Secrets to Becoming a Big Blogger

Photo by Flickr user ladybugbkt

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!

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61 Responses to “Secrets to Becoming a Big Blogger”

  1. Thanks so much for this! The hours are something that I think people do not realize in the beginning! Learning to let go and move on is a life lesson that blogging has really helped us with. We love blogging and meeting other bloggers that we can connect with! 🙂 Bonnie

  2. So many of these points struck a chord with me. I did 3 guest posts last week, and at the end of the week, thought…how does me spending so much time doing posts for others benefit me? Then I felt guilty. I love helping others, but at some point it has to slow down a bit. I posted for 3 others, but for myself only twice. Also, realizing that numbers aren’t everything…huge! I have grown pretty quickly, but I have worked my arse off. And…I could couldn’t care less if others use my pics, copy my tutorials, or whatever…that is why I blog. So I can share what I know, so that others can see that you can create your own beautiful things easily and for not much money. Thanks for being you!

  3. This is the Best post! This is what I needed to read. Thank you so so much! Wonderful points and advice! Blog because you Love. That is my reminder all the time! Thanks again girl!

  4. What a wonderful article. Great points, with great facts…getting right to the point is important. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, for us to share! 🙂

  5. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love your post. Especially the part about putting content online then being shocked that someone copied it. “Focus on the positive and sharing”…best. words. ever!

    Thank you,
    Shasta @InTheOldRoad

  6. Lowri McNabb says:

    GREAT article Amy and lots of points striking a chord with me. I agree with pretty much everying – though I am one of the ‘death grip on the content” people!

    I don’t mind people copying all and any of my ideas – but taking my images and using them to make money is where I draw the line! I am on a one-woman mission to try and point out the difference between copying and Copyright!

    Being able to say no is a great place to be and only comes with time for most people. Plenty of food for thought – and thanks for another great article.

    • amy says:

      Agree with you there Lowri! I don’t like my images swindled either – or tutorials. I do take action for sure. Then I try to just let it work itself out (the key word is TRY) ;D

  7. So many great points in this post. I hope to put all of them to work in growing our blog and business. It is already a tremendous amount of work, but I’m more excited about this creative venture than I have been about anything in years. Lots on my to-do list to improve the blog and also my creative skills. (a photography and upholstery class are both in my plans for fall.)

  8. Robyn's View says:

    I love your post! I started blogging at the end of February, and at that time it was just suppose to be for me. Of course, it has turned into something for other people too!!

    Thanks so much for this post!


  9. Morena says:

    I don’t know how you find the time to do the things you do! Thank you so much for sharing what you’ve learned.

    Several of your points struck a chord. Saying no, for instance. I’m afraid to pass up any opportunities so I say yes to everything!

    Focusing on the positive is a big one. I’m a new blogger and it was surprising to find “cliques” in the Blogging community. 99% of my interactions have been very positive, but when I found out that some bloggers were gossiping about me, it crushed me and I almost threw in the towel. But I decided to focus on the friends I’d made, and reach out to make new blogger friends, and I’m so glad I did. I am having a BLAST crafting and blogging, and regardless of how big I get, my top goal is to have FUN. When it stops being fun I’ll go home, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  10. Kasey says:

    Thanks Amy! This was a realy good article. I did cry a little at the start, because I tried to start a blog in 2008…. anyway.

    Lots of good info. I think “playing” nice with each other is something important. I have sent a lot of bloggers(including you) random hello letters.

    This was a nice read today. I needed this.

  11. Debi Beard says:

    Thanks Amy, your story is very inspiring, I am excited and a little freaked about building my new blog but I am going to give it my best shot!

  12. Desiree says:

    Way to go Amy! As always this is an awesome post!

  13. I’m so glad Shasta sent me over here to read this great post! Thanks for writing and thanks for the advice.

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  14. Were you writing this article to me, Amy? There are so many excellent points you brought up that I need to hear.
    One of my rate-limiting steps is ‘time’. I realize that it takes a lot of time to grow your blog. But I can’t find more time in the day, so my blog is likely to continue to grow slowly. And that is OK with me.
    Great article… thanks so much for sharing it!

