My Surprising Success in Blogging

I started a blog before Facebook was open to non-college students.

Ancient, I know.

ChattieHattie.com was built in iWeb on my white iBook, which boasted 40 GB of space. “Who could use that much storage?,” I marveled when I got it. Now, I have an iPhone that gobbles up that much space in photos.

I had a baby. Like a real baby — an infant that woke up at all hours of the night, stole my heart, and the always-on-to-the-next-thing part of my brain thought, “make money from a blog!”

So I decided I’d be a “mom blogger,” chose the name Freshmom, signed up on Bluehost, and installed Wordpress, because that’s what the professional bloggers did. I’ve had mediocre success if you look at my statistics on paper, but the intangible successes are the topic of this Medium post today.

Also, I wrote a version of this post on my blog. Do I create a prominent disclaimer on Medium? Probably, it seems like the compliant thing to do. Italics usually work for disclaimers such as these:

This post originally appeared on Freshmom. But I’ve changed it so it’s not exactly the same.

A Self-Guided Flying Blog that Delivers Readers to the Final Destination

On our way to school, my son suggested that we commute in a flying car, which would have a pink button that, when pressed twice, would spring wings and a turbobooster to fly over the slow-poke cars in front of us, bypassing all of the stop lights, and onward to our destination (his school). It would operate just like Siri: mommy would not drive this car, it would automatically take us to the drop-off line. Yes! I want one of those. I also wish I could have the same functionality for website design. It would be so much more efficient to say, “Wordpress, make this site functional, easy to navigate, clean, and pretty.” Instantly, the site would be cleaned up with crappy blog posts replaced by click-worthy blog posts all laid out in a visually pleasing, functional design that leads readers from one article to the next until they arrive on a page to make a purchase. This would be a profitable blog.

When you have a blog and don’t want to spend much money on it, you learn to do it all yourself: photography, web design, graphic design, and of course — writing. Even though I’ve only made a little bit of money with my blog, the skills I’ve learned have a high price tag.

Here are seven ways personal blogging has improved my career in marketing:

1. Developing Photography Skills

I wanted to take pretty photos of my children, then wanted pretty photos to enhance my blog posts. So, I’ve read books, internet tutorials, even watched a DVD series on photography — all in an effort to improve my photography. And it’s worked. I understand lighting. I understand composition. I can take a decent photo. And I’ve taken plenty of photos for my job in the travel industry — taking interiors of resorts and travel photos for travel websites. And — the generic stock shot — coming up with a concept to fit the post with a photo. Look, a pretty photo I took at a restaurant in Hollywood, FL:

2. Writing For An Audience

I’ve always considered myself to be a decent writer — but never pursued it, and never really thought about different styles of writing.

Until I started blogging.

Developing a voice and a journalistic style of writing — for an audience — is a talent. Headlines, the flow of the post, and the grammar all matter. I pay much more attention to the details of writing than I did prior to writing this blog, and while I don’t consider myself to be a master, I have written articles for magazines that make me proud. I would not have had the confidence or practice to write these articles had I not been consistently reading critically to enhance my understanding of a well-written piece and writing to develop my own style.

3. Learning Web Design

OH MY WORDPRESS.

Let me just say this: I’ve redesigned my blog six hundred million times. Including yesterday. Each website I visit, I think, “oh! that’s clever! I want to do that on MY blog.” I look and assess and think about navigation and how that will translate into conversions and lead people around a website…

I have designed websites with a content strategy that has worked tremendously well. Without a budget. It just takes planning and an understanding of navigation, which I comprehended after following analytics on my own blog.

4. Understanding Basic Graphic Design

Because you have to have a pinnable, shareable graphic to go along with your scintillating writing. (Which I totally omitted for this blog post since I expended all of my energy writing instead.)

Having hours of (frustrating) practice with Photoshop, I now have the basic design skills to create web graphics and ads.

5. Utilizing Social Media To Promote Content

Understanding that social media is a conversation — and sharing content which your audience will find interesting — is the key to having an engaged business page. It’s not just a source to push out your brand’s (or your blog’s) message to sell or drive traffic to your website. By testing and analyzing results (and reading countless “how to” articles) I have been able to create dynamic social media followings for business brands I’ve managed. I’ve not followed the same consistent rules on my own blog and guess what? Haven’t had the same results.

6. Using Content Marketing To Enhance A Brand

Writing informatively on topics, developing story ideas, creating search-friendly web content, and designing campaigns to deliver that content to a target audience is critical in today’s market. Writing a personal blog has helped me understand what works (and what does not work!) in writing, blog post design, headline creation, navigation, and web design. Using it as a springboard for ideas has given me the practice and experience to create effective campaigns professionally.

7. Understanding How Brands Create Campaigns With Bloggers

Blogs can be a business, and a collaboration campaign using authentic voices is a great ad spend. Brands using bloggers to enhance their brand (like Ford) is a brilliant way to give credence to the image a company is trying to create. I’ve worked with many brands and products in this blog, so I have an understanding of how to do it best. Are you a blogger? Then you’ll know sending a formal press release to a blogger is a great way to get promptly ignored. Sending a brief, personal email introducing yourself is the way to get a response.

The surprising conclusion I promised in the headline.

Having a personal blog may seem like a frivolous way to spend time, but I’ve found it all to be a learning experience I couldn’t duplicate in a classroom. When I read blogs, I’m analyzing what is engaging about them. I follow campaigns, sign up for emails — and even though none of them have to do with my industry, I get an understanding how they are effective. Some bloggers are trying to bring in significant income or make it their full-time job — and I LOVE that blogs can be a full time career. Not for me, though.

I sometimes cringe when I think someone has found my blog because it’s such a hodgepodge and the PR professional in me questions, “is this a good reflection of me?” But in the end, having a blog has forced me to acquire skills I’d otherwise never know existed.

And so this little blog hobby of mine has given me a content marketing education — which has directly translated into promotions and new positions in my career. Many of my marketing successes stem from testing on my blog — which makes me good at what I do professionally— and for me, that is the value of having a blog.