The End of the Lucky Blogger Era (Or, What Blogging for Business Means Now)

09 Feb 2012

golden lucky cats

Image by (Jc), via Flickr

(A little note, before I begin: this is one of those posts that could be construed as inflammatory, but I also think this is an important idea at this moment in our community. So, know that above all, I mean no offense. OK?)
So, here's how it happened for me…

Back in 2006, I started this blog. I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, and certainly no idea that it would come to change my life profoundly. I just wrote things and took pictures. I shared them, and people sometimes commented. Yay!

Then, in 2007, I started getting what Betz refers to as "The Magical Emails." I started hearing from bona-fide companies! They wanted me to do things for them! Sometimes, even, for money! In fact, I heard from enough companies that I was able to quit my day job! Holy crap! How lucky was I?!

…And all around me, other bloggers were playing out similar scenarios. Many, many bloggers I knew got book deals. Some of them went on TV shows. Some were hired by magazines. We were all super lucky.

Good luck charms

Image by décalage, via Flickr

So more and more people decided to start blogs, because they'd seen things work out so well for so many Lucky Bloggers. There were widespread dreams of turning a blog into a creative small business. It was a hopeful and exciting time.

See, in the Lucky Blogger Era, because blogging was so new and different (and way fewer people were doing it), you could hang out your craft-bloggy shingle, post whatever caught your fancy, and sooner or later, you had a pretty good chance of being noticed by someone with money to invest. You didn't really need to think about your blog as a business tool in the traditional sense. You could just share your blog posts and whoever offered you paying work would then help define what your crafty career was going to be.

Soft Shoe Shuffle to Oblivion

Image by London Permaculture, via Flickr

But Then...

Then 2008 came, and the economy tanked. (Perhaps you've heard?) And with that, the Lucky Blogger Era came in for a landing, and the way blogging works for business began to shift.

This may sound like a gloom-and-doom kind of story, but it isn't. I think it's healthy if we can recognize the Lucky Blogger Era for the bubble that it was, and understand that the online world shifts quickly and we'll always have to reinvent and adapt.

It's still wholly possible to start a blog and have it grow into a livelihood – people are making this happen every day. But I believe that nowadays, it requires us to do some very focused thinking. We need to get clear about what we want from blogging, who we actually need to be blogging for, and whether blogging actually fits our lives as an ongoing marketing tool. The days of making nice crafty posts and waiting for someone to notice are pretty much over.


Image by dilatedpupil87, via Flickr

Why Bloggers Got So Lucky

Here's why so many bloggers got lucky during the Lucky Blogger Era: all the eyeballs were leaving mainstream crafty media and coming to craft blogs instead. So, mainstream publishers and producers naturally thought, "Ah, so blogs are where the craft consumers are going. We'll invest money in those bloggers, and that will bring us all those consumers."

…Which is an understandable assumption, given that it was the early days of blogging and nobody fully understood the impact blogs would have on how we consume.

The point is, companies invested in Lucky Bloggers because Lucky Bloggers had the attention of other crafters. We got gigs because companies wanted to make money from our audiences. (Don't get me wrong - it also happened because we were talented and had great ideas. But at the end of the day, I believe there were often corporate-growth angles behind it.)

Companies are still capitalizing on craft bloggers' audiences now, but on a vastly narrower scale, as there's less available money and waaaay more available bloggers.

Nowadays, if you want to start a blog and have it become your livelihood, it's not really enough to blog for other crafters – unless you can offer crafters a product or service that they'll actually buy regularly. There's nothing in the world wrong with blogging for other crafters as an act of sharing or personal fulfillment! It's just that the business game has changed.

Holding the Reins

Image by MyEyeSees, via Flickr

Time to Take the Reins!

If you have dreams of building your blog into a business, it's time to stop waiting for those "Magical Emails" and get more purposeful. What do you want to be doing for your living? Do you have the skills you need in order to do that? What additional training, equipment or access do you need? Who do you need to connect with? Who is your ideal customer?

…And then, is a blog even the right marketing tool for this business you're seeking? Contrary to the mythology, blogs aren't necessarily a one-size-fits-all proposition. Blogs are effective storytellers, but they require time and energy and planning and focus. They're not the best tool for marketing everything in the world. Nor is every potential customer in the world even reading them.

In the Post Lucky Blogger Era, it's time we stopped seeing blogs as our ticket to an undefined goal of "doing what we love for a living." It's time we saw blogs as what they are – potentially-valuable tools in a business-owner's toolkit.


Image by Michael Dales, via Flickr

See what I mean? There's a lot of focused thinking to do!



Hi, Dixie - I think the Busting the Blog Myth class can benefit any blogger who wants to have some kind of business or marketing traction from blogging, but hasn't really seen that yet. While personal bloggers could find some interesting information in there, we're focusing the material primarily on blogging for business-related reasons. Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope you find the ebook ebook (I know, right? Awkward to say!) helpful.

Diane, once again your thoughts are thought-provoking, succinct, and spot-on! Well written!!

The points you bring up can be applied to any number of new industries, new technologies, and new fields of exploration. I see this in my partner's line of work--the home electronics distribution company that he works for has never needed to define who and what they are, nor why they do it, because they were the top-dog in their field by virtue of simply being in the right place at the right time... Now that there are competitors doing exactly what they do, the company is struggling... It's not the same world anymore. Anyone can get anything at anytime from anyone, and there's no clear reason for consumers to get it through their particular company versus a competitor's... Looking from the outside, it was inevitable that the aspects of the business they exploited to survive would start tightening up--profit margins are shrinking as companies race to the bottom to offer lower prices.

