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5 Lessons Learned from 3 Years of Blogging

November 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever told you how RowdyKittens got started. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about this story because I’ve received hundreds of inquires from readers asking questions like:

  • When did you start RowdyKittens?
  • Was it an overnight success?
  • If you had to do anything differently, what would that be?

So let’s get started…

While interviewing for a “real job” during the summer of 2007 I was asked the following questions:

Have you blogged before? Do you know anything about WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, and social media in general? Can you define the term web 2.0? Ohhh and have you ever written a press release?

During this interview, I kept thinking to myself:

“Wow, what am I doing here? I might be a Victim Advocate, but I don’t know anything about the Web 2.0 world.”

At the time, I used the Internet to check my email and for research purposes. However, blogging and social media were not a part of my life. Before this interview, I had heard the term “blogging,” but didn’t understand what it was. I walked out of the interview thinking I bombed the interview.

So, imagine my surprise when I was offered the job. I was super excited about the opportunity to be part of this organization.

The day I started my new job, I was completely freaked out. I vividly remember my boss giving me a tutorial of WordPress and I was extremely nervous. However, he assured me that with a little practice I would become a “blogging ninja.” Little did he know that he would unleash the RowdyKitten.

As I got more comfortable with WordPress, I started toying around with the idea of starting my own blog. I wanted to learn more and be better equipped to do my own job. But I didn’t want to test out my new skills on the organization’s website. So starting my own blog was the perfect way to improve my skill sets and get going. My co-workers and boss encouraged me to start a blog, even though I didn’t think I had anything relevant to say.

The Name

I had no idea what to name my blog. One afternoon, my co-workers and I were hanging out in the conference room working (Well, we were actually goofing off. But that’s another story).

I asked my colleagues:

“What do you think I should name my blog?”

Simultaneously, someone shouted “rowdy” and another person shouted “kittens!” I liked the hybrid of the two words as a name and RowdyKittens was born. I registered the domain name, secured a host, and signed up for WordPress. I was ready to get started!

Two Goals

When I started RowdyKittens, I had no idea what I wanted to write about. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about starting a small business or using my blog as a platform to connect with like minded people. I had two basic goals:

1. Learn as much as possible about WordPress and social media.

2. Find my writing voice.

Prior to starting RowdyKittens, I hadn’t thought about the direction I wanted to go with my writing or even if the blog would have a general focus. My goals were simple and straight forward.

As I focused on both of these goals, the emphasis of my blog became clear. Yet, I never imagined or predicted that:

  • I would leave my day job.
  • That I would start my own small business and my blog would be a component of this business.

What I Would Do Differently?

Focus on finding my voice.

In the first few years of blogging I struggled finding my writing voice. Most of my posts weren’t in-depth. They were short blurbs and I linked out to a lot of different resources. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I should have focused on developing my voice through intensive writing. It wasn’t until 2009 that I got serious about writing better content. I still have a lot of room to improve, but I feel like I’ve gotten a whole lot better at conveying ideas.

Be helpful.

RowdyKittens started with no focus, then it evolved into a personal journal, and now it’s part of my business model. It took me a long time to find focus. For instance, I didn’t have a tag line for the first 6 months of blogging. Even after I had a tag line I was still writing about random topics and posting silly cat photos.

I noticed that my blog didn’t start growing until I started writing helpful content. I still talk a lot about what I’m doing in my life. But I always try and be helpful. After I tell a story, I try and leave tips to help readers.

So what can you learn from all of this?

Three years ago, I had no idea what I was doing and I was a technophobe. So if a former technophobe like me can start a blog and figure it out, you can too.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Tell your story.

Tell your story and think about what you can teach others (this also goes for writing posts and developing products).

2. Don’t fret over your blog design.

Pick a simple free theme or have someone design a WordPress site for you. Once you have a everything in place, don’t worry about the design. Playing around with plug-ins and code is a great way to learn, but it’s also a way to procrastinate. For example, I spent hours messing around with free themes and plug-ins. I learned a lot, but my time would have been better spent focusing on writing.

