In January of 2012, I started a blog. I did it on a whim…I had no grand plans other than I thought it could be a great way to stay in touch with out-of-town family and friends, but then all of that changed….
Here’s My Story:
How to Start a Blog & Then Take it to the Next Level
I was a new mommy simply trying to find my footing. I had retired from the elementary classroom to become a full-time mama and though I was head over heels in love with my new little guy, the transition from classroom to home was a huge change for me. As a first-time mom looking for something to do during those middle-of-the-night feedings, I started readings blogs, and as I did, I began to discover an incredible on-line community that I never knew existed! What? At 2am, I could be encouraged, inspired, challenged, and empowered by so many other women who had walked through my experiences as a new mom? It was awesome, and I quickly fell in love!
It was January of 2012 when I made a trip out-of-town to my parent’s house. Baby boy and I ventured there to spend a few days with the grandparents. While up late one evening, I decided to start a [Google Blogger] blog of my own – I named it “All Kinds of Things”. It was literally a spur of the moment decision that came out of nowhere. I wasn’t planning to do anything fancy. I would simply document my days with our new addition so that out-of-town friends and family could follow along as they wished. I was excited to keep in touch that way, so I got started. I began sharing family photos, details from the holidays, you get the idea. I never planned on becoming a real blogger.
As I continued to write and share, I realized that while very few of our out-of-town relatives were actually following along with my blog as I had hoped, friends and friends-of-friends were starting to take note and pay attention to my posts via social media. In addition, I began to connect with other bloggers and found myself interested in taking my blog to the next level. Instead of simply journaling our day-to-day, I soon began to realize that I could take my love of writing, photography, and teaching and throw them all together to create my own little corner of the Internet! As my passion for creating grew, so did my blog!
I quickly realized that I needed some guidance, so I reached out to Ashley at The Vanilla Tulip and spent some time learning from her. This mentorship was a game changer for me! I learned so much from Ashley, and I will be forever grateful for the way she invested in ME [and my blog]!
Ashley challenged me to become more active on social media and to get involved with weekly link parties! These two things made all the difference in my taking my blog to the next level! If you are looking to grow your own space, I would most definitely suggest the following:
Connect with other bloggers!
Become more active on social media!
My Pinterest boards are full of yummy recipes, festive holiday fun, creative ideas for home organization, super fun tips for making learning fun for your kiddos, and more!
My Google + account features my new posts as they go live! I enjoy discovering new communities there, and I would love hear which ones you have joined!
My Instagram feed…well, I’ll just admit it – Instagram is my favorite! Come find me there!
I would love to have you follow along with me in your favorite space!
Get involved with weekly link parties!
Quick Tip #1: Link up to parties that have an audience that is similar to yours! When I first started doing linkups, I found myself linking up to blogs that were in no way related to the topics I share in my space. Yes, I was gaining a lot of one time visitors, but they weren’t sticking around for long. My link party list (which is currently under construction) includes parties that have consistently connected me with long-term readers. Looking for more? Sweet Little Ones has put together a fantastic directory of link parties! Be sure to check it out and find parties that work for you!
Quick Tip #2: As you begin to see traffic coming from link parties, it is tempting to begin creating posts specifically for certain link parties (I hear ya, I used to do this same thing!), but I have found that it is best to think long-term – to create quality content that will be read, shared, pinned, retweeted, etc. for weeks and months and years (yes, years!) to come and if it happens to fit a link party’s theme, great, but if not, it’s okay not to participate.
As my blog continued to grow, I started to shift my focus a bit. I began opening up about some topics that were especially close to my heart – Some of these issues were somewhat controversial, but my willingness to share my thoughts on these topics resulted in a handful of my posts going viral. As this began to happen, I took a closer look at my blogging space.
What are my blogging goals?
What is my message?
Do I need to make any changes in order to accomplish those goals?
Take a sneak peek in to my answers to these questions:
What are my blogging goals? To produce quality work that will encourage and inspire other moms.
What is my message? To be a reflection of the Gospel and a testimony of God working in my life.
Do I need to make any changes in order to accomplish those goals? Yes! I need to focus more on quality [over quantity] content , and while I’m at it, my images need some work!
Once again, I turned to a fellow blogger for guidance! Have you “met” Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog? She (and her hubby) are amazing, and their Building a Framework package included everything I need to once again take my blog to the next level! Not only do Abby and Donnie do a great job of creating quality content, but they are pros at teaching the rest of us how to tackle the technical side of blogging!
