Thank you so much to Cindy of Our Journey Westward for taking the time to share her blogging tips with us. I’m so excited to be featuring several bloggers over the next few weeks – real-life successful bloggers – and hearing their thoughts and tips about blogging! So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and be inspired!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog:
Cindy started Our Journey Westward more than 10 years ago as a place to document her family’s homeschooling adventures. It soon became apparent that sharing their creative lessons was an encouragement to other homeschoolers, so the focus turned to sharing practical and exciting teaching ideas that breathe fresh air into homeschooling and bring joy to parents and children alike. Her passion soon grew to include a selection of creative homeschool curriculum, probably most well-known is her NaturExplorers series.
Cindy’s most popular post teaches how to write biographies with picture books.
How much time do you spend blogging each week?
This is an issue that has haunted me from the very beginning of blogging. My top priority is and always will be my family. I quit my teaching job many years ago to stay home with my children and eventually took on the (sometimes massive) task of homeschooling. Blogs can take A LOT of time (whether they are successful or not.) Over the years, I’ve watched many a blogger neglect her homeschooling and/or family time in order to grow her blogging business. While I do get dreamy eyes about just how big my blog could be “if only” I had more time to work, hired more people, etc., I always have to remember that the first jobs I dedicated myself to so many years ago are my family and homeschooling.
I’ve chipped away at blogging bit by bit over the years and have nearly 600 posts and 30 products as a result! There have been seasons when I spent upwards of 15-20 hours a week on blogging tasks, but there have also been seasons where I’m lucky to find two hours to work each week. Currently, I’m spending 5-12 hours on blogging tasks. I’ll tell ya, though, actual blogging is a teeny portion. I’ll be the first to admit that all extras that go along with blogging these days – social media, managing plug-ins, newsletters – have really taken a lot of my joy away. That leads me to the next question…
What is ONE big blogging hurdle you had to overcome and what steps did you take to overcome it?
I like to write. I’m good at it. I don’t like many of the other things that go along with blogging, though. Heck, just hearing about the ever-changing must-do’s keeps me spinning in circles. You can imagine my frustration trying to actually stay on top of it all! So…I don’t.
I really have given up trying to do things the ways I’m “supposed” to and I’m trying to stay truer to my heart and my mission. As an example, I’m no longer listening and adapting to the latest guru’s advice about various social media platform growth. I’m just being genuine and fitting in what works for my schedule. I may not be growing by leaps and bounds, but I’m also not hustling at a time in my life when a hustle is just too much.
I should add that I have hired out help for some of the things that really do “have” to happen. I have a great webtech who helps me keep my blog in tip-top shape. I have also hired out things such as freebie creation, book formatting, and installing WooCommerce. Hiring a social media manager isn’t out of the question one of these days either.
What is one of your favorite blogging tools/resources and why?
My blogging friends are the best resource I have by far! Some of them I’ve met in person at various blogging retreats, but most of them I’ve never met in person. However, all of them have become dear friends as we encourage each other and freely share blogging wisdom.
I can ask just about any question in the iHomeschool Network Facebook group or the Inspired Bloggers Facebook group and have several answers in a matter of moments. For those friends who are extra-close, we Voxer back and forth to ask questions, bounce around ideas, share advice, and even hold each other accountable to our personal blogging goals.
Even if I never gleaned anything at all from these ladies, their understanding of my life as a blogger would be enough! Most of my IRL friends just don’t get what I do or why I do it. Ever feel the same?
How do you make money through your blog? (affiliate programs, advertising, products, etc.)
My blog is currently a side-gig. In other words, I don’t have to make money from it to support our family. And, as I mentioned before, until my kids have all flown the coop, I’m not going to pour full-time hours into it. That being said, I am making enough money to make the short time I invest worth it.
I’ve taken the rather bold stance to NOT be part of an ad network. Some people call me crazy and maybe I am. Here’s the rub for me…I can’t stand to be on a site where ads ruin my experience. We live in a rural area where internet speed isn’t always the best. When I click onto a blog where pop-ups are jumping out at me at a steady clip, I can’t even see the images because of ad coverage, and the whole site freezes because of the dumb video ad trying to load, I almost start to cry. I don’t want people who come to my site to ever feel that way. I want them to feel at home. After all, the entire point of my blog is to encourage mommas to find joy and creativity in homeschooling. If they leave crying over the ads, I’ve failed.
So, I’ve chosen two main modes of income – products and affiliate programs.
Products: I write creative homeschooling curriculum and sell it digitally using a WooCommerce shop on my blog. I have yet to sell via Amazon, but I realize I probably need to make that jump sooner than later. I did sell via some other platforms at one time, but found it difficult to keep up with everything that was involved in each of those spaces.I have one giant caution about product creation…make sure your products are good. Really good. There’s a ton of crap being created in the name of getting a digital product out there to sell. While you may sell in the short run, it will be hard to keep the momentum if your products aren’t top notch.
Affiliate Programs: I’m a huge fan of the Amazon affiliate program and use it frequently within blog posts and occasionally on social media. I’ve determined my audience really seems to prefer naturally integrated affiliate links versus obvious ad placement.
I’m also an affiliate of several homeschool friendly companies. There are several strategies I use with these affiliate links – reviews, evergreen posts, and social media shoutouts. Typically, I get paid for a review post and include affiliate links. If I just happen to be using the product and loving it, I’ll often naturally integrate affiliate links into an evergreen post. If the company is having a sale or I get a good picture of my kids using the product, I’ll direct affiliate link to the product on my Facebook page or some other social media account.
To wrap up, I’m probably not the go-getter blogger that you may have preferred to read about here today. I do hope that I’ve at least encouraged you that successful blogging can happen over time without selling your soul to the computer. Best wishes!
Still Have Questions?
Leave them in the comments below – then be sure to head over to Cindy’s Blog!