Archive | the blog class

the truths about blogging

Months ago I did a Q&A and there were a handful of questions that were quite common. Right next to the topic of balance {which I wrote about here}, the most repeat questions were about blogging – how to start, how to grow, how to make money. I could have split this up into a bunch of posts, but instead I wrote a novel and apparently have some strong opinions about these topics. So for all of you with questions about blogging specifics, this post is for you.

Let me first begin by sharing a bit of my story and how blogging has changed my life.

Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a wife and mom. I spent my childhood playing house, daydreamed about my someday family, and had a subscription to Martha Stewart Weddings way, way before there was any prospect of getting married {like when I was 16. That’s embarrassing to admit}. My sophomore year of college, I fell in love for the first time. He was smart and creative, a deep thinker and oh, so handsome. Five years after our first date, Ryan asked me to marry him {I said yes, of course, and put all those years of dreaming about my wedding to good use}. Our family quickly grew, adding four children {three boys and a girl} in just six years.  We bought a house in the suburbs, made friends in the neighborhood and while Ryan fought fires, I spent my days feeding and cleaning, coloring and play-dating with my little ones.

I was pretty much living my dream.

Then one day, I discovered a blog. It was written by a mom who had lost her baby and I read through months and months of previous blog posts with tears streaming down my cheeks feeling like I had made a new best friend. From there I discovered other blogs – some of them about family, some about home design, others about fashion, and, ironically, all of them written by stay-home-moms.

I was intrigued and inspired and decided to start a blog of my own. I could use it to document our life with all those kids. I could take photos of our house and join ‘show us your house’ link parties. I could use it as a journal, of sorts, because I found that I didn’t have time to write on actual paper, but I could type pretty quickly.

Around the time that our daughter was born, the blog began to grow. I remember feeling so excited to hit 200 followers in March 2010. I continued reading more and more blogs, made a few new friends and after we hosted a one-day summer boutique, I was completely honored and shocked to be featured on a much larger blog. My little blog was gaining momentum, I was exploring my creativity in new ways, feeling energized in a way I didn’t know I needed.

My kids remained my main focus, but quickly blogging grew into something more than just a way for me to document life; it became a way for me to simply be Emily. Not mom or wife or sister or friend, just me. I could share my heart, do craft projects, post photos of what I wore and I received positive feedback from kind strangers who felt like instant friends.

I had no idea I needed it, but I did. Amidst the daily grind of caring for babies, having this creative outlet offered motivation, new dreams and opportunities I never could have imagined.

About a year into it, Ryan and I made the decision to take blogging seriously and use it as a business {more on that below}.  I always joke that it took having my fourth baby to turn me into a working mom, but I actually could not be more grateful. I stay home with my kids and I write a blog. I design artwork. I journal. I do crafty things and house projects. Our home is going to be in Better Homes & Garden magazine {blows my mind}. In the last year, JDC had over 1.7 million unique visitors. I seriously have to pinch myself sometimes.

I’m a regular mom with active kids and close friends, a house that I struggle to keep tidy, a puppy who chews too much and a husband whose other truck is a fire engine. And I’m a blogger.

Over the past four years, we’ve learned so much about blogging. Neither Ryan nor I have backgrounds in programming or computer software or graphic design or writing – we’ve done this blogging thing through trial and error. So while there are plenty of people out there more qualified to tell you all about the ins and outs of blogging, I’m here, as a woman, a mom, a friend, and someone who has not only found external success, but also inner-transformation, to share with you some of the things we’ve learned along the way.

These are answers to the most common questions I receive about blogging.

Here it goes …

passion

Don’t we all feel like this a little bit with something new? It seems daunting and confusing and so we put it off until tomorrow. And then tomorrow turns into the next day, or the next month or three years.

You might have a very specific topic to blog about {your business, renovating a home, battling a sickness} or you may be a bit more vague {documenting the everyday, curating inspiring images} but as long as you have a desire and a passion, blogging can be such a great way to share these things with your family, your friends, the world.

If you find yourself in this place – with the desire and ideas, but stuck before you’ve started – I wish I had something new and mind-blowing to say, but really the best advice I can offer is just start.

You don’t have to have it all planned out ahead of time; you just have to take the first step.

We sometimes get nervous that we won’t have the right words to say or that no one will be interested in what we have to offer, and this might be true, but it’s probably not. The world is huge and there is always room for you to share your story and your passions. If you find something to be interesting, chances are, there are others who feel the same.

So if you want to write a blog but have been putting it off, start today by taking one step. That might be brainstorming blog names, compiling a list of possible blog posts, asking a friend to keep you accountable, or maybe you are ready for more technical things like registering a domain name or choosing a blog theme. Wherever you are on your blogging journey, allow yourself to take the first step.

