That is a question I ask myself quite often. Sometimes it’s worth looking back; taking some time to reflect and assess. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be in my shoes, to have the busy life of a Blogger? Why did I start a blog?! Come, let me share my story…
When was madebybarb.com born?
Yes, it’s hard to believe… October 2015 was my very first blog post; Concrete Garden Orbs. I was excited about crafting with concrete and designed this original project from scratch. Did I have any idea exactly what I was getting into?! ‘Not really, but that was the start of a ‘long ride.’ These orbs, by the way are still in my garden to this day and my blog has lasted that long as well.
How I started my blog:
I was always a ‘maker’, from day one so I assumed I had all the skills that I really needed for my own blog. As a beginner finding a domain/blog name that is easy to remember and setting up wordpress was pretty simple. I started making, photographing, researching, writing, replying, fixing, editing, collecting equipment, making, cleaning up, buying more server space, and figuring out more… I tend to learn the best from experience rather than someone preaching to me; and I find it sinks in much better. Was it the right way to start; probably not. Believing that there were specific formulas and methods to ensure fast results, seemed artificial to me. How can one person’s experience be exactly the same as another’s. Those courses also came with a pretty high price tag. What did I have to lose other than my time? And when I say time; I don’t think most people realize all the time involved.
It is quite therapeutic for me to see what I do once it’s on screen and then have such diverse feedback. One mistake; I swore as an artist I would never have the need to learn typing… arghh, I am sure you’ve found some of my typos.
I am the ‘creative mind’ behind this site, I design, make, & share the details each time. I figured that when there’s an interest on the ‘web the the site traffic will grow. Yes, and no… Before long I would realize that it’s not just good content that is needed. The search engines need to think your post is great too.
I like a challenge:
It can take many years before you see much return for the amount of work you put in to a blog. That did not worry me too much since I would be doing those projects for my own reasons and was still also active in my other jobs of illustrating and teaching. ‘Making’ and being creative is my life so it should not feel like a job. That’s pretty well true but things seem to change everyday.
Nowadays in the blogging world there is more impatience. Specific terms should be used, keywords so that posts appear in search results to the right people. You can have a great ‘product’ but if your ‘store’ is nowhere to be found it isn’t going to be good for you. Good writing skills about hobbies is not enough.
I have been forced to learn so many platforms; wordpress, adding wordpress plugins, email marketing, google analytics, google adsense, google search console and facebook groups. Gone are the days where a blogging platform was simple. Competition now is really fierce! When you hear about that certain site that is crazy successful others want the same results right away, and will almost do anything to get there. With that ‘want’ comes some unethical activity as well, it’s such a shame!
Every time I turn around now there are new things, new apps, new software, each requiring learning for these new skills. As your site grows in size, you need to have secure & reliable web hosting. That also costs money, and it goes up all the time. My time is valuable so I do not want to give all away for free.
Why is blogging for me?!
When I realized that almost anyone with enough drive to persevere could have a successful blog I thought; Ya, I can do that! Now when I look back, I often say that about almost anything that comes into my brain. I learned to think like that from my Mother, I blame her (lovingly).
My main passion is learning and experiencing all the creativity life has to offer! All kinds of media, often inspired by nature and using readily available up-cycled supplies. I get such a kick out of being creative. As a college educated illustrator we learned many aspects of art in the traditional modes. Colour photocopies didn’t even exist when I started; how old can I really be?! I tell those stories of how we did everything the hard way (before technology) and ‘walked a million miles to school’. We used film in a camera, printed on paper in a dark room and used those terms you see in Photoshop now for real life scenarios. So much of that expertise is perfect for this new media for me – hands on. I love to pass on any tips I have collected from all my decades of making & painting & sewing & building. I trust that valued connections are made even though they are through the cyber world.
Much has changed since my college days but those traditional skills still come in handy. Technology is undeniably good but the satisfaction of making something that is tangible ‘in my hands’ is amazing. It’s even better yet when it is actually for a distinct purpose or saving the environment in some small way.
