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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65 Responses to the truths about blogging

  1. Tin Romero July 1, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    this is quite a lengthy post but i appreciate every part of it. thank you!

    now im saving up for the blog class :)

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      We look forward to having you!

  2. Kelly July 1, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    It is ridiculous that I am up this late, but ironically I am because of being a new blogger. Editing and putting together a blog post. I haven’t found the balance yet. I’m so thankful that I am up, to be able to see your post though. I feel like you were writing to me (I realize that there are many many others…). I have a similar story of finding out about blogging….stumbling upon a blog of a friend of friend whose baby passed away, then stumbling on other blogs, to then find yours in 2010. You first taught me how to make a cupcake pretty (which I did for my hubby’s birthday) and then you taught me that it was okay to love Jesus publicly. To not hide my faith. So, after a few years of observing, I finally jumped on the blog wagon. I decided to go for it and start a blog. You’re often my example. I even click over to see how you’ve done it on your blog at times. I worried about my first post. Whether it was too personal, too lengthy, too much God (and now I worry, it wasn’t enough). One thing though…it has been a blast! I never imagined blogging would be so fun. Thank you, Emily, for the inspiration. (and sorry for the novel)

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      I so appreciate your comment {and novel}! I’m so glad you are having fun with blogging – your site is great! I just subscribed :)

  3. Kelly - Talk of the House July 1, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    Well it was a novel, but I read every.single.word. You are speaking to so many hearts in this post Emily. I am at the point of needing to monetize the blog. But there are so many conflicting views in my head on it. Praying on how best to do it.

    If anyone is on the fence about taking your blog class, let me just say it is WHAT YOU NEED. It was finished at about the time my blog was set up and ready to go, but I went through all the videos. If I can follow it. ANYONE can follow it. Believe me when I say that. And yes, all the thousands of choices in things does make it more confusing…a year’s worth of confusing research for me. If I was just starting out, the blog class would be the absolutely best choice. Hands down.

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      Thanks Kelly! It is SO long, i know and hopefully doesn’t bore everyone :)

  4. kimberly oyler July 1, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    i’m so glad you blog! we never would have met if you didn’t! and you almost have me convinced to switch to wordpress. i’m so torn.

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      true, true.

      You don’t need to switch to wordpress – but I’m sure you would have fun with the design stuff because you already do a great job with your current site. No rush …

    • kimberly oyler July 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      oh well thanks. i really enjoy all the design stuff and have started doing it for a few friends. when i do decide to switch to wordpress, i’ll have to take the blog class to get me started. i’m sure there are great things in there for me to learn.

  5. Holly July 1, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    Thank you for the great post! I started my blog a couple months ago, & was shocked by how much work it is. I tried & tried to get my own website going instead of blogger, but after much frustration, I decided if I didn’t just start out with blogger, I’d never start. Hoping to save for your class so that I can improve my skills & maybe switch to WordPress one day.
    Also, thanks for sharing that you got few comments at first. I had over 1000 views this month, but only 2 comments. Sometimes it does feel like no one is out there!
    Holly
    hcbinteriors.blogspot.com

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 9:52 am #

      Good for you to just go for it. I started on blogger, too, and that made it so easy to at least just get started. Blogger is a GREAT platform, so don’t feel like you are not going about it the right way if you are not starting with wordpress. There are benefits to having your own domain {as mentioned in the post} but the most important thing is to start.

  6. Leslie July 1, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Thank you, Emily. I am prayerfully on the fence about starting a blog, and about joining the blog class. I keep saving the money for the class only to have an expense come up that drains the cup. But I’m patient, and I trust that God will lead me personally. I appreciate your challenge this morning to find out why I want to blog. You are incredible. Thank you for all your words … and blessings on your sweet head.

  7. bree July 1, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    I’m not a blogger, but this was fun to read.
    I have a question about bloglovin. I read all my blogs through that site because it keeps them organized and all in one place, but I’m concerned that your site doesn’t get the reader logged on your page. Do you know if the blogs I follow are getting to count my visit each day to bloglovin? I would feel bad if they weren’t.

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      I just did a little bit of research and it looks like when you click to read a full post from bloglovin, it does add to the bloggers pageviews. It is kind of you to be concerned with this!

  8. Brittany July 1, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Can you recommend a good Ad Network that pays CPM? We use google adsense for CPC, but it would be interesting to explore CPM. This is great arcticle, one of the best I have read in the last few years in regards to the ins and outs of blogging :) Thank you for taking the time to put it together.

