A little over a year ago, I participated in the Let’s Get Acquainted New Blogger Blog Hop at Plum and June. This blog hop was a chance for new, unknown blogs to get their name out and make new friends. It was a wonderful blog hop and I still can’t thank Beth enough for the opportunity. One year later, I am really excited to be back participating in round 2 of the blog hop. This time I was asked by Beth to share some advice for bloggers interested in taking their blog to the next level.
Be sure to check out the following blog posts as they are a great foundation and preliminary to what I will say today.
Heidi from Fabric Mutt: Advice for New Bloggers, Tessa from The Sewing Chick: It’s All About the Pictures, Janice from Better off Thread: Advice for New Bloggers, Jess from Elven Garden: Advice for New Bloggers
If you have read through all four posts, then you should have a really good idea of what it takes to start a blog that is fun and successful. Branding, Photos, Quality Content, etc.
Suppose you have started a blog and you absolutely love what you’re doing, but now you are ready to take it a step further and turn your adventure into a small business. What steps do you take next? Before I hop into giving you advice on how to make these steps I would like to share a little of my story and how Pile O’ Fabric came to be.
When I was growing up, I spent a huge portion of my time helping out at my parent’s jewelry shop. By the time I was 12, I was already working the jewelry counter. Eventually, I moved from the sales floor to managing the online store which is when I began to learn graphic/web design. When I was 18 years old, I married my high school sweetheart. He, too, was learning graphic/web design and together we began to build a business. I have been a graphic/web designer for the past seven years in addition to a stay at home mom for the past four years. It has been a long learning and growing process which I believe will never end. Because of the experience I gained growing up, I was naturally very entrepreneurial.
[caption id="attachment_4157" align="aligncenter" width="500"]
First quilt I ever made.[/caption]
In December 2011, I got the crazy idea to get out my sewing machine (which was in the closet for 5 years) and make my very first quilt. After that first quilt was finished, there was no stopping me! I had finally found a hobby that I really enjoyed. It was at that moment that the progression to Pile O’ Fabric began.
I was so excited about quilting I could not stop talking about it. Eventually, I could tell that my husband and sisters were sick of hearing about quilting all the time. I decided to start my own blog where I could get out all the cooped up quilting excitement and keep my family sane. In April 2012, Pile O’ Fabric was born. At first I had no real expectation for the blog, I just wanted somewhere to talk.
I participated in a bunch of online sewing events and my love for blogging began to grow to be just as much as my love for quilting. Here was the turning point, the one which I am focusing on in today’s advice.
I found myself pouring hours and hours of time (some weeks over 25 hrs) into Pile O’ Fabric, not out of obligation, but out of pure love and enjoyment. However, the reality check was that the hours spent blogging were taking time away from work and my family. It was at that point I needed to make a serious decision: step back and let Pile O’ Fabric just be a place to share my projects when I have time or take Pile O’ Fabric to the next level and turn it into a small business that can help support my family and replace my job.
I caution you to take it slow when making this decision. Really dig deep and figure out why you are truly blogging. Is it just to simply share what you love to do, but without too much commitment? When I stopped and thought hard, my answer was this…I blog at Pile O’ Fabric because I absolutely love to encourage/inspire others and to push them out of their comfort zone so they will always keep learning. I knew that I wanted to build a business with that goal as the foundation and it was at that moment I decided to move forward.
Taking the Next Steps
Once you have determined that taking your blog to the next level is the route for you then here is some advice.
Blogging as a business is not for the light hearted. It requires a massive amount of blood, sweat, and sometimes even tears. Be prepared to possibly work on one single blog post for over 8 hours straight. Or to run into problem after problem (sew through my finger, ouch!, then the sewing machine tension is off, then the video won’t record, then your computer crashes, then your blog didn’t save the changes). No small business is going to be super easy to start and run; it takes dedication and determination to continue trucking forward.
