Blogging Tips

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at whipup.net over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Diane Gilleland makes crafts, podcasts, ebooks, and online classes over at CraftyPod in Portland, Oregon. When she isn’t making things, she’s tending to the every whim of her cat Pushkin, and what’s wrong with that?

Image by Windell Oskay, via Flickr Creative Commons

Hello, Whipup! I’ve been a craft blogger for six years. (And in this odd, still-pretty-new internet landscape, that constitutes a long time ago!) When I started blogging, it was purely a hobby, but within a couple years blogging became the center of my livelihood – and I quit my day job. I think this is a little bit because I was lucky, and largely because I’ve worked very, very hard to develop income streams from blogging.

I’ve learned some valuable things about monetizing a blog over the years, and I thought I’d share some of them here. I hope these ideas give you some real-world advice and useful food for thought!

Where does blog-money come from?
It’s tempting to think that monetizing a blog works like this: you write great posts, people like them, and the money comes in. Maybe you take some advertisers, maybe you create a tutorial and everybody buys it, or maybe you get “discovered” – but one way or another, all you have to do is be worthy and the money finds you.

There’s a tiny handful of popular bloggers for whom that strategy might work, but let me tell you: for the vast majority of us, making money blogging means treating it more like a business. There really aren’t any truly passive income sources for bloggers – that is, if you want to make a reliable part-time or full-time income.

Image by Richard Elzey, via Flickr Creative Commons
Small Income Sources vs. Large Ones

You don’t have to be shooting for a part-time or full-time income from blogging, of course. There are plenty of methods you can use to earn smaller amounts of income through blogging. You can sign up with ready-made ad programs like BlogHerAdsGoogle AdSense and Project Wonderful. You can join a craft blogger marketing program like The Blueprint Social and find opportunities to do sponsored posts. You can place Amazon affiliate links in your blog posts. These are easy-to-implement options that don’t require much upkeep, and will earn most bloggers at least a few lattes’ worth per month, and perhaps more. And that may be plenty for your needs, and that’s great!

Traffic-based income vs. Skills-based income
…But let’s say that you want to turn your blog into that part-time or full-time income. Well, your first decision is a big, broad one: will you make money based on the size of your audience, or will you make money based on selling your skills?

If you have a large audience for your blog, then you have the option to turn that audience into a kind of “product,” and sell exposure to them to companies. You might start up an ad program for your blog and sell space. You might place affiliate ads or links on your blog. Or you might sell sponsored posts. With all of these options, the larger your audience is, the more income you stand to make.

Or maybe you want to get hooked in with a craft company – to be hired as a designer, or write a book, or host a TV show. In that case, you need craft company decision-makers to see your blog, and you can reach out and start conversations with them on Twitter and Facebook to pique their interest. But you also need to cultivate a large audience of crafter-readers. Your readers provide evidence that you’re worth hiring, because you come with a built-in audience.

In order to make that  reliable part-time or full-time income through any of those options, though, you’ll need a lot of audience. It’s hard to put a firm number on these things, but I think your monthly site visits should number at least in the tens of thousands.

What if you don’t have that kind of traffic? Don’t worry! You can always start out monetizing your blog based on selling your skills instead. There are practically endless opportunities there. All you need to do is figure out three important things: 

Image by splityarn, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #1: What are your sellable skills?

What forms of craft do you love to think about, and make, and share most? Usually, knowing your best crafty skills is a good first step to creating money-making options for yourself. What crafts or techniques are you good enough at to teach other people? What kinds of things are you great at designing? What media do you know especially well? What crafts do you do differently than anyone else?

There are tons of ways to spin these skills so they can be sold. You might produce PDF tutorials or ebooks to sell. You might teach online classes. You might teach live classes. You might sell your skills as a designer to small business owners. You might make handmade things to sell. (All of these options require a receptive audience, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

More than likely, you also have several non-crafty talents – skills you’ve picked up at your day jobs, or through your education, or via the School of Life. These skills could be useful in monetizing your blog as well – how can you combine your crafty skills with your non-crafty ones to create interesting products and services for your readers? If you’re great at project management, for example, could you teach classes in project planning to crafty business owners? If you’re an accountant by day and a beader by night, could you write a simple ebook on accounting that creative minds can embrace?

Really, the question of what you sell comes down to our next important factor….