As far as actually starting a blog, there are lots of options available {perhaps too many which is part of the where do I even start? problem}. I have found that starting a self-hosted blog with wordpress.org is the way to go. You can choose a free option like blogger or wordpress.com {both great} but because you do not own your site, you are limited with what you can do with it. Think of this like the difference between owning and renting a home. Both function as a shelter, but you don’t get to paint the walls and tear out worn carpet if you are renting. The same is true for your blogging platform. Host your own site and you can make all the decisions about looks, functionality, and advertising.

Having a self-hosted blog means you own your domain name {yourblogname.com} rather than having it hosted though a separate site {yourblogname.blogspot.com}. We use Dreamhost as our hosting company, but there are tons of other equally affordable and quality hosting companies. Once you sign up for hosting and choose your blog name, you install wordpress.org {it’s free} and then customize from there using plug-ins {extra functionality like comment forms and spam protection – most of which are free} and a theme.

There are thousands of great themes {the template for how your blog will look} and many are free. JDC is currently using a theme from ThemeForest called The Cotton, but I’m working on a site re-design and will switch to a new theme by woo themes called Canvas sometime soon. You get to put in whatever graphics you like – so you can create {or have a designer create for you} your header, your sidebar images, a blog button, regular feature graphics, etc.  One of the best things about wordpress.org is that you can completely customize everything about your site.

All of this can be overwhelming, for sure. Especially if you are not particularly comfortable trying new things in the ever-evolving tech-world. Honestly, it’s why we created the Blog Class because we saw a need for a step-by-step guide that takes a bunch of the guesswork and research out of the setting-up of a blog so that you can just start blogging.

Most women who want to blog don’t care about all of the technical aspects, and can be a bit intimidated by the techie-language {html? ftp access? ugh!}. While there are some things you just have to work through and some things you’ll learn as you go, if you can get online and type a word document, you can totally do it. Still not convinced? Maybe find a friend who also wants to start a blog and you can do it together – sharing tips and struggles and solutions along the way. Or join the Blog Class. Shameless plug, I know. But seriously, that’s why we put the class together.

privacy

Such. A. Big. Question.

When it all comes down to it, this is really an issue of personal preference.

We all read blogs with daily family photos, full names, personal details, stories and experiences and we love these bloggers like they are our real-life friends.

There are other bloggers who write with pen names and give their children nicknames and avoid sharing personal moments and yet we love them like friends, too.

You can go either way.

Quite honestly, I am not overly concerned with privacy. I am a trusting person, by nature, and value openness and honesty and vulnerability. Besides just loving sharing our life on the blog, I adore connecting with other ladies and without a certain level of realness, that would not be possible.

Ryan is much more concerned with the protection of our family and we have had to create some boundaries for what I can and cannot share. It’s been hard to find that balance, to tell you the truth. I want to show you everything, journal my heart, tell you about every part of our lives and my more grounded husband just looks at me and says, “Is nothing sacred?!!”.

So here’s what works for us: We keep our real last name private.  I call the boys No. 1, No.2, No.3 when I talk about them, but Audrey just goes by Audrey. There is no rhyme or reason to that one. We have a P.O. box for business correspondence. I have not shown a full tour of our home because it seems kinda creepy to have our exact floor plan roaming the internet. No full shot of the exterior of our home. We don’t say when we’re on vacation. There are parts of our story and our everyday lives that we’ve agreed are off-limits for blog content. Sometimes that makes me sad because like I said, I’m a sharer, but I also understand the importance of keeping our personal lives personal. It will be interesting once the kids are older to see what they think about being on the blog. I don’t post about them individually a ton and so far they think it’s cool to see themselves on the computer screen, but that may change and I’ll respect their wishes.

We have not had any issues with our privacy being violated and I’m sure if something shady happens, I’ll tighten up even more. But for now, these are the ground rules that work for our family.

A few more things to consider as you navigate this privacy issue: talk with your loved ones about it – define some specific boundaries. Make sure your family/friends are comfortable with being in photos before you post them. Be cautious about details you post just to preserve a little bit of anonymity. Most of all, remember that once you hit publish, there is no going back.

traffic

You pour your time, energy, your heart into your blog post and then … nothing.

It’s completely depressing.

Be encouraged! We’ve all been there. Looking back on my first blog posts, most of them have zero comments, zero facebook likes, zero pins {well, it was before the day of pinterest, so whatever}. Some are really good posts with decent photos and heartfelt stories, so I don’t think the lack of comments is because of the content, but rather lack of exposure.

And then it makes me wonder: what was I posting for? Who was I posting for?

I didn’t go into blogging thinking it would turn into my job; it was just a place to escape and be creative. I’m sure I was hoping a few people would read my blog, but I did not start with a clearly defined purpose for why I needed readers. I wanted them because it made me feel good. I liked seeing my follower number increase, I was thrilled to receive comments, I waited anxiously to see how my latest post would be received. Are those things bad? Not necessarily. But it began to become a bit addictive.  Blogging started turning into something I did so I would be liked, rather than my original purpose of being creative and open with my life.

