Blog as a Business: When To Go All In, and When to Call It Quits

When to Go All In and When To Call it Quits Blogging as a Business laptop image

This is a series of posts about blogging as a business (with a focus on the craft/DIY/lifestyle/fashion blogging niches). Designed to help other bloggers and creatives, from setting up one’s own blog to growing it, monetizing it, scaling it, and optimizing it, and all the business details you want to know. Leave any ideas you have for future topics in the comments, and you may see your topic discussed in a future post!

Hi friends, I’m experimenting with a new post series: Blog as a Business.

As many of you may know, I’ve been blogging for 9.5 years now, writing content for other blogs, consulting on blogging, SEO, and marketing, and designing and setting up other people’s websites and blogs. I’ve learned a ton in this space simply by doing it (which was enough for me to first get a job as a Social Media Manager and Content Marketing Manager, then as a Marketing Director, and now as a Marketing Manager, which is what I now do full-time). I figured that all this could help out other people if I start sharing about what I’ve learned over the years, especially when it comes to the unique niche of DIY/Craft, Fashion, and Lifestyle Blogging. So here goes….


After 9 years of running Chic Steals, I felt at an impasse. I felt exhausted, burned out, and uninterested. Not only did my blog not look like how I wanted it to anymore, but I was just not truly passionate about the content I shared. Times had changed, and I felt a growing disconnect with my blog. The fun hobby had now become a burden.

I’m sure there are other people out there like this, who are reaching a stage of burnout in their endeavors. As life and circumstances change, it becomes more and more difficult to keep your original interests up with the same fervor. Everyone likely reaches a point where they say:

Is it Time to Quit?

Here’s how to figure it when it’s time to call it quits, or keep going with your passion project:

Figure Out Where the Disconnect Is

  1. Make a list of why you began this endeavor in the first place. Hint: You MUST be brutally honest. List all the reasons why you started, however big or small. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you will never be able to move forward, and will constantly remain in a state of limbo.
  2. Add to your list any reasons that you have, over time, discovered to be good reasons to keep going with it. Again, brutal honesty is key.

For me, my reasons for starting my blog back in January 2008 were:

  • sharing the crafts and things I made with other people to help/inspire/teach them to make similar things
  • connecting with other people about our similar interests (crafts and fashion) even while being a stay-at-home mother
  • share my thoughts and ideas with other people and discuss things
  • stay on top of fashion trends I am interested in
  • be a fashion icon like other fashion bloggers <*cringe>

And further reasons I discovered over time:

  • becoming a somewhat known blog in the DIY/craft niche
  • becoming an authority on DIY, specifically DIY fashion, sewing, construction, and craft
  • honing my skills in writing, photography, SEO, HTML, CSS, marketing etc.
  • steadily making money from my blog after monetizing it in 2013
  • challenging my DIY and branching out in my crafting skills
  • the connections and collaborations I created with other bloggers, magazines, websites, and brands
  • free stuff!
  • and my really, really awesome readers!
  1. Okay, now you have your list of reasons, Original Reasons and Additional Reasons. Here is where the truth lies. Go through each one and rank it in how important it is to you at this point in time, with 0-5, 0 being not important at all…5 being super-duper important now.
  2. Once you’ve added a ranking next to a reason on your list…write a reason why you gave it the rank you did.

My example continued….

ORIGINAL REASONS I STARTED A FASHION & DIY BLOG, RANKED

  • sharing the crafts and things I made with other people to help/inspire/teach them to make similar things (2 – I still like sharing, but I now have so little time to create lots of DIYs to share. I don’t DIY or craft much anymore in my day-to-day life.)
  • connecting with other people about our similar interests (crafts and fashion) even while being a stay-at-home mother (2 – I’m no longer a stay-at-home mother, and crafts and fashion are not my most passionate interests right now)
  • share my thoughts and ideas with other people and discuss things (2 – I have a day job now and discuss things with other people on a regular basis)
  • stay on top of fashion trends I am interested in (1 – I barely pay attention to fashion trends anymore, I’ve developed my own sense of style and am uninterested in the consumer forces shaping fast fashion)
  • be a fashion icon like other fashion bloggers <*cringe> (0 – this stemmed from a feeling of inadequacy I had. I don’t care about being a fashion icon, I am uninterested in other fashion bloggers’ style. I’ve finally accepted myself, and I no longer have anything to prove.)

