Monday, March 4, 2013

How I grew my blog - A 3 year story

Every now and then I get an email from a reader asking how I grew my blog to the level it is at, and asking for advice to help grow their own blog.

I'm always so flattered and amazed when I get these emails - to think that people are looking up to my blog, when I think how much I look up to other blogs - and how many people I have emailed to ask for help and advice.

It feels good to be able to pass on what I've learnt and help others.

I thought it would be a good idea to try to collect all my knowledge and ideas together in one post - to try and show how I've grown my blog to this level - and what that level is, in terms of number of visitors, page-views and also income.

So here goes:

In the beginning

I started this blog in April 2010 - so almost 3 years ago.
It started out as an addition to a website and market stall that a friend and I were running to sell our handmade goods.  A blog was just something that we thought we 'should' have - but we really knew nothing about it. (here's my very first post!)
By May, my friend and I had both really taken to blogging and decided that we both wanted our own blogs so she set up her own -and I took over this one for myself.

For the next year I explored the world of blogging and my own creativity. I loved being able to connect with other like-minded people. To see so much amazing creativity out there and to have a space to share my own creations too - and to receive some feedback on them too.  I began to post my own tutorials. As a teacher - I loved being able to share my knowledge - and the challenge of finding clear, fun and interesting ways to teach others things I had learned.



My blog as motivation

I found that my blog was a good motivator for me to get things done.  That was the beginning of the Round Tuit linky party - the idea that it would motivate me to get around to doing things and hopefully inspire others to do the same.  That linky party is still running nearly 3 years later - and I get motivation and inspiration from it each and every week!

I have also used my blog to record challenges I have set myself - and so keep myself committed to complete them. All of these challenges I have successfully completed and seen great results from!

The first was a 45 day challenge to myself to get fit and healthy.
Then there was my clothes upcycling challenge - where I decided to work my way through my bag of old clothes and post an upcycling project a day for one month.
The following month I challenged myself to learn more about blogging and take action to grow my blog throughout that month.
I also used the principal that it takes 21 days to form a habit - and decided to train myself to be a tidier person - keeping my house surfaces clean and tidy!

Action taken to grow my blog

Over the past couple of years I have tried several different things to grow my blog, including - working with other bloggers on things like  my Creating Success Around the World series of interviews with crafters; Christmas collaborations and guest posts.
I have joined forums, explored social media
I linked my projects up to other linky parties.
I joined in blog hops and I shared my journey.
I educated myself about blogging by reading lots of other blogs and using Google to search for anything and everything I wanted to learn - how to make my blog look better, how to gain more followers, how to get sponsors for my blog and how to make money.
I've hosted Giveaways, gained sponsors and joined in events and challenges.

So what was key to making my blog grow?

Every little thing I have done has helped in some way.  I have learned slowly and largely by trial and error.   
I don't know if I could have achieved the same growth in my blog to the level it is at now, in a shorter span of time. My feeling would be that it is possible with a lot more focus and intense work on it than I   put in over the past 3 years.

My enthusiasm and work on my blog has come in spurts, and my focus often moves away to my family and other things that are going on in my life.

Some weeks I spend every day blogging, maybe 5 or 6 hours a day, and then sometimes more time in the evening and weekends. 
Other weeks I get caught up with other things - housework, kids sports, my exercise plan, and barely do any.


Long term rewards

For the past couple of years, I built up to trying to have a post go out every day.  Sometimes I set up several posts in advance, other times I was literally writing a post every day.
Towards the end of 2012, I had a busy time at home, and slacked off with my blog, only posting around 3 times a week.  What I was surprised to notice, was that my traffic did not change.  It made me look more closely at what I was putting my efforts into on my blog and what was bringing results.

Most of my traffic comes from other websites (for example Allfreesewing) referring people to my free sewing tutorials.  And also to my linky of 400+ Clothes Upcycling ideas.

These two things are well established on my blog now - the tutorials  have been posted and promoted and I no longer need to work on them to keep the traffic coming, which is gratifying that all the work I put into making them and setting them up, is now paying off.

Sometimes I've posted a tutorial thinking it's a really good one and will be popular - only to be disappointed that it doesn't get much of a reaction or many people visiting the post.  Then later - sometimes weeks or months later, it will get featured somewhere - on a free pattern website, or on a larger blog, or someone might 'stumbleupon' it, and all of a sudden it's crazy popular overnight!  Once this has happened, it often creates a base to continue bringing in a steady stream of traffic over a long term period. I still get plenty traffic from tutorials I posted over 2 years ago.

Making money from my blog

As I have watched my blog steadily grow, and knowing how much of my time is going into it - I have tried to get some kind of income from it - as a recompense for the time spent - but also with the idea that:

"If you can make money doing what you love, then you will never have to work."

I added Google Adsense adverts to my blog early on, but it was nearly 2 years before I actually received any money from that.  Now I can see the clicks and money made slowly growing as my readership grows.

I also took on sponsorship from relevant companies, once I felt my blog was big enough to provide a large enough platform to give my sponsors a decent exposure for their money.
To know when to approach sponsors, I simply looked at other blogs of similar size to mine, and took my lead from examples.
I began charging a small amount, and have slowly increased this amount as my readership has grown and I have felt I have more to offer my sponsors.

I currently make around $150 per month from my blog.  Not much - particularly considering the hours I'm putting in, but it's a start and at least I know it is possible to make money from my blog - and I can see the relative growth in dollars in relation to the growth in my   readership.  I now need to focus on growing my readership to proportionally increase my income! 


To sum it all up

So how have I grown my blog over the last 3 years?

