Sunday, December 14, 2014

How masterminds and mentors made my 2014 WAY better (and why you should gather people around you, too)

For a couple of years now I've been listening to some of my favourite podcasters talk about the value of masterminds (Pat Flynn, Amy Porterfield and Natalie Sisson spring immediately to mind.). In fact pretty much everyone in the social media, solo-preneur or small business space goes on about how mastermind groups or accountability partners or mentors can make ALL the difference. I'm probably a bit slow but finally in 2014 I caught up with this idea and, not at all to my surprise, found it worked out SO well!

Setting up your own mastermind group

Of course, if you sit around waiting to be asked to be part of a mastermind group, you might be waiting a long time. (Or not. But if you haven't been asked, do what I did.) I thought about a few people I knew who had a similar philosophy to me about running their solo business, and who I also knew had lots of motivation, great ideas of their own that would help me too, and were, of course, nice people who I would love to see more of. And then, with a bit of nervousness, I emailed them with the idea of forming a mastermind group.

Guess what? They said yes! So, since the beginning of 2014, I have had wonderfully inspiring monthly meetings with Natasha Lester and Anita Fredericks. We have a loose format to our meetings, which involves each of us reporting on what's been going well for us during the past month, and what our goals are for the next month, and asking for help and advice.



I'm sure Natasha and Anita would agree that our little group has been super-helpful this year. I love that we are all in different areas - Natasha is a novelist and teaches writing, Anita is in health and wellness and makes a ripper chocolate (healthy-style - perfect!), and I oscillate between being a travel blogger and a social media and blogging trainer. I think it helps that we're each interested in what the others do - I'm not sure I'd work well with a mastermind partner who sold machinery parts or something, for example! - but that we're different enough to be able to offer alternative ideas and approaches.

Just having that "pressure" (in a good way) of our monthly meeting, knowing that I'll be reporting back on what I have or haven't done, is a great motivator in itself. Being able to get advice and opinions that I value - especially in the new online world, since many people I talk to barely know what I do! - is fabulous. And Anita's chocolates are good too :-)



How do you set up your own mastermind? It's really as easy as asking. Obviously if you don't yet know the kind of people who you would like to mastermind with (I was lucky - Natasha and Anita were both former clients who I'd followed long enough to realise they would be a perfect fit) then you need to get involved with some networking groups, either in person or on Facebook, and find some people who might be "your" people. It might not work out the first time (I was lucky), but keep trying and it will. There is now lots of information online about mastermind groups - last year I remember sharing this piece from Chris Ducker which helped us decide how to run ours. I'm lucky (I think) in that we can hold our mastermind face-to-face - I think it works better - but I know other people who do them online using Google Hangouts and they love that too.

Chatting with a mentor or accountability partner

The other great thing I started doing this year (which was not my clever idea but I'm so glad it happened) was to set up fortnightly chats with a fellow blogger with similar goals to me who also knew where I was coming from. I met Dannielle Cresp (of Style for a Happy Home) online first - I'm pretty sure it was on Twitter (am I right, Dannielle?) and then we met in person at the first Problogger I went to in 2013. Dannielle suggested we keep in touch with some Skype chats (she lives in Victoria) and that has turned into regular fortnightly catch ups. (And a face-to-face catch up on the Gold Coast at the 2014 Problogger, which was brilliant!)



Dannielle and I don't have a specific format but we do talk a lot about our blogs and our work and try to set some accountability goals, stuff we'll have achieved before the next time we talk. I usually speak to Dannielle on a day when I don't generally book clients or workshops in so she's my only human contact that working day, and that makes her very important! Additionally I think of her as something of a mentor because she knows lots of stuff I don't - her technical skills with stuff like WordPress are way ahead of me, she has design skills, and of course she's my Pinterest guru (her Practical Pinning course dramatically changed the readership of my blog this year!). She also loves strawberry milkshakes, just like me. Perfect or what?

Why you should gather fellow online-type people around you, too

Whatever brings you to read my blog, you are probably involved with something - be it blogging or social media or online business - that not many people know about. Most people in my "real world" every day life don't have much of a handle on what I do ... "you're that web design person, aren't you?" (totally no skill there, I'm afraid) or "you do something with websites and training, right?" It helps enormously to regularly meet up with people who DO get what you do. When an online-type friend says to me, "You won't believe who just retweeted my blog post!" then I totally get it and celebrate with them.

On top of that, having to talk out loud, to people who understand, about your goals and dreams and hopes for your online work, well, this makes all the difference to how much you achieve. Writing down these plans is effective, but telling someone, and knowing you'll see them in another month and want to tell them you actually did it, well that makes it WAY more effective.

If I could suggest one thing you could do to improve your online work, it would not be to post more blog posts, or to use Pinterest properly (although both of these would be good too!) - it would be to get some people together and see them regularly. Whether you find a mastermind group, a mentor, an accountability partner, or even just a fellow blogger to catch up with in person for a coffee so that you know someone who understands the basics of what you love doing, I say: DO IT!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who can write the most blog posts on the way to Problogger? Perth bloggers can!



Last week, after a beautiful Tuesday evening meet up with a bunch of Perth bloggers who are heading off to the big Problogger event next week, my friend Jo and I were standing at an intersection in Leederville, watching the pedestrian light cycle through green about twenty times because we couldn't stop talking.

Most of our chat was about our excitement about the pending Problogger experience although we did briefly complain that the plane trip(s) from Perth to the Gold Coast take a LONG time. But Jo and I are both pretty positive people, and when I mentioned that last year I wrote a crazy number of blog posts on my Problogger flights (yay for batching and no internet) we came up with the challenge:

Who can write the most blog posts on their way to Problogger?


Well, we Perth bloggers are definitely up for this challenge and have a big advantage of practically a whole day's travel time in which to do it in. At least four of us are on the same flights and although we won't sit together (hard to blog and talk, right) we will meet up in Sydney for a progress report.



But we're prepared to find other non-Perth bloggers who can be even more productive than us, so we are issuing this challenge Australia-wide - make that worldwide - and we're keen to hear just how many blog posts you can draft between your hometown and the Gold Coast.

If you're going to be at Problogger this year, please feel free to take up our challenge - leave a comment here and tweet me (@amandakendle) with your progress report. The winner gets ... lots of glory and a well-deserved blogging break thanks to getting a bunch of posts at least into a decent draft form!

PS: Do you know the Perth bloggers making the PERTH sign up the top of this post? You should! From left to right:
Happy blogging everyone!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to fall in love with Twitter again (aka how to use Twitter right, IMHO)

Twitter and I have an on-again, off-again kind of relationship. It took me quite a while to learn to like Twitter in the first place - I was "forced" to use it, initially, by a travel website I was working for! - and I still have waves of love and not-so-much-love for it. Just over a year ago I blogged about all the reasons I love Twitter and yet a few months ago I felt like I couldn't really be bothered again.