Well, the first thing I did was create a new WordPress* blog. I completely rebranded and started from scratch in a new space. I know that many will move their blog from Blogger from WordPress, but I decided to do things a little differently. *Wordpress.org – not WordPress.com – I wanted a clean slate and doing things this way allowed me to do that!
Web Hosting available through BlueHost – Their customer service is excellent!
In an effort to respect all of the hard work that Abby and Donnie have put in to their Building a Framework package, I will not explain each detail of the guidance they offer as far as How to Start a Blog and getting started with a new WordPress blog, but I will tell you that in their Ultimate Blogging Handbook, ALL of your questions will be answered! They will walk you through each step, and if you’re like me, you will find the tutorial videos/interviews especially helpful – Yes, even if you’ve been blogging for awhile like I had been!
Psst…If you’re curious about my theme it’s from Restored 316 Designs! Their themes are gorgeous, and I have been more than pleased with the quality of Lauren’s design!
*I currently have the Market Theme.
Quick Tip: Yes, it is possible to have an amazing blog on the Blogger platform! Why did I switch? I was feeling frustrated regarding issues I was having with images on my site/when sharing my posts/etc. If you are on Blogger, please do not let me discourage you. That is simply the reason I decided a change was in order for me.
Speaking of images…The second thing I did was begin focusing more on my images! For the past several months, I had been using my Nikon D3300, but I had only been working with my kit lens….and when shooting blog images, I hadn’t been paying much attention to my lighting…and when uploading photos to my site, I hadn’t been taking the time to carefully edit images…this was definitely an area where I needed to focus my attention. So what did I do?
#1 – I purchased a PicMonkey subscription! For quite some time, I had been using the free version, but when it came time to edit my photos, purchasing the subscription (It’s super inexpensive!), provided me with so many more options!
#2 – I purchased a couple of new lenses! New lenses – lenses specifically designed for the types I photos I like to take for my blog – resulted in better images…but it also meant that less editing was going to be required as the lenses were doing a lot of the work for me!
#3 – I began to use stock images! This was something I had avoided for a long time, but I have really liked the look of the stock images I have found on sites like Pexels!
My focus on quality images immediately began to pay off as I began to notice more Facebook shares…more pins on Pinterest…more connections on Instagram! While quality content is always #1, quality images come in at a close second – I am convinced of that, and I am so thankful for technology that helps to take the guesswork out of some of these things!
Quick Tip: I use the following image sizes:
Blog Images: 680 x 1020
Pinterest Images: 680 x 1020
Facebook Images: 1200 x 600
Over the past few years, I have experimented with a variety of different options when it comes to monetizing my space! As a full time mom, I am not in a season of life when I am able to commit full-time hours to my blogging space, but my hobby blog has become a source of income for our family, and these are currently the ways I earn an income from this space.
Amazon’s Affiliate Program – Amazon’s affiliate program has been perfect for sharing books, teaching materials, learning resources, gifts ideas, and more with my readers! I share these links in blog posts as well as on social media!
Share-a-Sale – Share-a-Sale has made it possible for me to partner with companies some of my favorite companies! Once again, I share my affiliate links in blog posts as well as on social media!
Google Ad Sense – There are other great ad networks out there, but for now, I am continuing to partner with Google.
Sponsored Post Opportunities*
Other Advertising Opportunities
I have sponsors that purchase monthly ad space from me – I like to make sure the featured product(s) are a good fit for my readers, and I work with each sponsor individually to design an ad, etc.
I also enjoy working with small business owners to do product reviews, social media shout-outs, etc. and once again, I work with them on a personal level to establish specific types of promotion, cost of advertising, etc.
Have you seen my e-book? “Homeschooling Your Preschooler”?
Once again, I trusted Abbie and Donnie Lawson to guide me through the creation and launch of my first product! Their Book Boss product includes EVERYTHING you need to get started creating awesome products, and if you are interested in venturing in to the world of e-book creation, you are definitely going to want to check out their training. I especially appreciate the practical tips they provide for how to grow your e-mail list – something I waited too long to start doing!
You may be wondering how I am able to do all of this while being at home full-time with three little ones!
Well, here’s my secret:
My family responsibilities are number one and I blog when I’m able.
I have a hubby I’m dating.
I have little ones I’m homeschooling.
I have a household I’m managing.
So…how does it all work?
#1 – I blog about things that I am already doing – recipes that I’m already making, homeschooling ideas that I’m already implementing, organizational tips that are already working for me in my home, etc.
#2 – I blog in my free time – when I’m able. I hear ya, mommies don’t really have much free time – but blogging is my creative outlet…It’s something I enjoy doing. So when hubby is working late…when all three babies are sleeping (yes, that actually happens sometimes), I blog.
