Hi friends! I am feeling quite good today with my next book contract on my desk for book 4 – it’s all so nerve wracking and exciting rolled into one heap of emotion! I’ve decided to work with Leslie Shewring since Decorate With Flowers is such a success and will soon be in 10 languages globally with the Japanese version due out in January. Plus, I love Leslie and working with her is so much fun. This time, we’re doing something that will challenge us even more than Decorate With Flowers did so we can keep growing and building our strengths and so we can both learn from one another as we go, too. I love that part about writing, you are always learning as you research and build each page, one by one. Writing books became an even more rewarding career path for me as I had imagined when I was a little girl holding book signings in my bedroom with my dolls and bears. Speaking of dolls, yesterday we enjoyed Aidan’s special day because he turned 10 months and like every month on the 9th (until his first birthday), we celebrate with a mini photo shoot and nothing but joy in our hearts. Here is little Aidan below in his room yesterday. Such a sweet little blue-eyed boy!
When I look into his sparkling happy eyes, I know 2014 gave me the missing link in my life. No more chasing rainbows or feeling like something is missing. My son is the greatest thing I’ve ever done and I’m so proud of that. I never “got it” when I used to hear other mothers wax poetic about their kids, it all sounded so over the top back then. Like maybe some moms were even a little cuckoo or smoking funny things. But now that I have a son, I totally get it. It’s hard, it’s beautiful, it’s emotional, it’s tiring some days, but it’s way better than I had imagined and I feel like I can work better, harder and with more focus going forward because he is in my life. And next year I can’t wait to travel with him – I just know it will be better than before because after awhile every city was looking like the last one and every hotel the same as the one before. He’s definitely going to add a new dimension to travel when I start to see everything through new eyes. He’ll be so excited when I show him landmarks and all of the things I take for granted. I needed that. I’ve been on the road for a long time seeing things in my own way so he just might prove to be a fresh dose of inspiration.
As I wrap up this year (I take vacation after December 15th until January 3), I can’t help but feel really lucky to be alive, to have a blossoming 10-month-old son, to live in a great place, have wonderful friends both online and off, be doing what I love for a living and to have some very important and challenging projects planned for 2015, including the next book which we begin shooting soon. I’m also so grateful to have this blog and all of you because there is real meaning behind all of it for me. In January, I’ll be celebrating my 9th anniversary as a full-time blogger. NINE YEARS. I remember when I started – so unsure, unsteady, but full of zeal and excitement for what blogs could become and wow – blogging has certainly exceeded even my high expectations.
I feel really good right now. There are many things that I need to improve, and I’m working on them slowly, but I’m content – a feeling I’ve not had in so long that I wonder if I’ve ever had it. I no longer feel like I’m going in a hundred different directions. Everything changed when I gave birth and the feeling of contentment, inner peace, has stayed with me ever since.
Content is my 2015 word. It’s what I hope to maintain throughout the new year and into the future because it’s a really great way to be.
What is your word for 2015? Why?
(image: holly becker)
So I read this article, When Blogging Becomes a Slog, over on The New York Times today (thanks for sharing, Gregory!) and I wasn’t sure what to think other than bless writer Steven Kurutz for shedding light on the topic to the outside world. Yet for those of us blogging (who number into the thousands), well we have battled with all of what he speaks of and more for years. Yet when you read about it in The Times it suddenly feels like it’s hot-off-the-presses brand new. But again, it’s not. Blogger burn out, sponsored content love/hate, feeling overwhelmed, post performance, stats, reader expectations, maintaining our pace… These have always been major blogger concerns. Attend any blogger conference or listen in on what bloggers talk about when they gather for lunch. It’s always on our minds.
And yet so many questions are on the table today after reading that article, for many bloggers. Because I think it raised a lot of interesting questions that, though didn’t get raised by Mr. Kurutz, seemed to come to mind after I read his take on blogger burn out. Here are questions that popped into my head:
- As advertising dollars slip away for those “annoying blinking boxes” so does the income that bloggers relied upon to keep producing 5 star content full-time. Many have moved on to sponsored in-post content. But lots of readers hate it and says it affects “our voice”. So what’s next?
- Are your readers really the ones pushing you so hard or is it voice inside of your own head along with fame, money, etc.?
- Should our readers be all that matter because at some point, shouldn’t we as bloggers care about finding pleasure in our work? For instance, Are teachers, vets, cafe owners, doctors heading off to work each day to only please their customers or do they genuinely enjoy what they do? Isn’t that the bigger part of it all?
- Are some bloggers simply too ambitious and it’s causing them to lose balance?
- Is the future of blogging in paid content – in other words, if readers don’t like ads, sponsored content or anything that they feel makes us less “authentic” or trustworthy, then should we have some of our blog content be stuff they pay to see? And the less intense-to-produce posts can remain free?
- And in all fairness, doesn’t everyone in every profession battle with burn out and fear and everything else – why is it that when bloggers do it becomes a NYTimes article?