Now I'm back on the Twitter bandwagon again, and I wanted to tell you what got me back to happy tweeting. There's been a lot of discussion this year about how people miss the "old" Twitter - the Twitter of its first years where there was a lot of chatting between people, and a lot less of people just posting links to their blog posts or to other people's posts without much in the way of useful comment. And I realised that this was exactly the problem for me, too.

My tweets these days: links with comments, my thoughts, and discussions about wombats


How I solved my lack of Twitter enthusiasm

Once I'd realised that I missed chatting to people (one of my favourite parts of Twitter - not just "meeting" people but also getting involved in tweet-ups and tweet-chats) and I was sick of seeing endless links to stuff, then I decided on my solution. (Incidentally, I tried using Twitter lists as my solution, but this wasn't actually the answer I needed.)

I just had to go and unfollow a bunch of people.

So, over the course of a couple of months, I've been looking out for people who don't fit my requirements, and I've also used tools like ManageFlitter which can identify people you follow on Twitter who are spam, inactive, or various other undesirable categories, and my follow list has been cut down considerably. What a wonderfully cleansing purge this has been! Basically, I've unfollowed Twitter accounts which:

  • Only tweet their own blog posts (I like finding about your new blog posts. But not if that's all you tell me.)
  • Only tweet links - whether these links are their own or someone else's - and never have any comment to add to it. If you're going to tweet links, add a few characters so I know why I should read it.
  • Only auto-tweet stuff from Facebook. This is one of my true pet hates. If you don't have time to be on Twitter then don't be on Twitter! Facebook posts are so different to tweets.
  • Never have conversations with other Twitter users.  When I see a tweet that's just an unexciting link (especially if I suspect it's automated) then I click through to their profile - if their last few tweets are like that too, and no @ messages to other real people, then it's an immediate unfollow from me!
  • Barely ever use Twitter - because then they're unlikely to get involved "properly" too.
And it worked! 

The only problem now is that I am too tempted to spend too much time on Twitter, because it's so much fun. In particular, having nearly-live conversations with people (as in, you reply reasonably quickly) is fun. Fortunately I realised a quick way around this was to simply leave Twitter open in a tab while I'm at my desk, but click on the Notifications tab - then if I get replies a little number pops up, and I can hop in and reply when I have a spare moment between other tasks, but without getting drawn into the whole feed and discovering new conversations I want to have when I really should be doing something else.

Having the Twitter Notifications window open saves me getting lost in the Twitter stream
You can see in this little screen shot that the number of notifications shows up in the tab, so I don't even need to waste time clicking their to check - it automatically refreshes.

How are you going with Twitter?

What's your current relationship with Twitter? Do you love or hate it - and which bits do you actually like? Is there a way that you can set it up to only find the bits you love, like I have?





Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Thoughts on blogging after nine years of my travel blog: why you should or shouldn't start a blog

Last week my first blog love, my travel blog Not A Ballerina, turned nine. Yep, nine whole years have passed since I first sat down at my little desk in my flat in Germany and started a blogspot blog, not really having any clue about what it was all about, and even less clue that I'd still be doing it nine years later and that it would be starting to make an income. It was a big month for my little blog because apart from having a birthday, I also (finally!) had it moved from the Blogger platform to WordPress.

Back when I started, I hadn't even heard of WordPress, yet know it's the absolute platform of choice for serious bloggers, and I had been putting off this move for years. There are a bunch of things that I can do now that I couldn't do in Blogger (although, to be fair, Blogger has become much more robust over the years I've been using it) and I knew that it was really time. The blog got to have a bit of a spring clean redesign at the same time and I'm super-grateful to Kelly Exeter at Swish Design for making the change so much less scary than I'd expected!

The new look of my travel blog, Not A Ballerina

Blogging has changed SO much in these last nine years. It was really just a hobby for pretty much everyone when I started, or at most a place to showcase your work or create a bit of a portfolio. Now it's a whole profession. It's amazing! It's also one of the most exciting things I've ever had the chance to be involved in.

But of course, people still come along and ask me why they should start a blog. There are a lot of reasons to start one, but it sure isn't for everyone. Here's my take ...


Why you SHOULD start a blog


  • You are crazily passionate about a particular topic (and it doesn't matter if there are already heaps of blogs on your topic - in fact it's probably a good sign)
  • You quite like writing. It's easier if you LOVE to write, but not minding it at least is a good start.
  • You have some ideas for photos or other images you could use in a blog. These days a blog can rarely afford to be words alone. (PS: check out a site like Canva if you think you can't make cool images.)
  • You have or can create a few spare hours a week at least. Blogging is a relatively time-consuming hobby. (On the plus side, it's a relatively cheap hobby, so that's something.)
  • You can sit down and write a list of at least 20 topics for individual blog posts without thinking too hard. 
  • You have a plan: if you're hoping to turn a blog into a business, then you need to have a good think through before you start. Rather than, like me, blundering along for seven or eight years completely randomly before trying to be more strategic about it! (Better late than never, of course.)
  • And mainly: because you might really, really love blogging, get to meet lots of great people because of your blog, and have a true feeling of satisfaction and pleasure every single time you hit the Publish button.

Why you SHOULDN'T start a blog


  • You really hate writing. It is a real slog to write a blog (ha! that rhymes!) if the words part really doesn't come easily to you at all.
  • Just because someone advises you that you need a blog to help your business. Yes, a blog will very likely help your business, but not if you just get it set up and then rarely post there. You have to really want to do it.
  • You want to write down heaps of stuff about your family and friends. This will end in disaster. Blogs are meant to be personal, yes, but that doesn't give you a licence to divulge all the personal experiences of other people.
  • You think you can generate an income from a blog pretty much straight away and without too much hard work. You're better off just buying lottery tickets!
  • You have no spare time at all.
  • You don't even like using a computer very much.


Do you blog? Do you want to start one?


Bloggers: what do you think of my list? Knowing what you know now, would you still go back in time and start the same blog, or would you do things differently?

Non-bloggers: are you tempted? Do you have any questions about the blogging life?

Let me know in the comments!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Social media for parents and teenagers

Social media workshops with parents and teens

I used to run a course on social media for parents at UWA Extension. It used to really bug me that there was always someone in the workshop who would ask, very early on in the day, if I could teach them how to spy on their kids on Facebook.

Obviously, my answer was NO! My approach to this was, still is, and even when my son reaches his teenage years, will still be, that parents and children/teenagers have to work together on this stuff. My course was largely focused on teaching the parents how to use the main social media sites themselves so that they could talk with their kids about them with a degree of understanding.