Often purposes for projects are for my family and with that came much explaining of how/why. Many of my friends would like to tag along on my projects so finding out I could share them easily by publishing my own platform just seemed perfect. How hard could it be?!
I’m my own boss:
Most of all my working years has been as a freelance artist plus contract teaching at an art college as well. That led me to really understand what the typical issues with learning are. I thought that just knowing what I am teaching (like how to draw perspective) would be enough. Well, yes most of the time… The other issue is trying to instil come confidence into the students (young adults) as often they believe they’ll never be able to do ‘it’. Encouragement became part of the lessons.
Sure, it sounds great to not have a ‘boss’. I can make my own hours but if I do not do the work, no one else does either. The expectations of what should get done and what actually gets done are often far apart – I am my own worst ‘slave-driving’ boss.
The best part of Blogging;
So, why as a blogger have I held on, not given up?! I love inspiring people to be creative as that makes them happy – simply. Once I have a new blog post done, and get feedback I am on a high with the many nice notes that are written. I had provided many mask patterns through the pandemic (over 250,000 downloads) and have countless thanks from people who just loved them, it really made me happy and I feel like I am making a difference in the world, if even a small one. It is my way of leaving a legacy, through a means that was not even possible many years ago.
I often hear that I have inspired someone to make a project and they have reaped some personal rewards from doing so, making it their creative outlet; it has made someones life better; their ‘art therapy’ in a sense.
To show my children (by example) and grandchild (eventually) that putting effort into something is a good thing, that following your heart and soul, whatever the personal ambition is, mine just happens to be a blogging niche. Working full time teaching and also running my site on the side used to work however right now I can’t even see that running it full time is enough to fulfill all that is expected. It’s more than just a click…
There are many conversations going on in my mind on a given day depending on what project I am working on, planning to or researching. Lately I have been losing a bit of steam, I am not sure why. I could maybe blame it on the case of covid I am just recovering from but I really do not want to open that can of worms.
How do I make enough Money?
There’s a few ways to be able to afford this blogging hobby. If you notice the links to products on amazon those affiliate marketing purchases put a few ¢ in my account. Most people want to know where they can get the supplies anyways. I sometimes have an instructional eBook that is for sale. You can then download that PDF file for your own use (print it if desired).
The other tutorials are posted on my site and are not downloadable but are free. I know some would like to download but then I would need to start a Patreon system with a monthly fee (for PDF’s of all posts)
To bring in some revenue advertisements is the other way to go. You will see ads everywhere on the internet now. If I had a choice I would not have them but it’s necessary to cover the costs of the blog. In order for more income traffic needs to come to the site. Length of time, clicks, etc all figure into the success equation.
I am told many times I need to create new posts very often – multiple times a week, emails all the time, but that goes against my own feelings. Don’t you hate getting tons of junk emails everyday from the same companies?!? I ‘respect your inbox’ which is a counter productive thought to have in this ‘day & age’ of blog success. Hmmm, so where does that leave me? These are tough decisions…
Oh Social Media:
How naive I am to think high-quality content; a well written post with pictures is enough… Nope, it needs more; to be made into videos, vertical ones for TikTok, and web-stories. Then square images for some compelling teases on Instagram. There’s now ‘Reels’ in Instagram, and on Facebook. Oh wait, don’t forget about twitter. To be honest it makes my head spin. Sure, I could hire some influencers to do it all but what do they know about my specific art forms? So many sites that you go to are not written by the originator; they are written by some assistant (freelance writing) half way around the world.
SEO (search engine optimization) has to be high so the average person finds the post if it’s not on page 1 on Google. There are so many resources; analytics & graphs of how my pages rank. I can’t even guess how many wordpress blogs are out there vying for your click!
I ‘could’ hire out, I seriously may have to… but I feel bad that my readers are not getting my words or thoughts or expertise. To me that is like if someone painted in the lines I drew and I sell it as my art. What do you think?
Would you like more downloadable tutorials? Please share your thoughts. I appreciate every one of you spending your precious time with me… I really do.
