I’ve been thinking a lot lately about when I started blogging – which was 2008 – and what has changed since that time. In April of 2008 I started Mod Podge Rocks, and in January 0f 2012 I quit my job to be a blogger and writer full time. It’s crazy! I never anticipated any of this, but it happened. Beyond divine intervention (which I do believe was a part of it), how did the transition occur? What have I done over these past four years to further my own success? Well, I’m going to tell you. I’m also going to tell you that I’ve done a lot of things that I wouldn’t advise other people to do (not because they were wrong, but because they were dumb), but I won’t focus on those things in this article. Instead I’ll point out the main drivers that propelled me from small blog to large blog. Some of these things can’t be controlled, but they are worth pointing out, just in case you are wondering.I’m giving you the big picture, so let’s dive in.
-I started my blog at the right time. Please don’t get mad at me for opening with something that you can’t control. I started my blog in 2008, and now it’s 2012. If you are a new blogger, you are probably thinking “well Amy, there’s nothing I can do about that! I can’t go back in time!” And you’re right. BUT it’s something to keep in mind when you are feeling the pressure of growth weighing on your shoulders. Some people have simply been around longer than you have and they have time on their side. Some may have been around the same amount of time as you or less, but they were in the right place at the right time. This shouldn’t matter to you. YOU CAN GROW (and there’s enough room for everyone). Keep your eye on the prize.
-I networked like crazy. I introduced myself to everyone under the sun via e-mail and social media. I featured projects and let people that I loved what they did. I guest posted. I participated in Twitter chats. I asked to be part of blogging groups. I sought advice from bloggers that I admired. You name it, I did it. Are you scared to reach out? Don’t be. We are all in this crafty/DIY blogging game together. Let everyone know that you exist and you are a blogger. Trust me, no one is going to think you are weird if you send them an e-mail. I am lucky because I grew up with no inhibitions, so reaching out has always been in my nature. I highly recommend coming over to the dark side.
-I never made it a competition. Some of my closest blogging friends are bigger than I am. A lot bigger. I am being very honest when I say that it has never bothered me. I don’t know why – I just always focused on sharing. When I get an opportunity, I always recommend my friends too. I want us ALL to succeed and I believe there is enough room for everyone. I rejoice in my friends’ and co-bloggers’ victories. These are victories for us all. Think about it – if Heather from Dollar Store Crafts works with a craft company for the first time and does a great job, that company could easily decide to work with 50 more bloggers because of their positive experience with her. And I could be one of those 50. I actually owe Heather a “thank you” as opposed to watching the green jealousy monster tap dance on her profile picture. Instead of being jealous or competitive, focus on doing a great job and furthering our industry. Trust me – it helps us all.
-I picked a niche. This is a tricky one. Not everyone has a niche, and mine is very specific. But it’s definitely one of the factors to my success. You don’t need a niche per se, but it always helps to be the resource for something. If you are great at candlemaking, do a lot of candlemaking posts and become the expert. You can still talk about quilting, but you know you’ll always get those candlemaking visitors! Play to your strengths.
-I never saw myself as small. Even if I started a blog tomorrow, for the first time, you’d never hear me make the comment “my blog is small potatoes.” Or anything like that. Stop downplaying your size and stop downplaying your talent. If you focus on being a small fish, you will always be one. I sound like a motivational speaker, but I’m serious. Part of growing is believing that you can. When you have roadblocks, ask for advice – but always believe you can overcome them . . . and focus on growing.
-I made it “not about me.” You might be married to your blog design or to your project style or to the way your tutorials are laid out. But guess what? You might also be alienating people. And maybe that doesn’t matter to you, and you are fine at the size you are at. But if you want to grow, step outside of yourself and take a good, long look at the big picture. Is your blog design difficult to navigate? Are your photography skills poor? Are your tutorials difficult to follow? Think about your readers and their experience. Ask them if you need to. And don’t take it personally! If you are ready to go to the next level with your blog, you’ll stop defending why you do things and start changing them. Let’s be honest: the best way to get more readers is to have a blog that appeals to the most people. It’s not about you – it’s about your readers and their experience. If you don’t focus on improving that experience, they won’t come.
-I work A LOT of hours. This isn’t such a fun fact, but it’s the truth. I started out working just a little, and over the years it significantly increased into a huge weekly schedule. But I love what I do, and I wouldn’t change it. Sure, I get burned out. And then I take time off and come back and work harder. Any success I have had didn’t fall into my lap. I worked for it. If you don’t devote the time to your blog, then don’t be surprised when it doesn’t grow. And I get it – some of you have demanding personal and family lives that require a lot of time. Of course your first priority should be your personal life. It also might be time for some of you to realize that there is only so much time in the day, and the blog can only be so much of your life. And then it will only grow so much. I’m here to tell you that that is OKAY. Just do what you can.
-I stopped focusing on minutia. I’m going to be honest with you, and a lot of people are’t going to like to hear this one. I don’t like getting caught up in drama, nor do I like to spend a lot of time fussing about a lot of little stuff. If someone does something to bother me or I get a tutorial stolen, I allow myself to be pissed, I take appropriate measures and then I let it go. I HAVE gotten photos and blog posts stolen. I HAVE had someone rip me a new one on Twitter, Facebook and their blog. And while these things aren’t small, they should only take a small part of your energy. Do what you need to do, and then move on. That negative energy is keeping you from doing what you need to do to grow your blog. For any blog task that you do, ask yourself if it really matters. If it doesn’t – don’t do it.
-I realized that being online meant my content was . . . online. This kind of relates to the point above, but is more specific. I see a lot of bloggers putting the kung fu death grip on their content, and I’m confused by it. I’ve never discouraged people from featuring me. I’m also okay with (shock) being pinned from feature sites. I’m not saying that everything that happens is right or that Pinterest etiquette should be thrown out the window. But I have bigger fish to fry than worrying about being pinned from Craftgawker as opposed to my blog (it happens daily). It all comes out in the wash. I’m putting my content online, and that comes with rewards AND a price. It comes down to this – if you don’t want someone to copy it, the only way to ensure that it isn’t copied is not to post it. And some of you might say “I should be able to post my content and not have it stolen!” SHOULD is the key word. Remember what your mom said – life isn’t fair. Focus on the positive and sharing. That is how I personally choose to look at it.
-I am still learning to say no. This is a really tough one, even for me. I always thought I was a ballbuster and could say “no” without guilt. Honestly I’ve never been very good at saying no, and a lot of women have the same problem. As you grow, you will have to start saying no more than you say yes. It can get a little frustrating at times because you might feel guilty or that you are missing an opportunity, but your best bet is to be honest with yourself AND with the other person. Another thing you’ll need to consider? What’s in it for you. It doesn’t always have to be money – but it gets to the point where most of what you are doing should be benefitting you mutually with the other party. Saying “no” more has made me a happier person because I don’t get mad and I don’t feel as much pressure as I used to.
I hope a few of these thoughts struck a chord with you. I don’t have the secret formula to blogging, but these have worked for me. Now I’m curious. What has changed for you over the course of your blogging career? Do any of these sounds familiar? Have some of these same points not worked for you? I’d love to hear in the comments!