Collaborative Blogging – One Blogger Shares How She Started a Blog with over 200 Collaborators
Today’s episode is the last in our series where I handed the podcast over to you, the listeners, to tell your stories and tips of starting and growing your blogs. It was all part of our Start a Blog course, which launches tomorrow.
Today’s episode features blogger Chrissann Nickel from Women Who Live on Rocks. She shares her challenges and insights when it comes to collaboration, not listening to critiques, and working with multiple writers.
Links and Resources for Collaborative Blogging – How One Blogger Started a Blog with Over 200 Collaborators
Darren: Hey there, welcome to episode 232 of the ProBlogger podcast. This is the last to the series of blogger stories that we’ve been featuring since way back in 221, the 221st episode. It’s part of our Start a Blog course which launches tomorrow. My name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind problogger.com – a blog, a podcast, event, job board, a series of ebooks, and tomorrow a course which we have designed to help you to start a blog, to grow your audience, and to make money from your blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger at problogger.com. You can sign up for our brand new free course at problogger.com/startablog.
As I said, this has been a part of a series of blogger stories that we’ve been running since episode 221. Really, this whole series has been about trying to inspire as many new bloggers as possible, and also helping those of you who are already on your journey to pick up some tips as well from other bloggers. You hear my voice every episode. We want to add in some other voices as part of this series. I’ve been loving the feedback that we’ve been getting as a result of this. We’ve featured tech bloggers, travel bloggers, recipe bloggers, nutrition bloggers, a voice coach, all kinds of bloggers over the last 10 or so episodes.
Today we’ve got a really interesting one for you. It is Chrissann Nickel. Chrissann has a blog called womenwholiveonrocks.com, which I think is just a fascinating name. Women who live on rocks got me curious. Chrissann actually talks a little bit about the name of her blog and how it’s actually been one of the things she’s been most grateful for in starting this blog. Chrissann’s blog is a collaborative blog. It’s a little bit different from some of the others that we’ve been mentioning so far. She gives some tips on that and talks a little bit about a thing about your readers. I’m going to hand over to Chrissann now.
Just a quick reminder, our Start a Blog course does launch tomorrow, the 10th of January 2018. If you’re listening after that time, you can join in any time on that course into the future. It’s really designed to help pre-bloggers to start their first blog. We’re going to talk you through the technicalities of how to set up a blog on your own domain, on your own servers in an affordable way. But we’re also going to help you make some good decisions about your blog and to think about how to build a profitable blog. Not just the technicalities of it but to make good decisions in the early days so that you set up a blog with good, strong foundations. Again, that course can be found at problogger.com/startablog. Please go up and sign up. It will launch tomorrow, the 10th of January. Over the next month or so we’ve got a whole lot of exciting things to share with you as part of that launch. I really can’t wait to see the hundreds, if not thousands of blogs that will come from that course.
I’m going to hand over to Chrissann now who’s going to tell you a little bit about her blog, womenwholiveonrocks.com and I will sum things up at the end of this episode.
Chrissann: Hi, my name is Chrissann Nickel. My blog is Women Who Live on Rocks. My blog is a collaboration of women writers sharing the quirks and eccentricities unique to life on a tropical island. The URL is womenwholiveonrocks.com.
I started my blog in February of 2013. I’ve been living in the Caribbean for over five years already at that point and have been dying to write about my experiences. However, after being the sole writer for another blog of mine for the past couple of years, I knew I didn’t want to do it alone this time. Additionally, I wanted my new blog to cover the full arc of the island women’s experience and not just be about me and my limited perspective. When I met a fellow writer friend who expressed interest in contributing when I told her about my idea, it gave me the push I needed to officially start Women Who Live on Rocks.
My main objective in starting this site was to provide a humorous and realistic look into living on an island. It’s so much that’s written about island life is all about how it’s all paradise and sunsets. That’s partially true. There’s a whole other side to it that I felt needed to be shared. It was also my intention to begin using my blog as a space to grow a platform in the hopes of one day selling the idea to a book publisher.
