Like lots of bloggers, I regularly get emails from other parents asking for advice on how to set up “a popular parenting blog”. I should probably say from the outset that I don’t really know how to measure “popular” in blog terms and I’m entirely unconvinced I actually fall into that category anyway. However, I do earn part of my income from this blog and, these days, my posts are read by an audience made up of more than just my mother, so I guess I’m not a total internet loner.
Anyway, this isn’t a post about how to make money from blogging. There are enough of those on the internet already. (Incidentally, if you’re setting up a blog with the sole aim of earning money then I’m probably not the best person to speak to. This blog doesn’t form my main income and neither would I want it to.) No, this post is about the many glorious and often unexpected things that blogging has brought me aside from cold hard cash – things that, if you give it a go, blogging could bring for you too.
By far the biggest – and most unexpected – bonus of blogging, for me, has been the friendships I’ve made through meeting other women online. Back when I started this blog just over five years ago I was a new first time mum, yet to find my “mum village”. I didn’t do NCT or antenatal classes first time around, so I had no ready-made circle of baby mama mates. I found it hard to break into the clique of some of the “mum gangs” at various baby and toddler groups, who were all on their second or third baby and seemingly total mum pros compared to my newbie status. Blogging widened my world and brought me into contact with other people who I found I had lots in common with – people I’d never have known if I’d not started this blog.
These days some of the friends I’ve made over the years of blogging I count as proper real life mates. These are people I’ve been on holiday with, partied in London with, gossiped over lunch with, gone to the park for playdates with, seen the new year in with. Real life friendships that would remain intact now whether I blogged or not. These are not “blogging besties” who I’m only mates with because we both blog. These friendships go further than catching up at blog conferences.
You know when you’re a parent and some problems seem so insurmountably huge that you’ll never get past them? Baby sleep dilemmas, for instance, or toddler tantrums. Everyone always tells you that “it’s just a phase”, but when you’re right there in the midst of it, it doesn’t feel that way. Over the years I’ve blogged about all sorts of things that have felt really important at the time. Just getting it down has often helped but, even more so, there’s a real sense of solidarity when other people online put their hands up and say, “Yeah, me too!”. At the height of my parental angst it’s nice to know there are others in the same boat too.
When I first thought about starting a blog I had no idea what WordPress was, let alone how to use it. In the past five years I’ve learned how to use various forms of CMS, both for my own sites and others. I’ve taught myself how to shoot and edit video, how to take fairly decent photographs and how to use social media to drive traffic and brand awareness. The me of five years ago would never have believed it possible I could put together a site like Roost all by myself. I was a trained broadcast journalist who knew how to write, anything beyond that seemed a step too far.
People often talk about the “opportunities” they’ve had through blogging. These can be anything from buggies to review to cash for sponsored posts or meeting celebrities at a glitzy PR event. All of those things are nice but, personally, I think the most exciting “opportunities” blogging has brought me have been the various adventures we’ve been on as a family. Our holiday to France last year, for example, never would have happened had it not been for this blog. A recent holiday to the Isle of Wight staying in a huge ten bedroom house. Various trips to cornwall, family festivals, day trips and weekends away. I’m not saying I’d want every holiday to be a review one because review trips are, essentially, a working holiday, but I wouldn’t take back any of the trips we’ve had as a family via this blog.
Although I don’t earn my sole income through this blog, it’s been pretty instrumental in giving me the confidence, contacts and platform to work as a freelancer from home. When I was on maternity leave most of my portfolio was on audio from my days on the radio, or on online articles with no byline. Writing this blog gave me the opportunity to find my voice again and realise that I was still capable of stringing a sentence together despite thinking I’d lost half my brain when I gave birth. My main gigs these days are writing lifestyle and interiors features for magazines, blogging and vlogging for other sites like BabyCentre and doing ad hoc bits of copywriting and social media work for brands. I have absolutely no doubt that this blog has vastly widened my opportunities for work, both in terms of skills, confidence and contacts.
So that’s it. Blogging has brought me many benefits that are way beyond sponsored post cash, affiliate ad revenue and posh new baby products. If you’re currently thinking about starting a blog then my biggest piece of advice is to work out exactly what you want from it, then to dive in head first. Enjoy it, have fun and don’t get too hung up on the numbers.