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Where it all Began

June 3, 2013

bloggingjourney.jpg When I think back to when my blog first began and where it is now, I simply can’t believe it. I had no idea how little I knew about the blogging world at the time. Sometimes I still can’t believe how much my blog has grown and how much I’ve learned along the way. What started out as a simple way to share a couple recipes with family has now become a true passion and self-employed career. I thought it would be beneficial for others considering starting a blog to hear about my roots as a blogger and how I developed the hobby into something more professional. Personally, I always find it helpful to learn from somebody else’s experience. Hopefully you will too. Here is my story!

Shortly after my first child was born, I started to get an “itch” from being a stay-at-home Mom. Not as though I didn’t love spending all my time with my daughter, I of course did, but I started to get a little bored from my lack of productivity. Since the age of 12 I had always had a job. Once I got married I stopped working because we were on the move so often for the Army because of my Husbands career training. Not long after that, I got pregnant. We both decided that I would stay home with the baby rather than get a job. It just didn’t make any sense for me to work when most of what I would make would go towards paying for childcare. I wasn’t about to work just to have somebody else raise my kid, making just enough money to cover the expense. So I was happy to stay at home and take care of my daughter. Despite how much I love her, I missed the sense of accomplishment you get when you’re productive in some way. I had no idea what to do with myself though. Day after day I spent my time feeding my daughter, lulling her to sleep, cleaning when I got the chance, and… watching tv.

One random day in early 2011 I googled a recipe. I can’t even begin to remember what it was. I do recall where it took me though- browneyedbaker.com. Until that point I had only ever found recipes online off of Allrecipes, Food Network, Martha Stewart, etc. I just had never come across a blog before. After reading through her post, I realized what I had stumbled upon- one individuals’ personal blog. The idea seemed so crazy to me. It was so professional looking! “How did she do that???” “It must have been so expensive!” “How in the world did she do that?!” “I love to bake and cook… I wish I could do that.” I was completely baffled by her ability to create this site. The idea seemed completely impossible to me. I sat on what I saw, brewing my curiosity, for a few days and then I ran a google search for “free blog”.

What I should have done at the time (and to this day I have no idea why I didn’t…) was search “how to start a blog”. What I came up with in my search was google’s free webhosting blogging network- Blogger. I immediately made an account and started a blog. I thought about the title for all of about 2 minutes before I went forward with it. Gosh, I wish I had taken that more seriously. If there was one regret I have about how I started my blog, it is that- not thinking through the title of my blog. I didn’t think my blog was going to go anywhere, so I didn’t put much effort into it. I just wanted something to tinker with, maybe share a couple recipes with my family. And I thought the words flowed well together. Now I am stuck with “Laura’s Sweet Spot”. It’s not the worst thing, but it pegs me down as completely having to do with sweet things. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t share just sweet things- I post all kinds of food, including healthy things, AND I am starting to do tutorials and informational posts. So, if you are thinking about starting a blog, even if it’s not serious at the moment, think the title through. It’s way too much work to change it later on, plus you lose a lot of your traffic from referral links.

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So that was back in April of 2011 that I start my original blog. If it’s still active, you will be able to see it at laurassweetspot.blogspot.com. The above picture is a screenshot of the old layout design. It was very basic, self-explanatory kind of stuff to set up through blogger. I am not even a little bit computer savvy and I was able to do it without a problem. I start getting a headache when I hear the words “html” or “code”. So if I can do it, then anybody can do it. If you have a problem and need a tutorial of any kind, just search on google or youtube. That’s what I did and quickly realized that you can learn how to do anything from the internet.

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Not only was my blog design lacking, but so were my photography skills. This picture above of chocolate pie was my very first post. The picture was taken with a basic point-and-shoot camera set at automatic, on my kitchen counter, with my overhead fluorescent lights on. Below is one of my recent pictures from my current blog (Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie). Oh my. The things I have learned. 100% self-taught. I simply read and read and read everything I could find about it. I quickly realized my two biggest problems with my photos-I wasn’t utilizing the manual settings on my camera, nor was I staging my food to look appealing. Not to mention I didn’t own any kind of photo-editing software. Once I realized that I was missing all those factors, I then set about to learn everything I could about each one. And after that it was simply a matter of practice, practice, practice. Finally, 2 years later, this is where I am at with my food photography- much improved, huh? Photography is a whole ‘nother story though. Back to my blogging journey.

