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29 Jul

How To Talk About Succeeding In Blogging (Without Really Crying)

Here’s something that you might not know about me: I’m a professional blogger. A professional mom-blogger. Which is to say, I earn a living – a good one – from the business that I’ve established around this blog that deals primarily in discussions related to motherhood and parenting and – I should warn you, this will be the first of many words that some consider unladylike – the brand that is associated with this blog.

And this is something that I never write about. I speak about it at conferences, and in private conversations, but I never write about it, because, well, it’s just not something that we’re supposed to write about, right? Unless we have blogs that are devoted to the topic of ‘earning a living from your blog’ or are among those who have an obsessive interest in ‘exposing’ the dark underworld of Moms Who Make A Living From Their Blogs And Do They Really Deserve This, The Bitches, we just don’t talk about this stuff in this wonderful, public space in which we do talk openly about so much else. There are, I think, a million reasons why we don’t talk about it in these spaces – for me, these include fear of being attacked for what some might think is my undeserved success (see above re: ‘obsessive interest’ and ‘undeserving bitches’) and a certain prissy squeamishness about talking about my success or about anything that might be perceived as a veiled-but-nonetheless-self-congratulatory discussion of my success – but whatever the reason, the lack of conversation hurts us.

It hurts us because it allows the myths and misconceptions and misunderstandings around and about mom-blogging as a serious enterprise to flourish. It hurts us because those myths and misconceptions and misunderstanding get in the way of us communicating with each other about the many ways in which mom-blogging is, or can be, a serious enterprise. It gets in the way of us taking ourselves – and others taking us – seriously as the writers and publishers and entrepreneurs and business people and important social media presence that we are.

Katie Granju raised the topic some months ago at Babble, in response to an article by Ann Douglas about ‘top’ mom bloggers and ‘top blogger’ lists and the like (in which, disclosure, I am quoted), and the discussion that has ensued is, I think, tremendously useful, for the reasons that I cite above. We do need to talk about this stuff, whether we’re professionals or aspiring professionals or non-professionals who are nonetheless interested in talking about the many roads (this term suggested by Joanne, who was also cited in Katie’s post) to the many kids of success that professionals and sub-professionals and non-professionals can achieve. So I said this:

Okay, I’ll go.

I make much more blogging (that is, from the business that is my blogging ‘brand’ – more on this in a moment) than I ever did as a sessional university lecturer. Many people, I think, would consider it a lot. (How much exactly? Maybe I’ll screw up the nerve to talk numbers if this conversation continues. But because people are so quick to get their dander up about these things, talking numbers makes me nervous.) (And now, look, I’m wringing my hands and being a priss about it, which is a big part of the problem here, right?) (Gah.)

I don’t make the bulk of what I earn from CPM ad earnings. I make some of it that way, but not most of it, not by far. In the ‘advertising’ corner of my business I make much more through dedicated campaigns, some of which come through Federated Media, some of which I broker myself. And then there are earnings from consulting, and ‘spokesperson’ contracts (which might seem closer to ‘advertising’ but in practice, in most cases – in the best cases – are closer to consulting) that come about because of the success of my ‘brand.’ And then, finally, there are earnings from freelance writing – magazines and other more conventional forms of publishing (in the coming year, fingers crossed, book publishing) – most assignments of which are related to my quote-unquote brand.

It’s a business. And it involves more than relying on the CPM advertising model – very few independent bloggers can make a go of things with this model (and even the examples that I would cite here – like Ree/Pioneer Woman – have more magazine-like sites with multiple pages and sometimes additional contributors.) It involves work – it’s not just sitting down and tapping out posts. The content comes first, of course – I wouldn’t have the ‘brand’ to capitalize on – yes, dirty words, these – if I didn’t produce good content. But doing something with that content is work – roll up your sleeves and make the coffee at 6am work.

I’m not a ‘big’ blogger in the same category as Heather or Ree. But I am a successful blogger, and I’ve made that success for myself by building a business around my blogging brand. And it is, as I said above, busy – I’m in the process of hiring an assistant because it’s gotten too busy for me – but it’s awesome, and I love it, and I’m proud of myself.

Are we allowed to say that, as moms, as women – that we’re proud of our success? Because I am. I wish that we could talk about it more openly, and be more open in giving advice and support to each other. We do some of this at conferences, but we could be doing it more, more consistently and more openly.

Thank you so much for starting the conversation, Katie. Maybe I’ll screw up my nerve to write about this more fully at my – oh my god so successful! don’t tell anybody! – blog 😉

I was, and remain, reluctant to publicly discuss the hard numbers of what I make, because I don’t really think that it’s necessary, and also because – all of my brave talk notwithstanding – I still feel kind of prissy about it and the whole larger discussion. And – cue dramatic sigh – because I’m afraid of being snarked at – that whole ‘mom bloggers don’t deserve success’ horseshit that, regardless of how horseshitty it is, one still wants to avoid having flung in one’s face – and that, I suppose, is the real problem here: that regardless of whether or not the details are necessary, discussing those details still makes us uncomfortable, and for good reason. We do get criticized, from all corners, for even trying to make a success of what we do in this space. And that criticism stings, even as we rail against it being unjust and unjustified. It shuts us up. It shuts me up, on this topic, anyway.

But we are – despite the criticism – making successes of our work (our art, our craft) in this space. In many different ways – it’s so important to remember that not everyone defines their success in this space on the basis of whether or not they earn a living, in any measure, from their blog – and by many different roads, we are achieving success. And that says a lot about our worth – as I’ve said before, there seems to be a deep cultural thirst for mom blogs, if their ubiquity and popularity are any measure – and about the possibilities available within this space for women to pursue all variety of ambitions. And that’s something that we need to talk about – so that we can support and inspire each other, mentor each other, provide models for each other. So that we can do better at demanding and receiving recognition and appropriate compensation – or some other reward – for our work.

So how do we overcome our discomfort about talking about this openly? How do I get over my anxieties around shining a spotlight on my own success so that others can learn from it? Do I need to get over those? Do we need to talk numbers – not hard numbers, but ballpark numbers – in order to really unpack what it takes and what’s possible in this field of work? Would it be useful if I – or anyone else who is making a living doing this – spoke/wrote openly (in more detail than what I spelled out above) about what’s involved and what it looks like? Do we need to suck up the prissiness and just, you know, talk?