I am over-the-top excited about today's interview with Melanie, a.k.a. Chilihead. She's one of the busiest bloggers on the net with some pretty amazing blogs and fabulous ideas. Not to mention a quick wit and fun to read!
1. I’m so excited that you would be willing to do this interview. Would you kindly introduce yourself to Tip Junkie readers?
I’m Melanie Nelson (aka chilihead) and I write three blogs:
• Blogging Basics 101: This is where I write how-to posts to help non-bloggers and new bloggers get up and running. I provide instructions on everything from how to choose your blogging platform to putting a picture in your sidebar. I also tackle blogging theory (e.g., how to use an editorial calendar, blogging etiquette, etc.).
• Bloggy Giveaways: I host giveaways every week, Monday through Friday. All of my giveaways have a minimum requirement of a $75 value. I highlight home-based craft businesses (many from etsy.com) and also offer corporate giveaways. Every three months I host a giveaway carnival with the main idea of driving traffic to my readers’ sites as they host their own giveaways. We had over 1,000 participants in our July carnival!
• Don’t Try This at Home: This is my personal blog. I suppose you’d call me a mommy blogger, but I really think it’s more of a personal blog. I’m a mom and I sometimes talk about my kids and family, but I mostly just write about things I’m interested in or have done myself. This is where I feel free to be as snarky as I want to be.
• I also co-host a weekly online radio show called Behind the Blog. It’s hosted on Blog Talk Radio. My co-host is Karen Lewis of Simply Amusing Designs. Every Tuesday at noon CST we interview a successful blogger and pick their brains about what has worked for them and what hasn’t. We encourage our listeners to call in or join us in the chat room to submit questions to our guests.
2. Who or what was your inspiration to start blogging?
My first job out of college was as a web developer. I was an Account Manager for clients like Thrifty/Dollar, PennWell Publishing, and many local companies. I put together a multi-million dollar web site for The Oil & Gas Journal, PennWell’s most popular publication. Then I decided to stay home with my kids. One day I was listening to Kim Komando while driving in the car. She was talking about how blogs were a new craze and they were fun. I thought, “Yeah. I can do that.” I thought it would be a great way to keep up my writing skills and have an online journal.
3. How long have you been blogging?
I kept my blog private for about two years and only posted sporadically. Then, one day, my friend Shannon (from Rocks In My Dryer fame) came over to drop off some stuff for a PTA committee we were co-directing. She asked me if I had a blog and I freaked out. I asked her how she found it and she replied that she hadn’t, but just thought I seemed like I would be the type of person to have a blog. She asked if she could read it and I may have yelled, “NO!”
She told me she had a blog and gave me her URL. By the end of the week she had read my blog and I had received my first comment. That first comment was the undoing of any privacy I thought I wanted. I was completely hooked on what I call “comment crack.”
Oh. What was the original question? I’ve been blogging since 2004, I think. Since that original blog, I’ve started many more blog projects and talk about blogging non-stop. I’m always trying to think of more ways to help people start a blog. It’s a great way to get your voice out there and have something just for you.
4. If you had to describe each of your blogs in less than 15 words how would you do it?
Blogging Basics 101: There are no stupid questions.
Bloggy Giveaways: Giveaways M-F. Does it get better than that?
Don’t Try This at Home: My name is not Inigo Montoya. Prepare to die anyway.
Behind the Blog: You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
5. Approximately how many visitors do you have on your blog(s) each day?
Wouldn’t you like to know? LOL I don’t usually give out traffic stats because it may ruin the idea that I’m a big-time blogger.
Blogging Basics 101 has over 1,000 subscribers, but the daily traffic varies. I have some loyal readers, but I also receive a lot of traffic via search. By it’s nature (as an instructional blog for a targeted beginning audience), I have a high turnover of readers. Once people reach a certain level of confidence, they may not need BB101 as a resource on a daily basis.
Bloggy Giveaways has steady traffic and that traffic doubles during the carnivals I host. I think my vendors have been extremely happy with the traffic they receive from their giveaways at Bloggy Giveaways. I’ve heard from many of them that they receive record visitors and comments when they work with me. That makes me very happy since the main thrust of that site is to drive traffic to someone else’s business and help them garner new readers and customers.
Don’t Try This at Home’s traffic has actually declined over the past six months. I’ve purposely spent more time building up Blogging Basic101 and Bloggy Giveaways and I knew that would affect my traffic at Don’t Try This at Home. I just didn’t have the same amount of time to devote to writing snarky posts about my life after I spent several hours writing instructional content, contacting vendors, and putting together giveaways. I miss the traffic--who wouldn’t? But I know that I’m concentrating my efforts in more lucrative ways right now.
Behind the Blog only has a few shows under its belt, but we’re doing pretty well! We’ve had about 500 people listen to our shows. We’d love for everyone to join us, though. We’re going to host Sophie from BooMama and Melanie from Big Mama in the coming weeks. Call in or join us in the chat room to submit questions for our guests. It’s a whole lot of fun.
