3 Concepts That Helped Me Grow My Blog (And Enjoy The Process)

posted by Andrea | 11/11/2013

It’s been a little over 3 years since I started my blog — and I frequently look back on those first few months (when I had NO idea what I was doing) and laugh at how ridiculous some of my blog posts were.

Sometimes I didn’t even include photos — and it was for an organizing project or a recipe where you clearly NEED at least one photo if not multiple photos.

I rarely ever promoted anything on Facebook or Twitter, I didn’t think of original post ideas, and I spent the majority of my time online looking at what OTHER bloggers were doing — trying to figure out how to be “like them” so I could also grow my readership and make an income (because supposedly there were others who were making money online) :)

I realize that when you’re just starting something new, it’s very normal to spend time looking at what others in your field are doing and what everyone else says is the “best” or the “right” way.

But thankfully,  it only took a few months for me to realize how silly I was being and how following along with others was never going to make ME stand out or grow MY blog. I’m also thankful I had (and still have) really fantastic web designers who didn’t let me “copy” the designs of other bloggers I liked — but rather encouraged me to think outside the box and come up with a blog design and layout that was totally unique to ME.

They were so smart!

Looking back, however, I think there are 3 main things that helped me get into my blogging groove, grow my traffic, AND (most importantly) really enjoy the process.

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1. I stopped comparing myself to other bigger bloggers.

There will ALWAYS be someone who has more blog followers, more clients, more advertisers, more giveaways, etc. and no matter how big I get, there will always be someone bigger. So there’s really no point in comparing, unless I always want to feel bad about what I don’t have.

Yes, it’s good to strive for more and try to make myself, my blog, or my business better; but not simply so I can say I have more Facebook followers or more advertisers than whomever I’m trying to impress or compete with.

For a while, I actually stopped reading any other blogs — partially because I was short on time, but also because I was so tempted to try and compare myself to them, the number of comments they got, the cool new opportunities they had, etc. etc. It wasn’t good for me personally and it wasn’t helping me grow my blog.

Now that I’m much more confident in what I’m doing here on my own blog, I have no issues reading other blogs (big or small) — but I will say that blocking everything out for a while really did seem to help  me!

SIDE NOTE: If you think about it, this principle can apply to ANYONE — as I talked about extensively in this post, when we are envious of what others have, we will not be content and can not achieve simple living.

The same is true in the virtual world — maybe even more so because we really don’t know all the facts of the person behind the computer screen or the fancy blog!

scale

photo source

2. I stopped doing it JUST for the money.

I personally think you MUST enjoy what you’re doing or you’ll burn out and quit. While the income is obviously a large factor in why we do what we do, it simply can’t be the only reason we work — at least that’s how I feel.

Dave and I have the privilege of BOTH doing jobs we truly do love (at least 95% of the time!) and I know that makes a huge difference in our happiness.

I have had a couple full-time and part-time jobs that I absolutely hated. I dreaded going every day and I constantly counted down the hours (and minutes) until I could go to lunch or leave for the day. It was not fun, and those jobs were JUST for the money.

When it came to blogging, I decided very early on that I would only continue blogging if it was something I really enjoyed doing on a daily basis. Then, when the money started coming in, it just sweetened the deal.

Yes, there are still many things I do each day just because I’ve signed a contract or because someone is paying me to do them (just like any other job) but over-all, I honestly love what I do.

I love working from home. I love the challenge of juggling home life, family life, blogging life, business life, etc. and trying to figure out the best way to “have it all” (read this post and then this post if you’re concerned that I’m actually trying to have it ALL).

In fact, I actually turn down many paid/sponsored offers every single week because they aren’t a great fit for my blog, I don’t personally feel confident about promoting the product/company, or it just doesn’t “feel right”. I definitely enjoy the income from my blog, but I don’t do it JUST for the money — I can assure you of that!

Read more about how I generate my income in this post.

3. I stopped doing it for free.

I realize this is a direct contradiction to what I just said above — but both statements are actually true. Let me explain…

Whenever I get asked to do a giveaway, a sponsored post, go on a trip, review a product, or promote anything, I always stop to think if it’s something I would be willing to do for free — just because I know I would personally love the product or enjoy the trip.

If the answer is “yes” then I feel like it’s probably something I can feel confident about promoting on my blog — however I don’t actually do it for free. 

You wouldn’t expect a grocery store to hand out free groceries week after week. You wouldn’t expect a landscaper to give you free landscaping services year after year. So why do people often expect bloggers to do all sorts of things with no payment? (Read more of my thoughts on working for free.)

Yes, there are times when I personally promote things I use in my daily life with no payment (like my Favorite Things posts) but that’s just like if I were casually telling a friend about a good deal — I don’t NEED to be paid to tell you about that kind of stuff.

But at the same time, if a company specifically seeks me out for my audience, blog content, and online reach, I’m not just going to bend over backwards to promote them out of the goodness of my heart.

