YEAR ONE: HOW TO BLOG FOR A CAREER

February 11, 2013

Back in my cramped college apartment, I didn’t start pounding out posts with the end-game of doing it full time to make money. I think I had heard of people who blogged for a living, but I thought they were super tech-y or employed by a big organization or something. Not a silly, albeit hard-working girl like me.

YEAR ONE from Rachel Schultz

Writing this post is in some ways a struggle, because I’m still perfecting and improving on the process of translating cold-hard-hits and web traffic into cash. But, here’s how I got where I am/what I’ve learned so far.

First, the tech-side of things.

I stayed on a free wordpress.com site for as long as I could. In February of 2012, I started my blog and bought my domain name, rachelschultz.com, for $26 for a year. To get started that was my only cost. (Having the .com name is more streamlined in my opinion, but there are lots of huge blogs that keep the “.wordpress.com” and are very successful).

After my traffic started to get pretty significant in about July (by that I mean thousands+ of daily hits), a friend prompted me to really consider monetizing things. WordPress.com doesn’t allow ads, but they were just rolling out a new program called “WordAds,” WordPress’ own advertising that was permitted on their sites.

WordAds, like most ad agencies pays per thousand impressions. An impression is someone clicking to any page on your site. If you visit my page and go to the homepage, click and read my “Meet Rachel” page, and then click on an individual post, you just accounted for 3 impressions. If you hear the term “unique visitors” that means how many people come to your page. In the above scenario, I had 3 impressions and 1 unique visitor. The “per thousand impressions” is often reported as CPM (an abbreviation for something latin probably that means the same thing). WordAds was helpful for me to wet my beak in making blog money, but it wasn’t too customizable. You can choose between having 1 ad or 3 ads on your page, but you don’t have a choice of where they go or who can advertise. WordAds pays $1 CPM, which according to my market knowledge, is pretty fair.

Around November, my site had continued to grow and I wanted more control over ads AND desired to branch out from the limited wordpress.com page design themes. That’s when I transferred to wordpress.org so I could “self-host.” But, the freedom of self-hosting also comes with more costs too. As I opened with saying, I stayed on the free wordpress.com as long as I could. No matter how many people came to my site, it wouldn’t slow down or crash and I was always up and running for no cost. I had made a good amount of money and the only cost I ever had was still that $26 way-back-when just to get my domain name.

In layman’s terms, I’m going to explain 3 types of self-hosting. A real tech-expert may laugh at my explanation, but this is as much as I need to know to do what I do. First, there is a shared server. This has the lowest monthly cost and you share a server with several other blogs. It has the lowest capacity for traffic, so if you get a sudden burst in hits, you could bring down the whole server and all the other sites on it. (Likewise, if somebody else gets a traffic spike, your site can go down, out of your control). The second type is a VPS (virtual private server). It is a virtual space that is only yours, and therefore you pay much more each month. When I first started self-hosting, my traffic levels required that I skip shared server and go straight to VPS, to the tune of $100 monthly. (That felt like a big jump from my $0 monthly at wordpress.com). Finally, is the dedicated server. It has the highest capabilities and is thus the most expensive. This is what I’m looking at right now. To give you an idea, I know some really big bloggers who pay more monthly for their server than they do for their mortgage.

Since leaving WordAds, I started advertising with BuySellAds. I was moderately satisfied with their service, but I recently signed with a new agency, Federated Media. For the design side of things, I am using a very basic version of Thesis theme, which costs about $60. I’m hoping to do a lot more and better with my site’s design, but I won’t go into too much detail on that and save it for Thursday’s Goals post.

Now, the big picture, creative-side of things.

