Blogging as a Business

Blogging as a business is tough. There have been lots of changes in the blog world the last few years. This is a post that I never expected to write.Blogging as a Business|Designers Sweet Spot|www.designerssweetspot.com

Blogging as a business is a tough job. There is so much competition today, millions of users write blogs. It wasn’t always like this.

My Blog Business Story

I began writing seven years ago as kind of a personal journal. We were going through a lot of financial and personal struggles. and blogging was a way to focus on the beautiful side of life and worry less about the hard things. Three years ago, I decided to get serious as a blogger and make blogging my primary business. This was never my intention as I originally began writing just for fun.

When I decided to become a business, I stretched myself to learn a little more each day. I learned Blogger, Word Press, new social media platforms, photography, Adobe Lightroom, PicMonkey, Picassa, Photoshop and other related computer programs. I learned to stage my money shots, link up to blog parties, find and work with brand sponsors.

My Blog Business Updates

Last summer I spent weeks re-writing my old content. I updated dozens of photos, added affiliate links and SEO to my old posts, along with new custom graphics for Pinterest on a total of more than 200 posts. I also redirected hundreds of blog pages to make my blog more efficient and run smoother. To make my site more appealing, I hired designers to install a new theme, and redesign and rebrand my blog and logos. I studied branding and how to create a style that would match my vision for this blog’s future.

By fall my blog was practically brand new, and I anticipated the next couple of years would include great things for me and that I would be able to achieve my business goals.

Overall blogging is a good experience, it inspires me to work harder to accomplish more. I am always learning new things, meeting great people and have come to enjoy and embrace every part of the blogging journey.

Until now.

My Blog Business Crash

Two weeks ago my site went down. Perhaps you were looking for it. My URL was completely blank for more than 5 days. You may have noticed that it now looks a little different. In fact, I have completely lost 8 months worth of new content, along with my new blue and gold theme, my logos and all my hard work. It has been a devastating loss.

Even though I have backups of my blog, my former web host failed to transfer data after I paid for them to do it. I thought I had multiple backup copies of my site. It turns out, that none of them were current or recoverable by my new host. To make things worse, the additional backup plugin I installed was never activated. It seems as though there is always something that I don’t yet know about blogging.

I am not technical, but I have learned a lot the last few years. Somehow it seems like I will never get where I want my blog to go. There are so many of us bloggers that love blogging, but can’t quite get to our end business goal to be successful. I am not alone in this frustration.

My Blog Business Future

For now, I am trying to decide how to proceed. There is no way I can re-create 8 months worth of content or I will never have the ambition to write anything new. It’s very discouraging to come back to the blog when it looks like it did a year ago, after I put so much time and effort into it. In addition, I have broken links all over the web from the posts and photos that were deleted. Right now, I have no idea how this will affect my site long term. Google does not like broken links, and generally punishes sites that have them. Honestly, I don’t know what that will do my page views or ranking.

I know I need to rebuild somehow, but it will take time. It is painful and I am disheartened. There are tons of updates that could be done, but I don’t know that I will even attempt to recreate the blog as it was. With each passing day there are new reasons for me to move ahead in yet a different direction. You will have to be patient with me while I work through it all.

My Blog Business Recovery

For now, I am concentrating on different things.  Recently, I compiled two new ebooks. Part of blogging as a business is creating content other than what is on the blog. Remember the phrase “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? It rings so true today.

I recently began publishing ebooks, and I have several more coming soon. My first adventure was this photography book and am now releasing two more ebooks for your reading pleasure.

Photography Challenge: Improve your photography and laugh at my attempts to master the camera. |Designers sweet Spot|www.designerssweetspot.com

The 30 Day Photo Challenge is the humorous account of how I actually learned to use a DSLR digital camera. I made lots of mistakes and you can laugh at every single one of them. This story proves that anyone can become a photographer, even me. This book is $1.99 and is available by clicking on the button below:

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The next book has been my most popular blog series ever. Thousands of pins and page views have made this series a huge hit. Projects from this book have been featured on the Huffington Post, Craft Gawker, Hometalk and various other websites.

