expert Q&A with the peeps at Digital Parents. They have very graciously allowed me to repost here in case you missed it. I hope you find it useful – please feel free to add any questions you might have in the comments. Party on, Wayne.
Stacey has been blogging at The Veggie Mama since 2010 with a focus on “unfreaky food and recipes for vegetables that don’t immediately make you want to cry.” She is also an academic, university tutor, and guest lecturer in the areas of media law and online journalism. She is currently the Managing Editor of Problogger.net.
Some more background for you:
- Started blogging in 2008, started Veggie Mama in 2010
- Started VM on Tumblr, then Blogger, then moved to WordPress at the end of 2012
- I have never stopped loving blogging – and I’ve been fascinated by the changes I’ve seen!
- I come from a journalism background, and started my blog when I was a newspaper editor. I wanted to have a baby and I didn’t want a 9-5. I thought I could do freelance food writing and because I hadn’t had any food writing published, thought a blog would be an excellent portfolio.
- I started to monetise almost straight away – as soon as I realised you could! Brenda from Digital Parents had just been flown to China with Coca-Cola and I was like “you can do that just by blogging?! I want in!”
- It took a loonnnnnng time to get any traction, and I did giveaways and things for product. It was back in the day before being paid was common. It was a slow start, but it was at a pace I was comfortable with.
- I had two babies within 18 months a year after I started my blog, so I’ve been pretty busy behind the scenes, so the blog has often taken a back seat.
- I have pretty specific views about blogging: most of them include: do your own thing, be yourself, take regular breaks, blog however the hell you want, use comparison for motivation, not to feel inferior about, and have fun.
- I have had big ideas for an eBook (or three) for about two years now.
- I have been the Managing Editor for ProBlogger.net since last November, where I teach people the blogging rules I break every day.
- I have been represented by The Remarkables Group since January 2013, and they take care of all the sponsored parts of my blog (although I have the last say and am a massive pain in the ass). This means I now blog full-time.
- I struggle with managing my time, as I’m mostly a stay-at-home mum to a three + two-year-old
- I taught media law at university up until last year (and still guest lecture about it, including at PBEvent this year), so will talk your ear off about defamation, copyright, image use, contempt of court and all kinds of legal stuff if you sit still long enough…
- I like tea.
Are there any changes in media law that would affect bloggers?
I actually find the laws that will affect bloggers the most are the ones that have been around for years – but bloggers aren’t necessarily aware of them. The biggest thing that bloggers should look out for is copyright of images they use. You cannot use an image you don’t have written permission to use (unless you use creative commons/copyright or royalty-free images). Although it’s widely done, it’s still legally not enough to cite the source of the image. And if you DO use an image with a source cited, it’s not enough to just write “Pinterest” or “tumblr” or wherever. It has to be the original creator of the image. This goes for anything on social media as well as your blog.
About photos: there are heaps of free images online, but whey they say free to use does that really mean you can use it on your blog? Do you need to put the credit of the site or the user? Like photos from morguefile.com?
You’ve been blogging for a million years now, what changes did you have to make to your blog to keep growing?
I think the biggest changes I made was to content. I wrote more about personal stuff, and that seemed to resonate more with my readers than my straight food stuff did. So as I evolved, so did my blog. And an eye-pleasing design never goes astray!
Did you have to pay heaps for the design?
My first proper design was $40!
In terms of building engagement with your readers, what works well and what you tried that missed the mark?
Ooh good question! And a tough one to answer, because I never really followed a formula. I actually think less is more, so I really only pop up on social media to promote my blog or interact when I think I have something interesting or funny to say. I think answering your comments and interacting with your people on social media is super-important. Be useful, be encouraging, and never over-do it or you’ll turn people off.
I’d love to know some tips as to where to start in terms of setting up advertising options/pricing etc. for a blog site. Do you have any tips?
I’ve never found sidebar advertising to be very useful, although it can be a great start (but be fussy and avoid ugly ads!) And having it on your sidebar gives you legitimacy, and makes people think you’re someone to be advertised with. Most of my income comes from sponsored posts, and I think if you’re going to do them, start doing them early so your readers know to expect that’s what you do. I don’t really do much on Facebook or twitter with sponsored stuff, but I would consider it for smaller things I don’t want to write an entire post about. Keep the blog sacred!
Any tips on dealing with trolls?
I haven’t really been the recipient of proper trolls, but humour is always my first choice!
I think keeping your personal self-esteem protected from dickheads with a power trip on the internet is super-important. Turn the computer off and go have an icecream. It’s just the internet… it’s not real!
I’d love to hear more about what you do for Problogger…
At ProBlogger.net, I am in charge of all content. Which means I write, curate, source images, edit, transcribe webinars, upload guest posts, and manage guest contributors.
…and also any advice on how small bloggers like me can get noticed?
My advice for small bloggers is to slap your self-doubt in the face and get out there amongst blog land. Chat to other bloggers on their social media. Comment on their posts. Share their stuff. Be useful, be friendly, be yourself. Have fun and be nice.
I am a complete newbie and just starting out, are there any resources (web pages, courses, people to follow etc.) you would recommend in learning the tools of the trade?
