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.
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.
Image by London Permaculture, via Flickr
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.
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!
My friend Tara and I have had so many conversations about this whole subject, we finally decided to join forces and write an ebook. It has a whale of a title, too: Crafting an Effective Blog: How to make a blog that actually markets your business (without being spammy). It’s an intensive workbook that aims to help each reader dig deep into how blogging can best work for their businesses.
By the end of the workbook, we want you to have a clear picture of the kind of blog (and the kind of audience) you need in order to reach your business goals – or, whether blogging even makes sense for you. We’ve built a whole bunch of worksheets to help you get there. We’d love to have you try it out! Get more details here.