Blogging

What One Year of Blogging Taught Me

November 22nd marks the one year anniversary of my blog, Plain Jane Lifestyle.  I can’t believe it has been a year already!  In this post I am going to share with everyone what worked and what didn’t work for me. I will give an honest representation of what a year in the life of my blog looked like. Overall I am pleased to say that I am excited to continue with my lifestyle blog and see what the next year brings!

Denver, Colorado
Me on my first trip to Denver, Colorado.

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Before I jump into telling you all about the ups and downs of my first year blogging I thought I would share a little about me incase you haven’t stopped by my blog before.

Hi! I’m Jane and I started Plain Jane Lifestyle as a fun creative outlet to write about food, travel and blogging!

If you are thinking about starting a travel blog, or any type of blog for that matter, here are a few of my most popular past posts that will help you get started: What Every Blogger Needs To Know About Blogging Legally and Start A Blog In Less Than 10 Minutes With Siteground (affiliate).

Okay back to the discussing my first year of blogging…

What I learned from my first year of blogging

I’m going to start at the very beginning of my blogging and writing journey.  One day I was on Pinterest and came across a few pins from Helene Sula who operates the travel blog Helene In Between, and I was immediately touched by her story of how she started her blog.

Helene was working in a marketing job in Texas, and was starting to think hard about her life and what she wanted out of it. The daily work commute and lack of vacation weeks was starting to make her think about how she could get more out of life.  Eventually Helene and her husband decided to move abroad to Germany with their two dogs and travel frequently while operating her blog, Helene In Between.

Helene shares exciting travel stores, is very active on social media with her followers, organizes awesome tour group vacations for bloggers and those that are just interested in travel. She is able to travel, live abroad and make a full time living doing the things she loves.

Can’t you see how so many would want that life?

Soon after that I thought that maybe I would start a blog and see where it goes. I thought that I could put some of my writing skills to use. I’m talking about my bachelor’s degree in Journalism! No I never worked as a Journalist as it turns out, and not that I didn’t love writing, because I always have. But when I graduated college, we were in an economic recession. You all remember 2007-2008 right? So, I did try to find work in Journalism, but the work just wasn’t there, and eventually the more important thing was starting to pay back those student loans.

After many of the retail, hospitality and temp jobs I eventually landed in the world of healthcare administration where I have worked at small medical practices and hospitals as a front desk receptionist, administrative assistant, coordinator, HR professional, executive assistant…you get the picture.

I am so thankful to have a job with nice benefits, but it lacks a creative outlet. I was missing something.  The answer to that was to start writing.

I had read a lot of various blogs online that talk about having a specific niche. I read that you should pick something you like, because you will be writing about it a lot. Anyone that knows me knows I am addicted to coffee. At any given moment during the day you can pretty much wager that I will have a coffee in hand.  So I thought, hey, why not write about coffee. So I started a free WordPress website called All Things Coffee.

I wrote a few posts about the top coffee shops in Portland, Oregon (where I reside).  It was fun getting some words out there in the big world wide web!

After about a month of writing on the free WordPress platform, I came across some other blog posts that talked about how blogs make money online.

I started reading about how simply having ads on your website could bring you money as you are sleeping. This perked my attention. Make money while I sleep? Who wouldn’t want that! But the one catch was that you need to “self host” your blog, and own your domain name in order to make money and place ads. You can’t do that with a free WordPress account.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase my domain name and invest in my blog. But this made me really think about my current blog, All Things Coffee…where was I going with this? Could I really keep on thinking of various coffee stories to write? I know I like coffee, but do people really want to read this?  So, I thought more about some of my passions and what’s important to me. Travel immediately came to mind.

My husband and I often say above all else we enjoy seeing new places and eating good food. In fact for anniversaries, birthdays and other holidays we more often than not forgo presents and elect to go somewhere, even if it’s just a weekend away, or to enjoy a meal together at a new restaurant we have never tried.

With that in mind I decided to make a change my blog focus from coffee to a lifestyle blog that is mainly travel focused, but also talks about food and drink. So then Plain Jane Lifestyle was created.

I had read a lot about various hosting sites, there is Bluehost which is very popular, but also Siteground.  I decided to go with Siteground.  I was a bit nervous about running a website. I thought, what the heck do I know?  But the cool thing is that you don’t need to be super techy and know HTML to operate a site. Siteground makes it so easy to have a beautiful website by using one of their hundreds of website templates.  There really is something for everyone.

Once I had my domain name purchased and hosting organized with Siteground I was ready to start making a little side income while also enjoying my hobby of travel writing!

Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight

What I soon came to realize is that running a blog is not an easy get rich quick side hustle.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with people wanting to monetize their blogs to make money. I sure as heck would love that! The thing is that it often takes years before bloggers truly see a significant amount of profit with their blogs.

