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Top Craft & Hobby Bloggers Share Their Tips for Online Success
Don’t you just hate multi-talented people? You know, the sort who not only excel at a particular craft, but then have the energy, the writing skills, and the business acumen to create a successful blog about it?
Not really! We love that people like that exist and choose to share their wonderful creative talents with the world. What would the blogosphere be without them?
Best of all, people who have a genuine skill and choose to blog about it act as inspiration to the rest of us who might be thinking about launching our own site about our own hobbies, passions or hidden abilities. We decided to tap into that fountain of knowledge by asking five prominent craft bloggers to share their stories, and offer what advice they could to aspiring blog artists.
Kathryn Vercillo, the highly talented author behind Crochet Concupiscence, explains that her first exposure to blogging was actually as a professional writer. ”I was working as a freelance writer in the early days of blogging when I got an offer to work as a blogger for a company,” she said. “I quickly found that I loved the blogging format and began focusing my work in that area, blogging for others as a job while also starting to build blogs of my own.”
However, it was only when Kathryn decided to start blogging about crocheting — the craft she had learned as a child from her mom — that she really found her voice as a blogger. “My early blogs were among those that didn’t last long (about a year each). I launched Crochet Concupiscence purely out of an interest in the craft, and it led me to connect to an amazing community of crafters. This community, and the work I am able to do within it, is what keeps me motivated.”
Tamara Kelly started Moogly as a “mommy blog.” But when she realized that wasn’t for her, she kept the name — a made-up word her daughter came up with — as she switched topics to crocheting. “I started a small handmade crochet business, and thought blogging would be a great way to promote it. Through feedback from my readers and following my own interests, eventually I stopped selling finished items and started blogging full time.”
Like many crochet and knitting enthusiasts, Lisa Gutierrez started Good Knits to share patterns and projects. “I had just learned to do both — knit and crochet — and I saw some folks share their projects on a daily basis,” she said. “They were beautiful and inspiring and I figured it would be a good way to help inspire others to start creating.
“Eventually, I wanted to share projects and patterns I created myself and that’s when it really took off. I fell in love with sharing techniques and tutorials.”
Ben Orlin showcases a different kind of talent on his site, Math With Bad Drawings. He’d be the first to admit that drawing is not his strong suit. But the teacher from Birmingham, England does have a talent for explaining math problems in ways which are easily accessible, often funny, and clever enough to earn him a loyal following.
“I always loved writing,” he said about the origins of his blog. “But I found it hard once I became a grown-up — a move that I still sometimes question. Who’s my audience, and what’s my style, and what the heck should I write about? Blogging lets you experiment. Low stakes, high upside.”
Sticking to what you love
Whatever the reasons for launching a blog, the harder part is often finding the motivation to keep going long enough to make it a success.
For Shellie Wilson, founder of Craft Gossip, the initial inspiration for her site was not being able to find the type of site she wanted to see about crafts. “Finding the best of the best on the internet was always time consuming. I felt there was a niche for sorting the good from the bad for crafters and artists.
“When you write about your passion it’s easy to stay motivated. There have been times when I have wanted to quit, but I am a stubborn person who doesn’t like change. I stick to what I know and what I do best — crafting!”
Tamara agrees. “I believe the secret is being truly passionate about your topic – whether that’s crochet or golf or parenting or travel. If you love what you’re doing, you probably love talking about it!”
Keep trying new things so luck has the chance to strike. ~ Ben Orlin
Kathryn Vercillo has also stuck firmly to her passion for crocheting, but believes exploring the changing relationship she has had with her craft over time has helped her find an even stronger following for Crochet Concupiscence.
I have been able to maintain a terrific balance between staying on-topic but also being adaptable to changing trends in the community and in my own interests. By this I mean that the focus of the blog has always been crochet — rarely are other crafts or topics introduced. And yet, I’ve changed the format of the blog over time.
I found my specific niche in exploring the intersection of crochet and health — researching and sharing how crafting heals individuals and communities. This truly authentic and original interest has gained a core following that has lasted over time.
