Interview with Full Time Blogger – Holly Becker from decor8

holly-becker.jpgLate last week I spent a fascinating hour with Holly Becker from decor8 – an amazing interior design blog that is read by over 35,000 readers a day.

Today I’d like to share that interview with you as an example of a blogger who has made a living from blogging by building a niche focused blog.

decor8 has opened up many doors of opportunity for Holly. She makes a full time living from the blog (and also employs a regular columnist as well as her husband to run the back end) and it has led to other exciting possibilities including a book deal.

In this podcast interview Holly:

  • shares the story behind starting decor8
  • gives insight into how she keeps coming up with fresh content ideas
  • shares what type of posts work best at drawing in readers to comment
  • talks about her decision to bring on a regular columnist
  • reflects on dealing with negative comments
  • answers the question of ‘what is a conversion’ for you when a reader hits your blog
  • share how she’s built her readership
  • reveals how she makes a full time living from her blog
  • talks about her other ventures, including her ‘blogging your way’ e-course and up coming book

I love hearing stories like the one Holly shares because it’s yet another example of a blogger who makes a good living her blog (and it’s not a blog about making money on the internet!). I also loved chatting with Holly because she’s all about enhancing the lives of those who read her blog by producing a high quality and inspiring blog.


The interview is just on 51 minutes long so grab a cup of coffee and sit back to enjoy Holly’s insights on blogging!

here’s the podcast:

While you’re listening check out her blog and enjoy!

PS: you can grab the mp3 of this interview for later here – Interview with Holly

How to Stand Out in a Niche full of Jerks

Let me start this post by saying that I personally don’t see any of the niches that I blog in as being a ‘niche full of jerks’.

OK – now that I’ve got that out of the way – I was recently asked in an interview a question by a blogger who did ask me for advice on working in a niche that was full of jerks (although their language was slightly more colourful than that).

The niche that they were referring to was the ‘make money online’ niche which they perceived as being inhabited and dominated by people who took advantage of others, didn’t mind engaging in unethical tactics, engaged in all kinds of obnoxious marketing tactics.

I’m going to leave the debate as to whether that niche is ‘full of jerks’ to others – but wanted to share part of how I responded because while not every niche is ‘full of jerks’ – we can all probably benefit by presenting ourselves in a way where we are not seen in that light.

You see – whether we like it or not – some people see the internet as being filled with people and sites that can’t be trusted. That may be changing as people use and trust the web more but the if your media is anything like what we see from some parts of the media here in Australia – there’s still plenty of mistrust and examples of shoddy internet use being highlighted every day in mainstream media.

So how does a blogger develop trust, build authority and be seen as authentic?

Following are a few thoughts on the topic, none of them by themselves will flip a switch and make everyone trust you – but I think combined they help:

1. Persist

One of the first things I’ll say about ‘jerks’ is that most of them don’t last the distance. They tend to get found out, exposed or seen for what they are eventually (and perhaps increasingly as the web develops and becomes more social).

Work hard at consistently producing something worthwhile and and in many cases you’ll outlast the jerks or at least will find that people begin to realize that you approach things differently to others and perhaps are someone worth taking a 2nd look at.

PS: one thing I’ll add here is that it’s not just about longevity but also consistency. People get suspicious when your message changes too much. Your ideas will naturally change and evolve over time but if you’re chopping and changing your approach and perspective too much people can find that a little odd.

One example of this that I saw recently was a blogger whose readership pushed back hard at them after he’d been doing too many affiliate promotions of products that didn’t match up with the values that he was ‘preaching’ in posts. He was recommending products that were not consistent with the advice he gave in his teaching.

2. Be Personal

There are times in almost every bloggers career where they will be accused by someone else as being something that they are not. People will form perceptions of you as you blog and some of those perceptions will be far from reality. This has happened to be numerous times over the last 8 years of blogging but in most cases things have turned around (to some extent) with some personal contact.

In some cases its simply about leaving a comment on a blog post to show you’re willing to interact, in other cases its about engaging in a conversation via email, sometimes it is about jumping on the phone or Skype for a voice chat and once for me it even involved a face to face interaction.

There’s something very powerful about personal contact. I’m not just talking about fixing false perceptions – I also mean being personal in the way you go about your normal blogging. Sharing a little personal information or giving a little insight into who you are outside of your blog can have a profound impact on how people perceive you.