  15. Ruth Crean says:

    These are really great points! I’ve been blogging for 5 years, and at the end of the day I still do it because I love it, yes I have lulls in energy but I always come back to it.

    I kinda chuckled when I read your point about Pinterest, as I found this article and your blog through a random Pin…I’m off now to explore the rest of your blog

  16. Sheena says:

    Amy, thanks for this post and Shannon, thanks for tweeting it. Networking with other bloggers is something I am still working on. I have a list of blogs that I read regularly and I have been blogging off and on for years but I have never networked with other bloggers. I just joined twitter over the weekend and since moving my blog from blogspot to WordPress I haven’t spent the time making it look the way I want it to.

  17. Ashley says:

    What a great post! Thanks so much Amy. I never really get upset if people pin my stuff from other sources and all that stuff because like you said… the only way to prevent that is not to put it on the internet…plus I kinda take it as a compliment. I have never had anyone take an entire post, I’m sure that is a little more upsetting!

    I struggle most with time. I have two small kids that need my love and attention so I am starting to realize I can only do what I can do, not what others are doing. : )

    Thanks for all the great wisdom you have learned over the years! : )

  18. Great advice Amy. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.

    XO, Aimee – It’s Overflowing

  19. Janette says:

    Many thanks for laying it out there and sharing your inside scoop. I have been known to use the words ‘small’ and it really does help to hear this from a blogger I admire and thank you for keeping it real.

  20. This is a great post! I totally agree with the copying thing too! It seems that people get obsessed with not having their stuff stolen. I do watermark my photos, but that is mostly so that if they’re pinned from a Google search or something, people can still find the source.

    Regardless of size though, I always try to think of my blog as small and somewhat personal. I think for me personally, it keeps things in focus and helps me to relate to my readers better. I found my blog grew the most when I embraced its current size.

    I cannot believe I just found your blog, but I’m really enjoying it!

  21. Amy, this is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I started blogging just over a year ago and set a goal for myself to grow the blog each month. And I’ve done exactly that. I don’t worry that my blog is smaller than anyone else’s or anything else- I just focus on providing good content and doing what I can to help people find that content.

  22. I love this. SO much of this resonated with me, personally. I’m going to come back and read this again and again… and I’m sure I’ll “get” something more out of it every time.
    Thank you, oh Obi-Wan of blogging. 🙂

  23. Meegan says:

    Thanks for all of your advice, Perfect for me at this time!!
    I am your newest follower 🙂
    What Meegan Makes

  24. This is really great info. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Lisa Hall says:

    Thanks so much for this post Amy! The timing could not have been better for me.
    I have been blogging for not quite 2 years now and recently have been struggling with whether to continue doing it.
    I have been fortunate to find you and crafterminds, because it was my first “inside” source to craft blogging and I have been blessed by all the members who are willing to advise and help.
    My blog just seems to be stagnated and going nowhere. I know a lot of it is I don’t post enough and part of the reason for that is I babysit my Grandbabies a few days a week and when I’m not doing that…I spend so much time online “learning” about blogging and social networking that I don’t actual “Do” enough crafting & blogging! LOL! I’m trying to change that, but sometimes inspiration escapes me and I just get depressed and do nothing! Your post has made me think about a lot of things though and I need to decide “why” I blog and whether I want to continue to do it. If I do continue, I definitely need to change the “look” of my blog…like you said, “It’s not about me”…at least it shouldn’t be, if I’m truly blogging to inspire and motivate others and make a little bit of money on the side. I truly do need to “step outside myself” and look at my blog, because I know it needs a major overhaul. One thing I did recently was invest in a better camera and have been learing to use it…the first post I did using photos from that camera turned out so great and for the very first time…someone “Pinned” my images! I was ecstatic because we all know what kind of traffic Pinterest can drive to your site! It didn’t last long, but It woke me up and made me realize that I need to improve my photos for one thing.
    Sorry…I didn’t mean to go on for so long…you have just struck a chord with me! Thanks again Amy, your awesome!