It’s a constant struggle between being true-to-self and striving for popularity. Believe me, it’s a pretty ugly battle. I haven’t conquered it and I’m not sure I ever will. So the best trick I’ve learned is to regularly assess and define my goals, expectations and motivations for blogging.

I highly recommend you do the same.

Are you blogging to document life? To give your children a peek at life when they were too young to remember? To journal a personal journey you are on? Then it doesn’t matter if you have readers or not and you can’t let that pressure get in the way of your intended purposes. If readers come and leave comments and you become the most famous blogger in the world, then great. But that still doesn’t change your purpose of simply documenting life.

Are you blogging to grow a business or gain exposure or earn an income? Then of course you should concern yourself with traffic as this is your livelihood. Just be careful that you don’t lose sight of yourself and stray from your goals in the name of popularity. The blog world is big and there is plenty of room for all of us – do things your own way in a manner that feels natural and integrous and resist the temptation to compare. Easier said than done.

If you are in this second group and are a Christian, there are two opposing arguments for whether or not you should worry about growth.

NO. 1 //  If you are blogging with the right heart and are being obedient to what the Lord is calling you to, He will bless it. That may be in the form of growing readership, or it might be in transforming your own heart, but simply by being aware of what He’s asking of you, you will be honored.

NO. 2 // If you opened a brick & mortar shop and did nothing to advertise, you would likely go out of business. There are some basic, prudent steps you can take to spread the word about your shop, promote your goods, get people in the door, make a sale.  The same is true of blogging. And there’s no need to apologize for it.

I sit somewhere in the middle of both of these opinions {how wishy-washy, I know}. I’ve wrestled with this one a lot because I really want my motivations to be honorable when it comes to blogging, growing traffic, making money.

After about a year of blogging, JDC readership began to grow and it was actually costing us money {we had things set up incorrectly at first and were paying way too much for bandwidth usage – like $500 too much}. At this point, I was totally enjoying the ways I was able to be creative; sharing, encouraging, inspiring other women, connecting and experiencing new opportunities because of it. But due to the expense, I had to decide to either shut down the blog, or figure out a way to make money. We chose option two. Once we took that step, the motivation shifted a bit to not only include a place to be creative, but also a place to earn an income. I took the blog a little more seriously, worked more hours, was intentional about a regular posting calendar and had to step out and start promoting my work {even though selling was and remains to be a very uncomfortable and unnatural thing for me to do}. At the same time, it was very important to me to be obedient to what the Lord wanted to accomplish through the blog. It may have been more business savvy to stop posting personal stories and simply develop and promote products, but I had to be true to myself and make this blog about more than that.

So I’m a bit in the middle about how hard to push traffic-growth: I know this blog is just a tool and could be gone in a second and so I trust that the Lord will do with it as He wishes. At the same time, I make strategic business decisions in the hope that readership will continue to grow and an income will continue to be earned.

Here’s my point: remind yourself what the purpose of your blog is and either let yourself off the popularity-grow-my-blog-I-need-more-readers hook or take the necessary steps to promote your blog.

All of that to say, there are a handful of practical ways to increase traffic, many of which you’ve undoubtedly heard:

Post regularly, title your posts clearly, make your images the best possible, include share links {like a pin it button or fb like button}, name your blog something memorable and catchy, read and comment on other blogs, join link parties, host giveaways, be generous, ask leading questions at the end of posts, put subscription buttons in obvious and prominent places, submit projects to larger sites to be featured, offer to write guest posts for established blogs.

If you want to grow your blog, the ultimate goal is to turn the casual, just-stopping-by reader into a loyal follower. Any reader is great, of course … unless she never comes back. You may have a few high days here and there, but what you are looking for is consistent readership growth.  It is the loyal follower with whom you can build a relationship, offering really great content in return for her telling her friends, neighbors, random waitresses about you and sharing your content on her pinterest boards, with her facebook friends and via email.

The very best and most essential step in motivating your loyal follower to share your blog is by creating quality, original content. While your site design, header logo, basic functionality is super important, your blog content is what really draws in and engages readers. Make it the best you can. Give things away, share secret sources, inspire or educate, show a how-to. Write from your heart, share your opinions, be relatable and positive and someone you would want to be friends with.

Don’t forget to make your subscribe box obvious, enticing and easy to join.  I can’t tell you how many times I have stumbled upon a new site only to click away and forget about it because there was not an obvious place for me to follow. On the other hand, I have visited numerous blogs that I’m may not be completely sold on, but the subscribe box is right there and so I join. I figure I can always unsubscribe, but it turns out, if the blog posts are interesting, entertaining or inspiring, I rarely do.