1. I've posted about things I'm interested in and passionate about - and become part of a community of like-minded people, slowly building up a presence and a blog full posts that show who I am and what I do. - in short I've slowly found and narrowed down what is my blog's niche.

2. I've built up a large resource of free sewing tutorials. As I have learned sewing tricks and techniques, I have tried to put these into a  format that seems clear and easy to understand to me, in the hope I can share my knowledge to help others create things too!

3. I've focussed on not just sewing tutorials - but my passion for upcycling. I've done lots of upcycling projects myself, featured many others and once I'd proven my interest and ability in that area, I created the ongoing linky for everyone to share their wealth of clothes upcycling ideas.

4. TIME - I have put in endless hours to build my blog up to what it is today.  It has been a hobby for me, which has meant I've put in time when I can, but other things in life have and do take priority.





What's next?

I am currently a stay-at-home Mum, and fit in my blogging between looking after my family and the house.  As the kids get older and more independent, I will eventually have to look at returning to work.
My goal and dream is that by that time, I will have established my blogs so that they are providing my income and I will not need to got out to work for someone else - in their terms and hours.

It's interesting for me to have written this post and to take stock of how I've worked on my blog over the past 3 years, and the relative success I've had with it.

One thing that has become very obvious to me is that the time put into my blog is not consistent.

I believe to succeed in what you want in life the two most important things are:

Persistence and Consistency

I definitely believe I have shown persistence so what I need to work on is my consistency.

Last year I completed an exercise programme on DVDs. It was a 9 week total body conditioning programme which not only took my fitness to a whole other level but also taught me a lot.

(here's the promotional video for the programme - I'm not being paid to promote this at all - it's purely something I took a lot from that I wanted to share) 


Until I followed this Insanity workout programme, I had exercised a lot - quite regularly and considered myself quite fit.  But I'd approached my fitness in the same way as my blog - I fitted it in when I could - did what I enjoyed, tried to do things that would help me improve.  But I was blown away by the differences in what I found I could achieve with a focussed and consistent plan!

I learnt the importance of sticking to something regularly, the importance of having a structured plan, and also of having a 'what next' idea for when you complete the plan!

So now I have decided to implement what I have learned, and start a structured and consistent plan for taking my blog to the next level, just as my fitness has been taken to the next level!

If I want my blogs to bring in an income comparable to a 'job' I might otherwise go out to do, then I need to stop viewing my blogs as a hobby and start to think of them as my business.
I need to find the time to work on then consistently and regularly to get the results I want!

Tomorrow - I am going to post about this plan.
As I mentioned earlier - I have found my blog to be a motivator for me - the challenges I have done successfully have been so thanks to posting about them and being held accountable to completing them by promising to post regularly my progress and results.


Phew!  That was a long post!  I hope it has been interesting to read and provided some insight into the growth of a moderately successful blog.

I believe anyone can grow their blog and make an income from it - if you are willing to put in the time and effort.

The more you can learn from others and can apply that knowledge, the faster your blog growth will be.

I hope I can inspire others to follow their dreams, and believe in themselves and the possibilities out there!

Onwards and Upwards!!

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post!! I love the advice you recently gave me!!
    Esther.

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  2. Congrats on three years Jill. As somewhat if a newbie I'm not 100% sure what I want my blog to be. I love doing it but I'm not sure if I want it to be my "job" great info though thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Thanks Mel - it's taken me a while to figure out what I want from my blog - I've enjoyed every bit of the journey though and I'm sure you will too with yours!

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  3. Very inspiring and lots of great information. Have you considered joining our group 'Aussie Blogs to Love' on Facebook? Its a great little group to ask questions and get support, especially if your goal is to continue to grow. As always, thank you!

    Bettina
    www.littleoldsouls.com

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    1. Thanks Bettina. I've seen that group on Facebook - but how do I join?

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  4. You're inspiring and tips are helpful. Wish my blog could grow as yours.

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    1. Thanks Terri! Good luck with your blog too - it just takes time but if you want to grow yours you will get there!!

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  5. Go go go, my little energizer bunny blogger. Looking forward to hearing your latest plan - I definitely enjoyed reading this great 'the story so far' post!

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    1. Thanks Michelle! I plan on posting 'the story of my unbelievably successful blog' in the near future! Watch out for that one! :)

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  6. What a great post Jill! I agree with you that it takes persistence and consistency! These 2 are imperative to a successful blog. But the plan? The plan is surely what will take it up a notch, something I continue to work on. Looking forward to reading about that!

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    1. Thanks Michelle. I do have a plan worked out now - but I'm sure that plan too will grow and change over the coming weeks and months as I learn more!

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing! I am just starting out and find these type of posts helpful and inspirational. I can't wait to hear your next installment.

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    1. Thanks Maggie - glad you enjoyed the post!

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  8. Thanks for all this information! We've all asked the same questions when we started, and it is not always obvious to find all the information. All the advice you have given us in your post, are much appreciated!
    When I started my blog,I was looking for a place to upload my project and then decided to start writing tutorials, a bit like you, I like the world of bloggers and be in contact with people who have the same passion that I have. I want to thank you for taking the time to write all this information, for me has been very useful. I added ads to my blog, and I have asked myself many times how do you get more ads, you have given me the answer, look for sponsors! It might be my next step, thanks again for all the information!! Was greatly appreciated.
    Your bloggy friend, Marisa from
    http://passionetcouture.blogspot.ca/

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    1. Thanks Marisa - I love that bloggers are so generous with their knowledge and have learnt so much from others - it's nice to be able to pass my knowledge on too and in turn help others!

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I love comments and try to respond to them all. Thanks for taking the time !