I’ve just gotten comfortable declaring my business as “Blogger”… I used to lead up to it with something along the lines of “I have a website…” or “I fix things around the house and redesign rooms… then photograph and write about it.” But now I’ll say the B word and wait for the person’s eyes to twitch! Way way back I asked on social media whether anyone cared about hearing some of my blog ‘lessons learned,’ and folks were encouraging! (If you’re not a blogger… I apologize! I have about 6 projects lined up to photograph and have just been slammed with a few other To Do items for most important my day job as a mom:)
Here’s something I didn’t know when I started blogging- bloggers can earn money and SOME bloggers make a lot of money. Like a lot a lot. More than I ever did teaching or counseling! Yeah. Wowza. Something about monetizing a blog makes it feel more legit. I mean, duh… making money is good. I get that. After three years ironing out the kinks and figuring out what’s what, Ciburbanity technically makes a little money. (Little being the operative word.) I blog because I LOVE it. I’m obviously thrilled to get ANY compensation but my first piece of advice for a new blogger would be to ask yourself whether you’d enjoy blogging if you NEVER made a penny. If the answer is yes, then yay! Get your blog on! (If the answer is no… that’s ok too, but be ready to hunker down.. nowadays there are so many AMAZING blogs our there that it’s harder and harder to stand out from the pack!)
I started to write this post ages ago and it was more about ‘What I’ve learned blogging…’ But that got loooong. So rather than ramble on about the yellow brick road I’ve taken to this point, I figured I’d just touch upon the important stuff… things I do that make this more “business” than hobby. Tips and advice I wish I’d known when I hit “Publish” on my first post!
Ok… so general tips and pointers (and then I’ll get more specific!):
1. Up Your Game. The biggest difference in my posts now and three years ago is HOW I present my content… not necessarily the content itself. My photos are edited. My lighting is better (I NEVER photograph at night anymore). I have simpler graphics. Staging. And… I DON’T post when I can’t achieve these things.
2. Get Social. I didn’t know diddly about blogging when I first started which also meant I was clueless about social media. Social media can get cumbersome, but for the most part it’s your friend. It establishes you as a voice in the community. I don’t get carried away with ALL the social media that’s out there but rather try to focus on the ones that come most naturally to me: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and most recently Periscope. (I have accounts on the others, but I don’t keep up with things as much over there… typically my content is automatically published to places like Twitter and G+). If nothing else, secure your handle across all social media so it’s all the same if possible… you can use it later!
3. Ask questions. I learned early on, that this blogging community is an amazing one. I reached out with questions big and small. And then I found some Facebook groups where I could ask more questions. Google is great, but there’s nothing that compares to the collective wisdom of this DIY blogging community! If you like something on someone’s blog, find their contact info. and ASK THEM!
4. Be yourself. My favorite bloggers are the ones who write like they speak. You can READ their personalities in their blog! Don’t you love that when you can hear someone’s voice or intonation in your head when you’re scrolling through a post?!
5. Pick and choose. You will not be able to do everything at first! Decide what comes naturally and go from there. You can’t manage 7 social media accounts, a YouTube channel, categorized newsletters, Twitter parties, ad layering, photo editing, water-marking, link parties, home tours, seasonal editorial calendar… you get the idea. After three years I still don’t use Twitter really, I am hopeless on Pinterest and I just learned that I haven’t been naming my images correctly. Ugh. Maybe I’ll get to these things next year!
So… the specifics. What’s worked for me and why. (Again… this is more blog specific so if you’re not a blogger… come back next time. PROMISE I won’t write too many of these blog-mechanics posts…)
6. WordPress. It’s the only way to go. Preferably with a Genesis Framework. This said, I know TONS of bloggers who are killing it on Blogger, but my sense is that it’s more work to customize your site and to achieve the finished goal that you might want ultimately. I spent a year with the free WordPress.com (which allows zero customization via plugins, coding, etc.), then I moved over to WordPress.org and am self-hosted at BlueHost.
7. Take care of your housekeeping from the get go. By this I mean category organization, image resizing, image optimization, and image labeling! I did NOT do these things and it wasn’t the total end of the world, but it has caused some headaches. And some things will never be done… 8000+ images to rename? Ain’t NObody got time for that. Point being, consider how you want things organized and labeled and start from the very beginning.
8. Install Google Analytics right away. I didn’t and I realized a year into blogging that GA is the gold standard and anything else doesn’t quite cut it for keeping track of your stats. It’s a code that is NOT as simple to install as you would think, but google it. Google is my #1 resource for all technical blog questions. (Also, Genesis Simple Hooks is a plugin that makes it super easy…)
9. Install Google Ad Sense right away. It can’t hurt and might just make you a little funny money. You never know when something will go viral and don’t you want to get paid for those page views? There are other ad networks like Rivit and Lijit and Chitika who will accept you with less than 100,000 page views a month, so consider those as well. Don’t let low page views intimidate you from having a few ads on your site.
10. Promote, promote, promote! Get your content and your links out there. Link up at Link parties. Share with sites like Hometalk or CraftGawker. Submit to places like Apartment Therapy and Knock Off Decor… they all have different terms and conditions so read the fine print. Apartment Therapy, for example, has the right to use the image you provide whenever or however. In my experience it’s generated some nice traffic and they’ve only used my photograph to promote my content (vs. in an ad for Apt. Therapy or something) so I go ahead and submit, but that’s up to you!
11. Everyone starts somewhere… don’t be afraid to reach out to brands regardless of your pageviews. These relationships aren’t always based on the analytics of your blog. Someone told me a while ago that my blog with 12 readers might convert 12 people to Product X and that other blog with 12 million pageviews might not resonate with a soul! Numbers don’t always matter!
Ready to have your mind blown? Keep reading.
12. Get your affiliate chops. Guys… this is my latest learning curve. I thought affiliate sales were for fashion bloggers who could share an outfit and link to all their accessories. Nope! There is legit money to make simply sharing what we used when and being thoughtful about what products our readers might want to know about! I LOVE seeing where people acquire fun pieces for their homes or what tools folks are using for their projects. I don’t want to say any more because it will steal her thunder, but everything I learned about affiliate marketing I learned from my friend Tasha at Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body. Good news for you… she’s written an eBook. GO GET THIS BOOK (affiliate link), folks. She touches upon more than affiliate sales, but also some tricks and ideas for generally writing a killer blog. Did I mention, Tasha makes $1000+ A MONTH on her affiliate sales? Yeah… like I said. Making money is good, y’all.
I’m sure I forgot LOTS of things so please please please email me or leave a comment if you have ANY questions about these blog shenanigans I’ve got going. If it’s not already clear… I looooove blogging. So much. I love making the things. I love the blogging friends I have (and I’ve made LOTS of legit friends!!). I love the tech side of it… until it makes my head hurt, then there’s less love. I love how much my photography as improved. I love that blogging pushes me to learn new things like table saws and Kreg jigs and rewiring and tie-dying. And I love lovity LOVE how many amazing people I get to chat with and connect with every day as a result of this little landing page on the world wide web!
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