Last week I wrote here about the very basics of setting a blog up, with a promise to return this week with some answers to questions that people commonly ask me when they find out I write stuff on the Internet. As I mentioned last time, this is also good preparation for me as I prepare to talk about blogging at the second John O’ Groats Book Festival, which is happening on the 5th to the 7th of April this year. Event plug over – onto question and answer time. Hopefully you’ll find a response to that nagging blogging query you’ve always wondered about but were (hopefully 😉 ) too polite to ask 🙂 .
Why did you start Wellies on the School Run?
I started my blog three years ago, after my youngest son went to school, as a way of getting into writing. It’s as simple as that really – I wanted to write and had found an article in my trusty Writers and Artist’s Yearbook noting that starting a blog might be a sensible avenue to take. I also found that having and raising small children somehow awakened my neglected creativity (a common experience I think), and I wanted to find a place where I could harness that. Blogging has always been about the experience of writing for me, and for as long as I continue with it, I really hope it always will.
I’m a very private person. Don’t you worry about sharing things on the Internet?
Believe it or not, quite a lot of bloggers are actually introverts, and people who value their (and other peoples’) privacy. I don’t share every aspect of my life on my blog – far from it – and I’m mindful about the pictures I post and the information I choose to give away. For me, boundaries are important – for example I don’t share things about my husband (who is supportive but completely offline in terms of any kind of social media presence). I don’t share much about my children either (and always think carefully about any pictures of them I do decide to post). At the same time, when I decided to get into writing, I knew that my output was going to be a bit stilted if I wasn’t opening up in terms of my own experiences and emotions. As a result, I try to write pretty openly about my own life, while remaining respectful of other peoples’ feelings and their right to privacy in theirs.
How do you find the time for blogging?
As well as writing, I work for my husband’s business and act as chief caregiver/dog-walker/life admin person etc. etc. Like everyone else these days there are lots of plates to spin and it can be a struggle finding the time to do something that might be perceived as a very time-consuming hobby amidst it all. I take a pretty disciplined approach to writing, though, and try to have everything done at home before the kids go out to school so I can focus on my to-do list. I plan out my week (see: bullet journal) with hours allocated to writing my book, other writing projects, business admin work and writing on my blog (which I usually do Wednesdays/Thursdays as a rule). When I sit down to write I use the pomodoro technique (25 minutes focused work and then a break – you can read about that here if you’d like to). I also have lots of rules for myself about when I can use the Internet and social media (basically not at all until I have got my writing time finished for the day).
Where do you get ideas for blog posts?
Actually, getting ideas for blog posts is never a problem for me. I have a whole section in a notebook devoted to posts I’d like to write – but will probably never get the time. I get ideas from all sorts of places – for example, thought processes sparked off by something in a book, a podcast or a conversation. But mostly I get ideas from experiences like travel, an event I’ve gone to, or something I’m going through at the time. My very best place to get ideas though, is on my daily dog walk. I get a lot of inspiration during quiet time spent in nature (oh, and time spent in the bath is also good!)
What sort of opportunities can blogging give you?
Blogging has led to lots of opportunities for me, including things like appearing on the radio, being invited to write for websites (and being asked to speak at lovely book events 🙂 ). My family and I were actually once asked if we’d like to appear on a Scottish TV show about family finances off the back of my blog (we declined politely, we live in a small community and we’re pretty shy that way). Another time, we were offered the chance of a chef service coming to our house to make a meal for us if I would write a review (unfortunately, I don’t think they realised how remote we are geographically 😉 ). I often get asked to attend events in the central belt but the logistics and travel don’t really work for us (we are 2 hours north of Inverness, right on the UK’s tippy top – yes, really – that far up!)
What about working with brands/earning money?
I don’t actually work with brands very often and any income I’ve earned through my blog hasn’t been from the blog itself but through ancillary activities like appearing at events or on the radio. I am a member of the Amazon affiliates scheme, (whereby you can post links to Amazon products into your posts and earn a commission should someone purchase via them) but my own experience with that implies you need a very good readership to see any kind of return (at all! 😉 ) Thankfully, I didn’t go into blogging with the aspiration of making much money from it (probably a good point to note with any kind of writing, to be honest 🙂 ). My own experience as a writer generally is that paying work can be very difficult to find.
What tends to be more common (at least in my own experience), is a brand offering you some sort of product or service with the expectation you will write about it. Nothing in life is free, as the saying goes, and it’s worth bearing in mind that your acceptance of such offers generally implies some output on your part. It’s also worth considering the readership you’ve worked hard to cultivate, and whether the product or service will even be of any interest to them (or just one in a long list of ad posts). For that reason (and the fact that I don’t like gathering lots of stuff I might not use again), I often find myself – politely – turning these kinds of offers down.
That said, when I’ve been asked to attend some sort of event or receive a product that actually interests me (or might interest my readers), I enjoy collaborating. In the past, I’ve enjoyed doing things like attending a family fun day, trying out digital hypnosis for my fear of flying and reviewing books that lovely publishers have sent. If you do decide to work with brands as a blogger you must make it explicitly clear when you’ve been paid to write about something, or have been gifted goods or services in return for a mention. You can find the official guidelines on this here if you want to find out more.
So that’s it for my round up of common blogging questions and answers and my little blogging mini-series. If you’re looking to start up a blog in the near future, I hope it’s helped you (and if not, normal service will resume next week! 🙂 ) Blogging can be a route to lots of opportunities, but the best ones often come from the confidence you’ll gain in writing – and the people blogging will get you chatting to.
Above all, enjoy yourself.
As with so many things in life, you can’t really wish for any more than that.