About a year ago I took a blogging course.
There's nothing unusual about that. I take courses and workshops all the time.
What was different this time though was that the outcome was not quite what I expected.
I was looking for a magic solution to blogger burn-out when I should have just taken a vacation and cut myself some slack.
Essentially the last twelve months on the blog-front have been a struggle.
I still love blogging. It has been the conduit through which I have been very richly blessed. And I'm finally getting my creative mojo back and beginning to find my blogging groove again.
But this last year has been hard.
You see a lot of what I knew to be true about blogging was questioned which caused me great confusion and frustration.
Some of what I took away from the course was actually wrong for my type of business and some of it I simply interpreted incorrectly. Of course, there was actually some good in all of it too.
Since I want to be an optimist, I'll share the good first.
The Good Things
I cleaned up my site
One of the best things I did for my blog, AKA Design, in the last year was to go through and cull the dead wood.
I went through all my old post archives and deleted useless posts. Posts about what I did in a day from before we shared that sort of thing on social media and not on blogs.
I discovered a plugin called Stealth Publish, which I used to hide content from my main blog roll while keeping the direct URL intact. It was perfect for old sponsored posts that weren't useful (from when I was just learning to work with sponsors) and topics which didn't fit into my blog anymore.
I also had my awesome tech person, Gretchen, remove the dates from my posts and comments. You may or may not want to do this. I did it because I only have relevant evergreen content now and I don't need readers to see if I've taken a break for a few days, etc.
Going forward I will only create good, evergreen content. Dates won't matter.
I created targeted optins and grew my email list
Since AKA Design talks about DIY projects, decorating ideas as well as simple family recipes, organizing, blogging and a plethora of other content, I created different freebies for each topic and made email sign ups much more relevant to those topics. Because of this my email list has grown significantly.
And because the freebies are so specific, the people on my list are there because they're truly interested and not just because they signed up to win a free thingamajig.
I learned the difference between trust and authority posts
So-called authority posts are posts that I like to refer to as teaching posts. You're sharing some expertise with your audience and they are learning something from you. These posts will get shared a lot. They're typically the type of post that goes viral.
Trust posts on the other hand are more relational. You're sharing your heart or experiences and building trust with your readers that you know how they feel. They are often more personal posts. These will get more comments and not so many social shares.
Both are good and you will want more of one than the other depending upon your type of blog. This was huge to helping me understand why some posts get shared a lot while others get more comments.
It's okay to do things like everyone else
I don't mean it's okay to copy projects or other blogs. Because that's not cool!
What I do mean is that it's okay to do sponsored posts and link to affiliate products and have ads on your site. It's okay to make a living by helping others build their business too.
You and I don't have to reinvent the wheel or do it differently just because someone says we should.
And now the bad…
The Bad Things
I ignored a lot awesome blog friendships
Because the course was adamant that ‘chasing' pageviews was not the way to run a business I let a lot of friendships with other bloggers slide. Why would I need to network if I didn't need the pageviews?
It embarrasses me so much to say that I also felt at the time like I was so much smarter than everyone else who was doing it the “old” way. I was so wrong. Everyone's business is so different.
It pains me greatly to know how much I've missed out on with those relationships in the last year.
I removed ads for awhile and lost a lot of income
During the course, the pros and cons of each of the five blogging income source were reviewed.
Ads seemed (at least to me) like the devil himself because they ‘take readers away from your site' and build someone else's business. Unfortunately I forgot the part about them being extremely passive and super useful when a crisis hits and one cannot blog for a time, like when we moved last fall or when my father in law had a stroke earlier this year.
I shut off all my social sharing and my pageviews plummeted
Because of trying not to chase after pageviews and believing that my list was the only thing that mattered I turned off all my social sharing tools. I turned off Board Booster and Tailwind and let my Buffer App run to empty.
The problem with thinking the email list is all that matters, is that an email list needs to keep growing and it can only do that by having new eyeballs on the blog content regularly. Social sharing is kinda necessary for that.
You cannot simply create a product and price it based on other products
This is painfully obvious to me now. But last year I was listening to all the people who said they were making huge amounts of money selling their own products. I also created the wrong type of product (a course that should only have been a book) and had no idea how to launch a product correctly.
I've also since discovered that there is a HUGE distinction in pricing and products that are geared towards other businesses/bloggers (B2B) and those meant for regular people or consumers (B2C).
Bloggers are naturally spenders. And most people will buy a product (book, course, workshop, etc.) for a higher price if they know it will help them make more money or improve their business. The pain-point of a non-decorated house is just not high enough to warrant a price similar to that of a how-to-make-more-money business guide.
Things I'm Still a Bit Uncertain About
A super focused niche blog vs a more general blog
I can see the benefit to having a very focused blog that focuses on only one or two very closely related topics. Readers will know instantly what the site is about because there won't be any conflicting signals – like a recipe or fashion post in the middle of a DIY blog.
But, I think that a blog with several topics like decorating ideas, DIY Projects, saving money, paying off debt, blogging and homemaking can all live happily under one blogging roof too. I guess only time will tell as I play around with it.
Is balance possible?
Being an entrepreneur is hard, but it's in my blood. It's ingrained in how God made me. As Gary Vee said it – you're an entrepreneur if you cannot breathe at even the thought of working for someone else. Which is me to a T – I once quit a good paying job as a Graphic Design Coordinator without even telling my dear sweet husband until after I'd done it. I just couldn't take the business suit/cubicle/corporate culture for one second longer.
It seems we're all striving to have balance all the time, entrepreneur or not, and we're collectively always falling short. I think that balance though is a bit of a moving target and we all go through periods of time when things feel more balanced than at other times.
I'm not at all sure a permanent state of balance is possible. Buy maybe I'm wrong.
I suppose the gist of what I've learned is:
- Pageviews do matter! Your email list is INCREDIBLY important, but without steady traffic that list will go nowhere. That doesn't mean you just chase pageviews, but it does mean you need people to see what you write and create. It doesn't mean that you need HIGH pageviews, but you do need new people coming to your site.
- Don't try to create a B2C product and price it like a B2B product. Those two types of products and the groups of people they serve are very different. Keep that in mind when viewing other blogger's income reports too!
- Blogging relationships are important. The camaraderie that bloggers have is unheard of in other businesses. Other bloggers can relate and commiserate and celebrate with you because they're the only other people on the planet that get it. Plus you can share each other's work, which is awesome!
- Don't focus on only one income source no matter what may appear to work for anyone else. You need at least 3 out of the 5 blogging income sources (ads, sponsored posts, services, products and affiliates) and preferably 4 out of 5 of them to keep your business going during the changing seasons.
- Email lists matter. But targeted email lists matter even more! Don't just give away random stuff to get people on your list. Make sure your optin is directly related to your blog topics and (if you have them) your own products too.
- You and I will both make more money when we run our businesses by serving others and helping them to solve their problems.
- All experiences are learning experiences depending upon how you look at them. Yes this year has been hard but I have learned a lot of valuable lessons. Especially that when I'm burnt out, I need to take a break instead of revamping my entire business. 🙂
What are your thoughts on the lessons I've learned? Have you had to learn any of them the hard way too?
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