But as soon as the Wall Street Journal published their article on Heather Armstrong (Dooce) and a few mommybloggers posted their updates from Camp Baby, the Disney event, and the Sony event, the black pool of jealousy began to gurgle and bubble from deep within the internets.
How can Dooce make $40K a month posting pictures of her dog and writing letters to her daughter while I get nothing? Why didn’t I get invited to one of those events? Where’s my free Swiffer and granola bars, dammit? When is someone going to ask ME to be a contributor in a book?
Whoa. Hold up.
While it is awesome that mommybloggers have gone from being ignored or ridiculed to now being courted by big companies and advertising networks, we can’t all be famous and making our fortunes one spaghetti-covered-face picture at a time. Would you walk into a corporate office just out of college and demand to be the CEO? After they finished laughing at you, they’d tell you to work your way up and come back when you’ve learned more.
While I’m in no way a mommyblogging *superstar*, I have thought about what makes a popular mommyblogger, and I’ve narrowed it down to several elements for success.
Consistent writing – This includes both quality and quantity of writing. You need to post often, and those posts need to be quality posts. Every day is not a requirement – many of the top mommybloggers post only a few times a week. But some kind of regular schedule is needed to keep you in your readers’ minds.
Similarly, if posts are fired off haphazard, without regard to spelling, logical progression of thought, or fuzzy storytelling, you’ll lose the interest of your readers. Very few can write post after post without putting any forethought into those posts. Think about your topics. Read your own writing and edit it before hitting the Publish button. If you don’t like to do revisions, at least carefully construct the post in your head before writing. Ask someone who will be honest with you to proofread your work.
Hard work – If you didn’t already notice from the two paragraphs above, you have to be willing to invest some time and work into your blog to reap the rewards. Personally, it can take me anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours to write a post. It all depends on the topic, but most of the well-received posts took far longer than 15 minutes. If your kids are with you all day, this means you may be spending nap time writing. Or sometimes writing well into the night.
(Ignoring your children all day is an option, too. But c’mon, don’t we have to deal with that stereotype enough?)
Networking – Remember the saying “To make a friend, you have to be a friend”? That applies to blogging, too. I remember one of my first comments on my blog was left by Dutch from Sweet Juniper. At the time, he was writing for Blogging Baby along with his own successful blog. Did he need to comment on a little blog that at the time had only eight posts? Of course not. Did I appreciate the comment from someone I saw as a “popular” blogger? Yes! An important part of blogging is the community fostered through comments.
I have several friends that I would never have met had it not been for one of us commenting on the other’s blog. Leave comments. Make friends. Promote the hell out of each other, because the love you give out will come back to you.
Time - While there are always the overnight success stories, most bloggers with high traffic didn’t start out that way. They built that traffic up over time, by using their networking skills and writing consistent posts. (See how it all ties together?) Time is also needed to build up a solid archive. Some readers will find you by searching for topics that lead to your older posts.
Talent – Some people are born storytellers, some are naturals at technical writing, and others are simply not good with words. You can take all of the writing classes offered by your nearest university, practice your writing dutifully every day, and yet others might still run circles around you in writing. We all have our strengths, and if someone has a talent for the written word while you struggle with each sentence, there will probably be a difference in your posts. That doesn’t mean you should give up, because talent is only one part of blogging, but you have to accept that some people are more talented than others.
Luck (or being in the right place at the right time) – I have no idea what makes PR people contact one mommyblogger who has so-so traffic over another who has more traffic or better writing. I don’t know what algorithm was used to pick the guest list for Camp Baby. I’m guessing a lot of it was luck. Sometimes you happen to comment at another blog at just the right time, or you write a post at the exact time that someone is looking for an expert on that topic for a job.
You know this isn’t limited to the blogging world, either. You could sit down next to a company CEO on a plane and end up getting a job after that chance meeting. (It happened to my aunt.) Last year, when I was asked to write for Family.com, the offer seemed to be out of the blue. I don’t know how they found me – I could have been recommended (there’s that networking again), or it could have been luck.
Looking at this list of what you need to be a successful mommyblogger, you might notice that these elements fall into two categories. The first three are things that you can control, while the last three are out of your hands. There’s no point in getting upset or worrying over the last three, because nothing you do can change them. If you want more traffic, more notice, more product review offers or whatever, focus on the first three: consistent writing, hard work, and networking.
But it’s those last three that make it all unpredictable. You may write excellent posts, comment all the time on other blogs, and still get no notice. It happens. Life is not fair. Let me repeat that: life is not fair. Getting upset at the success of others does nothing to help you, especially when all of that negative energy could be used for more productive endeavors.
The truth is, if you’re blogging to become popular/famous, you might want to reconsider your goals. After all, being a famous mommyblogger amounts to nearly nothing outside of our little electronic boxes and internet tubes. Go ask your hairstylist who Dooce is – chances are, she doesn’t know. Ask your parents, your neighbor, the mailman. They probably don’t know, either.
Sure, some moms make money from blogging, or get to go on trips, or get published in real paper and ink form. Instead of being jealous, though, we should be congratulating them on their success. Because if there is success for a few, there will be more success for others to follow. Corporations are taking notice of mommybloggers, and publishers are finding that there is an audience for books written by mommybloggers. If we continue to support and encourage our community, the success can only grow.
I’m not one of the best writers. I don’t have a lot of traffic. But I work hard at improving my writing, and have gained many new readers as a result. I don’t think I’m owed anything because I’ve been blogging for two and a half years. Any perks I get I’m grateful for – I do feel that I’ve earned some of it, but I also credit a lot of it to luck. I write because I enjoy it, and really, shouldn’t that be the primary reason we do all this, anyway?