One of the great joys and terrors of blogging is that a blog is never finished. This is an exciting and inspiring reality. It is also fraught with second-guessing syndrome.
Should I put this widget here? Should I change my banner/font/colours/posting frequency? …and so on.
Most of us learn what works for our blog through trial and error, which is a never-ending process.
We also learn from watching what other bloggers do—particularly those in our niche. If we see something working for others, chances are we’ll give it a go on our own blogs.
This can be extremely helpful—but it can also be limiting.
Setting the wrong expectations
In my niche—craft and design—there is a heavy emphasis on having blog sponsors—a whole lotta pretty ads in your sidebar for fellow indie businesses.
This has become such a norm that many bloggers in this niche don’t feel like they have a “proper” blog unless they have sponsors. That it gives their blog an air of credibility—that they’ve
The number of ads (and the price of them) has become a litmus test of the popularity of their blogs.
I went through this stage on my own blog—I’ve run sponsor ads in my sidebar on and off for the last two to three years. That was partially because I wanted the money that ads could bring in, but if I’m honest with myself, the main reason was because I was concerned that if I didn’t offer sponsor spots, my blog would be seen as not being good enough. That I wouldn’t be a “proper” design blogger.
Fast-forward to June, when I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the ProBlogger Great Barrier Reef Competition. It was one of the most remarkable experiences in my blogging career.
Along with making me fall in love with my home state all over again and giving me the chance to befriend an amazing group of people, the workshops helped me see my blog from a fresh perspective. It’s not often that you have ten successful bloggers sitting in a room with you critiquing your site. In fact, it’s not often you get anyone to sit down and critique your blog, is it?
Talking to all the other bloggers about their monetization strategies, I realised something profound—most bloggers struggle with monetization because they don’t have a product to sell.
They experiment with selling advertising, sponsored posts, affiliate sales, and other similar revenue streams. Even if they do create a product, it may only be a single ebook or course (at least to start with), and that isn’t enough to bring in the money they need.
I, on the other hand, do have products to sell. My blog is actually not my main business—that honour goes to Epheriell, my handcrafted, contemporary, eco-friendly sterling silver jewellery range. I also publish bespoke—a tri-annual independent print magazine for creative and crafty people.
It hit me like a bolt out of the blue: why on earth was I selling my key blog real estate to other people when I could be using it to promote my own products?
Why was I sending people away from me and my work?
I’d fallen into the trap of what was expected in my niche. Or—perhaps more to the point—I’d fallen into the trap of what I believed was expected in my niche.
Making changes, and getting focused
Since having that realization, I’ve phased out sidebar advertising, and put my own products above the fold, where they belong.
I’ve done away with the cognitive dissonance I was constantly experiencing when it came to balancing promotion of my own products with the promotion of my advertisers’ products. I have also cut out a whole lot of work that I was doing to organize and promote my sponsorship program, which has left me free to focus on other aspects of my business.
I consistently turn down people who contact me looking to advertise on my site, and I no longer feel the twinge of, “Oh my gosh I’m leaving money on the table,” because I know that the focus and integrity of my blog are more important that a few dollars.
My blog is stronger and more focussed, and I have let go of the fear that I’m not “doing it right.” I have the confidence that I’m doing what’s best for me and my business, and that’s what matters.
So, I’m curious—is there a blogging “should” that you’ve imposed upon your blog that isn’t really true to what you’re trying to achieve?
Jess Van Den is full-time creative entrepreneur – a jeweller, blogger, and an independent publisher. When not crafting sterling silver jewellery in her solar-powered studio in the countryside north of Brisbane, she blogs about beautiful things and bountiful business at Epheriell Designs.