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My original blog was fairly short lived. I made less than 20 posts for the months of April, May, June, and July. Then I had to move to Germany on orders for the Army with my Husband. That put everything on hold. It took a while for me to get my bearings once I got to Germany and so I didn’t start up my blog again until October. There was a point where I considered not even restarting it. It wasn’t where I wanted it to be in the world of professional blogs and I had no idea how to get it there, so was it really worth my effort? Plus I wasn’t making any kind of income. It was a bit of an internal debate I had for a while, but in the end I came out even more ambitious. I would continue my blog and I would make it into a professional site that provides some sort of income.

I hit google search again and this time I used the correct phrasing “how to start a blog”. I came up with a handful of very helpful links, but the one that got me through the thick of things was bloggingyourpassion.com. Their site is AWESOME. It is 100% authentic and totally worth the money that you spend to get their videos. They are very professional and knowledgeable about everything blog related. If you are interested in taking blogging seriously, I urge you to go there. Another great source is theblogbuilders.com. He shows you for free off that site and will help you free of charge. I didn’t discover him until long after I had already set up my blog otherwise I would have tried to go the free route rather than pay $200 for videos…

I also have a FREE tutorial with video demonstrations!

I quickly learned that I would have to set up a blog through wordpress, purchase a domain name (your .com, .us, .de, etc), purchase a hosting plan (a company to back up all your web info), and join an advertising network. And to make things a little easier on me since I wouldn’t be able to do anything fancy with code, I would have to purchase Thesis Themes which would simplify all the design stuff for me. It looked like I was going to have to pour a bit of money into this thing in order to get anything out of it. I went all in, fingers crossed that I wouldn’t fall flat on my face making a colossal mistake.

I set up my own design with a header image I created through Photoshop Elements 8. I uploaded it to my blog and then designed my navbar and everything else around it. Then I arranged my sidebar as I wanted it to appear with the order of widgets, etc. I joined google Adsense and incorporated a 250×300 pixel ad in the upper right hand corner of my sidebar. That would be my source of income. It was the best I could do as far as design myself, since I couldn’t manipulate code. But it was an improvement for sure and I was happy with it. So in November 2011, laurassweetspot.com became live.

May of 2012 I decided that I wanted to improve my look and hire out a professional to create a new design. I searched through all my favorite blogs and went to their footer to see where they had their site designed. I then did a little shopping around, comparing prices, etc. It didn’t take long before I realized this was going to be a pretty expensive affair… most of the companies I found charged roughly $1,000 for a blog makeover. That is until I found Myla at Design Me Pretty. She offers all the basic options at incredible prices. I am talking, my-jaw-dropped-when-I-saw-them kind of prices. Not only that but she is really wonderful to work with- I had a self-created issue with my navbar later on and contacted her for emergency help. She didn’t hesitate to help me that day- free of charge. So she does great work at can’t beat prices with phenomenal customer service. If you are on a budget like I was and want help to create a new look for your blog, I highly recommend her.

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And at various other points throughout that time I joined affiliation programs, where I recommend a product, somebody purchases said product through me, and I make a small commission. The programs I use include HostGator (my web hosting network), Thesis Theme (My WordPress theme), Vitacost (a great place to purchase vitamins and healthy foods), Amazon (for product referral), and Tasty Food Photography e-book. Spring of 2012 I also joined the Foodie Blogroll Publisher Program and started sporting their ads along with Google adsense ads. I made a decent revenue off them, but nothing substantial.

Now, 1 1/2 years later I am proud to say that I have come very far and accomplished a lot of my goals- bettered my food photography skills, increased the quality of my posts, created a professional looking site, and made an income. Things have been stagnant around here for months now with no changes and very little increase in traffic or income and you can’t grow unless you change. So I’ve made a new set of goals (see New Game Plan post) to help me get to where I want to be. Most of all I want to make blogging a part-time job with a dependable income rather than just a hobby with a few extra bucks. I also want to extend the scope of my posts- sharing a lot of information to help other bloggers achieve their goals too.

In the meantime I will be reporting my changes and progress to you in monthly “Progress Report” posts (including income summaries), that way you can learn from my trial and error experiments just as much as I do! The first one goes out Thursday : ) Also look for “How to Start a Blog” with video guides tomorrow and “Blogging Resources and Tips” on Wednesday.

Thank you to all my readers for your support!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol Prazan June 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I am one of your many fans, Laura! Keep up the great work! And happy blogging!

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lmachell June 4, 2013 at 7:31 am

Thanks Carol!

Reply

Cassie June 4, 2013 at 2:37 am

I love your blog as well! I am amazed that your photography is self-taught – so impressive. This was a very inspiring story to read. I hope you achieve all of your blogging dreams and more 🙂

Reply

lmachell June 4, 2013 at 7:31 am

Thank you so much Cassie! I appreciate the good wishes : )

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