a peek inside the fishbowl

03 Oct, 2011

A few of the things I forgot to say at SCCTO

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Publishing/writing/career stuff|The business of blogging

I’m back from the ShesConnected Conference in Toronto and I’m still on a bit of a high. I participated in a panel I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback about it too, which is great. (Thank you to everyone who took the time to tweet and retweet and send me emails. You rock.)

Someone I spoke to at the conference mentioned that I might be one of the top earners in the Canadian blog world. I am not sure if that’s exactly true. The money is not something I really focus on, but I do like to take the storehouse of know-how I’ve accumulated over the years and help other bloggers. I was thrilled to be invited to share what I’ve learned.

My passion for the written word is my fuel, not the money I earn from it.

I’m still digesting everything I saw and learned at this year’s conference, and as always, in the aftermath I’m busy thinking of all the things I neglected to say. I can talk about this stuff all day long, and the panel was pretty short, comparatively speaking. And when you’re sitting up on a stage facing 200 people, well, it’s hard to know whether you’re hitting the right points. (That being said, my iPhone was vibrating like crazy in my back pocket throughout my panel. The tweets were flying! I just didn’t know if people were agreeing with what I was saying or not!)

Whenever I talk about blog monetization I am compelled to point out that there’s VALUE in blogging that has nothing to do with selling ads or doing giveaways or product reviews.

The first question always has to be WHY. Why are you blogging? For what reason? Is it:

  • because it’s a catharsis
  • to find support
  • to keep a digital record of your life
  • to make money
  • to help position yourself as an expert in your field, whatever it may be
  • to flex your creative muscle
  • to get free stuff

All of these reasons are good ones. There’s no right or wrong here, and there’s no point judging other people because their blog is different. (For example, I don’t read review blogs. And I’m sure there are people who don’t enjoy my soapbox rants and longish posts about social media stuff. That’s ok!)

I think if bloggers can figure out WHY they blog it will go a long way to answering a lot of questions that pop up along the way. My dilemma here is that my personal blog, which I started because I needed a space to be creative and get stuff out of my head … started to earn money, which I never expected or planned to happen. I went from “I’ve started a blog because it’s a catharsis and I like to be creative” to “my blog is a business.” So I had to figure out a lot of extra stuff along the way. (How much of this is taxable income? Can I give a prize to someone who lives in Quebec? Should I publish my mailing address? Where’s the best place to get business cards printed? Has that person paid me yet, because I invoiced them four months ago etc etc etc.) When someone asks me how much time I spend on the blog I laugh. I have no clue, but it’s a LOT of time.

In past posts about this topic I have tried to think of some blogging guidelines, not just for myself, but for other personal bloggers to keep in mind as we go and to help keep the enjoyment factor high. In no particular order, here’s what I’ve figured out:

  1. 1. Write in a way that satifies you and makes your creative side happy. Popeye said it best: “I YAM WHAT I YAM.”
  2. 2. Don’t rush. And don’t post if you have nothing to say.
  3. 3. Comments are not a measure of success.
  4. 4. Respect your reader.
  5. 5. Be inspired by others, but don’t copy or steal. Link liberally to other bloggers.
  6. 6. Build your community. Take time to read and comment (even briefly) on other blogs.
  7. 7. Don’t let the trolls get you down. They obviously have their own problems to deal with, and their problems cannot be your problems.
  8. 8. Be proud of your work. [This one is hard for me and I tend to undervalue my work. And I find it tough to toot my own horn because I don’t like braggy people and never want to come across as a braggart.]
  9. 9. Remember the golden rule. Mark Grindeland (co-founder of ShesConnected Corp.) mentioned this in his closing speech at the conference. Can I add something to that? BE NICE. I know it sounds naive but the world would be such a better place if people were nice to each other, wouldn’t it?

Number 9 is a biggie. It comes up in many conversations I have with people, whether they’re bloggers or not. The Power of Nice is huge and is grossly underestimated. Many of the jobs and projects that have come my way are a result of The Power of Nice. :)

Also, I believe in karma.

There was a lot of talk about your “brand” at ShesConnected …and honestly, although I don’t see myself as a brand,  but I do have a reputation. I don’t want to flush my credibility down the toilet. I’ve had to refuse some great – good paying – opportunities for this reason. I can’t accept a sponsorship from a company I can’t feel good about personally endorsing. I’ve spent years earning reader trust and I can’t just let that slip through my fingers.