Turning talent into success
Ben Orlin is very clear what the key ingredient for the success of his blog has been: luck. “But the biggest factor under my control? Keep trying new things so luck has the chance to strike. I spent a year on a blog that went nowhere; a good day on Math with Bad Drawings will get more clicks than that blog got over all.”
Despite his modesty, Ben is full of good advice for what works in blogging.
People like images. There are about four websites on the entire internet that survive on sparkling prose alone; the rest need fun stuff to look at.
To make a success of blogging, set a regular schedule, so you can’t weasel out of work. Keep planting ideas in documents for later harvest and, if possible, experience the extraordinary fortune I did to have warm, supportive readers.
Lisa Gutierrez agrees with Ben that images can make all the difference on a blog. She uses photos to good effect on her Good Knits blog.
I am motivated most by pretty photos, so when I find myself in a creative slump, I start taking photos of everything. I know I will find something to share! If I can’t, then I’m motivated to create more.
You have to keep creating. Also, you can say ‘No’ to requests. Don’t stress yourself out trying to do it all. Be yourself! Share what inspires you.
Tamara Kelley believes other bloggers play a crucial role in helping her grow Moogly and keep it successful.
I can’t stress the importance of networking with other bloggers enough — being able to talk and bounce ideas off each other in a blogging community is so helpful!
At the same time, you have to find your own voice. While it’s great to have other bloggers you admire, be sure to be authentic and unique in your own special way.
Passion about your topic is an important factor that’s helped Kathryn Vercillo keep Crochet Concupiscence’s fan base growing. She believes you have to really stay on your toes to keep on top of what works in blogging.
It is something that is constantly going to change. From blogging tools to Google’s rules, this is an area of work that evolves rapidly and regularly.
That’s why it is so important to find what you are truly passionate about and write from an authentic voice. There are plenty of rules and tips out there about how to create a great blog and get eyes on it, and that is certainly all valuable, but if you don’t absolutely love what you are writing about and the style in which you are writing it then you are going to find it difficult to stick with it through all of the ups and downs.
Craft Gossip’s Shellie Wilson agrees that you can never let your guard down with blogging, so the sooner you can monetize your site the sooner you feel a sense of reward for all the hard work.
What works one year, one week, won’t work the next. I wish I had known the impact of smart phones too. They have given our readers shorter attention spans than say six years ago. Keeping readers engaged is harder now.
Expect hours and hours of work. Everyone seems to think I got here overnight. It’s been a hard slog. That’s why monetizing the site with advertising was key for me. When you get paid for hours and hours of work it makes you feel a bigger sense of achievement. It also allows you the financial freedom to put every working hour in to it.
Top scrapbooking bloggers
Scrapbooking has grown into one of the most popular hobby crafts out there. The art of documenting key moments in your life combined with beautiful DIY design and presentation has a huge following all over the world.
You need look no further for evidence of how many people love scrapbooking than the vibrant blogging community that has grown up around it. Any time you find who’ve turned a blog into a successful business, you know there is big audience to tap into.
To find out more about it, we asked four scrapbook entrepreneurs to share their stories of how blogging had helped them get where they are today.
Self-Expression and Creativity
Graphic designer Cathy Zielski is a scrapbook industry veteran of 25 years. She saw blogging as a great way to express more of her personality in her work. Her site, cathyzielske.com is called Z Design. Her wry tagline: “Taking the crap out of scrapbooking.”
Cathy told us:
I was working in the scrapbook industry, saw that a colleague had a blog and I thought, ‘Hey, I wanna do that, too.’ I’ve learnt that to blog well you need to write about what you know and what you are passionate about and you need to not be doing it to just get readers.
I loved to write and share stories about my life in a real, somewhat self-deprecating way. It’s the same way I approached making scrapbook pages and it transferred perfectly to a blog format.
Debbie Hodge is another scrapbooking pro who struck on the idea to create a place where she could share scrapbook design and storytelling lessons so that scrapbookers were making great looking pages and telling stories that stand the test of time. She launched Get It Scrapped and hasn’t looked back since.
