Ask Jo: On Blogging

Often times blog readers ask questions that I think others might be interested in as well.  I answer them on the blog.  Today is one of those days.

This comes from blog reader Melissa:

First I just want to say how much I enjoy your blog.  I feel like i’m in your kitchen talking when I read it.  We’ve got a lot in common too.  Before we retired I was a preschool teacher, then had my own home daycare for 7 years.  I don’t miss the diapers, but I miss the little ones and the contact with the wonderful parents.  

When we sold our house in California we bought a 5th wheel and traveled in that.  I started a travel blog then called sewingmywaythroughtheusa.com  We bought a house near the beach in Oregon a little over a year ago and I started quilting.  I’m now officially a Quilting Fool!!   I began a new blog after we moved here and that’s the one I’d appreciate your input on.  I have a grand total of 23 followers and 13 more on Bloglovin.  I’m really getting discouraged.  Can you give me some pointers?  My new blog is seabreezesnippits.com   

I know you’re a busy lady.  Believe me I remember those 12 hour days doing daycare.  You don’t have to spend a lot of time but I would  so appreciate any advice.  I don’t want to make money doing this, I just like to teach and I like to write. I enjoy sharing what I’m working on.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I’ve gotten several questions very similar to this lately and honestly, they are quite flattering.  I will always and forever just see myself as an Iowa girl writing in my journal and a bunch of others just happen to read it.  I don’t feel like a “blogger”…more like little old me doing my thing.

I’ll tell you a bit how I got started and some things along the way….I was a stay at home mom from the time our second child, our daughter Kayla was born.  I did things here and there that earned money but my primary job was the kids.  I was on all the boards and committees that child raising brings.  Then before I knew it Kalissa our youngest was going to school.  I started getting all sorts of questions about what I was going to do.  I had no want to do anything but continue staying home but I could see from our finances it was time….and that’s about when someone asked me if I would consider childcare.  The local in home childcare was quitting and they thought I should consider it…and in 2001 In August I started doing care.

I LOVED childcare.  It was a wonderful fit for me.

I was so into childcare that I got registered.  In a short time I was teaching continuing education childcare classes by night…childcare by day.  Public speaking was never a big deal for me…and I was chuck full of ideas to make learning fun.  People would come to the continuing ed classes I was teaching and then would misplace the packets I had handed out in class.  I ended up getting lots of requests for more info.  That’s when daughter Kayla promoted me to start a website…then using this tutorial from my favorite kids site, Kayla built the site and I started growing it.  I ended up writing a thank you note with a link to my site and DLTK’s liked by site so much that they asked me if I wanted to partner with them.  I did…

I worked on the website most every minute I wasn’t doing childcare on the website.  It grew and grew.  I was making an income from it that matched my childcare income so I made the hard decision to quit childcare….well there went all my write offs and taxes hit me hard.  Making Learning Fun, my website was then my full time job.

Making Learning Fun

From there Kayla suggested I started a blog to help give me some tax relief.  I had no idea what a blog was in 2008.  All I knew is that Kayla thought I should have one.  So that’s what we did 2009, I started this blog.  Making Learning Fun is still in existence.  I don’t update it like I should but it’s still there and continues to be a great early childhood learning website packed with resources.

I had no idea what I was doing with the blog and I still don’t.  That’s why I am so flattered when people ask me “how to blog” questions.  Like with any project I do, I jumped in with both feet.  I started reading a lot of blogs…quilting ones mainly but if I had other interests, I read those too.  I started looking at design, white space, fonts, all of that and I started to change my blog to mimic things I liked.  I loved that Judy at Patchwork Times then blogged often.  There was always something new.  That’s when I decided I wanted a regular blogging schedule.  I also loved the way she included more things besides just quilting….I felt like I started to know her.  I liked that feeling so I started adding more things about me and the family.  I figured it I liked something, someone else likely did too.

By now the blog was doing what I needed it to…it was creating expenses.  I finally had some tax relief-but more than that, I realized that I had finally-finally-finally- gotten to journal.  I’d always wanted to journal.  I never did it.  I found I love the journaling part of it a lot.

About that time Kelli was in her senior year at college and needed an internship.  UGH….by now she knew that she would likely not use her degree as she expected as she had met Jason and was in a serious relationship with him.  He was a farmer and would be staying near the land.  She just needed a job and to do that she needed to graduate and to graduate she needed the internship so she begged me to let her do an internship for me.  I laughed…what internship could I provide??  She said to build your blog.  WHAT?  Well that’s the road we went down.