This Post Has 37 Comments
I appreciate your frequency of posts and variety of projects. I made your masks and variations of concrete. I dream about doing others of your projects when I can. I can’t imagine how you do both the outstanding creative content and the technical side…a whole separate career! I find your style of presentation just right for me. Thank you for all your effort!
I am thankful for the exposure the mask designs gave me… If I could, maybe I should pass the technical side to someone else. But How can they understand enough if they have not experienced it? There must be a lot of fakes out there…
Way back in 2016 – I saw a pin of something someone had eco-dyed and loved it. Researching how to do this myself eventually led me to your blog. I haven’t missed a post since.
I love your creativity . I truly enjoy reading a blog written by an adult with grammar skills. What more could I ask for? Oh yes – a fellow Canadian!
I have tried almost all of your eco-dying techniques and several of the concrete projects. My favorite is still the ghoul. He has been guarding my garden for several years now. He sits along the path of rhubarb leaf stepping stones. My sister and I got together to make the stepping stones. We also shaped one into a bowl for our mom to use as a birdbath. She loves it.
Like you, I was brought up to be a maker and a re-user. It brings me so much joy to take something old and broken and make it into something new and useful or at least interesting – you are such a great inspiration!
Thanks Barb! You are appreciated and admired.
Reading this is what gives me the drive to do what I do! I completely understand the eco printing obsession and have still not come to the end of ideas. My ghoul sits on my tree stump as well! I think a raccoon once knocked him down the hill but he’s back up. Thanks for adding another ‘face’ to my wall! I’m sure my english teachers would be proud!
Barb – Great post as usual – I hope you fully recover soon. Your blogging journey has always been an inspiration. It’s scary how we come to depend on our health and how one turn down the garden path can find us wondering where this ‘barb’ came from (see what I did there) … dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb … but fun, too.
It sounds like you’re at a crossroads which isn’t a bad place to be.
Growing pains. Maybe?
I look forward to where you take this.
AND Feel better soon!
Growing, hopefully. Google likes ascending graph lines, it’s a big internet now and I’ve always had ambition… Oh, I cherish the days we sat and chatted about our simple life at the time!
Just a couple thoughts:
1) We don’t read every word of your blog every time it comes out because of all its fancy moving parts. We read it because every word of your blog is useful and inspires us to go forward with more confidence in what one human being can create, regardless of personal circumstances. Any technology that makes it more difficult to access that content is too expensive at any price. Save all that money for something that counts.
2) Somebody made an excellent suggestion. Asking for help sounds like a good idea. If there is anything I can do, don’t hesitate to ask. And sponsorships/alliances can be useful. That should take some of the pressure off. We all know that running a successful business without wearing yourself out means making whatever changes we need to achieve our primary objectives in an honest and thoughtful way. What you have to offer deserves support – and once you have discovered some general principles concerning how we (makers/artists) can meet some of our common business challenges, that would be either a marketable product, or handy tips that would keep everyone coming back to your blog over and over again. Even explaining what some of these internet terms mean so that we can decide if they would really help us would be useful. You are already far more experienced in this than most of us. I would, gladly, purchase a dohickey to wire to my whatchamacallit if I knew what those things were – and knew that they would make sense for my business. Surprise! A whatchamacallit seems to be a real thing – and I don’t even know if I have one. nv
Getting help may be needed. I keep forgetting that It’s been a challenging last couple years in so many ways. I tend to be the type who refuses to take a break, so that means I get run down. First step; taking note… Next; not sure, but enjoying the support…
This post reminds me why I don’t do more tutorial blogs. I started my blog as a way to keep my studio time/garden time relevant and make sure I was doing something creative. I try to “blog” every day but that blog is just a photo and a bit of text. Having said that I have a following of between 3000 and 7000 each week but essentially my blog is still for my own discipline. With a husband recovering slowly from lung cancer making time to do my art stuff so that I have content for the blog has become a bit of a life saver for me. Having said all that I do love your blogs. I have bought a couple of your pdfs and I always enjoy your art forms despite the ads that sometime interrupt the viewing scroll. I can understand why you are feeling weary but I think there are lots of us out there that really appreciate your generosity and excitement in creating natural and unusual content. Kia kaha e hoa mai. (Maori for be Strong my friend)
Yes, it is a bit of therapy for me; it’s all mine (for the most part) even though my daughter does what she can in the wordpress world. If someone would have told me I’d be doing this someday I would have laughed. You just never know…
Thanks for the blog. Although I am new to getting your blog, I have visited your site many times. Don’t change anything. Do what you have time to do. We will continue to visit your site and enjoy your blog even if there are ads. They are easy to pass over to get to the “good stuff”,
Many thanks for all you do!
