Tonight, I sat down to check the stats on my personal blog, A house full of sunshine, which is just shy of its one-year anniversary. The page-views are hitting 150,000 a month. I have 1500 subscribers, and 7000 followers on social media.
I'm not yet a published author (apart from a sparse handful of short stories.) I have no previous marketing experience. I'm not a speaker or a columnist or a public personality.
I'm a stay-home Mum. I'm no more brilliant or talented than anyone else out there with an internet connection and a heartbeat.
So how the heck did this happen?
The answer is that very few things in life just happen. This is no exception.
I truly believe that success is something that can be taught, and it can be learned. I may not be the best out there in my field, but I do love to learn from people who are far better than I will ever be. And believe me, there are a lot of them. So please understand, when I share my success - it's not to brag. The grace of God has played a major role in getting me this far. And I'm no blogging or marketing genius, trust me... I'm just a good learner.
The thing is, I'm pretty sure you are, too.
"If you want to be a writer, you need a platform."
You've heard the line a thousand times.
We all know how important it is. We're told repeatedly how much harder it's becoming to land a book deal without a platform. Even if we do snag that contract, a lacklustre sales record could well ensure we don't get the same chance again. The author is in charge of her/ his own marketing like never before. The conventional advice? Get active on social media, and start a blog.
Up until a year ago, I resisted blogging. I'd seen too many authors jump onto the blog bandwagon, and pour hours into writing posts that would only be read by their mother and a handful of loyal friends. With three small kids at home, I didn't have time to blog. More specifically... I didn't have time to write a blog that would not be read. Time is our most valuable commodity, and if I was investing it, there had to be a ROI.
Also, I didn't have a clue what to blog about. I'm a novelist, for goodness' sake. I'm also a stay-home Mum, and the deepest thought in my head most days is how I'll manage to cook dinner, help with homework and distract a toddler from a tantrum simultaneously. What on earth could I talk about on a regular basis that strangers would actually want to read?
Fast-forward one year, and I have a thriving blog which continues to grow daily. The investment has been a massive amount of time, energy and late nights... but I'm seeing a return on that investment.
So, how did I get from Blog Zero to that sort of result in under a year?
|Find the recipe on A house full of sunshine|
How many writers do you know who blog about... writing? Writing blogs are wonderful (hello, Writer's Alley - how we love you!) but they reach a very defined niche: other writers.
What are you doing to reach your readers?
The turning point for me was when I took the time to identify my readership. I write inspirational women's fiction, so my readership is women... in particular, Christian women.
The question for me became, what do these women want? And what do I have to offer them?
See, your sweet spot as a blogger is the place where your interests and passions intersect with the felt needs of your reader. (Click to tweet this)
I'm an interior decorator, and before I had kids, I taught Creative Arts for elementary and high-school. You could say that creativity is my passion. I decided to blog about those interest areas. Decorating/ DIY/ kids is a thriving blogging sector. And it's an audience right in line with my target demographic.
Is that to say you need to start a DIY blog to see any sort of success? Absolutely not. If you blog about something you have no passion for, your lack of enthusiasm will show, and others won't get excited about it either. Besides, passion is the fuel that will keep you going through those lonely first months where you're seeing no progress and you feel like you're talking to yourself. (And believe me, I have been there.)
The good news is, whatever your passion, there is an audience out there who wants to read what you have to say. You just need to learn how to reach them.
|See the tutorial on A house full of sunshine|
Once I decided to start a blog, I committed myself to its success. I didn't want to waste my time on anything less. I became a sponge, absorbing as much information as I could from a range of sources. I read e-books on blogging, attended webinars, listened to podcasts, and subscribed to marketing blogs.
Here are some sources I've found helpful:
Platform by Michael Hyatt
How to Blog for Profit without Selling your Soul by Ruth Soukamp
Building a Framework by Abby Lawson
3. Create shareable content
The most widespread mistake I see people make with blogging is to treat it as an online journal of random thoughts and ramblings. If you're writing for yourself and your family, wonderful. But if you want to see growth, you have to broaden your perspective.
Ask yourself - why should someone share this post? What is the takeaway for the reader?
Until you learn how to create viral content - content that demands to be shared - you'll never break into the next level of blogging. And to do that, you have to meet a felt need of your reader, whether it be for entertainment, instruction, a new idea, inspiration, or something else altogether.
4. Become your own best marketer
Sid Kemp of Firepole Marketing suggests that at least 60% of your time in any creative industry should be spent marketing. I have certainly found this to be true of my blogging experience.
I know the whole idea of marketing rubs some people up the wrong way. It feels uncomfortable, even
|See the project on A house full of sunshine|
I can honestly say now that I love marketing. I've developed a passion for it. And yet, it wasn't always that way. An example? I went for my first job at age 15. The store owner asked if I was good at maths. I was top of my class at the time, actually, but I'd been raised to never boast about my accomplishments, and I was sure it would sound like bragging if I mentioned it. So I ducked my head shyly and mumbled, "Ah, well. Not really..."
Needless to say, I didn't get the job, but I did learn a valuable lesson. The store owner needed to know that information, and I didn't give it to her. That was false modesty.
In the same way, there is an audience out there who wants and needs to connect with your words, and often, you are the biggest obstacle to that connection - because you are hiding behind a false idea of what modesty really is.
Hear this: your job is not to promote yourself. It's to find your audience. (Click to Tweet this)
Your job is to connect with the people who want to hear what you have to say. They're out there - you just need to put in the effort to find them. And unless you have a marketing department behind you, let's be absolutely clear - this job falls to you.
The thing that truly excites me? It's easier to make those connections than ever before in history. We live in a world where anyone with an internet connection and a bit of gumption can create a truly influential blog platform from absolutely nothing.
I'm living proof of that.
Want to learn more? I'm kicking off a series for the next few weeks on How to Grow your Blogging Platform. Follow along every second Wednesday for some concrete tips and strategies I've used to grow my blog from zero to 150K page-views a month.
Let's chat: Do you blog? Why or why not? How do you feel about marketing?
Find the rest of the series here:
Essentials for your Success
Guerilla Facebook Marketing
Supercharge your Stats
Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she mothers by day and transforms into a fearless blogger by night. Her popular creative home-making blog, A house full of sunshine, reaches over 150,000 readers a month. She's a Genesis finalist for women's fiction and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Pinterest.