Once you’ve turned a reader into a follower and you’ve posted sharable, pinnable, likable content, you want to make sharing, pinning and liking that content as convenient and simple as possible. Truly, social sharing is how your blog will grow. Be sure to have social share buttons somewhere on your site, and more importantly, somewhere in or below your post. Pinterest, especially, is so big right now that you must make it easy for your images to be pinned. Add a pin-it button, put a watermark on your photo and title your image descriptively so that when it posts to pinterest, there is no need for the pinner to change the title. As your content is shared, other news sites and bloggers will re-share until eventually your post will be search engine ranked {that’s a good thing}. Now, people who have never heard of your blog can find you by searching on a search engine and having your blog post show as a result.

Do you see how that all works together?

how blog growth happens by jones design company

Growth takes time and is often very organic, so be patient, be committed and, most of all, be yourself.

make-money
Yes, you can make money blogging. Just how much is the hard part to answer.

I’ll do my best.

Many bloggers have no intention on monetizing their blog. They do it for the love, the joy, the escape or passion and don’t let the pressures of moneymaking get in the way.

For others, blogging becomes such an occupier of time that if there is not some sort monetary compensation {even just enough to cover the costs associated with hosting and bandwidth and related services}, it is just not worth it.

And still others, like myself, see blogging as a business and a viable source of income for their family.

No matter which category you fall into, it is fine. There is nothing wrong with not making money and there is nothing wrong with making money.  You don’t hear volunteers apologize for working for free and you don’t hear engineers or teachers or baristas apologize for working for money. Bloggers need not either.

As I shared above, figuring out a way to make money became necessary for our family in order for me to continue blogging. We could not afford to spend $500 each month if it simply remained my hobby.  I already had a custom stationery business and decided at this point to combine blogging with my business and it morphed into something new. Thankfully, my husband is a smarty-pants entrepreneur and business marketing enthusiast and was willing to be my partner.

Our first step for monetizing JDC was to start selling art prints. I was already designing them to put in our home and figured maybe my artwork would resonate with ladies who read the blog. We had a good-quality printer and lots of nice paper {for the stationery business}, so it didn’t take much to get things going.  We used a free plug-in for our shopping cart and processed payments through Paypal. Because I already had a small but loyal following, it did not take long to sell enough prints to make up our monthly deficit.

We could have left it at just selling art prints, but the problem with me is that I can’t pin myself down to just one thing. So we started offering printable stationery/invitations/gift tags as well as my hand-drawn fonts, and then developed JDC | Monthly {monthly membership for printable organizational items}. We offered a class on starting a small business which was good, but maybe not the right fit for my market. Or me, actually. We have done some custom blog design {it was short-lived due to the time requirements}, we’ve sold advertising space and occasionally I promote products as an affiliate. I sold reproduction rights on a few of my art prints to Dayspring, we teach an online blogging class and have a few new mini-courses in the works.

See? I’m all over the place.

From research we’ve done and our personal experience, spreading yourself out and collecting from multiple streams of revenue is the most effective way to make money blogging.

Certainly there are high-high-traffic blogs that make a majority of their profits through advertising and still others who earn their income solely through affiliate sales, but those are not the norms.

By diversifying your methods of earning an income, you are more likely to actually earn one.

So let’s talk specifics: how can you make money blogging? There are really only two ways.

how-to-make-money-blogging

Either you can 1. sell your own stuff or 2. sell someone else’s stuff.

If you want to sell your own products, first decide what is the best fit for you. Ebooks are big right now as are most digital products {classes, printables, software, apps} because once it is developed/written/designed, you are finished with your end of the work. Handmade and other physical products are also viable ways to earn an income. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to price your item at a competitive market value while still making enough profit to cover your costs in materials and time.

In order to sell your own products, you’ll need to have an online shop. There are many great options available – you can set up your shop through etsy, big cartel, shopify or wazala, or simply use paypal buttons or a shopping cart plugin that will allow purchases to be made directly from your site. There are benefits and drawbacks to each one {cost, customization, personal branding} so do a bit of research to find the right fit for you.

If you are looking to sell other people’s products, there are several ways to do so. Selling private ad space {sponsors} is probably the most common as you simply trade displaying an ad for a set fee. There is no ‘rule’ for when to start advertising or how much to charge for ad space as much of it is market-driven and niche-specific, but in general you can charge about $50 per 100,000 monthly page views.

You can also join an advertising network {like blogher or federated media} which takes the control out of your hands for which exact ads will be displayed on your site, but the payout could be better and there is less management of invoicing, displaying ads, collecting payment.

Affiliate sales are an effective means of monetization and you can control which products you push and how frequently you want to market them.  When you join an affiliate program, you receive a special code that you include in a blog post or advertisement about an affiliate product. Each time your blog refers a sale; you make a percentage of that purchase price. So, for instance, if you do a post about your favorite summer books and include amazon affiliate links, when a reader clicks on a link and purchases something from Amazon, you will make 4-10% of the total sale. Some programs have higher payouts, and some are minimal, but if you like a product and plan to link to it, you might as well be an affiliate and earn a portion of the sale.