I think nowadays everyone navigates well around ads, as they are everywhere. Keep coming back and spread the word…
Wow! I feel I must comment on your blog today. Your honesty is very refreshing and makes you more real to me.
I too started following you at the beginning of COVID (March 2020) when I was desperately looking for a mask pattern that would be easy enough to make as well as comfortable enough to wear. As has already been said several times, your instructions are clear and simple enough to follow and I appreciate that there was no charge to download the pattern. I have since marvelled at all the other great projects you have posted. You are truly an artist with incredible talent! It is so wonderful that you share this gift.
I do recognize, however, that your time and expertise are valuable as well as your amazingly unique ideas. To ask you not to charge for these inspirations is selfish….but as I have read in other replies there are alternatives, albeit not the easiest for you. Or the most welcome. I hope you can continue to share your knowledge with your readers without compromising access. A tough challenge, to which I certainly do not have the answer…
I’m glad you stuck around after the mask-making! I see it from both points of view; as a blog reader and also a blogger I’ll have to come to some compromise. Stay tuned, it sure is nice getting responses.
Hi Barb! I’ve been a long-time lurker who enjoys your blog very much. I had a small blog for about 10 years but gave it up a couple years ago due to multiple AI’s and stress, so I understand the time and effort involved in blogging. I was, though, not as experienced as you are in the multiple cyber sites available now, nor did I venture into videos. Mine was a simple blog for fun.
Although I understand there are costs involved in maintaining and growing one’s blog, and that it has therefore become necessary to run a blog as a business, I lament the number of good, interesting blogs whose pages have become so cluttered with ads that I no longer want to wade through the ads to read them. As a senior on a fixed income, I can’t afford to be a patron to all the wonderful blogs I enjoy. As an artist, my spare money goes to my supplies so that I can create. Being creative grounds me and makes me happy.
I hope to be able to enjoy your blog for a long time to come. Thank you for sharing your creativity and inspiring your followers. Hope you’re all well soon.
Wow, 10 years! I always have fond memories of simpler times. I have also discovered that blogs can be sold… I learn something new everyday. I really do hope to continue for a long time!
Thanks for the opportunity to celebrate ‘Barb the Maker’. I was originally directed to your site by a young lady working in a bagel shop who noticed my fogged glasses … a friend used a good mask pattern from ‘a nice lady in Canada.’ Great pattern AND you had concrete tips!!!!
I had the fortunate ability to work for decades in the retail quilting industry – including sewing machine tech service and most importantly, teaching. I love the exchange of knowledge that comes with the sharing of skills and techniques. And the friendships that develop.
So – I look forward to reading each of your posts. I appreciate the depth of information … techniques, supplies, timing, pitfalls, etc. I am continually impressed with technical quality. The how-to detail present projects as understandable and DOABLE. Personally, I prefer your style to a barrage of short posts.
You’re a great co-conspirator!
Hi Barb, I get it! I never intended to monetize my blog so the vertical and horizontal bits aren’t something I’ve delved in to. I really have nothing to monetize. I only have 12 followers after more than 10 years of blogging. But I keep it up; my reason for blogging is that I am making a public and personal archive of my making. I can look back at what I did with similar materials or on contemplating similar topics in the past. If I do an entry once a month these days I’m doing well. But I love to write and I think that it also fulfills that need. Thanks for YOUR blog!
Everyone is different. That is great for you. Money is not my main drive but if I take time away from my family to ‘give’ to others it seems wrong in my eyes. As a mom, wife and grandma I don’t want to lose sight of my family. Wow, 10 years! Good for you!