3. Start small.

I’m a huge fan of starting small. If you want to blog, get going. Sign up for a free WordPress account and start learning how things work. I promise, there is nothing to be scared of.

4. Keep your expectations in check.

Building any project from the ground up takes time and hard work. So remember to keep your expectations in check. For instance, during my first year of blogging RowdyKittens had about 20 visits a day. Now, RowdyKittens has between 5,000 to 10,000 visits a day. As I discovered, blogging is hard work and it can take a long time to build up an audience, especially if you aren’t focused. It’s been incredible to see RowdyKittens grow and I’m grateful to have so many amazing readers! However, for me writing isn’t about the number or how many subscribers I have. It’s about helping others.

Before you start blogging, think about what you want to write about and who you can help. More importantly, constantly reflect on why you started the blog in the first place.

5. Invest in yourself and keep learning.

Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. Being frugal and watching your money is a good thing. Nevertheless, I think it’s essential to invest in yourself.

For example, I didn’t join the A-List Blogging Club until this year. I thought about joining last year but I didn’t want to spend the money and thought I could figure out the blogging world on my own. Looking back, I realized that this was a bad decision. When I started getting serious about blogging, I could have used the additional help and access to all the incredible resources offered by the club. It would have saved me a lot of time.Β I still think about my purchases. However, I’m not afraid to invest in products that can help me become a better writer and business person.

Remember life is a continual learning process. I still have a lot to learn too; that’s why I keep reading and investing in my education.

Thank you!

My first post on RowdyKittens was in early December 2007. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been blogging for three years! There were a number of times I wanted to stop blogging because I felt like my writing was horrible. But thanks to the encouragement from peers and readers I kept writing.

Thank you for your support!


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joel Runyon November 29, 2010, 9:01 am

    Congrats on 3 years Tammy! Thanks for keeping at it!

  • Diggy November 29, 2010, 9:14 am

    Hey Tammy,
    Wow congrats on making it so big and far, and for not giving up!

    I remember I started out with 20 visits a day, and now im on 600-1000 a day but still far from 10 000 like you are:)

    I love how simple yet effective your blog design is. Easy on the eyes and simple to read!

    Keep up the great work and best of luck!

  • Eric November 29, 2010, 9:19 am

    Thanks for the insight into your beginnings Tammy- it’s super inspirational to budding bloggers.

    I still have the voice in the back of my head “is anybody listening”, but reading about your start helps keep everything in perspective!

    You rock chica!


  • Arron November 29, 2010, 9:30 am

    Love your blog, Tammy! I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now and I have to say that your writing just keeps getting better and better. I struggled with my blog design, until I realized that the reason I kept reading yours was because of the content, not the way it looked. Content truly is king…er, well, queen in your case. haha Keep up the great work!

    • Tammy November 29, 2010, 9:46 am

      Thanks Arron! I appreciate the kind words. πŸ™‚

  • Alex November 29, 2010, 10:20 am

    Great tips Tammy. I’ve just started working on my writing and have been trying to figure out how I can actually help my readers and you’ve just reaffirmed what I’ve been working on. Thanks! And the only reason I thought to work on that was from reading about other successful bloggers… Continuing education is CRUCIAL!

  • Life Miner November 29, 2010, 10:30 am

    Great story and great tips as always Tammy.

    I think that you’ve got it right when you say to tell your story. It you are not writing about what you are passionate about, you won’t be writing for very long. You will end-up growing tired of having to force your ideas to come out.