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      I am not part of an ad network, so I don’t have first hand knowledge of current cpm – but you could try federated media/legit networks.

  9. Anja July 1, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    I have been blogging for a bit over a year now, and your post really resonates with me. There is so much truth to it, and lots of things to consider for me and my own blog. Even though I am mostly blogging to chronicle my creative projects, I really do enjoy having people stop by that are interested in similar things and I love the mutual inspiration that blogging offers.

  10. Ada July 1, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    I actually was looking forward to Monday because of the carrot you dangled!
    I read each and every word of your novel.
    Thank you for all that writing/sharing/explaining. I am inspired!

  11. Emily July 1, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Emily – I have been following your blog for a year or so and I have to say that this post is golden!

    I am a blog designer and often after designing blogs for clients have them come back to me and say “now what”? I will happily send them over to your post. Super generous of you to share all of this!!

  12. Kallie July 1, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    I thought this was really well written! I am a follower and monthly member. I love it! When my husband and I were budgeting an discussing what to cut he said “not your calendar thing, it makes you happy and keeps you organized!”

    On blogging I have had one over a year and set it up the way you described. My currently deliemma is getting myself to post regularly and I know design wise I want changes but have hit my knowledge level on moving things around. It’s pretty unorganized and I don’t know if I should go backwards and clean up the posts or move forward with a new system. I feel like I have enough basic knowledge a starter class isn’t the right place, but perhaps I’m wrong.

    Any thoughts?

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 9:48 am #

      Well done on getting your blog to the point you have!

      You can always look for a new theme to give your blog a new look which sometimes makes just the difference you need to be more motivated to post regularly. I’m such a visual person that if I wasn’t crazy about my blog design, I probably wouldn’t be as excited to spend time there. This is one of the reasons I’ve done a few re-designs and am working on another. There might be nothing wrong with what your site looks like, but it’s always fun to have a fresh look.

      As far as joining the class goes, you really don’t have to be a new beginner to learn a ton. We just added a new section about extending the use of your blog with the best plugins. There are free graphics and a great theme, lots of guidance on using and adding content and growing your blog.

      I would suggest looking at a bunch of your favorite blogs to see what you like, come up with an idea for what you want yours to be like and then play around with the design. You are welcome to try out the class and if you get in and realize it is not the right fit, you can cancel with a full refund. We know it is not for everyone, but we think it’s very comprehensive and helpful to many!

  13. Amy W July 1, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    This was a wonderful post. I am working on starting my DIY blog and found this post to be so informative, especially coming from someone as talented as you. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Sharon B. July 1, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    What an excellent blog post. I’ve been following you for several years now and you were one of my inspirations that led me to taking my online private journal and making it into a full-out public blog a couple years back. It’s been a wonderful experience and I so appreciate you sharing your wisdom about blogging. Sharon

  15. Shannon {Our Home Notebook} July 1, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Thanks for taking the time to share so much! I’m a new blogger myself so I’m looking to learn and figure out how best to go forward. I loved hearing your thoughts on this!

  16. Elisa Clark July 1, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    GREAT post! You covered so much and it is all really helpful information. I have your ‘whatever’ art print near my computer and it’s a great reminder even when I’m working on my blog. To blog about things that are true, lovely, praiseworthy, etc. Thank you!

  17. T. Yentzer July 1, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    I purchased your Blog Class months ago, got overwhelmed right away, and still have done nothing with it. Thanks for the inspiration to get back in the saddle and
    “just start”! I think I just might…

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Oh, please do! Let us know if you need any help …

  18. Judy B July 1, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    WOW just WOW, thank you so so much for pouring out all your thoughts and giving us advice to us new bloggers.

  19. diana elizabeth July 1, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    THANK YOU for this:

    “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.”

    YES!!!

    There is no greater blessing than being transformed into the likeness of him. Thank you for the reminder and also the encouragement.

  20. Amy Hoyle July 1, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    {so thankful} for your BLOG. You are a daily blessing to me. Signed up for the BLOG class today {and praying I’m one of your winners} We have two special-needs boys and really don’t have this class in our budget but I’ve literally felt God nudging me to start a BLOG and lately His nudge has become a God-SHOVE so I took the plunge. Much of the creativity & inspiration welled up in me is a direct result of your BLOG {and God, of course}. Thank you for your honesty, your beauty and your heart!

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Thank you amy! We’re so excited to walk with you through this new phase. See you in the class.