Somewhat frequently, people tell me that they are hoping to start a blog and ask for pointers to get going. I’ll fire off some snippets of things I usually say:

  1. Write about what you care about and something that will be sustainable. Make sure you have lots of ideas and it’s something you won’t quickly grow sick of.  For me it’s home decor, recipes, and Jesus.
  2. Post consistently. This is good for growing your readership, but beyond that, it’s good for YOU. It helps keep you to your commitment to endeavor in writing a blog. Have a schedule, whether it be once a week or everyday.
  3.  Most people who start a blog quit within a few months. Think about that last sentence and read it again. Really keep that in mind before investing money or taking big risks. I view my blog as a small business.
  4. Excellent photography. I’m still learning, but I’ve come a long way since I’ve started. (Oh boy. Some of my first posts’ photos are embarrassing.) In my line of crafts & recipes, good photography is everything. Think about it – usually what determines if you’ll make a recipe or not is the picture.
  5. Write in your own voice. Voice is hard to find. But a phrase that has often driven me comes from none other than Ms. Dolly Parton. “Figure out who you are and then do it on purpose.”
  6. Bottom line, you must work really hard. Seriously, just get. it. in. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you see sites that are huge and super popular. Usually when I feel discouraged that I’m not where I want to be, it’s because I don’t have my head down to work hard on my own stuff.

Here’s a recap of what happened in Blog’s Birthday Week.
Saturday: Firsts & Favorites
Sunday: Numbers & Stats, if you’re curious how the figures shake out around here 
Monday: How to Blog as a Career (or at least how I do)
Tuesday: A Day in the Life, what I do every day as a full-time blogger (since it’s everyone’s #1 question). The answer is not watch Judge Judy all day. (Actually, sometimes it is.)
Wednesday: From Conception to Publishing, timeline of how a post is born
Thursday: Goals, some healthy reflection time for year two. AND I want to hear from YOU, reader.

My New Cookbook


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Comments

  • Rachel, I just stumbled across your website – not even sure how I found you. I am just beginning to blog, hopefully to earn a living from home. I am impressed at how much traffic you had in your first few months of blogging. Can you explain what you did to get that much traffic so quickly? Were you advertising from the time you first started blogging or did you start that later? Any advice/help you can give would be very much appreciated.

    I love that you are unashamed to speak of your love for Jesus and make it a central focus of your blog! He is so worthy of that love but so many people are ashamed to speak of him. Thank you for being real!

  • Hey, great advise and helpful tips. Thank you for sharing!

  • […] she wrote about blogging. I was challenged and inspired by her. Here are some of those articles: Blogging For A Career, A Day In The Life, Blog Turns […]

  • Mrs. Smokey

    Just discovered your blog and really enjoyed reading it! Thanks for all the great info.

    • Rachel Schultz

      Thank you!

  • Kathleen

    Hi Rachel. I am an author and speaker. I live in Georgia and I really like your blog. I am becoming interested in blogging but, heretofore, have known little about how to make it happen. Hoping to learn some good tips from you. Like you I LOVE Jesus and strive each day to show His love in the things I do, say and act upon. God bless you and your future endeavors to bring His light and love to those who follow you. I know you are enriching lives!

    • Rachel Schultz

      Thanks so much! I wish you all the best!

  • Hi Rachel!

    I am enjoying your blog very much! I am also a newlywed experimenting with the domestic life, though I don’t think i am doing it quite as well as you are. Thanks being someone us fledgling bloggers can look up to!

    • Rachel Schultz

      Katy, that’s super nice! I still feel like a beginner in a lot of ways. I checked out your blog too!

  • Lydia

    Happy Birthday!
    What a great post, and what great timing! Apart from your awesome writing, I am so happy to read your blog this week because I have just set up my own site. Your posts are really helping me get my head around all the tech-y jargon-y confusion! :)

    Keep up the good work, keep on inspiring, and let’s hope we can all celebrate this time next year!

    • Rachel Schultz

      Lydia, that’s great. I hope for all the best for your site. Thank you for reading and encouraging me!

  • Rachel,

    Love the stats and career posts this week. Seriously impressed at how you’ve made it happen over the last year, and proud to call you my friend. Keep rockin’ it, sister.

    Sincerely,
    @jshirk, a member of the 4.5%

    • Rachel Schultz

      Thanks, jshirk! Proud to call you my friend too. Can’t wait to hear your big announcement for your plans next year.

      Ricki

  • Eric

    Happy Birthday!
    Love this blog!

    • Rachel Schultz

      Thanks, Eric!

  • Thank you for sharing this information. The six tips at the end are helping me struggle against my own fears of entering the blogging kingdom. And your recipes look fantastic — those are what brought me here and I’m glad to stick around!

    • Rachel Schultz

      Monchel, that’s so great to hear. I think blogging is a great hobby or career. Glad what I wrote helped in some way.

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