Image by BartNJ, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #2: What is your ACTUAL market for those skills?
This is a somewhat trickier idea. And I’m writing the word ACTUAL in all caps to make a big point: you may love to write about crafts, but that doesn’t always mean other crafters will pay you for it. You may love to make crafts, but that doesn’t always mean other crafters will pay you for them.

For many of us craft bloggers, our readership is made up of friends and kindred spirits. And while this is lovely for conversation, it just doesn’t automatically lead to income. In tight economic times, your readers have to make careful decisions about what to spend money on – and more often than not, this means your readers will be interested in buying things that solve some kind of problem for them, or that they have an actual need for.

…So if you want to make a decent skills-based blogging income, you have two options. The first one is to formulate some kind of product or service to sell to your existing readers. And if your readers are other crafters, then you basically need to figure out what those readers actually need. That might turn out to be something very different from the things you blog about or make.

For example, let’s say you’re an expert crocheter, and you want to sell hand-crocheted hats. If your blog audience is fellow crocheters, then they might not be the best market for your hats – they can, in fact, make their own hats. But maybe they’d be really interested in buying patterns for your hat designs, or learning your expert crochet techniques.

Or, if you’d rather blog about and make what you like, then your second option is to cultivate a new audience of people who actually need those things. So if you want to sell handmade items, and you want to use a blog to do it, then the people reading that blog need to be the people who need your handmade items. A classic example: let’s say you make quilted pot holders and embroidered dish towels. Are crafters the best buying audience for those items? Probably not – they can pretty easily make their own kitchen items. But people who love to cook? They’re a great market for your product! So, what kind of blog would appeal to them?

These are great big ideas, but they really just boil down to the same things that drive any successful business: what you sell has to have an ideal customer, it has to solve some kind of problem for that customer, and the customer needs to know it exists. … And that brings us to our third important factor.

Image by Jason Kessenich, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #3: How much time and energy do you have available for monetizing your blog?
To generate regular part-time or full-time income through blogging, you’ll need to invest basically part-time or full-time effort in developing, marketing, and supporting your business. Do you have that kind of time? If not, that’s okay – what DO you have time for? You can always start small (with some of the simpler options I listed above) and make adjustments as your income grows.

It’s important to be realistic in your expectations, and to understand that no matter how you choose to earn money blogging, in order to earn a sustainable income, you’ll be putting in plenty of effort. It takes time to write an ebook, teach an online class, produce a video, or write a pattern. It takes time to write the kind of blog content that keeps your traffic high (and attractive to advertisers) week after week.

You might want to pull our your calendar right now and set aside some regular blocks of time for working on your blog-based income.

Image by kodomut, via Flickr Creative Commons

Stay nimble, my friends
All of this may sound like monetizing a blog is really hard to do. Well, speaking from experience, it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s well worth the effort. If you don’t mind, I’ll add one last slightly-challenging idea. Once you start making income from your blog, it’s no time to rest on your laurels! The blogosphere moves very fast, and it’s very likely that what’s earning income for you now won’t be the same thing that’s earning you income next year. To earn your income online, you have to be ready to keep a flow of new products or services, and change directions when your market changes – and that will happen regularly. Or, if you’re making your income based on traffic, then your nimbleness will involve keeping a stream of content that keeps lots of traffic flowing to your blog. And again, tastes change quickly online, so you’ll likely find yourself needing to change along with them.

All that said, I wouldn’t trade my little blog-based business for anything in the world. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a very satisfying expression of who I am, and what I love doing. It’s worth the amount of effort it took to build up, and the amount if takes to keep it going.

If you want to go deeper into this subject and come up with a customized monetization plan for your blog, you can even take my upcoming online class. I’d love to help you find your best money-making options!

{ 2 comments }

tipscraftblogging

Starting a craft blog can be a fun but also daunting prospect. If you eager to start your own craft blog or if you already have a craft blog and would like to build your audience then tune in over the coming weeks for tips and ideas on how to build a better craft blog.

Apart from writing and publishing your crafting activities on your blog regularly, commenting and reading other blogs, making your blog attractive and taking lovely photos, running competitions and craft alongs and participating in swaps and craft blog events – what else should you do to help potential readers find your blog? Below are three essential extras that will not take long to set up but will help like minded folk find your blog.

1. Email newsletter

Adding a weekly or monthly newsletter to your craft blog or crafty website is an excellent way for readers to connect with you and your website. A newsletter landing directly in the inbox gives readers a gentle reminder to stop by your blog or to pass on your details to others.

