YEAR FIVE

March 6, 2017
Rachel Schultz

All the time when people reach a benchmark of 1 year, 5 years, 10 years for something they say, I cannot believe it has been that long; it went so fast! Well, I kind of feel the opposite. Like I have been doing this for way longer than 5 years. Not sure what that says about it! But I do know that I still love having my blog. Maybe the reason it feels so long was because my life is so different than when it began. I was unmarried and living in an apartment and now I have children and we own a home.

Nostalgic, throwback story before I get to the rest of the post, I remember hanging out in David’s college duplex before we were married (engaged!) and he helped me buy my blog’s domain name.

I started crying because I was so excited. Ha! Oh, memories. Okay, now goals.

YEAR FIVE copy

NUMBERS

Readers come here for cooking and home decor, not tech and numbers, so I feel reluctant about writing this post because I am thinking it is not “on brand.” But, it is only one little post of the whole year, so with it in its proper place I am giving myself permission to have fun with it.

And, it is a tradition! I am going five years strong so I cannot break it now. I am thinking of this as pasting a snapshot in a scrapbook. And if you are a blogger or blogging interests you it is nice to talk a little bit of shop.

Income

Around my blog’s birthday last year, I had just signed on with AdThrive which is an agency who manages advertising for me. Whereas before I participated with several networks, now everything is done through AdThrive. At the very end of the year I had some outlying months from one of my old networks, sovrn, which is why they have a little piece of the pie this year. I have loved AdThrive and highly recommend them.

Book publishing is a unique experience that I liked doing for many reasons, but one big one is that with so many bloggers, being a blogger slash author can set you apart with a bit more legitimacy. Traditional publishing is a big job, though. Moving forward I am asking myself if I would rather spend my time and energy writing another book or putting it into the blog, or maybe another endeavor.
Traffic

The “other” piece of the traffic pie continued to get bigger, which is a trend I consider healthy. That means I am producing a variety of content that interests readers and not relying only on a few viral traffic posts. Also a huge trend this year was that people continue to access the site through mobile as much as or more than traditional desktop. Interesting!

 GOALS

  1. write longer posts: I had really good writing teachers in school, so I feel like I have a strong concept of how to write well in academic papers and I realize I have still had that training in my head here. So while I am okay with using incorrect grammar and I certainly do not proofread thoroughly enough to make sure there are never any typos, I still kind of have that, say it in as few words as possible stuff that makes for good, concise formal writing but is not right for my blogging. In some ways I already write informally here, but I would like to do it even more and really embrace the casual, conversational, sentence-fragments-are-okay, part of the world of blogging. And the other reason this is my goal is because it just makes posts so much easier to write. I began to realize that my home decor posts are really quite brief, like that post I recently shared about lighting for our kids room. I have endless thoughts about decorating and for the concern of getting too boring I would cut out the details and get into that “keep it concise,” “what is the need to know info” mindset. Which I know is dumb, because details are the real part that like minded people who also enjoy thinking and talking about these topics like to read, so of course that would make for a better blog. I am a stickler about uniform stylization though! So while I am in love with the thought of writing all lowercase I am still kind of needing it to be a consistent decision either way. Maybe I will try and if I hate it I can always go back and just edit the posts to have proper caps. I love the large first letter in my posts design which would that be weird if everything else is lowercase? MAYBE I SHOULD MAKE IT LOWERCASE TOO BUT STILL BIG? Also contractions, (can’t instead of cannot) I hate in professional writing, but they are easier (and how I talk) so maybe I will still do. I am laughing because this is such minutia to need to form an opinion on. But it all goes into the look and feel of a blog, which I think is important to have thought through.
  2. improve design: It feels like I just redesigned my blog, then I realize that was already 2 years ago! Even with making tweaks myself since then I am ready to have a pro make some more aesthetic changes and for our mobile site to be as pretty as our desktop. David once heard from some tech or business person that with how people operate from many different types of devices, “your mobile site is your site.”
  3. The most quintessential Rachel activity is probably making lists. I make at least one everyday and have since I was a teenager. So I make lots of daily lists, and sometimes yearly lists too, but one idea I had for goal setting and list making was to do them around the seasons. I love the seasons, and making plans around about a three month period feels like a nice, needed pace in between yearly and daily plans. In the past I considered doing goals with the quarters like in the business world (Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4), but that felt weird and corporate for a homebody mom like me. For each season I have five categories – financial, motherhood, household, professional, and social. Financial is goals for things we are saving up for. Motherhood is mostly activities, trips, or habits I want to do or start with the kids. Household is things we want to get done around the house. Mostly renovation related these days of course. Professional is blog or writing goals. And social is parties I want to throw or friends we want to have over for dinner. I love that one because it forces me to prioritize the people we have been “meaning to have over” for too long.
  4. I always summarize my blog as about homemaking, and while I have got the home decor and cooking parts here, I think there are a few more categories I could add to round it out and make that description feel like it fits even better. Some ideas are more things about household management, hospitality, and motherhood. Maybe one day educational activity ideas for kids too when we start more formal homeschooling. These are all what I do and think about, so I think adding them in would feel natural. I love when I find a new blog I can get lost in because there just seems like an endless archive of content that interests me.