What social media platforms are teens using?

This week I'm running a parents and teens workshop again and as it's been over a year since I last did, I've been diving back into the current research and thoughts to see what's changed. There are definitely a few new risks around, like "disappearing" message apps like Snapchat which give teens the feeling that their messages and pictures aren't permanent, but of course anything you send to anyone can be copied (in that case, screenshots taken) and sent anywhere. Facebook is being used less, but not non-existently - a teacher friend of mine told me at the high school she works at, pretty much every kid there is active on Facebook, yet at another school down the road nearly nobody does - it might be a matter of following what your friends are on. This infographic from Bright House gives a great overview:



Staying safe on social media

Using social media safely is a combination of common sense and making sure you have the appropriate knowledge and skills. To be honest, in previous parents and teens workshops I've run, it is often the teens who know the right privacy settings to use and have to teach their parents all about it. Of course, I'd prefer if everybody knew it! My main rules for playing the social media game safely (no matter what your age) are:

  1. Think before you post. This is the most important one. Be aware that anything you post on social media (or any message you send a friend or even just any photo you take) could end up public. You never know what someone you trust could do with it. So - think! There's so much in our lives we can share without risking sharing something that could be embarrassing to us, to others, or create conflict.
    Would you say this out loud to someone?
    Would you show your mother or father this?
    What if my future employer saw this? 
    Think before you post!
  2. Don't post personal information. This includes your email address, your phone number, your home address, and so on - if somebody needs this, send them a private message (and then only if you really trust them). You also need to consider what other kinds of information you make public: for example, when I'm travelling away from home and I know my home will be empty, I don't post about this until I'm back - I feel like I'm giving burglars an open invitation! I haven't posted my address online, of course, but who knows who will read what I've posted and what they'll do with that information - it just takes a computer left open somewhere or someone using a public computer not to log out of Facebook or something.
  3. Turn off location services as a default. Make sure you disable location services on your smartphone and only enable it for apps that are strictly necessary (if you're using a map app, for example, to find your way somewhere). There are some social media apps which are location-based and people you don't know can find where you're physically located - these can be easily abused so be hyper-aware of these!
  4. Don't share your password (except with your parents). To me, this sounds obvious, but I've heard of kids and teens "selling" their password for $5, or performing a dare to get access to their friend's social media.
  5. Consider the privacy settings. A platform like Facebook has pretty decent privacy settings (but you should still be wary about what you post). Other platforms are totally public - remember that when you use them. And parents - be aware that your kids might be communicating with others on something you don't consider to be social media - such as messaging via the Minecraft game.
  6. Be wary about meeting online friends in real life. Nobody (sensible) is going to tell you to never meet someone you've met online in real life. I've done it any number of times - and made some amazing new friends in the process. But remember that it's easy to pretend to be someone else online. And that some people are really good at pretending. Make sure that you tell someone you trust about where and when you're meeting that someone - or take someone with you when you do - and be sure to meet them in a public place where there'll be other people around. If your online friend doesn't understand why you want to do that, they aren't someone you want to be friends with.
  7. Report/block/tell someone. If someone sends you messages that aren't OK, or take it as far as cyber-bullying, figure out what your first step is basedon the platform you're using - nearly all social media platforms these days have good mechanisms for reporting abusive messages, and for blocking people so that you never have to hear from them again. Tell your parents or someone you trust as well so they can help you make sure you're covering all bases. Head to the Cybersmart Teens page to get more help and info.
  8. Parents: set up rules at home. You have to figure out what works for your family but it's common for parents to limit device usage to the living room or at least to "public" areas of the house; others will turn off the WiFi after a certain time in the evening. 

And for the infographic addicts (oh yes ... that's me!) this one from the British Council gives a good summary of the basics:


Having fun on social media

I worry that all this talk of safety on social media turns it into a negative thing. Yet there are so many amazingly positive things that can come out of using social media. While people tend to worry that those who spend a lot of time on social media are "dumbing down" their face-to-face social skills, research has shown it's the opposite - teens who spend more time on social media are more likely to have close "real life" relationships and more social opportunities. I can say from my own experience it's the same for adults!

Social media also gives teens the chance to connect with people who share common interests (no matter how obscure) and can give them another "tribe" to belong to where they can really be themselves. That can't be a bad thing, right?

More reading on safe social media use for kids and teens

There's so much more sensible and useful information out there these days - there's really no excuse for parents not to get a handle on social media and help their kids to use it well! Here are a few especially useful links:



Monday, May 12, 2014

Monetising my travel blog: traffic and income report May 2014

It's been two months since I last wrote about my travel blog's monetisation journey and I thought that made it time to check in again. You might remember that last time I listed quite a few bloggy tasks to do and I have definitely made some progress but at the same time, the monetisation progress does seem kind of slow. Probably also a consequence of having not many spare hours to spend on it, but anyway ... here's the news!

Traffic not growing

One of my not-so-favourite things this time round is that the traffic to my blog seems to have stagnated. I've not done anything super-spectacular to promote my blog more, but at the same time I've kept up with a lot of the regular stuff (such as tweeting and Facebooking archived posts). You can see the stats below and if you compare to last time you'll see it's not an exciting comparison!

Not A Ballerina traffic statistics - at a bit of standstill at the moment!
I've been joining in with a really nice link-up called Instagram Travel Thursday with a bunch of other travel bloggers and I know I've had some extra traffic through here (plus it's a lot of fun) but obviously it hasn't made much impact! However, I am working on a not-so-secret weapon this month which I'm hoping will help with this traffic situation, and it is:

Using Pinterest to build traffic

I have seen heaps of articles and heard from fellow bloggers lately that of all the social media, Pinterest is the one that actually drives a lot of traffic to your blog. This makes perfect sense because it's a very different social media platform - one that's based on finding information rather than finding people.

So, I enrolled myself in the Practical Pinning course to get this figured out (not a sponsored link! I can tell you I'm enjoying the course a lot so far, a week and a bit in). I must be doing something right as over the last week my follower numbers both on my business Pinterest account and my Not A Ballerina account have been rising rapidly, and I'm hoping that in the next couple of months I'll be able to see these impacting on my blog traffic - fingers crossed!

Not A Ballerina on Pinterest at pinterest.com/amandatravels
This Pinterest section should come with a warning though: it's crazily addictive ;-)


Sponsored posts

There is a lot of discussion in the blogger world about sponsored posts (just google it and you will disappear into a rabbit warren of opinions). I don't do them very often, and when I do, I insist that I write a normal post that would appear anyway on the blog and then include the sponsorship at the bottom. If the brand doesn't agree to that, then I don't do it. And I hope it goes without saying that I don't do any from irrelevant, unrelated brands. The reason I do any at all is because thanks to the longevity of my blog and its reasonably high page brands are interested in the link and because, quite frankly, I need to pay my mortgage! I would say I do less than one a month on average.

