Money & Career

Canadian mom blogs: What it takes to be successful

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Money & Career

Canadian mom blogs: What it takes to be successful

We all know the story: Mom moves to farm, takes pictures, writes recipes, gets a cookbook and television network deal.

But what does it really take to become a successful Canadian mom blogger?
The one thing every blogger we spoke to agreed on was this: Success is telling your story honestly and having a community who follows you and engages with you. Here are some ways to get there, according to four women who run successful Canadian mom blogs.

What's your goal? If it's to make money, we have good and bad news. There are blogs that create revenue through sponsored posts, ads (often Google ads), related merchandise, self-publishing, affiliate programs with companies like Amazon.ca and even direct donations via a PayPal button. But most of them don't pay very well.
That said, many bloggers go pro in other ways – for instance, their blog may lead to jobs as professional bloggers or speakers, or they may obtain a coveted book deal.

Mom bloggers: Define success
Sharon DeVellis, who blogs at the YummyMummyClub.ca blog Inside Scoop, is also the website's coordinator. "Through blogging and meeting other writers and bloggers, I've been able to hone my writing and work on making it better," she says, "which has parlayed into paid writing jobs."

Even so, she defines success in more ephemeral ways. "I think first and foremost I personally define success as being able to connect with my readers through my words and stories," DeVellis says. "If I can do that, I'm happy."

Emma Waverman, who writes for Embrace the Chaos, MSN's family and parenting blog, starts off by defining her success as "big numbers," but then laughs, adding that she feels most successful when a reader writes in or comments that her blog posts have really helped her feel less alone.

"It gives me goose bumps," says Waverman. "Those moments don't always come that often."

Amber Strocel of Strocel.com, who is also the content manager at VancouverMom.ca, sees success as buzz about her blog – in other places, "when people are commenting and engaging with what I write on Facebook, Twitter or their own blogs. I also see this when commenters speak with each other and form their own online friendships," Strocel says. "I'm not making buckets of money, but I am creating a space that other people enjoy and that allows me to get to know folks I would never meet otherwise."
Set specific goals
Once you have an idea of what success means for you, whether that's to get more comments on your posts or increase your traffic, it's time to set specific goals.

Deb Coombs, who writes the blog Raising my Boys, originally started blogging as an extension of her participation in other online communities. But now she's decided to focus her approach. "These days my blog has grown to include reviews and giveaways. I would love to be able to make a living from my blog, to grow it to the point where advertising revenue and sponsored content would pay some bills…. Right now success for me means constantly growing."

Coombs watches her stats through Alexa and her Google page rank, and builds traffic through participation in blog features like Wordless Wednesdays, a photo posting tradition where bloggers link to each other's Wordless Wednesday posts.

Other goals might be to write a certain number of posts each month, comment three times a day on other blogs, or take slightly more controversial stands in order to spark discussion.

Another way to build traffic is to learn how to write for search engines. Read up on search engine optimization online and set a goal of writing one or two "optimized" blog pieces a month, and you could see your audience increase through the power of Google.

Write, write and write some more
Ultimately, what bloggers are offering are their unique voices on the web. Developing that voice takes time – which is something that all of our bloggers mentioned as a challenge, balancing blogging with work and family commitments. But churning out those words is critical.

It helps if you're truly passionate about what you're writing about. DeVellis actually started a second blog last year titled Speed Skating Mom.

"It originally started as a place for me to document my journey as I learned how to short-track speed skate which, for the record, I suck at," DeVellis says. "Then more and more people started reading it, so I decided to change direction and make it into a place to inspire other moms to go out there and find something that lights up their life – watercolour painting, knitting, running marathons – it doesn't matter what it is, what's important is you go out and do it."

If you're passionate and just not sure about your writing skills, there are ways to improve. Waverman credits her tone, voice and professional training as a journalist for her successful gig as a paid blogger. If you're struggling with gaining an audience, try taking some classes in web writing or memoir writing.

And both Waverman and Coombs suggest reading and connecting with other bloggers and writers they really look up to. Read writers you love, both online and offline, and ask people you admire what their writing process is all about.

Network with others looking for blogging success
Blogging isn't just about good writing: It's about sharing and community. And that's not just a touchy-feely goal. By connecting with like-minded bloggers you often get critical connections and tips on how to move your blog and career in the direction in which you want them to go.

Coombs was recently approached to blog at SavvyMom.ca thanks to connections she's made online.

DeVellis shares a similar story: "I'm incredibly lucky to be blogging at YummyMummyClub.ca, where I have a whole team of talented bloggers who help spread the word about my writing and vice versa," she says.

The great thing about social media is that while you might not be part of a big network at the start, you can build your own network. Twitter and Facebook are two ways to connect with other bloggers; another is attending in-person events, particularly if you live in cities with regular blogger meet-ups or travel to larger blogger events like Blissdom or BlogHer.

Another method is writing for a site like BlogHer or approaching bloggers who accept guest blog posts to expand your audience and connect with the other bloggers who write at those sites.

Quick blogging tips
We asked each blogger for one thing they do every day that helps them succeed.

Coombs: "A great way to connect and draw new readers to your blog is to participate in blog hops or weekly memes."

DeVellis: "Write, write, write and then write some more. Secondly, read. Read other blogs and become involved in the community. I feel like we're losing the connection blogging used to have and it's important to keep conversations going."

Strocel:
"In terms of community-building, I think the biggest thing is asking other people to participate. This helps them to know that I value their presence and their feedback, and builds connections."

Waverman: "Twitter helps a lot every day, even if I don't always use exactly what people are talking about. But it's a community of like-minded people who inspire me. And reading actual newspapers, because I come across stories I wouldn't find online otherwise. Reading in general – and don't just read in your narrow area."
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Canadian mom blogs: What it takes to be successful

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