My college degree is not in marketing. It is not in human resources, nor is it in business. It does not have anything to do with computers, nor public relations, nor finance. It is actually in English. Luckily writing posts comprises about 20% of my time as a blogger, so at least I’m using it for something!
I often wonder how many WORDS I’ve typed since launching Kitchen Stewardship in late February, 2009. Between blog posts (and you know how wordy those can get!), emails, Twitter, Facebook, emails, comments, and entering the same user name and password constantly on eJunkie because it won’t auto-fill, it’s got to be in the bazillions. (Did I mention I also do not have a degree in Math?)
For those of you who still wonder exactly what the definition of a BLOG is, it’s simply a website that updates with new information at the top of the page and shows chronological posts (i.e., articles). A blog can be updated daily, weekly, or once a year, and the most recent text will show up first. Blog is short for “web-log” and began as sort of a journal online, or a “log” of one’s day. Nowadays, a blog doesn’t have to be personal at all. It’s become just a genre of online publishing (and I love being part of it!).
For those of you not interested in blogging at all, feel free to browse the archives. Some oldies but goodies:
I haven’t written about blogging much, because that’s just not the point of this site (and only 20% of you blog yourself, so why bother?). You got a little insight here and here, but today you get a real expose!
So…What Does a Blogger DO, Anyway?
It is 2:18 a.m., and I’ve just started writing this post. Is it ironic that I have just spent approximately 3 hours buried in my email, comments and Facebook Fan Page, where thirty-some people commiserated about their fear (or lack thereof) of canning yesterday, right before I’m about to let you look over my shoulder to see how I spend my time as a blogger? Sigh. For all those who ask when I find the time to “do it all”…it’s when I’m supposed to be sleeping. Shhh. Don’t tell my mother (who will be calling me anyway a few minutes after 1:00 when this post lands in her inbox, because she reads everything I write).
I am in awe of the learning curve I’ve climbed in 18 months. Asking a blogger “What do you do?” is a little like asking a stay-at-home-mom, “What do you do all day?” only there are slightly fewer job titles for me to explain as a blogger and they are much less important, but complex nonetheless. Here is what I do, in bullets:
- PR (public relations)
- Amateur Programmer
- Graphic Designer
- Administrative Assistant
- Social Marketer
Truly, I’m probably forgetting something, but that’s only because I haven’t kept track of “what I do” like I told my husband I would so we could figure out how to streamline the blogging work.
CEO/CFO (Chief Executive and Financial Officers): As the CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, I have to make all the decisions. For a gal who always asks if I can get two flavors in a small ice cream cone, this is not an easy hat to wear! But somehow I manage to decide on an editorial calendar (what is written, and when) and keep everything organized. At least it looks more or less organized to you guys, but if you saw my desk…
As CFO, I also have to decide how and if to spend money on other services. Many bloggers pay for a designer to make their site look pretty, for starters, and I simply have not, which just makes my other jobs more numerous. I pay for website hosting and domain name, and I have to keep track of every penny made and anything I spend that could be deductible as a business expense. This part is a lot like running a family budget, only it doesn’t seem like the tax experts have really decided on what counts as taxable income for bloggers (like review samples). I wrote about how a blogger can make money yesterday.
Advertising/Marketing/Public Relations: To fill those little boxes at the top of the site, I have to seek out potential sponsors, contact them, and woo them with convincing statistics that show that a multitude of KS readers are a perfect for their products. I also have to determine my ad price, which is probably the hardest part of all. (By the way, if you have a favorite company that would be a great KS sponsor, feel free to send a name, email or website address my way. I’m always looking to add to my contact list!)
In order to get good sponsors, I had to create a media kit, which explains who I am and what I do, provides statistics and demographics (that’s where the
reader survey comes in handy), and explains the advertising options here and prices. It’s been on my list since May to spruce mine up and update the stats, and I finally checked it off this week. (High five!) The next step is to craft an invite letter to email to possible sponsors, then adapt it individually so it doesn’t sound like a form letter. That will take another few (many?) hours.