I wonder if our perception of how much money a person can actually make at blogging is going to have to be re-imagined. I wonder if our eyes have collectively been dazzled by "opportunity", but we're going to have to mature into settling for "sustainability" instead, and embracing it's virtues...

Boy, Amen to that, Corey! I liked what Ellen commented, too - that trying to make a living solely from the act of blogging is a roll of the dice. It's really about formulating a stable of products and services that work together to create a sustainable income.

I think we're a little hard-wired to perceive that anyone we see in "the media" (and I include online media in this) is making fabulous wealth. After all, the people we grew up seeing in traditional media had generally climbed a lot of mountains and jumped through a lot of hoops in order to get there - so they maybe had a better likelihood of already having built a good income. But the reality of the internet age may be that a lot more people have a shot at making not fabulous riches, but an honest buck from work they really enjoy. I'll take that reality! :-)

You are so smart Diane! I was really needing this read today!

I completely agree. Things are different now, for better or for worse. Personally I consider my blog to be my resume and a jumping off point for developing different opportunities. It's not a business by itself.

Hi Diane! I've been following your stuff for a while now but have never joined the conversation.

I think the key phrase in all this is the lucky bloggers had undefined goals. Anyone who sets out with the intention to sell ads as their only business model is setting themselves up to fail.

I did get one of those lucky emails (actually it was a tweet) but I have always had a larger plan to monetize my site. I guess the difference is I have never viewed my site as a blog.

Maybe we need to stop labeling ever site that's run on wordpress as a blog?

If we want to be taken seriously as professionals I think we have to stop thinking of ourselves as bloggers and start thinking like business people who craft.

Great post, Diane! I love the title of your class, heehee. Nobody wants to be gross!

Thank you for the kind words, Liz! I think this "media investing in the people who have the eyeballs" is a time-honored practice, and one that makes sense when your business is to then sell eyeballs to advertisers. But, as with your Food Network example, this practice also mints a rather limiting culture of celebrity that bugs me, too. I've been writing a post about internet celebrity for, oh, three years now. Maybe someday it'll actually say what I want it to say. :-)

As well written as it is thought out, Diane.
The era of the Lucky Blogger may be evolving for crafting, but it is (woefully) alive and the basis of much of what appears on The Food Network (and in bits and pieces of Martha Stewart). Better to be the innovator than the last guy who gets the punchline. There is much success along the road ahead of you because you "get it."

this post is definitely NOT controversial!

Thanks for the info, Diane! I'll see where my business budget is as we get closer to the date and if I have the funds, I will definitely join! :)

Hi, Ana - the class is definitely designed so you can approach the material according to your own schedule. You'd be able to get to the day's lessons each evening, and post any questions or discussion you like. If we don't get responses to you that evening, we'll put them in first thing in the morning. The only thing you might miss, it sounds like, is the live group chat on the last day. But we can send you a transcript!

What an interesting post. I just bought your e-book e-book. That sounds weird. Came her via Michele Made Me, whom I found when looking for ideas for Christmas decorations for a party I was doing.

I've been blogging for a while. Is your class focused mostly on beginning or do you think it has content for those of us who already have been blogging a while with multiple blogs? I'm an artist, and have designed an antique inspired doll pattern based on Izannah Walker Dolls. I make paintings, too. I don't make any money from my blogs, other than it might interest people in my pattern.


Wow am I reading this at the right time- I have been stuck in a "what the heck am I doing?" rut since new year's... so much to think about! I had indeed noticed that the "lucky" era was over but your small history makes the picture more clear and not so bleak! Which is nice, because I couldn't stop now if I wanted to ;) I will have to keep an eye out for another time or win a spot for the class, but knowing which questions to ask really helps! Thank you!

I am definitely interested in this, but I am wondering if it makes sense for me to sign up with my work schedule. I have long days at work and wouldn't be able to log on and check the materials until the evening. Do you think I'd be able to take full advantage of the class?

very well thought out post :) I've never used my blog for anything more than a reminder for me, if I get any revenue off it, great, but like you wrote its not perfect for marketing everything. and with art its hit or miss what works, blogs can work, but I find the art blogs I pay attention to are the ones where I can learn something and are not trying to sell me everything

Phew, I need this class but not sure I can swing the cash right now. Will it be available later?

HI, Nadir - I'm not sure whether we'll offer this again. I'll be glad to keep you posted!

Hi Diane,

I often come away from your thoughtful posts to reflect on the meaning of what I do. Thank you!

I started my blog in 2007 with no clear goals other than to share and be part of the online craft community. This morning I went back and looked at my posts from the first year and I can see how I have grown and improved in so many ways over the past five years. My focus has changed a bit as time has gone by, my kids have gotten older, and my own interests have changed, but I think sincerity is still key in what I do. Luckily, crafting/sewing has turned into a career for me, but it wasn't the blog alone that did it.

I see so many blogs now dedicated just to making money from crafts/blogging and I think this first thing to remember is to be genuine. People are smart and they see right through ploys, so to be successful in anything, you have to believe in it and you also need some business sense. I always lament that art schools aren't teaching these young artists how to market themselves. Just as I tell my kids that being smart alone is worthless if you don't work hard, the same goes for creativity and business.

So if your plan is to start a business just by starting a blog, you might as well go buy a lottery ticket.

Good post. Makes sense. But what if you don't know how not to be gross? This is gonna be tough.