Embrace and Expect Feedback
No one is perfect. As a blogger and business owner, you are going to make mistakes, possibly lots of them. I know I make them often. You will learn real quick that with blogging comes feedback and criticism. I mean, after all, blogging is about the relationship between writer and reader. You must embrace any feedback with open arms and really think about how it can help your business. Be prepared for those occasions when you get some very harsh feedback; this is just part of doing business. I am learning to try and take this feedback with the right heart and be as patient as I can. In those situations, I feel, the best barometer is to trust your conscience. If you feel you could have done better, be honest, or if you feel you tried your best, then be honest. Ultimately, try not to lose sleep over it.
Occasionally, you may shed a tear or two and feel very discouraged. But, remember that there are many, many readers out there who are very thankful for you. Don’t let the amount of comments you receive be a barometer for your success. Many people may love your posts and simply just have very busy lives which often makes commenting hard.
When you are in the thick of a hectic schedule between blogging, side work, children, home responsibilities, etc., it is very easy to lose your motivation. In fact, I can guarantee at some point you are going to feel slightly burned out. That is inevitable with really anything you do, not just work. When you reach the time of burn out, I strongly encourage a “blogcation”. Now this isn’t always easy. I often protest this very issue with my husband, “if I stop what I am doing then I will just be more behind and stressed when I get back”. No one can run a marathon when you have only had three hours of sleep in the last four days. You have to take a break. Whether you go on an actual vacation or just take some time off is up to you.
During your “blogcation” take time to think back to the exact reason you started your blogging business and refocus your energy towards that goal.
You know how you can fold every single towel in your linen closet and make it all perfect, but somehow as time goes by that same linen closet looks like a bomb blew up? Or maybe you fold your fabric stash and order it by color then within a week you have oranges with your reds and greens with your blues? I guarantee this will happen with your business as well. You may go a few months and find yourself getting slightly lazier, or maybe the direction or focus of your blog has changed slightly and you didn’t even realize it. Be sure to stop often (maybe monthly) and re-evaluate your blog. If you are being lazy, then try to clean up your mess and get back on track. If your focus has changed, decipher if you like the change or if you strayed from your original reason for blogging. Make adjustments as needed and keep pressing onward.
How do you make money blogging? This is the most popular question I get asked behind the scenes. Very few people pay their bills with blogging. In fact, you may find yourself working really hard for very little income. This is why it is absolutely crucial you know that you truly want to blog as a business and why it is important to take time and think hard before making that choice.
Sponsors and Advertising:
You need to contact them. Shops and sponsors are not usually out on their free time perusing blogs looking for ones to sponsor. You must present your blog to them. Before emailing the sponsors I strongly suggest putting together a media kit which shares all about your blog, your readers, demographics, followers, the whole gamut. Believe me, if you don’t they are going to ask anyway and it’s better to be prepared.
Choose sponsors wisely. Now this will come down to personal goals and preference, but for me I only want to support sponsors who sell relevant products that I love and use and who have wonderful customer service. I wanted to choose sponsors who I would love to promote wholeheartedly. This is why I currently do not have flashy clorox ads all over. Once you take on sponsors do not promote them out of obligation (if you’re doing this you shouldn’t even have sponsors or you have the wrong ones). Promote them out of a love for them and with the hope that their business will grow because of you.
Free or Paid? Find a Balance:
I was recently discussing with a friend the most difficult step to building your blogging business; how much do you give away for free? Posting free tutorials brings me great joy. I love to see other quilters learn and grow from them. They can also really help the growth of your blog. But, if this is a business, at some point you are going to have to draw a line between paid and free. Drawing this line is very hard to do and is something I am still trying to figure out. With so many bloggers offering free tutorials (even myself with the BOM) offering paid options seems like a hard step to take. This is another topic you will really need to think hard about and probably seek out advice from others in your shoes. There are many paid options out there such as workshops, classes, pattern design, e-books, premium blog posts with membership, quilt alongs, etc. You will need to figure out what works best for you and your business and most likely adapt over time.
When I first began writing this post I was at a loss of what to say, but now I think I could make an entire blog series about “blogging: a small business”. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I am definitely still learning, but if you need more advice or have questions please never hesitate to email me. To bring this post to summation I will say this… Blog with integrity, be honest, be patient, and never let yourself stop growing and learning!