PS: one of the things I’ve noticed is that when you put yourself out there in different mediums (whether it be video, audio or in person) you will connect with different people. The occasional video post or podcast will make your ‘more real’ to some people.

3. Be Relatable

Building on this idea of ‘being personal’ is that of being relatable.

We like people who are like us – people who we share something in common with. This might be something personal (like being a parent, or reading similar books) or it could be something a little more on topic to our blogs (like having a similar question, experience or challenge).

Show people that you’re normal – that you have similar problems, passions, challenges, breakthroughs and experiences – and you’ll find people are a lot more willing to trust what you say.

4. Be Accessible

One of the most ‘perception changing’ things that I’ve ever done is to visit industry events/conferences. This is no easy thing for me as I’m ‘locationally challenged’ and live 24 hours travel from most events in my niche – but it’s certainly been worthwhile.

Meeting people in person is perhaps the best way to show someone what you’re like – it’s the ultimate in ‘accessibility’ (unless you surround yourself in people you know and book yourself solid with meetings).

Of course traveling to events does not suit everyone’s budget or life situation – however there are other ways to increase your accessibility. One that I’d like to do more of is livestreaming video events. I try to do these every month or two on Ustream and every time that I do I get feedback that indicates that people both enjoy it and find it to be something that changes perceptions of me.

Adding contact forms, doing interviews, answering reader questions, interacting on other blogs – all of these things can help a lot.

5. Be Useful

Sometimes the only thing that really matters to people is whether you’re useful or not. If you solve a problem for someone or make their lives better in some way… you’ll create a lasting impression. They still might not ‘like’ you but it can’t help but improve your reputation on some level in their mind.

Be useful over the long haul (persist) and you will grow that reputation and hopefully in time garner some respect also.

6. Be Transparent

Even trustworthy, authentic and honest people stuff up every now and again. Mistakes are made – tempers are lost – bad days are had – temptation to ‘do evil’ can get the better of most people.

No one is a complete angle and on those occasions where things get the better of you the best way forward is to be transparent about one’s failures and own up to our short comings. In fact in my experience – it’s sometimes when you own your mistakes and failings that you become all the more authentic and trustworthy to many.

7. Be Trustworthy

Ultimately it comes down to actually being the type of person that you want to be treated as (sounds like something most Mums probably drum into their kids). If you want to be seen as trustworthy – be trustworthy. If you want to be seen as authentic – be authentic. If you want to be treated with respect – treat others with respect and act in a way that will be respected.

Being true to yourself and a trustworthy person doesn’t guarantee that others will perceive you in that way – whether it be a personality clash or someone else having had previous bad experiences, some people just don’t trust easily – but ultimately the best way to be seen as ‘not a jerk’ is to avoid being one.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog Bootcamp – Are You Interested?

Would you be interested in joining with a group of other bloggers for a month long intensive program of blog improvement? If so – please read on:

ProBlogger’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook has been downloaded many thousands of times since it was launched last year. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – however the one negative that I’ve heard quite a few times has generally been:

“It’s great…. but I’m only up to day 13….”

[Read more…]

29% of ProBlogger Readers Outsource Part of Their Blogging

Earlier in the year I asked readers whether they outsourced any part of their blogging in a poll. By outsourcing I was talking about ‘paying‘ someone else to do something on your blog.

Here are the results after 2195 responses.


I was actually a little surprised that the number was so small because in the introduction to the poll I included things like ‘blog design’ in what could be included in outsourcing.

Here are the types of things that those who said ‘yes’ said that they outsourced:

  • tech/managing the backend (updates, plugins etc)
  • product creation/design
  • writing of posts – staff writers
  • writing of posts – ghost writing
  • blog/logo design
  • marketing
  • comment moderation
  • SEO
  • administrative tasks
  • editing/proofing posts
  • selling advertising

Instant Blogging Karma: Lennon Was Right

a guest post from Larry Brooks as

Instant karma’s gonna get you…

To be honest, I never really liked that song. The melody and cadence always gave me a headache, which is probably why I never really paid much attention to the lyrics.

Until recently. Perhaps it was no coincidence that it suddenly blasted through my stereo as I was working on a blog post the other day.