Those numbers^^ are where the disconnect is. Anything below a 3 is going to show you that you no longer consider the endeavor worthwhile in your current state. That’s why it’s essential you are completely honest with yourself and take a long, hard look at your past motivations for your endeavor. Anything at 3 or above is going to tell you that these reasons are still important to you now, and those are the reasons you should pay attention to.

So, let’s set about fixing it…

DIY Gold Glitter Nugget Pushpins by Chic Steals

Photo from DIY Glittery Gold Geometric Pushpins tutorial

What to Do About Your Passion Project Now That You’ve Found Out Why It Isn’t Making You Happy Anymore

Now that you’ve identified any disconnect between reasons you began or kept going with your project, now it’s time to figure out if you want to forge on…or give it up. There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are faced with the choice of barreling forward…or laying something finally to rest. Here’s how to figure out which path you want to take:

  1. Make a list of all that your project is right now. Just list them, big or small. It’s important here to be very honest and self-critical. Invite others you trust to share their opinions so you can get some perspective.
  2. Take everything that was 3 or above from the first Disconnect list, and imagine your life without them. What would your day-to-day look like? What would your weekends look like? I really enjoy lists (obvs), so I made a list of Pros/Cons for each 3 and above -ranked reasons.
  3. When you went through the above imagining exercise, for every 3 and above-ranked reason that you feel a significant emotional attachment to (like “oh no! I wouldn’t want to lose that!” put a star next to)
  4. Question to ask yourself: ARE THOSE STARRED REASONS THAT YOU HAVE EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT TO…ENOUGH TO KEEP GOING? Only you can answer this question. Think of future you and what s/he will say looking back on this moment and this endeavor. Will throwing in the towel bring relief, or regret that you didn’t have the drive to keep going at the time? What could lie in store for you if you pushed through this impasse?
  5. Finally, write a list of what you want your passion project to do. If you see enough discrepancy between what you want it to do for you, what it is now, and the emotional attachment you have to it, if the gap is big enough…it’s time to let it go. Let it go, say you had a wonderful time with it, but you have changed and it is now time to move on. Move on to the next – it is not a failure! – and find another passion project that does what you really want it to do.

BUT if there isn’t a huge gap…if with a little re-dedication and work your passion project could once again align with what you want, if you’re significantly emotionally invested in it…explore your options for keeping going with it. Can you redesign it? Realign it? Rebrand it? Rethink it? Here it is wise to have a brainstorming session with friends and people who have faced similar obstacles.

In my case, I talked a great deal with my friends who’d known me throughout my years of blogging, as well as consulting with my fellow bloggers and members of Portland Bloggers. I found that I was still emotionally attached to my blog, I didn’t want to abandon my readers, I enjoyed making money and getting free things (which really helps with my tight monthly budget), I enjoyed being an authority in this niche, and giving all that up would have felt like too much of a loss. So I decided to rebrand, redesign, and realign my blog more with my goals (which I defined more clearly in a separate exercise).

I found that separating out the process of asking whether it was time to quit or go all-in to my blog, from the larger question of what are my ultimate goals for it, helped clarify things better than just going around and around in my head on the larger issues. Working things out step-by-step in this way allowed me to finally break through more than 6 months of indecision and move forward in a positive, fulfilling way.

It is, after all, what we actually do – and not what we try to do or think about doing – that defines who we are and our contributions in life.


Have any of you ever dealt with a passion project stalling or losing momentum? How did you break through?

