Sure, I’m just a blogger. It’s easy: I get up, head to my laptop in my jammies…no, wait, I just reach for it on the bedside table right next to me, turn it on, crank out fantastic content, and then the rest of the day, I throw out some clever tweets and Facebook comments to see what sticks. TV’s blaring the whole time…on Lifetime, of course, for drama…and I even bring my lunch back to my pillow-y haven. The only time I leave my space is when the kids need me or when I clean my immaculate house…it’s just easy as pie, anyone can do it and have a perfect life all over the place. No pressure at all!
<SARCASM VERY MUCH INTENDED>
I get asked a lot about what a blogger does all day. I’ve only had to give the above answer once..no, twice…I’ve run into a lot of people who don’t know what a blog is, but I’ve also run into a lot of people who also think that it’s all peaches and candy (lactose-intolerant, no cream here) and so easy, it can be whipped out in minutes.
And maybe some can, but I’m going to bet that the majority of bloggers who respond would say that’s not the case for them and their blog(s).
To bust a myth, blogging isn’t always for money. A lot of bloggers write simply because they enjoy it. My feeling is that you have to enjoy writing to be able to blog successfully, or it will show in your writing. We all run into a dry spell, where finding a topic that’s not whiny or narcissistic or already-done is hard. We also run into spells where we’re too busy baking cupcakes or working a day job or handling a family issue that we don’t have time to blog. Luckily, when you’re your own boss, you can do that, which leads me to my next point that a blog is basically a business for many people. If I have to pay taxes for something, it had better be business, so viewing it that way keeps things in perspective. I just have to be sure I run it, and it doesn’t run me. (I saw another blog piece written about that recently and I cannot remember who it was. If it was you, and you happen to read my blog, can you share the link in the comments below? It was a great article I’d love for others to read!)
I am not ‘just a blogger,’ even if there is such a thing. I’m a mom, a social media manager by day and a cupcake baker by night/weekend; I aspire to have a custom cupcake truck at some point, and maybe even a full-out shop. In the meantime, I’m happy with part-time catering events and experimenting to see how many weird frosting flavors I can come up with, how to dye my frosting appropriate colors without nasty dyes (harder than you’d think) and making amazing flavor combinations with the most perfect of crumbs. Cupcake recipes are all-consuming, there is always something new to try.
I also take classes in PR, marketing and social media. I go to foodie events. I like to spend time with my family, immediate and extended, and our friends, and we’ve been blessed with wonderful people in all regards. I enjoy reading — fiction, non-fiction and anything related to social media, food and baking. My cookbook collection is huge. I advocate for my son and volunteer where I can. We love to go out on the town, travel, especially to Nascar events, and we tailgate like nobody’s business. I could cook and bake 24/7, as long as I have a computer handy. I also love to fit in a good workout: I run, do Zumba, yoga and Pilates regularly. (With this much food around, I have no choice. Good thing I like it and value what an important part of a healthy lifestyle exercise is!) Life is good…and blogging is just a part of it.
Even if I was ‘just a blogger,’ in the derogatory sense that people mean it — I’m still not ‘just a blogger.’ Blogging is business. Big business. Companies, from small to big, are getting more involved with us on a daily basis because we are the people using their products. We not only share what a certain insole feels like (awesome!) but we also talk about how we had to clean up a dog mess on the carpet, buy food and get dinner on the table with a sick kid and a project due at work, after we picked up a car from the shop and called the school’s absence hotline. (Not while driving, of course. #ItCanWait)
And we’re serious. Blogging is not just business, it’s serious business. A reader clicks a link and is taken to a pretty page full of information at her fingertips, but what it takes to get it there is frequently underestimated..
Just to get a blog off the ground, you have to come up with a name. Not as easy as you’d think! You have to decide: free version with the long url? Paid version with a little more work and a monthly and/or yearly cost? Once you’ve made sure the domain you choose is available in the format you choose, then you have to set it up. Free design? Paid design? Theme out of the box or do you want to tweak it?