As an aside, I had an interesting email conversation with a potential banner advertiser who told me that their requirements were 20,000 page views/month before they'd consider an ad deal. (I'm rather a long way off that at the moment!)


Income

And so, to income. I did promise to talk about this right back at the start of this series, not just traffic. My big, big must do in the next couple of months is to finish work on the e-products I want to promote though the blog because I'm very keen to diversify (and increase) the income sources. In the meantime, this period included:

Adsense: $25
Nuffnang: $113
Sponsored posts: $550
Total: $688

This is just direct income; the existence of my travel blog is also the reason I'm able to run blogging courses and have a consulting business, so in effect it earns much more for me, but this is the online, purely blog-based income.

What's next for Not A Ballerina's monetisation journey?

So I have just had a look at that long to do list from last time, and I'd say the three most important points are:
  1. Continue working on building up my mailing list (with giveaway - now in place - etc)
  2. Complete the Pinterest course and develop strategy to grow traffic to blog from Pinterest
  3. Complete work on e-products.
How's your blog going? Or do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments.





Thursday, May 1, 2014

Alfalfa sprouts and my entrepreneurial journey into social media and blogging

I've been thinking about this post for ages. I even got my Mum to look back over old pictures in case we had one of me with alfalfa sprouts (don't worry, it'll all make sense soon) but alas, back in the olden days we didn't take photos of every single second of daily life, did we! Then my friend Jo wrote about her journey to having her own business and I found it so interesting that she, too, had really been headed in this direction since she was a kid, too - and finally today I have got around to writing this post!

Are entrepreneurs born that way?

I didn't actually intend to start this business; I didn't intend to start an income-generating travel blog. Both things happened by accident, or so I thought - or have I been headed in this direction all my life?

It has taken me almost forty years to realise this but it shouldn't be too surprising that I'm now running my own business and can't really imagine ever working for someone else again. As a child, my mother ran her own small real estate company. In fact, she was one of the first women in Western Australia to have her own real estate licence (this is back in the era when, because she got married, she had to leave her job at the bank - not because she had kids - we came later - just because she got married! It seems preposterous to us now). I spent quite a lot of time as a child seeing the inside of other people's houses (I loved it!) and watching my mum do business. There were no mobile phones either so we had to answer the phone especially nicely in our house, because it was often a business call. So, there we are - my mother the role model!

Alfalfa sprouts: back in the days before blogging and social media were invented (image Frédérique Voisin-Demery)

My mother also helped my sister and I start our own small business when we were aged about 10 and 12. I'm not sure how it all began but we started growing alfalfa sprouts (and got more exotic later) and selling them to the local greengrocer. We had to set up the punnets, water them, package them, and my mother would help us deliver them on the way to school a couple of times a week.

Next stop for me was tutoring. A little-known fact is that I studied mathematics at university. This made me an ideal candidate for tutoring primary and high school kids in maths and during my university years I'd built up a huge number of students - I still have some of the paperwork today, as I carefully kept records of the payments and the topics covered. I made about four times as much per hour doing that as I did working at the local KFC so I quit there to do even more tutoring.

Working for a boss

Despite this record, it never occurred to me until very recently that perhaps starting a business might be something that suited me. Instead, my CV lists bunch of jobs working for others which, most of the time, I enjoyed - I worked as a research assistant in mathematics education, then as an instructional designer for distance education units at the same university, and later as an academic helping medical and dentistry lecturers to teach and assess in more effective ways. All of these jobs were really interesting and I got to meet some really amazing people, but they weren't enough, somehow - which led me down the path of going overseas and teaching ESL.

Teaching ESL to kids and adults; but photos with the kids are cuter! This is Momoko, in Osaka.
During all these years, though, I'd been plugging away at something that I'd always really loved: writing. Even before I moved abroad I had found some websites that would pay me to write - not very much, but enough to encourage me to keep at it. When I was travelling so much while living abroad, I got into writing for travel magazines, and eventually from that into writing for big travel blogs and websites. And when I came back to Perth, I was determined to keep generating an income online, because we wanted to started a family and I wanted to be at home when my kids got home from school each day, just like my mother was (unless we were whisked off straight from school to take someone through a house!).


The aha moment: working for myself in social media and blogging

I would like to say that I then cleverly and carefully sat down and created a business plan and started up this business. However, the truth is nothing like that at all. I pitched a course on blogging to UWA Extension, because I really loved teaching adults and I could think of nothing better than combining that with my other passion. Using my own experience on social media - developed through the writing I did and the various travel sites I worked for - I filled that first blogging class very quickly and the delightful Bill at UWA Extension had the bright idea of hiring me to do the same for all their courses. He even sent me my first client, suggesting I might be able to help her out with some social media strategy too, all while my son was still a tiny baby and I was up all night to him, but those midnight hours actually got me ready for that first client meeting. (So yes, Bill, thank you SO much for everything!)

The aha moment didn't really happen - I just suddenly found that I had a business and it keeps getting bigger. Over the last couple of years I have learnt to get more strategic about it although that's still a work in progress, especially while my time is limited to my son's kindergarten hours plus some evenings and weekend work. So however it really happened, I'm grateful, and I love it, and have met so many fantastic people through it, which is the biggest bonus of all. You know, sometimes I look at interaction on my business Facebook page and think, "Oh, but it's just all my friends who are liking and commenting, not proper clients," but then I take a second look and realise that most of them are former students and clients and "real" business connections, it's just that they've come to feel like friends. What better clients could I ask for?

Which brings me, finally, to the YOU part of this post. Lots of my clients run their own businesses: what made you do that? Tell me your story!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Preparing for Problogger (or any conference) - four months out

Anyone who follows my Facebook page will know that I was ultra-excited when I got a ticket for the next Problogger conference in late August this year. The Problogger event is "the" conference for people in my industry in Australia and I was lucky enough to attend Problogger for the first time last year; until then, the long trek to the other side of Australia had been too tricky to navigate with my small son. Now he's bigger and attending conferences is easier.

It is now just over four months until Problogger 2014 and first up, I have a confession to make: I actually had a post title in my editorial calendar called "Preparing for Problogger - five months out" but I'm obviously not as organised as I had hoped to be, and four months will have to be enough. This is in some ways a selfish post - it's a public to do list of what I want to or need to do to get ready for the ultimate Problogger experience - but I hope it also helps others (especially solo business mums like me) as they head to a conference, be it Problogger or something else.