My blogging mantra has always been to use blogging as a catalyst to live your best life. To let blogging drive you to do great things so that you have interesting content to share. I also think you have to think ahead and always expect that nothing today will be this way tomorrow. Especially online. Blogging (or any profession) cannot suck our souls or make us feel like losers when we miss a few days or when our last DIY post didn’t generate as many shares or comments. When that happens you have to step back and wonder what the hell is happening to us, right?
What are your thoughts on all of this?
(image: design for mankind who was one blogger featured in The Times article and had a few interesting things to say.)
Hello lovely readers and friends. How are you today? I had quite a good week because it began with our wedding anniversary which was so, so nice this year to celebrate it with our baby. I hope all is well with you, too. So! I want to bring something up in this space because I wonder what your thoughts are and I wonder if this is just one rare comment or if lots of people are beginning to see blogger’s who make money as the bad guys? So let’s see what you think.
I already know what I think! First, the comment that was left on my blog last night.
“dear holly, please allow me to be very frank. it’s all too much for me. all your books and now an online shop – you are marketing yourself too much for my taste. it has become all about earning money and i can feel the spirit fading away. so sorry to say so and i really grant you every success possible but i fear you are loosing your magic touch by selling, selling and more selling. still, all the best, uschi.”
I’m open to comments left by readers, I mean, we all have a right to our opinion. Yet, I’m always baffled when someone thinks a blogger who spends 8-10 hours a day putting together content for their site, employing others, writing books, teaching workshops, etc. is somehow supposed to be doing all of this for free and the moment they explore alternatives, they’re told they are “losing their magic”. They are judged because they earn their living from this work. Every blogger that I know who is having success with it tries to turn it into something that yields revenue so they can quit their jobs and spend time doing something that enriches their life. What’s wrong with that, really? If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be back in my cubicle at the investments company in Boston feeling like I’d never reach my childhood dream of authoring books. Isn’t this what we want for others though, to come out from under the clouds and find something positive to get involved in that makes them happy that is also good work that impacts others in a positive way? Don’t we want happiness for others?
This morning my husband told me he replied to a comment on my blog. I asked him which comment because I had approved the one above last night so quickly that I didn’t even read it. I was so tired and the baby needed me. When I read his comment, replying to the one above, the tears started to flow. He really nailed it for me – how I feel about making money as a blogger, how I feel about marketing what I do, all of it. So please read his reply below. I wonder if perhaps this will encourage those of you who, like me, are trying to keep it real and support your families by doing what you enjoy.
This is Thorsten, Holly’s husband and the “tech guy” behind decor8. I’ve just read your comment while performing some maintenance on decor8. This isn’t the first comment of this kind on decor8, by no means, and it certainly won’t be the last. I don’t usually comment on Holly’s blog since being her husband we have our conversations offline, in person. But there are occasions where I feel compelled to join a conversation publicly for means of coming to my wife’s aid. This is such a case.
I have been at Holly’s side, and on her side, ever since she started blogging back in 2006. She had and always will have my respect, support and admiration for all her hard work. I have been with her through the sweat and tears, the bullying, the name calling, the attacks on her reputation by other bloggers. It was atrocious at times, it was repulsive, it was disgusting. But she stuck with it. She had a goal: to make her dream of becoming a (paid) writer come true. As a writer myself sharing that same dream I kept saying “go for it”. I am proud of her for all she’s accomplished – proud of her successful blog, proud of her many published articles, proud of her books and all that’s yet to come.
Do you know how all this comes about? Through hard work. Unlike a good majority of bloggers Holly doesn’t grab content from other sites and reword it. She tries hard to make sure all her posts are not only original, as much as online writing can be original these days, but also reflective of her vision. This takes time and effort, often in excess of eight hours a day. She then publishes it free of charge on her blog for everyone’s enjoyment. In addition she wrote three books so far, each one taking a good year of preparation, negotiation, and traveling. I was there, I know first hand. I know about the stress, the tears, the heartaches, the doubts.
Now, as mentioned, I am a writer myself. I used to write articles for magazines, newspapers and various multimedia outlets. I call myself a journalist. A journalist is someone who writes professionally usually producing work for hire or selling articles. No one would ever accuse me of selling, selling, selling or losing my magic touch because I charge for what I write. In fact, if publishers would expect me to write for free I’d complain, probably loudly, on the web. Many people would come to my aid denouncing the “evil” publishers, those “greedy bastards”, the “disgusting freeloaders”. I expect to be paid for my hard work, everyone does.
Yet somehow bloggers have no right to that. They are expected to publish content for free. They are expected to do it out of the goodness of their hearts. They are expected to be magical creatures apparently living off of rainbows and hugs. Dare I say this holds true mostly for female bloggers. The moment a female blogger tries to find forms of compensation for her hard work she is chastised by a good percentage of her gender. She’s selling out. On the other hand if I, as a man, were to start a tech blog, had ads from major sponsors, wrote tech books, went on paid speaking assignments, did consultations etc. I’d be considered a successful man. Seth Godin comes to mind, also Darren Rowse of ProBlogger. It speaks for the still pitiful state of female empowerment in our day and age, the biggest opponents being other females.
