(Pic via Mrs CeeCee)
My favourite session at the Problogger Event (pbevent) was the discussion between three of the nicest ladies in the blogging business - Andrea from Fox in Flats, Caz from yTravel Blog and Christina from Hair Romance. Their session was called 'The Step Changers' and covered the steps (read: HARD WORK) that have led these bloggers to success. Christina said, "everyone thinks you're lucky because they don't see the hard work behind your success. It's not one big success. It's a series of small successes. Celebrate those." Amen to this!
These three bloggers are blogging as their full time day job. While blogging and writing (and speaking) isn't my full time day job, it is my secondary career, and it has taken me a long time to do this. I work my full time job and dedicate a lot of hours to writing when I'm at home. I hope some brand new bloggers were in that audience to hear that making money blogging doesn't happen overnight. The session covered a number of themes: revealing yourself, collaboration, courage and self belief, guest posting and not giving up. Like most of the sessions at pbevent, the lessons that came out of this session can be implemented in many other careers and aspects of our lives.
Andrea writes Fox in Flats - a blog about practical and stylish fashion for busy mums. She's interviewed Peter Morrissey, Dannii Minogue and Sarah Murdoch. She's also created an ebook in conjunction with Ecco Shoes, and went to Copenhagen Fashion Week as an Ecco blogger. I first met Andrea in 2011, three weeks after she started her blog, and I am SO proud of what she's achieved since. Caz (and her husband Craig, the other half of yTravel Blog) are travellers - and their blog has enabled them to showcase and see many parts of Australia and the world. Caz and Craig have worked with Tourism Australia, Qantas, Canon, New Zealand Tourism and Cathay Pacific, to name a few. And Christina, blogging at Hair Romance and Nail Romance, does hair and nail styling tutorials, and has worked with Schwarzkopf and developed several ebooks
So many people ask me (and the bloggers I know) "How do you go from starting a blog with no readers to making it into a sustainable business?" All new bloggers start with no readers. I remember the day that my blog hit 1,000 views, and then 10,000 and then 1 Million! It didn't just happen. It took a lot of time writing, even when I thought (knew) no one was reading and a lot of self promotion. And gradually I got better at crafting blog posts. It still takes a lot of time! (If i told non-bloggers how much time I spend on the Internet and social media, theyd tell me I have lost touch with the real world!) The paid writing on publications away from my blog takes a lot of work too - as Clementine Ford said at the Melbourne Writers Festival, my blog has been my apprenticeship - it's got me noticed by editors, and blogging has got the ladies on pbevent step changer panel noticed too.
The ladies said that success came to them when they dared to be honest and reveal something about themselves. For a long time Christina only revealed the back of her head, but when she put her face on her blog, readership and engagement increased. Andrea wrote a heartfelt piece about her mother who passed away from cancer for Witchery's White Shirt Day, and this resonated with many of her readers. And Craig from yTravel Blog wrote an epic post about how his and Caz's journey has not always been smooth, and it's taken many years and lots of struggle to get where they are today - and the readers' response was hugely positive. I related to all of these anecdotes - for when I first plucked up the courage to write candidly about my skin, on a particularly bad day of infection on my face when I didn't want to look in the mirror, my readers showed me the support I needed to keep writing about it. They wanted to know more and they wanted to support me. And since then, lots of people with visible differences have identified withmy story. And so my blog took the clear direction of focusing on what it's like to look different.
"Anyone who has success is because they're standing on the shoulders of giants", said Caz. Reach out. Work together. And Christina added "asking for help with blogging can lead to a strong friendship." Andrea said that Dannii Minogue told her she was a fan of Fox in Flats, and they'd been messaging each other on Twitter for a little while. She got the guts to ask Dannii, who is a mother to a toddler, if she would be keen being interviewed on the blog. Dannii said yes! Andrea went on to say "every time I don't feel like going to an event, that event is the time when something good, exciting, important will happen". I absolutely agree with asking someone to work with you. I pitch myself to editors all the time - sometimes it's fruitful, other times I get a no, but I know that these editors are now aware of my work and something may be a better fit in the future. Also, when Sam Johnson was talking about creating Love Your Sister at an event I went to in June 2012, I said to him that I'd love to offer him some alternative media in the form of a spot on my blog. He was keen, telling me they wanted to work with bloggers, and that he trusts me and my work. I sent him an email in November of last year asking if there was any news for the LYS launch date. We emailed back and forth and chatted on the phone to plan the interview for my blog before the launch. I made it happen - I am proud to be the first blogger who announced Love Your Sister. (Sam was a guest speaker at pbevent, and it's so great that as a result, more people are aware and wanting to get involved in his cause.) The ladies also spoke about bloggers collaborating with readers: Involve your readers. Ask them questions. Use their answers as blog content. "Make your readers the hero." They suggested asking their readers questions and turning them into blog posts.