Of course you can become a much more deliberate and strategic affiliate marketer – choosing only products with high payouts or advertising sales at optimal times through all of your social networks. There are plenty of bloggers who have made a decent income through affiliate sales, but a majority of them have put in a lot of effort to research, advertise, and promote these products.

Sponsored posts are funded by either samples of a product or actual monetary compensation in exchange for a blog post about a product. You have control over which items you accept, what the terms are and what opinions you share in the post.

These are all great methods for earning an income.

However {and it’s a big however}, the key to success for each one of these methods is traffic.

You may have the best product ever, but if you don’t have anyone to sell it to, you won’t get very far.

For example, if you join an ad network and the payout is $5 per 1000 impressions {CPM}, and your blog gets 3,000 impressions per month, you will receive a check in the mail at the end of the month for $15.

If, instead, your blog receives 100,000 impressions per month, now your check will be $500. Continue to grow readership to 1,000,000 page views per month and, based on this example, you can expect to earn $5000.

Or here’s another example: if you write an ebook and sell it for $15, you have 1000 monthly unique visitors and you assume about a 2% conversion rate for sales, you can sell about 20 books per month and make $300.  Grow your readership to 10,000 monthly uniques and you are likely to make about $3000.

Obviously these are very, very rough examples, but as you can see, readership numbers are equally important to putting out a great product.

So, the big question of can you make money blogging? Yes. There are lots of ways. But nearly all of them require more than just writing a blog post.

And for the second part of the question, if so, how much? That’s where it gets tricky. How much you can make depends greatly on your blog stats {how many people are seeing your stuff}, but also on your niche {do you have readers with disposable income?}, the current market {is your product competitively priced}, your products {are you meeting a need?} and the methods by which you sell and market your products.

From my experience, I will tell you that while I do make a substantial income from JDC, 99% of it comes from products I sell, not advertising or affiliate sales. More specifically, each month 48% of my income comes from JDC|monthly, 37% from my shop, 14% from blog class sales and only 1% from affiliate sales.

I do not make money by blogging, but I make money because of blogging.

cost-to-run-a-blog

There are some costs associated with blogging but rest assured, they are minimal and totally worth the expense for the benefits they offer.

Here’s the breakdown of costs for a new blogger:

domain name registration: $10. Oftentimes you can get it for free when you sign up for web hosting. You also get it free in The Blog Class.
web hosting: $5-10 per month. Dreamhost is offering a great deal right now for $3.95 per month with a free domain name. This is the lowest price we’ve ever seen. Learn more here.
wordpress.org: $0
premium theme: $50-100 depending on which theme you choose. You can use a free theme, but a premium theme will offer cleaner code, more streamlined usability and greater functionality. We offer a $70 theme called Canvas to our Blog Class students for free.
graphic designer: $50+ for header, sidebar, other blog graphics. You can cut costs by designing your own graphics.

To start from scratch, the cost to get a blog up and running is about $5 per month, with additional costs added for optional services and functions.

As your readership grows and your needs for additional bandwidth and services increase, the costs increase. Hopefully by this point you are making some amount of money through your blog and that should offset those costs.

want-to-learn-more

We are passionate about blogging because of the ways it has impacted our lives. We’ve made friends, grown our talents, experienced opportunities we never thought were possible and we want these things for you, too.

One year ago, Ryan and I produced The Blog Class – a step-by-step guide for how to start blogging. We’ve given all of our best and most helpful information to walk you through and give you confidence as you embark on your blogging journey.  So far we’ve helped over 300 new and veteran bloggers set up, design, use, grow and monetize their blogs. If you’ve enjoyed this post today, and you want to make your blog better {or start a new one!}, you will love the blog class.

We’ve made a bunch of updates to the class to give even more great information and we’re now offering the class at a discounted rate when you pay in full.

learn-more-about-the-blog-class

I so hope this post is helpful in some way to you. I had no idea I had so much to say on the topic so thanks for making it all the way through. Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts, ask more questions and continue the conversation …

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{the blog class} success stories

About a year ago, Ryan and I had this great idea to put together a few tutorials and resources to help show how we created Jones Design Company, the blog. Over and over I was asked how I got started, what I used to design my blog, what shopping cart I used, etc. and we wanted to share. We had a short outline of the basics and thought it would just take a few weeks to compile.

Um, right.

Once we got started, we realized that we couldn’t show how to do this without also showing how to do that. And once you talk about that, you better mention how to accomplish this, too. And on and on. If we were going to do this, we were going to do it completely. So we jumped in with both feet and spent the next nine months doing silly things like recording our voices while we walked through every, single step of setting up a blog.