6. What do you think are the most frustrating aspects of being such a popular blogger?
The most frustrating thing about blogging for me is not having enough time to get everything out! I have so many ideas for posts and interviews, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day when I try to juggle it with being a mom to my kids, keeping up the house, and being a wife. Fortunately, I have an amazing husband and great kids who know that I love to blog and it’s important for my sanity to have my own outlets. They know that I try to get my work done while they are gone at work or school, but sometimes it bleeds over.
I’ve talked to a lot of bloggers who complain that blogging seems to take over their life. They feel like they are neglecting their families in favor of the blog. I think it’s a real problem that we need to be aware of. It’s two-sided: we need to have our own outlet, but we still have our responsibilities. I know I sometimes feel torn because I’m not making enough money to call it a job, but I still consider blogging my career right now.
7. What are the main ways you earn an income from your blog?
The main way I earn money is through BlogHer Ads. I have also started selling smaller ads at Bloggy Giveaways, but I’m not sure if I’ll keep that up. It’s in the beginning stages right now. I’m still trying to figure out what works best for my readers and for my vendors. After all, advertisements need to be relevant to my audience and they need to be effective for the vendor. This is one of those questions that everyone asks, but no one has a cut-and-dry answer for. It’s trial and error. BlogHer Ads has been fairly consistent for me, though, and they’ve just added several new features and partnered with iVillage for even more exposure.
8. I read that your dream is, “To make a million dollars blogging, have minions, and rule the world with a velvet fist.” Fabulous! Can you tell us what you have done to improve your stats or market your blogs this year?
You mean it won’t just happen?!? So that’s what I’ve doing wrong. Don’t tell my husband. I mean, he knows I’m not making a million dollars, but he does think I have minions. It would break his heart if he knew the truth.
One of the things I try to do is write well. Having excellent content is key. You can write about any topic and have an audience if you can write well. Part of that is using grammar correctly and editing your posts even after you think they are complete. Everyone has mistakes here and there, but consistently well-written posts will almost always help your traffic stay high.
Another thing to consider is becoming a part of your blogging community. That means leaving relevant comments on blogs like yours and adding to the conversation. It may mean putting yourself out there when you’re not comfortable. Sometimes you have to be out of your comfort zone.
And it helps to pay people to visit your blog.
9. What advice do you have for a new Mom-prenuer?
Don’t quit if you really believe in what you’re doing.
Set goals. Write down your goals and how you’ll know you’ve met them. This is important so you can track your progress. If you haven’t actually thought your goals through, how will you know when you’ve met them?
Research. See what others are doing in the same niche. Determine how you can add to what’s already there or fill a void. Again, write out exactly what you’re trying to do. The more you write out your ideas, the easier it will be to see what is working, what isn’t, and where you can go from there.
10. I’m completely intrigued with your gig Behind the Blog on blog radio. Can you tell us a little about it and how you got started?
I was e-mailing back and forth with Karen (from Simply Amusing Designs) and it came out that we were both contemplating doing podcasts about blogging. Neither one of us wanted to go it alone so we decided to work together. From there it evolved pretty quickly. Karen is an amazing woman who doesn’t wait for things to happen, she makes them happen. Before I realized we were moving ahead, she had us set up on Blog Talk Radio and we were scheduling our first show.
It has been an absolute blast doing an online radio show. I encourage everyone to check out our archives (some are hilarious--Blog Talk Radio has technical difficulties and we have to work our way through them sometimes) at Behind the Blog.
11. Do you have any suggestions for other bloggers or any success secret?
Get some minions. It makes posting much easier.
12. You recently spoke at the BlogHer conference in a panel called FAQs for Beginner Bloggers. How was that experience for you personally?
I’ve taught web design classes and technical writing classes before. I always love teaching adults who want to learn something new. Being able to do it at BlogHer was one of the best experiences I’ve had in blogging so far. I was completely surprised that our session was full. I thought the room might have ⅓ to ½ capacity. We were completely full! That tells me there are a lot of people out there who want information. I love it!
The three other panelists I presented with were savvy women and I would have loved to chat with them more, but we were so busy answering questions we hardly spoke to each other after the session started. I’m hoping we can all get together and present another panel next year.
Being at BlogHer as a speaker was a complete adrenaline rush for me. My roommates can attest to the fact that this little introvert rode the adrenaline wave for three days and impersonated an extrovert quite well until I crashed on Monday morning. Then I was comatose.
13. What is your next big goal?
Well, I’m still working on the million dollars and minions thing. If anyone figures that out, call me.
I’d really like to do more public speaking on beginning blogging. I love the hands-on teaching that conferences offer. Although I’m an introvert, I do love helping people learn new things--especially blogging.
14. Your blogs are full of amazing tips and helpful information, but can you share a one of your favorites? An Editorial Calendar Will Keep You Sane
Thank you so much Melanie! I think you are doing some amazing things for women bloggers, which I really admire. I hope to attend your class at BlogHer next year!
Great Tip: Talk To Me Tuesday