  26. This is so encouraging Amy!!! I’ve kind of been floating around just trying to fit in here and there, but it’s nice to know that sometimes, it just takes time! 🙂

  27. Very interesting read, I love the insight. Thank you so much for sharing.

  28. thank you for so much good info. i just started blogging (like – yesterday!) i will definitely be referring to this article often. 🙂

  29. Ann says:

    I love the way this post reflects what you say on your About Me page, Amy. “I don’t just complain people – I make it happen!” Time is too short to dwell on the little things and your success is proof of that. Keep up the great work!

  30. Beckie says:

    Dang girl you hit the nail on the head! Excellent article!!! I agree wholeheartedly with every point. You rock…love u. So glad to be on this journey together!

  31. Great article Amy! You made so many excellent points. Something for all of us craft bloggers to remember – big or small. 🙂

  32. Thank you for this what a wonderful job you did at being positive although I did chuckle at the thought of the little green monster dancing on someones face. To me the point is to inspire people and be inspired but I always try to give credit when I am!

  33. Wow! I could not have read this at a better time! I literally JUST finished and posted my first blog ever!!! EEEk… my knees are still shaking I am so nervous! I appreciate all the advice you have shared! I look forward to my life in blog land and home to network with many of you soon!

  34. Mel says:

    Amy, great post. Love how you say it’s ok to basically grow at our own pace. It takes a LOT of work to grow, but sometimes we’ve also got to let go and relax just a bit in order to grow and not completely burn ourselves out in the process. Letting go can sometimes let the creativity flow. Also agree it’s not a competition…. working together and engaging, we can grow so much more. Love this! Thank you for the encouragement.

  35. Mitzi Curi says:

    I found this post really helpful, Amy. I’m striving to become a full time blogger/crafter/antique dealer. I just love blogging! It’s led to so many interesting experiences, and I’ve “met” so many great people, including you! I’m going to keep plugging along, because each year gets more and more amazing!

  36. Hi Amy,

    Thanks so much for this and for your honesty. It’s really great to hear all of your advice!

  37. Fauzi says:

    Wow you just gave me a pep talk! I so needed to hear all that. I started blogging in May (yes too bad it wasn’t May 2008!) Sometimes I get caught up with how wonderful some blogs are and get disappointed with mine. Your sharing reminded me on why I started blogging in the first place. Point 3 & 5 really struck a cord with me. Thanks for sharing!

  38. Ami Allison says:

    Oh my gosh! This is the BEST “what i did to be a big blogger” post. I’m not saying all the other one’s out there aren’t great and don’t have TONS of wonderful tips and advice, but this one is REAL. It just feels real and I can really relate. Thanks for sharing Amy. I’m trying… I do find that “mingling” in the blog world is definitely one of the biggest follower boosts you can do. It’s hard tho, finding time when your chasing a preschooler. Thanks so much for this. It really helps and makes me feel so much better. It’s stressful isn’t it and it’s nice to hear I’m heading in the right direction and just be patient.

  39. Kathy Penney @ Pinner Takes All says:

    Thanks so much for these tips! The stop referring to yourself as small tip really hit home. I can definitely see how it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Great article for a newbie like me…or anyone who wants to grow for that matter.

  40. This was just what I needed! I am still relatively new, so I appreciate the advice and pep talk from a blogging “older sister.” The best thing I have done so far is to join blogging groups. People are so generous with their advice, and it’s gotten me more exposure through guest posts, group Pin boards, and general networking. Thanks for the great article!

  41. Great post Amy. And if there was ever one to give blogging advice it would be you! You have turned this blogging thing into an amazing career.
    What has lil old me learned ?
    That nothing is easy and being featured on a big site may up page views for a few days but you have to have solid content to get followers. And photos are SO important! Two bloggers may have identical talent with similar projects but who attracts the most viewers? The one with the best photos. I finally bought a DLSR and learned to shoot in manual. I which I could go back and reshoot all of my old blog photos!