We opened registration for our collaborative project, The Blog Class, in June. It’s a full-fledged, start-to-finish, how-to guide for creating the blog you’ve always dreamed of.

Putting this class together was a great learning experience. We are so proud of what we produced. We enjoyed working together on it.  We believe in the class and continue to add new videos to keep it current.

But most of all, we L-O-V-E seeing the results.

To walk with so many ladies as they open their minds to new {sort of intimidating} words like web hosting and plugins, and then see them come out the other end with a perfectly “them” blog.

To give our best tips for gaining readership and then see success stories of our new blogger-students being featured on larger blogs and gaining exposure.

To create the header, sidebar and background graphics that are offered in the class and then see how each student uses them differently to give their blog the right look.

The first of The Blog Class students have worked through the content and have amazing, unique, personal, professional-looking blogs to show for it. We feel so honored and excited to be part of their blogging journeys.

With great pride and pleasure, I present to you a small handful of blogs created by students in The Blog Class. This will be an ongoing blog feature, as I want to highlight a few new blogs at a time. It is a way to support the ladies in the class and share their amazing stories with you.

A charmingly fresh and helpful site full of great ideas for what to eat, make, buy and where to go in the Phoenix area and beyond. Don’t shy away if you are not in the Arizona vicinity – Disa & Katie do a great job of keeping the content relevant no matter where you live {and they may even inspire a family trip to the desert!}

A family blog with lots of projects, recipes {meal planning tips, too!}, house remodeling and more. Teresa is the mom of four {two biological and two adopted} and perhaps one of the most touching posts I’ve ever read is this one on the struggle with wanting to be pregnant when there are so many orphaned children needing homes. I admire her heart, her eye for style and her amazingly toned arms.

I love this line from Nicole’s about page: “I like to think I have an eye for pretty.  Whether it’s a great space or a fabulous party I love it all.  But let’s face it, real life isn’t always pretty.  More often than not, I have spit up on my clothes and my hair in a ponytail.  This blog is all about my quest to find the pretty in life’s ordinary moments.” She’s my kind of girl!

A teacher by day and musician, reader, traveler, creator, thinker, talker, seeker, and Believer in life, Katie’s blog is a pleasant and thoughtful place.  She’s currently doing 31 days of Lovely Lines {a quote from a favorite book each day this month} as part of The Nester’s 31 days.  You’ll leave her site feeling a little bit smarter and inspired each day.

You’ll fall in love with sweet Cassie, the talented, darling and stylish 23 year old behind this new blog. She talks about beauty, design, house projects, inspiration, recipes and life.

It’s hard to be a brand new blogger and feel like you are writing to the wind. So if you have a second, please click a few of the links, leave a comment or two and offer some encouragement for these incredibly talented women.

. . .

If you’ve been wanting to start a blog but have no idea where to begin, we’d love to be your guides! The Blog Class is an online course with over 85 how-to videos walking you through everything from signing up for web hosting, installing wordpress, choosing a theme, creating a header graphic, adding posts and pages, spreading the word about your new blog and finding the best way to monetize.  This all takes some work, but we’ve split it up into four weeks to make it simple, manageable and completely do-able.  Once your four weeks are over, you remain members of the class for as long as you need it. No expiration!

And perhaps our students’ favorite part is that Ryan and I are here to answer questions along the way.

The cost is three weekly payments of $97 with your fourth week free.

Included is access to all videos, a premium theme {valued at $200}, a graphics pack with over 100 backgrounds, header and sidebar images, interviews from some of your favorite bloggers, a members-only facebook group as well as live and email support.

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why do you blog?

A few months ago, we opened up registration for our latest project – The Blog Class. Ryan and I developed the class for those who dreamed of writing their own blog, but didn’t know where to start or how to do it. We wanted to use the knowledge and tools we’ve learned over the past several years to enable others to use their voice, their experience, their life and share it publicly on a blogging platform.

We are two months into this and by far my favorite part of helping others learn to blog is seeing the blogs they create and reading their stories.

Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Keri of kp spaces.  This is her new pretty blog:

kp spaces is a design blog, with great decorating ideas, resources and interior design advice, among other things.

A few days ago, I was taking a look at her site answering some technical questions and was so touched by her post that day.  She has graciously allowed me to repost for you to read:

This is my son Gideon. He is my 6 month old son. He has never been to my house. I’ve never pushed him in a stroller. I’ve never fed him a bottle. He has been in the hospital every single day since he was born. And every day he has fought for his life.

