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How Letting Go of Expectations Improved My Blog #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Jess Van Den of Epheriell Designs.

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
“arrived.”

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.

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Comments

  1. Mike Panic says:

    Nail was hit on the head. Too many bloggers focus on building content to drive traffic numbers up so they can in turn, sell ad space, and sell it at a higher premium month after month. If the goal is content based websites and blogs, and you’re using SEO and creating quality content, why on earth do these creators want to then send traffic AWAY from the site, to another site where they can maybe spend money?

    You’ve realized it’s far more important to keep the focus on the content and monetize your way, on your terms. I’ve got no problem with ads, I really don’t have a problem with “sponsored” blog posts that review a product that may have been given to you for free or you’re paid to review, so long as they are honest and not link bait.

    I’m hoping, with all the blogs that are still being bought up by the larger sites (AOL, Huffington Post, etc.) that bloggers come to realize content is still king, creating and providing quality content rules the universe and everything else comes after that.

  2. Molham Bakir says:

    Amazing informative article i like the team meeting! simple and effective :D

  3. Greg Blencoe says:

    Jess,

    I love that you’ve chosen to promote your own products on your blog.

    Aside from the product, I think part of what people are buying is the connection to you. Even if the product were exactly the same, I think people who visit your blog would get less out of it if somebody else made it.

    I know I usually have a very strong connection to art created by people I know. It’s like they are sharing something deep inside themselves and I really appreciate that.

  4. Jeff says:

    Nicely done…Its amazing how things will just hit you in the face sometimes, and then you realize that you have been right in front of it all along.

    Congratulations, I hope to have some revelations like that of my own…Your posts make me think differently about blogging…Thank you

  5. Justin Mazza says:

    So true Jess and congratulations on winning the Problogger great barrier reef competition. I know what you mean about ads, and tweaking your blog design. I too, am constantly tweaking and changing my blog around.

    Being in the personal growth niche I totally agree with letting go of expectations and just following our intuition instead. :)

  6. Love this post Jess. And so stoked you won the competition and got to get so much more than a new love of QLD out of the trip.
    For me, blogging has been about running my own race. That race for me has changed since I started four years ago but each time I re-think and re-evaluate where I’m headed, it’s on my terms and what’s working.
    If I’d not been open to change on my terms I would not be a full-time professional blogger.

  7. Jan Bierens says:

    I know what you mean, even if one does not blog for a niche audience… The tweaking never ends and it can be small things, like a permalink feature, or ‘hidden’ plugins on a WordPress blog. I try to keep the ‘overall design’ as simple as possible.

  8. scott jones says:

    Started my blog 9 days ago just because I’ve always wanted one. Trail and error so far. Ha! Great article brother. Exactly what I’m feeling.

  9. Dearest Jess,

    Congrats with your great achievement of winning the ProBlogger Great Barrier Reef Competition!
    Your advice makes sense and let’s hope that once I can achieve this level of success too.
    Have a great Sunday,

    Mariette

  10. Hi Jess,

    Excellent message!

    Get 100% clear on why you blog. Drill down. Touch the emotion.

    With clarity comes guidance. You release expectations and do things because you want to do them…not because you are supposed to do them.

    Many live up to other’s ideals. The select few who gain full clarity in all they do care less about what others expect of them. This crowd knows guidance comes from within, detaches from outcomes and comes from a place of genuine, integrity-laden energy in all they do.

    I had a massive a ha moment last week. Complete overhaul on my squeeze page. I felt good, clear and in harmony with my message…so I detached even more on expectations, numbers, stats…and decided to do more of what I wanted to do and less of what I am supposed to do.

    The shift is not so subtle. Amazingly powerful!

    When you experiencing it, the quality of your blog and life will improve tremendously.

    Thanks!

    RB

  11. Tonya Moore says:

    Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how to blog efficiently–make mine into something that will keep readers engaged. I’ve come across a lot of stuff about attention-grabbing (however disingenuous) headlines and a formulaic approach to post content. It’s not that I’ve adopted these approaches–although I do see the value in being aware of those points–but I’ve often worried that my self-determined approach was dooming my blog to failure.

    I have to say, your insight sort of bolsters my confidence a bit. I’m not exactly a “pro-blogger” but maybe I can stand to be a bit more focused and consistent. At least I won’t worry so much about being foolish to just keep doing my own thing…

  12. well done Jess! too many of us try to make a full time income from others products. we work hard to get traffic then redirect it off site to others…. madness!

  13. James Hannan says:

    Jess you are quite right. This is the most important things that a blog never comes to end. And to be honest I am not a fan of changing things all time. Its good to tweak for getting perfect combination. But then I like to settle things around. BTW Congrats!! for winning….

  14. You know what I also love about your suggestion, Jess? That you are no longer following the herd instinct. In this and likely in other matters from now on, your site will take on more and more of its unique character.

    Thank you for sharing your insight here!

    Evan

  15. Steve says:

    I am also appreciate your support to Making changes. Its happen Making changes always helps to letting on Blog ! I increase my knowledge with your this great & amazing valuable discussion !

  16. Shelby Roth says:

    This is so informative post Jess! Trying to learn from people especially based on your niche at least makes a difference in terms of understanding your blogging. I actually support this since the expectations of a blogger will always be improvement and success. So educative write up. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Nice post! I love the info.

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