  42. I wish I wasn’t so late with my commenting! (behind with my google reader) But I totally agree with Ami Allison when she said you are very REAL and people can tell. The article was just what we all needed to hear and understand. I just wrote my first ebook (comes out in 2 days!) titled:

    “Is Blogging Ruining your life? How to Find Balance in Blogging”

    I just had my 2nd blogiversary and man have I learned a lot! (still learning believe me) but I wrote it for any bloggers out there who feel overwhelmed and who might feel like giving up. I would be happy to send you a free copy Amy if you would like one (of course not that you need it,:-) just for interest sake, you know!)…..You have helped me more than once answering blog questions and getting advice from you personally, thanks for being real and being so willing to help other bloggers out.

  43. Thanks for the great advice! Just starting my blog and need all the help and advice I can get! Keeping and open mind!

  44. Joy says:

    Awesome article, Amy! So true!

  45. Amy says:

    GREAT tips here! Thanks for the advice!

  46. Serena says:

    As a brand-new blogger (one month in), this post couldn’t come at a better time. I have been reading and commenting on blogs for quite a number of years now, but finally decided to bite the bullet and start my own creative blog. I love to write about what I know, so it’s been a lot of fun sharing my thoughts and ideas. And you’re right; blogging does take up a lot of time, even for a newbie like me who is trying to make each post look as professional as possible. I know I still have a lot to learn, so your post will really help me grow. Thank you for sharing your experiences and expertise. It’s bloggers like you that have made me become such a huge fan of blogging :0)

  47. What a great post. I agree almost 100% with you. I started in 2008 & quit in 2011 to be a full time blogger. I have learned so much from many bloggers along the way and always love helping others get there too.

  48. You are the best! It’s funny the past few months I have had a mind shift and decided that I need to just put all the “how am I doing, what are my stats, etc.” aside and just get to work. It is sometimes hard to not compare with others you started with and wonder why they are ahead and you are not but maybe it is because I was focusing on the wrong thing!There are days I want to pull my hair out at the time it takes but I figure if I am enjoying it then it can’t be bad. I just wish I had a magic wand to clean up my house in the mean time.

  49. Carol says:

    Sage advice. I admit that I used to get a little down when I saw blogs that started when I did or after I did seem to take off overnight but what’s funny is, several of these, while immediately popular have come and gone. Reality for me is pacing myself and reality for me is I cannot be the biggest blog on the block because I have a day job that has to take priority. I do want blogging to be a bridge to what comes after this job but right now I need to balance the two and once I stopped stressing about stats and numbers etc. I have been much happier. I should have known this all along because I’ve always been the tortoise, not the hare. Even if I was born in a year of the rabbit!

  50. This is all SUCH great advice- thank you so much for sharing! I’m a wedding blogger, and all of this can easily apply to me and my market. I’ve been blogging since 2009, and I still find myself getting stuck in all of these things. It’s absolutely time for me to stop acting like I’m smaller than I am. Thank you for the encouragement!!

  51. Super great tips thanks so much for sharing this

  52. Keren says:

    Everything you said was dead on gurl!! Oh how I heart you!! 😀

  53. Sondra says:

    Thanks for re-posting this one! I just know you did it JUST for me!! 😉 I launched my blog in June, and have worked more hours per day than ever in my life. I absolutely love it, and am determined to be successful, whether I ever hit the ‘big-time’ or not. You’re right, I think timing works against those of us just starting now, but I’m not really discouraged by that, because I agree that there is always room! Sometimes all the techie stuff is overwhelming to me… I’d rather focus on the writing and creating side of things. On the other hand, I am eager to learn and network in order to accomplish the growth I’m looking for. Thank you for your wonderful insight and encouragement!!

  54. Jacy says:

    Amy, great advice and insight!! I am three years into blogging and realizing that time is important. The more time I put it, the more I’ll grow, even if I don’t see anything happening in that moment. It will help as time goes on 🙂

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