So I say, YES, this is in part about earning money. Of course it is. How can it not be? How can Holly and other predominantly female bloggers be rightfully expected to do all this work for nil? More so for those who have made this a family business. Worse yet, are such family businesses judged by tired old societal frameworks like the good housewife and the hard working husband? He goes off to work while she takes care of the home and the children and everything she does is a hobby and will not be allowed to ever be more than that? Aren’t we beyond the Mad Men era by now?
So what do you bloggers and friends of bloggers think of this? I am curious so chime in!
(image: rainbow garland, etsy)
As my blogging e-course wraps up, I left our students with a pretty heavy duty podcast called, “The Future of Blogging + The Internet” where I made some big predictions on where I see blogs in the days ahead. Yeah, I’m not exactly the kind of person that quietly exits a room. Go big or go home.
Thing is, I wanted those 350 students to walk away from class really thinking about the future and what they can do to create something interesting, not just go with the flow and passively let blogging morph into whatever. I don’t want them to think that it’s okay to just sail away into the sunset and do what’s already working. Think of the WHAT IF.
If we get honest for a moment, blogs have become too same-y. If we are lifestyle bloggers, we think taking it “up a notch” is to work with sponsors, hire contributors, and have columns that feature recipes, home tours and DIY stories. Thing is, what was fresh once isn’t fresh today. Add stuff to your blog that you are good at, and have passion for. Not just because you think that is what you have to do. Taking it up a notch isn’t about adding something to our blog that is already happening everywhere else, it’s about adding something valuable to set us apart. Funny thing is, this also takes the pressure off because some of us don’t want to do what everyone else is doing but think we should to be hip and cool. Blogging is about being unique. Be innovative. There are so many new things we can introduce if we just sit down for a moment and brainstorm.
I’ve been thinking about all of this SO MUCH in the past year. In fact, right before I got pregnant I sat down with my career coach and told her how I felt about blogging and the many ways that I want to evolve decor8. Then I got pregnant and my focus became my baby. He’s three months old now, we’re over that newborn “hump”, so I’m back to thinking about my company again and where I want all of this to go.
We as bloggers each have a huge responsibility to ourselves and to this community to get smart and creative again. This is the internet, anything is possible. How can we reach our audience, what are we really good at, what is missing? Blogging needs to evolve beyond just template changes and new logos to feel relevant. I told my students today that we are only as strong as our weakest post. Let’s use a photography portfolio as an example. Pretend you have 10 amazing photos to show perspective clients but you think you really should have 25 (quantity is important, you think) so you pad your portfolio with work that isn’t your “best” just to look more professional by having a lot of photos. Thing is, 10 of your strongest photos would’ve been better. Those clients will only see the weakest work and judge you by that. Same with our blogs. Sometimes we have to admit what we suck at and get rid of it. What isn’t working? We always try so hard to improve what we’re bad at, well why not improve what we already are good at so we can became damn good – great even?
I’ve taught blogging e-courses and in-person workshops for five years now to over 7,000 students worldwide. I’m only throwing numbers out there so you know that I’m not just making this stuff up — I know what bloggers and readers want to learn, what they like currently, what they don’t, and what they want to see in the future because they candidly say so in our private forums. In my current class, I asked my students to list 3 blogs they love and why and also to list what things about those same blogs that could be improved. To be fair, they each had to critique MY BLOG TOO. Dear God. To say it was humbling is an understatement. I’m glad I have a thick skin and a big piece of chocolate nearby as I read through them. But don’t we need that now and then? To be shown the truth? What I learned from my students is that most of them know what works (and what doesn’t) on their favorite blogs. And most of them are right! We need to ask these questions more, even to our own readers. What can we improve? A good business must ask the hard questions now and then. We can’t be satisfied with where we are no matter how hard we want things to stay the same, they just won’t. Especially online.
A final bit I’d like to add is that we have to remember our humble beginnings, especially those of us who started blogging before Facebook went public, before Twitter, Pinterest, Etsy, Instagram, etc. were even on the map. We are the pioneers, the renegades, the risk takers. We started blogging without a clue about what was about to happen – then fame and money entered the room and the dynamics of it all changed. A question I ask myself and my students often is how are we going to change the game? How can we as a community drive blogging into the future as a relevant way to still reach others? This rests in our hands. This is our movement, we started it, we have some control over where blogging is heading because most of us who have blogs also read them. Maybe I’m just being naive but I want to believe we still have the power to evolve blogging in exciting new ways. Isn’t the future of blogging up to each one of us?
So what do you think when you consider your future as a blogger? How do you see blogging a year from now? What do you think needs to change? What is missing? What works?