I’ve received a LOT of emails about blogging lately; How do I start a blog? How did you start your blog? Do you make money? HOW?! Can I? How do you get ‘free stuff’? Is this lucrative?
I started to reply to each one but realized quickly that this is a HUGE and important topic to be transparent about, share with you, and also encourage. The rise of the ‘momprenuer’ is quick and big! I am a big believer in the phrase; A rising tide lifts all ships. If some of the information I’ve gleaned over the past 11 years can help one of you become a blogger, make a side income, afford to give more, take your fam on that vacation, or afford extra curricular for your kiddos… LETS DO THAT.
I’m breaking this up by FAQ so you can hop around as helpful! If you have more questions, pop them in the comments on here or Facebook and I’ll add to this post!
(I organized these from more personal/info to nitty gritty!)
How long ago did you start blogging? I started blogging in 2006! So… forever. But it was initially just to keep my family updated on my college life as it was my first time living away from home. I didn’t start blogging for pay until 2012, and not really trying to monetize in a significant way until 2015.
Do you find your writing to evolve as life changes and does that influence your following a bunch? Yes. So much. During the election my following dropped and then grew (it changed, basically) as I posted about voting and it’s significance, and I didn’t shy away from sharing how much of a liberal feminist I am 😉 And… it totally effected my following. I drop followers anytime I mention that health and size are the not the same. Or that health is not a requirement for body love or positivity. It ebbs and flows a lot, but I value being really authentic over the numbers, and I’m just trusting that the right people will find me. I also have had my FB page far longer than my IG and it’s full of mothers, so when I write about motherhood there it’s always high engagement, however my IG followers are often more childless and for awhile just interested in food, so it was lower there.
What inspired you to blog in the first place? I’m a processer! I love to share, I am a vulnerability lover, and connecting with community and people is my JAM. I keep trying to quit. . . and keep coming back. I just love being able to connect with people from all over the world in a way that is really real and creates change for both parties.
How do you decipher which parts of your life to leave private and which to share? I use my kiddos and my extended family as my barometer. When they google me, what am I comfortable with them brining up at Thanksgiving? And what will I be ok with my kid’s finding when they inevitably read my blog one day?
How did you decide on what your main focus on your blog will be? Mine used to be motherhood/my kiddos, but as they grew I felt really uneasy about that and making those decisions for them. So when I rebranded I made my focus the things that are important to me but are a BIG umbrella. So body positive fitness, relationships, and family adventure. Within that I can write about almost anything but it still is semi-cohesive. I basically wrote down my boundaries of what I won’t share (my kiddos stories, my family, Charlie’s family, or anything I don’t want my kid’s to know before they’re 16), and that left behind everything that I DO want to share. So I made my umbrella out of that.
How do you stay motivated to come up with new content? I don’t really try, I just share what I’m doing. I’m pretty genuinely obsessed with IG and love sharing there, so it makes it easy to keep sharing/writing/creating. I let my content be really reflective of what I’m into. Having a smoothie filled couple of weeks? I post a lot of them. I’m in deep with yoga right now. . . so my IG is too. Same goes for blogging. I share what’s on my heart. When I’m feeling low on content/motivation I write down titles for posts that are on my mind, then I go back and I write a few sentences to start each one out, and I finished them as I feel capable, that fills my que up well!
Does anyone help you? YES! Charlie edits. Amazing Facebook groups (especially Courage To Earn and Brandi Riley) are unending resources of amazing information and help! And my blogging friends, mostly Libby, and Sara, and Larisha are all amazingly helpful. Finding your blogging community is paramount to longevity and not losing your mind.
Is it scary to put your life out there? Yes. And awkward. I’m relatively known in my small town (because of blogging and a few big local Facebook groups I created) and it is always weird/uncomfortable to have playdate with people who have already read all your stories, “know you” but don’t. It’s scary, but having firm boundaries in place and sharing only what I feel comfortable with EVERYONE knowing has helped a lot.
Is there anything you regret posting on your IG or blog? Yes! Haha, so I’ve since deleted it. But it was what I needed and it helped a lot of women (some of whom I still email with today) but I wish I’d kept the story closer to my heart until I’d processed more. In the past years I’ve really heartily adopted the “write it while it’s happening, publish when it’s over” mentally to anything sensitive.
How long did it take you to build a decent following? I still don’t have what many people would say is a decent following. But I have a really engaged and dedicated audience, and I would argue that that is far more valuable. It took about 2 consistent years to grow to a point where many brands were willing to work with me based on my numbers. But it’s all kinda of a crap-shoot, lots of people grow really quickly, others super slowly. The key is consistent content, that helps grow numbers and trust with brands.
Do you get more engagement in your blog or in your IG page? More engagement on IG and FB for sure, but it all loops back to my blog, so they don’t seem like they can really function independently… I write to much to keep it all on IG, haha. I don’t blog for the money or huge engagement, I blog because I LOVE it and can’t help it!