And it made me realize how much information is available if we’ll only pay attention.

… gonna knock you right on the head…

If instant karma’s gonna get me – and if you don’t recognize that paraphrased lyric, or the song title, or if your first thought is that Lennon was the name of a Soviet tyrant, then you’re too young to worry about karma anyhow – then I may be in trouble.

In my efforts to become an online entrepreneur, perhaps I’d violated a key principle of the physics of human relationships. What some people call karma.

… better get yourself together, some day you’re gonna be dead…

But I do understand the principle, now more than ever. As a blogger, I’ve experienced the rebound effect of getting as good as you give.

In fact, in my brief experience online, I’d say it’s the most powerful principle available to anyone looking to upgrade and grow their blog.

… why on earth are you there, when you’re everywhere…

From the outset I blindly followed the best advice I’ve ever heard: give away all the content and value that you can. Give it away freely, with a clear head and a kind heart, expecting nothing at all in return.

This is a business model that would make your economics professor roll over in his retirement home bed.

And it first, that’s what it got me – nothing at all.

But soon or later it kicks in. It works. In fact, it fuels everything. From daily site visits to subscribers and – here’s the punchline – to product sales.

… how in the world you gonna see, laughin’ at fools like me…

When I published my first ebook last summer, I applied this principle to setting a price for it. My web guru suggested I charge $29.95. It was a 100 page ebook, about half the size of a bound book you can hold in your hands, and this price was more than three times what you’d pay for it as a paperback.

Instant karma was gnashing its teeth at me even thinking about it.

… who in the world you think you are, a superstar?

So I priced the ebook at $9.95.

The orders flowed in, and more than one buyer commented on the great price. After hundreds of copies sold, not a single buyer took me up on my money-back guarantee. (Until, to be honest, six months later… that, too, is part of the physics of human relationships.)

In fact, one reader sent me $50 with a note that explained the overage was a thank you for all the great content I’d been supplying since the launch of the site.

… instant karma’s gonna get you, knock you right off your feet…

Recently I offered a two-for-one offer on two of my other ebooks, which are much longer and sell for the whopping sum of $14.95. Nearly 200 orders poured in over the next three days.

So here’s what I’d tell anyone who asks me how and why my ebooks are selling and my blog is growing as it is: respond to anyone and everyone who takes the time to comment on your site. Make gracious and value-adding comments on the sites of others who blog in your chosen space. Send a thank you note to everyone who buys your ebook or product. Not a template, send a personal message.

Be more than a part of the community, be a voice within it.

And trust the process. Allow the power of time and karma to work its magic.

… come and get your share…

Blog with faith. Blog with passion. Blog with hope and vision.

But most of all, blog with the intention of giving it all away. It’ll come back to you in spades.

… we all shine on…

Larry Brooks is the guy behind, an instructional resource for writers of fiction and those who love them. He has three ebooks available through his site, his new novel is just out, and Writers Digest is publishing his book on “Story Engineering” early next year. And, with all due respect to the song writer, he prefers the U-2 version of Instant Karma over Lennon’s.

4 Foundations of a Successful Blog

SXSW-book-reading.pngAt a recent book reading at SXSW I spoke briefly about a new chapter in the new ProBlogger book (due out next month) that is a case study of my main blog (4-5 bigger than ProBlogger) – Digital Photography School.

dPS is now just a few days away from being 4 years old and so with the new edition of the book Chris and I thought it might be a good idea to include a new chapter that examined how I’ve developed the blog so far.

The case study looks at 4 main aspects:

  1. how I launched the blog – the four foundations that I build in years 1-2
  2. how I built upon the foundations – what I focused upon in years 3-4
  3. how I monetize the blog
  4. the way I use email to drive traffic to and monetize the blog

In this post I want to talk briefly about the four foundations that I focused upon in years 1-2 of building my photography site.

I won’t go into great detail about each one here (if you want more the book is your best bet) but as my reading was interrupted by a fire alarm at SXSW I wanted to cover some of it here for those who missed the 2nd half.

Foundation 1 – Content

  • My #1 task in years 1-2 of dPS was building content.
  • The focus was content for beginners (this was expanded later).
  • My aim was for every post to solve a problem that a new camera owner had.
  • The content was all ‘how to’ related – practical stuff that helped readers do or achieve something
  • Quality of content was paramount – but so too was the idea of increasing the ‘quantity’ of content – I started with 3-4 posts a week but aimed to get it daily after 1 year.