I also have to market my own site and products, by entering carnivals at other blogs, forming relationships with other bloggers, and running an affiliate program for my eBooks that shares a commission whenever a fellow blogger (or anyone, really) helps me sell a book. I administrated about 20 giveaways for Healthy Snacks to Go as well, which included sorting through applications, emailing the chosen bloggers, giving them some ideas for the giveaway and sending the free copies to the winners.
The PR part of my job is everywhere, from replying to comments to answering emails to pinging companies or other bloggers to partner with me on some project or another. I worked with over 20 bloggers in the Real Food Face Off, another 9 for the Spring Cleaning Carnival, and 11 companies with the Natural Sunscreen Review. As you might imagine, orchestrating all that (along with other things) makes my inbox a crazy, crazy place.
Comments are one of my favorite things, so sometimes they sit unread for days, just because I know once I get in there, I want to reply to everyone! If you need an answer faster, go with email. Emails always show up right in my face, but the way the comment moderation page is set up behind the scenes is that I see the full text of each comment, only 20 at a time, and I try to flip through them chronologically, which means sometimes I don’t see the most recent ones until a few days after they’re written because ultimately I’m going backward to go forward.
Payroll is a new job for me, but every month I have to pay my affiliates their commissions. This is a boring job, but at least it doesn’t take too long!
Webmaster/Programmer: I’m probably giving myself too much credit on that title. I have learned a smidge of html (that’s computer code that makes things work within posts and in the sidebar), but mostly the WordPress platform (the software that powers the blog) takes care of the coding. I do have to do some of it manually, but I married the right man who happens to be a computer programmer himself. He teaches me what I need, and I don’t really want to learn any more than that!
The good husband has also done some really cool custom things for me that other bloggers have to pay for or learn how to do themselves, like the drop-down menu bar at the top of the page, and getting colored boxes for my posts (that I keep forgetting to use since the Natural Sunscreen Review).
(Yes, I had to look up how to write the code for that. I’m smart enough to keep a file on hand with all the codes!)
I do have to make sure everything is running correctly and decide how I want things to look. I install plug-ins, which are little programs that work with the big program to add functionality. The Twitter and Facebook share buttons at the top of each post, the announcement box at the top of the page, and the fact that if you reply to someone’s comment, they get an email, are three examples of the few dozen plug-ins I’ve found and learned to use.
I put stuff in the sidebar, which is mostly code. Once I made dark lines go across the whole site, only on Internet Explorer, just by forgetting a “>” in the sidebar and another time I broke the comments completely for a few days by trying to do something myself that I should have begged hubs for help with (it happened to be little box that says “sign up for FREE email updates here” on the right, which looks simple but is a beast when you know nothing. There are reasons folks pay professionals to do this stuff!)
Graphic Designer: I should have learned a photo editing and design program like Photo Bucket or Gimp right when I started, but I have this senseless aversion to learning new things if I don’t think I really have to. I refused to learn how to use a graphing calculator in senior year math, for example, preferring to work sin, co-sin and tangent out with pencil and paper rather than add one more piece of technology to my repertoire. Made it through Calc I and II in college without learning, too.
So, stubbornly, I limp along with MS Word and Paint and my untrained eye. So far, I have made all my own buttons and icons except the Real Food Face-Off, which Jo-Lynne of DCR Design crafted, and my little KS button, which someone made as a gift. I think I’ve done alright:
Notice the variation in size and dimension. You see, I really do not know what I am doing. I flub along. Sometimes I don’t have the time to make a cute graphic, so some features, like the organic gardening series this summer, end up with nothing.
It’s supposed to be a standard that every post have a photo, which is one reason it’s nice to have an image for a long-running series. That way I don’t have to search for one if I don’t have a good one in my own files. After a post is written, it often takes about half an hour to make sure it’s formatted for printing, like making some parts bold for easy skimming, getting all the links where they need to be, the photos in the right places, and background stuff like “tags” and “categories” specified. If the post would be possibly found with a Google search (anything with information), I also write out an extra description, which is what would be shown upon the search, and I believe what you see on the Facebook updates, for example.
