Earlier this week, as I was recapping The Seed event in NYC, I told you guys that I’d circle back to my blogging panel with JL and Yoli Ouiya. I’m usually fairly hesitant to address the business of blogging. Why? Because I’m really not the savviest blogger when it comes to optimizing traffic and generating income! I have some ads (affiliate and Blogher, my advertising program), but my ad space is not extensive. I follow some basic SEO optimization guidelines, but I often ignore them, too; if the title of my post can’t logically fit into the first graf or so, so be it. If my blogging was more full time, I’d definitely seek out more guest posts, cross promotion, and so on; I’d also take a frenzied dive into more forms (and better use) of social media. For now, I do the best that I can. I take my blog seriously, and it is a serious part of my professional life, but school always has to come first, which means that my focus on blogging often comes second.
That said, I’ve learned a lot about blogging in my four years (!) as a food blogger. Some of this is practical and business-oriented; a lot of it is broader–let’s think of it as “life wisdom” for the blogger. How does one deal with criticism from readers? How does one talk about personal convictions (veganism, personal faith, a strong point of view) without alienating readers who have different worldviews? How does one evolve personally while also staying true to the voice and spirit that brought readers in in the first place?
These are tricky questions, and I don’t have all of the answers. But I have my own approach. I shared a lot of it in one of last year’s most popular posts: mytop ten tips for new bloggers, which I recommend checking out if you’re just starting a blog!
Last weekend at The Seed, JL and Yoli and I spoke about one particular component of our blogging: blogging as a means of “planting” the vegan “seed.” We each spent about 15 minutes discussing the following questions:
I thought you guys might get a kick out of the answers I shared:
What is your blog’s mission? To spread awareness and give people tools to explore vegan lifestyle and raw foods; to create a safe and supportive community in which people can learn to nourish themselves and find joy in the food on their plates.
What is your unique voice when it comes to veganism? I guess I’d say that Green Recovery and eating disorder activism on my blog is unique.
Do you blog for business or pleasure? How did your blog become a business? Both! My blog started as a hobby, and I don’t rely on it for fiscal support. I would write it even if weren’t going to make me a cent. That said, writing my blog crystallized my desire to work in health care, so in that sense it has become a part of my greater professional mission!
What does a typical blog day/week look like for you? I blog every day except one weekend day, if my life permits. I make food whenever I can, and I try to show readers exactly what kind of stuff I eat. What you see on CR is stuff I’ve made and eaten in “real world” time and under “real world” circumstances!
Do you consider activism when posting? (food, animals, eco/green, etc)? Absolutely. I consider myself an activist for animals, and I am a person who creates a safe and open space for women with ED histories to meet, greet, and talk.
Talk about the different aspects of your blog as it pertains to veganism: plant-based vs. ethical vegan; authenticity and honesty when it comes to viewpoints; personal experiences; how you handle criticism, etc. We didn’t have much time to get into this, but I’d say that I actually feel kinship with both plant based and ethical vegans, and that I handle criticism by taking it seriously and responding to it respectfully whenever I can.
What three things have you learned since starting your blog that you think are important for new bloggers to consider?
Hope those are helpful!
The audience was full of good questions. Here are some highlights:
1. Self hosting or no?
Our thoughts: Yes! At least, if you want your blog to serve a professional purpose. If you’re blogging as a hobby, mostly for people in your inner circle, you may not want to spend money on self-hosting. Otherwise, I do suggest investing in self-hosting from the get go, because the transfer process can be quite a pain. Consider it an investment in your ongoing success 🙂
2. What do you do when you don’t like a product you’ve been given to review?
My answer: I typically don’t post really negative reviews. I just don’t like saying bad things about a vegan product, unless I really feel that the makers of the product have been careless or have a bad message (in which case I’ll almost always just not ask for a sample in the first place). Sometimes I’ll let the company know that I didn’t love the item, and ask if they’d prefer I run some constructive criticism or simply not run a review.
If I thought the product had some strengths, but some weaknesses, I’ll do my best to post something balanced, pointing out pros and cons for my readers!
JL and Yoli had similar thoughts; Yoli mentioned that it’s always OK to write a review in which you focus on the positives, rather than the negatives, of something you’ve been sent.
3. What do you do if you don’t have a supportive, pro-vegan community around you, but you’re trying to go vegan?
My response: Well, first and foremost, use the internet to your advantage! We’re so lucky to live in a time in which we can connect with a likeminded community through the world wide web. If you don’t have access to support in your “real” life, I promise you that you can find it through keystrokes. Start reading blogs, forums, meetups, and webzines: they’ll inspire you and remind you that there are a lot of people who share your conviction!
Second, and equally important: no matter how much energy and support you get from the online world, you’ll feel more secure and confident in your veganism if you can find ways to bring your family and friends on board. That doesn’t mean that they need to agree with your reasons for being vegan, or make the same choices, but it does mean that they can be enthusiastic for you (if not with you). The best way to elicit family/friend support is to make clear that the lifestyle makes you happy and fulfilled: don’t speak in terms of obligation (“I think I should be doing this”), but rather, in terms of conscious, enthusiastic choice (“I’m excited to be doing this because…”). Show them how inspired and excited you are. Over time, your satisfaction will render them more and more supportive, and your confidence, in turn, will grow!
The final highlight of the presentation was our emphasis on the fact that blogging “success” is measured in more ways than metrics alone. When JL spoke, she made a big point of saying that, although her blog isn’t necessary a major income source in its own right, it has lead to her (very wonderful) blogging and print work for The Journal News, and her forthcoming book (hooray!) with the wonderful Ginny Messina. I totally agree with this point: blogs don’t only contribute to your professional experience by offering you income/exposure. They can also open doors to new jobs, new writing projects, new friends, and so much more. Blogging opened up my social sphere and introduced me to a lot of people who are now dear, close friends. Writing my blog allowed me to find my voice as a person who has recovered from an eating disorder, and it inspired me to connect with others like me.
Most importantly, writing my blog inspired me to reconnect with a lifelong passion for health and well being. I’d always assumed that this passion was personal, and that I couldn’t translate it into a career because of my limited natural aptitude in the sciences (I was wrong about the first part, and dead right about the second!). As I wrote CR, day in and day out, it gave me the strength to take a big risk and turn a personal fascination with health into a commitment to serve others. So while I don’t earn a living as a full time blogger, I do credit blogging with steering me on a new direction, and changing my life in phenomenal ways. Don’t think narrowly about what a blog can offer you: think about the ways in which it may help you to redefine your aspirations!
Hope this is helpful and illuminating for those of you who take an interest in blogging — especially vegan blogging! And I’d also love to hear from you guys what sort of tips/questions you have about the whole enterprise, because I’ve been thinking that a “ten tips for new bloggers: party two” is well overdue. Let me know, and happy weekend to you!