If you want to tweak it, you can either pay someone or do it yourself. If you do it yourself and are not a web designer by trade, you’re in for a treat, because code isn’t something that you read in an hour and absorb and spit back out onto your keyboard. It’s not hard to learn, and you do a LOT in an hour, but there’s a reason why web designers are paid a lot. It may take you weeks to get your tweaking to where you want it to be, and even then, the minute you want something new, you have to start all over again, so a necessary skill is patience. You can learn all you need to but it’s going to take some time if you don’t take a pre-designed theme out-of-the-box and use it as-is.
Ads? No ads? Decisions, decisions.
Plug-ins? More decisions.
Once you’ve played with it for a while, you may find that it’s time to make it fancier. Most blog platforms or CMS (content management systems) have so many options, your head will spin. My advice? Get up a decent, workable theme, then focus on content. Later on? Snaz it up when you have time. The prettiest blog is of no use if your content (and SEO) isn’t bringing people in.
SEO? Huh? Search-engine optimization. It’s what you do to help search engines like Google find you. Sure, you don’t have to do it if you are writing as therapy and give the url to those you want to see it, but if you are looking for real numbers, you’ll need to do your SEO homework.
Once you’ve got all the mechanics down, you’ll need to stay up-to-date on new ones. Social media tools change and upgrade all the time, along with your themes and plug-ins, even the basic platforms like WordPress have upgrades.
But what about socialization?? Oh, wait, that’s what I hear about homeschooling all the time…but it applies here, too. A lot of blogging is being social. You have to get out there and comment on others’ blogs. As I’ve preached a million times on my blog, social media IS reciprocation. If you aren’t out there making friends and being a friend, it will hurt your bottom line. We bloggers are a part of a community — or many — and that takes time. And skill. Social media manners, it’s a big topic out there, and something you learn, like a protocol or the chain of command at a work. Learn about it, as networking has some rules and if you break them beyond your basic newbie period, it can be frowned upon.
Content. A blog isn’t a blog without content, even if it’s photos instead of text — content isn’t just words! Bloggers have their eyes and ears open wherever they go. I’ve stopped my family from eating, at home or in a restaurant, so many times so I could take a picture that now they frequently say grace then say “Are you taking pictures or can we eat?” Tonight I’m headed to the mall for a fashion blogger event. I’m not a fashion blogger, but bloggers support each other and we share what we see, so I’ll be taking pictures tonight and writing about it within the next couple of days. My camera phone is a permanent fixture in my hand, if I can’t carry the big Nikon around.
Which leads me to my next point. Bloggers are frequently photographers, too. I’ll be the first to say that many of my photos stink. Lighting is off, composition needs improvement and sometimes, you may just say “What is that?” So I’m working on it. One more skill to learn!
We stay in the loop on what’s going on around our communities — virtual and offline — and look at ways to help each other. We write letters to companies to see if we can review a product that fits our niche and respond to requests we get for our media kit (stats, to put it simple) or invites to events. We take time to write up caring responses because, after all, social media is brand management, or another way of saying reputation management, and we want to be professional.
We file taxes. We maintain records of our activities and our expenses. We keep an editorial calendar, and have to make sure it melds with our family’s calendar.
And we have to do all that while maintaining composure and being reliable like anyone else in a working relationship.
So all that said, being a blogger is a blast and I’d encourage anyone with interest to give it a shot. I don’t want to deter you — I just want to inject reality into a misunderstood job. Don’t worry if you think you don’t have time. We all have a way of fitting the things into our lives that we want to do, and most of what we need to do. (That laundry in my dryer? It needs to get folded today, but that probably, in all reality, will get folded tomorrow.) Today? I’m spending time with my daughters at the mall for this: Victoria Gardens Passport to Fall Fashion Event. Then we’re going to grab dinner and for kicks, to round out our night, head back to Target for more jeans for my youngest son, as he’s just outgrown his last skinny-mini jeans and needs more.
Whether you start a blog or not, just don’t ever describe someone as ‘just a blogger.’ Anymore, it’s right up there alongside calling a stay-at-home mom ‘just a mom.’ Bloggers work hard, and play hard, and have their fingers on the pulse of a whole lot of happenings…we’re everywhere!