The people of Problogger

Meeting Valerie Khoo
For me, meeting new people and catching up with people I've met before is the top reason to be at Problogger. (The stuff I'll learn rates a very a close second, but the people are #1.) Last year, I set myself a goal of speaking to three people: Darren Rowse (Problogger himself), Valerie Khoo (famous to me for so many reasons) and (even though she also lives in Perth) Kelly Exeter (of A Life Less Frantic and Swish Design and general all-round clever thing). I'm very pleased to say that I managed to meet all of them. I also met numerous great bloggers in person who I knew from Twitter and other places online and it was brilliant to see them in real life; plus I met people who were previously complete strangers but have now become online friends.

This year, I have planned to stay a little bit longer both sides of the conference (last year I was insanely nervous about leaving my son for the first time and kept my trip short) and hope to have some more in-depth catch-ups with some great fellow bloggers. I haven't yet made my "must meet" list (adding that to the to do list now) but it really helped to have that (kind of crazy) little goal last year. One of my major personal heroes will be there, Pat Flynn, and I would like to figure out how to have a normal conversation with him without me going all fan-girl crazy. (Although his keynote is all about creating "ridiculously supportive raving fans" so I guess I might just fit right in!)

The knowledge of Problogger

Oh, the learning, the learning. I was nearly overwhelmed by everything I learnt at last year's Problogger and my blogs are still living off some of the ideas for posts I generated during those two days. There are still items on my long-term to do list (like SEO stuff, for example) that I haven't yet done. One of the other reasons I'm going to stay a day longer is to get some of them done! Someone I met there was staying about three days longer and hadn't explicitly told anyone back home the length of the conference in the hope that nobody would disturb her and she'd have a few days to implement some of her new ideas. SO clever. If my Mr4 was a bit more self-sufficient I would do the same.

This year I plan to be a bit more strategic about my "knowledge gathering" and for a start, be a bit firmer about the choices I make for which sessions to go to. Last year I was so busy just trying to get there that I didn't really think this through ahead of time. If I know which sessions I'm attending I can think a bit more about what I plan to get out of it, set some mini-goals perhaps. I'm also in a different kind of place in regard to my business(es) this year compared to last year so it'll be quite different.

View from my Gold Coast apartment, nice ocean but so much under construction

The nuts and bolts of Problogger

Given that the conference is taking place on the opposite corner of the country, the logistics of getting there and being away from home for so long is no small feat. I never even wanted to return to the Gold Coast and was hoping it would be in a more accessible city like Melbourne again but I'm sure it's karma, because I blogged about how the Gold Coast didn't grab me and now I'm being forced back there to find its good side! Anyway, getting everything organised is not my favourite part but it is supremely necessary.

My personal pre-Problogger to do list

So much to do, and ... well, there may be four months to do it in, but I know this time will absolutely fly by. I reserve the right to add to this list as well as cross things off!

  1. Book my flights!
  2. Confirm accommodation arrangements.
  3. Figure out school pick-ups, drop-offs, etc etc for my son.
  4. Make a list of the three people I most want to meet. (I already know one of them will be Emma Grey of WorkLifeBliss as I have "known" her online for ages but never met her.)
  5. Figure out which sessions I want to attend and what I want to get out of them (they already have some details of the schedule online).
  6. Message/tweet/email/courier pigeon all the attendees I know (virtually or otherwise) and want to meet up with.
  7. Check if I have enough business cards.
  8. Gather some clothes that will work for the Gold Coast in late August.
  9. Block out time in my schedule for September/October to work on stuff arising from Problogger (a big downfall last year).
  10. Lose a few kilos in preparation for all those desserts and afternoon teas.

Are you going to be at Problogger? I know lots of people from Perth who are going this time - very exciting! Let me know if there's something else I should put on my list.

Monday, March 31, 2014

What I learnt from running my first Twitter chat or Tweet-up

Last week we held the first WABAK Twitter chat - to help a bunch of mostly former blogging students get the hang of using Twitter, and as a substitute for a face-to-face meet up this month.

Let me tell you, hosting a Twitter chat or Tweet-up is SO much fun but much more exhausting than I'd imagined! We had a total of 14 tweeps chatting away - I'd thought I'd acknowledge them all by including their hello messages here.



We spent an hour online talking about confusions of Twitter, who to follow, how to use hashtags, what snacks people were eating while tweeting ... and so on! (Also, a strong sideline in Pinterest!) I asked about ten questions during the chat to keep things on track and I think that worked out pretty well. But I still learnt a lot:
  1. Not everybody has got the hang of using Twitter on a computer - many see it as a mobile app and it definitely is very useful to use on smartphones (I check Twitter on my phone fairly regularly!) but for more "serious" efforts, the desktop version at Twitter.com makes it easier ... and easier still is using something like Tweetdeck where you can see various columns at the same time (for example, a column just for the #wabak hashtag).
    Tweetdeck screen shot of the #wabak tweet up
  2. Some of the participants had some great suggestions on great Twitter users to follow - including @problogger, @kellyexeter, @doctorkarl, @brainpicker, @huffposttravel, @thisissethsblog, @valeriekhoo, @kisstosell and @sarahprout.
  3. Chocolate is still a popular topic.
  4. Kylah (@kylahmorris) from Zest eBiz won the prize for being the first to spot the trending topics of the day; Aggie (@aggie_lim) from Happiness Everyday won the prize for being the person making the most effort to "attend" our tweet-up - she was mid-learning at the Food in a Fuel Stove event at the Bibbulmun Track Foundation (pictured below).
    Aggie Lim tuning in to our chat while cooking at Bibbulmun Track Foundation
  5. Newbie users reminded me that when you first join Twitter, it can be a real challenge to keep your tweets belong 140 characters. Fortunately, even long-winded people like me get the hang of it so I tried to reassure them.
  6. Above all, I learnt that chatting with a dozen or so people at once and trying to direct their chat towards a common goal is MUCH easier in person than online! But it was heaps of fun, and I think we achieved my main goal which was to provide a bit of a comfort zone where people could have a go at interacting on Twitter amongst a supportive group.
But I'm sure the learning is still continuing for the participants, and for others of you who are still trying to "make friends" with Twitter - so do let me know in the comments - what questions do you have about Twitter?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Monetising my travel blog with a long list of tasks (and a stats update)

Well, it seems that there are plenty of you out there keen to see how my journey to monetise my travel blog goes, judging by the feedback I got to my first post inviting you along for the monetisation ride. I wasn't planning to update monthly (more likely quarterly) but since I have other relevant stuff to mention I decided I would this month - and we'll see how we go from here on in! If I have exciting enough news, I guess I will report in more often!

Why my blog traffic rose in February

Here are the stats for the second chunk of the year - following straight on from what I showed last time.