Did you have any photography experience before starting to blog/take pictures? Nope! All self-taught. I’m lucky to have a photographer dad and one of my BFF’s to I’ve gleaned a lot of info from them, and love to do it. But nothing other than just trial and error.
What software do you use to edit your photos? Just iPhoto. I shoot in manual and aim to have everything basically ready to go directly out of the camera.
Did you pay a professional to design your site? If so, when? Did you do things from free templates at first? Yes, I paid! It was a hefty cost, but so worth it for how much I love the design and how easily it flows into my social channels. But initially I just used the free templates! And they worked great for years and years. Especially now their are a lot of gorgeous ones! I started on blogger.com and it was really user friendly and intuitive. I also think squarespace is a great place to start because they do SEO as part of your page, and that is a HUGE help (and one I could use now, hah!)
How long did it take for companies to start reaching out to you to do sponsored work, try out their products, be an affiliate, ambassador etc. ? I reach out to them! MANY people get a lot of work from brands reaching out to them, and that’s amazing. But I didn’t get much, so I went after my own. I got a few pitches, once I hit about 5K on IG, but I also send pitches, ask brands about working together, work through networks, and apply for ambassadorships with brands I love.
What is a blogging network? A network is basically a (SUPER helpful) middle man who connects brands with already vetted bloggers. You apply, and then they can connect you with campaigns and posts that will be a fit for you. It’s often less pay that directly pitching, but for me (relatively new to monetizing) it’s great to have someone setting the rate for me and connecting me with a brand.
What is ‘a campaign’? A campaign is a marketing campaign for a brand. It means that they send me what they want me to do (how many social media posts, what hashtags and tags to use, and often a blog post sponsored by them as well) and the what they’ll pay. I am often just one of many bloggers on ‘the campaign’ all sharing the same hashtag and general message, with our own writing and experience. It’s basically another word for a sponsored post.
What’s an ambassador? Well, that varies greatly company to company! Some ambassadorships are paid, most that I’ve come across are not. It’s an exchange of product (typically their new stuff!) for social media posts. I’ve found they only work well when it’s for a brand you LOVE and want their stuff anyhow. Otherwise it’s a lot of work for no pay. But if you genuinely like the product? Super worth it.
Did you have any of your posts go viral? Nope!
Do you have a content calendar to be posting content on the regular and stay accountable? I usually create my calendar at the beginning of each week. I write down what three posts I’ll share, and if any are recipes I shoot them a few days ahead of time to give myself space to edit. Just that act of list making often helps me realize how doable three posts really is, and helps me to sit and set a timer to write them out the morning I want it to go live. The only time this varies is when I have a deadline/brand I’m working with. Those I put on my calendar well in advance and try to write it with a lot of time to come back to it and edit.
Do you utilize Pinterest for your blog posts as a way to drive traffic? I don’t much. But REALLY should, for most bloggers it’s one of their top two traffic sources. It’s on my must learn list!
Is there a ton of haters? (I know there are a ton of trolls.. I guess more of, how do you deal with it?)There are less than you think! The ones who are vocal are the worst, but it’s not as common as it seems. I handle it by deleting, and blocking anything really awful. And just laughing off the rest. So much of it is just pretty ridiculous! And remembering that everyone has a deep and hard story unfolding, and I don’t know theirs.
When did you start using affiliate links? 2015!
What brings in the most money for you? Sponsored posts, hands down. My affiliate links don’t make much, except for a couple months a year (end of September/November/December) while everyone holiday shops.
Do you double test your recipes to make sure you get the same results? I do! And I think it’s really really important to. I’ll usually just test them twice in the same day so I don’t have to do work as hard, but I find it really frustrating when bloggers don’t!
Are you ever worried people will not like your recipes? Or they wont turn out? Yes, so much! But so far I’ve only had great feedback.
Do you just reach out to companies you want to work with? Yes! Pretty often! I try to pitch weekly, but often fall short (esp right now!) I also get some of my work through blogging networks.
And any other tips or tricks?!? Just start writing! Having a nice bank of content and a calendar going when you launch will really help readers have a good idea of what they’re getting into when they come to your page, and most people read at least two pieces.
How much do you make? It varies hugely month to month. In the final months of the year it’s easier to make money (ad budgets are being finished up, so brands have more $$$ to spend!) and the beginning months of the year are much more sparse. Some months I make enough for some coffee’s out, other months I pay for our vacation. So it varies hugely. Bigger/more consistent bloggers make enough to live off of. But that comes with a TON of work and diligence.
PHEW! Let me know if you have any other questions! Pop them here in the comments or on my Facebook page, I’ll add them to this source list and answer them! Thank you! Happy Writing!