  21. Coty July 1, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I really enjoy your posts and what you have to offer. I really want to be able to nurture my creative side and to be able to make the sorts of things you make. I fully intend on joining your blog class someday soon. I am saving up the money.

  22. gretchen July 1, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks so much for the post! I’m really interested in joining the blog class but was wondering if the 10 spots have already been taken. Thanks!

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      We’re definitely past the 10 spots, but we’re continuing to offer the free set up if you sign up today. I’m not sure how long we’ll keep this offer up, so grab your spot now!

  23. Gwendolyn July 1, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    after following you from basically the beginning, and 3 1/2 of quietly telling myself i was going to start a blog, i finally did it last week. and it’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time! thank you for being you, emily and sharing your knowledge and expertise with the world!

    • emily July 1, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Yeah!!! Can’t wait to check it out.

  24. Tammy Culpepper July 1, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    What a blessing it has been to read your post. I have been contemplating starting a blog for the past 4 years, needless to say I have been completely overwhelmed and scared of the process. I feel like God is using you to speak to so many women like me who are intimidated at the process. Thanks for making it seem possible and for offering a class to make it more simple. I’m hoping to join the blog class very soon!

    PS – You made me a continuous reader a long time ago and I look forward to seeing your posts. It seems like yesterday when you had some silver shoes and little accessories that gave us a little hint at the sweet arrival of your precious Audrey. God’s blessings to you always!!!

  25. Melissa Ellens Loft July 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    wow! I think the Lord knew I needed to read this today. Emily, thank you so much for your transparency! I have been blogging for about a year now, and the battle has been continuous for me, as I fight to believe it is worth it, that its more than about my own glory… It has been a huge process for me to trust the Lord and fix my eyes on Him, because its for His glory… not my own (which is easy to say, but so hard to be transformed by that truth). Thank you so much for sharing! I absolutely love your blog and your heart… and although I haven’t been a consistent commenter, I read your posts and follow your blog and have been encouraged and inspired so many times! :)

  26. Carla July 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Hi Emily, I have been a faithful reader of your blog since late 2009 when I first discovered home design blogs. (Hi…I’m Carla. I’m terrible at commenting!) One reason I love your blog so much is that each and every post either makes me smile, gives me inspiration, or helps me approach a problem with a different perspective (and many times, it’s all three things at one time!). I just always have this sense of calmness when I read your blog. I recently re-read every single one of your posts. :)

    I have considered the idea of starting a blog for the last three years but I’ve been scared. Scared that I have nothing to say. Scared that I have no new ideas. Scared that I will start and not follow through. Just scared. I wanted to join the blog class when you first introduced it last year, but again….scared. Today is the day I took step one. I’ve signed up for the class, and I’m giddy. I’m still scared, but I’m excited to be taking the first step!

  27. Shalene July 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Emily, THANK YOU for this post! This is exactly what I’ve been searching to find. I’m a stay-at-home to three, a freelance writer and former national magazine editor. Writing and creating is certainly a passion of mine, and it was my profession for several years. I’ve felt the tug to blog well for a while now, and I recently started faith&composition (http://faithandcomposition.wordpress.com) as a result. I’m currently in the process of fine-tuning my message and getting into a regular posting schedule with the intent of growing readership, so this came at a perfect time! I actually just posted a question about some of the issues you address on The Influence Network forums, so thank you again! I always enjoy your lovely blog!

  28. Tori July 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Emily, I loved this post! Thank you for your detail, transparency, and for being such a willing teacher. I have been blogging for years, chronicling my little family’s journey, but would love to expand it to include much more. Hopefully I can join in on the blog class one of these days. I love that you said you just couldn’t nail yourself down to one area of creativity with your art prints. I am a creativity junkie, and love everything from sewing to graphic design. I look forward to praying through how God may use all of these things to honor him in a blog the way you do! Blessings!

  29. Leah July 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    These are my favorite blog posts of yours, detailed, informed, honest, and includes info-graphics! Thank you for the post! Very helpful!

  30. Lori July 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Emily, I adore your blog and think the blog class was a fabulous idea! I’ve been going back and forth {a lot} about working up a blog but this post did the trick! Your breakdown was super helpful and inspiring and I can’t wait to get started! Now I wonder how much sleep I’ll miss and how glued to the laptop I’ll be after I get lost in it. Thanks for leading the march to a {pretty} space in the virtual world!