I’d love to hear about your questions or ideas for future topics! Leave a comment below and I’ll help you out 🙂

xo

Carly

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DIY Washi Tape Blog Planner

Intro photo for the DIY Washi Tape Blog PlannerI’m a scheduler, and I love my To-Do lists more than anything. But…life is COMPLEX, and I can’t wander around with a million bits of paper with to do lists written on each. In managing this blog I need to be able to see at a glance all the days in the week – and the month – so I can plan out what I want to (ideally) post here. I’ve tried a digital calendar, which I’ve found doesn’t work for me because I like to jot ideas down on the side, rotate ideas for posts in and out of the hopper, or brainstorm away from the computer. I’ve tried a date book, which is too small for me to see the whole month at the size I need. And no matter what offline solution I’ve tried, I was constantly erasing things and having to rewrite posts on new days if I made the smallest change. Sooooo frustrating!DIY Washi Tape Blog Planner

But now I think I’ve found the best solution to my blog planning problems: a DIY Blog Calendar, that uses washi tape as a way to organize posts once you’ve brainstormed them. No erasing necessary! And it’s super easy to put together. Here’s how to make your own DIY Washi Tape Blog Planner (which is yes, quite intuitive from the photos):

Peeling scheduled day tape off the DIY Washi Tape Blog Planner calendar

1. Print out your favorite calendar for the month. I turn off all my scheduled events and print a month’s view of iCal just so I can get the structure. I prefer to have a piece of paper for each month as I go, rather than using a laminated sheet and a dry erase marker, but you could do that too.

2. Tear small pieces of washi tape off, folding one edge under about 3/6″. This creates a tab for easy removal. I like to create a theme for my tape colors: one color is for DIY projects or my own designs; the other is for sponsored posts, reviews, or outfits.

3. Now comes the fun part: brainstorm! Write ideas for your posts, sponsored posts, reviews, whatever on each piece of tape. (I found that ballpoint pen or Sharpie worked best on the waxy washi tape.)

4. Then, once brainstormed, schedule into your calendar by sticking into the appropriate days. Some ideas won’t have a place just yet, so I left them floating at the top, ready to rotate into next month if needs be.

5. Follow the calendar for your posting schedule. At the beginning of each week stick your posts into the day you actually posted them (in case you missed any or the schedule moved around). Then you’ll always be up to date – and won’t miss any posts!

I like that this is a permanent way to collect your thoughts and keep your blog schedule on hand, but you can still move ideas around as you go. You could use this for anything; it doesn’t have to be a blog calendar! It could be just general life or a to-do list, and the washi tape makes it look so pretty!

Close up of days on DIY Washi Tape Blog PlannerHappy DIY’ing!
xo

Carly

Links of the Week 5/18-5/24/15

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from my Instagram: my sorbet peonies in my backyard bloomed! So gorgeous. Follow me on Instagram

Hello again, friends!

I hope everyone had a wonderful week, and a Happy Memorial Day (if you celebrate it).

I have been without Internet for almost a full week…since last Monday there was a lightning storm, lightning struck near my house, made a surge, and apparently fried the circuitboard in my home’s cable junction box. And Frontier couldn’t get someone out to look at it until Friday afternoon. For someone who lives most of their life online, it was extremely hard to figure out how to deal with getting my work done when I had no internet from home…and was maxed out on my data plan on my cell phone for the month. XP

But now I’m back, with some cool links of note from last week. IFB again was kind enough to include my DIY Pearl and Spike Chain Choker in the link roundup…so here are other cool links of note:

Links Ă  la Mode: May 21

SPONSOR: East Dane: Ferragamo Shoes, Superga, Furla, C/Meo Collective, Baggu, Citrine Swim, Black leather booties, Veda, Wrap & Cotton dresses

xo

Carly

DIY Links of the Week 5/11-5/17/15

links-of-the-week-portland-love-padlockMy tutorial on how to take headshot photos that reflect your blog’s brand was just included in the weekly round-up of Links a la Mode on IFB!

There are a bunch more links – and many EXCELLENT DIY tutorials as well, so clicky clicky to visit all those included and say hi!

Thanks for the inclusion!

xo
Carly

Links Ă  la Mode: May 14

SPONSOR: East Dane: Red Heels, Sensi Studio, Katie Diamond, Gray Malin, Vermilion Dresses, Deux Lux, Brooklyn Tailors, Veda, 70s looks & Chaser Clothing

Recap: Portland Bloggers Speed Networking Meetup at Passionfruit HQ

portland-bloggers-speed-networking-1 Last Sunday the Portland Bloggers group came together for a fun speed networking event at the Passionfruit headquarters in SE Portland.portland-bloggers-speed-networking-3portland-bloggers-speed-networking-5It was a morning filled with fun, laughter, quick-fire questions, networking, business card exchanging, and a ton of great advice on blogging issues. portland-bloggers-speed-networking-8portland-bloggers-speed-networking-4We noshed on deli cold cuts, cheeses, fruit, fresh vegetables, and bagels provided by Bowery Bagels (DELISH vegan cashew cheese on salted bagels!) and sipped coffee from Black Rock Coffee.

portland-bloggers-speed-networking-7We also got an inside look at the incredibly cool Passionfruit office space and the inner workings of Passionfruit Ads where you can sell ad space, paid posts, or sponsored content through their blog widgets with minimal maintenance and upkeep (seriously if you haven’t tried it out – DO IT NOW! I can’t believe how much time I spent on managing individual sponsors and advertisers with the emails, and back-and-forth, and getting their banner ads, having to re-optimize them, uploading, then taking down once the ad had run. Once you do it through Passionfruit, all the headaches are GONE and you just collect a paycheck. Seriously cool.)portland-bloggers-speed-networking-9portland-bloggers-speed-networking-2We had a fun photo shooting area with photo booth props Bee and Jenni had made. I’ll be updating this space soon with the photos!portland-bloggers-speed-networking-6It was a great morning and I met a number of local bloggers to add to my reading list and my blogging buddy list. We had a prize draw and 3 bloggers won some awesome prizes including a year of Passionfruit ad service, the book Blog, Inc.by Joy Cho, and a package of blogging goodies like stationery supplies and blog planner. (Plus we all received a sample of Lemon Dream Bar King Cream ice cream to take home with us!)

Stay up to date with all Portland Bloggers events here. Hope to see you at the next one!

Have you ever been to a blogging meet up? Was it worthwhile to attend?

xo
Carly

I’m a volunteer member of the organizing team of Portland Bloggers, a local organization dedicated to bringing together bloggers and providing networking and resources. I designed their logo and also maintain their website and do videography for them.

Share Your Fashion Dilemmas – and Your Whole Life – Easily with Skype

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Connecting with people when we all have vastly differing schedules can be a big hassle… and being able to chat or share via video is a great way to connect. Skype is the affordable way to stay in touch about the things you care about – whether it’s just checking in, holding virtual meetings, or even deciding on a great outfit before a big event.

My parents are Australian, I moved to Japan when I was 11 and lived there 6 years, and I’ve also lived in rural New Jersey, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Yokohama, Honolulu, and now Portland, Oregon. All of my extended family lives in either Australia or Japan – and my friends are scattered the world over. Skype has been a necessary facet of my life for years as a way to stay connected with everyone – from my kooky friend Lenna in London, my East Coast bestie Jenn in Tennessee, my cousin Sam in Australia, and my mom in Tokyo. using-skype-at-computer

Since I’ve been writing Chic Steals for 7 years now, Skype has come in super-handy in a number of ways. For a year I was producing a podcast called Creatively Chic in partnership with WebTalkRadio.net, and Skype was instrumental in allowing me to conduct interviews with people in faraway places (including Tom and Cat from the CutOutandKeep.net team in London!) with crystal-clear, recordable voice quality.

using-skype-with-blogger

Checking in with fellow blogger Jenni of A Well-Crafted Party about an upcoming Portland Bloggers’ event

More recently as an active member of Portland Bloggers, it’s allowed me to connect with local blogger friends quickly and accurately – with bonus video. Sharing a new affordable find I scored at Goodwill? Asking a “what ideas do you have for DIY’ing this piece” with my blogging buddies? Touching base about outfits before a big blogging event so we don’t accidentally show up wearing the same thing? Skype has proven itself useful – and priceless – time and again.using-skype-in-mirror

What do you guys think of this sparkly cardigan? Too much?

I love that I can use it on my phone and connect with other people for a quick check-out-this-necklace-stack check-in… even if they have a different phone than I do! Skype works regardless – and it’s FREE. It’s fun, it’s quick, it’s affordable, and it’s easy – what could be more chic?

You can download the Skype app and follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

xo

Carly

FTC Disclosure: This post was written as part of a paid campaign with BlogHer and Skype. My full Disclosure Policy is here.