I don’t know about you, but I love to read blog posts that highlight how people accomplished something. I especially love behind the scenes secrets and I suspect I am not alone. So today, I’m going to give you a look at what goes on behind the screen for Fabulous Blogging. It never fails, when I tell people I run this website (usually these are real life people who aren’t eating drinking and sleeping the Internet 24 hours a day), they are shocked. “Wait, you own it? You mean you don’t just write for it?”
I will admit, I feel a burst of pride when that happens. And I’ll take it where I can get it since 95% of the time I feel like a seahorse in the Pacific.
The other reason I’m sharing some of my secrets today is because more than any other comment, I hear from people, “How do you do it? How are you supposed to have a life and blog at the same time?” It’s important to point out that this IS part of my full-time job so it’s not possible to translate all my habits to the average hobby blogger, but still- many of the habits I’ve developed can be used in a modified form.
Without further ado, an interview…with myself.
How often do you write, and what’s your writing process?
This evolved over time, as I imagine it does for many bloggers. When I first started out, I wrote constantly. It takes a big push of creativity to get those first 25 posts out there in the world, and I find it’s easiest to ride the enthusiasm when you are first starting out. Writing five days a week is very difficult to sustain unless you are hiring other writers, or (quite frankly) if you’re putting out crap content. One human being can only produce so much!
There was a period of time where I only wrote once every couple weeks. It was during a transition period. My blog wasn’t quite what it is now, but the initial honeymoon period had worn off. During this time, I didn’t look at traffic stats– I simply promised myself I’d start back up the minute I had a new idea.
Takeaway: I think there is a life cycle to a blog, and it’s helpful to identify what stage you’re in so you don’t get unnecessarily discouraged. Tweet
These cycles aren’t always time-sensitive, and it’s possible to go backwards too!
- Honeymoon phase- Your blog can do no wrong! During this time it seems there is a never-ending supply of ideas. You’re making connections and learning new things each day.
- Hazy phase– Your blog is no longer new, but you’re a bit disillusioned. This was harder than you thought. And there aren’t a lot of people who seem to care. And your blog is one of millions. Most people quit during this time.
- Golden phase– Once you make it through that “crisis” of “Why am I doing this?” you probably re-evaluate a bit, change things up, and decide to try some new strategies/ideas. During this period your traffic may or may not grow, but since your resolve and mission is not based on that, you are able to rediscover the joy of blogging.
- Cha-ching phase– Some blogs never get here, but that’s okay (as long as you hang in the golden phase!). This is the point at which your blog starts producing something – leads, book sales, business, advertising revenue, etc.
How much money do you make on this blog?
On the blog itself? Not much. I earn a bit of revenue from two sources– Google AdSense and Affiliate commissions through Hostmonster. This averages about $200.00 a month, however some months I see no commission, and other times I see a flurry. As you’ve probably noticed, I don’t do much in the way of advertising.
I am willing to take on sponsored posts if it’s on the topic of WordPress, and receive payment for those. So far, I’ve worked with BlogHer and received payment for a few of my posts.
That said, this blog is the lifeblood of my business as a designer and WordPress doctor. It’s my primary method of advertising, and since beginning in the fall of 2012, I’ve come out in the black every year. This was never meant to be full-time work (since I’m the SAHM with the kids), but it’s slowly grown to a 40 hour work week. The paycheck doesn’t reflect that yet, but within a year or two, it will.
Finally, I do earn a bit of revenue from my Fab Blogging Bootcamp curriculum. I designed that as a way to offer an affordable option for people who can’t hire me for my typically hourly rate. And as one human with only 24 hours like the rest of us, I needed another way to make some passive income.
Takeaway: If you are hoping to make money through passive advertising, you’ll need hundreds of thousands of views. That’s not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish (even when you’re spending 40 hours a week working on it). But that doesn’t mean your blog isn’t making you money. Try to think outside the box and come up with a way to make money without needing volumes of traffic.
- Can you offer a service or product?
- What about e-books or downloadable materials?
- You may be able to freelance blog (and your blog in this case is like your resume).
How do you balance social media vs. writing?
There’s a fine line between wasting time on social media and spending enough time there to engage with your readers. If you follow me anywhere, you know I’m usually online. During the day, I block out several chunks of time where social media is off. This is usually when I’m designing a logo, working with code, or writing a blog post. Otherwise, I usually keep a window open on Twitter, Facebook, and Google plus. I pop in and out, and respond accordingly. One thing to note here: It’s so easy to look at your notifications and then say, “Oh I’ll respond to that later…” and then life gets in the way. Don’t look at your notifications unless you have time to answer.
Another way to make sure you’re responding to your readers is to look at each of your profiles on a daily basis. Find and follow, thank, respond to each and every name that’s commented on your posts or tweets, especially if you are just starting out.