Kelli told me to get something on Moda Bake Shop to “get my name out there”.  At this time Kelli really wasn’t sewing yet.  This is the project I did…..

We’ve gone on to make 24 projects for Moda Bake Shop.  By project #3 I was doing it for fun and the challenge….I wasn’t doing it for anyone to “find me”.

Kelli had ideas about joining quilting groups and “getting social”….I tried that and hated it.  I’m honestly terrible at being social.

Kelli then suggested trying to have free patterns on the blog…we did that.  She suggested getting things published in magazines.  We did that.  Someone suggested writing a book…we did that. Some of the “marketing” things were okay…some I down right hated and those I QUICKLY STOPPED.

One of the things we stopped…Working with Accuquilt.  It started with me seeing that they were giving away Go! cutters to bloggers.  I wrote them and asked for one.  They sent it…and then I thought I was suppose to love it.  I used it and could see how it was useful.  I did some videos for them and got free dies but there was no way I could have afforded the die cutters full price.  They started asking me to do work for them and I did…but they didn’t hold up their end of the deal and to be honest, I hated the piles of dies.  I didn’t have room to store them.  A couple of my dies didn’t cut accurately.  I ended any association with them.  We weren’t a good fit.

We did a lot of things that fell into our laps….tried them to see if they were for us, if they were we kept them, if they weren’t we moved on.

Some things were suggested and we down right said NO!  We refuse to travel.  We could care less about market or anything that’s “popular”.  We played the “fabric line” game for awhile but then remembered how much we don’t like commercialism and cut WAY back on that.  This certainly doesn’t mean we have a problem with anyone who’s into that…it’s just not for us.  We CONSTANTLY get questions from people asking what fabric line is that.  It recently happened with this quilt…We made the quilt in 2013.  I don’t remember.

KellisRailFence-2

We used to book reviews for companies-we did them WEEKLY.  It was too much…we ended up postage poor because we were giving them all away because we couldn’t possibly sew all the quilts.  We quit reviewing even though the companies at the time were throwing books at us.  We thought back on who we were and what we liked….most of it wasn’t in the books.  Now we do reviews only if we think we would actually buy the book if we had to pay for them with our own money.

Blogging has been so good for us…it gave us a chance to REALLY look at ourselves…If we wanted we could likely be doing more but we have no interest in more.  We aren’t big into new products, new trends, the most popular quilts.  We really just want to like what we like because we like it….not because there is a dollar sign behind anything.  There are a lot of bloggers blogging out there for the dollar signs.  We see it..often it’s hidden but it’s definitely there.

Here’s a prime example…Kelli’s sewing with recycled shirts.  She bought the used machine of her dreams.  It can only straight stitch and is not computerized.  Can you believe that neither of us subscribe to a magazine?  Being we have quilts published there, people would assume we do…we don’t.

I really don’t think I’m the best person to ask advice on how to get a blog going.  To be honest, I read one blog faithfully and that’s Mary at Country Threads.  Mary is my kind of girl.  If I’m in the doctor’s office and am waiting, I read a few other blogs.  If it’s an odd night that there isn’t enough time to start something before bed, I might read a couple blogs but I’m completely out of the loop.

I used to find linky parties and purposely try to complete projects so that I could be in the linky party.  I’d fight to be at the top of the list as you can get more traffic to your blog that way…now, I can’t remember the last time I linked anywhere.  I finally figured out that I don’t care if I’m popular.  I don’t care if I have more or less traffic than anyone else.  I don’t care about products.  I don’t care about the dollar signs.

I think I finally got back to who I am and where I want to be.  We took a few detours along the way but we’re back to where we belong.

Along the way, the best advice came from the comments all of you left….

-If I was sick and missed a blog post, I’d get a comment from someone asking if I was okay.  That let me know you wanted regularity.  I liked regularity so it was something I was happy to do.
-If I published a pattern…we got great comments.  We like having our stuff published now and then as long as it doesn’t feel like a job so we do that.
-I always get comments like Melissa’s saying “I feel like i’m in your kitchen talking when I read it.”  That helped me to know I didn’t need to sound stuffy and professional.  I LOVED that I didn’t need to.
-When something wasn’t going the best for me, like my thyroid cancer, or the house remodel, I’d get comments cheering me on…so I knew it was okay to share my personal stuff.
-I started book reviews and didn’t know if that would work…some of you let me know it did!  Some of you let me know that you just don’t read those days but didn’t mind them.
-When I felt frustrated with unkind comments, I shared them and you cheered me on…I knew it was okay to be honest.
-When we did a post about our hubbies farming, people commented that they read the post to their husbands.  We knew farming posts were okay.
-When I shared recipes that were so easy and not fancy, we got great comments that people tried them and loved them.  We knew it was okay to not be fancy.
-When I admitted I love thrift stores…no on made fun of me!!  THANKS!!  It showed me I could be myself.

