This guest post is by Kat Griffin of Corporette.
How do full-time bloggers take maternity leave? How do you schedule posts and get help, when you’re not sure when you’re going to go into labor, and when you have no idea what to expect when the baby first comes?
This is my account of how I not only maintained my traffic but grew it, all while taking ten weeks of maternity leave.
By Summer 2011, I had two very happy things going on in my life: I was pregnant with my first child, and my fashion and career advice blog (Corporette) was doing so well that I had quit my job as a lawyer to focus on it.
But this created an unfortunate problem—how could I have the baby, be a good mother, and keep my blog at the level my readers expected? My number goals: maintain 15 posts a week, and keep as much of my hard-won traffic as possible (which at that point was about 57K uniques and almost 500K pageviews a month).
It would be nice, I thought, if my blogging income stayed where it was, but I prepared myself for a dip. I had read that a newborn’s crying peaked around weeks six to eight, so I picked ten weeks as the optimal time for myself to take off.
Why I didn’t hire anyone
For some people, the answer would have been obvious—hire an assistant or an intern to take over content. But my site has always been a bit difficult in that regard—in fact, I think I owe a lot of my success to the fact that I actually had a conservative job for many years, so my workwear and career advice comes from a very realistic place. (I started my blog while working as a litigator for a Wall Street firm.) So your typical 22-year-old hire just would not do.
My answer? Some scheduled posts from me, but a lot of highly curated guest posts. To be clear: I also did not hire a baby nurse or nanny, although looking back I suppose that was an option also. I was very concerned that the mixture of sleepless nights and postpartum hormones would make me unfit to give career and fashion advice, even if someone else was looking after the baby.
Dividing my content
I looked at my regular content and asked:
- Where do I make the most money? For me, those are always accessory posts (shoes and bags), so I kept those posts to myself. I also decided to write and schedule one meatier post each week, to keep my voice present on the site.
- For the posts that could be scheduled, what kind of content was missing from my blog that the guest posters could bring?
- Which posts had to be timely, and couldn’t be scheduled far in advance? I dropped some of them (such as my news roundup); for others, I took great care in inviting guest posters. For example, my first post, every workday, recommends an item of clothing that is available for online purchase. They’re not long or hard posts, but I know from experience that clothes sell out, particularly if they’re on sale, so they do have to be timely. I gambled that a) I could ask guest posters to take a full week’s worth of posts, b) I could trust them to send them to me in one fell swoop, a week ahead of time, so I could get everything coded appropriately (including adding my own affiliate links) and c) that their choices would not sell out by the time the post went live.
Reaching out to guest posters
I estimated I needed ten people to pick outfits for each week, and I needed about 25 people to write meatier posts. I drew up a “dream list” of guest bloggers, and individually emailed each person to say that I admired them and would love for them to guest post, suggesting a few topics for each blogger.
I wrote the email the way I advise my readers to write business emails: extremely clearly, using short, to-the-point paragraphs (including one titled, “What’s in it for you: exposure to my 57,000 unique readers”). The subject: “Invitation to guest blog on Corporette, deadline 7/25.” This was around early June, and my due date was August 10. Happily, almost everyone I reached out to accepted.
Honestly, it almost took as long to edit everyone’s pieces as it would have taken to write the posts myself. But I liked the diverse voices and topics that were coming to the blog.
At the beginning of every post, I wrote a short paragraph describing the topic and introducing the guest poster to my readers. In addition to being great for SEO, it helped lend a bit of my voice to every post, as well as to immediately make clear to my readers how each post was relevant to them.
Scheduling, three months in advance
I used a monthly calendar to keep a bird’s eye view of the process—for example, I didn’t want to schedule a “should you cover your gray hair” post right next to a “when is naturally curly hair appropriate for the office.”
But once I had things scheduled (using WordPress’s default scheduling feature), I sent a screenshot of the post, as well as the full HTML, to each writer for approval, and told them what day and time the post was scheduled to go live. I also thanked them, hopefully a lot. This was all done in early August—some people weren’t scheduled to go live until October!
I used Google Calendar to keep track of which post was scheduled for when. Each Saturday, I would find time to email the guest posters slated to go live that week, reminding them what day and time the posts were scheduled to go live, and letting them know that I had scheduled a Tweet to promote the post as well. (I used Tweetdeck. Facebook, at that time, did not have post-scheduling capabilities.)
In theory, this all sounds great, but how’d it go?
I scheduled guest posts to start going live on August 15. Again, my due date was August 10—I had read that first babies are often late; I also figured that if I went into labor before that, my readers would be kind enough to deal with a few days of minimal content.
My son, as it turned out, had other plans, as August 10, then August 15, both came and went without a baby in sight. The thing they don’t tell you about the last week or two of pregnancy is that between the false alarms and the doctor’s visits, you’re pretty much at the hospital or doctor’s office every day, sometimes waiting for hours. My pregnancy discomfort and exhaustion was also at an all-time high.
I wound up being incredibly thankful that the guest posts started “early” on August 15, because there’s no way I could have kept up my regular blogging schedule by myself. Oh, and those meatier posts that I kept for myself to write? True to personality, I was often editing those right before I published them—I even wound up blogging from the post-partum ward in the hospital, hilariously, about work/life balance.
Somewhere between all of the guest posters, the Tweets, and the tightly-written first paragraphs, traffic increased. (It may have helped that I guest posted for Lucky Magazine in June 2011.)
I jumped from 57K uniques in June 2011 to 75K uniques by September 2011. Corporette currently has around 111K uniques, so I’ve maintained the increase.
I like to think my readers got to know a new group of bloggers, and I got to enjoy time with my newborn son without worrying (too much) about my other baby, my blog.
Have you taken a maternity or paternity leave while blogging? How did your plan differ from mine? Share it with us in the comments.
Kat Griffin founded Corporette, a fashion and lifestyle blog for women lawyers, bankers, MBAs, consultants, and otherwise overachieving chicks, in May 2008, while working as a litigator on Wall Street.