Go here! problogger.net (especially when we do theme weeks, and beginner’s guides. I’ve got lots of links here for people wanting to get a foot in the door. And Pip Lincolne has a cool blogging e-course: Blog With Pip. There’s also a whole bunch of posts out there from other bloggers – google is your friend!
The beginner week on problogger is a great place to start.
Have you changed the fees you ask for sponsored posts, ads etc? How did you decide how much to charge and what’s your advice for those trying to figure out how much to charge?
Yeah, I changed as my audience grew, and I realised how much time it actually took me to create a great posts and promote it across my social media networks. I pulled numbers out of the air, asked other bloggers with similar traffic what they charged (or asked to see their media kit), and I think Nikki touched on pricing here. Nowadays my fees are dictated by my agent, but my advice is to value yourself. Don’t sell yourself short. Ask for what you’re worth – the worst they can say is that they can’t afford that, and you can then negotiate if you want. But blogging like you don’t need the money is always the best way. You’ll be much more badass! (and you’ll be surprised who’ll pay up).
You mention ‘useful’, this seems like a silly question but how do you guage usefulness to your community?
I think you will see the amount of Pins or shares or people saying thanks. It can be a bit hit and miss (unless you’ve surveyed your readers, which I’ve never done) until after the fact, but I find my most use comes when I’ve written a recipe, or been funny. It will depend on what your blog is about, and what your readers want.
When researching for articles or looking for information, have you ever had to contact people to ask for help (I loath to say “like a ‘real’ journalist, but I’m failing for another way to describe it)? I have a number of things I want to research and people I would ideally like to talk to, but I’m so nervy about just saying “Hey, I’m a blogger, would you answer my questions please?” Do you have much experience chasing down info or interviews this way, and how did it go?
Back in the day when I was a student journalist, I did have to reach out to people for comment. All I could say to them is that it was for an assignment, and I was stunned at how helpful people were, and how willing to give me a few minutes of their day to answer my question, provide comment, or point me in the right direction. Never be afraid! What’s the worst they can do? Say no? Ignore your email? I often reach out to people today for my work at ProBlogger and I do get ignored a bit, but I’m sure that’s because people are super-busy. But nine times out of 10, it’s a success.
What’s the first thing a blogger should do if in case their content gets stolen/copied (eg recipes, pics etc)?
Email the offender (kindly as they may have done it in good faith) and ask them to either credit you or take it down, depending on your level of patience. There really isn’t a lot you can do, especially online. If that gets no reply, get a lawyer friend to write a strongly-worded letter on your behalf. You can begin proceedings if they have breached your copyright, especially if you’re losing money. But first port of call is emailing or calling the person directly.
Care to share any ‘mistakes’ you made when first starting out as a blogger?
Ummmm…. an ugly design, bad photos, getting too caught up in stats / being online 24/7 (both of them I woke up to myself quick smart, that’s no way to live!) and probably not taking it seriously. It was just a bit of fun and when opportunities came knocking, I wasn’t professionally prepared.
Can you explain what you mean by “professionally prepared”?
Maybe have a media kit, a price you can offer… not just get a bit flattered and offer to do it for nothing. If there’s any chance you think you might like to make money from blogging, you’ll be taken more seriously if you communicate professionally and like you’re ready for action. Even if you’re faking it ’til you make it!
Especially for new bloggers: can you specify to us what constitutes defamation?
Defamation requires three things:
- You’ve said something that causes other people to look down on/shun another person
- It’s obviously about that person – whether you outright name them, or give enough clues so people can guess, it doesn’t matter. You’ve said something bad, and it’s about that person.
- It is read/seen by at least one other person (besides you and the person you’ve defamed).
So defamation can be written, spoken, an image, photo, comic, facial expression, physical gesture… it’s about someone… and at least a third person has seen/read it.
Defamation is NOT bitching or having a whinge. Only when that person’s reputation is damaged and people are avoiding them, shunning them, making fun of them, or refusing to read them/buy from them, etc, is when defamation has occurred.
It also needs to be proven in court that the above happened. No evidence? No case!
I have a unique scenario. I’ve been blogging a while now, over 3 years, but have only recently started to make a dent in my blog. I want to grow my readership in my specific audience and just don’t know how to that without being spammy. I seem to be the only blogger of my kind in Australia (Muslim mum blogger), I see this as my niche and believe that companies as well as my readers can benefit from my blog, but I just don’t have the numbers.
Coming from someone who had a very specific niche for awhile there, it was the best thing I could have done. If anyone ever needed a vegetarian recipe, I was often the first person people thought of!
I think it’s important that you get out there and network more. The best way to get your name out there (rather than being spammy) is to genuinely interact in blog land. Like what you’ve been doing with me – chatting on my FB page, etc. Comment on people’s blogs, and look out for when others ask questions you can answer.
That’s a wrap people! A HUGE thank you to the lovely Stacey from Veggie Mama. You are awesome!
Anytime! I could talk about this all day.
DP runs a live Expert QnA Session on a monthly basis. Last month they had Nicole Avery from Planning with Kids in the hot seat. Stay tuned for detail on next month’s session 🙂