As time gets closer to the Design Bloggers Conference in March, you might be asking yourself this question.
"Should I go? Is it worth the trip?"
I'm sharing some of my takeaways from last year here today, and how they have impacted my interior design business and design blog.
Most of the time, a designer is so busy with design business that taking the time to learn all about blogging, best practices, and opportunities that can come from blogging, is almost impossible.
That's why I think lifestyle bloggers are ahead of designers who blog, because they can focus their full attention on their blog and learning how to create great content, monetize, and then market their online presence.
For most designers, a design blog is sort of a side hustle.
And since we take time away from our businesses for markets and trade shows, going to a conference for our side hustle, might seem a bit excessive. I mean, can't we just learn everything online these days anyway?
Aren't there already a jillion courses and webinars out there teaching us how to be better bloggers, marketers, and how to do a Facebook Live?
Do we really need to take several days off, fly to LA, put ourselves up in a hotel and listen to speakers practically non-stop to learn how to do this better?
Mmmm, but I really hate webinars. :-(
Plus, I'm definitely more motivated to listen, to consider, to take action later, if I've spent some money and time and immersed myself in the process.
It's not just a list of tips or bits of advice captured from various sources that one needs to digest to build an effective blog and audience. What's really needed, at the get go if possible, is overall direction, goals, and a plan for where you want to go and how you want your blog to serve you and your business.
That overall plan and direction was really what I was missing.
Even up until last year, I was unsure how my blog could really do nothing more than just help me attract the clients. And that is a great achievement if it does that, btw, but I've always wanted it to do more.
I always wanted my blog to be income generating on its own.
I just couldn't seem to make it happen significantly and really didn't know where to start.
I always felt like I was spinning my wheels, wasting time and money on something that was never going to really get me anywhere.
Well, I'm happy to say that I finally have some direction. Basically, it was formulated after attending DBC last year.
I have found that taking a few days away from my business, to focus solely on my blog future, marketing, and strategy, was very helpful for me.
That's what attending this conference does for me.
The added bonus is that you can get feedback and ideas from the other bloggers at the conference too.
And there's a few nice parties too. :-)
In my overview about the DBC last year, done after the conference, I mention some of the information that resonated with me and got me thinking. I set up a to-do list for myself for the year, to help me get motivated and not push off these tasks that I wanted to try.
I've got the full report here, available when you subscribe to this new blog of mine. (Don't worry, if you are already subscribed, you won't be subscribed twice.)
That report delves into some of the speakers and info that impacted me the most and helped me develop a plan for the next year.
For now, I'm going to share my list of to-do items that I set out to achieve and show you how they impacted my business.
And btw, I am not getting any compensation whatsoever for this post.
To-do list created after design bloggers conference 2017
1. Figure out how to do the free giveaway item with your email sign up.
Well, I basically got this one done immediately after returning home, before I put out my report. I had the content already composed in a doc, just waiting to publish at some point. I finally created a rather rudimentary, but thorough, slideshow in Google Slides, added images and info, then downloaded it as a pdf.
I found a tutorial online on how to have a downloadable file on my site and included it as part of my form for subscribers.
After a few weeks, I started noticing more subscribers.
Then, in a few months, Leslie Carothers and Sam Henderson of Savour Partnership approached me about their e-magazine idea and I thought it would be nice to upgrade my opt-in form. I wanted it to be more sophisticated and feel like a real gift to my subscribers.
I'm getting even more subscribers now, so I'm super pleased to have finally gotten this number one task completed this year. Here's more about that at this link.
2. Work on that product to sell and get it out there!
This was a bit more difficult at first. I thought that selling a product myself, off my site, would be a good way to create some passive income. After all, that's how Laurel Bern started monetizing her blog and I had just heard her speak about that.
My idea was a book. I had a title, a topic, and really had lots of content already written in multiple blogposts. I just needed to sit down and organize the content, get it into a readable format, and publish it.
I was prepared to spend money. I talked to several people about helping me with it. For money.
Basically, no one was really interested. I knew it was something I'd have to do myself if it was going to happen at all.
One thing I've learned over the years is that it's better to get something done and out there than it is to wait for perfection. I realized I was no book author, I really wasn't prepared to spend the time writing a whole book and then seeking out how to publish it. That could be a full time job!
What I did know, was that after reviewing my stats, people were searching for the info in my content and therefore, I had an audience for it.
Now that....is real gold.
