This month marks 6 years of this blog.
That’s a long time in blogging years.
6 things I would have done differently
Since I’ve stuck around long enough to make it to the rank of veteran, I’ve learned a few crucial things. Mostly about how similar blogging is to an investment–time & regular deposits (ie. posts) are your friends–and how though blogging is competitive market, anyone with a niche can carve out their own cozy online space, one where money can be made.
1. Don’t rely on anyone else but yourself to make you money.
First, a brief history & synopsis of bring joy.
It first began under a different name (Whole Foods Vegan Momma–how’s that for a simple name?). A few years in, I was ready to push the delete button on my blogspot editor (it also started out as a blogspot, before I wisened up & moved to a self-hosted WordPress site) but after some convincing from Joseph (my husband), I instead decided to turn my hobby blog into more of a serious professional pursuit.
I really had no idea what that meant at the time, but needless to say I began with a blog design overhaul, name change (to bring joy), got a professional camera & started taking decent photos.
I continued to churn out posts, sort of aimlessly, to be honest, but things seemed to pick up speed in terms of readership, so I just sat & waited for things to happen.
Turns out, if you wait for companies to knock down your email door with a flood of potential sponsorship offers, most of us are going to get old & grey before that ever happens (IF it *ever* happens).
About 4.5 years into blogging I realized I wanted to take matters into my own hands & publish & sell my own ebooks. I had NO idea how to do this, but luckily I crossed paths with an old acquaintance from my college days, Bonnie, who teaches bloggers how to market & sell their own products. I read her blog for several months, then took the jump & bought her online course (affiliate link).
Her course helped me really focus on what matters most, & I realized that taking ownership of turning my blog into a business was nobody’s responsibility but my own.
Through her course, I learned that I was wasting my time on unimportant, time-sucking stuff that wasn’t helping me generate revenue for my blog (see point #2).
I also learned that after an initial 6 months of intense & focused work, I could pull back, spend much less time on the blog, & enjoy the fruits of my labor (which I am now doing!).
2. Don’t waste time on social media.
I am not saying don’t use social media. I am saying DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME when you use social media.
Social media is tool.
You can use that tool to engage with your readers, yes, but you can also end up spending hours each day or week doing nothing more than tweeting, posting, or pinning stuff that won’t actually help you meet your goals of creating unique content & products for your blog.
A few years ago, with a new Twitter account in hand & no clue how to use it, I spent WAY, waaay too much time tweeting. I’ve gone through similar phases with Facebook & Pinterest.
Now that I know which social media tools are actually useful to me & my goals, I spend much, much less time on any of these sites & when I do, I am ultra deliberate & intentional.
I try to post to Facebook a few times a week (no more than once a day) because that’s where I get the most engagement. (Side note: I am a bit annoyed at Facebook’s algorithm that only shows my posts to a sliver of my fans unless I pay to advertise, which I do not do. Despite this, I still find Facebook useful.)
Too often bloggers think that they just need to spend more time on social media when in reality they should spend less time there & more time creating. Unfortunately, tweeting & pinning just for their own sake won’t make you money, & won’t do much to grow your audience either (if only making money was that easy–we’d all be rich, big time bloggers!).
You grow your audience by consistently producing creative, unique, &/or useful content. This is absolutely the foundation–once you have this keystone, social media will only enhance your work. Social media can’t take the place of quality blog content.
In full disclosure, I don’t have huge social media followings. They’re decent, average numbers for a small time blogger like myself. And that’s okay, because social media for me, is very much a tangential aspect of my blogging business.
3. Whoa, Pinterest!
About a year & a half ago I really got deliberate about making sure each of my posts was “pinnable” (ie. clear, simple image with post’s tag headline). At the time, I kinda dragged my feet in doing so (why should I cater to this one social media platform?).
But since I have done this, my traffic from Pinterest has slowly built up. Last time I checked, bring joy gets somewhere around 23K unique visitors a month. 80% of those visits are new visitors, & of those new visitors, over two thirds are coming from Pinterest.
I’ve had several posts go viral on Pinterest, & when that happens it always sends a flood of traffic to my blog. Though most people are casually browsing, I will often get people who will stick around & sign up for my email updates, or buy something from my shop.
It will be interesting to see how Pinterest evolves over the next few years as they figure out how to generate revenue. I, along with most bloggers I’d imagine, hope & pray it will continue & stick around since so many new readers & visitors come from Pinterest.
4. Setting up the foundation, is a lot of work — but then it gets a easier.
I used to blog five days a week. Now, because I have five kids (two being a 4 year old & a 1 year old) & my priorities lie elsewhere, I blog 1-2 times a week. Even though I blog much less frequently, my traffic has gone up. Why is this?
It’s kind of like compound interest. The first few years you make your investments, & over time the interest & continued investing builds & adds to itself.
I put in a lot of time over the years posting, & so now my site is rich with recipes & other posts that come up via Google search & Pinterest. This continues to generate a lot of organic traffic which has helped me to slowly expand my readership. I still continue to add to my stash of posts, but adding a post or two a week is more than enough to keep the embers glowing.
Also, I might add that one quality, pinnable, useful post is worth 20 or 30 crappy, half-baked posts. Just remember every time you are working on a post, that it’s not just for someone to read tomorrow, but ideally, good enough that someone could read & use it’s content years from now.*
*These type of posts are referred to as “evergreen” (like the trees that never lose their leaves) posts. Not every single post has to be an evergreen post, but at least two thirds of your posts should fit into this category, especially if you want to maximize your time & efforts.
5. Stop making excuses about not having enough time.
Don’t waste your time feeling bad that you didn’t create the post that so-and-so created, or don’t have the time to do what so-and-so is able to do on social media or elsewhere.
NO one has all the time in the world, & everyone has some time. If blogging is a priority, then decide how many hours a week or day you will devote to it & then stick to it. One thing I learned from Bonnie’s course (affiliate link) is that “done is better than perfect” because perfect usually means it will never get done.
I used to often spend time lamenting how I couldn’t spend as much time as I would have liked blogging because I was so busy caring for my family. How silly is that?!
My family is the reason I have anything to blog about anyway. Having finite resources has forced me to get really intentional & creative, & to let go stupid stuff that wasn’t worth my time anyway. In short, I have enough time, you have enough time, to do the essential stuff if we choose to make it a priority.
6. Don’t stress if people aren’t commenting on posts.
I used to be very sensitive about the amount of comments I was getting on each post. I was getting 20 or more comments on a post, but wasn’t making a dime from my blog.
I used to get double or triple the amount of comments I typically get now on my posts but it doesn’t trouble me. People are still reading, clicking, sharing–in fact more so than ever before (I know this from Google Analytics)–as well as buying my products. This means a lot more to me than if everyone took the time to engage below a post but didn’t pin my stuff, buy my products, or return back to read future posts.
While interaction is great (I always love hearing from my readers!), it doesn’t have to happen on your blog. A lot of my interaction with readers happens over email, Facebook, & occasionally Twitter.
New bloggers: What are you working on getting better at? Struggling with?
Veteran bloggers: Anything to add to my list? Please share!