Other things I meant to mention at ShesConnected:

  • It helps to have a detailed pitch policy. Outline what you will and will not write about. Here’s mine.
  • I published an ad page to let people know that I sell ads and what my parameters are.
  • Make it easy for people to get in touch with you.
  • Get comfortable with saying no.

If you want to earn and income from your blog you need to think of it as a business. And it goes without saying that you need to be professional. For example, a PR agency contacts you about reviewing a can of dog food. And you don’t have a dog. It’s the fifth pitch you’ve received that day and they’ve all been a waste of your time. Instead of getting upset, just say no, and be polite. “Thank you very much for thinking of me, but I’m slowly getting away from reviewing grocery items. And by the way, I don’t have a dog. :) For future reference here’s a link to my pitch policy.”

PR people are just doing their jobs. The person on the other end will appreciate your patience, and maybe they will think of you for the NEXT client that comes along.

When approached with a low-value pitch you can also try to turn it into an ad opportunity. It’s been known to happen… maybe not with big brands, but with smaller businesses. You can respond with something like: “Hey, I love your product and I know my readers would too. I’d love to have you come on board as an advertiser. Let me know if I can send you my rate card.” If they say no, that’s ok. Someone else will come along with an offer. I swear. Just keep working on great content and building your community.

I think that about covers it for today. Any questions? :)


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9 Responses to "A few of the things I forgot to say at SCCTO"

1 | Alicia

October 3rd, 2011 at 9:18 am

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Great information and tips. Thanks Andrea. And yes, the world needs more nice.

2 | Misty

October 3rd, 2011 at 9:46 am

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Thanks Andrea – I’ve been wondering whether my blog could have the potential to make money. I find building the readership in order to have the “power” to even suggest advertising is the hardest part. My blog started as a personal, creative outlet, and now I’m noticing more people are reading it who didn’t give birth to me :o) BUT I still struggle with the numbers, and wonder whether I’ll ever have enough readers to make advertising viable. I guess I’m not worrying about it much at the moment, as my other business (doula work) is my primary focus! These were great tips, and I have a lot to think about.

3 | andrea

October 3rd, 2011 at 10:00 am

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Thank you Alicia!

Misty, I think the power of your blog lies elsewhere. Can I make a suggestion? Your blog should build your doula business. Not by just posting birthing related information, but by helping you make friendships and connections, and position you publicly as an expert in your field. Make sense?

4 | Misty

October 3rd, 2011 at 12:32 pm

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Makes so much sense! Thank you! For some reason I feel a pressure to make money from my blog, forgetting that the point is to be successful (both financially and professionally) with my doula business

5 | Dana Goldstein

October 3rd, 2011 at 5:20 pm

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Fabulous tips! I’ve always wondered how some bloggers just seem to have random ads and reviews. Clearly, they are missing the pitch policy.
Thank you for the great read!

6 | Ginger

October 3rd, 2011 at 5:54 pm

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Oh how the world needs more nice….

7 | Dana McCauley

October 3rd, 2011 at 8:09 pm

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This is a great post for anyone who is writing or contemplating writing a blog. Nicely done.

From the perspective of someone who is currently a brand person working in the social media sphere, I can tell you that having a pitch policy is so wonderful! If someone like me can read your policy in advance of contacting you, we will do so. And that will save a lot of time asking and answering questions as well as ensure that there are no misplaced assumptions.

I enjoyed your panel discussion very much and am happy to have discovered your blog for both professional and personal reasons!

8 | Loukia

October 5th, 2011 at 8:06 am

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Love this! I just wrote about Old School Blogging, and mentioned how even though traffic to my blog is up, comments are down, and sometimes, it’s easy to get depressed about this – comments can sometimes be seen as a measure of success. It’s hard getting rid of that notion, you know?

Another thing I have to become better at is saying “NO”. I can’t seem to turn down things that come my way and I’m stretching myself thin, promising too much at times, and then stressing about it.

I love what you’ve written here.

9 | Marianne

October 5th, 2011 at 9:24 am

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A very timely post for me, as I have finally begun my own fledgling blog after years of just being a reader of other people’s blogs. I don’t plan to make money from my blog, it’s just something I need to do for me. But I know that if that shoudl change and it takes me in another direction I’ll be coming back here to the Fishbowl to re-read your advice. Thanks!

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