Gifts Wrapped in Glass: Crafts, Recipes, and projects in mason jars|Designers Sweet Spot|www.designerssweetspot.com

Writing this crafty book was one of the best things ever. I purchased and used more than 150 Mason jars of different styles, sizes and colors for this project.

Filled them with all sorts of beautiful things, and gave them all away.

This book, also $1,99 is full of ideas for crafts, recipes, sewing projects, home decor and much more all wrapped up in cute little Mason Jars.

You’re going to love it.

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Preparing for a Blog Conference

Suitcases ready to go to a blog conference by designerssweetspot.com

I have been running about getting ready for my next blog conference. Preparing is time consuming, it always takes more organization than I planned. I decided that if I wrote a blog post about it, I could just refer to my post when time was short. I am sure there are other bloggers who feel the same way and are scrambling at the last minute.

small suitcase inside a large suitcase

 

First order of business is the luggage. I have been searching the thrift stores for an extra large suitcase with wheels. The insider blogging trick is to bring two suitcases, one large, one small to the conference. By putting one suitcase inside the other for the trip, you will have less baggage to worry about. For the return trip, the large suitcase is used to hold swag, that is all the products the wonderful sponsors supply us with at the conference. The small bag is used for the rest of your belongings, which is a test of your true packing ability. Don’t forget to label your base with name, address, cell phone number and blog name.

 

Minimal Conference blogger essentials include:

At least 100 business cards

Cell phone and USB charger

Wireless charger for use during the lectures

Head phones

Power strip for charging multiple devices in your hotel room with your roommates

iPad or laptop (I use mine for taking notes and pictures during the conference).

Tote bag for picking up swag at the vendor booths, mine has my logo on it.

blue top with a cowboy hat

 

Wardrobe essentials:

Layers are preferred, it gets cool sitting in those large con fence rooms. I always bring a light sweater or denim jacket in case I need it. I prefer tops or blouses with short sleeves in case I get too warm, I won’t feel uncomfortable to take off a layer.

Comfortable shoes for walking. We leave the hotel a couple of times for dinner out, plan to walk several blocks and save the heels for dance night!

Dancing clothes, there is always at least one dance night with a party theme. This year it’s flamingoes, so pack your flamingo attire and be ready to meet people and have fun!

A small handbag for evening is essential, I like one that holds my keys, phone and credit card for the dance event. A wallet bag with a wrist strap is a good idea so you can keep it with you at all times.

Here is my complete list of what to bring:

2 pairs black pants

1 pair jeans

Denim jacket

2 short sleeve tops

1 long sleeve blouse

1 dressy evening outfit and heels

1 casual evening outfit for dinner out

Pajamas

Work out clothes (some die hard fitness bloggers work out together at the conference)

Personal care items

Evening handbag

Tote bag

Raincoat or umbrella

Little gifts for your roommates

 

That’s about it! It may sound over whelming but after you have been to a conference you know what to expect. Of course, being yourself is important. Don’t stress about having to bring items that you know you will not use. There are lots of bloggers who do their own thing, just do what makes you comfortable.

See you at the conference!

 

Photography: Learning Through the Lens

It’s time for another 31 Day Series. I have done this series more than 5 times over the last six years. I was ready to forget it this year since I have some other commitments, but I find that I just can’t give it up. I plan to post in a little different format though, adding posts to this 31 Day page as I have time to write them, not necessarily 31 days in a row but in a “31 posts when I can” sort of way.

Two years ago I did a 31 Days of Photography Series based on a challenge that I found on Pintrest. That challenge has been pinned and re-pinned hundreds of times, and is one of my post popular pins. During the series I learned lots about photography but not a lot of it really applied to blogging or how to take better blog photos.