One of the mistakes I made early on was thinking that I could make money quickly if I had my own E-book!  I had read sooooooo many blog posts about bloggers writing e-books and selling them online with all of the tips and tricks that made them successful. I thought that after purchasing a few of those e-books that I could write one myself and share what I had learned so far.

So, I wrote an e-book all about using Pinterest and how to be successful. After trying to sell the e-book online for a few months with zero sales, I found myself spending money on keeping my online store via “send owl” open was just not worth it.  I decided to stop trying to sell anything online. Deep down I don’t think I had enough experience to be selling a book sharing tips and tricks if I hadn’t even been blogging a full year.

I have no problem with bloggers selling their helpful tips and tricks to others, there are some very helpful ones out there. But for me right now, it’s not something I plan on doing, unless I have much more experience under my belt and feel I have something of value for my readers to consume.

I made my first pennies…

I had my first breakthrough about six months in to blogging when I got my first freelance writing gig.  I attribute this success to my blog because in order to get this freelance writing opportunity I had to use my blog as my writing portfolio.  Here is more about how that all happened in my post How I Earned Free Accommodations Through Travel Writing.

Since that first travel writing gig, I have gone on to get two more similar writing opportunities writing about hotels in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

My travel writing received compensation from the hotels in forms of free hotel stays.  This was a win for me! I was able to get some travel writing published, while also traveling to new cities and getting to stay for free at hotels!  I did this all through Arrivedo.com. Arrivedo is a newer travel start up with North American headquarters in San Francisco and South American headquarters in Lima, Peru.

If you want to be a travel freelance writer on Arrivedo’s platform…

You can apply online on their website here. Arrivedo accepts 30% of those that apply. It helps to have writing samples that you can showcase your work or a blog that profiles your writing.

Before starting my blog I was only using Pinterest

But once I started writing more, I realized it was beneficial to be present on other forms of social media. So I signed up for You Tube, Twitter and Instagram!  I feel so silly admitting that I had not idea how Twitter or Instagram even worked.  I am young enough that I should know! But the truth was that I had just never gotten on board with those social media platforms before this year. I had heard of the hash tags, but had no idea of how they even worked…but like most social media platforms, they are very intuitive and easy to figure out. In no time I was posting photos and using hash tags!  This has been a great way to share posts and interact with other like minded travel writers and bloggers!

I encourage you to interact with other bloggers

Sometimes folks in the blogging world feel as though everyone is competing against each other for blog traffic. But the truth is there is room enough for everyone!  In fact you will learn so much from other bloggers by connecting with them and asking them what works and what doesn’t.

Guest posting is your friend

Guest posting is a great way to add collaborative articles to your website and to expose your site to new followers. Earlier this year I came across a fellow newbie blogger, Lia Castelvecchi, who operates the blog http://www.smartpennies.com and I sent her a message asking her if she would like to do a guest post on my site and I would do one on her site. We decided to both share are most popular posts so far and we both posted on each other’s sites.

Interview Posts Are A Good Idea

Don’t be afraid to reach out to those bloggers that you look up to and ask them if you can interview them for a future post.

Update -As of mid-2019 Jackie from Jade & Oak is no longer a functioning website. She decided to put her blog on pause and focus on other things.

That’s just what I did with Jackie from the website Jade & Oak. Jackie is a practicing Lawyer by day, but operates a blog all about the ins and outs of blogging legally.  I was drawn to Jackie’s expertise immediately and knew that she would be a great interview.

I sent Jackie a message online asking her if I could interview her via email so that I could feature her in an article I wanted to write about blogging legally. To my surprise she actually said yes!  Check out the post here. To date, this is my most popular article on my website. It’s funny because it is not travel related, however, it does provide helpful information to bloggers of every niche.

Jackie has a plethora of free online templates that are useful for having a legal terms and conditions page, privacy rules, etc. Once you get a feel for her style and realize that she knows what she is talking about, you may be inclined to purchase some of her other legal templates and documents from her Legal Marketplace store! (I am now an affiliate for this because it truly is great stuff)!

Goals For Next Year…

Some may not think of my first year of blogging as a success because I didn’t make a large sum of money or get 10,000 page views per day.  But to me, I am measuring my success in the things I have learned, the great bloggers I have met online that have inspired me to keep going, and the traveling freelance writing that I have done, and the places I was able to travel to because of that.  I could have never dreamed that I would get to write and get compensated for it, but that’s just what happened.

For this next year, my goal is to double the amount of blog posts on my site, get at least 4 more freelance travel writing gigs, and hopefully make $500 through my blog!

Thanks for stopping by and reading!!!! Please reach out to me with any questions or interests in collaborations via guest posting!

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