Last summer I found out I was pregnant with what I thought was my second child. My first ultrasound revealed that there were two babies growing inside me. Doctors knew from the beginning that there was something terribly wrong with” Twin A”. He had a large cyst growing on back of his head and bi-lateral clubbed feet. We tested for down syndrome, trisomy 13 and trisomy 18. All of these tests were negative. Doctors’ also discovered that my cervix was extremely short, and that I was at high risk for going into preterm labor. At 21 weeks pregnant, I was admitted to the hospital to try to save my pregnancy. I was put on hospital bed rest, but given no guarantees by the medical staff that my pregnancy would last much longer. I laid there for two months hoping and praying that my babies would be ok. And at 29 weeks and 4 days I went into labor. The doctors tried their best to stop it, but it was Gideon who was ready to come and nothing was going to get in his way. I had an emergency C-section and Gideon Robert and Jude Calvin made their grand entrance. Jude just thrived in the NICU. He turned from a scrawny 3 and half pound peanut, to a chubby, happy tank of a baby. But Mr. Gideon struggled from the get go. Along with his lungs being severely premature, we found out he had heart condition, and water on his brain. For months we have watched him grow and overcome so many of his challenges. This past week doctors placed a shunt in his head to drain any excess fluid from his brain into his belly where it can be absorbed. This surgery was necessary for him to survive, but putting someone as sick and tiny as he is under anesthesia is extremely risky. Although the surgery went well, he is struggling to recover.

I am so in awe of this little man. I am humbled by his willingness to fight every day for survival. His strength gives me strength. I don’t know if Gideon is going to live 5 days, 5 years, or 50 years. But his mama is going to be there with him every step of the way.

So why am I writing a design blog when I am going through ALL OF THIS?? I totally get it that lamps, rugs and paint colors are pretty much bottom of the barrel as far as what is really important in life. But what is important to me is finding an identity for myself through this difficult time; an identity that has nothing to do with hospitals, or MRI’s, or bad news, or uncertainty. It’s my way of telling myself, “You are more than your current circumstances”. To you all it’s just design, but for me it’s survival.

As I share my passion for interior design, I promise to keep you updated on Gideon. He’s not giving up, so neither am I. Give your kids an extra snuggle today. Man, they are all such little miracles.

xoxo,

KP

I am so touched by Keri’s perspective during this time in her life.  Lamps and rugs are meaningless in comparison to her baby’s sweet life, and yet, sometimes lamps and rugs are just what we need to talk about to make it through another rough day. Something pretty to lift our spirits. A simple DIY project to remind us we can accomplish a tangible goal today. I’m not sure what it is about our desire to admire and create beauty, but it sure is healing, isn’t it?

We all blog for different reasons. Some because it is our job, others because it is our hobby, and still others who do it to find our identity in the midst of chaos.

That is what I love about blogging. If we allow, it opens doors to help us become a better version of ourselves. To share our lives, however imperfect; to share our accomplishments, however insignificant; to share our passions and find others who share them as well.

We all blog for different reasons.

What is yours?

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To learn more about how to start your own blog, please visit www.theblogclass.com

If you like this post, please feel free to share using the links below.

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simplified, organized, and excited to begin

This was my facebook status yesterday.

It seriously felt like I had birthed my fifth child – only without the pain and sweet little bundle to hold.

For the past year, Ryan and I have been conceptualizing, researching, planning, designing, recording, editing and tweaking The Blog Class. It has constantly been on the forefront of my brain and even though you couldn’t physically see it, it felt the same as if I was carrying a ripe watermelon in my belly. Excited, nervous, ready to be done.

So yesterday was a big day for me. This class I’ve been growing for nine+ months was finally finished.

I pulled back the blanket and presented my baby to you.

I was nervous {would you like it?}, beyond excited {it’s finally time!} and so ready to share this new resource with you.

What a kind reception! I am so thankful for your encouragement, excitement and especially for all of you who are now taking The Blog Class!

I am proud of this project and more than anything want it to be a support and source of inspiration for you.

So thank you for welcoming the newest member of the JDC family: The Blog Class.

Here’s what a few ladies had to say:

So fun. If you’d like to be part of the class, we’d love to have you! Keep reading to learn more.

If you are anything like me, the technical behind-the-scenes of how a blog works goes right over your head. To help it make sense, we have created this video as part of The Blog Class. It’s one of my favorites. I sort of want the reader’s outfit.

Does that help? Not quite so confusing when you see it laid out like that.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, I also have a great little check list for you to download and print to organize yourself as you begin blogging. Whether you take part in The Blog Class or not, this will be a great resource for you in starting {or sprucing up} a new blog.

{click on the image to download and print the pdf}.

There were quite a few questions yesterday about the class, so I thought I’d answer those here.

1. When does the class start?

This is an ongoing open registration – you are welcome to join at your convenience!

2. How long do I have access to the class?

Each week, for four consecutive weeks, new content will be added to your class. At the end of that four week period, you will have access to the class in its entirety, for forever.

3. Is this self-paced or do I have to finish in a certain time frame?

The class is completely self-paced. Work through as many sections as you want, whenever you have time. We used this online video format for this exact purpose: to make it feasible for anyone, no matter their time constraints.