"When you find someone you want to work with, pitch yourself", recommended Christina. Caz spoke about being persistent. "Don't take a no personally when you get a no. Learn from it. Don't give up", she said. She spoke of how persistent she and Craig were with finding a contact at a tourism company - finding ways to get to the person they needed to speak to by building relationships with others in the company. "Being persistent with your requests means you're building a relationship with more people in a company", she said.
Courage to believe in yourself
"Make an investment in yourself do a course, travel, pick up the phone rather than email. Make the change. Have the guts to try new things!", Christina said. Pitch to publishers, take a leap, invest in face to face meetings, travel, spend. Christina told us how she invested in a trip to New York to go to BlogHer and to meet potential clients face to face. It paid off. "It's often the gutsiest decisions that bring the best results. Learn new stuff, push yourself, move forward", Andrea said. She added: 'No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never give up!' Don't quit. At the quitting moments, amazing things happen." Caz affirmed: "Draw upon the strength of what you've previously achieved. Back yourself. Think about where you were a few years ago & be in awe of what you've been able to achieve. You're making a difference."
Guest posts were encouraged. Caz recommended "using guest posts to get yourself out there. Don't forget to include your Google authorship profile." Andrea added her advice: "try guest posting on a blog/site that has different content to yours, but a similar demographic." And Christina sugggested "carrying your brand over to the places you guest blog on." And so after this session, I pitched a guest post to yTravel blog who said yes! (I've still got to write it yet!)
Don't give up!
I think it is really easy for new bloggers, or even established ones, to want to quit. They feel like they're not being read. They find blogging a chore. They aren't sure what to blog about. Don't quit! You never know who might be reading your blog. "Every time I've wanted to quit, I get a message from a reader about the big difference I've made to their lives", Caz said. I've never felt like I have wanted to quit, but sometimes I feel there's nothing more to write about. And then, like Caz, I get an email or comment from a reader telling me I've made a difference, and I want to keep blogging forever. And I know there will always be an opportunity to blog about something, or for my blog to lead me to a bigger opportunity, and so I keep going. "Opportunity comes every single day. If you're not prepared, you're not going to respond to these opportunities", Caz finished with.
I caught up with an old friend for a drink the other night. She's a paediatric bone doctor (osteopath) and told me about her practice - Growing Bones. She's got a website and she was excited to tell me about her blog that she has, covering osteopathy for babies and children. She said that she loves researching and writing down what she's learnt and spoken to her clients about, and is confident her advice will help parents searching for a solution. My friend was also excited to receive comments from around the world - she can't believe the reach that a blog has. My friend admitted not knowing too much about blogging and social media but said the blogging and social media work she has been doing for her practice is something she really enjoys. She had no idea bloggers can make money from their blogs, nor about blog conferences or that you can meet bloggers in real life. I loved her enthusiasm about her blogging - an add on to her practice - and I knew that while she's only fresh and her blog is not well known yet, she doesn't want to give up anytime soon.
Success can be anything you want it to be
All three ladies on the step changers panel at pbevent belong to the Remarkables Group - Australia's first blogging agency. Belonging to a blogging agency seems to be a marker of success in the Australian blogging industry - but blogging markers of success can be anything you want them to be. For me my marker of successful blogging is being published in a publication that I admire, or being asked to speak at an event after someone read my blog, and especially receiving an email from a reader saying I helped them in some way. (Andrea said she thinks she's doing blogging right when she receives a beautiful email, tweet or card from a blog reader.) Your marker of blogging success might be that your comments have doubled in a year, or your post was shared by a reader or blogger that you respect, or that you've made some new friends.
Christina said "Going beyond what everyone else is doing is what brings success", and I think that is so true. Run your own blogging race, work hard and success, in whatever form you want, will come.
Thanks for a wonderful session, ladies. Yours was truly so worthwhile attending. And Christina, you have enviable hair.
You can read more of my experience at the Problogger Event here.