Many people romanticize about the lifestyle of a blogger, kind of like how illustrators were romanticized in the ‘70s. Blogging is often a job without a paycheck. Those who write about popular topics like motherhood, sports or celebrities seem to have it easier. Of course, if Tiger Woods had celiac disease I would write about it. One month my blog made the most money ever, that being a couple hundred dollars, because of a story I wrote called Healthy Eaters Who Look Good. I observed how many healthy diet book authors either looked great or well . . . didn’t. I wanted to report on those who walk their talk. I don’t think you should purchase a nutrition book or follow a diet from someone who looks unhealthy. Many of my readers agreed and were especially impressed with Peta’s Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50, the 71-year old Mimi Kirk. I was elated my blog was gaining readership. I just naturally assumed that this was just the beginning and my blog would grow in readership. Unfortunately, the next month I only made about what a “sandwich artist” makes in about an hour. Even though I worked hard and paid attention to Google Trends, my blog hasn’t had the same success. To be a good blogger you need to observe things that go unnoticed and yet provide something useful. Here are a few more of my thoughts on niche blogging:
It’s essential to love what you do. Your passion will be apparent, so will your lack of it. The old days of pushy marketing are over. People want to align themselves with authentic people. There are going to be days when you will feel totally unappreciated. On those days I will ask myself: What is new and good? Maybe that day I got three new Facebook fans or maybe nothing happened and I just really enjoyed sharing a story about someone’s gluten free cookie business that started out of a home kitchen.
Selling you v. offering a solution. No one reads my blog because of me. They may think I’m a nice person but I’m really not selling myself. I’m selling a solution. First it’s important to figure out what are my reader’s problems? Many of my readers request help finding good tasting gluten free bread or dairy free ice cream.
Ask and you shall receive. If you don’t know what your readers want then ask them. I usually inquire through Facebook posts or via Twitter. I never think of myself as a writer with an audience. I think myself as a person building a community.
Make your readers feel important. If applicable, offer freebies. Give a shout-out or personal thank you from time to time. I also try to make them feel like less of a niche audience. No one likes to feel alone. Can you align your readers with other groups? For example, some readers like to know that many of their favorite celebrities are also on gluten free diets.
Be aware of Google trends but also be true to you. Try to balance that fine line between giving what they want and writing what you want. For example, I do not agree with pretty much anything Elizabeth Hasselback has to say or stands for but she is a prominent gluten-free celebrity and I have mentioned her in my blog.
Never get angry at a reader. I never thought as a food allergy blogger that I would get hate mail but it happens from time to time. It’s important to breathe and then type. When I reply back to a negative comment I usually thank the reader for taking time to read my blog and for being so passionate about the subject matter I have written about. Then I explain diplomatically why I disagree. You never know who is reading your comments. It could be someone who would like to hire you so it’s best to keep the F-bombs in the privacy of your own home office.
What’s in it for you? Of course, YOU have to benefit somehow or else why do it? In addition to blogging I’m also a holistic health coach. A blog is a great marketing tool for my business. Also, I have no shortage of people sending me free food or product samples. I’m also amazed at the connections I have made. I have met some truly fantastic people and they keep me motivated.
Build relationships and trust first. It’s easy to be persuaded by another blogger’s success story. Focus on “how can I help” v. “how can I make a lot of money?” It may take someone six months before they feel comfortable contacting you for an opportunity.
For the food bloggers: you must have gorgeous photos. If sex sells in advertising, then food porn sells for us. Food is colorful and your blog should be too. Either learn to snap your own photos or align yourself with someone who can provide you with beautiful photos.
Avoid writer’s block. Years ago I did Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way program. Out of the many tools I took away from that program is the “morning pages”. In the morning write three full pages of just content, just stream of conscious writing. I find this process warms me up for the writing I do later on in the day. I’m always amazed at the ideas that just flow. The morning is ideal for this process as I believe the critical part of my brain is not up yet to get in the way.
And last of all, booby trap your home or office for creativity. I keep pads of paper on every table top surface. Any idea that pops into my head I write down. I think it’s also important to not dismiss the seemingly small ideas as you never know where they might lead you.
Patricia Biesen is a Food allergy expert and PAC (Protect Allergic Children) Consultant with Eat, Live and Learn. She helps schools, families and day care facilities become allergy safe. Find her at Chicago Now