  31. Erica {let why lead} July 1, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Thank you so much for this resource! I pinned immediately. :) I’ve been blogging for more than a year, and although I feel like I’m doing everything “right,” my growth has not been monumental. But I continually remind myself that my growth is steady and my readers seem loyal. I’d rather have a community of women who feel invested in Let Why Lead (my blog) than a million facebook likes that don’t mean anything. :)

    That said, I did find new ideas in here, and most of all, I appreciated the reminder to be intentional and by myself. Thank you! Yours is my favorite blog, and I share it with friends regularly.

  32. Janice July 1, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Hi Emily,

    What a great post! I loved all the detail and it was so informative. I joined The Blog Class shortly after you all started it and I still don’t have my blog up and running due to multiple family and work events that have had a greater priority than my little blog. I HOPE and pray that I will have the time in the next few weeks to actually focus on finishing what I started and getting my blog up and running. I appreciate The Blog Class so much and I know that without it I wouldn’t have been able to start my blog. Thank you SO MUCH!!

  33. Kari July 1, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    Emily,
    The day you began offering the blog class, I joined. An then… nothing. I watched most of the wonderfully done videos and felt like I could do it, but something is holding me back. I guess it’s lack confidence that I have what it takes to do justice to this thing called blogging. However, and this is a big however, I think I’ll take your advice and just start. The first, awkward, nervous posts are probably not read by many people anyway! Here goes…. Thank you for the heartfelt and genuine information!

  34. Madi July 1, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    I am so thankful you blog. I dont even remember how I found your blog, but ever since I did (over a year ago), I have been obsessed (in a good, healthy way :)). I love your style in design and fashion, how you’re open & inspiring about your faith, and how beautiful & easy your tutorials are. I love when guests comment on a print or two of yours and introducing them to your blog. And as a new mom, I’m thankful for your mommy heart. So thank you for blogging what you blog. I’m more than happy to be an avid, faithful follower.

  35. Aja July 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    Whoa, awesome post! I have loved your blog for a long time and your honesty and they way you share like this is just one of the reasons why. Privacy has always been a big concern for me.. My husband is also pretty private and while I love posting about my daughter, I want to be thoughtful of how she might feel about it down the line. I appreciated reading your thoughts on it. Can’t wait to see your new blog design! I’m sure it will be beautiful!

  36. angie July 1, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    I am finally sitting down to read your “novel” {after working on my own blog} and loving all the information you provide! As a student of The Blog Class, I am so grateful to have joined.. and couldn’t ask for better teachers! I LOVE blogging and REALLY needed this to push me to grow my blog readership. Thanks for all the great tips Emily!! ps.. please subscribe to my blog ;)

  37. Kitty July 2, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Emily,
    What a wonderful post! I am a hobby blogger and desperately need to revamp my site. Even when “I” go to it I think…meh. When I originally began I had a friend/ coworker that was tech savvy help me set it up. Since then I have moved and no longer have her expertise at hand. I am so overwhelmed by the techie stuff I am frozen and have really become stagnant. Even though I already have a site, I don’t even know where to start to “fix it”. Hopefully, I’ll be able to set some time aside to take your class soon. It might be just what I need. :) Thank you!

  38. Ada in Coastal Cali July 2, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    ok, question: how do you get good pictures of yourself? Yes, honestly I want to know! Because I am the photographer in the house…and rarely do I get one by someone else I like composition of, style & myself, not that I don’t like myself photographed in family shots etc. I mean the kind you’d use on a blog with just yourself example, you leaning on your front door. Is that staged by you? Hire a photographer? Lucky enough to have a friend? Curious because I think a lot of great bloggers we connect with from their friendly faces & a good picture is worth a thousand ______ !
    Thanks!

    • emily July 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      Great question!

      The photo of me by the front door was taken by ryan. I just asked him to snap it on the day I painted numbers on the door. I was not dressed for the photo, but it turned out fine. The one at the top of my blog was taken by me … with a remote and the camera set up on a tripod. It is not my favorite photo, but I needed something of just me. It’s super awkward to pose in front of a camera while clicking the remote, but it allowed me to take a million and choose what I liked best.

      Maybe the next time you have family photos taken, ask the photographer to snap a few of just you. My dad did that for me when we were having him take family photos last christmas.

  39. Emily July 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Thank you so much Emily for such a great post filled to the brim with invaluable information! You have long been a favorite blogger of mine and still are! Thanks again for this post! You are so kind to share your knowledge and experience. I will be coming back to this post often as I attempt to get my little small business off the ground in the coming months. God Bless!!