This new 31 Day challenge is targeted at bloggers who want to learn how to take better pictures of small objects, interiors with bad lighting, close ups, less than perfect gardens, projects that don’t turn out exactly perfectly, and maybe even how to make your mouth water food photography. I will even throw in some basic editing, storage and collage tips.

Disclaimer: I am not a photography professional, I have never taken a photo class in my life. However, My photography is much improved since I started 6 years ago. I have taken more than 20k photos since I started blogging. I know a lot more now than I did then. Six years down the road I will have even more wisdom to share on the subject.

I am starting a Facebook Page and a Pintrest page for this series, a place where you can post your pictures for comment and discussion among the group for the benefit of Learning Through the Lens. You can get a Smug Mug account for professional quality photo sharing right from Adobe Lightroom. Sign up here with my affiliate link.

Here’s the line up:

Day 1: Your favorite outdoor space

Day 2: something blue

Day 3: your pet, or some one else’s pet

Day 4: your favorite food in macro

Day 6: your favorite food from above

Day 7: your food photography set up

Day 8: take a selfie with a selfie stick

Day 9: the same object 10 times with different angles or backdrops

Day 10: sunset

Day 12: fall colors

Day 13: photo a plant in macro

Day 14: something shinny and reflective

Day 15: sunrise

Day 16: water

Day 17: white anything

Day 18: your living room

Day 19: your kitchen

Day 20: panorama

Day 21: handmade item

Day 22: before and after

Day 23: your favorite thing

Day 24: the room in your home with the least amount of natural light

Day 25: happy place

Day 26: photo collage

Day 27: someone you love

Day 28: a handful of ……..

Day 29: pattern

Day 30: your office or workspace

Day 31: edit a poor photo

 

The Randolph Street Market Roundup

Randolph market

We are back home after a wonderful weekend in Chicago at the Randolph Street Market. It’s been years since we visited Chicago during the summer months, lots of things have changed since the last time we were there in warm weather.

painted windows

The Randolph Street Market is one of those things. I am absolutely certain it would have become one of my favorite haunts no matter what the time of year. It was amazing!

I was completely inspired by so many things! These painted windows were stunning!

letters for sale

The vintage market is full of unique items, repurposed, or artistically created. So many wonderful things could have come home with me! It was such fun to see more urban style things, we don’t have much of that here in Wisconsin.

You know, we are very country.

Randolph Market decor

The blogger event was a two day affair. We had a tent full of bloggers who came to network and shop the market. It was a tremendous success.

Blogger conference

We had great food, fun and conversation. We heard inspiring words from some of the event Sponsors. This is Paula from the Randolph Street Market, along with the girls from Blitsy.

Gina and Jess

Our main presenter was Gina from Shabby Creek Cottage. I really enjoyed meeting her and hearing her blog story. She is an amazing woman, I can’t wait to meet her again some day.

Randolph Market decor2

The decorations were so adorable! My friend Karen from Dragon Fly and Lilly Pads made them.

DIVA of DIY

 

During the market, there were six of us bloggers who presented a project to the group. This is Leanne from Diva of DIY, she made the most adorable backpack station!

#buildup

I presented my DIY Lap Desk, it was fun! Everyone was so sweet and encouraging.

It’s hard to be the presenter, you never know what to expect when you are on stage. We had a smallish group, so we were very informal and it made everyone feel very comfortable.

I learned so much from these ladies! We decided we would use the hashtag buildup to remember to encourage each other in our blogs.

Boutique double beds

While we were there, we stayed at the beautiful Chicago Athletic Association Hotel on Michigan Avenue. The hotel was also one of the event sponsors.

My life will never be the same.

The hotel was simply GORGEOUS.

It also had the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.

seating in the billiards room

The “boutique” hotel is full of beautiful period details, I loved all the woodwork in the Billiards Room. I can just see a group of friends meeting for cocktails and a few games of pool here!

billiards room

 

They even have a broom ball court! How interesting!