Most mamas will tell you that managing the day-to-day of a household takes up most of any available time they might have when kiddos are sleeping, so I do my best to make sure the most important tasks are attended to before I sit down to create.
For me this means that I am unable to blog everyday, but as life allows, I create content…writing posts, completing sponsored post opportunities as I’m able, etc. As posts come together, I post-date them which allows me to have content “going-live” on days when I’m especially busy or during weeks when we’re out-of-town or throughout the holidays when I know my focus will be elsewhere.
#3 – Around the time I retired “All Kinds of Things” and created “This Little Home of Mine”, I began using schedulers:
Quick Tip: Yes, pin your own posts, but also pin A.L.O.T. of other high quality content! What kinds of things really catch your eye on Pinterest? Pin those things! You will be amazed at how quickly your Pinterest following will grow! Psst…Be sure to join some group boards – This Facebook group will help you get started with that!
These schedulers have allowed me to stay active on social media without actually having to BE on social media throughout the day! My only regret? Not using them sooner!
My Advice to Bloggers Seeking to Grow Their Space:
There are so many great opportunities out there – invitations to guest post; affiliate programs to join; social media groups to be a part of; link-ups to participate in; articles to read about sponsored posts, new money-making strategies, and on and on and on and on it goes. It is so easy to get caught up in all of those things (especially if you are a member of some of the Blogging Support Groups on Facebook!), and I don’t know about you, but I absolutely can not keep up with all of that information AND keep dinner on the table…laundry put away…pre-school lessons taught…etc. It would simply be impossible. I have found that it’s easier for me to focus on one thing at a time: Improving my photography, for example. (I continue to be a work in progress on that point!) Strive to consistently improve your craft without joining in the comparison game. Growing a successful blog takes time, and there will always be someone else further along in the process. As you set goals for your space, it is important to be realistic and give yourself grace. Be you. Share your heart. Your readers will respect you and love you for the way you creatively share your story in an honest and authentic way. There is freedom in telling your story…from your perspective…in a way that will speak to your readers. Learn and grow along the way, but always stay true to who you are and the reasons why you believe your story matters! I promise you, your story DOES matter, and no one can share it like you can.
Quick Tip: In my experience, it is better to spend a week creating a well-thought out post that includes high quality content and large, bright images than to crank out daily posts that fail to capture the attention of your audience. High quality content gets shared…large, bright photos get pinned…this results in more visitors to your site! When I first created my new site, I spent a lot of time creating my Homeschool Pre-school posts, and all of the time and energy has paid off – At pretty much any time of the day or night you will find visitors on those posts! Why? I believe it’s because I took the time to include A LOT of information and made the effort to include lots of clear images – images that have gone viral on Pinterest! (Thank you, new lenses!) And yes, all of this results in more traffic…more affiliate sales…you get the idea. I know I said this would be a quick tip, so I’ll stop there!
When I think about my favorites blogs, they are not the ones that solely focus on one specific topic…they are the ones that pull from all different areas of life…faith, marriage, motherhood, friendship, homemaking, frugality, etc. I would love to think that somewhere out there is a new mommy up with her newborn for the 15th time – feeling encouraged by something she is reading in this space. I would like to think that there is a discouraged friend being refueled with hope as a result of visiting this site. I would be honored to know that there is tired and frustrated sister who has spotted an idea on “This Little Home of Mine” that may help make her days at home feel just a tad smoother. These are the reasons I write. In a way, this space is my way of saying Thank you! to the countless others in the world of blogging who have encouraged me on the days when I needed it most. While I am excited to see continued growth, I pray that I will never lose my heart to connect with readers and minister to their souls. This Little Home of Mine…I want to let it shine.
*This post will continue to be a work in progress as I plan to keep it updated with the most up-to-date information! If there’s something missing from this post, please let me know! I want to do everything I can to encourage you as seek to have your own voice in the blogging community!*
Disclaimer: The tips, resources, and opinions shared in this post are based on my personal blogging experience. You may find that you agree with me on some things but not others – That’s okay! Find what works for you and your space! Feel free to grab the ideas that you like and leave the rest behind for someone else. No matter what, I’m so glad you stopped by today!
Would you be willing to do a couple of things for me?
#1 – In the comments below, share your favorite blogging tip! I would love for you to take part in encouraging other bloggers as they grow their space!
#2 – Stop by my Facebook page and share your blog! I would love to follow along with your space, and I know others would, too!
My blog posts contain affiliate links which means that if you purchase items I recommend, I may receive a commission from your purchase. Thank you for supporting This Little Home of Mine! For a complete explanation of my policies and disclosures click here.