Not A Ballerina traffic statistics - all looking better since last time
Now there's nothing majorly spectacular to report except that everything is going up. Visits, uniques and pageviews have all risen somewhere around the 40% mark. This, of course, would be super-exciting if I thought it would be a continuing trend every month, but remember that I had a blogging break in January so much of this is the result of simply blogging. (Oh yeah. Big reminder to self. Important to blog consistently!)

I have also tried to be a bit more regular with my social media promotion across all the major platforms but I am still struggling with having so few working hours now that my son's at school (much shorter hours than daycare!) and I've been teaching UWA Extension courses left, right and centre.

But still, it is much better than the traffic going down, and next month when I'll have been blogging and promoting a bit more consisently should be more telling and hopefully a bigger cause for optimism.

What I'm planning to do to improve my blog traffic in 2014

Oh goodness, what am I not planning to do? I have a rather long list. Some of it is stuff I have known about forever and only half-heartedly done. Some of it is new ideas. Some of it is quick stuff, some of it time-consuming. If my life was my blog, I'd have done it all by now but this blog gets worked on around the corners and edges of a rather full life, and that's OK.

Anyway, there's nothing magical or secret about some of the plans I have. In the hope that it might give you some ideas (or inspire you to tell me other things I should do), here's my list, or at least the "so far" list as I keep adding to it. (In no particular order, I might add.)
  1. Make an editorial calendar and stick to it with minimum of 2 posts per week (this is working so far, yippee)
  2. Create a giveaway for those who sign up to my newsletter list (part way there, watch this space!)
  3. Work on an income-producing product (ebook of some kind)
  4. Create more postcards for good posts (especially for Pinterest but for promotion in general)

    Example of a Not A Ballerina postcard
  5. Update more of the old posts into the new categories (necessary after a revamp of direction/topic/theme from a year or so ago)
  6. Pin more of the archived posts to Pinterest
  7. Add "Tweet this" links into some of the best/most popular posts
  8. Schedule promotion (Twitter, Facebook, etc) for good archives
  9. List and contact more potential advertisers
  10. Follow up for more work with previous PR/sponsors/etc
  11. Do some guest posting
  12. Increase frequency of Instagram posts from blog (I've started this lately with Schedugr.am which allows me to schedule Instagram posts for the middle of my night, which is the time when the largest part of my travel blog's audience - North Americans - are online, thanks to the time difference)
  13. Look at the pages (eg Country Guides) and re-do, revamp, delete, optimise
  14. Create an editorial calendar for the newsletter and ensure it is always sent on time
  15. Look at travel blogger groups on LinkedIn
  16. Update my media kit (great tips from Brand Meets Blog post)
  17. Add headlines and other SEO-related optimisations
  18. Continue to comment on the other travel blogs I feel are closest to my niche (something I do regularly at the moment but should still be on the list)
  19. Continue refining my ideal customer profiles
  20. Transfer the blog from Blogger to Wordpress
Phew. That's it for now.

What about you? Is there something on this list you want to do straight away? Or do you have any suggestions for me?


Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to use our Facebook group for Perth bloggers - WABAK

One of my blogging students had the fabulous idea of starting a Facebook group for Perth bloggers who met in my courses, so that they could all keep in touch and follow each other's blogging journeys. WABAK: Western Australian Bloggers Amanda Knows was born in a hurried fashion as a result, and the odd name seems to have stuck. In fact, Rae from I Opened My Mouth and It Ran Away Without Me told me one afternoon we should absolutely change it but then came back the next day saying the opposite, with this justification:
So here's why I don't think it should change:
Western
Australia - not discriminatory includes country WA
Bloggers - proud to be a blogger that is who we are
Amanda - Amanda is our founder and fearless leader
Knows - Amanda brings us together, gives us the opportunity to share and discuss via this group, alerts us as to what is happening in our blogging world
Sounded out Wayback - was way back when we started
I think that we should share and contribute as individuals such as what we are doing and how it has hleped us to either improve/change/direct/focus our blogging world be it either business or pleasure/hobby. Sharing journeys allows other members who are interested to see how we/they can develop should they be interested. I like being nosey!
And I think Rae sums up exactly what I'd like this group to be all about. (Although I am not sure about being a fearless leader.) The only thing she failed to mention was that one of the key results of coming together in our Facebook group is the ability to organise physical meet ups, which must include cake. Very important!

WABAK blogger meet up in February 2014

How to use our Facebook group for WABAK

Now, I know that some of our members have never had the cause to be involved in a Facebook group before, and I promised to give a bit of a how to guide to help them out. To start with, if you haven't joined the group yet, head to WABAK on Facebook (assuming you have a Facebook account) and hit the "Join Group" button - I'll be notified that you've asked to join and will approve you, unless I don't know who you are, of course!

So, what can you do in this group?

  1. Respond to posts in the group - some of them are from me, some from other group members. You can "like" or comment just like any other Facebook post. However, only people who are in the group can see it (it's a "closed" group).
  2. Post an update, a question, a link or an image yourself. Stick to posting stuff that is useful for other WA bloggers (if anyone gets too self-promotional we will get out a big stick). When we have meet ups I definitely encourage you to post any photos you take afterwards. Makes the fun last longer! 
  3. Edit files. Yes, we have files! Facebook groups give you the ability to have basic documents. See the image below for the spot where you can click "Files" - at the moment, we have just one document, a list of the blogs written by group members. When you open the document, there's an option in the top right to "Edit" - click that and edit away, then click "Save" at the bottom.

Menu options for the WABAK Facebook group - using Files
So, those are the three main functions you can use in our group at the moment - simple, right? Oh, and before you ask, the arrangement of the members' profile pictures across the top (you can see them in this graphic) is based on who has previously left a comment or made an update - the most recent updater is on the left. So it's constantly changing.

Have you got some more questions about using our Facebook group? Let me know in the comments and if there's something important that I've missed I'll add it in to this blog post.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why my Perth blogging courses make my own blog better

It has been a very bloggy fortnight.
(And yes, bloggy is too a word.)

In the last two weeks I've run the Becoming a Blogger beginner course AND the Better Blogging advanced course at UWA Extension and what with seeing so many of my old blogging students at the Perth Problogger Event as well, it has been blogs and bloggers galore here.

And I'm a tad exhausted, and have been rather busy, but guess what? I have been working harder on my own blogs than ever before! There are several reasons for this and it's an interesting study in motivation, I think.

Checking my blogs practice what I preach

When I'm about to teach a blogging course, I double check that my blogs - which I'll inevitably use to demonstrate stuff - are up to scratch. In the past I have had those terrible moments when I've been going on and on about the importance of your About page, giving lists of what should be on it, only to click over to mine and see - oops - my About page is in desperate need of an update.