It used to be worse when I coded
this green stuff
in html. That was before I realized my husband should just make it CSS (Cascading style sheets), yet another computer language most bloggers have to learn a bit of. I’m so thankful I didn’t have to! Anytime I edit a post from the first 6 months, though, WordPress makes all my green words tiny, so I have to redo the green stuff the new way. It’s annoying! Hindsight is 20/20…I just didn’t know so many things at the beginning.
Photographer: Believe me, here’s another area I’ve improved! I used to more or less take a picture of the food on my table:
or in the pot:
Pretty boring as far as food photography goes. Now I won’t be winning any awards with my current level of expertise, but at least I’ve discovered the macro function on the camera (extreme closeup so it can focus) and a little bit about appropriate presentation/layout, but I’m no Nourishing Gourmet or Good Life Eats or Pioneer Woman, that’s for sure:
Now if only I had a better camera and always cooked around 2 p.m. for natural lighting… Some of my photos are still, justifiably, the food on the plate. Life happens!
It takes three clicks of the mouse on different things just to get those big pictures to look right after I’ve already inserted them. Putting the photos in here just now probably took a solid 15 minutes, at least. But photos make a post SO very much more readable, professional, and interesting to look at!
Administrative Assistant: I guess I’ve already touched on the email problem, but there really are so many little things behind the scenes to be done. My to-do list is constantly about 5 times longer than the time available. I make phone calls (because companies largely ignore the initial email), keep track of all sorts of little things, manage the calendar, respond to people who can’t download an eBook for one reason or another, and answer reader questions.
I’m constantly finding new ideas for design or functionality on the site by reading places like Problogger and Blogging with Amy and wishing I had more time to implement them. I check to see where readers are coming from and update old posts if they’re getting a lot of traffic from an incoming link. I sign up for affiliate programs and manage the corresponding images and links. Every so often, I get around to updating the archives found in the top menu bar, like the Recipes and list of Series/Carnivals. It’s the random little things that I can’t keep track of that tend to make the time extend, and extend, and extend.
Social Marketer: Twitter is a big part of being a blogger, as it’s a place to “meet” and interact with other bloggers, readers, etc. I find interesting articles to read there. I also keep up the Facebook Fan Page, which was a new addition in May after holding out saying “not one more thing!” for months. I also have a Skype group of other bloggers with whom I share ideas and get advice, and a Google group of a different niche for mostly the same purpose. There are Twitter chats, like the #realfood chat (1st Thursday of the month) started by my friend Donielle, which are good marketing/exposure for my blog, and real life meetups like the second Monday of the month with the West Michigan Blogs group. It ain’t called “social” media for nothing!
Speaker: I would love to do more speaking, actually, and have a few talks with moms’ groups lined up for fall, but so far I’ve just done a few gigs with mom groups, church groups, and a quick snacks chat at the Weston A Price Foundation meeting here in town. There’s always something to say!
Writer/Researcher: And, at last, I compose posts for you all to read. That’s the obvious part. Some of them take a few hours of research time, others many, many hours with more papers and reports that I haven’t had time to read and digest yet (hence the unfinished series…with no graphic!). I’m no professional researcher, but I am a mean Google searcher and have a friend who can get access to academic journals when an article is only available as an abstract to the public.
Sometimes I even take the time to read and edit my posts. But not always (that’s when my mom emails me my typos and I update the post).
That’s All, Folks
I’m sure I missed some layers to my work. And maybe I underestimated the percentage of my time that writing comprises, as this post is going on about three two hours to compose (ha! Told you I was no good at Math.). I’ll see you all tomorrow! (By the way, tomorrow is the last day for the sunscreen and sun protective clothing giveaways, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. Oh yeah…and I moderate giveaways and choose winners. That’s a job, too!)
photo from JR_Paris.