What to include in your newsletter – a bit about what you have going on at your craft blog or site – specials, competitions, craft-alongs etc. Highlight links you think readers shouldn’t miss and even give a little extra that is not included on your blog – some freebies or personal insights.

How to get this newsletter up and running? There are many e-newsletter subscription sites with different packages – The whipup newsletter is managed through feedburner and I have a subscribe button in my sidebar and one also appears in the email body down the bottom – I like it because 1. its free, 2. its simple. There are many others – many are free and many are not – Problogger has some good tips on newsletter subscription services here and here .

2. Blog syndication (aka rss feed)

To syndicate your blog is a simple matter of inserting some code or flicking a switch. Go to your admin panel in your blog software where information will be readily available. Alternatively go to a feed syndication site such as feedburner where the process is made very simple (and you can track those who access your feeds through a reader).

Why should you syndicate your blog? Doesn’t this mean that your readers never visit your blog again and simply flick through your posts in their feed reader? Well yes this certainly does happen, but this does not have to be a bad thing. If you have advertising on your blog then you may want to entice your readers to visit your blog, or they may visit your blog anyway in order to leave a comment on your post. However if you don’t have a feed then readers who do use a feed reader (and who are likely to link to your interesting posts) will not see your blog at all.

3. list your site

List your site on blog directories, social bookmarking and networking sites and craft forums. Many people search on specific topics, so it is worth tagging your site with words like diy, craft, knitting, sewing etc.

Technorati is the major blog directory site and it is worth signing up – not only can others find your site through technorati, but technorati has a blog rating which shows how your blog popularity is going and you can also see who is linking to you.

Twitter and facebook are social networking sites, it is worth setting yourself up an account, you will meet others and others will find you and your website.

If you are a knitter then adding your patterns to Ravelry and Knitting pattern central are essential. Sewers should add their blogs to the big list of sewing blogs and free needle.

Social bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon, delicious and wists are useful for finding interesting sites under various subjects.

There are many blog directories such as blog catalogue, best blogs, blogher and more…

{ 9 comments }

tipscraftblogging

Starting a craft blog can be a fun but also daunting prospect. If you are a blog lurker and eager to start your own blog but not quite sure what to write or if you already have a craft blog and would like to build your audience and participate more fully in the craft blog community – then tune in over the coming weeks for tips and ideas on how to build a better craft blog.

A well laid out and attractive blog is essential if you want your audience to stick around for any length of time. Here are a few design tips to think about when setting up your blog. Don’t worry html is not essential. Most blog hosting sites such as blogger and wordpress and typepad offer standard templates which can adjusted to your liking or used out of the box.

Think about a good combination of functionality and style when designing your blog/website.

1. Colour (color): Thinking about colour – font colour, background colour, heading/header colours are very important – colour not only is the first impression your blog gives but it is important for readability.

  • Colour is emotional – think about what you want to say with your blog. Orange, red, burgundy – for action, white, pastels and grey for soothing soft emotions.
  • Limit your colour palette so as not to overwhelm and create a chaotic feeling.
  • Background colour – I really do suggest white as a background to text and images, rather than black or some other colour – as it makes reading easier and sets off images perfectly
  • Colour resources: suggested colour themes : colour palettes : colour schemes :

    2. Font: Make reading your blog easy – choose easy on the eye colours – not too light – not too bright – and think about the font type – something simple is best – not too big not too small not too fancy. You might want to consider a different font for headings – and also spacing between lines and different fonts for links to help them stand out a bit more.

    Whipup has recently updated our font – using a slightly darker grey for the main font, slightly increasing the width between lines – and making the link font brighter and larger. All of this means its easier for readers to navigate the page.

    Font for web resources: best font for web article : font explanations for the web :

    3. Layout: Again making your site easy for readers to navigate should be your main aim.

  • Make the pages you want readers to go to easy to find. Use tabs underneath your header or links in your sidebar.
  • Make your contact page easy to find and have an email contact on your contact page.
  • Have a simple header that reflects your style and content of your site. Don’t make your header too big – consider what readers will see when they first arrive at your site – if they have to scroll down the page too far to get to the content they may not bother.
  • { 5 comments }

    tipscraftblogging

    Starting a craft blog can be a fun but also daunting prospect. If you are a blog lurker and eager to start your own blog but not quite sure what to write or if you already have a craft blog and would like to build your audience and participate more fully in the craft blog community – then tune in over the coming weeks for tips and ideas on how to build a better craft blog.