Social media is a force to be reckoned with. Over the past couple of months, I’ve shifted my content placement to make room for the growing need for the “good stuff” on social. No longer do I post everything on my blog. I save the blog for longer posts, and use social to give out other useful tidbits. It’s a way for me to say, “Hey! Follow me here cause you’ll get stuff you don’t get anywhere else!”
Takeaway: Take a long hard look at your blog posts. Are they all worthy of a post or could some of those pics/quotes etc. be better used on a social platform? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel– a lot of blog content can be repurposed into graphics and mini-blogs for social media.
- Go through your archives and find nuggets of info that you can re-share on social media.
- Engage, engage, engage. Ask questions often, listen to peoples’ answers.
- When you are working on a blog post, turn off social media.
- Find pockets of time (waiting for a doctor’s appt. for example) to respond to comments.
How much money do you spend on blogging each month?
Bet you never thought about that question did ya? Okay, maybe you did. But the truth is, a blog like this costs money to run. And I’m not just talking about my host provider. I’m talking about the tools I use to make sure I keep the content monster fed. Here’s a breakdown of services I use….
- Hostmonster Pro Plan $20.00 a month
- Sucuri Site Monitoring and Security $189.99 a year
- SocialBro (to manage Twitter) $14.00 a month
- ViralTag (to manage Pinterest) $14.00 a month
- Hootsuite Pro (to schedule updates) $10.00 a month
- Adobe Suite (this isn’t just for blogging but for web design) $50.00 a month
- Canva Budget (for those adorable $1.00 graphics) $30.00 a month
- PicMonkey Royale Service $4.95 a month
I also have yearly URL renewal fees, a redirect mapping fee (from when I was on WP.com), as well as various books, supplies, conferences, and themes. Honestly, I don’t know how people manage social media without the automation tools. In order to keep up with the quality of content I liked to offer my followers, I have to use scheduling tools.
Takeaway: If you’re not spending money on your blog because it isn’t making you money yet, I understand why. It seems foolish right? Except that every business and hobby in the world starts off with some monetary investment. Blogging is no different. You might find if you bite the bullet and invest in some tools, your ability to keep up and spend more time writing will increase. This in turn, may push your blog to the next level.
What theme and plugins are you using on this blog?
I’m running the Genesis framework and using the Dynamik Website builder for this particular site. I love Dynamik because of it’s front end CSS builder module, the ability to place widget areas ANYWHERE, and the ridiculous amount of no-coding options in the design area. Dynamik is $80.00 and requires Genesis (which is another $80 I think).
I currently have seven active plugins on my dashboard…
- Akismet – to catch spam.
- Easy Digital Downloads – to manage my bootcamp curriculum.
- Genesis Simple Edits – to customize my footer and meta info, etc.
- Jetpack – I use the stats, the sharing buttons, and the galleries. The rest are deactivated.
- SlickQuiz – A fun and lightweight quiz plugin.
- Syntax Highlighter- This plugin allows me to write code in a blog post that is easy for the reader to copy and use.
- WP Clean Up- This optimizes the WordPress database by getting rid of post revisions, spam comments, etc.
- W3 Total Cache – Caching plugin to deliver my pages more quickly.
Takeaway: If you think a free or cheap theme is the way to go, stop right now. You’ll save yourself so much headache if you invest in a great framework right from the start. And don’t install more plugins than you absolutely need!
If you could pinpoint one thing that bumped your blog up to the next level, what would it be?
Great question Julie. Honestly? I don’t think I can pinpoint one thing that blew open my exposure. I know it was a combination of factors.
- My love of online communities (and people)
- My post on Google plus for beginners ranks on the first page of google search results and brings hundreds of visitors a day
- Writing really helpful/useful content that other people are willing to share
- Networking with other bloggers in my niche
- Not being afraid to change my game when I notice something isn’t working
Takeaway: Niche bloggers have this advantage over lifestyle ones. If you write a really good piece and Google likes it? It will be a source of traffic for months and years to come. My Google + post does this for me. It brings in people looking for social media help, and since my whole blog is centered around blogging and social media, people stay. They subscribe and follow. Lifestyle bloggers – you might have a viral piece (or an indexed one) that catches a lot of daily visitors, but it might be harder to translate that to subscribers if your piece isn’t consistently what is found on your site. Your goal should be to write a blog post that will rank on page one of Google, using your voice. It has to be something people will find regularly on your site and this is a way you can turn hits into readers.
Find something you LOVE to talk about. I mean, really LOVE. Scrape up $500.00 and get it off the ground (right) using that money. Open a personal blog on the side so you can rant and rave and show off pictures of your kids, but keep your LOVE blog for the topic you’ve chosen. Spend at least one hour a week with a pencil and notebook, away from the computer, and drum up new ideas. Find a blogging community STAT. And start stalking some bigger bloggers you love.
Finally…write like your life depends on it. Tweet