When I look back, I’m most grateful that I stuck to my vision and didn’t let others who didn’t fully understand and sway me away from what I knew was best creatively. One example of that was not listening to critiques on the name of my blog. Certain people thought the name, Women Who Live on Rocks, was too obscure and that I should just go with something simple and straightforward like Island Girl Blog. That just felt so boring to me. I wanted something with an air of fun and quirkiness to it. I decided that the right audience would find me. I’d help them do so in promoting it regardless of the name. Over the years I’ve had so many people compliment me on the name. It has become a recognizable brand on its own. I’m so glad that I didn’t go with what didn’t feel right to me. I’m really proud of my site’s unique name and concept now.
I have made a few mistakes over the years. I think I probably wasted the most time by not streamlining the communication to my contributors early on. Now when people want to become a writer on the site, I have the parameters clearly listed on the website with the details on how to apply that includes everything I need. This saves me a ton of back and forth emailing that wasted a lot of my time and energy in the early years. I think my other main mistake has been not finding a way to monetize the site properly. It was never my goal to make money off the blog. The goal’s been more about getting it published, getting a publishing contract for the book. But now that it’s grown so large, it takes a ton of time and effort to maintain the flow of content and the technology behind it. I really wish it generated some income to help me maintain the website cost and gave me the ability to hire out certain responsibilities.
Beyond that, so many amazing things have come from the blog that I would have never anticipated. I now have over 200 contributors to the site and tens of thousands who follow via email and social media. It has connected me with so many amazing women on islands around the world whom I would’ve never met otherwise. I also receive notes all the time from women telling me how this site has connected them with friends in real life and how it’s helped them in their transition to move to an island. That’s really rewarding for me.
The blog has provided me with a platform to sell the island children’s book I wrote which would’ve been much harder to reach my target audience without it. I also hosted my first island writers retreat this year with 10 writers from the blog. It was an incredible bonding and learning experience that I hope to repeat again in the years to come.
My number one tip for new bloggers is to always be thinking, “What’s in it for my reader?” Every step of the way this is essential to keep in mind from blog titles to topics you write about to the general perspective in which you write your post and pages on your website such as your about page, home page, etc. There’s so much competition for people’s attention on the internet these days that in order to catch their eye, it needs to appeal to them. People want to know how content pertains to them. They’re not interested in simply reading someone else’s journal entries. This is a mistake that I see a lot of new bloggers making. If your potential reader visits your site and thinks, “Why should I even care about this?” You’ll lose them just like that.
I guess that’s about it. I just wanted to say thank you ProBlogger for all that you’ve taught me over the years. I contribute much of my success to your incredible guidance. I really appreciate the opportunity to apply for this. Thank you.
Darren: That was Chrissann Nickel from womenwholiveonrocks.com. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Thank you so much to the other bloggers who’ve been a part of this series as well. We have really enjoyed featuring some different voices on the blog. I will mention that we did have a blog post go up on ProBlogger in the last week or so as well which featured five brand new blogger stories as well. If you’ve enjoyed this series, head over to the ProBlogger blog. I’ll actually link to that post in the show notes from today as well. It actually features five unedited audio stories of five brand new bloggers as well. You might want to go and listen to that.
I wanted to feature Chrissann’s story today for a number of reasons. Firstly because it’s a collaborative blog. I know some of you are thinking of starting blogs but you’re not sure if you want to be the only voice on your blog. Firstly, you might not feel like you’ve got enough to say on a topic and would want to include other perspectives as well. Maybe some of you also don’t have the confidence to start a blog but maybe doing it with someone else would be good as well.
I wanted to feature this story today because you don’t have to start a single-voice blog. ProBlogger and Digital Photography School are multi-voice blogs. Whilst I certainly started off being the only voice in both of those blogs, they very quickly became collaborative voice blogs, particularly Digital Photography School where I don’t actually write almost any content anymore at all. Occasionally I’ll do a promotional post but apart from that I don’t really write anything at all. We have a team of about 40 writers now who contribute to that site.