  • Jo@simplybeingmum November 29, 2010, 11:30 am

    What a fantastic post Tammy! I’ve been blogging maybe a month, and how much I have learnt already (mostly accidentally) – posts like yours are great as they give a benchmark and some guidance. Most days it feels like I am going out into the wilderness blind. My next challenge is to cross that personal story bridge, I’m comfy blogging about practical things at the mo…but letting go further is a huge step. It’s a bit like going into public naked – you know that awful recurring dream most people have πŸ™‚ Any advice on taking that leap in future posts would be fantastic – Jo

  • Amanda November 29, 2010, 12:39 pm

    Excellent post. Thanks for the tips, Tammy! I especially like how you mentioned that you try and always leave tips to help out your readers. I think that is part of what sets your blog apart from others. Also, I can tell that you truly enjoy writing, and are following your passion.
    I’ve been blogging for about four months now. I love it. Writing brings me joy and I hope my posts bring joy to others. I hope one day I have a dedicated following of readers, as well, but one day at a time.
    Keep up the good work! πŸ™‚

  • Laurie November 29, 2010, 3:13 pm

    Hi Tammy, thanks for the insightful post! I’m a newbie blogger learning as I go, and I’m loving it. I decided to just start writing instead of waiting until I knew a lot of stuff about blogging, and I’m not sure if that’s the best course, but it’s working so far. I’m excited to have a few regular readers and a comment or two for each post. I’m learning dozens of new things every day from you and your cohorts. Thanks so much!

  • Katie November 29, 2010, 4:08 pm

    Sure glad you didn’t stop blogging, Tammy. Your blog is a lovely place to visit and I’d hate to see the door close. Rock on girlfriend.

  • jody lee November 29, 2010, 6:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing Tammy!

    I agree about finding your voice – it takes so much time and focus – and you have surely found yours. I’m still working on it, haha πŸ˜‰

    And… sorry to bug you with this, but I have to agree with the few others who commented on the marketing of other minimalist blogs. Though you don’t push as aggressively as others (Gajda, Bogue & co.), and I understand that you are a network supporting each others’ work, it’s all beginning to feel like a big, ongoing marketing campaign. The charity part is great, and the books are fine (I’ve read a few) – it’s the hammering that’s becoming uncomfortable. This type of advertising doesn’t feel that remote from the type that I – as a ‘minimalist’ – try to avoid.

    I value your content, and I really hope that you will stay true to your voice.

  • Maia Duerr November 29, 2010, 7:19 pm

    This is a tremendously helpful post, Tammy! Thank you for sharing the wisdom you’ve garnered over the past three years. It’s great to see where RowdyKittens is now especially in the context of where you started.

    My own blog, the Liberated Life Project, got off to its official start this week, and I am learning a lot from what you’ve written here. This is timely, too, because I was going to let you know that I’ve got RowdyKittens listed on the ‘toolkit’ section of my blog as one of my ‘go-to’ sources for integrating personal and social transformation. I find your insights on simple, car-free living incredibly valuable.

  • Nina Yau November 29, 2010, 9:19 pm

    Congrats on 3 years, Tammy! And seriously, your cats are freakin’ adorable. Love the beautiful photos as always!

  • Hsinya November 30, 2010, 3:04 am

    Hi Tammy,
    Thanks for posting this. I just started a blog about a month ago, and I find your suggestions helpful and encouraging.

  • Diana November 30, 2010, 4:06 am

    Hi, Tammy! It’s because of your that I am here, because it was youthat got me connected with the ideas you write about. I read the NYT online every day (expat lifeline that it is) and I can tell you that no single article in seven years has changed my life – except for the one where I found you. It was through you that I found the A List Bloggers Club, Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch, and wonderful, helpful souls like Katie Tallo. I think my writing is improving and my blog is getting better – but more that that, I see much more where I want to go and what my voice is.

    You have had a tremendous, positive effect on me, and I want to say thank you. Were there was confusion in my blogging mind there is more clarity.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

  • Liz @ Creative Liberty November 30, 2010, 7:53 am

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s really inspirational, and your emphases on focusing on what bloggers can share/teach and making sure they provide excellent content are super!

    Thank you for existing!

    –Liz @ Creative Liberty