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Blogging 101: How to Tell if Your Blog Isn’t Working

This is the eleventh part in my Start a Blog series about blogging. This post is relevant whether you’ve started your blog or not, but you might want to check out my other posts if you haven’t seen them since they lay the groundwork for starting your money-making blog journey. Also, keep in mind that some brands won’t work with you unless you have a dot com and you’re self-hosting (both easy things to do!!) so check out my post about setting up a hosted blog if you aren’t there yet.

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Success at blogging takes a while for most people. There’s a learning curve in the beginning where you don’t really know what to write or every post takes hours or you post a lot and then forget that you have a blog for a couple of weeks. That’s pretty standard. There are those one-in-a-million stories where someone starts a blog that just clicks and goes viral and that person never looks back, but I would say that most people need about a year before they feel solid as a blogger.

For that reason, I’m always quick to discourage people who want to give up on their blogs, because that initial investment is the hardest part and I don’t want people to duck out before their blog begins to pay off. I also have personal experience with pushing through the feeling like it’s just not working only to realize you just needed to make a few adjustments. My two main sources of income are this blog and my blog about Disney weddings and I’ve shut both of them down in frustration before, believing that they just weren’t working. Thank heavens I was wrong and not too proud to admit it!

HOWEVER…

I will say that some ventures just aren’t meant to be successful and I’m also guilty of pouring myself into projects that were doomed from the start. *cough* law school *cough*

Blogging is no exception.

Yesterday, I deleted two-thirds of the archives on one of my wedding blogs and posted the official goodbye letter. It’s a project I’ve been working on for two and a half years and stands at the moment as my largest professional failure, which is pretty impressive considering I have a law degree I don’t really use. I could go through the whole story with you and spill out all the gory details, but instead I’ll give you the bulletpoints in the hopes that they help you as a blogger:

/// I started the blog completely motivated by money.

I started a wedding blog because it’s an easy and lucrative type of blogging and I already had a successful wedding blog on the books. In my mind, I would just be reposting photos sent in from photographers (not too much time invested) and I would have a steady stream of advertisers from the industry. This was true. What I forgot was that I’m not actually passionate or interested in weddings. This might surprise some people who know me from the Disney wedding blog, but that’s because I am passionate and interested in Disney weddings. I think regular weddings are pretty…but I kind of glaze over midway through an issue of Brides magazine.

Huge red flag here! You will not be successful blogging about something if it’s not something that would snag your attention if you were browsing Pinterest. You will burn out and get bored, just like you would with any other job, and it will cost you.

/// I was overambitious with my blogging plan.

My idea was that if I had one niche wedding blog that did well, each additional niche wedding blog would exponentially increase my income. So I started 55 new wedding blogs on the same day (one for each state plus five more with niche focuses), with the idea that I would bring in assistant editors and manage it all myself. I still believe that this idea is possible…but only if you have nothing else going on. I had a one-year-old, five other blogs, and a freelance web business that supplements my income. So I was basically crazy.

If you start out with more work than you can manage, you are dooming yourself to fail. This can be true even if you have only one blog if your one blog demands things like a new recipe every day, a dramatic redecoration of your home every week, or a vacation every month. It’s better to outgrow a little plan than get buried under a big one.

/// I was unprepared to blog collaboratively.

I did bring on help, hiring and training assistant editors on a commission-based pay schedule. It was a complete disaster because I didn’t have the time to truly mentor people and I wasn’t prepared for people to learn at different speeds. Ultimately, nobody was very successful without support and the program fell apart, leaving me embarrassed that the program hadn’t worked and all of the work of sixty blogs sitting on my shoulders.

Blogging collaboratively is tricky and it’s something I haven’t ever been able to do very well, either as a leader or as a contributor because my skills are in writing and not in business management. Although I still believe collaboration is a good thing (you’ll likely be seeing more of my sisters soon on this blog!), I should have known better than to put together a team before I had a solid support plan in place.

/// I didn’t want to do it.

This one kind of goes along with what I was talking about when I said I wasn’t interested in weddings, but there’s more to it than that. After I disbanded the team of editors, I folded all of the new wedding blogs into one general wedding blog and picked it up from there. I had a steady stream of ads, landed a couple of sponsored posts every month, had a steady stream of submissions, and had a beautiful wedding blog to show off. In theory, this is the point at which the blog became successful.

But I hated working on it.

