Posted on 15 June 2012.
I didn’t exactly go to college with the dream of being a cloth diaper blogger. I didn’t even major in English or Journalism. My initial plan was to become a High School English teacher and I was on that track until I fell in love with Religious Studies. In a strange turn of events I graduated with a B.A. in History and a Minor in Religious Studies. There are days I regret not pursuing a more academic path- I loved my Hebrew courses and it turned out I had a knack for it, but I followed my heart and moved to Syracuse, NY to be with my future husband just 3 days after my graduation ceremony. I then got pregnant, started researching cloth diapers, then started Dirty Diaper Laundry in 2009.
About 2 years ago I started calling myself a WAHM (Work at Home Mom). Despite the fact that my income level was still at part-time pay my hours were practically full-time. I started hiring a sitter to come in once a week for 4 hours to get work done. I worked almost every nap, after bed, and when my husband was around to watch the kids. My self-imposed schedule kept me focused and busy. Getting a video review done every week might seem easy but the editing, audio, and writing takes quite a while.
A reader wrote in with some really great questions about blogging. I’m going to answer them here so that everyone can see the answers (then email her a link to this post. I’m only answering these over 5 months late. Looking at the date on the email it was the day after my birthday and the day we bid on a home. I have a good excuse for losing the email until now.)
One day my website melted down. I had to nurse/bounce Ev while working with tech support. Just a day in the life...
Q: This may seem silly, but how do you find time to blog? Do you schedule it in? Do you stay up way too late? Do you do it on the weekends? When!?
A: Each day I work during naps (1-2 hours), maybe 1-2 hours during happy times while kids are playing (if that occurs), about 3-4 hours after the kids go to bed at night up to midnight or 1 am. I used to have a sitter 4 hours a week before I moved. I wrote about one particular day as a blogger/mom and what happens when everything around you breaks. If you have time you should check it out- a day in my life when sh!t hits the fan is pretty funny (in retrospect).
Q: How did you get people to start reading it? Just give people you know the link and ask them to spread it?
A: I started with promoting on mom blog directories but Twitter was the biggest catalyst for growth. My videos on YouTube would also help direct people to my blog after they found those. Facebook is currently my biggest referrer- I created a Fanpage in 2011. Honestly though, I worked my tail off in the first few months networking on forums and websites, getting and promoting giveaways, and tweeting like a crazy woman. June 2009 was my first #clothdiapers Twitter party and I’m sure I was pimping my videos and blog hard!
Q: I am almost more nervous about people I know reading it than strangers out there! Is that weird? Do you suggest a way to spread the word without having to let everyone I know in on it?
A: This is every blogger’s concern. I don’t usually volunteer that I write a blog unless it comes up. I’m very proud of my blog’s success and the way I’ve been able to help others. The topic I blog about, however, is weird to talk about to childless adults. I also share rather personal articles and mention family (unnamed) so I don’t like real life people reading. When my mother discovered my blog I almost died and wrote myself a note- “Never blog about your mother.”
Q: How does your husband feel about it? Do you ever want to bitch about something he does and do you do it or not? Does he read your blog?
A: Hubby has actually been my biggest cheerleader, my tech support, my angel investor, my accountant, my everything! I couldn’t do what I do without him. Before starting DDL I was a new SAHM. It was very strange not having my own income considering I started working at 14. Having to use his money to start the blog was weird. He was receptive to the idea from the get-go and filmed my first review for me. He still helps with so many aspects of my blog. He was the investor who made my Cloth Diaper Finder possible (it is NOT cheap to build an interactive database) and his background helped when making the plans and working with a developer. It means so much to me that he believes in my website and what I do. Some days he is even more of a believer than I am. And because he is also by biggest fan he receives my blog daily in his email- I love you Steven!
Q: How long have you been blogging and when did your blog go from something just a few people read to lots of people on the internet reading?
A: I started up in April 2009. My first day with a published post saw 7 hits. I believe I publicized my post on a mommy forum I belonged to. It was a gradual thing. I belonged to JustMommies.com and “pimped” my cloth diaper blog on their cloth diaper board and my own mommy group. I joined BlogHer.com and signed up as an advertiser with them early on and tried publicizing there. Then I joined Twitter and that was probably when I started seeing the most traffic. I went from 30 a day, to 150, to between 300-500 in one year. I threw a 1 Year Bash with lots of giveaways and that saw a huge response. Giveaways helped bring in new readers too.
Q: How many people read your blog on a given week?
A: It really varies based on how often I post and what I post. I’ve seen as many as 16,000 and as low as 6,000-7,000 on slow weeks.
Everett came with me to ABC Kids Expo. He attended RDIA meetings too.
Q: How much does it cost you to blog (cost of your site, etc)?
A: Dear lord. A lot. I’m not rolling in money over here. Even when I get a nice pay day it always goes directly back into the website somehow. Domain, hosting, those are cheap. Blog designs (hundreds of dollars), fixing things on clothdiaperfinder.com, paying for services for traffic monitoring and forms, software for my video and photo editing, buying better lighting/cameras, buying a new computer capable of running the better software to make better videos, these all take probably 60-75% of the money coming in. Ask my accountant (Steven.) Other costs include conferences (thousands when out of pocket including tickets, travel, accommodations), publicity materials like business cards, advertising (on blogs, sponsoring Twitter parties and Facebook Sweepstakes), and even launching my cloth diaper t-shirt line. I often wonder why I work when I work to make money to work some more. I think all small business owners go through the same dilemma.
Q: How and when did you start to get advertisers? Do your advertisers cover the annual cost of blogging?
A: I started monetizing by signing up as an affiliate with cloth diaper stores. I didn’t see much from this at first. Then I signed up with Google Adsense. To give you an idea of how much that pays get this: it took me 2 years to get paid the first time- $100.00. Sometime in the first year I approached people directly about buying ad blocks. This was the best thing for my niche blog and is still how I make the majority of my income. Advertising is what makes this blog work and successful. Without it I can’t reinvest to make it better! I’m nothing without the companies that believe in me and feel DDL is worthy of buying ads on. Diaper Lab and Rockin’ Green have been my longest running advertisers. They rock, and so do the others who I have worked with over the years. Thanks guys!
Q: How did you go about getting your own site & domain name (i.e. did you start off using a free blogging site like Blogger?)
A: I started off with WordPress and bought a domain. I knew enough before starting that it would be the best route.
Here is my advice to a new blogger as they are just beginning their website-
Begin with a clear brand identity and idea. Start your social media profiles right away even if no one is following. Use WordPress and buy your own domain- don’t start with a .wordpress or .blogspot address. Don’t spam every brand/store you know begging for products to review! I have been on the other end (for a stint working for another store) and those desperate emails don’t work. You can ask but don’t phrase it as if you are entitled to free items, especially when you have little or no traffic. Don’t go around stealing content! There are rules about taking images and words from other websites.
The biggest advice would be this: Blogging is a real job if you want it to be. Don’t go into it for the money, however. You might be successful but if you are the chances it will happen overnight are slim to none. The time it takes to be successful is more than you think. Blogging isn’t just about typing out words- there is far more to it than anyone sees. If you are going to blog make it about something you are passionate about and will enjoy whether you are successful or not. Blogging is more than a job to me because I am writing about things that matter to me. I’m just excited more than 5 people a day see this website and that it actually makes a difference for many people! If you are blogging just to make money then you are in the wrong business.