Foundation 2 – Promotion

  • ‘Build it and they Will Come’ is an idea with some truth to it – but in the early days of your blog you also need to actively promote your blog – readers won’t just find it.
  • Define your potential reader – who are they? What are their needs?
  • Identify where that type of reader is already gathering online (and offline).
  • Participate in those sites where your potential reader is gathering – guest posts, building a forum presence, leaving useful comments, networking etc.

Foundation 3 – Community

  • People don’t just come online for information – they increasingly are coming online to find ‘belonging’
  • Readers want to participate, interact, join and relate – give them opportunity to do so
  • On dPS starting a forum was one way I did this however community was something I went out of my way to build on the blog itself.
  • Use polls, start discussions, run debates, ask questions, highlight readers work, invite people to promote themselves on your blog, link to your readers
  • When you build community you build an army of evangelists for your blog, create social proof and open many doors for growth and strengthening of your site

Foundation 4 – Capture Contacts

  • Most people who visit your site will never return naturally – even if they like your site
  • On dPS I prominently invite people to subscribe in numerous places
  • RSS is not always King – on dPS email subscription makes up over 75% of all subscribers
  • Email newsletters drive as much traffic as Google does on dPS
  • Email newsletters drive significant earnings (advertising, affiliate promotions and product sales)
  • Email newsletters build community and make the site more sticky and personal

NOTE: Monetization was not one of the Main Tasks/Foundations in Years 1-2

I did monetize the site from day 1 and dPS was profitable from the first month or two – but it was not my main focus. Rather I focused upon the above 4 foundations and let the monetization grow naturally as traffic and reader engagement grew.

In years 1-2 monetization was largely through 2 ad networks – AdSense and Chitika (aff). I did some low level affiliate marketing (Amazon mainly) but over 90% of the income in years 1-2 was from ad networks. Years 3-4 were when I increased my focus upon monetization.

Image by beley.

Dear Blogger: Do You Hate Your Customer?

Dearest Darlingest Blogger,

Who is your audience? Your ideal potential customer? Who do you need to work with?

And do you love her?

I’ve noticed a little virus going around the blog-o-sphere. I’m calling it contempt. Nobody wants contempt, and very few people will buy it.

Let’s use an example: Fitness Bloggers.

(I’ll say it now and I’ll say it later: even if you’re not a fitness blogger, you can apply these lessons to your blog and your marketing.)

Blogger Desperately Seeking A Nice Fitness Trainer, Online

I’m shopping for a trainer or a fitness/lifestyle coach and I can’t find one that I’d like to spend time with – never mind give my money to.

Here’s why: I’ve got high self esteem. I think I’m awesome even if my ass wiggles (in fact, I like the wiggle). Yet fitness coaches and people hawking health online (and everywhere) are invested in shaming me.

I’m not having it – and I’m certainly not paying for it.

Fat is not inherently shameful or shorthand for lazy/fat/stinky/unmotivated/unattractive, and if we had eradicated all other social prejudices and bases for discrimination (and we have not, dammit), then I would say that fat is one of the last “permissable” prejudices in our society. And that’s crap, frankly.

All that being said: I still want a trainer.

I’m a potential client. Someone needs to market to me because I’ve got a goal and I’m willing to spend money to achieve it.

Fitness Bloggers Desperately Seeking Clients, Online

Let’s talk about my profile as a client and how best to market to me.

Hint: shame is not hot or profitable.

I want to get stronger and more flexible, get rid of some bad habits, and ingrain a habit of eating foods that give me energy. If I drop some weight in the process – and I will, it is inevitable – then awesome, but I don’t think that will make me a better person. I think we can all agree that the quality of my character has nothing to do with the number on the scale or my jeans.

Here’s another little thing about me-as-future-fitness-client: I am acutely sensitive to the awful messages society sends women, and I see the link between those shaming messages and eating disorders and of course fat prejudice.

In short, I’m a middle-class thirty-seven year old North American woman who is not as healthy or as “hot” (sigh) as I’d like to be and I’m willing to throw my time, money and effort at the problem.