It was like homework – something I crammed in late Sunday night because I had to. I resented the hours I spent working on the wedding blog when I could have been spending time with my family. I also didn’t push it or make an effort to get to know the brides or vendors (like I do naturally with my Disney wedding blog) because I just wasn’t invested. Every dollar that came in was painfully earned by me chaining myself to the laptop and forcing myself to blog. How sad is that? Especially when we’re talking about photos of these people’s wonderful celebrations?? I was a wedding blog grinch.

The end result of all of this, two and a half years later, was a modestly successful blog that was updated in bursts and then neglected for weeks on end. I avoided it actively and never felt any joy in either publishing or in getting paid for the work I did for it. And that sucks.

So, I folded it up, even though it was finally turning a profit and I had spent years building it up. Ultimately, if I wanted to do something for a living that I don’t enjoy but which provides a nice paycheck, I would go back to being an attorney. As it is, my job consists of me writing about things that I’m passionate about and being thrilled with each paid collaboration because I get to work with businesses that I connect with on a personal level. I have the best job ever, especially now that I’ve shrugged off the one piece of it I didn’t like.

So what’s the takeaway for you?

/// Don’t keep investing solely because you feel like you’ve lost out on what you’ve already given.

You know the sad person at the card table in Vegas who has lost so much money that he just can’t bring himself to walk away without winning it back? That guy is having a horrible time…and I was that guy, grimly plugging away at the computer because I had already invested all of the money to set up the sites, all of the time to code everything, all of the hours of mentoring editors, all of the nights spent culling through photos, etc. Every time I thought about shutting down the blog, I thought about the weekend outings I had missed with my family just to keep the site going and how it would all be for nothing if I folded. So I missed more weekends and by the time I broke even financially, I had invested so much time that it would never be possible to get a return worth what I had lost. How sad is that?

/// Don’t feel like a failed blog means you aren’t a blogger.

This was a frustrating and humbling experience for me, but I’m lucky because I had good blogs before this one and I’ve started other good blogs since. I can imagine how it would feel if this had been my only blogging adventure and I can see how easy it would be to think, “This didn’t work, therefore I can’t do this.” If you feel like you want to blog, don’t be discouraged by one sunk project. Just look hard to find the project that will light you up.

/// Leave the door just a little bit open.

Right now, I’m done with that wedding blog. I can’t see a future in which I miss it and bring it back to life…but I’m smart enough to never say never. Like I said, I shut down this blog for a month just a couple of years ago and then had to come back with my tail between my legs because I missed it too much. The Disney wedding blog? Two goodbye letters, at least, and a few months where I just didn’t post. But I love it. I missed it. I was glad to bring it back to life each time. So unless you need to shut down a blog because it’s causing problems or you can’t afford to pay to let it sit there, post a goodbye letter and then let it set for a while. You never know…

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7 Comments

  • Reply Shannon

    Great advice but I’m selfishly sad to see your Disney blog go! My husband and I took our engagement pictures are Disney and there is just something so romantic about the parks.

    November 9, 2014 at 12:35 am
    • Reply Hope at Disneyland

      I don’t think she’s shutting down the Disney blog. Carly shut down the non-Disney wedding blog she had going called the Wedding Atlas.

      November 10, 2014 at 5:25 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      No worries, Shannon, it’s the other blog that closed down. Disney bride blogger for life!

      November 11, 2014 at 11:18 am
  • Reply Hope at Disneyland

    I thought the Wedding Atlas was a great idea and I followed you over there. I did notice that you didn’t really promote it and caught a couple of mistakes over there (like re-postings or descriptions not matching the images) so in that respect it was obvious that your attention and passion wasn’t with it so you’re doing the right thing by letting it go. I know other bloggers who also had high hopes for projects that just didn’t pan out. I think it’s way better to put your passion into a project that you love even if the payoff isn’t great, than to do something that you don’t love for more money. Money is great but it’s not worth it if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. Chin up Carly and upwards and onward! 😀

    November 10, 2014 at 5:28 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks! Yeah, that was what my 5th grade teacher would have called “not Carly’s best effort – doesn’t show full potential”. 😉

      November 11, 2014 at 11:19 am
  • Reply Jennifer @ Brave New Home

    Great points. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your experiences so candidly. After two years with my blog I didn’t feel like it was quite time to close up shop but it was time for redirection to bring the joy back into blogging for me.

    November 11, 2014 at 3:06 pm
  • Reply Christine

    What you said about it being easy to repost pictures from photographers is exactly why I thought it would be so easy to be an assistant editor, and I’m sorry that didn’t work out! 🙁 I think the blog is still a great idea though. It was cool to see weddings around the country (and especially around the world!) in one place. But you have two very successful blogs – the rest is just gravy. 🙂

    November 11, 2014 at 3:26 pm
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