 

Boutique hotel bath

The stunning hotel renovation has only been open for a few months. The Chicago Athletic Association hotel was built in 1890, and was originally an all men’s athletic club. Many famous Chicago athletes were trained here. The design team that renovated the hotel was careful to preserve much of it’s original character, in a very delicious, masculine,  Ralph Lauren sort of way.

Boutique hotel bath2

The bath that made me SWOON.

I love black and white tile, just love it!

Bike and flowers

 

One of the things we love to do while we visit the city is take long walks. There never seems to be a lack of things that inspire me.

We had warm humid days with a misty rain. All the plantings were simply glorious!

I don’t ever remember Chicago being so full of plants. Perhaps I just never noticed? Or perhaps they are doing more to make the city an inviting place?

Either way, they sure were beautiful!

landscape

 

Simply, stunning colors and folliage!

outdoor cafe

There were also outdoor cafe’s everywhere we went. They had the most creative uses for plants to create a desirable outdoor space. Love this look!

landscape at night

As night fell, the city lights were captivating. I love how the look against the misty sky.

skyline on the river

 

chicago skyline

 

skyview from the ground

During the early morning, we explored more of the streets of down town on our way to the Randolph Street Market.

kayaks on the river

I didn’t know you could kayak on the river, did you?

Opera house portico

The Lyric Opera house was stunning, we happened to come across it when we were on our way to the Market one day.

Did you know that I am an opera nerd? Yup, true story.

front

Beautiful!

 

Sponsors

 

This event was one of the best I have ever attended. The Randolph Street Market and all the sponsors were so hospitable! Everything was beautifully done, the food, decorations, the presentations and all the wonderful sponsor gifts and goodies, it truly was an experience to remember!

A big thanks to Randolph Street Market, Hometalk, Chicago Athletic Association and Blitsy for making it all possible, along with the following sponsors:

Mariano’s West Loop

MillerCoors for Blue Moon

Plaid, makers of Mod Podge, FolkArt, Gallery Glass and One Stroke

Homeright

Rockler

Show them some love and visit their websites!

I look forward to doing it all again next year!

 

Craft Room Decor

I finally have a craft room. Well, it’s not really a craft room. It’s more like a craft space. I have had very few creative spaces other than the kitchen table in our home. Having a place to work seems like a tremendous luxury. Our new home is no different, there isn’t a lot of extra room for me to work in.

So, I have a little secret.

You may not like it.

You might think it’s crazy.

You may think it’s ridiculously impracticle.

My new craft space is in the JOHN.

Yup, it’s in an unused corner of a ginormous, impracticle bathroom.

Having a craft space in the bathroom has its advantages.

For example, the doors all lock (yes, there is more than one door).

My kids won’t bother me in there. Privacy is definitely a plus.

The space has good lighting, also a plus.

This is a temporary situation until we remodel the bathroom, but for now it will do.

I found these wall shelf brackets at the local Habitat store. The table has been around a while, it repurposed with a new coat of paint for the occasion. My trash can lamp offers more direct light for detailed projects. I use the mason jars on the shelf to store buttons, pens and even glue sticks.

I found extra space to store my spools of thread on the top of the window ledges. It’s not a problem for me to reach up there and grab what I need.

The quote on the wall was left there by the previous tenant. I find it very inspiring. The darling fabric flowers were designed by Laura Kelley and came home with me from the SNAP Conference.

I store miscellaneous craft supplies such as paper, glue and craft paint in the rolling storage bin under the table. It’s easy to move around where ever it’s needed.

The chair is repurposed from another part of the house. I wrapped it in fabric and tied it in a knot to add some interest and a bit of a feminine touch. The chair is rather unsightly without it.

All in all, this was a low cost project, but it feels good to finally be organized. I can’t wait to sit down and get crafty!

Even if it’s in the bathroom!