Similarly, I make sure that my blogs have several recent posts on them before I confront a room full of blogging students. I can hardly answer their (inevitable) question "How often should I blog?" correctly if they can see very obviously that my blog has been inactive for a few weeks.

Getting inspiration for my blogging

During the courses, I get so inspired by ideas from my students, and often make notes about what I will write about on my blog after hearing what they have in mind. (And not in the plagiaristic way that sounds like, I promise!) The lunch break when we get to chat about how blogging fits into our lives, while enjoying this rather inspiring view, also helps.

The view from our favourite blogging course lunchtime spot, Perth

Immersed in blogs, working on my blog

Teaching my students "best practice" for running a blog reminds me of what I am actually striving for. I am a bit hit and miss, for example, on having an editorial calendar, even though I know that using one always makes me blog absolutely regularly, and spreads my content out across the right topics, and all kinds of other advantages which I rattle off to my students. Late on Saturday evening, after teaching the advanced blogging course all day, I finally got a properly-planned editorial calendar together again for both my blogs, and just a couple of days later I can report I am already a couple of weeks ahead on my blog plans. Perfect!

So yes, I might be a bit sleep-deprived, and I might have a head swimming with ideas to help a dozen different bloggers in all industries and niches, and I might even feel that I missed out on having a weekend, but all in all, spending a day with bloggers is always inspiring and invigorating, and that's why I do it.


Why do you do what you do?




Sunday, March 2, 2014

#businesspics and why using Instagram for business is my big 2014 tip

Heard me mention Instagram before? I am a bit of a fan and have been using Instagram since it was just two months old. If you need the beginners' guide, head back to my first post on what Instagram is, but otherwise, let me tell you what I've been loving about Instagram lately:
  • It's the perfect way to be personal, and personal is good for your brand. Instagram is a clean and simple app, with relatively few functions, and it's very much focused on creativity and sharing. 
  • It's fast, simple and done on the go on your smartphone, which is perfect for someone like me who doesn't always get to sit down at my desk during the course of a day.
  • There's very little overt promotion, and that means you have to think outside the box. You can't leave links everywhere (or at least it is strongly discouraged and most users stick to this), so you need to focus on the kinds of messages you can give your followers about you and your business in a more subtle manner.
  • It has great engagement. If you look at the proportion of your followers who "like" or comment on your Instagram posts, it's usually a much higher percentage than on any other social media. 
  • You can share it to other platforms. Occasionally, I'll share an Instagram picture to Twitter (usually if my caption is pretty short, so it won't be annoyingly cut off) and quite regularly, I share the images to my Facebook business pages. I find it a great way to add to the content coming through on Facebook and because it's also very image-based my Instagram posts usually work really well there and have great engagement too.
  • Advertising is just starting up on Instagram but they are promising they'll keep it true to the spirit of the app. It'll be interesting to see how it works out but there could be some interesting opportunities there.
  • Heaps of social media experts are predicting that Instagram will be important in 2014. Even Forbes and Social Media Today are saying so. Personally, I hope they're right.

#businesspics for March 2014

Some of you may have participated in my #businesspics Instagram challenge in 2013 - well, now it's back! You can play along on Facebook instead if you're not on Instagram but I would strongly urge you to try Instagram out. This month I've grouped the photo prompts according to some key areas I think are important to show your customers and clients: your workplace, your clients or customers themselves, your products or services, and perhaps most importantly, YOU!

#businesspics Instagram photo prompts for March 2014
The numbers in the prompt image are dates in March; join in when you feel inspired or try to take an image for every day of the month (that's my plan!). If you want a reminder email each time a new round of #businesspics starts (and a mid-month pep talk) sign up to my #businesspics reminder email list. I look forward to seeing your gorgeous pictures and helping you create interesting and engaging content for your social media ... remember to hashtag your images with #businesspics and tag me @amandakendle so I see it straight away!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Learning MORE about blogging from the Perth Problogger Event 2014

I have lamented (often) that my lovely home city is the most isolated and oft-neglected city on the planet, but today, a megastar in my universe was here. Yes, "the" Problogger, Darren Rowse, came over to run a small Problogger Event (big shout out to Kelly Exeter for convincing him) and it was marvellous.

In all honesty, I was expecting to feel inspired by whatever Darren had to say, because he's an inspiring speaker, but knowing that it was just a 2-hour event for bloggers of all kinds and stages, I didn't expect to actually learn a lot. But I did! I have pages and pages of notes, and while most of it I "know" (and quite a lot of it I have even told my students and clients in the past), I don't actually always DO it. (Which is a point Darren himself made in his talk.) I think that my new emphasis on my own travel blog and my plans to monetise it probably had me sitting there with a completely different perspective to usual and I really did learn a bunch of things that I want to share - both as a reminder to me and for those poor pals of mine who couldn't make it today.

Darren Rowse aka Problogger speaking at the Perth Problogger Event
Darren shared a huge number of lessons and tips from his own blogging experience and I'm going to pick out the best - well, I'll admit, the ones that are most useful for me, and are sitting in my notebook with a big asterisk next to them:

  • Your blog won't become big overnight - it's about lots and lots (AND LOTS) of small, consistent actions over a long time. (A tweet here, a Facebook update there, a connection here, and of course, a post there ...)
  • Whatever your goal is for your blog (income generation, world domination, whatever), take it seriously and take the next step towards your goal (right now).
  • Take time to properly identify who your readers are. Darren suggested creating profiles/avatars of your typical readers and I can see how this would really shape the content you write and, well, pretty much everything you do with your blog. It made me realise (big whack in the head moment) that I actually have very little idea about the audience for Not A Ballerina and it's intensely obvious that I should figure this out.
  • Darren talked about how a blog post should either inform, inspire or encourage interaction. Some might do more than one but I can see the value of focusing on just one at a time. And your particular blog might have a bias towards one of these. But he spoke about how they do this on Digital Photography School and on Problogger - eg a post early in the week which is a "how to" about a topic, a mid-week post showcasing an inspirational version of that "how to" (an interview; some amazing photos; whatever) and then a late-week post encouraging the readers to get involved - setting them a challenge, encouraging a discussion or debate, or something.
  • As usual Darren talked about what I call the soft side of blogging - the human side, perhaps - stuff like figuring out what really gives you energy about your blog and doing more of that. So important, I think.
  • And finally, another point about the readers - focus on the readers you already have, aim to have a big impact on them, and (basically) getting new readers will arise from a lot of those efforts anyway. A lot of bloggers are focused simply on getting more readers. Don't be. Excellent advice.
Bloggy friends at PBevent
So, those are the big tips I got from this afternoon's talk - but of course the talk wasn't the only important part of the event. We all carried on to the sundowner part of the event and I got to talk to many of the almost a hundred bloggers who'd showed up. There was a big bunch of my former students (I confess, when I arrived I got slightly nervous that I had basically bullied about 20 or so people into coming to the event, I really hoped they liked it - thankfully, they did, of course), a bunch of people I knew from Twitter, and even a famous-to-me travel blogger who's just moved to Perth (hello Chris!) yet I hadn't caught up on that news! I think only fellow bloggers will really understand that there's nothing quite like being in a room full of people who actually know what a blog is. I enjoy myself thoroughly every time.