I was selling online courses back in 2007, and just marketing by word-of-mouth,” she said. “I started the blog in order to reach more new customers — and, of course, to share my passion about memory keeping.
The Get It Scrapped blog is key to selling spots in my scrapbooking membership. It’s how we meet new people and it’s how we nurture and serve them.
Kristin Tweedale, who blogs and vlogs under the moniker rukristin , is also the brains behind the Awesome Ladies Project , a site which encourages women to discover how awesome they are by documenting their day-to-day lives. She shared with us how she got started:
I started blogging as a finals project for my first Women’s & Gender Studies class at college. I started writing about issues that were affecting women and important news and cultural events that I thought women should know about.
When my passion moved out of politics and into art, I used blogging as a way to share the process behind my creative projects. I had been sharing photographs of my projects on message boards, but was really lacking the personal space to go into depth on the how-to side of what I was creating.
Vibrant Scrapbooking Communities
April Foster is the CEO of Studio Calico , the now global scrapbooking and craft supplies subscription business which started as a small family-run online business in 2007. The company has always used blogging as a way to share ideas, examples and tutorials and through it has forged strong bonds with its growing customer base.
April believes those connections have played a crucial role in her company’s success:
The team support and sense of community is what keeps me motivated and inspired. It has had the biggest impact on making the blog a success.
If I was to give advice to anyone starting out in an online business, it would be how important it is to attend conferences and meet like-minded people. That and understand who your audience is.
Kristin admits that her motivation to keep her blog Rukristin changes, but believes that fuels the creative spark she needs.
My secret to staying motivated and inspired long term is to remember what motivates and inspires you. If you’re an artist, odds are, those things are going to change over time. Be aware of this, and let yourself wander outside of your comfort zone to find new things to motivate and inspire you.
What Makes for a Successful Scrapbooking Blog?
Turning the conversation onto what makes for a successful blog, Debbie and Cathy both agree that consistency in posting new content is vital.
Debbie Hodge describes her approach to new Get it Scrapped content:
We used to blog several times a week, but now that the content landscape has changed, we blog just once or twice a week. But we never miss a week. That builds authority and trust and a big library of content. We now have all that content cataloged in the social media tool, MeetEdgar, and share several posts a week on social media.
Cathy Zielske adds that alongside consistency in updating Z Design, timing has had a lot to do with her success.
I can’t lie, timing was part of it. I worked for a magazine with a huge audience and that brought me readers. I wrote two books on scrapbooking and that, too, brought me readers. But my commitment to writing, on average, three posts each week, also showed readers I was the real deal and I was going to keep delivering content that was either useful or entertaining. Or both.
Kristin Tweedale points to finding a niche that helped her stand out from the crowd, and the great passion she has for her topic.
If I had to narrow success down to one thing, I would say that it’s the very specific niche that Rukristin fills, and the passion I have for that niche.
It’s hard work. So if you are going to blog, make sure it’s about something you love. But there’s nothing better than sharing something you love, with other people who love that thing too.
On advice to aspiring bloggers, Cathy urges people to learn from her hard lessons and get the hang of tags quickly.
I feel like I was really bad about this in the early years. Have focused tags, which I later did during a rebrand of my site. You don’t need a tag for every little thought that pops into your head. Also, SEO stuff. To this day, I literally know nothing about it. I’m sure that would help me to be more successful, but I’m a one-woman show who can’t do it all.
Overall, be succinct and be real. Oh, and for the love of blogging, you need the best camera you can afford for your images.
Debbie’s advice is to plan meticulously and, if you want to monetize your blog, have a clear sense of how your free content links to paid-for products. “Plan your content two or three months out and make sure it educates your readers in a way that prepares them for a move into your paid content,” she said.
“Make sure your content precedes and generates a need for your paid offering. For years, our content was only loosely connected to the topics we taught and sold classes for. Today, though, because we plan 3 months out, we have blog content that relates to the new membership materials. And we have a content upgrade for building our email list within each of the new posts.”