    Writing tutorials on your craft blog is one really good way to gain new readers to your blog. Sharing your knowledge and skills is not only generous, but it shows that you are an active participant in this big craft blog community. Readers appreciate your generosity and you will gain a new and ever more loyal audience.

    Good writing and illustrations are important – not only must readers be able to follow and understand but your photos and/or illustrations need to be clear and attractive too. [bella dia has a good post on how to write a tutorial here and I always think that the purl bee has very clear and attractive tutorials too, oh fransson’s quilt along was an excellent example of good tutorials with clear and easy to follow instructions]

    1. Clear and concise: This is where your writing needs to be pared back – and instructive rather than essay like. Use clear headings and lists to get across your points.

  • Start with a simple introduction – what is the point of this project – where/when/who will use it – how difficult is it? And what level of skill is needed in order to complete the project.
  • Next a photo of the finished project – perhaps an image of it in action – make this photo really luscious – this is what will draw in the readers make them really want to make this project.
  • List of supplies and materials – if there are any tricky or unusual materials make sure you explain them – give alternatives. Give exact measurements if you can – how much of each material will be needed. If you have some resources for these materials/supplies then let your audience know.
  • Do you need a pattern – feel free to provide illustrations via a pdf or image that can be either downloaded or printed at the correct size.
  • 2. Break the instructions into bite sized chunks: If you need to break the tutorial up into sections in order to make it clearer and not too long and unwieldy then do that rather than having one very long post.

    If this is a very long project or has many parts to it – then you might want to turn it into a series. Make sure you break it into logical sections in a way that you would actually make the project.

    3. Good photos or illustrations: This is really important to a good tutorial – the images must be clear and understandable. Don’t even bother with dark or blurry photos. Get rid of any background stuff that is not relevant to your tutorial. Use a plain background that will not distract from your topic. Take photos of each step in the process – or at least the main steps that are difficult to explain in words. [see this post of taking better photos for your craft blog].

    { 4 comments }

    tipscraftblogging

    Starting a craft blog can be a fun but also daunting prospect. If you are a blog lurker and eager to start your own blog but not quite sure what to write or if you already have a craft blog and would like to build your audience and participate more fully in the craft blog community – then tune in over the coming weeks for tips and ideas on how to build a better craft blog.

    Reaching out to others and building an audience are integral to the blogging experience – reaching out to a community of like minded people is why many people start blogging in the first place. But it takes time to build a readership, time to develop your unique voice and time to find others who feel the same way as you do. But how do you ‘meet’ other like minded souls in the big blog universe? And how to get them to find you?

    1. Read others blogs and comment on stories/posts that you genuinely connect with.

  • Do comment when it adds to the conversation or you have something relevant to say.
  • Don’t comment in the hopes that others will then read your blog.
  • In return, when your readers leave a comment on your blog, email you or link to you, then return the favour. This starts the process of blog networking and you may just meet some new friends in the process.

  • You don’t have to answer every comment, although in the beginning you may want to.
  • If you can’t return every comment then at least contribute to the discussion within the comments section

  • 2. Network and develop relationships with other blogs in your blog circle.

    Developing relationships with other blogs within your chosen niche is very important to developing your blog as part of the community. Being generous with your time and ideas shows that you are a committed and dedicated member of the community.

  • Do email other blogs in your blog circle and introduce yourself in a friendly way.
  • Do participate in guest blog swaps if you can – send in tips or articles to blogs that may publish them.
  • Do promote each other, be generous, participate in building a strong community, share ideas and links.
  • Don’t be upset if your reaching out to fellow bloggers does not get a response the first time – try and try again.
  • 3. Participate and join blog projects
    One important way of Joining the community that you are interested in is to join in on community events.

  • Don’t overdo the memes – the occasional one is fun and interesting – only participate in the ones you connect with.
  • Do participate in, and eventually host, craft-alongs – knit-alongs, virtual quilting bees and swaps.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep, don’t start something you can’t finish – as this will only alienate you from the group.
  • Do host blog carnivals – this not only brings a new audience, it adds some variety to your usual posts.
  • Do host competitions and giveaways, this brings readers out of the woodwork and you may have a chance to ‘meet’ your readers.
  • Do occasional polls and quizzes – everyone loves a chance to voice their opinion – and this also brings lurkers out of the shadows.
  • { 8 comments }