I also knew that my content had to be organized in some way, but it didn't have to be regurgitated. I could do this as an overview with links to my posts already written on the subject as opposed to all the info in one written piece.
That would be much easier to compose and get out the door than an entire book would be! And guess what, I ended up doing it over a weekend.
Here it is, The Backsplash Bible, and I have to say the posts linked within contain lots of reader Q&A dilemmas in the comments. If you are looking for a guidebook for backsplashes, you might just want to check it out. I honestly think I've seen and heard about every awkward backsplash scenario on the planet!
(BTW, I'm going to share my "why" soon here, that I'm sure, if you look through that guide and the linked content, you will wonder about.)
3. Work on some concise branding statements and live them all over the internet.
Well, this one will be on the list for next year. Haven't really addressed this much yet. Although, I feel like my Pinterest profile probably has my best elevator speech.
"Interior Designer and Design Blogger sharing interior design, remodeling design & home decor tips, advice, & inspiration for the creative DIY design enthusiast."
(Always mindful of those keywords, you know.)
4. Continue to use RewardStyle on the blog, social media, and with clients when applicable.
I have had RewardStyle for about 2 years now, and up until this time last year, hadn't made much more than a couple hundred dollars a month.
What I realized, after DBC, was that I really should go into all my older, high traffic posts, the posts that continually get hits from new people searching the topics on Google, and put some links and shopping opportunities in those. Some of those posts are 3-4 years old!
That helped. It moved the needle up to around $500 a month.
However, my best month last year, for affiliate links, was November, at almost $1000. After a quick Q&A session with a Pinterest guru, I took her suggestion and did a post titled "Gift Ideas For The Budding Interior Designer".
I've got to say, that was responsible for over half my affiliate money earned that month. (I say "earned" because you don't get paid until several months later, when the chance of returns is finished, etc.)
What does this tell me?
That my BEST way to make affiliate money is to appeal to my every day readers.....my email list. Those were the people that I influence the most, not the random reader that popped into my blog to get one piece of information and leave again.
And guess what?
This pink bag that was linked on the board and in the blogpost?
My son and his wife gave it to me for Christmas!
When I opened the box, I was so shocked! He said he googled "gifts for interior designer" and my blogpost came up in his search. He couldn't believe it was my post, but there was his gift list, right there. LOL! :-)))))
Want to start using some affiliate marketing on your blog? I used Share-A-Sale for awhile, before getting into RewardStyle, using primarily Wayfair customized text links in my posts. Join their network, and you can start using some affiliate marketing in your blog strategy. This link below is my affiliate link for their site, and I appreciate you using it, if you'd like to sign up. :-)
5. When ideas for projects come up, approach brands or publishers with partnership opportunities. (They can only say no! At least now, I know how to ask!)
Here's another one that I've kind of let slide. I was focusing more on building my library of eBook guides and working in affiliate marketing overall.
However, I was lucky to have one brand take notice anyway.
I wrote a post on Crypton fabrics back last fall, just because I like the product so much. HERE IT IS.
After a month or so, Crypton contacted me because of the number of hits to their site from mine. They liked my post and wanted to work with me!
It just happened that I had a client who had texted me that weekend with a pic of her toddler son who had gotten her make-up all over the velvet ottoman we had done for her living room, before she was pregnant. :-)
We worked out a deal and I plan on posting on my main blog soon with her freshly upholstered ottoman done in Crypton velvet!
I have to say, if I hadn't gone to Design Bloggers Conference last year, I probably would not have acted on the items above. I probably would still be spinning my wheels, frustrated with my inability to make money off my site separately from full service design.
None of this is substantial money for me, mind you. Although some bloggers make a full living on affiliate marketing or sponsored posts, my primary business is interior design and my primary income is generated in that service.
However, it adds layers. It adds layers of diversification to my business model that can be added to even other layers I'm working on as well. All that is now a basis for growth and expansion. :-)
Hope you are enjoying my new blog and find it informative and helpful!
Please pin my pretty pin :-) to Pinterest, to help me share with other interior designers and design bloggers out there.
I've started a post for next week all about how to handle those endless pesky questions designers get from Houzz.com about their projects. You know the type.
"What paint color is that?"
"I need the name of your tile here."
"This bathroom you designed is the inspiration for my bathroom. Can you please give me a list of materials?"
If you love answering these questions on the Houzz site and it gets you business, then you might not care to read my suggestions. If you don't love them.....I have some interesting, tactful suggestions that have worked well for me and I'm happy to share. (And it is not just about a response.)