If you’re a trainer, or a fitness coach, I AM YOUR MARKET and positively ITCHING to give you my money.

How NOT to Market Online (Contempt is Probably Not Your Best Strategy)

And how do I find you? The internet. I google you and then I read your blog. So good on you for having a blog so I can find you and get to know you.

Too bad you didn’t take any time to get to know me, your target market.

Because if you did, and I’m the kind of person you’d want to train, then you’d know that I have a profound political and personal aversion to shame and so shaming me is not terribly inviting, effective or profitable.

But it is rampant. On a regular basis, fitness coaches and trainers – especially ones with women as their target market – blog things like this:

  • talking about how disgusting fat is
  • talking about going to a kids birthday party and counting every item of food the chubby kid ate
  • talking about obesity as a disease or an epidemic
  • talking about their fear of food
  • talking about kicking my ass
  • talking about other people – fat people – being lazy or unfit or lacking in character
  • talking about how they’re going to beat the weakness out of me or run me until I puke

These things do not me move. They especially do not move me to hand you my credit card.

Why not?

Because you don’t even like me and I only do business with people I like and who like me back.

And because I don’t sign up for shame and abuse. There is a very limited niche for that sort of thing and it involves dungeons and whips and no one calls it “fitness”.

How To Market Online: Love Your Customer, Baby

If I could find a fitness coach or a trainer who was about health rather than fat-shaming – and who explicitly made the connection that fat-shaming is political and impermissible – I would be in. All in. Money-and-testimonials-and-glowing-blog-shout-outs-and-downward-dogs in.

So dearest, online fitness bloggers, trainers, and coaches, here’s an exercise that may prove enlightening:

Question: Who needs a trainer and is willing to pay for one?

Answer: Someone who values herself enough to pay for coaching to accomplish health-related goals.

Will shame resonate with that person? Is shaming your client a good a strategy?

Customer Relations: The Takeaway, For ALL Bloggers

Even if you’re not a fitness blogger, you can apply this lesson to your blog and your marketing.

Do you rant about how misguided people are? About how people just don’t get it, or your product? About how your product or service is a ticket to heaven and the rest of us are damned?

Please stop that right now. Love your customers or stop selling to them.

And that is all.

Love (really and truly – if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have said anything at all),

Kelly Diels

ps. Did I make you feel bad? Did it make you want to pay me?

pps. Since drafting this piece, I found two fitness coaches I like:

Adam Glass – of Walk The Road Less Traveled –  who’s all about machismo feats of strength, listening to and learning from your body, and being the expert in your own progress. Adam works his ass off but isn’t that worried about appearance or shame. He’s invested in accomplishment. LOVE HIM.

Marianne Elliott – of Zen and The Art of Peacekeeping – is a peaceful yogini extraordinaire who asked me what my body needed for my 30 days of Yoga. Among other things, I said “lots of smooching, but I don’t think that you can help with that.” She then designed a routine for specifically for me called the “yogic body smooch”. LOVE HER.

Where is Your Favorite Place to Blog? [POLL]

It’s been just over two years since I last ran this poll – so lets see if things have changed with the growth of WiFi and the popularity of mobile devices:

Where is Your Favorite Place to Blog?
View Results

Looking forward to seeing how you respond!

PS: sorry about the ordering of options, ‘other’ should really have been the last one. Not sure why it ended up the top!

How to Blog When You’re Not a Writer

In this post Mark Hayward shares some tips on blogging for small business when you’re not a writer.


image by tomswift46

Have you ever accidentally slammed your hand in a car door? OUCH!

I think that very unpleasant feeling can be compared to how some small business owners feel about blogging. Until very recently, I would never have published anything on the Internet because I have never considered myself a writer.

Well, that all changed when I purchased my small business and suddenly I was forced to start producing content so that I could try to rank in Google, educate customers, and develop my backstory.

However, even though I started producing content, I still suffered from the inferiority complex that can only be associated with IMNOTAWRITER syndrome.

This syndrome, I’ve found, can be deadly to your small business blogging and it can cause countless hours of wasted time and frustration.

Plus, telling yourself, IMNOTAWRITER, is a very easy and convenient excuse not to blog, isn’t it?

As a small business owner, do you struggle with writing?