So blog readers…Melissa needs your help…not mine.  Please leave comments here telling what you like in a blog.  Check out her blog and say what might make you more likely to read her blog over another.  If you yourself have a blog, tell her things you’ve done along the way to increase your readership.  Here’s link to Melissa’s blog  seabreezesnippits.com Please be kind and respectful.

By the way….thanks for being our blog readers and putting up with us as we’ve found our way here…and please stick around for where ever we go.  It likely won’t be any further than the thrift store…but who knows!!

PDFPrint

18 thoughts on “Ask Jo: On Blogging

  1. Ellen

    Hi Melissa,

    Your blog does not draw me in. When I scroll the page, it is a group of photos, nothing more. I am a person who scrolls a page scanning to see if I want to read. I had to hover over a photo to get a title and then decide if I wanted to go there to see what was there. Then back to the homepage. Rinse and repeat.

    As a person with very little time, it’s a lot of effort compared to a blog that flows. I only took the time to open 3 “photos”….it’s just too time consuming. I don’t read all of Jo’s twice daily posts but I scroll the blog daily because it’s quick and flows day to day and I can easily see what interests me for a full read and what does not.

    Best of luck growing your blog and making decisions on what it means to you and how you want to move forward.

  2. Ana Sweet

    I had the same feeling about the blog. First, it was not automatically obvious what it contained and how to access it. Check out the layout of Jo’s and Bonnie Hunter’s blogs. Some might find them “standard” but readers want clarity and only to have to drill down once they read a quick starter to see if the topic is interesting. A little more than a picture and title would make it easier to grab a reader.

    A variety of topics like the wonderful area of Oregon, or some interesting people, some quilting ideas, even some disasters can be interesting. I don’t want to have to click on a picture and then find out what the post is really about.

    I have met Jo at a retreat she sponsored and she is friendly and fun. This translates into her blog. She is a wonderful representative of the State of Iowa and small town living.

  3. Cindy

    I had the same feeling about the blog. I would like to see words with the pictures so I know what I’m going to read. I’m no blog expert, I do have one though it is nothing like Jo’s. I enjoy reading what is happening in Jo’s life. http://www.stitchinathome.com/

  4. Jill Klop

    Every day I check out quilt blogs through a website called “quilterblogs.com”. It seems to be a site that has Quilt blogs on it that have new entries. You can scroll through blog after blog. I found Jo’s blog because I had a beagle and she always had pictures of her quilts with her beagle on them. Once I actually read her blog a few times I was hooked. Anyway, when I go through the updated blogs, the blogs that get my attention are the blogs that have pictures of quilts. So, I would recommend using pictures. Personally, I’m not too interested in other types of posts. I’d say Jo’s blog is my exception to that rule though, because I’ve read her blog for so long, I feel like she’s a friend. So, I guess my advice to you would be to register your blog with quilterblogs.com and always use quilt pictures to draw people in. I also want to add that I did check out your ripped pieced binding tutorial and I thought it was neat! I’ll try it some day. Good luck!

  5. Gretchen

    I also was not drawn into Melissa’s blog because all I saw were pictures. I strongly urge her to switch to a different format. Linky parties will help grow your blog too. I take the time to link up to linkys. You don’t have to have finished projects to link. My blog is mostly what I’m working on now or what I’ve done in the last week. I’ve subscribed to your blog Melissa. It’s up to you to keep my interest so I keep the subscription. Good luck!

  6. Kim

    I will go check out her blog, because she has asked for some help. I only follow two blogs, Bonnie Hunter and Jo Country, which is plenty for me. I enjoy both of those because they feel like someone I would want for a friend or neighbor. I have met Bonnie a few times and have taken classes with her, I hope one day to meet Jo.

