and enjoyed learning some new hair ideas! Makes us want to go put on some makeup really quick!

    Keep in touch and let us know if you need any other blogging advice!

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  29. Thanks for this series! I have enjoyed each of the three parts and learnt a lot. Plus all the images on my blog are now 'pinnable' which I've wanted to do for awhile.

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  30. Hi, Kate! Enjoyed reading through this series. So helpful, and so appreciated your insight. Loved the line "So the beauty of offering something for free? Freedom."

    After a few years of blogging, I'm caught between doing it for fun and feeling like all the time I spend should eventually earn money, or maybe I need to cut back and focus on other things. (I don't like that option, because I love it!) I'm happy to be reminded there is still beauty and freedom in "free" :)

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  31. Kate, I adore you blog! Thank you so much. When you started your blogging series, it was the inspiration I needed to finally start a blog, and I have been LOVING it! I loved your live video where you answered questions... I wish I had know about it, where did you let people know you were doing it?

    I found your blog on pintest with hair
    Followed you to keep up on fashion
    Fell in love when you did your post on trying to get pregnant, I've had things in my life that gave me deep sympathy for your situation
    and finally I found out you were a Christian blogger!
    Keep up the good work you are incredibly inspiring!
    Theresa AMomInTheMaking.com

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  33. Kate, thank you so much for this blogging series for bloggers. I am working on starting a blog. Really wanted to know how is it that you or any other blogger make money on their blog?? I am confused about that portion of a blog, I want to share my heart with others based on my knowledge of a few things but also it would help tremendously to earn some income to help my family financially. Thank you in advance for your advice and thoughts. Lillian

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  34. You are such a sweetheart! Thank you so much for sharing all your information. It is greatly appreciated!

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  35. Thank you so much for your blogging series. I found it to be so helpful. I enjoyed watching the video. The video provides a look inside the bloggers personality. :o) I'm very new to the blogging world. Thank you for your helpful tips, as I work on my site She Willingly Works With Her Hands. .
    Thanks,
    Tanya
    www.shewillinglyworkwsithherhands.blogspot.com

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  36. Fans display lists of pages they "love" on buy Facebook fans their profile in "interests" of their information tab.

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  37. Are there any other conferences for bloggers besides the ones you mentioned? I checked out Blissdom and they no longer will be doing conferences.

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