  40. Jennifer July 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    OH Emily. I’ve just loved to see where God has taken your blog; I started following right around when Audrey was born. I don’t comment nearly enough….just a handful of times in all of those years; usually have a baby in my lap! I’m going to start though, sure thing…as often as I can!

    I’ve always had a personal blog and have never done it for money, but now I’m ready to get down to business. ;-) This was a timely post…thank you.

    I’m also headed to Allume in October; can’t wait to meet you face to face! You and Ryan have been such an inspiration.

    Have a fantastic week!

  41. Judith July 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Emily, thank you so much for this post. It was informative, inspiring and (VERY) encouraging! I especially appreciate the sections about how you started, and how you & Ryan manage your privacy. You seem to have found the right balance in honesty and transparency — it’s what keeps us all coming back to read. :)

  42. Debbie Byrd July 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    Here it is 11:20 pm, and I have to go to work tomorrow….but I had to, had to jot you a note! Whenever I have seen blogging info for newbies, my eyes immediately lock on the content, and I am ‘there’ for the whole shebang! Now that I HAVE to go to bed, I am going to put you in my FAVORITES, and revisit tomorrow! And yes, I am joining your mailing list, as well. You have been very generous with your experiences, and I am looking forward to learning more. A heartfelt thanks….Sleepy Debbie – ha!!

  43. Kiki July 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    Wow this is very thorough indeed. Thank you for sharing! I am just wondering if you don’t mind sharing: why you decided not to join an Ad Network?

    • emily July 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

      Sure! We decided that for now, we would rather not advertise for other brands/shops and instead use the space to advertise for our brand/shop/freebies.

      There are different ways to look at it, but for us, we figure we’d rather keep people on our site and engage readers with tutorials, giveaways, free things, good content.

      I could probably make a small chunk of money by advertising, but we’ve just decided for now, it is better for us to focus on our own products.

      Also, just from an aesthetic perspective, I don’t really want tide advertisements messing up my site :)

    • Kiki July 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

      Got it. Thanks for taking the time to answer Emily. I LOVE your site such an inspiration.

  44. jami nato July 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    you’re an effing genius.

  45. Alisa July 10, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    Really great, informative post. I made a major life/career change in February of this year and started blogging at the same time. I definitely struggle with the “I’m doing this for me” vs. “I really want a bigger audience” thing a lot.

    I am doing it for me right now primarily, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my stats and get disappointed by the lack of comments. It really does take a good amount of work to keep the blog up, and it would feel more “worth it” if I knew someone else was actually enjoying it. I wish I could separate myself from these feelings, but so far I’ve had limited success with that ;) It doesn’t help that I’m still not sure–at 39–what I want to do with this new chapter in my life, but I figure that blogging the journey is a good idea regardless.

    Thanks for the insight!

  46. Jen January 2, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    Thank you SO much for this honest, informative post. The Blog Class is now officially on my things to do in 2014!

  47. Shannon McKay January 4, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    Many thanks for all of the time spent on sharing your thoughts and knowledge on blogging…I love to write, but with the proof being in the pudding, I guess I need to get started! I do plan on taking your Blog Class!

  48. Michelle March 5, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    Lots to take in but I so wish I had read this post a long time ago. I solely own and operate an online business in the papercrafting industry. I have no idea how I found your blog, I know it was a long time ago and I am a subscriber. I dont read every post, I catch up on past posts when I can, I am not a member of JDC Monthly. I dont believe I have ever left a comment before, I usually dont except on one or two that are specific to my industry. Just as all blogs are different so too are the readers, so I have learnt. Blogger didnt work out for my store and I had to delete it (very long story) I have since switched to typepad and so far I totally love it and recommend it to anyone who will listen. I did try wordpress and I simply could not get my head around the operation of it all. I gave up. If I had not found typepad it would have gone in the too hard basket for a while longer. Blogging somewhere is preferable to not blogging at all. I wonder is their a blog class for online businesses?
    Thank you for sharing so much, every sentence was relevant, its true when the student is ready the teacher appears.
    Now that I have been blogging a few months, sharing how I use products I sell with the odd ‘other’ kind of post thrown in, I feel its time to get better organised.
    I am a reader, books (and paper) are consistent and important in my life, and I am labelled ‘wordy’ often. Balancing work and blogging and family life can be a daily struggle or a total walk in the park… I have learnt from reading your post that that is ok. Guest blogging intrigues me, thank you for sparking my interest in something I had heard of but didn’t know much about.
    Much gratitude, Michelle.

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