  7. Anne Deedrick

    Jo,
    I read your blog religiously and enjoy it every day. I don’t always comment but wanted to take the time today to say I love that you share all your life with us. I especially liked today’s on how you got started. Fun to know the history of your blog life. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Nancy

    What attracts me to read and return to blogs?
    * Variety is essential
    * No blatant advertising or annoying pop-ups
    * Comments are answered via email

  9. Ruth

    I found Melissa’s blog confusing because it shows only pictures on the first page. Perhaps she has been spending all her time on Instagram….I much prefer to see a blog post title and a date when I click through to a blog. That way I can decide if it is worth reading. No point in reading a blog that stopped updating months or years ago (several on Jo’s blogroll are no longer current.)
    Then there’s my blog – I haven’t found much to blog about for nearly a year! Posting pictures is my worst nightmare.

  10. Melissa Hollenbeck

    Thank you SO much for your input ladies!!! I recently went to this photo front page and there are others I can chose from, which I’ll do today. I also will look into signing up to quilterblogs.com and adding more links and quilt photos. I kinda wish I’d picked a more quilting name for the blog but I’ve started it so I’ll keep going for now with the same name. I’ve never had constructive criticism before and I’m going to use it. Thank you too Jo. I so appreciate you’re help and insight. We all appreciate you and would love to meet you some time!

  11. Carolyn

    Jo,
    Thanks for giving Melissa a shout out. I follow blogs through Bloglovin and read lots so don’t often search for more. Now that I have found it, I really like that it is a little different, kinda like Instagram meets Blogging! Really like hearing about the west coast because we live on the east coast! I really like the recipes and articles about the historical quilts there, really like her variety and that is what is appealing about your blog to me. We live on a farm and I love your farming stories, we babysit so love children topics and most of all always love your quilts! I really like Mary’s too! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Melissa Hollenbeck

    Hey Carolyn: Thank you so much for taking the time to look at the blog and letting me know what you like about it. I get pretty excited about the historical quilts. I think those ladies are going to let me be part of the documentation group and I’ll be able to post more photos then. My mom grew up on a farm and I loved hearing her stories about her childhood. I need to write those stories down for my granddaughter! Again, thank you for your input. I hope you have a wonderful day!!! Melissa

  13. Tracy

    Thanks for all the great comments and ideas above. I am trying to get more traffic on my blog as well. Linky’s do create a lot more, but it doesn’t necessarily mean more comments and interaction. My blogging philosophy is a lot like Nancy’s (above). I don’t want to see ads, unless its for the bloggers patterns, books, or services. I have a pop up and ad blocker that works very well, and why should I subject others to that annoying stuff? It makes me wonder if the amount of money made from outside advertising is really worth it. Variety is important to me too, but I usually limit my posts to quilting or sewing related topics. I don’t have any quilting friends near by, so blogging helps me stay connected to my work/hobby. Thanks Jill Klop for the Quilter Blogs link! I signed up and will be reading more too.
    A few people said they weren’t attracted to the format of Melissa’s blog, it is a newer one, perhaps if her main page pictures were somehow more engaging? As I was composing this the set up has changed, to a regular scrolling format. I thought that it was okay the first time, but understand how people can be resistant to change, especially with web design, remember when facebook changed their format?

  14. Melissa Hollenbeck

    Hi Tracy: You say you don’t have quilting friends nearby. I wrote not too long ago that quilting is a solitary sport and its true! I do try to get together with other people whenever I can to sew but blogging allows us to engage with other people more often. We work so hard on our projects and want to share them. I wish you luck in all your writing and sewing endeavors and thank you for the comments.

  15. Diane

    Melissa I want to subscribe to your blog, but not with my email address…looking for bloglovin but do not see it. I also do not see an email to respond to you. I love what you have done already.

  16. bobbiesews

    I rewemember the blog about Kelli finding her special sewing machine, made me happy for her.
    I know there must be caution in how much you share that’s personal but you seem to have landed just perfectly. I like your book reviews, have read because of your reviews. The recipes-same thing. I’ve never desired a small town life or a farm life but your personality makes it all seem appealing. Thanks

  17. paula dalby

    I agree 100% with Anne … “o,
    I read your blog religiously and enjoy it every day. I don’t always comment but wanted to take the time today to say I love that you share all your life with us. I especially liked today’s on how you got started. Fun to know the history of your blog life. Thanks for sharing!”

    I’d also add that I love it that you are yourself, and you remind me of myself. We think alike (not into all the fabric lines and commercialism and competitions), we’re nearly the same age and I think if we lived close to each other we’d be friends. What am I saying? I actually consider you a friend, even though we haven’t met. Thanks so much for sharing your family, activities and life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *