I never intended on starting a blog. I used to hear about blogs and always thought I didn't have anything to write about. (clearly after two years of blogging I was wrong) I didn't read blogs before I started my own and I had no idea how much work went into writing one.
First off, let me tell you if you want to have a successful blog you are going to have to put a lot of work in before it starts to take off. Slow and steady is key. It is frustrating when you first start writing and you think that no one is reading. This may be the case. I am grateful for every person that writes in and leaves and comment and the people that take the time to write personal emails. I can't tell you how much it means to me.
There is a lot of behind the scenes you don't see with blogging. Someone recently asked me how many hours I put in with the blog. My answer was easy, I don't count. They pushed again for an answer and the truth is how can you count hours you put towards building something. I don't think you should.
I will say that Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays are crazy busy. Mondays I will typically stay up and work until around 11pm. Once my eyes hurt, I call it a night and finish my newsletter on Tuesday morning. It is important to be consistent and show up every single week. Even if that means I am tired the next day. It is only me writing the blog and for now I will keep it that way. I had people write for me in the past but it didn't translate well to readers so it is just me.
This has been a requested blog post by a lot of people. I honestly believe that blogging is the best thing you can do for your business. I do think Instagram/Facebook is important for businesses but a blog is a resource that holds information and is searchable.
What steps have led me to the success I have had today.
Being authentic is very important to me. I write as I am writing to my friends/family. I want it to be approachable and honest. When you write a blog your life is on the internet, so don't put anything out there that you wouldn't want to be available to everyone. I want my niece/nephew and hopefully future kids to be able to read what I have written.
Consistency is so important. I had no idea what went into writing a blog when I first started. It requires so much work. Your readers will continue to show up as you put more information out. The minute you stop writing, they will slowly start to fade. I want to always provide valuable content to my readers.
How did you cultivate a loyal audience?
I have been active with my print business, facebook, and instagram for years. It has taken a long time to grow an audience. Nothing grows overnight. I try to reply back to as many people as possible. It is a lot of work but since they take the time to write me, I want to take the time to write them back. The attitude of gratitude.
I have been selling my work in person since 2010 so interacting with people face to face has always been important to me. The first time I sold my work, I hugged the person. This still happens nine years later! I love the idea of meet ups for the blog because I am able to meet my readers in person. The internet is great and I am able to reach people all over the world but human interaction is still better than anything else. I hope to have more meet ups in Chicago soon. Summer was busier than expected.
I started the meet ups when I started the blog. Blog readers have become friends over the years and I love it!
How far do you plan and write your posts?
If you can plan ahead with a content calendar, I highly recommend it. I still use a huge paper calendar that I buy at Paper Source. I still have a million planning notebooks. I keep one with me every day and I write in notes all the time. Since I am two years in, there are certain posts that I know readers will want depending on the season/holidays. For instance, my Advent Calendar post did so well last year and most of the product sold out. I had to keep finding sources to update my links. Readers requested I post it much earlier this year so they don't risk things selling out as quickly.
How did you learn to edit a website? How did you start out?
I approached my friend Rachelle with the blog idea back in 2015. We met in Paris and I had this crazy idea to start a blog and she just ran with it. I let her do 90% of the design work and I came up with a few tweaks before it all came together. I owe so much to her! She is for hire if anyone wants her help. She is amazing with branding business.
I am completely self taught on the blogging side. I started in 2015 with this crazy idea. I had an intern for the Summer. She helped me get everything organized to launch. I didn't have the hang of it for a while. I didn't know what my audience wanted until I put a lot of different ideas out there and some took off and some didn't.
The original idea for the blog was to write about my life in Chicago and where I found French influences. From how I cooked, dressed, and decorated.
I took a trip to Paris in October of 2015 and everyone wanted Paris tips. I started The Paris Diaries that trip and it took off. I realized my readers wanted Paris tips almost more than anything else. I had to let the other ideas fall back a bit.
Links I Love was started last year. This has been a great addition to the blog and it wasn't planned at all. I have always shared what I was reading on Facebook as I discovered it. Doing a weekly roundup has made me look forward to Sundays.
I have been blogging since 2013, How do you increase readership?
Being consistent is so important and writing about something people want to read. Look back at your google analytics and see what posts have performed the best. See what ideas you can create that have that same theme.
I honestly believe there is enough digital space for all of us. Just like there is a lid for every pot (in terms of dating) There is always going to be an opportunity for an audience. Find a topic that you enjoy. You will find like minded people that are interested in that same topic. Remember to write articles/posts that people might be looking for that aren't already written.
I think social platforms such as Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook are great places to share what you have written. I will always share a post after it is LIVE so people can read it. I don't expect people to actively come searching on the blog for a new post. I want to come to them and wave my arms and tell them there is something NEW and exciting!
Build your email list! I don't send out an email for every post I write but I do send one out weekly. This has been a great way to connect with readers on a consistent basis. Plus, I share content in there that you wouldn't get anywhere else! If you want to sign up for my weekly emails, you can do it here.
How do you get started with something your passionate about and gain a following?
I was homesick for Paris. I had spent a good amount of time in Paris and eventually decided to move back to Chicago in 2015. The idea came to me while I couldn't sleep and I bought the domain. I think Paris is a very aspirational city. My love for Paris started very early on as a kid before I ever visited for the first time. I was 21 when I first visited Paris so it was built up for years. I don't know if it lived up to all I thought it would be at the time. I took a chance and went back in 2010 for my first solo trip and that is when I truly fell in love with the city.
I was unemployed with nothing when I arrived in Paris and I was able to build a business and a dream off of the city. I owe so much to Paris. It continues to fuel me creatively all these years later.
How do you get your emails to match perfectly with your blog? Do you outsource?
I hired my friend Rachelle to do the emails after I had so many issues with formatting mailchimp on my own. If you have been on the mailing list for a while, it was pretty awful every week. Nothing looked right. Rachelle did the magic to match the blog since she designed the blog they work well together. She is the only person I have outsourced in all my years. It made so much more sense for her to do it and I couldn't have even come close to what she created.
Do you think blogging is on the outs or do you still find it relevant today?
I think blogging is SO important. I didn't follow blogs before I started so I may have a different opinion than most. I think ALL businesses should have them. I recently saw my old orthodontist had a blog. (genius) I don't think it should just be limited to one type of business.
First off, when it comes to content what you put out there will be searchable through google. If you are knowledgable about a certain topic, writing about it will help you be found on the internet. It is as simple as that. I also think that businesses shouldn't just push sales. I get turned off from companies that send me SALE emails constantly. I believe you should have an added value to what you are selling.
It is the reason why I started the blog. I wanted to connect more with the people that buy my photography. I wanted them to know the stories behind the photographs they were buying and I also wanted them to know more about me. When growing a brand, telling a story and being personal is the way to connect on another level.
Think about when you watch a sporting event or the olympics. Before an event takes place they give you the back story on an athlete, how they started from nothing or built their skill. I usually watch gymnastics or figure skating. The athlete their families give up so much to financially and physically compete, not to mention the dedication and time it takes to learn the skill. Immediately, I am rooting for the person whose story I know. It makes sense doesn't it?
Blogging gives the ability to do all that. I love Instagram/Facebook but it isn't searchable. If you found an adorable café or a tip on where to visit on your next trip to Paris. How on earth will you find it all those photos unless you saved it. With the blog, it is easy to google or simply enter a few search terms into the search bar and voila!
I eventually think Instagram/Facebook will phase out over time and blogging will be more relevant than ever. I have pulled away from growing my following on Instagram because I know it is way more important to have readership on the blog than followers on an app. (maybe it is just me?)
How do you put yourself out there without feeling like you are on display? (In not a good way)
Don't share anything on the internet you are not comfortable sharing to a stranger. I had no idea how big the blog would grow in just two years. I honestly felt as I have been writing to one friend but my reach is about 40,000 per month (as of August 2018) Holy shit that is a lot of people all over the world.
I believe you can share what you want and keep some things private.
Things I keep private:
My niece and nephew, my dating life, my religion and where I work out. These are private. I wrote about why I keep my dating life private here.
I LOVE my niece and nephew more than anything and their photos are SO cute. But, I can't control who reads this blog so I have to keep them private. Until they can make a solid decision that they want to be on the internet, I will keep them private. That won't stop me from sharing their photos if you ever meet me in person. One person is different than 40,000.
It is a strange feeling walking down the street in Chicago thinking that people recognize you. I get more stares that I care to admit and I don't think I am different than anyone else.
As my audience grows, there have been more comments and emails that aren't always positive. I wish this wasn't the way. It is something I have to accept.
SEO and How to reach people better
I taught myself everything through trial and error. The best way to go about this is to think of what you would search for when trying to find your post. "10 Boutique Hotels in Paris" "How to" "Where to" Questions are always great because people are searching these terms into google. I like to look ahead and see if anyone has written about the same topic. If there is already a post I will read it and see how my content compares. If someone does it better than let them be the expert. But if you have a new spin on something or can attract the right readers from your specific content, write about it.
How do you get ideas for fresh new posts?
Honestly, I dance. I dance every single day at the same time and the break away from the computer and the adrenalin mix gets my mind going. I still don't know how I learn a new routine and think blog posts and strategy at the same time. There are moments when I think too much and end up messing up but most of the time I am good.
Also, my readers are amazing! I get so many questions through Instagram DM or through email. I try to write a post like this one that people ask for. It is easier to write a whole post about a topic if it will come up more than once and be relevant than to answer each person individually.
I want to become a resource for people around the world and this is the best way to do it.
Ideas come in waves like anything naturally. I have a good friend who I will meet with and I bring my notebook and we just brainstorm content ideas. But otherwise, I write notes upon notes of ideas and see how they play out. I hope the ideas keep coming with all of your questions.
I think the blog will continue to evolve to as my life continues to change. You will see different topics covered here based on my personal life. I never thought I would be writing or answering questions about blogging life but here I am! I can't wait to see the direction the blog takes in the next couple of years. I have some ideas but I am really letting the readers take the ropes with this one.
Did you enjoy this post? Do you want to read more blogging and business tips? Comment below!
This post does include affiliate links which helps contribute to my coffee and croissant research. Merci!