A LITTLE PIECE OF CREATIVE ADVICE

Now I am going to be so bold as to dispense a small bit of advice on a topic I get asked about often. Many people when starting a blog want advice on monetizing. Which is an important question and the question I asked and wanted answered too. But as obnoxious as it is the short answer is that making money from a blog always has to be preceded by some level of high traffic. “High” traffic is relative. And “making money” is relative. But yep, it always comes back to first producing quality, interesting content.

Which leads to the little piece of advice that shapes how I operate so I wanted to pass along for people who would love to earn money as a creative.

Be okay with being bad for a while. 

Let’s say you want be a graphic designer. Design interests you, which means you notice when design is bad and have an eye for what looks good. So you start producing your own designs. At first they are probably okay sometimes but mostly bad because you might lack access to good software, are unaware of some techniques, and because you simply have not yet practiced much. So what you are able to produce does not yet meet your mental awareness of what is good.

(So similarly, going with this example, if I were interviewing someone to be a graphic designer one of my most important questions for them would be show me some examples of what you think are bad design. Because when someone is good at something, they have opinions about it. So if a designer cannot list for me their pet peeves in design then I would feel they do not have much of an “eye” and probably cannot be very great themselves.)

Read this whole quote from Ira Glass on this: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

It is stupid, but I cannot not tear up when I read that quote because it resonates so hard. My food photography was utterly horrific at the beginning, but I knew in my head what looked good and I wanted to be that good so I practiced many hours almost everyday. And now I have a published cookbook with photography of food that I feel holds its own at the professional level.

I have experienced different progress of this in so many categories – photography, blog voice, home decor, and graphic design. And there are all the applications for so many people too – writing, art, public speaking, like a million other things where it is so pervasive it is almost hard to list. I still feel this way when I want to try new features on my blog (making videos – eek!). The polished part of me wants to not do anything new publicly until I know I am good at it, but for creative stuff that is rarely fully an option.

I am not one to often offer advice, but this piece of it changed how I think of any creative endeavor I do and I think it is so refreshing for other creatives in the early grind on a new pursuit. Be bad for a bit, but plod through and if you want to you might become as good as that work of others you first admired.

You can find all my previous blog birthday posts here.

My New Cookbook


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Comments

  • shel

    Yes, I agree with Grace! I am a new subscriber here! I only follow about 4 blogs so I am picky and don’t sign up randomly! Something awesome must have piqued my interest! Just can’t say what it was off top of my head without going through rest of site right now! Ha! Just clicked on today’s and enjoyed the numbers, too! Pretty cool! :)

    • Rachel Schultz

      Fun! Thanks Shel

  • For what it’s worth, I love these posts and admire your transparency in sharing the numbers!

    • Rachel Schultz

      Thank you Grace!

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