Growing up I was not one of those people who kept a journal or felt compelled to write as a form of self-expression. In fact, if you looked in the dictionary for the definition of ìnon-writer,î I would have been the poster child.

If you suffer from IMNOTAWRITER syndrome, but you’re contemplating blogging for your small business, please know that you are not alone and the fear (pain?) of writing can be overcome.

Typically, when it comes to blogging and small business, the three biggest complaints that I hear are:

  • I don’t have the time.
  • I am not a writer (or I hate writing!).
  • I don’t know what to write about.

That’s it. Three little obstacles keeping small business owners from reaping improved search engine visibility (SEV), attracting new customers, and engaging existing clients.

Today, however, I am going to share a little secret with just you. Shhh… come closer… Closer… CLOSER.

You don’t have to be a writer in order to be a small business blogger.

Yes, you read correctly. You don’t have to be a writer in order to be a blogger.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no writing fairy who will magically publish blog posts for you, so you won’t be able to avoid some of the hard work that producing content requires. But, to make the process more manageable, I am going to provide you with a couple of options and a bunch of tips that have helped me.

Option One: Blogging for Non-Writers

The suggestions below assisted me in getting over my uncertainty and fear of blogging and are recommended for those business owners who are hesitant to write, but are willing to give it a try.

1.) Start with your goals. What are you hoping to achieve through your blogging?

Do you want to be on Google front page?

Do you want to develop your brand?

Do you want to educate the public about your industry?

Do you want to increase your customer base?

Once you have your goals you can then create your content strategy around them.

2.) Get started. Make a commitment and set a specific date with your computer (or pen & paper) and get your ideas down. Do not skip this date for any reason, except an absolute emergency.

3.) Write your titles first. The titles will give you a simple, creative base from which you can structure the rest of your article.

4.) List out bullet points. Once you have your primary ideas down in a bulleted list you can then create formal paragraphs around your key message.

5.) Write in a human voice. You don’t have to be anyone else but you. There are a lot of impressive writers online (see: Darren Rowse, Seth Godin, Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, Jonathan Fields, & Colleen Wainwright) which can be intimidating and make you want to mimic them. Writing in your own voice adds a human element and will go a long way towards developing trust.

6.) Keep it simple. You don’t need fancy language or intricate grammar. One piece of handy advice I received is write as if you are drafting an email. Also, I find that focusing on one specific item in my small business blog posts keeps it as simple as you can get.

7.) Read your posts aloud. Before you publish your post, read it aloud. Does it make sense? Then go ahead and get it out on the Internet!

When writing for your small business blog, your post does not have to be perfect in order for it to be effective, but it most certainly does have to get published.

Option Two: Blogging for Those Who Refuse to Write.

Option two is for those of you who refuse to write one word.  Amazingly, you can still rank for keywords and appear on the front page of Google even if you never write a blog post. Although, you still have to be willing to do some work (sorry there’s no way around the work part).

1.) Try speech recognition software. Do you like to talk about your business, your customers, or your amazing product? Speech recognition software allows you to speak into your computer and without ever typing a letter. The program will capture your words and create a text file that can be published on your blog. (Special bonus, there’s even a speech recognition iPhone option.)

2.) Use photos. Have you ever done a Google search and noticed photos on the front page? If you refuse to write, but love to take pictures, then photos are a great way to provide content for your small business blog. You can upload them to a site like FLICKR and then seamlessly add them to your blog.

3.) Take Video. If photos are good; video is great! With video you can provide some really useful blog content in the form of tutorials or even customer interviews. Remember, people have limited attention spans so keep the videos short, about 1-2 minutes in length should be sufficient.

Always remember, if you skip a week, two weeks, or even a month don’t give in to the temptation to quit altogether. Just get back at it, don’t apologize and get back to posting your content.

I think that what scares people the most about blogging in general isn’t the writing, photos, or videos at all, but the publishing. Once you hit the ‘Publish Post’ button you have effectively given up control and you will be judged.

In closing, I think it’s important to state that whatever avenue you choose to promote your business, the key is to make a commitment and do it consistently.

Do you have other suggestions that might help those of us who suffer from IMNOTAWRITER syndrome? Please leave them in the comment below.

(Mark Hayward is not the writing fairy, but he owns a business and can help improve the online presence of your business. Get his RSS Feed and follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.)