In the last installment of “how my business began” I glossed over when I started my blog. Starting the blog was like pushing over a domino, starting a chain reaction that has brought me to where I am today. It deserves more than a gloss over, so we’re going to take a few steps back in the story and I’m going to share the details.
First off, I didn’t have a high opinion of blogs.
Bloggers to me were guys in their basement, ranting about sports or politics. Talking about something they were, most likely, not qualified to talk about, but they felt so opinionated about the subject, they had to share it with the world. (“The world” in this case, being their eight buddies who read their blog.)
And they were usually in their underwear when they wrote their blog, eating Cheetos.
I know I was not the only one with that totally unfair assessment of bloggers, but there it is.
So, when the talented girl who designed my logo and branding, Laura, suggested that I start a blog, I was like, “Do I look like a guy who’s going to sit around in my underwear in my basement and play Monday morning quarterback?”
No, I didn’t really say that. I just thought it and said, “Okay.”
And then I didn’t start a blog.
Actually, what I didn’t know, was that I already had a blog. She designed it for me as a page on my website. And there it sat. Empty.
Laura kept encouraging me and one day showed me her blog and introduced me to the world of creative bloggers. Okay, now I’m listening. I started looking up “home decor blog” and found Thrifty Decor Chick and The Lettered Cottage and The Nesting Place.
My whole idea of what a blogger was, was totally shattered.
If these are bloggers, I wanted to be among their ranks.
They were talking about rearranging furniture, coordinating fabric patterns, their latest thrift store score and ripping out drywall to showcase the guts of their old home. These people were just like me! And they were writing about it and connecting with other people who were hobby-homemakers, too!
Not knowing I already had a blog, I found my way to Blogger and clicked button…
“Start A Blog”
I really had no clue what I was doing. I wish I had a screen shot of that first blog, because I made a header out of a picture and tried to set things up by myself and it was…well, it was what it was. I was excited, though, and ready to dive in and give it all I had.
I called on Laura, who was studying graphic design in school and her brother, who is a web developer, and asked them to help me get things looking presentable. I don’t have a screen shot of my early blog, but I do have some of the first graphics Laura made for me…
I’d say that’s a little more than just presentable! I was so blessed to have friends who were so generous to help me when my business was just starting out. There is no way I could’ve hired a designer at that stage.
You can see how we have carried Laura’s designs into the branding I use today.
(That’s a cat under the dresser, by the way! Someone recently asked me, “What’s with the fox?”)
I started my blog out of a desire to connect with others and to promote my business, although I didn’t know exactly how it would all work. I just had a strong sense that it would be worth the effort.
The blog became so much more than what I expected.
It motivated me to become better at what I do. It gave me a place to share my work. It gave me a way to be discovered by people who might have never walked into the consignment shop where my furniture and antiques were sold.
I actually remember the day when I had 17 followers. And two of them were myself (following with two different e-mail accounts), one was Jeff and one was my mom.
If this was going to be something that would complement my business, I needed to reach beyond friends and family. So, I worked tirelessly to grow my audience. I became a night owl. I plugged into the blogging community by leaving comments, participating in link parties and collaborating with peer bloggers through guest posts.
At times, it felt like a very time-consuming hobby. There were days when it seemed like I should stop or at least ease back. Was it really worth my time?
I worked on my blog for over a year before I started to see how having a blog would pay off. Yes, I did start to earn money from ads and sponsors, but it was paying off even bigger in other ways. It connected me, not only with people who would become my friends, but with companies, brands, publishers, editors…
I would say that almost all, if not all, of the amazing opportunities I’ve had throughout the years can be traced back to the blog… writing for hgtv.com, magazine features, being a vendor at Lucketts, getting book published, a milk paint line, all of it. Someone was looking at my site recently and commented that all of those things aren’t just my achievements, but they came about because of this community of readers. And that’s so true!
And this blog has provided continual motivation for me to grow as an entrepreneur, designer, photographer and writer.
Of all of the business decisions I’ve made, starting my blog was the best one. No doubt.
For those just starting out or who are thinking about starting a blog, here are some nuggets I have to share…
I don’t think blogging is right for everyone. I chat with a lot of business owners in this creative field and some almost apologize for not having a blog or having one that they never post to. The truth is that you can’t do everything and do it all well. That’s why I had to stop being a full-time antiques dealer. It was just too much to keep up with and I had to focus on the most profitable aspects of my business. So, even though it’s great for me, it might not be for you. And that’s okay.
It takes a long time to gain some traction. In some ways, starting a blog these days is easier, because many people have paved the way. Being a blogger isn’t quite as odd as it used to be. You won’t get as many eye rolls or snickers. But, there are so many bloggers now that it’s easy to get lost and there’s a lot more pressure to be magazine/best-selling-author-perfect right off the bat. I do still think that, if you have something to offer that inspires other people, your blog will rise out of the crowd. It just takes a lot of work!
Putting yourself out there is a two-edged sword. I will say that 95% of what comes with a blog is awesome, good stuff. Encouraging comments from sweet readers, genuine friendships with peers, great business relationships and awesome opportunities. BUT…there are the times when something you say or do offends or annoys people and they decide to let you know. And things can sometimes get uglier than that. I think the fear of that can prevent some from sharing anything at all, but that’s the realistic downside that comes with all of the perks and fun stuff.
I think being your unique self and being authentic is so important when you’re writing a blog. If you’re a copycat, you’re only as creative as the people you copy. If you’re disingenuous, it’ll catch up to you and backfire at some point. So, be vulnerable. Be different. Just do what you do and do it the very best you can.
Enjoy your milestones and victories. As women especially, we compare ourselves to others and use that as the measuring stick for how we’re doing. Try to resist that and be excited for all of your milestones. I still remember the anticipation of reaching 100 followers on my blog or hitting 1,000,000 page views. Enjoy the first $3.42 you earn from Adsense. Tell the cashier at the grocery store that your kitchen is on page 52 of the magazine you’re buying eight copies of. Soak it all in.
I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that. If you want to know what I would say to myself when I first hit that “start a blog” button, you can check out my Letter to a new blogger.
If you missed the first four parts of my business story, you can catch up here!
Up next in the series, what I did when the shop I sold from was closing its doors…
And, speaking of my blog, we just changed around the nav bar, so you can find posts a little easier! Take a look around if you have the time.
PS – We’ve added some fun things to the online shop…