4. Can I purchase just one section?

We wrote the class as a cohesive unit, so will not be splitting it up. You are welcome to choose the sections that are most interesting to you and I’m sure you will find great value in each one.

5. I blog on blogger – is the class still for me?

Yes, absolutely. The setup, design and use sections are geared toward creating a blog using WordPress, so some of this will not pertain to you. You can still use all of the graphics, learn how to design your own header, and work through the content, grow and earn sections.

6. I would like to move from blogger to wordpress, but don’t want to lose all my content. Is this possible?

For sure. I started blogging on blogger and moved my content over too. It is actually a fairly simple process and we have a video and steps to walk you through.

7. I have no intentions of using my blog to earn an income. Can I still take the class?

Yes, yes and yes again. In no way do I assume that all blogs are meant for making money. I certainly didn’t start mine with those intentions. But I couldn’t write a class without at least covering the basics of monetizing, because many of us do hope to use our blogs to earn an extra income. You are welcome to skip over the earn section – and who knows? You may come back to it a few years from now and find it useful.

8. I need to save up to take the class – do I have to sign up today?

The class has an ongoing open registration, so you are free to sign up at any time. But let’s talk about money for a second. I know not everyone has the financial resources to take the class today. Keep planning and saving and join when it works for your family. We have done our best to make it accessible to as many people as possible {hence the three payments versus one large chunk} and we truly believe the class is worth every penny.

If you have additional questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

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your blog is waiting

Hello, my name is Emily. I am a wife and mom and I write a blog.

If you would have told me three years ago that I would introduce myself this way, I would have never believed it. Mostly because I didn’t know what a blog was {I was a little late to the party on this one.} And also because I had no idea that I could actually do it – limited tech skills, limited design skills, limited time and money and {at the time} three little ones to care for. But I was incredibly inspired by the blogs I had discovered and wanted a way to pursue passions outside of being a mommy {but not one that took me away from being with my babes} and so in January 2010, I started a blog.

I didn’t really know what I was doing; I sort of figured things out as I went. All I knew was that it provided opportunities to share fun projects, write about life – even the mundane, everyday joys and challenges, give fun stuff away and connect with women all over the globe that I never would have met otherwise.

In the two and a half years since, this is what I’ve discovered about blogging: it’s pretty much amazing.

Here are my top five reasons why:

1. Blogging provides a creative outlet

Where else can you create a space where you get to talk about what you love, share images that inspire you, do projects and just be you? It’s a semi-retreat from everyday life and a way to discover and nurture your creativity. My favorite part, by far.

2. Blogging offers a platform to share your voice

Each of us has something to offer, something to say. A blog gives us a place to share it.

3. Blogging is a way to connect with like-minded women, far beyond a physical location

Share a thought on your blog and you will probably find that there are many other women that feel just the same. Countless others that share similar passions, convictions, style or interests. It is so easy to feel alone in this big world – blogging makes it feel just a little smaller.

4. Blogging opens doors to pursue dreams

How many blogs have you read where the author was presented with an opportunity that she never thought possible? Publishing a book, being featured in a magazine, working with a national company – a blog allows us to showcase a talent and pursue dreams, big and small.

5. Blogging can be a means to earn extra income

Turning a hobby into a business has never been easier with a blog as the foundation. We all would rather buy from someone we know and like and blogging makes that possible.

What started for me as the simple desire to capture moments in our family’s young lives in the form of an online journal has turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I love blogging.

Over the course of the past two years, I have received the same questions over and over pertaining to blogging:

What platform do you use to blog on? {wordpress.org}

Who designed your blog? {me, I’m flattered you asked!}

What shopping cart program do you use {wazala – it’s great}

How do you start a blog/how do you grow readership/how do you make money from your blog? {how can I answer this briefly?!!}

I’m not sure why, but these types of questions kept finding their way to my email inbox. I tried to answer the best I could, but I always felt like I was never able to really be of help. I searched for a resource to recommend – something that would teach the basics of blogging: how to start, how to grow, how to design one. But I came up empty handed. It just didn’t exist.

And so I decided to create one myself.

I’m so excited to introduce this new blogging resource:

This online course is made up of 85 videos that walk you through how to start a blog, customize it to fit your style, add content to grow readership and monetize a WordPress blog using many tools we have found useful {most are free!}. We cover the basics with simple-to-follow videos that not only teach you the whys of blogging but more importantly, the hows of blogging.

If you’ve ever thought blogging would be fun …

If you want to create an online journal to document your life …

If you desire to connect with other like-minded women …

If you have a passion that you are excited about sharing with others …

If you are looking for a way to earn some extra income …

The Blog Class is for you.

Do you already have a blog, but you’d like to improve it?

Do you want to move your existing blog to WordPress but not lose all of your content?

The Blog Class is for you too.

and watch a fun video while you’re at it.

Questions? Leave a comment below.

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