And so - a huge thank you to Darren Rowse for making the trek over here - as Kelly mentioned in her introduction, we are so lucky (and proud) that one of the biggest bloggers on the world stage is just a normal Aussie bloke from Melbourne. She also made the point that she thinks it's because of Darren that the blogging community in Australia is so friendly and cooperative, and I agree. Here's to many more years of blogging and Problogger events!





Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to: Add an Instagram feed to your blog

This post about how to add an Instagram feed to your main blog page is for my dear blogging friend Rae, because she asked nicely. And it's for anyone else who wants to have a go at this. It's funny, actually, how often people see my Instagram feed on my blog (somewhere over there ---> or maybe down a little!) and ask me about it.

By the way, there are all kinds of different ways to do this (you know, like the whole skinning a cat thing, except without the animal cruelty) but this is the way I've done it. I use SnapWidget because someone recommended it ages ago and it has worked ever since. (I am big on the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" theory.) So, here goes Rae!
  1. Go to SnapWidget and scroll down a bit until you can see the stuff about "Basic Widget". I use the free version and it has been everything I need.
  2. Choose the options you want in the "Customize your widget" section. You can put in your Instagram username (eg @amandakendle) or you can choose a hashtag instead. Most of the time you'll probably just want to use your username, and that's what I do on this blog. Sometimes you will want to use a hashtag instead - like I do on my travel blog where (at the moment) I'm displaying photos from my Penang trip using the #amandaspenangtrip hashtag I used. If you do use the hashtag version then remember that if someone else uses the same hashtag, their pictures will show up too.
  3. You also need to choose the Widget Type; most of the names are self-explanatory really - if you want one to sit in your sidebar like mine then Slideshow works well. You might need to adjust the Widget Width (for example, mine is 300 pixels wide).
  4. Click on "Get Widget" and you'll get a fancy chunk of html code. Copy it.
  5. Now you need to add it to your blog. If you're using Blogger like Rae is, go to Layout, click on Add a Gadget in your sidebar, and choose HTML/JavaScript, and paste the code into it. The process is similar in WordPress.
  6. Voila! You should now have your lovely Instagram feed flowing into your blog. Here's mine at my travel blog.
So, fingers crossed that has worked beautifully (especially for you Rae!). I'm still all excited about Instagram and its possibilities and you will definitely hear more about it from me this year. If you're not on it, try it out quick - it is heaps of fun and has so much usefulness as well.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Monetising my travel blog - come along for the ride

I've got a big and important goal this year: to turn my nearly nine-year-old travel blog Not A Ballerina into something that doesn't just sit there on the internet looking pretty, but actually puts a decent amount of food on the table.


I am really keen to monetise my blog properly - for lots of reasons:

  1. It is OLD in blog terms. Nearly nine years - that's nearly retirement age in dog years, and positively ancient in blog years. All of those hours spent playing around with it over the years really should amount to something.
  2. I need to earn a bigger chunk of my income online (and preferably, passively - in other words, without me doing too much!). There are several reasons for that, but the main one this year is that my son has started kindergarten and between the school days being much shorter than daycare and the scary regularity of school holidays, I'm going to have a lot less working hours available to me for face-to-face consulting and training. I'm also looking ahead - I'd like to keep increasing the amount of travel I do (usually with my son, since I'm training him to be a star traveller!), and perhaps even spend a half a year or so back in Germany so that he can go to school there. To do that, I would definitely need to have a decent online income.
  3. I actually love my travel blog, and the messages I try to broadcast there - about why travel is important and what we can learn from it - are messages that I really want to spread. I actually believe lots of things about the world could be better if more people travelled, and did it in meaningful, open-minded ways. 
So, I've got lots of reasons, but do I have a strategy? Well, not yet, to be honest. But I thought you'd all like to come along for the ride and so I'm giving you the real behind-the-scenes info. First off, my travel blog has made me a decent (if irregular) income over the years. Initially, it was a basis for getting freebies (usually hotels and museum entries) when I lived in Europe. Later, before selling links was frowned upon, I did that and it certainly helped me pay the mortgage. In the last couple of years, I've done sponsored posts (but only (a) for companies that I deemed OK and (b) if I was able to write the post in my own normal style); I've experimented with some sidebar advertising; I've had a couple of affiliate programs running; and I've done a few reviews in exchange for lovely stuff that I actually needed. But in most cases, the sponsor/advertiser/link buyer came to me, rather than me going looking, so obviously, there are plenty more opportunities out there.

Now, I've long been a big fan of bloggers who are really transparent about how they monetise their blogs, especially because we can learn so much from them. My favourite is actually from a food blog called Pinch of Yum, where they publish a monthly post about income, traffic and blogging tips. Given that they've increased their monthly profit from around $5,000 a month to $17,000 a month in the past year, I figure they are onto something, plus they break it all down so you can see their diverse income streams, traffic sources, and more. My idea is to do something similar as I work on monetising Not A Ballerina - although I think I'll report back on a quarterly basis.

So, some brief facts via Google Analytics so that we have something to compare next time round:

At first I thought - oh no, what a terrible month for my blog (my first post FOR THE YEAR! was just this week) but I've realised this is really a good thing: next time I report in, I should have (fingers crossed) considerably better figures than this and I'll be able to demonstrate lots of improvements! But yes, to be honest, bear in mind that I've had a blogging break over the summer school holidays, so when my figures rise next time it may not be as wonderful as it sounds - it could just be a result of actually blogging! In any case, my traffic figures are really low for a PR4 (Google Page Rank of 4, if you've been in my classes but forgotten what PR means) and I would hope to really increase them during 2013.

In terms of income, given that I didn't blog in January I haven't made much money at all - I still have a unit of Google Adsense on (I don't expect it will stay there long-term) but with little traffic it made less than $10 this month! My sidebar advertisers expired late last year and I haven't done any sponsored posts this month. That makes for a quick and easy report!

Over the next few weeks I'm going to devise a more detailed strategy for monetising Not A Ballerina, and I've made some great bloggy friends to mastermind this with, both face-to-face in Perth and in other parts of the world - it's so handy to be sharing our wisdom and exchanging ideas. So - check back in a few months and you will see the results of all these discussion and planning sessions!
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