I wanted to include Chrissan’s story for those of you who are thinking about starting a collaborative blog, and also for those of you who maybe already have a blog and want to transition into a collaboration.
Her advice there of really streamlining that process of bringing on new writers is important advice. I certainly wasted a lot of time and energy and probably confused my new writers by not having a streamlined process at all. Today if you apply to be a writer on Digital Photography School, we actually have a sequence of emails that introduces you to the site and orients you to what’s the voice that we want you to write with and some of the technicalities as well. We’ve really worked on streamlining that process. In doing so, we end up with writers who write the kind of content that we want. They tend to stick around longer as well because they are less frustrated by the process of becoming engaged with the site. They actually feel a part of it much more quickly. We have a Facebook group now for those writers. I would encourage you to really think through how to bring on writers into your site.
I also love that whilst Chrissann makes it clear that she wishes that she’d monetize the site better and that’s probably still something that she needs to continue to work on, that she is mentioning some interesting monetization streams there, the children’s book and event for writers as well. This is something I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers starting to do over the last year, monetizing through events. I wanted to just point that one out for those of you who maybe already have a blog and are struggling to monetize. Maybe an event is a way that you can do that, a retreat, some sort of a personal experience for some of your readers. You will find that some of your readers are willing to pay for that type of experience. I just wanted to point that one out.
The last reason that I wanted to feature Chrissann in this very last episode of this series is her takeaway tip and that is to ask what’s in it for your readers, such an important thing. It’s simple. It’s something you would’ve heard before, particularly if you’ve been listening to this podcast. But as we move into this Start a Blog course, I think it’s probably the most important question that you can be asking. As you prepare to launch a blog, as you look at the blog that you’ve already got, have this question at the front of your mind again and again, “What’s in it for your readers?”
If you can be delivering benefits, if you can be enhancing the life of your readers, if you can be adding something of value into their lives, whether they be tips, whether that be stories, whether that be giving your readers a sense of belonging, whether that be giving them the latest news. If you’re enhancing the life of your reader, the listener of your podcast, the viewer of your videos, if you are enhancing people’s lives then they’ve got a reason to come back tomorrow. They’ve got a reason to stick around and dig deeper into your archives when they first show up. They’ve got a reason to share what you’re doing with other people. All of these things help you to grow your blog.
You’re also going to find it a much more satisfying experience as well if you can see that you’re creating content that is changing the world, that’s making people’s lives better. It’s satisfying for you, and it will help to sustain you, and make it a more meaningful experience for you as well. It’ll also help you to write and create content with more passion. As we wrap this series up, I hope you’ve seen that all of the people that we’ve been featuring have been considering this question, “What’s in it for my readers? What’s in it for the listeners of the podcast that we’re creating as well?” Put that question front and center.
Tomorrow, we do start the Start a Blog course. If you are thinking of starting a new blog, please go to problogger.com/startablog and sign up to reserve your spot. If you’re listening to this after the 10th of January 2018, you’re welcome to head to that link as well and begin the course for yourself. We’re going to help you to make good decisions, help you to set up good foundations for a profitable blog down the track for you, problogger.com/startablog.
Thanks so much to Chrissann for sharing her story. We do hope to feature more of the stories that were submitted over the coming months as well. We’ve had over 130 different stories submitted. We’ve used, so far, about 20 of them including the 5 that we included on the blog the other day. There’s a lot more still to share. If we haven’t featured your story yet, we will be featuring more in the coming weeks and months both on the blog and the podcast. Do stay tuned for that. We have had such a really positive experience with this series. It’s something that we’ll probably do again in the future. Maybe on some different topics as well because this has really been focused on that Start a Blog topic but maybe we’ll do some more on other topics down the track.
The podcast will return to normal next week with some more teaching, with more of my voice. I look forward to chatting with you then in episode 233. Again, check out Start a Blog course, problogger.com/startablog. Today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/232.
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