I’m nice, but not THAT nice :)

My time is valuable — especially now with a busy toddler, an even busier husband, lots of house projects we want to finish before the end of the year, and a new baby on the way.

So even if I love blogging and am not doing it only for the money, I’m still not going to do it all for free either.

Make sense?

I do realize that since the main goal of my blog (and my life) is to SIMPLIFY and ORGANIZE, that definitely affects my priorities and the concepts behind my blog.

I know the 3 things I listed above definitely won’t work for every blogger (or self-employed person in general) but I’m confident that these 3 concepts played a huge role in helping me grow my blogging business AND enjoy the process (it hasn’t always been an easy process either).

I’m thrilled to be able to say that Dave and I BOTH love what we do and that we are able to make a living doing it — I honestly do realize how fortunate we are.

However, if you currently can’t say the same, I hope this post might inspire you to think about your job, your life, etc. and make a few positive changes to get you more on track to doing what you love.

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10 comments

  1. Janet Foster

    11/11/2013

    This post is so timely for me. I’ve decided to get serious about blogging and I need all of the encouragement I can get. Thanks

    [Reply]

  2. Pamela

    11/11/2013

    I’m not a blogger, but a church musician (organist) and can TOTALLY relate to folks wanting your services for free. I don’t play for free, and thankfully I’ve found a church who values church music enough to pay me, and pay well! I’m so thankful!

    [Reply]

  3. Sharon

    11/11/2013

    Well put, Andrea. You have to value yourself and your work, unapologetically, or no one else ever will. We do our work to pay the bills and *that* gives us the freedom to give and serve. I am grateful to those who have taught me this lesson.

    And congratulations on finding work that you love. Being in that creative, joyful zone is a wondrous thing. :-D

    [Reply]

  4. Ree Klein

    11/11/2013

    Hi Andrea ~

    One aspect of this post really resonated with me, you said “For a while, I actually stopped reading any other blogs.” I do love reading other peoples’ blogs, including yours; however, I find I spend a lot of time doing that when I need to focus on building curriculum, webinars, tools, etc., for my audience.

    I’ve tried limiting myself to a certain amount of time each day, but it seems I just stay distracted and before I know it, my week is over and I’ve only posted one post and made very little progress on my material.

    I think I’m going to give your idea a try for one solid week and see how much I can accomplish. Perhaps just shutting off my social interaction for a week at a time will be enough to jump start my progress.

    Thanks for the great insight!
    Ree

    [Reply]

  5. Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings

    11/11/2013

    I know many bloggers love the chance to blog for free product, but I’m at the place where I just don’t need more stuff! My time is also way more valuable than what the product is usually worth anyway. I’m slowing learning to charge more for my services, and to not take it personally when a company says no.

    [Reply]

  6. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    11/15/2013

    Thanks for sharing. I was on track with #1 and #2 but not sure about #3. I’m just starting to receive all kinds of requests and I’ve been trying to figure out how to handle them. This information was helpful. Thank you.

    [Reply]

  7. Clara@ASliceOfHomeschoolPie.com

    01/20/2014

    I’m so glad I read this post because I have been doing a lot of #1 lately as I’ve been tweeking my website. However, all it does is bring me down and make me doubt my blogging capabilities. It’s difficult sometimes to find one’s own “niche” or “style”. Right now, that’s what I’m working on, finding something I can call my own.

    Thanks for writing this post.

    [Reply]

  8. Susan

    01/23/2014

    Hi Andrea,

    I can really relate to the whole comparing thing. I have been exploring your site the last few days and am really impressed! You are so disciplined and accomplished! You must be one of those people who doesn’t need much sleep!

    Do you think it takes a person with a certain type of personality to do what you do? I’ve been thinking about starting an online business, but am just not very disciplined or organized.

    About giving things away for free…why do you offer your printable planners for free? This is how I found your site, I was looking for customized planners. I found a few other organization focused blogs by other work from home moms, and some of them sell their custom planner pages on Etsy.

    My other question is about website design. A lot of bloggers design their own website using WordPress, which is free. Why did you decide to hire a firm to design your website?

    Thanks

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Susan,
    Thanks for the kind words — here are some quick answers to your questions:
    1. No, I DO need sleep. I’m just very organized and really try hard to plan out my days to fit in the most important things. If it’s not important or necessary, I don’t do it!
    2. Yes, I definitely think it takes lost of discipline, organization, and time management to run a business of your own — especially an online business.
    3. I give away all my printables for free because I’m already making them for myself and (as you can see) they bring in lots of traffic to my blog which equals more advertising dollars for me. So in a sense, I’m getting paid for them without the hassle of running an Etsy shop.
    4. Yes, I have a team of tech people who do all my designing and behind the scene work since that is not something I’m good at or enjoy doing.

    if you have more questions about starting a business or a blog, feel free to email me directly. Maybe we can set up a Pick-my-brain session :)

    [Reply]

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